New Buddhist Centre opens up vacant shop to community

New life is being breathed into an empty shop in York city centre by a Buddhist group.

The York Buddhist Centre, will, when restrictions permit, open the doors of its Gillygate premises to the community for meditation sessions and the opportunity to learn about Buddhism. It will also be home to a small shop, selling ethically traded goods and books.

The meditation sessions will be open to all, you do not have to be a practicing Buddhist to drop-in and try meditation for yourself, and to find out more about mindfulness and Buddhism.

The group is part of one of the world’s largest Buddhist movements, the Triratna Order. It does not charge a fee to attend its sessions. Instead, the meditation classes are run on the basis of the Buddhist ideal of generosity. This means there is no charge to attend, although there is an opportunity, but not a requirement, to make a small donation to support future events and running costs.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, York Buddhist Centre has reached out to the community by offering a range of online meditation sessions. These virtual sessions have offered support to many suffering from the effects of stress and isolation, with people from the Yorkshire area and even international locations joining in. Outdoor, socially distanced, meditation sessions have also been held in the city’s Museum Gardens.

The Triratna international Buddhist order runs centres around the world and in other UK cities, including Manchester and London.

The Triratna order also has a very large following in India where its supporters are involved in a range of charitable projects including helping members of the Dalit community.

Triratna Order member, Shakyapada, a York resident and chair of the York Buddhist Centre, explained: “Triratna Buddhism presents Buddhist practices and scriptures in a way that is relatable to people in the western world. We are not a monastic order, this means that many of our order members live in the community. Our lives and practice are guided by the five Buddhist precepts, a set of principles based on kindness, generosity, contentment, integrity, and awareness. These precepts are not commandments, but rather guidelines for living an ethical life.”

She added: “Triratna places a strong emphasis on being open to all – you do not have to be a Buddhist to come along to our meditation sessions. The Covid-19 crisis has brought a lot of extra stress to people’s lives, and has impacted the local economy. Our new centre will offer people a welcoming, friendly and supportive space to learn about the benefits of meditation, and we are also continuing to run a range of online meditation sessions while the restrictions are in place, and beyond for anyone who is unable to attend in person.”

York Buddhist Group was established in August 2017 and has previously rented rooms in the Priory Street Centre and more recently at the Quaker Meeting Centre. It has increased in size and recently became registered as a charity with the Charity Commission. People of all ages and walks of life attend its meetings and study groups. The group decided to move to its own premises in order to be able to extend its activities, and eventually, offer more day retreats and additional meditation sessions.

Set in the heart of the city, the new centre was once a beauty parlour. Transforming the premises so that it is suitable for its new purpose, while keeping to Listed Building restrictions, has been a challenge for the group.

Members of the group have been scrubbing, painting and sprucing up the empty shop, all under responsible and socially distanced conditions, to transform it into an accessible and tranquil space for the community, visitors to the city and group members to enjoy.

The group has previously held a range of fundraising events including a skills auction and several sponsored activities to raise funds for the project. It has also been supported by a grant of £2,000 from the Triratna Order’s Future Dharma supporters Fund.