HBV Newsletter — September 2020

Is Giving a Cause of Decline?
During one of his constant tours, the Buddha, with a large number of Bhikkhus, arrived in the city of Nalanda in the state of Kosala and was lodging in the Mango Grove. During that time, Nalanda was experiencing a famine. Trees and plants produced little fruit and crop. Food was not as abundant as before.This situation was not a problem for those spiritual leaders who starved themselves as a part of their religious practice, but the Buddha would not do so.  The Buddha, following the middle path, ate moderately, and he expected his ordained disciples also to eat moderately.

The Buddha’s and his ordained disciples’ regular routine was to go for alms once a day.  Wherever they stayed, they took an alms bowl and went from house to house every morning.  Once they received enough food, they returned to the dwelling and ate. When invited by a particular family for lunch, the Buddha and the Bhikkhus visited that house instead of going for alms from house to house.

Now that the Buddha and a large number of Bhikkhus had visited Nalanda during a famine, and that they were to go for alms every day, some opponents of the Buddha thought that they had an excellent opportunity to refute and discredit the Buddha.  They claimed that the Buddha, if he were kind to people, should not have visited Nalanda with a large number of monks during a famine.

After much preplanning, the Buddha’s opponents sent to the Mango Grove one headman of the city, asking him to challenge the Buddha in an argument.

After initial greetings, the headman sat down and asked his first question: “Sir, don’t you in many ways praise sympathy for families, protection of families, and compassion for families?”

“Yes, headman, I do, of course,” the Buddha replied.

“Then, why are you touring [here in Nalanda] with a large number of Bhikkhus at a time of a famine, scarcity, and drought?  You are [actually] working for the suffering and destruction of families [instead of their wellbeing]”

The Buddha replied that he had never known a family that had gone bankrupt because of giving away cooked alms. He indicated that giving itself is a sign of progress instead of being a sign of decline.

Elaborating further, the Buddha gave the following eight causes for the decline of families: confiscation of wealth by the king, robbery, fire damage and water damage to the property, failure to save wealth properly, mismanagement of wealth, having a wastrel in the family, and the universal law of impermanence.

Samyutta Nikaya 1V: 42. 9; The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: 1345-1346

Newsletter – August 2020

How to React to a Disagreeable Speech
Some profound statements of the Buddha remain unnoticed, and the following is just one of them:

“Some are extremely gentle, extremely meek, and extremely peaceful so long as a disagreeable speech does not touch upon them. However, only after a disagreeable speech reaches them, one can understand whether they are actually kind, gentle, and peaceful or not.”

This utterance indicates that one’s personality development can be tested by one’s reaction to opposing views and arguments. Any individual can be gentle when his or her views are approved by others, but the well-developed person remains pleasant even when his or her views are opposed by others.

Elaborating on what he meant by gentleness, the Buddha advised further:

“You must train yourself in the proper way [before responding to what people say]. They may talk to you at the right time or wrong time; they may tell you the truth or a lie; the way they talk may be gentle or harsh; their speech may be beneficial or useless to you; [finally,] they may speak with a wholesome intention or with an unwholesome motive.

However it is, you must train like this: “Our minds will remain unaffected, and we shall utter no unpleasant words; we shall remain compassionate for their welfare with a mind of loving-kindness, without inner dislike’”

What is most fascinating in these instructions is the Buddha’s view that the development of communication skills is not just an external act; rather, compassion toward the listener should predominate throughout the process of communication. Even though one speaks at the wrong time, tells lies, uses harsh words, offers useless and harmful instructions, and reacts angrily, still the skillful listener should keep the compassion towards the speaker intact.

Majjhima Nikaya: 21; Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, 217-223

Vihara news
Next YouTube Live-Stream Service on Sunday, Aug. 2nd

Maha Sangha will  conduct the next live-stream morning service on Sunday, August 2nd, at 9:00 am. We are requesting parents to mark the service on calendar and participate with their children.

Vas Aradhna on Monday, August 3rd

Vassa Aradhana (invitation to the rain retreat) will take place on Nikini full-moon day (August 3rd) at 8:00 pm.

Considering the wellbeing of the monks and the community, only a few Vihara members will physically participate in the event, and all of you can participate in it through Zoom Live. We will send the link Sunday.

Vassa observance Begins on August 4th

Vassa observance by Ven. Rahula and Sirirathana Theros will take place the following day, August 4th, and will end on Vap full moon day, Oct. 30th. The day of the Kathina ceremony will be announced later.

Vassana Programs

A special Dhamma speech will be given every Saturday, and a Bodhi Puja will be held every Sunday. Notably, several distinguishing members of Maha Sangaha in Sri Lanka and in the USA will give several of the Dhamma talks through Zoom Live.

Bhante Sathi Will Give the First Dhamma Deshana

The first of the Dhamma Deshanas will be given on Saturday, August 8th, by Ven.  Peradeniye Sathindriya Thero (Bhante Sathi), abbot of the Triple Gem of the North, Minnesota. Venerable Thero is well known to the Houston Vihara community.

Anuruddha and Irani Kulatunga family will sponsor this Dhamma program. The Vihara appreciates their sponsorship.

Sponsorship of Programs

Our faithful devotees may take sponsorship of each Dhamma Deshana and Bodhi Puja and receive enormous blessings, which may be shared with their departed loved ones, wishing them the ultimate bliss of Nibbana.

In the past years, sponsoring a program means a lot of activities, including preparing dinner for the participants. However, the current situation has simplified sponsorship this year.

In sponsoring a Saturday Dhamma Deshana, it is the responsibility of the sponsor family to:

1. Invite their friends and family members to participate in the live Zoom program.

2. Offer a Parikkara (donation) to the the Bhikkhu who gives the speech

In sponsoring a Sunday Bodhi Puja:

1. You may physically participate in the Puja with flowers and the like.
2. You offer a donation to the Bhikkhu who conducts the Puja

Several families have already volunteered to sponsor some programs. On the day of Vassana invitation, the Vihara will send the list of the Dhamma Deshanas and programs for your sponsorship.

Announcement 2020/08/21

Live-stream Dhamma Talk in English by Most Venerable  Udairiyagama Dhammajiva Maha Thero:
Saturday, August 22nd, at 8:00 pm
The 3rd of the Dhamma Deshana during the Vassana season will be given by Ven. Udaeriyagama Dhammajiva Thero in English. It begins at 8:00 pm. Ven. Maha Thero is a renowned meditation teacher.

Dhamma Deshana is sponsored by Anuruddha and Irani Kulatunga  family.

Please use the following zoom link to join.

Live-stream Bodhi Puja during Vassana Season by Ven. Sirirathana Thero:
Sunday, August 23rd at 8:00 pm
Venerable Karamidule Sirirathana Thero will hold the 3d of the live-stream Bodhi Puja series on Sunday at 8:00 pm. Pradeep and pramitha Matarage family will sponsor the program.

Please joint the Puja through this link:


The Vihara appreciates volunteering to sponsor each program by the two families. 

Note: Please enable original sound for the best quality sound especially when there is chanting. Detailed instructions on how to change this settings is found below. It is necessary to create a free Zoom account.
https://youtu.be/v5fiCoc6nxE for PC Laptops

https://youtu.be/tUtStq289_0 For Mobile Devices

Wishing You the Blessings of the Triple Gem!

Newsletter – June 2020

There could be more than 30 Alien Civilizations in our Galaxy

Note: This research article draws our attention for two reasons:

1. The ancient Buddhist scriptures state that there are 31 planes of existence, You can learn about that teaching here:

2. Pali Buddhist texts state that life on earth, as well as the life of earth itself, is numbered. (Sattasūriya sutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya AN 7.66) The following research article also agree that our civilization could be short lived.


By Adam Smith / The Independent UK

There could be more than 30 alien civilizations in our galaxy, researchers have found in a major study.

A new paper looked to understand how many planets in our neighborhood could be home to alien life, by assuming that life develops on other planets in a similar way to how it develops on Earth, and matching that to planets that could be home to similar evolution.

It found that there could be dozens of active civilizations waiting to be found in our Milky Way. But it could also shed light on our own fate, and suggest our prospects for long-term survival are lower than we may have thought.

“There should be at least a few dozen active civilizations in our Galaxy under the assumption that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as on Earth,” Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham said in a statement.
“The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale. We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.”

One is the ‘weak’ limit, which suggests that intelligent life forms on a planet any time after 5 billion years. The other is the ‘Strong’ limit where life formed between 4.5 billion and 5 billion years years ago.

The new research used the latter, and also assumed that these new species would need to develop in metal-rich environments. This is because human beings developed near a metal-rich environment, due to the metal present in the Sun.

Previous research from 2012 suggests a suitable “minimum stellar metallicity” required for the formation of planets that would be similar to Earth.

Researchers were then able to use those assumptions about where life may form to understand how many planets in our Milky Way would be able to satisfy those conditions.
Detecting any civilisations in our galaxy is strongly dependent on how well we can pick up signals being sent into space.

These include radio transmissions from satellites and television. If these technological civilizations last as long as ours, which has been sending out signals for the last century or so, then it is estimated there could be 36 ongoing intelligent civilizations.

While that might be the case, interacting with them would be difficult. The average distance to any possible civilization would be 17,000 light years, which makes communication very challenging.

The other scenario is that we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy, and that civilisations die out before we can detect them.

“Our new research suggests that searches for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life forms, but also gives us clues for how long our own civilization will last,” Professor Conselice said.

“If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years, alternatively if we find that there are no active civilizations in our Galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence. By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life — even if we find nothing — we are discovering our own future and fate.”

The new study was led by the University of Nottingham and published today in The Astrophysical Journal.

This is not the only recent news to imply the development of intelligent life in the galaxy. Scientists have found a potential habitable planet called ‘Proxima b’ around the star Proxima Centauri, approximately 4.2 light years from the Sun.

It receives comparable amounts of energy to that the Earth gets from the Sun. If there is liquid form on the planet, it could harbor life, but researchers said there is still much to be done before that can be confirmed, such as checking for the atmosphere and chemicals that could support life.

Vihara News

Monthly Sila Program and Dhamma Talk on Saturday, July 4th

Saturday, July 4, is the Esala full-moon day. The Vihara will offer two programs on July 4th for you to participate in from home. They both are through YouTube live streaming. You can join the programs here:


Once you are on the page, join the live programs by clicking.

7:00 am: Administering the Eight Precepts and morning Puja

7:00 pm: Dhamma Deshana in Sinhala and Terminating Sila observance

(Since Sila observants find numerous online sources that offer Buddhist programs for them to participate in from home, the Vihara will offer only these two program tomorrow.)

Vassana Retreat Begins on Nikini Full Moon Day

All the Nikayas in Sri Lanka have come to a consensus that the Vassa season begins immediately after the full moon day in August. Accordingly, resident monks at the Vihara will observe the rainy retreat on August 4, 2020, the day following the Nikini full moon day.

You will receive a separate message with details about the Vas Aradhana, programs during the Vassana season, and the Kathina ceremony.

Next Live-Stream Service on Sunday, July 5th

Maha Sangha will conduct the next live-stream morning service on Sunday, July 5th, at 9:00 am. We are requesting parents to mark the service on calendar and participate with their children.

Newsletter – May 2020

Meditation May Have Shaved 8 Years of Aging off Buddhist Monk’s Brain

Source: LiveScience.com
By Laura Geggel

While there’s no fountain of youth, a Tibetian Buddhist monk may have tapped into the next best thing, according to an analysis showing that his 41-year-old brain actually resembles that of a 33-year-old.

The monk, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (YMR), a renowned meditation practitioner and teacher, began meditating at age 9. The “extraordinary number of hours” that YMR spent meditating may explain why, in part, his brain looks eight years younger than his calendar age, researchers of a new longitudinal study said. (A longitudinal study looks at the same metric over time.)

The findings add to a growing pile of evidence “that meditative practice may be associated with slowed biological aging,” the researchers wrote in the case study, published online Feb. 26 in the journal Neurocase.

In the study, done at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers used structural MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to scan the brain of YMR four times over the course of 14 years, starting when he was 27 years old.

During this time, 105 adults from the Madison, Wisconsin, area who were about the same age as YMR also had their brains scanned. These people became the control group, so researchers would know what normal brain aging looked like.

Scientists took MRI brain scans of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (YMR), a Tibetan Buddhist monk, and used a machine learning network known as BrainAGE to analyze his gray matter. YMR’s brain-aging rate appeared slower than that of the control population used in the study. At 41 years of age, his brain resembled that of a 33-year-old from the controls.(Image credit: Adluru, N. et al. Neurocase. 2020)

After the MRI scans were collected, the researchers used a machine learning tool called the Brain Age Gap Estimation (BrainAGE) framework, which estimates the age of a person’s brain by looking at its gray matter.

Taking an inventory of gray matter structure is a good way to tell brain age, said the study’s senior researcher, Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds. “Gray matter is the neural machinery of the brain,” Davidson told Live Science. “When the brain atrophies, there is a decline in gray matter.”

BrainAGE’s analysis revealed that YMR’s brain had delayed aging in comparison with the controls, who fell onto the “typical aging band” when graphed, the researchers found.

“The big finding is that the brain of this Tibetan monk, who has spent more than 60,000 hours of his life in formal meditation, ages more slowly than the brains of controls,” Davidson said.

BrainAGE also showed that specific regions of YMR’s brain didn’t differ from controls, “suggesting that the brain-aging differences may arise from coordinated changes spread throughout the gray matter,” the researchers wrote in the study.

Davidson noted, however, that it’s unknown whether having a young brain means that a person will live longer.

Even so, the study suggests that meditation can be healthy for those who practice it, said Dr. Kiran Rajneesh, a neurologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who was not involved with the research.

“It kind of makes sense biologically, because stress is a thing that causes aging,” Rajneesh told Live Science, “Not just psychological stress, which is definitely a part of it, but also stress happening at the cellular level.”

Rajneesh added “it’s definitely something each of us could take home. Perhaps doing those few minutes of meditation and slowing down our lives, even for some amount of time, is likely to help.”

Read the entire article here:

Vihara News

Vihara Is Now Open with Restrictions

As informed in a previous message, the Vihara is now open to the community with restrictions. You are welcome to visit the Vihara and participate in the religious activities by following these restrictions, which are meant for the resident monks’ and your wellbeing.

1. Maha Sangha will perform any special service or Puja and accept a special Dana at the Vihara. We encourage only one family or a group of friends living in the same place to participate in those events. If you invite anybody else, the number of the participants should be limited to ten persons, including children. All special Pujas will be held in the main shrine hall and the Dana at the dining hall. Please call the Vihara (713 944 1334) or Ven. Rahula Thero (713 501 9084) to arrange your visit.

2. We are requesting the Dayaka families who offer daily Dana to resume bringing Dana to the Vihara. Please call the Vihara to inform the time of your visit. Only Ven. Sirirathana and a layperson, (as well as Sati and Good Girl), will be at the Vihara during week days.

Depending on what you prefer:

You may hand over the Dana to the monks at the door of the Avasa.

You may visit the inside of the Avasa and leave the Dana inside the kitchen.

You may participate in the Buddha Puja with monks.

If you wish to stay at the Vihara through to the end of the Dana, please keep distance. Monks will serve themselves and partake the Dana.

3. Please visit the Vihara with your masks on for any event. In a service, from the time you visit the Vihara until the Puja is placed on the altar, please wear the masks. When the Gathas are recited while sitting, you may not have to wear the masks. Whenever you do not wear the masks, please keep distance from monks. When monks give blessing strings, you will have to wear the masks.

4. No other classes or events that require your physical participation will be held at the Vihara. If any of you need to have a private visit to the Vihara, please call any of the numbers given above to arrange your visit.

Saturday’s and Sunday’s Live-Stream Chanting

Saturday’s and Sunday’s live-stream chanting will continue from 7: 00 to 7:40 pm during summer. You can make it a weekend schedule to participate in the chanting.

Next Live-Stream Service on Sunday, June 7th

Now that parents and children will mostly stay home during summer, Maha Sangha will conduct a live-stream morning service every other Sunday at 9:00 am. Accordingly, the next service will be held on Sunday, June 7th.

We are requesting parents to mark the service on calendar and participate with their children.

Newsletter – April 2020

Who Am I?

Now that the Vesak 2563 is approaching, it is timely to draw the reader’s attention to who the Buddha is as explained by the Buddha himself.The mission launched by the Buddha during the 6th century B.C. after attaining the Buddhahood is the most rational, compassionate, and spiritual guidance the human being has ever witnessed. Over nearly 26 centuries, the Buddha’s teachings have influenced all major religions, philosophy, rational thought, and literature all over the world.

The Buddha expounded such an incomparable teaching by going beyond the human level. The following encounter shows that:

During one of his long journeys, the Buddha was walking along a connecting road between two cities. After travelling a certain distance on that road, he then decided to take a short rest. Having spotted a secluded and peaceful place nearby the main road, the Buddha thought it was an ideal place for him to relax. He entered that place, sat in lotus posture under a tree, and began his relaxation.

While travelling on the same road, a prominent Brahmin in that area, by the name of Dona, saw the Buddha sitting in a meditation posture under a tree. Fascinated by the Buddha’s magnificent appearance, Dona began to wonder whether the Buddha was actually a human being or a deity. As he continued watching the Buddha, all the different kinds of higher beings that he had read about in his holy texts came to Dona’s mind.

After a short while, Dona walked towards the Buddha, intending to talk to him. Dona had heard about three kinds of deities, and he wanted to know if the person sitting just in front him were one of them.

“Are you a Deva?” Dona asked the Buddha respectfully, referring to one of the deities he had heard about, and the Buddha replied, “No, I am not a Deva.” Then, Dona asked whether the Buddha was any of the other two kinds of deities, but again the Buddha said, “No.”

Finally, Dona asked, “Then, are you a human being?” and, to his utter surprise, the Buddha replied, “No, Brahmin, I am not a human being, either.”
Surprised, as well as confused, Dona said, “You are saying that you are neither a deity nor a human being. Then, who are you?”

The Buddha gave the following answer:

“Brahmin, A lotus flower or a lily flower is born in [muddy] water and grows in water, but it soon rises above water and lives untouched by water. In the same way, I was born in the human world and grew in the human world, but I have arisen above the human world [of greed, ill-will, and illusion], and I live untouched by the human world.”

Anguttara Nikaya 11:

Newsletter – February 2020

Seven Noble Principles for a Nation to Prosper
The Sutta Pitaka shows that King Ajatasattu, the ruler of Magadha kingdom, never had a close relationship with the Buddha.  Ever since Ajatasattu became a patricide, the Buddha showed no interest in a close relationship with the king.  Ajatasattu, in the meantime, openly insulted the Buddha and attempted to destroy the Buddha’s reputation.  He would support various thinkers and religious leaders, but not the Buddha.However, over the time, the Buddha reached the pinnacle of his popularity as a great spiritual leader while the king had become a nuisance to the neighboring states as a war monger. Ajatasattu’s next preparation was to attack and destroy the Vajji Kingdom, a powerful state.

The king was not that much confident, anyway. He was well aware that Vajji was a powerful kingdom, and that an invasion of that state would not be that easy. However, his enormous power hunger ever increasing, Ajatasattu had no intention to give up the enticing attack.

Now, all of a sudden, Ajatasattu began to think about the Buddha—not as a source of moral support to subdue his uncontrollable hunger for power but as a possible prophet to predict about his war victory!  The king summoned Vassakara, his chief minister in the state of Magadha, and assigned him the following duty: “Visit the Buddha and show him my respect. Then, inform him my intended invasion of Vajji Kingdom.  Keep in your mind what the Buddha will say and report it to me immediately.”

This plan of king Ajatasattu is very shameful and unbecoming indeed if, at least, he remembered what the Buddha had told him during their only meeting many years ago. While explaining his and his disciples’ moral practices, the Buddha asserted on that occasion that he would never make predictions about victories and defeats of kings who would fight in wars. However, Ajatasattu, in his desperation, was now choosing the same Buddha to make a prediction about the war he intended to fight in.

When Ajatasattu’s chief minister visited the Buddha and conveyed to him the king’s message, Ven. Ananda was also there. After listening to the visitor, the Buddha turned to Ven. Ananda and addressed him. He reminded Ven. Ananda the seven noble principles of Vajjis, the principles that the Buddha himself had taught to them.

The following is the list of those seven principles:

  1. They hold regular and frequent meetings.
  2. They meet in harmony, leave in harmony, and carry on their work in harmony
  3. They refrain from imposing new rules and respect and follow the existent rules.
  4. They respect their elders and seek guidance from their elders.
  5. They refrain from abusing and ill-treating women.
  6. They show respect to and protect their religious places.
  7. They facilitate the leaders of other faiths to visit their kingdom and care about those who have already visited there.
After elaborating on these seven noble principles of Vajjis, the Buddha then turned to the minister of king Ajatasattu and said, “Because the Vajjis are placed on these seven great principles, one should expect only their progress, not their decline.” In other words, the Buddha implied that King Ajatasattu would never be able to defeat Vajjis.

Newsletter – January 2020

Meditation Makes You More Resilient to Mental Decline in Old Age
Source: Daily Mail
Writer: Jaleesa BaulkmanMeditating for just one hour a day can buffer the effects of age-related cognitive decline, new research claims.

The researchers at the University of California, Davis, who carried out the study, can’t explain why the practice has this effect, but previous studies have found that it can cause brain changes that help people keep their mental abilities.

The current study, spanning seven years, examines the long-term benefits people gained from meditating.

As cognitive impairment impacts an estimated 16 million people in the US, researchers suggest meditation could help with brain aging.

For the study, investigators followed-up on previous research they’ve done in 2011, which evaluated the cognitive abilities of 60 people who regularly meditated before and after they went on a three-month-long retreat at a meditation center in the US.
Participants meditated daily at the center using techniques that were supposed to calm them, and help generate compassion, love and kindness among them.

Seven years after the study, researchers asked the 40 participants who had remained in the study how much time over the course of seven years they had spent meditating.

They found that 85 percent of them attended at least one meditation retreat, and they practiced about one hour a day for seven years.

They then completed assessments designed to measure their reaction time and ability to pay attention to a task.

Researchers found that continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention and response inhibition, or suppression of actions that are inappropriate.

These effects were significant in older adults who meditated more over the past seven years. They did not show typical patterns of age-related decline in sustained attention.

Previous studies have also found that meditation increase attention span. A 2011 study conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital found that people who meditate are able to quickly adjust their brain waves – which regulate the flow of information – so that they can screen out distractions.

Another study published in 2012 by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that people who regularly meditate have larger amounts of gyrification, a process that involved the ‘folding’ of the cerebral cortex – which plays a key role in memory, attention and thought.

The gyrification process allows the brain to process information faster and enhances neural processing.

Researchers of the current study said their findings are the first to ‘offer evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements.’
However, they said more research is needed to determine if it is effective at countering the effects of aging on the brain.

Newsletter – December 2019

Teaching Meditation to Kids in Chicago Swiftly Reduced Crime and Dropout Rates

Source: https://qz.com/432740/teaching-relaxation-to-at-risk-kids-could-lower-crime-and-dropout-rates/The motto “think before you act” may be more powerful than people think.

In a working paper published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research this month, researchers found that a simple, cost-effective after-school program for Chicago high-schoolers focused on slowing down their decision-making process significantly lowered crime and dropout rates for participants and boosted school attendance.

The study analyzed the effects of a Chicago-based program by the organization Youth Guidance called Becoming a Man (BAM). The researchers invited 1,473 Chicago teens, chosen at random from 18 public schools, to participate in BAM programming and compared them to a control group of similar students who were not invited.

The goal of the program, explains coauthor Harold Pollack, a professor at the University of Chicago and the director of its Crime Lab, was to encourage less violent behavior by slowing their automatic response, rather than telling the students to be less violent. ”If you tell the kids never fight, you’re basically saying don’t listen to anything else we’re going to say,” he tells Quartz.

In psychology, humans are thought to develop automatic responses to common situations to save time. For example, American teenagers from privileged backgrounds learn to automatically comply with authority figures, handing over their smartphone to a mugger, or quieting down when a teacher says so.

Low-income teenagers sometimes learn that submitting to authorities on the street isn’t necessarily the smartest or safest choice. For instance, handing over your wallet, instead of shielding you from further harm, may only invite more aggression.
Much of BAM’s training focuses on what is termed “positive anger expression.”

Students learn simple breathing and meditation exercises—slowly exhale, count to four, control your thoughts—to help manage their emotions while making difficult decisions. They also run through exercises that teach the power of positive reactions. For instance, in an exercise where a participant is tasked with getting a ball from a peer in less than 30 seconds, the students learn that grabbing or stealing the ball is considerably less effective than politely asking to hand it over.

The study found that, based on monitoring the students for a year after the program, those assigned to participate in the BAM program were 44% less likely to commit violent crimes, and performed significantly better in an academic performance index that combines academic measurements including GPA, attendance rates, and dropout rates.

Pollack says the research shows there are easier ways to help reduce crime rates among low-income teens. Many people “believe that there are so many deeply rooted, chronic problems that we have to address before we can reduce the rate of violence and crime among young people,” Pollack says. But programs like these, he adds, can be “cost-effective, and a feasible part of a solution.”

Vihara News
Morning Puja and Evening Blessing Service on January 1st

To bless the Vihara community for the New Year, the Vihara has organized two services: a Kiri Ahara Puja at 7:00 am and the traditional blessing service at 6:00 pm.  You are invited to participate.The Blessing Service from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. will include a special Puja, Maha Paritta chanting, and a brief Anusasana (Dhamma advice) in English.

As done in the past years, please bring flowers for the Puja and Kiribath and/or other food items for you to share after the service.

January Sila Program Conducted by Ven. Sathi Thero

Venerable Sathindriya Thero will conduct the first Sila program in 2020 on Saturday, January 11th.Sila program begins at 6:00 am and ends at 6:00 pm.

Most of you are familiar with Ven. (Bhante) Sathi who has conducted several meditation sessions at the Vihara. He is a leading meditation teacher in the United States. The program will be conducted both in English and Sinhala.

Dhamma Discussion Every Saturday

The Vihara will offer a Dhamma discussion session every Saturday (except Sila observance days) from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, beginning from Dec. 28th. Visiting monk, Venerable Kirama Rathanasiri Thero, will hold the first  session this Saturday (Dec. 28). It is given in the Sinhala language.This series of discussion is based on Suttas. Venerable Thero will discuss Asivisopama Sutta in his initial discussion.

Monthly Dhamma Deshana on Jan. 25th
In 2020, monthly Sila program and the monthly Dhamma Deshana will be given on two different days. The January Dhamma Deshana will be delivered on Saturday 25th. You will receive details of this program in the 2nd week of January.

Newsletter – November 2019

Seven Buddhist Beliefs that Make You Happy, according to Science
Source: https://www.learning-mind.com/I always find it fascinating when new scientific discoveries prove things that religious and spiritual sources have been saying since time immemorial. Recently, science has found some interesting principles of happiness. And it turns out that they are pretty similar to Buddhist beliefs.

I recently read an article by Bodhipaksa the founder of Wildmind, who looked at scientific research published by Yes Magazine. He found some amazing correlations that suggest that living by a few Buddhist beliefs can make you happy.

Here are the principle Buddhist beliefs that can make you happier and more contented.

1. Be mindful

One of the core beliefs of Buddhism is the idea of right mindfulness. When we’re mindful, we stay in the present moment and really pay attention to what we are doing rather than dwelling on past events or worrying about future ones. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.
Science also suggests that taking the time to savor the moment can increase happiness. A study showed that when people tried to be present in the moment they felt positive benefits. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky found that the participants “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.”

2. Avoid comparisons

The Buddhist principle of equality says that all living entities are equal. In addition, the Buddhist belief that we are all connected makes a nonsense of comparing ourselves to others. There is no superiority or inferiority when we are all parts of a unified whole.
Studies have shown that comparing ourselves with others can damage self-esteem. Lyubomirsky says we should focus on our own personal achievements rather than comparing ourselves with others.

3. Don’t strive for money

Buddhism says that relying on materialism to bring us happiness is a false refuge. While money is important in that it helps us meet our physical needs, we will not find long term satisfaction in striving for money and material goods.
Scientific studies have suggested the same. People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan. Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.

4. Work towards meaningful goals

Bodhipaksa says that ‘The whole point of being a Buddhist is in order to attain spiritual awakening — which means to maximize our compassion and mindfulness. What could be more meaningful than that?’ The Buddhist principle of right effort tells us to find a balance between the exertion of following the spiritual path and a moderate life.
Again, science agrees. Though it is not necessary for meaningful goals to be spiritual or religious. People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations,” say Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener.

5. Develop close relationships

To the Buddha, spiritual friendship was “the whole of the spiritual life. Generosity, kind words, beneficial help, and consistency in the face of events” are the things that hold people together. Buddhism also emphasizes the idea of non-attachment, which allows us to love our friends and family unconditionally without any need or desire to control or change them.
Research has found that people who have good relationships with family and friends are happier. However, it is not a number of friendships we have that matters. “We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones,” says Yes Magazine.

6. Practice gratitude

The Buddha said that gratitude, among other qualities, was the “highest protection,” meaning that it inoculates us against unhappiness. It is by being grateful and appreciative that we begin to focus on the blessings in our lives, which makes us more positive and happy.
Science has studied the concept of gratitude extensively. Author Robert Emmons found that people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals.

7. Be generous

Buddhism has always emphasized the practice of dana, or giving. As well as giving money or material possessions, Buddhism recognizes the benefit of giving less tangible gifts such as time, wisdom and support.
Make giving part of your life, and it can help you achieve more happiness. Researcher Stephen Post says ‘helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking. Listening to a friend, passing on your skills, celebrating others’ successes, and forgiveness also contribute to happiness,’ he says.

These principles are simple enough to live by and as both spiritual and scientific theories say they can make us happier they are well worth giving a try.

Vihara News
Last Sila Program of the Year on Dec. 14thNext monthly Sila program will be held  at the Vihara on Saturday, December 14th, from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.

It will be conducted by the visiting monk Ven. Kirama Rathanasiri Thero and Ven. Karamidule Sirirathana Thero.

Both breakfast and lunch will be offered by Vihara members.

Next Two Sunday Classes for Children on Dec. 8th & 22ndDec. 8th and 22nd are the last two days in 2019 of the children’s Sunday school.

On 8th, the children will learn the final lessons of the semester, and on 22nd they will do the year-end evaluation of their learning.