Tricia Stirling, author of the Master of Buddhism course, knows what she is talking about. Over several decades I have read more than fifty books on Buddhism, now gathering dust on my bookshelf, but decided to take the course to see if there was something I had missed. The course provided a comprehensive overview for me, and positive reinforcement for that which I had already learned. Taking the course was a "reawakening." Mindfulness about the teaching of Buddha, the Enlightened One, has been enhanced, and meditation improved. Overall, this course gave me a deeper appreciation for Buddhism.
It also gave me an even deeper appreciation for Siddhartha Gautama and his heroic search for truth. Indeed, his story is the story of a hero's journey as described by Joseph Campbell in "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." The young Hindu prince set forth on a journey on behalf of not only himself, but all the beings in the world. The purpose of the journey was to learn answers to life's deep questions: "why do we suffer?" "Is there a way to alleviate suffering?" He became enlightened when he learned answers to these questions, and others, and in essence, a cure.
I looked forward to each lesson every week. The lessons were just the right length both to study and think about for the next few days. Although the subject of Buddhism is vast, Tricia included the right amount of basic Buddhism history and practices in each lesson. In the end, after twenty weeks, I found it to be a solid and comprehensive overview of Buddhism. Anyone interest in just that should take this course.
It is truly impossible to give a full report of "what I learned" or what I "relearned" from this course, for to do so would take many pages. There were some lessons that from the printed pages and spoke to me personally. They relate to what's going on in my thughts at this time and in fact, should be of interest and concern to everyone on planet Earth.
The first concern is about death. A few years ago when I realized that I knew more people in their graves than I knew who were still alive and walking around on planet Earth, it occurred to me that I needed to understand more about his subject. It also occurred to me that I needed to understand the impermanence of our lives in physical bodies, and the seriousness of the need to ponder and contemplate just what we need to accomplish. And what happens when we die?
When we cross that final threshold at the end of our physical life, where we go is still a bit mysterious. That very mysteriousness speaks to the need to lead our lives in search of that illusive truth. Life on this precious planet is precious, for we are given the opportunity to go on our own hero's journey. As Shantideva wrote, "If you do not extract the meaning of your precious existence now, when can you ever hope to encounter it again."
Rebirth is another subject that has haunted me since I first heard of the concept. The very concept also speaks very clearly to appreciate this life, albeit impermanent. It is an opportunity to seek truth, and find our pathway out of samsara to enlightenment. One fine day, may we all "get it."
Another subject of interest, handled very well in the course, is meditation. Sometimes I meditate well, and sometimes I don't. I appreciated Stirling's handling of this subject, particularly "Common Problems during Meditation." I have experienced them all, again and again. Pan, sleepiness, distraction and the chatter in my mind that won't shut up. Meditation has improved, thankfully, during the taking of this course, as well as mindfulness.
In the final analysis, I would give this course an A+ and many kudos to the writer, Tricia Stirling. Thank you, Tricia.
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