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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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“…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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“You Have to Burn Through It”: Remembering Robert Hall

I first met Robert Hall in an interview room at Spirit Rock, during the February part of the 2-month retreat in 2000. I had just started practice there the previous summer, and this was my first long silent retreat. I had found my way to Insight Meditation the way lots of folks did, by stumbling across Jack Kornfield’s book, A …

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How [and why] to have hard conversations! (Family holiday edition)

Here come the turkeys. It’s time once again for the increasingly ragged American tradition of sitting around a cluttered dinner table with people you love but have issues with, trying to make the occasion about gratitude, and trying not to trip any of the land mines nestled between the cranberries and gravy. Chief among the nestled dangers for many of …

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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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