Western monks from Thailand enhance the merit of mindfulness in Washington

At a time when few would dispute the need for more harmony and understanding in our world, six venerable Western Buddhist monks trained in Thailand offered members of Congress and their staffers spiritual insights, teachings and meditations on Thursday, with similar events scheduled for members of the Smithsonian Institution and other interested communities at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda over the next two days.

While they may be more at home giving sermons in serene forest temples, the first four monks who arrived on June 29, led by American-born Ajahn Sumedho, ventured to bustling Capitol Hill in the afternoon to share their knowledge and wisdom with members Congress led by Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) and their staffers. The main topic of their conversation was “how mindfulness can help politicians with their pressing concerns and the benefits of meditative contemplation practices to the American people.”

Rep. Tony Cárdenas from California 29th District gave introductory speech and thanked the Royal Thai Embassy for making this event happen. Ajahn Sumedho began by comparing two polarized civilizations, the west and the east.  He noted that western society of great development and knowledge has tried to control everything but their own mind which is really close to them. He hoped this session will enhance the audience with the merit of having mindfulness.

According to Buddhism, Ajahn Sumedho said mindfulness can be described as being truly aware, a circumstance of awake and aware. It is the situation of peace where your mind is in the present and could acknowledge the flowing thought. Nowadays people tend to think about their outside stuff, about what they will look like or they will be looked. They also have powerful emotions such as angriness or envy which make them suffer. They forgot the origin of their emotion and forgot that they already flowed with it. In the world where people suffer from chasing and possessing, the mindfulness is to learn about happiness from give up on what they possessed.

Starting from today, the Royal Thai Embassy is sponsoring the three-day visit by the esteemed religious leaders in collaboration with Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW).

The three events are a unique opportunity to learn how mindfulness can produce true insight and how to apply it to daily life and cultivate the path leading toward freedom from suffering and supreme happiness. The mindfulness events include talks and discussions about the Buddhist concept of dhamma, or truth, along with short meditations.

The monks are followers of the Thai Forest tradition, a branch of Theravada Buddhism, and disciples of Ajahn Chah, a highly revered Thai forest monk who passed away in 1992. Theravada Buddhism is marked by its close adherence to the original teachings of the Buddha. The Thai Forest tradition is oriented around practicing the Buddha’s path of contemplative insight, including living a life of discipline, complete relinquishment, complete renunciation, and meditation in order to fully realize the inner truth and peace taught by the Buddha.

Ajahn Sumedho, was born in Seattle, Washington in 1934 and became the first Western disciple of Ajahn Chah in 1967, studying under the abbot for nine years in Thailand. He is a seminal figure in the transmission of Buddha’s teachings to the West.

He is joined on the visit by German-born Ajahn Viradhammo, who is the abbot of the Tisarana Monastery in Canada, Ajahn Pasanno of California, Ajahn Jayanto of New Hampshire, Ajahn Moshe of Thailand, and American Ajahn Asoko. Ajahn means respected teacher in the Thai language, and the Royal Thai Embassy hoped the teachings on mindfulness, virtue and wisdom would be of universal benefit to all in attendance no matter their faiths.