Wednesday, 22 July 2009

What is Buddhism?

Here's a question that comes up regularly - what is Buddhism? Who was the Buddha and what is this Dharma that we speak of? What about the Sangha?

The Buddha was a man, born Siddhattha Gotama in northern India about 2,500 years ago. It's important to understand that he was just a human being, like you and me. He was not a god, or a celestial being, just a guy who, in his thirties, achieved an understanding about reality, about life and his place in the universe. We call this achievement enlightenment or nirvana and he went on to teach his understanding and how to practise it for the next forty years.

This teaching is called the Dharma and it is a practice - we practise the Dharma in the way we think and act in our life. Buddhism is not a belief system, it is a hands-on, find-out-for-ourselves system; we discover what works and doesn't work. Indeed, the Buddha himself told people not to blindly accept his teachings, but to try them out and only then accept them if they were of use.

People who practise the Dharma and ultimately, have made a commitment to do so are called Buddhists and these Buddhists make up what is called the Sangha. A sangha is a group of like-minded people who come together to meditate, discuss the Dharma or perform Buddhist ceremonies. The Sangha supports the individual is his or her practice.

These three things, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, are collectively called The Three Jewels because, like real jewels, they are incredibly precious. As Buddhists, we place the three jewels at the heart of our practice which is why, if you come along to the Hertford Sangha, you will see a Buddha rupa (statue), a book of the Buddha's teachings and a photograph or similar representing the Sangha.

Please feel free to ask questions when you come along, it's always great to be able to talk about this to people who are eager to learn.

If you want to find out more, you can visit for lots more information.

By the way, although we don't know what the Buddha actually looked like, that fat, laughing Buddha that so often carries his name is not the historical Buddha, but a Chinese monk called Budai.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

You can come earlier or later !

You are welcome to come to the earlier session (7.15 - 8.15) or to the later session (8.15 - 9.30), or to stay for the whole evening. We usually practice meditation in both sessions.

We learn and practice mainly two concentration meditations; the Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati) and the Development of Loving Kindness (Metta Bhavana) . There's opportunities to learn about the Dharma and we also find time for refreshments - free! - and chat.