Monthly Archives: October 2012

Gathering 4: The Welfare of the Sangha

To set up a topic for discussion this coming Sunday, I would like to use a very brief section of the very long Mahaparinibbana Sutta, “The Great Discourse on the [the Buddha’s] Final Release”. The sutta records the account of the Buddha’s final three months, during which he and Ananda, essentially exiled from the Kingdom of Magadha, went on the Buddha’s final slow painful journey north to the very small village of Kusinara, where the Buddha let go of his final attachment, the attachment to life itself. For the back story to the following passage, please look at the first part of a longer version, adopted from a translation by the German nun Sister Vahira, on the Dharma Study site. In the following passages, I have taken quite a few liberties with the canonical text, so that the advice that the Buddha gave to the sangha of bhikkhus is more directly relevant to our secular sangha. I’ve completely left out the last last half of the Buddha’s address to the bhikkhus, in which he talks about the conditions that are important to a monastic sangha but have only metaphorical relevance to a secular one. If you want to see where I’ve changed the words, the link above will take you to a more faithful translation of the canonical text.
Continue reading

Gathering 3: Setting the Wheel in Motion

The Way Forward

We gather under the name, and in Sunday’s gathering, I’d like to take about 20 minutes for the Dhamma talk to introduce the idea of Dhamma. Then in subsequent gatherings, we can consider the various elements of the Dhamma with reference to that particular idea.

The Wheel of the Dhamma
Contemporary bas-relief of the
Wheel of the Dhamma

If you have the time to do some reading in advance of Sunday’s gathering, I’d suggest two texts from the Dharma Study website that I use to support the courses I moderate in UC’s OLLI program:

I’ve also attached a PDF file of what I call a “Dhamma cheatsheet”, summarizing the notion on a single page.

Continue reading

Gathering 2: The Buddha’s Teaching to Rahula

I don’t want our gatherings to become a “class”—I have too much of a tendency to drop into that mode, anyway. I hope that we can consider, each week, a topic that expands our understanding of our own experience, of our developing community, and of the relevance of the Buddha’s teachings to all that. But I’d like to avoid any sense of a “curriculum”, or any suggestion that if you’ve missed a gathering, you’ve lost the narrative thread. So each week, I’ll try to come up with a topic that’s interesting in itself, related to everything else we’ll talk about, and relevant to our larger goal of constructing a more skillful way of living. Our topic for Sunday will be the Buddha’s teaching to Rahula.

Contemporary Indian illustration of the Buddha, Rahula, and Sariputta
Contemporary Indian illustration of
Rahula, the Buddha, and Sariputta

Rahula was the Buddha’s son, born, according to tradition, just days before Siddattha Gotama left home and set out in search of “the deathless”. The name “Rahula” means “fetter”, and it seems that Siddhattha was horrified by having created, as a result of his craving for sensual pleasure, a new being, destined for a life characterized by Dukkha.

Continue reading

Gathering 1: Admirable Friendship

Once, when the Buddha and his attendant Ananda were staying at the retreat center near the Kosalan capital city of Savatthi, Ananda said, “You know, Master, it just occured to me that half the beauty of this Sangha life we’ve chosen is admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable community.”

“Don’t say that, Ananda,” the Buddha replied. “Don’t say ‘half the beauty of this Sangha life is admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable community’. Say, instead, ‘The entire beauty of this Sangha life we’ve chosen is admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable community’.”

Continue reading