Reviewing The Life Of The Buddha, January 13, 2021

Most current non-scholarly reviews of the life of the Buddha repeat the mythological attributions that are contained in the Suttas and Commentaries, which has some value.  This review is an attempt to describe the life of this remarkable person in a way that is de-mythologized, attempting to provide a cultural context for his life and the revolutionary concepts that were developed to create what we call Buddhism.  The Intention is to make his life and teachings more understandable and applicable to current life circumstances, with the hope that this will inspire more commitment to train the mind to deal more effectively with the stresses of contemporary life.  Future talks will review the development of the various schools of Buddhism over the centuries following his death, the discovery of Buddhism by Westerners and its introduction into 20th century cultures, and finally the more recent neuropsychological and sociological research of the last 25 years regarding the beneficial effects of mindfulness and lovingkindness meditation, with the implications for our lives going forward.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Early Buddhist Life

As mentioned above, next week’s talk will focus on the development of the various Buddhist schools over several centuries and on several continents.

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Guided Diligent, Mindful, With Clear Comprehension Meditation

This guided meditation provides training in noticing three essential qualities of attention described in the Satipatthana Sutta and the Anapanasati Suttta: Diligence (Persistent, dedicated application of attention), Clear Comprehension (Attention to the details of sensations while breathing along with attention to the emergence of mental phenomena), monitored by Mindfulness (Undistracted, alert awareness).  During the meditation there are occasional reminders provided of those characteristics and ways to recognize and make best use of their functions, as they are key for developing insight in an ongoing way.

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Mindfulness As An Awakening Factor

During this dharma dialogue, the awakening factor of mindfulness was described.  Peter referred to a Wikipedia definition of metacognition, a psychological term developed without reference to Buddhist psychology, that seems to be synonymous with mindfulness.  The neurological research describing which parts of the brain activated in the process of mindful awareness was described as well.  Following this, there was a brief guided meditation to emphasize recognition of the present function of mindfulness of the body as a stable point of reference supporting vipassana practice.

Here is the .doc file of the notes prepared for this week’s discussion:  SATI As A Factor For Awakening

Next week’s discussion will explore dhamma vicaya bojjhanga, the awakening factor for the investigation of mental phenomena.

2014 One Week Retreat Review

Much of the transformation in the brain during a retreat occurs outside of conscious awareness.  We’ve realized over the years of retreat experience that talking about it, “thinking out loud”, with a group of well-informed people helps integrate the learning and insight, making it more clearly understood and accessible in daily life.  This dialogue reviewed various retreat participant’s experience during the retreat and upon returning home.

Seven Awakening Factors 2014

During this talk, Peter explained how these seven factors, led by mindfulness, function.  Initially, in their undeveloped, weakest form, they apply a counter to the action of the five hindrances.  As the hindrances are set aside and the function of the mind becomes clarified, coherent and energized, the seven factors are matured in their function: “During the first stages of practice, they function to ward of the demons; as that is accomplished, they function to feed the angels!”  The angels are mental clarity, compassion, generosity, kindness, etc.