A longer programme of study for those wishing to deepen their experience of the Dharma.
What is it?
This Buddhist study programme is run by Bright Earth temple in the UK. Take part either in person or entirely on Zoom.
The main element of the programme is a series of book groups. These groups can also be joined as a one-off without taking part in the Living the Dharma programme. The book group meetings are an hour each week and take place either at the temple in Malvern or on Zoom. Each book takes between 6 to 12 weeks to complete. As well as attending the weekly meeting, students are required to read some of the book each week, write a short reflection and read other student’s reflections.
We also ask students to make an ongoing commitment to regular Buddhist practice and to complete two written reflection pieces about how the study programme has affected your daily life.
The programme is led by Bright Earth Buddhist teachers Kaspa and Satya. They are assisted by their colleagues who also facilitate book groups and who help in other ways.
The programme is inspired by the Bright Dawn Lay Ministry Training which Kaspa and Satya will complete in 2023. We owe a debt of gratitude to Rev Gyomay Kubose and Rev Koyo Kubose, for the spirit of their teachings, for their books, and for founding the Lay Ministry programme, whose format inspired our book groups.
Who’s it for?
This programme is for anyone who is interested in deepening their experience of the Dharma. As well as deepening your knowledge of different Buddhist teachings, we hope that it will change the way you live your life. We trust that, like us, you will gradually become more steady and grounded, clearer about the meaning of your life, and more able to sit with your own and other’s suffering. We also hope that you will receive insight, faith and joy, that you will enjoy getting to know your fellow students and learning from them, and that you will have some fun along the way!
We have designed this programme to be accessible to students from many backgrounds – whatever their age, sexuality or gender. We welcome students of colour, students with disabilities, neurodiverse students and students from different social classes, etc. The course is not academic but based instead on experience and on learning from each other. We know that completing written work or speaking in a group can be difficult for people as a result of past experiences. If there is anything we can do to reassure you, to make the course more accessible, or if you have any other concerns, please do write to us and we can see how we can help.
At completion, students will receive a ‘Living the Dharma’ certificate. This is a personal development programme and does not qualify you to teach Buddhism or lead groups or ceremonies. If you are drawn to teaching the Dharma more formally, we plan to offer further optional study for people wanting to become a Bright Earth Lay Minister – get in touch for more information.
What is the time commitment?
To take part in the book groups (including the hour-long weekly meetings) will take between two and two and a half hours a week. Your regular Buddhist practice can be anything from five minutes a day to as long as you want. Each of the two essays should only take a few hours.
The course will take around two years to complete if students sign up to (more or less) consecutive book groups. If students want to complete the course more slowly, with longer gaps between each book course, we ask that they complete the requirements within a maximum of five years.
How much does it cost?
The Living the Dharma programme is run by volunteers and is free.
Students are asked to buy their own books. If you can’t afford the books because of your current financial position, we can buy the books for you – just write and ask.
Although it is not expected, we appreciate any donations for the course. All donations will go to Amida Trust, the charity who are responsible for Bright Earth. Money is used to keep the temple running, to support our other projects and to buy books for future students.
What is the philosophy of the course? How are the books chosen?
The books are chosen by Kaspa & Satya, who run Bright Earth, and their colleague facilitators. Many of the books will explore Pure Land Buddhism, but we also have books about Zen Buddhism, ecological Buddhism and more. Satya and Kaspa both use Internal Family Systems (IFS) in their work as therapists and find it a hugely helpful way of looking at the world (and very compatible with a spiritual practice) – we will offer regular book groups on IFS.
You can read more about Bright Earth’s approach here.
To give you a taste of the books we’ll study, here are a few examples: ‘Call of the Infinite’ by John Paraskevopoulos, ‘The Center Within’ and ‘Everyday Suchness’ by Gyomay Kubose, ‘The Way of Tenderness’ by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, ‘Sacred Worlds’ by Nagapriya, ‘Parts Work’ by Tom Holmes, ‘Bearing Witness’ by Bernie Glassman, ‘Green Buddhism’ by Stephanie Kaza, ‘December Fan’ by Kiyozawa Manshi, and many more…
What are the course requirements in more detail? How long will it take?
To complete the course you will need to do enough book groups to earn 12 credits.
Each book will earn you one or two credits depending on the length of the book (one credit for books taking five or six weeks, two credits for books taking between eight and twelve weeks). You can choose any books from the list available here.
You will also need to have a daily Buddhist practice (more information on this here) and complete the two reflection pieces (a minimum of 1000 words each) on how the course has affected your daily life.
Do I have to commit to the programme to join the book groups?
No! We will keep a record of the books you complete, and you can decide to complete the full programme at any time. Some students in the book groups won’t be taking part in the programme, and some will. After you’ve completed the programme you are welcome to continue to keep joining the book groups!
Why are we offering this programme?
Because we have received so much through living a Dharma-full life, and we want to pass that on. Because we enjoy facilitating book groups. Because it’s a privilege to see students grow and blossom. Because these groups help our students to get to know each other, and be a supportive community for each other. Because this is a great way for us to stay connected to the Dharma. Because we want to keep learning how to be better students. Because it makes us happy!
Any other questions?
Do write to Kaspa & Satya at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s no such thing as a silly question. We look forward to hearing from you!