Hanson said the church is open to different ideas and is supportive of the monks. For the past five years, the church has hosted Tibetan monks for an event in which the monks arrange colored sand in patterns as part of a sand Mandala, an ancient Tibetan art form, she said.
The monks with the Oklahoma Buddhist Center said Buddhism seems to draw people for many different reasons, and their own journeys to the Buddhist monastic life are no exception.
Ananda said Piyaratana entered a Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka to become a Buddhist monk when he was 11 years old, an occurrence that isn't uncommon in areas where Buddhism is prevalent.
“You wouldn't see people here doing that,” he said.
He said he and Santikaro were not raised as Buddhists and yet they found themselves on the path to Dhamma.
The youngest of the trio, Santikaro, said he traveled the country with his military family — and ended up staying in Moore, where he finished his high school career. He said he grew up attending independent Baptist churches and became interested in Buddhism in 2008 after seeing a friend meditate.
“He looked happy and peaceful,” Santikaro said.
He said he began doing research on Buddhism and eventually found a Buddhist temple to attend and also met Piyaratana. Santikaro said for three years, he began preparing to become a Buddhist monk, paring things like his cars and his Xbox from his life. He said his parents were supportive because he was doing what made him happy. Friends, too, were encouraging; but they wanted him to be sure he really wanted to live a life without a girlfriend or money from the pursuit of a traditional career field.
“They were making sure that this was something that I really wanted to do,” he said.
Ananda said Buddhist monks are not required to make any vows, but they are asked to free themselves of attachments and things that would keep them from committing to living out Dhamma teachings and educating others about Dhamma.
Ananda, a Hawaii native, said he was brought up in the Catholic tradition, and only after the death of his parents did he fulfill his goal of pursuing the Buddhist monastic life. He said he worked for many years as an interventionist, regularly helping people in crisis situations.
He said he was exposed as a youth to Buddhism when he visited the Buddhist temples of some of his Japanese friends. After his parents' death, a friend who was a Buddhist monk helped him connect again to the Buddhist tradition, Ananda said.
Ananda said he and Santikaro met at a Buddhist monastic community in Texas and came to Oklahoma to help Piyaratana with his growing Buddhist center.
“We are sojourners,” he said.
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