FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Do you have questions about Buddhism or wanted to learn how to meditate? If so, the New Jersey Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center may have answers for you.

"The basic philosophy of Buddhism is to do good, not evil, and improve your mind," center member Ravi Karunaratne said.

The New Jersey Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center was established in 2003 and is located in Franklin Township minutes away from Princeton and a 45-minute bus ride from New York City.

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In Sep. 2009 the Samadhi Buddha statue was built, on the 10-acre property of the Meditation Center. According to their website, it is the largest outdoor Buddha statue in the western hemisphere. The Buddha is 30 feet tall, sits on a pink lotus and is made of steel and concrete. 

Since the unveiling of the statue, the center has been considered a New Jersey landmark attracting a steady stream of visitors throughout the year. It can be seen from Route 27 by people driving by, especially on a moonlit night due to the luminous glow of the statue. 

"Our members come from all over - New Jersey,  Pennsylvania, Deleware and New York, we have about 600 families," center member Dr. Wije Kottahachchi said.

According to their website, "the New Jersey Buddhist Vihara is dedicated to serving Buddhists, as well as non-Buddhists in the United States, essentially for religious, cultural and social purposes."

Many practicing Buddhist believe peace can only be found through love, compassion, tolerance, co-existence and non-violence. At the New Jersey Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center visitors can learn practical methods to deal with the everyday stresses of life through various programs offered at the center. 

Visitors can meditate in front of the Samadhi Buddha statue every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. There is also a scenic redwood tree-lined meditation trail, one can walk to help cleanse their mind, and along the trail, they will see quotes to help with meditation. 

On Friday nights between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. are evenings of meditation with the resident monks and after meditation one can take part in discussions on the Buddhist doctrine. There is also a Dhamma school for children to help give them a foundation to assist with the development of rational thoughts, along with positive attitudes.

At the center, you can learn different forms of meditation - Metta Meditation, Anapansati Meditation, and Buddhanussati Meditation. 

The New Jersey Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center provides descriptions of each form of meditation, below is a brief snapshot:

Metta Meditation: "Metta meditation is a good way to calm down a distraught mind and some consider it to be an antidote to anger."

Anapanasati Meditation: " The practice of anapanasati is a tool to free oneself from suffering generated by uncontrolled thoughts."

Buddhanussati Meditation: "In this meditation, we direct the mind to the qualities of Lord Buddha as the object of meditation."

The New Jersey Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center is in the midst of an expansion project that will include an 11,000 square foot building that would house a library, meditation hall, residence for the clergy, and areas for community gatherings. The meditation trails through the woods will also be expanded and meditation gardens will be built. 

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