Chanting in the 6th century

Just recently I came across this fascinating story, which is especially valuable to those among you who read
or chant Pali texts:

Dhammaruwan Story :

Dhammaruwan was born in a small village near Kandy , Sri Lanka in November, 1968. From the age of about two, before he could read or write , he spontaneously started to chant the ancient Buddhist scriptures in the original pali language , known only to a few scholar monks.

Each day, somewhere around two o’clock in the morning, after sitting in meditation with his adopted and devoted Buddhist foster father for about twenty to forty minutes, he would spontaneously start to chant pali suttas. On the Poya or lunar Observance day, he would sometimes chant for two hours.

Dhammaruwan’s foster father started making amateur recording of the chanting and invited prominent scholar monk to listen. The monk verified that it was indeed the ancient pali language and the boy were chanting it in an ancient style which no longer existed in world.

That a young boy shows signs of having been a Buddhist monk in his former live is not that unusual by itself. See related past-life memories captured in these scientific studies.

But this boy remembered a life from the 6th century, during a phase in medieval Sri Lanka where Buddhism florished and Pali learning and scholarship reached a peak:

At the age of three in “Kelstan” Kandy he started to chant a certain verse of “Dammacca Sutta” (“Chakkukarani Nayanakarani….”). Ever since that day he has been chanting suttas from the tripitaka (Pali Canon) with little or no mistakes.

The chanting style of these suttas are his own and nowhere else to be found or trace back to. As the child grew in age and was able to speak more, he related where he learnt this particular style of chanting the suttas and how he was able to chant such deep and profound suttas, which even an adult find difficult to chant precisely. He has said that in 6th century A.C. he together with few monks accompanied the scholar Monk, Bhadanthachariya Buddhagosa to Sri Lanka. He has said that including him (Mudithagosa) the others were monks who had by-hearted the tripitaka or part of it. He says it is from this memory that he chants the suttas by recollecting that life. Until the age of 10 he was able to chant the suttas. The earliest recorded chanting was at the age of three.

If you like to listen to his chantings here is a beautiful website which provides the chantings for download or online listening:

Here a sample which is my favorite

If you know some Pali you will quickly recognize that this young boy’s stress and intonation goes according to the meaning of the texts. Even scholars reading the suttas sometimes will put in stops where – according to the meaning – you need to continue and vice versa. Not so this three year old boy. Chanting the Dhammacakka sutta like he does, in my opinion, could only be done, if you

  1. learnt the text by heart
  2. know Pali very well so as to know the meaning while chanting
  3. chanted the text a million times.

Anyway, the chanting style he uses is definitely closer to the texts as something like this which is the current style of chanting in Sri Lanka and sounds more like a mixture of Tibetan monks meeting in a mosque :-)

So, what happened to Dhammaruwan? I was curious to find out more about him, expecting him to have become a monk in this life too. Almost :-) These days Dhammaruwan is an experienced meditator and founded a very support-worthy meditation center in central Sri Lanka (called “Nirodha” – good choice).

If you like to find out more, here is the link.

>>Invitation to Meditate<<

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  1. I was born to a Buddhist family in Srii Lanka. I am a strong believer in some of the Buddha’s teachings but have had difficultly believing in reincarnation until I heard about Dhammaruwan’s stroy through my brother in law.
    I was in tears listing to the chanting tapes… my heart stopped for a moment.

  2. Devika, I was in a similar boat too. I was born in Burma(Myanmar) and I heard of this story before. Just today listened to this and it was very pure and peaceful chanting. (Note: Even though I thought Dhamma teaching is for practice not just for chanting).

    Thank you for sharing this story.

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