The course material we will be exploring over the next five weeks is a very brief introduction and overview of the Dharma that is based on the book “No Worries” a secular western approach to Buddhism, meditation, life and actuality. This book sets out the entire communication context of the Dharmadatu Buddhist Order in full and can be purchased on-line via Amazon in all e book formats and in paperback form direct from the publishers or here. It is highly recommended that you take the opportunity to read the book in full to gain a deeper understanding of the practical nature of the Buddha’s teachings in a secular western context. All of the royalties from the sale of this book have been assigned to our charity that provides a mental health awareness and recovery program, so each copy purchased not only helps you, but helps us to help others.
Buddhism didn’t actually begin until long after the death of the person on whose original communication it is based. Because of the way in which it was established as an institutionalised religion and the way it developed over time in many different countries, we are left today with many different versions of Buddhism. This is because, over time, we have the additions of cultural aspects that include traditions, rites, rituals, superstitions and the religious dogma of revered texts that have become beyond challenge within its own religious hierarchical structures. The secular western approach to Buddhism is very different. It promotes a return to the origins of the communication that is free from those unhelpful additions so the simplicity of the principles and practices that were set out by Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, can be engaged with in a way that is relevant to living within a western culture and be of help to us now.
Buddhism is not what you think. Buddhism is how you think, why you think and what happens as a result of those thoughts. In its most simplistic understanding it is about developing ways to allow the thought process to move away from worrying, towards contentment and peace of mind. It is about developing a lifestyle that can be lived without the dramas of the external world. It is about taking 100% responsibility for everything that you think, say and do and then observing the quality of your thoughts in each moment, as this will define the quality of your experience in the next moment of existence. Buddhism follows a very basic principle of cause and effect that is based on doing the least amount of harm possible in any situation to yourselves, others and the world around you. It’s helpful to note that you don’t need to do the guilt thing or beat yourself up when you make mistakes (as you surely will) because none of us is infallible.
We are living today in a particular time in history and in a particular culture that is vastly different from Buddhism’s origins in India. We live in a rapidly evolving secular western society which brings with it unique difficulties which arise from the way we have been conditioned to live. In his original communication, he used the language of his day. He used the existent belief systems and even the superstitions of local people as a means of showing them how unhelpful they were. For his communication to be of help to us, we need to use our own language. We need to draw on information and knowledge that is available today and we should not be afraid to eliminate practices and traditions that are no longer relevant to a modern western world. The approach of secular western Buddhism is to find out not what we should believe in, but what actually works for us now by answering three main questions. 1. What works to free the mind from worrying? 2. What works to develop compassion? 3. What works to awaken us to the way things are in actuality?
As this course unfolds we will be exploring together, a brief history of the life of the Buddha and its relevance to us today. We will explore the awakening experience and the primary communications that arose from that experience. It will provide information and guidance that can be of use to us in our everyday life, so we too can begin to experience less worry and more contentment. Let’s begin by taking a look at the ‘Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry.’ This is at the centre of the context of secular western Buddhism promoted by the Dharmadatu Buddhist Order.
It is unhelpful to believe what you hear just because you have heard it for a long time.
It is unhelpful to follow tradition blindly, merely because it has been practiced in that way for years.
It is unhelpful to listen to rumours.
It is unhelpful to confirm anything just because it is stated in a scripture or text.
It is unhelpful to make assumptions.
It is unhelpful to draw conclusions from what you see and hear.
It is unhelpful to be fooled by outward appearances.
It is unhelpful to cling to, or become attached to any view or idea just because you are comfortable with it.
It is unhelpful to accept as fact anything arrived at by logic.
It is unhelpful to be convinced of anything out of respect or reverence to your teacher.
It is helpful to go beyond opinion and belief.
It is helpful to reject anything that, when accepted, tried and tested with integrity, leads to worrying in the form of want, not want and confusion.
It is helpful to accept anything, that when accepted, tried and tested with integrity, leads to the expreof loving-kindness, contentment and.
The Dharma journey is about investigating, questioning, testing and challenging what we read or hear within our own direct experience, to see if it moves us away from worrying, and towards peace of mind. At first we may find it difficult to let go of the language, the spectacle and the romanticism of what we may have previously understood Buddhism to be. That is to be expected considering the way it is often portrayed in the public domain. Sadly, this often does not reflect what is actually happening off camera, or behind the scenes.
The secular western approach is not about dilution or dummying down the message. It is about the restoration and revival of this practical method of living that will serve to refresh and enliven a valuable communication which has got stuck in the ancient past. Modern western society relies heavily on the scientific method of inquiry and discovery rather than beliefs in mysticism and magic. The ancient texts and the development of Buddhist thought over the last 2,600 years provides us with a secure legacy for which we are assuredly grateful. But we need to be aware that we are not beholden to it just because it is called Buddhism because much of it is past its sell buy date and no longer aligns itself with current known science.
The practical and systematic approach of secular western Buddhism is centred on three self-supporting and equally important methods of development. The first method is that of meditation. It is promoted as the means to develop clarity of mind and a sense of emotional well-being. The meditation practices that we teach to the public at our centres are structured and bring a very light form of discipline into our lives. Progress is measured by the significant helpful change in our mental states over a period of time. We have a core awareness practice that uses the breath as its focal point and we have a more explorative and experience-based practice that uses an assortment of people in our lives as its focal point. This encourages the development of a kinder approach to life for ourselves, others and the world around us.
The second method is about developing an ethical lifestyle that is not dependent on external rules and regulations. We try, as best as we can, to live within a clear and workable set of guidelines and work towards becoming proficient in observing our habitual patterns of thinking, speaking and behaving, taking 100% responsibility, without recourse to blaming anything external to us. These are the five basic training principles that are promoted within this context, as a means of helping us to attend fully to our practice
1. I undertake the ethical training principle, to avoid, wherever possible, doing harm and to practice loving kindness.
2. I undertake the ethical training principle, to avoid, wherever possible, taking anything that is not freely given and to practice generosity.
3. I undertake the ethical training principle, to avoid, wherever possible, engaging in sexual exploitation or manipulation and to practice stillness, simplicity and contentment.
4. I undertake the ethical training principle, to avoid, wherever possible unkind speech and to practice truthful and kindly communication.
5. I undertake the ethical training principle, to avoid, wherever possible, anything that will tend to decrease the clarity of the mind and to practice to keep the mind clear and radiant.
The third method is the outcome of practicing the other two self-supporting methods. This is the development of clarity/insight/wisdom. This is not an intellectual knowledge based pursuit. It’s not about being clever, intelligent or knowing stuff. It is about developing levels of concentrated awareness within the meditative process that will give rise to irreversible transformation. It is about seeing through our conditioned beliefs about whom and what we are, and how we came to be that way. It is about moving away from the worrying mind towards contentment and peace of mind.
Simply Buddhism Course
Talking Dharma Course
A comprehensive and practical guide to a Secular Western approach to Buddhism, Meditation, Life and Actuality.
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