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Buddhist group finds a quiet place in Broome


Binghamton, NY (USA) — The Binghamton Buddhist group meets at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at the First Congregational Church of Binghamton located at 30 Main Street.

binghampton.jpgA group of 18 people closed their eyes, crossed their legs and clasped their hands together as they sat silently in a room inside the First Congregational Church of Binghamton.

The only sounds were slow deep breaths taken by group participants, traffic rumbling by in the street below and the occasional shout of a pedestrian walking past the church. Remaining still and quiet and becoming more at peace are some of the many benefits participants can gain from meditating weekly with the Binghamton Buddhist Meditation Group.

“Meditation practice is enormously powerful at bringing about change in people’s lives,” said Charles Goodman, the group’s primary teacher. “This group is not about dogmatic belief. What we hope for is personal transformation and healing.”

Meditation is one of the three main forms of training for Buddhists along with wisdom and moral discipline. Buddhism also emphasizes loving kindness for all sentient beings, even the tiniest insect; charity, non-violence and environmental responsibility, he said.

Goodman, who teaches in both the philosophy and the Asian and Asian American Studies departments at Binghamton University, founded the group 11 years ago along with his former Binghamton University colleague, Bandula Jayatilaka. During the Wednesday group, Goodman teaches about Tibetan Buddhism but those who practice other forms such as Zen Buddhism are welcome to attend. Members do not have to be practicing Buddhists.

“We are open to anyone who thinks Buddhist practices might be helpful to them whether or not they consider themselves Buddhists,” he said.

A practicing Buddhist for the past 20 years who volunteers his time to teach the group, Goodman noted that Buddhism and Christianity have some similarities and some differences. Both religions teach a form of the Golden Rule. But unlike Christians, Buddhists do not worship a god. Buddha was not a god, Goodman said.

“We think of him as someone who discovered some very profound and crucially important truths about the world,” he said of Buddha “We believe in finding wisdom and compassion within ourselves that enables us to cope better with the challenges of life and be more genuinely helpful and kind to others.”

That’s what drew Don Spangles of Vestal, a former Methodist, to the Buddhist religion.

“The focus is on practical stuff,” he said. “Most Buddhists tend to be loose and tolerant. You’re free to be yourself.”

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