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Donald Rothberg's Dharma Talks
Donald Rothberg
Donald Rothberg, PhD, has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976, and has also received training in Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra practice and the Hakomi approach to body-based psychotherapy. Formerly on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, Kenyon College, and Saybrook Graduate School, he currently writes and teaches classes, groups and retreats on meditation, daily life practice, spirituality and psychology, and socially engaged Buddhism. An organizer, teacher, and former board member for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Donald has helped to guide three six-month to two-year training programs in socially engaged spirituality through Buddhist Peace Fellowship (the BASE Program), Saybrook (the Socially Engaged Spirituality Program), and Spirit Rock (the Path of Engagement Program). He is the author of The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World and the co-editor of Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal Thinkers.
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2022-04-27 Practicing with Fear 1 65:30
After a brief review of last week's exploration of the relationship of Buddhist practice to Passover, Easter, and Ramadan, we explore a theme that is part of those holidays, and central to our practice--how we work with fear and anxiety. We look at the centrality of such practice, and the different types of fear, distinguishing the unskillful aspects (such as confusion, reactivity, and the continual repetition of negative narratives) from the at times skillful aspects (such as recognizing danger). We then suggest ways of bringing mindfulness to fear, as well as ways of understanding and responding to fear.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-04-20 Awakening and Liberation: Buddhist Practice, Passover, Easter, and Ramadan 67:08
At this time of the confluence of Passover, Eastern, and Ramadan, we look at their core messages of liberation, going beyond death, and spiritual purification, and the links of such messages to Buddhist practice, with the aid of images and music.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Awakening and Liberation: Buddhist Practice, Passover, Easter, and Ramadan by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2022-04-04 The Nature of Contemporary Awakening and the Transformation of Racism 1:13:51
On this 54th anniversary of the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 55th anniversary of his talk, "Beyond Vietnam," at the Riverside Church in New York, we explore the nature of Buddhist practice to transform racism, in the context of examining the nature of awakening in the contemporary world. We start by asking whether we may be undergoing a kind of "Fourth Turning," in which there is emerging an expanded contemporary sense of awakening, which includes the transformation of forms greed, hatred, and delusion not explicitly identified in the traditional understanding of awakening. Answering the question affirmatively, we point to two broad areas of ignorance, related to psychological material, and to social conditioning and institutions. On this basis, we then use the traditional Buddhist framework of training in wisdom, meditation, and ethics (and action) to give a preliminary account of a Buddhist approach to transforming racism. From a wisdom perspective, we look particularly at the Buddha's response to the caste system, and his sense of caste divisions as arbitrary (and empty) constructions, followed by looking closely at the constructions of whiteness, blackness, and race in the colonies in the 17th century, linked with greed and the strategy of divide-and-conquer, which have been central to maintaining racism since then. We then look more briefly at the nature of meditative and ethical training in the transformation of racism. A discussion period follows the talk.
Louisville Vipassana Community
2022-03-30 Reflections after Returning from Four Weeks on Retreat 68:28
A few days after returning from four weeks on retreat at Spirit Rock, Donald reflects on a number of themes related to his retreat, including: the importance of retreat (as well as short periods of meditation) and getting away, if possible, from everyday demands and busyness; the centrality of noticing habitual tendencies and patterns; opening to the unknown and the mysterious; attending to what surfaces, including difficult material, deep aspirations, and insights; the importance of exploring "non-doing" in meditation and activities, and an opening to what is larger than oneself; and taking everything as part of a path of learning.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-02-11 Opening Our Hearts to Love—For Ourselves and For Others 51:11
with Donald Rothberg, Fresh Lev White
Just before this Valentine’s Day, we’ll explore, in meditation and a talk and discussion, what helps us to open our hearts to our deep loving nature, and what gets in the way of such opening. We’ll focus on how central it is, and often how hard it is, to be able to develop and express self-love and self-compassion. Yet these qualities are necessary for bringing love into our relationships and into our world, which deeply needs love and heart connections. We’ll identify perspectives and practices which help us to open our hearts to love!
East Bay Meditation Center
2022-02-09 Donald Rothberg and Yassir Chadly in Dialogue on Buddhist and Sufi Perspectives and Practices: A Gathering of Wisdom, Love, and Respect 66:34
Yassir Chadly, a long-time friend of Donald's who is a Sufi teacher, musician, and former Olympic swimmer, originally from Morocco, is in dialogue with Donald, and then, during the last part of the session, with the whole group. We explore Yassir's background, the three main levels of practice in Sufism, practicing in Sufism with what arises in the heart, parallels between Sufi and Buddhist practice, how to make sense of how and why some act negatively in the name of a religion (we discuss Islam and Buddhism), the unity of traditions in their deep mystical expressions, and the need to work together across traditions in our current world.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
2022-02-02 Honoring the Great Teacher of Interbeing and Engaged Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh 65:44
There is weaving together in the talk of several areas, including (1) Donald's stories of his encounters with and learning from Thich Nhat Hanh, starting in 1987; (2) the life story of Thich Nhat (1926-2022); and (3) exploring Thich Nhat Hanh's core teachings, including his teachings about "interbeing," engaged Buddhism, mindfulness, and "being peace." There is a slide show of Thich Nhat Hanh's life shown during the talk available as a pdf file. The talk is followed by the first 3 minutes and 19 seconds of a video of Thich Nhah Hanh talking about "War and Peace Within" ( and a period of discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Slide Show on the Life of Thich Nhat Hanh by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2022-02-02 A Guided Meditation in the Manner of Thich Nhat Hanh 36:47
A 35-minute or so guided meditation in the manner of Thich Nhat Hanh (connected with the talk honoring Thich Nhat Hanh). The guided meditation is mostly silent, with three short periods of guidance, using these words: (1) Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. Breathing in, I calm myself. Breathing out, I feel at ease. (2) Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment. Bring body and mind back to the present moment. So that you do not miss the appointment with life. (3) Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh. Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out, I feel solid. Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I reflect all that is. Breathing in, I see myself as space. Breathing out, I feel free.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-01-14 Metta and Forgiveness 61:05
We first explore several important themes in metta practice: (1) how metta practice can be seen as a training in learning to “lead” with the heart; (2) ways of working with difficult experiences, such as anger, fear, and the presence of the judgmental mind, that can arise in the “purification” process connected with metta practice; (3) how metta practice opens us to our radiant depths; and (4) the nature of metta practice with the “difficult person” and its connection with forgiveness practice. Then we explore the nature of forgiveness—clarifying what it is and isn’t; distinguishing between forgiveness as an outer, interpersonal and social process, giving several examples, including from the Heiltsuk indigenous tradition and South Africa, and forgiveness as an inner practice; and identifying some of dynamics of inner forgiveness practice.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Metta Retreat: Cultivating the Wise, Awakened, and Responsive Heart
2022-01-11 The Nature of Metta and Metta Practice 52:12
Metta practice is one version of the ancient vocation to live from kindness and love, that is found across spiritual traditions. In Buddhist tradition, it is in the family of “heart practices” that are called the brahmavihara: Lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. In this context, we explore how metta practice both opens us up to this deep kindness and warmth and to what is the way of metta. We also examine some of the challenges of metta practice.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Metta Retreat: Cultivating the Wise, Awakened, and Responsive Heart

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