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.)
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.