Peter’s Jhana Retreat Report

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


Cultivating Jhana

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


Peter’s 2017 Forest Refuge Retreat Report

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.


Awakening With Equanimity

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.

Here are the notes prepared for the presentation:  THE EQUANIMITY AWAKENING FACTOR

Next weeks discussion will begin to explore the culmination of the Noble Eightfold Path, a “revisiting” of Right Understanding and Right Intention.