The Camarillo Buddhist Center, a Theravada center led by Bhante Tapovanaye Sutadhara, announced that it opened ate the beginning of the year, featuring offerings in Sinhalese and English. The center is located in an unused Christian church in a residential neighborhood of the city of Camarillo, some 84 kilometers northeast of Los Angeles. In addition to Dhamma talks, chanting, and retreats, the center offers mindfulness meditation and Tai chi.
Camarillo Buddhist Center officially opened its doors on 1 January, but held some events in the months ahead of the opening. In November last year, Bhante Sutadhara held a day-long eight-precepts retreat for Sinhalese lay Buddhists. At the time, the center was sparsely decorated, with the original church pews removed and a simple, white 1.2-meter Buddha statue on an altar.
Bhante Sutadhara was born in Sri Lanka in 1957 and started studying to become a Buddhist monk at a young age. In the 1980s, he traveled to Hawai’i to study linguistics. It was then that he became fluent in English. In 2005, he relocated to Ventura, California, to teach at the Ventura Buddhist Center, which had a primarily Vietnamese sangha and held Dhamma talks in Vietnamese. His teachings in English slowly grew in popularity, eventually so much that he needed a space of his own.
After seeking donations and taking personal loans, Bhante Sutadhara was able to raise funds to purchase the church property for US$870,000 in July last year. He and fellow monks live in a small house next to the church that is in need of extensive renovation. The church, too, will need a great deal of work to reach its full potential as a Buddhist center.
Pat Tallman, a volunteer teacher at the center, first met Bhante Sutadhara at the Ventura Buddhist Center in 2007. There, most teachings were in Vietnamese, but Bhante Sutadhara regularly gave teachings in English. When Bhante Sutadhara opened the temple, Tallman offered to lead Friday evening meditations.
“I’m so happy,” Tallman said. “This is a perfect spot for Bhante to open his temple. I think Camarillo will be very supportive of this. It’s still new so it’s not too full yet, but over time I believe more people will come.” (The Acorn)
In his meditation teachings on Friday nights, Tallman offers loving-kindness practices. The practice can be especially helpful in times of stress as it seeks to turn the mind toward the positive people and forces in one’s life. “It helps them to have a technique to keep their mind on the object of meditation,” he said. (The Acorn)
“It seems like people come here a lot when there are difficulties in their life,” Tallman said. “I think people are looking for something. They’re finding that this endless drive for material things, looking for things that stimulate their senses, seem empty in the end. I think they’re feeling a little bit lost.”
He added: “Hopefully it helps you to understand why you may be suffering in your life generally and to try to do something about that to improve your situation.” (The Acorn)
Bhante Sutadhara said that all are welcome at the Camarillo Buddhist Center.
“We never ask whether you are a Buddhist or not. That question is a very weird question to us. How do you show that you are a Buddhist? Just by living like that. But to learn the Buddhist principles you have to have somewhere to learn,” he said. “If someone is generous, someone is helping, someone is not harming anyone, including oneself, then the person is on the Buddhist path.” (The Acorn)
The center plans to launch a website soon, but currently more information can be found onsite and through the Facebook page of the Ventura Buddhist Center An Lac Mission.
Buddhists find a home for meditation in old church (The Acorn)
Ventura Buddhist Center An Lac Mission (Facebook)
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