Close your eyes and envision a gentle, flowing stream. The sun is shining and the water is clear and sparkling. The graceful waves and elegant rhythm slow us down and cause us to stop and appreciate the present moment — it’s a symbol of peace. The positive, relaxing image helps our minds to be content and happy.
What if the water was less calm and more turbulent? Sediment is turned up and rather than a relaxed current, the stream looks choppy and as though there’s no specific direction. It looks and feels stressful, and triggers anxiety. It is overwhelming and difficult to see through.
Although we might prefer the idyllic nature of the first, both examples are symbolic of circumstances that materialize in our lives. And while we can’t control outside factors — like the weather or the speed at which situations arise — there is a way to find our peace no matter the storm: Modern Kadampa Buddhism.
“The analogy of the water is also true with the mind,” Gen Kelsang Gomlam, resident teacher at Kadampa Meditation Center Madison, explains. “When you slow down and focus on your breath with the intention to allow the sediment to settle, it does. The busyness dissolves back into our mind, and we’re left with a positive, peaceful feeling.”
It’s an emotion we all strive for. Mental peace opens the door to the potential to change lives for the better, and Kadampa Meditation Center Madison provides a welcoming, comfortable space to begin the journey to just that.
“Happiness and suffering are states of mind and so their main causes are not to be found outside the mind.” —Gen Kelsang Gomlam, quoting her teacher Geshe Kelsang gyatso
Kadampa Buddhism — “Ka” referring to all of Buddha’s Sutra and Tantra teachings, and “dam” denoting Atisha’s special instructions called the Stages of the Path or Lamrim in Tibetan — allows the integration of the knowledge of all of Buddha’s teachings into our everyday lives.
“We’re here for public service,” Gomlam says. “My teacher, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a humble teacher. He was asked to bring Buddhism to the western world over 30 years ago, and no other Buddhist teacher has put as much energy into creating centers and developing study programs that are available to everyone, Buddhist and non-Buddhist.” (See sidebar for some of her most highly suggested books written by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.)
Kadampa meditation centers – in 54 countries around the world – present Buddhism in a way that is easily understood, and is accessible to everyone.
“The same meditations that were taught 2500 years ago are now for the first time globally,” Gomlam says. “We serve the public by giving them an opportunity to solve their human problems in a different way, mainly through meditation. We teach different levels and eventually we learn how to meditate on topics that are conducive to human happiness.”
In Modern Kadampa Buddhism, it’s not external conditions that make us happy. Instead, happiness is a feeling that comes from our mind. Gomlam explains that often we look to inanimate objects or external things — like a new car or job — to help our emotional state, but this leaves us constantly disappointed. We get everything we want and we’re still not happy.
“It’s puzzling for many people,” she says. “We think if we have good relationships, a great job and we live in a place we want that it will make us happy. And it does for a while, but that’s not sustainable. Eventually it lets us down.”
Gomlam explains that the nature of our mind is peaceful, but our day-to-day stress and irritation can get in the way. Through meditation, our natural peace manifests again and appears for us. It in turn helps us to respond to the daily stresses of life in a clear, beneficial way. We solve our problems better if we have a clear mind, and if we have a clear mind, it’s inevitably peaceful.
“Buddhism is logical,” she says. “You just need the experience and the methods to practice it. We know that we have advanced medically, technologically, materially… we have so much progress externally. But there is not a corresponding increase in human happiness.”
“Meditation takes you inside your mind and teaches you how to make yourself and others happy — really.” —Gen Kelsang Gomlam
Offering meditation classes that are suitable for every level of experience, Kadampa Meditation Center Madison’s class design always includes two guided meditations and a short talk or teaching on a topic suitable for busy modern people, or instruction in meditation techniques. The center also provides programs for those interested in chanted prayers, and increasing their understanding and experience of Buddhist philosophy and practice. Meditations are routinely conjoined with a topic, like how to improve your love, or how to improve your patience.
Complimentary 30-minute guided meditations are also offered every Wednesday and Friday. Gomlam explains that it’s meant to be easy. You are welcome to simply walk in, and you’re guided through the process from start to finish. She suggests even just 15 minutes of meditation a day can change your life.
“The basic meditation is learning how to let go of busyness and stress so your mind’s natural peace appears again,” she says. “Meditation teaches how to maintain that or get it back when we lose it. The more you do it, the more control you have over your life. It helps everything.”
Kadampa Meditation Center Madison is friendly and welcoming to all — including children. Originally intrigued by meditation and later drawn to the practical methods and inspiring teachings for everyday life, Meghan Caylor, Educational Program Coordinator, focuses on kids and their innate ability to grasp the message of Modern Kadampa Buddhism.
“Kids don’t have any limitations when they meditate,” she says. “We teach methods and they just go with it. It’s very peaceful and amazing to watch. We learn a lot from them.”
Every Sunday from 10 to 11:15 a.m., children age 4-12 can participate in Dharma for Kids. In the future, Kadampa Meditation Center Madison will also offer special days filled with family-friendly projects and meditation.
“We focus on Buddhist teachings… such as how to be more loving and kind, how to get rid of anger… and start and end with a meditation, much like the adult classes — the kids love that there are similarities,” Meghan says. “We also do a craft that is themed off of the main topic, which gives them something concrete to take away.”
We all hold the potential to gain the ability to focus on our mind’s happiness and the positivity that lies there.
“I was like most people. I had a good life, but I felt like I was missing something,” Gomlam says. “When I went to my first meditation class, I felt something special that I had never felt before: something clicked in my heart. It made me feel better, and I decided if it made me feel better, I was going to keep doing it until it stopped working. It never has. I’m still here!”
“Yes meditation does relax you physically and mentally, but the function of meditation is to change your mind from negative to positive — from distracted to focused — from unhappy to happy.” —Gen Kelsang Gomlam
Kadampa Meditation Center Madison offers books and other materials — for both children and adults — that reflect the nature of, and explain the practice of Modern Kadampa Buddhism.
The following are some of their most highly suggested books, all written by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso:
- Modern Buddhism
- Transform Your Life
- How to Solve Our Human Problems
- Eight Steps To Happiness
- Introduction To Buddhism
- What is Buddhism?
- What is Meditation?
- The Story of Angulimala
“We learn in meditation how to cultivate a peaceful mind, and a peaceful mind is always a happy mind.” —Gen Kelsang Gomlam
Kadampa Meditation Center Madison is expanding, and you’re invited to experience the new, enriched space!
Grand Opening Weekend with Gen-la Kelsang Jampa
7-9 p.m. — Ribbon Cutting and Center Blessing Ceremony
10 a.m.-12 p.m. — Public Talk: Modern Buddhism: Happiness and Our Human Potential
12-1 p.m. — Light Buffet and Open House
10-11:30 a.m. — Special Prayers for World Peace: Our Human Potential for Peace
Kadampa Meditation Center Madison
1825 S. Park Street, Madison