Religious Studies and Philosophy pupils visited London for a Buddhism trip
22 January 2024
At the beginning of term, Sixth Form pupils from the Religious Studies and Philosophy department departed for a two-day Buddhism trip from the 10th – 12th January. Arriving on Wednesday evening at London Docklands, the pupils were up for a busy first day.
Kagyu Samye Dzong
A Tibetan Buddhist centre of the Kagyu school. Pupils were led into Shrine Room Two and given a talk reflecting core Vajrayana beliefs. The various symbols significant to Vajrayana Buddhism in the shrine room were explained and the relationship the Kagyu School has with the Dalai Lama’s Gelug school was elaborated. Pupils engaged in Mindfulness, a breathing practice, with the lay practitioner taking the visit.
London Buddhist Centre
A Triratna organisation that reflects the Western combination of various Buddhist schools was a rich visit. With an initial discussion from the visit leader on the six core principles of their school, the mix of lay and monastic practice within the school and processes of ordination were explained. This was followed by a body-scan meditation and loving-kindness meditation. After a Q&A session, pupils arrived at Tottenham Court Road for lunch in central London.
The Chair of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at SOAS, Dr Lucia Dolce, kindly gave a seminar with her colleague, Dr Christian Luczanits. With initial discussion reflecting their interests (Japanese Buddhism and the impact of Buddhist art respectively), pupils were exposed to the standard of university-level study in Buddhism. Discussion topics during the seminar included the status of women, the inclusion of meditation in the school curriculum, and the significance of art in the transmission of Buddhism.
After a brief rest in the hotel pupils went to London’s only Tibetan restaurant. A reflection of the meat-eating practiced by Buddhists that contrasts with teachings of harmlessness (Ahimsa), pupils enjoyed a mix of Momo (dumplings), curries, and plenty of spice!
Victoria and Albert Museum – Permanent Buddhist and Southeast Asian exhibits
After a minibus drive past Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, pupils arrived as the V&A opened. The three sections relating to Buddhism in the museum included artifacts depicting Buddhist concepts, such as the wheel of dharma and Buddha’s archery competition for the hand of Yasdhora. With an array of art relating to the different schools of Buddhism, pupils saw images such as the mourning of disciples at the Buddha’s death, the Buddha during his ascetic period and Tibetan Mandala.
Three Wheels Pure Land
A small semi-detached house forms the Three Wheels Pure Land centre. Featuring a Zen garden, the priest Kenshin, gave talks on his priority in seeking the unseen, practices important to the Shin Pure Land School and the practice of gratitude.
The last visit was to the Uposatha hall at the 4-acre site home to the Theravadan monastics resident in Wimbledon. With rich and detailed art covering all the walls within the hall, the group’s monk explained the birth, mission, and death of the Buddha through the artwork displayed on the wall. A combination of modern science with Buddhist views was represented with a rocket, Mona Lisa and Charlie Chaplin found. This was followed by a Q&A session discussing the daily life of Theravadan Monks and views significant to Theravadans when compared to other schools, which was useful to the A level course pupils study.
Thanks goes to the pupils for representing the school so well with active engagement for each visit and making the trip a positive and useful learning experience. Also, to Mrs Nash and Mr Liberman for assisting with driving, travel, their energy and meditation prowess!