Buddhists preparing for meditation
The road to enlightenment
If you're looking for a new spiritual journey, the path to enlightenment could be right under your nose. Danny Lawrence meets members of the Diamond Way Buddhist Centre in Exeter.
Whether you've abandoned a previous faith, or you're trying to conquer a bad habit, meditation could be a life-changing experience.
Members of the Diamond Way Buddhist centre in Exeter meet for meditation twice a week.
They follow the example of Buddha, a prince who lived 2,500 years ago.
His own quest for enlightenment is the model for millions of people around the world.
An image of the Buddha aids meditation
A new beginning
After growing up in a Christian tradition, Meg Surrey has taken a new direction.
"I was brought up in the Church of England, although not strictly," she explained.
"My parents went to church maybe at Christmas and Easter, but I was christened as a baby.
"In my early teens I became interested in it and I was confirmed.
"But by the time I was about 16 I was beginning to have big questions about an outside creator and nobody seemed to be able to answer these for me.
"Gradually I became disillusioned with it."
Members of the centre come from a variety of backgrounds. Mark Brimble's is similar to Meg's.
"Like Meg, I was christened," he said. "My mother wasn't particularly involved in the church - we'd maybe go to Midnight Mass - and my father's an Atheist.
"I motivated myself to get involved when I was at college, but felt uncomfortable.
"I started having problems with some of the dogma and some of the issues in the Bible.
"I think most specifically because I consider myself a scientist and the two did not merge. It left me asking a lot of questions.
Meg and Mark share their discoveries.
"I went into a bit of a spiritual wilderness for some time. Then I got involved in reiki, which is a natural method of healing, and shortly after that I became aware of Tibetan Buddhism."
Buddhism differs from some faiths in that there is no worship of a creator God. Rather, Buddhist meditation seeks to follow the teachings of the Buddha.
"Buddha was a man," explained Meg. "A very intelligent and dedicated man, but a man nevertheless.
"While we have statues and paintings of various Buddha forms, they're really just to aid our meditation. They're not gods to be worshipped."
Buddhism in the West
Buddhism's stronghold may be in Asia, but knowledge and practice of it in the West is increasing.
"This country is perhaps unusual in Europe because of its colonial past," said Meg. "Buddhism probably reached this country earlier than in some countries.
"The particular type of Tibetan Buddhism that we practice here really only came to the West in the sixties as a result of so many of the high Tibetan Lamas being forced to leave their country - people like the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama.
"The head of our school of Buddhism at that time was the 16th Karmapa. He started teaching in India and gradually moved to the West."
The Diamond Way Buddhist centres were established by a Danish teacher called Lama Ole Nydahl, who was the 16th Karmapa's first Western student.
Diamond Way Buddhism then came to Exeter courtesy of Matt Huddleston.
Matt previously set up the Diamond Way Buddhist Centre in Reading, and when his work with the Met Office brought him to Devon, he established a centre in the county.
If you've seen some of the colourful Buddhist temples in Asia, you might expect a similarly elaborate building to house the Diamond Way centre.
In fact, the group meets for meditation in a terraced house in the St. James area of Exeter.
It provides a homely setting for the group to welcome newcomers to Diamond Way meditation, one of several different schools of Buddhism practised in the city.
So how has Buddhism changed the lives of Meg and Mark?
"It's probably easier for other people to answer that," said Meg.
"Friends of mine tell me that I'm much calmer now and certainly I think that's the case.
"I used to be incredibly angry. I would really fly off the handle at people very easily and although I still do get angry, I think I've got much better at just calming it down and not letting it erupt.
"It's a very destructive emotion, and it's made life ever so much happier not to have that burning, bubbling anger all the time."
Mark has found he is less attached to things.
Exeter's Diamond Way Buddhism centre
"There are so many disturbing emotions and when you meditate and study dharma it helps control them. We all suffer all these disturbing emotions and we all have one particular one that we want to get under control.
"What happens as a result of meditation is not that we eliminate these negative emotions, but that they transform into positive forms like compassion," explained Meg.
"So it's not a question of blocking and stopping these things, it's about using the energy of them to make a happy state.
"One of the things I've realised is that time spent being angry was the most fantastic waste of energy, and it's much better putting that energy into other things, be it your work or your family."
The Diamond Way family meets on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings at 13, Toronto Road, Exeter.
You can find out more about the centre, and about Buddhism by following the links at the top right of the page.
last updated: 09/02/2009 at 09:43