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   Inside Out - North East: Monday 10th February, 2003

BUDDHISM CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Buddhist statue
BUDDHISM IN CUMBRIA | Buddhism is attractive to those seeking spiritual well-being

Buddhism is renowned for its philosophy of spiritual enlightenment. Inside Out investigates how converts to this religion can turn around their lives.

Think of Buddhism and you think of transcendental meditation, good karma and spiritual enlightenment.

No surprises then that Buddhism is growing in popularity, and boasts some high profile followers such as Hollywood stars Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn.

So are its followers really less stressed-out than the rest of us? And is Buddhism a welcome alternative to the pressures of modern life in the fast lane?

Inside Out took restaurateur Eugene McCoy away from the rat race to the Manjushri Centre in Ulverston to find out.

Transform your life

Man meditating
Meditation is a great way of focusing on positive energy

Do you feel that life is full of stress and lacks meaning or direction? Do you feel as if you're constantly on the treadmill, trying to balance work commitments?

Perhaps it's time to look into your inner soul and discover a new path to happiness, fulfilment and inner peace?

Buddhism could be the answer, providing a relaxing and spiritual alternative to the trails and tribulations of everyday life.

But would it work for Eugene McCoy who has a stressful job running the BALTIC and Tontine restaurants in Northern England?

Good karma

The Manjushri Mahayana Centre in Ulverston, Cumbria is one of a network of Buddhist centres up and down the country.

Founded in 1975, it aims to provide a peaceful environment where people could learn about the Buddhist way of life, and practice meditation.

Buddhist statue
Festivals at the Ulverston Buddhist centre often attract up to 2,000 people

It caters for everyone interested in Buddhism, from those simply looking at ways to reduce stress, to people hoping to follow Buddhism as a serious vocation.

The centre has a resident community of 85 Buddhists including several ordained monks and nuns.

But not all of its participants are fully-fledged Buddhists. Many go to the centre to reflect, meditate, relax and chill out.

Eugene found his experience of the centre extremely uplifting. Not only did he feel less stressed, he was impressed by the positive energy that Buddhism engenders.

A spiritual route

The Manjushri Centre offers a range of activities from weekend courses and retreats to evening talks and pujas, and extensive study programmes.

Buddhist statue workshop
The Manjushri Mahayana Centre makes statues, and is a business hub for a network of Buddhist centres

It also is the hub of a business, making statues for distribution to other Buddhist centres. The Buddhists at the centre also run a publishing business, and a distribution warehouse.

Eugene McCoy found the atmosphere very calm, and admired their balance between work and relaxation.

Although the centre has several business concerns, it still manages to have a cut-off point when the work of the day stops and meditation starts.

"That's the hard part with me. I haven't got a cut-off point," says Eugene enviously.

Meditation

Our 'karma chameleon', Eugene, decided to try some Buddhist meditation for himself.

Meditation
Meditation involves imagining breathing in positive energy

First of all, there were a few myths to dispel. Not all attendees at the centre have to wear orange robes, or chant prayers out aloud.

Many wear casual clothes, sit on cushions or on a chair, and meditate quietly with their hands folded on their laps. The atmosphere is very relaxed and informal.

Some Buddhists go a step further. More committed adherents of the faith, such as monks, are vegetarians.

They also spend hours in prayer, study Buddhist teachings, practice yoga, and abstain from sex.

Quality of life

Buddhism Facts

The 'Buddha' is a title rather than a name. It means 'the one who is awake'.

The title 'Buddha' was first given to a man born Siddhartha Gautama in Nepal 2,500 years ago.

Siddhartha was not a God. He was a human being who became enlightened.

He practiced meditation under several teachers.

Siddhartha travelled throughout northern India, spreading the teaching of 'the Enlightened One'.

The purpose of all Buddhist practices is prajna or wisdom.

Nirvana can be reached by following the Eightfold Path.

There are three types of wisdom in Buddhism - wisdom from listening, wisdom from contemplation, and wisdom from meditation.

The key message of Buddhism is that it provides a path of individual transformation which teaches us to look within ourselves for the inner peace and happiness.

Its philosophy is that by deepening our wisdom and compassion, we can improve the quality of our life and gain great power to help others.

With a world increasingly at odds with itself, many believe that it's a philosophy that we could all learn from.

So will Eugene be converting to Buddhism and joining its 350 million followers world-wide?

Maybe not, but he has witnessed the benefits from adopting a more Buddhist-centred way of life.

So why not try out Buddhism yourself?

You can get an insight into Buddhism by going to the Manjushri Centre on a working visit.

This involves staying for one week free of charge in exchange for 35 hours of work.

Why not try it? It may be the wake-up call that your stress-fuelled lifestyle needs.

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
Buddhism

On the rest of the web
Manjushri Mahayana Buddhist Centre
Dalai Lama
Buddhism Depot

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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