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.
Will I get a certificate or qualification? No. This is not an academic course. There are no exams.
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.
What time does the class finish? The 10am classes finish around 12:15 and the 7:30pm classes finish around 9:45pm. In both cases there is a refreshment break about half way through.
Does the course include the concept of mindfulness? Throughout the course, great emphasis is placed on the importance of being in the present moment. Exercises and practices are provided to encourage this connection. These increase the value of each weekly session. More generally, they deepen and enrich awareness of the vibrancy of the world around us in our daily lives.
Does the course include meditation? There is much focus on the direct experience of stillness as the underlying basis for clear observation and connection with oneself. However, the practice of mantra meditation as such does not form part of the course. Meditation is introduced a few terms later for those who wish it. Over time it becomes an increasingly central practice. Further information is available on the School's main website.
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.
Who are the students? Our students in Guildford come from across Surrey and beyond and represent a broad spectrum of people from all walks of life. This diversity holds true for all School locations.
Are there any trial sessions? No, you need to enrol for the full ten week course. However, you can cancel your enrolment, for any reason, up to the end of the second week of term (irrespective of whether you have attended a class). The enrolment fee will be refunded to you, less a £5 administration charge. If for personal reasons you are unable to complete the course after a few sessions, you are entitled to a free retake of the whole course in the following term.
What if I can’t manage to come every week?While we of course encourage regular attendance, it’s quite normal for students to miss one or two evenings. This should not be a problem as each week we give a brief recap of the previous week and also provide a detailed hand-out which captures the key points.
Will the course give me a good basic understanding of ALL the main philosophical traditions and approaches? No. As we try to make clear in our communications, the course doesn’t aim or claim to cover all the main philosophies or philosophers. Instead it draws on those found in practice to be most conducive to the discovery of happiness and truth. However, along the way, we hope you will learn about some of the world’s great philosophers and teachers, eastern as well as western, including Socrates, Plato, Confucius, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Epicurus, Emerson, Shankara, Vivekananda and many others.
Is the course ‘religious’? In the end, that’s for you to judge, but in our view the course is not religious as such and certainly follows no particular religion. What it certainly does do is address the spirit in Mankind and doesn’t shy away from including quotations from great religious leaders where these are relevant. It’s designed to be suitable for people of all faiths – and those who follow no particular faith – and over many years this has been found to be so.
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.
A more detailed description of advaita is given on the School's main website.