Columbia Library columns (v.26(1976Nov-1977May))

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  v.26,no.2(1977:Feb): Page 17  

Before the Glory Fades


IT was late when I arrived at Dehiwela Zoo on the outskirts of
Colombo. I had spent half the afternoon trying to find the
temple where there were statues of Buddha with "sapphire
eyes." Misdirected, my driver had arrived at another temple,
where a young orange-robed monk had shown me a library filled
with precious Pali and Sanskrit manuscripts, and an "image-
house" where there were colorful paintings of the life, and pre¬
vious incarnations, of Buddha. But sapphire eyes were nowhere
in evidence. Eventually we found them at Sri Subhadrarama
Vihare, also at Dehiwela. The driver and I, both barefooted, were
admitted by a priest to the sanctuary. There, lighted by a chan¬
delier, a colossal image of Buddha and two other divinities fixed
us with a glassy stare. A coconut-oil lamp was lighted, the chan¬
delier switched off, and as the lamp was moved in front of the
shadowy faces the eyes darted sparks of blue fire.

From the n"iood of this mystical encounter I was awakened to
reality at the zoo entrance by the unexpected sight of Mr. and Mrs.
Manjusri and their two daughters stepping forward to greet me.
I had met Mrs. Manjusri and her daughters for the first time only
that morning when I had called at the apartment of Sri Lanka's
(Ceylon's) scholar-artist-monk L. T. P. Manjusri in Colombo.
Alas, said his wife, the artist was out; could I return later? Unfor¬
tunately I could not, because I had only one day left of my fort¬
night in Sri Lanka to see all of Colombo: shops, art galleries,
several temples and the zoo. Mrs. Manjusri was even more dis-
stressed when she learned that I owed my unannounced early-
morning appearance on her doorstep to the Secretary of the
Smithsonian, Dillon Ripley, a man revered by her husband and
one whose friend, for so I identified myself, she said he would
surely wish to meet.

  v.26,no.2(1977:Feb): Page 17