Upcoming talk to teach history and philosphy of Buddhism

by Mira Stauffacher, Sonoma State Star, Dec 8, 2009

Sonoma Valley, CA (USA) -- "Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions," said Wes Nisker, Buddhist meditation teacher who has been speaking on his beliefs and philosophy for over 15 years.

On Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose room of the Student Union, Nisker will lecture on his experience with the Buddhist religion.

"I'll be teaching people about meditation, as well as some history of Buddhism and the philosophy of it. Hopefully there will be some good jokes too," said Nisker.

Many of those who practice Buddhism believe that it goes beyond religion and is actually more of a way of life. Buddhists believe that Buddha was a man who taught a path to enlightenment based off of his own experience. He wasn't a God, and he didn't claim to be.

This way of thinking provides followers with a philosophy and a code of practice to follow throughout life. According to Buddha, this path leads to true happiness, and it explains reasons for injustice and inequality around the world.

Nisker is one of about 15 teachers at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, located in west Marin. Individuals who go there do so to benefit from retreats, workshops and weekly classes.

"I try to present my teachings in a way that they correspond to western culture, art and science," said Nisker.

His classes go beyond facts and into a personal connection with people's lives.

"I teach silent retreats of about a week long duration, and I teach day long classes," said Nisker. "In the past year, I've taught a retreat on creativity in Buddhism, as well as a Buddhist men's retreat. Mostly, it's insight meditation, which is a way of training the mind to investigate itself."

All of the teaching staff as Spirit Rock generally do the same kinds of things, but some teach spiritual practices with different emphasis.

"Some teachers are more involved in meditation involving emphasis in concentration, while others might teach more about kindness practices," said Nisker. "The hope is that you take what you learn, and you apply it to your life. Buddhism is not just a philosophy of life, it's an art form. It's a way to live in harmony with the world."

While Spirit Rock is his home base, Nisker travels frequently to teach his Buddhist practices.

"Occasionally I teach internationally. For instance, I'll be traveling to Russia soon, but mostly I stay in the United States," said Nisker.

He has lectured at colleges such as UC Berkeley and Holy Names University in Washington. Nisker is the author of several books depicting different aspect of the Buddhist religion, as well as a radio commentator and a performer.

"I've performed at various theaters showcasing a comic monologue on Buddhism and evolution, and also about our new modern mythology about ourselves," said Nisker.

Some of his bestselling books include "Essential Crazy Wisdom," "Buddha's Nature," "The Big Bang, the Buddha and the Baby Boom."

"'The Big Bang, the Buddha and the Baby Boom' is a memoir that explains how the Baby Boom generation is looking for a new spiritual path," said Nisker.

As he mentioned, Buddhism is becoming very popular in western countries such as the United States, and his memoir explains some reasoning for this recent trend.

In addition to his writings, Nisker is also the founder and co-editor of an international Buddhist journal called "Inquiring Minds."

"This journal was made specifically for the community that I am a part of," said Nisker. "Most of the articles are about how Buddhism affects our modern world today, and how such things like meditation make us more environmentally and ecologically sensitive."

His passion for teaching has led him to become a prominent figure in the Buddhist community.

Of his upcoming talk, Nisker said, "I hope that people come away feeling less attached to their own self and their own drama, and more connected to the rest of the life in this world."