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On March 4th, first-year students of Religious Studies made a trip to the Manchester Buddhist Centre, with cameras, notebooks, and questions in mind.
This has helped to deepen my understanding of Buddhism because we got to experience it first hand.
We were met there by Munisha, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order. Munisha explained how the enormous building, part of the heritage of Manchester’s cotton industry, had been transformed by Buddhist volunteers, into a centre for anyone interested in learning about meditation and Buddhism, and in discovering ways of living in a wise and compassionate way amid the hustle and bustle of Manchester’s urban life. Students were intrigued to learn about the unique ways in which the founder of Triratna, Sangharakashita, had interpreted Buddhism for a European audience, and how Triratna had also become very strong in India, where Buddhism had at one time almost died out. The discussion raised questions about authority and diversity in religious traditions generally, as well as reflecting on the immense historical and geographical scope of Buddhism in particular.
Munisha, whose name was Catherine before she was ordained, talked about the challenges of being committed to the Buddhist principles of wisdom and compassion in her daily life, and how this commitment is affirmed in rituals, meditation, living in community and in the constant effort to practice mindfulness.
As well as meeting and chatting with a practicing Buddhist, students had the opportunity to take photographs in the main Shrine room. We were also invited to sit for a while as if in meditation, to experience a taste of the calmness that many visitors to the Centre seek.
The day in the Buddhist Centre was truly remarkable. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. There was a sense of peace and calm; truly a magnificent place to reflect on life and focus your energy on the important things in life. The experience was really educational.
I had a great time and enjoyed Munisha’s depth of knowledge about Triratna. I also enjoyed the meditation practice she guided us through.
I found the trip to the Buddhist Centre very informative and Munisha had a lot to talk about, which was all relevant to our studies and the Western Buddhist view. This has helped to deepen my understanding of Buddhism because we got to experience it first hand.
Everyone seemed to really enjoy the trip. Munisha really put everybody at ease which made it so much more comfortable to ask questions.