What does your name mean?

Garchen Mila Buddhist Center was the name given for our center by our spiritual director, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche.  Rinpoche’s name, Garchen, is the first part of the center’s name. The next word, Mila, is a short form of Milarepa.  Milarepa was a Tibetan master, yogi, and poet who led an inspiring life of spiritual progress and human accomplishment. So the name Garchen Mila is a combination of Garchen Rinpoche’s name and Milarepa’s name. 

FAQ on Buddhism

Do I need to be a Buddhist to attend Garchen Mila Buddhist Center?
Not at all! No previous experience with Buddhism is necessary in order to attend practices. In fact, we all began with no experience!

Will I eventually be expected to “convert” to Buddhism in order to participate at Garchen Mila Buddhist Center?
No. Essentially, Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life.  The tradition points out a spiritual path and it is up to the individual to undertake that path – if they wish.  As in all spiritual traditions there are opportunities along the way to deepen commitment to the path, such as taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.  But the decision to undertake commitments or vows are personal decisions.

What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born into a royal family in northern India around 2500 years ago.  He realized that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness so he explored the different teachings, religions and philosophies of the day to find the key to happiness.  After many years of study and meditation he finally found ‘the middle path’ and became enlightened.  After enlightenment he taught what he learned until his death at the age of 80.

Was the Buddha a God?
He was not, nor did he claim to be.  He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

Is Buddhism a religion?
To many, Buddhism is a religion. For others it is more of a philosophy or ‘way of life’.  These sorts of distinctions are not generally an obstacle for practice and are a matter of personal discovery and interest. 

Do Buddhists worship idols?
Buddhists pay respect to images of the Buddha and other representations of enlightened mind.  An image of a Buddha is intended to serve as a reminder of our own mind’s potential for fullest awakening, and reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the Teacher and the Teaching.

Are there different types of Buddhism?
As the Teachings of the Buddha made their way to places beyond India, many systems of study and practice developed in order to accommodate the needs of individuals of various backgrounds and cultures. While there are many different systems of Buddhist practice, all share in common the Four Noble Truths, the teachings on the law of actions and their results, the teachings on impermanence, and not-self; the five precepts, etc. While the emphasis varies from country to country, what does not vary is the essence of the Teaching. In the West we have many teachers and Dharma centers from the Theravadan, Zen, and Tibetan traditions. In Iowa City there are two other Buddhist communities – the Iowa City Zen Center  and a Thich Nat Hahn group called Winding Path Sangha.

What does Buddhism say about other religions?
Buddhism is a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs and religions.  In addition, from a Buddhist perspective it is not necessary to give up or renounce your other religious beliefs or practices in order to undertake the Buddhist path.

Through Bodhichitta you will realize that there is no self. Self-grasping will be destroyed, for when you think of others you do not think about yourself. Ultimately ‘self’ and ‘other’ are but thoughts. When we understand that we are not separate from others, we begin to fathom the preciousness of compassion, of Bodhichitta.

H.E. Garchen Rinpoche