What is The Dhammapada Course?
The Dhammapada is one of the most sacred spiritual texts ever written. It is the Buddhist equivalent to the Bhagavad Gita in Hindu or the Bible in Christianity. Most importantly, it is a complete teaching, bringing you from where you are to the full realization of Divinity as what you are, or as Buddhism calls it, full enlightenment. As Rev. Jakob Merchant says in the following video, “if you were stranded on a desert island, this book is the only book you would need to know God.” Jack Kornfield writes in the forward to Gil Fronsdal’s translation, which we will use in this course:
“You hold in your hands, the most beloved of all Buddhist texts, both poetic and profound. These verses of the Dhammapada sum up, in the simplest language, the teaching of the Buddha.”
The invitation for this month and the online course is to take, every single day, time to make these sacred verses come alive in one’s life. At Communion with Love we don’t aim to teach any concepts, but instead, to evoke from within the person a direct experience of spiritual truth. So the invitation then is to explore within and become the very truth of the teachings of the Buddha.
The Promise of the Dhammapada
What is the promise of the Dhammapada? None other than the promise of a direct experience of spiritual truth, the promise of being drawn to become that which you seek. Rev. Jakob Merchant many years ago, reluctantly attended a Buddhist talk and found himself captivated. Something drew him in that was beyond interest, beyond curiosity. At the end of that evening he received a blessing and set in motion one of the most important phases of his life. It was the beginning of numerous spiritual experiences, illumination experiences that soon became a daily occurrence.
Many spiritual transformations occurred as Rev. Merchant was practicing Buddhism and incorporating it into his life. This promise of direct experience of spiritual truth is the promise of Buddhism. It is the promise of the Dhammapada. It is also the promise of Communion with Love’s online course. The one month of daily lessons, meditations, contemplation, and self-inquiry evoke a direct experience of Truth in those who, with an absolute devotion and commitment, seek the Truth. Our invitation is for you to become that what you are seeking.
“Those who fully cultivate the factors of Awakening, give up grasping, enjoy non-clinging and have destroyed the toxins are luminous, and completely liberated in this life.”
The Dhammapada as a “How to” manual
The Dhammapada has been a gift to generations, offering numerous gifts to those who approach it. Reading the Dhammapada daily as contemplative practice gives inspirations and insights into how to live one’s life, and becomes a form of reflection on how the principles may be operating in one’s life. Through its teachings one can receive guidance on how to move any aspect of one’s life from where it is to instead being the embodiment of Buddha’s teachings.
The Dhammapada speaks to the power of the mind, the process of manifestation and most importantly, how the mind impacts experiencing and how experiencing can be transcended by transcending the mind. The Dhammapada is a “how to” manual rather than conceptual discourse. All the great teachers left teachings on how reach that state which they were experiencing, and the Dhammapada offers one such teaching on how to be the Light, how to realize one’s Buddha Nature. While there are instances of sudden enlightenment, such as that of Ramana Maharshi, more often, the path to enlightenment unfolds more gradually through intense devotion and commitment. This was the experience of the Buddha.
The course includes daily lessons and spiritual practices to make the teachings of the Buddha directly experiential and alive in one’s life. These lessons include a morning meditation, a contemplation to hold in mind and apply to everything that arises throughout the day, self-inquiry exercises, the opportunity to comment and hear from others’ experiences of the day, and a daily reflection. This format not only develops an unconditional spiritual application of the lessons of the Dhammapada, but also helps one develop a daily spiritual practice whereby one’s meditation is not compartmentalized but instead integrated with all of life experience. As one develops these daily spiritual habits of meditation, contemplation, and self-reflection one’s life becomes one’s spiritual practice.
Ready to learn more? Here is a sample daily lesson and related video.
The second lesson is based on the second verse of the Dhammapada. How we experience the world of form is nothing but a mirror image of what the mind holds. The mind creates one’s experience of life. This course is an invitation to transcend the positions that the mind holds – ideas, concepts, beliefs – and experience Divine Reality instead. No outer circumstances are required to experience the presence of God. It is looking within and transcending what is held in mind that is the pathway to enlightenment.
Lesson 2: All Experience is Preceded by Mind.
All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind. Speak or act with a peaceful mind and happiness follows, like a never-departing shadow.(Dhammapada, ch1 v2 Gil Fronsdal translation)
Today’s lesson emphasizes how everything comes to be. It originates as a top-down process called creation. Whatever is within the mind consciously or subconsciously will eventually manifest as one’s experience. The Buddha talked about the seeds that are planted within the mind as karma. Karma, mind, and ego are the same. Once the mind has been transcended, individual karma and ego have been transcended as well. Because there is nothing that is held within the mind, the Radiance of Divine Presence shines forth out of all that exists. It is the Glory of Love unfolding.
Today’s lesson is an invitation to plant positive seeds within Consciousness so that they come into manifestation.
Meditation/ Creative Visualization: Today’s practice is to hold in mind and visualize your ideal “most spiritual” self. Visualize how an infinitely loving, infinitely merciful, infinitely compassionate, kind, “surrendered to Love” person would be. Allow at the beginning of the meditation for divine revelation and then visualize this new “highest spiritual Self” in any given area of your life – then extending it to everything.
Contemplation: Consciously planting positive seeds within the mind. In any given situation plant positive karmic seeds within the mind. You may visualize within any given situation how the most spiritual self, the most loving self would be in that situation. You could simply hold a prayer or an affirmation, or shift and adjust the thoughts and states of mind. Instead of focusing on what is happening in a situation or the behavior or interaction, focus instead on the mind and the mind being centered in the Self.
Inquiry: What am I on the highest level?
Reflection & Review: Write down a declaration, a “mission statement” of your highest spiritual aspiration and description. Write down a description of a person you ideally would like to be, your highest spiritual Self. Pray for this and plant it firmly within the mind by holding it in mind, or visualizing it. This practice can become a daily routine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is this course for me? If you seek a direct experience of the Truth of what you truly are, then this course is for you. If you are interested in a theological or scholarly discourse on the Dhammapada then this isn’t the course for you. If you have heard of the state often called enlightenment and are willing to set other things in your life aside for even a glimpse of this state, then this course is for you.
What if this class is too advanced for me? I haven’t even read the Dhammapada. The Dhammapada is complete in and of itself. The Dhammapada and this course, will meet you where you are, and take you by the hand, leading you closer to the truth of what you are. This course can take you from wherever you are.
I am already busy, with my family and/or work. I may not be able to keep up with the daily lessons. Most who will take this course are in the same situation. One does what it is possible to do. With the intention towards enlightenment, the assistance of great spiritual beings, outside of our awareness, comes to our assistance to help. One can also redo the course as many times as one wishes. Students have gone through our courses many times, each time going deeper with the lessons.
I am not very adept at the computer or am not at my computer very often, do I need to be logged in to do the course? You will need to log in to our website to access the course. That said, the course is available to you in its entirety from the beginning and some students print out the daily lessons, creating their own workbook rather than continuing to access the course online. Either way is fine.
Is the course really free? Yes, this course has been developed as a gift to all those who will use it. That said, the promise of the course, that of realizing the truth of oneself as infinite Love, requires one to give one’s very life to God. This, of course, does not mean any financial obligations. Communion with Love does appreciate and depend upon donations as developing these and other courses is time consuming and there are materials, website and advertising costs that need to be recovered. Communion with Love is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and donations can be made on our website and are tax deductible.
I’m signing up. What happens next? We recommend to order a copy of the Dhammapada. We recommend and will be using the translation by Gil Fronsdal. This is not necessary as there are many free versions also available online. The course will include one of them, but Gil Fronsdal’s translation is our preferred version. It is available on Amazon here. Once you sign up for the course, on or before the start date you will receive an email with the log in information. Once you are registered and have logged-in you can always access the course from the Communion with Love website.
I’m not available for the retreat day at the beginning of the course. Will that be a problem? The retreat is entirely optional and also will be absolutely worthwhile for those who are able to join us. Most who take the course will likely not also attend the retreat day, and in the future when this course is again offered, it may not start with the one-day course.
I just heard about this course, and it is already underway! You can go ahead and simply start at the beginning on the day you join. Still comment and read the comments of others as they make their way through the modules. You can benefit from their insights as you progress through the course.
Help spread the word and assist others to have the opportunity to take this free course! Please help share the word on this opportunity for a direct experience of Buddha’s teachings! As the Buddha states, there is no greater karma than sharing the dharma. It will be a blessing to many to have this opportunity to take this course at no charge. Please share this information through email, word of mouth and social media.