The greatest gift is the
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Shaila Catherine's Dharma Talks at Insight Meditation South Bay - Silicon Valley
Shaila Catherine
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).
2014-09-16 Breath: An Intimate Focus for Attention 45:06
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.
2014-07-01 Roles, Relationships, and Awakening 38:16
This talk was given as a part of the series "Where Rubber Meets the Road: A Series on Mindful Living." We live in a world that requires a diversity of relationships. How do you choose your friends? What kind of relationships support or stunt your spiritual growth? How do you relate to life, and to love? We can bring wisdom and mindfulness to our interactive lives, to the roles that we perform, to our intimate sexual relationships, and our friendships; we practice both in solitude and in community. Harmony, generosity, and joy are developed through noble friendship. Relationships can challenge us to work with the tendencies of our own minds, clarify our precepts, develop compassion, learn to let go, and nurture the path of awakening. Deep friendship is considered to be the precursor of right view. A good friend encourages the best in us and supports our development of the noble eight fold path.
Tuesday Talks
In collection Where Rubber Meets the Road: A Series on Mindful Living
2014-05-27 Mindfulness Sacred or Secular? 26:58
Shaila Catherine gave this concluding talk in a guest speaker series that was organized to stimulate critical inquiry about mindfulness and how the teachings about mindfulness are manifesting in western cultures. This talk presents critical thinking, reflection, and discussion as integral elements of Buddhist practice. It refers to the early Buddhist custom of reciting teachings, sharing the Dhamma, and inviting correction and criticism about how the Dhamma was presented and taught. As mindfulness practices become mainstreamed, and applied in corporations and therapeutic contexts, some concern arises that the deep and liberating teachings of emptiness might be ignored as non-Buddhists, and sometimes non-practitioners, assert their own definitions of mindfulness in the media. This brief talk concludes with reflection questions about: 1. the meaning and definition of mindfulness—how is mindfulness different from attention? 2. how are ethics taught in Buddhist and secular applications of mindfulness? 3. how are secular interests affecting the development of western lay Buddhism?
Tuesday Talks
2013-10-01 Investigating Aversion and Anger 38:15
This recording begins with approximately 20 minutes of teachings on anger, followed by a little less than 20 minutes of a guided meditative reflection. The talk examines the force of aversion, anger, hatred, and hostility as manifestations of what in Pali are called dose-rooted states. Rather than criticize and judge ourselves when anger arises, we extract ourselves from the story of anger, and practice seeing it as an experience of suffering—as dukkha. Anger does not happen to us; we actively engage in the process. Therefore, through clear seeing and wise inquiry, we can change the conditions that perpetuate anger in our lives. Often anger arises when there is unwise attention to an unpleasant sensory or mental contact. We can learn to work mindfully with these deeply conditioned tendencies and feeling how it manifests in the body, become aware of the feeling tone (vedana), recognize the mental state, and discern how it functions—its origin, cessation, and way leading to its cessation. The primary antidote is mindfulness.
Tuesday Talks
2013-09-10 Five Preconditions for Insight: Wisdom (the fifth precondition) 36:03
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for the development of meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another, with wisdom as the crowning jewel and chief. This talk explores the importance of wisdom for revealing the impermanent nature of all things. With the clarity of wisdom we discern the arising and passing of phenomena. This insight into impermanence undercuts habitual delusions that perpetuate blindly grasping and clinging transient things. Wisdom is important at all stages of the path. At the beginning of our practice, we need wisdom to discern the right direction, clarify our purpose and learn skillful methods; we need wisdom in the midst of the practice to make the many adjustments that sustain us on this path; and the path culminates in the wisdom that leads to release. With wisdom, we will see the changing nature of all things, and understand how we construct our perception of reality, discern the four noble truths of suffering, and recognize how we can realize the end of suffering.
Tuesday Talks
2013-09-03 Five Preconditions for Insight: Wise Effort (the fourth precondition) 33:04
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for the development of meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another. This talk explores the role of effort and energy on the path of awakening. We make the effort to avoid and abandon unwholesome states, and to cultivate and maintain wholesome states. We apply our energy with diligence and balance. If too lax we will fall short of the goal and permit obstructions to distract the attention; if there is too much striving and forced effort we will exhaust ourselves and become discouraged. Right effort is balanced between relaxation and vigor; it is appropriate to the situation—applying just enough strength to meet the current conditions with wisdom and clarity. Skillful effort requires the commitment to endure difficult and painful situations without becoming disheartened. We persevere on our path, adjusting the quality of effort with mindfulness and sensitivity.
Tuesday Talks
2013-08-20 Five Preconditions for Insight: Engage in Talk of the Dhamma (the third precondition) 21:35
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for the development of meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another. This talk explores the importance of engaging in dhamma talk, reflecting on the teachings, and wise speech as ways of nurturing the path of awakening. How do you know when to speak and when to remain silent? What kind of speech is most true and useful? What types of conversation will distract you from your goals, or support the realization of nibbana? Does your engagement in conversation encourage attachments, identification, self-grasping, or does it nurture letting go, release, and peace?
Tuesday Talks
2013-08-13 Five Preconditions for Insight: Virtue and Restraint (the second precondition) 22:34
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for the development of meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another. This talk explores the importance of restraint in a successful practice, and considers virtuous action to be an expression of wisdom. Ethical behavior and the inner respect that comes with the knowledge that we can refrain from unwholesome impulses is a foundation for practice. Precept training encourages wise reflection regarding the many choices that we make in our lives. We can reflect on the intention that initiates an action, the experience while engaged in the action, and the result that develops from an action so that we bring wisdom into every action and interaction. The five precepts, and the ten unwholesome and ten wholesome actions are presented. We have the power to choose what we develop with diligence and wisdom.
Tuesday Talks
2013-08-06 Five Preconditions for Insight: Friendship (the first precondition) 36:21
The Buddha taught that there are five preconditions necessary for us to develop our meditation practice in seclusion—good friends, virtue and restraint, engaging in talk on the Dhamma, wise effort, wisdom. These preconditions, presented in the Meghiya Sutta, are developed progressively and support one another. This talk begins with a reflection on the cultivation of good friends. A good friend is one who support our progress on the Noble Eightfold Path. Sometimes we need someone to show us our potential, or to correct us when we stray from the Path. The inspiration, faith, kindness, and generosity that develops in a relationship with a good friend nurtures awakening.
Tuesday Talks
2013-05-28 I-Making & Mine-Making Constructing Self 39:21
How is a sense of self constructed? What is the concept of not-self in Buddhist practice? How do we construct identity? This talk explores the traditional model of the five aggregates affected by clinging and explains how clinging occurs in contact with sensory experience. The five aggregates—materiality, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness—represent an early Buddhist model for understanding how suffering forms through misperception. Clinging to misperceptions produces a sense of continuity in experience that we conventionally call "I", and a relationship to experience the we conventionally call "mine". This model clarifies the precise objects contemplated in vipassana (insight) meditation practice. This talk explains each aggregate so that insight may liberate the mind from this subtle type of attachment.
Tuesday Talks

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