Since it began in 1997, our online Meditation Course has been taken by hundreds of new and experienced meditators each year. Based on authentic techniques from the Theravada tradition - the Way of the Elders - the course explores both vipassana (insight) and samatha (tranquility) meditation and places emphasis on working in an ethical framework.
The Meditation Course is adapted to the needs of Westerners but remains faithful to the Theravada tradition. It is based on Andrew's experience of teaching meditation to adults at colleges in London and on his retreats and courses in Europe and Asia.The course operates as a distance learning package and starts several times each year. No previous knowledge is assumed, and whilst the content is never less than challenging, the pace of the course is gradual and it is intended that the course and the meditation sessions should fit manageably into daily life. Course members usually find that the amount of time devoted to meditation gradually increases as the course progresses, but that it can be accommodated within their schedule.
Although originally designed for beginners, many seasoned meditators have found the course useful as a way of refreshing their practice through working in new or different ways. All are welcome - the only requirements are a moderately specified computer, access to e-mail and the web, and a commitment to working with determined effort during the course.
It is emphasised that the course concentrates on the development of a balanced meditation practice. Too often meditators burn out quite quickly after beginning a technique - sometimes after a particularly intensive retreat - and some give up on meditation altogether. Others say "I can't meditate", when maybe they are simply unsuited to, or not ready for, the single technique they have been shown. This is a great pity when the Buddha bequeathed us many different methods. The approach on this course is to work hard to ensure that any technique introduced is of use in the participants' developing practice.
Meditation can be joyful! It is sometimes approached as a heartless, mechanical, activity - a daily chore to be endured at all costs through gritted teeth. This is simply the wrong approach. On this course we take the middle way and integrate what might be called both "heart" and "head" practices directly from the advice given in the Pali Canon.
The Meditation Course looks at the two traditional divisions of meditation - samatha and vipassana. In samatha we develop concentration upon particular objects. We begin with observation of the breath, and complement this with more "heart-based" practices based on lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. The course then introduces vipassana (or Insight) meditation which, through our developing awareness, enable us to look at things as they really are and to discover their essential nature. We will explore two contrasting ways of developing Insight. Whilst we give an outline of the theories and philosophy associated with these forms of meditation, it is stressed that this is a practical course. The key to deriving benefit from the course lies not in learning the theories the course introduces, nor in reading the books that we may recommend; but in integrating a meaningful meditation practice into your life. It is hoped that this course will provide encouragement and resources to help you to achieve this.
The course is now delivered entirely through our online Course Campus - a dedicated interactive website to which you will have access for 12 weeks that is suitable for Windows, Apple Mac and Linux computers (and most other operating systems). The course is led by Andrew Quernmore, an experienced meditation teacher based in the UK, and you will have the opportunity to discuss your evolving practice with him throughout the course. Instructions are given in weekly units and supplemented daily by readings and explanatory material. An area of the online Course Campus is available to facilitate interaction between participants. Specially recorded audio material is used to guide participants through the main practices.
Anapanasati - Mindfulness of Breathing; The Mental Hindrances and strategies for overcoming them; Metta Bhavana - Lovingkindness Meditation; The Value of the Precepts; Practice in Daily Life; The Spiritual Faculties; Karuna Bhavana - Developing Compassion; The Four Noble Truths; Mudita Bhavana - Experiencing Joy; The Noble Eightfold Path; Upekkha Bhavana - Equanimity; Vipassana Meditation; Impermanence; On Life and Death; Dukkha, Anatta; Choiceless Awareness; Developing a sustainable practice.
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From Views to Vision by Bhikkhu Bodhi