American Buddhist seminary was founded by the Venerable Madawala Seelawimala (known as Bhante Seelawimala) in 1992 with the help of a small group of committed Buddhists in the San Francisco Bay Area and several senior Buddhist monks living in the United States. With his unique experience in training clergy members for various religious denominations he discovered the urgent need for training Theravada monks and lay teachers for the growing number of Theravada centers in America.
Most of the monks who are currently serving at these Theravada centers have come from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand. These monks are unfortunately not well versed in English. In many cases immigrant parents who are members of these communities have difficulty guiding their children in the Buddhist path without the support of monks who are religious leaders of the community. The monks lack sufficient background in developing communication skills with these immigrant children who are growing up in America. The monks themselves are not fully capable in assisting the parents, mainly due to the language and cultural gaps between the monks and the younger generation of Buddhists whose main language is English. It is common in these ethnic Buddhist communities that these children are gradually drifting away from Buddhism, Buddhist culture and the Temple. The basic trend is that after the first generation of immigrant Buddhists has passed on, within the second generation there will be much fewer active Buddhist followers in these immigrant families.
Earlier Buddhist immigrants, such as the Japanese and Chinese, who came to America about a century ago, found the same dilemma that Theravada immigrant Buddhists are facing today. A half a century later the early immigrants remedied this situation by establishing educational centers for training their clergy in this land itself to be effective teachers among the second generation Buddhists. ABS was established with the purpose of creating such an educational center to prepare monks/nuns and lay teachers for the Theravada Buddhist immigrants who have been arriving for about the last forty years. So far this urgent need for a training center for Theravada clergy in North America has not been fully understood by the Theravada communities in the west. Therefore, the main goal of ABS has yet to be realized.