24 July, 2024


Exploring The Silent Wilderness Of Self-Discovery

By Vipula Wanigasekera

Dr. Vipula Wanigasekera

Nestled atop a serene hill in Sri Lanka, the Nihanda Arana Retreat beckons seekers from all walks of life with a simple yet profound message: “Be it Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, or Muslim, you are just another seeker of truth in the silent wilderness! A silent haven is a temporary shelter for the seeker and a practical guide on your journey of self-discovery.”

My journey to this enchanting retreat was devoid of any specific purpose. I was drawn by the captivating sermons of the venerable Abbot Ven Aluthgangoda Gnanaweera Thero. It was a decision that would lead me to experience a transformational sojourn.

My arrival at Nihanda Arana coincided with a series of enlightening programs led by renowned figures. Sanjaya Nirmal delved into the profound teachings of the Vimalakirthi Sutra, unraveling the mysteries of nondualism and the doctrine of śūnyatā. The sutra, with its exploration of the illusory nature of the world, left us pondering the nature of reality itself.

Following this enlightening discourse, we were treated to the screening of “Dark in the White Light” and an engaging discussion led by acclaimed film director Vimukthi Jayasundara. Vimukthi’s extensive spiritual journey in India, which included experiences in Sathguru and Osho Ashrams, enriched his program. 

He skillfully guided us through various activities and techniques, revealing life’s profound realities. The program was a resounding success, captivating both resident monks and lay participants alike.

Nihanda Arana’s resident monks left a lasting impression on me. Their friendly demeanor and willingness to engage in diverse conversations were truly remarkable. These monks were not only well-versed in spirituality but also tech-savvy and open-minded. 

The chief abbot, Ven Gnanaweera, originally from Brisbane, brought a wealth of experience from various traditions, enriching his regular discourses and enabling other speakers to touch upon a multitude of topics.

During my stay, I had the privilege of meeting Nuwan Rajapaksa, a renowned life coach. Despite our limited interaction, the wisdom he shared with me left a lasting impact, serving as a beacon on the path to realization. Emil Hettiarachchi, another life and corporate coach and my friend Janith Chaturanga , researcher were other contributors throughout the sessions.

Such encounters with exceptional individuals like Nuwan are a testament to the unique atmosphere that can only be found at Nihanda Arana.

However, the most poignant moment of my visit occurred in the most unexpected of places: a communal restroom. As I approached, I noticed several compartments within. To my surprise, a young female monk, her robe donned, was diligently cleaning the facilities. Not wanting to intrude, I hesitated at the entrance. In response, she graciously said, “You can use the first one while I finish the others.” This simple act of kindness conveyed a profound message, challenging the misconceptions often associated with social norms.

My experience at Nihanda Arana Retreat was nothing short of liberating. It was a journey of self-discovery, guided by the wisdom of the retreat’s residents and the unique atmosphere that permeates this serene haven. I can attest that Nihanda Arana is a treasure trove of enlightenment waiting to be explored by seekers from around the world.

*Writer is a former diplomatic envoy, head of the Tourism Authority, academic, wellness tourism expert, and healing therapist

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Latest comments

  • 5

    “Ashrams”; “Retreats”; “Temples”; “Kovils”; “Churches” “Mosques”; “Umandawas”; “Asapuwas” etc. etc…, in whatever these abodes are termed, ALL are “INSTITUTELIZED” projects that are established under a “CODE” of “LAWS” that govern your personal CONDUCT. The first thing you lose at the entrance and get attached to these “Institutions” is your “PERSONAL FREEDOM”. In brief, you are “BOUND” and “BONDED” to follow and practice as “Directed” and if NOT you have to LEAVE.

    The HUMANS had and still have the POTENTIAL and the SPIRIT to ask one very pertinent and interesting question: IS THIS REAL? The answer to that question has over the centuries and centuries brought us to our present status. That “Question” still continues and the answers we get will lead us to our destiny to come. The question “Is This Real” is a self-propelled discourse that erupts WITHIN you facilitated by none other than your own “FREEDOM”. The “Answer” is called SELF-AWARENESS derived from “SELF-AWAKENING”. So any “DESIGNED GUIDED” tour, in these abodes towards that “Awakening” (finding an answer to that question) is not what you “WANT” but what “OTHERS” want you to be.

    What needs to be looked at is REALITY and not the “TRUTH”. The “Reality” is pure. The “Truth” is impure.

    • 0

      The first para is quite true.
      The “Reality” is pure. The “Truth” is impure.requires a bit of expansion.


    • 1

      Well put, Douglas. Ultimately it is one’s own journey.

      I do believe that if the guidance is meant to provoke thinking and perhaps open the door to one’s spiritual journey, then it is alright! However, that seems to be an exception at retreats.

      I also think that a corporate coach or much of the gamut of life coaches would be at odds with what a retreat led by monk(s) offers OR maybe not because many of these retreats are essentially corporations.

  • 4

    retreats are for people of weak mental capacity.
    a mentally strong person who can see rights and wrongs doesn’t need retreats in Ashrams in the middle of plush green surrounding and soothing music.

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