Performances from Sri Lankan New Year – 2019

Newsletter – December 2019

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

Source: 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: 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.

Newsletter – October 2019

Benefits of Holding a Kathina Ceremony

“Kathina” means “solid” or “unbreakable.” This Pali word indicates that the merits acquired by offering a Kathina robe are extremely powerful. Nagita Apadana, a scripture in the Tipitaka, notes that the Kathina offering is the highest meritorious deed one can perform in the sensual world.

Why is Kathina offering is so significant? It is a ceremony performed at a temple only once a year. It is a ceremony performed after both monks and lay devotees accumulate lots of merits throughout the Vassana season. Kathina ceremony is the culmination of all the meritorious deeds performed during the Vassana season. More than anything else, offering the Kathina robe signifies the highest respect to the Maha Sangha without whom the Buddha’s teachings remain unseen by the world.

Original Buddhist texts identify five specific worldly benefits of offering the Kathina robe. They are:

1.The donors, wherever they travel, will always have safe journey without worry, danger, or obstacle.

2.They will never suffer shortage of food and will not be harmed by food poisoning.

3.They will not suffer loss by robbery or theft.

4.They will not suffer loss by natural disasters.

5.They can easily accomplish what they set out to do.

Importantly, whatever items the donors offer to the monks during the Kathina ceremony will be a part of the Kathina Robe offering, and the merits acquired through that are also immeasurable.

Vihara News

Nov. 2nd & 3rd: Kathina Ceremony Weekend 

All necessary steps are now being taken to make this weekend’s Kathina ceremony a beautiful and meaningful event. Invitation cards have now been mailed.  If you have not received a card by mail, please  consider this message as your invitation.

Video-recorded Kathina program will be telecast on ITN. Dr. Hasantha Hettiarachchi will be at the Vihara both Saturday and Sunday for recording.

Saturday evening and night: Atavisi Buddhapuja will be held on Saturday from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm, honoring all the Buddhas. All-night chanting will follow.

Sunday: Around 22 Bhikkhus will participate in traditional Pindapatha around 11:00 a.m. Dana and lunch will follow. Kathina procession will begin in the afternoon, and Kathina ceremony will be held from 2:00 pm.

You are cordially welcome to attend!

May the Blessings of the Triple Gem be with you!

Newsletter – September 2019

The Buddha’s Analogy of Blind Men Touching an Elephant
The Buddha, in principle, stayed away from arguing on metaphysical speculations, but most philosophers and spiritual leaders in his society did not. They argued with, confronted, and hurt their opponents in their habitual effort to demolish others’ speculative concepts. Consequently, the arena of religion and philosophy during the Buddha’s time gradually become a verbal battlefield.

A group of Bhikkhus who witnessed during their morning trip for alms one of such frequent confrontations reported it to the Buddha on their return. They told the Buddha that they had seen an altercation among those who maintained “different views, concepts, tendencies, and attachments.”

The Buddha remarked that those who had a tendency to participate in such argumentation were “shooting verbal arrows from the bows of mouth” simply because all of them had missed the “the true sight.”

To clarify his statement, the Buddha gave the following parable:

A group of perpetually blind people touched an elephant and then began to describe the animal. Those who touched the elephant’s trunk said that the elephant was similar to an iron rod. Those who touched the elephant’s head said that the elephant was similar to a pot. . . . Those who touched the elephant’s tail said that the elephant was similar to a broom.  When others in the group disagreed, they began to fight with each other.

Udana:  6.4.

Vihara News
This Saturday: Ceylonians’ Musical Concert to Help the Vihara
Most of you must be aware that the Ceylonians will present a musical extravaganza this Saturday (Oct. 05th) to help complete the renovations of the old Avasa building.

The show, which begins at 7:00 pm, will be held at Stafford Civic Center (1415 Constitution Ave, Stafford, TX 77477).

The Vihara is extremely thankful for the band, as well as the singers, dancers, and many others, for making such a committed effort. They have practiced about 40 complete songs and non-stop baila for many days. This week alone they will get together and practice three days with Friday being the rehearsal. All this is done purely for charity!

The Vihara appreciates your participation in the concert!

Progress of Constructing Prakara and Ran Veta
Construction of Prakara (enclosure) and Ran Veta (gold-plated fence) around the Bodhi tree and Stupa is progressing well. Ven. Sirirathana Thero, with the help of Vihara members, is striving to finish it before the Kathina ceremony, which is on Nov. 2nd & 3rd.

Ven. Pannila Ananda Nayaka Thero, who will also attend the Kathina ceremony and the opening ceremony of the new construction, has shipped another shipment of beautiful decorative concrete constructions and a Buddha statue from Sri Lanka. That, which will add much elegance to the Prakara, will arrive in Houston early next week.

Newsletter – August 2019

Astonishing Things Meditation Can Do

Among many other benefits, here are 4 of the astonishing things meditation can do, according to research:1. It can reduce crime rate in nearby areas

You would be surprised, but it is true. Many researches have proved that, when a group of people continue to practice meditation, crime rate in that area—in a large area of several squire miles—drop drastically. The researches have focused on TD meditation only, but the results would be similar with other forms of meditation as well.

How does it happen?  Many have seen a connection between individual consciousness and mass consciousness. Relaxed and compassionate individual consciousness may produce energy to invisibly calm down mass consciousness in and around where meditation is practiced.


2. It improves heart health

According to latest research, meditation can reduce the factors that cause heart problems—such factors as high blood pressure and high levels of bad cholesterol. Meditation does so by reducing number one killer in industrialized countries: stress. Scientists have observed a close connection between stress and higher levels of cholesterol, and practicing meditation has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce stress.


3. It helps fight premature aging

Could meditation be a solid foundation of youth? “We know that unmanaged stress is one of the greatest causes of aging,” says Dr. Roizen. “It increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.”

In one 2016 study published in Translational Psychiatry, researchers recruited 102 women to spend six days at a retreat where they either just relaxed or did a meditation program. Compared to blood drawn before the women checked in, blood samples from the end of the retreat showed improvements in biomarkers related to aging in the newly-minted meditators.
While the exact reason why isn’t clear, “we know from this and many other studies, meditation works through reducing the aging effect of stress,” Dr. Roizen says.

4. It helps keep a cold out of your future

Meditation be beneficial to staving off a cold. In a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, researchers assigned 150 participants aged 50 and older to one of three groups for eight weeks: mindfulness meditation training, moderate-intensity exercise training, or a control group.

Meditation and exercise both reduced their susceptibility to colds compared to the control group—the latter two groups took just over half as many sick days as the people in the control group during the course of the study.

Again, the relaxing effects are likely a factor, says Dr. Goyal, since stress can actually get in the way of your immune system’s ability to fight an infection.


Vihara News

Children’s Sunday Classes Begin Sunday, Sept. 1Sunday, Sept. 1, is the first day of children’s classes for the fall 2019. Dhamma, Sinhala, music and Dance classes all will begin the same day.

On day 1, children will be grouped into new classes. Parents are encouraged to bring their children to the Vihara around 8:15 am. The Puja will begin at 8:30.

Kathina Ceremony on Nov. 2nd & 3rd

This is an in-advance reminder that the Kathina ceremony will be held on Nov. 2 & 3, Saturday and Sunday.We will have all-night chanting Saturday night, and the Kathina ceremony will be held on Sunday.

Opening ceremony of the Bodhi Prakara will be the special event during the same weekend!

Newsletter – July 2019

On Saturday 27th: Sila Program, Satipatthana Class, and Dhamma Talk

Newsletter – June 2019

Newsletter – May 2019