This course is NOT provided in audio format. All the program materials are provided so that a teacher can teach this five session program without having to prepare materials.
This is an introductory course that provides a general overview of basic Buddhist philosophy and principles for complete beginners. It does not assume that those who come for this course know anything at all about Buddhism or about meditation. It does not assume that those who take this course are even interested in learning more about Buddhism. This course assumes simply that those who attend this course are interested in learning something about Buddhism in its various forms and that a presentation in a Tibetan Mahayana context has somehow appealed to them.
This course has been presented as a series of five sessions of approximately two hours each. Each session includes lecture time to impart new information, a very short time to experience a taste of meditation, and ample discussion time to enable friendly interaction with students and respond to their questions. These classes can be organized as two weekend intensives comprised of the equivalent of 2½ classes each weekend, or as five once-a-week classes. It is recommended to encourage those individuals who are interested in learning more about meditation to follow this course with the Meditation 101 course, where basic Buddhist meditation is explored more extensively. Those who become especially interested can be encouraged to explore the Discovering Buddhism program, either at their local FPMT center or through the Discovering Buddhismat Home homestudy program.
The structure of the course is as follows:
- Life of Shakyamuni Buddha; the similarities of Shakyamuni Buddha’s life to ours; how the Buddha answered the big “meaning of life” questions that we all have
- The Four Noble Truths
- The structure of the Four Noble Truths based on the medical model
- Truth of Suffering — the diagnosis of our existential situation
- Truth of the Cause of Suffering — karma, delusions, ignorance
- Truth of the Cessation of Suffering — nirvana
- Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering — practices of the wisdom and methods taught by the Buddha
- Buddha’s teachings in a gradual form for the practice of one individual … where to start, what next, etc.
- What does it mean to be a Buddhist, an “inner being”
- Specifics of the path: three principles of the path using Foundation of All Good Qualities
- Different kinds of Buddhism: Theravadan, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Zen, Ch’an, Pure Land, etc.
- Different schools of Tibetan Buddhism: Gelug, Kagyu, Sakya, Nyingma
- A little history of Buddhism
This course has no actual required readings with the exception of the handouts, which also include a reading written by Nick Ribush, “An Outline of the Path to Enlightenment,” extracted from the Discovering Buddhism program. A suggested reading list of very basic, introductory books and readings is provided as a hand-out for students.
As well, there is no final exam for this course. It is an introductory overview course, the intent of which is to provide an overview of the Buddhist path and provide a basis for more extensive courses about Buddhism.
Meditation sheets for the most basic meditations can be provided, such as:
- Seven-Point Meditation Posture
- Scanning the Body
- Counting the Breaths
- Bare Attention Exercise
- The Four Noble Truths
- Foundation of All Good Qualities