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13 Oct
Posted in: Study
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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
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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.