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Sean Oakes

Liberation and Finality: Does this Path have an end?

A series of talks on the difficult descriptions of liberation in the Theravāda system: the Four Paths and Fruits. We talked mostly about Stream-entry, emphasizing some of the most mysterious aspects of this idea. Finality. Completion. Perfection. To engage or not? Is that even the right question? We’ll talk about “enlightenment” all month at Satsang, using a text called “The …

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Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Converting (or not) Your Parents

On TG week, a talk about gratitude, focusing on the very traditional practice of being grateful for our parents (no matter how they voted), and how it’s impossible to repay their offering of life to us. Except by bringing them to the Dharma. I told the story of the elder monk Sariputta going back to his mother’s house before he …

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Wildfires, Unrighteous Rulers

The worst fire ever in California history in terms of death toll (the “Camp Fire”) just burned down the entire town of Paradise, outside of Chico. And the president, as usual, said unfactual, unhelpful, unkind things (like that if people had just raked leaves more, like they do in Finland, this wouldn’t have happened). Wow. In so many ways. So …

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Election Night, Hopelessness, Saṃsāra

We gather in a small group on election night 2018, before the results came in for the midterms that would initially look meh but roll slowly into a nice blue wave, with a few big disappointments (Gillum, Abrams, O’Rourke) and some big delights, particularly the wave of women and POC who just retook the House for the Dems. But it’s …

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Mettā is a Prayer for World Peace

A few days after the Pittsburgh Synagogue bombing by an anti-semitic white nationalist, we practice and discuss the radical communal prayer called mettā (Loving-kindness, benevolence, friendliness). How radiating mettā to All Beings, including the difficult ones, is the same as praying for world peace. Meditation: Breath, whole body, and radiating mettā to all beings (10.30.18) Talk: Mettā is a prayer …

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Toward an Enraged Buddhism, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, I talk here more about the value of anger, and differentiating types of strong aversive emotion. Anger, rage, critique, and tone. What’s skillful or unskillful for individual or communal liberation? Self-protective nervous system responses, tone-policing, who gets to decide who speaks and how, and how a classical Buddhist approach might not actually be the same as …

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4 Modes of Attention

One way to think about mindfulness and effort in meditation practice is to imagine a graph where the X axis is volition (doing things on purpose), and the Y axis is consciousness, or being aware of what’s happening. Here’s a talk on this model, some pictures, and a handout to put on the fridge. Meditation: stillness of body, stillness of …

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Toward an Enraged Buddhism, Part 1

Reevaluating anger and rage on a week where writing about rage, and especially women’s rage at injustice, is hitting threshold in my community. A simple promo post for this talk initiated a lovely, spread out conversation with folks on FB, including Rebecca Solnit, who has written eloquently (as always) on this. There’s a bunch of good links in the comment …

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Reflections on Right Speech After the Kavanaugh Hearings

Like so many folks, I was troubled by the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court. Besides the disgusting display of male privilege and delusion the entire thing displayed, AND the heartbreakingly familiar ritual of powerful men completely dismissing a woman’s fully respectable testimony, there was the lying, plain and simple. And of course this is an …

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Positionality is Ancestral Karma

Two talks on the complex current discourse known as “positionality”, which basically means that the social roles and conditioned state we experience the world through determine how and what we can perceive and know. I propose that the practice of inquiry into positionality is both a foundation for the insight into the emptiness of the sense of self (anattā), and …

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