Austin Buddhism for beginners
February 24, 2006 7:58 AM   Subscribe

How do I decide which (Austin) Buddhist group is the most newbie-friendly?

As I read more and more about Buddhism, I find that I want to join a group to learn more about sitting meditation and just to enjoy a sense of spiritual community.

However, being raised as a Christian and never having undertaken any other form of religious practice or observance, I am very, very apprehensive about waltzing into another religious group. Not only that, but I can't even begin to fathom which one I should consider waltzing into. According to this site, there are tons of meditation groups and sanghas out there.

I'm less concerned about adhering to a specific tradition as I am about finding one that is extremely friendly, easy-going and willing to work with a total novice. How can I find out which groups are newbie-friendly, short of emailing them and saying, "I have no idea what I'm doing, will I be embarassed and uncomfortable at your group meeting?" Is that the best way?

Does anyone have any personal experience with any of these Austin Buddhist groups? General recommendations for venturing into social Buddhist practice also appreciated.
posted by aebaxter to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Emailing or calling first really might be the best way. Different traditions have different styles of etiquette, and it's probably a good idea to find a preceptor for your first visit or two.

Maybe it will help to remember that meditation groups are largely made up of newbies, because many people try out different styles till choosing one, or deciding to do something else.
posted by zadcat at 8:10 AM on February 24, 2006

Shambhala Buddhist centers usually have an "open house" night, where you can get meditation instruction, sit, hear a talk, chat, etc. If nothing else, if you show up and don't like it they will probably have a bulletin board listing events at other area Buddhist centers- find another open house somewhere else and try that.

In my own experience, Shambhala seemed much more "newbie-friendly" because it's more of an integration of Buddhism and Western culture, as opposed to a more traditional temple.

Austin's center
posted by bobot at 8:41 AM on February 24, 2006

Is there a particular kind of Buddhism that you're interested in? From where you're at, it's sort of like as if you were going the other way and asking what Christian denomination to try. There's no possible answer other than "It depends", and whether or not the experience will go well is heavily correlated with whether or not you know what to expect going in. It's still religion, and you'll still want to find a sect that believes in the particular kind of Buddhism that you believe.

It's fine if there isn't, but it probably means you want to start off by learning more about the various sects. It's an old, large religion, and there's as much variation and contradiction as any of the other old, large, religions. All of them ought to welcome new members, though, that's how these things flourish.

I find that most Zen sanghas will have beginners' workshops on a monthly basis or so, where you don't have to worry about being embarrassed and uncomfortable because everyone's in the same boat as you. But Zen isn't always what people come to Buddhism for.

But yes, regardless, email or call first. It's not necessarily a drop-in sort of scenario when you don't already have a teacher; i'm inclined to say that it rarely is, except I only know from the Zen side.
posted by mendel at 8:45 AM on February 24, 2006

I'm an outsider living in San Antonio, but I went to this nice place called Casa De Luz once and enjoyed it. They seemed quite user-friendly.
posted by deep_sea_diving_suit at 9:05 AM on February 24, 2006

deep_sea_diving_suit: that looks like a macrobiotic restaurant and wellness retreat hall rental, not a Buddhist anything. What am I missing?
posted by mendel at 9:48 AM on February 24, 2006

Sorry for the dilution; Casa De Luz is not a buddhist establishment. I just wanted to point to it as it's a spiritually open community that might not come up in searching for something specifically buddhist.

"...I find that I want to join a group to learn more about sitting meditation and just to enjoy a sense of spiritual community."
posted by deep_sea_diving_suit at 10:38 AM on February 24, 2006

As was mentioned before, Austin Shambhala Center is ideal for people looking to get into buddhism. One of the nice things about Shambhala is they don't usually have much ritual. The main focus is to practice meditation while supplementing with classes. If you go there on an open night, you can meet with a meditation instructor who will explain everything and answer questions. Also, it's free to go and learn meditation. The community is very friendly as I know some people there. If you want to know more or get a contact person, let me know.
posted by _zed_ at 6:40 AM on February 25, 2006

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