Amida Newcastle is located in Linden Road, Gosforth in a tall cherry red brick Victorian terrace. After climbing (many!) flights of stairs the Reverend Sujatin Johnson and I settled in an attic meditation room. Like myself, Rev. Sujatin had practised with the Transcendental meditation organisation. I recalled coming across TM at university many years ago and exploring this along with Buddhist approaches. TM is basically a calming Samatha practice and as such, helpful.
We discussed chaplaincy. Rev. Sujatin has been Buddhist Chaplain at
Some are welcoming, open and tolerant, others are keen to preserve their own position and status. This can make it difficult for volunteers from non-Christian faiths who may feel marginalized. Related to this, I heard recently of a Christian hospital chaplain who only accepted Buddhist volunteers if they professed a ‘theistic form’ of Buddhism. This type of imposition is unacceptable, but demonstrates the pressure being exerted in some quarters.
Rev Sujatin had gone through some difficulties in her chaplaincy role, but had been determined to continue and finds that her contribution is both recognized and valued.
We also spoke about meditation as a relaxation technique or self-help tool. This idea has been around for quite a while and there are organisations that teach various meditation techniques without mentioning any particular religious or traditional framework. Perhaps TM is an early example of this, where religious trappings are largely absent and the technique is taught in a prescriptive way. Although I found TM helpful, I still wanted to know more. Evidence of lower blood pressure and higher creativity was nice, but perhaps turned meditation into something more like a gym workout then part of a broader enterprise to understand suffering. I found subsequent experience of insight practice and Dhamma teachings within the Forest Sangha Tradition to offer a much more complete path.
Rev Sujatin runs a regular 'meditation for relaxation' class. The class is free of religious ritual, but does take place in a space with a Buddha rupa and Buddhist symbols, so although the religious elements are not stressed, these do provide an unspoken framework. I think this a good model, although there remains a debate to be had about the extent to which religious symbols are helpful, espececially for those new to Buddhist traditions and who may be leaving another religion. There are also other classes at the centre based on
Amida Newcastle is located at
Amida Sanctuary, Beacon House,
49 Linden Road, Gosforth,
Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 4HA