Ven. Rerukane Candavimala

4. Why I Wrote my Books

If I had pondered over a certain Dhamma point for some time and had finally understood it completely, then I may decide to write about it. I put forth much effort and time to understand Conditional Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda). Once I understood it I wrote the book පටිච්චසමුප්පාද විවරණය (Paṭiccasamuppāda Vivaraṇaya, Exposition of Conditional Arising).

There have been many other publications on the Perfections (Pāramī), but I did not feel satisfied after reading those. So in order to elucidate the Perfections I wrote පාරමිතා ප්‍රකරණ (Pāramitā Prakaraṇa, The Book about the Perfections).

The impetus for writing the විනය කර්ම පොත් (Vinaya Karma Pot, The Book on Disciplinary Actions) came after I stayed at Bandaravela Mahā Ulpota Nigrodhārāmaya temple, in the hot summer months. The congregation after the pūjā asked me, saying it would be highly beneficial if I could write a book on the Disciplinary Actions, for those who do not know much about them. That was the reason for my writing the Vinaya Karma book. It is not enough for the disciplinary actions to be in a book. So I also explained what disciplinary actions entailed. That book is used by the Saṅgha of all three Nikāyas. I am very happy about that.

සුවිසු මහා ගුණය (Suvisu Mahā Guṇaya, The Twenty-Four Great Qualities) Of the Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha; the book runs to some 500+ pages. was written as my offering (pūjā) to the Triple Gem. I feel that by writing that book I have offered my highest pūjā to the Triple Gem. I wrote it purely because I wanted to do it.

Some monks started to criticise the way that the Mahāsi teaching Kanduboda Temple was doing Satipaṭṭhāna Meditation, so I wrote සතිපට්ඨාන භාවනා විවෙචනය (Satipaṭṭhāna Bhāvanā Vivecanaya, A Critical Analysis of Mindfulness) to counter their views and explain the real situation.

I really value the book ශාසනාවතරණය (Śāsanāvataraṇaya, Entrance into the Dispensation). I wrote it for the monks living today, as some monks do not know anything about the ordained life. One day an elderly monk came here and offered me the requisites and said, Venerable Sir, without the grace of your books, the monks nowadays would not know what to do. He came the following day too and after offering me more requisites repeated the same words and was very happy.

I wrote පට්ඨාන මහා ප්‍රකරණ සන්නය (Paṭṭhāna Mahā Prakaraṇa Sannaya, Word-by-Word explanation of the Conditions) Paṭṭhāna is the final book of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka. following a request from one Mrs. Munasinghe. She came to learn Paṭṭhāna from me. While learning she invited me to write a word-by-word explanation (sannaya) on it. I taught the Paṭṭhāna from the Burmese edition of the book. Afterwards I wrote the commentary according to the same, and later Mrs. Munasinghe had it published at her own expense. To be honest I was very reluctant to write the commentary. The reason was that there were few people in this country who study or look at such writing. It is good to get something useful out of such laborious work.

The book අභිධර්ම මූලික කරුණු (Abhidharma Mūlika Karuṇu, The Basics of the Abhidhamma) was written after I read a few books on the subject. I felt those books were written without understanding the facts properly. It is difficult to express some of the deep meanings of the Abhidhamma; there is a scarcity of the right words. So I had to choose my words very carefully but I wrote after understanding the facts.

The book චත්තාලීසාකාර විපස්සනා භාවනා (Cattāḷīsākāra Vipassanā Bhāvanā, The Forty Methods of Insight Meditation) was written after thinking that it is high time that I myself focused on this subject. I hope meditators will have found that book useful. My own meditation knowledge developed much due to my writing that book. Now that I have also arrived at the final stage in life I have made a determination to live according to the Cattāḷīsākāra Vipassanā Bhāvanā.

The book බෞද්ධයාගේ අත්පොත (Bauddhayāge Atpota, Handbook for Buddhists) is one that contains the basics of what a Buddhist should know. Although we are born-Buddhists we do not become Buddhists that way. One needs a primary understanding for that. It is my belief that this book helps people understand the basics.

Accruing of merits depend on the doer’s good qualities. If one does not know about the Triple Gem, what to worship, how to do it or their powers and only mechanically follow rituals, there is not much in it. To gain higher levels of merit one should know how to do them correctly and systematically. It is for that purpose that I wrote the book පුණ්යෝපදේශය (Puṇyopadeśaya, Instructions concerning Merit).

There is almost no other discourse that has such an excellent list of advice as the Maṅgala Sutta. It reminds human society again and again the good qualities that they have forgotten. The 38 such Maṅgala advice which helps humans for their well being in this world and the next, are included in the book called the මංගල ධර්ම විස්තරය (Maṅgala Dharma Vistaraya, Explanation of Auspicious Things). It is a book that should be read by all, irrespective of religious differences and this was written by my pupil, late Ven. Godigamuwe Sorata Thera. When he was writing this he consulted my writings and sought my advice. This book is important in present times.

Supreme Buddhas come into world to expound the චතුරාර්‍ය සත්‍යය (Caturārya Satyaya, The Four Noble Truths). In order to gain supra-mundane states it is essential that one must understand the Four Noble Truths. I tried very hard to write in such a way that everyone could understand the Four Noble Truths clearly in my book. I believe my attempt was successful to a great extent. A valuable foreword was written by Most Ven. Balangoda Ānanda Maitreya Mahā Nāyaka. I confer merits to him to this day for that.

In order to remove unwholesome dhammas we need an understanding of dhammas that defile the mind. I wrote the book වඤ්චක ධර්ම හා චිත්තෝපක්ලේශ ධර්ම (Vaṁcaka Dharma hā Cittopakleśa Dharma, Deception and Minor Defilements of the Mind) with that aim in mind. The mind-defiling dharmas were explained according to the Vattha Sutta. MN 7. This book explains certain mind states that masquerade as wholesome and trick the mind. I think this is the only book written on this subject. I also know this book has been praised by many scholars.

The book that I put together, බුද්ධ නීති සඞ්‌ග්‍රහය (Buddha Nīti Saṅgrahaya, Collection of Buddhist Wisdom Verses) contains dharmas which are beneficial for this world and the next and for the realisation of Nirvāṇa. It contains a collection of 550 valuable verses giving advice from the Tipiṭaka. I can say this book is applicable to everyone and can be used by all. It would be good for a lot of people, if such a book can be translated into other languages. Translated and expanded by the editor here:

There are three different ways Wisdom (Bodhi) can be gained, the Buddhahood, Pacceka Buddhahood and Mahā Rāhath. There are 37 Dhammas which help in realising that Truth. That was the reason for my writing the book බොධිපක්ෂික ධර්ම විස්තරය (Bodhipakṣika Dharma Vistaraya, Explanation of the Factors of Awakening). This book can be described as essential reading for those wishing to attain Nirvāṇa.

Apart from these I also wrote other books on several important topics. In addition to books on the basic tenets useful for all Buddhists, I wrote books on Abhidhamma for those investigating and attracted to the psychological aspects of Buddhism.

Meditation is hugely popular in this country now. I wrote many books on meditation, especially on විදර්ශනා භාවනා ක්‍රමය (Vidarśanā Bhāvanā Kramaya, The Method of Insight Meditation).

I also wrote for the benefit of monks, several book on උපසම්පදා සීලය (Upasampadā Sīlaya, Higher Ordination Precepts). I am extremely pleased that before I lost the ability to read and write, to see and to hear, I was able to write all those books.

In all I have written about 30 books about various topics. See the Bibliography at the end of this book. I did not have a specific aim when writing. If that were so, I would have written a series of books in a systematic way. I wrote books as and when people approached me with a request. Sometimes someone would come and say that a certain Dhamma point is not clear to them and it would be good if I would write something on it. Most of my books were written like that. I wrote mostly to make clear some of the very important Dhamma points in the Tipiṭaka.

I also wrote some books in commemoration of the 2,500 Buddha Jayantī (1956). But I cannot say that I started writing because of the Buddha Jayantī.

I learnt the Dhamma with much difficulty. Because of that I thought I must know the Dhamma well and use that knowledge to teach others. But at first I did not have that thought. Buddha-Dhamma is very deep. I had the idea that it is pointless to write without a clear understanding first. I also thought that it was not right to do so. My main aim was to understand the Dhamma for myself. Some Dhamma points I pondered over for weeks and months. I never wrote on anything that I did not understand fully.

I wrote on Bhikṣu Vinaya (The Monastic Discipline), Vidarśanā Bhāvanā (Insight Meditation), Abhidhamma (The Abstract Doctrine) and Mano Vidyava (Psychology) and so on, in a way that I thought would be useful in general to everyone.

Even the deepest Dhamma point was written only after I understood clearly about them. I only wrote a little each day. It was not my habit to break rest and write. I only wrote in daylight. I never wrote after dark, with the lights or the lamps on. I never wrote sitting at a desk and a chair. I used to sit on a custom-made large, wide chair and used a wooden plank to write on. I never edited my writing. The first draft was sent to the publishers. Sometimes while the first part was being printed I wrote the subsequent sections and sent them on to the publishers. Those days people used to say that my handwriting was beautiful. It is not like that anymore.

One should write in daylight, it is better for the eyes too. I only needed a pen, paper and a plank of wood. I did not collect other things. That would have been a hindrance.

I most happy that I was able to write a few books on Abhidhamma. Why, because many people say ‘it is very difficult’, and can’t understand it and were afraid of the Abhidhamma. Furthermore pupils of Dhamma Schools only had to learn by heart the list of Citta (Mind) and Cetasikā (Mental Concomitants). But I think my අභිධර්ම මර්ගය (Abhidharma Margaya, Abhidhamma Path) and such like were of use to many.

Some say that I am an Abhidhamma Scholar, but I am not concerned what they say. I do not hold such views. I only say one thing: it is my way to learn something properly, whatever it is or however long it takes. Because of this I have managed to solve many questions. Some facts took months, even years for me to fathom.

I can advise people like this: Whatever it is, know it well. I do not see this amongst the clergy or the laity of this country today. They know a little of everything. Nothing is known well. It is better not to know it at all.

I am weak now, and I can no longer write. My fingers have no strength. For the last 7 or 8 years, even if I write a short note, letters are missing in parts. I have it read by someone else before posting. Now I spend my time in meditation, in awareness and mindfulness. I don’t say all my time is spent like that. I try however to spend as much time mindfully, and also to reflect on the Three Characteristics (Tilakkhaṇa).

I think that my books have been of benefit to both the clergy and laity. I am happy about that. When I started to write there were many in society who had a thirst for the Dhamma. Especially the educated lay Buddhists. They did not have enough Sinhala Dhamma books. The general population too benefited from my writing. Some books were written purely for the clergy. Both clergy and laity who had benefitted, would come to see me from afar with gifts.

I only wrote the books, the publishing side was undertaken by my pupil, Ven. Godigamuwe Sorata Thera. The first book that he had published was in commemoration of the Buddha Jayantī, The Four Noble Truths.

Publication cost of Rs 1000/- came from Most Ven. Vinayālaṅkārāramaya and the chief lay supporter, Valigampitiye A.D. Suwaris Appuhami, Rs 1000/-, Valigampitiya Liyoris, a businessman, loaned Rs 1000/-. After selling the books the loan was settled and it was republished.

At present my student Ven. Hengoda Kalyāṇadhamma Thero is undertaking the publishing work, promoting and looking after the Temple and the resident monks, and he is also seeing to my basic needs. I am very happy about that too.

I could write another book on the achievements of others gained after reading my books; there are so many of them. But now I can’t do that as I am too weak.

Who would have thought that with me only going up to the second grade I would get these titles and degrees? But here they are. I did not have anything at the beginning. I only had some knowledge from the Burmese training of the Tipiṭaka Dhamma and the Pāḷi language.

After coming back to Sri Lanka, when people requested, I wrote a few books. That is when I started receiving these titles. The first was Sammāna Paṇḍita Degree Equivalent to B.A. with honours. from the Oriental College. A leading study institution in Sri Lanka.

Then the post of Professor of Abhidhamma from the University of Vidyālaṅkāraya. A top monastic university in Sri Lanka. Actually I was reluctant to accept that. I was invited to go at least one day a week. That invite came from the Most Ven. Yakkaduwe Nāyaka Thera. That is why I accepted it.

If one can teach someone else what he has learned, it is a source of happiness to them. But even in those days the monks were not that interested in learning what was being taught. Sutta, Abhidhamma or the Vinaya was not well received even in those days.

I need to say something here. I never expected to be paid for teaching at the University. I donated a portion of what I received for improvements of Vidyālaṅkāraya itself.

In 1963 I was honoured with the degree of Sāhitya Cakravarti (Master of Literature) from the University of Vidyālaṅkāraya. In 1976 I received the Mahā Nāyaka post of the Sri Lanka Shwegyin Nikāya.

In 1995 the United Amarapura Mahā Saṅgha Sabhā, conferred on me the title, Amarapura Mahā Mahopadyāya Śāsana Śobhana and the Anuradhapura Buddha Śrāvaka Dharma Pīṭhaya offered the title Pravacana Viśarada.

I must have received these titles and degrees because I may have done some service to the country and to the Sammā Sambuddha Sāsana.