After a 3 year hiatus, FFM returned to Sri Lanka as 51 members which included 4 families and 8 youngsters departed for a 10-day pilgrimage in June 2014 . Accompanied by spiritual teachers, Venerable P. Gnanarama (fondly addressed as Bhante G), Principal of the Pali and Buddhist College in Singapore, and Ven N. Pematilleke from Sri Lanka,
several members flew in from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Perth to join the trip.
Besides the comfy air-conditioned coaches, the group rode the local tuks tuks, hitched rides on public buses and meandered through the lush hilly tea plantations between Ella and Nuwara Eliya on the Sri Lankan Railways. It was a most memorable ride even for the Sri Lankan monks, especially for Bhante G as he recalled his last train ride some 30 years ago. How different things must have been back then!
In Ella, a quaint and cosy town not often on the pilgrimage’s track, we stayed at Heaven’s Edge which had a breath taking view of the mountains, enjoyed fresh air and Sri Lankan cuisine specially prepared for us. For a spiritual uplift, the adults spent a day meditating at the Rathmalkanda Hermitage under the guidance of Venerable M. Upali, one of the best known meditation teachers, while the youngsters went for a hike in the hills with our guide. Firefly Mission donated a weather measuring system to Venerable Upali to support his scientific research on changes in the environment and meditation.
In keeping with Firefly Mission’s focus on humanitarian activities, this Pilgrimage included visits to a Home for Handicapped (MENCAFEP) in NuwaraEliya and the Isura Children’s Home set up by Bhante Gnanarama.
At the MENCAFEP Home, our members interacted with the students in their classrooms. We took the meaningful opportunity to celebrate the birthdays of 3 of our members together with the children and staff of the Home with music, dancing, birthday cakes, snacks, balloons. and goody bags. Our members also donated a laptop, printer and funds for a new washing machine to replace a broken one at the Home.
At the Isura Children’s Home, the children were also given goody bags and treated with sweets and cookies, and a piano rendition by Bro Arnold’s daughter Serene. Our members were in turn served fresh coconuts and an array of local cakes and desserts.
At Bhante G’s Purvarama temple in Colombo, we offered lunch dana to 40 monks and nuns, and also visited the newly renovated shrine hall sponsored by Firefly Mission. Members were very pleased that the 100 year old temple is now in a very good state to last another 100 years.
Together with Bhante G, Key FFM Exco- members who were on the trip identified several areas of needs for improvement at Purvarama Temple. These included new toilets, and fans in the Dhamma Hall. There are also needed amenities at the Monastic College, including a new shower area for the monks, a kitchen /pantry, a projector, book racks and a photocopy machine.
And as with all Sri Lanka pilgrimages, there are a list of UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE sites not to be missed. We visited the ancient cities – Anuradhapura,
Polonaruwa and Sigiriya, the Sacred City of Kandy with the Golden Tooth Temple Relic Temple and the Cave Temples in Dambulla. 5 out of 8 — quite a feat in 10 days!
All in, everyone enjoyed themselves — the rides, the food, the sceneries, the visits, the pujas and most of all the sharing.