What I seem to be trying to do here , with this site, is work towards developing a coherent picture of the ways and means needed to experience Buddhism rather than just looking at it and ‘trying to understand it’. I want to open up Buddhism to reveal its positive path towards inner meaning in our lives. I am really developing the site for myself, just to keep my attention on the ball, but also to help people see what Buddhism is on about and how it’s practices and world view can really help change lives for the better.
In my looking at this picture from a Buddhist view of things my attention is drawn to three levels the mind seems to dwell in:
- An outer life of the mind captivated and infatuated by sensations, addicted to good and bad feelings and emotions and reacting with thoughts and actions without much consideration of consequences for self or others. The mind has a very strong resonance with the body and the world and looks to the world for substantive satisfaction.
- An inner life of the mind experienced through a developed imaginal faculty , encompassing the outer life of the mind but more aware of the context and consequences and driven by and aware of a desire to change the mind positively. It is more motivated by ethics and drawn towards the meaning beauty points to rather than just settling for the image.
- And there is a deeper realm, beyond the imagination, influencing the mind, glimmering in the background ambience , a heartfelt aware perception of expansive receptivity. Feeling a much much deeper resonance welling up from within, with direct clarity and most intimate dearest connection with reality.
All three levels of mind are there. The fact that we are here, as humans probably, means the first two dominate our experience.
These levels can be seen to some extent as corresponding to the Trikaya aspect of a Buddha, but at this stage I am trying to stay away from the complexities of Buddhism and work within western of European world views and concepts where possible.
Here is an old observation: Some deeply meaningful experience comes shining through into the conscious mind, its is conceptualized and while the mind is busy taking ownership of the clever ideas and capitalizing in the verbalization to impress others the mind forgets the connection with deeper meaning and even understanding the arisen concepts and is left with only words – but maybe with a sense that something meaningful happened.
So within this effort to understand and communicate Buddhism is the development of a course on Basic Buddhism and Methods. The ‘Basic Buddhism’ bit, is the ideas and world view that underpin and motivate Buddhist practice. The ‘methods’ bit is the ways and means and the next steps along the path of mental and spiritual development in Buddhism. I mention spiritual here because it really is the realm explored in the ‘inner life’ and ‘inner depths’ mentioned above.
So much of this website is in the service of a course entitled ‘Basic Buddhism and Methods’ . The course is presented in two six week courses. The first essentially explores explored in Part 1 of the course on Basic Buddhism and Methods is about the practical development of our mind through ethics and meditation towards a mind with attentiveness and a caring connection with others, a mind more in resonance and in harmony, with its body and life around it. The practice of ethics and meditation are truly magical. when some momentum is developed the calmed openhearted mind gives rise maturely to a deepening appreciation of inner meaning often beyond words and this could be considered to be the ‘base camp’ for Part 2 of the course development of the imaginal faculty seeking inner meaning and exploring the ‘inner life’ to the point of seeking help from strong positive ethical sensibilities and perceptions.
In other words:
Part 1 focuses on directing attention to ethics and the place and effect of ethics on meditation and how wisdom arises as direct experience in the meditative mind. Its about the gradual transformation of the mind from where and how we are now to a clear calm mind that acts in the world aware and ‘for’ self and other and Part 2 of the course places this practical development squarely in the context of Buddhism and explores it in wider and deeper perspective.
Three central aspects of Buddhism; the Buddha, his teaching and his development of the supportive community are explored,. But to look towards the inner life and depths, they are explored in two dimensions of Mind. And as in ‘ as above’ ‘so below’; a theme is developed extrapolating from the practical application of ethics and meditation from Part 1, and its associated view of the Buddha’s life, his teaching and the supportive spiritual community , in this part 2, towards the realm of the archetypal Buddha, teachings beyond words and the conceptual and the archetypal spiritual community as in Mahayana Buddhism.
This seems to fit how the mind operates. Buddhist practices is much about taking these aspects to heart , developing a heart-mind connection, and giving them space at the centre of our attention. If we think about it, we all go for refuge to something(s). In Buddhist practice we shift the emphasis more and more onto the practice of ethic, meditation and wisdom and it really helps here to bear in mind, the possibility of an enlightened mind, the teachings and the supportive community. As we develop and our minds change in harmony with our practice we can become more aware of our inner life and more direct connecting directly in the imaginal.
In the first dimension, ‘So the table below’,the mind in the realm of the body is mostly tied to feelings from the senses and to reactive responses. In the second, ‘As Above’, the mind in the realm of the imagination, more aware of beauty and connecting with empathy and well wishing with others. These realms correspond to the first two levels of the Trikaya mentions above.
|Truth and Teaching:|
|In the realm of the World||In the footsteps of the Buddha’s life. Points to notice from the Buddha’s life||The Buddha’s Teaching|
4 Noble Truths, 8 Fold Path and Meditation
|The value of connecting and developing with others.|
|In the realm of the Imagination||Archetypes and inner meaning:|
|Wisdom beyond words:|
The Heart Sutra
The White Lotus Sutra
|Collective Manifestations of Enlightenment:|
The Mandela of the Five Buddha and more
For part 2, in the realm of world , we explore and give attention to the life , the teachings and the past and present supportive human communities that underpin modern Buddhism. In the realm of the imagination, out of a clear and warm hearted mind, attention can be more directed to the Buddha as archetype, a growing imaginal presence distilled from from those early , grief-stricken days of the sense of loss of the community and its very strong volition to communicate the teaching , through meditation, a rich memory and archetypal experience of from Siddhartha to Shakyamuni, communicating in direct experience of practitioners of the golden ,radiant , earth-touching , transforming Archetypal Shakyamuni Buddha. Resonating with such archetypes shaped and formed Mahayana Buddhism through its development.
What would a part 3 of this course look like? , that might not be so ‘Basic’. We might be looking at what is behind the Buddhas and Bodisattvas, the deeper meanings beyond words and human experience that they signify, pointing towards the source of meaning , the Dharmakaya. Maybe we might look , in our imagination, out from that inner meaning towards its manifestation of the realm of the Archytypes, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the Sambodakaya, out further to the material realm, the realm of embodied minds, the human realm, with its attachments , forever changing, the Nirmāṇakāya,
The ‘Basic Buddhism and Methods’ course has been continually developed over the last six years from its origins in a course from the Sheffield Buddhist centre.