For the first two Mondays in June we (ERBC Program Leaders Steve Seiberling and Callie Justice) invite you to explore the relationship between two key practice areas—developing sense restraint and cultivating mindfulness of the body.
This past Monday night Steve led a discussion on the Buddha’s teachings on restraint (saṃvara) of the sense faculties. The handout with the two sutta passages used for this reflection is available here. Steve invited us to consider the happiness that comes with the freedom from grasping after pleasing sensory experience and from repulsion toward what is displeasing. In contrast, indulging the sense faculties without restraint can cause one to swing between “states of longing and dejection”. He highlighted the tendency of grasping after sense pleasure to escalate in a way that leaves us wanting more and more, even as the satisfaction from getting what we crave grows less and less (think of eating ever increasing amounts of chocolate). The suttas describe how cultivating “mindfulness directed to the body” can reduce these pulls that arise with our sensory experience.
Next Monday, Callie will lead the group in exploring how cultivating mindfulness of the body helps us to become more attuned to the negative effects of constantly reaching for pleasant sights, sounds, tastes, etc. We will also investigate how over time this practice inclines the mind to let go of the need to grasp after happiness through pleasant sense-based experiences.
One of the key practices taught by the Buddha for establishing mindfulness of the body is a contemplation of the parts of the body. A description of how the Buddha taught this practice in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is available here. Next Monday we will reflect on this particular practice and look at related approaches to cultivating mindfulness of the body as well.
As always, newcomers and visitors are welcome.
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ERUUF will hold a prayer vigil this evening for the those killed or injured in Orlando on Sunday morning, and their family and friends. The vigil will be an opportunity to gather in sorrow, solidarity and strength, with prayers and readings. It will begin at 7 pm in the Sanctuary at ERUUF.
For those who wish, of course, please feel free to attend the vigil, rather than practice with us tonight.
ERBC will meet this evening to practice sitting, walking, and consideration of the Dhamma at 7:30 in our usual space in the Commons Room of the CARE Bldg.
Peace and best wishes.
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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 email@example.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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The fall programs for the first and second Monday in October through December will focus on how we can learn to let go through practices of sense restraint (indriyasaṃvara). This rather forbidding phrase, points to a key aspect of the Buddha’s teachings which has the potential to open up more of a sense of choice and freedom from ultimately unsatisfying compulsions as we go about our days. The more that we are able to learn to lean in the direction of letting go in our lives “off of the cushion” the more our meditation practices will settle and deepen. When meditation strengthens, tranquility and insight develop, leading to wisdom.
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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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