Browsing Category "Study"
28 Aug
Posted in: CDL, Racism, Study
By    Comments Off on What We Imagine Ourselves to Be

What We Imagine Ourselves to Be

Another one of the readings that’s part of the first session of the “Waking Up to Whiteness” program I posted about yesterday is an article written by Bhikkhu Bodhi, titled: Taking Stock of Oneself.

Here is an excerpt:
“Normally, in subservience to our need to confirm to ourselves our uniqueness and irreplaceable importance, we proceed to construct mental pictures–indeed, a picture gallery–of what we imagine ourselves to be.

“The self-image that emerges from these pictures becomes simultaneously a mainstay which we cling to in order to maintain our self-esteem and a standpoint from which we orient ourselves toward others and launch our projects in the world. To secure its tenuous status. the mind employed a variety of tactics ‘behind the back’ of our conscious awareness.

“It throws up blinders which keep out disturbing information; it flatters us with fantasied projections; it drives us to manipulate people and situation in ways that will seem to validate our tacit assumptions about our virtues and identity.

“All these projects born of the quest to substantiate our sense of identity only increase our suffering. The more we lock ourselves into the images we form of ourselves, the more we alienate ourselves from others and close off our access to liberating truth. Thence release from suffering requires that we gradually discard our delusive self-images through rigorous examinations of our minds.

“The venerable Sariputta, in the Discourse on No Blemishes (MN5), stresses the role of honest self-assessment as a prerequisite of spiritual growth. He points out that just as a dirty bronze bowl, deposited in a dusty place and utterly neglected, only becomes dirtier and dustier, so if we fail to recognize the blemishes in our minds we will not make any effort to eliminate them, but will continue to harbor greed, hatred and delusion and will die with a corrupted mind….

The task of self-knowledge is always a difficult one, but it is only by knowing our minds that we will be able to shape them, and it is only by shaping our minds that we can liberate them.”


And so we begin.

25 Aug
Posted in: CDL, Racism, Study
By    1 Comment

I Didn’t Know I Was Suffering

I am so grateful for what I learned — for what I have been released from — by working through the “Waking Up to Whiteness” curriculum (organized by members of the East Bay Meditation Center) that I have just formed a new “Waking Up” group and will go through the program again with them.

One of the readings the group will be discussing during our first session is a letter written by Kristin Barker, one of the organizers of the curriculum. Here’s an excerpt:

“There’s good reason we find this work so challenging! In the US, whiteness is made, by whiteness, invisible. In my own life, I was taught not that I was ‘white’ but that I was ‘normal.’ Being ‘just a normal person,’ I was trained to believe that any advantages I have achieved in this life, whatever they are, were owed to my own merit, hard work, or at most to my ‘good fortune.’

“The notion that I have benefitted — and continue to benefit enormously  — from not just historical but from the ongoing oppression of others was quite understandably disturbing to my sense of self….

“Suddenly I became aware that people of color knew something about me that I didn’t know, that I was, for instance, wrong in conceiving of myself as ‘normal’ and that I was unknowingly benefiting from — and even perpetuating — the dominance of white people. People of color knew I was white and they knew, so much better than I, what that meant in this world…

“And of course this would challenge me deeply for how painful it is to recognize my role in oppression when I don’t experience myself as ‘doing anything wrong.‘ The only upside to these realizations seemed to be my interest — shaky at times — in truth. And yet there was something more.

The truth is that I didn’t know I was suffering. The understanding of deep interdependence means that operating in a culture that objectifies, exploits and oppresses, even and especially when hidden from the dominant view, divides the heart against itself. It can be deeply challenging to lean into this. To be willing to look and not waiver is to open to suffering on a massive scale…

“But this is what I want to share and why I wanted to write this letter. The upside is no much greater than I knew, so much greater than just ‘accepting the hard truth’ like a bitter pill. I submit that the upside isn’t even learning to do less harm to people of color, although that is a necessity.

The upside is wholeness. I have found that, just as promised, if I can turn towards the suffering of racism, against my ego’s self-protecting tendencies, I do experience pain — yet I come to suffer less.

“Some resistance is released. Some wall is dissolved. I may be bewildered and disoriented, but I am strangely more whole. From this place there seems the potential to be (with time and practice) more honest, more courageous and perhaps more truly useful to the causes that move me. My relationships with people of color are more authentic. I can occupy my own location of privilege with more honesty and so much less to defend….

“As uncomfortable, as painful, as disconcerting, as overwhelming as it may be, we have the opportunity to respond individually and collectively, supporting one another in seeing through delusion and making a new way

“I believe we have an incredible opportunity to know deeply the ways that racial divisions, and all forms of division, maintain our suffering. And in so doing we can not only make ourselves more whole but we can radiate whatever understanding we develop out into our world.

May we be wildly successful!


Kristin completely captures my own experience in going through the program. It was hard, but it was liberating!!!

If you’d like more information about the “Waking Up to Whiteness” curriculum or are interested in forming a group of your own, please email me here.

31 Jul
Posted in: Books, Study, Suttas
By    Comments Off on So Now I’m Totally into Pali!

So Now I’m Totally into Pali!

I’m still feeling the effects of taking that course on Vedana, at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, where Akincano really opened my eyes to the benefits of comparing several different translations of the same sutta — including jumping in and looking at the original Pali!

I’ve even started working my way through a surprisingly readable — and enjoyable! — little book: Pali–Buddha’s Language: A Complete Teach Yourself Course for Beginners in 10 Simple Lessons, by Kurt Schmidt, which includes a website with audio recordings of the Pail lessons that students are encouraged to (STRONGLY encouraged to) memorize.

So I’m doing it!

Starting with this very famous verse from the Dhammapada (Dhp. 5), which Gil Fronsdal translates as:
Hatred never ends through hatred.
By non-hate alone does it end.
This is an ancient truth.

Which Kevin Trainor translates as:
For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time:
hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.

And Ajahn Sujato translates as:
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

Here’s the original Pali, with word-for-word translation from the book by Kurt Schmidt:

Na hi verena verani
Not namely through-enmity enmities

sammat’ idha kudacanam
stop here ever

a-verena ca sammanti
through-non-enmity and they stop

esa dhammo sanantano.
this Law (is) eternal. 


I think this is really cool. So OK. I confess. I’m a total sutta geek!

24 Jul
Posted in: Classes, Study, Teachers
By    Comments Off on Go-To Guy

Go-To Guy

Guy Armstrong is one of my favorites. He was one of the teachers I met with one-on-one every week during my first long retreat (6-weeks at IMS in 2013) and also during the first half of the 2-month retreat I sat this year at Spirit Rock. He’s a member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and a guiding teacher at the Insight Meditation Society. (He’s also one of my “go-to” guys when I want a dharma talk I can listen to over and over again — along with Ajahn Sucitto, Phillip Moffitt, Akincano, and maybe one or two others.)

So I am delighted to announce that he’ll be teaching an 8-week online course — Emptiness: A Practical Course for Meditators — which will include live video chats with him. The course is based on his new book, Emptiness: A Practical Guide for Meditators, and will “explore the teachings on emptiness and their application in our ives in a way that makes them practical and accessible.”

It’s a production of Wisdom publications in partnership the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. The course begins Sept 11. If you register before Aug 5, the cost is $149. ($199 after Aug 5) Click here for more info.

31 May
Posted in: Practice, Study
By    Comments Off on What I’m Cooking Up

What I’m Cooking Up

Now that I’ve completed the Community Dharma Leader (CDL) training program, I’m thinking about offering a short introductory course: Mindfulness 101, suitable for beginners or for anyone who’d like a little more guidance on the basic instructions for mindfulness meditation.

The course will consist of three sessions, held once a week, for one hour each.
Session 1: Mindfulness of Body
Session 2: Mindfulness of Breathing
Session 3: Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions 

The course will be offered on a donation basis. It’s best if folks could attend all three sessions, but I’d be OK if someone wanted to drop in for just one or two.

I’ve already reserved space for us to meet in the fall:

Place: Solar Yoga, 6002 Pershing, 63112
Dates: Sunday, Sept 10, 17, and 24
Time: 2:00 to 3:00 pm

If you (or someone you know) would be interested in getting started sooner, please email me here and I’ll see what I can do.

I’ll be sending more info as the time gets nearer. If you want to make sure you’re notified, send me an email.

In the mean time, spread the word!

24 Oct
Posted in: Study
By    Comments Off on Kind of Crazy

Kind of Crazy

This study of the Abhidhamma is fascinating (and kind of crazy….for example, it says that there is a sequence of 17 separate “mind moments” that occur in the cognitive process of seeing a visual object, which begin with a moment of “life continuum” passing, then “vibrating,” then “being arrested”, then a moment of the mind “adverting” to the “sense door being stimulated” — the eye — then “seeing consciousness” happening, then the seen object being “received into the mind”, etc etc etc).

But I’m willing to go with it. Because, frankly, it’s not any “crazier” than what modern, Western science has been telling us…and which meditators have been confirming for 2600 years…that what we take to be “real” and “solid” and governed by a “self”….is not.

For example:

“Subatomic particles are not made of any material substance. They have a certain mass but this mass is a form of energy. Energy however is always associated with processes, with activity; it is a measure of activity.

“Subatomic particles, then, are bundles of energy, or patterns of activity. The energy patterns of the subatomic world form stable atonic and molecular structures, which build up matter and give it its macroscopic solid appearance thus making us believe that it is made of some material substance.

“At the everyday, macroscopic level, the notion of a substance is quite useful, but at the atomic level it no longer makes sense. Atoms consist of particles and these particles are not made of any material stuff. When we observe them, we never see any substance; what we observe are dynamic patterns continually changing into one another–a continuous dance of energy.”

The Turning Point, by Fritjof Capra

16 Oct
Posted in: Study
By    Comments Off on Remember to Recognize

Remember to Recognize

I’m loving this Abhidamma course! For example, I had a little “ah-ha” moment when I was listening to Steve Armstrong give the meditation instructions…after hearing him define “mindfulness” as “remembering to recognize.”

At the beginning of every sit, his instructions are to:

Remember to recognize the present moment experience.  

I heard that and I thought: Ah-ha! “Remember” is sati (be mindful) and “Recognize” is  sampajanna (clearly know)! As in the traditional instructions where the Buddha describes his followers as “contemplating the body [or breath, or whatever] ardent, clearing knowing, and mindful….”

For me, the instruction to “remember to recognize” suggests a much more specific quality of attention than “bring your awareness to…,” “notice..,” or even “pay attention to….”

It’s one thing to be more-or-less “mindful” of the breath, or body, or whatever’s going on in the mind. And quite another to remember that what I want to do is to actually recognize what’s happening.

Try it!

13 Oct
Posted in: Study
By    Comments Off on Soundboard of the Mind

Soundboard of the Mind

I’ve completed Week 1 of the 6-week on-line course I’m taking through Spirit Rock — A Field Guide to the Mind: Practical Abhidamma for Meditators — and so far, so good. I especially like the analogy teacher Steve Armstrong uses for the 52 Mental Factors outlined in the Abhidamma.

He says: “The 52 different mental factors are like a soundboard of the mind arising in different combinations and strengths in each moment of consciousness.”

For example, there are 7 of these factors that are said to be “involved in every moment of mental life/consciousness.” These are:

* Contact — this is the simultaneous arising of sense object, sense door and sense consciousness, e.g. visible object + eye + seeing consciousness

* Feeling — the pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feeling of the moment

* Perception — the recognition of the uniqueness of the moment

* Volition — the intention (which may be dormant or highly activated)

* One-pointedness — the ability to select a single object at any one moment of time

* Psychic life — the life force of the mind (this is what’s present in a body but not present in a corpse)

* Attention — the ability to confront the percent moment’s object



15 Sep
Posted in: Study
By    Comments Off on Hard Core

Hard Core

Wow, just when I thought I’d gone about as far as I could go into Dharma-Study-Geekdom (having finished reading the Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, and about to start in on the Anguttara Nikaya), I get an email from Spirit Rock announcing a new, 6-week on-line course of study on the Abhidhamma!

The Nikayas are one thing, but the Abhidhamma….well, let me just list some of what the course will cover:

* The four kinds of empirical realities — mind, mental factors, materiality (which are conditioned) and Nibbana (which is unconditioned)

* The 52 mental factors that arise in various combinations to create each moment of experience

* The five levels of jhana (states of absorption) that must be developed in order to attain concentration

* The realms of consciousness (the knowing capacity of the mind) and the stream of consciousness that constitutes mental life

* The elements of material reality and how they condition consciousness

* Kamma (the law of cause-and-effect) and how it conditions consciousness

* Dependent origination

* Buddhist personality types

* The Progress of Insight


Not for the faint of heart, I’ll grant you. But I snapped it up!

The course is A Field Guide to the Mind: Practical Abhidhamma for Meditators, taught by Steve Armstrong. There will be six weekly hour-long video recorded talks, six weekly half-hour video Q&A sessions plus audio guided meditations, a 36-page downloadable handbook, and three live conference calls. It begins Oct 15 and runs through Nov 12. Cost is $120.

Interested? Click here for more info.

10 Sep
Posted in: Chanting, Study
By    Comments Off on What the Heart Hears

What the Heart Hears

As part of my preparation for the month-long retreat in South Africa next year, I’m taking the Dharmagiri online study course. I started it while I was in Chapel Hill, but then I stopped to go on retreat. In the mean time, one of my DPP Dharma Buddies decided to take the course with me, (Yay, Carolyn!) so I’ve gone back to the beginning and started over again. Which is not a problem, since it’s a go-at-your-own-pace kind of thing.

In fact, the program actually encourage going back over and doing things again. Module 1, Lesson 1, begins with the title “A Different Way of Learning.” Here’s what it says:

“Before starting, we again emphasize that our stye of Dharma transmission is informed by monastic Buddhism of the Forest School. In this, the embodiment of Dharma teachings is encouraged through repetitive reflection and practice. The goal of the Buddha Dharma is not intellectual prowess or a transfer of information, but a radical shift of alignment from old patters to an alive connection to ever present Dharma. This shift comes about through allowing the practice and teachings to deeply touch and transform the heart. Ajahn Chah encouraged us again and again to listen to the Dharma with our heart, not just our ears.”

Want something really awesome for your heart to listen to? Check out Thanissara and Kittisaro chanting the Recollection of the Triple Jewel. It’s less than 2 minutes long. And it’s heavenly. Click here.