Willimantic, Conn. – Ajahn Boumlieng, a Buddhist monk of the Lao Lan Xang Temple in Willington, CT, spoke at the J. Eugene Smith Library at Eastern Connecticut State University on April 8. The event, titled “The Way of the Elders: Buddhism and the Lao Community in Connecticut,” discussed Theravada Buddhism and Lao culture.
Theravada directly translates to “the way of the elders,” and is among the oldest and most traditional forms of Buddhism. It follows closely to the teachings of Buddha and focuses on meditation. “Meditation is the most important part of my culture,” said Boumlieng. “Meditation can be active or still, but must focus on breath.”
Boumlieng, a native of Laos, has traveled extensively amidst his spiritual journey, learning various Buddhist philosophies along the way. He became a monk 30 years ago at the age of 25, and spent approximately 10 years meditating in Laotian caves to learn his Buddhist routes —a common practice of monks from that area.
Since then he has lived in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and now the United States. He’s been in the United States for about 10 years—Connecticut for six. Boumlieng’s English is limited, but he speaks Thai, Lao, Vietnamese and French fluently.
Speaking of the goal of meditation, Boumlieng said, “The mind is like water; naturally clear, but able to be colored.” The mind is colored by thoughts and emotions, which Boumlieng calls “monkey mind.” Clarity is the state of mind hoped to be achieved through meditation.
In his culture, monks are highly revered and are not expected to work; they are totally supported by the community. Through enlightening themselves, the community benefits, as monks provide a service as teachers and counselors. In Laos, monks are not allowed to use technology, but because of the support they receive, there is no need for it. In Connecticut, however, Boumlieng must occasionally resort to cars and the Internet.