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Foundations, part 3: dāna, the Culture of Giving

Giving was so central to the early Buddhist system that it’s hard to overstate how much seems lost around this profound practice in the Western transmission. In the Insight Meditation system and other convert Buddhisms, dāna (Giving) is often just thought of as the practice of giving monetary donations for teachings or at the end of retreats. This makes sense …

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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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