Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Buddhist Homiletics 101 at Red Clay Sangha Homework

I'm attending Buddhist Homiletics 101 at the Red Clay Sangha starting this weekend. I sure hope the class is not as hard as the preparatory work we've been assigned. This looks really simple, but the instructor is not a Buddhist - pretty cool idea really, using the local seminary school folks to learn these things, but the language just doesn't match. I had something else to write about but I guess I'll do that tomorrow.

What is in your heart as you approach dharma talks: why are you a Buddhist, and why do you take on this role of speaker?
The simple answer to why I'm a Buddhist is that I learned about it and it looked like me. Which would mean explaining all of Buddhism, I guess to answer that. In many ways I am a Buddhist because it doesn't tell you the whole answer, but points you towards it and gives you the technique for finding your own answer. Buddhism also doesn't require me to believe anything. Nothing. Not even six impossible things before breakfast! Of course before I was a Buddhist I was an existentialist, which didn't require me to believe anything either, but also didn't give me a lot of anything else. Being a Buddhist has allowed by to embrace suffering, understand it fully, and see how joy dependently co-arises with it. Which is to say "no suffering, no joy".

I take on the role of speaker because I can?

What is truly in my heart is the desire to bring forth the wonder of life that this practice brings forth (and the wonder of practice that this life brings forth) as a moment by moment expression of me.

Give examples of topics that you think might be suitable for dharma talks:

  • Precepts (pretty much need to have these once a month when we do renewal), 
  • Various bits of Buddhist philosophy (such as the Four Noble Truths) if they can be related to NOW or I can offer a new perspective that I think folks will find interesting,
  • Koans,
  • Current events wrapped up in Buddhist philosophy,
  • Most sutras,
  • My life struggles,
  • Buddhist practices,

What are some of your current sources for dharma talks:

  • Whatever is giving me difficulty at the time,
  • Sutras and Koans,
  • Commentaries and talks,

Identify your personal barriers to delivering good dharma talks:

  • Lack of any formal training in doing so,
  • Lack of any feedback from my prior teacher and so having no idea whether what I was doing was good or whether anyone cared, 
  • Choosing a topic (only once),
  • Preparing the talk without tearing it up and "just winging it",
  • Thinking that most folks just want to discuss and/or don't want a lot of stuff that they could look up themselves if that want to and so skimping on the preparations,
  • Really not wanting to record myself and watch it,

What do you hope to get out of the class:
I'd like to learn how to do this right.

I'm sure there are methodologies out there that other folks use and that I could benefit from them. I'm sure that good preachers didn't just wake up one morning knowing how to do it, but so far that's all I've gotten. 

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