As a monk, I bring a strong commitment, along with the renunciate flavor, to the classic Buddhist teachings. I play with ideas, with humor and a current way of expressing the teachings, but I don't dilute them.
Sitting in a field of fifty to eighty people really starts my mind sparking. Since I don't prepare my talks ahead of time, I find myself listening to what I'm saying along with everyone else. This leaves a lot of room for the Dhamma to come up. Just having eighty people listening to me is enough to engage me, stimulate me, and create a nice flow of energy. The actual process of teaching evokes ideas that even I did not realize were being held somewhere in my mind.
Different teaching situations offer their own unique value. In retreat, you are able to build a cohesive and comprehensive body of the teachings. When people are not on retreat and come for one session, it opens a different window. They are more spontaneous and I'm given the chance to contact them in ways that are closer to their "daily-life mind." This brings up surprises and interesting opportunities for me to learn even more.
I'm continually struck by how important it is to establish a foundation of morality, commitment, and a sense of personal values for the Vipassana teachings to rest upon. Personal values have to be more than ideas. They have to actually work for us, to be genuinely felt in our lives. We can't bluff our way into insight. The investigative path is an intimate experience that empowers our individuality in a way that is not egocentric. Vipassana encourages transpersonal individuality rather than ego enhancement. It allow for a spacious authenticity to replace a defended personality.
In the search for happiness, we generally only experience the search, marked by discomfort or desperation. Relationship is key. The instructions for ānāpānasati train us to develop a more dispassionate relationship where we learn to stand in the presence of, or witness from, the edge of experience. From here the right kind of relationship, marked by non-expectation and non-aversion, can be cultivated.
The cultivation of samatha is to be able to direct one’s intentions and attention away from the afflictive activations, settling into a place where they’re not happening. This place of cooling and ceasing is to be lingered in. Here we come out of the personality and into the realm of the miraculous.
The theme of this meditation is to move attention from more activated areas to parts that have no activation at all. Beginning with the sense of balance and cohesion, guidance is provided to sense through the entire body, sustaining a soft attitude with no time frame, a quality of very little effort.
A review of the four points recommended to orient around: 1) The sacred - virtue and truth, 2) other people, 3) the subtle body/body energies, 4) nature. These are means for becoming more embodied and heartful, and regaining our natural intelligence.
The qualities of goodwill, compassion, gladness and equanimity can be cultivated to generate a subtle form, a subtle state of consciousness. Abiding and lingering in these qualities, citta sustains consciousness in that mode, sees objects in that light, and experiences itself in that light making human life manageable, fruitful, enjoyable.
Take away the track of conditioned intentions – better, more efficient, goal orientation. Learn to sense into the intention of the citta here and now. Effort informed by the spiritual faculties is a means to stave off hindrances. The first right effort is to dwell in what is skillful.
Our conditioning and underlying programs have us aiming at unattainable benchmarks. We come to believe it’s possible to make everything work, make things efficient, clear, comfortable. But this only sets us up for suffering. So we practice to purify intention and attention, widening the range of what our citta can bear with and accommodate. We’re then able to be with the uncomfortable without suffering.
We can learn to relate to the conditioned world with a sense of knowing it doesn’t work, dealing with the inevitable clashes and frictions with a mind that is spacious, that can digest the chafing. Nourish and strengthen citta through qualities of goodwill, patience and acceptance facilitate disengagement. Then the heart is not troubled by things not going its way.