Pictured above: Neal Cichanowicz of Northville shared his thoughts at Tuesday’s meditation session, while Bhante Kottawa Nanda (in orange robes) looked on. | Don Jayamaha photo for LIBMC
The Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center (LIBMC) in Northville conducted a ceremony Tuesday evening, April 23, to offer merits to the ones who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
Many members and the chief monk of the meditation center, Bhante Kottawe Nanda, are from Sri Lanka, which is a predominantly Buddhist country whose Muslim population is about 10 percent and whose Catholic population is about 6 percent. A group of LIBMC members traveled to Sri Lanka in January to meet with political and religious leaders there.
Sri Lanka faced several decades of civil war in the late 20th Century, but has been a peaceful country for the past decade.
That peace was shattered Easter morning with a coordinated series of suicide bombings by Muslim extremists at churches and hotels that has left more than 350 people dead.
Bhante Nanda opened Tuesday’s meditation session by sharing his thoughts on the terrorist attacks, which he described as an unacceptable incident in in a predominantly Buddhist country. He added that, at this time of anger and hatred, there is no point in blaming those who attacked. It is not their fault, he said, but the fault of the activists who train them to have a suicidal mindset and indoctrinate them into the evil thinking that leads them to destroy the lives of innocent people.
The world should come together to discover the roots of these activities, which are becoming a threat to the whole world, he added. This is not the first time and it will be not the last. We live in a civilized world. Therefore, we should think not of how one country can protect themselves, but of how the whole world can find a solution to keep humankind safe.
The meditation session was filled with local American community members and members of the LIBMC meditation group. They opened by observing two minutes of silence in the memory of the departed once.
After sharing his thoughts, Bante Kottawe Nanda conducted a merit sharing ceremony (Pansakoola) by offering a white cloth “Mathaka Wasthra” and doing a water pouring ceremony known as “Pan Wadeema.”
The Buddhist concept of merit, not widely known in the U.S., is a force that comes from doing good deeds in the world, which improves one’s mind and well-being and can bring good fortune.
Suzanne Driscoll, one of the LIBMC members who visited Sri Lanka with the group from the meditation center in January, expressed her feeling toward the affected families and shared her experience of the kind hospitality of and generosity of the Sri Lankans.
She mentioned that, from the time she entered the country until her departure, her experience with the people of Sri Lanka was unforgettable. She said that she cannot believe how one can destroy the lives of a kind and spiritual nation.
The international terror group ISIS claimed credit for the attack on Tuesday, though international investigators have not yet found proof of coordination between ISIS and the attackers.
Mike Cardaciano also shared his experience in Sri Lanka and said that, at a time of sorrow and pain, valuable Buddhist teachings help us to look at the situation with a calmer mind. Therefore, without reacting with anger and hatred, we can spread loving kindness toward the people who lost their lives, and to their families.
Meditation group member Surya said her deepest sympathies go to the people of Sri Lanka who lost their family in this horrific attack and added that the best way of avoiding such activities is to help the people who did this understand how they can achieve more by spreading loving kindness.
Neil Felton, a psychologist and a trauma expert, shared his experience with the gathering. He explained how a traumatic person’s mind will work and said the minds of the people who do violent activities have been affected by their negative life experiences. They can be healed and let back to live a normal life, he said, adding that living a Buddhist-guided life can help us avoid being involved in traumas and therefore develop a peaceful mind.
Many other participants expressed their thoughts and sent blessings to the people of Sri Lanka and assured their support in the time of need.
In closing, Bhante Nanda thanked everyone for participating in the ceremony and blessed them with a protection chant known as pirith.
The Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center is asking the American community to pray for the victims of this attack.
— contributed by Don Jayamaha for LIBMC