The resources offered here are meant to help you discover the breadth of contemporary expressions of Early Buddhist thought and practice.
You will not find links to Mahayana or Vajrayana resources only because of the limited and specific focus of this website and of this Buddhist community, not because of any implied superiority of one expression of Buddhism over another.
Personally, I have a deep love for Buddhist wisdom and I respect all Buddhist traditions.
You will find here a number of suggested resources grouped into four broad topic areas (see Table of Contents for details below).
Mindfulness and the secular approach
Secular Buddhism is growing as a unique modern take on Buddhist practice and thought. As a “movement” it owes a lot to the writings of the former Buddhist monk Stephen Bachelor, especially his Confession of a Buddhist Atheist. This is a pragmatic approach to Buddhist teachings based on humanist values. From the Secular Buddhist podcast:
Secular Buddhism allows for the ancient wisdom of early Buddhism to be added to whatever background/world view you already possess. Whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, Believer, Non-believer, it doesn’t really matter; Secular Buddhism is about helping you to become a better whatever you already are.What is secular Buddhism?
Secular mindfulness and personal development
Back in the late 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D, developed a modern, scientific-based application of traditional Buddhist principles of mindfulness and meditation and developed a flexible approach to reducing stress called MBSR — Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
There are so many MBSR programs and trainings worldwide that it would be a monumental task to list them all here. Instead, here are just a few resources available to those interested in MBSR.
I must give a shout out here to the MARC program — The Mindful Awareness Research Center, which is a partner of the Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA. This innovative research center provides an excellent set of free guided meditation exercises. They also have a very well produced app on on Google Play or Apple App store.
Here are just a few of the well-known online MBSR classes, which are taught in an 8 week series:
Mindfulness has also found it’s way into public education, with impressive results. Have a look at the Mindfulness in The Schools Project, whose aim is to improve the lives of a generation of children and young people by making a genuine, positive difference to their mental health and well being.
The popular Buddhist Geeks podcast asks the question: “How can we serve the convergence of Buddhism with rapidly evolving technology and an increasingly global culture?”
They organize an annual conference and week-long retreat, and their podcast holds interviews and discussions with Buddhist teachers, scholars and advanced practitioners.
Mind & Life Institute is dedicated to creating a collaboration and research partnership between modern science and Buddhism to better understand the mind and create positive change in the world.
At this critical moment in history, it’s clear that efforts to address mounting global challenges must take into account our inner lives, and how individual well-being contributes to collective flourishing.
Buddhist meditation as practiced in the West
I include here a sampling of the major Western teaching centers of meditation following Early Buddhism. One could say there are four major lineages of Buddhist meditation that have taken root in the West:
From Burma– the lineage of Pa-Auk Forest Sayadaw.
Teachers in the West vary in the degree to which they follow the model set by their Asian teaching lineage. Some well-known teachers blend their understanding of the practices they inherited from Asia with insights from psychology, ecology and literature. I call these centers ones that follow their Asian influence less meticulously.
There are also teachers which follow their inherited Asian lineage very meticulously, and these are grouped together and listed below as well.
Meditation taught in a humanistic context, following their lineages less meticulously.
Main Western centers meticulously following their lineages.
Smaller branch centers teaching Buddhist meditation world-wide.
Centers in North America
Centers in the The UK and Europe
Centers in Australia and New Zealand
Bodhinyanarama is a monastic residence of the Theravada tradition of Buddhism set in a 51 hectare Native Reserve of regenerating bush 29 kms from Wellington, New Zealand. Bodhinyanarama has its origins in the Thai Forest Tradition and is associated with the many branch monasteries of meditation master Ajahn Chah.
Buddhist Society of Western Australia is a Theravada Buddhist group based on the forest tradition of SE Asia. It was started by a small group in 1973 and has since grown to become the largest Buddhist organisation in Australia. We have members throughout Western Australia, in all states of Australia and Christmas Island, and overseas in countries such as Canada, UK, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and USA.
Te Moata is a beautiful retreat center situated six kilometres north of Tairua, New Zealand, in 850 acres of protected native forest in the heart of the Coromandel peninsula. Te Moata offers regular Insight Meditation Retreats and many other workshops.
Centers in Africa
Dharmagiri, which means sacred mountain, is the name of a hermitage founded by Kittisaro and Thanissara on the border of Lesotho and South Africa in 2000. It is a small center hosts meditation retreats and educational courses, including guided self-retreat as well as scheduled retreats.
The Uganda Buddhist Centre was established on April 10, 2005. This centre was founded by Venerable Buddharakkhita with the dedicated support of a group of pioneering devotees led by Felista Nampiima and Joyce Nakatte. The primary aim of the centre is to spread Buddhism in Uganda and other African countries.
Centers in Thailand
Suan Mokkh Suan Mokkh is a forest monastery along the coast of Southern Thailand, 600 km from Bangkok. It was founded in 1932 by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and grew to become the most innovative and progressive Buddhist teaching center in Siam. Although Buddhadasa Bhikkhu has passed away, much of his work continues.
Centers in Sri Lanka
Nirodha Trust is a Sri Lankan based non-profit, formed with the mission of spreading the teachings of the Buddha as preserved in the Theravada tradition. The Nirodha Trust offers, free of charge, online courses in Pali, Suttas, and soon courses on the Abhidhamma and meditation teachings and guidance by Dhammaruwan.
Centers in Burma
Pa-Auk Forest Monastery is a Buddhist monastery in the Theravada tradition, with emphasis on the teaching and practice of both Samatha (tranquility) and Vipassana (insight) meditation. Situated in a forest along the Taung Nyo Mountain range in Mon State, Myanmar, the monastery provides a conducive setting for the practice of long-term, intensive meditation.
The International Meditation Centres There are six International Meditation Centres in the Sayagyi U Ba Khin tradition of Burma. All were founded to provide facilities for the instruction and practice of Theravada Buddhist Meditation. Each of the centres in the West is a direct offshoot of the International Meditation Centre of Yangon, Myanmar.
The teachings of Early Buddhism
I present in this section resources you might find helpful in exploring early Buddhist thought and practice. The links below offer a variety of approaches–some are unabashedly traditional, while others less so.
The Buddha’s Teaching As It Is – An excellent way to get a feel for Early Buddhist teachings, recorded back in 1979 by Bhikkhu Bodhi. A wonderful and very accurate set of four talks. This is to many practicing Buddhists comparable to The White Album by the Beatles– a classic!
Access To Insight – Very thorough and comprehensive resources for practice and meditation — directories, text archives, self-guided tour through the Pali Canon. See for example their–>> A Path to Freedom: A Self-guided Tour of the Buddha’s Teachings.
Barre Center for Buddhist Studies – Onsite and online programs supportive of personal transformation through Buddhist inquiry as a way of developing wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all beings. (Barre, MA, USA).
Sati Center for Buddhist Studies – cholarly inquiry, personal practice, and training in the application of the original Buddhist texts in support of our wider world, with an appreciation for the richness of the tradition and lineage.
Paliaudio – offers readings from the Pali Suttas (Buddhist scriptures) in English.
Buddha Net – is a large, non-sectarian online database of Buddhist educational and supportive resources. It is a not-for-profit organization affiliated with the Buddha Dharma Education Association, which was started in 1992 as a vipassana meditation center in Sydney by Ven. Pannyavaro.
Sutta Readings – A selection of the Buddha’s Suttas read aloud by senior teachers and practitioners in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.
Suttacentral – A large collection of teachings attributed to the Buddha or his earliest disciples, with a special focus on the Pali texts, the core of the Theravada school. Teachings are offered in original languages, translations in modern languages.
Racism, social justice, the environmental crises, and LGBTQ issues
As addressed by contemporary Buddhist thought leaders
Social justice issues were never outside of the central focus of Early Buddhism. Many today incorrectly believe the Buddha’s teaching was solely concerned with an individual’s liberation from the ills of the world.
As modern day inheritors of these priceless wisdom teaching, it is crucial we extend our meditation practice outward from the “internal” realm of personal healing and insight into the “external” realm of collective healing and liberation.
As the great civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer famously said,
Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.
But this work starts with ourselves, as an often deeply challenging process of self-reflection. Our meditation practice allows us to recognize our unconscious bias, and gives us the space to become less reactive and to choose how we respond to injustice and to heal from our own injustices.
Law professor and mindfulness teacher Rhonda Magee shows that by healing from injustices and dissolving our personal barriers to connection we can view others with compassion and to live in community with people who may have beliefs and opinion contrary to our own.
This is from Rhonda’s recently published book The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness:
Because there are so many rivers of pain joining and forming the ocean of racial suffering in our times, personal awareness practices are essential for racial justice work. In order for real change to occur, we must be able to examine our own experiences, discover the “situated” nature of our perspectives, and understand the ways that race and racism are mere cultural constructions.
The individual interdependence with the world of suffering beings was at the heart of many of the historic Buddha’s oral message to his students. Our work as modern day practitioners is to seek our collective liberation with the same passion we have brought to the path of individual healing.
Doing so honestly we recognize our interdependence with all beings.
May our practice and study be for the benefit of all.
What follows is a selection of resources highlighting this expansive view of Buddhist practice as social justice practice. I have chosen statements and articles by modern day Buddhist thought leaders and well as from teachers and groups addressing these critical issues in this time of global crisis.
Spirit Rock’s statement on the recent hatred and violence against the Asian and Pacific Islander communities:
Our community continues to bear witness to the violence of the March 16 Atlanta shootings, which took the lives of eight people, including six women of Asian descent. This violence was a terrible reminder of the injustices and hatred perpetrated by white people against Asian American and Pacific Islander people in this country over centuries.
As students of the Dharma, dedicated to the study and practice of interdependence, we stand with people of Asian descent and all beings struggling against systemic oppression. We understand compassion and solidarity, along with wise action of many kinds, to be vital expressions of the path of liberation.
Racist violence against people of Asian descent has been part of American history since the first Asians arrived here, many bringing Buddhism with them. From the 1875 Page Act excluding Chinese women, to the wartime Japanese internment camps, Asian immigrants have fought for safety and basic rights in the U.S. for generations.
Most recently, we’ve seen targeting and scapegoating of Asian people from the highest levels of government, and hate crimes have increased dramatically during the Coronavirus pandemic. We hold all Asian and Pacific Islander people here and worldwide in our hearts, offering the prayer at the root of lovingkindness (mettā) practice: may all beings be safe from harm.
As a multicultural Buddhist center, we are forever indebted to our Asian teachers and lineage holders, and grateful beyond words for the long dedication of many Asian cultures in preserving the teachings and practices of the Buddha and his disciples. We have a special responsibility to Southeast Asian Buddhist cultures particularly as the stewards of the Theravāda lineage that is the basis of Insight Meditation. And we hold in our hearts Spirit Rock’s practitioners, staff, teachers, and Board members of Asian descent as they experience this tragedy in unique ways.
The Dharma directs us to investigate suffering and its causes, and we know that complex forces and conditions are at play in painful events such as this. We understand conditioned experience to be both internal and external, and that it includes intersectional systemic conditions such as racism, misogyny, classism, and white supremacy, all of which we saw in the Atlanta murders.
Even as we are holding the tragedy in Atlanta in our hearts, we learn of another mass shooting, in Boulder, Colorado. We are reminded of the instructions of the Buddha to “live without hate among those who hate,” and we endeavor anew to bring compassion and clear seeing to a world that can seem so filled with violence.
We extend our heartfelt condolences and compassion to the families of those killed in Atlanta, Boulder, and everywhere violence takes form. May our practice be for the benefit of all beings, and may we work together toward a world free from hate, gun violence, and the ongoing trauma of racialized violence.”
Resources to assist white people in this work
When popular Buddhist mindfulness teacher Tara Brach came to recognize her own white privilege, it revealed blind spots. That changed her as a dharma teacher and leader. Writing in Lion’s Roar- >Facing My White Privilege
Mindfulness teacher Oren Jay Sofer offers 10 Things White People Can Do To Work For Racial Justice.
An excellent short video by Ruth King, author of the very popular book Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism From The Inside Out in which she says “Racism is a heart disease that’s curable. Cultivating a heart (through mindfulness practice) that is wise and open can be the medicine that heals this condition.”
Pamela Ayo Yetunde’s recent article in Lion’s Roar –>Buddhism in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter. Pamela is the author of Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom.
Buddhist Peace Fellowship
The mission of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), founded in 1978, is to serve as a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism. BPF’s purpose is to help beings liberate themselves from the suffering that manifests in individuals, relationships, institutions, and social systems. Their programs, publications, and practice groups link Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion with progressive social change.
Resources related to the environmental crisis
Meditation in Action A Europe-based organization supporting refugees and environmental diversity.
One Earth Sangha “May all beings be well ” is more than a blessing. It is wise action to actively protect the health of the elements and all species, including our own. This organization offers ways to be involved.
Other resources that may be helpful
Spirit Rock’s resources social justice resource pages.
East Bay Meditation’s Resources for White People
White Awake’s “Waking Up to Race“
Anti-racist resources for secular Buddhists
Jack Kornfield’s personal anti-racism resources
And finally — a very comprehensive reading list covering many aspects of Buddhism of interest to contemporary practitioners ->
Please see our Suggested Reading page
This resource lists books in the following categories
- Meditation guidance
- The Buddhist tradition
- The Suttas of the Buddha
- Buddhism in the West
- People of color and Buddhism
- Buddhist books for children, youth and teens
- Socially engaged Buddhism
- Women in Buddhism
- Mindfulness-based practices in medicine and neuroscience
- Buddhism and psychology
- and much more
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