Pallekele Meditation Centre:
The greatest of ‘conquerors’
Serene environment, cool climate, lush greenery adorned with
twittering birds and naughty squirrels......What would be your immediate
reaction to such a site? A traveller’s haven or a nature lover’s
paradise? But neither of them would fit in there, unless their intention
is to gain wisdom through self-effort by practising meditation under the
instructions of nuns.
The plight of a journalist too is the same. He/she has no ‘business’
at Pallekele Devanampiya Tissa Samatha Vipassana International
Meditation Centre which is situated a few miles away from Kandy along
Kandy-Digana Road in Pallekele. Chandra Loku Manio repeatedly refused to
be interviewed. The place is for the genuine seekers of the truth, not
for sightseers and tourists, she explained to us emphasizing the
religious importance of the place.
“Newspaper articles could be misleading sometimes. Even during the
period of the late Ven. Amatha Gavesi Thera, the founder of this
meditation centre, no articles were carried in the newspapers. But the
ones who are genuinely interested in practising meditation always know
how to find this place”
Though Chandra Loku Manio and other nuns bestow same compassion on
everyone who visits the Aranya, irrespective of what their intentions
are, it should be repeatedly emphasized that this serene meditation
centre is solely for those who wish to seek spiritual consolation.
“The untrained mind is very elusive and persuades people to commit
evil and become slaves of the senses. Imagination and emotions could
mislead human mind if it is not proprly trained.” Chandra Loku Manio
continues. She no longer saw journalists or photo journalists seated on
the mat in her abode, but devout upasaka and upasika keenly listening to
“Meditation is the remedy for many physical and mental ailments. A
person who practises meditation will be able to control his/her mind
when it tends to be misled by the five senses.”
Pix : Thilak Perera
The site where the meditation centre is located was gifted by late
president Ranasinghe Premadasa under his village development plan
Gamudawa in the early 90’s. The site then had a Chaitya, Bodhi and a
preaching hall. It was the residents of Pallekeale who had invited late
Ven. Valane Amatha Gavesi Thera to conduct meditation programs in
Pallekele. Regular 14 day meditation retreats were started from February
,1994 by the Thera and continues upto this day. On the invitation of the
Thera, Chandra Manio took over the Meditation Centre and remains the
custodian of her late spiritual leader’s principles.
As she explained meditation programs and other religious activities
commence two days prior to every poya day. On all three days, devotees
visit the aranya in hundreds or even in thousands. Those who wish to
follow a 14 day meditation retreat must have a prior booking to ensure a
place in the program. “We can accommodate 35 beginners in a batch and
every month two batches are entertained. There are separate kutis for
men and women. Food is strictly vegetarian and meditators are advised to
wear white and decent clothes. Resident nuns give instructions to
There are 25 nuns (manio) at the centre. Beginners are trained with
Samatha meditation and then Vipassana. But she further said that there
are people who can directly practise Vipassana meditation. “This ability
comes from their previous births. Such people can quickly grasp any type
of serious meditation.”
Her voice was imbued with seriousness. From the day she became a nun,
her mind has been calm and peaceful, she reveals. “Whether you are a
bhikkuni or ‘dasa sil manio’ it does not matter, what is important is
your ability to conquer the mind.
Recalling the words of the Buddha, she tells us that the greatest of
all conquerors is the one who conquers the mind, not the rulers who were
conquered 10000 men in battle.”
Wisdom knows no gender and being a woman, by no means hinder your
spiritual development. The nuns at Pallekele aranya themselves prove
that. She further says that being a layman is not a hindrance in
achieving the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
“Anyway it is better if they can sacrifice at least 14 days of their
lives, to come to a meditation centre and practise meditation deeply.
The environment should be calm and quiet. One should be able to deviate
from ‘material world’ at least for a few days.”
Then it is easy to concentrate.
It is difficult to describe, the pleasure one gains through
practising meditation, in words.
“You have to experience it yourself.” Fourteen days, a big
difference. “ You undergo the experience first and then write about it,
if you are so eager to write about the Centre to the Sunday Observer.”
concludes a smiling Chandra Manio.