What has always engaged me is working with practitioners who are deepening their commitment to the Dharma and then seeing them take a quantum leap in their understanding. My contribution to this commitment is working towards conveying a Theravadan practice with a Mahayana spirit.
The Theravadan practice of vipassana provides simple, direct instructions that can be immediately understood and applied in daily life as well as retreat practice. The Mahayana spirit has the beautiful attitude that we practice not for ourselves alone, but for all sentient beings. Between the two, the unfolding of liberation for ourselves and others becomes a simple, down-to-earth practice that anyone can do.
It is fun for me to take the most difficult concepts and put them into accessible language, to unwrap the mystery. So I try to find ways to explore the breadth of concepts like "emptiness" -- to see how the entire path can be explained in terms of this synonym for nibbana. One of my aims is to bring the goal of freedom into the here and now. This way practitioners get a taste of freedom, so they know what they are heading toward on their journey to liberation.
The tools of mindfulness and lovingkindness can be picked up by anyone. They are easy to understand and they bring immediate benefit to our lives. The essence of vipassana is ideally suited to western society, especially to the resonance between our psychological turn of mind and our quest for spiritual understanding.
The most reliable version of the teachings of the historical Buddha is found in the Pali suttas, or discourses, which make up about 20 volumes of texts. These teachings were transmitted orally for 400 years and were first written down around 100 B.C.E. Their survival to the present day in such a complete form is so unlikely that it might be considered as slightly miraculous. By studying these original texts we can discover the tremendous rewards that come from hearing the authentic voice of this amazing teacher.
In this 4-week series we will explore a few key texts which contain some of the most important of the Buddha's teachings in their original formulations. In the first class we will offer an introduction to the overall study of these suttas, which present certain challenges given the spiritual, cultural and historical distances involved for us today. Students will be provided with good English translations of all the suttas covered. This series is suitable for experienced meditation students who have some understanding of the Buddha's basic teachings.