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The Dharma of Popular Music

Online Program
Dates: Aug 28, 2022 - Sep 25, 2022

Instructor(s): Bradley Donaldson

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Course Description:

Music is no stranger to Buddhist practice. Traditionally, music within the context of the Dharma has taken the form of chants, sonic rituals involving gongs and bells, dance, and theater. This isn't surprising, as both music and the Dharma explore and express life's deepest truths and our deepest concerns.

It's no surprise, then, that in our modern era, popular music serves as a particularly potent mirror of and window into our cultural worlds, both personal and societal. Especially now, in the age of streaming and YouTube, pop music has become even more accessible and global—showcasing a variety of cultural experiences and diverse artists' digging away at the meaning of life.

In this course, we will approach pop music from a contemplative Buddhist perspective. We will explore the ways in which music is not only meaningful to our personal and collective experiences, but also how it complements and/or mirrors our Dharmic concerns; suffering, its alleviation, and the meaning of life.

Together and independently, we will use mindfulness exercises, writing prompts, and conversations—as well as audio-visual resources—to explore the way music acts both as a form of expression but also as a medium of change and inquiry. We will also give time to explore how, in music, listener and performer are brought together in intimate proximity.

Finally, we will explore how listening to music can be a powerful way to experience the Dharma as well as the oh-so-human desire to make meaning of our lives.

This course will include short, weekly assignments ahead of discussion during the course, which will involve watching, listening, and/or reading the lyrics of a piece of music.

Watch a short video with Bradley Donaldson here.

Online Schedule:
This program is hosted on Zoom and closed captions are available. Our intention is to build sangha and provide meaningful virtual interactions with each other and with teachers in our online programs. We encourage you to participate as fully as you are able. You can check the time of the group sessions in your timezone here: https://www.worldtimebuddy.com. The schedule of Zoom meetings for this program (shown in US Eastern Time) is as follows:

Sundays 1:00-3:00 PM ET between August 28-September 25

Meeting Dates: August 28, September 4, 11, 18, 25

Please note that sessions will be recorded and will be available within 48 hours of each session for courses and 48 hours of the final session for retreats and events. These recordings are not downloadable. Retreat recordings will be available for 2 weeks and event recordings will be available indefinitely.

Cancellation Policy:
There are no cancellation fees for donation-based programs.

As we work to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, we invite feedback/suggestions you may have regarding ways that we can make participation in the program more accessible and welcoming. Please email us at contact@buddhistinquiry.org.
    About the Instructor(s):
  • Bradley Donaldson (previously Bhante Sumano) is a writer and teacher. A former Buddhist monk, he now guides contemplative practice informed by critical approaches to Buddhism and philosophy, especially in relation to black and queer experiences. Seeing that the Dharma is ultimately a practice of the heart, he is most interested in the teachings that emphasize care and wisdom.