FANWOOD, NJ — It's Saturday afternoon at the Dhammakaya International Meditation Center in Fanwood. People from all backgrounds are gathered together to meditate. Towards the end of the meditation, Venerable Klint Kaevalin, the monk leading the group, articulates slowly in a calm, soothing voice: "Now, let us begin spreading loving kindness. Spreading loving kindness is like spreading out your heart, sending out good intentions to all beings."
This is just one part of the meditation sessions, which are held almost every Saturday and Tuesday. The center has been offering the free non-religious English meditations to the public since 2003. The center's motto is "World Peace through Inner Peace," explainED Kaevalin. He has been leading meditations at the center since 2010, and is known to most as Luangpi Klint. (Luangpi is the title of respect for monks.)
"When you're calm and peaceful, that feeling, it emanates out of you, it radiates out of you, like a bright candle," said Kaevalin. "Each of us are like that one candle. We have light. We're not that bright by ourselves. But when we share that candle light with others, we want to brighten the whole world one person at a time. When you have that inner peace, it spreads to people that are close to you."
He says in this way we have the potential to go from inner peace, to family peace, to community peace, to world peace.
DIMC is affiliated with the larger main Dhammakaya Temple in Pathum Thani, Thailand, which has been in existence for over 40 years. Decades ago in Thailand, the original head monk had the the dying wish to spread the teaching of meditation throughout the world, in order to increase peace. Dhammakaya Temple now has branches in every continent, and has ten branches in the U.S. The Fanwood center is home to seven monks and eight women staff, most of whom are originally from Thailand.
The meditation sessions begin with guided relaxation of the body, starting from the top of one's head and gradually going down to the tips of the toes. Once one is relaxed, the next step in meditation is consciousness or focus. Of this stage, Kaevalin remarks,"You're relaxed, you're calm, then it's easy to really see what's going on in your mind. You get to really observe yourself." You can be relaxed and alert at the same time, he added.
To aid in the focus, some may choose to close their eyes and visualize an object floating in their abdomen, such as a full moon, the sun, or a bright star. This is followed by a time of silence. Then, participants use the insight and peace they have gained from meditation, to spread loving kindness, to all the people they know, and to all the people they don't know. At the end, as a group, those interested can share their meditation experience and ask questions of the teaching monk.
In Western culture, "The good thing is we have a very good way of thinking, thinking in a process," said Kaevalin. "The problem is we've only been taught how to keep thinking, but not how to stop thinking. So this becomes stress: over-thinking."
Meditation helps us "get back to calm," he said. "It's something the world in general needs right now. To be able to clear their mind, and then work, instead of stress, stress, and then trying to get work done. It (the latter) just adds to the the stress."
Having a stable and calm mind, Kaevalin said, enables you to see how to live with others. A stable mind helps with cohesion, he said. "You start to see all the similarities (among people) and then it usually brings people together."
Kritthinan Sriwiriyasangworn, better known as Kris, one of the staff members at the center, concured.
When people have a still mind they will be more considerate of their actions," she said. In this way, she said, mediation can prevent conflict. "People will be able to live together with more harmony just by letting everyone meditate" or be mindful, in their own way, she explained. Her work at the center makes her happy "because it helps other people find the happiness in themselves".
Meditations are held Tuesday evenings, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Saturday afternoons from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., except there will be no meditation Aug. 19. The first half hour on Saturdays consists of gentle and relaxing stretching exercises, while the first 20 minutes on Tuesdays features chanting, in which attendees may choose to listen or chant along. In addition, meditations geared especially to kids and teens, respectively, are offered once or twice a month on Saturdays.
Meditation is free, and there is a donation box on premises for those who wish to donate. Those meditating use the center's chairs or mats, choosing whichever is most comfortable for them. No RSVP is necessary, and participants can attend as many or as few sessions as they would like. There is also a meditation garden, with benches, located in the rear of the property which is open to the public seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When Wanchalerm Lamyaipongsatorn, better known as Luangpi Choo, leads meditation, he tells the participants, "This is a great time for your life, to be with yourself." He explained that whenever you meditate, "that will be the best time of your life."
"We know that our daily lives are not quite peaceful, because we are dealing with many things in our lives," stated Lamyaipongsatorn. "We have work, we have problems, and mostly we spend our time with those things. You don't even think about the peace inside your mind when you are doing something else". In these cases, when you are preoccupied, you are thinking of things "outside your mind," he observed. In contrast, when one meditates, one is present inside one's mind, one is with the center of their mind, he says. Thus, meditation is a way of "keeping awareness with yourself."
Lamyaipongsatorn said the peace gained from meditation can help people adapt themselves to any place or situation.
On Saturday, Aug. 19, there will be a candle lighting ceremony for world peace outside in the mediation garden beginning at 7 p.m. As with all of the center's activities, all are invited.
The meditation center is located at 257 Midway Avenue in Fanwood. The staff can be reached during business hours weekdays at (908) 322-4187 Visit their websites www.meditationnewjersey.net and www.facebook.com/dimc.NewJersey.en/
Kaevalin summed up DIMC's essential goal: "When everyone has inner peace, that's when we can truly have world peace."