Hi all, unfortunately our incomparable Ethan Nichtern has the flu (send him your get wells in the comments section) and had to postpone tonight’s beginner Hardcore Dharma class, so my weekly roundup will have to wait. 

Instead, I thought I’d re-post my first entry about Hardcore Dharma for everyone who’s just joining us on Beliefnet so ya’ll can get a sense of exactly how hardcore we really are…

Week 1: Hardcore Dharma is a Go

“The Buddha didn’t care about malas or incense – he was interested in how the mind works.”


For the next nine weeks, Wednesday night at the Interdependence Project will be a teeming morass of Buddhist teaching and inquiry called Hardcore Dharma. I was at the opening class last night of the new Hardcore Dharma group and it was great, like my first class in college but with a sense of actual, like, purpose. Rain and cold and general New York crumminess didn’t keep people away – truly, we are hardcore. 

Ethan introduced the class (“Much like the Marines, I expect half of you to fail“), reviewed the syllabus (“80-plus hours of reading and 140 of meditation per week, minimum”), and got straight to teaching. We covered a lot of material, starting with a discussion of the ThreePrajnas, an introduction to the Four Noble Truths, and digressions about Sanskrit vs. Pali translations and methane emissions from the Siberian tundra.

I’ll be blogging dispatches from Hardcore Dharma, addressing a topic from each week’s teaching that tweaked my interest. For this inaugural post, however, just a general impression:

It’s good to be with a group of people again. When I took the refuge vow last autumn, I committed to studying the Dharma, following the example of the Buddha, and being part of my sangha, or community. I’ve meditated every week and read Dharma books, but I always seem to neglect the sangha. As Ethan pointed out, Buddhism was an oral tradition for 250 years after the death of the Buddha and the sutras, often structured through lists and classification, were meant to be memorized and retold. 

The sutras are written now and available to anyone with a library card or the inclination to visit Amazon.com, but the social experience of gathering to receive teachings, debate and discuss, and tell jokes afterwards is central to deepening one’s practice. The image of the lonely scholar may be romantic, but unless I have people – actual live human beings – with whom to talk and ask questions and simply be, I tend to fall off the wagon. 

In a sense, we are a small pocket of anti-Twitter: face-to-face, substantive, and not dependent on iPhones for snazzy presentation.

If you missed out on this Hardcore Dharma series and would like to deepen your meditation practice while getting a scholarly overview of the Buddhist tradition, you have two options:

1. Wait patiently for the next series to start, OR

2. Sign up for Home Listen and get all the benefits of the course without having to show up and deal with my annoying quips!

AND if you sign up for Home Listen TODAY, Joseph Biden, the Vice President of  the United States, will come to your residence and cook a roast while regaling you with tales of his hard-scrabble upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  

Hardcore Dharma is a go.

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