Natural Buddhism and Recollective Awareness

June 16, 2014

I have read, ‘pick a tradition and stick with it’. If only I could. I practice at a zen center and receive instruction from its teacher (and I cannot express my gratitude for zen, the center, its community, and teacher enough), but I am constantly looking at other traditions to see how they might guide me. For example, I receive monthly installments of the Insight Journal from the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and three recent issues have raised ideas that I want to track.

Ken McLeod, a teacher (Unfettered Mind: Pragmatic Buddhism) who has trained in the Tibetan tradition, wrote an expansive essay for the March 2014 issue, “How is the Medium Changing the Message?”. He tackles so many topics in such interesting ways that any one of them could provide a discussion group with an entire evening’s material. A few examples: early Buddhism as a response to the introduction of trade, the effect of print technology on Buddhist teachings, the effect (so far) of the internet on Buddhist teachings, what happens to the Buddhist message when it is mass produced (or simulated in a virtual environment)? A long essay. Take it in small bites and be sure to come back…

Gil Fronsdal, the primary teacher at the Insight Medititation Center in Redwood City – Ca, has been ordained in both the zen and Theravadan traditions. His essay for the April 2014 issue, Natural Buddhism, presents an overview of the Atthakavagga or Book of Eights (Access to Insight translation). As Fronsdal describes it, this text may date from the earliest days of the Buddha’s teachings. It is distinctive in that it does not refer to faith as a means for attaining liberation (but others claim that it should not be read as ruling out faith). Instead, it emphasizes the role of clinging and the importance of letting go of clinging as defined in these three steps: letting go of views, the qualities of a sage, and the training to become a sage. Fronsdal will be publishing his own translation sometime soon.

The June 2014 issue contains an interview with meditation teacher Jason Siff: Awareness of Thinking: Recollective Awareness Practice. Siff, the founding teacher of the Skillful Meditation Project, is the author of Unlearning Meditation and the upcoming Thoughts are Not the Enemy (Oct 2014?). The interview touches on several interesting topics including, reactions to his first book and how one might approach thinking/thoughts during meditation, his ideas about Secular Buddhism and Natural Buddhism (see above), and whether Recollective Awareness can be taught purely as a meditation technique or whether it needs to be embedded in a Buddhist framework (Answer: yes! but they probably will give different outcomes.) Here’s a link to a Skillful Meditation center in Portland – Or: Pine Street Sangha (Th 6:30-8, 8125 SE Pine)

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