Venerable Ajahn Sona: “My Forty Years of Buddhism in the West”
T. T. & W. F. Chao Distinguished Practitioner Lecture
I’ve experienced a full spectrum of Buddhism’s arrival in North America, from the mid 70’s to the present, as a lay practitioner and as a fully ordained monastic in the Theravāda tradition. I’ve watched the lotus unfold amongst social revolutions, technical revolutions, and spiritual wildernesses. I am here to recount the most salient points that I can bring to this juncture of the ancient, but still pristine and pertinent earliest tradition of Buddhism to this, my generation, in the West. As a long-time abbot of a self-established western monastery in Canada in the Forest Tradition, I would like to share my intuitions and insights into our times and what may be hopeful and possible for this generation and those to come derived from the Buddha’s core teachings.
Ajahn Sona is a first wave Western Theravāda ordained practitioner. After several years of practicing as a lay hermit, he took full monastic ordination at the first Theravāda monastery in the United States in 1989. He trained as well in the Thai Forest Tradition and combines both Sri Lankan and Thai scholastic and meditative practice traditions with modern western sensibilities. His pre-monastic education is in philosophy, humanities, and specifically classical Western music. These have been an aid in understanding the Western psyche and trying to establish paradigm bridges between East and West. The monasteries which he has established in Canada are affiliated with a worldwide network of Western Thai Forest tradition monasteries. At the juncture of contemplative Buddhism he also is deeply interested in the ecological movements in this environmentally critical time, both at the practical and philosophical level. The monastery which he has developed over 20 years reflects a response to the psychological demands on the individual and is at the cutting edge of best practices in environmental fields. He has participated in the green monasticism movement, which is a collaboration with Catholic monasticism.