In 2013, I was five years along my Buddhist path and desperately seeking a stable Dharma community. I was an avid meditator and reader – but nowhere near the practitioner that I aspired to become. That December, I had a discussion with someone who I had seen several times at meditation programs but never spoken with and she mentioned Shantideva Center. I had never heard of the Shantideva Center or pujas or the FPMT for that matter, but decided to give this new community a try. I guess that when the student is ready – the [Dharma center] shall appear – because my life instantly changed the moment that I found this welcoming community of practitioners.
I am always compelled to give to Shantideva Center because I honestly cannot begin to fathom how I can repay this center for all that it has given me and want nothing more than to help give that gift to others. When I reflect on the impact of consistently studying the Dharma and growing my meditation practice through Shantideva’s programming and community, I cannot imagine where I would be without my Dharma family.
Having seen this community flourish from the days of renting out community and storage space all over Manhattan to developing a thriving community and extensive programming in our new home, I am amazed and rejoice. I know that our growth would not be possible without the generosity of numerous donations and contributions – whether small, medium, or large; monetary or volunteering our time; without our help, I know that our community cannot thrive, and the Dharma that has changed my life in so many ways may not reach those who need it.
Five years on from that fateful day when I walked through Shantideva’s doors and I know that no matter what challenges I encounter, this community will be here for me. Whatever joy I experience, this community will be here to rejoice for me. And whenever I walk through our doors, there will always be a welcoming home for me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leilani-Kali Rivers has been involved with Shantideva since 2013. As she explains it, “When I first walked through the doors I knew that I had found a new home.” Leilani first encountered the Dharma in 2004 while staying at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, South Korea during a Fulbright Fellowship that took her throughout South Korea. While at Bulguksa she experienced a profound level of peace, generosity, and spiritual belonging like never before. Leilani is an Estate Planning attorney and has been a Dharma practitioner since 2008. She holds a BA in Political Science from Union College and a JD from St. John’s University – School of Law. She also has a background in fundraising and development and is a member of the Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Development Committee and Alumnae Board. Most recently Leilani assisted on Sacred Heart’s Capital Campaign, which raised over $75 million over a span of two years.
This program explores a practical path of transformation by being present with our pain, fear, and aversion. Mindfulness exercises and emptiness meditation are included along with reminders of how the Buddha practiced to help us move through these less than comfortable states.