Want to hear what Woodenfish alums have said about their experiences in our programs and their spiritual/professional paths? Alumni Spotlight will introduce you to our alums and their insights!
A Brief Introduction of Bhante Kusala
Bhante Kusala was born in Sri Lanka and decided to pursue the Buddhist monastic path when he was a teen. His keen interest in Buddhist Meditation has made him to be an ardent and devoted practitioner as well as a teacher in various disciplines of early Buddhist studies and meditation techniques for 9 years in Sri Lanka, Europe, and the USA. Currently, he resides at Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center in Missouri, USA and his temple in Sri Lanka.
Bhante Kusala's Woodenfish Story
Bhante Kusala participated in the Nirvana Sutra Seminar in China in 2015. His story with Woodenfish began while he was studying at the Harvard Divinity School, and was impressed with Venerable Yifa's charisma and was inspired by Venerable Yifa's speech at a conference there. Kusala then established a connection with Woodenfish and participated in the seminar. He expressed that through the seminar, he learned the importance to have understandings of different Buddhist traditions to have a balanced understanding of Buddhism. Venerable Yifa's personality was also an incredible inspiration to him, including her sense of humor that added to her success as a leader.
A Question for Kusala
Q: What role do you think Buddhism/religion plays in the contemporary society?
A: Buddhism is very necessary for the current society as a complete practice, not just theories. When people get the practice properly, they will develop a harmonious attitude not to be shook, even when people do harm to Buddhism. You will think before you get agitated over things that are happening. Although those things (obstacles, unpleasant occurrences) are unavoidable, you can change you mind and attitude.
But just being mindful is not enough. We need to act and change too. You need the right voice at the right moment to say and do things. Buddha had a royal voice so lots of people listened to him. Right now I am serving a big Sri Lanka community in Canada. Fewer of the children in this community suffer from drug abuse because they go to the temple, and meditate. Instead of grasping one or two points of society, we need to develop that non-violent attitude in face of financial distresses, wars, and anxiety.
Buddhism is not in the scrolls but it is in your hearts. Depression and anxiety are becoming more and more common issues in society. One of my professors once said this to me and I still remember. He said that we don’t talk to our neighbors anymore so people need counseling because we don’t have anyone to talk to. Also what is depression? Depression concerns something that happened over the past. Anxiety, on the other hand, concerns something that will happen in the future. To minimize depression and anxiety, we need to focus on the present. As the Buddha said, "do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, but rather, concentrate the mind on the present moment."
A Quote from Kusala
You will never say you studied that religion until you have friends of that faith. When you have friends of a religion, before you criticize a religion, you will think of your friends because you love them all.
Note: The content above is transcribed from an interview with Bhante Kusala, and parts are verbatim transcription, others are paraphrases.