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Shaila Catherine's Dharma Talks
Shaila Catherine
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).
2014-03-15 Happiness of Simplicity and Renunciation 18:06
An uncluttered mind and heart brings great joy! Contentment is a state of serene ease, free from the fear of loss. Letting go and renunciation are taught as joyful practices, not penance. The Buddha taught his disciples to "abandon what is not yours, this will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time". So we ask, what is "not ours"? And by implication, what is really mine? Joyful renunciation enables meditators to investigate the delusion of possessiveness until the mind if freed of all clinging to the impermanent experiences that really cannot be grasped anyway.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
2014-03-15 Happiness and the Gladness of Non-remorse 43:19
This talk introduces a series of talks on the theme of happiness, and addresses a tension found in Buddhism between teachings that emphasis suffering, and teachings that encourage profound joy. In the Buddha's teachings a distinction is made between sensual pleasures, and pleasures that develop through wholesome states of virtue, renunciation, concentration, or insight. Happiness can be supportive for practice, and this talk encourages us to enjoy meditation, to open to natural pleasures, and to cultivate delight in the dhamma, but we must understand if the support for our joy is skillful. By reflecting on our virtuous acts, generosity, and meritorious deeds, and by recollecting the noble qualities of the Buddha, we can delight the mind, stimulate self-respect and self-esteem, and inspire our practice with a wholesome source of joy.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
2013-10-01 Investigating Aversion and Anger 38:15
This recording begins with approximately 20 minutes of teachings on anger, followed by a little less than 20 minutes of a guided meditative reflection. The talk examines the force of aversion, anger, hatred, and hostility as manifestations of what in Pali are called dose-rooted states. Rather than criticize and judge ourselves when anger arises, we extract ourselves from the story of anger, and practice seeing it as an experience of suffering—as dukkha. Anger does not happen to us; we actively engage in the process. Therefore, through clear seeing and wise inquiry, we can change the conditions that perpetuate anger in our lives. Often anger arises when there is unwise attention to an unpleasant sensory or mental contact. We can learn to work mindfully with these deeply conditioned tendencies and feeling how it manifests in the body, become aware of the feeling tone (vedana), recognize the mental state, and discern how it functions—its origin, cessation, and way leading to its cessation. The primary antidote is mindfulness.
Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley Tuesday Talks
2013-09-29 Contentment with Voidness 39:14
This talk explores the concepts of self and not-self, and how we conceive of a self by clinging to sensory experiences. How do you construct the sense of being a someone, and the notion that you possess something? The process of selfing is addressed as a form of thought. We can intentionally investigate how the identification forms, what it depends upon, and liberate the mind from it's hold. Restless thinking often fuels self concepts with thoughts about me, what I desire, or the projects I am planning. The formation of identity is seductive, and even jhana states and meditative attainments can become the basis for clinging if the meditator is not watchful. As we awaken to the empty nature of mind, we might ask: will nothing be enough? Do you experience in seeing, only seeing; in hearing, only the hearing; in sensing, only sensing; in cognizing, only the cognizing? Or does the habit of conceiving of a self in experience complicate perception and cause discontent with the basic truth of emptiness?
Insight Meditation Center of the Mid-Peninsula
2013-09-10 Five Preconditions for Insight: Wisdom (the fifth precondition) 36:03
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for the development of meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another, with wisdom as the crowning jewel and chief. This talk explores the importance of wisdom for revealing the impermanent nature of all things. With the clarity of wisdom we discern the arising and passing of phenomena. This insight into impermanence undercuts habitual delusions that perpetuate blindly grasping and clinging transient things. Wisdom is important at all stages of the path. At the beginning of our practice, we need wisdom to discern the right direction, clarify our purpose and learn skillful methods; we need wisdom in the midst of the practice to make the many adjustments that sustain us on this path; and the path culminates in the wisdom that leads to release. With wisdom, we will see the changing nature of all things, and understand how we construct our perception of reality, discern the four noble truths of suffering, and recognize how we can realize the end of suffering.
Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley Tuesday Talks
2013-09-03 Five Preconditions for Insight: Wise Effort (the fourth precondition) 33:04
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for the development of meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another. This talk explores the role of effort and energy on the path of awakening. We make the effort to avoid and abandon unwholesome states, and to cultivate and maintain wholesome states. We apply our energy with diligence and balance. If too lax we will fall short of the goal and permit obstructions to distract the attention; if there is too much striving and forced effort we will exhaust ourselves and become discouraged. Right effort is balanced between relaxation and vigor; it is appropriate to the situation—applying just enough strength to meet the current conditions with wisdom and clarity. Skillful effort requires the commitment to endure difficult and painful situations without becoming disheartened. We persevere on our path, adjusting the quality of effort with mindfulness and sensitivity.
Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley Tuesday Talks
2013-08-20 Five Preconditions for Insight: Engage in Talk of the Dhamma (the third precondition) 21:35
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for the development of meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another. This talk explores the importance of engaging in dhamma talk, reflecting on the teachings, and wise speech as ways of nurturing the path of awakening. How do you know when to speak and when to remain silent? What kind of speech is most true and useful? What types of conversation will distract you from your goals, or support the realization of nibbana? Does your engagement in conversation encourage attachments, identification, self-grasping, or does it nurture letting go, release, and peace?
Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley Tuesday Talks
2013-08-13 Five Preconditions for Insight: Virtue and Restraint (the second precondition) 22:34
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for the development of meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another. This talk explores the importance of restraint in a successful practice, and considers virtuous action to be an expression of wisdom. Ethical behavior and the inner respect that comes with the knowledge that we can refrain from unwholesome impulses is a foundation for practice. Precept training encourages wise reflection regarding the many choices that we make in our lives. We can reflect on the intention that initiates an action, the experience while engaged in the action, and the result that develops from an action so that we bring wisdom into every action and interaction. The five precepts, and the ten unwholesome and ten wholesome actions are presented. We have the power to choose what we develop with diligence and wisdom.
Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley Tuesday Talks
2013-08-06 Five Preconditions for Insight: Friendship (the first precondition) 36:21
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for us to develop our meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another. This talk begins with a reflection on the cultivation of good friends. A good friend is one who support our progress on the Noble Eightfold Path. Sometimes we need someone to show us our potential, or to correct us when we stray from the Path. The inspiration, faith, kindness, and generosity that develops in a relationship with a good friend nurtures awakening.
Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley Tuesday Talks
2013-05-28 I-Making & Mine-Making Constructing Self 39:21
How is a sense of self constructed? What is the concept of not-self in Buddhist practice? How do we construct identity? This talk explores the traditional model of the five aggregates affected by clinging and explains how clinging occurs in contact with sensory experience. The five aggregates—materiality, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness—represent an early Buddhist model for understanding how suffering forms through misperception. Clinging to misperceptions produces a sense of continuity in experience that we conventionally call "I", and a relationship to experience the we conventionally call "mine". This model clarifies the precise objects contemplated in vipassana (insight) meditation practice. This talk explains each aggregate so that insight may liberate the mind from this subtle type of attachment.
Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley Tuesday Talks

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