After a significant retreat experience, participants have the opportunity to review what they learned during one of our meetings. Peter describes the retreat he just completed as one of the most significant of the more than 40 residential retreats he has attended. Shaila Catherine, the teacher, is internationally known and respected for her knowledge regarding jhana practice and her outstanding ability to describe the “craft” involved in developing very high degrees of concentration. Traditional Buddhist vipassana, or insight meditation, emphasizes the practical benefits of this level of concentration as a way to prepare the mind for deep and subtle insights into the nature of subjective experience. Peter’s review includes detailed descriptions of various markers of concentrated attention that must be developed in order to realize a jhana level of focused awareness. Prior to this retreat, Peter gave a talk on October 19 describing the various levels of jhana experience, and the recording and notes from that talk are posted in the archives.
Here are the notes prepared for this talk: Peter’s Jhana Retreat Report
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:05:45 — 60.2MB)
Peter Carlson will be participating in a 10-day retreat soon that focuses on concentrating the mind to the level of experiencing jhana, an extraordinarily focused level of attention that is frequently described in the earliest Buddhist teachings. He talks about previous jhana experience, the characteristics of jhana states and his preparation for this immersive experience. After he returns from the retreat, he will review the experience on November 8.
Here are the notes prepared for this talk: CULTIVATING JHANA
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:05:52 — 60.3MB)
The core mental conditions to foster liberation through the practice of vipassana are called the “Seven Factors For Awakening”: mindfulness, investigation of mental phenomena, energy/effort, joy/enthusiastic interest, tranquility, concentration and equanimity. This talk describes their functions in the process of awakening and how to cultivate them.
Here are the notes prepared for this talk: BOJJHANGA-7 AWAKENING FACTORS
During this talk, Peter introduced one of the lojong aphorisms, classically stated “When evil fills the world and its inhabitants, change adverse conditions into the path of awakening.” He suggested an alternative: “Be mindful whenever possible so everything provides an opportunity for practice.” The talk provided an opportunity to review the progression of the training: First, establish a regular meditation practice to cultivate stability of focus and relief from the influence of the five hindrances, then to realize during meditation that all thoughts are transient “fantasies”. During regular daily routines, cultivate an attitude of perceiving life’s roles as a “game”, rather than as having certainty. Practice transforming unwholesome self-states into compassionate awareness (the tonglen practice). The current topic involves integrating the training mentioned above sufficiently so that every difficulty encountered becomes an opportunity for liberation from confusion and distress.
Those present during the evening were provided with a copy of the aphorism and invited to write opportunities that come to mind for turning “poison into medicine” in their lives. This provided opportunities to relate the progression described at the outset of the discussion to the incidents reported.
Here are the notes prepared for the presentation: TRANSFORMING ADVERSITY INTO OPPORTUNITY
Next week’s discussion will involve the aphorism “Focus on your responsibility for alleviating suffering; don’t displace it to outside sources.”
This talk introduces a new topic, the Tibetan Buddhist Lojong trainings. These trainings were developed around the year 1,000 C.E. to support integrating Buddhist principles and practices into daily life routines. The core of Buddhist teaching is compassion, that is, the path leading to liberation from distress. This core practice is integrated into Lojong through Tonglen, which is a Tibetan compassion meditation. The most famous contemporary representative of the benefits of Lojong is Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.
The talk provides an overview of the training; over the next several weeks, different training points will be explored. Peter’s approach to this training is an attempt to make the archaic nature of the training aphorisms more understandable for contemporary American meditation students.
The notes prepared for this talk will be posted after this posting.