Shaila Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses (bodhicourses.org) an online Dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a meditation center in Mountain View, California (imsb.org). She has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience, and has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand, completed a one year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhana, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, (Wisdom Publications, 2008). She has extensive experience practicing and teaching mindfulness, loving kindness, concentration, and a broad range of approaches to liberating insight. Since 2006, Shaila has continued her study of jhana and insight under the direction of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, and authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana (Wisdom Publications, 2011).
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled "Recollective Meditations." Shaila Catherine talks about the recollection of the Buddha as contemplating a list of qualities associated with an awaken mind. We can recollect each of the different qualities as a whole contemplation in of itself. When we recollect these virtuous qualities of the Buddha, it naturally inhibits hindrances, strengthens joy, be a support for concentration, and refreshes the mind. It also serves as a protection against doubt. Because as we think again and again about the Buddha, our faith can grow stronger in the potential of awakening.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled "Doorways to Insight." Shaila Catherine speaks about how in the Buddhist tradition, a great deal of emphasis is placed on impermanence, and this is what we observe in insight meditation practices. The primary insight that we have is that things change. In whatever we experience, everything is changing. For example, sensations, sounds, sights, tastes, thoughts, moods, and emotions. But when we don't see the impermanence of things, we tend to clasp of hold of them, we tend to cling to them, we tend to want to make them to last, and we tend to become attached and identify with them. As a result, we suffer, because they are changing anyways. Can we see beyond things that changes to the changeless, to the deathless, to nibbana?
This is the fifth talk in a speaker series titled "Eight-Fold Path of Awakening." The Buddha said that we should develop concentration, because one who is concentrated understands things as they really are. Concentration is the ground for wisdom to arise. What happens is that when we concentrate the mind, we learn to steady and strengthen the mind, and that concentrated mind has the capacity to see things more deeply and more clearly.
Shaila Catherine discusses how ignorance or delusion is the root of all unwholesome activities. Ignorance is present any time that we fail to see the three characteristics of experience: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and non-self. Fortunately, insight meditation practice can correct ignorance. Mindful investigation nurtures wisdom that uproots ignorance. Wisdom helps us to see suffering and the cause of suffering. In addition, by understanding ignorance, it can awaken compassion for ourselves and others, because we realize how deep-rooted ignorance can be.
This is the second talk in a speaker series titled Ethics, Action, and the Five
Precepts. This talk explores kamma (karma) and the training precept to refrain from killing. The Abhidhamma presents a detailed analysis of both wholesome and unwholesome mental states to explain how some actions lead to suffering, and other actions lead to happiness. The conditions that surround an action, the intentions that instigate it, and the reflective understanding of potential consequences will influence the intensity of the patterns that affect our options. If you find that you have killed a living being, perhaps an insect, notice your mental state. Was hatred or greed present? Learn what happens in the mind to enable killing, and what happens in the mind when you refrain from killing. The act of restraint is a particularly potent action. When virtue (sila) is pure, reflections on the abstention from killing can be a source of joy. The potency of wholesome restraint can be increased by reinforcing it with the wisdom that understands the causes and end of suffering—right view of the path.
This talk is the first in a speaker series titled Ethics, Action, and the Five Precepts. It offers an over view of the five precepts (sila) as training tools for bringing mindfulness and restraint into our actions, relationships, and daily life activities. These basic guidelines for living an ethical life, and the power of restraint are as relevant in the modern world as they were in ancient India. Taking care with our actions can be a source of joy and happiness. When our actions are clear, the mind is free from regret, guilt, and remorse; we gain self-respect, self-esteem, and confidence. The four bases of success (iddhipadas) can be used to strengthen these training precepts. With the support of desire, energy, consciousness, and investigation we can fully commit to abstain from unwholesome actions, and develop wholesome states, thereby gaining sovereignty over our own mind.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled Fundamental Buddhist Principles 2015. Buddha was a human being, whose mind was opened to the truth of things, to the nature of life. He understood the causes of suffering, and he presented a path of teaching that enabled others also to realize for themselves the causes of suffering. He was awakened, which means greed, hatred, and delusion were uprooted from his mind. So when we meditate, we examine our mind with the goal to understand what is really happening in our encounter with experience. What happens in our seeing, hearing, smelling, or tasting? What happens when we feel with our body? What happens when we think or feel emotions? Is that encounter affected by greed, hatred, or delusion? Or are we seeing the nature of these experiences arising and passing away, with a mind free of clinging? This talk also included basic Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, the Three Training (virtue (sila), meditation (samadhi) and wisdom (panna)), and the Three Primary Contemplative Skills that support meditation (concentration, mindfulness, and investigation).
The Discourses of the Buddha include instructions on how to give so that the act of generosity will be most fruitful. This talk explores the significance of the inner motivation of the donor, the quality and appropriateness of the gift itself, and the virtue and purity of mind of the recipient. The motivation, context, and result each play a role in the practice of generosity (dana).
Nibbana cannot be reduced to a simple definition, yet this talk explores what nibbana is not, and how nibbana has been experienced through Buddhist practice. Some descriptions present nibbana as a transcendent perspective, beyond this world; other descriptions present nibbana as an immanent phenomena, always available. Perhaps most frequently we find nibbana equated with deep peace, sublime happiness, non-clinging, profound release, and the quenching of all greed, the cooling of the fires of hatred, and the cessation of ignorance and delusion.
Everyone seems to wish for world peace and inner peace, yet stress, agitation, and struggle may still dominate our lives. Are you seeking peace in ways that it can realistically be found? Satisfaction cannot be gained in the world of conditioned things, possessions, and identities. Enduring happiness and peace are found when we turn our attention inward, and let go of the causes of suffering and conflict. This talk explores a number of Buddhist approaches to santisukha, peace and happiness, including 1) virtue, 2) guarding the sense doors with mindfulness, 3) concentration and jhana practices, 4) formless or immaterial attainments, and 5) the ultimate peace brought by insight, letting go, release, and final knowledge. The path of peace develops the mind and enables the adept practitioner to live joyfully, without clinging to anything in this world.