By: Dr. Russell Jaffe
Sam Dech Preah Bhanté Vira Bellong Dharmawara Mahatera was my principle life mentor and spiritual guide to many. As he sometimes said of himself, it took him 40 years to get sick followed by 40 years to get well. Then he could get started.
He decoded a non-invasive color healing system that forms an episode in this documentation and narrative, mostly from personal experience of a remarkable life and exemplary human being. In recent years, many have told me that the few minutes that they had with Bhanté were ‘life changing’ in the sense of being guided to meaningful work in harmony with their highest potential and aspirations.
This is by way of introducing a man who lived a life of Buddhic qualities, touched the lives of many and, by example, mentored many in the art of living.
The arc of this narrative starts near the completion of his life. In 1996, when he was 107, he and I shared an experience starting with his being held hostage by a monk whom he had ordained. His captor wanted Bhanté to sign the deed to the Ashoka Mission in the Meroli district of Delhi on land given him by Prime Minister Jaharawal lal Nehru for his service to India.
Next, I’ll recount my meeting with him at his birthday celebration at the Buddhist Vihara in Oxon Hill, Maryland in 1978. From meeting to becoming an acolyte of a color healing system given by Gautama Buddha, practiced for 500 years, lost for near two millennia and decoded by Bhanté.
Another anecdote is my conversation with Rev Dr Bob Leichtman about Bhanté.
From roughly age 40 to 80 he became a Mahathera, recognized by all Buddhist major denominations, Mahayana, Hinayana, Theravade, and Zen. By 80 he felt and functioned well, followed by three decades of sage-ing, mentoring, and inspiring.
During the last season of his life, it was my privilege to attend a number of his introductory vipassina retreats. Commonweal in Bolinas, California twice and once at Josh Reynold’s family estate near Asheville, NC — each was two weeks. The instructions simply were to spend the next two weeks in silence. If you need guidance, you can talk to Bhanté. The simply elegant and elegantly simple structure can be described. The experiences observed personally would fill a book or make a better movie.
Among the dozens of meaningful moments with Bhanté included in this narrative are:
Commonweal (Bolinas, CA) Vipassana mindfulness retreats with Bhante
RMJ Bhante #5 Oriental Practice SUNY
Buddhist Ceremony between Russ and Rebecca by Bhanté
HH 14th Dalai Lama- Tu Evening JFK airport Air India Terminal
Bhanté founds the Institute for Buddhology