The Mystic Heart Meditation Program will begin once again with the teachings of Bhante Chipamong Chowdhury, a monk from Bangladesh whose programs center around Theravada Buddhism and mindfulness meditation.
At its core, Mystic Heart serves Chautauquans by providing opportunities for the study and practice of meditation, contemplation and related disciplines drawn from the world’s religious or wisdom traditions. The mission statement is to help participants discover and manifest peace, compassion and kindness in themselves, in their relations with others and in their communities.
Subagh Singh Khalsa, director of Mystic Heart, said the original intent has remained untouched.
We are always just trying to provide people with the opportunity to maintain a practice that they might have already started or to be introduced to practice entirely,” he said. “We are really interested in presenting a real diverse collection of styles of practice, styles that all share that stillness, and that sense of approaching a quiet place that maybe did not exist to that person before.”
Chowdhury, who has taught sessions at the Institution for three years now, began his teachings 20 years ago as he embarked on his journey of becoming a monk by going through training in Cambodia, Burma, Sri Lanka and Laos. To this day, he continues to apply what he has learned as he strives to center his ideals and practices around empathy, hope, active love, forgiveness, healing and compassion — not just in the realm of religion.
“To me, this has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with our physical and emotional well being,” Chowdhury said. “If we can learn to be mindful of everything we do, then we are not harmful to those around us or to ourselves. That is why I teach, to teach that all one needs, comes from within.”
Khalsa said that approach Chowdhury takes to instruction brings the program to life.
If I think about the overriding goal of the Institution to exhibit diversity and to welcome inclusiveness, it is exciting to me that Bhante is a part of the program because he comes from such a vastly different background and yet, as soon as he arrived here, he was completely himself: wildly enthusiastic about everything that was going on. He participated in everything and made friends with everybody,” Khalsa said. “But, at the same time, he is totally genuine and totally devoted. His entire life is about practice and teaching.”
There are three sessions each day to participate in Chowdhury’s teachings or those of the remaining teachers who will arrive later on this season. There are two 45-minute morning programs held at 7:15 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., both in the Presbyterian House Chapel. The third program, which was added to the schedule last season, takes place from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. program Mondays and Wednesdays in Hurlbut Church.
“You should always try to enter into this space of quiet sensitivity, of awareness of actual experiences in that moment, without expectation,” Khalsa said. “If you decide you are going to go in and this is going to happen, that takes away from the variety of other things that could happen.”