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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
summer 2007| 38 |buddhadharma put the Dharma of Liberation in the center of the mandala; surrounding it are the other key elements of the mandala: retreats, following a year-round schedule; study, such as the Living Dharma retreat, Dedicated Practitioners Program, or Steven Batch- elor’s study retreats; hermitage, with forest huts for very long-term practice, which will be exciting when we are able to do it; and right relationship, cultivating wise relationship with each other, with the earth, and with other beings, following all the steps of the eightfold path. This comprehensive vision provides deep training in practice. It also trains practitioners in how to integrate practice into daily life through classes and workshops that promote and support wise and compassionate action in the world. Our mandala reflects Theravada Buddhism and the riches of the Buddhist tradition overall. If you look at the monasteries in Thailand and Burma, the retreat centers make up a tiny fraction of the Buddhist culture. Most of the Buddhist teachings in these Buddhist countries focus on generosity, on service, on right speech, right action, and right livelihood. The whole eightfold path is the way of practice. There is a wonderful book called Buddha in the Jungle, by Kamala Tiyavanich. From her research of Buddhism in Thailand, extending back to the earliest written records of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, you see a very wide range of meditation practices in use during that period. You also read how the forest lineages included healers, educators, schoolteachers, priests, peacemakers, and meditators; some were soothsayers and oth- ers were shamans who worked with the ghosts and spirits of the other realm. In most of these monas- teries, there were rituals and festivals and dharma arts, such as painting and music. Other monaster- ies trained elephants and some held sky burials. There were even monasteries on the Mekong River where the monks used to enter into boat races with one another. There was a wide range of ways in which the Buddhist teachings were integrated in the community. The monasteries were community centers, education centers, and centers for people in every aspect and phase of their lives. Someone might look at this and ask, “Where’s the Buddhism in that?” If you simply consider the Buddhist sutras, you might say, “I don’t see any- thing about elephant training or community cen- ters in the Buddhist texts” or “I don’t see anything about Eastern and Western psychology in there; isn’t the Buddha’s teaching on the four noble truths enough?” And it is enough. But the four noble truths includes the eightfold path, which instructs us in how to live and embody dharma in every part of life through right view, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right mindfulness, and so forth. Another great principle in our community of teachers, along with our mandala of practice, is that we all have continued to be students. Every one of us in the Teachers’ Council here and at IMS is dedicated to continuing to practice, both within our tradition and outside of our own lineage. We have all studied with many great teachers in other traditions. Our practice has taught us to value depth in the many forms, and we look for skillful means to amplify what we know in our tradition. Both at Spirit Rock and at IMS, we want to deepen our realization of liberation, our embodiment of it, and then find ways to communicate the dharma we have inherited through skillful means in this culture. Over the decades, our way of presenting the teachings has matured. For example, in the begin- ning we put an empha- sis on great striving and effort, just as we were taught in Asia. But we learned that, in this cul- ture, when people use great effort they tend to judge themselves or tie themselves in knots. Feelings of unworthiness and self-criticism create huge problems, so we now use a lot of metta. People get to the same profound levels of insight in a more integrated way. Our range of skillful means has expanded. During our two-month spring retreat, students go very deep, and many have the classical inner transformative experiences of jhana and vipassana samadhi that come from long-term training. But the deepening is enhanced by adding metta, by the spacious attention that comes from Ajahn Chah’s nondual perspective, and by our understanding of Western psychology. Our retreats now incorpo- rate a sophisticated understanding of how to work with the common kinds of traumas and conflicts that come up as we open our minds and hearts. To preserve the strength of our tradition, the majority of our retreats teach vipassana and the four foundations of mindfulness. Many of our other retreats focus on the brahmavihara (the divine abodes of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity). Those are our two central streams of dharma practice. The third stream offers an integration of mindfulness prac- tice with other aspects of our dharma vision. These retreats combine mindfulness and yoga, or mind- fulness and the creative process, or mindfulness and loving-kindness and psychotherapy. In addi- StephenBatCheloR Jack Kornfield meets with the design committee in 1996 to discuss the architect’s model for Spirit Rock’s residential retreat center.