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).
Shaila Catherine gave the seventh talk in a seven-week series on lesser known Buddhist teachings titled "Thus Have I Heard." This talk revolves around a teaching in the Anuttara Nikaya (AN 4:255) that expresses the Buddha's very practical advice for protecting one's material goods and wealth. He recommends that people 1) look for things that are lost, 2) repair things that are broken, 3) be moderate in consuming food and drink, and 4) place a virtuous person in the position of authority.
Shaila Catherine gave this talk on planning tendencies of the mind. Papanca is a Pali term that means proliferation. A lot of our planning is not preparation for action. Rather, it's a form of dukkha: chronic planning may be a manifestation of anxiety, restlessness, worry, or obsessive thinking about "who I will be." Planning is fuel for self-becoming, self-grasping; restless planning perpetuates the fantasy of a future we think we can control or predict, but such future may never happen. Instead of habitually indulging in planning tendencies, we can train our attention to be mindful of life as it actually unfolds. We can thus learn to calm fantasies that distract the mind, let go of expectations, and gradually strengthen concentration to be more fully present. We can also curb the tendency to become lost in imagined scenarios of hope and fear about life's events.
Shaila Catherine gave the sixth talk in a series on Recollective Meditations. This talk explores the practice of devanusatti — contemplating the good qualities that lead to happiness in this life and future lives. This practice emphasizes five specific qualities: faith, virtue, learning, generosity, and wisdom. One first reflects on the superior qualities of the devas, and then contemplates those same qualities within oneself. By contemplating the success of celestial beings, we might realize that success is also possible for us. This practice can inspire us to develop those beautiful qualities of heart and mind.
This is the 4th talk in a 5-part speaker series titled "Balanced Practice." Shaila Catherine explores the compassion of protecting others and the wisdom of protecting oneself through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness guards the mind and protects the mind from sliding into actions based upon unwholesome tendencies. Mindfulness also protects us from the unmindful actions that could easily cause harm. Mindfulness has a capacity of naturally drawing everything into balance, so the mind progresses with a balance of effort and ease, of tranquility and investigation, and of calm concentrated state and engaged state.
Shaila Catherine gave the fifth talk in a series on Recollective Meditations. This talk describes the recollection of the Sangha, reflecting on the virtues of a community of practitioners at various stages of awakening. This reflection uplifts the mind and reinforces those virtues, which in turn leads to the Path of awakening. When one recollects the Sangha, one's mind is not obsessed by greed, hate, and delusion. In addition, when we are temporarily discouraged in our practice, when we reflect on the Sangha, we can connect with a group of people who have been practicing the Path of awakening for centuries.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled "Recollective Meditations." Shaila Catherine speaks about the meditation practice known as recollection of the Buddha, Buddhanusati. The practice involves the contemplation of qualities associated with the awakened mind. Each quality highlights a feature that the Buddha brought to perfection — in conduct, virtue, mental development, wisdom, teaching abilities, social influence, and mental powers. The reflection on these virtuous qualities of the Buddha establishes faith, confidence and inspiration for the path, deepens concentration, inhibits hindrances, strengthens joy, and refreshes the mind. It also serves as a classic protection against doubt. By contemplating the accomplishments of the Buddha, we may sense the potential for awakening within our own lives.
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.