Shaila Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses (bodhicourses.org) an online Dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a meditation center in Mountain View, California (imsb.org). She has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience, and has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand, completed a one year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhana, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, (Wisdom Publications, 2008). She has extensive experience practicing and teaching mindfulness, loving kindness, concentration, and a broad range of approaches to liberating insight. Since 2006, Shaila has continued her study of jhana and insight under the direction of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, and authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana (Wisdom Publications, 2011).
This talk by Shaila Catherine is the first in a speaker series titled Ethics, Action, and the Five Precepts. It offers an over view of the five precepts (sila) as training tools for bringing mindfulness and restraint into our actions, relationships, and daily life activities. These basic guidelines for living an ethical life, and the power of restraint are as relevant in the modern world as they were in ancient India. Taking care with our actions can be a source of joy and happiness. When our actions are clear, the mind is free from regret, guilt, and remorse; we gain self-respect, self-esteem, and confidence. The four bases of success (iddhipadas) can be used to strengthen these training precepts. With the support of desire, energy, consciousness, and investigation we can fully commit to abstain from unwholesome actions, and develop wholesome states, thereby gaining sovereignty over our own mind.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled Fundamental Buddhist Principles 2015. Buddha was a human being, whose mind opened to the truth of things, to the nature of life. He understood the causes of suffering, and developed a path of teaching that enables others to realize the truth of things for themselves. He was awakened, which means greed, hatred, and delusion were uprooted from his mind. So when we meditate, we examine our mind with the goal to understand what is really happening in our encounter with experience. What happens in our seeing, hearing, smelling, or tasting? What happens when we feel with our body? What happens when we think or feel emotions? Is that encounter affected by greed, hatred, or delusion? Or are we seeing the nature of these experiences arising and passing away, with a mind free of clinging? This talk also includes basic Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, the Three Training (virtue (sila), meditation (samadhi) and wisdom (panna)), and the Three Primary Contemplative Skills that support meditation (concentration, mindfulness, and investigation).
The Discourses of the Buddha include instructions on how to give so that the act of generosity will be most fruitful. This talk by Shaila Catherine explores the significance of the inner motivation of the donor, the quality and appropriateness of the gift itself, and the virtue and purity of mind of the recipient. The motivation, context, and result each play a role in the practice of generosity (dana).
Nibbana (nirvana) cannot be reduced to a simple definition, yet this talk by Shaila Catherine explores nibbana from a number of perspectives. She considers what nibbana is not, and how nibbana has been experienced through Buddhist practice. Some descriptions present nibbana as a transcendent perspective, beyond this world; other descriptions present nibbana as an imminent phenomena, always available. Perhaps most frequently we find nibbana equated with deep peace, sublime happiness, non-clinging, profound release, and the quenching of all greed, the cooling of the fires of hatred, and the cessation of ignorance and delusion.
This talk by Shaila Catherine explores the third establishment of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna)—mindfulness of mind—with emphasis on comprehending mental states as wholesome or unwholesome, developed or undeveloped. We learn to examine the condition of our own minds with discernment and non-identification. We develop the ability to clearly know what is present and what is absent. It is through an honest recognition of the state of our minds that we can purify the mind, nurture deep concentration, and realize liberation.
Everyone seems to wish for world peace and inner peace, yet stress, agitation, and struggle may still dominate our lives. Are you seeking peace in ways that it can realistically be found? Satisfaction cannot be gained in the world of conditioned things, possessions, and identities. Enduring happiness and peace are found when we turn our attention inward, and let go of the causes of suffering and conflict. This talk by Shaila Catherine explores a number of Buddhist approaches to santisukha, peace and happiness, including 1) virtue, 2) guarding the sense doors with mindfulness, 3) concentration and jhana practices, 4) formless or immaterial attainments, and 5) the ultimate peace brought by insight, letting go, release, and final knowledge. The path of peace develops the mind and enables the adept practitioner to live joyfully, without clinging to anything in this world.
This talk by Shaila Catherine was given as a part of the series "Enhancing Mindfulness Skills: A Seven-Week Series Dedicated to Cultivating Transformative Insight." Action influenced by intention is called kamma in the Pali language or karma in Sanskrit. We condition patterns, habits, and create pleasant or painful results through repeated intentional actions. The key to working with our patterns is not in the past, it is how we relate to present events. We are not condemned to dwell in any mental state. We have the potential to disentangle ourselves from suffering and cease creating causes for suffering. When we are mindful, we can notice the process that occurs between a stimulus and our response. Then, supported by calmness, wisdom, and clear intention, we stop reacting to life through the conditioned force of habit and may experience a truly spontaneous, free response to life.
This talk was given by Shaila Catherine as a part of the series "Enhancing Mindfulness Skills: A Seven-Week Series Dedicated to Cultivating Transformative Insight."
Mindful of the thinking process, we explore how thoughts function in our lives. Unwholesome mental patterns can reinforce obsessive desires, identification, rigid opinions, and attachment to belief systems. What patterns are most common for you—planning, rumination, fantasy, rehearsing, daydreaming, judging, comparing, fixing, instructing? We observe the types of thoughts that arise, and reflect on whether those thoughts support our values and purpose. We learn to let go of unskillful thoughts and then focus our attention so that we use the mind skillfully. Buddhist tradition identifies three sources for proliferating thought: craving, conceit, and views. By examining the sources of conceptual proliferation, we can curb the wandering tendencies of mind.
This talk was given as a part of the series "Enhancing Mindfulness Skills: A Seven-Week Series Dedicated to Cultivating Transformative Insight." This talk focuses on "Four Elements." It is a traditional practice of mindfulness of the body. In ancient India, the materiality of the body was thought to be composed of four elements—earth, fire, wind and water. These four elements, in turn, have twelve characteristics—(earth) heaviness and lightness, hardness and softness, roughness and smoothness; (fire) heat and coolness; (wind) pushing and supporting; (water) fluidity and cohesion. All of these characteristics can be known with our mind and in our body. Discerning the characteristics of material elements will lead to a profound contemplation of impermanence and death. Seeing the impermanence of the body, we know we cannot control it. The body is not-self, it is not possessable, not I, and not eternally me. Understanding the impermanence of material elements and this body composed of elements, we learn to let go. This talk concludes with a guided meditation of body scans, with emphasis on the four elements and their respective characteristics.
This talk was given as a part of the series "Enhancing Mindfulness Skills: A Seven-Week Series Dedicated to Cultivating Transformative Insight." How do we approach the breath? The breath can be used in a variety of ways to enhance mindfulness and to cultivate the insight into impermanence. Observing the breath calms the mind and allows us to tune into present moment experience. By observing the changes in breathing we can assess our feelings, emotions, and moods. Realizing the impermanent, conditioned, changing nature of the breath supports a skillful and powerful recollection of death. Let this contemplation of death be poignant enough to stir a sense of urgency. Reflect on what is really important in life.