What is the real job of the Buddhist centers and the people who run them?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The purpose of a center is to provide a place where people can develop. Buddhism has only one product and that is grown-up, independent human beings. Other religions build temples for their gods, but we don’t make our centers for the Buddha. We make them for ourselves, so that there are places where we can grow and learn. For this reason, freedom, openness, and the greatest possible confidence between people are essential. Only this way can everything grow. It is very important to trust people. If you treat them like children, they will stay children forever. But if you trust them and give them responsibilities, they will grow up.

Our experience has shown that it is important to meditate together in the center for a half hour or an hour several times a week. In the space and surplus that arises through this practice, people grow together, complement each other, and become a totality. Everything else will develop by itself. One should enjoy doing whatever one likes with others in the center, but there should also be room enough for everybody to find their own rhythm in life. Of course, people who live in the center should be interested in contributing to the common work.

When new people come, one should make sure that they feel comfortable. There was a time in Denmark, about ten years ago, when people in the centers were so busy working that new people only got to see their broad backs. They had no surplus and no time, and it shouldn’t be like that. We should give new people the feeling that they are welcome, that their questions will be answered, and that they can come as often as they like without any obligation. We can give them general information and books, but shouldn’t talk at them too much or try to persuade them of everything on the first day. We make an honest and friendly offer, and then people can decide on their own.

One should basically leave people their freedom and give them space and confidence. That is very important. Often the most difficult step a person ever takes is through the threshold of a Buddhist center. Through doing this, people open themselves to completely new influences and possibilities. They are unprotected and have to rely on people they hardly know, because they are not yet experts in working with their minds. That’s why we have a huge responsibility for these newcomers.