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).
Awakening is the profound aim of the spiritual life. Awakening is not described as a mystical goal, we wake up to the four noble truths. We look squarely at the world and recognize that we cannot fix it, and through this clarity we realize the end of suffering. Enlightenment does not imply a separation from life, instead, it brings us to face the reality of lived experiences without resistance. Profound realization brings a deep equanimity and peace into every encounter; it is defined as the ending of greed, hatred, and delusion. Awakening is known through the result—the end of defilements, craving, and ignorance.
This talk teases out the meaning of several difficult "D" words: disenchantment, dispassion, detachment. These terms do not imply an aversive response to experience, instead they play a vital role in the process of awakening.
The talk explores profound spiritual experiences. It considers the danger of arrogance and conceit arising, clinging to, and corrupting enlightenment experiences. It discusses how to express, describe, and speak about our spiritual awakenings without identification.
Meditation can reveal the dynamic process of emotional life. In this talk, Shaila Catherine explores relationships between mind and body, between thoughts and emotions, and between present moment experience and concepts. Emotions are not avoided in meditation, instead we engage in a balanced and wise investigation of emotions and see their changing, impermanent, and empty nature. Transformative insight into impermanence may come through understanding the functioning of mental states, without worry about difficult emotions such as anger, grief, or fear. We will learn to respond, act, and speak with wisdom as we learn to open to the full range of emotional life.
How does suffering manifest in attachment to views? This talk explores right view and addresses the danger of attaching to a position, philosophy, belief, or opinion. Primary sources are the teachings from the Middle Length discourses numbers 72 and 74. Recognizing the dangers of attachment and clinging to beliefs and opinions, we directly investigate what can be known in the mind and body. This is a pragmatic path of mindful awareness that results in actions that are immediately liberating.
What do we need to know, understand, investigate, and realize through our meditation practice? In the Anguttara Nikaya. VI, 63, the Buddha described six things that should be known in six ways. The six things to be known include desires, feelings, perceptions, taints, kamma (actions of body speech and mind), and suffering. Each can be known through their presence, conditioned origin, diversity, outcome, cessation, and way to cessation. This talk explores the structure and details of this brief sutta teaching, and proposes a practical approach to investigating the mind and our relationship with life.
Shaila shares her process of discovering and practicing the deep concentration states of jhana, and detailed vipassana practices as taught by Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw of Burma. She speaks about the cultivation of concentration and insight, and the systematic path that leads the mind from distraction to clarity, understanding, and nibbana. At the request of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, she wrote a book to serve as a practice guide for other practitioners: Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana
Our views, beliefs, and opinions affect our perception of events. To what extent do we assume that we are right and become attached to our opinions? With attachment to views we solidify a sense of self. Mindfulness meditation invites us to observe our relationship to views and opinions and see how it might be distorting perception by reinforcing a fixed sense of self. The term "right view" does not imply a more accurate or factual perspective; rather, right view describes a perspective beyond all attachment to views and opinions.
This talk explores the theme of right view or right understanding through a teaching found in the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (MN 43). This sutta lists five factors that assist the development of right understanding when liberation is the aim and fruit of the path. These five supportive conditions include virtue / morality, wide learning / reflection, discussion of what was learned, tranquility / calmness, and insight. The talk considers each of these factors in turn.
Right view is an approach to life that leads to awakening, to enlightenment. As mindfulness becomes mainstreamed in western culture, serious practitioners should take care that the framework of virtue, the integrated eight-fold path, and the liberating potential of meditation practice are not lost. Both mundane and supramundane right view are examined in this talk. Ultimately, right view implies a direct realization of the four noble truths and of the model of dependent arising.
Right view appears as the first step of training in the Noble Eight-Fold Path. It leads to an integrated understanding of the liberating teachings of the Buddha and the successful development of meditation and wisdom. Right view is essential to understanding the causes and the end of suffering. Without right view awakening is impossible, and wrong view is considered the insidious obstacle to all progress. In this six-week series Shaila explores right view from several perspectives found in the discourses of the Buddha. Related themes of wise attention, concepts of liberation, truthfulness, false beliefs, attachment to opinions, kamma, cause and effect, learning and peaceful engagement in discussion will bring this traditional theme to life in our contemporary practice.