Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 15 July 2011.Phone: 512-916-4444
Activities and Schedule
Members of Chittamani Buddhist Center participate in a variety of Buddhist activities on Sundays from 9:30 A.M to 12:15 P.M, and every weekday between 4:30 P.M. and 9:00 P.M. These activities include group meditation, tea talk and discussion, chanted prayers, and special courses on meditation and the Tibetan teachings of Buddhism. Most of the regular activities are held in the Center, while other programs and courses are offered at the University of Texas at Austin, the local Universalist Unitarian Church, and nearby cities such as San Antonio.
Chittamani Buddhist Center was registered as a non-profit organization in 1999. It is a volunteer-based Buddhist organization, and usually has a resident teacher on site. After Venerable Kelsang Inchug, the first resident teacher, left in 2003, the current nun teacher (ordained by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso), was sent to Austin to disseminate the Tibetan teachings of Buddhism. Since its founding, the Center has grown very quickly, mainly with Americans looking for alternative religious options.
Chittamani Buddhist Center is a 400-square- meter (4300-square-foot), one-floor building, located in a commercial district of South Austin. This leased building is divided into three parts: a Buddhism bookstore in front, a meditation hall, or “Gompa,” and a small office and a kitchen in the rear. Currently, the Center plans to build a temple or purchase a building for permanent use. Venerable Kelsang Inchug said that the Chittamani Buddhist movement in the U.S. has already purchased some Christian churches and successfully converted them into Buddhist temples.
Philosophy of Practice
In my interview, Venerable Kelsang Inchug indicated that whenever Buddhism moves, it must adapt itself to the new culture. Chittamani Buddhism has already been successfully incorporated into the very busy Western life style; even the ordained priests, for example, have families and live with their wives and children, “just like a lay practitioner living with his family.” However, she emphasized, the teachings of Chittamani Buddhism at the Center remain the same and pure in essence, as the original teachings in Tibet. Inchug, who has 25-year background in Buddhism also emphasized that Buddhist teachings must be taught in a simple, clear, and practical way for the Western audience. She also offers courses outside the Center, so that “interested people may feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings.”
The standard programs of Chittamani Buddhism are very important for maintaining and bringing in members, said Venerable Kelsang Inchug. These programs are designed at the Chittamani Buddhist headquarters in the United Kingdom and practiced by the Chittamani Buddhist centers throughout the world. Translated into English, Spanish, and French thus far, the programs are very accessible to the world. In general, they are offered at three levels: 1) the general level for new members, introducing basic tenets of Buddhism and meditation; 2) the foundation level for senior practitioners, offering a method of systematic study and meditations through integrating Buddha’s wisdom advice into daily life in the West; and 3) the teacher training level for those who wish to become Dharma teachers. Members are closely tied to each other not only through meditation and Buddhist classes, but also through social activities such as group dinners, large garage sales, a prison outreach program, yearly festivals, and so on. Besides the programs already mentioned, the Center also works at building active relationships with other local social groups such as the Salvation Army, Austin Interfaith Community, and the Buddhist Fellowship in Austin.
While a majority of the community is Caucasian, the numbers of Asian, African, Latino members and foreign visitors have increased since the Center was established. During that time the total membership of the center has increased from five to 56-66 currently. Members include government officials, school teachers, doctors, college students, and so on. Most of them have college degrees, and about 65 percent are female practitioners.