An Opportunity to Give Back
Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country and there are many temples throughout. This temple is called Nawamuni, "nawa" meaning 9 and "muni" meaning Budhha. It's the temple of 9 Buddhas (actually stupas). Each temple has a story and this one pertains to a wealthy lady who did not have any children. She yearned for kids and visited fortune tellers and astrologers. She was told to seek out a special astrologer who was visiting from India. In doing so, she learned that this was her karma. She had done "bad things" in her past life and her misfortune in this one was a result of those actions. She was told to build as many stupas as possible. A stupa is a mound-like structure that contain sacred relics of Budhha or other saints and is used as place for meditation and worship, The astrologer told her that people would pray at these stupas and she would receive their blessings.
Unfortunately, the lady who built the temple died without having any children, but this temple is a place of worship today, especially for those wanting blessing for their unborn child or for fertility issues. With all the prayers of the people who worship here, it is said that this lady must have many children in her next life.
The preschool itself looks very similar to the ones back home, except the children are all in uniforms and the facilities are not as modern. They sit at desks and the walls are decorated with all of their art. The teachers invited me to the school exhibition, showcasing the kids' work, in a few days but unfortunately I will already be on to my next stop. The children were working on what looked like tissue art when I arrived. They must know that visitors mean goodies because they were squealing and coming up to the windows to great us.
It gave me such pleasure to be able to hand my bundle of small tokens to each child. I was surprised at how patient and well mannered they all were, sitting quietly at their desk until it was their turn, then standing to accept the gifts and saying THANK YOU after receiving them. It brought to mind my own kids and their preschool days. I looked into the innocence of their eyes and marveled at how happy and appreciative they are with something so basic, something we take for granted back home. It really puts things into perspective.
Having the opportunity to see the children and stop to just give back for a moment was the highlight of my trip thus far. I'm feeling blessed and so grateful for all that I have and all that my husband and I are able to provide for our children. This experience brought tears to my eyes and such joy to my heart.
Rumassala & Yatagala Temples
He then leads me to the stupas and shows me how to worship the Buddha statues that are in the four sections of the stupa. Each section shows the Buddha at a different stage of his life. You are supposed to offer flowers at each statue and pray. There is also a building that houses all the gifts from the various countries that have paid homage here and it's also where the sermon is delivered by the disciples of the Japanese monk who created this place. Inside you can see the Japanese drums and the seating area used for this ceremony.
The blessing consisted of the monk chanting while he tied a white string around my right wrist. Charith then directed me to give the monk a small bag of gifts which he had brought on my behalf, and bend down to touch his feet. At this point, the monk once again gave me some blessings and the ceremony was complete.
I am fascinated with Buddhism. I asked Charith if he could set up a discussion with one of the monks who spoke English because I would love to learn more about this religion. This is one of the benefits of a butler, he can essentially make anything happen. Unfortunately, as hard as he tried, he couldn't find an English speaking monk for me so I asked my questions and the monk that provided the blessing for me answered in Singhalese, translated into English by Charith. There's always something lost in translation, so after a few basic questions, I decided to seek my answers elsewhere.
The other benefit of having Charith along is that he's giving me incredible insight. He has been guiding me every step of the way, explaining the rituals and sharing stories about his family and how they pray. This makes my experience to these temples so much richer. Had I just chosen to come on my own, I wouldn't have gained as deep an understanding of local customs. I would have been like the other tourists that come through, take some pictures, then head on to the next site.