Local Moscow Buddhist group meets twice a month to discuss Buddhist philosophies
Buddhism, as a philosophy, is often seen as a means to awaken people from a distracted, uncomfortable, mindless life.
The burdens of modern life, combined with the many stresses and technology overload can sometimes lead to an unreflective, stressful life. The local Buddhist Fellowship offers an opportunity to break these cycles.
“The idea of the group is how to understand yourself,” said Jay Feldman, facilitator of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse (UUCP) Buddhist Fellowship. “What does it mean to be living this experience that you live from a moment-to-moment basis? Buddhism has a particular perspective on that. It’s a practical philosophy for understanding oneself and for living.”
Feldman has studied Buddhism for over 20 years and is an adjunct instructor at the University of Idaho. He said he enjoys leading the Buddhist group, called a sangha, because it is an opportunity to discuss how Buddhist philosophies can be applied to everyday life.
The sangha’s meetings are the first and third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the UUCP church sanctuary. They begin each fall and end in the late spring with a break during the summer, much like the university’s class schedule. They start each meeting with 15 minutes of silent meditation, followed by an open discussion about different topics and end with 15 more minutes of meditation, Feldman said.
The discussions begin with responses to the assigned chapters of a specific book, chosen collectively by the group members in the fall. Individuals have the opportunity to discuss how they felt about the chapter and how it could be applied to daily life in general or their own specific experiences, Feldman said.
The UUCP Buddhist Fellowship website explains how the discussion topics vary, but the main goal is to understand how Buddhism can help individuals live more compassionately and mindfully as Americans in the 21st century.
Justin Strahan started going to the sangha after taking a class from Feldman and decided he wanted to learn more about the philosophy. He said the sangha consists of a variety of people from different religious ideals and perspectives, all seeking to learn about life through a Buddhist perspective.
“Buddhism fits beautifully with many theistic religions, like Christianity, for example,” Feldman said. “If you’re already committed to a religion, the practices of meditation and attentiveness help clear away debris, so you can find yourself more intimately in touch with that part of your being.”
This year, the sangha chose the book, “The Places That Scare You,” by Pema Chodron. Strahan said the book focuses on compassion and love for others. The Buddhist perspective of the book explains that one first has to start small in their plight to have compassion for all. It teaches readers to slowly learn to have compassion for themselves, then the entire world.
“I think this relates to any sort of learning or any project to try and better yourself,” Strahan said. “It’s okay to very slowly work your way to whatever goal you are working toward. Mistakes along the way are how you learn to get better at what you’re doing”
Buddhism is often expressed as a means of understanding and accepting the present moment as it actually is and understanding one’s personal feelings as they are as well.
“When you watch yourself, you get a window into yourself so that you can learn how you respond to the world,” Feldman said. “And in learning that, you learn what habits are healthy for you and which are unhealthy.”
Alexia Neal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org