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 the speaker series "Doorways to Insight." Shaila Catherine describes the importance that is placed on recognizing and contemplating impermanence. This is one of the three main characteristics that we observe in insight meditation practices. We see and know that things change. Everything is changing—thoughts, emotions, feelings, perceptions, sensations, tastes, and emotions. But when we don't see the impermanence of things, we tend to grasp and cling to them. We tend to want to make them to last, and thereby we identify and become attached. As a result of attachment, we suffer, because they are changing anyway. Can we see beyond things that change, and realize what might be called changeless or deathless, to awaken with insight, to realize nibbana?
This talk by Shaila Catherine is the fifth in a speaker series titled "Eight-Fold Path of Awakening." The Buddha said that we should develop concentration, because one who is concentrated understands things as they really are. Concentration is the ground for wisdom to arise. When we concentrate the mind, we learn to steady and strengthen the mind. That concentrated mind has the capacity to see the nature of things more deeply and clearly, leading to liberating insight.
Equanimity allows us to remain present and awake with the fact of things—equally close to the things we like and the things we dislike. Shaila Catherine describes the importance of developing equanimity in two arenas: 1) in response to pleasant and painful feelings, and 2) regarding the future results of our actions. Equanimity develops in meditation and in life. We can use unexpected events that we cannot control to develop equanimity. Our job is not to judge our experiences, but to be present and respond wisely. Equanimity is a beautiful mental factor that can feel like freedom, but if "I" and "mine" still operate, there is still work to be done. This talk includes many practical suggestions for cultivating equanimity.
Shaila Catherine discusses how ignorance (sometimes referred to as delusion) is the root of all unwholesome activities. Ignorance is present any time that we fail to see the three characteristics of experience: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and non-self. The wisdom that develops through insight meditation practice can overcome and uproot even deeply conditioned ignorance. Wisdom helps us to understand suffering and the cause of suffering, and awaken compassion for ourselves and others who suffer due to ignorance.
This is the second talk in a speaker series titled Ethics, Action, and the Five
Precepts. This talk by Shaila Catherine explores kamma (karma) and the training precept to refrain from killing. The Abhidhamma presents a detailed analysis of both wholesome and unwholesome mental states to explain how some actions lead to suffering, and other actions lead to happiness. The conditions that surround an action, the intentions that instigate it, and the reflective understanding of potential consequences will influence the intensity of the patterns that affect our options. If you find that you have killed a living being, perhaps an insect, notice your mental state. Was hatred or greed present? Learn what happens in the mind to enable killing, and what happens in the mind when you refrain from violence. The act of restraint is a particularly potent action. When virtue (sila) is pure, reflections on the abstention from harming can be a source of joy. The potency of wholesome restraint can be increased by reinforcing it with the wisdom that understands the causes and end of suffering—right view of the path.
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.