Happy 20th Anniversary TBSA
by U Myat Htoo


The Beginnings

In order to effectively cover the beginnings of TBSA, one needs to look at when Burmese Therevada Buddhist movement in the United States started and when it took root. Although several brief Dhamma Duta missions began in 1950's, Burmese Theravada Buddhism only took a firm root in the U.S. as the result of Venerable Taungpulu Sayadaw's premier visit and immediately (about six months later) followed by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw's. The tremendous success of these Sayadaws' visits underscored the need and yearning for the permanent establishment of a Theravada Buddhist Monastery in San Francisco Bay Area.

Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw and his entourage, which included Sayadaw U Silananda and U Kelasa, visited San Francisco in April 1979. Mahasi Sayadaw's visit was a great success with a full program of discourses, meritorious offerings, dhamma talks, visits, etc. At a later stage of the visit, Mahasi Sayadaw agreed to leave behind U Silananda and U Kelasa in San Francisco to fulfill the overwhelming request of Burmese community. During their temporary stay in San Francisco, U Silananda and U Kelasa traveled as far and wide in the Bay Area from San Jose to the East Bay, from Marin County to Contra Costa County, whenever and wherever they were needed or invited by both the American and the Burmese communities. They gave dhamma talks, meditation instructions, performed religious rites among other religious services. That was when the cornerstone for the foundation of a future monastery was laid. Also, people became enthusiastic over the idea of the Sayadaws staying for a much longer period.

In October 1979, TBSA was formed by a group of interested persons. Necessary papers were filed with the State of California to be registered as a non-profit religious organization. In February 1980, the approval of non-profit status by the
State of California was received. Additional persons who expressed interest in TBSA were pulled together and on July 27,
1980 Dhammananda Vihara Monastery was opened at the rented house on 425 Staples Street in San Francisco. Shortly afterwards, U Kelasa moved to Washington, D.C. at the request of Burmese community there.

Daly City Monastery

The congregation has grown steadily under the guidance of Sayadaw U Silananda in the following months. It became apparent that the rented house was no longer suitable and large enough for the functions, festivals, and retreats. A permanent Monastery Committee was formed soon afterwards and a major effort was made to raise funds to purchase a permanent place. Due to the generosity of the people in the Bay Area, California and throughout United States and Canada, enough funds were raised in a few months to purchase a house at 68 Woodrow Street in Daly City in 1981.

As number of dhamma patrons grew, U Sobhana was invited from Thailand to join U Silananda and help TBSA especially when U Silananda traveled out of town to give lectures and retreats. U Jotalankara, then residing in Japan, was later invited to join TBSA. U Nandisena also came to TBSA in the following years. An annex to the main building was added several years later, which helped the monastery to hold small festivals, ordinations, novice initiations, and small meditation sessions. However, larger meditation retreats and festivals still had to be held outside of the monastery due to the growing congregation.

By the early to mid-1990's, because of some past misunderstandings, annoyances and reports by the neighbors, the City of Daly City began investigating the legality of a monastery in a residential area, and began limiting the use of the facility. With
the monastery under scrutiny, Sayadaws felt very restricted and insecure and it became a high priority for TBSA that the monastery to be relocated to a non-residential location.

Successful Establishment of A New Monastery in Half Moon Bay

During mid-1995, the Board of Directors made another major effort to obtain a new monastery. The search included many places, including vacant lots, commercial districts, cities and farmlands in accordance with the minimum requirements set by the Sayadaws. Finally, overcoming many obstacles, the Board of Directors succeeded in the purchase of the current Half Moon Bay property on State Highway 1 directly across from Cowell Ranch State Beach in a peaceful and scenic agricultural setting.

The Monastery was relocated to this new 6.7-acre property in early 1996. There are two residential buildings and an old barn on this property. The newer building becomes the monastery and the smaller and older building is being used as the lunch serving facility for Sayadaws and as the residence for the caretaker. The old barn has been improved to hold religious ceremonies, cultural festivals and also serves as an assembly building. In 1998, U Osadha from Mahasi Meditation Center in Burma joined TBSA. A Burmese nun Daw Sukhakarmi was also invited to join TBSA and help Daw Than Kyi in taking care of the Sayadaws' welfare at the monastery.

Monastery Expansion Project

With comfort and without undue restrictions, Sayadaws can now conduct lectures, small meditation retreats and ordination ceremonies. However, Sayadaw U Silananda's vision is to hold large group discourses for Theravada Buddhism, meditations and weeks-long retreats at the monastery.

TBSA had worked with the County of San Mateo and California Coastal Commission and submitted a plan on September 9, 1997 to expand the monastery for a Meditation Center. The County Planning Commission has unanimously approved TBSA's plan in a Public Hearing held on November 10, 1998. Subsequently, after the approval of the plan TBSA applied for
construction permits for the expansion of the Monastery and a new assembly hall. The necessary permits were received from the County on January 7, 2000.

Currently, TBSA has launched a new major effort to raise funds to complete the meditation center project. This is a rare once-in-a-life-time opportunity for everyone to become a part of this Theravada Buddhist Meditation Center through monetary donations, by pledging your donations, or to purchase materials or patronize parts of the new meditation center. Please call the monastery at (650) 726-7604 for information about the donations, to purchase materials, or available parts of new meditation center and assembly hall. Donors can also make payments for their pledges and purchases in monthly or quarterly installments. With the generosity of our supporters in Bay Area and abroad, TBSA believes that this project will be completed sooner than the projected timeframe.

many generous donors who have already made monetary donations and pledges for this important project for all of us.
With metta.