Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reflection on the Visit of Bhante Wimala to the MA Honors Students in September

Theravada Buddhist Monk Comes to Mont Alto Campus

Relaxation emanated from the man as he sat comfortably in his chair, his red robe gathering around him. He sipped tea with a natural smile on his face while a circle of people formed in John Bardi’s small upstairs office in the Wiestling Student Center.

One might think Bhante Wimala, a well-traveled Theravada Buddhist monk, would get a little nervous with so many inquisitive people crowded around him. All are eager to ask him questions about issues from Christianity to meditation. Bhante, however, shows no signs of stress whatsoever. His laid-back tone seems innate and his content facial expressions permanent. He engages each person he meets as if he were a lifelong friend. In short, he is anomalous in a culture which values quantity over quality, movement over repose, speed over tranquility.

The most beneficial element of Bhante’s visit was discovered in the first few questions. One question was asked in regards to gratitude, which seemed to be of particular importance to Bhante. Bhante began to speak about attitudes different persons seem to have toward life. “I am thankful every day,” Bhante said with a genuine enthusiasm. “I am thankful that I can walk every morning.” He then spoke about a gentleman with no legs he had met in his many travels. The man would line up continuously for a wheelchair and every time he did not get one he would happily leave, saying, “Maybe next time.” Perhaps this was the most potent discussion point in the entirety of Bhante’s meeting. One hears this gracious man--who has little himself and yet is unwaveringly optimistic about life--speak about those who do not have clean drinking water or even all their appendages and one begins to gain a sobriety unknown before. The I-pods, cell phones, and new cars don’t seem to matter so much now and the realization that it is quite sufficient to have a full meal plan and a comfortable dorm room begins to materialize.

The discussion is over now and Bhante bows his head in a reverence to all around him, recognizing the holiness in each human being. He is off to the next step in what has so far been an extensive journey. It is almost sad to see him walk out the door, as if the torch leading one out of the Platonic cave has just been doused. The challenge now is to keep the torch burning and fortify the lessons learned.

By Tony Arnold

Here is a link to Bhante Wimala's home page: http://www.bhantewimala.com/

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