Frequently asked questions
About the group
Q. Do I have to be a Buddhist to attend the group?
A. No. The group is facilitated by practising Buddhists, but anyone can learn to meditate, whatever their religion.
And meditation doesn’t in itself make one a Buddhist – one has to do a lot more than that to become a Buddhist.
Q. What time do you start?
Q. Can I join in if I come late?
Q. Where do you meet?
A. See Find Us
Q. Is there a charge?
A. Not for our weekly meditation group – but we do welcome donations to cover our costs, which are mainly £32 per night for the hall (see next question). Some weeks we get much less than that, some weeks we get much more. There may be a charge for some of our one-off events, but that would be made clear.
Q. What do you use the donations for?
A. Mostly for hire of the hall, occasionally for purchasing of equipment, for limited advertising, and supporting the financially constrained to go on retreat. None of us make money running the group – our reward is seeing people benefit from what we do.
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 our site here
Q. Do I need any specialist equipment?
A. No. We have a stock 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. But 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 on our site here: 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 practices such as mindfulness, meditation, reflection and wisdom to put to use in daily life. On the other hand, UK Census forms include Buddhism as a religion.
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. We don’t have the resources to do all this within our group, but we can point you to the resources you’ll need.
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 practice?
A. Genuine happiness. We are told that the Buddha gave 72 different metaphors of enlightenment, the goal of Buddhist practise. Ultimately, Buddhist practice 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.