Vajirarama Forest Solitude, Bowalawatta, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Also known as University Forest Solitude

Location: High up in the hilly area just outside Kandy called Bowalawatta, and known variously as University Forest Solitude, Vajirarama, and Bowalawatta.

Tradition: None, all meditation methods are allowed. No teacher is resident here.

Practice intensity: 1 out of 10. Few rules and no oversight. Up to you to keep to a routine.

Accommodation: Individual kutis as well as small blocks housing 2 or 3, all set apart in thick jungle for privacy and peace.

Food: Unknown, probably the usual vegetarian.

Min/Max stay: None. Some foreign yogis have been known to stay for many months.

Cost: Optional donation as usual.

Clothing: White for lay-people, as usual.

Transport: Can take a bus from central Kandy to Bowalawatta Bus Stop, then walk uphill til you see the sign for Vajirarama. Or can take a tuk-tuk there for around US$3. Use the PickMe app, a local Uber-style service, for even cheaper rates. Google Maps shows it as Vajirarama International Buddhist Meditation Center, but no road is shown to it from the main road. The side road is very new and good quality as of writing so, despite the steep climb, any vehicle should be able to do it.

Contact: A senior monk, known as Venerable Dhammanusari, is available on +94-71-8405755, and vendhammanusari@gmail.com. Also +94-813809210.

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.

As you’ll see in the photos below, it’s set in thick jungle, and has quite a crowded feeling in terms of the buildings and pathways being closely surrounded by trees. The monastery is spread over the hillside, high up, so it’s very cool, and often rains, or at least it does in the current rainy season here in mid-year.

The monastery’s official name is above, but I’ve heard people refer to it simply by the area name Bowalawatta. Note that nearby is another monastery known as Ulpatkanda, which could be mistaken for this one if using only the area name. (Apologies I didn’t get to Ulpatkanda, but the tuk-tuk driver said the road is damaged and not passable.)

There are around 10 monks resident here, including an American and a European. There are also usually a small number of foreign yogis quietly living in the forest. In fact I’d heard about this centre from foreigners who’d stayed a long time and liked it very much.

A large meditation hall (Bhavana Sala) is being built near the entrance, so for now the dining hall (Dana Sala) serves both functions. Although it looks and feels more like a meditation space, so all good.

Once you leave the main complex and head up into the jungle where the accommodation is located, the trees and foliage get dense, and leeches are sometimes found. Typical Sri Lanka jungle stuff. Personally I found the accommodation area so dense as to be a bit claustrophobic, with no sky or open space visible.

As I didn’t stay here, I won’t say much more, except that it would suit anyone wanting to get away from it all to have some solitude, as the name suggests.

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Turn up this left side road when you see these signs
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This sign is small and not clear from the main road
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At a later junction, this sign indicates which way to go
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Entrance
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Main building housing the meditation and dining hall, as well as offices
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Meditation and dining hall
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Meditation and dining hall
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Forest path, slippery when wet!
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An accommodation block with 2 rooms
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Single kuti with long hallway at front, probably for walking meditation
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Rare open forest view
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Bodhi Tree space
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Habitation is literally carved out of the hill and forest
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Sima Hall, where special events are held
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Silence and peace is encouraged

 

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!).

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