Sitagu Buddhist Vihara

This profile was last updated in 2003

Activities and Schedule

11:00 AM, everyday: Offering of Almsfood to the monks. (Monks are required to eat their final daily meal before noon.) 9:00 PM, Monday through Friday: Meditation 7:00-9:00 PM, Monday: Abhidamma class. 7:30 – 9:00 PM, Wednesday: Pali classes 10:00 AM, Sunday: Adult Abhidamma and Children’s Sunday School, alternating Sundays. The Children’s Dhamma School goes into recess over the summer. 7:00 PM, Sunday: Meditation followed by Dhamma discussion. For complete details, consult the Vihara schedule. It is also helpful to review their rules of etiquette before visiting the Vihara.

History

Sitagu Buddhist Vihara as well as TDSA were founded in 1996 to provide a center in the United States where Theravada Buddhist meditation and Dhamma practice could occur in a traditional Burmese monastic context. A site was purchased that was already equipped with mobile homes where monks could be housed and a shrine room could be established. There are plans to construct a Burmese style stupa, as well as a Dhamma Hall, Monastery buildings, as well as a communal kitchen and dining facility. These buildings, coupled with many small meditation cabins in the forested areas of the property will make Sitagu Vihara a fully functional monastery and meditation center housing up to 10 meditators on retreat at one time. Resident monks at Sitagu Buddhist Vihara must take on more administrative duties than they normally would in Burma. Still, Texas is an agreeable environment. Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa commented that the climate of central Texas is similar to Burma. Monks at Sitagu Buddhist Vihara rotate in and out, leaving to pursue higher education in Buddhist Studies or transferring at the request of the Sitagu Association. When Venerable Ashin Punnobhasa first arrived at Sitagu Buddhist Vihara, another monk tried to tell him, using English, that the neighbors kept goats behind the monastery. Meaning to use the word “lambs”, what this monk actually said to Punnobhasa was that there are “lions” living behind the monastery, which caused some momentary alarm.

Demographics

Sitagu Buddhist Vihara serves a large Burmese population both in Austin and in Houston. The monks visit Houston every month to conduct ceremonies and Dahmma classes. Many Sri Lankans also frequent Sitagu Buddhist Vihara as well as Westerners. Services and chanting are conducted in Pali. The Children’s Dhamma school has Western children but is largely Sri Lankan. The class treats topics of Buddhist interest as well as issues of how to adapt their religious culture to America. The children must have a firm understanding of Theravadan Buddhism so that they can address questions eloquently in school when asked about their religious tradition.

Description

Sitagu Buddhist Vihara is built on a 16 acre, rural property just west of Austin. Local flora and fauna include white-tailed deer and mustang grapes. The center is still in the early stages of growth. There are two double wide trailers-one of which has been converted into a shrine room. There is also a large porch that can be used for outdoor ceremonies and a dining facility. A trail goes around the property for walking meditation and there are three small cottages for private meditation. Originally these cottages contained only a bed and a fan, however, additional furniture was added to accommodate American guests. In the future, Sitagu Buddhist Vihara would like to build a large Dhamma Hall as well as a Burmese style stupa and expanded facilities. The goal is to eventually have facilities to house at least four monks as well as ten meditators on retreat.

Center Activities

The lay community is responsible for offering food to the monks everyday. This practice reinforces the Buddhist philosophy of worldly detachment. The monks must eat their last meal of the day before noon. Major holidays celebrated at Sitagu Buddhist Vihara include the Buddha’s Birthday or Vishaka, the New Year (which occurs around April 13th), Asalha Puja, and Kathina. The latter two mark the beginning and end of the monsoon season during which monks are required to refrain from to travel. Sitagu Buddhist Vihara publishes a quarterly newsletter that features articles in both Burmese and English. Currently, it is very easy to arrange a meditation retreat at Sitagu Buddhist Vihara. Meditators on retreat are welcome to use the cottages provided, create their own schedule of walking and sitting meditation, and may stay for as long as they like. The monks do not usually interfere but are available to answer questions.