22 March 2023

Buddhangala Kamatahan

Buddhannehela, situated around 10 kilometres from Padaviya on the Kebithigollewa Road, also referred to as Buddhanehela and Buddhanhela, is now known as Buddhangala. It is an ancient rock temple complex that offers splendid views of the surrounding terrain, mostly jungle. A less frequented of the living heritage sites in the area, Buddhangala is a place where history is decorated with silence. Made for reflection, if one is so inclined.     

I visited Buddhangala a few years ago with my favourite travel-companions, Tharindu Amunugama and Nilakshi Vidanagamage.  Tharindu, remembering a photograph by the inimitable Nihal Fernando, wanted a ‘re-take,’ only this time a girl instead of a haamuduruwo in the foreground of a rock on top of which there was a belfry. A figure, a rock and a belfry against the sky. A call for photographic composition. And so he composed. And I wrote, calling my piece ‘A haamuduruwo, a girl and an invitation to reflect.’ 

That was not the only photograph taken that day. Nilakshi happily posed for other compositions. A repost of a particular capture made me think of compositions, perhaps because Tharindu captioned it ‘Constructions…’ It offered a side view of a seated Buddha statue, ‘encased’ in pillars. The girl standing before the statue, hands clasped in worship. I am not sure if he was art-directing or photographed what must have struck him as a particularly striking image that could generate a lot of reflection.

Either way, the caption was apt. The word immediately made me think of ‘saṅkhāra,’ one of the four mental aggregates (the others being vēdanā, saññā and viññāṇa), because I believed it referred to mental formations inspired by saññā or perception. Apparently, saṅkhāra is associated with connections with emotions of which there are three types, puññābhisaṅkhāra, apuññābhisaṅkhāra and āneñjā­bhisaṅ­khāra, meaning moral thoughts/deeds, immoral thoughts/deeds and the cultivation of arūpāvacara jhāna respectively, the last forming in the minds of those who cultivate arupāvacara jhāna, the highest four jhāna.

The term or concept that I was thinking of is actually viññāṇa represents one’s overall sensory experience including vēdanā, saññā, saṅkhāra. Delving into elaborations took me to the fascinating world of the Dhamma and urged reflection and demanded deeper study. This is not the moment or the place.

I’ll go with the simple and perhaps simplistic definitions of saṅkhāra and viññāṇa. The emotions awakened by the image described above were benign and therefore of the puññābhisaṅkhāra kind. The sensory experience connects obviously with the rupa or image and speaks of hopes and desires. On the face of it, mundane. Being prthagjana, mine wandered to juxtapositions that spoke of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (sorrow) and anatta (absence of permanent essence).
The haamuduruwo in Nihal Fernando’s photograph was not at Buddhangala. Nihal Fernando is no more. The photograph remains, is pleasing and yet is therefore lacking in ‘permanent essence.’ Nilakshi is in Canada. Tharindu is in Ratmalana. His photograph appeared in social media and is now overtaken by countless images with equally interesting captions.

The construction around the statue may have been completed. The Buddha remains in the Buddha Vacana, the doctrine, but is ‘obtained’ only through deep and consistent deliberation which, apparently, reveals the nature of things, their constructional qualities and inspires, hopefully, the cultivation of arupāvacara jhāna. 

Kamatahan: a point for reflection or meditation which could take the form of a word, an image or an act. Loosely translated. There was one that I didn’t notice when I visited Buddhangala and one that was an invitation in the form of a repost of a capture from that visit. 
And so, I have an image before me. Some pillars in incomplete construction, a statue and a girl upon a rock. On one side a rock pool whose surface offers a trembling reflection, and, beyond, the jungles below and a sky-screen accentuating lines, assisting composition. I am in Kohuwala. I am in Buddhangala. Still. And still it’s a long journey to the kind of stillness prescribed, reflections on which was inspired by a capture of a different kind of stillness and reflection. 

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart