Our Beginnings

In the late 1970s a group of friends from Kandy used to meet twice a week at the engineer’s bungalow at Peradeniya University for meditation sittings.The leader of the group was Mr. Ratnayaka (Chief, we used to call him) and the others were Godwin Samararatana, Bhante S. Dhammika, Dr. Parakrama Fernando, Prof. Lily De Silva, Pat Jayatilleke and Prof. Witanachchi. In time they all become friends and discussed the possibilities of having their own purpose-built place for meditation, although this seemed like to ever happen. In 1977 the university authorities asked this group to vacate the engineer’s bungalow so it could be used for other purposes. Just before this happened a prosperous Kandian businessman, Mr. P. B. Alahakoon and his wife, became regulars at the meditation sessions. When the group vacated the bungalow Mr. Alahakoon offered, not just to donate land to build a meditation centre but to pay for the construction of buildings as well. With his ‘can do’ practicality and enthusiasm the project was soon completed. When the centre was finished, Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein, who just happened to be visiting Sri Lanka, were invited to conduct the inorgral meditation course which some 60 local and foreign meditators attended. At that time the centre consisted of a single hall with an attached kitchen and for at least the first 18 months meditators both meditated and slept in the hall.

As the first meditation course was judged a success it was decided to hold regular courses. As there was no teacher Bhante Dhammika started conducting 10 day courses from the 1st of each month and gradually word spread that Nilambe was a pleasant place to meditate in. 1n 1979 Godwin Samaratatna retired from his job and came to Nilambe as a manager. Being a quiet, gentle and naturally meditative person, he gradually evolved into a teacher. Over the next 20 years Nilambe gained an international reputation mainly because of Godwin’s exceptional personality. Through various ups and downs the centre had to endure, and there had been a few serious ones, Godwin kept his balance, smiling through the difficulties, and the centre prevailed. Indeed it flourished. Now, over a decade after Godwin’s passing, people who benefited from his wisdom and compassion remember Nilambe with fondness. Many return periodically to revitalize their practice.

Godwin Samararathne

Initially, people came to Nilambe mainly to learn meditation but in time they came because of Godwin. By the mid-1980's he became so well-known that he started to receive invitations to teach in Switzerland, Germany, the U.K. and later in South Africa, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. He taught meditation to all sorts of groups, including Christian priests and pastors, and Chinese Mahayana Buddhists. Throughout the 1990's increasing numbers of both foreigners and Sri Lankans were coming to the expanding Nilambe Meditation Centre.

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PB Alahakoon

Mr. Alahakoon was the owner of the Nawa Nilambe Estate that you come up through on your way to the centre. This estate is very beautiful and successful, growing tea, coffee, pepper and cloves. The best coffee in Sri Lanka used to come from this estate. When Mr. Alahakoon came to his tea estate he would come to visit the centre often but after he got sick he was unable to come so often. When he visited we felt that he cared about it the way he did when it was first created, always asking after the maintenance, the financial situation and so on. He was like a father coming home and asking after his children, enquiring about their security and future.

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