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Buddhist community slowly growing in Abbotsford

Local Buddhists have been enjoying their new and semi-permanent home as a part of the Abbotsford community at the Dorjechang Centre, which opened September 2011. Hoping to expand further and spread peace and relaxation to stressed and overworked university students was a dream cut short as UFV’s Continuing Studies department turned down an application by the Dorjechang Centre to teach a meditation class through UFV.

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By Grace Romund (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: May 9, 2012

Local Buddhists have been enjoying their new and semi-permanent home as a part of the Abbotsford community at the Dorjechang Centre, which opened September 2011. Hoping to expand further and spread peace and relaxation to stressed and overworked university students was a dream cut short as UFV’s Continuing Studies department turned down an application by the Dorjechang Centre to teach a meditation class through UFV.

Resident teacher of the Dorjechang Buddhist Centre, Gen Kelsang Sanden is a western Buddhist monk who has taught meditation all over the Lower Mainland, Vancouver and across BC.

“Years ago I was at the Vancouver centre, and we were requested for classes out here [in Abbotsford], that’s generally often how Buddhist meditation classes started,” Sanden said. “I did a talk at the library and 21 people came. We thought that was a fair amount of interest and so we started a regular class at Legal Grounds Coffee House. We were there for many years; that’s where it all began.”

After coming to Abbotsford every week for a year-and-a-half, the Kadampa Buddhist community decided there was enough support for Buddhist meditation in Abbotsford and the surrounding area (as classes also began and continued in Langley and Mission) to open a centre in the Fraser Valley. Abbotsford, as the epicentre of the support, was the natural choice for this new centre.

Up until September of last year, the two previous locations of these Buddhist centres were private houses – one on James Street and a second on Trinity Street, where they remained for five years.

“And now [Dorjechang Centre] is our public face,” Sanden explained, “because before … we could meet and that, but people from the public wouldn’t feel that comfortable coming to a private house.”

The Dorjechang Centre is twice as big as any location the Buddhist community in Abbotsford has occupied before. It includes several meditation rooms of varying sizes, a reception area and bookstore, a communal meeting space and kitchen, as well as Sanden’s living quarters as resident teacher.

One of the main purposes for the centre is to conduct meditation classes. During meditation classes offered by the centre, the teacher instructs in Buddhist methods of meditation as a way to relieve stress, be more peaceful and happy.

While Sanden noted how pleased he and others have been at the Dorjechang Centre so far, Sanden also thought it would be natural to expand into classes at UFV. “I just thought it would be nice to be on campus for university students because people are often so busy that going somewhere else is a bit of a pain whereas if it’s right there and if fits with your classes schedule you’ll just go,” he explained.

“I think we’ve had troubles letting people know here in [the university student] age demographic. In Vancouver it hasn’t been an issue, but Vancouver has such a young population in general … The centre in Vancouver or the centre in Victoria has drawn lots of people from the university and we haven’t been doing that.”

Sanden had hoped that meditation classes at UFV would help students since the classes he was preparing dealt particularly with the stresses of university students and aimed to help students work towards having better control of that stress.

Although UFV’s Continuing Studies department has decided to not invite Gen Kelsang Sanden to UFV to teach meditation classes, similar “learn to meditate” classes are offered on a weekly basis at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria, or at the Dorjechange Centre in Abbotsford.

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