Past Resident Reflections

History, Vision, Community, and Theravada Buddhism

To give you a more personal idea of what people experience by living at the Bhavana Society, past lay residents offer these reflections:

From Nipuni (2021, Pictured above)

Before coming to Bhavana, I was meditating at home with the goal of deepening my understanding of my internal world. My interest was strong, but I felt as though I was swimming against the current in an overstimulating world in which I had very little mental discipline.…It occurred to me that I would benefit from having a teacher (or teachers) and a community of like-minded individuals. Upon learning about Bhavana’s existence from a Reddit thread, I decided to take a month and invest time in my meditation practice. I had little understanding of the Dhamma but arrived with an open mind. I am now on my 3rd month at Bhavana, and I don’t have to remind myself to be grateful for this experience. I feel honored to be able to interact with the monastics here, and equally as honored to serve Bhavana with the laity. Not only has my meditation/discovery practice started to deepen its roots, but I have also developed a strong faith in the teachings of Dhamma due to example and growth of the community around.

From David M. (2019):

I stayed at Bhavana Society for one month during the residents’ winter retreat, and had the opportunity to live in the community of monastics and laypeople there at the time and assist with some daily needs. It has been almost 10 years since that happened, and my reflections on what it has meant to me have changed and matured with time. What is most remarkable about it to me, as I reflect on it now, is the way that it helped me in beginning to understand how unimportant my wants for things in the world really are to my well-being. I have had many ideas during this life about what would bring me some happiness, and have had many ideas about what I think I want and need, but staying in this community gave me an opportunity to see that the various worldly things I have and had occupied myself with (media and entertainment, career, money, sex, certain kinds of socializing, idle talking) have not overall brought happiness closer, but have actually in many ways distanced me from it enormously, compared to living in a peaceful Buddhist renunciate community. It was one thing to believe intellectually that happiness does not require all kinds of material objects and achievements and entertainment and goings-on, but quite another for me to see experientially that a life without those things, but with companions in spiritual life, was the more pleasant one for me.

From Nick B. (Resident, Summer 2001, 2005, 2006):

I first came to Bhavana in 2001 after I graduated from college.  Including that time, I have been a short term resident at Bhavana three times, for a total of about 5 months. The first time I came to Bhavana, I didn’t know all that much about Buddhism, but had some meditation experience and had been on a retreat with Bhante G before.  I came mostly with a sense of curiosity to see what Bhavana was all about.

While at Bhavana I learned a lot about the Buddha’s teachings. But, looking back, I think the most important thing is that I gained confidence in the teachings of the Buddha as the way to end suffering. I think I learned this from being in the presence of monks and nuns who were practicing intensely and seeing how they relate to the world.  This was not something I could have absorbed from a book.  My time at Bhavana has continued to impact my life. Sometimes when I’m feeling confused or regretful, I think of the work I’ve done at Bhavana and I feel better knowing that I have contribute to a place that helps people be free from suffering.

The simple life of the monastery also helped me look at my life more profoundly. My experiences have given me a profound respect for what is possible when anyone practices the way of the Buddha.

From Jackie M.: Shortly after finally being introduced to Theravada Buddhism and formal meditation, I moved to Bhavana hoping to deepen my meditation practice more quickly and make up for lost time. At that point, I didn’t really know what I needed to learn about Dhamma or about myself, but living in a Buddhist community seemed like a good place to start. I was also excited about living in a kuti, closer to the woods and the weather. During my year-and-a-half at Bhavana, I moved from almost total ignorance of the Buddha’s teachings (I didn’t know what a sutta was!) to a good basic grounding in the Dhamma and familiarity with the Pali language. More importantly, I experienced the priceless gift and protection of living in a place where moral and mindful conduct is supported, in the company of sincere practitioners.

Since leaving Bhavana and living in other communities, I can see how much more equanimity and self-understanding I have in my relationships with other people than I did when I first arrived at Bhavana. My meditation practice continues to unfold and while there are always challenges, I understand better how to meet them. What took me by surprise was learning how strongly I’m drawn to the good life of simplicity and renunciation, as well as the deepening of my faith in BuddhaDhammaSangha and learning how far that faith can carry me. I was also surprised and grateful to hear from family and friends elsewhere that my experience of residency at Bhavana touched them in positive ways.

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