Buddhist temple opens in Nicosia

By Jean Christou, Cyprus Mail, July 17, 2005

Nicosia, Cyprus -- Last Sunday saw the official opening of the first Buddhist Temple in Nicosia, finally providing a place of worship for a huge number of foreign workers in Cyprus who follow the eastern religion.

With approximately 376 million followers, Buddhism is one of the major world religions. Its philosophy is based on the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived between approximately 563 and 483 BC. Originating in India, Buddhism gradually spread throughout Asia to Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Southeast Asia, as well as the East Asian countries of China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

Buddhism teaches followers to perform good and wholesome actions, to avoid bad and harmful actions, and to purify and train the mind. The aim of these practices is to end the suffering of cyclic existence, samsara, by awakening the practitioner to the realisation of true reality, the achievement of Nirvana and Buddhahood.

Buddhist morality is underpinned by the principles of harmlessness and moderation. Mental training focuses on moral discipline (sila), meditative concentration (samadhi), and wisdom (prajña).

Bhante (Brother) Anavaddha Tuero a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka, travelled from Switzerland where he has lived since 2000, to inaugurate the Nicosia centre last weekend. He said that although he himself would be returning to Switzerland, two monks from Sri Lanka would be taking up residence on the island to guide the faithful.

?Sri Lankan Buddhists who work here don?t have a centre for spiritual practice so they are lost and they are going to other religions because they have so many difficulties,? he said.

He estimated that out of the 15,000 Sri Lankan people living and working in Cyprus some 86 per cent are Buddhists. ?Most have Bible because they lost something and they are looking for it somewhere else, which is normal,? he added, referring to those who use the Catholic Church as a substitute.

?Now the Buddhists have organised here. They used to meet in the park once a month. They became organised and opened a centre and now the temple. The main reason they go to the Church is because they didn?t have temple, and they have already started to come,? said Bhante Anavaddha.

?On Tuesday we had 76 people for the evening service, which is every night at 8pm. People come after work to meditate.?

In addition to providing a place to go for people who are already Buddhists, the temple is offering to teach meditation to anyone else who is interested, and it?s free of charge. ?Dharma does not cost anything,? said Bhante Anavaddha.

Dharma is a sanskrit word and a concept of eastern religions. Simply explained, it is the way of the higher Truths, a lifestyle that leads to minimum accumulation of karma and is therefore the fastest path to personal liberation.

?Anyone who is interested can contact us and they can learn,? he said. ?We teach individual techniques because individual experiences are different and it depends on their level of understanding. We talk to them and decide what meditation they should use. It?s a personal mediation. They can learn, put it into practice and utilise it.?
Like most meditation practitioners, Bhante Anavaddha believes that a calm mind is very important.

?So you lean how to keep a peaceful mind. You have to purify the mind, how to develop the mind. Meditation means to develop and cultivate the mind. There are in the mind wholesome thoughts and unwholesome thoughts like anger revenge, enmity.

These are negative thoughts. If you don?t know how to deal with them you hold on to them instead of letting them go. You learn to practise loving kindness instead of anger, loving kindness to self and then to others. You develop good quality of mind by practising meditation. So it is a way can help society how to keep a good peaceful mind. It helps people have a better life. If you are given loving kindness to meditate on you pull loving kindness to yourself, then it radiates it back out to others.?

And Bhante Anavaddha ought to know. He was dedicated to a Buddhist temple at the age of eight, where he spent four years until he was initiated at the age of 12. That was 22 years ago.

To contact the Buddhist temple, which is located in the Parisinos area of Nicosia, call 22-658636