Caroline Hoffman shares her experience of participating in Bodhi College’s Committed Practitioners Programme (CPP) halfway through the programme.

By Caroline Hoffman, Committed Practitioners Programme (CPP) participant

I came on the CPP course after a conversation with one of the Bodhi College teachers on retreat. The death of my main Dharma teacher had left me feeling lost as to how to move forward, as I had many years of practice but was limited in my knowledge of the theory and Buddha’s teachings. As soon as I was aware that there was a choice between “full immersion” aka the Committed Practitioners Programme or another shorter Bodhi College programme, I knew that I had no choice but to dive in deep for the long haul.

What have I learned?

Prior to the programme, my knowledge of the Buddhist texts was very limited and patchy, as was my knowledge of Pali words and their meaning. I also had no sense of the early or later teachings within any kind of overall structure, including how they fitted together across time and space.

This course has been beautifully framed and supported.  The teachers, teaching from their collective lifetimes of learning and practice, have bought an abundance of compassion and wisdom.

I am now making headway with understanding the structure of the early Buddhist teachings, where to find them, how to read them and how they fit together. Importantly, I am also understanding more about how the Buddha gave the different teachings according to the situational context of their delivery.

I have found that I need to read the Suttas again and again to increase my depth of understanding, and new meaning is revealed each time I read them.  I find some Suttas easier to connect with, while others remain harder to understand. The opportunity to discuss these with my buddy, fellow students and my Bodhi College course mentor is invaluable.

What, if any, have been the benefits?

Through the course I have a better understanding of the teachings, which in turn gives me a more comprehensive map for how I live my life from moment to moment. As I dive deeper into the course, it seems that no stone will be left unturned in terms of addressing the different areas which have a direct impact on how our hearts, minds and behaviours can be influenced in any given moment.

I am finding this hugely supportive and there is a sense of putting together more and more pieces of the jigsaw. Resulting in something concrete I can turn-to to support me in my daily life.

Having audio-recordings of the course teachings is hugely beneficial. Listening to them more than once usually increases my understanding, or helps me to hear things I previously missed.

I find that I need lots of repetition of both the texts and the audios to keep me moving along the Path. I can see a material improvement in my life when I am more connected to the teachings compared to when I am not.

Having a wonderful course mentor has been invaluable – getting help from someone who I feel can see me more clearly than I can see myself and is able to offer a seemingly inexhaustible stream of kind and wise support. Not without a sense of humour!

Meeting up on Skype with my buddy, a fellow course participant, on a regular basis (usually weekly) has been another great source of sharing and support – a truly enriching experience. Knowing that we have agreed to discuss something together helps to keep up with the monthly homework and practice topics. Together, we help each other find clarity (or realise that neither of us has a clue, so then it is over to our mentoring sessions for further help!)

Our Sangha – made up of course participants from around the world – is a great source of friendship and support – as we share experiences, kindness and knowledge.

How is this showing up in my life?

Since starting the course generally I am feeling friendlier towards people. I also feel it more acutely when I have walked past opportunities to be generous. At times, I have been able to meet some big challenges with more consistency of calmness and equanimity than before.

Having said this, I am also noticing times when I am tired or overwhelmed and just hanging in there and then remembering to be kind to myself and doing my best to remember to keep breathing out.

What was expected and what has surprised you about the course, if anything?

What has been so delightful is the value of the live classes with the wonderful group of participants and extraordinary teachers. It moved me deeply to learn that the teachings that we are receiving on the CPP are normally not available outside the monastic setting, and that there are in fact very few opportunities to learn this in the west.

I have been amazed at how I can feel a visceral connection with the Suttas as if I am absorbing far more than words. It is a process of osmosis. I find this both inspiring and comforting and feel it to be having a direct impact on my life.

On a lighter note, I didn’t realise that the Pali dictionary is based on the Indic alphabet which was why I couldn’t make head or tail of it.

I am truly grateful for this extraordinary gift and opportunity.