The Best-laid Plans, January 1, 2011

We planned a big dana for Wednesday, December 29, to meet Ven. Amilasiri and the 9-year-old orphaned novice, Welikande Pathmasiri, who had the surgery for the hole in his heart.

Click the photo to see more photos of the dana.
The American monk, Ven. Upatissa, agreed to come, bringing Ven. Pamburana Sanghasobhana, a Sinhalese monk from the south, who had heard of us from mutual friends in the US. We had also invited Sister Nirodha, the English nun staying at Ambuluwawa Meditation Center. Many friends and neighbors who wanted to meet Ven. Amilasiri were also coming, so we were quite excited.

Alas, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray."

The night before, Ven. Amilasiri called to tell us that an 87-year-old monk at his monastery in Kurunegala had died. He wouldn't be able to come until after the cremation, not earlier than 3:30 in the afternoon. There was not time to inform our friends, so we went ahead as planned.

Click the photo to see more photos of lunch and the guests
Click the photo to see more photos of the Dhamma talk and Chanting
Lily and her crew cooked up a storm, we prepared some of our favorites, and friends brought special dishes, so the food was varied and delicious. We had a full house, and the conversation was both wholesome and spirited. In his Dhamma talk after the meal, Ven. Upatissa spoke about how the Buddha had allayed Mahanama's fears about dying in a moment of confusion without mindfulness. We were all blessed by the anumodana.

Long after everyone had gone their separate ways, Ven. Amilasiri and the novice arrived as promised. We were able to get some photos of the recovering novice, and, through Charles' able translation, we learned more of the details of his ordeal. We'd like to share not only the photos but also the news from Kurunegala which Ven. Amilasiri gave us.

Click the photo to see the appeal for assistance.
The surgery was scheduled for the end of November, but, early in that month, Ven. Pathmasiri became a little jaundiced and short of breath. Local doctors advised that the operation should be done as soon as possible. He was taken to Colombo, but the hospital where the surgery was scheduled could not fit him in. Fortunately, there was an opening at one of the other private hospitals, and he was admitted. Upon opening his chest, the surgeons discovered that, in addition to the hole, there was another serious heart malformation that required repair. They operated on him for seven hours, and the surgery was declared successful.

Let us again thank and praise all the generous donors who sent contributions which made up the balance which was needed for Ven. Pathmasiri's life-saving surgery!

After two weeks in the hospital in Colombo, Ven. Amilasiri took the novice back to Kurunegala. As you know, this monastery has become a center caring for elderly monks and now special nursing was required for a novice recovering from major surgery.

Little Ven. Pathmasiri had to be taken to Colombo for regular check-ups, and, for the first couple of weeks, he seemed to be doing well. Then he suddenly developed a low-grade fever with some swelling and redness at the bottom of the long incision. Ven. Amilasiri rushed him to a local doctor who ordered that he be taken back to the hospital in Colombo. There, doctors reopened the incision and removed a bit of suture which had been carelessly left inside and was festering. They cleaned out the infection and mended the incision. Even though the infection was caused by an error of the hospital staff's and not at all the fault of Ven. Amilasiri or the novice, who scrupulously followed doctors' orders, the hospital charged another 250 dollars for this procedure! Isn't that outrageous?

Click the photo to enlarge the three photos of the novice.
Still, we're happy to report that the novice is now pain free, is enjoying a good appetite, and has abundant energy. When classes resume in the new year, he will be able to take part without restrictions.

There are now 28 elderly or infirm monks staying at the monastery. The story of the latest monk to arrive is a pretty dismal tale, which Ven. Amilasiri told with his customary equanimity.

In November, a 45-year-old bhikkhu from a monastery in the Polgahawela area went to visit his ailing mother to chant paritta for her. On his way back to his monastery, he was struck by a speeding lorry and severely injured. Rather than calling the police and identifying himself, the lorry driver offered 21,000 rupees (about $200) as compensation. A relative of the monk accepted the payment, signed a waiver, and the driver vanished. Unconscious, with serious head trauma and multiple fractures, the monk was rushed to a local hospital, but that small facility was not equipped to cope with his injuries. He was soon transferred to Kurunegala Hospital, but it was determined that that hospital wouldn't be able to treat him either. Finally, he was moved to Kandy Teaching Hospital.

There, surgery was performed, but specialists declared that he would not recover from the brain injuries. He would be permanently paralyzed, bedridden, unable to feed himself, and unable to speak. After the fractures had healed, Kandy Hospital transferred him back to Kurunegala Hospital, where he stayed for some time before being shifted back to the small hospital in Polgahawela. When his monastery was contacted, the abbot said that they wouldn't be able to look after him. The hospital staff had heard about the elderly monks at Bodhirukaramaya, so they called Ven. Amilasiri, who, of course, could not refuse. The disabled monk is certainly fortunate to have a place to stay. Someone has donated a disk player so that he can listen to paritta, but he is unable to communicate beyond the simplest indication that he is hungry or thirsty. He requires complete care.

Never shirking the responsibilities that keep coming his way, Ven. Amilasiri takes literally the Buddha's words:

"Monks, you have neither mother nor father to look after you. If you do not look after each other, who will look after you? Whoever serves the sick and suffering, serves me."

P.S. The "official" photographer for this event was Phanu. He took interesting photos of the items in the knick-knack cabinet at our front door. Here are some of them. (Click the photo to see more.)

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