In Search of Sacred Grove

Happy woman tourist on fruit plantation

(Picture courtesy

By Wasantha Wijewardena and Malinda Seneviratne

Jak fruit tree In search of the sacred grove Once upon a time, the world was one. It was a time when the notion of the sacred grove described not some paradisiacal place reserved for chosen people. The sacred grove encompassed the entire universe. It was a time, as the saying goes, when man had a direct relationship with the entities we now refer to as gods and Buddhas.  In other words, men and women understood and lived in concert with the natural cycles. They met on the good earth, made love in caves and shadyhickets, saw diversity, respected difference, and celebrated life. Endowed with a deep understanding of nature, their lives and their relationships were natural. Their practice and its outcome were benign and beneficial.

The notion of the sacred grove, or the abhaya bhoomiya (literally, “fearless land”) took a long time to disappear from the universe of human concerns. Even our kings were aware of the worth of the sacred grove. King Parakramabahu, for example, maintained a grove of 100,000 varieties of kos, or jak (artocorpus heteropilus). This was called Lakshodyanaya, the grove of 100,000 trees. He was but engaged in a simple exercise of recreating at a micro level the sacred grove.

Varaka gasa pana mal gena galeka hova Evaka ema kalka thana kiri patheka lava Vasaka siti ayata dee me lesanimava Visa vee miyena sosatha edukinmudava This verse, which comes in the “Sarartha Sangrahaya” (Book of all meanings) is attributed to King Buddhadasa, the renowned physician and healer.   Here, the poet refers to the medicinal value of kos, orjak fruit. The Mahawansa, the great chronicle written in the 4th century refers to kos. The Amavatura, the great literary work of the 12th century also refers to kos. The Visuddhi Magga, the great philosophical treatise authored by the Rev. Buddhaghosa, and the 16th century work on ayurvedic medicine, Yogaratnakaraya, too.

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