Volunteer Spotlight: Cultivating the Mind with Bhante Suyama

Kendalyn Mckisick Events Leave a Comment

Bhante has lived in Anchorage for two years now, where all of his time is spent volunteering. He reaches out to organizations throughout the community who could potentially benefit from participating in guided meditation. On Tuesdays, he volunteers at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center; there, he teaches a class called “Evolved Thinking”. Earlier this month, he began teaching meditation at Anchorage Pioneer House.

Bhante began volunteering at Rights of Passage (ROP) in June of 2019 offering guided meditation on Thursday evenings. For many of the ROP youth, this has been their introduction to meditation. Eric Ditzler, ROP evening staff, attends the mediation sessions with youth and comments, “over the past 10 months, I have really seen a difference in the way youth behave. They are calmer and seem to think more clearly about issues they are facing. The youth look forward to meditation every week”.

When asked about his experience interacting with ROP youth, he said:

“The youth are not unlike the youth who would come to temple in Sri Lanka. What I see in their eyes is a desire to help themselves and they are looking for something to guide them. What I teach is not so much a religious foundation or spiritual one, but my task is to encourage them. Whatever happens in their life, I’m there for them. Some of them like to ask me questions and several of them are there weekly when they can be. In my practice we have a saying, “gradual training, gradual progress.” I just want to inspire and encourage them to develop their own path through life. “Find time for me” is something I always tell the kids—we are so conditioned in this world, from the moment we are born to come out of our selves. I encourage the youth to just find time for themselves, whether it be through silent reflection at the end of the day, journaling, or going for a walk.”

Bhante is very appreciative of being able to provide tools that the youth can take and utilize in their daily lives and finds it very rewarding. He believes firmly in the saying “do your best and without expectation.” He says he has a lot of optimism for the youth’s futures because, even though they are in a difficult time of their lives, it’s a great age to show support and provide a positive outlet and relationship.

About Bhante

Bhante was raised in Illinois, where he attended a Buddhist temple. After years of practice, Bhante began his monkhood, moving to Sri Lanka to practice and become a monk. He moved into monastic life 7 years ago, “I made meditation practice part of my daily life and then eventually everything in my life formed around the meditation. It was a very slow process that sort of revealed itself over time.”

When Bhante isn’t guiding others through meditation, he likes to journal. He says it is a way for him to see his evolution and how he changes—to see his impermanence—and reminds him to be open to change and new things. He is interested in astrophysics and cosmos and loves learning about science, astronomy, and history. To do so, he checks a lot of books out from the library on the subjects. He also enjoys visiting local arts shows to see the talent in Anchorage.

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