What has always engaged me is working with practitioners who are deepening their commitment to the Dharma and then seeing them take a quantum leap in their understanding. My contribution to this commitment is working towards conveying a Theravadan practice with a Mahayana spirit.
The Theravadan practice of vipassana provides simple, direct instructions that can be immediately understood and applied in daily life as well as retreat practice. The Mahayana spirit has the beautiful attitude that we practice not for ourselves alone, but for all sentient beings. Between the two, the unfolding of liberation for ourselves and others becomes a simple, down-to-earth practice that anyone can do.
It is fun for me to take the most difficult concepts and put them into accessible language, to unwrap the mystery. So I try to find ways to explore the breadth of concepts like "emptiness" -- to see how the entire path can be explained in terms of this synonym for nibbana. One of my aims is to bring the goal of freedom into the here and now. This way practitioners get a taste of freedom, so they know what they are heading toward on their journey to liberation.
The tools of mindfulness and lovingkindness can be picked up by anyone. They are easy to understand and they bring immediate benefit to our lives. The essence of vipassana is ideally suited to western society, especially to the resonance between our psychological turn of mind and our quest for spiritual understanding.
Metta (loving kindness) practice leads us into the exploration of all of the heart's responses to life. Especially good grounds for understanding are in the experience of loving kindness, its near enemy of affection with attachment, and its far enemy of ill will.
"Unentangled knowing" is an approach to meditation in which we are aware of things coming and going at the sense doors without becoming caught in them. Supported by tranquility and insight, we can rest in the knowing while being fully awake to life.
The Buddha clearly described consciousness as an impermanent part of the mind. Yet many people feel that awareness has some kind of lasting or ongoing nature. How can we understand this seeming contradiction? How can we make awareness itself part of our meditation?
Metta practice makes the heart more sensitive to the joys and sorrows that sentient beings are subject to. This tenderness becomes the avenue for us to discover our deep connection to all of life and end a sense of isolation.
At first glance it might seem the teaching of karma, in which our actions bring results to ourselves, might be in contradiction to the understanding that our experience is empty of a self. However, the two teachings on emptiness and karma actually need each other for liberation to be possible.
We can be aware of many objects in meditation. It's also possible to turn our attention to awareness itself. The talk explores what happens when we do this. Is awareness findable? Does it come and go? Is it conditioned? And what is the value of meditating like this?