In January, SuZanne Driscoll of Port Jefferson spent two weeks in Sri Lanka with friends from the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center in Riverhead.
Driscoll said she exited a plane, saw friendly faces, and felt no threat of danger during her time there. Sri Lanka, she recalled Tuesday, is a country "rich with culture and steeped in spirituality."
"It was probably one of the highlights of my life since having my kids," Driscoll said of her trip.
Tuesday night, Driscoll was among a group of about 40 who took part in a spiritual ceremony at the meditation center to pay homage to those who died in a series of Easter bombings in Sri Lanka. The bombings targeted churches, hotels and other sites. More than 300 people were killed and 500 injured in the attacks, which Sri Lankan authorities have blamed on a militant Muslim group. Most of those who have died were Sri Lankans, but also among those killed were Americans and citizens of Britain, China, Japan and Portugal.
Memories of her trip to Sri Lanka rushed back to her Saturday when she learned of the bombings, Driscoll said.
On the day of the attack, Driscoll, a Buddhist, said she was celebrating the Sri Lankan New Year. She visited a different meditation center that day, had tea, and meditated late into the evening.
"I realized that, as I was drinking tea," Driscoll said, "ten and a half hours away, there was a massacre."
The Riverhead meditation center's monk, Bhante Kottawe Nanda, said the Easter bombings were carried out by people with misguided minds that were led to hate.
"The mind is a powerful tool in which, when trained, can do good," he said. "But when untrained, it can lead to devastating actions."
Nanda led Tuesday's participants in a water ceremony that symbolized their transferring of good merits to those who died so they can be reborn into a life of peace and happiness. He said the most important thing for Buddhists to do is spread more love and compassion to their fellow man.
"At a time like this, we should not spread anger and hatred or keep blaming people who did this," he said. "The whole world should get together and discuss openly to discover the roots of this."