Chicago Karma Thegsum Chöling is always welcoming of new visitors! The very reason we exist is to make the Dharma available to all who seek it. We understand that visiting for the first time can be somewhat of an overwhelming experience so we've composed this tab to help guide you through what to expect when visiting our center. It is our hope to make your visit as pleasant and informed as possible so you don't find yourself overwhelmed when coming here. We look forward to meeting you soon!
Are You Handicap-Accessible?
Regrettably, our center is not fully handicap-accessible. While there is a wheelchair ramp is available in the front of the building, there are, unfortunately, stairs leading from the common area up to the Main Shrine Room on the second floor. Please ask if you are in need of any assistance. We are always available to help!
What Should I Expect When Visiting?
Chicago KTC is housed in an 1920s era speakeasy with a built-in cooler some of us have nicknamed “The Vault” and a dumbwaiter which has been delightfully re-purposed into a house for our Mani wheel.
Parking on the street is possible but it can be hit or miss. However, about a half block south of us is a large parking lot where you can almost always find free parking.
We typically enter through the side door on the north side of the building where you will enter a common area. There you will find couches where you can sit and socialize and enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea. There is also a restroom and a smallish coat rack although we have a larger area upstairs to hang your coat outside the shrine room.
We have shoe racks set up in the common area for when you enter the building. Removing your shoes upon entering helps us in maintaining the cleanliness of the center. If walking shoeless is problematic for you and you require your shoes to walk in the lobby or climb the stairs, we also have a seating area upstairs for removing your shoes. In keeping with Tibetan tradition, shoes are not worn in the Main Shrine Room.
What Happens on Sundays at KTC?
Sundays begin with a few short prayers called sadhanas. All sadhanas are chanted in Tibetan, usually to a melody that the Umdze (chant leader) guides us through. You don't read or speak Tibetan? No problem. Most of us don't either. However, the prayers are both transliterated and translated. Here is an example of what a section of a sadhana looks like:
So even if you don't read Tibetan script, the transliteration helps us to sound out the Tibetan, and the translation, of course, helps us to understand the meaning of what we're chanting. Ultimately though, we want you to feel comfortable. If you'd like to chant along with us in Tibetan, great! Maybe you'd prefer to just follow along in English to get a feel for things. Maybe you'd just like to sit back and soak up the experience. Wherever you are comfort-wise, that's okay. Don't feel obligated to “keep up.”
After the initial prayers we will have a session of quiet sitting meditation called shamatha, or shinay in Tibetan. Following that, on most weeks, Lama Sean will give a talk either on a foundational topic, for example, the Four Noble Truths, or a detailed explanation of one of our sadhana practices. At this point we usually take a 10-15 minute tea/coffee break. After the break, we resume with our main sadhana practice followed by long life prayers and dedication prayers.
This represents a typical week, however, due to impermanence, the schedule may change from week to week so be sure to check the home page for the most up to date information.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
If this is your first time visiting a Tibetan Buddhist meditation center we would probably recommend that you visit at the start of practice in the morning. You get to experience a little bit of the sadhana chanting we do, some experience with shamatha, or calm abiding, meditation, and a bit of a talk from Lama Sean that's designed to reinforce the fundamentals. In short, you get a little taste of everything to see if this is something you'd like to pursue more deeply.
Ultimately though, we want you to do whatever your schedule and/or comfort level allows. While we may hope that you find benefit in what we offer and decide to stick around, what we really want is for you to choose what is best for you. Some of our members come early and leave partway through. Others come later and join in wherever we are in the practice. Our main wish is for you to be happy. Whether that means coming early, coming late, or coming once and not coming back, please do so with our thoughts of loving-kindness.
Donations Gratefully Accepted
There is no charge to visitors for our regular weekly programs. However, as Chicago KTC operates solely on donations from the local community, if you feel like we are providing a beneficial service and would like to help, any contributions are joyfully accepted! There is a donation box located on the bookshelves by the stairway leading up to the Main Shrine Room. You can also donate here or at the bottom of the Membership page.