The Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center is a place where all are welcome to gather and experience meditation or participate in a variety of classes.
The center allows anyone, from beginners to experts, to enjoy spiritual practice regardless of religion. Each class that is offered is generally about a specific topic in Buddhism, but the classes are open to those from all backgrounds.
Pamela Farnsworth-Martin attends the center regularly.
“This is a unique Buddhist center in that most centers are set up around one teacher or training, and this center is set up in that its eccumenical, there’s no one path in Buddhism that’s followed by all members,” she said.
The instructors have experience in different aspects of Buddhism, which they bring to their classes.
Shodo Spring is a Zen priest and is one of the instructors at the center. She emphasized that this is a good place to come for beginners.
“I regularly teach something on Wednesdays twice a month and about every three months, usually in the form of a class.” she said. “Right now it’s heart sutra, last year on six paramitas, or guidelines for how you think about your life and practice.”
Spring pointed out that this is a type of spiritual practice, but it’s one that she hopes will teach a deeper understanding for a life that is conscious and full of compassion.
She noted that the Sunday meditations are not guided, and that in Buddhism, meditation is silent.
Of course, instruction is offered for newcomers and there are other classes that include speaking, such as dharma talks, which are one-hour talks about some aspect of meditation or thought regarding Buddhism. Free lending materials are also available to check out for further study.
“Usually people come because they’re trying to deepen their own meditation practice,” Farnsworth-Martin added. “Teachers can be helpful with practical advice or themes, like how to meditate when there’s strife in the world.”
Although the groups that meet weekly at this center are smaller, a sense of unity can be obtained from the open-mindedness and focus found at the classes.
“Most members aren’t Buddhists, they like to come meditate in silence, but there’s no pressure to join the church,” said Farnsworth-Martin.
Meditation classes are offered each Sunday and are open to anyone. If a newcomer arrives and has questions someone will be able to help them out and they are welcome to stay for meditation.
“We call them ‘sits,’ where we just come in and sit together and at the end we’ll chat a little bit, so really the only programming is dharma talks with particular teachers,” Farnsworth-Martin said.
Other classes meet on Wednesdays, and the dharma speaker class occurs monthly. The classes are all free of charge, and the center uses the Dana system where people can donate what they feel should be given.
“There’s a basket and people are welcome to give, but we don’t have outside funding,” Spring said. “There are people who are outside members who make sure they support it, but if people can’t afford it or are unsure, they are always welcome to come check it out.”
Farnsworth-Martin noted that she enjoys the center for its great sense of community and consistency with sitting meditation practice.
“We take care of people who come, it’s a very welcoming place,” added Spring.