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Archive for the ‘Monday Night Programs’ Category

On Monday, August 31st, the Eno River Buddhist Community’s Monday evening program will focus on the Buddha’s teachings on the five themes for frequent reflection. In addition to the regular sitting and walking meditation periods, there will be a Dhamma talk on the five themes as well as time for guided reflection and sharing around this practice. As always, newcomers and visitors are welcome.

In Chapter 5 of The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, the Buddha recommends that all his followers, whether a woman or a man, a householder or a monastic, often reflect on these five themes:

  • ‘I am subject to aging; I am not exempt from aging.’
  • ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness.’
  • ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death.’
  • ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me.’
  • ‘I am the owner of my kamma [actions], the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.’

(AN 5:57; modified from Bhikkhu Bodhi 2012)

The five themes for frequent reflection represents one of the many teachings in the early discourses which supports of the development of samatha (tranquility) and vipassanā (insight). By regularly bringing attention to these five themes, we incline the mind towards seeing things clearly as they actually are and towards the stilling and letting go of clinging.

One way to structure a practice of reflecting on the five themes would be to set aside a specific time each day to read and consider them. You might consider questions such as the following: How do the statements offered by the Buddha match your own experience? What are your responses as you consider each statement? Do they bring up particular feelings, thoughts, images, associations? What is the relationship between the fifth theme and the other four statements?

Please bring photographs if you wish – Those who wish are encouraged to bring some photographs of yourself that were taken at different ages to the August 31st session. We will use the photos to create a table display in support of the evening’s reflections.

The August 31st program will be led by Callie Justice who is one of the Eno River Buddhist Community’s program and practice leaders. Please feel free to contact Callie if you have any questions about the plan for this Monday evening session at justice.callie@yahoo.com.

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We’ve been studying and practicing the teachings on the four establishments of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna) on Monday evenings for the last several months. As we’ve done this, we’ve focused on the earliest form of this practice that can be gleaned by studying early Buddhist texts. Here are some resources if you would like to study this topic further or continue to develop your practice of it.

Callie and I have found Bhikkhu Anālayo’s work on satipaṭṭhāna to be especially helpful. He has compared the Pāli and Chinese versions of the “Discourse on Establishing Mindfulness” to clarify what is likely to have been the earliest form of this teaching. His article, Exploring the Four Satipaṭṭhānas in Study and Practice, is particularly helpful as a summary of how this approach can be applied as an integrated practice.

A guided meditation by Bhikkhu Analayo, leading one through all seven of the contemplations found in the earliest form of satipaṭṭhāna, is available on the Dharma Seed website.

For those wishing to explore this topic in depth, Ven. Anālayo’s book, Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna, is a detailed comparison of the Pāli and Chinese versions of this discourse. The book also discusses the implications of what emerges from this study and how to practice with it.

Callie and I have found these writings, as well as teachings on this topic given by Bhikkhu Analayo on his retreats, very valuable as we’ve looked into satipaṭṭhāna practice over the past year.

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On Monday evenings at the Eno River Buddhist Community in June and July, we are investigating mindfulness of feelings (vedanā) – the second of the four Satipaṭṭhānas taught by the Buddha for cultivating Right Mindfulness.

Through guided meditations, Dhamma talks and discussion, we have the opportunity to become more attuned to the nature of our lived experiences related to feelings.  We learn to notice the pleasant, unpleasant (painful), or neither painful-nor-pleasant tone which the Buddha taught accompanies every experience.

Gradually, over time, we become more tuned-in to key understandings which support increasing tranquility and wisdom.  We see the ever changing nature of feelings.  We notice that pursuing happiness through grasping after ‘worldly’ pleasant feelings is always ultimately unsatisfactory.  We become increasingly able to cultivate pleasant feelings that are not based in greed, hatred or delusion (e.g., the feelings that accompany acts of generosity or practices such as loving-kindness meditation or the development of Right Concentration).  We loosen the tendency to identify with feelings as ‘self.’

Newcomers and visitors are always welcome at Monday evening practice sessions.  We value the opportunity to revisit previously discussed topics, and encourage participation for people at all levels of experience with the Buddha’s teachings.

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For our summer program at ERBC, on the first and second Mondays of May through August we will draw on Dhamma talks by Bhikkhu Sujato on the theme of developing meditation practice. Supplementary readings from the suttas will be offered. There will be opportunities for discussion as well.

Bhante Sujato is an Australian monk and scholar, formerly abbot of Santi Forest Monastery, who was trained in the Thai Forest tradition. He is a primary teacher for the members of ERBC’s program committee.  We regularly draw from his online teachings as resources for planning programs.  We’re happy to offer samplings from these teachings to inform and inspire our Monday evening investigations in support of deepening the practice of meditation.

Many of Ven. Sujato’s Dhamma talks, in both audio and video form, can be found on the Dhammanet website. (Video versions of many of these talks are also posted on Dhammanet’s YouTube Channel.) The Santi Forest Monastery website has many talks by Bhante Sujato on their audio page, as well as his essays and books on their Santipada page.

Our beginning program in May drew from Bhante Sujato’s recent talk on the relationship between wholesome pleasure, or happiness (sukha), and the development of concentration or jhāna.

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Last Monday evening Callie led a guided loving-kindness (mettā) meditation. The approach to developing mettā that she drew on comes largely from a method taught by Bhikkhu Sujato.

Those who would like to hear Bhante Sujato guide mettā meditation in this way will find an audio recording of it at: http://www.dhammanet.org/unconditional-love-part-2.

To listen to his series on this theme go to: http://www.dhammanet.org/dhammatalks/unconditionallove. Many more of his Dhamma talks can be found at: http://www.dhammanet.org/.

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The first and second Monday program focus for December will be on ‘Moving into Stillness and Peace.’ With the darkening of the year, shorter days and longer nights encourage us to quiet and to settle. At the same time, the pressures of the holiday season can make it challenging to maintain inner calm. Together we will investigate and reflect upon teachings and practices which support qualities of inner stillness and equanimity.

The third Monday will bring our usual program/practice opportunity to work with the Buddha’s ethical trainings with particular attention to how precepts practice helps the inner world grow more peaceful.

ERBC’s fourth Monday falls on Christmas Eve this year, and we will have a special Monday evening gathering that evening. (Please note location change!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

We will practice (sitting, walking and loving-kindness meditation) from 7:30 to 8:30, and then have an opportunity to share tea, snacks, and conversation.

Location:

Chicken Coop Hall, Pershing Street House, in Durham, N.C. near the NC School of Science and Math.

Contact Callie at justice.callie@yahoo.com or at (919) 286-5041 for directions.

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A practice that I have come to value is the cultivation of mindfulness along with loving-kindness (mettā). Essentially, having developed some degree of mindfulness, while one is sitting or during other activities one brings the intention of loving-kindness or goodwill into awareness along with whatever is arising in the mind.

For example, if I’m experiencing fear around an interaction that I anticipate with someone, I allow the mind to be present with that mind state, and then attempt to connect with a sense of goodwill. That may mean I simply continue to be present with the fear and how it unfolds in the mind or in sensations in the body. It may also mean sensing my intentions around that experience, and recollecting my desire to not cause harm to myself or another. At another time, loving-kindness might guide the mind toward sensing the underlying needs that have been activated in me, or toward seeing the other person more clearly and with compassion.

I try to allow wisdom, and my sense of the Buddha’s path, to guide the process without trying to force it in a predetermined direction. I find that with practice this ability seems to get stronger.

Here is a handout that we gave out at our meeting last Monday evening describing how one might develop this practice in more detail.

Best wishes,

Steve

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