The Sopris Sun

Dharma Center offers a way of compassion

By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer


The Roaring Fork Valley’s Buddhist practitioners now have a place they can call “home,” sort of, at the Way of Compassion Dharma Center in Carbondale.

Located in the Third Street Center, it the first such center to open up in the valley, according to its Spiritual Director, John Bruna (who also goes by a traditional Buddhist name, Jangchub Chophel).

In addition, according to the center’s web site (www.wocdc.org), there now is an “app” that practitioners can use “to help us stay connected to the Dharma,” a reference to the teachings of Buddha, known as Dharma.

The center’s staff held a ribbon cutting ceremony at their new location on May 24, and is now open for business, said Bruna. He noted that Buddhist luminaries, from the Dalai Lama to monks from various monastic centers in India and in the U.S., have been coming to the valley for decades and have attracted considerable interest and devotion from area residents.

The whole effort to create the Way of Compassion Dharma Center, Bruna said, arose after he basically had stopped being a teacher of Buddhism, preferring to teach Mindfulness and other disciplines.

He moved here several years ago to be closer to the woman whom he ultimately married, Laura Bartels, a straw-bale construction contractor, originator of the Mindful Life program and a teacher in her own right.

But before that, Bruna’s path had taken him through six years of monastic training at the Gaden Shartse Monastery, which is headquartered in India but has a satellite center in Long Beach, Calif., where Bruna has lived and taught.

He also has had more prosaic jobs over the years, ranging from regular blue-collar work through substance-abuse counseling and teaching at a low-income, urban high school, he said.

But in 2001 he “found his spiritual teacher, Venerable Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen,” a life-changing experience that ultimately took him to India to be ordained as a monk in the Tibetan Geluk tradition.

Although he currently is a layperson, having at one point given up teaching Buddhist practices and philosophies, his arrival in the Roaring Fork Valley lead to requests that he take up the mantle of teaching once again.

“People here in the valley really wanted some of these teachings to be available,” he explained, so he went back to his previous role.

“In order for me to teach, someone has to ask,” he said in an interview at the Way of Compassion Dharma Center, adding that while his “teachings” are free, he and the center depend on contributions from practitioners and other supporters to keep the door open, the lights on, and the programs going.

Sitting in the new center, he said, “We just want to be a Buddhist center that serves anyone who’s even interested in Buddhism.”

The center offers a variety of lectures and programs (see the website for details) and is planning a series of speakers through the coming summer months, including a “Bodhicitta Retreat” in June with “the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi,”; and two public talks on July 13 and 14 by the Venerable Thubten Semkye, a nun from Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery.

The WOCDC website invites those interested to “join Thubten Semkye as she shares some of the Buddha’s wise words to help us avoid falling prey to … destructive mental states and instead to nourish our minds of cool, clear wisdom and to empower our hearts with hope and joy.

The Way of Compassion Dharma Center is located at 520 S. Third St. Suite 28 and can be reached by phone at 510-0583, or online at admin@wocompassion.org.