During this first of a series of talks exploring the Satipatthana Sutta, Peter talked of the mutually supportive functions of samadhi (concentration) and vipassana (insight). This was followed by a lively discussion regarding how different meditators cultivate these qualities, both during formal meditation and normal daily routines.
This talk, on the last evening of the 2014 Deerhaven retreat, reviewed Buddhist concepts of a virtuous home life, from a contemporary perspective. Peter also reviewed which skillful means were practiced on the retreat and how important it is to maintain a regular meditation practice in order to integrate the skills into every day life routines.
During this talk on the second night of the 2014 one week retreat, Peter talked of the contemporary views on karma, relating this to the characteristics of the five hindrances. Ways to use the skills developed during the retreat to set the hindrances aside were described, setting the stage for the cultivation of concentration and tranquility, which would then be applied to the practice of vipassana.
During this talk, the first night of the annual one week retreat, Peter revisited the meaning of “retreat”, “the three refuges” and the concept of the precepts from a contemporary perspective. The importance of silence was emphasized, both external and internal. He then explained the value of persistent, but relaxed investigation of the sensation of breathing, to support increasing tranquility and insight. The meditation students were encouraged to make persistent monitoring of the breath a priority during the course of the ensuing days.
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 and investigation in awareness. Finally, the meditation students are invited to hone in on one specific touch sensation exclusively in order to cultivate the quality of awareness preparatory to practicing jhana, or alternatively, to maximize the practice of vipassana. A separate file is associated with this notation that reflects the question and answer period following the guided meditation, during which particular points of meditation practice were explored.
During this dialogue about the practice of Right Action, Peter again emphasizes the importance of combining a deepening understanding of our internal processes through mindfulness practice with a revisiting of the classic concepts and jargon of the Buddha. Peter offered some information from modern neuroscientific research that suggests how karma is formed through memory consolidation, citing various areas of the brain and their functions. This was combined with how the cultivation of samadhi (concentration/tranquility) and sati (mindfulness/insight) produce a “buffer zone” of non-reactive awareness that allows the application of benevolent intention to emerging behaviors. This was followed by a lively discussion of the implications that are presented through this new understanding of ancient wisdom.