In April, Oregon received a visit from Theravadin monk Venerable Mahinda. Born in Malaysia, Ven. Mahinda is the spiritual director of the Australian Buddhist Mission and the Abbot of the Aloka Meditation Centre. He stayed briefly at Great Vow Monastery in Clatskanie and at Portland’s Dharma Rain Zen Center.
While in the U.S. Ven. Mahinda also met with other Buddhist leaders in Berkeley and elsewhere to discuss a united Buddhist presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia in 2009. Ven. Mahinda has traveled to over 30 countries to attend international dialogues and interfaith conferences. He divides his time between Malaysia and Australia.
While staying at Dharma Rain, Ven. Mahinda was especially delighted to witness the Dharma School singing songs and was given a copy of the Center's songbook. Teaching children the Dharma is very dear to him.
He also gave a Dharma talk in which he shared some of his history. Thirty-six years ago he came to the U.S. for the first time and traveled through the 48 states of the mainland. He said his experience at a Jesuit Seminary "made me more Buddhist." He liked making his audience laugh. The first book he read on Buddhism was "The Way of Zen" by Alan Watts. By coincidence Ven. Mahinda "met up with him later in a Lutheran church."
Kyogen Carlson learned this about the center’s visitor:
Ven. Mahinda is a very interesting person because while he is ethnically Chinese, he grew up with English as his first language, and in fact doesn't speak much Chinese. He was drawn to Chinese Mahayana, but found it easier to follow the Theravada tradition because it was possible to study in English. An interesting fact about him is that he knew Roshi Kennett's Chinese ordination teacher, and became quite close to him. Before that, when he was about 12, he was present when Roshi Kennett received her first ordination in a Theravadin temple in Malaysia.
Roshi Kennett was Kyogen and Gyokuko Carlson's teacher, as well as the founder of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions has convened regularly since its inception at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. For more information about the 2009 Parliament, visit www.parliamentofreligions.org.
Contributor: Heidi Enji Hoogstra.