Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization, by Analayo, is becoming admired as an excellent addition to the already existing commentaries on a fundamental discourse of the Buddha, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

Analayo was born in Germany and has been a monk in Southeast Asia for many years.  This book combines the scholastic manifestation of his PhD. Studies, combined with his ongoing meditation practice on retreats.  It isn’t an introductory book, and has quite a few footnotes, but I think it is quite useful for anyone who wants to really understand this profound teaching as one’s practice of mindfulness deepens.

He just published a companion book, Perspectives On Satipatthana, which expands the depth of personal and scholastic research in particular topics that couldn’t be explored in the context of the earlier book.  I’m currently reading the second book, and highly recommend the first book.

Here you can download  a free copy of the ebook.  I hope you enjoy it, and I wish you well.  Peter

It is customary in our sangha to provide the opportunity for a person who just completed a significant retreat to “think out loud” about the retreat experience, as this supports integrating the deep changes retreats foster into regular life routines more effectively.  Robert just completed a three month retreat at the Providence Zen Center in Rhode Island.  He spoke of his experience, followed by a question and answer period.

This dialogue follows upon the previous week’s exploration of the hindrances, particularly sense desire.  Peter described how MRI research shows that the more times a particular neural pathway is activated, the more enduring and “self-defining” it becomes.  This was related to how much our consumer culture feeds unrelenting dissatisfaction and desire.  Peter pointed out that hindrances not only interfere with meditation practice, but also disturb peace of mind and clarity during daily life routines.  He also emphasized that spiritual enhancement is hindered when meditation practice is dominated by the intense mental preoccupations and energy turbulence arising from the action of the hindrances.  This was followed by discussion of the impact that group members experience related to the hindrances.

Rebirth is a core theme of classical Buddhism, in all the various groupings of doctrine and practice that have emerged over the centuries.  As I’ve contemplated Buddhism for over 30 years, my take on rebirth is that the self-organization of the 5 aggregates re-forms on a moment-by-moment basis, and that the notion of being born again into some sort of organism is purely speculation.

Whenever anyone approached the Buddha with questions or speculations about what happens after death, he would refuse to respond for or against that belief.  I believe there are several reasons for this.  The Buddha would say: “The Tathagata [the name he used, generally translated as “Thus Gone”, or maybe “Suchness”] is here to develop understanding about the cause of dissatisfaction and the ways and means to alleviate dissatisfaction-that is all!”  In this paraphrasing, it seemed to be an agnostic view, that is, not knowing one way or another what happens after death. I assume that he did know as much as is humanly possible about the nature of being alive, perhaps even the answer to that question, but chose not to answer because to hold onto any view for or against would hinder a person’s awakening process.

One of the core accomplishments of Buddhist spiritual development is to cultivate ongoing, mindful awareness without the burden of identifying with any particular view of life.  My resolution for this is to just focus on ethical development and cultivating clear awareness; at the end of my life, events will unfold according to the Dhamma, that is, the natural order of the universe.

Having said this, I recently read an article in Salon, which is an online magazine, and it provided me with some intriguing information.  It seems that a woman who had an aneurysm in an artery at the base of her brain required surgery that would cool her body down to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, drain the blood from her body, leaving here essentially in a deep, brain-dead coma.  The aneurysm was successfully repaired, and when she was “brought back to life,” she reported events and objects that she couldn’t possibly have consciously witnessed, and which were verifiable as there was adequate telemetry to prove her brain was inactive, and there were 8 witnesses in the room, who could verify her account.

This is what is called a Near Death Experience, and the author of the article described some of the ongoing research and controversy about this phenomenon.  What is especially interesting about the report is the objective data that substantiates the report, rather than anecdotal information.  It certainly has stimulated my thinking! Here is the article.  I hope you find it to be interesting.  I wish you well.  ~ Peter Carlson

During this talk, Peter described how stimulation through the “sense bases” is transformed into the disruptive and energy draining process Buddhism calls panca nivarana, the Five Hindrances.  He described the nature of sense desire as a hindrance, focusing on the activities of the amygdala (fear orientation) and nucleus accumbens (associated with addictive behavior) are examples of craving and clinging from a classical Buddhist perspective.  Setting aside sense desire frees up the internal energy flows, cultivating joy, one of the awakening factors, establishing an internal source of happiness, rather than the false promise of the objects of sense desire.  Next week’s discussion will explore the hindrance of aversion and ill-will.

Mindfulness Of Mental Phenomena

This talk begins several weeks of exploration of the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, dhammanupassana.  During the discussion, Peter pointed out that Mindfulness of the Body and of Feelings are projected onto the Third Foundation, that of consciousness, and that the culminating practice of this teaching is to notice the interactions between the foundations, Mindfulness of […]

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How To Not Take Moods Personally

This dialogue explores the Third Foundation of Mindfulness, cittanupassana, translated as mindfulness of the mind.  After reading the content of the third foundation from Analayo’s book on satipatthana, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Peter related this to what our era calls “mood”, that is, a pervasive emotional state.  The neurological and hormonal aspects of mood […]

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