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An expert on Buddhist philosophy and meditation will lead the inaugural ceremony for the area's first Buddhist center and will offer a Buddhist per-spective of life during a presentation Sunday at Gaia House/Interfaith Center inCarbondale.

The Venerable Chang Hwa, director of Chan Meditation Center in New York, will present "The Art of Letting Go from a Buddhist Point of View" at 2 p.m. The free address will be after the purification ceremony for the new Sunyata Buddhist Center in Carbondale.

Sunyata Buddhist Center, inside Gaia House/Interfaith Center, is designed to be a resource for area Bud-dhists and others looking to learn more about Buddhist philosophy and meditation, said Katherine Frith, president of the center.

"Buddhism is a philosophy more than anything else, and the center will be a place for those who want to under-stand and study the philosophy," she said.

Frith said Sunyata Buddhist Center is the only Buddhist facility in Southern Illinois and serves as home for the Shawnee Dharma Group, a local group that meets Tuesdays for meditation. The center includes a Buddha, an altar, library and meditation space. Plans are for the center to host a variety of events that will further the understanding of Buddhist philosophy and meditation in general.

She said Hwa's presentation is the first step toward this goal.

"She is quite an impressive person," Frith said. "She is originally from Taiwan and studied under Buddhist Master Sheny Yen. I think she'll talk about what is common in Buddhist philosophy, and that is that a lot of our suffering comes from human attachments and our inability to let go. Relieving the suffering is at the core of Buddhism."

Sumant Sumant, a practicing Buddhist originally from India who now lives in Carbondale, said he is looking forward to the ceremony and presentation.

"I think what the Venerable will say could be relevant to anybody," he said. "I think it will be a great talk for anyone to attend."

Like the presentation, Frith said that the use of the center is not limited only to Buddhists.

"It's space that is avail-able to the community," she said. "It is an open meditation space. Anyone looking for a nice, quiet space where they can reflect is welcome here."

Goals of the center include the promotion of understanding among Buddhist traditions and other major faith traditions, according to Frith.

"The Buddhist Center will hopefully serve the Thai, Chinese and other international populations of our community," she said. "We're hoping that it will grow to serve the region's international community."

Sumant said he feels the new center will meet a need.

"It will be nice for people to get together for meditation," he explained. "This will be especially nice for those people from Buddhist nations; now they have a place here in Carbondale. This will be a plus for Buddhism here.

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