Here, Buddhism is unfamiliar observance and it is generally tied to the East. It is a small wonder why Buddhism in Africa is met with raised eyebrows. The only Temple in Uganda ( Uganda Buddhist Centre) founded by an African Buddhist monk, located in Bulega Village has been playing an unprecedented and vital role in spread of Dhamma in the country since April 2005. There are only three ordained African Monks and one Nun so far in the whole world.
UBC has approximately 25 young, local scholars under the tutelage of one of the resident monks, Ven. Addica from Myanmar who has been serving the centre since June 2016. Ven. Adicca aims to broaden the ideology and perception of Buddhism such that it is prolific across the African continent.
I come from the Buddha’s birthplace, Nepal. In Nepal, Buddhism is one of the predominant religions and the Buddha continues to be deeply revered. This veneration isn’t only prevalent as high as the mountains in Nepal, but across the whole Asian continent. Our Asian community devotedly partakes in the beliefs and practices of Buddha’s teachings. Perhaps, this shared idea make up the fabric of our lives giving us the common threads to unify us.
I have been living in Uganda for the past one year, and it took me exactly the same time to learn that the UBC. Having learnt of UBC, I felt delighted and so wistful. I did not hesitate to make myself useful to the center immediately when I got a 2 weeks leave off work. I jumped instantly at the chance to volunteer at the temple, beginning my spiritual journey with UBC in May 2017. A pleasant unforeseen surprise was awaiting me in a different continent.
The initial couple of days at UBC I explored the unchartered territory of my new environment. Despite a Buddhist upbringing, I had hardly observed a disciplined practice. Often, I only made quick stopovers at temples or Stupas to light some butter lamps back home in Nepal. UBC gave me the opportunity to renew and maintain a life of intentional joy and peace. I became determined to establish a life of self-restraint beginning with an hour of meditation, at 6am sharp, with the resident monks from Myanmar, Thailand, Rwanda and Uganda along with the administrative staff at the Centre. A second session of silence was held at 6 in the evening every day.
I habitually meditated while keeping a keen mind to the teachings. I gradually started realizing that mindfulness embodied deliberate concentration on elements of peace, persisting patience and being focused on the present moment. Breath was instrumental in achieving calmness while meditating so that my mental state was gently guided to an overall attainment of serenity when mindfully observed. These were essential in finding peace within myself. The quiet meditation was supplemented with Dhamma talks on peace of mind, happiness, sufferings, life and deaths by the monks.
Apart from meditation and Dhamma talks at the temple, I got involved in community outreach initiatives to bring together UBC and the local communities to acknowledge one another. With other volunteers, we moved to towns in Bulega village and held meetings through which we shared personal experiences in Dhamma and how we act to these experiences. I learned and discovered a lot through these meetings. I discovered that Buddhism is at a fledgling stage in Africa and people are reluctant to come to the temple. One of the reasons is that people think that Buddhism is only for Buddhists from Asia. Others bore misconception of conversion in order to benefit from UBC, while others still misconceive it to be a cult. Moreover, most people especially the youths were asking us to teach them martial arts and the Chinese Kungu Fu.
However, I saw that there is a growing interest for Dhamma from the villages. If there were more experienced Dhamma teachers in Uganda, the results would be enormous. A lot of effort is need to bring this confusions and misconceptions to light and wisdom, while creating awareness of Buddhism among individuals so that they are well-informed. Such outreach programs are key players in the attempt to raise awareness of Buddhism in Uganda. With such, I also discovered community outreaches have received a growing share of benefits from its community with many showing genuine desires to discern and appreciate differences among them.
Spending 12 nights at UBC now holds a strong and mindfulness bond for me. Moreover a place where I am very comfortable, relaxed and a place I am always discovering about myself and the world.
I would like to invite every one of you to consider Uganda Buddhist Centre a place to explore about thyself and the world. I am sure that sharing your stories, your experiences in Dhamma will not only inspire communities, but you will also accumulate merits from serving the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha for the benefit and well-being of many.