Amida Shu Home Groups Meeting Guide: suggested format with script

This guide will help you as Home Group Leader to structure your Home Group meetings and includes a script which you can read out word for word. There is also a suggested format without a script if you prefer. You might want to continue to do this as your group becomes more established, or begin to ad-lib. Read ‘How to Start a Home Group’, discuss your plans with your Amida Shu mentor and feel free to change things around as your group develops. The parts you need to read out loud are in bold, and the notes are in italics.

OPENING SECTION

Good evening (morning, afternoon) and welcome to the [e.g. Malvern] Amida Shu Home Group. My name is [e.g. Satya] and I’ll be leading our meeting today.

This group lasts for [an hour] [followed by a cup of tea]. [The toilets are… ]. A reminder to turn off any mobile phones…

We’ll begin this group with a short period of meditation – please sit quietly for few minutes and let your thoughts settle. You could use a bell to signal the end of this time. We usually ring the bell three times to signal the end of meditation, bowing forwards with our hands in anjali on the third bell.

Could I have a volunteer to read the ‘Introduction’? You might want to print these documents out and get them laminated so they’re easier to pass around.

Thank you. Could I have a volunteer to read the ‘Welcome’?

Thank you. Now we will read the Summary of Faith and Practice together. Hand round service books or copies of the Summary of Faith and Practice. Start the reading, allowing others to follow your pace.

A warm welcome if you are new to the group. We suggest you come to a few meetings before you decide whether it is for you or not. If you have any questions please do ask afterwards.

At this point we go around the room and introduce ourselves by our first names and say in a few words only how we are feeling in this moment.

Begin by introducing yourself and then passing over to the person on your right, e.g. ‘Hi, my name is John and I feel a bit nervous and excited to be here’ or ‘I’m Jo and today I feel sad’. When people say their names you and the group might want to reply ‘Hello John’ as a way of welcoming them. When each person has shared you can say ‘thanks John’ to signal the next person to speak.

PRACTICE SECTION

If you would like to begin your meeting with some Buddhist practice, do this now. You can decide on what practice you’d like to do with your Mentor – there is a suggested half an hour below.

Nembutsu chanting

We will now do some practice together. Please make yourself comfortable and join in the chanting as soon as you are ready. We will fade into silence.

You’ll need to know the chant well to lead the group – you can learn it from attending an existing group, chanting with your mentor or listen to the audio recording here. You could also choose a different chant from the list of additional chants at the bottom of this page. It will help you if someone else in the group knows the chant before you start so think about if there’s someone you can ask to learn it before you begin.

After ten minutes get quieter and fade into silence. After a short silence, ring the bell three times to signal the end of the chanting (bowing on the third bell as before).

Nei Quan (pronounced nay kwan)

We will now practice Nei Quan. This helps us to investigate our dependent nature and all the things we have to be grateful for. As you sit quietly, ask yourself the following three questions – over the past twenty four hours, what have I received, what have I offered in return, and what trouble has my existence caused. Be as specific and concrete as possible – who grew the food I ate for lunch? Where did the book I read come from? How was I kept warm? What things did I do for my children today?

Nei Quan.

Sit silently for 6 minutes, then ring the bell three times as before, bowing on the third bell.

Chi Quan (pronounced chee kwan)

We will now practice Chi Quan. In Chi Quan we make an offering of anything that is with us to the Buddha. Anything that came up in the previous exercise, any physical sensations, any thoughts or feelings, make an offering of them to the Buddha in your mind. The Buddha will find a use for anything that you offer him, regardless of how you feel about it, and will receive it with a smile. After a while if you find yourself feeling peaceful, dwell in that peace.

Chi Quan.

Sit silently for 6 minutes, then ring the bell three times as before, bowing on the third bell.

You might want to finish the practice session by standing and bowing to each other, and then bowing to the Buddha.

STUDY SECTION

If you would like to include a study section in your meeting, do this now. You can decide on how you’d like to structure this with your Mentor, but there is a suggested format below.

Before the meeting, choose a short reading from the books Not Everything Is Impermanent, Buddhism for Foolish Beings, or another Pureland text.

Introduce the text you’ll be looking at today and maybe say something about how you chose it Begin by asking the group to take turns reading a paragraph and passing the book round, passing it on if they’d rather not read.

Open up a general discussion on the text. You can either do the discussion as a big group, or split into smaller groups and then report back into the bigger group at the end. You might want to prepare a few questions about the text in advance, or have some thoughts yourself, which you can ask the group if they run out of things to say.

Do talk about what you feel about the text, the bits you like, the bits you find helpful, the bits you find difficult to understand etc. and draw other people into the conversation if you can by asking them questions. The objective of this section isn’t to ‘tell people what the text means’ but to explore together what you might be able to draw from the text. It’s okay for people to disagree!

Make sure you keep an eye on the time and give people five minutes warning before you wrap it up. You might want to finish by reading the text for a second time.

An alternative to studying a text would be listening to a Dharma talk together and then discussing it as a group afterwards – there are many talks by Dharmavidya and other Amida Shu teachers online here.

LISTENING CIRCLE SECTION

If you would like to include a listening circle in your meeting, do this now. Some people do find it daunting to speak in a group. Discuss how this might work with your mentor before you begin and attend an established listening circle a few times before you hold your first one. If any issues come up do talk to your mentor.

Listening circles offer an opportunity for people to get to know each other more deeply and in our experience they are sacred and special spaces. You might want to start by reading out the guidelines below (or asking someone else to). You can either give an end time to the circle or leave it open-ended. We usually end by standing and bowing towards each other and then the Buddha.

Listening Circle guidelines

  • We will finish EITHER at e.g. 6pm OR when everyone has finished speaking.
  • Please keep everything you hear confidential.
  • When someone has the stone, everyone else is quiet and listens.
  • When you are handed the stone, introduce yourself and then say what is in your heart. You can be quiet if you prefer.
  • You can refer to what others have said, but we generally don’t give advice. Instead we learn by listening to others speaking from their own experience.
  • When you are finished speaking, hand the stone to someone who hasn’t yet spoken.
  • If you are the last person to speak, put the stone in the centre. Anyone who wants to speak again can take it and put it back again afterwards.

CLOSING SECTION

We have come to the end of our time together. If you have any questions about Amida Shu, please speak to your group leader after we finish.

Our group is self-supporting through our own contributions and so we ask that you donate as you can [give a suggested donation amount here if you wish]. These donations are used to support meeting expenses.

You may also want to make a donation to Amida Trust as a group in order to help support other groups and the wider group of the order – if so let people know here.

At this point you can ask for volunteers to help tidy up after the meetings – stack chairs/wash teacups etc. Mention the books and leaflets that are available to take away, and online resources.

I would like to thank all those who helped with today’s meeting by making the tea [any other roles] ….and everyone for sharing and being here. You could remind people when the next meeting is happening at this point.

Could we all join together to close the meeting with the Original and Sacred Vows. [laminate two sheets and put them on the ground so all can see them, stand in a circle around them].

The original and sacred vows

Are the unique and essential grace

By which to enter the Pure Land.

Therefore with body speech and mind

We are devoted to the teachings

That all may attain the state of bliss.

Bow to each other, and then bow to the Buddha.

OPTIONAL CUP OF TEA SECTION

It is helpful for people to have a chance to chat informally with each other and with you – people can start to get to know each other, and ask any questions they might have. You might want to have a cup of tea at this point, or during the study section earlier. Do ask new members to make the tea as this starts to impart the culture of everyone mucking in and helping out, which is an important feature of Amida Shu.

FINISH

Here are links to:

Home Groups Introduction

 

Home Groups Welcome

Summary of Faith and Practice

 

 

Skip to toolbar