Thursday, December 09, 2004

Prominent American Buddhists Part V: Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Here's a guy most people who think of shallow "Hollywood Buddhists" probably don't know, let alone pronounce his name.

This guy has quite a pedigree. And he lives in a "red state."

Henepola Gunaratana was born on the 7th of December, 1927 in a small village named Henepola and ordained at the age of 12 as a Buddhist monk at a small temple in Malandeniya Village in Kurunegala District in Sri Lanka. His preceptor was Venerable Kiribatkumbure Sonuttara Mahathera. He received his basic Buddhist education at a small monks' school called Vidyasekhara Pirivena, Gampaha. At the age of 20 he was given higher ordination in Kandy in 1947. He received his higher education from Vidyalankara College in Kelaniya and Buddhist Missionary College of Mahabodhi Society in Colombo. Subsequently he was sent to India for five years of missionary work for the Mahabodhi Society, serving the Harijana (untouchable) people in Sanchi, Delhi, and Bombay. Later he spent ten years as a missionary in Malaysia, serving as religious advisor to the Sasana Abhivurdhiwardhana Society, Buddhist Missionary Society and the Buddhist Youth Federation of Malaysia...

At the invitation of the Sasana Sevaka Society, Bhante Gunaratana came to the United States in 1968 to serve as Hen. General Secretary of the Buddhist Vihara Society of Washington, D.C. In 1980 he was appointed President of the Society. During his years at the Vihara, he has taught courses in Buddhism, conducted meditation retreats, and lectured widely throughout the United States and Canada. He has also pursued his scholarly interests by earning a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The American University. He taught courses on Buddhism at The American University, Georgetown University, Bucknell University, PA, and University of Maryland. Also he has lectured at many universities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

Bhante Gunaratana was the Buddhist chaplain at The American University, counseling students interested in Buddhism and Buddhist meditation. He is now president of the Bhavana Society and abbot of the monastery in West Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, about 100 miles west of Washington, D.C.

While I may not agree with everything he writes, I have to admit that I usually find him to be deeply wiser than many other religious folks.

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