Buddhism was introduced into this country one hundred years
ago, until recently the various temples and centers, struggling
for their own survival, remained generally isolated and self-absorbed,
with infrequent contact with each other. Early in 1980 a crisis
in one of the Buddhist communities prompted several of its monks
to call together a number of prominent Buddhist leaders of several
temples to discuss the problem. At this initial meeting the
elders realized that closer communication and cooperation among
Buddhist leaders of various traditions would provide greatly
needed support and cooperation within the larger Buddhist community.
This series of meetings then resulted in the establishment of
the first permanent cross-cultural, inter-Buddhist organization
in the United States: the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern
is composed of ordained monks, nuns and ministers from all
the major Buddhist traditions: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana,
and from all Buddhist ethnic origins: American, Burmese, Cambodian,
Chinese, European, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Sri Lankan,
Thai, Tibetan and Vietnamese.
Council set as its primary goals greater communication, understanding
and cooperation among Buddhist groups in Southern California
and support and promotion of Buddhism and Buddhist activities.
Havanpola Ratanasara spearheaded the early efforts
with the close assistance of the Late Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-An,
the late Ven. Dr. Faitana Khampiro and Ven. Phra Thepsopon,
who has now returned to Bangkok. Other founding members included
Vens. Subhadra Goldwater, Thich Man-Giac. Kim Do Anh, Walpola
Piyananda, Pannila Ananda, Karuna Dharma and ten other Sangha
members, both Asian and American born.
headquarters, first located at Lao Wat Buddhagodom, moved
in 1981 to Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara and then in 1985
to the College of Buddhist Studies. While the membership has
grown slowly, but consistently, the Council has been very
active in many different activities.
founders of the Council formulated the philosophy of the Council
when they wrote:
years Buddhism has existed in the United States in small communities
and the Order of Buddhist monks, nuns and ministers has been
scattered. The large immigration of Buddhist Asians and the
growing serious interest of the American people in the study
and practice of the Buddhist way of life has resulted in a
blossoming of myriad study groups, meditation centers and
temples across the United States. ln Southern California Buddhist
centers and temples have multiplied and the Buddhist Order
has increased manifold.
we the Sangha members of Southern California have come together
in this Council in order to establish firm lines of communication
within the Order, to give aid and support to the monks, nuns
and ministers, both as individuals and as an Order, to discuss
and act upon all matters and concerns dealing with the Sangha
and the dissemination of the Buddha Dharma, and to engage
in ecumenical cooperation with all religious groups."
specific purposes of the Sangha Council are:
cooperation of all Buddhist groups in Southern California
with the intention
about greater harmony
interfaith cooperation among all Buddhist groups
and to coordinate and organize the affairs of the Sangha
Buddhist ceremonies, services, festivals and religious activities
ordination into the Buddhist Order
proper education, training and leadership in the Order
teachers of Buddha Dharma
religious, cultural, social welfare and charitable activities
initiate or support any project which will help to disseminate
the spirit of the Buddha Dharma
its inception the Sangha Council has been very active in a
variety of projects and activities, both within the Buddhist
community and within the larger interfaith community of Southern
in the Buddhist community
Council annually sponsors a Buddha's Birthday Commemoration,
held at a different temple each year. The celebration features
a religious service of chanting in various Buddhist traditions,
a Dharma talk and a cultural program of music, dance and arts
of the ethnic communities.
Council has sponsored meetings between His Holiness Tenzin
Gyatso, the XlVth Dalai Lama, and the ordained Buddhist clergy
of Southern California. The Council provided a program on
Buddhist culture and practice at Kwan Um Sa Buddhist Temple
for a group of 150 Los Angeles school teachers, sponsored
by the Los Angeles Festival to increase their knowledge of
minority cultures in Los Angeles. The Sangha Council from
time to time sponsors seminars and special programs, such
as those honoring Colonel Henry Steele Olcott and Dr. B. R.
Ambedkhar for their invaluable work in revitalizing Buddhism
in Sri Lanka and India.
Council representatives attend the major functions and observances
of its member groups, working untiringly to increase the communication
and interaction with Buddhist groups in Southern California
and has developed cordial relations with Buddhist groups in
other areas of the country. It has been very instrumental
in the formation of the American Buddhist Congress, the first
national multi tradition organization of Buddhist temples
and centers. The President of the Sangha Council, Ven. Dr.
Ratanasara, was elected its first executive president, and
many other Sangha Council members serve on its Executive Board.
has acted several times as mediator in disputes within the
Buddhist community and provides support and guidance for Sangha
members during times of difficulty or transition. It has also
taken a very active role in assisting temples which are having
problems within the larger community. The Council participates
in Campus ministry by providing chaplains at the University
of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and California State University
at Los Angeles (CSULA) and frequently provides speakers for
classes at various colleges, universities and high schools.
In addition, the Sangha Council is the major contact for the
media regarding Buddhism, and Sangha Council members have
appeared on an increasing number of television programs in
the form of special features, interviews, news reports and
moments of inspiration.
of Buddhist Studies
project of the Sangha Council was the
College of Buddhist Studies. First begun in September
of 1983 and closed in 2003.The College offerd a variety of
courses in Buddhism and Asian languages, both canonical and
modern. The College curriculum was divided into two sections:
the program of academic studies and the program of community
part of the College program was the year long Dharma Teacher's
Course, designed for serious students who wanted a systematic
study of the development of Buddhism from its beginning roots.
in the interfaith community
Sangha Council from its inception has been engaged in numerous
activities with other religious groups. Sangha Council members
met with His Holiness Pope John Paul II at the Japanese Cultural
Center in September 1987, along with leaders in the three
other major non-Christian religious traditions of Judaism,
Hinduism and Islam.
is a city of great ethnic and religious diversity and religious
leaders of many of the great world traditions are working
together as the Inter religious Council of Southern California
to foster understanding and religious tolerance. The Buddhist
Sangha Council is very happy to be an active member of this
valuable organization. Dr. Ratanasara, the past president
of the Buddhist Sangha Council, is a also past vice-president
of the Inter religious body. The Sangha Council joins in all
of the Inter religious Council activities, including dialogue,
conferences, retreats, and development of policy statements.
Other activities include the observance of Nostra Aetate,
Vatican II's statement on respect for the non-Christian traditions,
the annual breakfast to honor Martin Luther King. Jr., as
well as various Jewish observances and holocaust commemorations.
Council has a very cordial and friendly relationship with
both the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the Jewish community
of Los Angeles, with continuing interaction on a variety of
levels with both communities. Of great importance is the ongoing
Catholic Dialogue, which was initiated in February
1989. This dialogue allows representatives of the two religious
belief systems the chance to explore and expand their understanding
of each other. The Buddhist dialogue team, consisting of eight
persons, both clergy and lay, led by Sangha Council president
Ven. Dr. Havanpola Ratanasara, meet with the eight member
Catholic team, led by Father Gil Romero, every month to enhance
deeper understanding of each other and to engage in a more
profound dialogue than words alone can give. The Sangha Council
and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles have frequently
joined in conferences and seminars on various topics, including
the Buddhist-Catholic Retreat and Dialogue at Serra Retreat,
Malibu, California, October of 1998.
plans of the Sangha Council include the offering of Summer
Dharma School for children, the development of Dharma school
materials, the publication of books and pamphlets and the
creation of a central Buddhist library.
it has been in existence for only twenty years and its membership
is not large, the Sangha Council has been the pioneer in promoting
inter-Buddhist cooperation and harmony. It looks forward to
continuing to foster greater friendship and unity for the
development of Buddhism in the United States.
the Buddha Sasana flourish forever