According to Power, in order to achieve successful meditation, I must first enter to "newness" and let go of all of my reservations and generalizations (Power 50). Because each interfaith group will have strong beliefs of faith, I am aware that it would require effort to establish the deep connection that Clinebell and Power teach of.
With this in mind, it is likely that most members of these groups may not have other wise been exposed to Buddhist meditation and I kept this in mind while developing my approach. The first step I would take is to first research their religion and become familiar with its doctrine before sharing with them the principles of Buddhism. Since each of the different faith that I currently work with maintain their own set of beliefs and doctrines, it is important for me to remain flexible in my teaching and communication. This will help me in establishing brotherhood and deep understanding. My next step would be for the purpose of establishing a level of understanding with them. I would briefly share the principles of the teachings of Buddha, including the Eightfold Path which are the framework for the meditation sessions.
Once they have a general understanding of the principles of Buddha, then we would together focus on a challenge in their life that they would like to be free from. This would lead them in establishing a right understanding of their problem. As I mentioned previously, a principle of Buddhist meditation is that the individual must clearly understand what is wrong and what they want to change in their life (Dockett, Dudley-Grant, and Bankart 21). The next step I would take is to ask them to decide if they want to be free from the problem. This is helping them establish the right purpose for the Meditation (Dockett, Dudley-Grant, and Bankart 21). Once we have completed that phase I would ask them to recite aloud that they will be free from the problem that they have. This is helping them develop the right speech (Dockett, Dudley-Grant, and Bankart 21). I frequent remind my brothers and sisters that it is important not only to speak with the purpose of being cured during our meditation sessions, but in their daily lives as well. We would next focus on how we can act to cure the problem, and I would lead them to focus on how to act in their daily lives, as well, to end their problem. This is helping them establish the right conduct (Dockett, Dudley-Grant, and Bankart 21). The next step of our session is to focus on any current actions in their lives that are in conflict with our meditation sessions and to focus on ways to eliminate them. This is helping them to establish the right livelihood (Dockett, Dudley-Grant, and Bankart 21). The next step I would take would be to have them to focus on keeping a pace with the sessions as to achieve the results. This is helping them to establish the right effort (Dockett, Dudley-Grant, and Bankart 21). As we continue into the session, I would teach them how important it is to think repeatedly about curing their problem. This is helping them establish the right mindfulness (Dockett, Dudley-Grant, and Bankart 21). The last step I would take in leading our meditation is the final step before we actually enter deeply into the session. I would teach them the importance of learning how to concentrate on how they will become free from the problem as the meditation sessions progress. This is helping them establish the right concentration (Dockett, Dudley-Grant, and Bankart 21). During our sessions, I am aware of the different reservations that the different faiths may have as a result of their beliefs. However, it remains my goal to establish brotherhood and oneness with the group regardless of the different beliefs. I have worked with several different groups over the past three weeks and following are highlights from our first sessions.
8. The Baptist Faith
The sessions for the Baptist faith are held every Monday and about 14 members of the Baptist faith, including the pastor, the associate pastors, and the ushers attend the sessions (Magida and Matlins 44). We held the meditation session in my meeting hall because they would not permit me to hold the session in their main sanctuary. From my research on the Baptist faith, I learned that they believe that Jesus is Lord and that the sacred scriptures, know as the Holy Bible, are the sole norm for their faith and practice (Magida and Matlins 41). The church that I attended was a New Testament Church which means that every believer was a baptized believer (Magida and Matlins 41). Our meditation session, in line with Baptist tradition, was opened with prayer. The session was then turned over to me and I opened with a greeting and an overview on the principles of Buddhism, including teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The group listened actively but did not appear open to my teachings and remained on guard.
Throughout the teaching, I attempted to engage the group and reminded them that it was not the principle of Buddhism to convert them but to lead them into a renewed state of freedom and self-awareness. The Baptists listened but remained guarded throughout.
During our session, I was reminded by the group that they believed that Jesus Christ was the only way to complete freedom (Magida and Matlins 41). Most of the other resistance came from my teachings on the Four Noble Truths, especially the Truth of Suffering and the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering. Most of the Baptists were resistant to this Truth as well, but because of my research, I expected this type of resistance and was prepared. Before beginning the meditation session, I managed to dissolve much of the concern by listening intently and openly to them. I began the meditation session but before I did, I assured the members of the congregation that it was my goal and the principle of Buddhism that they follow freely and not out of obligation. Most of the congregation present participated fully in the session and in our subsequent sessions.
9. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
My next session was held on Tuesday evening with the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ). These members also opted to meet me at my office as they would not permit me to hold the session in their sanctuary.
The Christian faith, based on my research, believed in weekly communion and invited all Christians to attend (Magida and Matlins 75). My icebreaker overview of Buddhism sparked much discussion with this group as well and they clearly stated to me that they believe that the Ten Commandments tell us of what God expects of us and how we are to live (Magida and Matlins 75). The consensus from this group is that they do not believe in Buddhism or Buddha. I assured them that they did not have to believe in Buddha and that the purpose of Buddhism was not to get them to "believe." I clearly understood based on my research that this group believed that eternal life is granted through believe in Jesus Christ (Magida and Matlins 75).
Based on this, my discussion of the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path was met with much resistance. I listened intently to their concerns, many of which involved sharing their passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After about 30 minutes, we entered into a quiet meditation session after I reassured them that I was not there to convert them to Buddhism. After the session, they appeared open and receptive to and we have continued our subsequent sessions.
After my session with the Christian believers, I decided to engage less initially with the next group regarding the Four Noble Truths and engage them more on the Eightfold Path. This was based in part on the fact that both groups had highly resisted the teaching on the Four Noble Truths and perceived it as a threat or a conversion attempt. Knowing within myself that this is not the principle of Buddhism, I endeavored with my next group, to discuss the Eightfold Path with them first, and then as I built rapport with them, I could engage teach them of the Four Noble Truths.
On Wednesday, I visited the Islam believers at their mosque. Upon entering the mosque, I was required to remove my shoes which is part of their doctrine (Magida and Matlins 175). Each member of the faith that entered the mosque, made two raka'ah, which is a prayer upon entering the mosque and the way members of the faith greet the mosque (Magida and Matlins 177). Upon my entrance, I was invited to enter the musallah, or prayer…