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.
During this talk, Peter explained upekkha bojjhanga, the equanimity awakening factor. In the process, equanimity was described as the result of effective, dynamic interactions between the other six factors of awakening, which produces the most appropriate balance between joy and tranquility, concentration and investigation of mental phenomena, monitored by mindfulness and effected by energy as right effort. The function of equanimity to bring balance to lovingkindness, compassion and sympathetic joy was explained. Additionally, the dominance of equanimity in the third and fourth jhanas was described, and how this relates to the seven factors of awakening.
Peter described the characteristics of jhana from both the “sutta jhana” and “Visuddhimagga jhana” models. The benefits of jhana practice were reviewed, suggesting the real benefit of jhana practice is the cultivation of the seven Awakening Factors, which will be discussed in depth during next week’s discussion. Peter’s notes for this talk are posted above this posting, including URL addresses for downloading an ebook relevant to jhana practice, and a page from Leigh Brasington’s site with various articles about the jhanas.
This dialogue is the first of two explorations of samma samadhi, right concentration. Peter explained the terms samadhi and passadhi, and why he groups them together. Six considerations were illustrated to support the cultivation of samadhi-passadhi. The value of samadhi-passadhi in the practice of vipassana was explored. The explanations were followed by dialogue about the supportive considerations and the value of samadhi-passadhi in daily life. There is a post following this one containing the notes used for the evening’s discussion. the notes include a link to a website where Richard Shankman’s book “The Experience Of Samadhi” can be downloaded free in .pdf format. Next week’s dialogue will explore the practice of jhana.
This Dhamma dialogue reviews three levels of awareness related to mindfulness of breathing and how they interact with the practice of vipassana, that is, insight into the impermanent and selfless nature of personal experience. The first level is simply being aware “This is the in-breath, this is the out-breath”. The second level is a cultivated interest in the “textural” quality of the breath sensation, while the third level narrows the focuses the concentrated awareness around a discrete, singular sensation “like noticing the sensation of one nasal hair vibrating”. How each level relates to the practice of vipassana was described and then there was a general discussion of these practices.
During this meeting, Peter provided a guided meditation regarding breath awareness that tracks the progression of focus on the sensations of breathing from the simple awareness “this is the in-breath…this is the out-breath” to cultivate continuity of breath awareness, then “looking closer” to note carefully the textural quality of each breath cycle to increase interest […]
This is the last dhamma dialogue that Peter will deliver before his 3 month retreat at the Forest Refuge in Massachusetts begins on September 1. The talk reviews the history and significant teachers he sat retreats with over the last 30 years, and Peter speculates about the approach he will take during the retreat: several […]