After meeting in apartments and homes, the local chapter of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayan Tradition (FPMT) has opened the Gendun Drubpa Buddhist Centre in Williams Lake.
During an open house held May 24, Venerable Patricia Devoe and director Colleen O’Neill said it was a day to celebrate.
As people milled about the new centre, located in a newly renovated home in the 200 block of Third Avenue South, they listened to music and enjoyed home-made food.
“You should have seen it six months ago,” Devoe said of the house. “We totally rewired it and renovated to bring it up to code.”
O’Neill said the chapter was meeting at one of the member’s homes out at Spoken Lake and before that at Devoe’s basement apartment on Mission Road.
Then along came an opportunity to engage in transforming a home in the downtown into the centre.
“It took us six months and all the work was done by our members and people who just came and offered their help, big and small. It was amazing,” Devoe explained.
A neighbour often arrived with a pot of tea and goodies, O’Neill added.
There are only two FPMT centres in Canada — the other is in Ontario — so the chapter felt it was important to celebrate with an open house and let the public know what they have to offer.
“People are coming and telling us they did not know there was a Buddhist site here in Williams Lake. Or other people say ‘I’ve seen you around,'” Devoe said with a smile, glancing at her traditional burgundy-coloured robe.
There are seven confirmed members who pay membership and are committed to the group, and a larger family of about 75 who will come to weekend seminars with travelling teachers, a meditation class, drop in for a conversation or to watch a Dharma DVD.
The bigger family of support helps the smaller family keep going, O’Neill said.
Following on the heels of a series of spring teachings that were recently completed, the centre will be offering meditation classes, something they’ve been offering for six years.
“They run for six weeks and are so successful that people don’t want them to end so Colleen (O’Neill) came up with a brilliant idea of offering half-hour meditations Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.” DeVoe said.
It doesn’t involve any teaching, just strictly guided meditation for half an hour for people who have some background and some foundation in meditation.
During the summer they will offer Dharma movies and reading sutras on Sunday mornings, along with Dharma discussions.
“That will take us to winter when we have our annual winter break. All FPMT centres have a winter break and then we start up again in the spring,” O’Neill explained.
Originally from Tennesse, and by way of Tibet, Nepal, India and Scotland, Devoe arrived in Williams Lake six years ago, on the suggestion of spiritual leader Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Before there was a centre there was a study group, O’Neill explained.
“When you affiliate with FPMT you start out as a study group to see if it’s going to be a good fit for you and a good fit for them. They gave us some materials to study and discover if it was the right thing and after two years we were invited to become a centre.”