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Sutra Studies Program: Discovering the Mahayana Sutras - A Journey of Reflection, Practice & Realization

  • 01 Apr 2019
  • All locations


On April 1, 2019, we will commence a program based on the study and practice of the major Mahayana Sutras. This FCM offering is for experienced members, especially those who participated in last year’s Wisdom Intensive.  It is for those who have a strong enthusiastic interest in plumbing the philosophical and psychological depth of the Buddhist teachings, a keen intellect, and a significant degree of self-discipline. This will be a course of study that Fred will oversee and guide, but it will primarily rely on the self-direction of the student.  We will be reading specific sutras plus commentaries where available.  

The focus will be on some of the most profound of the Mahayana sutras, e.g. Prajnaparamita (Heart and Diamond), Lankavatara, Surangama, Vimalakirti, and others. While this study program will not have a strong meditative component, Fred expects that participants will maintain the meditative practices of their Intensives of choice. As Judy Lief observes, Dharma study is not simply about acquiring information; it is a process of transformation and deep reflection.


Sutra Studies Objectives:

  1. To learn how to read, contemplate, and practice the sutras
  2. To gain familiarity with some of the key Mahayana sutras
  3. To understand how to incorporate what you are learning into your practice/life
  4. To build a learning community within FCM dedicated to studying the Buddhist sutras and other teachings found within the corpus of historical Buddhist teachings


The layout and methodology of the Sutra Studies Program will be more similar to a masters level academic program than to a traditional FCM Intensive.  Fred will not be offering regular Dharma talks per se. Each month students will be assigned readings and practices, participate in a facilitated small peer group discussion, and then participate in a one to two-hour Colloquium with Fred.  After cultivating the ground with reading, practice, and peer discussion, the Colloquium will be an opportunity for teacher/student transmission though questions, discussion, and other inquiry and practice. 


As this program will not emphasize a strong meditative component, Fred’s expectation is that students participate in a Dharma or Wisdom Path Intensive concurrently with the Sutra Studies Program. The suggested approach to the one-hour study and practice commitment of the Sutra Studies and the one-hour study and practice commitment of Intensive is a balanced combination of one to two hours of meditation, study, and other practices per day.  


The total length of the Sutra Studies program will be two or more years. For practical purposes it will be divided into parts and focus on one or more sutras at a time.  In Part 1 we will study  the Heart and Diamond Sutras which are both part of the Prajnaparamita body of teachings.


Part 1 : The Heart & Diamond Sutras

  • April 1 -  August 30, 2019.
  • We will begin with the Heart Sutra , one of the most profound and beloved of the classical Mahayana scriptures, especially in the Zen tradition.  Then we will study the Diamond Sutra.


Study & Practice:

  • Spend a minimum of one hour daily in formal study, reflection and meditation, and/or other practices related to these studies.
  • Read the assigned Dharma texts.
  • Regularly attend weekly Sangha and Days of Mindfulness (Daylong Retreats) to maintain your meditation practice and support your community.

Participate in Colloquiums & Peer Study Groups:

  • Participate in your assigned monthly study group, in person or via Zoom.
  • Be present for monthly Colloquiums with Fred, in person or via Zoom.

Cost and Registration:


To participate in the Sutra Studies Program, please register.  After the registration deadline of March 15 you will be notified as to your acceptance into the program, after review by Fred. You may then purchase the first three required books and begin reading before we formally begin April 1. Feel free to contact Christina (202-203-0855 or ciwalker520@gmail.com) or Betsy (813-765-3860 or barizu@yahoo.com) with questions.  The cost of the first five months, Part 1: The Heart and Diamond Sutra is $120.

Readings Planned for the Heart Sutra Include:


The Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lamas Heart of Wisdom Teachings (2005)

The Heart Sutra: Translation and Commentary, by Red Pine (2005)

The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra with Commentaries by Thich Nhat Hanh (2017)



The Heart Attack Sutra, by Karl Brunnholzl (2016)

The Heart of the Universe: Exploring the Heart Sutra, by Mu Soeng (2010)


Readings for the Diamond Sutra will be announced at a later date.

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