It's easy to define prayer in narrow ways when put in the broader context of spirituality across religions. Monday's convocation will provide an opportunity to broaden one's spiritual horizons, as Sanyatha Thawalanthanne, a Buddhist monk, and Ann Hostetler, professor of English, present "Meditation Practices: Buddhist & Christian Perspectives." The convocation will explore the purpose and value of meditation, which has arisen from the Buddhist tradition, in the context of our society.
Senior Ross Weaver, who will introduce the chapel speakers, met Thawalanthanne at a meditation course in which they were both participating over the summer in Illinois. Both Weaver and Thawalanthanne practice Vipassana, a form of silent meditation coming from the Pali word meaning "seeing things as they are." According to Weaver, this meditation is about watching and accepting our thoughts and sensations and accepting them, rather than trying to change how we feel.
Thawalanthanne grew up in Sri Lanka and received a Masters in Bhuddist Studies from a university there. Now in his late 20's, he has lived in Illinois for five years with several other Sri Lankan monks and is currently raising money to build a Buddhist temple in the Chicago suburb where he currently lives.
"We live in a world that is changing very quickly, faster than ever before and at an increasing rate," said Weaver. "In order to maintain sanity, it will be critical, especially for young people, to have some sort of grounding spiritual practice that helps us to accept things as they are and not as we want them to be."
Often we revert to old habit patterns of reacting by coming up with quick fixes or distractions, which can lead to craving or aversion, and eventually to misery when we run out of distractions, explained Weaver. Meditation can be a way to break these patterns. The non-abstract, step-by-step process of meditation makes it a practical tool for anyone who tries it, said Weaver.
"Craving and aversion pulls our mind away from appreciating all the miracles in our world and clouds our vision so we can't see beauty, love and compassion as clearly," said Weaver. "Meditation allows us to consciously quiet ourselves, heightening our awareness inside ourselves, and enabling us to more clearly see the divine inside and around us. This transforms the way we relate to the world."
Thawalanthanne will also lead a guided meditation, followed by a question and answer session, at 4:30 on Monday in NC 19.