Dhamma Study Group, Teaching MudraOak Park, IL

What guides our meditation & daily practice of Dhamma? Right View-Understanding guides the path & itself arises from study & reflection. Consequently, Liberation Park encourages wise study of the Buddha's teaching as found in the Pali Suttas.

Exploration of Sunyata in first half of 2010

January 17th: Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree & Friendly Suttas

We will begin 2010 with a sustained look into sunyata (voidness, emptiness), starting with Ajahn Buddhadasa's seminal book, still the best Theravada writing on sunyata. Participants are asked to read the entire text and come prepared with observations, insights, and questions.

!! Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree (Wisdom)

!! The Little Sutta on Emptiness (MN 121)

The Bigger Sutta on Emptiness (MN 122)

!! Essential Reading!

You might also consider Reading the Suttas according to the Suttas (MP3)

March 21st: Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree & The Heart Sutra

We will continue with Ajahn Buddhadasa's text and use it to read the classic Mahayana Heart Sutra. Please review Heartwood (!!) and see how it lines up with the Heart Sutra.

!! Various translations of the Heart Sutra are available online. Choose any one or two of them that you like. Here's one in pdf. Red Pine translation c/o Google.

And here's an article comparing the Heart Sutra with the Pali suttas.

May 2nd: Nagarjuna's Verses from the Center & Heartwood

Next up, we will look into Nagarjuna's classic Mulamadhyamakakartaika. A few English translations have been published.

!! Stephen Batchelor's Verses from the Center (Riverhead/Penguin) is most accessible.

Jay L Garfield's The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way (Oxford UP) is more complete, scholarly, lengthy, and difficult.

Preparation: Please select a few stanzas or a whole chapter that interest you, that you have read, pondered, & investigated carefully, and that you would like (or will endeavor) to make some comments about. No need to be erudite, just take some stabs at thinking & observing with Nagarjuna. When possible, link with Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree.

Comment: Increasingly, Garfield's commentary on the Mulamadhyamakakarika seems to overburdened philosophical reasoning & jargon. I suspect Nagarjuna would feel the same way. I'm still using his translation of the text but no longer consider it better than Batchelor's. I'd rather compare the two versions and others.

Unlike Garfield, I take Nagarjuna's stanzas as observations, inquiries, and practices; not as philosophical argument. I don't think Nagarjuna is debating anyone (tho perhaps his own assumptions, thoughts, and memories). I would like to use them more as practices of Dhammanupassana and Dhamma inquiry than as obtuse philosophy. I'll bet that was Nagarjuna's intention, too. I suggest we read these as meditations and explore them as practice.

Garfield really lost me with his interpretation of Chapter 26. It reads almost as lifted from the Visuddhimagga, which is later than the Mulamadhyamakakarika. I'm trying to find a Sanskrit edition of the Mulamadhyamakakarika in order to see which terms are there and which not.

July 18th: Sigalovada Sutta (DN 31): Roles & Responsibilities

Two translations are available on Access to Insight: Kelly, et al & Narada. Maurice Walshe's translation is published in The Long Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom).

Please use these "directions" to reflect on the significant relationships in your life, which may not fit tidily into one of the six. Consider, too, the reciprocal responsibilities between you and the people with whom you are related. Are there responsibilities we tend to prefer and others that are downplayed or repressed?

September 26th: Satipatthana Suttas 1 (MN 10 & DN 22)

Satipatthana (establishments or applications of sati, mindfulness) is the organizing framework for much of meditation practice in early Buddhism, guides our training in mindfulness (sati), and matures into deeper contemplation of these four areas of life: body, feeling, mind, and Dhamma. When we give skilful attention to these aspects of life, insight is sure to follow.

Please read a competent translation of one of the main satipatthana suttas: MN 10 and DN 22. You might want to compare with the Anapanasati sutta (MN 118, download pdf), which offers a more systematic approach linked by breathing.

An excellent, comprehensive exploration of this core teaching is found in Satipatthana by Analayo Bhikkhu, available from Windhorse. This is well worth your time and energy, whenever you are ready to explore this foundation teaching in detail and depth. (Btw, some of the current appropriations of mindfulness teaching have strayed from the Buddha's purpose (letting go of self-clinging; studying the teachings is one way way to sort out the pyschotherapeutic chaff from the Buddha's liberative grain.)

November 14th: Satipatthana Suttas 2

We continue the above explorations of these suttas & mindfulness practice. Last time, we went through the practices of the first satipatthana. This time, we will work through the second, third, and as much of the fourth as we have time for. Discussions will follow each practice exrecise.

Please focus your reading on the second, third, and fourth satipatthana from either MN 10 or DN 22.

You might also be interested in the Insight Chicago workshops happening on Saturdays immediately before the Oak Park classes.

Previous sessions: 2009 | 2007

Should you be interested ...

A study program for friends in Lawrence, KS included new and old talks, readings, and references to other web resources.

For now, its focus is Practicing with the Four Noble Truths. If interested, you can follow along here.

Other study resources (here)