Frequently asked questions
Q. Do I have to be a Buddhist to attend the group?
A. No. The group is facilitated by practising Buddhists, but the teaching of the Buddha is relevant to all regardless of age, gender or beliefs.
Q. What time do you start?
A. Shortly after 7:30 pm.
Q. Can I join in if I come late?
A. Yes, up to five minutes late, but not beyond that, because it’s disruptive to meditation. If you’re new to meditation, arriving at the last minute doesn’t give us a chance to sort out your sitting posture (see the posture question below).
Q. Is there a charge?
A. No. All our activities are offered on a Dana (donation) basis unless explicitly stated. Dana is a central teaching of the Buddha and ensures that any who are interested can benefit from Buddhist teachings.
Q. What do you use the donations for?
A. Mostly for venue hire, occasionally for purchasing of equipment and supporting the financially constrained to go on retreat.
Q. What is the programme for a typical evening?
A. We begin with a body awareness meditation of around half an hour. Then we do a short walking meditation of about ten minutes. Then we do another seated meditation of around half an hour which alternates each week: either mindfulness of breathing or mettabhavana (often translated as loving kindness, but friendliness and kindness is more accurate). We finish with tea and open-ended discussion. Details of typical meditations can be found on the TES website east.surreytriratna.org/meditation/
Q. Do I need any specialist equipment?
A. No. We have a store of mats, cushions and blankets for use (subject to availability) and there are chairs. If you become a regular meditator, you may choose to buy your own equipment and of course you can bring that if you wish.
Q. What clothing shall I wear?
A. It needs to be comfortable. Avoid clothing that is tight anywhere. If you are willing to try sitting on a mat and cushions, avoid trousers that are tight around the knees!
Q. How important is posture?
A. A comfortable posture is very important! If you are uncomfortable, your mind will soon be dominated by just one thing: pain, which is not what meditation is about! We encourage you to try a mat and cushions unless you already know that’s impossible for you. You won’t necessarily be cross-legged – many people can’t do it comfortably. We do have a number of ‘tricks’ that can make sitting on cushions easier and an eye for how many cushions you need. And you can have a chair as a standby in case things get uncomfortable. Sitting in a chair from the start is fine if that’s what it takes to be comfortable. Even lying down is fine if that’s what it takes to be comfortable, although you then risk falling asleep! Some people find a good posture almost straight away – perhaps by luck. For others, it may take a few weeks to get the fine tuning right.
Q. How many people are in the group?
A. Our community mailing list is around 100 individuals. The number of people attending any given event varies between 4 and 15 though usually around 7 to 10.
Q. Do I have to come every week?
A. No. Fortnightly is best avoided, because our third meditation alternates each week and you would get all of one and none of the other. Having said that, the more you practise and particularly practise with others, the more effective and steady your progress will be.
Q. What is Buddhism?
A. A rough guide to Buddhism can be found here http://east.surreytriratna.org/buddhism-rough-guide/
Q. Is Buddhism a religion?
A. It depends on the definition of ‘religion’. If that includes belief in a god, then no. First and foremost, Buddhism is a teaching: a series of practises such as mindfulness, meditation, reflection and wisdom to put to use in daily life.
Q. If I want to become/identify myself as a Buddhist can I do this?
A. Yes. The Triratna Buddhist Community and the Triratna Buddhist Order offer training at any level of spiritual development up to and including Ordination for those that wish. The process of ordination isn’t for everyone, but is usually the most effective way to deepen your understanding and practice.
Q. Do I have to be a Buddhist to gain enlightenment?
A. No. We are told that many individuals have attained enlightenment, but it’s probably true to say that few schools/philosophies have mapped out the spiritual territory to the same degree as Buddhism.
Q. What is the goal of Buddhist practise?
A. Genuine happiness. We are told that the Buddha gave 72 different metaphors of enlightenment, the goal of Buddhist practise. Ultimately, Buddhist practise goes beyond words and mere concepts to a profound realisation/experience/perspective of reality. In time we can learn to live from this perspective rather than the self-centred and self-referential perspective of the un-enlightened.