Danny Yahini practices Tibetan Buddhism and works as a custom home builder in Athens, Ohio. Yahini grew up in Israel, then after some time in the military, he moved to the United States. He was drawn to Athens in 1980 by the progressive community and the opportunity to build his own house in the woods. Today, he practices Tibetan Buddhism with the Athens Karma Thegsum Chöling (Athens KTC), a group that he helped establish.
Yahini grew up as Jewish but never felt spiritually drawn to the religion. While he enjoyed the close community and values of Judaism, he did not like the idea of worshiping a god-figure.
“I've been a seeker in terms of looking for a way to live that is healthier and more satisfying,” Yahini says.
Yahini spends his time looking for ways to strengthen himself mentally and physically through activities such as martial arts, meditation and new-age healing practices. As someone who regularly practices yoga and meditation, Yahini found inspiration in the practice of Zen. This eventually led him to explore the teachings of Buddhism.
One of the fundamental teachings of Tibetan Buddhism is mindfulness. Buddhists work to achieve a heightened awareness of their emotions and to be critical of their worldly desires. According to the teachings of Buddhism, people can find peace by pursuing enlightenment instead of pursuing worldly desires like money.
Yahini describes the purpose of mindfulness as “getting outside of our suffering or unhappiness to let go of attachment and aversions.”
Each day, Yahini strives to meditate for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening in order to train his mind. Setting aside time solely for meditation is ideal, but Buddhists can practice anytime and anywhere by observing their thoughts. This practice of mind training is essential in order for Buddhists to evaluate their everyday thoughts and realize the effect that they have on their emotions. By observing the impact of their thoughts on their emotions, Buddhists can better control negative feelings like anger and sadness.
Traditionally, Tibetan Buddhists venerate many different deities. Like many modern Tibetan Buddhists, Yahini does not necessarily believe in the deities, but he does believe in the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. The teachings set guidelines on how to live a meaningful life and gain wisdom. Yahini uses these teachings as a path to spiritual growth.
The Buddha, also known as the enlightened one, was a man who lived in India thousands of years ago named Siddhartha Gautama. Gautama was born rich, but rejected his riches to become a monk and pursue a life of spiritual enlightenment. Gautama wrote down his findings, which became the basis for Buddhism. Those who practice Buddhism aim to follow the Buddha's Four Noble Truths. These truths encapsulate the entire path to enlightenment and are called "noble" because they are meant to liberate those who follow them from suffering.
While Tibetan Buddhism is thousands of years old, it is a relatively new religion to the United States. Tibetan Buddhism started growing in this country from a New York monastery in the 1970s. Compared to other religions in the United States, it is not widely practiced. Almost all Sanghas—Buddhist communities that assemble together—are found in big cities, though some large cities do not have a Sangha in the area at all.
Tibetan Buddhists in Athens, including Danny Yahini, used to commute to Columbus to study with the Sangha there. Once the group of Tibetan Buddhists in Athens grew larger, they started meeting at each other’s houses instead of traveling. This led to the founding of the Athens Karma Thegsum Choling (Athens KTC) by Yahini and a few others 15 years ago.
Athens KTC is an informal group of people who come together to practice and discuss Tibetan Buddhist teachings every Sunday at the Factory Street Dance Studio. They begin their mornings with meditation and follow with a casual group study accompanied by coffee and tea.
Yahini describes the Athens KTC as a very diverse group of open-minded people. While some members are practicing Tibetan Buddhists, other members are more interested in non-religious spiritual growth. Almost all members hail from outside of Athens, and a few are even from outside of the United States. Yahini says the group welcomes everyone and all ideas, which makes the Sangha stronger as a whole.