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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Haven in Buddha Gaya


Haven in Buddha Gaya

By Bernie Wijesekera

Despite the hot weather prevailing in India at this time of the year, my wife and I made a visit to Buddha Gaya on Poson Poya, June 30. We took refuge at the Maha Bodhi Society in Gaya, where we met Ven. Pelawatte Seevali Thera. He had started his schooling in a village school and then entered the Vidyalankara Pirivena (Kelaniya). Following a course of studies at the University of Benares, India (1994) he later joined the Sri Maha Bodhi Society, Calcutta and after a period of meditation in Thailand came to Gaya in 2002.

It was here that he came to know what it was like to meet the poorest of the poor. It was the late Anagarika Dharmapala, who spearheaded the Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka. He was responsible for the creation of the Mahabodhi Society in 1891 in Sri Lanka at Maligakanda. He spurned caste, creed and nationality. In Gaya too, all races and religions live in peace and harmony. People from all over the world come to Gaya to pay homage to Lord Buddha. They are happy to see how Buddhism is being spread among the rich and poor alike.

The Maha Bodhi Society runs a school for children aged between 5-14, headed by Chanchala Pandey with a staff of eight. The students are able to speak Sinhala, English and their mother tongue (Hindi) fluently. They are from all races. Everything is provided for them.

Many Sri Lankans visit Gaya. Ven Seevali paid a glowing tribute to Major Gen. (Dr.) C. Thurairaja who had come to India for a Sports Medicine conference held in Gaya and been most helpful to the society by giving medical attention to some Tibetan priests along with an Indian counterpart. Ven. Seevali and his team are working with dedication to heal the festering wounds among the poor in Gaya.

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