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).
These guided meditations and talks were given at a day-long program that explored the place of profound happiness in Buddhist practice. Although Buddhism is reputed to emphasize teachings on suffering, the teachings occur in the context of a path infused from beginning to end with contentment and joy. The teachings highlight the essential role that happiness plays in the development of our practice, from the enhancement of daily ease and well being, to the bliss that saturates the mind during meditation, and finally to the unsurpassed peace that comes with awakening.
Underlying tendencies (toward greed, hate, and delusion) fuel habits that obstruct our freedom. Tendencies toward irritation, anger, craving, and ignorance may arise in times of stress when our mindfulness is weak, and they distort our perception of things. But tendencies arise in both luxurious and modest environments, in situations of comfort as well as pain. How we relate to experience reinforces patterns and conditioning. Greed, hate, and delusion are causes for the arising of kamma (karma). The simile of the two darts describes the difference between simply enduring bodily feelings of pain, and proliferating reactions of anger and aversion that add suffering to our pain. This talk explores the primary tendencies of sensual desire, anger, and ignorance, and shows how we can free the mind from their influence in our everyday life.
We make many decisions and choices in our lives. To choose one option, we inevitably sacrifice other possibilities. Beliefs and personal standpoints limit the range of our options. What are your priorities in life? What are your strongest intentions and aspirations? The Kalama Sutta offers recommendations for making decisions—consider what leads to happiness and what leads to harm. The ten unwholesome and ten wholesome actions, and ethical precepts are explored in this talk as guidelines for wise decision making.
This talk introduces the Four Elements Meditation as a systematic method for developing mindfulness of the body. A guided meditation and instructions are provided that reveal the body as a dynamic interaction of characteristics classified as earth (hardness, roughness, heaviness, softness, smoothness, lightness), water (flowing, cohesion), fire (heat, cold), and wind (supporting, pushing).
The Triple Gem: Recollection of the Sangha—Community As Refuge. This is the third installment in the three part series on the triple refuge or three jewels. This talk introduces the contemplation of the virtues of the Sangha (sanghanusati) as a support for inspiration, trust, and gratitude for community. The liberating sangha is considered worthy of gifts and offerings; a field of merit; a community people who have made the effort to practice diligently, energetically; and who are cultivating a direct and liberating path.
The Triple Gem: Recollection of the Dhamma—The Liberating Teachings. This is the second installment in a three part series on the three jewels or three refuges. This talk introduces the practice of contemplating the Dhamma (dhammanusati) as a meditation practice that enhances joy, delight, energy, and faith in the efficacy of the path. The reflection considers the Dhamma as good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, pure in its meaning and in its detail, immediate, timeless, inviting one to come and see, worthy of application, to be experienced by the wise.
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.