Despite arson, leaders of Columbus Buddhist temple say they're blessed to build center

September 23, 2020

 

As Eric Weinberg watched the Columbus Karma Thegsum Choling temple being destroyed by fire more than four years ago, all he could think was that the flames were releasing blessings into the air and out to the people of Columbus.

“That’s sort of what has turned out to be the case over the last few years,” said Weinberg, a board member of the Tibetan Buddhist congregation.

The Franklinton building, which fell victim to an arson fire on January 27, 2016, had sacred items such as statues, paintings and scriptures inside and had been blessed many times by Buddhist teachers over the years, Weinberg said.

“It had all been filled, literally filled, with blessings,” he said.

Those blessings, in his mind, went out to the people of Columbus and also have blessed members of the meditation center.

 

On Saturday, members of the small congregation circled the Franklinton site with their cars in celebration of what’s to come. Work on the construction of a new center began on Sept. 8.

After four years of hosting services in the basement of Congregation Tifereth Israel, a Jewish synagogue on the Near East Side, Columbus KTC hopes to be in its new building in late spring after 10 months of construction, said Lama Kathy Wesley, the center’s religious leader.

“This entire experience has shown us the generosity and kindness of the interfaith community,” Wesley said, adding that other central Ohio organizations opened their buildings to Columbus KTC for events. “Everybody has just opened their hearts to us and been so kind and really helped us deal with being homeless and the difficulties that come with that.”

 

Members have spent the past four years increasing programming, articulating their mission and values, and raising more than $2 million to build a center, Wesley said. They need about $500,000 more to complete the building, but members are hopeful that they will be able to raise that much on the center’s GoFundMe page.

After the fire, center leaders surveyed the approximately 50 member families about their vision for the future of Columbus KTC, said Kim Miracle, the director.

 

“There was a real consensus about returning to the Franklinton community and building a new center,” she said.

It hasn’t been easy, and there have been hiccups with getting city approval, unexpected infrastructure needs and rising steel costs, Wesley said. But members are excited to get a new meditation center.

 

“We learned when the fire took place that our community is more than a building,” Miracle said. “We really want to be together. We feel like we’ve been kind of nomads, but we’re finding a way to make it all work.”

Twice the size of the old church they were using before, the 10,000-square-foot center will offer much more to the members and the community.

“We look at the center building as being a container,” Wesley said. “It’s a container of sacred objects and scripture because all Buddhist shrines contain statuary.”

But it’s not sacred just because of what it holds, she said. “It’s a center for the aspirations of people who come there.”

 

The center will be open to all, as it has been since it opened in 1977, and people can learn about Buddhism as well as meditation.

“Everyone is welcome, regardless of age or background or education,” Miracle said.

It’s for people “looking to live lives that are intentional, conscious and contemplative,” Wesley said, adding that she hopes it inspires people’s hopes and dreams.

 

Weinberg said the work to raise money and keep the center going while planning for a new building has been hard but worthwhile.

“It forced us into a position where we really had to figure out who we were,” Weinberg said. “There have been so many great developmental steps along the way that I think once we’re in the new building, we’ll be a better resource for the community.”

He thinks the meditation center will be more integrated into the fabric of Columbus.

“It’s not just another church on the corner opening up; we’re actually there for more than that,” Weinberg said. “We’re a resource for something valuable for the community. We teach meditation for anyone who wants to come learn meditation.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Despite arson, leaders of Columbus Buddhist temple say they're blessed to build center - The Columbus Dispatch