Reading and re-reading the Dhammananda Newsletters old and new invariably bring us piti (immeasurable joy and satisfaction). This is probably true for those who contributed invaluable time and money to make the newsletters possible; they too will rejoice at their Dhamma Dana (which is the best form of alms giving). The newsletters would not have realized without the ovada (exhortation) of Sayadaw U Silananda, the blessing and support of Sayadaw U Sobhana, the supervision (in addition to the writing and editorial skills) of Sayadaw U Jotalankara and Sayadaw U Osadha, and last but not the least, the cooperation of U Nandisena (contributor to our newsletter and the web master of the Spanish version of the TBSA web site). The Dhammananda newsletter has to a large extent been instrumental for the propagation of the sasana and it thus provides (spiritual) benefits to the volunteers/donors.
Dhammananda newsletter was given birth about the same time as TBSA (Theravada Buddhist Society of America). In the beginning, it was simply named Newsletter and was written, printed and published by the Executive Committee members and the Board of Directors. Around 1980, the newsletter had two or four pages and was written entirely in English. Sayadaw U Silandanda's articles on "Burmese Festivals" and "Sayings of Lord Buddha" would grace the cover page. The EC members would take turns to write news, TBSA activities, fund drives, etc.
The early history of TBSA can be found in a newsletter with the following
address: No. 425, Staples St., San Francisco. On the front cover page,
I was delighted to see photos of "Sayadaw U Silananda conducting the opening
ceremony of the Dhammananda Vihara" and "Sayadaw approaching the monastery".
There were excerpts from the speech given at the opening ceremony by Dr.
Theodore M. Vestal, President, California Institute of Asian Studies. In
the inside pages, I read
the exhortation by Sayadaw U Silananda, and excerpts of the speech given by Dr. Tin Wa, Joint Secretary, TBSA. There was a notice to readers about the forthcoming vipassana retreat. On the back cover page were pictures of Sayadaw U Silananda, map/directions of the monastery, and a request for pledges/contributions. Although there was no publication date on that newsletter, from the context, we can surmise that it was published in the August of 1980. Though two decades have passed, that newsletter is a document of an important milestone in the history of TBSA. From the early part of 1990, the newsletter carried advertisements at nominal costs from Burmese professionals and industrialists. The news and a wide range of articles were published using English and/or Burmese.
Looking at the old newsletters, I feel the immense metta and cetana of the contributors, editors, and publishers. To them, I say "Sadhu" numerous times. The newsletters did not get to the readers easily. Despite obstacles and the ups and downs, the EC members were determined to deliver the newsletters to donors/members of TBSA. The newsletter is now celebrating the 20th anniversary along with TBSA. It would not have been possible without the indefatigable EC members of years past. Their efforts have been learnt first hand from the tasks we had to do to produce the present and some previous newsletters.
In 1996, after the Dhammananda Vihara monastery had been relocated from Daly City to Half Moon Bay, the TBSA formed subcommittees to delegate specific tasks for the propagation of sasana. The Newsletter subcommittee headed by U Tun Lin faced a daunting task of updating and maintaining the TBSA mailing list. Ko Maung Maung Aye, a member of the Newsletter subcommittee, rose to the occasion and single-handedly updated the list using the donation receipts. We owe him thanks.
The articles by Sayadaw U Silananda are read eagerly by Buddhists from USA and all over the world. We requested Sayadaw to write special articles for the newsletter and to allow us to transcribe some of his well known Dhamma talks for posterity. To answer questions about Buddhism, Sayadaw U Jotalankara came forward to pen the column "Questions and answers about religious affairs". The column debuted in the February, 1997 issue.
Ko Thant Lwin Oo volunteered to improve the look and feel of the newsletter
and the web site. Ko Aung Zaw Maung,
past Secretary of TBSA and editor/publisher of previous newsletters, offered his desktop publishing expertise. With more dedicated and professional members, the newsletter team felt joyous and energetic. We decided to name the newsletter Dhammananda Newsletter. Ko Aung Zaw Maung came up with the cover design. U Nandisena offered to write articles about Dhamma in foreign lands. We requested Ko Nick (Nicholas Lee, a talented cartoonist) to join the team. Ko Ye Sint offered to collect manuscripts from the authors and to address, stamp, collate and post the newsletters when they are ready from the print shop. With collective effort, the Dhammananda newsletter with a brand new design debuted in May, 1997. U Tun Lin, chair of the newsletter subcommittee, oversaw the printing phase and coordinated with the youth volunteers from Daly City, and the family of Hai K Chin from South San Francisco. They all helped to minimize the cost of publishing the Dhammananda newsletter.
For the English reading youths, the illustrated stories by Nick (Nicholas Lee) and Thant (Ko Thant Lwin Oo) were attractions. With Daw Wai Wai Lwin writing for Shwe Thway (Kids), the Dhammananda newsletter was able to make young readers aware of fundamental concepts of Buddhism. In July 1997, U Osadha arrived at the Dhammananda Vihara and immediately started contributing Dhamma articles. Starting from this special Anniversary issue, U Hla Min (who is an editor for RIT Alumni International and BAPS newsletters) will be contributing and editing articles for the Dhammananda newsletter and the TBSA web site.
The objectives of the newsletters are to propagate sasana to the Bay Area and beyond, to promote and maintain Burmese culture, and to continue the tradition of helping fellow Burmese and those with Burmese roots. As the quantity of the manuscripts multiplied, so did the quality of the selected articles. Numerous readers asked for reprints of some articles. Sayadaws U Jotalankara and U Osadha gave helping hand for the smooth publication of the newsletter. Despite his busy schedules, Sayadaw U Silananda unfailingly edited most of the articles for clarity and style.
It's almost twenty years since the TBSA Executive Committee members started publishing newsletters for the propagation of the sasana. Those vintage newsletters are still timely and informative. The early EC members set the stage by doing more than share of duty. We will uphold that tradition. Years from now, we would like to be able to say truly and honestly that we tried our best to produce excellent quality newsletters with minimum cost. Every one on the newsletter team has striven for the best, but it is possible that there may be unintentional errors and omissions. There will be room for improvement, no matter how hard we try.
In accordance with saying "Of all the dana, the Dhamma Dana is supreme", we are proud to offer "a brick, a grain of sand [in building a pagoda]" (a Burmese idiom meaning play a part) for the true grand alms giving -- disseminating Dhamma via this newsletter.