In 1995 I ordained at the Kanduboda Meditation Centre near Delgoda, about 35 km north-east of Colombo in Sri Lanka, and the following year took my higher ordination at the same centre.
Not long after higher ordination we heard the terrifying news that Coca-Cola were going to buy the land next door to the Centre for a bottling plant. Nothing could have been more out of place.
However, as the Centre was very influential they managed to contact some politicians and raise a hue and cry about the plan and, although I am hazy about the details, they eventually got it stopped.
The land the bottling factory was going to be built on was acquired by some devotees for around SLR 20m and was donated to Ven Gampaha Pemasiri, who is the foremost disciple of the founder of the Centre, Ven Kahapitiye Sumathipala Nahimi.
The site that the new Centre was on had in fact been the original site for the Centre when it was founded in 1956, which had been moved at some point to the adjacent land next door.
Ven Pemasiri had previously been in charge at the Centre, but had left in the 80s and had been in charge at the sister Lanka Vipassana Meditation Centre in Colombo 7, where we used to stay when in town.
I am unsure when Ven Pemasiri moved in to the new land and started construction, but it must have been around 2003, when I visited the new Centre and was shown around and told the development plans.
For various reasons that was the last I saw of it until I returned there on a short trip to Sri Lanka in May this year, when I was fortunate enough to stay there for just under a month.
Needless to stay the Centre has undergone a huge transformation since I was last there and now has over 50 kutis (cottages) and dormitories, and the flora has also evolved from a more or less barren coconut estate into a mixed woodland area, with many trees and bushes.
Other developments included the building of a new Chetiya to hold Buddha relics, which was sponsored by the biscuit firm Maliban and designed and built in accordance with Ven Pemasiri’s ideas, and a number of halls for chanting and meditation.
I was fortunate enough to be there during the Poson Full Moon day, and it was well decorated for the occasion, with beautiful floral arrangements around the Bodhi Tree and Poson Lanterns at night.
Although I wasn’t able to photograph this, it should be mentioned that some of the most interesting Dhamma talks I have heard were being given daily at the centre by Ven Pemasiri, whose knowledge of both theory and practice is outstanding.
The Kuti I stayed in at the Centre