By Swarna Wickremeratne

Combining memoir, historical past, and present-day narrative, this booklet describes how Buddhism is lived in Sri Lanka.

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There is a practice in traditional homes, Buddhist, Hindu, and even converted Christians, of the wife worshipping her spouse. That the husband is the theoretical head of the household is rarely questioned. His authority prevails even where the wife is more educated than the husband. These ideas and practices, among a host of others, have become a part of the Sri Lankan culture and are transmitted to newer generations as an integral part of the Sri Lankan popular culture. It is, however, possible that the old ways of thinking may soon disappear given the catalyst of rapid economic change in Sri Lanka.

The herbal supplements were combined according to classical formulas. In order to retain the balance, an herbal soup (kasaya), was prescribed. It included leaves, barks, roots, and flowers of creepers, trees, or bushes, familiar to the villagers. Servants in the household gathered the ingredients to make the decoction, prescribed by the vedamahattaya. As a young person I had many of these decoctions for ailments. Herbal materials were cut, sliced, or powdered coarsely, and one part of the amalgamation was boiled in four, eight, or sixteen parts of water (usually cups) and finally reduced to a quarter.

I was hardly conscious of politics, but I found myself thrown into it. Meeting Sir Nicholas Artygalle (who was a classmate of my father), then the vice chancellor of the university, and sitting for a picture with him was exciting to me as a teenager. Some years later I drew Ananda’s attention to the framed picture hanging on the wall of my uncle’s house in Ratnapura. It was good karma all the way for a while. In my second year in Peradeniya, the warden of the residence hall made me a student subwarden when she discovered my mathematical and organizational skills.

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