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Phases of Aro
Aro offers a structure for life-long study and practise. This can be viewed as a series of phases which allow gradually increasing involvement as interest and understanding deepens – and as meditation and Buddhism become increasingly important to you.
It is useful to think of each phase in terms of base, path, and result. Entry into each phase requires a particular base, or degree of practice experience, conceptual understanding, and commitment. For each phase, the Aro path provides various programmes that support your study, practice, and increasing spiritual maturity. Each phase results in greater ability to live the view. Living the view means that the interplay of theory and meditation becomes an increasingly dynamic perspective on the experience of everyday life.
Maybe only a few will want to make the extraordinary commitment required to traverse the entire path. It is not helpful to make commitments for which we are unready – or to move more quickly, or to go further, than we are personally capable. Although not everyone aspires to the later phases, it may still be inspiring to see what is available. Also, when attending Aro events, it may be useful to understand something about the ordained teachers and Lamas – and the path they have trodden.
The path reflects form and emptiness. With regard to form the structure is provided by specific teaching programmes, events, and modes of relationship. The freedom of emptiness is provided by the unique life-path of each student. This unfettered opportunity reflects our individual personalities, interests, capabilities, and backgrounds. The path accommodates broad variations within a detailed and comprehensive curriculum.
The base, or starting point, of Buddhism is a nagging feeling that something about the way we live is subtly askew – and consequent curiosity about what else might be possible. It is not that there is something particularly wrong with life: dissatisfaction with jobs, marriages, or circumstances. On the one hand, we recognise that such situations can be improved with effort. On the other hand, it seems that no amount of improvement will resolve life completely. We may have experienced some successes, yet there seems to be something tenuous about them. A repeating cycle of identifying areas of dissatisfaction and fixing them is not a history upon which we would reminisce with relish.
Perhaps some entirely different approach is required? You may be interested in meditation, inspired by something you have read about Buddhism, or intrigued by radical claims that it is possible to enjoy all circumstances and to freely manifest all human qualities for the benefit of others. The only prerequisite to entering the path is this curiosity.
If you are new to meditation and Buddhism, you may find the following useful:
You need not be a Buddhist to benefit from these resources. For instance, we consider it a good outcome if you simply begin to meditate. You may find meditation valuable – whatever your spiritual path.
It is difficult to go far with spiritual practice in isolation. One needs a tradition and a community of practice. This choice is a highly personal one. It is based on a ‘fit’ between your personality and interests and those of the community. Investigating spiritual traditions may take time and energy over months or even years. The prerequisite to entering the next phase is your recognition that you are willing to make that investment.
After you have attended a public talk, or read much of this web site, you may find that you like what you have encountered. You may be interested in exploring whether you and Aro are a good fit – perhaps while also checking other groups. The resources you may find helpful in this phase are:
These resources will deepen your understanding of Buddhism, Vajrayana, and the Aro lineage, and will help you decide whether you wish to become a Buddhist, in Aro or another tradition. As a result of this understanding, you may at some point wish to ‘take refuge’. Refuge is a formal declaration of your confidence in the general Buddhist teachings and in your identity as a Buddhist. Refuge does not imply any commitment to Aro specifically.
Exploring Aro, you may develop relationships with others in our community. Whether or not you enjoy interacting with the community is a good indication of whether Aro is a good ‘fit’.
You may also find yourself inspired by the teaching of the Aro Lamas. At public events you will have the opportunity ask them questions. If you find the answers engaging and helpful, and if you have reached the point where you would like intensive, individual instruction, you are at the base of apprenticeship. It is useful then to discuss the experience of that phase in detail with Aro apprentices, who can explain what is involved.
The apprentice programme offers
Ordination and teacher training
Apprentices are always inspired on witnessing transformation in themselves and others. In many cases, that leads to a desire to move further into a service rôle.
Apprentices who have studied and practised intensively with Aro Lamas for at least five years may be candidates for ordination in the ancient non-monastic, non-celibate ‘white sangha’. Ordination is for those who regard their involvement as the most important aspect of their lives.
Some who wish to help bring the benefits of the teachings to others may enter the rigorous Aro teacher training programme. One aspect of teacher training is serving as a mentor in the Aro Members’ programme. Teacher training may eventually lead to becoming a Lama.