Introduction for Newcomers

If You're New to Buddhism

If you don't know much about Buddhism or have never meditated, we'd be glad to meet with you before our meditation or teachings to explain a little--email us at or call 803-467-7759. You can also read more on our Teachings page.

If you have never practiced or studied Buddhism, we hope you’ll find it a helpful way to understand yourself and the world. Buddha was not a god, but a human being who became enlightened, and we believe that everyone can follow his teachings and reach that goal, too.

What Buddhists Do

The South Carolina Dharma Group follows the teachings of the Dalai Lama, and we try to act to practice compassion, study to gain wisdom, and meditate to understand our minds and the truth of reality. We hope you’ll visit us and learn more about how we do these things.

Our Meditation

We mostly practice meditation that is called shamata, or “calm abiding.” That means we sit quietly on a cushion or chair and focus our minds on one object. We are glad to talk with you about how to meditate, and also offer resources to read.

Our Study

We read books by both very ancient and very modern teachers; we listen to teachings from our spiritual director, the Tibetan monk Geshe Dakpa Topgyal, as well as others; and we have discussions of what we’ve heard and read, to help us understand and remember the teachings.

Our Dharma Center

The shrine room is filled with statues and thangkhas (paintings on cloth), representing various Buddhas who embody different aspects of our minds and hearts. We prostrate (bow) to them at the beginning of each session (you can just stand quietly at first), not because we worship them as idols, but because they represent the teachings that can help everyone live without suffering. We also make offerings of flowers, candles, incense, fruit, and other things, because giving things away helps us practice not holding on to things that will not last. If a teacher is present, we stand with heads bowed until they are seated, and we never let the soles of our feet face the altar.

If You've Practiced Another Kind of Buddhism

We're always glad to have other kinds of Buddhists join us. Our regular Sunday meditation includes a few minutes of prayers and mantra, followed by 30 minutes of shamata meditation (of course, you can meditate any way you choose). If you need more information, or call 803-467-7759.

Since Buddhism has many lineages and traditions, you might find our practice familiar or very different from what you’ve known in the past. We practice in the Mahayana tradition, Tibetan Buddhists who follow the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We welcome practitioners from all traditions and hope you can find SCDG a place to practice and study.

Our Meditation Practice

We follow the pattern of becoming proficient in shamata or one-pointed calm abiding, before starting vipassana or insight meditation, but of course while sitting silently you are welcome to practice as you like. We usually prostrate and say chants, prayers, and mantras before and after meditation, and as a group, meditate for 30 minutes once a week.

Our Approach to Study

We read individually but listen as a group to teachings from our spiritual director, Geshe Dakpa Topgyal, as well as Ahbay Rinpoche of India, Venerable Thubten Chonyi of Sravasti Abbey, and many others. During the pandemic, we have weekly Dharma Discussions via Zoom, usually focusing on traditional texts like the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, but in other times, we have discussions, teachings when teachers can visit, and retreats at the Radiant Mind Retreat Center in St. George. We have also had online retreats via Zoom.

Our Lineage

Mahayana Buddhism flourished centuries after the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. It came to Tibet in the 7th century CE and for a time was practiced all over Tibet. When some kings returned to the traditional Bon religion, Buddhism in Tibet fell into disarray. In the 10 century and later, Atisha and other great teachers helped revive Buddhism in Tibet, and in the 14th century, Je Tsongkhapa worked to organize and clarify practice and Dharma teachings. He clarified the teachings of the Kadampa school, calling the lineage now the Gelug. (Other, older Tibetan lineages are Kagyu, Sakya, and Nyingma). All lineages are in the Mahayana tradition, believing that we work not only for our own liberation, but for the enlightenment of all sentient beings. The Dalai Lama is believed by many in Tibet to be a reincarnation of Avalokitesvara, known as Chenrezig in Tibet—the bodhisattva of compassion. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, lives now in Dharamsala, India. He ordained our spiritual director, Geshe Dakpa Topgyal.

If You're Visiting from a College Class

Many students from local colleges and universities come to visit to experience the practice of another religion. We are happy to have you come to the Dharma Center, and to meet with you before or after our meditation to answer questions and explain what we do---email us at or call 803-467-7759. During the pandemic, we're glad to do Zoom interviews, if your class wants that.