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Observing the Uposatha (Sabbath)

The Pāli word uposatha means “observance,” and refers to the ancient Buddhist tradition of devoting a day to our practice, much like the Christian sabbath, which is a fine translation of the word. The Buddha strongly encouraged lay practitioners to keep the uposatha, as the texts at the bottom of this page indicate. Observing the uposatha day might be as …

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“Even two mountains of gold are not enough…”: Livelihood, scarcity, & the dukkha of individualism

It’s “Super Tuesday” as I write this, and though I’m mainly worried that the Dems will mess this up and the world will get another 4 years of the current situation, I’m also amazed. Never in my life have two of the leading contenders for president been strong progressives, each with intelligent progressive economic ideas that if enacted would change …

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“…incalculable, immeasurable”: The Blessings of Gift Economy

Once the Buddha was living at his most beloved monastery, a park given to the monastic community (saṅgha) by a passionate donor and community leader named Anāthapiṇḍika, outside the city of Sāvatthī. His two senior disciples, Sāriputta and Moggallāna, at that time were about 490 miles away, “wandering in the Southern Hills” with their own groups of students, and were …

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8 Yoga Texts Every Student Should Read

These excerpts are taken from the handout to our 20-hour YA-approved “Yoga Humanities” course: Intro to the History of Yoga: Philosophy, Practice, Transformation. Each excerpt is followed by a reflection question for use in class or individual study based on reflection questions in the course. Each of these excerpts is from a text that is central to its particular era, …

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“The ford where all the Buddhas cross”: Ethics as the ground of liberation

Continuing in our exploration of the Noble Eightfold Path, we’re entering the limbs of Right Speech, Action, and Livelihood, collectively known as the Ethics (sīla) section. A discourse called “The People of Sālā,” offering a standard list of the elements of Buddhist ethics, breaking down the limbs of Speech and Action into their subgroups, is at the bottom of the …

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Ancestral Trauma & the Insight into Previous Births

The Buddha’s insights into the nature of identity and its relationship with pain and distress are expressed in three important concepts: Dependent Origination (paṭiccasamuppāda), wandering (saṃsāra), and selflessness or insubstantiality (anattā). These are among the most challenging teachings in the tradition partly because they are based in phenomena that few practitioners can observe directly: past lives, the process of cause …

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Reflections on/of the Heart Sūtra

I began formal Zen practice in 1993, in a tiny rural monastery in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico known as Bodhi Mandala (now Bodhi Manda — hippie era mistranslation finally corrected after 30-some years). They gave me a cot in a rickety old ex-Catholic dormitory, a black robe in two pieces called kimono and hakama that I had …

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The Consolation of Philosophy: Study as Path, Wisdom as Mother

When the 5th century Roman philosopher Boëthius was under house arrest for treason (he got on the wrong side of a political fight, basically), he wrote his best-seller, an allegorical play in which he is visited in prison by Philosophy, personified as a wisdom goddess. When she first arrives, he complains about his misfortune, especially after he had a faithful …

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“Like throwing loaded dice”: Right Intention, the root of skillful action

The second limb of the Noble Eightfold Path, and the all-important hinge from View (limb 1) into Action (limbs 3-5), is Right Intention, sammā-saṅkappa. (Here’s the talks from the first part of this series, on Right View.) And what, bhikkhus, is right intention? Intention of renunciation, intention of non-ill will, intention of harmlessness: this is called right intention. SN 45.8: …

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