The aim of the Discovering Buddhism programme is to give participants a solid footing in the study and practice of Mahayana Buddhism. This programme offers students an experiential taste of the Buddha’s teachings, experience of retreat, and the knowledge and skills needed to make their lives most meaningful.
The Discovering Buddhism programme is an estimated 2-year course for which students may receive a certificate of completion upon fulfilment of all requirements. Students may also attend on a drop-in basis without registering for the certificate. While helpful, it is not necessary to study the subject areas in order.
There are a total of 14 subject areas within the Discovering Buddhism programme. Within each subject area, certificate students are expected to attend lectures, engage in meditation practices relevant to the topics taught, join in discussions, read texts, and do short retreats. There are also opportunities to review their knowledge with the teacher.
The final subject area ‘Special Integration Experiences’ includes a list of longer retreats and other experiences required in order to ‘graduate’ from the programme. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspect of the programme.
This programme is not designed as an academic study of Buddhism, but can change your life if you let it.
Discovering Buddhism subject areas:
Mind and Its Potential: Examine what is ‘mind’, its nature and function, and how it affects our experience of happiness and suffering. Explore the differentiation between mind and brain, mind as the creator of our experiences, and the implications of possessing a mind that has no beginning and no end. In addition, learn methods to transform destructive thoughts and attitudes and create a positive and joyous mind.
How to Meditate: An introduction to basic meditation techniques. Learn the definition and purpose of meditation, how to sit properly, how to set up a meditation session, the different types of meditation techniques one may employ, and how to recognise and deal with obstacles to meditation.
Presenting the Path: This topic gives an overview of the entire Tibetan Buddhist path, beginning where we are now to the ultimate awakening of Enlightenment. Starting with the life story of the Buddha we explore his teachings as they are presented in the coherent curriculum that is the lam-rim, or ‘graduated path to enlightenment’. We demonstrate how the topics are related, and how they build one upon the other in an experiential way to support our own spiritual development in current western society.
The Spiritual Teacher: Take the time to investigate the role of the teacher on the spiritual path: the need for a teacher, the qualities of a teacher, the qualities of a student, and how to relate to a teacher for greatest benefit in one’s spiritual life. Consider the challenges we face when thinking of entering into a ‘guru-disciple’ relationship and learn how to overcome these skilfully.
Death and Rebirth: Explore the process of death and rebirth and its impact on how we live our lives. Be guided in skilful reflection on the meaning of death and what to expect at the death-time. In this way, fulfil your purpose in life, resolve conflicts, and develop the skills to help both yourself and others at the time of death. Eventually, through Buddhist practice, one can overcome death altogether.
All About Karma: Learn the essential facts about the law of cause and effect and generate a clear understanding about how karma works. Discover effective tools to accumulate merit – the cause of happiness and success – and purify mistaken actions done in the past. In addition, explore ways to become adept at dealing with life most effectively and thereby take control of your future.
Refuge in the Three Jewels: Get informed about what it means to take refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), and the essential practices of refuge. Find out more about the advantage of taking lay vows and their role in enhancing our spiritual growth.
Establishing a Daily Practice: Assemble the tools you need to develop a successful daily practice. Using Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s A DAILY MEDITATION PRACTICE as a guide, become familiar with the elements necessary to generate realisations in the mind. Also, receive some tips for making every action of the day meaningful.
Samsara and Nirvana: Investigate what ‘samsara’ is and how we are stuck in it. Find out what ‘nirvana’ is and how to achieve it. Develop the determination to be free from suffering and empower yourself with practical tools to deal with and eliminate disturbing emotions forever.
How to Develop Bodhichitta: Discover the clear meditation instruction available in Tibetan Buddhism that enables us to develop our innate qualities of loving kindness and compassion. Become skilled at applying these techniques to generate the mind of bodhichitta, the wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others, known to be the heart of Buddha’s teachings.
Transforming Problems: Consider well the disadvantages of self-cherishing and the advantages of cherishing others more than ourselves. Get inspired to ‘exchange yourself with others’, and then be guided in how to employ the special techniques of mind training or ‘lo-jong’ as a means to transform problems into happiness and learn to like problems as much as ice cream!
Wisdom of Emptiness: The realisation of emptiness is crucial for the attainment of liberation and enlightenment. Take this opportunity to enhance your ability to bring about this realisation. Learn how to develop calm abiding and different methods to use in meditation on emptiness. Practise accumulation of positive potential (merit) and purification of obstacles – indispensable for generating realisations within the mind.
Introduction to Tantra: Learn the definition of tantra, how tantra works and why it is a powerful form of practice. Get a broad overview of the four classes of tantra and learn how to practise simple Kriya tantric methods. In addition, find out how to integrate the practices of tantra with lam-rim meditation for optimal results.
Special Integration Experiences: By undertaking intensive practices of purification and a minimum two-week lam-rim residential retreat, prepare your mind in the best possible way to gain realisations on the path to enlightenment. Purification practices include: 100,000 prostrations, 3-month Vajrasattva retreat, and Nyung Ne. This is a great way to seal the blessings of this programme.