Online Dharma Discussion

Cover of book by Geshe Sonarn Rinchen trans. & ed. by Ruth Sonarn, available from Shambala Publications and other booksellers.

Every Thursday Evening 6:00-6:30 PM via Zoom

Since we can’t meet at the Dharma Center during these difficult times, the South Carolina Dharma Group is having an online video chat on Zoom weekly on Thursdays from 6:00 to 6:30 PM (email for a link to join us). We’ve been focusing on different themes or texts—in the past, we’ve discussed the Six Perfections, the Eight Verses of Mind Training, and the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. We decide as a group what theme or text we will use. See below for the current text.

SCDG does not currently have a teacher in residence, so this is a group of students, ranging from newcomers to senior students. Usually an email is sent the day before as a reminder, with the Zoom link and other information, and also some quotations from online commentaries, usually by such Gelugpa authors as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa, and Venerable Thubten Chodron, but also teachers from other traditions, along with links to the entire commentary so you can read more if you want.

Discussions begin by meditating on the breath for two minutes to calm and focus our minds, and close promptly at 6:30 PM. It’s fine to come late or leave early. Our comments in the discussions range from very scholarly details to personal anecdotes, and we are open to questions of all kinds, as long as they are related to the particular topic of the night. We have a moderator of sorts who opens and closes, but otherwise, this is an open discussion.

We try to be mindful of each other and to be sure that each person has a chance to participate as they want, but it’s fine to sit quietly if you want to get to know the group before speaking. It’s also fine to turn video on or off, and often we turn off audio when we’re not speaking to prevent background noise from interfering with the discussion.

We hope you’ll join us!

Our Current Online Dharma Discussion

We are currently discussing the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, a text you can find online or in various book versions with commentaries through libraries and booksellers. It is a poem with 37 verses (plus introduction and conclusion) and we discuss one or more verses at each meeting.

The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas is a text by the Tibetan adept Gyelsay Togmay Zangpo, who lived from 1295 to 1369. He explains the path of the bodhisattvas, who are beings somewhat akin to saints in Western traditions. The term bodhisattva means "a being with perfect knowledge" in Sanskrit, and bodhisattvas are said to be beings who have the ability to enter nirvana, but choose to delay entry so that they can help other sentient beings along the path to enlightenment. Gyelsay Togmay Zangpo was known to be an extremely compassionate person, who devoted his life to the dharma and to helping others, especially those less fortunate and suffering in this life.

Having gained this rare ship of freedom and fortune,

Hear, think, and meditate unwaveringly night and day

In order to free yourself and others

From the ocean of cyclic existence—

This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

-Snow Lion Press translation of verse 1 of the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas