The Buddhist Path provided by the Westchester Buddhist Center
This description is of a linear path in the abstract or ideal case. In actual practice, students at differing levels of interest or experience may enter onto such a path at different points and in different ways, and progress very differently. This outline is meant as a general guideline—it is intended merely to provide a framework for students to skillfully navigate the different aspects of this path.
Westchester Buddhist Center (WBC) is a community of students and teachers interested in mindfulness-awareness meditation and the Buddhist path. We welcome new students from any and all backgrounds to our regular weekly gatherings, whether they are just curious about meditation or are already well-versed in Buddhism.
For those wishing to pursue it, WBC now offers an extended path of Buddhist study and practice, beginning with the core practice of sitting meditation and extending through the entire three stages of the Tibetan Buddhist path. The progression of study and practice is based on the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who devoted his life to the transmission of the essence of Tibetan Buddhism especially for Western students.
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987) was a highly-accomplished meditation master, scholar, translator, poet, and artist. He taught extensively in North America during the last seventeen years of his life and authored dozens of books based on hundreds of talks given on a broad array of topics. He left behind a wonderfully complete and detailed collection of instructions on meditation and the entire Tibetan Buddhist path of study and practice, based in the traditions in which he was trained during his exceptionally thorough early education in Tibet.
Trungpa Rinpoche was renowned for his ability to express the detail and nuance of the traditional Indian and Tibetan teachings in fluent English to an American audience and for his attunement to our contemporary culture. He was known for presenting complex psychological ideas with originality, vividness, and humor. He is widely considered to have been a pioneer in transmitting the authentic living dharma to the West. The primary goal of WBC is to transmit these profound instructions, genuinely and thoroughly to the next generation, and to ensure they will in turn be transmitted to future generations of students.
The introduction of our new foundational curriculum is a turning point in our ability to make these teachings fully available.
For those who want to learn about and explore mindfulness meditation, WBC offers meditation instruction, group meditation sessions, and open “dharma talks” on a regular basis. Our public dharma talks emphasize the application of mindfulness and awareness practice to everyday life, and the relevance of traditional Buddhist topics to real-world concerns. At this introductory level, one could expect to have access to detailed guidance on “how to meditate” and develop an appreciation for the real effects that meditation practice can have on daily life. This is available to students regardless of religious affiliation, and implies no allegiance to Buddhism per se.
In addition, from time to time WBC hosts public dharma talks by well-established teachers representing various “practice” traditions of Buddhism as a way of providing an understanding of the larger Buddhist world and the variety of ways of presenting, understanding and practicing the dharma.
Establishing the Foundation
WBC also offers a progressive series of courses on the practices, disciplines and main concepts of Buddhism based on texts by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, as well as texts by his students and other teachers who offer a similar presentation of the dharma. Foundation-level courses are six-week long explorations, open to all students but organized into a sequence or curriculum, with each class building on the preceding one. Anyone may attend these classes, even on a drop-in basis, in order to delve a bit more deeply and gain further understanding of the overall progression of topics in the curriculum. Classes are offered on Sunday afternoons at our main Irvington location as well as Wednesday evenings in Mount Kisco. On Tuesday evenings, we offer an on-going open meditation gathering that includes informal readings and discussions, special events, and public dharma talks.
In this way, between dharma gatherings, the practice of meditation, and classes, students may attend various sessions during any given week and develop a regular meditation practice individually at home, enhanced by the support of weekly group practice sessions at our three locations.
We encourage those interested to practice meditation with some regularity in order to gain any sort of genuine understanding of it. This usually means 4 to 5 times per week, sessions lasting 15 to 30 minutes or more. However the frequency is much more important than the time, and even 5 to 10 minutes per day is better than one hour once per week.
Formally Entering the Path
As students progress, they may begin to see the Buddhist path as their personal path and commit to deepening their practice and study. For such students, WBC offers a complete curriculum on the fundamentals of Buddhist practice and thought, to begin September of 2017. These six-week courses will be offered in a progressive sequence providing an overview of the major topics of Buddhism in the Tibetan tradition. Readings for the courses are taken from a wide variety of books primarily by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, assembled into a sourcebook for each course. The sequence of topics is experiential and reflects one’s progress along the path of meditation.
As the two aspects of the path, meditation practice and dharma study, become an integral part of one’s life, a further deepening may be appropriate. A traditional weekend or week-long group meditation retreat can be a potent method of enhancing one’s practice and understanding. On retreat, away from daily concerns, one finds greater opportunity for encountering the kinds of personal insights that are often the deeper reward of committed meditation practice–beyond notions of self-improvement, to a more natural uncovering of inherent intelligence and warmth. WBC offers one week-long group retreat each year (and can advise on finding other retreat opportunities).
At some point, one may formalize one’s commitment to the Buddhist path by taking refuge vows. At the Westchester Buddhist Center, the requirement for this is a daily practice for at least six months. As well, students may also be inspired to take part in the community aspect of WBC, by supporting our mission with volunteer service, joining our loosely defined team. Our various weekly meetings and our special events where we host other teachers depend entirely upon the efforts of our occasional and regular volunteers.
*Rinpoche is an honorific used in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for individuals regarded as accomplished practitioners and teachers.