The ERBC Sutta Study Group will start up again this September. The group focuses on investigating early Buddhist teachings in depth using material from the Sutta Piṭaka (The Collection of Discourses). This year we will also be drawing some from supplemental materials from teachers such as Thanissaro Bhikkhu and Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Studying the suttas adds depth to our understanding of what the Buddha taught and to our practice of the Dhamma. It can also clarify how contemporary Buddhist interpretations sometimes misconstrue aspects of early Buddhist teachings, and challenge us to reflect on the views we may have about the teachings.

The study group is oriented to those with prior experience studying the suttas, and is limited in size to support full participation.

For more information about the group and to see a list of topics that we’ll investigate this year, please see our Sutta Study Group page, or contact Steve Seiberling at smseiberling@gmail.com.

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.

Dear friends,

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.

The Eno River Buddhist Community (ERBC) will host a women’s retreat, November 6-8, focused on establishing mindfulness of the body through contemplation of the four elements. Callie Justice, long-time leader in ERBC, will lead the retreat, drawing on her extensive study and practice with the early Buddhist teachings on establishing mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna). Here is the brief description:

The Buddha taught contemplation of the four elements as a practice for establishing mindfulness of the body, which is a key aspect of right mindfulness—the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. Contemplation of the four elements (earth, water, fire, wind) appears as a core teaching on cultivating right mindfulness in all currently available versions of the early discourses. On this retreat, participants will be supported to develop mindfulness of each element both internally—within our individual bodies—and externally—as we encounter the elements in the world around us. The interweaving of mindfulness of the elements throughout the activities of the day as well as during meditation will be encouraged.

This women’s retreat will be limited to 11 participants. A framework will be provided as a container for the practice of the group as a whole. Within that framework, there will be space for each individual to discern what she needs to do at any given time in order to wisely develop her personal retreat experience. The retreat will be held in noble silence. The retreat environment will be structured to support the cultivation of continuous careful attention (yoniso manasikāra) both on and off the cushion. Dhamma talks, instruction in breath meditation, guided contemplations and interviews with Callie will be offered. The retreat is intended to benefit both those who are new to the Buddha’s path and those who are more experienced.

The retreat will be held in the Pelican House at the Trinity Center on Emerald Isle. For more information and to register, please see the retreat flyer, or contact Callie at justice.callie@yahoo.com.

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.

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.

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.