Author and spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey is leading an exquisite journey to Sri Lanka for Sacred Earth Journeys in March 2020. Here he sends a very special invite for you to join him on this pilgrimage. Read more about The Sacred Heart of Sri Lanka, March 1 – 12, 2020.
I am thrilled and honoured to invite you on one of the richest and most inspiring pilgrimages you could make in the world today – a pilgrimage into the sacred heart of Sri Lanka, and into the healing depths of its traditions, of Buddhist meditation and art and Ayurvedic healing. Sri Lanka, for all the turbulence of its recent history, remains not only one of the most sheerly – even surreally – beautiful places on earth, but also one of the most authentically magical, a place where the refined and exalted vision of both Buddhism, and to a lesser extent Hinduism, has created a sacred culture of great beauty which is still vibrant and alive.
I spent three months in Sri Lanka when I was 25, at the end of the 1970s. I had taken a year off from my fellowship at All Souls College Oxford to explore Buddhism on the Indian subcontinent: I had read for years about the ancient Buddhist cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura and was passionate to experience them firsthand. I had in fact been hungry to visit Sri Lanka ever since I saw, as a child, coloured photographs of its beaches – long scimitar beaches of white sand glinting in rich red gold light, so extravagantly beautiful they looked hardly real.
Sri Lanka proved far more than I ever could have expected. Nothing less than a revelation that inspired my first novel, set in Sri Lanka, titled One Last Mirror. I had expected to be excited by the beauty of the country; I had not expected the beauty of Sri Lanka’s beaches and ruins and green flowering hills to be so astounding that it began to birth in me a wholly new and praise-filled relationship with the creation. I had always admired the holy precision and rigour of Buddhism, but it was in Sri Lanka that I encountered nakedly the transcendent compassion at the heart of the Buddhist message, radiating from the flower-like faces of the Sri Lankan people, and the sublime sculptures of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapur. The purity and exalted pragmatism of the most ancient tradition Buddhism – Hinayana Buddhism – that is still practiced in Sri Lanka steadied my being in a way that humbled me and began in me a lifelong love for the transforming power of spiritual practice.
Now almost forty years later I will be returning to Sri Lanka with you. I was blessed enough to explore the island in depth when I visited all those years ago, and the tour Sacred Earth Journeys has prepared for us is, to my mind, the perfect, balanced in-depth introduction to the glories I discovered then and long to share with you now.
You will be able to read the lush and wonder-filled itinerary for yourselves and begin to experience a taste of the feast that awaits you. There are three linked aspects of what I pray I can offer you that I want to emphasize.
The first is that I will give you as rich and comprehensive vision of Buddha and Buddhism as I can and will ground our whole journey together in three essential Hinayana practices – imageless meditation or viapassana, Metta, the practice of unconditional universal compassion and noting the practice of becoming minutely conscious of your physical and subtle body. We will practice these in sites charged with holy power so they will be available to you whatever path you are on for the rest of your lives. My fiend Bhikku Bodhi has recently finished his astonishing translations of the major Pali canon; I will be opening up for you several of the Buddha’s most radical and powerful discourses, focusing on mindfulness and compassion.
The second aspect of what I want to offer is that I want to share with you the depth of my love for the revelation of sacred art and sacred living that visiting the cities of Anuradhapur and Polonnaruwa first opened in me forty years ago. For me, these two cities represent icons of sacred civilization, luminous signs of what human beings can accomplish when sacred consciousness and human creativity of all kinds dance together. Thomas Merton, just before he died, visited the sacred cities; I will be reading to you from his extraordinary diaries as an inspiration for our own experience.
The third part of my offering will be something that is hard to express. What I’m hoping to offer you are simple and powerful ways of experiencing the various forms of Sri Lanka’s astonishing beauty from a conscious inner divine perspective. I love the line from the Upanishads “The wise see the One flaming in all creation,” and for me the beauty of the creation is a manifestation of the beauty of Essence; light and matter dance in everything. Sri Lanka was the place in which I began to wake up to this divine presence in all things and to the outrageous generosity of the creation and to the passion to protect it. I will share with you the fundamental practices of seeing the Real that will deepen your joy at the creation and inspire in you a passion to protect it in sacred activism.
And, as Andamayi Ma, the great Indian teacher, said, “The true pilgrim is one who seeks darshan – that energy which emanates from the holy. To be a pilgrim is to be always ready for the miracle which overtakes you, to glimpse the hem of God’s robe.” Sri Lanka is a land of subtle miracles. May we be receptive to them together and “glimpse the hem of God’s robe” in ways that permanently transform our lives.
Read our full itinerary for this journey to The Sacred Heart of Sri Lanka, March 1 – 12, 2020.
Be sure to also check out our journey Divine Love: Sacred North India, February 13 -27 2020 with Andrew Harvey to take advantage of a unique opportunity to visit both India and Sri Lanka with Andrew.