Buddhist Shrine Room

The Buddhist Shrine Room is located in the Harkness Chapel in Branford College.

During the semester, the shrine is open Sunday to Thursday from 4 - 10 PM for quiet meditation, reflection, and prayer. The Yale Buddhist Community holds meditation and learning every Sunday and Wednesday from 7:00 to 8 PM for students, both undergraduate and graduate.  Chanting on Mondays, Book Club on Wednesdays, 40-min Meditation on Thursdays.  Join the group on Yale Connect or email us at buddhist.community@yale.eduThe space is available thanks to the generosity of both the Yale Chaplain’s Office and Branford College.

The Shrine is full of Yale’s history that can be seen throughout the space. First, it is a Memorial Chapel that was dedicated in 1952 to the 36 members of Branford College who died in the line of service between 1941 and 1952. The names of these Branford members are written in gold in the back of the room on the upper side panels to the right and left of the fireplace. 

Around the upper wooden panels of the room are carvings of what were - at the time of construction - considered the most important scenes from Yale student life between the founding of the College and 1917. On these panels you can see events such as the founding of the nation’s first literary magazine, the planting of the trees on Hillhouse, among others. Above these panels facing High Street is a stained glass window. Represented on the stained glass panels are major philosophers from a broad range of subjects studied at the College. On the lower right Copernicus can be seen with his plan of the universe in his hand. One last feature of the Memorial Chapel is the beautiful fan-vaulted ceiling - one of few in the United States (another being in the National Cathedral).  

The Buddhist Shrine was consecrated as a sacred space in 2012. There are many different sects of Buddhism and the Shrine includes sacred objects from several of them. The main Buddha on the altar hails from the Thai Buddhist (Theravada) lineage. A beautiful scroll painting of Kuan Yin (Guan Yin/Kannon/Avalokitesvara), a female incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, hangs on one wall.  On another wall is an amazing thanka (painting) from the Tibetan (Himalayan/Vajrayana) lineage depicting Sakyamuni Buddha. The Shrine also holds a scroll of the Four Bodhisttva Vows (Mahayana/Zen/Chan), hand-brushed by the father of YBS’s former student president Tan Zhi Xuan. On the altar is an incense holder where you may offer incense, as well as instruments for chanting.  Beside the altar is a representative of the Bodhi Tree, where the Buddha meditated to attain nirvana. You, too, can meditate near this tree on any of our lovely purple meditation cushions, but enlightenment is not guaranteed.

We also have an ever-expanding, free lending library where you will find excellent books on Buddhist meditation, Buddhist philosophy, and the Buddhist perspective on a range of issues.

There is no reason to not visit this beautiful, unique, oddly quiet sacred space in the heart of the bustling Yale campus!

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