New Kadampa Tradition

The pioneering new Buddhist school that invites pupils to be happy

Derby Telegraph, UK: With teachers who have flown in from across the world and meditation sessions punctuating the day, it is clear that the Kadampa Primary School will be a little bit different.

The independent school in Etwall opened its doors to pupils for the first time earlier this month and 15 have already enrolled, with a further eight applications being processed.

Teachers have travelled from as far away as America and Mexico to be a part of the pioneering new school, which has a curriculum that incorporates Buddhist teachings.

And those behind the venture, near the established Tara Buddhist Centre, have set themselves …

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Dispute closes NKT’s Bexhill Buddhist centre

Maitreya Kadampa Buddhist Centre, Bexhill.

An extraordinary power struggle is tearing apart a Buddhist community in England.

While scouring the headlines for stories that might fit on Wildmind’s blog under the “news” category, I came across the intriguing headline “Dispute closes Buddhist centre,” discussing problems at the Maitreya Buddhist Center of the New Kadampa Tradition, or NKT, in Bexhill in East Sussex.

Unfortunately both newspapers that carried the story had removed the article. But a friend came to the rescue by pointing me toward Google’s cache of the story, and someone on Facebook sent me a link to a blog which presents one side of the dispute (read the blog from the bottom up).

First, a bit of background. The NKT were founded by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and they’re one of the largest Buddhist movements in the UK. Probably in terms of the number of centers they have, they are the absolute largest, although some of the “centers” are no more than rooms rented for an evening class. They have a strong expansionist policy.

The NKT is also famous for the “Dorje Shugden Controversy,” which is, to my mind, a rather weird dispute about a Tibetan Deity. Dorje Shugden is a deity who has been worshipped in Tibetan Buddhism since the 1700s. However, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama came to the conclusion that Shugden is not an enlightened being but is a worldly figure, and he first spoke out against his worship and then issued a ban on the practice. Since Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a firm believer in Shugden, this caused a bitter dispute between the NKT and the Dalai Lama. This puts the NKT in the unfortunate position of being opposed to one of the most popular and revered figures in the world.

This particular story, however, has nothing at all to do with the Dorje Shugden dispute, which is a phenomenon I find weird (it’s a dispute over a figure I consider to be purely imaginary). It seems to have to do more with tensions between an individual, and legally autonomous, local center of the NKT, and the central organization itself, to the point where the central NKT is attempting a takeover. Whether or not they have good reason to do that I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem that they have the legal right to do so, if indeed the local centers are constituted as independent charities with their own boards of trustees.

Bearing in mind that we only have one side of the story presented here, the Maitreya Buddhist Centre, which is a charity registered under English law and with its own board of trustees, ended up with a resident teacher, Kelsang Chodor, who made organizational decisions that were unpopular with the board. A teacher who was asked to stop teaching refused to do so, and when Chodor bypassed the trustees in some of his decision making he refused to meet with them. The newspaper article outlines the background and explains the build-up of the conflict:

A volunteer at the Maitreya Buddhist Centre claims “a traumatic and bitter dispute” has left this former haven of peace changed forever.

Now the building in Sea Road is locked with no sign of when it will be opened again.

Andrew Durling helped set up the meditation centre having been at the start of New Kadampa Tradition meditation classes in Bexhill.

He was one of the trustees when the charity was registered and was responsible for the oversight of administration.

The centre became established and thrived with up to 50 people a week attending regular meditation classes led by resident teacher Lam-ma and other teachers she appointed.

However since she retired there has been a breakdown in the relationship between NKT and the centre’s management team, and from there Andrew and others have struggled to reach agreement with the head office based in Cumbria.

One of the trustees claims that the central NKT tried to replace the board of trustees, which would seem to be an illegal course of action:

The Charity Commission has now replied to the submission made to it by the charity trustees of Maitreya Buddhist Centre many weeks ago. The key element of that reply was that the attempts by NKT head office back at the beginning of March to remove the existing trustees of the centre and to replace them with trustees of the NKT’s own choosing was invalid and a breach of the centre’s own constitution

As the newspaper article puts it, “This appears to have become a struggle for control between a handful of volunteers and the umbrella organization which has more than 1,000 branches throughout the country.”

The blog also alleges that the NKT made “repeated threats of litigation” against the center.

From an organizational point of view I find this fascinating, partly because the organization I’m part of (Triratna) is similarly constituted in such a way that individual centers are independent. But what’s difference we don’t have a “head office” that could attempt a takeover. The most that could happen if a center were, for example, to go off the rails, is that the center could be told that they could no longer consider themselves to be affiliated with the parent organization. This actually happened once, with our Croydon center, where the Order member in charge of the situation there had created a kind of personality cult based on manipulation and bullying. He wasn’t the only person involved, because he had created a kind of “gang” that maintained control using the same techniques he himself employed. After attempts were made to correct the situation through dialogue, Sangharakshita, then founder of the Triratna Order, told the board of trustees that they would have to change their ways or cease being affiliated with the rest of the Triratna Community. And things did change as a result, with the ringleader leaving both the Croydon center and the Order.

The Bexhill situation is also interesting to me simply because it’s got to the point where a Buddhist center is no longer functional because of internal politics. That’s quite an extraordinary situation, and I’ve never head of that happening before. I’m not sensing a lot of dialog going on, which is unfortunate. Of course we don’t really know what’s going on. I’ve only seen one side of the story, and even if I was aware of both sides it would be impossible to be certain of the facts. Unfortunately, as the newspaper reports, “The head office was approached several times for a comment this week but none was forthcoming.”

The NKT has quite a traditional authoritarian structure (traditional for Tibetan Buddhism, anyway), where monks and nuns are basically told where to go and when. The NKT tries to be highly centralized, with the guru making decisions for the local centres, but the local centers are (as I understand it) legally separate entities, and so ultimately the guru (or the central organization) has limited legal control over them. That suggests a fragility in the NKT. Two ways to hold a local center in place when it has problems with the central organization are dialogue and authoritarianism. In this case the NKT seems to have adopted an authoritarian approach, through wielding power.

This following excerpt from the blog reveals a fascinating twist in how this power is being used:

A website purporting to be the official site of Maitreya Buddhist Centre, using the charity’s registration number and using its registered address, is currently active. However, this website is entirely without the sanction of the current legally valid trustees and management team of Maitreya Buddhist Centre, and is in direct conflict with the website that has always been the real official site of Maitreya Buddhist Centre, a site registered with the Charity Commission. This fraudulent website has therefore been reported to the relevant authorities, including the police and the Charity Commission.

Creating an alternative website for the center — one not controlled by the trustees — is an extreme step, or mis-step. It suggests that the NKT is struggling, within an authoritarian mind-set, to bring one of its centers back into the fold of central control.

This tactic, of setting up an alternative website, is one I’ve seen the NKT use before, albeit in a different form. Several years ago, members of a Buddhist Center in England were surprised to discover that the NKT had set up a website using the name of their center, which was not in any way NKT affiliated. This was almost certainly a breach of trademark law as well as a breach of UK charity law. It was also rather unpleasant — a kind of spiritual “phishing” attempt. The situation, fortunately, was resolved through dialog between the two organizations.

Back in the Bexhill power struggle, the blog also describes a new management team being sent in to wrest control from the elected trustees:

It appears that Maitreya Buddhist Centre has now been ‘taken over’ and a new management team is attempting to take charge of the premises. This is as flagrant a violation of charity and company law as it is possible to achieve …

Generally, if the board of trustees is properly constituted, then an outside entity has no legal standing to take over the center. Even the parent body — the NKT — can consider itself to be only the spiritual, rather than the legal, head of the center. [This may not be the case with the NKT, although I believe that charities are meant to be independent and not under central control.]

It seems that having opted for an authoritarian approach, the NKT is finding that it’s not a viable option, or at least not a straightforward one.

I take no pleasure in reporting these events. The situation must be intensely painful for all concerned, and I truly hope that dialog and trust can be restored.

I wonder, however, whether dialogue is now even possible in Bexhill now that the authoritarian path has been chosen? Trust is more easily broken than restored.

This pain is evident both in the comments of Andrew Durling, one of the trustees, who has been at the epicenter of the conflict:

“Whoever ‘wins’ (so called) the situation will find there is nothing left. I am as guilty as anyone else.

“This bold experiment in bringing buddhist meditation to Bexhill has, temporarily at least, failed.”

He said the community had been irrevocably split, with some backing him and others supporting NKT, and added: “It is anyone’s guess whether it will be alright.”

It’s also evident in the comments of a woman who had been attending classes at the Maitreya Centre:

“They have taken my place of worship away from me. It isn’t a proper buddhist centre anymore.”

She added: “It is just awful.

“I won’t go back there, it’s a mess. I am really sad. I want to say – how dare you do this[?]”

As the Buddha said, “Spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life.” It’s worth remembering that as we witness this painful conflict.

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Don’t worry, be happy

wildmind meditation news

Leicester Mercury: Mornings can be a tense part of the day. Rolling out of bed, frantically dressing, scalding your tongue on hot tea, then slamming the door shut and rushing to the nearest traffic jam.

But does it need to be that way?

Today, I was going to do it differently. I was going to start my day with a peaceful meditative half hour at the Nagarjuna Kadampa Buddhist Centre.

Arriving at the conspicuous large black door on Guildhall Lane, Leicester, I didn’t really know what to expect.

But my vision of an incense-filled corridor, with monks draped in saffron robes, chanting ancient mantras couldn’t have been more wrong.

The centre has a playful mix of warm natural colours, wood furnishings and an airy fresh smell. I was almost instantly calmed – there was definitely something about this place.

A magnificent 6ft golden Buddha statue welcomed me into the clean white meditation room.

Surrounded by intricate paintings on Buddhism, comfy pillows and the sweet aroma of lilies, I was ready.

Meditation began within minutes and was led by Kadam (teacher) Chris Heyes, 52, the resident tutor at the centre.

“The mission is to stop thinking,” says Chris.

How do you stop thinking? The truth is that you don’t, well not straight away anyway.

“The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful,” says Chris. “If our mind is peaceful, we shall be free from worries and from discomfort.”

Chris begins by asking the group to clear their minds and “forget about the world outside”.

Having dabbled in meditation before, I was shocked by how many thoughts ran through my mind.

Have I put a ticket on my car? I want some coffee. My back hurts. I must exercise more. I wonder what this building used to be?

The thoughts were endless and useless.

Chris pushed the meditation deeper. “Bring the attention and focus to your body” and shortly after “bring the attention to your breath”.

The trick was to breath in and out, at a natural pace and keep the focus on breathing, nothing else.

Concentrating on something we inherently take for granted was a tough task, but nevertheless it gave something to focus on, away from the mundane thoughts hurtling through my mind.

After several minutes of complete silence, there was an “aha!” moment.

With no distractions and no noise, I found myself plummeting into a calm and thoughtless place. It was bliss. No thoughts; just deep breath and an almost trance-like state.

Chris softly ended the 30 minute session and I finally got that coffee over a chat.

Chris has been practicing Buddhist meditation for more than 20 years and is committed to teaching and helping the community to relieve anxiety and create balance.

“Our aim is not to turn people into Buddhists,” he laughs. “The practice of meditation is to replace negative with positive thoughts.

“People come here to learn simple methods and gain balance in their lives.”

Chris’s quick three-step daily meditation guide is as follows:

The best time for meditation is as soon as the alarm goes and you roll out of bed. Your mind is peaceful and at its calmest.

Sit with your back straight, in a comfortable position.

Close your eyes and concentrate on breathing through your nose for 10 minutes.

“We all have a Buddha nature in us and we all can be enlightened,” says Chris.

So did I enjoy my meditation? Well, I plan to go again on Monday.

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Meditating one’s stress away

A handful of people gathered Sunday morning at the Japanese Tea House in Brand Park to meditate in a class that applies Buddhist teachings for overcoming stress and anger.

The group’s teacher, Caroline Green, with the Kadampa Meditation Center in Los Angeles, advised the class in the beginning to improve their back posture.

“Straight, but not tense,” she suggested. “Place your feet flat on the floor, your right-hand palm on your left, your tongue gently touching the back of your teeth.”

All this for the goal of achieving a “relaxed and alert” state of being, in which the class could deeply breathe in and out. As the first breathing meditation advanced, Green requested that the class ignore stray thoughts and outside sounds, then asked them to picture any stresses “as dark smoke that dissipates in the atmosphere.”

Green, who started meditating in 1998, admitted she is shy and said it’s the reason she declined to teach when she was first asked to do so in 1999.

“But these teachings have helped me so much,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I want to share that with other people? I find that the stuff that used to drive me nuts, now, they just roll of my back. It’s not a problem.”

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Val Bridgeford, 57, joined the class two years ago when she was grieving the death of her mother.

“I saw the flier in the library,” she said. “I thought, for years I’ve wanted to learn to meditate. I tried it on my own and I just couldn’t do it. I thought, maybe this will help me.”

After attending a few classes, she suggested it to her brother, Gerald Bridgeford, 51, who also joined. After working for the same company for 25 years, he lost his job when it went out of business. He decided to go back to school, placing himself in a setting he hadn’t been in for 35 years.

“It helped me incorporate all that I’ve learned here,” Gerald Bridgeford said. “Everybody from class, when they heard I was in meditation, thought I was in a cult. I had to explain, ‘No, these are tools for everyday use to handle problems.’”

In the two years he’s been attending the class, he said his health has also improved.

Green launched into a teaching on anger when the first meditation finished, telling the class how it can destroy a situation and how to be aware of when anger arises. Green also defined anger as placing inappropriate attention on an object, living or inanimate, exaggerating that feeling, then developing a wish or intention to harm.

She emphasized focusing on the faults of anger and acknowledging that anger can often be viewed as something people need, such as in the case of bringing about social uprisings when people see an unfairness and want to be heard.

She suggested applying patience in the face of difficulties.

“[Anger] will take us over if we just go with it,” she said. “When we do those actions, we can’t take them back.”

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Making peace: Let it begin within

Tom Holmes, Wednesday Journal: The contrast could not have been more striking. On Sept. 11, General David Petraeus reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee on how his 168,000 troops were doing in their effort to change the situation in Iraq. Three days earlier two Buddhist nuns and one monk along with 17 members and friends of the Vajrayana Buddhist Center in Oak Park set out on a two-mile Walk for World Peace.

The mood at the Center on that Saturday morning felt much like what you experience in many churches and synagogues as people gather for a fundraiser or advocacy walk. There were hugs, laughter and one in-depth analysis of the Cubs. A scurry of activity included registering names, handing out Walk for World Peace T-shirts and posing for pictures. Armed with water bottles and granola bars, the group began its two-mile amble with two goals in mind:

1) raising awareness about world peace and

2) raising money for the Vajrayana Center

“Our mission is world peace,” declared Rafael Valadez, the walk’s coordinator. Initially that goal might seem unrealistic, grandiose and futile-that is, unless you understand how the Buddhist approach to peace works.

Under the surface, beneath the laughter and admiring of pet dogs and babies in strollers, a more serious and counter-cultural process is being played out. In an interview preceding the walk and again at a “teaching” following the event two days later, Kelsang Lektso, the resident teacher at the Vajrayana Center, explained how she as a Kadampa Buddhist goes about peacemaking.

She quoted the spiritual leader and founder of Kadampa Centers in the West, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, who said, “Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible.” That’s more than a spin on the lyrics of the old peace song, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

“The causes of unhappiness and suffering are not from the outside,” Lektso instructs. “Rather they are states of mind. The cause of our suffering is within our mind.” What causes us to remain stuck in the cycle of suffering and rebirth, she said, are negative states of mind, which they try to replace through meditation with “virtuous states of mind.” For example, in meditation the work of replacing anger with compassion goes on until there is no room left for the negative feeling. States of mind lead to action.

In one of the books for sale at the Center, Joyful Path of Good Fortune, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso writes, “To attain [actual liberation or nirvana] we need to abandon all delusions and contaminated actions which are the source of samsaric rebirths. … The definition of delusion is a mental factor that arises from inappropriate attention and functions to make the mind unpeaceful and uncontrolled.” (p. 310)

Lektso likened the process of abandoning delusions to the pulling of weeds in a garden. Over time and with great effort a gardener can have a weed-free garden in which wonderful vegetables are free to ripen. By pulling the weeds in your mind, i.e. abandoning delusions, you let the Buddha seed in you flower. In the 21 basic meditations, the Buddha, according to Lektso, has given us the practical tools to do this.

“The more we practice,” she said, “the more we rid the mind of bad habits. The spiritual path is about changing the heart and mind. You can eventually feel peaceful all the time.”

Lektso said there are two paths open to every person:

1) try to find peace and happiness by changing the world or

2) find peace and happiness by changing your own mind.

She laughed as she listed examples of how people-and herself at times-have tried to find peace through externals: TV, food, the latest technology. She admitted to being intrigued by iPhones for awhile. The problem, she concluded, is that lasting peace is not possible through externals.

In Buddhism, peacemaking always begins internally and all of the work has to be done by the individual. Kelsang Lamden, the administrator of the center, was a Christian for 50 years before being ordained a Buddhist nun. “Some of the pieces were always missing,” she said. “The trouble with some Christians is the attitude they can do anything they want and then be forgiven in the end. In Buddhism the responsibility lies with each individual and that responsibility is huge.”

Lektso repeatedly emphasized that the methods taught in Buddhism are practical and can be applied by everyone whether they are Buddhist or not. Some, she noted, have called Buddhism a philosophy rather than a religion because God really doesn’t come into the picture at all.

What matters, said the resident teacher at the Vajrayana Center, is that each individual can use the meditation techniques taught here to become more relaxed and peaceful in their everyday life.

In fact, that became the life mission of the spiritual director of all Kadampa Buddhist Centers, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Geshe-la, as he is affectionately called by his students, who was ordained at the age of eight and then spent almost 40 years in intensive studies.

When he came to the West, he learned English and devoted his life to bringing the teachings of Buddhism to everyday people. The brand of Buddhist meditation taught at the Vajrayana Center is likewise very down to earth. Perhaps this practical approach is facilitated by the fact that most Kadampa Buddhist monks and nuns have regular jobs in addition to their service to the “sangha” or community.

Kelsang Lektso didn’t mention the names Crocker or Petraeus once during her hour-long teaching on the eve of their testimony before the Senate committees. Instead she led a 10-minute meditation which focused on replacing anger with compassion in each of the 12 people in attendance.

She coached the people meditating to replace the “unbridled pursuit of happiness through trying to change externals” with a changed state of mind, one that gradually substitutes compassion for anger until there’s no room left for negative feelings.

Can 20 people walking two miles do more to create peace in the world than 168,000 military personnel in Iraq? None of the participants even raised the question. Those, however, who were really into the kinds of meditation taught at the Vajrayana Center would if pushed probably quote Kelsang Lektso who said, “I know from my own experience that it works.”

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Meditate the stress away (Los Angeles Daily News)

Mariko Thompson, L.A. Daily News: David Perrin couldn’t let go of his anxious thoughts. If he dealt with a cranky guest at the hotel where he works, the encounter weighed on him for the rest of the day.

Now when that happens, he just says, “Om.”

The 29-year-old Glendale resident took up the ancient practice of meditation six months ago. By stilling the turbulent thoughts that preyed on his mind, Perrin took control of his emotions and discovered a sense of balance.

“I’m not as reactionary as I used to be,’ says Perrin, who studies meditation at the Khandakapala Buddhist Center in Silver Lake. “I’d blame the other person for making me feel upset. Now I’m much more calm and have more patience.’

Meditation still elicits its share of navel-gazing wisecracks and Zen-master jokes (just ask former Lakers coach Phil Jackson). But these days, meditation is seen as more than a spiritual tool. In a 24-7 society where stress overload has become a natural state, a mini-vacation for the mind might be just what the doctor ordered.

“It’s about time, don’t you think?’ says Dr. Gary Davidson, an oncologist who leads meditation classes at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. “Ever since Descartes split the mind and body, we’ve been trying to put them back together.’

Tools for tranquillity

Chronic stress has been linked to increased risk for hypertension, heart disease and other illnesses. Since most of us can’t retreat to a cave or a monastery, managing stress — not avoiding stress — has become the mantra. Most people try meditation, yoga or tai chi on their own, not from a doctor’s recommendation. Dr. Ka-Kit Hui, director of the UCLA Center for East West Medicine, would like that to change.

Hui says there’s plenty of evidence to show that mind-body therapies such as meditation are beneficial and should be recommended alongside conventional treatments. For example, a patient with hypertension who meditates might be able to take a lower dose of medicine, he says.

“Anything that increases our ability to handle different types of stress in our lives will be beneficial,’ Hui says.

Dr. Jeffrey Brantley of Duke University Medical Center credits Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson for laying the scientific foundation for mind-body medicine. Back in the 1970s, Benson studied the effects of meditation on the body, including heart rate and blood pressure. He coined the term “relaxation response,’ a deep, restful state that serves as a counterbalance to the adrenalin rush known as the fight-or-flight response.

Benson, who founded the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard, provided evidence on how meditation affects the body. Now scientific research is giving clues as to why meditation affects the body, says Brantley, a psychiatrist and director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine.

A preliminary study in 2003 at the University of Wisconsin Medical School compared brain activity in participants who meditated to those in a control group. The meditation group showed an increase in electrical activity in the left frontal region of the brain. According to the researchers led by psychiatry professor Richard Davidson, this area of the brain is associated with low anxiety levels and positive emotional states.

In other words, the reason meditation makes people feel good may be based in biology.

Time to practice

Like learning to play the piano or golf, meditation takes dedication and practice. Beginners may not experience an immediate calming effect as they sit with their eyes closed. Some people experience discomfort at first because the flood of thoughts becomes more intense. By being still, the person is simply more aware of the anxious thoughts, says Brantley, author of “Calming Your Anxious Mind.’

“It’s the natural fruit of paying attention,’ he says. “We tell people who come to our program that the first few weeks might be more stressful.’

Gen Kelsang Lekma, a Buddhist nun who teaches meditation at Khandakapala Buddhist Center, compares the novice’s experience to a radio blaring in the background. The noise has been there all along. With practice, the student learns to switch off the radio.

For the true student of meditation, calming the mind represents only the first step of the spiritual journey. But it’s a crucial one.

“We realize how many thoughts we have — and it’s a shock,’ she says. “We have to know we have the thoughts before we can let them go.’

Original article no longer available…

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Meditating teens: This is your brain on vacation (Dallas News, Texas)

ROBIN GALIANO RUSSELL, The Dallas Morning News: Teens discover special benefits from meditation

If you’re a teenager, you might be chilling out this summer with a good video game, a favorite CD or the latest movie.

But some area teens have learned how to chill through meditation, focusing on breathing and relaxing the muscles to free the mind of distractions.

And unlike other forms of relaxation, the benefits of meditation last throughout the day. Daily meditation helps reduce stress, improve focus and develop positive attitudes, says Gen Kelsang Sangye, a Buddhist monk from England who is the resident teacher at the Vajradakini Buddhist Center for Meditation in Irving.

“Meditation helps us control our mind. Rather than react, you can respond in a peaceful way with gratitude,” he says.

This year, the center offered its first Buddhist summer school for teens, aiming to teach them the fine art of doing nothing. A half-dozen Dallas-area teens enrolled. They learned how to meditate for five or 10 minutes at a time through guided instruction.

Sitting with backs straight, heads tilted slightly forward, feet flat on the floor, eyes closed and hands in laps, they focused on breathing deeply and releasing muscle tension in various body parts, from their foreheads to their toes.

“When our mind becomes still, we become happy,” Gen Sangye says later. “There is so much noise and energy going on, but you realize there is a choice. As an individual, I can choose myself. As a teen, you can be so influenced by those around us that it seems we don’t have a choice. Children have so much energy, but they can focus. It’s giving them the opportunity to do that.”


Brooke Husereau, 15, of Garland
Why she came: “I came to drawing class here a few weeks ago and wanted to learn more. I can find myself here.”

How she does it: “You focus on one thing and really get into it. You learn to take all your thoughts, put them in a bag and leave them outside.”

How meditation makes her feel: “Sometimes I feel stressed before I meditate. After, I’m very relaxed. I like to do it early in the morning when you can hear all the birds. You find yourself. You’re just happy and peaceful.”

Dhiren Parbhoo, 13, of Dallas
Why he came: “My mother signed me up. My dad does meditation. It’s really hard to lose your concentration when it’s guided.”

Why he likes meditation: “It’s calming the mind. It relieves stress and calms you down. It’s kind of a reliever.”

Robin Galiano Russell Allison Braley, 9, of Frisco
Why she likes to meditate: “My mom and dad decided to become Buddhist together. I talk about it a lot with my dad. Meditation helps us get a grasp on our religion and learn what happens to us, to our bodies.”

How she meditates: “You want to have a guided meditation at first. It’s pretty hard. It takes a few times to focus. The best place is outside on a calm, peaceful day. It’s just so calm, like the ocean when no one else is around.”

Alisha Wakefield, 14, of Dallas
Why she came: “The guided meditation keeps you on track. He’ll bring you back. This will get it flowing for me. I’ll do it before bed. Or before and after doing homework. It helps you focus on whatever you want to do.”

How she feels during meditation: “Before, I’m just normal, awake, I guess. After, you’re still kind of in a haze. You have to slowly get out of it. You don’t want to get back to the world. I want to just keep doing what I’m doing. It’s just soothing and relaxing. Like, after a day of doing everything, it’s like taking a bubble bath.”

Nathan Holloway, 15, of Mesquite
Why he came: “I was invited by a friend. I’ve been meditating for four years. I borrowed a yoga book to try it, and it brought me to a state of peace. At first, I used it as an escape. It made me more outgoing, more comfortable with myself and with others.”

How he meditates: “I play peaceful nature music in my room, and I use oil or incense and candles. I use a yoga mat. Actually, a lot of friends call me a hippie. I focus on what happened during the day. I’ve actually meditated up to 45 minutes at a time.”

How it makes him feel: “Before, I’m exhausted from the day and whatnot. During, I’m very relaxed and in a state of peace. It’s quite relaxing. After, you feel very refreshed.”

Why guys need meditation: “It’s hormones. You’re trying to show up. You have to be big and bad to fit in. To be cool, you have to fight. I just turn around and walk off.”

Suhasini Yeeda, 15, of Mesquite
Why she meditates: “When you have a lot of stress, it helps you find peace. It improves your concentration. If you repeat something, it becomes more real.”

How she meditates: “I meditate in my room in the morning. It energizes me. It both refreshes me and it energizes me. I use a meditation handbook. Physically, you feel like you’re not even there, like floating on water.”

How meditation helps teens: “It helps you release attachment. With girls, it’s attachment to guys and to makeup. With guys, it’s anger.”


Gen Kelsang Sangye uses guided instruction to talk the students through the basic steps of meditation. Students are seated with backs straight, eyes closed and hands in laps as they listen:

“Focus on your own body and nothing else. From the crown of your head, down to the forehead. If you have a headache, let that go. Moving down to the face, checking out the area around your eyes, down to the jaw, relax those facial muscles. At the back of the neck, let the tension dissolve into an empty space. Just relax your shoulders. Try to lower your shoulders. Relax the chest area and the stomach. Move around to your back. Focus on your spine. Imagine you’re climbing down your spine. Now the legs, thighs, knees, calf muscles. Spread your toes and any tension dissolves.

“Now your body’s comfortable. Focus on your brain, on your breathing. Feel the breath to the tip of your nostrils,” he says, reminding them there’s a close relationship between the breath and the mind.

“If your mind has moved away from the breath, move it back once more to the sensations of the nostrils,” Gen Sangye tells them.

Gen Sangye then is silent to allow students to meditate. Advanced students might focus on Buddhist virtues such as compassion, patience and wisdom. Beginners concentrate on allowing their minds to rest as they focus only on their breathing.

After five minutes, he gently taps a bell and tells students to slowly open their eyes.

“It’s like being in Texas on a very hot day and finding cool water,” he says. “At the beginning, it’s difficult because our minds are like little fish dancing in the water. After time, our concentration gets better.”

For information on meditation programs at the Vajradakini Buddhist Center for Meditation, visit or call 972-871-2611.

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