Following the ancient Theravada tradition of spending a short period as a samanera or novice monk at a monastery, Chakma Raja Devasish Roy spent a week – from 15 to 21 March, 2011 - at the Rajvana Vihar, Rangamati. He was a novice (“moisang” or “samini” in Chakma) earlier on at the same monastery, in 1976 or 1977. So this was the second time. The abbot of the sprawling Rajvana Vihar complex, donated by the Chakma royal family, is the Venerable Sadhananda Mahathera, better known simply as the Vana Bhante, the “forest monk”. The monk is widely believed to have achieved enlightenment and often referred to as a Sravakabuddha.
Apart from the Chakma Raja, six other individuals, mostly Chakma men, also became novitiates. These were: Subhash Barua, Vice Chair Upsaka-Upasika Parishad (Sangha Sakti Sraman); Bjoy Giri Chakma, member, Upasak-Upasika Parishad and UP Member, Balukhali (Sangha Priti Sraman), Kirti Jiban Chakma (Sangha Pada Sraman), Debesh Chakma (Sangha Darshi Sraman), Josoda Binoy Chakma, an engineer working for government (Sangha Jan Sraman) and Tenzing Chakma, a dress designer (Sangha Jaan Sraman). The Raja was named Rashtrapal Sraman, after a wise monk from the days of the Buddha.
The event involved several ceremonies; a procession, offerings to the Bhikkhu Sangha, ordainment, change of dress, change of name, and so forth. While at the monastery, the novices took part in several other ceremonies and everyday rituals. On the last day of their stay, the novices made offerings to the Sangha before observing the necessary rituals prior to departure. Several of them also went – up invitation or ‘faang” – to attend the seventh day memorial feast of a departed karbari at a village near Rangamati town, called Digholibak or Dighilibak.
Monastic life involved getting up everyday at 4 am, when homage was made to the triple gems: Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Sutras were recited and prayers were made, including on the observance or non-observance of monastic rules. Then the bhikkhus and samaneras paid homage to the Vana Bhante, who generally obliged the gathering with a sermon. The sermon would end with the sun coming up over the Kandobsora hills in the east. Some of the senior monks had remarked that while Rashtrapal Sraman was in residence at Rajavana Vihar, the sermons were somehow much longer than at other times. Time was then spent in reading and discussions, until time for bathing, which was around 10 am, and lunch, around 11 am. However, if anyone – bhikkhu or saman – went for almsround or pindapata, this was around 6-30 am, and lunch for those observing dhutangas related to the pindapata was usually completed around 7-30 am. No more meals or snacks for them until the next morning, after sunrise. Around 4 pm, Bhikkhus, samanera and lay people watered the two Bo trees within the compound, and meditated in front of the tree. In the early evening, a small number of monks and sramans practiced Vipassana meditation in the Sermon Hall.
Video & Still Photographs
Several of the above-mentioned events were recorded on video camera (High Definition Mini DV tape) and on a number of still cameras. The phographers included: Ven’ble Dharma Bodhi Thera, Ven’ble Moitri Sen Bhikkhu, Dhiman Chakma, Member, Rajvana Vihar Upasaka-Upasika Parishad, free lance photographer Amiyo Kanti Chakma (Priyo Kanti), Nina Silvia (VSO) and Titu Chakma. It is regretted that it has not been possible to identify the photographs with the photographer. This will hopefully be done after due consultations.