Approximately 15 years ago, I had been attending the Buddhist center in Columbus, Ohio learning about the Dharma and practicing meditation. It was an hour and half drive from Athens, and I felt it was well worth it at the time.
We had a cat, a wonderful companion who became ill with lung cancer – Henry. There was nothing else that could be done medically and I decided to call my Buddhist teacher to ask what prayers or rituals could be done for him. To my surprise, my teacher said that we should not euthanize Henry, as that would create negative Karma for us and for Henry. He said a natural death, even if the cat suffered, would do much to burn off any negative karma the cat had accumulated by killing mice or birds, etc. and he would have a better rebirth. So I began to say the Heart Sutra to my cat, reading it to him three times each night, and saying the Heart Sutra mantra to him: Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi soha (Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment hail). Henry died in my husband’s arms as he was chanting the mantra.
Saying this mantra and the sutra itself really affected me. My faith in the teachings deepened and I began to think about starting a center here – I thought there must be people in Athens who want to meditate and learn about Buddhism here. So, I began to explore that, and 3 of us began meeting weekly in our living room. Word spread and 3 people soon became 10, and truthfully, I got tired of cleaning my house, making coffee and tea and especially putting the dogs in our car so they wouldn’t bark during the meditation time! I often walked by the dance studio near our house, and I wondered about the chances we could rent a space there. It turned out one of people who came to our home weekly was married to someone on the board of the dance studio, and a deal was struck! We have been there now on Ohio St. for about 13 or so years, and we often have 15 to 20 people on a regular basis. We have teachers who come from Columbus and from our home monastery in New York, Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, to give teachings and blessings as well. We hope to continue to meet and grow for many years to come!