In the FWBO and TBMSG, the first formal commitment people make to practice as a Buddhist is likely to be expressed in the Mitra Ceremony. Mitra is a Sanskrit word meaning 'friend', and in the ceremony the person declares their connection with the Three Jewels of Buddhism - their wish to become like the Buddha, to practice the Dharma, and to build friendships with the Sangha. In response, members of the Order do what they can to offer facilities to mitras across the FWBO, who now number several thousand.
For the past two years Saccanama, an Order Member living in Bristol, UK, has been working on a new Dharma Training Course for Mitras, and we are delighted to report that this has now been launched, to critical acclaim - indeed, its been described as "totally fantastic" by one delighted study leader.
The Course, which runs over four years including a Foundation Year, is a major re-presentation of the FWBO and Sangharakshita's approach to the Dharma, and for the first time has been professionally produced with source material, further reading, and teachers' notes.
The course is designed for weekly study in groups, but all the material is freely available for those not able to attend FWBO groups or centres.
It has its own permanent web address online, www.fwbomitracourse.com
, though the files themselves are currently held on the FWBO's FreeBuddhistAudio site – click on the link above and it will take you straight there.
Saccanama introduced the course with a talk entitled " Giving the Gift of the Dharma
", given at Padmaloka retreat centre, and available for anyone to listen to. He has also written ‘A Guide to the FWBO Dharma Training Course for Mitras’ which is now available to download from the website.
The guide includes a preface by Sangharakshita, who writes -
"Since the earliest days of the FWBO I have been concerned that men and women who attend our centres should be able to gain a proper understanding of the Dharma. I am therefore delighted that the new Dharma Training Course for Mitras is now available.
"The aim of the Course is to provide Mitras – those wishing to practise the Dharma within the context of the FWBO – with what amounts to a basic education in Buddhism. The four-year course (the first year of which is a foundation year) includes modules on the principle Buddhist teachings, both practical and theoretical, as well as on some of the more important scriptures and philosophical schools. There are modules on the Bodhisattva Ideal; on the nature of the Sangha or spiritual community; on faith, symbols, and the imagination; on ethics and the environment; on Buddhist psychology; and on the history of the FWBO. Though the new Dharma Training Course draws on the old Mitra Study Course, there is also much that is new, some of it specially written for the course. Moreover, there is a greater emphasis on the importance of putting what one learns into practice.
"A great deal of thought has gone into the preparation of the new Dharma Training Course, and a great deal of work, and I congratulate all those who were involved in its production. The course should be available at every FWBO centre, and I hope that all Mitras who wish to extend and deepen their knowledge of the Dharma will take full advantage of it.
Labels: Dharma teaching, Mitras