The greatest gift is the
gift of the teachings
 
Donald Rothberg's Dharma Talks at Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Donald Rothberg
Donald Rothberg, PhD, has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976, and has also received training in Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra practice and the Hakomi approach to body-based psychotherapy. Formerly on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, Kenyon College, and Saybrook Graduate School, he currently writes and teaches classes, groups and retreats on meditation, daily life practice, spirituality and psychology, and socially engaged Buddhism. An organizer, teacher, and former board member for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Donald has helped to guide three six-month to two-year training programs in socially engaged spirituality through Buddhist Peace Fellowship (the BASE Program), Saybrook (the Socially Engaged Spirituality Program), and Spirit Rock (the Path of Engagement Program). He is the author of The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World and the co-editor of Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal Thinkers.
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2021-03-31 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and Daily Life 3 68:17
We start with a brief review of what we’ve explored in the last two sessions on this theme, including the importance of both doing and not-doing in Buddhist practice and the nature of identification with the “doer” (and the related themes of self, time, and the future). We then go into more depth inquiring into the nature of the “doer,” including a brief guided meditation looking into the experience of “doing” and opening to not-doing in meditation. We lastly further investigate traditions (Jewish, Christian, Taoist, and Buddhist) that point to the importance of a doing coming out of not-doing, and ways that we can experience and explore this doing coming out of not-doing in daily life, including in the experiences of creativity in art and music, and being “in the zone” in sports.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-03-10 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and Daily Life 2 69:08
We briefly review the main themes from last week, including the importance of "doing" and effort in the teachings and practices of the Buddha, the importance also of "not-doing" (through letting go and cultivating receptive mindfulness), and elements of our conditioning to be a "doer." We go in more detail into this conditioning, pointing to ways of practicing and inquiring. Then, finally, we explore how there is an advanced way of being in which doing comes, so to speak, out of non-doing; we look at this in terms of the teachings of Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, and Dzogchen. We close with a kind of developmental model of the stages of inquiry into the doer.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-03-03 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and in Daily Life 1 1:10:10
We explore the nature of doing and not-doing, first in dharma practice generally. The Buddha’s teachings seem full of exhortations to diligence, mindfulness, and skillful effort and doing. Yet there also is a clear place for not-doing—for example, in letting go and in cultivating mindful receptivity to experience. We can also see how being a “doer” is so central to many of our identities, whether in our roles or work or even our meditation. Given these dimensions of doing and not-doing, we suggest a number of ways to inquire into and respond to our patterns and habits related to doing and not-doing, both in meditation and daily life.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-01-20 Practicing with Intentions 2: Developing Intentions and Vows to Guide Practice in One's Communities, Society, and World 65:32
After a review of the January 6 session on practicing with intentions in individual formal and daily life practice, and on Inauguration Day, we explore practicing in more community, social, and collective settings. In this context, we point to the importance of combining i"inner" and "outer" practice, and to two possible inspirations: (1)the figure of the bodhisattva who combines awakening and helping others, and (2) the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a kind of bodhisattva. On this basis, there is a short period in which those present are asked to write their own intentions and/or vows to guide their responses to the current needs and crises of our world. Some share their writing!
Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Practicing with Intentions 2 by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2021-01-10 Our Training in Cultivating Metta: An Overview 55:07
Practicing metta is an ancient vocation in which we incline toward metta, toward a warm, expansive friendliness, each moment. In doing so, we also come to see what gets in the way of metta. A metta retreat offers us a focused period of training, helping us then to bring our metta more into our formal practice, our daily lives, and a world deeply in need of metta. Yet there are challenges in metta practice. We also identify a number of these challenges, and how responses to the challenges point to some of the fundamental ways that training in metta transforms us.
Metta Retreat
2021-01-06 Practicing with Intentions 1: Individual Formal and Daily Life Practice 1:11:08
At this time of transition, for the earth in the Northern Hemisphere, for many of us in the New Year, and for the U.S., in which clarity of intentions is so important, we explore two types of intentions: (1) aspiration or being guided by one's deeper values and intentions, sometimes taking the form of vows; and (2) moment-to-moment intentions. We are especially interested in connecting the two types of intentions. A focus on moment-to-moment intentions (cetana) helps us with wise action and practice moment-to-moment, seeing which intentions are skillful and which are not (including implicit or even unconscious tendencies linked with habitual energies). We look a number of ways of practicing with intentions both in our formal and our informal practice. We close with a short writing exercise bringing out our core intentions and next steps for the coming period, and then have a period of discussion and sharing.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-12-19 Practicing at the Winter Solstice: Embracing the Dark, Inviting the Light 62:29
After setting the context of the Winter Solstice, in terms of the earth and the history of many varied cultures which have had rituals and ceremonies at this time, we explore, through teachings, stories, and poems, five ways that we open to the dark: (1) We stop and become still, like the earth. (2) We learn to be more able to be skillfully with difficulties and challenges.. (3) We become more comfortable and skillful in conditions of not knowing, as we open to the unknown, the mystery, and shadow areas, both individual and collective. (4) We come to experience darkness as generative and fertile, creative and dynamic. (5) We come to experience darkness as luminous, as generating light, as opening us to the light.
Winter Solstice Insight Retreat: Embracing the Dark, Inviting the Light
Attached Files:
  • Embracing the Dark, Inviting the Light by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2020-12-09 Practicing with Views 3 1:11:29
We review some of what we've covered in previous sessions, including the Buddha's teachings on views, the core of the problem being reactivity (grasping and pushing away) in relationship to views--not views themselves, and three ways of practicing with views. We then introduce one of the three forms of deeper inquiry into views mentioned, the approach of Nagjarjuna (c. 150-250 C.E.), the "second Buddha." Nagarjuna demonstrated a method of showing how any reactively-held views, including Buddhist views, leads to contradictions and absurdity.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Nagarjuna Slides Draft 3 by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2020-12-02 Practicing with Views 2 1:18:14
We continue to explore the important, complex, and often challenging theme of practicing with views (or beliefs)--a central theme of individual practice and a vital area in the contemporary collective context. We first review the teachings of the Buddha on views, mentioning several key texts in which it's clear that he takes a highly pragmatic approach to views; views are helpful if they are conducive to awakening and traditional Indian metaphysical views are both not helpful and not ultimately resolvable in terms of their validity. An approach to views is unskillful if based on reactivity, on grasping or fixating, on the one hand, or pushing away in aversion, on the other. We also explore how many social views are the result of manipulation and control, as in propaganda and the social construction, often for reasons of manipulation, of many of our most central concepts and views. In the last part of the talk, we explore several ways of practicing with views, including (1) developing mindfulness of views, (2) inquiring into fixed views (we outline a number of methods), and (3) cultivating listening and empathy. The talk is followed by discussion, with comments and questions.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-11-30 Exploring the Buddha's Core Teaching: "I teach Dukkha and the End of Dukkha" 64:48
The Buddha famously said, “I have dukkha and the end of dukkha.” Yet it can be confusing to know what the Buddha might have meant. One reason for the confusion is that there are multiple accounts of dukkha in the discourses; we explore four of them, finding that, for the first three, it doesn't make sense to speak of the "the end of dukkha." Only for the fourth sense of dukkha, which we find both in the teaching of the Two Arrows (or Darts) and in the teaching of Dependent Origination does "the end of dukkha" make sense. On this basis, we then explore the nature of dukkha, interpreted especially as reactivity, which we find in two forms--grasping and pushing away. We lastly explore eight core ways of practicing with dukkha.
Monday and Wednesday Talks

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