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Moline Dispatch Article January 2016

Buddhist retreat offers peace, prayers and positivity
Kadampa Buddhist Prayers Iowa

An altar is prepared with text, an offering bowl of rice and Mala prayer beads before a meditation class begins at the Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016 in Davenport. The meditation sessions, taught by Joe Gauthier, are offered seven days a week and in locations ranging from Davenport to Iowa City, Clinton and Galesburg.

By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

DAVENPORT — While many people resolve at New Year's to exercise more and lose weight, Joe Gauthier recommends exercising your mind more to gain happiness.

The 37-year-old Buddhist teacher led a day-long chanted prayer retreat Sunday at Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center, 502 W. 3rd St. (at Scott Street). There were six one-hour sessions — each the same — throughout the day, starting at 7 a.m.

"It's the new year, so people want to try something new," Mr. Gauthier said of the fifth-annual retreat. "There's a lot of positive energy you're trying to create — with the chanting, with your mind...It's a mindset — it's a new year, you want to make some changes, some improvements."

"Buddhist chants are more like contemplation — developing positive states of mind," he said of the goal. "It's like mental exercise."

Visitors on Sunday (including a handful of people unfamiliar with Buddhism) got a chance to revel in the quiet, beauty and reverence of the center's meditation room, which includes a number of shrines. The shrines showcase golden statues of Buddhist leaders, and offerings of various kinds to Tara, the manifestation of compassion.

"You're making offerings so you can develop those characteristics yourself," Mr. Gauthier said. One of them is a stupa — a kind of monument that symbolizes an enlightened mind, he said, noting it took a month to fill the stupa with rolled paper mantras (written in Sanskrit). "It's kind of like you're bringing it to life," he said. "It's the easiest way to transform your mind. You don't have to meditate or put in a ton of effort. You just recite mantras."

Sunday's retreat included prayers, and ancient praises, recited seven times. "You're praying for spiritual development. You're praying for your family to be protected — general wishes that we all have," Mr. Gauthier said. It has the same goal as Christian churches — to "purify the mind, inspire it."

"I think we're all trying to connect with the same thing, we just give it different names," he said of world religions. "Some people are surprised at how faith-based Buddhism is. People think it's a secularized thing."

A Boston native, Mr. Gauthier grew up Catholic. He started reading books on Eastern philosophy as a teenager, and said he never connected with Catholicism. "The first time I picked up a book on Eastern philosophy, I was hooked. They explained things — what your mind is, explained how karma works, how reality is, explained prayer," he said.

"I liked the thorough, deep analysis of Buddhist teachings," he said. "This is really deep stuff; it's profound and it makes sense."

"Nothing I've studied in Buddhism has ever been contradicted by science," Mr. Gauthier said. "Science is studying external reality; Buddhism is studying internal reality, which are both valid."

"Once you understand how the mind works, you can calm yourself down, create positivity — stop negative patterns of thinking, actually work with your own mind," he added. "That's the beauty; I love that side of faith."

Mr. Gauthier traveled around the world for 10 years to learn about Buddhism — in Taiwan, England and Spain. He taught in Amsterdam and worked on a temple construction. He's been teaching with the Iowa-based center for six years, starting in Iowa City (it moved to Davenport in 2011). The center offers a class in Iowa City once a week, as well as classes in Rock Island and Galesburg.

"Some people love the meditative component. Some people love the philosophical component. Some people love the faith component, and people love all three," Mr. Gauthier said of Buddhism. 

Especially in our hurried, stressful daily lives, it's "essential" to train your mind to think positively, he said. "That's why it's become so popular now...It works. I think people realize there's more to life than consumerism, materialism, and they want something that works."

"You can go to a Third World country — they have nothing, but they're happy. We have everything and we're unhappy," Mr. Gauthier said. "It's just the priority — internals matter more than externals."

Your happiness is based on how you perceive and react to things — the good and bad, he said. "You're creating your own reality."

Twenty-five centuries ago, Buddha explained that "our problems and suffering arise from negative states of mind, and all our happiness and good fortune arise from peaceful and positive states of mind," says the center website, meditateiniowa.org.

Through prayers to Tara, participants receive her special blessings and protection for themselves, the site says. "A lot of people pray to Tara if you need quick help, if you're stuck," Mr. Gauthier said, noting you must be receptive to the effect of prayer.

"Karma" means actions and effects, he said. "Everything you do produces an effect...That later will come to fruition as a positive experience."

Many Buddhists have their own shrine at home, which builds power and energy, Mr. Gauthier said. A shrine is an inspirational aid in your meditation practice, he said.

"People are always amazed at the power of prayer," he said.

The Davenport second-floor center is named "Lamrim" — referring to the style of Buddhist practice popularized in 1100 A.D. in Tibet — and "Kadampa," for the lineage, meaning "those who follow this style of practice," Mr. Gauthier said.

The center includes a meditation room, community room, library/book shop and a kids' meditation room, and plans to expand to the ground level in the spring. It offers a meditation class Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. at the QC Botanical Center, Rock Island, and a noon meditation Wednesday in Davenport.

http://www.qconline.com/news/local/buddhist-retreat-offers-peace-prayers-and-positivity/article_6c719754-f699-56e4-963d-aa15a3155bd8.html  

Prayers at Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center 

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Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center

502 1/2 West 3rd Street., Davenport, IA 52801
Tel: (563) 322-1600 Email:

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A member of the New Kadampa Tradition - International Kadampa Buddhist Union.

Meditation classes in Iowa & Moline Dispatch Article January 2016.