“If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation.”
It is not as well known as it should be that a much-beloved, 93-year-old global figure in Buddhism has called West Virginia home since the latter decades of the 20th century. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana — better known around the planet as “Bhante G” — is abbot of the Bhavana Society, a Theravada Buddhist monastery and retreat center near High View WV, in Hampshire County, which he co-founded in the early 1980s.
Bhante G, who was born in rural Sri Lanka, ordained as a monk at age 12 and took full ordination at age 20, as he recounts in his entertaining biography “Journey to Mindfulness.” He came to America in 1968 and earned a PhD. in world religions at American University in Washington D.C. where he also served as chaplain.
Long desirous of establishing a Buddhist forest monastery in America, Bhante G and supporters found and purchased a 60-acre plot of land about twenty minutes from Wardensville, WV. The seed of his idea took root and became the Bhavana Society, a monastery and retreat center that has attracted thousands of lay Buddhists, monks and nuns from around the world in the years since its establishment.
Bhante G has written a number of books, including the now-classic meditation manual “Mindfulness In Plain English,” which has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and its companion “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness.” He regularly leads retreats on meditation, mindfulness , concentration, and other topics at the Bhavana Society and around the world.
With the onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020, the Bhavana Society suspended in-person retreats. In March of that year, he began to lead guided meditations on ZOOM, followed by in-depth talks on Buddhist teachings. Bhante G spends the first two months of every new year in solitary retreat at Bhavana, which led to a pause in the ZOOM sessions. He recently resumed them. They take place promptly from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., on most Saturdays and Sunday.
To mark the recent resumption of the ZOOM meditations, I asked Bhante G to take part in WestVirginiaVille’s “5 Questions” series, which focuses on intriguing people in West Virginia doing interesting things. For more questions-and-answers with him, see the book I edited of highlights from 50 years of his responses to common questions he receives: “What Why How: Answers to Your Questions on Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully” by Bhante G” (Wisdom Publications 2020) | PS: Thanks to Brian Chamowitz at Bhavana for his assistance in making this Q-and-A. happen.
“So, don’t be in a hurry and try to push or rush your practice. Do your meditation gently and gradually, step-by-step. In regard to peacefulness, if you become peaceful, then accept it; if you don’t become peaceful, then accept that also. That’s the nature of the mind. We must find our own practice and persistently keep at it.”
“If we have presence of mind then whatever work we do will be the very tool which enables us to know right and wrong continually. There is plenty of time to meditate, we just don’t fully understand the practice, that’s all. While sleeping we breathe, eating we breathe, don’t we? Why don’t we have time to meditate? Wherever we are we breathe. If we think like this, then our life has as much value as our breath, and wherever we are we have time.”
“When we practice, we observe how much peace, happiness, and lightness we already have. We notice whether we are anxious about accidents or misfortunes, and how much anger, irritation, fear, anxiety, or worry are already in us. As we become aware of the feelings in us, our self-understanding will deepen. We will see how our fears and lack of peace contribute to our unhappiness, and we will see the value of loving ourselves and cultivating a heart of compassion.”
NOTE: Apologies. A version of this post you may have just received (if an email subscriber to this site) did not include the password now required to enter the ZOOM meditations led by Bhante G. The pasword is listed below. | with metta, Douglas
AS IT APPEARS THE PANDEMIC continues unbated with no vaccine in the short term, The Meditation Circle of Charleston WV will remain on hiatus for the foreseeable future.
WE HIGHLY ENCOURAGE FOLKS INTERESTED in learning breath-centered meditation, or to deepen their current practice, to not miss the chance to join the guided meditation and Dhamma talks led by Bhante Gunaratana, abbot of the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. on ZOOM.
The free ZOOM sessions are for anyone with a serious interest in meditation practice, as well as being a master class in the Buddha’s teachings. This is a rare opportunity to learn meditation from a master. You’ll also gain insights into the point of meditation and mindfulness practice in the Buddhist tradition, which is to gain deep understanding into how we cause ourselves suffering because of how we choose to focus our thoughts and live our lives. And, so, to attain liberation from all suffering.
This is also an opportunity not likely to present itself again. Bhante G, at age 92, remains at the peak of his prowess in being able to offer practical, straight-up instruction in how to meditate. That instruction is then deepened and enhanced by his discussions after the 30-minute meditation, which address why we meditate in the first place and deeper points of Buddhist teachings. Among other subjects, he has been discussing the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Origination, and other core Buddhist topics.
BHANTE G ZOOM guided meditations and talks: WHEN: 10 AM weekly on Thursdays, Friday, Saturday and Sunday WHERE:Join Zoom Meeting: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/668674778 DETAILS: Meeting ID:668 674 778 PASSWORD TO ENTER MEETING (all lowercase): metta
A HEADS UP. If you have not had the chance to join the daily ZOOM Buddhist teaching and guided meditation led by Bhante Gunaratana, abbot of the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, we encourage you to do so. The ZOOM sessions are for anyone with a serious interest in meditation practice, as well as being a master class in the Buddha’s teachings.
This is a rare opportunity to learn meditation from a master. You’ll also gain insights into the point of meditation and mindfulness practice in the Buddhist tradition, which is to gain deep understanding into how we cause ourselves suffering because of how we choose to focus our thoughts and live our lives. And, thus, to attain liberation from all suffering.
This is also an opportunity not likely to present itself again. Bhante G, at age 92, remains at the peak of his prowess in being able to offer practical, straight-up instruction in how to meditate. That instruction is then deepened and enhanced by his discussions before and after the 30-minute meditation, which address why we meditate in the first place.
His daily ZOOM sessions run from 10 to 11 am, but get there about 10-to-15 minutes in advance, and hang around after the meditation, for the series of talks Bhante G has been giving. Among other subjects, he has been discussing the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Origination, and other core Buddhist topics.
“We don’t meditate to hate our bodies. Unsatisfactoriness depends on clinging to impermanent objects. A mindful meditator should remind himself or herself an attractive object has triggered sense desire. One should then develop wise reflection or mindful reflection.”
“Meditation in the strictest sense is a very special way of training our mind. For that you don’t need any particular posture, time, or place. At any time, any place, and in any posture, you can practice mindfulness.”
Greetings. We encourage everyone who has visited the Meditation Circle to keep up their sitting practice during this challenging time. If you have a smartphone, you may consider getting the Insight Timer app, which has a neat feature where you can see who elsewhere around the globe and locally is sitting at the time you are. It also features a wide range of guided meditations, including ones by Bhante Jayasara and Bhante Gunaratana (‘Bhante G’), who have led day retreats in the past with the Charleston and Huntington, WV Meditation Circle groups.
ZOOM GUIDED MEDITATIONS WITH BHANTE G
Bhante G also invites members of the Meditation Circle to join him on guided meditations via ZOOM online calls at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily (until further notice).
NOTE: The first time you click to go to one of these ZOOM meditations, go there about 5-10 minutes in advance, since your web browser may require you to download and run the ZOOM app. (I think you can also join by phone.) If you have a slow web connection, join the meeting via audio instead of video as that takes up less bandwidth. Be sure your phone or computer audio and/or video camera is turned on
We might also suggest continuing to sit at home from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, to keep the rhythm of your weekly Meditation Circle practice going. Eventually, we will be back sitting in a circle (or rather a rounded square, given the nice way Mike has been setting up the room.)
QIGONG AT HOME
As we all are required to spend more time at home, it is essential we maintain the body-mind connection. Some of you us have had a little exposure to the “moving meditation” of Qigong and The Eight Pieces of Brocade exercise Thad has shown in the past. Mimi Kuo Deemer is an excellent Qigong instructor you can find on Youtube. Her version of the Eight Pieces of Brocade is a little different than the form Thad has shown, but what version you see depends on where in China the teacher is from. She lives in the UK, but she’s from Arizona and her family lives in San Francisco.
Be well. May all beings be well happy and peaceful!
With metta, Thad, Douglas and Mike, co-facilitators of TheMeditationCircle.com
We will have more details as we lock them down, but American Buddhist monk Bhante Yogavacara Rahula will make a return visit to the Meditation Circles in Huntington and Charleston, W.Va., in early August, 2020. Bhante Rahula will lead a day-long ‘Day of Mindfulness’ at the Peacetree Center for Wellness in Huntington, WV, on Saturday, Aug. 8. He will also attend the Tuesday, Aug. 11, weekly sitting of The Meditation Circle, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 520 Kanawha Bld. W, in Charleston, WV. There is no charge for either event (donations will be accepted). Advance registration will be required for the Peacetree event because of limited space. REGISTRATION IS NOT YET OPEN FOR THE PEACETREE EVENT. We encourage you to subscribe to this site for updates on these and other events, as well as regular quotes and readings on breath-centered meditation and mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition.
Bhante Rahula is director and principal teacher at the Paññāsīha Lion of Wisdom Meditation Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was born Scott Joseph DuPrez in Southern California in 1948. After following the hippie trail to India, he eventually discovered Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, where he ordained as a novice monk in 1975 at Gothama Thapovanaya, Kalupaluwawa.
He received his bhikkhu upasampada ordination at Wat Thai Los Angeles in May 1979. After returning to Sri Lanka for some years, he came to help Bhante Henepola Gunaratana establish the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, where he served as vice-abbot from 1986 to 2010. Now, after seven years of teaching Dhamma and leading retreats around the world, he has taken on the role as director and chief meditation teacher at Lion of Wisdom .
The rural meditation retreat facility is a branch of the Washington Buddhist Vihara. The center offers Days of Mindfulness, Afternoon Intensives and two- and three-day retreats.
Upcoming 2020 events at Lion of Wisdom include:
Saturday February 22, Afternoon Intensive, 1-4 pm
Sunday March 1, Day of Mindfulness, 9 am-4 pm; bring a bag lunch or potluck item to share.
Sunday, March 8, Afternoon Intensive, 1.30-4.30 pm
Saturday, March 14, Day of Mindfulness; 9 am-4.30 pm; bring a potluck item to share.
Weekend Retreat, Friday, March 20, 7 pm until Sunday, March 22, finish at noon. Register for overnight accommodation.
Weeklong Retreat, May 15-23, 2020. The retreat theme will be: Awakening body/mind awareness with vipassana meditation and yoga breathing/exercises. Registration is required; a few spaces are still available; camping in your own tent is possible.
To register for the above overnight retreats send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following: Name, age, address, gender, beginner to meditation? Any medical conditions that might limit you movements/participation, prescribed medications?
“Look at the particular emotion that might be driving the proliferation of thoughts. And as you are watching, take some deep breaths. Looking at it, breathe out deeply—looking at it, breathe in deeply. You will see it disappearing. Mindfulness comes to rescue us from getting carried away with runaway thoughts, to offer support to increase wholesome mental states. Mindfulness works in both ways—one is to address negative states that have arisen. The other is to encourage us to direct the mind into more wholesome paths.”
CHECK OUT THE NEW WISDOM EXPERIENCE BOOK “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully.” The book compiles Bhante G’s answers to both beginning and advanced questions about meditation practice, mindfulness and Buddhist teachings.
Meditation Circle co-coordinator Douglas Imbrogno helped compile the book’s contents, along with other Bhavana lay supporters, from questions Bhante G has answered on the cushion, in interviews and on retreats around the world.
A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.