Greetings from Sri Lanka!

I’m up in the hill country in a little town called Ella surrounded by mountains, forests, waterfalls and tea plantations. Nearing the end of my journey with just a few more days beach time after I leave the hills.

Sri Lanka is wonderfully relaxed place with a deeply – felt spirituality woven into everyday life. Cleaner and less frenetic than India, here the Buddhist influence is clear to see, although sometimes mixed with a little Hinduism – you will often see statues of Buddha Shakyamuni (which are everywhere), with Ganesha and Vishnu at his side.

In the North, the language shifts from Sinhalese to Tamil, and the balance between Buddhism and Hinduism is tipped firmly in favour of the latter. One of the most amazing things I saw was the Nallur Temple at Jaffna in the far North. The Temple is dedicated to Skanda (son of Shiva and Parvatti) and is golden both inside and out, with towering gourami covered with carvings, and inside an enormous mural of Dancing Shiva with all 108 of his poses, said to form the basis of Yogasana, depicted along the walls.

Nallur Temple, Jaffna

Nallur Temple, Jaffna

Another enduring memory will be my time spent at Sri Maha Bodhi at Anuradhapura. The Bodhi Tree here was grown from a cutting taken from the famous Bodhi Tree at Bodghaya in Northern India, where Buddha reached enlightenment. In turn, when the original tree died, a cutting was taken from Sri Lanka back to Bodghaya, so the tree which is there today is the “grandson” of the original. Astonishingly, Sri Maha Bodhi has four lamps around it which have been burning constantly since the tree was brought from Bodghaya – a mere 2,300 years!

All over Sri Lanka, the Buddhist temples have Bodhi trees said to have come from Sri Maha Bodhi. A common ritual is to carry a bowl of water containing your wishes seven times around the tree, then to use it to water the roots.

The Bodhi tree is said to have a particular energy which is conducive to meditation. I certainly felt something very special at Sri Maha Bodhi, and had I been able to stay on that spot for the rest of my time here,  I would not have been at all disappointed!

Whilst, beyond the tourist / beach variety, there is little here by way of Yoga, Ayurveda (Yoga’s sister science of Vedic medicine) is everywhere. However, my intention in coming to Sri Lanka was not to come looking for Yoga teachings, but to simply take the time to deepen my own practice, to meditate, and to read at least some of the books which I’ve been promising myself for quite some time.  Peter Marchant’s “The Yoga of Truth”, David Frawley’s “Vedantic Meditation”, and Sharma Rinpoche’s “A Change of Expression” being some of the highlights on this front.

Practising while travelling is not nearly as easy as when you are on a retreat, where all of your practical needs are met, but a constantly changing environment brings from the head to the heart two very important lessons.

Firstly, that everything which we consider to be real and lasting is impermanent. Whichever object, sensation or feeling you wish to examine closely enough will ultimately reveal itself to be ever – changing,  as having no independent existence in and of itself. Therefore, there is nothing in this relative ”reality” which you can wholly depend upon as a source of happiness.

Secondly, travelling to and practising in different places every few days, it becomes very obvious that the only thing which IS constant is your own awareness. Not the ever – changing activities of the mind, nor the cognitive processing of sensory input, nor the insatiable demands of the ego, but the mirror behind those constantly moving pictures. This is true whether you are moving from place to place or not, but it shows its face very clearly when you meditate in different places day to day. The greatest gift of Yoga is that it can bring you to that place of stillness. Given a well – established practice, even a few gentle Asanas and a little Pranayama will settle you into at least a moment or two of the spaciousness and clarity of pure awareness, where the mind relaxes into the pure joy which is its essence.

Om Shanti.

Jan 2016

PS Apologies for the lack of photos…uploading with limited Internet is a time-consuming challenge. I’d rather be meditating!