Island Buddhist monks welcome public to new Charlottetown centre

Dave Stewart
Published on November 29, 2016

The Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) has opened a public Buddhist centre on Queen Street in Charlottetown, simply called GEBIS Charlottetown. Geoffrey Yang, executive secretary with GEBIS, said it’s a place people can go to read a book, have a chat, study or mediate. It’s open afternoons and evenings on Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

©TC MEDIA/Dave Stewart

Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society leasing second-floor space on Queen Street

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Buddhists on the Island are opening their doors to the public.

The Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) recently leased some second-floor space on Queen Street where it is going to be opening a community centre.

The charitable organization is based out of eastern P.E.I. where it operates a monastery and private retreat centre that is not open to the public on a daily basis, except for the annual open house in May.

“Since the arrival of the Buddhist monks in P.E.I. in 2008, locals have been requesting to learn about the Buddhist philosophy,’’ said Geoffrey Yang, executive secretary with GEBIS.

With that in mind, the monks have offered some Buddhist courses in Charlottetown over the past eight years in rented spaces in different locations, such as UPEI and downtown Charlottetown.

“After years of trial and search, we finally decided to lease a space in Charlottetown as a more stable venue to hold classes and engage more in the community.’’

The community centre, called GEBIS Charlottetown, is located at 133 Queen St. (next to Casa Mia Café) on the second floor.

The centre will be open to everyone on Wednesday and Thursday in the afternoon and evenings as well as on Saturday and Sunday during the afternoon.

Yang said the objective is to help those interested in learning more about Buddhism, about the philosophy and its application to daily life. Through a variety of courses, people can apply and practise these concepts “and become more mindful and happier.”

Currently, GEBIS Charlottetown has two courses to offer. There’s one for beginners who just want to learn about basic Buddhism and one for more advanced practitioners who attend the weekly study groups.

The beginners’ course is a six-week program that takes place each week. Each class is about 90 minutes and teaches basic concepts about Buddhism, such as harmonious relationship, mindfulness, compassion and meditation. These classes also run on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Everything is offered free of charge, although donations are accepted.

“We have received a lot of requests for meditation in order to reduce stress and cultivate mindfulness. We plan to launch a meditation course soon. It will include a dharma talk about the concepts and techniques about meditation and a guided sitting meditation.’’

GEBIS Charlottetown also plans to organize events such as an exhibit about Buddhist art and culture, a movie night, cooking class and more.

So far, the reaction has been positive.

“People who have been attending study groups have said they feel like it’s like home to everyone who can come by and read a book, have a chat, study or meditate anytime,’’ Yang said.