Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

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Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby Jody » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:33 pm

:namaste:

Hola. I'm recently new to the forums, but the depth and richness of the community here prompted me to create an account rather quickly. About myself, I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition of Protestant Christianity, and I must say I had quite a falling out with that religion as a whole during high school when I learned how cruel and uncompassionate its community could be when it learned that one of its youth was gay. I know Jesus was a nice guy and all, but I am convinced he would be sorely disappointed in the speech and behavior of his modern devotees. This disillusionment I had with the Christian community at the time and later questioning of Christian theology, in hindsight, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it triggered a spiritual journey that eventually led me to the Buddha's Dhamma, something that resonates deeply with me.

More to the present, I'm currently an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN studying psychology/neuroscience, which I wish to continue in graduate school with a degree in Clinical Psychology focused on research and therapy for mood disorders (depression, bipolar, etc.). This summer, I've also been spending time learning more about the Dhamma, sampling Zen and Theravada, although ultimate settling on Theravada as the most authentic continuation of practice taught by the Buddha. [As a Southerner, this is mildly amusing since it is in known as Southern Buddhism]. I have also been blessed that in my investigations I have been accompanied by my fiancé, James, who is equally curious about this path I am following, having had his own difficulty with the Roman Catholic institution and theology in which his family raised him.

:meditate: Deep breath. New subject:

Now, I do have one question for any of the "elders" here, and I am not sure if this is the proper place to ask such a thing (e.g., if I should use the "Theravada for the modern world" thread instead), but I would welcome any advice for an endeavor that a fellow student of mine and I wish to embark on this coming semester. Specifically, we are looking to form a Buddhist student organization at our university, which contains various Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu student groups and one non-religious meditation organization, but does not nor has ever had an outlet for Buddhist students to commune, meditate, and study together. I have some basic ideas for our organization, such as being non-sectarian and using a neutral name like the Vanderbilt Buddhist Circle (etc.), but beyond that, there's much more planning and work that needs to be done.

Last semester, I did speak with the head of the Office of Religious Life about these plans, and he has been extremely supportive, having offered to provide us with funding and welcoming us to sit on the Interfaith Council. Furthermore, I also know of and have visited local Buddhist lay groups that we could network with for planning activities throughout the year. Still, I'm unsure of how a Buddhist student-led organization would operate on a week-by-week basis and meet the needs of a university community, most of whom would be newcomers to Buddhadhamma that want to learn more about it rather than having already been raised in it and just seeking to further their practice and understanding with peers. Ideally, a Buddhist chaplain could guide us in this process, but I have no idea how to go about finding (or having the university hire) such a person.

I bring this story to everyone here because I'm sure this has been done many times before in many different places, and any tips, tricks, how-to books, or other resources that could help my friend and I in our effort to start up a new student organization and keep it relevant to a Buddhist-oriented/interested membership would be greatly appreciated.
Last edited by Jody on Tue Jul 20, 2010 6:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:03 pm

Greetings Jody,

I can't really help with your question, so I'll just say hi.

:hello:

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.

:buddha1:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby Ben » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:21 pm

Hi Jody

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel!
If I were to start a new group at the university I would determine what the needs of my constituent members would be. I think just starting a group and publicising its existence my get some people out of the woodwork and attract some people curious and genuinely interested in discovering more about Buddhadhamma. So initialy I would focus on providing information sessions that are introductory in nature. Perhaps some of your local sanghas may have a monastic or long-standing practitioner who could be used to come to the campus to give a talk. Access your local sanghas for information and resources they might have to help you start your group. As your group begins to form and you can more clearly see whether people are existing practitioners, belonging to this or that tradition, newbies but interested in this or that tradition, you can begin to tailor activities, meditation sessions, discussion sessions or excursions to local wats and gompas around the make up and demand from your members.
The following directory might be a good place to start:
http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/province. ... ince_id=63

All the best with your endeavours!
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby bodom » Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:44 pm

Welcome Jody and best wishes to you!

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:03 am

Hi Jody,

I grew up in Knoxville Tennessee and can relate to everything you're saying. I now live near Indianapolis IN, but while in Tennessee found this a great resource, and strongly suggest you check them out as you're quite close:

Wat Buddharam
5214 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN 37129
Tel: (615) 890-5570, Fax: (615) 890-0295
Tradition: Theravada, Thai (Dhammayutti Nikaya)

J
Author of Redneck Buddhism: or Will You Reincarnate as Your Own Cousin?
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby Monkey Mind » Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:09 am

Hi Jody! I feel qualified to answer not because I know anything about teaching the Dhamma, but because my start in Buddhist study began at university discussion group just like you are describing. Will your group be specifically Theravada or pan-Buddhist? The group I attended: started with meditation (often a guided meditation from the Insight Meditation Society, but sometimes a silent meditation), followed by a discussion about a reading. So we were all reading chapters from a book and then discussing them in the group. The group also had many guest speakers: monastics, lay teachers, etc. Best wishes to you in your endeavor.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby Jody » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:12 pm

Thank you everyone for your kind regards, and especially Ben, Bubbabuddhist, and Monkey Mind for your feedback and suggestions.

@Ben, Thank you for your very practical and straightforward advice. I will come back to it again as a logical guide for how we should be progressing.

@Bubbabuddhist, I will be sure to check out the Wat Buddharam in Murfreesboro. I should have thought to look further than just outside the local Nashville area. Thank you.

@Monkey Mind, We will be Pan-Buddhist in nature, although I will emphasis a Theravada perspective on the Buddhadhamma; other traditions will be welcomed. Being non-sectarian, we can focus on common insights found throughout all traditions, something that should help us learn more about "Buddhism" as a whole as it exists today.

Again, thank you all for your advice and personal stories. I'll be sending out e-mails shortly to the various Middle Tennessee groups to see if and how everyone might want to help out with what we're wanting to do on campus this coming semester. I can get in touch with my friend and the head of Religious Life and move forward from there.

I will be sure to keep you all updated as things progress over the coming months. This place is so awesome. :group:
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby Naoto » Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:04 pm

:juggling: So, I decided to make a new account. (This is Jody.) Since I have a mildly nosy mother and very Christian parents/family, I felt more caution could be taken online. Particularly since if you google the words "Jody+Buddhist", this introduction post comes up as the seventh search result. Lol. I don't want more and more Dhamma Wheel posts to appear when googling my actual name, and since I plan on using this board more often, I need the anonymity unfortunately, which I really should have been more mindful of in the first place. Apologies, and again, thank you all for the warm welcome and helpful advice.
Do not speak, unless it improves on silence.
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jul 30, 2010 9:17 pm

Greetings Naoto,

Thanks for letting us know. I'll deactivate the original account.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby Dhammakid » Sat Jul 31, 2010 4:29 am

Oh wow, someone else on the board who has the same problem as I do! (i.e. nosy parents who are very Christian).

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel! I hope you find the place warm, inviting and informative.

I attended the University of Missouri in Columbia and we had a Buddhist student group that was Zen-focused, with an English literature professor who was also an ordained Rinzai monk. He leads zazen sessions every Wednesday followed by a dharma talk. He also hosts zazen and sesshin at his place of residence which is set up like a zendo. Every summer he takes a few dedicated students with him to his monastery in California for an all-summer retreat. He's a very good teacher and my best advice would be to contact him and maybe he can give you some advice on how their group was started. His name is Seido Ray Ronci. Here's his university email address (don't worry - it's public record). Tell him Kourtney Mitchell sent you :D

Seido Raymond Ronci, Associate Teaching Professor of English, University of Missouri - roncir@missouri.edu

My personal advice (having helped start a couple student groups on campus myself) would be to use all the resources you can to spread the word so you can gather interest and maybe a few initial members (flyers, info tabling events, email bulletin/announcements, word of mouth, announcements at interfaith dialogue groups, etc). One of the most effective techniques I've used is the classroom announcement: I've asked several teachers to allow me just 3-5 minutes at the beginning of class to make an announcement about the student group I lead, inviting students to attend and bringing along flyers and pamphlets if they want more info. Of course, the class in which I made the announcement is relevant to the student group I am advertising. You'd be surprised how many students are already interested (for instance, I made announcements about an anti-sexual violence group I lead and got most of my male members that way).

Once you have a few people who are willing to meet every so often, start reserving your space very very early. We had our space reserved an academic year in advance.

You may want to work with those few initial members and gather information about what it is they want to discuss every week. Are they newcomers to Buddhism as you are? Do they already have some basic knowledge? What are their ideas for the group?

I would say it's very smart to work with either a Dhamma teacher and/or a monk if you can. If you can get a monk or nun to attend and lead the group every week, fantastic. If not, I would say keep the discussion basic and try not to come off as authoritative or experienced. You don't want your members to resent you after so long. I would even caution against leading meditation sessions yourself if you are not experienced doing so. Instead, maybe you can bring a laptop with speakers, or a stereo, and sessions can be lead by an audio recording from a qualified teacher, after which you can have a general discussion on Buddhist basics.

Maybe you all can choose a good intro to Buddhism book and read and discuss every week. You can find tons of book suggestions on this site.

That's all the advice I can give right now. Great luck to you and may your spiritual journey be a truly fulfilling one.

:anjali:
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jul 31, 2010 7:33 am

Just to add another perspective ...
The university-based group nearest to me is based at the multi-faith chaplaincy centre and has succeeded in bringing in a constant stream of newcomers by advertising meditation courses. People see the flyers or hear about it from friends and come along to the course. Some find it's not what they want and don't even finish the eight-week course (one one-hour evening session per week), some do finish and 'graduate' to the second sitting (same evening, a bit later) which is lead by the same teacher but is less talk and more meditation. Non-university people are also welcomed, and in fact make up the majority of the 'advanced' group.
If your group is likely to be small anyway, I think it has to be non-sectarian to have the critical mass to survive. Emphasising the meditation, rather than the doctrines, helps give it a focus that everyone will be willing to share. It has worked here, anyway.
The teacher's tradition is not really critical in a situation like that, especially if Buddhism isn't well established in your community - your group could easily be the best game in town for anyone interested in Buddhism.
Good luck!
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby KonstantKarma » Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:33 am

Hi Jody!

:coffee:

*waves from the other side of the mountain*
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Re: Hello from Tennessee, USA - and a Question

Postby PeterB » Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:19 pm

My own exposure to other Buddhists after reading a lot and visiting a few Wats and so on was via a University Group...this was you realise sometime back before the last Ice Age..
Anyway we had visiting speakers from all traditions. In those days the UK Buddhist scene was much smaller so we ended up being addressed by the likes of Chogyam Trungpa and Dhiravamsa...as well as Sangharakshita.
Anyway the point is we had a regular Anapanasati session and everyone participated no matter which tradition they were eventually drawn too. One of the group is now a well known Buddhist teacher..
Such groups sow seeds and who knows what exotic plants will spring up ?

Establishing a venue is important as has been said and booking in advance..and get various Buddhist groups to give books and tapes and CD's to form a small library. Then keep a close eye on your stock and make the process of borrowing a formal one with signatures...good luck.
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