For this paper, I chose to observe the Ohio Buddhist Vihara monks who reside in Mt.
Healthy. I had always been interested in Buddhism as it seems like such a very
spiritual and mystical religion.
My perception of Buddhism was one of monks that were cloistered from the
outside world, supported their monastery by their own means of living off the land,
producing goods to sell, and observing vows of silence. I envisioned many acres of
land secluded from the outside world and curious eyes. I was wrong on most
The monks reside in a modest frame home set close to the street, with a minivan
parked in the driveway. It was no different than any other house on Miles Road in
the middle of suburbia. I was greeted at the front door by Venerable Koppakande
Sumanajothi, one of the 5 resident monks at Vihara. As is customary, I removed my
shoes prior to entering and walked into a typical middle class house. We sat in the
study for our interview.
Inquiring about his background, and how the monks ended up in Cincinnati from
Sri Lanka, a small island off of the coast of India, Sumanajothi proceeded to tell his
story of his religious journey. Born in Sri Lanka, he completed 4 years of higher
education before being ordained a monk in 1986. At the invitation of a monk living
in California, he was invited to the monk’s residence to learn the culture of America
for the next 8 years. With the blessing of his mentor, he came to Cincinnati to
establish the Vihara temple in the late 1990’s. The “temple” is a room in the house
where the monks reside, with an altar and a humongous, gold statue of Buddha at
the front of the room. Members of the temple, which currently number about 60 in
the Tri State, are permitted to come and use the temple at any time.
His answer to my question of how many times a day do Buddhists pray surprised
me. Buddhists don’t pray- they chant the teachings...