What to expect at the centre Dharma Practice

The centre:  When you first arrive at GSL, you will see the Tibetan prayer flags flying in the front and back yards of the house.  Inside you will see several pictures of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other high lamas as well as Tibetan items such as cloth door coverings embroidered with Buddhist symbols.

There is room downstairs for you to put your coat and shoes, and the bathroom is also located there.  Inside the GSL office, there is a library of books, magazines, videos and cassettes for loan to society members.  As well there is a selection of books, CDs, malas, deity cards and incense for sale.

The shrine room:  Inside the shrine room (Tibetan. gompa), there are many painted cloth scrolls (Tibetan. thangka) depicting various deities in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon.  At the front of the room is a carved wooden altar from Nepal, encasing statues of Buddha and the bodhisattvas Tara and Chenrezig.  A variety of items are offered on the altar, including water bowls, butterlamps and candles, food and flowers.  Students are always welcome to bring items to offer on the altar.  Please refer to Dharma Etiquette for an explanation of proper comportment during the session.

Prostrations:  After incense has been lit, our teacher will perform his prostrations followed by the students doing likewise once he is seated.  You may join in or stand quietly.  For those wishing to participate, please refer to The Meaning of Prostrations for the appropriate mantra and mindset.

Prayers and Practices:  After everyone is seated, the lama will lead the students through the taking of refuge, prayers which are found in the prayer book handed out to everyone.  These are to engender in oneself a good motivation to receive the teaching and mark a break from ordinary activities.  The prayer is chanted to melody three times in Tibetan (English phonetics are given in the prayer book) followed by once in English.  These are basic Buddhist prayers that practitioners typically chant at the beginning of each day. 

A few short mantras such as OM MANI PADME HUM, the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion, will be chanted.  Mantras are usually in Sanskrit and are considered one method to increase positive energy, or Buddha-like qualities, internally and externally to the world. 

The teacher will also lead the students through the mantra/prayer of Lama Tsong Khapa, who is the founder of the lineage of Tibetan Buddhism which this centre follows.  This mantra and visualization pay homage to this great master and help build a strong connection with him and the line of teachers which followed from him.  [You can also refer to the Prayers and Mantras section of this site.]

Students and visitors may join aloud in the prayers and practices, or contemplate silently.

Meditation and TeachingDepending on the class, the type of meditation and teaching will vary.  Beginners class places an emphasis on non-religious meditations such as breathing meditations and calm abiding meditation to settle the mind and body, and bring focus to the mind.  Students may also choose to do a visualization of the Buddha or the practice of tong len (the practice of understanding others' suffering and sending out compassion).  Other classes delve more deeply into other forms of meditation, including analytical and deity yoga.

The Intermediate class is currently studying The Graduated Path to Enlightenment (Tibetan. lam.rim).

DedicationThe session closes with a prayer to dedicate, or "lock in", the merit of spending this period of time improving one's mind.  We dedicate that any insights we may have gained not only benefits ourselves, but all others, and that we can be of continued and long-lasting benefit to others.

QuestionsQuestions during the sessions are welcomed and encouraged.  You may also wish to set an appointment to discuss a private matter with our spiritual director.  It is requested that visitors come in the afternoon, after he has completed his daily morning practice.  It is a good practice of giving to make a small offering if asking for advice.

What to expect at the centre | Dharma Etiquette | Prayers and Mantras
Buddhist Doctrine | Deities (Sangha) | Pujas
Words from our Teacher | Glossary | Prayer Flags | Links