Amida-shu Home Groups Meeting Guide: suggested format without script

This guide will help you as Home Group Leader to structure your Home Group meetings. There is also a suggested format with script if you would like more guidance for your meetings. We suggest you read ‘How to Start a Home Group’ and this suggested format several times before you decide on how you’d like to structure your own meeting. Your mentor will support you with this. Feel free to change things around as your group develops.

OPENING SECTION

Suggestions for what you might want to include at the beginning of the meeting:

  • Your name, the name of the group and how long the group will meet for
  • A reminder of where toilets are and that people should turn off their phones
  • A short meditation or period of silence to get people settled
  • Some or all of the information on the ‘Home Groups Introduction’ sheet
  • Some or all of the information on the ‘Home Groups Welcome’ sheet
  • You could read out the Summary of Faith and Practice together (or pass it round and read a section each)
  • Welcoming people to the group, especially new members
  • A chance for people to introduce themselves in the circle by their first name and say in a few words only how they are feeling in that moment

Do include anything else you think will help people settle in and feel comfortable and welcome – you might want to make tea or coffee for people, or pair them up with someone else so they can get to know someone a little etc.

PRACTICE SECTION

If you’d like to include a Pureland practice session, there are a variety of Amida Shu practices you could lead the group in doing. What follows is one suggestion, but do speak to your Mentor and, if you can, attend an Amida Shu service to give you an experience of practice yourself and help you decide what you’d like the group to do.

  1. Nembutsu chanting

Ask the group to sit comfortably either in a circle or in front of the shrine. Let the group know that you’ll start chanting and that they should join you when they feel comfortable.

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).

  1. Nei Quan (pronounced nay kwan)

Ask the group to sit quietly and ask themselves 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”.

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

  1. Chi Quan (pronounced chee kwan)

Ask the group to sit quietly and make an offering of anything that is with them (anything that arose through the previous exercise, thoughts, feelings, physical sensations) to the Buddha. Say that 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.

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.

You can read more about Nei Quan and Chi Quan at our virtual temple, here.

An alternative to doing Nei Quan and Chi Quan is to do silent sitting meditation. There are also many other practice options including reading liturgy, prostrations and chants – do look at the Amida Shu Nien Fo book online and discuss with your mentor.

STUDY SECTION

If you would like to include a study section in your meeting there are various things you could do and that you can talk about with your mentor.

A suggested simple format is that the group looks together at a short piece of writing and then discusses it.

  • 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

Suggestions for what you might want to include at the end of the meeting:

  • Remind people that you are available if anyone has any questions.
  • Collect donations for paying for the room, tea and coffee etc. – you might want to suggest an amount but we encourage you to keep your group open for everyone regardless of how much they’re able to donate.
  • Ask if you need help washing mugs etc. – it can help people feel a part of the group if they start helping with these tasks early on.
  • Mention any books for sale or leaflets.
  • Mention online resources including the virtual temple, and the Introduction to Pureland course.

It is traditional to close the meeting by reading the Original and Sacred Vows together, then bowing to each other and then 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.

FINISH

 

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