Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley | Jul 2018
The Buddha taught us that -- happily - there is a way out of suffering, and that way is the Noble Eightfold Path. The path itself is often illustrated as a wheel … the Dhammachakra (chakra = wheel) … and each of the 8 parts of this wheel is represented as a spoke -- which means that our practice of them should flow seamlessly together, as a whole. In these talks, Shell talks about these 8 essential practices.
The Buddha taught us that - happily - there is a way out of suffering, and that way is the Noble Eightfold Path. The path itself is often illustrated as a wheel … the Dhammachakra (chakra = wheel) … and each of the 8 parts of this wheel is represented as a spoke - which means that our practice of them should flow seamlessly together, as a whole. In this talk, Shell offers a summary of the path in anticipation of a series of talks on these 8 essential practices.
If you can imagine that the Noble 8-Fold Path is a kind of ancient spiritual GPS that the Buddha mapped out for us … then the first spoke in the wheel – Right View (samma dhitti) is like being able to zoom our inner screen all the way out to its fullest so that we can see the vast scope of the terrain, and therefore gain a clearer understanding of the path we’re walking on, where we’re headed, and why. During this talk, Shell explores this 1st Spoke of the Wheel of Dharma. (*This is Talk #2 in a series on the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path, which begins with a Summary Talk)"
Every single moment of our lives involves an intention, and a choice -- and we can either make these decisions consciously, or unconsciously. The Buddha's teachings urge us to make them consciously, to “intentionally” plant and cultivate 3 main seeds of thought and action (renunciation, goodwill, and non-harm). These 3 more refined and conscious intentions are meant to counter the more base and toxic choices of greed, aversion, and ill-will … with the understanding that whatever we nurture and water is what will eventually grow. In this talk, Shell explores this important 2nd Spoke in the 3rd talk in a series of talks on the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path (the 1st talk is a summary).
As the great monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu tells us: “If you can't control your mouth, there's no way you can hope to control your mind.” During this talk we begin to explore the sila (or virtue, moral conduct) section of the Noble 8-Fold Path, which is considered the foundation of the whole path, what it’s built upon. Without an essential grounding in sila, our practice can easily morph into a kind of self-improvement project … or, a type of self-serving practice that might help us to feel a little more calm or peaceful, but lacks the transformational aspects of ethical speech, action, and livelihood. And this 3rd spoke -- Right Speech -- is said to be where the practice of sila starts.
In the Buddha’s teachings on Right Action (samma kammanta) we are being asked to be mindful of the harm we’re capable of causing with -- and to -- our physical bodies, and in our expression of our bodies and how we use them -– and to consciously avoid or abstain from those things by following the 5 Ethical Precepts -- which Shell explores in this talk.
When we are practicing this step on our path, we’re being asked to consciously, and very honestly reflect on the question: How am I living my life? along with considering, “What am I really offering?” In essence, we are being asked to contemplate our deepest intention for ourselves, and whether this aspiration is arising from a sense of “what’s in it for me?” or from a more compassionate response of “how can I help?”
During this talk, we dive into this rich practice of investigation.
In his teachings about 'how' we should go about investigating the nature of our minds and hearts, the Buddha continually emphasized the words diligent, ardent, and resolute. If we want to experience more joy and freedom in our lives, we need to apply a more sustained and wise effort to our practice in order to discover more clarity - or insight - into which mind states lead us to happiness, and which ones lead us towards more suffering. During this talk, Shell dives into what this “wise effort” looks like in more detail."
Mindfulness is whole-body-and-mind awareness of the present moment. When we are mindful, we are fully present, without judgment, with exactly what’s happening, right now. We’re not lost in the past or future … not tangled up in daydreams, anticipation, indulgences, or worry. We are right here, witnessing our bodies and minds and whatever is present. During this talk, Shell explores this essential component of our practice and path.
Traditionally, realms and states of deep consciousness have been described in mystical and spiritual literature as having been achieved through the art of concentration – which is exactly what we’re trying to cultivate in our Vipassana practice. As we develop a more refined and skilled awareness, this in turn offers us access to even deeper levels of understanding and insight. During this talk Shell explores how we can use our practice to train our minds to become more focused, steady, and clear.