A Personal View

Next month, in April, I’m going to be teaching on a course with Choden (mindfulness teacher, Buddhist monk, author and old friend) on “The Practice of Buddhism”, which I’ve been asked to write a few words about.  Where to start!  Buddhism has been around for over two and half thousand years, after all, during which time it spread through many countries, where it’s adapted and evolved into many different forms, encompassing a huge variety of cultures, philosophies, and practices.  With that as a background, perhaps I might simply say a few words about what Buddhism means to me, as a lay Western practitioner.

Firstly, I think it’s fair to say that Buddhism isn’t for people who like to be told how to live their lives, or who are looking for simple answers to life’s problems from an outside authority.  It is about learning how to make decisions for ourselves, based on our own wisdom and understanding.  This doesn’t mean that we simply “make it up” as we go along, however, and Buddhism provides practical frameworks to help us navigate our lives, such as the Noble Eightfold Path and the Six Paramitas.

Sometimes Buddhism is described as more of a philosophy than a religion, as it doesn’t believe in a creator God, who is worshipped.  While this is true, Buddhism is very multi-faceted, and contains many elements that we’d normally associate with “religion”, so for me I feel that we can lose something if we have too limited a view of it.  The core of Buddhist teaching is simply that the human condition is rooted in dukkha (often translated as suffering or dissatisfaction) but that it is possible to become released from this, and find a level of fulfilment beyond our ordinary human experience.

The key to the Buddhist path isn’t academic learning or philosophising – although these can have a role – and the idea “practice” is very important, by which is meant how we choose to live our lives, which can create the conditions which allow us to meditate and cultivate kindness and compassion, which in turn leads to insight and wisdom.  For me, Buddhism offers a very practical path, which has also helped me find a deeper meaning to my life.

Which leads me (finally) to the course that I’ll be teaching with Choden, which is fittingly called “The Practice of Buddhism”.   Our approach on this will be very experiential, based around practices such as meditation and reflection.  Through this, we’ll explore some of the basic ideas in Buddhism.  The aim of this certainly isn’t to convert people to Buddhism (which would be a very un-Buddhist thing to do!), but simply to learn a little more about ourselves, and possibly help us find deeper meaning in our lives.  I hope to meet you on the course.


Alan Hughes

Alan Hughes


The Practice of Buddhism course begins on the 17th April and can be attended in person or online. For more information about the course please follow THIS LINK