In sickness and in health, April 13,2015

Seventh Indian Intensive Buddhist English Course July 20 - August 20, 2015

Buddhist Relief Misison is planning to conduct this course at Bodhisukha Monastery in Kolkata, but the staff is not yet fixed. Teachers are welcome. Classes will be held Monday-Friday. Lunches are prepared in the monastery kitchen. Accomodation for teachers is provided. An short excursion to BuddhaGaya or Shanti Niketan can be arranged.
Most of the students will be Burmese monks studying at universities in India. The students are extremely eager to learn, and teaching them is a truly rewarding experience. If you are interested in volunteeering to teach in the course, even for a part, if not the full term, click the photo for more information. All friends are invited to take part in this meritorious work by donating toward lunches and material.

Click to read about previous courses: 2006 2007 2008 2011 2012 2013

Lunch for one day costs about US$100.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. We don't know what plans mice make, but, as for ours, they have changed. Despite announcements in our last two reports, we are not in India. At almost the last minute, the intensive course at Bodhisukha was postponed, due to a sudden announcement of exams at Nalanda Institute and Magadh University. The Seventh Indian Intensive Buddhist English Course has been rescheduled for July-August. We are certainly hoping that it will happen then and that volunteer teachers will come forward.

We were at first disappointed but soon came to appreciate the luck of it. No sooner had we cancelled our tickets and contacted the Indian High Commissioner (to learn that there would be neither extension of our visas nor refund of the fees), than Visakha discovered a small mole on her back, just below the neck, and decided that she should see the dermatologist. Making an appointment with Dr. Dissanayake, a personable, soft-spoken doctor to whom we have turned many times for various lesions and bumps, is, fortunately, very easy. She took one look at the mole and suggested that Visakha see a surgeon at Lakeside Adventist Hospital. From the Channeling Center, even though it was already five o'clock, we asked Ashoka to take us directly to the hospital. The surgeon, we learned, would be in the next morning, and we immediately made an appointment.

The surgeon appeared right on schedule, examined the mole, and told Visakha to return the following morning to have it removed. We had to cancel a class but decided to make it up with a dana on Friday the thirteenth, with special chanting in Pali and Tibetan of protective and healing verses--what better way to turn that superstition upside down! The operation was a simple procedure under local anaesthesia, and the operating theater nurses were lovely and experienced, having been at Lakeside for many years. The surgeon discussed Buddhist psychology, praised the medical students from Bhutan, and related how he'd treated Ven. Nyanaponika many years before. The offending mole was removed, and Visakha was told to come back in a few days for the results.

That afternoon, during our shopping trip, Ken suggested making a quick stop at Suvasevana Hospital to find out when he could see an eye doctor. His right eye had been watering for several days and showed no signs of clearing up. The doctor, he learned, would be in the next morning at eight-thirty, and one could call at six o'clock to make an appointment.

As a rule, we are sleeping at six o'clock (except on class days), but Lily was happy to make the appointment. Ashoka picked Ken up at eight o'clock, and they were at the hospital at eight-thirty. The doctor, the same one we had seen the week before for routine eye exams (It seems that he is the best eye doctor in Kandy.), arrived at ten-thirty. Knowing he would have to wait, Ken had taken his Kindle, so that was no problem. The doctor examined the eye, diagnosed it as an infection, and prescribed three days of antibiotics and eyedrops.

A couple of days later, Visakha returned to Lakeside Hospital to learn that the mole had indeed been malignant, and she made an appointment to meet the oncologist. The basosquanmous carcinoma appeared to have been nicely removed, and she should return for a follow-up after two months. The doctor was reassuring; even if radiation were necessary, it would be a simple matter. In the meantime, change the dressing regularly and refrain from swimming for at least two weeks--that proved hard!

After three days, Ken's eye was still watering, and, at times, quite painful, so he returned to the hospital. The doctor prescribed another two weeks of a different antibiotic and two different kinds of eyedrops. Two weeks later, it was marginally better, perhaps, but still watering and not nearly normal, so he went once more to the hospital. The appointment was for ten-thirty on Good Friday, which happened to be a full-moon day and thus a double holiday in Sri Lanka. The doctor arrived at about eleven and called Ken in. This time, when he examined the eye, he explained that the infection was still there, but that the problem was definitely a sinus blockage. He made a sketch of the eye and nose and announced that the only solution was surgery. Medication would not solve the problem.

Ken immediately thought of the ENT specialist, Dr Fernando, who had operated on Visakha's eardrum several years back. Ken returned to the receptionist and asked when he could see Dr. Fernanado. "He will be here at eleven o'clock," the receptionist answered. No need to tell her that it was already eleven-thirty. Ken asked for an appointment and was assigned Number 5. He returned to the same hallway and sat down on the other side. After just a few minutes, the doctor arrived, and Ken was called in. The doctor examined the eye and perused Dr. Senaratna's notes. He agreed completely with the diagnosis, and explained that DCR surgery was necessary. He could perform the surgery himself, but it would entail general anesthesia, which might be somewhat risky in that, in addition to being 68, Ken has sleep apnea. It would also mean about five days in the hospital. There is a doctor in Kandy, he explained, who does laser surgery. Perhaps, he could perform the operation. Dr. Fernando felt that laser surgery, which does not require general anesthesia, might be better. When he learned that we were going to India in July or August, he suggested that Ken have the surgery done by laser there. Certainly, if the doctor in Kandy could not do the procedure himself, he could recommend a clinic in India.

As soon as Ken got home, he googled DCR and learned that it stands for Dacryocystorhinostomy, "a procedure that aims to eliminate fluid and mucus retention within the lacrimal sac." It seems to be fairly common, but quite serious. One website likened it to "a clogged drain which allows sewage to back up into the eye," a condition that can lead to impaired vision, repeated infection, and, possibly, blindness. Surgery breaks a bone or, at least, punctures it to allow the mucus to drain into the nose. The surgery can be done by endoscopy or with laser. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but laser surgery, certainly the least invasive, is not widely practiced, even in India.

The eye doctor Dr. Fernando recommended is retired from hospital practice, but has a clinic downtown. Ashoka was familiar with the place and explained that sometimes he made appointments there for other customers. He agreed to do the same for Ken, but that meant going to the clinic at four-thirty in the morning to get a "number," which could be for an appointment anytime during the day. Ashoka went, but the system had changed, and he had to wait until six-forty-five to meet the receptionist, who told him to bring the patient at eight o'clock. The waiting room was already full when Ken arrived, but he didn't have to wait more than twenty minutes to see the doctor. Dr. Abeysinghe briefly explained that his laser machine was broken, that it had been sent to India for repair, and that there was no one else in Sri Lanka who could perform laser surgery. Dr. Abeysinghee further explained that he had performed many DCR surgeries and that the success rate for laser procedure was only about 60%, as opposed to 95% for endoscopy. He gave Ken the name of a clinic in Chennai which offered laser surgery, but he would not recommend it.

Ken returned home, did some further googling, and made a decision. Dr. Abeysinghe's assessment of the success rate was one factor. Our intensive course in Kolkata will begin July. If we were to opt for laser surgery, it could be done in July or September, either in Kolkata or Chennai, but it would be difficult to investigate the facilities in order to know which was best. If we were to choose regular surgery, it might be done as early as late May. Now, he is washing his eye every twenty to thirty minutes all day for temporary relief, and it is hard to imagine continuing that routine for three more months! Ken would try to see Dr. Fernando Thursday morning (immediately after class) or Friday morning. Tuesday afternoon, he called the hospital and asked, "When will Dr. Fernando be in?"

"Tomorrow evening at six o'clock," the receptionist answered. "Do you want to make an appointment? All right. You are number one." Would that everything could be so easy!

The doctor arrived at six-thirty, and Ken was indeed number one. The doctor was willing and ready to prepare for the surgery in late May, but first a complete physical examination and a consultation with the anesthesiologist were required. He scheduled an appointment for the consultation in Kandy Hospital on April 21. Before that, Ken was to have a chest X-ray, an EKG, and a blood test. Ken asked where he should have the X-ray and EKG. "Anywhere," the doctor replied.

"How should I go about it?" Ken asked.

"It doesn't matter. Do you want to do it now?"


It was already seven o'clock. By eight o'clock, Ken had completed both exams. The cost? Two thousand sixty-five rupees, $15.88! (That is without any insurance.) Just before leaving the doctor's room, Ken asked, "Can you give me a ballpark figure as to how much this entire procedure will cost?" Dr. Fernando looked a little surprised and replied, "Nothing. This is Kandy Hospital. In Sri Lanka everyone can get the medical treatment he needs." Of course, we will have to pay for the hospital room, but it will be very reasonable. (To be continued)

Whenever Visakha reads about a creationist pointing to the miracle of the human eye as proof of God's design, she invariably mutters two words -- "appendix" and "sinuses"!

Daily Reflection

I am of the nature to age. I am subject to aging. I have not got beyond aging.

I am of the nature to sicken. I am subject to illness. I have not got beyond illness.

I am of the nature to die. I am subject to death. I have not got beyond death.

Separation from what is pleasing and beloved will definitely happen to me.

I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; born of my kamma, related to my kamma, and I abide supported by my kamma. Whatever kamma I do, for good or for evil, to that I will fall heir.

These things should be frequently recollected.

Click the image to see more photos of Peaceful Monastery
During our years of relief work on the Thai/Burma border, Buddhist Relief Mission offered support to Salween Sayadaw of Peaceful Monastery for ordinations. When he resolved to build a cedi (pagoda) overlooking the river, we made a considerable donation, along with many ABSDF members, some of whom are no more. We especially remember visiting Sayadaw with our good friend, Ma Thet Thet Lwin. We'd given her a jade Buddha amulet for protection, and she unhesitatingly donated it to be enshrined there. When the cedi was at last completed, it was truly inspiring. We were able to visit it once before it, like so many other good things built in the border area--clinics, schools, monasteries, was overrun by the Tatmadaw, the Burmese Army. When that whole stretch of so-called liberated area was lost, Sayadaw returned quietly to a small village on the Tenasserim plain in southern Burma, not far from Kyaik Tiyo, the Golden Rock, in Mon State, which we had visited in 1983.
Click the image to see more photos of Sayadaw today

We never forgot Sayadaw, and obviously he remembered us too. (How amazing to see our photo, circa 1990, in his monastery!) When a former ABSDF chairman, another old friend, visited Burma, they met, and our names were mentioned. Sayadaw asked whether we might be able to assist him in repairing his dilapidated monastery. We are very glad to help. (We mentioned this in an earlier report, but now, with updated information, we are even more eager to participate.) One former ABSDF member has already generously donated. Should anyone wish to join us in this meritorious effort, you can make a donation by clicking the button . By all means enjoy the photos of days gone by and of work to come.

Help renovate Sayadaw's monastery in Mon State

Click the image for information on how to obtain the puzzles
As we mentioned in our report, "Crossing Paths, December 15, 2014," the manuscript for Buddhist Crossword Puzzles has been submitted to Buddhist Cultural Centre. In early March, we had a conference with the publisher in Colombo, and we were assured that the book would be printed quite soon. We have not yet lost hope. However, we are happy to announce that the interactive version of these fifty-two puzzles is ready for distribution. All fifty-two puzzles, including PDFs, beautifully formatted for printing and solving by pencil, are available from our website, as downloadable files and as a CD. The interactive version of the puzzles can be opened with any internet browser, though the app may not be compatible with mobile devices. We hope you enjoy solving them as much as we did creating them.

The other big news of the day is that we are moving. Yes, when we moved to Dodanwela in November 2014, we thought that that would be the last time. Well, complications have developed, and we must shift once more. Tentatively, our new landlord has said that we will be able to stay in the new house as long as we like, so we shall see. It is certainly a lovely location, the edge of Anniwatte, where we lived before, and again above the river. The house overlooks a cliff, and the view from all the windows is quite striking. One very attractive feature is a delightful gazebo in the yard--perfect as a classroom!

There are high ceilings and even ceiling fans. No more hauling floor fans around and tripping over extension cords. The new house has outlets galore and--glory be--they all work! The house is owned by an uncle/cousin of Amal's, and the whole family are in Colombo with no interest in living in the house themselves. In fact, they have no agent here, so, with their approval, we're undertaking repairs, overseen by our trusty crew, which is a great relief, considering all our doctors' visits!

Last week, an electrician checked and repaired all the electrical installations. Now we are taking care of cleaning and general repairs. After New Year's, the parquet floors will be put in order, and then we will start moving plants, boxes, books, etc. We expect to take up residence the first of May, just in time for Vesak.

We will have to be settled by then, for our first house guest, Ven. Gong Pa Sunim, will arrive on May 5. We are very excited that he will be spending twelve days in Sri Lanka. We have not seen him since the snowy winter of 2007, when we visited Pusan for a week. Our relationship with him goes back to 1982 when we were working in the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in Bataan. We met him through the British monk, Ven. Abhinyana, who was close to the Vietnamese refugees and gave Visakha her name. Over the next twenty years, we stopped in Korea whenever we could on our return from Bangkok and stayed in many wonderful temples around the country, becoming familiar with Korean Buddhism from the inside. Sunim visited Japan several times as well, sometimes staying with us, sometimes staying in a Korean temple in Tsuruhashi, which was the center for Koreans in Kansai, with many Korean shops and restaurants.

Our new address (from May 1, 2015) will be

152/1 Riverdale Road
Kandy 20000
Sri Lanka
tel: 077-964-9292 and 077-964-9293 (both unchanged)
email: (also unchanged)

click the photo to see more photos of the fishes' new home

The one thing missing from the new house is a proper fish pond. Our beautiful carp and huge black fish needed a good home, so we appealed to Julia to query her many expatriate friends. A friend of a friend of hers responded positively, and we arranged to deliver the fish to David and Frances in Mawanella. Ashoka borrowed the special plastic tanks needed to transport the fish, and we loaded all of them, plus a new filter and extra fishfood into the three-wheeler. Geographically, it was downhill all the way (about one hour), and therein lies a tale and an adventure, giving us a chance to make the acquaintance of two of the most remarkable people we've met in Sri Lanka and to take a tour of their exquisitely refurbished tea-plantation home, Laukka Bungalow. Lucky fish to be in such a beautiful and welcoming environment!

The other day, Mike asked us to buy him some duct tape, so we stopped at a local hardward store to see whether such a thing was available here. No problem, the shopkeeper had it in both black and grey. As Ken was leaving, he saw a blue cage sitting on the counter. Recognizing it immediateluy as a trap, he picked it up. "Rattrap," the shopkeeper explained.

Ken noticed that one end of the trap opened as the door, so the design was much simpler than the traps we had used before. At only 350 rupees ($2.70), he could not resist.

Lily was thrilled. She immediately set it in her outdoor kitchen. The next morning she announced that she had caught a rat. On the way to the clinic for the pre-surgery blood test, Ken and Ashoka released the five-inch long creature near the river. The next morning, there was a smaller rat in the trap. We dropped him off on the way to the grocery store, again near the river. The next morning there was a medium-sized rodent waiting to be released.This is his mug shot. Three days, three rats; not bad; and Ken just saw another in the storeroom, so we will probably have another one tomorrow!

"Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nezumi has declared that she is entitled to equal time with the rat. She was interested in the first two and tried to get at them through the mesh of the cage. We wanted to get a photo of her batting at the third one or perhaps sitting on the cage, as she did with the first, but she just walked away in disgust.

Loving Kandy as we do, this forwarded message from our friend, Amal, alarmed us!

Stop the road through the Udawattakele Forest Sanctuary!
Please sign this petition and comment!

It lifted our hearts to read Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's reply to Amal, which certainly should lend authority to the effort.

Dear Dr. Karunaratna,

Thank you for alerting me to this. I signed and included the following note:

I lived in the Forest Hermitage in Udawattakele from 1984 to 2002. The Forest Hermitage has been an abode for Western monks who have been doing a great service to the Buddha Dhamma--Ven. Nyanatiloka, Ven. Nyanaponika, Ven. Piyadassi, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, and now Ven. Nyanatusita. Udawattakele has been a light of the Dhamma shining over the world. To build a road through the forest will not only lead to the destruction of the forest with its rich ecology and wild life. It will also make the forest unfit for occupancy by these noble monks who need the sylvan quiet and solitude to perform their valued service.

With metta,
Bhikkhu Bodhi

Click the image to see more photos of the ceremony in Assam
Years ago, our late Dhamma friend U Ko Ko presented us with several containers of relics from Kyaukse in Upper Burma. We've been able to share these in many places. Last year, we sent some of them to Ven. Ariyawantha in Gauhati, Assam, India. A few weeks ago, he sent us some photos of the ceremony enshrining these relics in a new stupa at his monastery. Let us share merit with U Ko Ko, U Khin Zaw, the trustee of Sule Pagoda who introduced us to U Ko Ko (both now departed), and with a myriad of other friends in Burma who were instrumental in strengthening our saddha. We have not returned to Burma for more than 25 years, but our joyful experiences there are as fresh in our memories as if they had happened just yesterday.

Since the beginning of Buddhist Relief Mission, sometime in the eighties, we have had many donors--Japanese temples, Buddhist organizations, monks and nuns, prison inmates who wanted to help those even less fortunate than themselves, friends, and even complete strangers who have become friends. Among the last group is a young man in Germany, a devout Buddhist by choice rather than birth. He was fortunate to have had some inspiring teachers in Sri Lanka. As a result, he is extremely generous and is always looking for worthy causes to support. Recently, he has regularly provided the salary for one of the caregivers of the elderly monks at Bodhirukarama. Much of the money he sends is what he receives in exchange for his blood plasma, so that his donation is helping at least two ways. We share merit with him, with the professor in Italy, who has very generously supported many of our projects, with the young (?) man in the US who is sending us five dollars every month, and with at least one hundred others whom we have never met. Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!!

On October 25-26, 2015, we will be celebrating the Ruby Anniversary of a memorable event.

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