Frequently Asked Questions About Classes
What happens at a class?
All our classes are formatted in basically the same way. Class begins with a short introduction, sometimes a brief prayer, then a guided relaxation meditation. The guided meditation is typically no shorter than 10 minutes and no longer than 20 minutes.
After the meditation, the teacher will give practical advice on the topic for the evening. For example, a class series on overcoming anger might have topics surrounding the faults of anger, the benefits of patience, and how to increase patience. At the end of the teaching, there’s usually time for Q&A or discussion. The class ends with a brief second meditation to help students integrate what they’ve learned and form a plan for daily life. Most classes are 1.25 to 1.5 hours.
At the Center and at some of our branches, there’s time to hang out afterwards and chat with the teacher and other students over snacks and tea.
What happens at a day course?
Day courses are Saturday events that occur at Ganden Center 4 – 5 times each year. They run from 10am – 4pm, including several breaks, and are open to everyone. At our branch locations, we typically hold shorter “half-day” courses that are 3 hours with a 30 minute break. Watch the video below to get a better understanding of what happens at a day course. Check our courses and events page to find out about upcoming day courses and half-day courses.
Do I need to register in advance?
Our weekly classes are offered on a drop-in basis and no pre-registration is required. You do not have to attend all the classes in a series or start with the first one; all of our weekly classes are specifically designed to be self-contained.
Occasionally, we may offer classes through local universities, including Furman University and Augusta State University. In these cases, students must register in advance through the university’s continuing education program.
We also ask that people register in advance for our special events. In some cases, we need to know how many people to expect in order to prepare certain aspects of the course. You can register and pay for special events in advance online, by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling us at 803-200-2115.
I’m not Buddhist. Can I attend?
Of course! Everyone is welcome at Ganden Center regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.
What class is right for me?
We offer classes for all levels of interest and experience.
Complete beginners will probably enjoy one of these three classes:
- “Simply Meditate” — a three-week introduction held every other month
- Sunday Mornings
- Wednesday Evenings
- Lunchtime Meditations
New students living outside the Columbia area will also feel comfortable at one of our branch classes.
Students who have an interest in studying Buddha’s teachings in a systematic, structured way may prefer our Foundation Program classes. These in-depth study classes provide commentary to all the essential teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. For students living an hour or more from the Center, Foundation Program can be taken as a correspondence course.
I have no experience. Will I feel lost?
I can’t sit on the floor. Is that going to be a problem?
No. We have plenty of chairs for everyone. In fact, most people prefer sitting in a chair to sitting on the floor, so you will be in good company!
What if I’m running late? Can I still come?
That’s fine. Just slip in quietly and don’t forget to turn off your cell phone.
Do you have anything for kids or teens?
Yes, we sure do! We offer children’s classes and teen/tween classes every Sunday morning at the same time as our adult classes. Learn more here.
What ages of children are allowed at the kids’ class?
Kids of all ages are welcome to attend our children’s class. Our current group ranges from about age 3 to age 9. If you are bringing a toddler or a baby, we do request that an adult stays with the child for the duration of class.
As for our tweens and teens, right now our class consists of middle school and early high school-aged students. The older teens at the Center (16 and above) usually prefer the adult class.
Can I bring my child to class with me?
This is up to your discretion. Please remember that other adults in the class will be meditating and trying to listen. Out of consideration for others, if you think your child cannot sit quietly for the duration of the class, it might be a better idea to leave him or her at home. You are welcome to bring your child with a game or book to keep him/her occupied, as long as the game/book does not make any noises.
You may also wish to check out the classes we have at the Center for children and teenagers.
Do I need to bring anything?
No. We provide meditation cushions for those who sit on the floor. Some people like to take notes at our classes, so you may wish to bring a notebook and a pen.
Do I need to wear anything special?
No. Feel free to come however you are comfortable. We do ask that people remove their shoes when they enter the meditation rooms.
Is there a fee?
There is no class fee for our Sunday morning classes for adults, kids, and teens. Donations, however, are accepted.
Our other classes range from $8 to $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. For our day courses and special events, prices vary.
One way to save money on our classes is to join our Monthly Member program. Monthly Members attend as many weekly classes as they want for free, plus they receive a minimum of a 25 percent discount on special events, excepting fundraiser events and out-of-town retreats.
Why do you charge for most classes? I thought Buddhists didn’t believe in profiting from Dharma.
Ganden Center is a 501(c)(3) organization, so no one at our center (such as the class teacher or center managers) ever personally profits from class fees. However, like any organization, we have expenses, including rent, utilities, branch class costs, and the support of our Resident Teacher. The most fair way to cover these costs is to ask everyone who comes to the classes to pitch in. Our class fees cover only about half of our monthly operating expenses; the rest comes from students who are happy to donate a little extra.
Unlike some Buddhist organizations, we do not receive any outside funds from any organization, governmental or private. We also do not receive funds from our umbrella organization, the New Kadampa Tradition. We rely solely upon the generosity of our local students.
If you would like to support the Center financially, please click here.
By the way, our Sunday morning classes for kids and adults are always free, although we welcome donations!
Frequently Asked Questions About the Center
Do you have open hours?
No, not at the moment. Currently, we are open for our daily prayers and meditations as well as our classes. If you would like to drop in without attending these events, we would suggest coming a few minutes early or a few minutes after the event is scheduled to end. Otherwise, just give us a call at 803-200-2115 and we will be happy to schedule a time for you to drop by and look around.
Who runs the Center?
Ganden Center is an volunteer organization that is managed by a board of directors and voting members of the local Center. Although no one personally profits from the Center’s activities, some of the Center’s busier managers are eligible to receive a small stipend for living expenses. At our Center, only the Resident Teacher receives financial support. The board and local members of the Center elect an Administrative Director (in our case, Fer Fraser), who acts on behalf of the members to oversee the day-to-day management of the Center. The Administrative Director also appoints a Treasurer (Dorothy Stafford), who manages the Center’s funds.
The other two managers who handle the Center’s day-to-day operations are the Resident Teacher (Gen Nyema) and the Education Program Coordinator (Kelsang Tabkay). The job of the Resident Teacher is to serve as the community’s primary teacher and to assist in the creation of the education calendar. The Resident Teacher of any given Kadampa Buddhist Center is appointed by the Education Council Representatives of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). The Resident Teacher can also be removed by the directors of the NKT. The Education Program Coordinator (EPC) is appointed and removed by the Resident Teacher. The EPC’s main job is to assist in the creation of the education calendar, publicize Center events, and coordinate classes and events.
Are you a stand-alone Buddhist Center or part of something larger?
We are a member center of the New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union.
You said the main meditation room is upstairs. I cannot climb stairs; can I still attend?
Yes. We have an elevator.
I’ve never been to a Buddhist Center before. What should I expect?
Our Center is a very mainstream organization, and we know that once you get here, you’ll feel very comfortable.
At our classes, we do ask people to stand when the class teacher enters or leaves the room. We also ask for people to remove their shoes when entering any of our three meditation rooms (kids and teens room downstairs, main meditation room upstairs). Our Wednesday and Sunday classes, as well as our branch classes, usually include some very short prayers, which you can engage in or just observe.
Other than that, there’s nothing special you need to know!
What’s a good book for beginners?
We think the three best books for new students are How to Solve Our Human Problems, Transform Your Life, and Modern Buddhism. Modern Buddhism can also be downloaded for free at eModernBuddhism.com, or for free at Amazon.com as a Kindle book or Barnes & Noble as a Nook book.