21 September 2023

Rajagala and the Parable of the Panner

Kuda Lena, Rajagala. Pic by Tharindu Amunugama

['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 the
224th article in the new series that began in December 2022. Links to previous articles are given below]       

‘One day we should go to Rajagala,’ I told Tharindu Amunugama, insatiable explorer and wonderful travel companion. ‘Of course,’ he said.  We’ve planned but it never happened. It is on our unwritten ‘must go’ list which neither of us allow to gather dust.

Perhaps by way of a nudge or for the relevance in terms of plans we’ve talked about, Tharindu sent me a Facebook post. It was a picture of three people among the Rajagala ruins along with the following caption: “රජගල” නොදැකපු සංචාරකයෝ, සංචාරකයෝ නොවේ (tourists who haven’t seen Rajagala are not tourists).

I feel that it was not meant to be condescending or to ridicule people who travel and yet have not visited Rajagala although it could certainly be read as such. It is essentially an invitation: ‘you must visit this place!’

I took it in that spirit. I responded to Tharindu: ‘මමත් කවදා හෝ සංචාරකයෙක් වෙන්න බලාපොරොත්තු වෙනවා!’ ‘When you return in November,’ he said. All in good spirit, as it should be.  

I pondered about the claim, though.  On the one hand, it’s like saying ‘you are somehow a lesser human being if you didn’t do this or that,’ which of course is too silly to dwell on.  What is ‘Rajagala’ and where is ‘Rajagala’ are the questions that I thought about.

It took me back nine years. April 13, 2013.  I’ve written about it in an article titled ‘The trust location of Kala Wewa,’ published in the now defunct ‘The Nation.’

The gist:

I wanted to go to Kala Wewa and called a friend, Wasantha Wijewardena, self-proclaimed ‘professional rastiyaadukaarayaa (loafer).’ He agreed to accompany me. So we took off with a full tank of petrol.  It was around 2 pm when we stopped for a cup of tea somewhere near Narammala. This was when Wasantha made a brilliant observation: ‘There are many Kala Wewas this side of Kala Wewa.’  

Of course!

It is what we want anything to be. Our Kala Wewa on that occasion was the Maha Wewa in Madadombe, a village a few kilo meters from Gallewa, which is about nine kilo meters  along the Galgamuwa- Ehetuwewa road. It was not Kala Wewa. The Kala Wewa serenity is something else. It was, however, serene enough for us.

There’s something about the physical aspect that is too unique to replicate. Maha Wewa, Madadombe, is not Kala Wewa, Anuradhapura. There could be, theoretically, many Rajagalas outside the Digamadulla District and the Gal Oya basin. If ‘monastic complex’ is about deep and sustained reflection on eternal verities, then the world is made of Rajagalas, one could argue.

And yet, I understand Tharindu and I understand that Facebook post. I can sense the kindness and generosity that lie beneath the outwardly arrogant claim. Tharindu, after all, has visited Rajagala and he's not a 'you must or else..' kind of person.  It is that human wish to share something wonderful with others. Simply put, it is for the same reason that I write.

I am sitting somewhere in the Rajagala monastic complex right now. The wind has stopped. The sun has withdrawn the most terrible of its rays. There are no kings, architects or engineers. Even the footprints of those who came before have been covered by a fine layer of dust which will lift itself when I’m gone.

And my mind wanders to and stops at the Paṁsudhovakasutta in the Anguttara Nikaya. It is the parable of the panner. I need not venture into the extrapolations:

‘Gold has coarse corruptions: sand, soil, and gravel. A panner or their apprentice pours it into a pan, where they wash, rinse, and clean it. When that’s been eliminated, there are medium corruptions in the gold: fine grit and coarse sand. The panner washes it again. When that’s been eliminated, there are fine corruptions in the gold: fine sand and black grime. The panner washes it again. When that’s been eliminated, only gold dust is left. A goldsmith or their apprentice places the gold in a crucible where they blow, melt, and smelt it. Still the gold is not settled and the dross is not totally gone. It’s not pliable, workable, or radiant, but is brittle and not completely ready for working. But the goldsmith keeps on blowing, melting, and smelting it. The gold becomes pliable, workable, and radiant, not brittle, and ready to be worked. Then the goldsmith can successfully create any kind of ornament they want, whether a bracelet, earrings, a necklace, or a golden garland.’


Other articles in this series: 

Let's show love to Starbucks employees!

You've got mail?

Octavio Paz and Arthur C Clarke in the stratosphere 

Enduring solidarities 

Coco 'Quotes' Gauff!

9/11 and the calm metal instrument of Salvador Allende's voice 

What a memory-keeper foregoes 

Whitman, Neruda and things that wait in all things

Thilina Kaluthotage's eyes keep watch

Those made of love will fly

Profit: the peragamankaru of major wars

Helplessness and innocence

The parameters of entirety

In loving memory of Carrie Lee (1956-2020)

Mobsters on and off the screen

Transfixing and freeing dawns

We're here because we're here because we're here

Life signatures

Sha'Carri Richardson versus and with Sha'Carri Richardson  

A canvas for a mind-brush

Sybil Wettasinghe's shoes

Love is...

A stroll with Pragg and Arjun along a boulevard in Baku

Meditation on tree-art

Daya Sahabandu ran out of partners but must have smiled to the end

Gentle intrusions 

Sleeping well

The unleashing of inspiration

Write, for Pete's sake

Autumn Leaves Safeness

 Sapan and voices that erase borders

Problem elephants and problem humans

Songs from the vaekanda

The 'inhuman' elephant in a human zoo

Ivan Art: Ivanthi Fernando's efforts to align meaning

Arwa Turra, heart-stitcher

Let's help Jagana Krishnakumar rebuild our ancestral home

True national anthems

Do you have a friend in Pennsylvania (or anywhere?)

A gateway to illumination in West Virginia

Through strange fissures into magical orchards

There's sea glass love few will see 

Re-residencing Lakdasa Wikkramasinha

Poisoning poets and shredding books of verse

The responsible will not be broken

Home worlds

Ownership and tenuriality of the Wissahickon

Did you notice the 'tiny, tiny wayside flowers'?

Gifts, gifting and their rubbishing

History is new(s)

Journalism inadvertently learned

Reflections on the young poetic heart

Wordaholic, trynasty and other portmanteaus

The 'Loku Aiya' of all 'Paththara Mallis'

Subverting the indecency of the mind

Character theft and the perennial question 'who am I?'


A degree in people

Faces dripping with time

Saji Coomaraswamy and rewards that matter

Revolutionary unburdening

Seeing, unseeing and seeing again

Alex Carey and the (small) matter of legacy

The Edelweiss of Mirissa 

The insomnial dreams of Kapila Kumara Kalinga 

The clothes we wear and the clothes that wear us (down) 

Every mountain, every rock, is sacred 

Manufacturing passivity and obedience 

Precept and practice 

Sanjeew Lonliyes: rawness unplugged, unlimited 

In praise of courage, determination and insanity 

The relative values of life and death 

Feet that walk 

Sarinda's eyes 

Poetry and poets will not be buried 

Sunny Dayananda 

Reunion Peradeniya (1980-1990) 

What makes Oxygen breathable?  

Sorrowing and delighting the world 

The greatest fallacy  

Encounters with Liyanage Amarakeerthi 

Beyond praise and blame 

Letters that cut and heal the heart 

Vanished and vanishing trails 


A forgotten dawn song from Embilipitiya 

The soft rain of neighbourliness  

The Gold Medals of being 

Jaya Sri Ratna Sri 

All those we've loved before 

Reflections on waves and markings 

A chorus of National Anthems 

Saying what and how 

'Say when' 

Respond to insults in line with the Akkosa Sutra 

The loves of our lives 

The right time, the right person 

The silent equivalent of a thousand words 

Crazy cousins are besties for life 

Unities, free and endearing 

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!" 

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis 

The revolution is the song 

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins 

The day I won a Pulitzer 


Ella Deloria's silences 

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness 

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable  


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan 

Enlightening geometries 

Let's meet at 'The Commons' 

It all begins with a dot 

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation 

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone 

On sweeping close to one's feet 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts... 

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm 

Who really wrote 'Mother'? 

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing 

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed 

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember 

On loving, always 

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal 

When you turn 80... 

It is good to be conscious of nudities  

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday  

There's a one in a million and a one in ten 

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California 

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature 

Pathways missed 

Architectures of the demolished 

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts 

Who the heck do you think I am? 

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha' 

The Mangala Sabhava 

So how are things in Sri Lanka? 

The most beautiful father 

Palmam qui meruit ferat 

The sweetest three-letter poem 

Buddhangala Kamatahan 

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
The allegory of the slow road