Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ven. Ratwatte Siddhartha

Ven. Ratwatte Siddhartha

His interest was not self-glorification

Ven. Ratwatte Siddhartha, who was the founder and the Chief Achariya Teacher of the well-known Dhamma Khuta Vipassana Meditation Centre on the hilltop of Mahakanda in Kandy, passed away on the September 9 2008 at the age of 85.

He was virtually the local representative of the world-renowned guru Goenka whose technique of Vipassana Meditation is followed all over the world. Before ordination he was Brendly Ratwatte, who hailed from an aristocratic family in the hill capital of Kandy. Although he was a lawyer who could have easily built up a lucrative practice, his interest was not self-glorification but understanding the vanity of glory.

He married Miss Damayanthi Ellepola of a family of parallel standing in Matale. They gifted to the society, a very valuable daughter who is a doctor and a valuable son who is a lawyer. Then onwards, this great lover of humanity did not belong only to his family and relations but he was a guide and a teacher to all those that sought emancipation on Buddhist principles of Vipassana Meditation, as practised on the techniques introduced by his guru Goenka. Incidentally his wife, who was a university lecturer, too excelled in the art of meditation followed by her husband, and after his becoming a monk, she took over the role of the Chief Teacher at this meditation centre. She conducts courses of training by herself and with the help of the other teachers trained on the technique of meditation of Sri Goenka.

The Buddha always emphasised the value of doing good for oneself and for others (attahita, parahita). Late Mr. Ratwatte as a layman and then as a Buddhist monk was an embodiment of this great precept. His mission is reminiscent of the parable of the ship (nava) in the Suttanipata: As one who boards a sturdy boat,With oars and rudder well equipped,May many others then help cross,Sure, skilful knower of the means. In his search for light he travelled abroad, followed instructions under the eminent Buddhist monk Webu Sayadow of Myanmar. He also had a spell of meditation in the Himalayas.

It was on one of these journeys that he encountered his final guru S. N. Goenka, whose clarity of teaching and the efficacy of the technique of meditation attracted Mr. Ratwatte more than those of any other in the field. He studied his technique, practiced it, tested it with his own intuitive wisdom and accepted it as a very pragmatic approach. From then onwards he became the local representative of this International Guru Goenka. He founded the “Dhamma Kuta”, the well-known Buddhist meditation centre with his own money and with those lavishly contributed by other followers of this technique of meditation and attracted people of various walks of life, Buddhist monks, judges, physicians, scholars and also those less privileged people, for courses of training on Vipassana.

The followers of the practice of meditation were not limited to Buddhists but included people of other races and religions as well. Eventually he became a Buddhist monk, receiving his pabbajja (novice ordination) and as well as upasampada (higher ordination) under the Ven. Ramhukwelle Vipassi Maha Thera, the High Priest of the Malwatte Chapter of Shyamopali Maha Nikaya in the year 1999. Thereafter he continued his meditative practice in a kuti constructed and donated by his children, in a plot of land in the vicinity of Dhamma kuta, until his passing away. What was so impressive about Rev. Siddhartha, however, was not what he contributed to the field of meditation but what he was. He was truly selfless, because he totally dedicated himself to the mission he had undertaken. He left behind a world of good things for others to emulate.

May Ven. Siddhartha attain his goal of Nibbana!

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