Shaila Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses (bodhicourses.org) an online Dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a meditation center in Mountain View, California (imsb.org). She has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience, and has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand, completed a one year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhana, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, (Wisdom Publications, 2008). She has extensive experience practicing and teaching mindfulness, loving kindness, concentration, and a broad range of approaches to liberating insight. Since 2006, Shaila has continued her study of jhana and insight under the direction of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, and authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana (Wisdom Publications, 2011).
The Triple Gem: The Awakening Recollection of the Buddha. This is the first installment in a three part series on the three jewels or three refuges. This talk introduces the practice of recollecting the worthy qualities of the Buddha and meditating on his virtues. Contemplation of the Buddha, Buddhanusati, enhances joy, inspiration, and confidence in the possibility of liberation. This talk tells the story of the Buddha's enlightenment, his struggle for knowledge and attainments, development of integrity and right speech, blossoming of his remarkable teaching abilities, great compassion, full understanding of mind and matter (nama-rupa), knowledge of the world, unsurpassed concentration, and pure conduct. The example of the Buddha's achievements can serve as an inspiration for us today.
This collection of talks introduces the recollections of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha as inspirational practices that support concentration, happiness, and energetic engagement in the path of practice. They are classified as protective meditations, and are commonly used to strengthen concentration up to the level of access concentration because they quickly develop the five jhana factors. These talks are structured around the traditional verses in praise of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, that are commonly chanted in Buddhist monasteries. This series emphasizes how we can cultivate within our own lives the virtues and noble qualities that are remembered in the contemplative chants.
This talk explores equanimity as the fourth of the four qualities called Brahma Viharas. Previous talks in this series addressed loving kindness, compassion, and appreciative joy. Equanimity allows us to remain present and awake with the fact of things—equally close to the things we like and the things we dislike. It is important to develop equanimity in two arenas: 1) in response to pleasant and painful feelings, and 2) regarding the future results of our actions. Equanimity develops in meditation and in life. We can use unexpected events that we cannot control to develop this quality. Our job is not to judge our experiences, but to be present and respond wisely. Equanimity is a beautiful mental factor that can feel like freedom, but if "I" and "mine" still operate, there is still work to be done. Many suggestions are offered for cultivating equanimity.
Appreciative joy (sympathetic joy, mudita) is the third of four qualities called Brahma Viharas (divine abodes) which are the subjects for this 4-part lecture series. Appreciative joy is presented as an extension of the loving kindness (metta) practice. Joy refers to the ability to delight and rejoice in the success and good fortune of others. Mudita overcomes the hindrances and obstacles of conceit, comparing, envy, avarice, jealousy, aversive criticism, resentment, competitiveness, and boredom.
Compassion, karuna, is the intention of non-cruelty. It is the aspect of loving kindness (metta) that responds wisely to pain, and wishes to alleviate suffering. Compassion training helps us to remain present with pain. There is no need to fear pain, no need to consider pain bad or wrong. A compassionate self-acceptance allows us to remain present and responsive in the face of life's most difficult moments. With compassion we can ask "How can I help?" and stay present to respond.
Loving Kindness, friendliness (metta) is a clear intention and attitude of heart that supports a connected and joyful encounter with life. Metta is not sentimentality; it is not affection or attachment. It is a strong quality of heart that overcomes ill will, hatred, fear, and anger. Loving kindness practice is a way to take responsibility for our own happiness; it is a way to cultivate an attitude to life that supports deep friendship.
Be as you are. This talk encourages a spacious and accepting attitude that embraces experience just as it is occurring. It is inspired by non-meditation approaches that bring relaxation, release, and ease to awareness without the exertion or efforts of striving. Mindfulness instructions are simple: observe your experience of sensory contact, observe what occurs at any sense door. You don't need to do very much with what you observe. See what is happening; be present with what is. Several obstacles to deep presence are examined. We learn to release attachments to material stuff, to overcome the influence of social expectation, and to renounce distracting and unskillful speech. We also learn to free the mind from mental proliferation, worry, and restless wandering; to embrace precepts that protect us from doing habitual or selfish actions; and to let go of clinging whenever it arises. This approach illuminates the power of renunciation; the calming of concepts of self, I, me, and mine; and the great peace that brings an end to suffering.