Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Road to Enlightenment

PHOTOS: Buddhists Meg and Mark preparing for meditation; talking outdoors (BBC)

EXETER, England (BBC) - 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 tens of millions of people around the world.

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. More>>

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