History of West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre.
STORY OF WEST END BUDDHIST VIHARA- “Where Friendships Begin and Never End!”
Motto: “Sabbapapassa akaranam, kusalassa upasampada, sacitta pariyodapanam etam Buddhanasasanam!” – “In avoiding all sins, cultivating good deeds and cleansing ones own mind alone lies the true meaning of the Dispensation of the Buddhas / Buddhism!” (Dhammapada)
Looking around surveying the century old Buddhist faith-tradition in Canada one feels grateful that Canadians are increasingly being made aware of the logic and the meaningfulness of a religion/philosophy that espouses and stands out for cherished universal human values of intellectual freedom and human pursuit of excellence sans dogmas or any control from above. Buddhism is thriving in Canada attracting honest seekers. Canada is indeed, a fertile ground to plant the seed of Enlightenment!
West End Buddhist Centre and its controlling body, the Halton Peel Buddhist Society came into being in 1992 December out of a burning desire on the part of like minded monks and a few unusual lay people of Sri Lankan origin in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to establish a Buddhist Institution focused on spreading the most pure Dhamma of Lord Buddha without any serious attachment to ‘vadas’ or ‘isms' or affiliations to established Nikayas (Sectarian Congregations of the Sangha) in Sri Lanka which are engaged in promoting a Buddhist Faith Tradition steeped in Culture peculiar to Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka. That was at least what the pioneering Buddhist monks, Venerable Kulugammana Dhammawasa Thera, Venerable Madawela Punnaji Maha Thera and Venerable Brahmanagama Muditha, The “trimurthi” or The Trinity of the West End, as they are popularly known, had in mind when they stepped into an un-chartered territory. Still, the venerable monks were ever mindful of the Sri Lankan Buddhist community's felt need to practice and promote the religion of their forefathers and the traditions of Sinhala culture and language thoughtfully provided for the same within the temple setup.
Venerable Dhammawasa Thera thus became the Viharadhipathi, or Abbot/Incumbent, Venerable Punnaji, its Senior Religious Superior and Venerable Muditha its Administrator and Counselor.In a historic ceremony in 1993 February, the Temple which was founded in December 1992 was dedicated at a religious ceremony by the late Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera, then Supreme Head of the Amarapura Sect. Halton Peel Buddhist Society became incorporated as a Public Charity in the Province of Ontario in 1993.In 1994 April, the temporary monks' residence in an apartment building was given up for a worthier residence at a respectable address at 1569 Cormack Crescent in the City of Mississauga, in a turn of the century quaint, old house with ample space, a one acre piece of prime real estate adorned by gnarling old weeping willows, tall maples, flowering groves, thickets and glades that pleased the eye. A veritable temple in a homely setting!
After several years of dedication and relentless efforts of all those who are affiliated with the Centre, a newTemple premise was inaugurated at 3133 Cawthra Road, Mississauga on 31st of December 2011
Today, visitors to the Vihara can see a poster in the inner lobby of the temple which reads, "West End Buddhist Vihara Where Friendships Begin and Never End!"Indeed an apt description!
Ministry of the Venerable Monks & Temple Activities: Today, with a thriving Temple boasting of the largest number of devotees, nowhere else seen in the European and North American hemispheres, a Sunday Dhamma School with a student body of 350 children,an ongoing Soup Kitchen project with the Catholic Good Shepherd Centre, Downtown, Toronto (18 years in existence) that feeds a thousand mouths a day (on an appointed day West End Vihara youths - high school to university students conduct the Soup Kitchen for 500 needy in the GTA, students themselves preparing the meal with donated food items and serving it!) an ongoing Weekly Meditation Sessions now completed its eighteenth year, serious weekly Study Session of the Suttas, a vibrant Youth Forum in its twelfth year and a host of other achievements to the credit of the monks of the West End Buddhist Centre.
Venerable Dr. Madawela Punnaji Maha Thera is an internationally renowned Buddhist Scholar and Meditation Master and has authored many books and publications on Buddhism and the Practice of Meditation. He is the Religious Superior Emeritusof the West End Vihara and Monastery and presently lives in L.A. California, USA, often visiting the West Ends Buddhist Centre, his home base. Venerable Dhammawasa Thera’s compassionate service has been recognized by his own Congregation, The Great Udarata Amarapura Nikaya that conferred on him the the titular designation,The Sangha Nayaka (Primate) of the Canadian Region/Suffrage.
Bhikkhu Dr. Saranapala,a Bangladeshi national who had had extensive monastic training from his tender years at the Vajirarama/Primrose complex in Kandy, Sri Lanka joined the West End Vihara and Monastery Staff in 1994. Under the guidance of Venerable Dhammawasa Thera youthful Bhikkhu Saranaapala was enrolled at the University of Torornto to do a degree in Comparative Religious Studies and Western Philosophy. Just for the record, having completed his B.A. at the U of T he received B.A. Hons., M.A., and M. Phil. post-graduate Degrees from both U of T and the McMaster University in Hamilton.
A veritable dynamo of activity at his Mississauga Buddhist Monastery, he is the Principal of its Sunday Dhamma School and the Director of its Youth Forum that conducts a Soup Kitchen Project, now in its 18th year, in collaboration with the Toronto Downtown’s Good Shepherd Centre.
Acclaimed as a Buddhist monk for the modern times by a growing band of admirers, Bhante Saranapala has earned an enviable reputation as a preacher and a meditation teacher par excellence. Within a short period of time, his scholarly lectures expounding the Teaching of the Buddha began to attract the attention of the university academic circles and the Inter-faith community of Canada. Bhante Saranapala soon became a popular guest speaker at many a prestigious parley. In 2004, he was invited to address the parliamentarians in Ottawa. In 2005, he was accorded the honor of officiating on behalf of all religious denominations at the induction ceremonies connected with the Order of Ontario Awards in the Ontario Legislature. He has conducted meditation retreats to the City Counselors in Brampton, the Peel Region and the Toronto District School Board Principals. His inspiring lectures at the Peel Region’s District and Catholic Schools Boards’ Secondary Schools have won him much praise making him one of the most sought after speakers on Buddhism. He conducts a free meditation class on Wednesdays, now in its 18th year, at the West End Buddhist Monastery.
Among other monks who adorn the West End Vihara with both scholarship and erudition in the Dhamma are Venerable Yatirawana Dhammarama Thera, M.A., Doctor ofMonastic Discipline andScripture, former senior professor of the Maharagama Bhikkhu Training College in Sri Lanka, an authority on the Scriptures and an expert in the Buddhist Canonical Studies (Dhammavinaya)and Venerable Keembiela Kassapa Thera, M.A.., Doctor of Monastic Discipline and Scripture,former Principal of the Maharagama Sri Vajiragnana Sunday Dhamma School and a professor at the Bhikkhu Training College, a scholar monk of many years of experience and a preacher par excellence. Bhante Buddhananda is another young monk, hailing from Bangladesh, who has taken up residence as well as a heavy load of temple duties upon himself. The venerable Thera serves as the administrative Assistant to the venerable Abbot Incumbent. His self effacing humility and his devotedness to monk-hood have won him a host of admirers in the community.
( By Aloy Perera - Dhamma Wheel – Initial publication June 2007, Re-edited in May 2013)