Siyane Vipassana Meditation Centre, Kanduboda, Sri Lanka

One of 2 Mahasi training monasteries here

Location: In the Kanduboda district to the east of Colombo, next door to the other (separate) meditation centre often also called Kanduboda, see post here, but properly titled Sumathipala Senasun Arana, or Sumathipala Meditation Centre.

Tradition: Mahasi Sayadaw Vipassana from Burma.

Practice intensity: Unknown as I didn’t sit here. I’d guess 4 out of 10 due to open schedule.

Accommodation: Individual rooms in a locals block and in a foreigners block. The latter is slightly newer, bigger, brighter. Shared bathrooms at end of block in both cases.

Food: Unknown, probably the usual vegetarian with possibility of occasional meat/fish dish.

Min/Max stay: Unknown, probably flexible.

Cost: Donation. Rumour is a LKR 5,000 (USD 31) fee is payable on arrival, a kind of compulsory donation, regardless of length of stay.

Clothing: Full white, the usual lay Buddhist outfit, is recommended.

Transport: 15km by road from nearest railway station Gampaha. 28km from downtown Colombo. (Install the PickMe app, a Sri Lankan Uber-style service, for excellent local rates.)

Contact: siyanevipassana@yahoo.com, +94-11-2402306, http://www.insight-meditation.org

Visas: 30 days on arrival, can get online at http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/, then can extend in Colombo at the ‘Suhurupaya’ Immigration Dept for 60 days, then again for another 90 days, totalling 6 months. Can then get 1-year residence permit via certain (major and well-organised) meditation centres.

– –

I didn’t stay here but visited while staying next door at the ‘rival’ centre, Sumathipala Meditation Centre. These two centres share a boundary wall, original teacher, as well as meditation method, but otherwise they are separate and not involved with each other. Think acrimonious divorce, Buddhist-style. Important to note, when people say ‘Go meditate in Kanduboda,’ they may be referring to the other centre, although you should clarify.

So I dropped by and had a look, took some photos, and got some details. Unfortunately not all the details, sorry. And I cannot vouch for the experience of staying and training there.

The grounds are very orderly and tidy, thanks to the monks and yogis sweeping and cleaning everything daily. The buildings are mostly a little old, originally 1950s I think, but nicely renovated. And the overall area seems smaller than the spacious neighbouring centre. The dining hall and main Dhamma hall were very new. A highlight was the skeleton in a closet of sorts, for body contemplation while doing walking meditation. But if you stepped up to the glass door, your reflection appeared super-imposed onto the skeleton. Very cool.

It was suggested to me not to stay at this centre and to stay at the neighbouring Sumathipala centre instead. Some people revere the teacher, Bhante Pemasiri, over at the Sumathipala centre. This centre was almost all Sinhalese people and monks – I saw one non-local – and it had that air of being a little difficult to break into if you’re a foreigner, due to reasons such as the language, and a lack of the assumed knowledge of how to get along and get things done. None of this is to suggest the centre would not be a good place to stay at for a while and practice. Besides, as a foreigner, you’d probably learn more than hanging out next door with other foreigners. Oh, and the teacher was not there when I visited, so meditators were left to their own devices.

The limited explanation I could get for the split between the centres was mostly that the teacher Bhante Pemasiri had left this centre back in the 1980s, taught overseas for some years, then returned wishing to retire on the neighbouring property. With time, his hermitage grew and attracted more and more monastics and meditators, until it became a meditation centre in its own right. This basic history seems to be missing some important details such as why the two centres don’t share resources or why the boundary wall and its gates are sometimes opened, and then sometimes bricked over.

I cannot say more without speculating.

Main gate
Gate into the meditation section
Sima ceremonial hall
Hall for teacher interviews
Garden path
Accommodation block
Accommodation block
Room interior
Monk meditating in garden
Signage, Be Silent…!
Mahasi Sayadaw photo and info
Skeleton for body contemplation
Pond
Dining hall exterior
Ceremonial hall
Ceremonial hall
Main Dhamma hall

Author: Peter Stuckings

Australian, living all over Asia. Explorer of the mind illuminated. Scholar of cognitive sciences, Buddhist & Pāli studies. Plant-powered. (Pic of EEG brain activity testing at Hong Kong U - yes a brain was detected!).

11 thoughts on “Siyane Vipassana Meditation Centre, Kanduboda, Sri Lanka”

  1. If you want to go to Kanduboda or Mitirigala, the quickest trip is from the airport to Gampaha, a town where you can buy needed stuff. There you change the bus to Kanduboda, in case people do not know Kanduboda, ask for Delgoda. It is a shortcut, further avoiding the traffic jam in and around Colombo. To Mitirigala you will continue to Pugoda, change bus to Mitirigala. But ask, if changing bus is needed, schedules may change.

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  2. This is the original place, and no need to panic about any thing in this monastery, unless you are looking for 5star accommodation and western monks like what Peter Stuckings may be after. This Monastery is perfect for Vipassana meditation

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    1. Hi Jeremy. Could you clarify your comment? You seem to suggest my review would panic people. Can you explain that comment? Also, yes it’s the original place of the two Kanduboda centres, but are you implying that makes it better than the newer one? Also, can you please clarify your comment about wanting 5-star accom?

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      1. Yes Peter, since you have mentioned that “It was suggested to me not to stay at this centre and to stay at the neighbouring Sumathipala centre instead. I cannot say why, ” may be I should take back the 5star comment, I truly apologize for that comment. I myself have undergone a retreat here and found that Abbot Premasiri on the comfortable monastery would want only rich Sri Lankan ladies and western gentleman he probably prefer to accommodate in his rather luxurious monastery! I consider this peculiarity in the Abbot Premasiri as totally against Noble Buddhist Principals! So I certainly apologize to you again about the 5star comment, it’s not you the problem is with the Abbot next door neighbour 🙏🙏🙏

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  3. Only@ Siyane old monastery. The next door Sumathipala center, is not for ordinary Sri Lankans that Abbott caters to a certain class, the high class, which is very peculiar atitude for a Buddhist monk! Lord Buddha tolerated every class in society with great equanimity and kindness which is the correct Buddhist approch! I certainly hope this Abbott Premasiri realize his blunder of degrading the old monastery where he too was ordained! Peace 🙏

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  4. Siyane: The mentioned compulsory donation is a fact, I have been there. Should be mentioned on their website. 5 star accom at Sumanthipala I did not encounter! At best you will have a hut for 2 persons, an attached bathroom with a broken toilet tank, as in my case, mosquito net suitable for a chair, but not for a bed. So bring your net along! Same applies for Siyane. At Sumant. was a construction site, quite a number of very small cells+common bathroom. Maybe they have something better for “important” people, who are donating even buildings! Close to Kathina I was just 5 days allowed to stay, because rooms were needed for others. It seems, it is not just a meditation center, considering all the buildings and construction sites. As I was for meditation there, I avoided unneeded talk as far possible, so I did not ask about those occurrences. Before I forget-be prepared for a lot of noise from outside and inside, because all kind of vehicles are driving to and fro in the center. Siyane is somewhat better, because no vehicles entered the center-but that can change….The teaching monk spoke some English, Pemasiri did not speak English. As teaching meditation requires very precise explanations and understanding, not to talk about cultural differences, it is a good idea to consider this, too.

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    1. Hi Merk, thanks for the details! When you mention the ‘teaching monk’ who spoke English, do you mean a teacher at Siyane? When I visited a couple of years ago, they told me there was no teacher in residence there. I’m wondering if this has changed.

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