Building a Community of Enquiry
Dharmapala College plays an active part in the emerging Buddhist culture in the West. Initiated by members of the Western Buddhist Order, it invites the participation of everyone inspired by the ideals of collaborative enquiry into reality and open-handed sharing of understanding and experience.The year 2007 was a period of transition for Dharmapala College—internally no less than externally. With the two-year Dharmaduta Training Course approaching its final term, we have been shifting our main emphases to:
developing a ‘Community of Enquiry’ as the core practice inspiring our teaching activities;
merging study and meditative contemplation in our programme of seminar-retreats;
offering teacher support through workshops and training events at local centres.
Exploring the Dharma through Questioning and Reflecting
At the core of Dharmapala College — and in a sense underlying and informing its activities rather than publicly displayed — is our commitment to the development of communities of enquiry. We consider translation and engaged dialogue between the Buddhist tradition and Western culture to be a long-term project which has only just begun, and we aim to play an active part in this endeavour. We invite everyone inspired by the ideals of collaborative enquiry into reality to join us in an open-handed sharing of exploration, understanding and experience.
By “Dharma enquiry” we mean a spiritual practice that is grounded on critical investigation and contemplative reflection. We believe this will culminate in an ever deeper experience of insight. In our approach, study, meditation, and devotional practice are integrated so as to mutually reinforce each other. By the collaborative element this practice of dharma-vicaya is taken out of the — all too often private and isolated —space of individual pursuit into a relational yet meditative context where views and assumptions can be seen for what they are and where they will be transformed. At its best, such collaborative enquiry will be a training in non-combative research, dialogue and debate that may give rise to what Sangharakshita has called a “third order of consciousness”. Individual understanding is refined and deepened in the crucible of collaborative effort, so that a higher order of insight can emerge, one that would have remained inaccessible to individual effort.
Many of the elements necessary for this are already present to varying degrees in the activities of our Order and the Western Buddhist community at large. The mission of Dharmapala College is thus not so much to innovate as to focus and foster existing “best practice”. In particular we hope through our short-term seminars and longer-term communities of enquiry to provide a laboratory for sharing and sharpening this comprehensive approach to Dharma practice.
We anticipate that a number of such communities will continue or be newly formed 2009. Some themes that we want to explore:
Buddhism and the Greeks
Samatha and vipasyana across the Buddhist schools
Mind and body – East and West
To find out more about our special sessions of enquiry, please click here.
The Dharmapala Initiatives-
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