At first glance, you probably wouldn’t think much of the small, white, church-like building located on Sound Avenue in Riverhead. But when it comes to this safe haven, known as the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center, looks can certainly be deceiving.
The plain white fence lining the front and delicate garden on the side just seem to add to the peaceful and inviting simplicity. Upon entering the parking lot located adjacent to the building, you will likely be greeted by a cheerful monk sporting saffron robes and a smile. If you felt any apprehension in visiting this temple prior to coming, it seems to just melt away in this moment.
Previously located in Port Jefferson, the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center was established in 2008 on a property donated by Don Jayamaha & Dr. Sharmini Jayamaha. Having moved to its current location in Riverhead in 2017, the center aims to provide the local community, and beyond, with a place to connect on a spiritual level.
Entering through the front doors of the meditation center with simply the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet (which, it is kindly requested, be removed before continuing up to the second floor) is all you need. Upstairs, you can smell the soothing aromas of light incense in the air. The door at the top of the stairs opens up to a large, dimly lit room. At the front of the room, atop a raised, stage-like structure, rests a large white statue of the Buddha. Surrounding the statue are all types of beautiful offerings such as flowers, fruit, and candles. The entire room seems to fill with this calming energy.
Colorful pillows and floor seats are neatly scattered across the floor. Just pick one and take a seat. The kind man with the smile outside, resident monk Bhante Kottawe Nanda, sits at the head of the room quietly when class is ready to begin. Ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1977, he received his primary education at the Sri Nanananda Vanavasa Buddhist Institute in Waturuwila, Sri Lanka.
“Practicing with Bhante and others there has changed my life,” said longtime attendee Lisa Ramsland. “The energy you experience meditating in a group is powerful. I would encourage anyone to come and meditate there. It’s a simple practice and it will help you in your everyday life to be calmer. Who couldn’t use that?”
At the end of the class, it hardly felt like longer than an hour had passed. With the participants calm and centered, Bhante spends any remaining time inviting the class to ask questions and share feedback. Should you choose to stay after class, Bhante spends a few personal moments with you, tying beautifully colored strings around your wrist: a symbol of peace, a keepsake, and suggestion to practice mindfulness.
While many events occur within the walls of this magical little space, including a Chakra Cleansing Bowl Singing class led by Ramsland, the Guided Mindfulness Meditation class takes place Tuesday and Friday evenings from 7 to 8:30 PM.
Events are located 5268 Sound Avenue in Riverhead, are free of charge, and open to anyone regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs. Curious? Visit www.libmc.org.