Celebrating 25 Years of Kadampa Buddhism in NYC

As part of our birthday celebrations, enjoy this journey through some of our most memorable moments over the last 25 years.

Kadam Morten teaching in Brooklyn in the 1990s
Kadam Morten teaching in Brooklyn in the 1990s

In 1977, the renowned Buddhist monk, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, arrived in England and began spreading Je Tsongkhapa’s lineage of Buddhist teachings in the West. Seventeen years later, upon the written request of an interested student, Geshe Kelsang sent a young, devoted teacher by the name of Morten to NYC.

Before long, a small community of “regulars” was attending classes, enough so that the group moved from a small dance studio in the Bowery to a residential space on the “far” side of Park Slope. Crammed into a tiny duplex, four residential students and Kadam Morten would host various weekly classes in the living room. Within a couple of years, the Center moved again, this time to a brownstone in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, which was quickly packed with ten residents. Soon, there were enough students to indicate that it was time to make “the move” to their own space in Manhattan.

Chakrasambara Buddhist Center (CBC) moved into its first Manhattan home in 2001.  Although somewhat hidden away on the fifth floor of an office building on 26th Street, word of mouth began to spread and class attendance flourished as people experienced the effectiveness of the teachings. Over time, a full roster of GP classes, weekend classes and training programs – the Foundation Program (FP) and the Teacher Training Program (TTP) – had been established.

Branch classes began to appear in various locations around the city and in New Jersey, as qualified teachers from TTP set out to bring this clear and powerful form of Modern Buddhism into “the hoods.”  A number of those branch classes have since transformed into full-fledged centers of their own, including Dharmachakra in New Jersey, Vajradhara Center in Brooklyn, and KMC LI in Huntington, Long Island.

In 2006, the Kadampa World Peace Temple (“our country home”) in Glen Spey was officially opened by Geshe Kelsang. With attendance at CBC overflowing its capacity, it became clear that there was now a need for a full-fledged city temple. The search for a larger ground floor, easily-accessible space – not a rental this time, but a purchase – was successful, and by the fall of 2012 we had signed the papers and were wheeling our Buddha statue on rollers down the street to its new home on West 24th Street.  Now called “Kadampa Meditation Center New York City,” our doors opened in October 2012, with our magnificent main gompa, our downstairs gompa (finally, the chance for simultaneous classes), our ultra-welcoming and adaptable reception area and bookstore, and our bonus gem, the Atrium.

Chakrasambara Buddhist Center – the home for our Center for more than 10 years
Chakrasambara Buddhist Center – the home for our Center for more than 10 years

We are seven years now in our Chelsea home, and KMC NYC is offering classes every day of the week (on average, over twenty-five classes and pujas at the Center weekly). Add to this the various weekly branch classes throughout the area, as well as our full-time branch-center in Williamsburg, and our other outreach programs to schools and workplaces.

In the space of twenty-five years, KMC NYC (in all its incarnations) has gone from welcoming handfuls of students weekly, to scores, and now to high hundreds, helping people to attain greater states of peace and happiness and move toward becoming the people they wish to be.

Our world needs the tools for peace. And thousands and thousands of people have now had the opportunity to walk through our doors and receive those tools in the form of Buddha’s teachings and instructions on how to transform an uncertain and stressful life into a joyful and meaningful one. And as Kadam Morten has been heard saying lately, “We’re only just getting started.”