MAITREYA BUDDHIST SEMINARY

"People do not recognize that their own minds are the true Buddhas. They do not recognize that their own natures are the true Dharma. They want to search for the Dharma, yet they still look far away for holy ones. They want to search for the Buddha, yet they will not observe their own minds. If they aspire to the path of Buddhahood while obstinately holding to their feeling that the Buddha is outside the mind or the dharma is outside the nature, then, even though they pass through kalpas as numerous as dust motes, writing sutras with their own blood, never lying down to sleep, eating only one offering a day, or even studying through the entire tripitaka and cultivating all sorts of ascetic practices, it is like trying to make rice by boiling sand; it will only add to their tribulation."

—Jinul (1158-1210), Secrets on Cultivating the Mind

The Maitreya Buddhist Seminary (MBS) is not an academic institution in the traditional sense. It does not have a campus nor does it provide a regular classroom-based education. What the MBS offers is practical Buddhist education based on a teacher-disciple relationship in which disciples can experience hands-on training (study and practice) in residential or non-residential situations while dealing with the realities of everyday life. It is designed for people who aspire to become Buddhist teachers without renouncing their worldly life pursuits, as well as for people who are willing to undertake full priest training in an urban setting.

Why should you join MBS to become either a lay Dharma teacher a resident priest? Ven. Samu Sunim started the seminary for two reasons. The first is the growing need in North America for qualified Buddhist clergy. We don’t have enough, and while many stepping in to fill this void may have sincere hearts, they often lack the formal training needed to build a lasting Sangha with spiritual services that can be shared with the public. The second reason has to do with North American culture. While it is important to understand the Asian Buddhist tradition, there is an equal and critical need for teachers with North American culture in their bones to study and practice the way here and now.

Program Requirements

 

To be eligible for joining the program, you must meet the following criteria:

 

  • Practicing Member: Participate as a regular member of one of the BSCW temples for at least one year.

  • Take the precepts

  • YMJJ/Summer Retreat: Participate fully in at least one Summer Yongmaeng Jeongjin Retreat.

  • Dharma Worker Program: Complete the Dharma Worker Program.

  • Teacher Approval: After successful completion of all other requirements, you must be approved to join by the BSCW teachers.

  •  Summer Retreats and Meetings: Please be advised that once you enter the program, you are required to attend the Summer Retreat and Student Meetings each year that you are in the program. It will not be possible to advance if you cannot attend. The Summer Retreat and Student Meetings occur each year at the end of June through the beginning of July for about 10 days.

MBS Application Form

 

Once you enter the MBS, you will take up a 3 - 5 year training program. The study and practice curriculum for the seminary is structured around the Five Liberation Gates:

 

  1. The Liberation Gate of Meditation Practice

  2. The Liberation Gate of Doctrinal Study

  3. The Liberation Gate of Rituals and Ceremonials

  4. The Liberation Gate of Cultivation of Devotional Heart

  5. The Liberation Gate of Cultivation of Wisdom Heart

Five Gates of Liberation

The Liberation Gate of Meditation Practice

 

The first year novice student learns humility and how to enjoy peace of mind by focusing attention on the task at hand. The second year junior student learns to use the power of their unknowing mind for hwadu Seon practice and how to use the power of their concentration to cultivate boundless heart. The third year senior student learns how to make herself/himself available mindfully for public service and teaching. They learn to conduct public meditation and Dharma services and offer Introductory Meditation Courses and retreats.

 

The Liberation Gate of Doctrinal Study

 

The first year novice student studies the life of the Buddha, his great disciples and early canonical scriptures. They also study the visual art history of Buddhism, such as the iconography of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The second year junior student studies Prajnaparamita wisdom literature, such as the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra, and the early history of Zen Buddhism and the Platform Sutra. The third year senior student studies the history of Korean Seon (Zen Buddhism), Flower Ornament (Hua-yen) Sutra, and socially engaged Buddhism. At the end of each term, Dharma students are required to write an essay for their assignment.

The Liberation Gate of Rituals and Ceremonials

We have a rich spiritual practice which is shared with students, from observances of Buddhist holidays to celebrating births and performing weddings to hospice assistance and funeral and memorial services. Together they reflect an understanding of the need for ritual as we move through our cycles of life.

Ritual practice starts by learning by heart in a sing song voice the Great Compassion Dharani and Yebul for daily ritual practice, in addition to English chants such as the Heart Sutra and the Three Refuge formula. Dharma students also learn to do "gido" chanting to break open their voice for public service occasions, and learn about the use of ritual objects and musical instruments of daily use.

The Liberation Gate of Cultivation of Devotional Heart and Wisdom Heart

 

The cultivation of virtues is essential for the Dharma career of each student. In order to evaluate these two gates, Dharma students are advised to follow the triple heart practice. The first heart is a sincere heart. When Buddhists say that all sentient beings are Buddhas, the first proof is that each and every one of us is capable of manifesting a sincere heart, but often we neglect this potential. So Dharma students are urged to display their sincere heart, which is no other than their Buddha heart, through their Dharma student practice. The second heart is a good heart that is free from major defilements, such as hatred, ill feelings, and resentments. The third heart is a pure heart that can harmonize with all circumstances and respond to all situations without harmful effects.

Cultivation of these virtues occurs in harmony with one’s deepening meditation and study practice as guided by the MBS curriculum; evaluation of these liberation gates is developed through close mentorship or discipleship with one’s guiding teacher in the program as well as confirmation by the other senior teachers or priests in the BSCW.

Practice Structure

 

Formal Morning and Evening Practice

 

All Dharma students carry on their formal morning and evening practice at home Monday through Friday. Dharma students must wake up early enough to do their full formal morning practice, which takes about one hour. The formal morning practice consists of prostrations, meditation and chanting (Yebul, Three Refuges). For formal evening practice, Dharma students chant the Great Compassion Dharani, perform "gido" chanting and read from a sutra.

Informal Practice

 

All Dharma students do their informal Dharma practice in the midst of their daily lives whenever they can. It is said that practice in the midst of activities is superior to the practice in quiet and solitude. It goes without saying that your meditation and Buddhist practice will fail unless they can help you cope with your daily demands. Turn your work and workplace into a wonderful Dharma center for your mindful work. Use your breath, awareness and letting go practice in order to maintain your stability and enjoy peace of mind for your Dharma practice.

Keeping a Practice Journal

 

At the end of each day during the practice period, Monday through Friday, all Dharma students must keep their practice journal following the guidelines for journal entry. You can write your journal entry directly after evening practice if you choose.

Dharma Student Meetings

 

Every month Dharma students meet at their local temple. You should arrive by 7 p.m. Friday for the temple evening practice and the practice report. Saturday morning consists of the temple morning practice, breakfast and a seminar. Dharma students who cannot attend the Dharma student meeting, are required to email their practice journals and hold Dharma student meetings by phone with their teacher.

Program Timeline and Fees

 

Timeline

 

The MBS is a 3 to 5 year program with two terms per year. The first term begins around January 15 and ends in early August. It is a 200-day practice period, Monday through Friday, with weekends off. The second term begins around September 5 and ends around December 15. It is a 100-day practice period, also Monday through Friday, with weekends off. There is a one month vacation in summer and a one month vacation in winter. If you can satisfactorily complete the 300 days of practice period per year, pass the yearly requirements and assessments for three consecutive years, and attend the summer YMJJ and Student meetings, you can graduate with a Dharma ordination certificate. If you are unable to complete all the requirements or attend the necessary meetings and retreats, your advancement in the program will be prolonged up until 5 years. At that time, your participation in the MBS will be reevaluated by the senior teachers and priests of the BSCW.

Fees:

 

Tuition per term is $750 ($1500 per year). For full-time or low-income students, the fee is $500 per term. There is a scholarship for live-in Dharma students who serve on the temple staff. Those who would like to apply for the live-in Dharma student scholarship are asked to first participate in the Visitor’s Program for two or three months. During this period you must pay for room and board and training. If the Temple director accepts you after the visitor’s program, then the Temple will provide you with room and board, training, and other necessities in exchange for your full-time service. In other words, the student serves on the temple staff for their Maitreya Buddhist Seminary training.

Ordination and Beyond

 

Upon completion of the MBS program, Dharma students are ordained as either Lay Dharma Teachers or Priests depending on their aspirations and vows as well as the recommendations of the BSCW teachers. During the ordination ceremony, all students take the Ten Great/Grave Precepts, the Ten Vows of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, and the Five Pledges for Promoting and Serving the BSCW and Korean Buddhism. For those ordaining as Priests, additional vows of poverty and renunciation are made to honor the aspiration for dedicated Dharma service to one of the BSCW temples. Although both ordination tracks are similar, Priest training does require full time commitment to living at and serving one of the BSCW temples and, as a result, requires a commitment to full time residency during the MBS training period.

As an ordained Dharma Teacher, there are two ways to remain connected with the BSCW. If you live near a temple, you will be expected to participate in the life and practice of the local Sangha by leading public services, meditation classes, study sessions, work periods, and more. If you live at a distance, you can maintain connection with the BSCW by becoming an Affiliated Dharma Teacher. Affiliation status requires monthly affiliation dues as well as regular attendance at the summer YMJJ retreat. Affiliated Dharma teachers may start sanghas in their area to promote and teach the Korean Buddhist teachings and meditation practices as transmitted by Ven. Samu Sunim.

For those ordaining as Dharma Teachers, seminary provides ordination in a religious organization, which is an important step to developing a spiritually inspired career in today’s world. There is a growing need for spiritually minded and Buddhist qualified teachers and workers in the worlds of education, medicine, criminal justice and prison systems, politics, environment, and beyond. Typically, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) or Clinical Certification is also needed (in addition to ordination in a religious organization) for some spiritual careers such as chaplaincy or hospice worker, and so additional work and training may be needed beyond the MBS program. But given the benefits of Buddhist practice, study, and culture for the peace and mind of all creatures and things, becoming an ordained Dharma Teacher is an auspicious first step on a lifelong path of selfless service to the world.

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