How do I get to the Bodhinyana Hall?Get directionsAmaravati is near Great Gaddesden, three miles north-west of Hemel Hempstead. Travelling from Hemel Hempstead, when you reach Great Gaddesden, turn left off the main road and drive past the entrance to the garden centre up a hill (Pipers Hill) on a small lane leading out of the village. Take the right fork half way up the hill and continue past a number of houses until you reach a sign ‘Amaravati’ on your left and you will see some large gates. Drive through the gates and park. Walk up the drive which passes to the left of the temple and cloisters and you will pass a Buddha statue on your right. On your left you will see three buildings. The Bodhinyana Hall is the second one, just after a small tree. Go up the steps and you will find a lobby which leads into a room with a large Buddha statue at the end.
What is the Bodhinyana Group?
We are a group of lay Buddhists and people interested in Buddhism who meet tomeditate and discuss Buddhist practice at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery.
Are the meetings suitable for new-comers to Buddhism?
We welcome newcomers to Buddhism as well as those who have been practising Buddhism for some time but are new to Amaravati. If you are new to meditation let the leader know so that they can give some guidance. If you don’t understand some of the terms and ideas that those have been practising for some years use, please say so, so they can explain what they mean.
Is the Group open to non-Buddhists?
Yes, we welcome anyone who is interested in Buddhism. Our focus is Buddhist practice. Many people from other religions find Buddhism and especially Buddhist meditation beneficial in their lives. The Group does have a focus on Buddhism and our discussions relate to understanding Buddhist teachings and applying them in our lives.
Will I be expected to convert to Buddhism eventually?
We won’t be trying to convert you to anything. There is nothing to convert to in Buddhism. Many people who value the Buddha’s teachings highly have found that they changed their lives do not call themselves Buddhist. You don’t need to become a ‘Buddhist’ in order to practice the Buddha’s teachings – this is enough.
Am I expected to believe in anything?
There are no beliefs you have to take on in Buddhism. Some call Buddhism a practical philosophy – it is simply a path you can follow to help you understand your life and free yourself from suffering. You need to redefine the word religion to fit Buddhism into it, because Buddhists don’t believe in a creator god – nor do they disbelieve, they simply don’t hold a belief or a position about it. Buddhism is a religion about what can be realised through our own human experience.
I’ve seen people bowing to the Buddha statue. Will I have to bow?
No, there is no need to bow, although there is an opportunity to. When Buddhists bow to the Buddha, they are honouring his enlightenment, his teaching and those who have put it into practice. That is why they bow three times. They are not worshipping him. They are bowing out of gratitude. The Buddha was very clear that we do not honour him by worshipping him, but by following his teachings.
I have heard there are different schools of Buddhism. Which school do you follow?
Amaravati is a Theravada Buddhist Monastery following a Forest Sangha tradition from Thailand. You will find that most people attending the Bodhinyana Group follow this tradition. That keeps things simple, because although the teachings of the Buddha found in different schools are the same, there are differences of emphasis which can lead to confusion. Theravada Buddhism is the school of Buddhism practiced in South East Asia in countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma. The Forest Sangha Tradition emphasises direct experience through Buddhist meditation, particularly mindfulness and insight meditation. Of course these are technical terms you will get to understand the meaning of through practising meditation.
Why is the group called the Bodhinyana Group?
We took our name from the name of the building where we meet, the Bodhinyana Hall, at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery.
What does Bodhinyana mean?
Bodhi means enlightenment and nyana means insight or direct knowledge. It is a Pali word, the language of Theravada Buddhist texts, which is close to the dialect of Sanskrit the Buddha spoke in Northern India. Pali is an aural language which has been transcribed into the Roman script so we can read it. The letters replicate the sound of the words so it reads phonetically.
Do I need to book or let anyone know I am coming?
There is no need to book, just turn up. If you want to contact Martin Evans by email or phone to find out more you are welcome. Please check the programme to be sure there is a meeting that evening as we occasionally take a break (e,g, Christmas). These are clearly marked on the programme when they occur on a Wednesday.
Who organises the Group?
Martin Evans. He is a lay teacher within Amaravati Lay Buddhist Association (ALBA) at the monastery, and has practised Theravada Buddhism for 35 years. He knew the Community before they moved to Amaravati 30 years ago and has been a supporter and regular retreatant ever since. He lives nearby in Hemel Hempstead.
Who leads the evenings?
Anyone can offer to lead an evening – obviously it takes some confidence to sit at the front and naturally those who offer have an established practice. But being quite new isn’t an obstacle. The objective is to talk from your own experience and stimulate a discussion. It is an amazingly enriching experience to do this, as it really stimulates you to think deeply about the theme you have chosen, in order to talk about it to others.
Where do the themes come from?
It is up to the person leading to choose a theme. Take a look at the programme. Sometimes you may see a leader but no theme. It can be difficult to come up with a theme far in advance, and sometimes people think of one just the day before. But it is good to have a theme to structure the discussion around.
Do I need to make a donation towards the cost of hiring or the hall?
No. Amaravati do not charge us for the hall - but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make a donation towards the heating and other running costs. If you would like to make a donation, please go to the Amaravati donation page. Standing orders are particularly appreciated as they provide a regular income.
Are there other activities at Amaravati?
If you look at the calendar on the Amaravati website you can find out about all the activities and events at the monastery. These are open to anyone. On Saturday afternoons there is a meditation workshop which is an opportunity to receive instruction in meditation and to ask questions. During the summer there are a series of public talks given be senior monastics which are very popular - it’s best to arrive in good time. You are welcome to visit the monastery at any time and if you are unsure what to do or where to go, just ask someone.