Long course 2018-19
4 Modules and 2 Meditation Retreats in the UK and Holland
This two year programme takes a secular rather than a religious approach to the teachings of the Buddha. This perspective emphasises the humanity of Gotama and the practical applications of his teaching in this world. The teachers encourage each student to find his or her own way of practice within the secular/religious spectrum of their own lives.
The purpose of the course is to enable students to recover and integrate the values, philosophy and ethics of early Buddhism into their lives so that they become more autonomous in their understanding and practice of the Dharma. To this end we encourage an ongoing practice that interweaves the elements of the eightfold path into the fabric of one’s daily life as a means of flourishing fully as persons and communities in this world. The course seeks to create a learning environment that balances critical enquiry, open-minded discussion, contemplative reflection and practical application of what is taught.
The meditation practice taught during this programme is primarily that of the four foundations of mindfulness (satipatthana). Other practices such as the sacred abidings (brahmavihara), collectedness (samadhi) and questioning (hwadu) are likewise introduced.
At the conclusion of his first discourse in the Deer Park at Sarnath, the Buddha presented his awakening as the result of having mastered four tasks: comprehending suffering, letting go of reactivity, beholding the cessation of reactivity and cultivating the middle way of the eightfold path. This pragmatic, ethical and therapeutic approach to the Dharma will serve as the framework for two years of study-modules, meditation retreats, personal tutorials and online group meetings.
Modules and retreats
Each year we offer two residential study modules plus one residential meditation retreat. The four study modules take place at St Cuthman’s Retreat Centre in West Sussex, UK (this is very close to London Gatwick Airport, and thus easy to access if travelling from abroad). The theme of each module is based on one of the four great tasks. Each element of the eightfold path is explored in detail as we proceed through the course.
The two retreats, conducted by Martine and Stephen Batchelor, seek to consolidate and deepen understanding of these themes and their applications in a contemplative setting. The first retreat (21-28 July 2018) takes place at Gaia House in Devon, UK, while the second retreat (4-9 June 2019) is held at Meeuwenveen in Havelte, Holland.
In between support
In addition, students are assigned a mentor from among the teachers whom they will meet monthly via Skype for a 30-45 minute tutorial. They are also encouraged to form discussion groups among themselves that meet regularly via Skype. A workbook will be provided of primary Buddhist texts, reading lists and other study aids. An online forum is available for sharing materials among the student and teacher body. The teachers offer a monthly ‘homework’ of readings, questions and exercises.