Buddhist meditation center planned for Grange Hall in Northville

Grange Hall in Northville is set to add another incarnation to the long list of lives it has led since it was built in 1831. The Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center is in contract to purchase the hall after searching for a new space to accommodate its growing membership.

The Buddhist meditation center, a nonprofit currently based in Port Jefferson, plans to use the second floor of the 186-year-old hall on Sound Avenue for meditation practices. The first floor will remain open to the community for different groups and activities, said Don Jayamaha of Mattituck, who donated the center’s current space in 2008.

“We want to keep it open for anybody to use it,” Mr. Jayamaha said Monday, comparing it to how the Jamesport Meeting House is used.

In 2014, former pastor Dianne Rodriguez of First Parish Church, which owned the hall, said the church hoped a nonprofit that “nurtured itself and its own passion, whatever that passion may be” would fill the space.

Grange Hall was the original sanctuary for First Parish Church and became a school, the Northville Academy, in 1860, local historian Richard Wines told the News-Review in 2014. The space later became a community center for local farmers who belonged to the National Grange, a nonprofit that advocates for rural America and agriculture, he said.

Mr. Wines will advise the group, including Mr. Jayamaha and the center’s resident monk, Bhante Nanda, as they look to restore the building and keep its history intact.

“I want to make sure it’s preserved like it was back in 1831,” Mr. Jayamaha said.

He mentioned that vision for the hall includes a white picket fence and American flag out front, as it was once captured in a photograph in its earlier days.

The group raised $53,000 in donations toward the purchase and will continue to raise funds to make improvements to the building, according to center. It has also created a GoFundMe page for the move.

The center is open to all and the meditation programs are free, though donations are encouraged, Mr. Jayamaha said.

“We want it to be affordable to everybody — that’s the key,” he said, adding that there are 25 to 30 people from around Long Island who frequent the center. What’s special about the center, he said, is that it not tied to a religion and people from different faiths participate in the mediation programs.

“It is strictly meditation,” he said.

Anthony Manetta of Ridge, who has been attending the meditation programs regularly for about a year, said more people might attend if there’s more space, as it’s become difficult to get a seat at the Port Jefferson location, potentially turning people away.

“I can’t wait for it to happen,” Mr. Manetta said, noting that the move will be a “big undertaking.”

The center will continue fundraising for building materials and hopes to get the surrounding community interested, he said.

Videos on the center’s Facebook page give a glimpse into weekly chanting and evening meditation programs. In one, a chorus of chants is led by resident monk Bhante Nanda. He then guides a group through meditation, with thoughts to be mindful of: “May I be well, happy and peaceful” and “May I be free from anger.”

“Breathe in, breathe out,” he says in long phrases. Then, it’s quiet as the camera turns to face the center’s Buddha and the group meditates.

Mr. Jayamaha said meditation helps him keep his mind “strong like a mountain and calm like the bottom of the ocean” in any given situation, something friends at his accounting job in Hauppauge often marvel at and jokingly ask if he’s taking some sort of medication.

“It’s not medication,” he tells them, “It’s meditation.”

The goal is to have the meditation center begin using Grange Hall on June 1, Mr. Jayamaha said.

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