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).
Shaila Catherine concluded our lecture series on the Great Disciples, with a talk about the Venerable Mahakaccana. He was a monk famous for explaining difficult and perplexing teachings. The Buddha sometimes gave brief teachings that left the listeners confused. Sometimes the disciples did not ask the Buddha questions to clarify their doubt. Instead they sought out another monk to elucidate the matter and explain the detailed meaning. The Pali Canon preserves several insightful discourses in which initial enigmatic teachings by the Buddha are systematically explained by Venerable Mahakaccana. He addresses profound topics including the construction of I-making and mine-making, craving, conceit, views, mindfulness of sense perceptions, obsession with thoughts of past and future, and overcoming desire and lust. His methods of exposition became the basis of early commentary, and Mahakaccana became known as the first Buddhist commentator.
In this first talk in a lecture series on the Great Disciples, the speaker, Shaila
Catherine, tells the life story of Angulimala and his transformation from notorious robber and murdered to a peaceful, compassionate, truthful, and awakened monk. It is an inspiring example of the power of restraint, and the potential for redemption. Habits and dispositions do not need to control our lives. We can stop unwholesome, unhealthy, and harmful courses of conduct. We can purify our minds.
Shaila Catherine gave the fifth talk in a speaker series titled "Living Wisely in the World: Caring for Mind, Family, Society, and Planet." She pointed out that feelings and emotions can be rather seductive, especially when we are not mindful of them, because they can unconsciously propel us into action. When feelings are pleasant, the response very often moves the mind towards craving and grasping. When feelings are unpleasant, the response is often aversion. Therefore, feelings should be investigated and understood, instead of being the basis upon which impulsive decisions are made.
This 30-minute guided metta meditation works with metta toward ourselves, an easy person, and then groups of beings: males/females, enlightened/unenlightened, lower realms (hell realms and animal realms)/ human communities/higher celestial realms of the gods. The aim is to gradually expand the field of metta until it is unbounded, immeasurable, without boarders, barriers, or exceptions. Meditators may use these traditional groupings, or adapt the idea of groups/areas with alternative ways they develop to group beings.
Shaila Catherine gave the fourth talk in a five-week series titled "Four Noble Truth." This talk discusses the Fourth Noble Truth, which is the path leading to the cessation of suffering, known as the Noble Eightfold Path. We not only need to know the path that can lead to the ending of suffering, we have to actually travel this path for ourselves. This practice allows us to live a life that is noble and upright, and helps us to distinguish between what is wholesome (which leads to ending of suffering) and what is unwholesome (which leads to more suffering).
Shaila Catherine gave the second talk in a five-week series titled "Four Noble Truth." This talk explores the causes and conditions that give rise to suffering, unsatisfactoriness, stress, or dukkha. The causes are based on craving, accompanied by delight and lust. When we are craving for something, we are not being present, because we wanting things to be different then what they really are.
Shaila Catherine gave the fourth talk in a six-week series titled "Ethics, Action and the Five Precepts." Speech is given particular importance in the Buddhist path because wrong speech can be the cause of tremendous harm, and right speech can be profoundly beneficial. The practice of right speech is given emphasis because it's a very vivid way that we can bring our practice off the cushion and into our daily life. When our lie is conditioned on delusion and greed, our intention usually is to benefit ourselves. While when our lie is conditioned on delusion and hatred, our intention is usually to harm others. Even when we choose to lie because it will cause less harm than the truth, we still should be aware of the karmic consequence of our action.
Shaila Catherine gave the second talk in a six-week series titled "Ethics, Action and the Five Precepts." When we undertake the training of refraining from taking that which is not given and practice generosity, we are improving our mind. More specifically, we are purifying our mind of greed. In fact, not stealing and giving are conditions that contribute to the realization of nibbana.
Shaila Catherine gave the second talk in a four-week series titled "Cultivating Mindfulness." Shaila explored a number of ways to practice mindfulness of the body in the Buddhist teachings. These methods included (1) using our body as a way of grounding our attention in the present moment; (2) working with mindfulness of the breath as an aspect of the body; (4) working with sensory experiences; (4) reflecting upon death; (5) seeing the body in terms of the four elements (i.e., earth, fire, wind and water): and (6) observing the body as parts. Methods five and six allow us to view the body as material components, so we don't take our body so seriously. This in turn helps us to reduce our attachment to our body as "I" and "mine."
Shaila Catherine gave the first talk in a four-week series titled "Cultivating Mindfulness." This talk focused on using the breath as the meditation object. When we observe our breath, our mind is free from unwholesome states, such as anger, greed, or doubt, because we are simply connecting with the very ordinary experience of breathing. We are not being pushed or pulled by desire or aversion. In fact, when we connect with the breath, we experience ease and happiness.