Triratna Buddhist Community members in the northern English city of York have opened the doors to their expanded Dharma center. The official reopening took place in October last year, which has enabled the Buddhist group to increase its offerings to the local community.
As reported previously by BDG, the center is based in a renovated coffee shop.* Maintaining the large glass windows of the former café, meditators sit facing a golden Buddha statue at eye-level with passers-by outside. Japanese-style screens stretch out across the floor, providing privacy while allowing light to filter through.
Shakyapada, the chair of the center, said: “We want to continue to grow because we want to help more people to be happy. Our members say it feels like coming home. We’re just ordinary humans who have discovered the path to happiness.” (The York Press)
She continued: “People are fed up. They feel like something is lacking in their lives. They experience losses, depression builds up, and [they] go through existential crises. People are looking for contentment, though Buddhism is not a bed of roses—we are encouraged to meditate and face those things.” (The York Press)
In the new space, members of the York Buddhist Centre have already expanded their classes on Buddhism and meditation. The center regularly sees 50–60 members each week for a variety of meditation sessions, offered at lunchtimes, in the evenings, and on Saturdays.
Mark Jones, a center trustee, said in an interview: “We want to keep contact with everyone. When we first started, we knew everybody, and we want to keep that sense of inclusiveness.” (The York Press)
Jones continued: “There is a great emphasis on friendship here and everyone is made to feel welcome. We take everyone as they are. Nobody has to become a Buddhist to come here, and people can come as often and for as long as they like.” (The York Press)
Weekly Sangha nights each Wednesday bring the community together to deepen their practice and friendship. Weekly classes are also offered for those interested in a more structured introduction to Buddhism. The next course is scheduled to begin on 24 January, with registration available on the York Buddhist Centre website.
Shakyapada, an order member, said: “A lot of the modern secular well-being teachings, such as mindfulness, [are] based on Buddhist ideas, but we go more into depth. The Buddha wasn’t really a prophet; he was more of a philosopher. He just wanted people to be happy and he’d found the secret.”
The York Buddhist Centre is a part of the Triranta Buddhist Community (TBC), formerly Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO). The order was founded by Urgyen Sangharakshita (an Englishman, born Dennis Lingwood). Sangharakshita was ordained as a Theravada monk after studying with teachers in India following the Second World War. Sangharakshita’s vision was to update Buddhism for the modern world, incorporating teachings from different schools and utilizing the language and insights of Western philosophy and psychology to appeal to a new audience.
According to Shakyapada, the new style works well. “It’s transformed my life, before I used to be really dissatisfied and very unhappy; I had money, a partner, and a house, but I was fed up,” she said. “Now I’ve learned to accept things the way they are and change my attitude towards life.”
York Buddhist Centre
York city centre café set to become Buddhist Centre (YorkMix)
York Buddhists plan bigger centre (The York Press)