“My” Meditation Teacher: Bart van Melik

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. — Anonymous

Several years ago, I attended a Chinese-speaking temple for several months with our dear neighbor Melissa. The abbess and congregants went out of their way to ensure that I always knew what was going on by providing a translator for me, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. But despite their best efforts, the language and cultural differences were insurmountable barriers. I realized that if I were going to really learn Buddhism, I would have to find an English-speaking temple to call home.

I “temple hopped” for a while before settling on the New York Insight Meditation Center (NYIMC) “…an urban center for the practice of mindful awareness, called Insight or Vipassana meditation.” I immediately felt comfortable in the lovely, open space with exposed brick and a simple altar graced with a live, flowering orchid and statues of the Buddha and his mother Maya. The Center describes itself as being:

  • A casual, non-ceremonious spiritual center. We do not observe any specific rituals.

  • Our lay teachers do not wear robes or have honorific titles (although we sometimes host monastic teachers who do).

This was the polar opposite of the Chinese temple that I had been attending, where even the congregants wore robes. I attended classes, “sits” and day-long retreats and soon became a member.

My favorite classes were taught by Bart van Melik, a gentle, soft-spoken young man who made the Buddha’s teachings — dhamma (Pali) or dharma (Sanskrit) — come to life by presenting real-life examples. He also had the seemingly effortless ability to unite groups of strangers. At the end of every multi-week course, Bart’s students expressed sadness — not only because the course itself was over, but because our group was going to be disbanded.

I quickly came to think of Bart as “my” teacher.

Imagine my delight when I saw Bart’s face smiling at me this morning from a newsletter that I receive from Tricycle magazine! I quickly clicked the link and started my day by watching his thought-provoking, 17-minute dhamma talk on family and the Four Noble Truths. I am excited to share it — and “my” fabulous teacher — with you, dear readers. Please watch and let me know what you think.

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