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.
The practice of lovingkindness (metta) brings many benefits. It makes the heart more responsive, brings about purification of mind, develops concentration, connects us to all beings, and brings happiness.
Our practice is aimed at developing in three ways: brightening the mind, finding deep inner peace, and understanding the nature of things. The talk explores the role of wholesome qualities in this development: giving, conduct, lovingkindness, concentration, and right view.
Ignorance is the first link in the chain of dependent origination. The talk explores how formations are conditioned by ignorance to create three levels of obscuration, and how the path of sila, samadhi, and pañña works through them to touch enlightenment.
The Buddha pointed to seven meditative factors that when developed lead to liberation. This talk explains how the factors are developed, beginning with mindfulness and continuing through the arousing factors and the pacifying factors.