The Hermit of Būndala
Biography of Ñāṇavīra Thera, with reflections on his life and work
An attempt to compile all that is known about Ñāṇavīra’s life and thought. The book retells stories from after his death, about controversies, lost or burned letters, his surviving legacy, and the growth of interest in these writings till the present time.
Venerable Ñāṇavīra Thera is today seen as one of the most original Buddhist thinkers, an iconic figure who was able with his attainments and understanding of Dhamma to point out with great confidence the wrongly-grasped interpretation on Dhamma. His fame started only after his death, in 1965. He was a hermit and he never had a great circle of disciples in his lifetime, but only a handful of supporters who were keen to learn from his great intelligence and wisdom. It was only after his death that a group of fellow individual hermits or wandering monks wrote down in their pocket-size notebooks the manuscript of the late teacher, Notes on Dhamma, and carried this in their bags for their daily reflection. These Notes and the letters which were exchanged between Ñāṇavīra and his supporters appeared in print in 1987, with the publishing of a large volume called Clearing the Path. It was forty-five years after his death before Notes on Dhamma (1960-1965) was eventually printed according to the original manuscript, which had been carefully prepared by the late author.
The present book is an attempt to compile all that is known about Ñāṇavīra’s life and thought, from his birth in an upper-class family in England, serving in World War II in Algeria and Italy, ordaining in the famous Island Hermitage in Sri Lanka, and spending ten years isolated in a jungle retreat at Būndala, where he meditated, reflected on Dhamma, and eventually attained partial liberation. It was there where he was able to recognize that the traditional understanding of Dhamma is not wholly justified by the Suttas, that it does not lead to the end of suffering, the goal of the Buddha’s Teaching, but rather blocks further progress. Then due to his chronic illnesses, which plagued his body for more than ten years, he ended this existence by his own hand. The book retells stories from after his death, about controversies, lost or burned letters, his surviving legacy, and the growth of interest in these writings till the present time.
The book also includes contributions from well-known writers such as Dr. Helmuth Hecker, Dr. John Stella and Prof. Forrest Williams.