Why take part in a sangha?

A variety of reasons, including:
  • to discover how to alleviate suffering in your life – this can be anything from mild not-quite-rightness to meaninglessness to intense stress or crisis
  • it means you meditate (and your mind quietens down) at least once a fortnight
  • to learn about the dharma (‘Buddhism’) from non-dogmatic but knowledgeable and experienced teachers, as well as others on the path
  • to get to know some lovely people who are all on a similar journey
  • to feel your mind and your heart grow and open

What is Secular Buddhism?

Secular in this context means 'non-religious' and 'of our time'. The Latin 'saeculum' refers to a human lifetime. 

All 'traditional' Buddhisms throughout Asia, took the Buddha's teachings and adapted it to their own times and cultures. In this way they practiced 'secular' Buddhism too. It is simply the process of taking the core teachings and adapting them to our own 
time with its particular challenges and characteristics so that the teachings are accessible and helpful.

In doing this however, it's important that we know what the Buddha actually taught. There is a lot of material around that's attributed to the Buddha that did not come from his teachings, but rather, is the product of another culture and time, adapting it. If we're going to adapt the teachings, we need to know what they are. It's for this reason that Secular Buddhism refers primarily to the suttas in the Pali Canon (the most original version of the Buddha's teachings) rather than later works from other cultures, when learning and adapting 'what the Buddha taught'.

If I come along will I be expected to keep coming or commit to something?

You are welcome to attend your first session for free, to get a sense of whether our group is what you're looking for. We are very down to earth and practical in our approach, we're not into speculating about the mystical but rather, interested in how the Buddha's teachings can help us in real life. Some people are looking for this kind of thing, others want something different. You can make that decision for yourself after you've come along.
We all attend Sangha as often as we can. For some people this is every meeting (fortnightly most of the time), others commit to once a month and then make it more often when they can. There's no roll call and no need to feel bad if for some reason you can't make it, but because we are also learning together, we do ask people to commit to coming regularly so that you don't end up missing out on too much. Whether that's every meeting or every other meeting will depend on your life commitments. Of course, we all go away sometimes, or have reasons we can't attend for a patch of time and that's perfectly fine too.

What will be expected of me if I come along?

  • Be genuinely interested in participating and learning and respectful of others’ attempts to do this too.
  • Listen to and learn from others (if you tend to 'talk over the top' of others, this is a great place to practice letting that habit go 😊)
  • Share your own experience with openness and curiosity
  • Speak up if you're confused or you can think of something that would make the meetings or the group more effective.

Do I need to know how to meditate in order to come along?

Not necessarily, although it helps. By the way, there’s no one right way to meditate, so don’t worry about it if you’ve learned in a particular tradition, with the only caveat being that we practice silent meditation.
If you’ve never learned and you’d like to come along, just try following these suggestions. 
1. Sit comfortably either on a chair, cushion, or meditation stool.
2. Sit with your back straight but relaxed – imagine a string going from your spine up through the crown of your head and it’s being pulled gently from the top. This helps you sit without slouching.
3. Start by taking a few slow deep breaths to really fill your lungs
4. Focus on each part of your body starting from the top of your head and working your way down to the tips of your toes and feel each bit relax in turn with each out-breath.
5. When your body feels relaxed, focus on your breath. Notice how the air is cool when it comes in and warm when it goes out.
6. Soon enough your mind will start thinking (that’s what minds do). Let it think and at the same time try and observe or notice what it’s thinking and what feelings come up as it does. Whatever you notice, just be gentle and accepting with it. If you hear a harsh or judgmental voice when you catch yourself thinking something, see if you can be accepting and gentle with that too.
7. If you wish, at the end of the meditation (often called a ‘sit’), note down a summary of what happened for you.
8. You can use your observations of your meditations, as well as observations of what happens in your life, as material to which you can apply the dharma to help you understand yourself and move along your path to awakening.

Does it cost anything to come to the sangha?

We all contribute to cover the cost of our meetings (venue, insurance, storage etc.) at the beginning of the year. You're welcome to attend your first meeting for free. If you decide you'd like to join us, then you can make a contribution. We also offer donations to the teacher or anyone taking the role of 'teacher' for the night (e.g. anyone who prepares a talk) via the Sangha bank account. Details will be shared with you via our Telegram chat if you decide to join us.

Can I attend virtually?

Yes, we can arrange for you to participate remotely via Zoom if you're unable to attend in person. We need to know in advance though, so that we bring the equipment needed.

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