The Bhavana Community
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana Mahathera
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is the founding abbot of the Bhavana Society. Born in rural Sri Lanka, he has been a monk since age 12 and took full ordination at age 20 in 1947. He came to the United States in 1968. “Bhante G” (as he is fondly called by his students) has written a number of books, including the now-classic meditation manual Mindfulness In Plain English and its companion Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness. Bhante G regularly leads retreats on vipassana, mindfulness, metta (loving-friendliness), concentration, and other topics both at the Bhavana Society.
Bhante Gunaratana is an internationally recognized author and meditation teacher. Prior to coming to the United States, he spent five years doing missionary work with the Harijanas (Untouchables) of India and ten years in Malaysia. He has taught in a number of settings, including the Buddhist Vihara of Washington D.C. where he served as president, the American University in Washington D.C. where he served as Buddhist chaplain and also earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, and at meditation centers worldwide. Bhante G has a strong scholarly background and lifelong commitment to dhamma.
In 1985, Bhante G co-founded the Bhavana Society and became its abbot. He wanted to teach meditation in an environment allowing for longer retreats and intense practice free from the trappings of a city vihara. He continues to teach in the direct, compassionate style that characterizes his books and articles. Bhante G conveys a well-rounded approach to Buddhist Dhamma, touching on all aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path. He emphasizes metta bhavana (the cultivation of loving-friendliness) as a basis for samma-samadhi, or right concentration. As a teacher, he is known for his emphasis both on samadhi and on metta as part of spiritual training.
In 1996, Bhante G received the title of Chief Sangha Nayaka Thera for North America. This acknowledged his status as highest-ranking monk of his sect in the United States and Canada. Originally published in 2003, his autobiography, Journey to Mindfulness, was updated in 2017 with an "Expanded Anniversary Edition" adding five new chapters. In 2005, the Sri Henepola Gunaratana Scholarship Trust was founded under his guidance. This trust provides educations for poverty stricken children in rural Sri Lanka.
Bhante G continues to write books and articles, lead retreats, and teach at the Bhavana Society. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, December 7th, 2017, Bhante G decided that he would no longer accept invitations that require long-distance travel. He says, "Thank you all for your kind consideration. With Metta, Bhante Gunaratana."
For more about Bhante G be sure to check out this collection of reminiscences about him and the early years of the Bhavana Society in Preserving the Dhamma: Writings in Honor of the Eightieth Birthday of Bhante Gunaratana, especially the 12-page section of photographs of his early life in Sri Lanka and the building of the Bhavana Society.
Bhante K. Uparatana Mahathera
Venerable Katugastota Uparatana is Vice-Abbot of the Bhavana Society and Head Monk and Resident Spiritual director of the Maryland Buddhist Vihara in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk under the guidance of Bhante Dr. Henapola Gunaratana Maha Nayaka Thera and Murddeniye Sri Ratanapala Maha Thera in 1966 in Ranwalagedara Viharaya, Sri Lanka. Both have served as his teachers, mentors and spiritual guides since that time. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sanskrit, Buddhist Philosophy and Mass communication from the University of the District of Columbia, USA. He has served the Washington DC community since 1982, as a monk, teacher, and Vipassana meditation teacher. Since 1989, he has donated his services as a Buddhist Chaplain at the American University in Washington, D.C. Bhante Uparatana is a founder of the International Buddhist Committee and the Buddhist Book Service.
Bhante T. Seelananda Mahathera
Venerable Seelananda was born and bred in Sri Lanka as a Theravada monk. Having received the invitation extended from American Sri Lankan Buddhist Association of New York he came to U.S. for the dissemination of the Dhamma in 2002. Bhante Seelananda, along with his friends, established a meditation Center named “Samatha Vipassana Meditation Centre” in Edmonton Canada. Ven. Seelananda continues to lead retreats at the Bhavana Society and worldwide. Some Dhamma talks by Bhante Seelananda can be found in Internet Archive.
Bhante Dhammaratana Mahathera
Bhante Dhammaratana was born in Detroit and worked primarily as a mechanic in lay life. He became interested in Buddhism from the Dhamma writings in The Tassajara Breadbook. These inspired him to contemplate ways to improve his life and overcome suffering. He came to Bhavana in 1991, where he served as a lay resident. In 1992, he was ordained by Bhante Gunaratana and is currently the most senior monk at the Bhavana Society ordained by Bhante G. Bhante Dhammaratana became a monk because of a desire for a more enduring happiness found by serving and being sensitive to others.
Bhante Jayasāra is originally from New Jersey where he worked in Child Protective Services for almost a decade as an investigator, case manager, and lastly a foster/adoptive home recruiter, in addition to having a small photography business. He was raised Roman Catholic but for all of his adult life he was a “student of all religions and a practitioner of none.” In his late 20s, however, he developed spiritually and found his way to Theravada through the teachings of Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ajahn Brahm, and later Bhante G. In 2008, at the age of thirty he took refuge, and in 2010, the calling that would lead to a six-year journey into monasticism began. He came to Bhavana in September of 2014, and received the going forth as a Sāmaṇera in October 2015, and higher ordination to Bhikkhu in October 2016.
Staff & Residents
Kathy Nally, Office Manager
Kathy first came to Bhavana as a volunteer in 1989 and was asked by Bhante G to stay on as the Office Manager. She performs a variety of roles in the day to day running of Bhavana and is always willing to help meet the needs of visitors and retreatants.
NOTE: Interested in coming to live at a monastery and be part of the community?
Bhavana Society is currently looking for a cook. For further information see: Cook / Kitchen Manager.
Madhu, Senior Resident Cat
Madhu (Pāli for honey) is the resident "capital-Q" Queen of Bhāvanā Society. It is with her permission that you are allowed here, so you should be very thankful. And if we're being frank, after all, what is Bhāvanā Society without Madhu? That's right: nothing. Her highness' hobbies include traveling (laying down in various places), eating, and being royalty. She very much enjoys retreats here at Bhāvanā, because it means there are more people to pay attention to her and worship the ground she walks on. You'll often find her lying directly on the front steps, since that way you can't possibly ignore her. Whenever you see her, be sure to bow reverentially and scratch behind her ears. But please no feeding her: she needs to maintain her royal figure.
Buddy, Junior Resident Cat
Buddy, true to his Kamma and secretive cat-nature, declined providing any background information.
Board of Directors
In addition to Bhante Gunaratana and Bhante Uparatana, the Bhavana Society Board of Directors is made of the following members appointed by Bhante G (L-R): Tushara E., Steven N. H., Kristina L., Chris O., Jessica W., Bhante G, Athula S., Prashant Shah, Bhante Uparatana, Judith Larson, Jack B., (not shown: Nancy D.) / Bhavana Media Team members (not shown) are: Jayasara Bhikkhu, Brenna A., Douglas I., Michael S., Paola H. V., Karen W.