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  • Meeting with Ven. Gotami (Mother Ramani).
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Meeting with Ven. Gotami (Mother Ramani).
Source: Yasodhara-Newsletter on International Buddhist Women's Activities
Publication Date: 10/01/2005
COPYRIGHT 2005 NIBWA-Newsletter on International Buddhist Women

June 23, 2005 we planned our trip to visit Ven. Gotami at her meditationCenterin Padukka some 30 kms east of Colombo. It took us one and a half hrs. to get there. We stopped on the way to get some fruits and curd to make an offering as we expected to arrive there for lunch.

After an hour on the road the van turned into a narrow road, after many twists and turns we arrived at a gate. Going through the first gate, we looked towards our right, there were some nice residential buildings for the men. Then we entered yet another gate, this time the van climbed a steep road and landed on an open space in front of a garage.

From here we walked up a steep climb to a large and beautiful 2-storey building. There was a Sri Lankan style half moon stone at the entrance with two devas guarding on the two sides. The hall was large and clean with Buddha image in the center. Some women in white were there doing their meditation practice. We were taken upstairs to another large hall with impressive brass pavilion where the relics were reverentially enshrined. These relics came to the Venerable miraculously during her meditation session. Apparently they appeared on her palms one after another. The offering altar was also in brass with beautiful design. The place was very clean and well kept.

As we came down and walked towards Ven. Gotami's residence, a building set in the wood next to the main shrine, she came out to welcome us.
Madam Ranjani de Silva introduced me to her as being her senior, so she folded her hands in a respectful manner. She excused herself for having a back pain and could not sit on the floor, both of us were on plastic chairs covered with white clothes the way Sri Lankawould do to pay respect to the ordained ones.

Ven, Gotami is 48 years old, a tall figure for Sri Lankan with a beautiful chocolate complexion with lots of milk. Ranjani was doing translation for us. But I noticed she could understand most of what I said. When she could not follow, she would then turn to Ranjani to make sure she got the conversation correctly.

After lunch we sat together for four hours. She wanted someone to write her story and I was interested to hear how she came to an ordained life.

Her life was indeed unique. I will not pretend to write a good story, there is much more about her than what you can read from this short story. But unless and until you get to meet her in person, this piece of short story should be sufficient to raise curiosity and interest in our readers.

Early childhood

Ramani was born a beautiful child to a family in the village. Her house is about 5 kms. Outside Colombo. Coming from a poor family she got only grade 9 education. But since her childgood, she already perceived that she had a special quality. In one particular incident that she told us, she came to know before hand that her uncle living in Anuradhapurawas visiting, so she told her mother to prepare meal for him, and sure enough he arrived late that night. She often got the message before hand of things that would happen later. However, she lost this ability on the day of marriage.

Experiencing suffering.

To her, married life is a continuation of experiences of suffering, one after another. On the night of her wedding the flood came and literally washed away everything, she read this as a message that marriage life was a wrong turn for her. Her husband's family did not have children, so they expected children from her. With the experience of giving birth to three children, two sons and one daughter, there was nothing but running in and out of hospital.

In one particular instant where she experienced deep suffering was when her son had a fish bone stuck in his throat and developed a big lump, he could not speak for 21 days and ran a high fever. The doctor refused to take care of him, she was desparate, she just took her son on her shoulder and went out running and screaming. It was too much a sight for the doctor, so he finally operated on the child. She was waiting outside the operation room with her mother and her husband's mother. When the doctor opened the door and called out "who is the mother?" She was too shock to even answer, she grabbed her heart thinking that it had stopped. It was her mother who rushed forward.
The doctor made announcement that it was a fish bone, and he had successfully removed it.

Her son could not speak for 21 days, while she was nursing him back to life, for the first time he called out, "mother, I need water" What a joy!

It was clear to her to note this misery in life, the constant emotional ups and downs for one who is bound in this samsaric world.

She herself was beautiful, but apparently her younger sister was even more beautiful. Her husband's 5th brother fell in love with her. This caused much conflict and quarrel among the couples. Finally her sister burnt herself alive, she did not die immediately but lived on for sometimes but looking ghostly. This was the shocking experience for her and she understood that beauty was indeed skin deep. She saw through the true nature of beauty and allowed her to overcome clinging to beauty.

Her practice

Interestingly, before this she did not have a clue about the teaching of Buddhism, it was her mother in law who took her to Tapovanaramaya, a temple about 10 kms away from her village. That was the first time that she was exposed to yet another way of life, a life of practice.

She wanted so much to go to practice but did not know any temple where they would teach her to meditate. She just followed one young woman wearing nice skirt, when she arrived at the temple, the young woman disappeared. But on that day she had on colored sari which was not appropriate for religious function. The following day she came again, and that was the first time she met her teacher, Ven. Amita Gavesha.
She said she actually saw silver lining as his aura and knew that he would be her teacher and her spiritual guide. She was weeping and crying telling him the misery of life she had been through.. He told him that if she take 10 precepts and practice meditation "You can enter Nibbana". That was encouraging enough for her.

She was 25 years old when she gave birth to her youngest child.

She was supposed to practice and report to him every 2 weeks. But she did not know what is Samadhi. The first two weeks she tried very hard, finally she saw the waves in the sea. So this must be it. She reported to him. Her teacher was a police officer before his ordination, so he dismissed her abruptly like a policeman and told her to be mindful.

After two weeks she reported back to him again, this time she saw a flag and took that to be meditation, and again she was abruptly dismissed.

She became more mindful in her day to day routine and found that she gained strength, and she was mindful in everything that she was doing, cooking, tending to her children, etc. She was cautious not to hate her husband, as that would become obstacle for her practice, so she had to develop more and more loving kindness, and patience.

With this change, the family also improved. She tried to be only in the present, not swinging into the past or into the future. She developed the four viriya (perseverance).

This time she saw a woman cut up into pieces, she reported to her teacher. He suggested that she made some offering and the vision of this suffering woman disappeared.

Then she was into the practice of jhanic experience, she went into state one, two, three and four Jhana.

Then she was introduced to practice on cause and effect. She looked at her own life, everytime when she quarreled with her husband she would end up crying. So she understood that the quarrel was the cause and the crying was the effect.

She still returned to her teacher every two weeks without her husband knowing.

At this time, she had a real clinging to the Vijay Kumar, the film star. Once her uncle read her horoscope and predicted that she will be carried into the four directions. She read the message that she would be famous like the film star. At this point she was practicing rising and passing with her teacher. Then a sudden shocking news came that Vijay Kumar died, she grabbed her heart and kept repeating rising and falling for 7 days before she could overcome the pain of departing from the loved one.

Now her husband from the previous birth appeared, his name is Supeda, claiming ownership over her and not wanting her to continue on her spiritual progress. She reported this to her teacher. Her teacher again dismissed her, "go and meditate, let go of Supeda", was his advice.

Finally she entered, in her own word, the first fruition, where even the devas came and pay respect to her.

From this time on ward she felt a clear cut change in her lifestyle.
She still cooked for her husband. One time he brought a big fish and it disappeared, he was in rage a nd became abusive.

This was the time she went through a clear break in life. She went out into the darkness of the night and made a strong determination that she would like to end life suffering. The sky opened up and she saw a rocket landed. She ran into the house, and spoke to her husband calling him by his name ...

"Sunil, for 14 years you have fed me with dirt, I am free now."

Healing Power

Ven. Gotami, at that time she was still Mother Ramani, first discovered that she had healing power when she took her son to the hospital. He had a big swollen boil on his foot. Upon arriving at the hospital, she realized that the hospital was closed. She was desperate having carried him a long distance from her home.

Then a voice came telling her, "You have power to heal him!"

She still did not know how to do it, then she was instructed to hold on to the boil and recite "itipiso bhagava......." With the Buddha's power, soon her son was healed.

Upon returning home, she was further instructed to ask for healing power from Maha Pajapati Gotami where she could feel the heat coming to her palms.

During this time, everytime she sat for chanting and meditation, cobras would come and wander in the courtyard guarding her.

It was a clear sign that she had to leave home-life.

By 1991 she was known for her healing power and people flocked to her even just to get a glance of her, believing that it would bring luck to them. In 1992 she was invited to Malaysiaand Singaporewhere she was quickly accepted and venerated by the people in these countries.

Now she commented that she does not do much of the healing, she explained that she felt it was not right when she walked through the hospital ward and then she would be helping only one person, what about many other sick people in the same ward.

Singaporeand Malaysia

Now she goes to visit her followers in these two countries twice a year. She made the first trip with her teacher in 1992. Through her simple teaching and meditation guidance she has gained quite a bit of popularity. This popularity is transformed in material support as we witness all the comforts provided at her center. Apart from the main shrine and her comfortable residence, there are rows of modern residence for her foreign students to come and practice with her for short period.

She recalled a story when she was being driven in Pahang, suddenly a message came to her that the owner of the van was in trouble and that he might even end up in jail. She mentioned this to the lady traveling with her, she happened to be his wife. When he heard the warning, he was impressed and wanted to offer her some donation but she told the wife that what he needed to do was to study dhamma so that in difficult time he would be saved. The man starting observing vegetarianism and vowed to come to help her with her dhamma work in Sri Lanka. He could not do it then, as even his passport was confesticated. He went through the turmoil of life and finally when he became free, the first thing was to come to Sri Lankaas promised and helped her to buy the land and built the center.

Many Singaporeans and Malaysians come to practice with her at her center.

Her Ordination

Mother Ramani spent many years wearing white and observed the ten precepts. I asked her why she did not consider ordination. She was very open about it, accepting that she was afraid and did not know how to go about the ordination in a proper way as she herself is uneducated. It was through the connection with Madam Ranjani de Silva, the president of Sri Lanka Sakyadhita that she learned of the possibility of ordination. She took her first ordination and became a samaneri in December, 2001 and in July 2004 she was fully ordained in Anuradhapura.

Now in brick color robe, she walks her path softly, always mindfully, there are some 10 bhikkhunis and samaneris practicing with her.

Her centre is a peaceful and quiet place for someone who is genuinely seeking the path ... to enlightenment.