As the first of a series of 6 talks, Stephen outlines his project to "deconstruct" Buddhism in order to uncover the foundational ideas in which it is erected. He then analyzes the Buddha's metaphor of the "ancient path that leads to an ancient city" to suggest that the core teachings of the Dhamma are to be seen as forming the template for a restored civilization...
On this first evening of the retreat, we explore the nature of mindfulness in general and how we practice mindfulness of the body in particular. We then examine the five "difficult energies" (nivarana or "hindrances"), and how they make mindfulness difficult and how to practice when they are present.
The awakening of this first step on the path gives us the impetus to practice. As understanding grows through continued practice, ultimately we come to a place of unshakable faith – born out of tasting the Truth of the dharma.
A reflection on the Buddha's parable of the "poisoned arrow" (Malunkyaputta Sutta M63). This key text illustrates how the Dhamma is therapeutic, pragmatic and not concerned with metaphysical questions, which the Buddha regards as irrelevant and refuses to comment upon. What he does comment upon is the Four Noble Truths. The talk concludes with a reflection on the Buddha's account of his awakening as an insight into conditioned arising.
Transformation in practice, whether in mindfulness or metta practice, occurs through repetition, patience, understanding and faith, in a sometimes mysterious way. Using poems and stories, we explore the nature of lovingkindness (metta) and the kinds of transformation that occur as we practice.