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Retreat Dharma Talks

Monday and Wednesday Talks

Regular weekly talks given at the lower Spirit Rock meditation hall

Spirit Rock Meditation Center

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2020-09-16 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 6: Wise Speech 3: Practicing with Difficult Speech Situations 68:21
Donald Rothberg
After reviewing three foundations of Wise Speech--the four ethical guidelines for skillful speech, presence and mindfulness during speech, and the practice of empathy--we explore, on the basis of these foundations, how to be skillful during difficult or challenging situations of speech and communication, whether involving two individuals, a group, or a larger society. We identify eight perspectives, practices, and capacities that support skillful speech during such difficult situations.
2020-09-23 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 7: The Foundations of Wise Speech 4: Becoming More Skillful with Difficult Speech Situations 2 1:10:06
Donald Rothberg
After a brief review of the foundations of wise speech and the eight guidelines for skillful speech when there are difficult or challenging situations, we explore the connection of inner practices with such situations. We look at two dimensions of such practice: (1) looking at and transforming conditioning that makes it hard to engage in such situations, such as related to negative views about conflict and anger, and discerning when there is spiritual bypassing in relationship to difficulties; and (2) bringing mindfulness, inquiry, and investigation to difficult emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, etc.,and to thoughts and narratives (especially generated by the judgmental mind). We will continue this exploration, including of difficult body states, next time..
2020-09-30 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 8: The Foundations of Wise Speech 5: Becoming More Skillful with Difficult Speech Situations 3 1:11:01
Donald Rothberg
We review eight important capacities that help us to be skillful in difficult and challenging situations involving speech and communication. We then continue to explore how we might combine more "inner" and more "outer" responses, here focusing especially on "inner work" with difficult emotions (we look at working with anger and fear), thoughts and narratives (we look particularly at those connected with the judgmental mind), and body states. A discussion follows the talk.
2020-10-07 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 9--Wise Speech 6--Practicing with Difficult Speech Situations 4 49:00
Donald Rothberg
We focus, in the context of difficult or challenging communication, on the integration of individual, inner practice and skillful speaking. After a review of eight general guidelines for skillful speech and how we do inner practice related to, but separate from, such challenging communication, we look at ways to bring inner practice in speaking and relating. We also focus on several more "outer" skillful ways of speaking to bring about mutual understanding, including using relatively neutral observations free of interpretations, and cultivating the practice of empathy. We then look at how to integrate more inner and more outer dimensions of practice in the context of several challenging situations.
2020-11-04 Practicing after Election Day 1:10:00
Donald Rothberg
The morning after Election Day in the U.S., with the result in the Presidential election still uncertain, we explore a number of ways of practicing--in both a more inner and a more outer way. Participants, who include several from outside the U.S., share some of what they are experiencing, and we explore several ways of working with challenging emotions, thoughts, and body-states. We emphasize the importance of compassion for self and others, empathy--including across lines of difference, working with one's own views, participation in a community, and connection with traditions and approaches--such as that of the bodhisattva--that give one resources for the "long haul." Eve Decker brings in a vital further resource--song--three times during the session, with "Sending You Light," "We Who Believe in Freedom," and the dedication of merit from the Chinese Pure Land tradition.
2020-11-11 Practicing with Views 1:10:56
Donald Rothberg
Practicing with one's views or opinions or beliefs is central both to traditional Buddhist practice and to what is needed in a society polarized by views; it is also central to relationships and skillful communication, especially in difficult or conflictual situations. We establish in this session a foundation for such practice, by identifying both the core teachings on views by the Buddha and three basic ways of practicing with views. We explore the core teachings on views especially by looking at five key passages from the Buddha's discourses, getting a sense of how attachment to views can be problematic. We also identify three ways of practicing with views: (1) becoming mindful of one's views, (2) inquiring into one's views when one notices an opposition with the views of others, and (3) listening and developing empathy in relationship to the views of others. After the talk, we discuss together many questions and points related to these teachings and practices.
2020-11-30 Exploring the Buddha's Core Teaching: "I teach Dukkha and the End of Dukkha" 64:48
Donald Rothberg
The Buddha famously said, “I have dukkha and the end of dukkha.” Yet it can be confusing to know what the Buddha might have meant. One reason for the confusion is that there are multiple accounts of dukkha in the discourses; we explore four of them, finding that, for the first three, it doesn't make sense to speak of the "the end of dukkha." Only for the fourth sense of dukkha, which we find both in the teaching of the Two Arrows (or Darts) and in the teaching of Dependent Origination does "the end of dukkha" make sense. On this basis, we then explore the nature of dukkha, interpreted especially as reactivity, which we find in two forms--grasping and pushing away. We lastly explore eight core ways of practicing with dukkha.
2020-12-02 Practicing with Views 2 1:18:14
Donald Rothberg
We continue to explore the important, complex, and often challenging theme of practicing with views (or beliefs)--a central theme of individual practice and a vital area in the contemporary collective context. We first review the teachings of the Buddha on views, mentioning several key texts in which it's clear that he takes a highly pragmatic approach to views; views are helpful if they are conducive to awakening and traditional Indian metaphysical views are both not helpful and not ultimately resolvable in terms of their validity. An approach to views is unskillful if based on reactivity, on grasping or fixating, on the one hand, or pushing away in aversion, on the other. We also explore how many social views are the result of manipulation and control, as in propaganda and the social construction, often for reasons of manipulation, of many of our most central concepts and views. In the last part of the talk, we explore several ways of practicing with views, including (1) developing mindfulness of views, (2) inquiring into fixed views (we outline a number of methods), and (3) cultivating listening and empathy. The talk is followed by discussion, with comments and questions.
2020-12-09 Practicing with Views 3 1:11:29
Donald Rothberg
We review some of what we've covered in previous sessions, including the Buddha's teachings on views, the core of the problem being reactivity (grasping and pushing away) in relationship to views--not views themselves, and three ways of practicing with views. We then introduce one of the three forms of deeper inquiry into views mentioned, the approach of Nagjarjuna (c. 150-250 C.E.), the "second Buddha." Nagarjuna demonstrated a method of showing how any reactively-held views, including Buddhist views, leads to contradictions and absurdity.
Attached Files:
  • Nagarjuna Slides Draft 3 by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2021-01-06 Practicing with Intentions 1: Individual Formal and Daily Life Practice 1:11:08
Donald Rothberg
At this time of transition, for the earth in the Northern Hemisphere, for many of us in the New Year, and for the U.S., in which clarity of intentions is so important, we explore two types of intentions: (1) aspiration or being guided by one's deeper values and intentions, sometimes taking the form of vows; and (2) moment-to-moment intentions. We are especially interested in connecting the two types of intentions. A focus on moment-to-moment intentions (cetana) helps us with wise action and practice moment-to-moment, seeing which intentions are skillful and which are not (including implicit or even unconscious tendencies linked with habitual energies). We look a number of ways of practicing with intentions both in our formal and our informal practice. We close with a short writing exercise bringing out our core intentions and next steps for the coming period, and then have a period of discussion and sharing.
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