Sekha Group

Refuge and Ongoing Guidance at Sitagu Buddha Vihara

The Sekha Group is a community of serious lay practitioners who have taken refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha as a fundamental step in their spiritual lives and participate in a program of study, practice and community involvement. Sekha (trainee) is a word the Buddha used for those firmly on the path (technically at least on the path to stream entry), but who are not yet arahants. We hold weekly meetings, but also encourage certain practice meetings among the practitioners throughout the week.

This group is open to those who have a sincere abiding commitment to Dhamma. Please talk with Ashin Cintita or with Ashin Ānanda if you think you might want to join this group.

DSC09598Refuges and precepts. Refuge is a heartfelt commitment to live and practice according to Buddhist principles. It is something like converting, but without entailing a break from one’s root or family faith. It is to place trust in three sources of wisdom: the Buddha, our original teacher; the Dhamma, the principles he taught; and the Sangha, the monastics or living teachers who uphold those principles. The precepts are basic ethical or behavioral guidelines that we seek to live up to in our lives. Sekha participants have in common that they have taken these refuges and precepts after a period of learning and discussion. One is welcome to attend our meetings while considering taking the important step of refuge. The refuges and precepts are found HERE.

The Buddhist community. Sekhas belong to a time-honored Buddhist community that goes back to the time of the Buddha and has sustained Buddhism as a unique tradition throughout its history. The lifeblood of that community is generosity and its beating heart is the reciprocal relation between the monastic and lay communities. One result of this is that all classes, events and facilities at SBV can be offered at no cost. Sekhas learn and are encouraged to participate in this traditional community. By contributing to the life and functioning of the center one begins to feel ownership and helps sustain the growth and perpetuation of Buddhism in this wild west land.

Part of participation involves common Buddhist etiquette. It is also important to recognize that the Sekha Group is a Western island in predominantly Burmese monastery, but a quite welcome one. The Sekha group upholds the communal standards of Buddhism in a somewhat Western way, but seeks to harmonize with the Burmese cultural conditions that surround us. Although this brings some challenges, the Burmese culture has been shaped by Buddhism for many centuries, the Burmese tend to be very devout and many stand as outstanding exemplars of the ideal of a Buddhist community.

The sekha program. Generally a sekha will have completed our Buddhist Life/Buddhist Path course for a basic understanding of Buddhist practice as found in the early teachings of the Buddha. However those with strong commitment can join the program earlier if they plan to complete this study. A sekha should commit to the refuges, but can participate in the program prior to doing so.

A sekha should optimally each week:

  • … have contact with the monks/teachers for Q&A or debriefing.
  • … participate in at least one meal offering.
  • … meditate at SBV.

We understand that for many people satisfying these conditions is not possible each week; do what you can. The purpose of this requirement is to encourage participation in the community and frequent contact with the monks.

One can choose to work with a particular monk as one’s primary teacher, or keep in touch with more than one monk. (Hopefully we will also have nuns in the future.)

Meal offerings are generally at 11:15am, and are a bit ceremonial, because the represent this reciprocal relationship of lay and sangha. Lay people eat a little after the monks. This an occasion where the Burmese and Western communities come together. You may bring things to offer the monks and for other layfolks, but there is always abundant food.

Meditation with like-minded people give a strong incentive to practice. Of course sekhas should have a regular home practice.

We also encourage sekhas to participate in classes and other events at SBV and in volunteer and outreach activities.

Weekly meetings. On Sunday mornings satisfy these conditions above and allow sekhas to come together as a group. The schedule is:

  • Meditation – 9:00 – 9:40.
  • Group discussion, Q&A – 9:40-11:00
  • Food offering to the monks and lunch – 11:15

Other resources and programs. Study programs are available in a variety of topics, with our knowledgeable monks and our library as useful resources. This includes ongoing personalized  instruction in meditation at all levels.

Ways to provide volunteer service or donate to SBV in the spirit of generosity are listed on the sitagu.org/austin/ Web site, as will ongoing outreach programs, such as prison work, interfaith work, etc.

Sekha talks. Recorded at our Sunday morning Sekha meetings.

 


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