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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
116 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY support for the assumption that at least some of these cases do reflect genuine memories of the past.” A proponent of rebirth might even argue that these stories represent more evidence than materialists have been able to gather in support of their view. dhammaruwan The most compelling of the children’s sto- ries is that of Dhammaruwan, a Sri Lankan boy born in 1968. At the age of two, he spontaneously began to sit in meditation and chant for long stretches of time. Even- tually someone realized he was chanting Buddhist discourses in Pali, but in a melody and meter more akin to devotional kirtan than to the monotone cadences favored today. The boy explained he had learned the chants in a previous life in India when he served as a reciter monk, one who mem- orizes sections of the Pali Canon. He said he studied under the renowned monk Bud- dhaghosa in the fifth century and moved with him to Sri Lanka, where the elder car- ried out his work of compiling and trans- lating many commentaries, including the Visuddhimagga. Dhammaruwan’s chants were recorded and circulated, making him famous in Sri Lanka, uncomfortably so for a shy child. By adulthood he had lost the memories of the chants but was still able to recall his impressions of Buddhaghosa, whom he described as a scholar but not a medi- tator. While the fifth century may be too distant to verify Dhammaruwan’s recol- lections, Analayo goes to great lengths to analyze the chants themselves to determine whether the child could have learned them by overhearing them in this life. The book includes an exhaustive comparison of the discourses chanted by the child with four different editions of the Pali texts (from Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and London), establishing that Dhammaruwan’s versions of the texts are not found in any modern source. Therefore, Analayo concludes, the boy had no way of learning them in his current lifetime. Dhammaruwan is now living as a monk in Sri Lanka under the name Sama- dhikusala. He was ordained by Bhante Gunaratana, whose foreword provides a lovely introduction to the child and the man. Two old recordings of his chants are available for streaming on Wisdom Publi- cations’ website at www.wisdompubs.org/ rebirth-early-buddhism. Buddhism has gained a foothold in the West amid a set of cultural assumptions strongly influenced by both science and Christianity, so it is only natural that the notion of rebirth would not immediately resonate for many practitioners. Yet the doctrine is such an integral part of the Buddha’s teachings that, in the spirit of open-minded inquiry that is a hallmark of the scientific approach, it deserves serious consideration. The rational presentation in Bhikkhu Analayo’s book is well-suited to this task. At the age of two, Dhammaruwan spontaneously began to sit in meditation and chant for long stretches of time. The boy explained he had learned the chants in a previous life in India.