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.
Ajahn Sucitto leaves the group with four reference points to continue relating to as we leave retreat: relating to embodiment, to people, to earth and to the sacred. Themes of pausing, subjectivity and respect run through.
An automatic quality can take over as we practice. It happens when we retain the past: I am this, I had this experience, I want to have another experience… Instead we can arise and awaken into this body even when it’s not so comfortable and bright. Receive everything as a gift, as something new. Access what’s beautiful now.
The Buddha taught pleasure. When the mind feels safe and comforted, it doesn’t crave. It loses its fear and regret. This is pleasant. Sila helps us practice this skill of turning things to the subtle pleasure of releasing stress and pressure. We stop creating the boundary of self and other that prevents unification. To others as to myself.
As we meditate, we might find ourselves dropping through layers of experience. Bits that are stuck and not yet resolved keep getting triggered. What we thought was past keeps coming in – people, places, events – and it’s happening now. But there is something that doesn’t move forward in time, a foundational experience of just being present. From this place of primary embodiment, where citta meets the body, we can begin to release the layers of construction that bind us.
Beyond the visual and sensory experiences of body, there is a felt sense that is our center. Life keeps pushing other things to the center – sights, sounds, attitudes, views and opinions – but these are only the center of our suffering, not the true center. From the true center, primary sympathy becomes available to meet suffering.
We can know the body directly, using tactile sense and contact impressions. Step by step we can build the specific body with what is actually present, discerning the center, and placing with specificity. The act of placing is sacred.
Where to put the focus in standing/walking meditation; what is meant by awareness/mindfulness/citta; conditioned/unconditioned, kamma and the choice; awakening and healing; goodwill and discernment/embodied goodwill