Posted on: May 7, 2022 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

Monk Sanathavihari and other monks at the temple in Los Angeles are working to break down language and cultural barriers.

This is an extremely difficult job and requires perseverance, to spread Buddhism widely to the community, especially the Hispanic people in the North Hollywood area, USA. .

Eight years ago, monk Sanathavihari ordained, became a Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition at the age of 30, then was ordained a bhikkhu in July 2015 at the Sarathchandra Buddhist Center in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At this time, for him, this was a completely solitary experience. As a young Mexican-American from a traditional Catholic family in Los Angeles, he could not connect and contact any other monks to learn more about Buddhism.

For the same reasons, however, Sanathavihari managed to build a large Latin Buddhist community at the Sarathchandra Buddhist Center in North Hollywood, which was originally a monastery run by a Buddhist monk. Sri Lankan Americans established. Currently, there are two monks and a novice living here as well as more and more Latinos coming to practice under the direct guidance of monks. At the same time, the live Dharma talks in Spanish on social networking applications have attracted a lot of attention from the public.

The idea of ​​holding classes and Dharma talks in Spanish was sprung up by Monk Sanathavihari when his Latin American students, who account for more than half of the participants in the weekly meditation practice at St. Sarathchandra Buddhist Center, complained that they found it difficult to understand what the instructors presented, in which, most of the teachers were Sinhala, from the island nation of Sri Lanka.

“The students’ native language is Spanish, while the monks’ language is Sinhala, and here they have to try to teach the Dharma in English. I tried to explain to the students, they thought that I should do all the activities in Spanish, and the monks also agreed,” said monk Sanathavihari.

With that in mind, he started by creating a YouTube channel called “Monje en la Modernidad” (Modern Monk), which offers practice videos and Buddhist texts in Spanish. Nha, as well as interviews on social and historical topics from Spanish-speaking Buddhists. Moreover, during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, Monk Sanathavihari established a Facebook group with more than 600 members to guide and practice meditation online and a research group for about a dozen aspiring practitioners.

Monk Sanathavihari said changes like these can become a real turning point for a community that often encounters language and cultural barriers while trying to learn and practice about an ancient religion. specifically Buddhism.

“The openness that allowed Buddhism to acclimate to Latino culture in Southern California is really beginning to begin, so Buddhism will no longer be foreign, mystical, or just cult; Buddhism will become accessible and something that Latinos can practice, whether they are Christians, Christians or Buddhists or any other religion.” Sanathavihari, 37 years old emphasized.

He further shared that in order for everyone to easily access the Buddhadharma, before all activities turned to online form because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he founded the organization “Casa de Bhavana”. A global online community of Latino Buddhists, which contains valuable materials such as guided meditation videos, translations and explanations of Buddhist practices and teachings in Spanish. In addition, he has held several retreats in Mexico and recently opened another Buddhist center in the Canary Islands in Spain.

At Sarathchandra temple, he shares the Buddhadharma more with students from Spain and Latinos, who can hear and understand what he is teaching rather than from Sri Lankan teachers. Moreover, wearing the robe of a Buddhist monk, the monk walks around the neighborhood or rides a bus to create curiosity among people about Buddhism. Usually, new people come to the temple because they have heard from others about the facility and the monks there.

“I am not in a hurry to preach the Dharma, nor am I trying to change people. But I want to let more people know that we are here, Buddhism in Spanish is here,” he said.

Monk Sanathavihari during a meditation session

It is not clear how many Latino Buddhists there are in America. The Pew Research Center estimates that in 2014, 12% of Buddhists in the US were Latino. In Sarathchandra, however, most of the temple’s new Buddhists are young Latinos and they are more involved in the temple’s rituals, life, and other aspects. Previously, they only stayed to study meditation, but now they want to be a part of the temple, contributing and taking on a role like traditional Asian Buddhists in the community.

Diana Herrera, 31, said she became interested in Buddhism many years ago, but intentionally avoids temples because she feels lost and unable to communicate with monks. However, she did not encounter this at the Sarathchandra temple; So, for the past three years, she has been going to the temple more often to attend weekly meditation and Dharma talks, and most recently, she has organized a mindful walking session, offering monks special gifts. necessary items as well as join hands in cleaning the temple.

According to monk Sanathavihari, there are many reasons for the community’s growing interest in Buddhism, including the desire to leave Christianity, and the problems of life during the pandemic that have made people see reconsider their lifestyle, find a new way of thinking as well as a new way of spiritual practice.

At Sarathchandra, representatives are very important. Because when someone sees a Latino here, it’s like, “Oh, that’s fine. Buddhism might be for me too. I can also step outside of my culture and join another without having to worry about betraying my own.”

Master Sanathavihari is fulfilling his desire to become a master in bilingual counseling and teaching. With his fellow initiates and a growing community of Buddhists, the task of spiritual guidance has been somewhat shared and has given him a sense of companionship on his difficult path. . However, he is also grateful for the work done by Sri Lankan monks at Sarathchandra temple over the past decade; they have approached and achieved certain achievements in spreading Buddhism to the Latino community. “I just help the flowers bloom.”

More than that, I hope my presence in this land will inspire young Latinos so that they can expand their horizons beyond the old stereotypes or cultural expectations. become a Buddhist, but not just to become a Buddhist.


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