Sri Lanka produced some of the finest scholar-monks of the 20th century, whose influence has been felt across the whole of the Buddhist world. One thinks of Ven. Soma, Ven. Nārada, Ven. Walpola Rāhula, Ven. Piyadassī and many others who helped shape our understanding of Buddhism during these times.
Ven. Rerukane Candavimala (1897-1999) was also one of the most important scholar-monks who was active in Sri Lanka during the 20th century. His works, which are written in lucid Sinhala, are standard in every field he wrote in, but so far only a very few have been translated into English, and he is therefore much less known.
He wrote on diverse subjects, and had mastered them all, whether it was Discipline (Vinaya), Doctrine (Dhamma), Meditation (Bhāvanā) or the Abstract Doctrine (Abhidhamma). As he says himself in this autobiography: “My main aim was to understand the Dhamma for myself. Some Dhamma points I pondered over for weeks and months. I never wrote on anything that I did not understand fully.”
Besides his position as a leading scholar, Ven. Rerukane was also head of the Shwegyin Nikāya in Sri Lanka, and ran the founding temple for that sect in Sri Lanka (Vinayālaṅkārārāmaya); and was Preceptor for the whole of the Amarapura Nikāya, fulfilling many duties and responsibilities in these positions.
His life was quite extraordinary, and his beginnings did not presage what he was to become. He was ordained and taken to Burma at the tender age of 11, and didn’t return till he was in his 20s. He was and remained fluent in Burmese all through his life.
However, he had only received formal education in Sri Lanka up to the second grade, and when he returned he was unable to read or write the Sinhala language. It is even more extraordinary then that he became one of the most read authors and Dhamma propagators in his own language.
This short autobiography gives his recollections of his early years and the reasons he started to write, and outlines some of the works he wrote. It was told to his distinguished pupil Ven. Ittepana Dhammālaṅkāra in 1996, who transcribed it for its publication in the Sinhala language.
I really hope that some budding Sri Lankan scholars will undertake translations of his important works for the benefit of people in the rest of the Buddhist world.
My thanks go to Dr. Doreen Perera, who made the initial translation of this work, even when facing critical health issues, and whose dedication to the Sāsana is evident here and in other translations she has made.
I have revised the translation, added some explanatory notes, and a Bibliography at the end. I hope this work will go some way to bringing to the attention of the English speaking world one of the great monks of our time.