1 June 2008

Journal 49

Left Ambalontota about 6:30 this morning and took the road going inland beside the river. The road was decrepit and I was forced to wear sandals: I had the bad luck last night of stepping on a thorn ball, and dig as I could, at least on of the small thorns was still hidden in my right heel. It may have worked its way out by now, for I don't feel it now.

It was 9 miles to Maduragala arañña. The day was cloudy, and I took my time. (I don't like to arrive before noon, because of the possible problems with food.) Ate a pleasant meal beside the river. After 6 miles the asphalt ended and the road was dirt. My sandals broke, but I fixed them with string until I found a tea stall where someone ran off to get them fixed - 2 nails were required. (At first the tea stall man wanted to give me his sandals, which, in fact, fitted, but I managed to refuse that.) The last 3 miles, of which I had been warned not to travel alone, turned out to be a broad track along which a jeep passed me, several kids on bicycles whizzed past, and cattle and water buffalo infested. Townspeople have a fantastically exaggerated idea of danger (except the dangers of a town). There wasn't even very much jungle, for houses and some farmland lined the road. The last half mile it began to rain and it has been raining ever since. I reached Maduragala about 11:30.

The arrañña is built on, under, and around a series of gigantic rocks. Some of the buildings use the rocks as their roofs, some as walls, some as floors. The place is much more impressive than Nugagala in this respect - though the jungle doesn’t compare, of course - and besides it's well kept-up and not just mud huts with tin roofs. Because of the rain I have not explored, but there is a giant rock above the arañña in which is a fissure about 9 feet deep and 10 feet by 20 feet across, forming a pool in which I bathed; a dining hall about 50 feet by 30 feet of floor space with a ceiling of about 25 feet of rock, and a few other buildings: a fine temple room, quite large. I've been placed in a kuti very close to the dining hall and even closer to the water tap, in sight and sound of everything: most unfortunate, I will have to see, tomorrow, if there are any more isolated kutis available, for with 11 residents here, this kuti is untenable.

All residents are novices: 3 of them are elderly. There is one bhikkhu, I am told, who is away for 2 or 3 weeks. One of the old novices, and also a mason who works and lives here, speaks English. The umbrella given me at Nugagala, which was old, yellow (considered not quite proper for a monk's umbrella - reddish-brown and white being the 'proper' colors), and which had a broken piece (reparable easily) yesterday was taken from me and I was given a brand-new white umbrella of excellent quality. Very nice. I was also told that a German monk named Ñánasiha was here about a year ago. (This place is closely affiliated, also, with Dediyagala.) 'Gala', I am told, means 'stone', I don't know what 'Madura' means, but gala is quite appropriate. Nuga is a kind of tree whose bark is used to make the dye for the robes. 'Duwa' means island: Dodan=orange Island Hermitage is called in Sinhalese Polgasduwa, which means coconut island. There are coconuts at Polgasduwa, but no orange trees grow anywhere near Dodanduwa, which is not even an island, and sometimes oranges cannot even be bought there: not even the oranges which are green when they're ripe. I'm told that the head of the sect will be visiting on January 1, and am considering staying till then to meet him, depending on whether I get a different kuti

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