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Religion: Web delivers Buddhist teachings to Fraser

by Stephanie Miller

Every Thursday evening Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, a Buddhist Monk, spreads the teaching of Buddhism to students around the world through a tiny Web cam.

One of his satellite classrooms takes place in a small, modular-type building in Fraser, where people gather around a computer screen and listen to the words of their teacher. The Venerable Priyadarshi is a scholar of Sanskrit Buddhist texts who has studied Buddhism in India, Nepal and Japan. He was ordained by the Dalai Lama.

With a gentle voice, he invites students to a session of meditation. They sit perfectly still in their chairs, close their eyes and let their minds go blank. The musical beat from a nearby aerobics class drifts through the thin walls of the modular, but the students remain focused on meditating.

After ringing a bell signifying the meditation session is over, the Venerable Priyadarshi invites the class to join him in chants and prayer. He then shares his thoughts about the study of Buddhadharma, and the importance of being kind to others ” to keep a non-discriminating mind ” and to overcome one’s own shortsightedness to think of future generations.

As his listeners nod along, the screen shows him in a colorful room in Boston, from where he broadcasts his satellite classroom. Occasionally the Web camera pans to rooms in other towns ” students and practitioners from Buena Vista, Denver, Salida and as far away as Malaysia and Mexico.

M.J. Davison of Fraser, along with Jennifer Metz of Tabernash, helped start the Thursday evening sessions more than a year ago through Bodhimarga, a nonprofit Buddhist organization that offers instruction on Tibetan Buddhism. Metz admitted it’s been challenging to keep the interest in Buddhism going in the Valley without having a live, weekly teacher to provide an “up-close-and-personal” relationship with students or practitioners.

Fortunately, she said, the Venerable Priyadarshi travels extensively. In addition to his travels around the world including India, he visits the Fraser Valley about once a month. His next visit is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 18, when he’ll be broadcasting his class from the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District Programs Building and conduct a public meeting afterwards (the exact time of the meeting is to be determined).

Metz, who considers herself a practitioner of the Buddhist philosophy, feels the Venerable Priyadarshi’s live teachings are something not to be missed. She encourages anyone interested to attend.

“I think people have a huge misconception of what Buddhism is. They think it’s very ‘woowoo’ . . .,” she said. “But for me, the attraction is the psychological and philosophical side as much as the spiritual. It’s very deep . . . It makes you think really hard at how you look at your world.”

Metz met the Venerable Priyadarshi last year and was able to spend more time with him in June when he stayed at Davison’s house for a retreat. During his stay he had expressed some interest in archery ” noting that is was something he had done in his youth in Japan ” so Metz and her husband Todd brought over several recurve bows and helped teach the Venerable Priyadarshi and his friend Venerable Lama Konchok Sonam to shoot bulls-eyes in Davison’s backyard.

“He was very gracious about it,” Metz said. “It was fun to watch him in a learning mode as opposed to being in teaching mode . . . And he learned very quickly.”

Although the number of Buddhism practitioners in Grand County is small, Metz hopes interest in Buddhism continues. Mountain Moon Yoga in Winter Park, for instance, offers an ongoing Tibetan Buddhism Dharma studies group under the guidance of Bodhimarga. The class, which is offered on Sundays, teaches the “very basics” of Buddhism, Metz explained ” the philosophy, meditation practices and instruction.

The Thursday evening classes tend to be focused on more experienced practitioners, she added. She started the Sunday beginner groups so people aren’t intimidated by the teachings of Buddhism.

Buddhism isn’t for everyone, but Metz feels the teachings of the Dharma and Buddhism philosophy are refreshing.

“There are a lot of people up here that are looking for something different . . . (But) we didn’t start this because we don’t like what’s here,” she said. “We’re just looking outside the box.

“The main emphasis in Buddhism ” through wisdom and compassion ” is making yourself a better person and the world a better place. That’s all. I think everyone can use a little of that.”

For more information about the teachings of Buddhadharma, visit http://www.bodhimarga.org.


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