Inauguration of the Mahamevnawa
Bhavana Monastery of New Jersey, USA.
Lakmal Boteju, New Jersey
Two thousand five hundred years ago, truth's brilliant light shone
upon the dark world of desire, lust, hatred and delusion. The enlightenment
of the Great Gautama Buddha, who revealed to the world, the priceless
treasure of the Four Noble Truths, which are the nature of suffering,
the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path to
the cessation of suffering, spread this bright ray of hope throughout
the world. This path to complete purification of the self, which is
also the true path to liberation, serves to illuminate the echelons
of the entire universe with its brilliance. Thousands upon thousands
of beings walk a righteous life of morality (S?la), concentration (Sam?dh?)
and wisdom (Pañña), on the Supreme Buddha's path, toward
freedom from suffering. In the Supreme Buddha's own words, "One
is extremely fortunate to be born as a human being in an era where the
Dhamma (the Supreme Buddha's Doctrine) flourishes."
Since the Supreme Buddha's message of the Noble Truths and the path
to freedom from suffering was passed to the country of Sri Lanka (then
known as Ceylon) by the Venerable Arahath Mahinda, the safekeeping of
this wondrous treasure was entrusted to the hands of the citizens of
that country. Thousands upon thousands chose priesthood, and, as devout
children of the Dhamma (the Buddha's Doctrine), achieved the ultimate
bliss of enlightenment as Arahaths (Wholly Purified Ones), Ones who
were forever free from suffering.
As time went by, these Buddhist priests endeavored to preserve this
invaluable compilation of knowledge. History states that during a severe
drought in the first Century B.C., the priests sought to safeguard the
Dhamma by drinking the sap of the Pandanus (Wetakeiya) trees for survival.
There was also an Indian invasion of the country during this time. These
events led the enlightened Arahaths to realize that their knowledge
of the Buddha's Teachings should be permanently preserved. Thus, in
the caves of the Aluvihara in Matale, with great devotion and care,
they documented the knowledge of the Buddha Dhamma they had retained
over the years. Thus, the monumental Pali Canon, the Tripitaka was created,
and, to this day, is considered to be one of the greatest documentary
works of all time.
Over the centuries that followed, with the invasion of Ceylon (Sri
Lanka) by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British, the decline of the
knowledge of the Buddha Dhamma became imminent. Only a few were able
to access and comprehend this invaluable doctrine and use it to their
benefit. Even today, school curriculums for Buddhism are limited in
scope, and tend to focus heavily on cultural aspects of Buddhism. The
innate meaning of the Supreme Buddha's Doctrine, even though much discussed
about today, tends to use intricate terms and complex reasoning, thereby
eluding a clear meaning to the listener.
In the past decade, in Sri Lanka, the venerable Kiribathgoda Gnanananda
Maha Thera, the founder of the Mahamevnawa Monasteries, has stood up
to the monumental task of presenting the incomparable doctrine of the
Supreme Buddha to the people, in clear and understandable terms. In
an eloquent way that is special to him, he has presented the Dhamma
in a simple manner, exactly in the way it had been explained by the
Supreme Buddha Himself. Soon after the Supreme Buddha's passing away,
the His faithful disciples held the First Council and documented His
doctrine in two collections of the Vinaya Pitaka (Discipline) and the
Sutta Pitaka (Discourses).
The Sutta Pitaka consists of short, middle-length and long discourses,
written exactly in the way the Supreme Buddha had spoken. Venerable
Gnanananda Thero explains to us, in simple and understandable terms,
the meanings of these Pali scriptures, and enables us to clearly understand
the Dhamma and what the Buddha expected from His followers. Thousands
upon thousands throughout the world have been illuminated by the Dhamma
through the sermons of Venerable Gnanananda Thero. Today, a countless
number of people are beginning to truly comprehend the suffering of
sansara (the incessant journey through births and rebirths), and the
wondrous reality of The Four Noble Truths, the way to the cessation
On a memorable day in April, 2007, residents in New Jersey, USA, were
blessed with a visit by the Venerable Gnanananda Thero, from Sri Lanka.
His sermons served to enlighten those who were fortunate enough to be
there, with the true, deep meaning of the Four Noble Truths and the
way to cessation of suffering. We learnt how fortunate we were to be
born as humans in this era where the Supreme Buddha's Dhamma is flourishing.
Yes, we are fortunate enough to realize the Four Noble Truths in this
life itself! We now realize how dangerous this long, long journey through
sansara is, and how much suffering we would have to endure in that journey.
On the 12th day of December in 2007, amidst the cool winds that graced
the glistening snow in the sunshine, words of wisdom reverberated through
the United States from a new fountain of the true Dhamma. The Mahamevnawa
Bhavana Monastery of New Jersey was established on this day, and is
the first branch of the Mahamevnawa Monastery in the United States of
America. Yes, the opportunity for devotees to listen, learn and live
the Dhamma is here upon American soil.
Every Friday, there is a sermon on a discourse (Sutta), by the Supreme
Buddha, followed by a discussion lead by a Venerable monk at the monastery.
On the second Sunday of each month, the monastery conducts a "Day
of Mindfulness", which consists of group meditation and training
sessions that help to develop one's awareness and self-discipline. Any
questions one may have on the Supreme Buddha's Dhamma are also answered
by the monks. The last Sunday of each month is a day for observing morality
(sil), through the following of eight precepts, followed by meditation
(bh?van?) and sermons. Little children learn the Dhamma at the monastery
twice every month, during the 'Kids Meet the Dhamma' ('Singithi Daham
Hamuwa') program, and the 'Dhamma for Adolescents' ('Yovun Sadaham Hamuwa')
program is held once a month.
The monastery is located in the town of Piscataway, New Jersey, in
a scenic location adjoining a small forest area. Plans are being made
to permanently establish the monastery in a secluded location that is
suitable for meditation and for the development of one's mind.