The week before was a whirlwind of preparation as our committee finalized the details of Bhante Wimala’s visit. It would be Bhante’s second workshop at Concordia Center for Spiritual Living and we were excited with the anticipation of what this would mean to all who attended. And we were not disappointed.
Bhante Wimala is not your ordinary monk. Yes, he is devoted to the teachings of Buddha and is a man of peace. But he is also a man of action, sharing himself and his message through service to others around the globe. When he is not touring North America, speaking and leading workshops, he is in Sri Lanka, coordinating the building of new homes for families displaced by civil war. Or you might find Bhante in Kenya, delivering much-needed computers to an all-girls school. Or leading retreats at the Samadhi Meditation Center in Prague, Czech Republic. Or on a personal retreat, renewing his own spirit in order to head out again into the world.
Throughout his visit to Concordia, Bhante shared himself and his message of peace with our congregation. Joining the children’s circle in the morning, he answered questions and shared simple ideas about meditation. He gently led the kids in a few moments of silence, blessing and thanking them for their attention. He then made his way upstairs to speak from the podium to the crowd of adults who had gathered in the sanctuary. His message of Inner Peace in Changing Times resonated with many of those seated in the pews. One guest later commented, “I’m so glad I came. What he talked about, what he said, is just what I needed to hear right now.” Others made their way downstairs to leaf through Bhante’s books and CD’s, eager to learn more about this gentle man and the message that had just touched their hearts.
After some refreshments and a short presentation on his humanitarian work, we gathered to hear more of Bhante’s wisdom. In the quiet moments that followed, he shared how learning to love ourselves allows us to love others. He spoke honestly of how he needed to remember to practice coming back to his heart in times of stress, to accomplish all the work he is called to do. And his calm voice lead us seamlessly into the loving kindness meditation where we experienced firsthand how to connect more fully with our own hearts through this ancient practice. It was hard to believe that two hours had passed since the workshop began. Even as the afternoon waned, Bhante’s warmth and energy did not. As the group broke up and most people headed home, Bhante continued to greet individuals as needed, his bright eyes and wide smile available to any and all who approached him.
As the fellowship hall emptied out, and the remaining guests said good-bye, Bhante gathered up his belongings and was gone as well. Back out into the world to teach and to serve. Even now, weeks later, people at Concordia are still talking about his visit. As one woman remembered, “Bhante’s words, they touched my own inner peace. He taught me how to just be.” We look forward with anticipation to the next visit from this extraordinary monk.