Spring Retreat: The Buddhist Path of Compassion
Milarepa Buddhist Center — Friday-Sunday, April 21-23
The Milarepa Buddhist Center (207 Scott Ct, Iowa City), a volunteer-run Buddhist community that opened in 2016, will be hosting Tibetan Lama Khenpo Choephel Rinpoche for a retreat April 21-23. The honorific Lama refers to a venerated teacher of dharma; Khenpo is also a title, translating to the equivalent of Abbot — it denotes someone who has attained an advanced level of study.
The Spring Retreat starts with a public lecture on Compassion from 7-9 p.m. on Friday. Saturday features two sets of teachings on a text by the philosopher Nagarjuna, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2-5 p.m., followed by a mindfulness meditation practice (7-9 p.m.).
Sunday starts with a 9 a.m. refuge ceremony, for those who wish to formally commit to Buddhist practices, and is followed by an empowerment activity (10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.). The retreat closes with a compassion meditation practice from 2-4 p.m. Donations from $5-$25 per activity are encouraged, although no one will be turned away due to a lack of funds. RSVPs are appreciated — visit the website for more information.
This is Khenpo Choephel’s second visit to Iowa City. “We’ve had three Lamas here, and they’ve all been fabulous. Each has a particular strength,” David Klemm, Vice President of the Milarepa Buddhist Center, said. “But Khenpo Choephel is a relatively young man, very personable, open and friendly and speaks well in English — so there’s no need for a translator. He’s also attentive to American practitioners and listeners — he’s a very generous and gracious individual.”
Klemm notes that it is a rare gift for a community the size of Iowa City to have hosted three Lamas. “It’s extraordinary, and a rare occurrence. It should be taken advantage of, if people have any interest in Buddhism or Spiritual Practice.”
Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Tantric or Vajrayana Buddhism, is a distinct practice within Buddhist thinking — an offshoot of Mahayana Buddhism that believes one can achieve Enlightenment within one’s own lifetime. It took up strains of both Chinese and Hindu thinking, but infused its understanding of Buddhism with Tibetan culture and gradually developed into four distinct traditions.
Its rising popularity in Western cultures (including the Beastie Boys) began with the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 and the subsequent flight of the Lamas and other monks into India — and from there to Europe and America. Its American expression was popularized by leaders such as Chögyam Trungpa and the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who have made Tibetan Buddhism an increasingly important part of the American spiritual topography.
Those who cannot attend this weekend’s visit may be interested in some of the Milarepa Buddhist Center’s other offerings — it is a unique center in that it is welcoming to those who have no prior knowledge of Buddhism but still provides opportunities for advanced practitioners. Milarepa hosts a community meditation time from 4-5 p.m. on Sundays and a Tantric meditation time from 5:15-6:15 p.m. on Sundays, neither of which require foreknowledge of meditation. An ongoing class called “Understanding Buddhism” is offered each Monday from 7-9 p.m., which is also open to anyone interested in knowing more about Buddhist thought and its history. The Wednesday night “Introduction to Meditation” class, offered from 7-9 p.m., explores the relationship of meditation and compassion.
Those who are interested in attending or volunteering at the Spring Retreat, or who have questions about either the retreat or the center in general, can call 937-244-1961 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.