I went to the first session of meditation with Ven. Sirinanda last Friday at the Dalhousie Multifaith Centre. Every teacher has something different to teach, and Bhante did likewise. (“Bhante” is a Pali term, which in the Theravada tradition means “venerable” or “blessed”, similar to “Rinpoche” in the Tibetan tradition.”). Bhante told us that of all the meditation techniques, the first and most important was metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation.
“Our main objectives are to develop Buddhist qualities among the community and spread Buddhist teachings such as compassion, loving kindness and equanimity from the Atlantic to all over the world.”
- Venerable Sirinanda Thero
Bhante started with loving-kindness meditation (metta bhavana). And he said you should always begin your meditation session with loving-kindness meditation. He also led us in a shorter meditation on the breath, or “shamatha.” But he said that the loving-kindness meditation was the most important technique, more important that any other kind of meditation. Afterwards, a student asked him why it was so important. He said that he would explain why as the group went on over the next several months.
During the loving-kindness meditation, he taught us another technique. First you do metta bhavana for yourself. Then you do metta bhavana for someone you love. You visualize that person in front of you. You visualize joy radiating out from your heart to that person, touching them. I found this to be a very powerful way to feel the bodhichitta, to access the Buddha-Within.
Bhante has a very effective way of teaching. He seems very excited about teaching, like he has so much to share with us that he can hardly keep it in. Bhante has been a Buddhist monk for 20 years. He got a BA in Psychology and MA in Buddhist studies in Sri Lanka. He studied Theravda, Mahayana and Vajra lineages, comparative Buddhism. He is now doing an MA in Religious studies at St. Mary’s.
We had 18 people for our first session. Another thing I noticed right away: the group is highly diverse. Let’s put it this way: the group has a mixture of white, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian and African students (students of meditation). The leader of the group is Arunica, who is Sinhalese (Sri Lanka). She wants to teach people meditation because she believes that she recovered from cancer by learning to meditate. She was also responsible for bringing Ajahn Brahm to Dalhousie last year.
So I’m very happy with this teaching on meditation. I like the fact that it puts the emphasis on loving-kindness first and foremost, on how we relate to others.
Ven. Sirinanda teaches meditation once a month on the last Friday of the month, from 6:30 to 8 PM, at the Dalhousie Multifaith Centre, 1321 Edward St. Halifax. Free of charge.