Living Heritage of Sri Lanka

Leaves of Life: Journey of Past, Present and Future

Ola leaves record ancient wisdom

by Sam Wickramasinghe

In ancient times, apart from astrology, there was another form of life-readings, on ola (a kind of palm leaf) known as sabda vakyam-s. These were written by spiritually advanced souls as guidance and direction for those on their way to higher knowledge in their present lives. My friend, the late Sittampalam, one-time Commissioner-General of Inland Revenue, was in contact with a source that had such leaves, found in India, and he was much sought after.

Bundles of this type of ola leaves came to his hands, brought by one Mahalingam from South India. They were supposed to have been written by ancient rishis (those who could see the past, present and the future as one continuum of consciousness, with the spatio-temporal dimension contracted into a single point of perception, after its journey of expansion on the horizontal mundane).

Having seen this journey of certain individuals, they were concerned with those on the inward journey of contraction from the periphery to the bindu-centre, and, as guidelines to them, recorded what they saw in such leaves; scattering or burying them, here and there, with their psychic, prescient knowledge that these will be found or surface at the appropriate time, when such beings will be re-born, ready to tread the return path, karmically ordained.

Such recordings were known as sabda rishi vakyam-s (saying of rishis in expressed or audible sound) of what they perceived in their inaudible and unexpressed modality.

These 'states' were supposed to be the 'womb' of desires and actions (fulfilled or otherwise) of past lives; the nexus of the past and the present, conjointly mapping out the future.

These were scripted in an ancient style, and the time factor therein, differed from our familiar time reckoning - a fact which often led to discredit and disbelief, being hard to comprehend even by well-versed readers of the old lingo.

There were also other forms of vakyam-s, apart from the above, spiritually oriented, meant to direct people, still on the outward expansion of time/space/experience journey of the continuum, to guide them on strictly secular activities of governance, leadership, military prowess, domestic life etc., fitting into the Hindu concept of the four ashrams of mortal existence, viz, two of which are that of grihastha (householder); brahmachari (student of divine knowledge) and the other two that of vanaprasthin (forest-dweller, leading an inner-life of contemplation etc., detached from the 'forest' of the mundane) and that of a sannyasin (a freed wanderer) and again, which could be anywhere one is at any particular moment of time, living; 'the life, ordinaire' of a person free of bondage. These last two coming within the parameters of sabda vakyams pertaining to the return journey.

Courtesy: The Sunday Times (Colombo) of 15 December 2002

Sam Wickramasinghe may be contacted at:

37/1, Station Lane
Nugegoda, Sri Lanka
Tel: (+94) 11 283-5522
Sam Wickramasinghe, 2001
Other articles by Sam Wickramasinghe
 Yoga Swami the Image-Breaker
German Swami the Bohemian Swami of Jaffna
German Swami Gauribala: Walking the Razor's Edge
Ramana Maharshi: How the Guru called me
Babylon, the Cross and the Cruxificion
Leaves of Life: Journey of Past, Present and Future
Elephant Lore
Kebbilitte: Where Veddahs Cursed and Leopards Dispensed Justice
Six Weeks in a Cave amidst Leopard, Bear and Elephant