By Daniel Scharpenburg
At 268 feet tall Liberty Memorial is the tallest memorial to the soldiers of World War I in the United States.
It’s a stone tower and you can ride a little elevator to the top and look down on Kansas City. It’s surrounded by a museum that honors those soldiers who fought in the Great War. In a country where we always talk about other wars, this place is significant and a lot of people think of it as holy ground. It’s not that tall, but for a point of reference, it’s close to the same height as the Statue of Liberty and in my opinion it’s just as beautiful. It’s right next to The National World War I Museum.
Liberty Memorial casts a big shadow over this part of our city. One of the things in the shadow of Liberty Memorial is a Buddhist temple called the Rime Center. A lot of us just call it Rime (pronounced “ree-may”).
Rime is a word that means nonsectarian. It is a movement within Tibetan Buddhism to unify the different schools of Buddhism, and celebrate what brings us together instead of worrying about what divides us. The Rime Center exemplifies those ideals.
Historically different branches of Buddhism have not always gotten along.
It sits in a hundred year old church on the outskirts of the Crossroads Arts District, which has monthly First Friday events where one can go to all the art galleries and drink free wine. With a 20 year history, the Rime Center is a Kansas City institution. It’s reasonably well known and we have a very active homeless outreach program (which we’re very proud of).
Here in a city known for jazz, barbecue, architecture and the Royals, is a unique Buddhist temple. We call it the most welcoming spiritual community in Kansas City and I think that’s true.
People ask me why the Rime Center is special.
It’s here in Kansas City, the largest city in Missouri, in the middle of the country. This is not on the west coast or the east coast, where people expect Buddhist temples to be. It’s here—in the Midwest.
It’s a lay temple, run by regular people, not monks and nuns. Regular people like you and me, with an all volunteer staff.
It’s more diverse than most Buddhist temples. We bring in teachers from all different branches of Buddhism. They come to lead retreats and we have our own retreats as well. There are plenty of opportunities for some serious meditation time here in Kansas City and people come from all over to visit.
We have visiting teachers almost every month. They come from different backgrounds, different lineages, and they have different styles. A Theravada teacher is coming in October and a Zen teacher is coming in November. That’s why even independent Zen practitioners like me have a home there. It’s truly a nonsectarian Buddhist center.
We also have a studies program that’s well known throughout the Midwest, with some very experienced teachers who have been doing it a long time, and you can take vows here too. Countless people have taken refuge vows—becoming officially—Buddhist, at the Rime Center.
We also have a children’s program that teaches Buddhism to the children of members. From what I understand that’s not common in Buddhist temples. Most of the time going to the Buddhist temple means leaving the kids at home, but, not here. Here the kids are engaged too.
There are different meditation groups every night of the week (my Zen group is Monday nights) and noon meditation sessions for people that happen to work in the area.
But one of the most important things is this: no one is turned away for not being able to pay. All of our retreats and classes are “pay what you can afford.” This is very rare. If you’ve searched for retreats or classes anywhere, you know that a lot of them can be very expensive. We aren’t doing this to make money, we’re doing it to make a difference and to bring the teachings to as many people as possible.
But this is the most important thing to me: community.
I’ll always remember going to the Rime Center one day, right after my divorce.
Someone who I didn’t even know came up to me, gave me a hug, and asked if I was okay. That meant the world to me. Because we are a community. We provide real support for the spiritual journey (and some of us really need a lot of support).
I think a lot of people don’t know what we have here in Kansas City.
If you can visit, you should.
Editor: Dana Gornall