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Godwin: In Memoriam

by Bhante Olande Ananda
(Internationally Renowned Meditation Teacher)

I first met Godwin Samararatne in 1979, while I was residing at Rockhill Hermitage at Wegirikanda, just on the other side of the Mahaweli River. Godwin had just started to live at the Nilambe Meditation Centre and I went there for a visit. His brother, Hector, was our Secretary at Rockhill Hermitage.

Godwin had left his job as Librarian at the D. S. Senanayake Library in Kandy and was fully committed to developing Nilambe Meditation Centre on the land that Mr Alahakoon had so generously donated for the purpose in a beautiful, cool tea estate. At that time Professor Parakrama Fernando (one of Godwin's close Dhamma friends) was residing in the estate bungalow nearby and Godwin had built a kuti at the centre to stay in. Upul Gamage had already begun to assist Godwin while he was still a very young man and also used to stay there. He had great admiration for Godwin and the spiritual calling.

In 1984 I once again visited Nilambe together with the participants in an inter-religious dialogue group who had been meeting at our centre. Godwin was, as always, so accommodating and so kind and patient with us.

By 1989 Godwin was already a well-known meditation teacher and Dhamma friends from all over the world used to invite him to come to their countries and teach. He would regularly visit South Africa and Tanzania and was in great demand. When he was unable to go that year he suggested that I go in his place to the Buddhist Retreat Centre at Ixopo (with the click sound for the X!) in South Africa, a beautiful place of 325 hectares started by the Dutch engineer Louis van Loon. It gave me an opportunity to be in South Africa during the time when Apartheid came to an end and Nelson Mandela was released from jail, which happened in early 1990.

Godwin was not only residing and teaching at Nilambe and at other centres around the world, but was also helping with care for cancer patients and mentally disturbed patients at Peradeniya and Kandy hospitals on a very regular basis. In addition to this, through his many contacts around the world, Godwin also did a great deal of social service in a very quiet and unassuming way.

I remember that in 1991, while I was looking after a small Thai Temple/Meditation Centre in Amsterdam, Godwin was in Holland teaching and we met there. His vast knowledge of literature, philosophy, psychology and Buddhism and his association with J. Krishnamurti's teachings, made him a gold mine of knowledge. But it was never knowledge for knowledge's sake, it was used by him only to help the people he encountered.

Godwin's regular weekly evening meditation classes at Harilal Wickrameratne's home in Kandy also stand out in my memory. On several occasions when I happened to be in Kandy on such days, Godwin would ask me to take over the class, as he felt that the people already knew what he was saying and would like to listen to someone else for a change. It was there, at Harilal's residence, that I met him after his return from southern Africa in 2000, and I noticed how his health had deteriorated. His famous smile, however, did not diminish and he remained the same old Godwin, notwithstanding the pain he was undergoing and the deterioration of his body.

Bhikkhu Bodhi gave a very worthy eulogy at Godwin's Pansakula (paying last respects to the body) at the Lewella Meditation Centre, where Godwin was also the spiritual teacher. Many, many people came to say farewell to his body. The cremation in Kandy also drew large numbers of people, as the word of his passing away had spread far and wide.

We still miss Godwin's gentle presence, but thanks to modern technology and the efforts of some of his students, Godwin's teachings are now available via the internet for all to see and hear.

Bhante Olande Ananda,
Pagoda Meditation Centre,
Nugegoda, Sri Lanka