Experiential Buddhist Education
3 January - 8 May 2020
Abiding Heart Education's campus is in Kathmandu. This course is open to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of Buddhism through head, heart, and doing. We combine philosophy studies, meditation practice, and transformative arts of the Himalayas and the west to provide a truly unique, integrative learning experience.
12 January---Buddhist Foundation Studies begin
12 January – 20 March---Buddhist Foundation Studies
22 - 24 February---Losar Holiday
10 March---Holi Holiday
23 March - 27 March---Reading Week
30 March - 8 May---Buddhist Foundation Studies
13 April---Nepali New Year Holiday
8 May---End of Programme
The Foundation Studies framework is an exploration of the Buddhist worldview and practice through an in-depth experiential-learning approach. Key principles are introduced and reinforced through meditation, dialogue and artistic hands-on activities. The emphasis is therefore on integration and internalisation of Buddha-dharma so that it becomes part of the growth and flourishing of one’s whole being.
We explore the three main Buddhist Vehicles or Yanas: Shravakayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Each Yana is presented from its own point of view, giving participants the opportunity to understand each Yana’s own beauty and integrity. We spend one month with each Yana, exploring fundamental concepts such as: basic goodness; relative and ultimate truth; interdependence; Buddha nature; skilful means and wisdom; and love and compassion. As we travel from materialist Buddhist philosophy to the Middle-way perspective, we also journey through the history of Buddhism, touch on key texts, cosmology, and learn how to practice key meditations.
In this process, the four main philosophical schools of Vaibhasika, Sautrantika, Yogacara and Madhyamaka are presented, explored and discussed. In the fourth month, we deepen our exploration of karma and we revisit, integrate and draw connections between all the topics presented. We encourage participants to digest the material in a personal and holistic way that gives confidence, open-mindedness, curiosity and respect for the vastness and profundity of the Buddha-dharma.
A unique quality of this course is the integration of multiple modes of learning. Lectures are balanced with significant time for meditation, interactive discussions, group processes, creative and artistic activities, as well as physical practices such as yoga, gardening and hiking. The Himalayan and transformative arts nurture an understanding of: the metamorphosis of form through sculpting with wood, stone and clay; the hidden qualities of colour through painting and drawing; the transcendent qualities of sound through music and singing; language through speech and mantra recitation; and the understanding of space through movement and Chariya dance (the dance of the mudras). Such insights go beyond the intellect and touch the realms of deep awareness and intuition.
The philosophical and transformative arts aspects of the course are immersed in meditation.We learn how to meditate using Mingyur Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s profound, creative, and easily applicable practices. At the end of the four months, participants will have a valuable understanding of how to apply Buddhist meditation anytime, anywhere. The structure of the practice starts with refuge and bodhichitta, continues with the main meditation that we are learning that day or week, and ends with dedication. This programme engages in a path of awakening according to the stages of View, Meditation and Conduct.
Our initial focus is on the essence of Meditation, which is awareness. The purpose of these practices is to allow the mind to be calm, clear, open, and pliable. Shamatha meditation is presented in a step-by-step fashion. Two different types of shamatha are introduced: objectless shamatha or open awareness; and shamatha with object, using each of the five senses, as well as the mental consciousness (using thoughts and emotions). In this way, all experiences occurring in daily life are introduced as opportunities and supports for developing meditative awareness, not only in formal meditation, but throughout the day. The ultimate aim of this style of meditation is to unite meditation with all aspects of life, so that eventually, meditation and life itself become one.
Next, we focus on Conduct by developing love and compassion through first meditating on each of the Four Immeasurables and then continue to the practice of sending and taking or tonglen. By doing these meditations, we learn how to bring love and compassion into our daily lives and how to integrate these methods to handle difficult situations that may crop up during our day, with relationships and with our thoughts and emotions.
Finally, the meditation practices culminate with focusing on the View, by developing wisdom and insight into the true nature of phenomena through analytical meditations in the vipashyana tradition. For those who are interested in exploring deeper aspects of meditation in the future, this forms ideal bridge to more advanced Buddhist meditation practice within this lineage. Thus overall, the meditation course in this retreat allows us to begin to experience inner joy by exploring awareness, see basic goodness within ourselves and others to develop loving kindness and compassion, and to also begin to discover the wisdom already inherent within ourselves.
In summary, this course provides a unique opportunity to creatively learn Buddhism, develop our meditation practice and holistically grow with a diverse group of lecturers, guides, artists and specialists. The course is a deeply nourishing experience for body, mind, and heart.