History

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On the Esala full moon day in July 16th, 1989, a group of forty people gathered at H. W. Fletcher Housing Co-op in Vancouver to listen to a talk on Buddha's Path. This was an exciting talk. A hat was passed around to collect the rental fee for the hall. Subsequent to the talk, the idea of meeting once a month was tossed around and heartily endorsed by all the participants. Thereafter, the group met monthly at UBC or at the Japanese Temple on Jackson Avenue in Vancouver or at Tozenji -Seizan Buddhist Center in Coquitlam. These monthly meetings provided spiritual nourishment for participants including children, resulting in devotional and meditation practices and a prototype of a Sunday Dhamma School by September 1989. These services were not only in high demand but also triggered the need for the group to have a place of its own. This resulted in the establishment of a building fund.

On November 12th 1989 after a Dana, the group unanimously decided to form a society with the goal of establishing a vihara (monastery) for future spiritual practice and sharing of the dhamma. By November 15th1989, the group forwarded an application to the provincial Registrar of Companies to register a society that they named as Buddhist Vihara Society in BC (BVS). As the result of this community initiative, the BVS was established as a recognized charitable organization and stared its formal operations on January 7th 1990 with the following Board of Directors: Ven. Seelawimala, Kirthi Senaratne, Punya Sahabandu, Andy Wickey, Henry Subasinghe, Lakshman Perera and Narada Samarasinghe. There were 17 registered members and one life member in the new society.

An application was sent to the Registrar of Companies to register Buddhist Vihara Society in B.C. as a charitable organization. We were delighted that two months later, on March 5, 1990 the society received acceptance. Aims of the society were stated in the Constitution as:

  1. To study and practice Buddhism specifically of "THERAVADA" tradition.
  2. To promote the study and practice of the teachings of the Buddha through lectures, study groups, publications, retreats and religious ceremonies.
  3. To establish and maintain a Buddhist temple for furtherance of (1) and (2)

The first BVS newsletter was published in February 1990 where a declaration was made that a vihara could be established in two years if the necessary funds are raised.

From then on our monthly gatherings were regular. Many times we had meditation retreats with venerable monks like Bhante Henepola Gunaratana and Ven. Madawala Punnaji. Vesak of course was celebrated on a grander scale with observing of sil, pirith chanting, and dana to invited monks. We also came to admire from then on Dharmasiri Wijeratne's beautiful pirith mandapa. Funds were being raised towards the Vihara Building Fund and by the end of 1992 the total stood at about $ 11 000 even though well short of the $ 30 000 that was expected to raise.

Soon, activities such as conducting spiritual services, inviting monks to host retreats, publishing regular newsletters, organizing socio-religious functions such as Vesak celebrations, public dhamma talks etc. became commonplace, for the BVS community. Though the community was significantly small to support the ongoing sustenance needs of a vihara at the time, the society worked strenuously to reach its goals while exploring various options. In this endeavour BVS found Myanmar Buddhist Community as a matching collaborative partner, and after much discussion it was agreed that the two societies would lease a property for 6 months to establish a joint temple temporarily. There would be

two monks, one from each community. On February 28, 1993, with great fanfare and ceremony we received Ven. Mahawatte Kamalasiri Thera from the vihara in Washington D.C. to be our resident monk for 3 months. The Burmese monk Ven. U Sasana joined a few days later. The rental property was at 15681 82nd Avenue in Surrey.

The trial exceeded expectations and Surrey Buddhist Vihara became the home of the Buddhist community in BC. Ven. Veediyawatte Gnanobhasa from Ontario was temporarily our resident monk. Due to increasing and diverse needs of growing communities, the two societies parted ways and on Aug 1st 1994 the BVS moved to 4072, S.E. Marine Drive in Burnaby. This was the residence of Ariya Herath – our first life member. He was leaving for Sri Lanka and offered the place at a reduced rental.

Ven. Dunukewatte Somaratana arrived from Sri Lanka towards the end of 1993 to become the resident monk. Early in 1994 Ven Sona and Ven Piyadhammo – two Western monks were returning from Thailand and were given temporary residency at our temple. They were an enormous help to raise the profile of our temple. After establishing Birken Forest Monastery near Pemberton, they left our temple in June 1994. Soon after, Ven. Somaratana returned to Sri Lanka. Ven. Gnanobhasa returned to our temple at this time until we could find our own monks. Ven. Kumbalgoda Siriniwasa arrived from Singapore in late 1994 and has been the chief resident monk ever since. On April 15, 1995 Ven. Mirisse Dhammika arrived in Canada and became the second resident monk. This was the time that the atmosphere of a holy Buddhist temple began to emerge. Regular religious activities such as Buddha puja, dana, observing sil and meditation started to happen.

It took another two years to finally realize the dream of the community – to have their own property. After a lengthy search BVS purchased a residential property in North Surrey in the summer of 1996. However, the house needed extensive remodeling, renovation and reconstruction to transform it into a facility that was adequate to provide the services as a Vihara. On May 25, 1997 with much pomp and ceremony, Buddha puja was offered and the Annual General Meeting of the society was held at the newly acquired premises – 10373 – 132nd Street in Surrey. After 8 years the community felt that they came home at last.

Due to continuously increasing demands of the growing community and the expanding needs of the Dhamma School North Surrey facility ran out of space. As a result, through extensive search and the enormous support of the membership BVS purchased the property at 13871, 64th Avenue in Surrey and moved there in the spring of 2003. Over the years BVS has become the center for spiritual progress among both the Sri Lankan and Non-Sri Lankan Buddhist community.

With the generous support of the members and devotees, the vihara will continue to progress into the future as a counseling and spiritual service center for the community building on its' successful journey to date.