West London Buddhist Centre

Early Buddhism Study Group (Online)

Published in Buddhist Courses, Calendar for all events, Drop-in Buddhism Classes

  • Sun Nov 27th 2022
  • 4:00 pm
  • 5:30 pm
  • Booking not required
  • Suggested donation £10

The Buddha lived all of two and a half thousand years ago. However, the writings of the Pali Canon offer us a window onto his words and his personality. Join us for study of these earliest Buddhist scriptures, exploring what message they might have for us in these unprecedented and uncertain times. We will start each session with a brief period of Pali chanting and meditation before we read and reflect on a sutta. Join us for an exploration of the very roots of the Buddhist tradition.

At our next study session on 27 November, we will explore the Bahiya Sutta from the collection of inspired utterances of the Buddha – the Udana. Bahiya, a steadfast spiritual practitioner, goes to great lengths to get a teaching from the Buddha. The Buddha’s response resounds down the ages as a pithy, but profound instruction of utmost relevance for anyone on the path.

You can find a translation of the sutta from the Udana at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.1.10.irel.html.

Please do read the text before our session if you can. Looking forward to exploring this inspiring text with you!


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Meeting ID: 852 5775 9277
Passcode: 701118

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Session 1 – 21 March 2021
We’ll begin the series with the Kalama Sutta which can be accessed here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html

Session 2 – April 11 2021
This coming session we will continue studying the Kalama sutta (available at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html) and, depending on time, possibly progress to the Bhaddakaratta sutta (available at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ati/tipitaka/mn/mn.131.than.html)

Session 3 – May 16 2021
After some chanting and a short period of meditation, we plan to study the Bhaddekaratta sutta, available at: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ati/tipitaka/mn/mn.131.than.html. As with the last session, the idea is for us to have read the sutta before the session so that we can have more time to discuss questions or topics that the sutta raises.’

Session 4 – June 27 2021
This coming session we will be studying the Anatta-lakkhana sutta (available here via Access to Insight). This is said to be the second of the Buddha’s discourses, suggestive of how central the teaching of non-self is in the Buddha’s teaching.

Session 5 – July 25 2021
This week we will be studying the Angulimala sutta (available at Access to Insight). This sutta recounts the amazing story of Angulimala, a mass murderer who encounters the Buddha and changes his ways. He becomes a disciple and finally ‘experienced the bliss of release’. There is hope for us all! Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Session 6 – September 19 2021
On our first session after the August break, we will be looking at the Karaniya Metta Sutta. This is a relatively short but beautiful evocation of loving-kindness, a central pillar of the Dharma life. The sutta suggests how universal the practice of loving-kindness can be – one that can take us all the way to awakening. Let’s see how far it takes us on Sunday.

You can access an English translation using this LINK. Please do give the text a good read beforehand and bring along any questions or points of interest you have on the day. Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday

Session 7 – October 24 2021
Many of you will have experienced how, instead of seeing things objectively, a profusion of ideas may arise in the mind which obscures our ability to see things calmly and clearly. At its worst the mind can run riot with ill-founded, repetitive ideas which impact harmfully on our feelings and behaviour. The Pāli word for this mental proliferation is papañca.

The role of craving in producing suffering or dissatisfaction is a Buddhist axiom. Kaccāna, however, in the Madhupiṇḍika Sutta, provides an eloquent exposition of the dependent arising of cognition, and of the role of mental proliferation (papañca) in causing suffering and conflict. In our next session we will examine this sutta and how in meditation we can prevent papañca.

Session 8 – 14 November 2021
This month we will look at teachings on the central Buddhist concept of emptiness and non-self, as presented in the Pali Canon. The later Mahayana literature places the theme of emptiness front and centre, as typified by the Heart Sutra. But what form does the theme take in the earlier teachings of the Buddha? We will explore this question through looking at early Buddhist texts such as the Suñña Sutta (SN 35.85) https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.085.than.html  and the Kaccayanagotta Sutta (SN 12.15) https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.than.html.

Session 9 – 12 December 2021
In our next session we will pursue the theme of conditioned arising, probably the most important doctrine in the whole of Buddhism. I plan to provide some input on two relevant suttas before we have discussion, perhaps at a more experiential level, because this profound teaching is only to be fully realised in one’s experience. The links for the two suttas are as follows:



Session 10 – Sunday 23 January 2022
The Buddha taught: “One who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma; one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination.’ This month we will continue our explorations of this central teaching of the law of conditionality, often termed ‘dependent origination’, as presented in the Pali Canon. We will seek to draw out some more of the implications for our day-to-day lives of this teaching that is ‘deep, hard to see and hard to understand’.

Out of a number of suttas in which the Buddha teaches about dependent origination we will focus on the Kaccayanagotta Sutta, which is accessible at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.than.html.

It would enrich your experience of the session if you can look at this text beforehand.

Session 11 – Sunday 27 February 2022
Having immersed ourselves in the doctrine of dependent origination, I thought the story of Kisa Gotami might provide some contrast for our next discussion. The ‘mustard seeds’ story is not in the Pāli canon and is in commentarial texts, but the Gotami sutta and Dhammapada verse 114 certainly are and provide related material. Please take a look at these before we next meet to enrich you experience of the session, but don’t worry if you can’t. I provide an outline of the story (taken from Wikipedia) below. There should be plenty to discuss, particularly on impermanence.

The ‘mustard seeds’ story –
After losing her only child, Kisa Gotami became desperate and asked if anyone could help her. Her sorrow was so great that many thought she had lost her mind. An old man told her to see the Buddha. The Buddha told her that he could bring the child back to life if she could find white mustard seeds from a family where no one had died. She desperately went from house to house, but to her disappointment, she could not find a house that had not suffered the death of a family member. Finally the realisation struck her that there is no house free from mortality. She returned to the Buddha, who comforted her and preached to her the truth. She was awakened and entered the first stage of enlightenment. Eventually, she became an arahat.

Session 12 – Sunday 20 March 2022
Tragically, violent conflict now dominates the news. In our day-to-day lives, conflict is also there, but hopefully in less violent form. We experience distress when we feel ourselves verbally or physically aggressed. How might we respond according to the Buddha’s teaching? His teaching is clear, radical and demanding – we should respond with patience and kindness. In this month’s Early Buddhism study will look at the Kakacupama Sutta – the Simile of the Saw (MN 21), and search for wisdom in our response to verbal or physical attack. You can find the sutta at: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.than.html.

Session 13 – 17 April 2022
For our next session we will look at the Dvedhāvitakka sutta. In this sutta the Buddha recounts how he learned to distinguish between wholesome and unwholesome thoughts. This motivated him to reap the fruits of cultivating positive mental states and subsequently provided the basis for achieving higher states of consciousness, culminating in awakening. Join us in our exploration of what this sutta might mean for us in our daily practice. You will get most out of the study if you can have a good read of the sutta prior to the session.

Session 14 – 29 May 2022
For our next session we will look at the Sallatha sutta. In this sutta the Buddha teaches about how to be with our experience without getting caught up with it and thereby generating secondary suffering. He uses the analogy of the second arrow to describe how we often resist painful experience and thereby compound our suffering. Join us in our exploration of what this sutta might mean for us in our daily lives.

You can find a link to this sutta at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn36/sn36.006.than.html.

Session 15 – 26 June
In our next session we will study the Bhayabherava sutta (Fear and Dread discourse), MN4. I have been using mainly the Bhikkhu Sujato translation at:

Central themes are the role of unskilful behaviour in promoting fear and the overcoming of that through mindfulness meditation. You might want also to think about these questions:

– Have you ever practiced alone, perhaps in the forest? What value do such locations have for your practice?
– The Buddha gave a long list of reasons why someone might be afraid while in remote forests. Do any of these reasons play a role in any fear that you have?
– Do you think you would be less afraid if you were purified in bodily, verbal or mental conduct?
– The sutta suggests that one can deal with fear of the wilderness by changing oneself. What do you think of this?
– An understanding of rebirth is inherent in the first two Knowledges – an important foundation of the Buddha’s liberation. Why do you think this is? What do you think about this emphasis on rebirth? Does rebirth have a role in your practice?

Session 16 – 24 July 2022
Attadanda sutta.

Session 17 – 23 October 2022
At our next session we will be discussing the Suppabuddhakuṭṭhi sutta which illustrates the powerful teaching ability of the Buddha. You can find the sutta on this link:


If you can’t read it beforehand don’t worry I’ll summarise it. It’s an account of a man with leprosy apparently fortuitously hearing a progressive talk from the Buddha and becoming a stream entrant. I am suggesting as possible topics to discuss:

1. The nature of the Buddha’s progressive talk

2. Why was Suppabuddha, and apparently not others in the crowd, able to hear and understand the Dhamma from the lips of the Buddha?

3. According to the Pāli canon many who became stream entrants did so after a talk by the Buddha and completed the path as once returners, non-returners or arahants quite soon afterwards after another teaching from the Buddha. How does this compare to meditation as a means to awakening?


Mitrananda and Ratnadeva

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