Bante Chipamong Chowdhury, a Buddhist monk, believes that inner meditation is a beneficial practice — not only emotionally but physically. This coming week, Chowdhury will be leading the Mystic Heart Meditation Program with meditation and brief discussions of Theravada Buddhism.
Mystic Heart is run by the Department of Religion and provides the opportunity for the community to study and practice self meditation, contemplation and related disciplines drawn from the world’s religious or wisdom traditions.
Chowdhury’s sessions will take place from 7:15 to 8 a.m. and 8:15 to 9 a.m. daily in the Presbyterian House Chapel. He will also hold sessions from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 1 and Wednesday, July 3 in the Hurlbut Sanctuary and from 12:30 to 1:55 p.m. Tuesday, June 2 and Thursday, June 4 in the Hall of Missions.
Chowdhury found his place as a Buddhist monk after his father died. Once his decision was made, the Bangladesh native traveled all the way to Myanmar where he studied traditional Buddhist monastic education. He also ventured to places like Cambodia, India and Sri Lanka. Now, 20 years later, Chowdhury continues to practice Buddhism.
“When you have emotions of anger or stress, worry and anxiety, they happen whether you meditate or not,” Chowdhury said. “But through meditation, there is less stress, less anxiety. You have a very good awareness of emotions, having non-judgemental, non-reactive responses to (those emotions) and keeping the mind calm.”
Chowdhury has been coming to Chautauqua for four years, leading meditations through Mystic Heart and helping community members find self-awareness despite the short, 30-minute sessions.
“It’s kind of like a breathing practice,” Chowdhury said, “like a mental image of the awareness of your body and emotions.”
Chowdhury originally spent most of his childhood in an orphanage as his parents were too poor to properly take care of him. He remained in the orphanage up until his father’s death.
After the death of his father, as was tradition in South and Southeast Asia, Chowdhury served as a monk, temporarily, to honor the death of his parents. Chowdhury’s mother had already passed away, and with the death of his father, it was time for Chowdhury to serve his time at a monastery. However, after finishing the allotted seven days, Chowdhury found himself not wanting to leave. It was then that he decided he wanted to be a monk.
“Before my father died, I was in an orphanage; after he died, my step-mother took all of the property so I had no place,” Chowdhury said. “I couldn’t go back to my home because my step-mother was mean, and I didn’t want to go back to the orphanage because it was equally very mean.”
Through his studies, Chowdhury became especially fond of meditation and now plans on not only teaching about meditation, but some basic concepts of Buddhism during his stay at Chautauqua.
“Besides the inside meditation, I will be teaching some of the basic teachings of Buddhism like how we deal with change, how we do with self-care and self-love, compassion and fear,” Chowdhuy said.
Chowdhury stresses the importance of such factors when it comes to health and self-awareness.
“My hope is that they will learn something new that is helpful for them, especially to be aware, to be mindful of their own actions other than what they know — also to have some kind of mental well-being,” Chowdhury said.