Evidence Based Precepts

Beginning with a long excerpt from the Kalama Sutta, Peter emphasized the Buddha’s teaching on personal validation of the concepts within Buddhism.  The Kalamas were a tribe of critical thinkers who enjoyed challenging priests and philosophers regarding their presentations to the tribe.  The Buddha exhorted them to not take anything on face value, but instead to validate or invalidate a particular self-state through mindfulness, organized around the ethics described in the Five Precepts: not to kill, steal, misbehave sexually, speak deceptively or hurtfully, and to not intoxicate the body/mind.  The group was challenged to examine carefully how they can assess in their own experience how, for example, hostility toward an insect might be acceptable–but then, where does one draw the line?  What is it about your direct, immediate experience that forms your response?  The dialogue was so engaging and lively that it was agreed to continue the discussion at the next meeting.

Awakening With Tranquility And Insight

This discussion summarizes the Satipatthana Sutta, focusing on how Mindfulness and the other Awakening Factors affects awareness of the Four Noble Truths, enhancing mental clarity and emotional balance.  The relationship between tranquility and insight was associated with development of the jhana states, and how the heightened awareness derives from that practice increases the ability for the mind to be alert and non-attached, supporting awakening.

Awakening Investigation and Effort

Continuing the ongoing discussion of the Seven Factors of Awakening, this week the focus is on two of them: dhamma vicaya (Investigation of mind states) and viriya (Energy, or Right Effort).  Peter pointed out that investigation, effort and joy are energizing factors, while tranquility, concentration and equanimity are calming factors; mindfulness monitors their action and coordinates their mutual influence of each other.  Investigation and effort are linked to vitakka (bringing attention to a mind state) and vicara (sustained awareness of the mind state).  Right Effort is explained in terms of four applications, in order to eliminate the unwholesome mind states and maximize the ongoing effect of wholesome mind states.  The entire process is considered as the practical description of vipassana (insight into the true nature of reality).