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Tributes to Godwin

Godwin Samararatne

(by Tissa Amarasekera, Kandy. Island Newspaper, Thursday 4th May, 2000)

Godwin as he was popularly known is usually associated with the residential meditation centre at Nilambe. It was an ideal location for that purpose, up on a hill nestling among tea estates, away from the hurly-burly of human activity, whither many including foreigners and even monks some of whom have now become incumbents of viharas abroad, trekked their way to learn meditation at his feet. They will be shocked and grieved to hear of his sad demise. No less will it be for the large numbers who made their way up to Rajapihilla Mawatha, the residence of Mr. Harilal Wickremaratne, a disciple and benefactor, where for fourteen years he conducted his classes in meditation every Tuesday, and in recent times also at the house of late Lincoln Weerasekera, another disciple who donated it for this purpose; also for many of those of the University of Peradeniya, every Wednesday.

Godwin was a simple, quiet person, soft-spoken, with an even temper, always unruffled and with a subtle sense of humour, never displaying his knowledge of the Dhamma. He did not belong to any school of Buddhism. He accepted anyone who expounded the doctrine with clarity. Being a votary of his I could say that he did not actually teach meditation. He sat along with those who came to him for instruction, and after a single sentence of initiation to the new comers all joined him in meditation for an hour or half-an-hour and in the dialogue that followed he made them aware of the defilements and other mundane matters that cluttered and burdened their minds. Thus in the course of several such sessions he gradually helped them by awareness to eliminate them and bring relief with wholesome thoughts. This was his immediate objective. It became a daily routine for some who attended these classes. This appealed even to those of other faiths. Some foreigners went back home and gave the message to others and as a result he had many invitations from various countries such as Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Singapore, etc. And of course he visited India even on his own and met Munindrajee, another renowned meditation master at Buddhagaya.

When I first came to know him years back, he was the Librarian of the Kandy Municipal Town Library where he was a friend and guide to anybody who looked for a book on any subject. The atmosphere of the library was conducive to his interests; but there was in him an underlying feeling of mental unrest and it was no surprise when he relinquished his post to take to meditation along with one or two others who shared his interest. In due course he became closely associated with Buddhist scholars like Prof. P. D. Premasiri and others like Mr. Stanley Jayaweera. In the field of research on rebirth he was associated with the famous researcher Dr. Ian Stevenson. He also took an interest in paranormal phenomena, and with some of his friends in the University formed the Psychical Research Society of which he was the secretary. He organised talks on the subject at least one each month to which researchers from abroad were also invited to give talks.

Godwin was one who was deeply touched by human suffering in any form and took an interest in alleviating it whenever possible. Several terminally ill persons have found solace through his counselling. Even those with suicidal tendencies were referred to him by Sri Lanka Sumithrayo, Kandy. Almost impecunious as he was, he found resources to donate ten water beds, a crying need, to the Kandy Hospital.

He bore his unexpected illness with fortitude and good humour even though he knew the prognosis was not good. His last visit to South Africa and Switzerland was much against the advice of his friends. However, he came back quite satisfied though not quite well. He soon resumed his classes and at the last one fell unconscious. His recovery was brief. He succumbed to his disease, causing a void that cannot easily be filled. It is not so much because he was a meditation master par excellence, but as a rare person with the noblest qualities one could expect of a human being who devoted his life to attempting to relieve people of their existential suffering. May his journey in Samsara be brief.