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Due to the coronavirus concerns, we have converted our Thursday evening course into an online format starting May 21. Register Now! Scroll for tickets below. 

Learning Through Examples: Images, Illustrations, and Similes in the Discourses of the Buddha

An ONLINE 6-week Introduction to Sutta Study with Shaila Catherine and Sharon Allen

Thursdays, May 21 – June 25, 2020
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm (Pacific Time)

The Buddha’s teachings are peppered with images of mountains, rivers, oceans, sun and moon, lions, jackals, turtles, quail, fire, archery, craftsmanship, gates, bubbles, mirages, magic tricks, ripening fruit, purifying gold, incubating eggs, blind men, sumptuous meals, stumps, creeping vines, etched lines, childhood games, and more. What makes these images so effective? What can we learn from them today?

The Buddha’s teaching skill shines through the wide range of illustrations he used to convey subtle points of instruction. Ordinary people could comprehend deep topics because his examples related to ordinary aspects of daily living. Farmers would relate to the images of sowing seeds and yoking oxen to the plough; warriors would understand his stories of training horses and driving chariots. Today, these striking similes continue to give us a vivid sense of the profound path taught by the Buddha.

This course will serve as an introduction to sutta study by presenting and discussing several traditional similes that illustrate important aspects of Buddhist practice.
  • May 21. Similes on Hindrances (AN 5:193 and MN 39.12)
  • May 28. Similes on Balanced Effort (AN 6:55 and MN 19)
  • June 4. Similes on Decision Making and Feeling (MN 46.18 and MN 45.4)
  • June 11. Similes on Views and Speculation (MN 63.5 and Udana 6.4-5)
  • June 18. Similes for Spiritual Urgency and Death Reflections (AN 6:60 and AN 7:74)
  • June 25. Similes for Calming and Concentrating the Mind (AN 3:101 and AN 3:102)

WHO SHOULD JOIN: This course is open to anyone, however, since emphasis will be on the discourses of the Buddha rather than meditation, participants should already have some mindfulness meditation experience.

COURSE LEVELS: It is designed as a level 2 course. Click this link for a key to course level designations.

VIDEO CONFERENCES: We will use the Zoom video conference platform. Zoom is easy to access via computer or phone. More information will be provided in the confirmation materials after registering.


Visit our Teacher Page for teacher biographies and photographs.

REGISTRATION: Registration is required for this course. Registration fees are non-refundable. To register, select an option under the Tickets heading at the bottom of this page. (If you are viewing this page more than two months in advance of the course, the Tickets heading might not yet appear, so please check again later.) To register for a course, you purchase one ticket, which registers you for the entire class series. You only need to register once; you do not need to register separately for each class session.

Course Fee: The sliding scale fee range is from $390 to $130 and will be shared between IMSB and the teacher(s). The lower end of the sliding scale is intended for those with limited financial means. The low rate of $130 is estimated to cover the most basic costs for the specific class period. This base rate does not factor in compensation for teachers or ongoing administrative expenses for IMSB. If you pay at the mid to high range of the sliding scale, your generosity supports those with limited income in attending our programs and also supports IMSB and the teachers, enabling the dhamma to thrive in the South Bay area. We encourage you to choose the highest level that is appropriate for your economic situation.

Scholarship Assistance: A scholarship rate of $75 is offered for those with very limited financial means. If you need additional assistance, or if you would like to volunteer to help out, please inquire with the registrar by contacting ThursdayClass.

Tax Deductions: The basic registration fee is not tax deductible. Donations above the base rate will be considered voluntary contributions and are deductible for any amount that is over the base rate. Each January, the IMSB treasurer sends donors letters that acknowledge the amount given for the previous year that is above the basic rate; this serves as documentation for tax deduction purposes.

Cancellation Policy: All fees and payments are non-refundable. If it becomes necessary to cancel participation in a course, and the registrar is notified prior to the start of the first class meeting, your registration fee will be converted into a voucher creditable towards the fee for a future IMSB Thursday class. Vouchers must be used within one year of the initial course start date, and may be transferred to only one future course. Cancellations that occur after the start of the first class are not eligible for the voucher credit.

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