Bhikkhu Bodhi is an American Buddhist monk originally from New York City. He lived as a monk in Sri Lanka for 24 years and now lives at Chuang Yen Monastery in upstate New York. Ven. Bodhi has many important publications to his credit, either as author, translator or editor, including The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikaya, 1995) and The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya, 2000). A full translation of the Anguttara Nikaya is due out in 2011. In 2008 he founded Buddhist Global Relief, a Buddhist organization dedicated to providing relief from poverty and hunger among impoverished communities worldwide.
In this conversational interview between Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, Shaila Catherine, and students in Insight Meditation South Bay's online Samyutta Nikaya course (www.imsb.org), Bhikkhu Bodhi offers teachings that illuminate the collection of suttas known as the Connected Discourses of the Buddha. Venerable Bodhi explains the historical background of this collection, comments on the cosmological world view embraced by early Buddhism, and offers skillful tips for studying the Discourses. He recommends approaching this collection as an exposition of the Four Noble Truths. He shares insights gained through his translation process, including his reflections regarding the choice to translate certain terms such as dukkha (as suffering or unsatisfactoriness), rupa (as form or materiality), and nibbida (as disenchantment or revulsion).
The conversation explores the historical influence of the commentarial texts, and Bhikkhu Bodhi offers practical advise for both the beginner and seasoned reader of the Buddha's teachings. He recommends that readers take notes as they read, and nurture the five steps of contemplation: 1) listening to the teachings, 2) retain in mind what was heard, 3) repeat the teaching verbally, 4) examine the teaching with the mind, 5) penetrate it well with insight. The discussion concludes with reflections on how to approach a study of the Numbered Discourses of the Buddha (The Anguttara Nikaya).
Mind (citta) as the Buddha’s focus of investigation.
As both the cause of suffering and the means to its cessation
The Buddha points to two states or tendencies of mind
Akusala - unwholesome, unskillful
Kusala - wholesome, skillful, beneficial
Suffering follows the unwholesome mind, Happiness follows the wholesome mind like a shadow that never departs.
Our task, step by step, is to train the mind and supplant the unwholesome state with the wholesome states.
Greed, hatred and Delusion are the root causes for the unwholesome mind.
We must cultivate the factors that are the cause for the wholesome mind at three levels.
Coarse - Actions, bodily or verbal. We use the five precepts to prevent unwholesome tendencies at this level. Obsessive, compulsive patterns - Thoughts, emotions. We use meditation, deep samadhi directed to an object, to see the arising of these tendencies and still the mind. Underlying tendencies, attachments - the remaining defilements We use wisdom, insight, to investigate the body and mind and see their impermanence and stop the clinging to a false self to uproot these final tendencies. This is liberation.