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Godwin Samararatne: An Appreciation
by Dr Kithsiri Herath
(Former Senior Research Officer at the Nuclear Medicine Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka)
I got to know Godwin in the early seventies when I had lot of time to associate with friends, that is, before I got married. He was introduced to me by P W Kodituwakku who was a Clinical Psychologist attached to the Peradeniya Medical Faculty (presently a Professor of Clinical Psychology in New Mexico, U.S.A) who described him as a good human being. Good human being he was and we became very friendly (it did not take long for anyone to get friendly with Godwin) and he remained a very close friend for three decades.
At the time I met Godwin he was the Librarian at Senanayake Library, Kandy, where we met occasionally. He was always reading something whenever I went to meet him and he would offer a book to me to take home and read. I was not a member of the Library but I just took the books home that he gave me and most of them I returned after reading. However, when he was about to retire it was noticed that there were quite a number of books missing from the library. He wanted to give the knowledge to whoever sought the knowledge. Maybe that was the criteria he used in changing the system in the library and letting people use the books.
There was one more thing I noticed when I went to meet him in the library. If I was there for more than ten minutes at least two or more people would come and say hello to him. One day a person came and said hello and asked for Rps 10 (in those days Rps 10 was quite an amount) and Godwin promptly gave the money. The man left with a salute. I asked Godwin who that was and he said he was a mental patient! Godwin had a very big spectrum of friends!!
He was a regular visitor at our place after I got married. He usually came after the Psychiatric clinic at Peradeniya hospital. Three young consultant psychiatrists attached to the Department of Psychiatry, Peradeniya Hospital had realized the potential Godwin possessed in healing people with mental problems and sought his services in their clinics. That was usually on Wednesdays when he would have dinner with us and either go home afterwards or spend the night and go home the following morning. He did not eat much, did not count the percentage of alcohol in a drink or whether some meat is inside a curry offered to him and he always washed his plate after eating, which he insisted on doing. Most of the times when he had spent the night at our place he was gone before anyone else got up. He did not want to trouble us as we had to go to work the following day. He was mindful of the difficulties and problems others had and always lived without in anyway troubling their life styles. This could have been the result of constant meditation and awareness. He wanted to be like a shadow not like a heavy cart to a bull!
We used to meet during the eighties in a group to discuss Dhamma. We even formed an association called "Sri Lankan Association of Psychical Research". Our aim was to investigate psychical occurrences. We did some research on these in addition to investigations on rebirth. We used to get down prominent people to give lectures on subjects as diverse as rebirth studies (Ian Stevenson) to music (Premasiri Khemadasa). Godwin was very much for propagation of knowledge. He read widely and could talk about almost any subject including cricket. He had met many of the scholars who have carried out research on Buddhist Psychology and Philosophy. However, his method of living was simple "whenever he was hungry he ate, whenever he felt like going somewhere he went, and when he thought he had worked enough he retired from the job and went to meditate". I wish I could do the same.
Dr Kithsiri Herath,