I'm starting a 'Learn about Buddhism' class at the centre where I volunteer with recovering addicts. I'm going to be using text from the book 'Modern Buddhism' by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to guide the classes. The classes will be a mixture of meditation and discussion. I've put together a teaching plan for the first 2 weeks. They are below. If you have the time then please feel free to offer some feedback if you think they could be improved at all. Thanks.
In recent years our knowledge of modern technology has increased considerably, and as a result we have witnessed remarkable material progress, but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness. There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it might be said that there are now more problems and greater dangers than ever before. This shows that the cause of happiness and the solution to our problems do not lie in knowledge of material things. Happiness and suffering are states of mind and so their main causes are not to be found outside the mind. If we want to be truly happy and free from suffering, we must learn how to control our mind.
Questions for Discussion
* Does your happiness increase because of modern technology?
* Does better technology increase your happiness?
* Has technology reduced your suffering?
* Has technology reduced your problems?
* Are their more problems and greater dangers in the world now because of modern technology?
* Do you think that happiness and suffering are states of mind?
* Do you think you would be happier if you learnt to control your mind?
* We seem to have more depression, stress and anxiety in society now, not less.
* We seem to be working more, not less, when the initial idea of technology was to make our lives easier and with more leisure time.
* We communicate less in person - people sitting around on their phones, staying in and socialising on Facebook.
* Technology has led to more pollution and more sophisticated weapons, such as atom bombs.
* Technology has helped our way of life, but it has not made humans any happier.
* Rich people do not seem any happier, any more joyful or at peace than anyone else.
* Technology requires upkeep and maintenance.
Over the next week consider how you seek happiness. Do you look to increase your happiness by improving your material circumstances, or do you look for happiness by improving your self? We'll talk about this next week.
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations, we tend to regard the situation itself as our problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed, we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems, we must transform our mind.
Questions for Discussion
* When you encounter a difficult situation, do you tend to blame the situation for being difficult, or do you blame your mind for making it difficult?
* Do you think that your mind might always be responsible for your problems, or do you think sometimes there are situations that are actual problems?
* Have you responded to a difficult situation in a positive way? (Examples) How did that change the situation?
* Would you like to be able to respond to difficult situations with a positive, peaceful mind? Do you think that sometimes it is best to respond with a negative mind and negative behaviour?
* Do you ever see difficult situations as a challenge to help you grow? (Examples).
* Do problems only arise when we respond to difficulties with a negative mind?
* Do you think that if you transform your mind and make it 100% positive that you will then be free from problems?
* All situations - whether positive or negative - are decided by our mind. What one person sees as positive another might see as negative.
* No situation has any inherent quality, i.e. no situation is either definitely good or bad. For example, addiction is not necessarily bad. If you get into recovery and then help lots of other addicts because of your own experiences then it could be said that your addiction was, ultimately, good.
* Sometimes we are already in a happy mood when a difficult situation arises and we are able to deal with it easily and brush it off, whereas if we'd been in a bad mood we'd have responded negatively to the same situation.
* Most of us grow and develop through difficult moments. These are the times when we learn a lot about ourselves and look for ways to improve. It could be said that difficult and challenging situations are actually very positive for us, not negative.
* I can honestly say that having had many years of training my mind that I actually enjoy challenging circumstances now, and even look to put myself in them. For example, coming to volunteer here was very challenging at first for me, and then taking groups away was challenging for me, but all these challenges helped me to grow, I knew that they were good for me even though they were difficult at times. I always saw the difficulties as opportunities to grow and so embraced them rather than shunned them.
Over the next week try and respond to at least one difficult situation with a positive mind and see what happens. We'll talk about it next week.