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Formal Buddhism Study

I've been toying with the idea of undertaking formal studies in Buddhism for a number of years. I'm quite academic and have 3 degrees already, all related to my profession.

Now I know I don't need to study formally and I know I don't need to get a qualification at the end of it, but something about that structured method of learning appeals to me. It would really focus my mind to just spend time practising buddhism and would get my family to "buy in" with me spending time doing it.

I'm not clear in my own head why I'm motivated to learn and practice that way and hoped to bounce the idea around the forums to see what opinions others have, academics and non academics alike.

skyfox66

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    You might have been a Monk in a former life...? ~shrugs~ Does 'why' matter? The fact you are, is good enough, to my mind.....

    Lee82
  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran

    @federica said:
    You might have been a Monk in a former life...? ~shrugs~ Does 'why' matter? The fact you are, is good enough, to my mind.....

    The fact I am what? Motivated to learn about buddhism or motivated to learn via formal education with qualifications? I know the formal learning isn't necessary and is expensive but something tells me that I'd like to do it anyway.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    If it's not going to harm anyone else (ie children who would have to go without your various methods of support) then why not? Everyone learns differently and there's nothing wrong with structured learning. Are you talking about moving to Asia for a couple years or taking Buddhist courses online or what?

    Obviously I don't know you, but my dad and husband both do this, so here's a giant leap in assumption, :lol: Both of them will ask opinions of people, even though they both already know they have already made up their mind. You don't need validation from others to make the right choice for you. If there are people in your life that would be directly impacted via income changes, lacking time with you etc, then be sure to ask them. But you don't need us to tell you what is right for you. Most likely you already know and have already made up your mind but feel a bit nervous and want some assurance. Or you are very heavily leaning that way already.

    I prefer study-based learning myself but I prefer to teach myself. However, a lot of that is because I have little choice and if I didn't have others who relied on me and had the money, I would not hesitate to take up the study of yoga in India or some other such thing. I think it is a grand opportunity.

    Lee82
  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran

    Thanks @karasti, I'm not thinking of leaving the country or anything that drastic. My mind is also not made up, there's simply a niggling thought that it's something I'd like to do and if I couldn't make it add up time wise or financially then it simply wouldn't happen, and I'd be ok with that. I suppose I want to explore my reasons for wanting formal study and a qualification rather than casual self teaching. A satisfactory outcome would be to drop my desire to do the formal study and be happy to teach myself in my own time, though I currently don't know where I would start.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I think there is a lot of satisfaction that comes in going through official training for things. It helps ensure the information you are receiving isn't being widely skewed by you. It gives you the chance to ask questions of experienced teachers when you aren't understanding rather than messing it up and coming up with a half-cocked idea on your own. I can't say I like to study JUST to study. But I do love to learn and specifically about topics that increase my perspective on the world and the people in it as well as myself. I guess if it were my decision I would ask what I hope to get out of it for content just to make sure it's not an ego-fulfilling thing just to have another qualification. Try to look at the weight of the content rather than the end point of certificates/qualifications and see what you come up with. If you will enjoy the journey more than you'll enjoy just getting to the paper at the end, I guess.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Well first of all it depends what kind of formal study. I undertake a formal class taught by a monk of the Tibetan Gelugpa tradition in a local temple, kind of an overview of Buddhism for the educated lay person. But I'm aware that monk's training is more intensive, and eventually there are the Geshe degrees, which are like a doctorate. But western universities also sometimes have a class in Buddhism, which gives a different perspective on the lore and can be useful as a "western expert on Buddhism" qualification. So you have some choices.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    So you have some choices.

    Do it.

    My advice would be a hands on approach/course, with perhaps residential visits to dharma centres. Perhaps comparative religion course? What might be very useful professionally is a religious counselling, meditation/wholistic therapy type course ...

    Professional Buddhas. Sounds like a good plan ...

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @Lee82 -- Perhaps I am wrong, but it sounds to me as if you are sniffing around the challenge that reads, "Put up or shut up" or, if you prefer, the question, "If I'm so smart, how come I'm not happy?"

    Think for a moment: If book-reading really provided the answers, all anyone would have to do is go to a library and be informed about Buddhism. But clearly that is not a way to be honestly convinced in a way that experience provides. So ... as long as no one else is harmed, begin slow and practice what the books and perhaps your mind preach.

    Just FWIW, here is a one=page cheat sheet I once wrote for a young Christian visitor who came here in an effort to fortify her, ummmm, "tolerance"

    BUDDHISM

    The truth of Buddhism does not come from a book. It does not come from a temple. It does not come from someone else. It is not written on a piece of paper. The truth of Buddhism comes from the individual effort to investigate, verify and actualize a clear understanding of this life.

    Shakyamuni Buddha, the man most often referred to as the founder of Buddhism, was born on the border of India and Nepal in about 565 BC. He attained what is sometimes called enlightenment at 35 and preached until his death at 80. Many schools of Buddhism sprang from his teachings … in India, Tibet, China, Korea and Japan among others. Uncertain estimates put Buddhist numbers at about 350 million worldwide.

    All Buddhist schools agree on at least two things:

    1. THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS: These are observations about the world around us.

    The Four Noble Truths are:

    *** 1. There is suffering (dukkha – the uncertainties, dissatisfactions and doubts that life can dish up); 2. There is a cause of suffering; 3. There is an end to suffering; 4. There is a way to end suffering.

    1. THE EIGHTFOLD PATH: These are the tools suggested as most useful when seeking out a truly peaceful life in a changing world.

    The Eightfold Path is:

    *** 1. Right View 2. Right Intention 3. Right Speech 4. Right Action 5. Right Livelihood 6. Right Effort 7. Right Mindfulness 8. Right Concentration.

    The word "right" is sometimes translated as "complete." A “complete” effort is thorough-going and whole-hearted. Nothing is held back. Buddhism is not a threat-based persuasion: You won’t go to heaven (right) if you practice it and you won’t go to hell (wrong) if you don’t. But honesty is required -- complete honesty.

    The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path carry with them the verifiable observation that everything in life changes. There is nothing that does not change. Joy turns to sorrow, love turns to anger, birth turns to death, and the family car always gets a flat. All Buddhist schools agree on such things, but how they approach them may vary.

    But as the Dalai Lama put it once, "Everyone wants to be happy." And that is probably as good a summary of Buddhism as any.

    Best wishes in your travels.

    Dhammika
  • skyfox66skyfox66 Explorer

    I too would also like a formal training program. I would like to teach the dharma though. I've wanted to do this for about a decade now but there isn't anywhere around here where I live that can teach me what I want to know. I've noticed when I mention this to others, Buddhist or not, I get a lot of dubious responses. One person even accused me of wanting to drop out of life! I hope you find your path though.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @skyfox66 you'd be surprised what comes when you open yourself up to it. I live in a conservative town of about 3000 people. I never, ever suspected I'd end up with a sangha here. But yet, we have one. A monk from a long ways away visited years ago for a retreat and he became my teacher. This summer, a man from Nepal will teach in residency here. Our local sangha leader is just a normal man who wanted to learn and invited a monk to see what would happen. He teaches with guidance from our teacher as we are kind of a satellite sangha of the larger one that is in an urban area 250 miles from here. So many avenues are possible if you open up to them instead of having a pre-set view of what it should be.

    skyfox66
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited May 2

    @Lee82 said:
    I've been toying with the idea of undertaking formal studies in Buddhism for a number of years. I'm quite academic and have 3 degrees already, all related to my profession.

    Now I know I don't need to study formally and I know I don't need to get a qualification at the end of it, but something about that structured method of learning appeals to me. It would really focus my mind to just spend time practising buddhism and would get my family to "buy in" with me spending time doing it.

    I'm not clear in my own head why I'm motivated to learn and practice that way and hoped to bounce the idea around the forums to see what opinions others have, academics and non academics alike.

    The larger Buddhist groups have study programs, and those tend to be more practical than academic courses, though the content will vary considerably according to the school. What Buddhist school(s) particularly appeal to you? Alternatively you could do some reading and study of Buddhist suttas and sutras, and there are quite a lot of resources on the internet.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 2

    OP, I'm not clear on what you have in mind by "formal study"; do you mean at a Buddhist sangha of some sort, or at a university? Or was that the question you're posting here to explore--to weigh the pros and cons of both?

    Studying Buddhism in academia is very different from studying it in a spiritual context. You speak of spending time practicing, but the academic approach isn't about practicing the religion. It's about analyzing it, it's about the historiography of it, the evolution of different sects (even if you take a specialized course, like Tibetan Buddhism, it will discuss the TB sects), the details of the philosophical underpinnings, analysis of how historical developments and local traditions influenced its evolution away from what the Buddha taught, and so forth. It's more conducive to forming an objective view, impartial view of it, whereas studying it in a spiritual context is the opposite of that. Take your pick.

    karastiLee82
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