Last October we ran a survey to give us some insight into community perspectives about BMIMC and what the hopes were for its future. We were thrilled to see such high levels of engagement with over 230 people completing the survey and we can now share some of the findings.
One of the things we sought to understand was the degree of felt connection with the Mahasi tradition, upon which BMIMC was established, and the extent to which people were open to a broadening of traditions taught at the Centre. Over 4 in 10 people (44%) agreed or strongly agreed it was important we maintain an explicit connection with the Mahasi tradition. Only a small proportion (18%) disagreed with this proposition, with just under 40% taking a neutral position.
There was a clear openness to teachings being offered from other Theravada traditions (66% in favour), and to a lesser extent from other Buddhist traditions such as Mahayana or Vajrayana traditions (36% in favour). Many people (49%) agreed the quality of teaching was more important than the particular tradition. However, there was a clear sentiment that teaching should remain within Buddhist traditions with only a small number (18%) in favour of secular meditation practices being offered, and around half (52%) being opposed, many of whom were strongly opposed.
We also wanted to understand what interest there was in programs beyond the standard meditation retreats historically offered. We were surprised to find a strong interest in online retreats remains even as we move beyond the difficult pandemic period. Far from people feeling “zoomed out” after more than two years of social distancing – something we had assumed – it seems the online medium offers other benefits to retreat practice that are just as applicable in the post pandemic world.
There was also a lot of interest shown in the idea of Sutta study classes and retreats. While we don’t have any immediate plans to offer study retreats, it does help confirm the deep commitment the community feels to the Buddha’s teachings beyond just meditation instruction, and it will be important that we keep this in mind as we develop the program over the coming years.
We also asked about peoples’ interest in getting more involved with BMIMC and it was heartening to see how much support there is for the Centre with nearly a third of respondents telling us they would volunteer more if they were asked more. This is especially helpful feedback and it tells us there is more we can do to give people opportunity to get involved to help sustain the Centre over the future.
While much of what was reflected in the survey will to many be unsurprising, having the information captured in this way provides us an objective reference point for the work we are doing with our external consultant to develop a sustainable plan and new ways of working to ensure the Centre can flourish.
The survey was anonymous but over 60 people provided contact details and offered to be available for follow-up conversations to share more about their thoughts . We don’t have the capacity to talk with all 60 people but we will be arranging interviews with some of you the over the coming weeks.
For more detail on the survey results, please refer to the Summary Report.