- The first part of the program is four months long and consists of 16 modules that are delivered over a 16-week period, one per week. The first module is sent out on Sep 1, 2016 and the last is sent on Dec 21, 2016.
- There are two follow-on courses, one between Dec 29, 2016 and Apr 19, 2017 and the other between Apr 26 and Aug 21, 2017.
- The entire program is thus a year long, but consists of three separate 4-month segments. Participants can take one segment, two, or all three. Each segment involves a separate registration.
The course is organized around a lunar schedule, based on when the moon is over Bodhgaya, India (the place of the Buddha’s awakening) during four major points in its cycle: new, waxing, full, waning. These occur approximately a week apart, but can fall on any day of the week or at any time of day or night. The exact schedule is posted in advance. Participants will receive a courtesy e-mail on these dates directing them to the course web site, where the next module will have been activated.
In the Buddha’s day everything revolved around the phases of the moon. It is a useful and reliable timekeeper to use, and has the added benefit of being universal–it is independent of all other business, national, and religious calendars. Participants will get used to looking up in the sky at night and knowing exactly where we are in the program.
- The first 4-month segment is called Living with Integrity and covers the topics that fall under the traditional Buddhist label of sīla or moral integrity.
- The second segment is called Developing the Mind and is a detailed exploration of samādhi or meditation.
- The third segment is Deepening Wisdom and covers the area of paññā or wisdom.
Each module consists of two textual passages from the Pali Canon and related explanatory material. These are brief, have been carefully selected, are newly translated in gender-univesal language, and are presented in a way that makes them relevant, accessible, and interesting. In addition each module contains two .pdf files in black and white, one for each text, which can be downloaded and printed, as well as two .mp3 audio files, one with the reading of the Text, Comment, Investigation, and Practice sections, the other with the reading of the Pali and Language sections. These may be either streamed or downloaded. Each passage contains six components:
- the Text itself in English (modified slightly for clarity and accessibility);
- the corresponding text in its original Pali (these two are presented side by side);
- a brief Comment on the text, its main themes, and why it is important;
- an explanation of key points of Language regarding the Pali and how it is translated;
- guidelines for investigating the meaning of the text in one’s own experience;
- guidelines for integrating the teaching of the text into one’s own meditation and daily life practice.
- For those with some meditation experience but little formal study of the tradition, the course offers a useful overview and solid foundation upon which to build a reliable understanding of the key elements of the Buddha’s teachings.
- For those with considerable experience in Buddhist study and practice, the course is an invaluable resource for advanced study and deeper investigation. The Pali and Language sections alone offer information not easily obtained elsewhere, and the passages selected for investigation are often not the most common.
- For someone with little or no exposure to Buddhism, the course can be an excellent introduction to its core ideas in a way that is directly and immediately relevant. Beginners can ignore the Pali and Language sections, and focus on understanding and Investigating the core ideas for themselves, and on putting the teachings into Practice.
Participants are strongly encouraged to sign up for this course in pairs, small groups, or as larger sitting-group communities. The support of others in a systematic exploration of this kind is invaluable, not only to sustain enthusiasm and engagement over time but also to learn together, to learn from one another, and to develop some deeply meaningful relationships. Do it with your partner, or a good friend, or a colleague at work; do it with your dharma brothers and sisters from previous programs, from practice center affiliates, or with like-minded people in your local geographical area with whom you can get together in person from time to time. Those for whom this is not practical and who sign up individually, opportunities will be available to connect with others electronically.
The course itself is designed as a resource for individual study and for peer-to-peer learning, and is not intended as a teacher-student offering. The teacher behind the program is a kalyana-mitta, a ‘good friend’ sharing the path of exploration with participants, and is not a spiritual guide, meditation teacher, or formal Buddhist teacher in any particular lineage. Participants are encouraged to invite teachers from their own communities to share the investigation of this material with them. The program is well suited to act as a curriculum that can be followed by existing sitting groups under the guidance of an established teacher, for experienced students to form their own groups to lead through the process and get some teaching experience, or for participants to share leadership functions for one another on a rotating basis.
- Registration begins August 1, 2016 and is open to anyone. There is no application process and no limit on the number of participants. International students are welcome, though all communications will occur in English.
- Registration will not close immediately, and people may join after it has begun and catch up. However, joining the course too late is not recommended, since the heart of the course it to allow time for each module to ‘sink in’ and be explored fully in one’s own experience.
- For this reason, registrations will no longer be accepted after Oct 1, 2016.
No. The program is deliberately designed to unfold at a particular pace. Students can always go back and work with material already received in previous modules (and if one has the additional time and interest this is encouraged), but there will be no jumping ahead. By spacing the modules a week apart participants are encouraged to thoroughly digest each set of texts before moving on to the next. It may seem that one ‘gets it’ on first reading, but recalling the teachings again and again over a period of time allows for fresh perspectives, unexpected associations in everyday life, and creative insights. The timing of the course makes room for this and encourages the cultivation of patience.
The first 16-week program, Living with Integrity, costs $240, which is $15 per week or just over $2 per day. For those who sign up for the second or third program, there is a significant discount, and returning students pay only $199 for each course.
Yes. Scholarships are offered on a “helping one another” model:
- Those who are able to give more than the full course fee, and are willing as an act of generosity to help others participate, are invited to offer dāna (a voluntary donation) over and above the base rate of the course.
- Those who are unable to afford the full fee, and would like to participate in the generosity of others, may offer only what they can and ask for help with the balance.
- All dāna offered in this context will be put aside and matched to requests for help. Whatever funds are available will be shared, and will be used for no other purpose.
More information is available on the Scholarships page.