Insight Meditation Satsang
Insight Meditation is a translation of the Pāli word vipassanā, literally “Clear Seeing.” As a style of meditation, it was created by American and European students of Thai Forest and Burmese Theravāda Buddhist teachers in the 1970s, and has woven valuable aspects of Western psychology and healing work into those beautiful, ancient streams of practice. I was invited to teach by my mentor, Jack Kornfield, in 2010, and attempt to offer Buddhist teachings in a way that is accessible and integrated with the social reality of 21st century life while remaining faithful to the renunciate core of the Theravāda system.
The word Satsang emphasizes the community and inquiry aspect of the group, and speaks to our intention to continue the ancient tradition in both the Hindu and Buddhist streams of South Asian spiritual practice of sincere seekers gathering to explore together the mysteries of this life.
Satsang is offered in the Gift Economy model, and all are welcome. Scroll down for more on the Gift Economy model, and for recordings of recent talks. Blessings in your practice.
insight meditation satsang
namaste yoga + wellness
2820 7th st, berkeley
We begin with a short sequence of Pāli Buddhist chants I call “Refuge and Precepts Pūja”. More info on the pūja here. Then we sit for 25 minutes, sometimes with guided meditation instructions and sometimes not. There are always instructions given on the first Tuesday of the month.
We end the sitting with a short chant wishing safety and ease to all beings, and take a short break to stretch legs, say hi to each other, and get tea. In the second half, I give a talk and invite discussion on an aspect of practice, weaving between Theravāda Buddhist perspectives on formal practice and contemporary issues of psychology, relationships, and social justice.
On the first week of each month, meditation instructions and the talk are oriented toward beginners to meditation and Buddhism (but beginners welcome any night).
Building a community dedicated to individual & collective liberation
Satsang is Sanskrit for “community of truth” and describes gatherings of seekers who meet to open their hearts and minds together through sharing wisdom and inquiry. My primary influences are the Thai Forest and Burmese satipaṭṭhāna traditions, but I bring in perspectives from Zen, Mahāyāna Buddhism, Hindu and Buddhist Tantra, and Haṭha Yoga as counterpoint. Recent teachings also are substantially influenced by trauma resolution practice, which has shown itself as profoundly valuable for meditators and yogis, and the urgent work of social justice and anti-oppression awareness.
Beginners to meditation and contemplative practice are warmly welcome, especially yoga āsana practitioners curious about “the other 7 limbs” of Yoga, and anyone interested in how the paths of Buddhism and Yoga weave together with the inquiry into personal and communal trauma and oppression that is the heart of social justice and resilience work.
My intention is for this to be a space of beloved community, radical inquiry, and deep nourishment as we cultivate individual and communal awakening, especially through the extreme challenges of climate change, systemic racism, misogyny, and discrimination, and the rise of fascist ideologies as a backlash against multiculturalism and global neoliberalism. We need community, and safe spaces for spiritual practice, now more than ever if we are to find strength and wisdom to act in service of communal well-being.
May our practice be of benefit to all.
Gift Economy & the practice of dāna
A Gift Economy is a culture or community that sees the movement of resources between people as a means to deepen connection, not as competition or commerce.
The term is borrowed from analyses of some pre-industrial societies, and we use it to describe a variation of the ancient Buddhist practice of giving (dāna) material resources to monastics, which is the single most important factor in the existence of a strong community that can preserve and transmit the teachings. Monastics give their lives to practice and pastoral care, and the laity support them the way you might support your family: as a gesture of love and connection, not as a market exchange.
Your generosity allows me to offer practice events in this way, open to all, and supportive of an inclusive practice community. It also supports the studio to continue to offer donation classes and to value this model for spiritual practice as an important counterpart to the standard business model.
If you are new to the Gift Economy model for a class or event, you might reflect on how much you generally are charged for similar classes or events, and how Satsang is similar or different from those, as well as whether the donation model itself affects your feelings around offering money to a teacher or space. Gift Economy is a practice, and can be deeply transformative if we engage with it sincerely.
You can read more about the beautiful, traditional, community-centered pricing model called Gift Economy, here.
Give the gift of support
If you find the resources on this site of service in your own practice and study, and you are inspired to support Dr. Oakes as an independent teacher and scholar, please consider donating.
Most recent talks
Each week I make recordings of the meditation and dharma talks from Tuesday Satsang. The most recent topics are below, and you can find the full archive here.
A new dive into the Noble Eightfold Path, the Buddha's brilliant scaffolding for integrated individual and collective liberation. We start, as is traditional, with Right View: the turning of the …
Buddhism and Yoga are two major branches on the family tree of South Asian spiritual practice, whose roots we can glimpse in ancient texts called upaniṣads. Both branches focus on …
In honor of Vesak, coming up this year on May 19, a series of talks on the Buddha themself, interwoven with some discussion of the traditional verses of praise we …
One of the most prolific and brilliant Buddhist scholars of our generation is the German Theravāda monastic, Ven. Anālayo. His vast research on the texts and doctrines of Early Buddhism …
We begin 2019 with a series on foundational practices: what the Buddha often taught as the beginning of a series of "progressive instructions." This is a style of teaching that …
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 …