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Reading Buddhist Poetry as a Transformative Path
Dates: May 24, 2019 - May 26, 2019
Days: Fri - Sun (2 Nights)

Instructor(s): William Edelglass

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Buddhist traditions often understand the Dharma as inexpressible, a teaching beyond the realm of words and language. Practitioners, however, have long turned to poetry to share their experience of the Buddhist path. We see this already in the Therīgāthā and Theragāthā, songs of insight, aspiration, and loss composed by the early generations of Buddhist women and men that were included in the Pāli Canon.

The great Buddhist philosophers Nāgārjuna, Śāntideva, Dōgen, and Tsongkhapa all wrote poetry expressing their sense of devotion and wonder in a language of imagery that moves their readers beyond the limits of reason. Poetry was at the heart of much East Asian Buddhism, where the beautiful play of language was cultivated as a practice. Today, Buddhist poets in Asia and the West have become some of our most skillful teachers, inspiring us on the path, presenting objects of meditation, revelation, and beauty.

This course will be devoted to the slow and careful reading of poetry from a variety of Buddhist traditions and will serve as an introduction to the diversity of Buddhism and its poetic practices. We will attend to the ways in which these poems are works of art, historical documents, Dharma teachings, and personal expressions of the challenges and refuge of the Buddhist path. We will also write our own dharma poems, inspired and informed by the poetry and practices we explore together.

Learning Intentions:

To understand some of the diversity of Buddhist traditions and practices; develop a sense for some of the many kinds of Buddhist poetry; develop a sense for some of the many ways in which traditional meditation practices and the practice of poetry can be mutually nourishing; practice close, slow reading of rich texts and how to talk about them with friends; and explore writing poetry as a form of dharma practice, and the joy of sharing this practice with others.

Noble Silence and Mindful Speech:

Noble silence will be observed following the final evening session through breakfast the following morning.

Experience Level:

Suitable for both beginning and experienced practitioners.

 

  • William Edelglass is Director of Studies at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. He is a scholar-practitioner with a background in several Buddhist traditions. William’s writings explore a wide variety of questions in Buddhist studies, environmental studies, phenomenology, ethics, literature and aesthetics, climate change, well-being, and the science of meditation. He has taught in diverse settings, including dharma centers, higher education—he is currently Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Marlboro College, VT—a federal prison in New York, the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, in Dharamsala, India, and for many years William led wilderness trips for Outward Bound and other organizations.