Located near the border of Minnesota and North Dakota, the North Dakota Vihara offers the opportunity for people who live in a predominantly Christian area to learn about and practice Theravada Buddhism, “The mission of the North Dakota Buddhist Vihara is to share the Buddha’s message of Peace and Happiness and help create peace and harmony within ourselves and in the surrounding world. Vihara is open to people of all faith traditions and cultures. We welcome you to come and see, to participate in spiritual practices such as meditation, observance of precepts, discussions of Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings) and community events,” (ndbv.org).
The Venerable Witiyala Seewalie Thera was born in Sri Lanka and ordained at the age of 12. His Theravada lineage traces back to the Buddha. He attained many degrees while still in Sri Lanka “BA with honors, MA, DLit and Royal Pandit (Oriental Studies Society of Sri Lanka) in addition to diplomas in Buddhism, Pali and Bible Studies. In 1996, he was appointed the 27th, and thus far the youngest, principal of the historic Parama Dhamma Cetiya Pirivena, the premier center of Buddhist monastic education in modern Sri Lanka,” (ndbv.org). It was not until 2003 that he came to the United States and began founding temples across the midwest. The North Dakota Buddhist Vihara was founded by the Venerable Witiyala Seewalie Thera in 2007. He also founded many other Buddhist institutions including the Minnesota Buddhist Vihara Inc., Buddhist and Pali College, Iowa Buddhist Vihara, Wisconsin Buddhist Vihara, South Dakota Vihara, Nebraska Vihara, and the Oriental Studies Society of USA.
The North Dakota Vihara follows the Theravada Tradition. They draw a distinction between Mahayana Buddhism and themselves and claim to be the only remaining non-Mahayana Buddhist lineage. They also believe that the Tripitaka is not to be taken “as gospel” because there is no way to prove that the Tripitaka is actually the words of the Buddha. The Vihara also emphasizes the importance of the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths, “The Eightfold Path is best understood as a collection of personal qualities to be developed, rather than as a sequence of steps along a linear path. The development of right view and right resolve (the factors classically identified with wisdom and discernment) facilitates the development of right speech, action, and livelihood (the factors identified with virtue). . . And so the process unfolds: development of one factor fosters development of the next, lifting the practitioner in an upward spiral of spiritual maturity that eventually culminates in Awakening,” (ndbv.org). According to the Theravada tradition, there are four states of awakening. The first of the four stages of awakening is steam-entry (sotapatti), where the doubt of the Buddha’s teachings and the idea of the “self” cease to exist. The second and third stages are once-returning (sakadagati) and non-returning (agati). The fourth and final stage is Arhatship in which the person reaches full enlightenment and escapes the cycle of samsara.
The North Dakota Vihara holds the majority of its events in a Christian Church in Moorhead, MN (located just across the North Dakota border). The events mostly surround mindful meditation. One of the events the temple holds is “One Day of Mindfulness” where there is scheduled meditation from 9AM-3PM that covers a variety of meditation tactics (guided, sitting, walking, etc.) and includes talks and discussions. There is also monthly guided meditation which is done on a particular topic (Eightfold Path, unique characteristic of existence, etc.).
North Dakota Buddhist Vihara | About Us, www.ndbv.org/about.shtml.
Minnesota Buddhist Vihara, www.mnbv.org/seewalie/index.html.