Seeking what’s true

This Sunday Joey led a discussion on the process of recognizing and accepting what’s going on in our minds and hearts. A central theme was the practice of RAIN, described by Tara Brach here. There are different interpretations for the acronym, but the one we commonly see is this:

  • R – Recognize what is happening
  • A – Allow life to be just as it is
  • I – Investigate inner experience with kindness
  • N – Non-Identification.

The sangha’s discussion was based around a talk by Tara Brach, available here:

Seeking What’s True – Within Ourselves, Beyond Our Self, With Each Other – Part 1


Kindness and Clinging

This Sunday Payton led a sitting and discussion around the topic of clinging as outlined by Gil Fronsdal in this talk:

In the talk Gil quoted the usual translation of the Platform Sutra in which the Buddha is recorded as having said. “Wisdom and Meditation are the same”. However, Gil notes, the character used for “wisdom” is actually “kindness”, so it says “kindness and meditation are the same”. This is likely a clerical error at some point in the long history of Buddhism, but which was the original? Perhaps we should draw our own conclusions.

Gil listed the four forms of clinging:

  • Clinging to sensual pleasure
  • Clinging to views and opinions
  • Clinging to the idea of self
  • Clinging to religious practices

He then goes on to say that the secret of Buddhism is really that, “it actually feels better to let go of clinging than to get what you want”.

The talk ends with an admonition to look for clinging, or for one of the Five Hinderances, whenever we notice a lack of kindness toward ourselves or others.

Patterns of Becoming

This Sunday Joey played a talk by Guy Armstrong entitled “Patterns of Becoming: The end of Karma”.

From the talk description: “The fifth and last in a series of talks discusses the troublesome patterns of mind and volitional action that we identify as self, and how we can step out of them with the tools of dharma practice. The Buddha said that one who is fully awake has found an end to karma, and end to compulsive formations.”

The talk is here:


Mindfulness vs. Concentration

This Sunday Mike guided the group through a comparison and contrast of Mindfulness and Concentration. Underlying this topic was a talk given by Gil Fronsdal.

The talk is here:

Gil says:

  • Mindfulness is a clear knowing of what’s going on
  • Concentration is a deep focus on what’s going on

…but that’s it’s not quite that simple.

The Buddha used two different verbs when describing these concepts in his talks. When he mentioned Mindfulness, he used the verb “to see” and when describing Concentration he used the verb “to touch”. This could point to different modes of seeing the world. Mindfulness may have more to do with the mind and Concentration might have more to do with the body.

There are many such contrasts from the ancient teachings and Gil goes through several in his talk.

Right Effort and Right Concentration

This Sunday Rebecca led the discussion reading from Joseph Goldstein’s book, Mindfulness, focusing on Right Effort and Right Concentration as steps of the Eightfold Path.

There was quite an exploration of the four classic pieces of Right Effort:

  1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states;
  2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen;
  3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen;
  4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.


Why do we Meditate?

Today Payton led a discussion on the rather complicated topic of “Why do we meditate?” after playing a talk given by Ren Bunce, which is available here:

Ren spoke about her personal experience coming to practice, starting with Alcoholics Anonymous. She heard the teaching to love everyone, but was confused about “How?”. It was only through a lot of meditation that she was able to directly experience what Jane Hirshfield once wrote:

“Everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention.”

The discussion touched on many peoples’ personal experiences and challenges coming to formal meditation practice, particularly the paradoxical nature of doing something – and something that’s really hard – without a goal. Meditation seems to work like little drops of water hitting a stone; nothing appears to happen for a long time, but eventually there is a hole and through it we can see our experiences in a new way. As Ren said,

when we sit, we are training the mind, we are not indulging the mind


The Progress of Insight

This past Sunday, Zac guided our reflection using the Progress of Insight framework. This “map of the journey” comes to us from various traditional Theravada Buddhist commentary texts, most notably Buddhagosa’s Visuddhimagga (430 CE). This framework outlines insights, stages, and particular challenges that a practitioner of vipassanā (“insight”, “clear-seeing”) meditation is said to pass through on the way to liberation.

Here are some resources on the Progress of Insight.

  • Daniel Ingram a self proclaimed arahant and an interesting and somewhat controversial figure. He manages to be orthodox, irreverent, deep, reductionistic, linear, secular, and esoteric all at the same time. His self published book (Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha) is available for free online (here). It contains a colorful exposition on the Progress of Insight with many anecdotes and examples.

Non-self and a center of Narrative Gravity

Inspired by the notion of self as the  “center of narrative gravity” that arose in the talk by Matthew Brensilver presented by Payton the previous Sunday, this Sunday we revisited the notion of Anatta, or “no-self” in Buddhism.   

Margaret led the discussion using another talk by Matthew Brensilver in which, as part of a more wide-ranging reflection on Anatta, he talked more about self as the “center of narrative gravity”.

Here is the talk: