Spreading the soothing rays of Buddhism

by Kumudini Hettiarachchi, The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), Aug 26, 2012

Based on Buddhist philosophy, Damrivi, comprising professionals and academics provides innovative services to meet the challenges of modern life.

Colombo, Srfi Lanka -- Modern life is full of stress. Not only parents and children but even those living alone have a heavy workload. It is a race against time household chores, office work, school, extracurricular activity, tuition classes, each day starting early and ending late, only for the routine to begin the next day.

<< A counselling session at Damrivi. Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

Where does one turn to, for shelter against the raging storms of life. In a small building, not away from the madding crowds but right in the midst of traffic and people is that “eye” of the storm.Right next to the Isipathanaramaya at Colombo 5, a tiny lane leads to the Damrivi Foundation where an oasis of calm prevails, extending the soothing rays of Buddhism to anyone who seeks refuge here.

With Buddhism as the foundation stone, many are the innovative services Damrivi provides. Recalling how it all began nearly 10 years ago in July 2003, a Founder-member of Damrivi, Yuki Sirimane, says that the founding group felt that no one had explained the potential of the Buddhist philosophy in meeting the challenges of the modern world. No dignity or professionalism had also been awarded to Buddhist social work.

Having realised that there was a gap in what society wanted and what the Buddhist temple could offer, a group of like-minded Buddhist professionals felt that this gap could be filled by creating a platform.

Most of them were into Buddhist studies and meditation and felt that the mind-based philosophy of Buddhism could be used in a professional manner to overcome the problems of daily living, she says, adding that a majority of problems have their roots in attitudes and values.

“Therefore, the transformation should come through the mind,” Yuki points out.This was how Damrivi Foundation was born, according to Yuki, and is made up of professionals and academics who are working towards social and spiritual development through Buddhist insights.

Many people found it stylish to say that they were born Buddhists but were not practising Buddhism. They did not find dignity in associating with Buddhist social work. But the Damrivi group knew the potential of Buddhism, Yuki elaborates.

With the Most Venerable Nauyane Ariyadhamma Maha Thera as its Patron, the Board of Trustees of this approved charity comprises Chairman Prof. Asanga Tilakaratne, Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Colombo; Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara, retired Chief of Staff of the Navy; Asoka Sirimane, Chartered Accountant; Ven. Tapowanaye Sutadhara Thera, Director of the Ventura Buddhist Study Centre of America; Dr. Pushpakumara Kandapola Arachchige, Consultant Psychiatrist; Soma de Silva, retired Regional Advisor, UNICEF South Asia; Ravi Bamunusinghe, Managing Director of the Research Consultancy Bureau; Suranjani Wickramaratne, Financial Consultant; and Dr. W.M. Palitha Bandara, Regional Director of Health, Anuradhapura.

Damrivi’s General Manager is Nilanjana Morugama and Senior Counsellor Suranga Amarakoon.It was, however, an uphill task, concedes Yuki, with Ravi adding that many were the challenges back in 2003. It was a pioneer concept they were working on, one that had not been tested before. They also had to start from scratch.

Working with this mind-based philosophy also meant that the results were intangible, Yuki smiles.
Now, however, Damrivi’s rays reach far and wide. Not only do trained counsellors provide a counselling service but Damrivi has its own professional counselling course with Buddhist insights for those wishing to gain a Diploma in Buddhist Psychology and Psychological Counselling.

This 12-month diploma course includes counselling for both women and children.Some of the other programmes include guidance to couples on the threshold of marriage and a new life, addressing issues linked to the biological, psychological and spiritual needs for a happy life, Damrivi’s Senior Counsellor Suranga Amarakoon says, explaining that another programme provides guidance for children to deal with common attitude problems. There are also meditation sessions, Sutta discussions and much more.

The numbers speak for themselves. Meditation sessions of around 10 per month, every Sunday and Wednesday, draw crowds of about 250.

Damrivi’s heartbeat, however, is the counselling service which is a blend of western therapies with Buddhist insights/therapies provided to anyone who seeks its solace, irrespective of what that person’s religion, ethnicity and nationality is, the Sunday Times learns.

Yuki elaborates on ‘Sithgimanhala’, a live TV counselling programme on Derana held every three weeks which is a tremendous success. Many gained the confidence to seek help and counselling for psycho-social problems while there was also acceptance of Buddhist philosophical inputs as solutions for mind-based problems after seeing this programme, stresses Yuki.
Non-Buddhists seeking Damrivi counselling saw no threat to practising their own religion. There was also a tendency to move away from superstitious practices as a solution to psycho-social problems, she adds.

Around 175 seek face-to-face counselling at Damrivi every month while more than 200 serious sessions of phone counselling are carried out per month with more than 50 callers a day. In addition, counselling at the Cancer Hospital, Maharagama, is held once a week for about 10 patients and group counselling fortnightly.

All indications are that due to the perseverance of this small but committed group, the bud has blossomed, spreading its scent around like the lovely lotuses that devotees place before the Buddha, attracting more and more towards Damrivi.

More about Damrivi Foundation

Damrivi Foundation is located at 51/A, Isipathana Mawatha, Havelock Town, Colombo 5. For more information, please access www.damrivi.net. Damrivi may be contacted on Phone/Fax:             011-2504431or 011-4956373 or email: damrivi@sltnet.lk or gm@damrivi.net.

As Damrivi’s programmes incur much expense, daana (donations) are welcome, according to Yuki. Donations may be channelled to Account No. 003460000458 at the Sampath Bank, Thimbirigasyaya Branch in the name of Damrivi Foundation. Please contact Suranjani Wickramaratne (0777281750) or Nilanjana Morugama ( 0773846603) for more information.

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