Yesterday I had the chance to sit down one on one with Bhante Somananda in his temple, the Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple of Pa, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Born in Sri Lanka, Bhante Soma is a Theravada Buddhist monk, or Bhikkhu. A quick, shallow lesson on Buddhism. There are three major distinctions in Buddhism. Mahayana, “The Great Vehicle”, which predominates China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Vajrayana, which for brevity can simply be referred to as Tibetan. And then there is Bhante Soma’s tradition, Theravada, which is the oldest of all the schools of Buddhism and predominates Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.
Mindfulness Meditation in Carlisle, PA
After talking for an hour or so, Bhante Soma handed me the book he recommends for people new to meditation, Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana. Coincidentally, or maybe not, this was the first book I ever bought on meditation and is responsible for setting me on my almost 20 year on-again off-again meditative path. After explaining this to Bhante Soma, he informed me that Venerable Henepola Gunaratana is in fact his teacher. I know mindfulness is big in the States, and that I bought the book in a Barnes & Noble, not exactly an obscure purveyor of pages, but what are the odds that the first Buddhist monk I meet in person, hails from the same lineage of the first Buddhist monk I met on pages?
In regards to the portrait I made with Bhante, I really wish I would have spent more than 3 minutes creating it. Admittedly, I was standing in the middle of semi-busy street to get the shot. I left my camera bag at home and only brought a 50mm to the temple, as I was there to primarily discuss Dhamma. Hopefully I can get back to the temple soon and talk with Bhante again and maybe even have a proper portrait session.
Photographed in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. 2019