|what to expect|
What to expect at Aro events
Most events have no prerequisites. You do not need any experience with Buddhism or meditation to attend. With the exception of empowerments and refuge ceremonies, there are no religious commitments involved, so you need not be a Buddhist to participate. Everyone is welcome.
For most events, you do not need to book in advance. However, we generally offer a discount if you do, and it guarantees you a place.
In general, casual attire is appropriate for Aro events. For empowerments and refuge ceremonies, we recommend that you dress more elegantly – as these are special occasions. Some classes and retreats teach physical exercises for which loose, comfortable clothes are best. (Participation in these exercises is optional.) Aro teachers—both men and women—wear long white skirts, which are traditional Tibetan religious clothes. You will also see people wearing striped red shawls that signify that they are Aro apprentices.
At many events the group sings in unison. (Click here to hear examples and for an explanation.) Song texts are provided. You need not join in singing unless or until you are comfortable doing so.
There is nothing in particular that you need to bring to events. You may want paper and a pen to take notes. Many events feature a shop where you can buy relevant books, CDs, Tibetan musical instruments, and arts & crafts.
Many of the event descriptions mention books from our recommended reading list that are relevant. Your experience of the event will be enhanced if you read the book ahead of time and come with questions based on it – but this is by no means necessary.
Talks range from less than an hour to several hours. They may be free or have a small fee to cover our costs. Questions are always welcome during and after talks.
Aro classes are usually organised into short series of weekly evening meetings. It is best to take part in an entire series, but it is often possible to attend individual classes. Classes include: a short talk containing both practical spiritual teaching and an explanation of particular meditation methods; time to practice the techniques; and a period for questions and answers.
Aro Lamas lead day-long and two-day-long weekend programmes at various retreat centres. These may be residential or day programs. Most weekend retreats present one module from a set of more than a dozen, covering topics such as embracing intense emotions; romantic love as one of the most advanced Buddhist practices; and teachings from a tradition of enlightened women. Each retreat features talks, extensive interactive question-and-answer sessions, and instruction in a specific meditation method related to the topic.
Aro meditation groups meet most weeks in many locations. (They may skip some weeks; contact the organiser of your local group or check the event calendar.) Meditation groups are led by ordained Aro teachers. Often they meet in the teacher’s home, reflecting Aro’s descent from an ancient tradition of householders. Meetings include an hour-long meditation practice session that combines silent sitting with yogic song. There is also the opportunity for questions and answers, sometimes a short talk, and conviviality in the company of the Aro community. There is usually no charge for meditation groups.
Empowerments are ceremonies which enable you to engage in particular meditation practices. They may be given as part of other programmes (such as weekend retreats), or as stand-alone events. An explanation of the empowerment is given before it commences.
In other Tibetan traditions, empowerments sometimes involve extensive commitments. Aro empowerments ask only that you attempt to be kind and open in everyday life. If you are a student of a non-Aro religious teacher, we also ask that you discuss the empowerment with your teacher before and after attending, to make sure that it does not conflict with your current path.
The refuge ceremony is a formal acknowledgement that you have become a Buddhist. This is not a matter of institutional affiliation, or of belonging to a group. Refuge means that you have recognised the fundamental principles of Buddhism as an accurate reflection of reality and that you intend to live according to them. Refuge is only meaningful if you understand those principles and have experienced their application in your life. You should discuss whether you are ready for this commitment with your teacher beforehand.
You may attend a refuge ceremony as a guest, without taking refuge yourself.
When you first take refuge, you are given a new, Tibetan name. The name is indicative of a new identity as a Buddhist. Some people choose to use their refuge name in everyday life; many do not.
One takes refuge in Buddhism, not in a particular school, lineage, or teacher. Taking refuge at an Aro ceremony does not imply any continuing commitment to Aro.