Buddhist temple

Grafton Buddhist Temple Provides Calm From Current Storm

By Brett Peruzzi, Contributing writer

A Buddha statue outside the Vihara Buddhist and New England Meditation Center in Grafton

Grafton – On a quiet hill in the woods off Highway 140 in Grafton, a Buddhist temple is doing its part to stay connected to its followers and spread its message of calm and compassion in a world rocked by the coronavirus pandemic. Her weekly meditation group now meets on Zoom, as does her bi-weekly class which teaches the fundamentals of Buddhism to members’ children. The temple’s Facebook page posts Words of Wisdom and live streams soothing chants of sutras, or scriptures, recited by its resident monks in Pali, the ancient language of the Buddha’s time.

The New England Vihara Buddhist and Meditation Center is a Theravada Buddhist temple, a spiritual tradition with roots in Southeast Asia. It was founded in 2004 and had several locations in the western suburbs of Boston before moving to Grafton in 2011. Chief Monk Debokkawe Pannasiri was ordained a priest in Sri Lanka over 20 years ago and went on to obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Buddhist philosophy.

“In the face of this pandemic, maintaining one’s mental well-being is of crucial importance,” Pannasiri said. “Meditation helps us cultivate a high level of psychological resilience and in times of adversity and stress, it helps to maintain a peaceful and restful state of mind.”

The altar at the Vihara Buddhist and Meditation Center of New England in Grafton

During such an existential crisis, the temple’s emphasis on mindfulness and kindness to others resonates all the more strongly for many people.

Richard Price is a resident of Grafton who has meditated in the temple for many years.

The TV and the internet carry bad news from wall to wall, and then we go to grocery stores and see half-empty shelves, which has caused unease in society, ”he observed. “Meditation gives us the opportunity to put this chatter aside for a while. “

Neela de Zoysa is a Sri Lankan American from Sudbury who is also a long-time temple member. “The temple occupies a central role in the spiritual and social life of Sri Lankan migrants … in the greater Boston area and throughout New England,“she explained.”Individuals and families are encouraged to visit the temple by appointment… or to call for advice and guidance.

However, despite the temple’s digital awareness, the pandemic is creating a problem for monks to meet their daily needs and expenses.

“Ahe mendicant tradition, monks depend on food alms offered by the temple community, and this has been drastically reduced due to current restrictions, ”she noted. “No gatherings and few in-person visits also resulted in a drastic reduction in donations.”

Regardless of the current financial challenges, however, de Zoysa issued a note of hope regarding the ability of the temple community to cope with the pandemic.

“Illness, aging and the frailty that accompanies it, and ultimately death, are normal facts of life in Buddhist philosophy,” she noted, and are not taboo subjects. “At a time like this, when this reality comes to us through a fire hose, it gives us pause to contemplate these realities of life and be more mindful of living the time we have to the fullest. “

Bhante Pannasiri of the Vihara Buddhist and Meditation Center of New England in Grafton speaking to his disciples.

Pannasiri added, “The many guided meditations and workshops conducted by the temple train participants to be with themselves in silence. … The developed mind, on an equal footing, is able to withstand sudden changes and ups and downs. A calm and content mind can be joyful in the midst of turmoil.

For more information on te New England Vihara Buddhist and Meditation Center, visit www.nebvmc.org.

Photos / submitted