Saturday, January 20, 2018
News Roundup

Young Tampa monk seeks to build a monastery here


A Buddhist monk and a mystery novelist live in a suburban rental home with a 10-foot-tall Buddha in their living room. The golden statue was a gift from two monasteries up North. It came from Sri Lanka in April, wrapped in monks' robes, tucked into a box, shipped on a boat and then transported by pickup truck. It took four men to carry it, the French doors removed to get it inside this place, which is called a monastery, but barely scrapes by, strictly speaking. • Even the two men who live here agree the title of Mahamevnawa Meditation Monastery Florida is a dream. Their reality is a place of little beauty, a corner house on Doerun Court, just north of Northdale and a mile east of N Dale Mabry Highway. It has a broken, bleached basketball backboard in front. Their meditative walking path of sand is cut into brittle grass in the back yard. There is little shade.

The 27-year-old monk leads meditation classes and events here, at the rental home, and on the road, Naples, Sarasota, Miami, New Jersey. Their local group has about 60 regulars. The monk and his roommate — author Walter Satterthwait, 67, tall, thin, the author of 14 novels, many featuring the evil humans do — are raising money to create an actual monastery somewhere in Tampa Bay, preferably in the woods by a lake; a peaceful place where tranquility isn't so difficult to achieve. They would love for someone to donate land.

It has been tough for the monk, who has lived here for nearly a year after being invited to come by his branch of Buddhism, Mahamevnawa, which is within Theravada Buddhism. In the pendulum of beliefs, Mahamevnawa is on the fundamentalist side, a movement following the origins of Buddhism.

In Sri Lanka, the young monk lived in a lush forest monastery. People waited on the streets to give monks food. He and his life and purpose weren't foreign.

But here, today, he is patient.

He visualizes the monastery they want to build in Florida and the people they hope to help.

"In the beginning, I have to bear this," said the monk, whose name is Bhante Saddhasara Thero. He is short and solid, with a shaved head and a gentle smile, his skin a warm brown. His feet are bare and he wears a red robe wrapped over one shoulder.

He would die without Satterthwait.

In his belief system, a monk lives the life of a beggar. This means the monk has to be given everything he consumes.

"People do for me," he said.

If he is thirsty, he cannot get himself a glass of water. If he is hungry, he can't make himself a plate of food — even if that food was originally given to him. Leftovers have to be handed to him again. He is not allowed to deal with the things of the world that would distract him from his studies: novels or TV shows, cash or gems, or alcohol.

"The ladies," the monk says.

The monks live such a celibate life, they do not shake a woman's hand.

He is absolutely reliant on his roommate.

"This is why I am here," Satterthwait said. "This is my function."

Satterthwait, who favors a wandering life, found the fledgling monastery a few years ago, when a friend recommended its meditation class. He has studied Buddhism for 20 years, but embraced this special meditation called jhana. It was so powerful, he said, "I ceased to exist."

He became a regular. A previous monk lived there then. Satterthwait, who is divorced, was asked if he was interested in the job of caring for the monk. The job pays nothing, but housing and food are free. It sounded good to him and he has lived there since, other than six months when he left to live in Grenada. He has bounced from place to place throughout his adult life. Whenever he got advances for his mystery and historical fiction, the money was never enough to let him live in the States, so he went where his money would stretch. Thailand. Greece. England. France. Kenya.

In 1999, he decorated a Winnebago with the cover and bar code of his book, Masquerade, a murder mystery set in 1920s Paris, and launched a six-month cross-country book tour. The Winnebago is long gone. Satterthwait doesn't own a car. He doesn't want one. He rides around on a bike outfitted with the same kind of engine found in weed trimmers. This is what he takes to get groceries.

"We live simply," he said.

He cooks the monk breakfast and lunch. The monk loves omelets. To encourage moderation, the monk is forbidden to eat after noon. On a recent day, Satterthwait made a green chili stew from New Mexico for lunch. The monk was excited to try it. He's had some very strange things while living in Florida.

"Blueberry waffles," he said. He liked them.

Satterthwait teaches the monk English and American culture.

"I showed him Elvis Presley," Satterthwait said.

In the afternoons, the monk meditates and studies. Satterthwait writes. He's currently rewriting a sequel to his novel Miss Lizzie, set three decades after Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother, when a neighbor turns up dead. He wrote a sequel previously, but it was only published overseas. He hopes to have this new sequel done by the end of summer.

His work often sold big in France and Germany, but he never became a household name in the States. He would still like that, though it's a delicate thing in Buddhism, to desire without expecting a certain outcome. Fame, he said, would be nice, but "it doesn't define who I am."

He said, though, it would benefit people to read his books because they are so good.

"I'm a kinder person," he said of the influence the study of Buddhism has played on his life.

"I'm a kinder egomaniac."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3405.

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The early days of the federal government shutdown won’t slow the U.S. economy much. No workers are missing paychecks yet, and because it is a weekend, few businesses expect to feel the effects of lost customers or suppliers.That could change, quickly...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Diver drowns in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver drowns in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday was investigating a drowning at the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost their lives at the site.S...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

TAMPA — Many times during Sinfonietta, Leoš Janácek’s notoriously difficult but joyous work, it was impossible for a regular patron of the Florida Orchestra to escape this observation: They have never sounded quite like this.This isn’t to say musicia...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Forecast: Tampa Bay’s bitter cold snap is finally over

Forecast: Tampa Bay’s bitter cold snap is finally over

Tampa Bay is finally clear of the bitter chill that covered the region this week as temperatures picked up on Saturday. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around t...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Updated: 8 hours ago
More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

Florida’s dip into frigid temperatures did more than just stun humans unused to such cold air. This month scientists and volunteers have rescued more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles from a single bay in the Florida Panhandle.The U.S. Geological S...
Published: 01/20/18
Romano: If UCF is national champion, then I’m a Hollywood stud

Romano: If UCF is national champion, then I’m a Hollywood stud

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said people were entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.Clearly, Moynihan never dealt with Florida legislators.Because around Tallahassee, facts are fungible. They aren’t just up for debate, they...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON — The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunctio...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/20/18