Tallahassee Buddhist Community
By Madeline B. Meaders, Fall 2015
Buddhism is a very widespread religion that is practiced all over the world today. Buddhism has been adopted and diversified over many different cultures such as in China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, etc. Buddhism dates back to 563 BCE when Gautama Buddha was born. Buddha was born as a prince and quickly realized that money and materialistic things did not necessarily bring happiness. He soon left his life of being royal, and found enlightenment after spending a night by a ficus tree. He then after began teaching people what he learned from enlightenment. Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are dissatisfaction is endemic to life, the root of dissatisfaction is grasping, cessation of dissatisfaction is possible, and the way to Nirvana is by following the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold path is as follows: right understanding, right motive, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right concentration, right awareness, and right meditation.
Lotus Lake Drikung Dzogchen Community Inc. was founded in Tallahassee in 2002, and the coordinator was Paul Normann. This Buddhist group practiced where the Tallahassee Buddhist Community is now housed, until around 2006, when the coordinator, Paul, moved to Hawaii for other opportunities. In 2006, the Tallahassee Buddhist Community originated. The Lotus Lake Buddhist Community was renamed the Tallahassee Buddhist Community, where eventually, three different Buddhist sects would practice.
The Tallahassee Buddhist Community, a non-profit organization, located in Railroad Square at 647 McDonnell Drive, houses three different Buddhist groups. The three different Buddhist sects are The Cypress Zen Group, The Tallahassee Shambhala Meditation Group, and the Tallahassee Chan Group. These divisions all work together and pay dues, which go towards the renovations of the building, and bills. Each group has members on the board that work with Railroad Square.
The first and oldest group to move to the Tallahassee Buddhist Community was the Cypress Tree Zen Group, which was around ~2007. The Cypress Tree Zen Group is a thirty-year old Korean-based Zen practice, and it was founded around ~1984. They came from the Unitarian Church in Tallahassee. They used to meet there for years, however, the space was very limited, and there was not sufficient room for their cushions, so they made a decision to move over to the Tallahassee Buddhist Community in Railroad Square. The Cypress Tree Zen group is affiliated with Kwan Um School of Zen, founded by Zen Master Seung Sahn. The Cypress Tree Zen Group has weekly meditation practices, and even sessions for beginners on how to meditate. They practice chanting and walking meditation. A lot of the forms, such as meditation, and practices, are very similar to the Chan group. These practices are very different from what you would see in China or Korea, because they are very westernized. Several of the artifacts found in the Tallahassee Buddhist Community were brought in from The Cypress Tree Zen Group. For example, the big Buddha found on the center table was brought in by them and dates back to around 1984 when the group was actually founded. The Cypress Tree Zen group also has retreats under the Kwam Um School of Zen. These retreats are about three days, where they take time away from the world and do different practices such as chanting, walking meditation, interviews including puzzles that are supposed to get you out of the everyday thinking. These retreats are very iconic events because it gives you a few days to fully absorb in the practices and focus on Buddhism and your mind and thoughts. The Cypress Tree Zen Group also cooks meals together that are very formal, and are held at the Tallahassee Buddhist Community.
The Tallahassee Chan Center moved to the Tallahassee Buddhist Community around ~2010. The Tallahassee Chan Center was founded by Guo Gu, also known as Dr. Jimmy Yu. The Tallahassee Chan Center, also known as TCC, is a Buddhist meditation school that practices Buddhist teachings found in East Asia. Instead of walking meditation that The Cypress Tree Zen Group practices, the Tallahassee Chan Center practices seated meditation. The Chan group has retreats every so often that focus on their practice and deepen their Chan practice. The TCC also has weekly meditation practices, book clubs, and even dharma talks.
The last Buddhist sect to merge over into the Tallahassee Buddhist Community was the Tallahassee Shambhala Meditation Group. The Shambhala group came to the TBC back in 2012, and have practiced there since. The mission statement of the Shambhala group is that “every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness. This nature can be developed in daily life so that it radiates out to family, friends, community, and society.”(Shambhala Vision) This group offers unique workshops and programs to develop meditation skills and practices for people seeking help. They also have retreats and classes such as Heart of Recovery which is centered around those who have been affected themselves by addiction, and even someone close to them who has suffered addiction. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the author of The Shambhala Principle, and is a very influential person to the Shambhala group. He reinforces the fact that Shambhala helps us focus on serving others and being involved in not only the world, but also our minds.
Buddhism as a religion is extremely community-oriented, and focuses on not only ourselves, but also the people around us. This is why when I found out that the Tallahassee Buddhist Community housed three different Buddhism sects, I was not surprised at all. They all three work together to keep the lights on, and the building clean, as to respect all of the groups. In addition, the three divisions worked together years ago to provide the building with renovations so it could better suit the Buddhist communities’ needs. Volunteers from all three groups came together to paint the building, rip out the carpet and provide wood floors, clean up the space, and provide a nice kitchen for meals and retreats. As you can see, the Tallahassee Buddhist Community is a family-oriented sanctuary for common people to come and practice their meditation and way of life. All of these events are what make up the history of the Tallahassee Buddhist Community.
Carr, Kathleen. Personal Interview. 18 October 2015.
"Shambhala Vision." - Tallahassee Shambhala Meditation GroupTallahassee Shambhala Meditation Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.