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 explores insight practice (vipassana) as a profound approach to the unsurpassed happiness of liberation. Awakening (realization of nibbana) arises through the clear seeing of mind and matter as they actually are. Insight into the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and empty nature of things leads to a profound disenchantment and dispassion toward what was previously clung to. Mind and matter will never the a reliable basis for lasting happiness. Seeing this, the mind releases its habits of craving temporary pleasures, and clinging to things that change. The insight into impermanence is the spark for the most profound state of peace and joy, and creates a pleasant dwelling in this very life, even for the Arahant. The talk is followed by a guided meditation that encourages the observation of changing feelings, formations, mental states and emotions—seeing the impermanent nature of all experiences.
This is a talk on the theme of the joy of seclusion, followed immediately by a guided meditation on concentration using the breath as the focus. A concentrated mind is a happy mind. Joy, rapture, happiness, pleasure, sublime bliss, peacefulness, and equanimity are intrinsic to concentrated states. This brief talk introduces the four states of concentrated absorption known as the four jhanas and the immaterial states of infinite space, infinite consciousness, the base of nothingness or emptiness, and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. In Buddhism, not only is the rapture and pleasure of attaining jhana a form of happiness, but the deep ease and equanimity of the immaterial states are considered to be refined forms of happiness.
An uncluttered mind and heart brings great joy! Contentment is a state of serene ease, free from the fear of loss. Letting go and renunciation are taught as joyful practices, not penance. The Buddha taught his disciples to "abandon what is not yours, this will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time". So we ask, what is "not ours"? And by implication, what is really mine? Joyful renunciation enables meditators to investigate the delusion of possessiveness until the mind if freed of all clinging to the impermanent experiences that really cannot be grasped anyway.
This talk introduces a series of talks on the theme of happiness, and addresses a tension found in Buddhism between teachings that emphasis suffering, and teachings that encourage profound joy. In the Buddha's teachings a distinction is made between sensual pleasures, and pleasures that develop through wholesome states of virtue, renunciation, concentration, or insight. Happiness can be supportive for practice, and this talk encourages us to enjoy meditation, to open to natural pleasures, and to cultivate delight in the dhamma, but we must understand if the support for our joy is skillful. By reflecting on our virtuous acts, generosity, and meritorious deeds, and by recollecting the noble qualities of the Buddha, we can delight the mind, stimulate self-respect and self-esteem, and inspire our practice with a wholesome source of joy.