Jamyang Salisbury Buddhist Study Group
Jamyang Salisbury Buddhist Study Group

                   Buddhism in a Nutshell                            



Welcome to Buddhism in a Nutshell. This is an introductory course that provides a general overview of basic Buddhist philosophy and principles for complete beginners and is intended to provide a basis for more extensive study about Buddhism. It does not assume that those who participate in this course know anything at all about Buddhism or about meditation, but simply that there is an interest in learning something about Buddhism in its various forms and that a presentation in a Tibetan Mahayana context is appealin

This course is presented as a series of five sessions. Which presents teachings and reflections on each subject covered by the lam-rim text, The Foundation of All Good Qualities, by the great Tibetan saint, Lama Tsongkhapa. The teachings come from two extraordinary Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.


Brief Outline of Course Sessions

Session 1:

  • Introduction to course and to the life of Shakyamuni Buddha — How the Buddha’s life exemplifies the search for the answers to life’s big questions … and finding the answers.
  • The answers found by the Buddha summarized in the four noble truths.
    Brief overview of the four noble truths using the medical analogy (the Buddha as doctor; the teachings, the Dharma, as medicine, the first noble truth as the diagnosis, and so on).
  • History and dissemination of Buddhism, moving to different cultures, different types of Buddhism, the Indiana masters, Tibetan lineages, the three baskets.
  • Explanation of the seven-point meditation posture.
  • Guided Meditation: Counting the Breath.

Session 2:

  • Motivation and Guided Meditation: Counting the Breath.
  • Overview of Mind in Tibetan Buddhism. Basis of mind. Continuity of mind.
  • What it means to be a Buddhist, or “inner being.” The four seals of Buddhism.
  • Brief explanation of the role of motivation and dedication.
  • Summary of the eightfold path.
  • More details about each of the four noble truths, one by one.
  • Guided Meditation: Clarity of Consciousness.

Session 3:

  • Motivation and Guided Meditation: Relaxing and scanning the body.
  • Introduction to Lama Tsongkhapa and his text The Foundation of All Good Qualities,  the three principal aspects of the path, and the three scopes.
  • An explanation of verses 1–4 of The Foundation of All Good Qualities:
  • Verse 1: Explanation of the role of the spiritual teacher in Buddhist practice.
  • Verse 2: Discussion of precious human rebirth, the concept of rebirth in Buddhism, and what it means to “take the essence” of this human life.
  • Verses 3 and 4: The importance of a constant awareness of death and impermanence. Review of refuge and karma and the four aspects of karma. Review of the ethical guidelines of body, speech and mind and the importance of mindfulness of our motivations and actions.

Session 4:

  • Motivation and Guided Meditation: Counting the Breath.
  • An explanation of verses 5–8 of The Foundation of All Good Qualities:
  • Verse 5: Explanation of renunciation including practicing renunciation in daily life.
  • Verse 6: Overview of the higher trainings of ethics, concentration, and wisdom.
  • Verses 7 and 8: Explanation of bodhichitta. Methods for developing bodhichitta and overview of bodhisattva vows. Discussion of the concept of thought training as a core Mahayana practice.
  • Guided Meditation: Mind as Knower.

Session 5:

  • Motivation and Guided Meditation: Relaxing and scanning the body.
  • Review of bodhichitta and the six perfections. Summary of the five paths.
  • An explanation of verses 9–14 of The Foundation of All Good Qualities:
  • Verse 9: Discussion of calm abiding and emptiness and its place in Buddhist philosophy and practice.
  • Verses 10–12: Brief explanation of tantra and its role in Mahayana Buddhist practice.
  • Verses 13–14: Final two verses, the dedication.
  • Guided Meditation: Meditation on Shakyamuni Buddha.
  • Conclusion and Final dedication for the class.
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