A 21st-century monk visits Penn State Mont Alto

Theravadan Monk Bhante Sujatha

Theravadan Monk Bhante Sujatha speaks to a class at Penn State Mont Alto.

Credit: Debra Collins

Students in John Bardi’s class reacted with surprise when Theravadan monk Bhante Sujatha said he owns a car.

“Yes, I have a car because I have to drive,” he said with a smile. “I am a 21st-century monk!”

On Nov. 3, Sujatha met with students in two of Bardi’s classes where he answered questions and led a discussion about his life as a monk. Each session closed with a short meditation.

A native of Sri Lanka, Sujatha, has visited the Mont Alto campus every year for six years. He became a monk at the age of 10, trained for 10 years, and has lived in the United States for 20 years. As head monk at the Blue Lotus Temple in Chicago, he has taught meditation for nine years. Before arriving on Mont Alto’s campus, he had recently returned to the states following a five-month trip around the world.

“I do not teach religion,” said Sujatha. “I am a spiritual practitioner. Follow your own religion, practice meditation and you can be happy and peaceful,” he said.

During the Asian philosophy class, students asked a wide variety of questions from Sujatha’s views on religion to his personal life.

When asked whether he believed in an afterlife he said, “Who cares? The most important thing is now, this life. Life is moment-to-moment and all there is is happening in this moment. Don’t worry about the past or future. Focus on now, this life!”

Sujatha described meditation as self-discovery and developing the mind. “That was Buddha’s teaching. The technique is the focus of breath because breath is life,” he said. “So, every time you focus on your breath, you focus on your life.”

Happiness and peace aren’t constant, according to Sujatha. “We must work at it with meditation practice. “In this way, individuals can develop contentment,” he said.

Sujatha closed the class with a three-minute meditation practice that ended with the words: “I am well. I am happy. I am peaceful.”

“Let those three words remind you to get that back,” he said.