How is the course run?
A tutor presents material, and leads a discussion based on what arises. Being practical rather than academic, the emphasis is on personal knowledge. Students are encouraged neither to accept nor reject the ideas put forward, but to test them in practice for themselves, in the light of their own experience.
In this way, for those who wish, the whole week between classes can become a learning opportunity.
As the course continues, the most vivid and valuable part of the evening meetings is often sharing what has been seen in daily life between individual sessions.
Do I need any previous qualifications?
No. The course is intended for everyone, regardless of education, occupation, race, political or religious belief.
What does ‘practical philosophy’ mean?
The course is practical in the sense that it is designed to be of direct use in our everyday lives. The intention is to stimulate enquiry and through this expand the way we look at the world and ourselves, conferring happiness and freedom.
What do I need to bring with me?
Just an open and enquiring mind, and an interest in the subject matter. At the end of each evening a handout with key points and any quotations used is provided.
Does the course include the concept of mindfulness?
Mindfulness in various forms has been an intrinsic part of our courses in Practical Philosophy since they first started in the 1950s. From the first evening of the introductory course, we aim to support a more mindful way of living.
With the help of two simple practices, the Awareness Exercise and the Pause, our students gradually become more connected with the senses and the present moment, better able to turn the attention out to whatever or whoever is in front of them and a little less subject to mental agitation and circling thoughts.
Does the course include meditation?
Meditation has the power to cultivate inner stillness and peace in any man or woman, and to help them discover unity behind and through diversity.
The School helped pioneer meditation in the west in the early 1960s, since when it has encouraged its students to take up the practice and provides them with ongoing support to incorporate it into their lives. Our philosophy students are normally invited to take up meditation after 3-4 terms of study in the School, but it can be earlier.
A simple method of mantra-based meditation is used, designed to be of practical value in everyday life. A single word or sound is repeated gently in the mind for two periods each day while sitting on a chair in some quiet place. This involves no physical contortions, chanting or complex mental procedures.
Those practising this form of meditation find it gradually brings about inner peace, harmony and clarity of mind. It also releases finer energy for practical use in daily life.
Who are the course tutors?
Our philosophy tutors have all been studying in the School for some time. All have considerable experience of applying the lessons of philosophy to their everyday lives. They come from all walks of life and many different professions, but all share the same love of passing on knowledge in order that people can get the most out of their lives. None are paid for being a tutor.
Will I get a certificate or qualification?
This is not an academic course. There are no exams.
Is the course ‘religious’?
The course is not religious, but it does address the spirit in Mankind. It is designed to be suitable for people of all faiths – and those who follow no particular faith.
Does the School offer further studies in practical philosophy after the introductory course?
Yes, for those who wish. Some people find that the introductory practical philosophy course, which is intended to be of real value in its own right, satisfies their interest. Others want to continue their studies. The School caters for this, offering additional courses and the chance to penetrate further the great questions of life. This can last for another term, another year, or longer. However long or short a time people may wish to study in the School, the hope is that everyone will find something of true and lasting value.
What form do these further studies take?
The basic format of a group discussion remains unchanged.
In terms of content, the next few terms examine the subjects broadly covered in the introductory course in more detail, exploring further ways to make the study practical.
After that, the study increasingly turns to deeper understanding of the philosophy of Advaita. This can go on for as long as the individual wishes. Each term has the capacity to add something of real value to those whose interest persists.
What is ‘Advaita’?
Advaita is the clearest and most systematic expression we have found of the common philosophy that lies at the heart of many of the world's great religions and philosophies. Literally meaning ‘one without a second’, it is a universal philosophy of great breadth. Its most central tenet is everyone and everything are in essence the expression of one consciousness.
A true appreciation of Advaita allows life to be led more fully and richly, conferring greater freedom on the individual and those around him or her. It is designed to bring out the best in everyone, whatever the part they are playing.