A certifiable Soular Power Station beeps onto my radar. Now, here I am in West Hills, Los Angeles, sitting across from a very robust-looking Buddhist monk, drinking a cup of freshly-made Chai tea.
It’s over 100 degrees outside, but inside this comfortable house-turned-temple, the atmosphere feels just right. The monk offers me a cookie before settling into a chair beside the sunny window. I take a cookie. Then I start asking questions.
Born in Sri Lanka in 1975, Shantha became a monk at the age of 12. He journeyed to the United States in 2009 with a vision: to create a retreat center. I look around, admiring the open meditation spaces, scenic paintings, and enormous statues that punctuate the property.
Shantha goes on to explain the major division in Buddhist philosophy.
Teravada is wisdom-based, and very structured. Devotees are careful to follow the sutras, a sort of manual for the art of living. Sutra literally means a thread or line that holds things together. Mahayana is compassion-based, and relatively subjective according to the present-moment perception of the devotee. Whatever feels most kind is the right thing to do.
But a person needs a blend of wisdom and compassion in order to be self-sustainable. When you get to the root of it, he says, the division disappears. This seems to be true of other concepts, too. The deeper your practice, the more you see it is all the same.
Shantha is forging his own happy trail, a philosophical merger grounded in his own understanding. For example, Yoga and Karate are not traditionally practiced by monks. As an acupuncturist, however, Shantha understands the importance of movement for the body. So he practices and teaches Yoga, Karate, Meditation, and Healing. He teaches whoever wants to learn. And he does it for free, because this is the way he learned it himself.
Sitting in a sunbeam, ageless and handsome, it’s natural to wonder how Shantha manages without certain, um, creature comforts. “People are always looking for satisfaction,” he explains with a smile. “But this longing creates a struggle. Through wisdom and meditation you see that the satisfaction in external things doesn’t begin to compare with the satisfaction dwelling within.”
Shantha’s teaching style encourages people to be more of who they are; to harness their own power, rather than following something outside of themselves. Indeed, Shantha is a Soular Power Technician if I ever met one! “It isn’t about all of this,” he says, gesturing to the statues of the Buddha and his robes. “These are just symbols and pointers. Sometimes they help people get started. But finding peace or making change—that is something people do with their own understanding.”
His job is simply to offer tools. To listen, to share, to guide, to hold space for the sacred process of transformation that can neither be faked nor forced. Shantha teaches in various temples and visits people in their habitations, while offering classes and events in his Shanthi Nikethanaya Buddhist Center.
The center originated as a four-bedroom home on a residential street. The garage has been converted to a Yoga and Karate studio, while the living room, furniture-free, holds an enormous altar. All of the common areas, both inside and outside, have been transformed into intentional gathering places. There is an impressive amount of creative engineering, custom building, and art at work here. While it functions as a temple, it feels like a home. This is compelling; it speaks to accessibility and everyday relevance. Indeed, Shantha’s messages tend to draw from the simple things of everyday life, because that is how it’s really lived.
Before I leave, Shantha tells me he is going to do a chanting and blessing for me. He directs me to the altar, where I light a candle and some incense, arranging myself on a cushion. Shantha speaks some words in English, setting the intention for blessings and protection as I walk out into the world. Then he begins to sing, a beautiful melodic chanting in a sacred language called Pali. Although I don’t understand the words, I feel a tingling wave of energy wash over my head and down into every cell of my being.
This monk holds a key to happiness, but he can’t give it away. Rather, he provides a living workshop, a tool shed, a place to go and whittle and hone the very skeletal structure of your body-mind. He’ll inspire, encourage, and nourish you while you forge a personal key to the door of your uniquely infinite potential for joyful freedom.
Meet the monk and see what’s happening at his peace pad! www.shanthinikethanaya.com