Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States, Mahina Samarasinghe, visited Akron, Ohio, on 25 June to attend the dedication ceremony for a new Sri Lankan Buddhist temple. Known as Cleveland Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center, the temple will be inhabited by monks of the Theravada tradition. The head teachers are Bhante Pemaranta, Bhante Punna, and Bhante Metta.
During the ceremony, the ambassador was complimentary of Akron and its reputation for being hospitable to immigrants. He also had good things to say about the local Sri Lankan community, which was responsible for opening the center. In his remarks, Samarasinghe stated: “They live here, but they have not forgotten their heritage.” (Akron Beacon Journal)
The head monks at the temple were all born in Sri Lanka and are highly educated. For example, Bhante Pemaranta holds a PhD in religious studies from the University of Pittsburgh, while Bhante Metta holds a bachelor’s degree with first class honors in Pali language from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Prior to the new temple being built, the monks lived and taught at Pittsburgh Buddhist Center, where Bhante Pemaranta serves as chief abbot.
According to their website, the new temple will host a number of community events, including free meditation classes, public talks, Buddhist cultural festivals, and youth camps.
In addition to remarks from the Sri Lankan ambassador to the US, the dedication ceremony included a parade, a speech from Akron mayor Dan Horrigan, and traditional Buddhist ceremonies and ritual offerings.
Speaking about the new temple, Horrigan stated: “I’m glad—in fact, I’m very glad—you chose Akron for the location.” (Akron Beacon Journal)
Local residents also had nice things to say about the new addition to the Akron community. Bob Mileti, a business owner who runs Primo’s Deli, said the monks and the Cleveland Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center were ideal neighbors: “They are nice, very laid-back and mellow, and kind.” (Akron Beacon Journal)
The temple, located on 8,000 square meters of land on Vernon Odom Boulevard, will be open to everyone and will serve the 150–200 members of the Sri Lankan community who live in the area. Prior to the temple being built, residents held ceremonies and events in their homes. While secluded, the temple is centrally located to many cities and states in northeast Ohio.
Resident monk Bhante Buddhadattha will live in an existing house on the property. The remaining land, which contains a large wooded area, will be improved to include small huts that monks and lay practitioners can use for meditation and mindfulness practice.
The secretary of Cleveland Buddhist Vihara, Gamini Samaranayake, said that one of the reasons the northeast Ohio property was chosen is because it has enough land that growth is possible. He added: “The airiness and space of the site offer a setting consistent with practicing Buddhist beliefs and teachings. It lends itself to a meditative environment, nine-tenths of the property is a wooded area.” (Akron Beacon Journal)
That said, Samaranayake did note that when Cleveland Buddhist Vihara purchased the property a year ago, it was not 100 per cent perfect andneeded some repairs. “It was run down,” he said. “We fixed it up ourselves.” (Akron Beacon Journal)
The temple dedication ceremony was attended by 12 Theravada monks, some of whom came from as far away as Pittsburgh.
Sri Lanka is an island nation near the southern coast of India. Formerly known as Ceylon, and it has a population of some 22 million people. The primary religions are Buddhism and Hinduism, both of which arrived there from India. The country gained independence from Britain in 1948. A civil war from 1983–2009 led to numerous waves of emigration, especially to Britain and the US. According to 2018 census data, about 52,000 people born in Sri Lanka now live in the US.
Cleveland Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center
Sri Lankan Buddhist community dedicates temple, meditation center in Akron (Akron Beacon Journal)
History of Sri Lanka (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Place Of Birth For The Foreign-Born Population In The United States (United States Census Bureau)
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