It is customary for an evening’s discussion to be dedicated to a review of a significant recent retreat experience. Peter spent the month of March at the Forest Refuge, part of the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts. The retreat’s theme involved what is called “The Gradual Training” in Theravada Buddhist terms, with a major focus on cultivating high levels of concentration. The leaders of the retreat were Shaila Catherine, a well-respected teacher and the author of “Wisdom Wide And Deep”, accompanied by Sayadaw U Jagara, a well-respected Buddhist monastic and teacher of French Canadian background. Peter described the retreat routines and provided a handout regarding the Gradual Training produced by the teachers. During the retreat, great emphasis was placed on cultivating persistently vivid mindful awareness of breathing, leading up to the highly concentrated states of jhana, or preparatory to the practice of vipassana, that is, insight into impermanence, the dissatisfaction resulting from craving and clinging and realization of the absence of an autonomous self. This was followed by a lively discussion of the topics by the participants in the meeting.
Here are the notes prepared by Catherine and the Sayadaw in .pdf format: 2017 Forest Refuge Samatha Retreat docs
Next week will begin a series of talks about what are called the Paramis (Paramitas in Sanskrit), the qualities of mind to be cultivated for perfecting the process of awakening.