Feeling at home in an unexpected haven at the Sakya Centre

February 01 2013
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The Sakya Buddhist Centre is unique in its teachings, special in its community and surreal in its aura, Safia Yallaoui finds out as she drops by for a chant and a cup of tea.

Feeling at home in an unexpected haven

The Sakya Buddhist Centre is unique in its teachings, special in its community and surreal in its aura, Safia Yallaoui finds out as she drops by for a chant and a cup of tea.

While many would assume Bristol’s oldest Buddhist Centre would be an elaborate temple, its homely appearance suggests something quite different – perhaps somewhere you would go for a cup of tea, rather than an hour of meditation. Sakya Centre

However, upon entrance, the uniqueness of the Sakya Centre becomes apparent – it is clear that all efforts have been made to make it feel like a Buddhist temple in the middle of Tibet. The meditation room – which looks like it once could have been a living room – is adorned with ornate statues and tapestries of Buddha.

The overwhelming sense of homeliness makes the attendees feel instantly at ease, as they grab a red cushion and make themselves comfortable on the floor. Situated next to St Andrew’s Park on Sommerville Road, the centre's peaceful surroundings make it an idyllic spot to meditate in peace and quiet.

After the session, attendees often gather in the kitchen for tea and biscuits, and a catch-up. Miranda Moore, one of the administrators for the centre, says that it attracts a variety of people. “We have the meditation sessions on Saturday and Wednesday, so people can come and learn how to meditate and count their breaths,” says Miranda, “and on Tuesdays we have the people who want to learn a little bit about Buddhist teachings.”

Miranda explains that people don't have to become a Buddhist if they attend the centre; they can just come out of interest. “We have people that come for all sorts of reasons: some want to become a Buddhist, some want to de-stress their lives.”

Pat, who has been attending the centre for over 27 years, advises: “It’s just finding the tradition or centre that suits you. It’s not an escape from the world – it’s an engagement with the world."

The centre, which is run by volunteers, provides several sessions throughout the week. The drop-in classes on Wednesday and Saturday are free, while the classes on Tuesday are £4.

For more information visit www.dechen.org. Alternatively, you can email the centre at bristol@dechen.org or telephone 0117 924 4424.