When Bhante Sujatha goes to Sri Lanka next summer, continuing his humanitarian projects as he does each year, another major event will be taking place as well. The Sangha Council of Bhante’s lineage has announced he is being awarded the title Chief Sangha Patron in North America. The only other holder of this title in the North American continent is Bhante Gunaratana (“Bhante G”), the founder of the Bhavana Society in West Virginia.
On July 13, 2013, after a week of celebration and programs in his honor, there will be a Grand Parade in Kandy for the sole purpose of honoring our beloved teacher for his work spreading the wisdom of the Buddha to our American culture. Bhante’s direct and always simple teachings—beginning with “May you be well, happy, and peaceful”—that speak to our hearts, are being recognized and deeply appreciated by the entire monastic Sangha of Sri Lanka.
This highest title and honor is going to Bhante specifically for the work he has done in this country serving the local population and creating Blue Lotus Temple. Bhante’s lineage leadership in Sri Lanka recognizes how he brings the clear, true teachings of the Buddha to people who are from other faith and cultural traditions, and allows them to integrate these truths and meditation into their lives as they see fit. The person who serves the “local” people, and not just those from their same ethnic Buddhist tradition, is called Dhamma Duta, messenger of the Dhamma.
When senior Sri Lankan monks came to the Blue Lotus Temple Opening Ceremonies and Vesakha Day Celebration in May, they were in awe of what Bhante had created for Westerners and how active and happy the members are with their Buddhist teachings and teachers. They were also overwhelmed with the local community support for the temple, and all of the positive comments they heard about having a Buddhist temple in the area.
Going back to Sri Lanka, these senior monks spoke to the Sangha Council about what they had experienced here and how important Bhante’s work is in this country. They knew of his Sri Lankan humanitarian work, but they didn’t realize the impact of his work with Westerners until they visited and saw the smiles and joy he brings so many people, and how the Buddhist teachings have flourished under his guidance.
This is an exciting time for Blue Lotus as we see our beloved teacher honored for the work we personally experience, and the work we join him in and support. As you can imagine, Bhante has an idea of how he wants to turn this usually ceremonial and very formal week of honor into something more practical and needed! His first thoughts were, “I want to do something different — something for the people.” He’s busy now thinking of projects and ideas he can actualize, with the help of his friends here.
Bhante hopes there will be American friends and students who can travel to Sri Lanka and witness this historic event and share in Bhante’s great honor. He envisions having those travellers arrive in Sri Lanka a day or two before the parade on July 13. Then, with the ceremonies completed, he would be free to travel around the country guiding the group through his Sri Lanka.
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