Nissarana Vanaya - History


Meetirigala Nissarana Vanaya is a monastery in the Kalyāṇi Yogāsrama Samsthava or Galduwa Samsthava, the strictest forest tradition in Sri Lanka. It is considered as one of Sri Lanka's most respected meditation monasteries and was founded in 1967 by Asoka Weeraratna (the founder of the German Dharmaduta Society and the Berlin Buddhist Vihara in Germany). He equipped the monastery with all the facilities conducive to the meditative life, found an accomplished meditation master, Ven. Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera (author of 'Seven stages of Purification' and 'Seven Contemplations', both published by the BPS), to direct the meditation training, and then, his mission accomplished, he himself entered the Buddhist order under the name Mitirigala Dhammanisanthi. He passed away on July 2, 1999 after spending 27 years as a forest monk at Mitirigala. Ven. Dhammanisanthi was 80 years of age at the time of his death.

The distinguished senior monk Venerable Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera was the first abbot and the meditation master. During his period Nissarana Vanaya became one of the most respected meditation monasteries of Sri Lanka due to the fame of its meditation master as well as its secluded and contemplative life where monks practiced sincerely with the aspiration of attaining Nibbana in this very life. Many foreign monks and lay people also practiced meditation under the guidance of Venerable Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera. Due to his enormous influence on the revival and study of meditation techniques Ven. Nanarama was appointed as the head meditation master of a chain of forest monastery throughout the island called Kalyāṇi Yogāsrama Samsthava or Galduwa Samsthava. One of Ven. Nanarama's greatest gifts was his ability to incorporate the Burmese Vipassana techniques into Sri Lankan meditation traditions and balance them with the teaching of samatha meditation. It is here that the famous Buddhist nun Ayya Khema was taught by Ven. Ñāṇanārāma in the practice of the jhāna or samatha meditation.

On his passing away in 1992 a senior pupil, Venerable Panaduwa Khemananda became the new abbot and meditation teacher and served the monastery for 15 years. During this time one of the closest pupils of Ven. Nanarama, Ven. Katukurunde Nanananda Thera (famous for his books 'Concept and Reality', 'Magic of the Mind' and his series of 33 sermons on Nibbana) left the monastery due to its shifting away from the meditation training established by Ven. Ñāṇārāma.

Ven. Nanananda moved to Potgulgala Aranya near Devalegama, Kegalla where he is still residing, but until a few years ago was connected with the Mangalarama at Meetirigala; see below. Nissarana Vanaya moved closer to current Burmese Vipassana teachings. After Ven. Panaduwa Khemananda thero died in July 2006 the new most senior meditation teacher became Venerable Uda-Iriyagama Dhammajeewa Thera. Ven. Dhammajeewa (or Dhammajiva) is fluent in English and Burmese and has translated several meditation guides and books from Burmese into English and Sinhalese. Apart from the years of training under Ven. Matara Sri Nanananda he spent several years of training under Sayadaw U Panditabhiwansa in Myanmar (Burma), a well-known teacher in the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition.

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