Profile of Rev. Dr. Bhante Saranapala
The Urban Buddhist Monk and Mindfulness Meditation Teacher
Deputy Abbot and Community Counselor of the Mississauga Buddhist Temple & Meditation
Canadian Urban Buddhist Monk Spreading Harmony and Goodwill Sans Borders!
Young, accomplished and talented Rev. Dr. Bhante Saranapala, then in his twenties, arrived in
Canada January 1995, with a light luggage, and no other worldly possessions, as befitting a Monastic, to join the Ven. Monks in Residence, of the Religious House (Monastery) of the Mississauga Buddhist Temple & Meditation Centre. In his teen years, Bhante Saranapala, a Bangladesh citizen, newly ordained as a novice monk was sent to Sri Lanka by his Superiors for higher studies. After having completed a ten year rigorous monastic training and secular education in Sri Lanka’s Premier Religious Training Institution, the Maharagama Sri
Vajiragnana Bhikkhu Training College and having earned his “Royal ( Rajakiya) Pundit Degree -
Summa Cum Laude – in Oriental Studies, Bhante Saranapala, in Monastic Obedience, accepted the appointment as a Monk in Residence, to the fledgling Mississauga Buddhist Temple And Meditation Centre in the West End of the Greater Toronto area.
His new Superiors, including Ven. Kulugammana Dahammawasa Nayaka Thero, the Abbot
Incumbent, the late Bhante Dr. Madawela Punnaji Maha Thera (Meditation Master & Director,
Foreign Missions), Ven. Brahmanagama Muditha Maha Thera (the Religious Superior), were
perhaps the first to recognize Bhante Saranapala’s potential and his innate abilities. Forthwith, he was sent for higher studies to the University of Toronto, where within a short period of 5 years, Bhante Saranapala completed his B.A., Honors and M.A. Degrees of the U of T., finished another M.A. Degree at Hamilton’s McMaster University and then proceeded to pursue his Doctoral Studies at the University of Toronto.
Presented before him was a brilliant future as an erudite scholar monk ‘to go places’ in the academia, which Bhante rejected. Instead, Bhante opted to continue his life as a simple Buddhist monk attending to the needs of his community and his Temple that had a variety of services in place, mainly for the benefit of the expatriate Sri Lankan Community and the Bangladesh Community, its Elderly, young men and women, its the Youths and children and in addition, Counseling, New immigrants’ Services and Compassionate Charitable Work in The Mainstream Canadian Community.., such as Conducting Meditation, Religious Services, Spiritual Counseling, organizing Soup Kitchens for the Homeless and the Poor in the City of Toronto.. etc. that provided him the opportunity to come to know first hand, his fellow Humanity and the problems they faced.
Bhante Saranapala realized the urgent need to update the services of his Temple to the community; his indefatigable efforts in that regard, ushering a new era of Modernization to the Temple’s many routine programs. Spiritual Director to the Community: Among His colleagues, Buddhist Monks living in North America, Dr. Bhante Saranapala, veritably a dynamo of action, and now elevated to the ranks of a Maha Thera – a Senior Monk -, is held in much respect. Thus, Dr. Bhante Saranapala is regarded as a sagacious leader among Buddhist Monks; although he is still in the prime of life, youthful , robust and energetic, a monkworthy of emulation.
Bhante Saranapala honed his skills as Meditation Master and Spiritual Counselor – areas in which he had acquired unimpeachable expertise and versatility over the years. His standing as a
preacher, meditation master and a counselor is much recognized both nationally and
internationally and has made hima Buddhist Monk much in demand. He has represented
Canadian Buddhists and his adopted home, Canada, in many a Parleys and Conference. He is
also the Honorary Buddhist Chaplain of the University of Toronto, his Alma Mater. Dr. Bhante
Saranapala’s exceptional talents as a counselor to the community, especially to the Youth are
only too well known -a ‘favorite preoccupation’, in his words, which he engages in with much
dedication and commitment under the strict guidelines of Monastic Rule of Confidentiality and
norms of individual privacy protected by the Laws of Canada.
When asked about Dr. Bhante Saranapala’s multi-faceted Compassionate work and the hectic pace of life he leads, he says, ” I chose the monastic life of a Buddhist Monk to serve others and not to be served! It’s the monastic imperative of Lord Buddha, whose Noble Teaching I am obligated to uphold and spread; which is my sole mission in life as a Monk and as a monastic: Buddhism is a Universal Teaching, the ideal way of life tailored to suit Humanity! Buddhism therefore, is not so much a religion!
Buddha’s Teaching transcends all differences of religion, race or nationality or culture, the
understanding and practice of which I see as the last hope of liberation and harmony to the confused global community which so badly needs to have today!” Among the highlights of Bhante Saranapala’s contribution to the Community are.
As Principal of the Mississauga Temple’s Sunday Dhamma School (Educating Children in Moral
and Behavioral Values) founded by Ven. Brahmanagama Muditha MahaThera in 1993, Bhante
has upgraded its curriculum with the help of Dhamma School’s dedicated Lay Staff and updated
its program. Today, under Bhante’s Rectorship, the Sunday School has prospered having a
student strength of 400 plus students with 28 Teachers instructing! Indeed, a boon to the
community’s parents who are constantly worried about the formative years of their precious
children in the modern materialistic society they must grow up.
As Meditation Master, his Wednesday Free Meditation Classes which Bhante started 23 years
ago, are continuing to this day with innovative features! A great success story!
• Bhante’s Communication skills are evident in the number of School Children who visit the Temple to listen to Bhante every week. Links Bhante has established with the School Boards, the District and Separate School Boards of the Halton and Peel Regions and the GTA have yielded amazing results adding a new dimension to the Province’s Education System.
• His most remarkable victory perhaps is the invitation he extended tree years ago to the Peel Regional Police Force to share in his Meditation Sessions adding to the Province’s efforts to make the City Police Forces more accessible, kinder and gentler with the understanding of the unique diversity of the present day Canadian Nation with its many ethnic cultures. (A continuing Program!)
• Among other professsional experts and committed devotees Bhante played a key role in sensitizing the Community to raise funds for the Mississauga Temple’s New Landmark Building at 3133 Cawthra Road, Mississauga, built at the cost of 3.5 Million Dollars, with no financial help from any Federal, Provincial, Municipal or any other grants whatsoever, save voluntary donaions of the people!
• In 2017 Bhante founded his own, the now popular ‘Kinder Canada” Movement in the GTA and its environs, aimed at delivering a gentler kindlier Canada… a Canadawide movement recognized by the Prime Minister of Canada!
• Bhante is the Chairperson of the Conference of Buddhist Monks which annually holds Buddha’s Birthday Festival & Cultural Extravaganza in the Celebration Square of the City of Mississauga which has become a popular Summer Fest of the City attracting large numbers of Mississaugans and visitors year after year! Dr. Bhante Saranapala attributes whatever name and fame his mission has brought to the Buddhist Temples and Buddha’s Teaching in Canada to the dedicated Venerabl Monks, the hard-working lay members of his Temple and his Meditation Class students and seekers of the Teaching of Buddha, without whose guidance and help his labours would not have brought him the feeling of joy and delight that he is experiencing today!
(By Aloy Perera, freelance writer based in Toronto 2019 – e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Urban Buddhist Monk
By Troy MacLean
Reverend Dr. Bhante Saranapala, aka Urban Buddhist Monk in Toronto, has been spreading dharma and mindfulness and Vipassana meditation across Canada/United States for over two decades. He has brought the ancient teachings of Buddhism forward but with a contemporary way of helping us better understand the teachings of the Buddha from a western application. Rev. Dr. Bhante Saranapala’s deep knowledge of meditations and the neuroscience have him captivating audiences all over. If you get the chance to meet him you will soon find out how warm and caring he is, very approachable and loves to discuss Buddhism with people who have no previous knowledge of Buddhism or are academia scholar of religion, he is always keen to be meeting new people and having discussions.
One of Bhante’s key successes has been being the founding Principal of the Buddhist Youth Camp at Sunday school program. Bhante believes that building a future for children based on the Buddha’s 5 precepts as well as love and compassion was something that would plant seeds for the future he really wanted to do. Over the years the Youth group has volunteered at soup kitchens for the homeless, visited seniors centres to help the aging population. Classes started out with 15-20 children but has now grown to almost 400 children and youth.
Another very popular program that Bhante runs is the Wednesday night meditation class. Bhante has been sharing his wisdom and insight about meditation through these classes for almost 20 years. The class is well known and popular across Toronto and the GTA.
Bhante has been teaching and developing programs based on the Buddha’s 5 precepts with an emphasis on love and compassion.
Bhante teaches and facilitates as well as lectures, here are some of the Academia to Corporate environments he is active in:
- University guest lectures
- High school lectures
- Public speaking engagements/presentations
- Churches and faith groups
- Corporate wellness programs
Counselling and Pastoral Care
Rev. Dr. Bhante Saranapala has been the Chaplain at the University of Toronto for over a decade now and has been providing supportive counselling and pastoral care to university students, adults, couples and families. Bhante also spends a significant amount of time at the temple providing counselling care to people who choose to visit him while at the West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation centre, he is very accessible by phone or email.
Political and Community Development
Rev. Dr. Bhante Saranapala has been proactive in building bridges with political dignitaries at municipal, provincial and federal levels. As well he heads the Peel Multi-faith group that brings together religious leaders from across Ontario and Canada.
One of Bhante’s most recent accomplishments in community development capacity was his organizing of the 2013 Vesak: Buddha’s Birthday Celebration that was celebrated by people from more than 30 countries at the LAC – political dignitaries included Federal Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenny as well as local Mayor Hazel McCallum.