Philadelphia Meditation Center is located in a business district of Havertown. It opened in December, 1998. Since then, the center has grown very quickly. It is now open to all for the practice of silent sitting meditation, teachings and workshops.
The center is nestled in a row of retail shops. It consists of a large, comfortable first floor meditation hall , and a second floor apartment containing a library, kitchen, sitting room and two bedrooms. There is a nearby public parking lot and the location is easily accessible from many areas in the Delaware Valley. The neighborhood is very friendly and pleasant and there are lovely spots nearby for walking meditation.
Statement of purpose: Since the center's opening, many people have asked about the possibility of their presenting various subjects under the auspices of PMC. But, of course, no center can be all things to all people. The Statement of purpose is made clear in PMC's Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws: PMC is here primarily to provide a place for Buddhist education, meditation and dharma-related activities. Anything presented or promoted will meet these guidelines.
A large percentage of programs come from the mindfulness (or Insight, or vipassana) traditions as well as from Dzogchen teachings and other meditation-related areas. Zen students should feel comfortable with the regular silent meditation and retreat format. The emphasis will be on teachings emphasizing direct experience and personal practice in a non-hierarchical, egalitarian and non-sectarian setting.
Form of operation: PMC is registered in Pennsylvania as a non-profit corporation (1998). It is also a 501 (c) 3 (1999 with final retroactive to 1999 approval in 2002) public charity and, as such, contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Final IRS approval came in 2005 and PMC was the first charity in the US to file electronically with IRS. All donations go directly to the corporation's general fund, unless marked specifically as dana for visiting teachers. We have a Board of Directors that consists of three individuals and we have a Council of Advisors that meets about 6 times per year.
Regular meditation: There are many genuine paths to freedom. One of the most valuable practices involves "looking within" and this is best done in a silent format. This silent format is useful for a wide range of practitioners, and it does not exclude anyone. There will be minimal ritual and formality. Both chairs and cushions are available. We do ask that you plan to be on time for sittings and stay for the entire sitting.
Meditation instruction: We do not have a resident teacher. An experienced meditator will, however, be available one-half hour before each monthly Saturday morning sitting to give basic instructions on In mindfulness meditation. Information for beginners is also available on this web site.
One excellent way to learn is to attend our weekend teachings with visiting teachers. All of our silent mindfulness retreats will include comprehensive instruction as well as practice. You should not be afraid to come sit with us or attend a retreat if you are a beginner. Many people who come have not been practicing a long time and everyone has to start as a beginner. We also have tapes available and can recommend other books.
Workshops and Retreats: Various events may be planned by the center. Some will use a presentation format, some may have a psychological slant, and others will be day long or weekend silent retreats. They will all have practical value for the person who really wants to practice meditation. Snacks and beverages will be available. There are many places nearby to eat, as well as a bakery and convenience store, or you may bring your own lunch.
Silent retreats: We often have silent weekend retreats taught by non-resident teachers. We also hosted our first residential weekend silent retreat and we hope to do this again. Many, but not all, of these teachers come from the Insight and Dzogchen traditions. These retreats include teachings, meditation instruction and sitting and walking meditation. For the walking meditation, we usually go outside and walk slowly but normally. Most of the teachers will teach the same thing, but possibly in slightly different ways: Relax, stay in the present, get to know yourself without the overlay of conditioning and personal history.
Who is welcome: Everyone is welcome; you certainly do not have to be a Buddhist to benefit from silent meditation. Buddha was just a person who looked within, noticed the nature of his mind and body and, as a result, experienced a great peace and understanding. Buddha himself was not "a Buddhist," and meditation is not unique to Buddhism. Today, people of all beliefs are incorporating Buddhist meditation techniques into their spiritual life and many use meditation primarily for pain and stress control as well as general relaxation.
PAYMENT FOR TEACHINGS, RETREATS AND SITTING:
Payment to the center: There is no charge to join regular sittings at PMC. We do have a dana basket into which donations may be placed. In most cases, we will suggest a minimum contribution for workshops and special events. This donation will go toward PMC ongoing expenses such as postage, advertising, and copying, and the visiting teacher's traveling expenses. No one will be turned away if they are unable to pay.
Payment to the visiting teacher: For Insight Retreats and most other events, we institute the concept of dana. This payment method has been employed successfully by many centers, and most teachers in the Insight tradition prefer or require that payment be made on this basis.
Dana is intrinsic to the 2500 year-old Buddhist tradition. Going back to the days of the Buddha the teachings were considered priceless and thus offered freely as a form of dana. The early teachers received no payment for their instruction, and in turn, the lay community saw to it through their voluntary generosity, their dana, that the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and medicine were provided for these monks and nuns. Dana is an ancient Pali word meaning "generosity," "giving" or "gift." It is directly related to the Latin word donum and through this to such English words as donor, donate and donation.
Beyond the practical dimension, dana also plays a crucial role in the spiritual life of a Dharma practitioner. It is the first of the ten paramitas, or qualities of character, to be perfected. The act of giving itself is of immeasurable benefit to the giver for it opens up the heart, diminishes for a moment one's self-absorption, and places value on the well-being of others. The simple gesture of offering a flower, an act of service, a kind thought or a simple meal is in fact a sincere form of practice.
We do not have a strong monastic tradition in the West. Still most Insight teachers try to follow the ancient model of generosity as much as it is feasible in this culture. Teachers do not receive any payment from PMC. Retreat fees cover only the cost of maintaining the center, day-to-day operation of the center and the teacher's airfare. Teacher support is provided by voluntary donations given directly to the teacher by students at the retreat. Many teachers are dependent almost entirely on teaching donations. We ask you to consider that these teachers invest the bulk of their time serving the dharma and that they have the same living expenses, rent/mortgage, auto, health insurance, children's tuition, that we all do. Sometimes people in the West have a difficult time with this concept because there are no real guidelines. One may consider the cost of a day at any course, or the cost of an hour movie, or any personal service or teaching, or just the personal value of having the teachings made available. It is a very individual decision.
During the retreat there will be dana boxes at each entrance. Contributions or retreat fees if in the form of check to PMC should be made out to the Philadelphia Meditation Center. Dana to the teacher, if in the form of a check, should be made out to the teacher directly.
We may have some teachers who wish to receive payment on a basis other than dana. Some teachers prefer a set fee that includes everything. Others ask that a check be made out directly to their own non-profit endeavor. Payment method will always be clear in the event's announcement.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!
People who have been coming to PMC since it's opening have been very generous with contributions. This support is deeply appreciated Contributions and retreat fees help keep the center and the teachings alive.
Beth Adelson, a long-time local teacher, is now available to provide individual or small group instruction. By appointment, firstname.lastname@example.org