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 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?
All the phenomena of our senses are empty of any solid substance or essence. It may be more appropriate to refer to phenomena as "appearances" rather than "objects." This theme is explored through the Sutta "A Lump of Foam" in the Samyutta Nikaya.
The Buddha said many times that no self is to be found in the phenomena of our senses. But still, the sense of a self in us arises over and over. This talk explores through sutta references how this sense of self is created in the moment and how it can cease.
This talk was given on the opening night of the Emptiness Retreat.
It introduces the theme of emptiness as a lack of unchanging essence or substance. This retreat encourages us to explore the possibility that things are not as they appear to be.