Buddhist Traditions Course

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Starting in March we will be offering a Buddhist Traditions Course. It is more accurate to say Buddhism(s) than Buddhism and this course is designed to look at how the different schools of Buddhism approach the teachings and insights of the Buddha. From the pantheon of the Tibetan tradition to the stripped down and more scientific approach of Secular Buddhism, we will look at how the Buddha’s teaching are still making a powerful impact across cultures. It may also provide you with insight to your own personal practice and you may even find a home in a tradition or outlook that you have never considered. We will be reading a book a month.  This will be more rigorous than our intro to Buddhism course.

The Books

Theravada –  Available Truth: Excursions into Buddhist Wisdom and the Natural World by Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano – Reading period March 26th to April 23rd – Discussion Tuesday, May 8th Holladay Library 630 pm to 8pm.

In Available Truth, he guides us further along the path. His unqualified embrace of the Buddha’s worldview – in intelligent and deeply thoughtful prose – distinguishes his work from many other Western Buddhist books. Along with reflections on mindfulness, impermanence, and the end of suffering, Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano is not afraid to delve into the topics of rebirth, karma, non-virtue, and the roles of reasoned faith, ritual, and monasticism revealing their continuing relevance for today’s seeker. His patient awareness of the workings of the mind and the natural world will enable readers to deepen both their practice and their lives.

 Tibetan:   Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa.                    Reading period May 1st to June 5th  Discussion Tuesday, June 12th  Holladay Library 630 pm to 8pm.

In this modern spiritual classic, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa highlights the commonest pitfall to which every aspirant on the spiritual path falls prey: what he calls spiritual materialism. The universal tendency, he shows, is to see spirituality as a process of self-improvement—the impulse to develop and refine the ego when the ego is, by nature, essentially empty. “The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use,” he said, “even spirituality.” His incisive, compassionate teachings serve to wake us up from this trick we all play on ourselves and to offer us a far brighter reality: the true and joyous liberation that inevitably involves letting go of the self rather than working to improve it. It is a message that has resonated with students for nearly thirty years and remains fresh as ever today.

Zen: Nothing Holy about It: The Zen of Being Just Who You Are by Tim Burkett.

Reading period June 10th  to July  18th  – Discussion Wednesday, July 25th  Millcreek Library 630 pm to 8pm.

When Bodhidharma, the legendary first ancestor of Zen, was asked about the main principle of his holy teaching, he’s said to have replied: “A vast emptiness—with nothing holy about it!” A millennium-and-a-half later, Tim Burkett finds that the answer still applies: you don’t need to go looking for something holy—buddha nature is right here in front of you. The concise summary of Zen teaching he presents in this book is expressed precisely in terms of what he found right in front of him: beginning with the delightful non-holiness he experienced in the presence of his original teacher, Shunyru Suzuki, and continuing through a lifetime of further teaching experiences.

Pure Land Buddhism:Buddha of Infinite Light: The Teachings of Shin Buddhism, the Japanese Way of Wisdom and Compassion by D. T. Suzuki

Reading period July 20th  to August  20th  – Discussion Location TBD  630 pm to 8pm.

Shin is the uniquely Japanese flowering of the type of Buddhism known as “Pure Land.” It originated in the thirteenth century with the charismatic and prophetic figure Shinran (1172-1263), whose interpretation of the traditional Pure Land teachings were extremely influential in his own lifetime and remains so today. In a period when Japanese Buddhism was dominated by an elitist monastic establishment. Shinran’s Shin teaching became a way of liberation for all people, regardless of age, class, or gender. Although Shin is one of Japan’s greatest religious contributions—and is still the most widely practiced form of Buddhism in Japan—it remains little known in the West. In this book, based on several lectures he gave in the 1950s, D. T. Suzuki illuminates the deep meaning of Shin and its rich archetypal imagery, providing a scholarly and affectionate introduction to this sometimes misunderstood tradition of Buddhist practice.

 Secular Buddhism:Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright

In Why Buddhism is True, Wright leads readers on a journey through psychology, philosophy, and a great many silent retreats to show how and why meditation can serve as the foundation for a spiritual life in a secular age. At once excitingly ambitious and wittily accessible, this is the first book to combine evolutionary psychology with cutting-edge neuroscience to defend the radical claims at the heart of Buddhist philosophy. With bracing honesty and fierce wisdom, it will persuade you not just that Buddhism is true—which is to say, a way out of our delusion—but that it can ultimately save us from ourselves, as individuals and as a species.


Two response papers for each title one at two weeks and a final at 4 weeks.  You also should attend a discussion group for each book.


A donation to fellowship for the class by Paypal or Check + Cost of Books.

Scholarships available.