Venerable Bhante Buddharakkhita, a Ugandan Theravada Buddhist monk and founder of the Uganda Buddhist Centre (UBC), has issued an earnest call for Jamaicans to practice mindfulness meditation to reduce the level of violent crime in the Caribbean island nation, which recorded at least 1,600 murders in 2017.
“Now when you meditate it can change other people, so mindfulness meditation will reduce conflict and crime rate in Jamaica,” Ven. Buddharakkhita told the Jamaica Observer in an interview while visiting country as a guest of Jamaica’s Burmese community.
During his stay, Ven. Buddharakkhita delivered Dhamma talks in New Kingston, the commercial district of the capital, from 17–29 December. He also appeared on television shows to give teachings on 19 and 21 December. The public appearances were organized by the Theravada Buddhist Association of Jamaica.
Born into a Catholic family in Uganda in 1966, Ven. Buddharakkhita, whose given name is Steven Kaboggoza, has been practicing meditation since 1993. In 2002, he ordained as a Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition at the Tathagata Meditation Centre in San Jose, California. He now spends much of his time traveling the world to give Dhamma talks and teach meditation. He has also authored the book Planting Dhamma Seeds: The Emergence of Buddhism in Africa (Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society, 2006), which tells the story of his religious and spiritual work in African communities.
While in Jamaica, Ven. Buddharakkhita also sought to dispel the misunderstanding that one cannot be a Buddhist and a Christian simultaneously. “Being African and born in Africa and seeing African tradition and being born as a Christian, a Roman Catholic, I want to appeal to my fellow brothers and sisters in Jamaica that being a Christian cannot hinder you from practicing meditation,” he said. “So I appeal to the Jamaican people if they can find a way how they can seek how to cultivate inner peace so that they can overcome suffering and stress and translate it to the society.” (Jamaica Observer)
Ven. Buddharakkhita observed that if inner-city communities in Jamaica had an opportunity to learn mindfulness meditation, then they would come to know and understand their internal “enemies” and make their “mind a good friend,” enabling them to transform the lives of their friends, relatives, and the community at large. (Jamaica Observer)
“When one person meditates and if the population of Jamaica is 2.5 million, that’s one person less confused. If another person keeps on meditating that’s two people less, three people, five people,” Ven. Buddharakkhita explained. “That will take a long time. Let us take a look at this from a practical point of view: it might take 50 years, but 50 years that’s already 50 people who are not going to get into problems, so that’s the first thing.” (Jamaica Observer)
“Without that, you can spend a lot of money on police, on army with guns to prevent crime, [but] it’s not going to be very effective. What is effective is to start from inside and then we work outside,” he added. (Jamaica Observer)
To emphasize the benefits of a meditation practice, the venerable monk cited as an example the US city of Washington, DC, where, he asserted, crime rates declined 25 per cent as a consequence of a meditation initiative—a result that he insisted could be replicated in Jamaica. “They brought 100 meditators to Washington DC and the crime rate reduced 50 per cent to 25 per cent [sic] . . . this is a documentary movie,” he related. “So I just feel that the Jamaicans in general don’t know much [yet] about mindfulness meditation.” (Jamaica Observer)
Meditate to Fight Crime (Jamaica Observer)
Bhante Buddharakkhita Visiting Jamaica (Uganda Buddhist Centre)
Venerable Bhante Buddharakkhita: “Planting Dhamma Seeds in Africa” (Ho Center for Buddhist Studies)
Uganda Buddhist Centre – UBC (Facebook)