May 22, 2023
Venerable Piyananda in front of Cottage B in the center of Shanta Vana

Brief Biography – Buddhism in Iran

Bhante was born in 1976 in Iran, where two years later the Islamic revolution took place and the regime of Shia fundamentalists was established in the country. Despite this, the bhante, according to his statement, never accepted the belief in a single Creator God. Perhaps this was a prerequisite for the fact that he was approached by the teachings of the Buddha in middle age. He came to Buddhism through reading Buddhist literature, which was available to a limited extent in Iran. Later, he also had the opportunity to start Buddhist practice, as an official meditation center of Goenka’s vipassana tradition was established in Iran at a time of mild political relaxation. This Buddhist direction presents itself as a non-religious lay movement focused purely on the practice of vipassana (insight meditation). Perhaps that is why the Iranian authorities were initially willing to tolerate this Buddhist school.

Visiting the Rabten center in Liberec

During the less than 10 years of his monastic life in Sri Lanka, Bhante stayed in monasteries of various schools (especially the monasteries following the teacher Pa-Auk Sayadaw, Mahasi Sayadaw). He also practiced in courses with Ajan Bhram and Sujata. He also spent a long time alone in the jungle. He gradually became acquainted with several Czech monks (he is particularly familiar with bhanta Kavidhaja and Pasáda) and was interested in the fact that there is an almost continuous tradition of Czech monasticism in Sri Lanka. And that was one of the reasons why he decided to visit the Czech Republic.

An employee of the center serves food to Venerable Piyanand
New warm clothes for bhante Piyananda

Support the monk’s stay in the Czech Republic

If you would like to contribute to the costs associated with Venerable Piyananda’s stay at Shanta Vana, you can do so by wire transfer to one of the accounts below.

Account number for payments in Czech crowns: 100865722/2250, IBAN: CZ20 2250 0000 0001 0086 572

Account number for payments in euros: 100865802/2250, IBAN: CZ91 2250 0000 0001 0086 5802

Invitation to the Czech Republic

Venerable (bhante) Piyananda is a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk (bhikkhu) of Iranian origin who has been planning to visit the Czech Republic and Slovakia for a long time. In the end, his invitation to the Czech Republic was sponsored by the religious society Theravada Buddhism, and Bhante Piyananda thus obtained a three-month Schengen visa, thanks to which he arrived in the Czech Republic on February 15, 2023.

Bhante Piyananda with a visit to Shanta Vana

A monk in Sri Lanka

Despite the non-religious nature of Goenka’s tradition, the government eventually ordered the center closed. Despite this, the teacher who founded the center continued to teach vipassana underground, which eventually led to his brief imprisonment in 2012. After his release, he had to go into exile. For Bhante Piyananda, this meant the end of the opportunity to practice in Iran, so he decided to continue his practice abroad. He first toured India. Probably influenced by this experience, he decided to become a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, where, in his opinion, Buddhism was preserved in its most original form. Bhante Piyananda was ordained in Sri Lanka in 2013, first receiving lower ordinations (anagarika, samanera) and then full ordination (bhikkhu) less than a year later. Two of his friends also came to Sri Lanka with the same intention. Both eventually put aside their monastic robes and returned to Iran. Bhante Piyananda thus most likely remained the only contemporary Iranian Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition.

Bhante Piyananda during an interview shortly after arriving at Shanta Vana

Stay at Shanta Vana

Bhante Piyananda arrived in the middle of February at the newly snowed Buddhist center of Shanta Vana. However, the freezing weather did not pose a major problem for him. According to him, in Tehran, where he grew up, they had snow every year in winter, and even though he had not seen it for more than ten years, he acclimatized very quickly. Of course, we had to dress Bhante in warm clothes, because he arrived from tropical Sri Lanka in only a monk’s robe and sandals. We first donated used winter clothes to Bhante. Later we bought him a jacket, a cap, warm socks and quality shoes. At the center, our employee prepared food for the bhante every day. Every day, bhante Piyananda received breakfast and lunch according to monastic rules (Buddhist monks can only take solid food in the morning). During his stay, he also visited the Rabten Čhödarling center in Liberec several times. The monks of Liberec invited him to visit their main monastery in Switzerland. Bhante is also planning to visit the center of Javorie in Slovakia.

Bhante’s breakfast on Shanta Vana