Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
I'm interested in meditation instruction. How do I sign up?
There's no formal sign-up process. Just arrive at the Quaker Meetinghouse by 6:30 pm, and let us know that you are interested in receiving instruction. We'll help you get started!
Do I have to be a Buddhist to join the Prairie Sangha?
Not at all. We use the language, concepts, and teachings of Buddhadharma to talk about meditation and our practice, but many who attend our evening sessions do not think of themselves as "Buddhists."
What if there's a teaching I don't understand or agree with?
If something isn't clear, please don't be afraid to ask questions. If something doesn't makes sense to you or fit within your experience, simply set it aside for the time being. Practitioners are encouraged to engage the teachings with an attitude of ehipassiko, which means "come and see for yourself." Meditation is not about blind belief but rather attention to and investigation of what is unfolding in the present moment.
Does it cost anything to attend the Monday sessions?
The Prairie Sangha has some expenses, such as renting the Quaker Meetinghouse each Monday, maintaining our website, and providing an occasional gift to a teacher or monastic community. However, we are funded entirely through donations offered freely by those who choose to support the sangha financially. This practice is in accordance with the Theravada principle of dana, in which the Dharma is freely and generously offered with no expectation of payment or reward.
We have dana baskets at the door of the meditation hall where you can make a gift.
How much should I donate?
We do not provide any guidance or recommendation for gift amounts. In accordance with the principle of dana, it is up to each individual to decide how much is appropriate to give.
How else can I help?
In addition to offering financial support, sangha members help out in many different ways:
- Arriving early to help set up for the evening meditation and instruction.
- Staying a few minutes at the end to help put everything away.
- Donating a box of tea.
- Donating books to the sangha library.
- Contributing to the dhamma talk discussion.
- Offering to "dedicate the merit" at the end.
Generosity is often taught as the beginning of the Buddha's path, and we're grateful for all the ways people help make our sangha a vibrant and inviting community of practitioners.
Can I arrive late or leave early?
If you're interested in meditation instruction, please arrive by 6:30 pm. We use the beginning of each session to learn more about your practice and what questions you have. Also, late arrivals can be disruptive if we're in the middle of a guided meditation.
Otherwise, feel free to arrive any time during the open practice period between 6:30 and 7:15 pm. If posible, please make an effort to be seated in the meditation hall by 7:15 pm. That's when we recite the Refuge Chant and our 30-minute sitting practice period begins.
If you do arrive after 6:30 pm, please use the door to the left of the main entrance. Because the main entrance is near the meditation hall, opening and closing the door can be a distraction. Also, please observe silence in the Meetinghouse after 6:30 pm out of respect for those who are meditating.
Of course, you may leave at any time during the evening. The tea break (between 7:45 and 8:00 pm) is usually the least disruptive time to do so.
Do I have to take off my shoes?
Yes, please. At least until we break for tea at 7:45 pm.
Do I need to bring something to sit on?
We have meditation cushions and chairs available for your use, but if you'd be more comfortable with your own seating, please feel free to bring whatever you need.
What is the refuge chant?
The Refuge Chant is a simple devotional practice that is traditionally performed at the beginning of a retreat or formal practice. The chant is recited in Pali, the language of the oldest extant Buddhist scriptures, and expresses an intention to "take refuge" in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha (referred to collectively as the "Triple Gem").
The chant can be understood as an expression of gratitude for those who have helped us along the path as well as for our own potential to awaken. More broadly, the chant expresses an intention to be present (Buddha) to our experience as it unfolds moment by moment (Dhamma) with an attitude of kindness and compassion for ourselves and others (Sangha).
We recite the refuge chant at 7:15 pm, when we invite the everyone to practice together in the main hall. Reciting the refuge chant is optional. Feel free to simply listen and read along from the handouts provided in the foyer.
What is the dedication of merit?
The dedication of merit is a devotional practice we perform at the end of the evening. By dedicating merit, we express our gratitude for the opportunity to practice and share the dhamma together as a group. The words also serve as a reminder that we practice not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of all the people in our lives and in the world as well. After someone has dedicated merit, the group responds by chanting "Sadhu!" three times, a phrase that means, "Well said!"
Unlike the refuge chant, the dedication of merit is not a formal recitation. The words are chosen by whomever has volunteered to perform the dedication.
Here's an example:
"We dedicate the merit of our practice this evening to the benefit of all beings, in full measure to each. May all beings be safe. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be peaceful and at ease. May all beings be free from suffering."