By Naomi Farahan
firstname.lastname@example.org | @naomifarahan
Buddhists don’t necessarily believe in conversion, but teaching Buddhist philosophy is central to the religion, Buddhist monk Jamyang Lama said. Lama, originally from Tibet but now a Bloomington resident for almost 20 years, is one of four resident monks at the Gaden KhachoeShing Monastery.
The monks will soon begin a new introductory course on Buddhist philosophy and meditation at the monastery.
Monks and experienced students facilitate the course. Each roughly hour-long session covers a different teaching within Buddhist philosophy, Lama said.
The course is offered at 10 a.m. every Sunday starting Sept. 4.
“Our main goal is to create an opportunity to the people, to the community, to the students, so they can learn Buddhist teachings, understand Buddhist teachings and stuff like that,” Lama said.
Each session begins and ends with meditation and includes a question-and-answer discussion period.
The lessons are not specifically geared toward people who intend to practice Buddhism.
Therapist Suzy Fulkerson is a board member at the monastery and a long-time student of Buddhist philosophy. A teacher for some of the classes, Fulkerson said the discussion topics are broken down to be easily incorporated into everyday life.
Subjects include the meanings of karma, meditation, love and compassion, emotions and understanding suffering, Lama said.
Lisa Farnsworth, a senior lecturer at the Maurer School of Law and a legal adviser for Gaden KhachoeShing, has been a student at the monastery since its founding.
She was introduced to Buddhism in 1994 when she attended a lecture by a visiting lama, or teacher. She has previously led discussions in introductory courses on Buddhist philosophy.
“I think most of the time when people come, what they’re looking for — most of us are looking for — trying to find some sense in our lives, some purpose in our lives,” Farnsworth said. “How to have happier lives, how to have lives that are more fulfilling.”
Buddhism addresses the suffering in people’s lives and the cessation of that suffering, she said.
She said through these classes, students can gain of awareness of their personal suffering and of the suffering of others. This awareness can lead people to change their behaviors to reduce the pain in their lives.
Teaching is an integral part of Buddhism, Lama said. The monastery offers ongoing classes that can last for several years until students are ready to move to a more advanced level of understanding.
The monastery’s environment is relaxed. Lama said the classes are held in the original temple, established in the late 1990s in Lower Cascades Park.
The monastery does not charge for this program but does accept donations.
Lama said attendance in the class ranges from 10 to 40 people. While the course is open to the entire Bloomington community, Fulkerson said she hopes more IU students join.