Friends Buddhism courses

These pages of the site provide teaching material on Buddhism suitable for Friends or Regulars. There are two pages, one for each of the following:

Ø Complete ‘Level II’ Buddhism Courses

Ø Courses on specific Buddhist themes and Notes on possible courses or themes

Each section consists of a long page containing a variety of material; it is arranged with the most-fully-developed and easiest to use at the top; leading down to simple outlines or notes for possible courses at the bottom. In this way once the page has loaded, you can scroll up and down to see the range available.

The material at the top of each page should be ‘ready to use’; it generally consists of well-prepared courses often including attractive handouts.

Complete ‘Level II’ Buddhism courses

Buddhism 2 (Vajrapriya, Cambridge, 6 modules of 6 weeks each)

This is a comprehensive course designed by Vajrapriya from the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. It consists of 6 modules lasting 6 weeks each ie 36 weeks total.

OVERVIEW OF THE COURSE

This course will provide a firm foundation in Buddhist thought and practice. It is aimed at people with a basic grounding in meditation and Buddhism, who want to discover whether and how to apply Buddhism in their lives.

FORMAT OF THE COURSE

This course runs in six 6-week modules. Each module stands alone, and so you can join and leave the course at any point. You don’t need to take the modules in order.

Each session – of 2.5 hours length – will usually comprise: a short meditation; a semi-formal presentation by the leader(s); discussion time for participants to relate the material to their own life; experiential workshop aspects.

The course is not intended to be an academic introduction to Buddhism: the emphasis is on the practical application of Buddhist teachings to our own lives.

There will usually be some “practical homework” to do between sessions: this will not usually be study-based. Suggested reading will be given for participants to gain the most from the course, but it will not be integral to the course.

PRE-REQUISITES

It is necessary to have completed:

  • Introduction to Buddhism (Level 1) course, or to have an equivalent knowledge of Buddhism.
  • The Introduction to Meditation (Level 1) course, or to be familiar with the Mindfulness of Breathing and Metta Bhavana meditation practices.

COURSE AIMS

By the end of the course, it is hoped the participants will:

  • Be able to relate Buddhist teachings to their own experience, and practise them in their daily life.
  • Have an appreciation of the breadth and living spirit of the Buddhist tradition, while bringing a critical faculty to their understanding of it.
  • See the different Buddhist practices (ethics, meditation, study, friendship, ritual) as an integrated system of development.
  • Develop relationships with other participants by sharing experiences and ideas, in order to support practice and stimulate understanding.
  • Understand what it means to “be a Buddhist”, and have a sense whether or not they consider themselves to be one.

COURSE OUTLINE – THE SIX MODULES

The six modules are listed below, together with their proposed content – the actual content may vary slightly according to the judgement of the leader.

Traditional Buddhism – What makes you a Buddhist?

Buddhist Wisdom – doctrinal Dharma

Buddhist Wisdom – symbolic Dharma

Buddhist ethics

Ritual and Devotion

The FWBO System of Spiritual Practice

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Traditional Buddhism – What makes you a Buddhist? (Vajrapriya, Cambridge, 6 weeks)

What makes you a Buddhist?

Module 1 of the Level 2 – Buddhism Course by Vajrapriya, Cambridge Buddhist Centre, UK (uploaded November 2007). Length of this module: 6 weeks

The resources include

  • notes for the course leader (including learning objectives, guide lines for input and exercises, background information, suggestions for home practice), and
  • handouts

Overview

Faith within a Buddhist context

Going for Refuge – Enlightenment as goal of Buddhism

Dharma as doctrine – approach to doctrine, parable of raft, 3 levels of wisdom

Dharma as method – become a Dharma chef, threefold path

Dharma as method – the five spiritual faculties

Development of the Sangha – historical development of three yanas, FWBO in context, lineage of Enlightened ones.

Week 1: Sraddha – Faith within a Buddhist context

Topics: Grounds of faith; developing faith; faith and doubt; faith and inspiration; experiences of faith.

Week 2: Going for Refuge

Topics: Historical expressions of refuge; GfR as commitment; what are we taking refuge from?; where do we usually take refuge?; true and false refuges; Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels.

Week 3: The Buddha and Enlightenment

Topics: What is Enlightenment?; epitaphs & metaphors from the Pali Canon; qualities in terms of the 5 skandhas; the psychology of goal-setting (advantages and disadvantages).

Week 4: Dharma as Truth Teaching

Topics: Buddha Vacana; Dharma as Truth Teaching; attitude to doctrine; importance of views; Going for Refuge to the Dharma

Week 5: Dharma as Path and Method

Topics: a toolkit of practices; the ‘three trainings’; progressive nature of the path; attitude to practice

Week 6: The Sangha

Topics: What is the Sangha and why is it important?; how to Go for Refuge to the Sangha; Review of the 6-week course.

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Complete courses on specific themes

Approaching the Buddha (Achala, six weeks)

Here you can download notes for six talks/guided discussions introducing the Buddha, provided by Achala from Wellington, New Zealand.

  • Approaching the Buddha: His youth; the ‘Four Sights’ and the Going Forth; Enlightenment and the Nature of the Buddha; faith in the Buddha.
  • The Buddha’s Victories: Leaving the family/group; overcoming complacency and ambition; facing existential fear; being alone; Mara.
  • Stories from the Buddha’s Life: The first teaching; a case of dysentery; Kisagotami; Devadatta; meeting with Bharadvaja; mediating between the Koliyans and the Shakyans; Ajatasatru and the silent assembly; Ananda’s grief; Subhadra, the last disciple.
  • Vignette: The Pabbajja Sutta from the Sutta Nipata
  • The mythical Buddha: The Buddha as a symbol for one’s spiritual goal; myths around the Buddha; the diamond throne; calling the earth goddess to witness; Brahma’s request; Mucalinda; Angulimala; the Buddha in the Lalitavistara Sutra.
  • Symbols of Enlightenment: Enlightened beings as symbols; Yab-yum symbolism; the archetypal realm; visualization practices; the symbolism of the three kayas.

Uploaded in October 2007.

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Buddhist Wisdom – doctrinal Dharma (Vajrapriya, Cambridge, 6 weeks)

Some core ideas to gain a new perspective on our lives.

Views – wrong view, right view, perfect view; qualities of Dharma

Conditionality – conditioned co-production as the middle way

Facets of conditionality – impermanence, compoundedness, interconnectedness

Four Noble Truths

Orders of conditionality – reactive and creative; karmic and non-karmic conditionality

Wisdom and compassion – altruistic dimension of Buddhism, Bodhisattva ideal

Exploring the Wheel of Life, the Spiral Path, and the Mandala of the Five Buddhas.

Download this overview here.

Week 1: Four Noble Truths

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Review of previous and introduction to this module

Our own questions and/vs. the Buddha’s big question

The four truths

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

b) Materials/handouts:

Reading Text from (old) Foundation Course, The Dharma 1, week 7

Handout on main topics

Week 2: Views – wrong view, right view, perfect view – and qualities of Dharma

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Learning outcomes

Review of last session and home practice

Views – perfect vision and right view

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

c) Materials/handouts:

Text from (old) Foundation Course, Part 4: Exploring Buddhist Practice – Ways of thinking, Week 1: The way to wisdom

Exercise on views (in different situations)

Handout on main topics

Week 3: Conditionality – conditioned co-production as the middle way

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Learning outcomes

Review of last session and home practice

Conditioned co-production: the theory; middle way (between hopelessness and wilfulness, determinism and randomness, existence and non-existence)

Interconnectedness and Indra’s Net

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

b) Materials/handouts:

Handout on main topics

Week 4: Facets of conditionality – impermanence, compoundedness, interconnectedness

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Review of previous class and home practice – the three laksanas (with exercises)

Insight meditation

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

b) Materials/handouts:

Handout on main topics

Week 5: Orders of conditionality – reactive and creative; karmic and non-karmic conditionality

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Review of previous class and home practice

Orders of conditionality (5 niyamas)

What is karma?

Mind reactive & creative

How to maintain resourceful, positive mental states

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

b) Materials/handouts:

Handout on main topics

Week 6: Wisdom and compassion – the altruistic dimension of Buddhism and the Bodhisattva Ideal

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Review of previous class and home practice

Wisdom & Compassion, introductory exercise

The Bodhisattva Ideal and the Bodhicitta

Bringing it down to earth

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

b) Materials/handouts:

Handout on main topics

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Buddhist Wisdom – symbolic Dharma (Vajrapriya, Cambridge, 6 weeks)

Buddhist Wisdom – symbolic Dharma

Module 3 of the Level 2 – Buddhism Course by Vajrapriya, Cambridge Buddhist Centre, UK. Length of this module: 6 weeks

The resources include:

notes for the course leader (including learning objectives, guide lines for input and exercises, background information, suggestions for home practice),

exercises, and

handouts

Overview over the course (download this page here)

An overview of the whole of life’s dynamics in symbolic form.

The wheel of life – knowing our realm

The wheel of life – karma and rebirth

The wheel of life – the chain of conditioning, “staying in the gap”

The spiral path – to Insight and beyond

The mandala of the five Buddhas – Akshobya and Amitabha

The mandala of the five Buddhas – Ratnasambhava, Amoghasiddhi & Vairocana

Week 1: Karma & Rebirth

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Why symbols?

Overview of the Wheel of Life

Sources of suffering (the hub) and their opposites

Skilfulness/unskilfulness (the ring of karma)

Rebirth (in every moment)

b) Handout summarizing the main points as mentioned above.

Week 2: Knowing your realm

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Review of previous class and home practice (dharmavijaya)

The six realms as karma vipaka

The realms as objective vs. subjective

Exercise: Imagining a realm from within

b) Materials/handouts:

Exercise on the six realms

Handout on the various realms

Week 3: Cyclic conditionality

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Review of previous class and home practice (experience of the six realms)

Nidana chain exercise (in unfolding and reverse order) – three-lives interpretation

Feeling (vedana) and craving (tanha)

b) Materials/handouts:

Exercise on the Nidana chain

Handout on cyclic conditionality and vedana

Reading material: Extract from Foundation Year of Mitra Course

Week 4: Progressive conditionality

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Vedana exercise

Review of previous class (cyclic conditionality) and home practice (exploring vedana)

Exercise to work out the order of progressive conditionality

The crucial link; “In dependence of unsatisfactoriness arises faith.”

Concentration, insight, and the transcendental path

b) Materials/handouts:

Exercise to work out the order of progressive conditionality

Exercise to review cyclic conditionality

Handout on progressive conditionality

Week 5: Akshobhya and Amitabha

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Review of previous class (progressive nidanas and point of intersection with wheel) and home practice

Imagination and the archetypal dimension

Exercise around archetypes and superheroes

Introducing Akshobhya and Amitabha

Principles of correlations/correspondences

b) Materials/handouts:

Exercise on progressive nidanas

Exercise on correspondences between Akshobhya and Amitabha

Handout on Akshobhya and Amitabha

Week 6: Ratnasambhava, Amoghasiddhi, and Vairocana

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Review of previous class (correspondences Akshobhya and Amitabha) and home practice (visualizing colour in meditation)

Mudras

Qualities of Ratnasambhava, Amoghasiddhi, Vairocana

The Buddha families and our personal affinities

Symbolism of the Mandala

Personal mandalas

b) Materials/handouts:

Exercise on correspondences between Ratnasambhava and Amoghasiddhi

Handout on the Five Buddha Mandala

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The Noble Eightfold Path. (Suriyavamsa, Glasgow, 8 weeks)

Suriyavamsa’s notes/handouts for his 8-week course on the Noble Eightfold Path at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre.

1. week – introduction to the course and the 4 noble truths

2. week – perfect vision

3. week – perfect emotion

4. week – the path of ethics – perfect speech, action and livelihood

5. week – meditation 1 – perfect effort

6. week – meditation 2 – perfect mindfulness

7. week – meditation 3 – perfect samadhi

8. week – summing up and checking out

9. day retreat

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Buddhist Ethics (Vajrapriya, Cambridge, 6 weeks)

Seeing the implications of our behaviour for ourselves and others

A six-week course exploring Buddhist Ethics. Provided by Vajrapriya, Cambridge Buddhist Centre, UK. This is the fourth module of Vajrapriya’s Level Two Buddhism Course in six modules.

Download this overview here.

Overview

Ethics as individual choice

Love – the golden rule

Generosity – respecting and contributing

Contentment – weakening the neurotic drives

Honesty – being true about ourselves

Awareness – the working edge for any growth

Week 1: Ethics as individual choice

a) Attitudes when trying to communicate ethics

b) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Learning outcomes for module

Exercise: Why practise ethics?

Sources of ethical judgment

The workings of karma

Intention and intelligence (skilfulness)

Precepts as training principles

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

c) Materials/handouts:

Exercise: Quotes on ethics

Handout on main topics

Week 2: Love as the golden rule

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Learning outcomes

Review of last session

First precept

Exercise: Debate on vegetarianism

Love mode vs. power mode (with writing exercise and small group discussion)

Suggestions for home practice

b) Materials/handouts:

Handout on main topics

Week 3: Generosity

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Learning outcomes

Review of last session and home practice

Dana as the fundamental Buddhist virtue

Ways of taking the not-given

Recollecting generosity

Role-play: giving – taking – receiving OR generosity audit

Dana at the Buddhist centre

Suggestions for home practice

b) Materials/handouts:

Cards for Role-play

Worksheet for generosity audit

Handout on main topics

Week 4: Simplicity and Contentment

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Learning outcomes

Review of previous class and home practice

Brainstorm about Buddhist attitudes to sexuality

How can we cultivate simplicity and contentment?

Exploring stillness, simplicity, contentment

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

b) Materials/handouts:

Handout on main topics

Quotes about stillness, simplicity, contentment

Week 5: Truthfulness

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Learning outcomes

Review of previous class and home practice

Why be truthful?

Exercise: What are the consequences of (un)truthfulness?

How to practice

Communication exercise

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

b) Materials/handouts:

Handout on main topics

Quotes on truth

Week 6: Mindfulness

a) Notes for the teacher, including suggestions for:

Learning outcomes

Review of previous class and home practice

Centrality of mindfulness in Buddhism – why?

Exercise: mindful passing of an object

Importance of body awareness

Losing mindfulness and intoxication

How to enhance mindfulness in everyday life

Suggestions for home practice

Recommended further reading

b) Materials/handouts:

Worksheet Mindfulness and Intoxication

Handout on main topics

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Some Gurus of the Past from the FWBO-Refuge Tree (Achala, six weeks)

Here you can download Achala’s notes for a 6-week course on exemplary practitioners and teachers of the Dharma-selected teachers from the FWBO Refuge Tree.

NOTE: This is what Achala said about his intentions when designing this course:

“I tried to construct a course such that it:

  • covers what an average human being needs to effectively practice Buddhism
  • doesn’t not have a scholastic bent (so a few Pali/Sanskrit terms seemed reasonable but not so many as to give the impression that the courses are oriented towards bookish types)
  • appeals to people’s imagination, as well as being intellectually clear
  • includes all of Bhante’s fundamental insights such as his stress on right understanding and the importance of Going for Refuge – although I accept that not all Order members will agree what those fundamental are
  • appeals especially to younger people – in their late teens and early twenties
  • does not involve a great deal of reading (typically max three pages of notes per week)
  • excludes material that has neither inspirational value nor practical use.

The notes for the course are almost complete. A few have yet to be written, and some could do with a bit of an edit to correct errors, and perhaps occasionally rephrase things. The material that has been prepared has been in use for about three years, and has worked really well.”

  • The Arya Sangha: Spiritual hierarchy; irreversibility; the three fetters; Arya Sangha; 10 signs of a superior man.
  • Kukai: Fact and legend; early life; visit to China; Kukai and Saicho; Mount Kukai and To-ji; later years and entry into Samadhi.
  • Shantideva: Reasons for his fame; his life; legends; example of a legendary text; his supposed indolence.
  • Hsuan-Tsang (Xuanzang): Introduction; his travels; back in China; epilogue. With a map of Hsuan-Tsang’s journey.
  • Padmasambhava: Introduction; a legend/myth; historical account of his life; the ‘second Buddha’; Padmasambhava’s teachings.
  • Hakuin: Quote from his ‘Song of Meditation’; background; his life; Hakuin’s teachings and methods; ‘his’ baby child – “is that so?”

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Mahayana Buddhism (Achala, 6 weeks)

Here you can download handouts for a six-week course introducing the various schools of Mahayana Buddhism. The handouts were provided by Achala from New Zealand. Please note that Achala says they all need further improvement! You can help in this and send your improvements to the Dharma Teaching Coordinator, here.

NOTE: This is what Achala said about his intentions when designing this course:

“I tried to construct a course such that it:

· covers what an average human being needs to effectively practice Buddhism

· doesn’t not have a scholastic bent (so a few Pali/Sanskrit terms seemed reasonable but not so many as to give the impression that the courses are oriented towards bookish types)

· appeals to people’s imagination, as well as being intellectually clear

· includes all of Bhante’s fundamental insights such as his stress on right understanding and the importance of Going for Refuge – although I accept that not all Order members will agree what those fundamental are

· appeals especially to younger people – in their late teens and early twenties

· does not involve a great deal of reading (typically max three pages of notes per week)

· excludes material that has neither inspirational value nor practical use.

The notes for the course are almost complete. A few have yet to be written, and some could do with a bit of an edit to correct errors, and perhaps occasionally rephrase things. The material that has been prepared has been in use for about three years, and has worked really well.”

1. The Emergence of Mahayana Buddhism. [This part of the course most urgently needs re-consideration. While it contains some useful notes and seminar extracts on the notions of the arhat and the bodhisattva, in its historical description of early Buddhism it is very much outdated. for the time being teachers are advised to replace (or integrate) this handout with handout 2.1 from Sagaraghosha’s introductory Buddhism course which you can download here.

2. The Bodhisattva: Bodhisattvas as historical and archetypal figures; an ideal to be practised; the Bodhisattva ideal in Buddhist literature; quotations from Sangharakshita and questions to think about.

3. The Wisdom Schools: sunyata; about the Diamond Sutra; how much ‘reality’ can we bear?; quotations and questions.

4. Yogacara and Zen: Yogacara; Cittamatra; Chan/Zen; some examples of Zen-poetry.

5. Pure Land, Hua-yan, and Vajrayana: introductions and text extracts to each of these branches of Buddhism.

6. The Unity of Buddhism: Buddhahood and Enlightenment; Going for Refuge; conditionality and the three laksanas.

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