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* Pallekele Meditation Centre

The life of a great saint
A great saint just passed away! He was indeed an Arahath who attained
saintliness in this very life! He was known to thousands of devotees in Sri
Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and USA simply as Venerable Amatha Gavesi
Thera of the Dewanapethis Samatha Vipassana International Meditation Center
Pallekele at Kundasale. He passed away peacefully at �Suwa Sevana' Hospital in
Kandy at 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday June 11 at the age of 85 while �Pirith' was
being chanted by a group of members of the Order of Nuns, whom he had revived.

Venerable Amatha Gavesi Thera was born on December 19, 1918 at Walana, Panadura
to parents dedicated to the Dhamma and started his career as a Police Inspector
in 1943. He was honest, and his commanding voice was sufficient to elicit
confessions from criminals. He rapidly rose to the rank of DIG and reached the
zenith of his career as Director, Police Training College and almost all the
DIGs and SSPs of today including the IGP were his trainees. As Director he did
everything possible to remove the last vestiges of the colonial iron fist in
apprehending criminals and substituted instead compassion to all beings and a
Buddhist way of life. He was an erudite scholar in Sinhala, English, Pali and
Sanskrit and even during his service tenure he practised the Dhamma and deeply
meditated whenever possible. He did not spare a single moment in discursive
thinking, and while serving as a Director he had a human skeleton in a glass
cage installed in his room for him
to meditate on the impurities of the human body.

He married the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jayanetti of Matale and was blessed with
a son and a daughter. They were a devoted couple faithful to each other and
treading the Dhamma way. Their comprehension of the Dhamma became so profound
that they mutually agreed to remain celibate for the rest of their lives and
concentrate in pursuing the noble Eight-fold Path for the attainment of Nibbana
bliss in this very life. One by one they let go of their mundane attachments and
led a simple life. He retired from the service prematurely and immediately
entered the Order of the Sangha, followed by his wife as a Dasa Sil Matha (Ten
Thereafter he established a Meditation Centre in his own land at Horana. By this
time his fame as a Dhamma scholar and practising one spread far and wide beyond
the shores of Sri Lanka, and he was invited to deliver sermons in Singapore,
Malaysia, Australia and USA. The offerings he received were in cash, but he
never touched them and left it to the two Devotees who followed him. All this
money he distributed to several Buddhist Meditation Centres where many
foreigners undergo intensive meditation.
He was a vegetarian and his living was indeed very simple. He always used the
begging bowl and never a plate and never accepted anything more than his bare
requirements as prescribed by Lord Buddha. Later he sojourned in a few
Meditation Centers and finally came to the abandoned Gam Udava land at
Pallekele, and the late President Premadasa on hearing of this came and offered
the whole land which was about 30 acres in extent for the establishment of a
Meditation Center. Before he could give the deed, the President tragically
passed away and with the change of the government, this land was reduced to 15
acres. By this time the Thera has attained the second stage (sakadagami, once
returner) and with the assistance of a society called �Daham Madura' he worked
hard to revive the Order of the Nuns. It was an uphill task and long was his
suffering. But the ladies who came to enter the Order were carefully selected
and they had a probationary period as
�Dasa Sil Mathas'. When some of them attained the first grade (sotappana,
stream entry) the Order of the Nuns was automatically established. Then he
created a fund for the maintenance of the Center and diverted his own well
earned pension to the fund. Monies poured in from pious donors and on every Poya
(full moon) Day thousands flocked into observe �Sil' (8 or 10 precepts). A
two-week intensive training course too followed, not only for locals, but also
for foreigners. All were provided with free meals. One can imagine the enormity
of this task when in some Poya days those who observe �Sil' exceeded five
thousand! Philanthropists constructed �kutis' (sleeping quarters), tanks,
toilets, steps and railings and a Dagaba and a Dhathu Mandiraya to house the two
holy tooth relics. When the Barmian statue in Afghanistan was blasted by the
savage barbaric Taliban Muslims, all the Arahath relics that had been enshrined
there poured into
this Mandiraya and they have been enshrined in a number of small caskets.

I met this Saint for the first time when I was in Nuwara Eliya courts.. He was
then the ASP. Both of us were drawn to each other by some invisible force and
our affection and respect for each other was mutual. We became true �Kalyana
Mittas' (dhamma friends) and along with 4 illustrious men, namely Crown Proctor
Mr. C. M. L. de Silva, Dr. J. P. Gunatilake, District Judge Mr. B. E. de Silva
and the Govt. Agent Mr. Elkanduwa, worked hard for the welfare of the masses and
also established the International Buddhist Centre where sermons and Dhamma
discussions were conducted every Sunday afternoon. I met him again 29 years
later when he was sojourning at Pallekelle and before I could identify myself,
he promptly recognised me and insisted that I take to robes. I told him that I
am encumbered with a wife and that she would be helpless without me, but assured
him that as a layman, both my wife and I continue to pursue in the same path.
Thereafter both of us
visited the centre frequently and while the Thera helped me to develop my
meditation practices, my wife was trained by the nuns. By that time he had
reached the 3rd Grade (Anagami, non returner) and had severed all ties with
mundane life.

Ven. Amatha Gavesi Thera delivered his sermons in lucid form and simple
language, and all of them were faithfully recorded by the Kurunegala Daham
Medura Society.

He was telepathic and vividly recalled numerous past lives. He also told me of
some of my past lives where we had been friends! The cremation was simple and
inexpensive as wished by this great saint. There was no embalming but the body
remained quite serene throughout the 27 hours. There were no pandals or costly
towering cremation pyre. It was just a six feet square space covered with a five
feet wide cheap red robe with a tiny flag. The pile was made up of cinnamon and
sandalwood.. A tape recording of the Satipatthana sutta (Foundations of
mindfulness) which the Thera had chanted when alive was played throughout the
day and well over five thousand devotees, all of whom observed Sil, maintained
absolute silence. As the coffin was carried the police top brass with personnel
paid the highest homage to the chant of �Anicchchawatha Sankara' (�all
formations are impermanent') by all monks, the nuns and all the devotees who
were present. All are
agreed that at the final hour of the Venerable Thera's passing away, he had
attained Nibbana.

(A news paper article)

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