This morning, Nancy led our reflections on the four Divine Abodes. We first listened to excerpts from a talk by Sylvia Boorstein alerting us to the distinctions between loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity and their near enemies.
After a discussion, and tea, we ended with a guided meditation on loving kindness by Aya Khema
Chris and Shery prepared the elements which guided our reflections for the day. Excerpts from Tara Brach’s talk on Practical Dharma for Stressful Times set our discussion going, and we closed with her guided meditation on setting intention. Both are available at
Nancy led our practice for this meeting of the sangha, focusing on Anatta, or Non-Self, and drawing from several teachers. Beginning with an understanding of Anatta as framed by Ayya Khema, in her book Who Is My Self?. Wisdom Publications, 1997. p 153- 154, we then moved to an extended guided meditation by Ayya Khema, drawn from her book When the Iron Eagle Flies. p. 82-95. Excerpts from John Peacock’s talk “Being a Not Self,” also helped develop perspective. That talk can be found at
And Thanisarro Bhikkhu, brought the whole question of ego-development as we understand it in the west into relation with the non-self as understood in Buddhism. See his Head and Heart Together: Bringing Wisdom to the Brahma Viharas. p. 60-61. This entire book can be downloaded for free as a pdf file at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/headandheartbook.pdf
And finally, these words from Zen Master Dogen:
To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
(( BACKGROUND: Dōgen Zenji Dōgen Kigen (1200-1253) was the founder of the Soto School of Japanese Zen. Often considered the greatest philosopher of Japanese Buddhism, he was also a man of immense literary gifts. Dōgen’s masterwork Shōbōgenzō (“Treasury of the True Dharma Eye”), from which the present case is taken, is sometimes regarded as a treatise on deep ecology. COMMENTARY: Dōgen isn’t deceived when people speak of the Buddha way. He knows it’s the self they’re really talking about. To study the way is another thing entirely. Go for a walk in the woods, pick up a seashell on the shore—the earth rises to meet your feet, the shell carries itself from the beach in your palm. We don’t do anything alone, because alone we aren’t anything. Everything together adds up to nothing, and that nothing continues endlessly—eternal, joyous, and free. VERSE: Items on Dōgen’s To-do list: Study the self To forget the self, Forget the self, and bring Myriad beings back to life.))
Sam led our reflections for this session, focusing on the non-dualistic tradition in Advaita Vedanta and its relation to that strain of Buddhism. Anchoring the talk was a talk by Rob Burbea, titled “The Wisdom of Non-Duality.”
The following zen story (from the book “No Water No Moon” by Osho) was also brought into play:
The nun Chiyono studied for years, but was unable to find enlightenment. One night, she was carrying an old pail filled with water. As she was walking along, she was watching the full moon reflected in the pail of water. Suddenly, the bamboo strips that held the pail together broke, and the pail fell apart. The water rushed out; the moon’s reflection disappeared – and Chiyono became enlightened. She wrote this verse:
This way and that way I tried to keep the pail together,
hoping the weak bamboo would never break.
Suddenly the bottom fell out. No more water; no more moon in the water –
emptiness in my hand.
Anne B led our reflections on the links between the two branches of meditation most frequently linked in Theravadin Buddhism, Tranquility and Insight.
This Sunday, Michael guided our reflections, centering them around a talk by Toni Packer, the revolutionary teacher who centered her work on the natural practice of open awareness. Can something so simple cultivate insights of depth equal to traditional Buddhist practice? The talk by Toni that was played is not available on the internet, but another one deeply characteristic of her work can be found at http://www.springwatercenter.org/meditation/
Toni Packer described open awareness this way: ”Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks–images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody. This new mind that is no-mind is free of duality–there is no doer in it and nothing to be done.”
A good description of what it was like to work with Toni can be found in the introduction to “The Wonder of Presence,” and perhaps her freshest insights into practice can be found in “The Work of This Moment,” her first book.