Topic 1: Ariyasacca (the four noble truths):
What differences do you see in the presentation of the 3 major teachers studied?
Keep in mind that one (Dr. Dhamma Rewata) is from the Burmese tradition in the footsteps of Mahasi Sayadaw, one (Ajahn Sumedho) is from the Northeast Thai-Lao forest tradition of Ajahn Chah, and the third (Ajahn Buddhadasa) is from a different, somewhat reformist Southern Thai forest tradition.
How do you orient yourself toward the ariyasacca in your Dhamma practice?
Has this changed during the course of your study? How do you apply it to problems in your life? With which issues is it most effective for you?
How do you understand desire, craving, and clinging?
How are they implicated in your actual experiences of dukkha? How do they act out? How do they inter-conditon each other?
Topic 2: Idappaccayata (the law of causality):
What does idappaccayata have to do with...
- The Ariyasacca (The Four Noble Truths, especially dukkha & dukkha-nirodha)?
- Anatta (not-self)?
- Kamma (action)?
- Sila (morality)?
- General Systems Theory?
- Social Relationships?
- Anapanasati (mindfulness with breathing, or other meditation practices)?
How can you apply idappaccayata to a specific area of dukkha, worry, frustation, or confusion in your life?
Please explore one issue (or more) in as much depth as you are able. Consistent, regular reflection (yoniso-manasikara) over an extended period of time is usually most effective.
How would life in America be different with deeper and more consistent understanding of idappaccayata?
Topic 3. Sunyata: Emptiness as the Essence of Buddha-Dhamma
There are various conceptual ways of approaching the reality of sunyata, which works best for you? How do you "interiorize" it to the inner sense of "me"? Where do the limits of conceptual understanding lie?
How does sunyata relate to idappaccayata and other core insights?
What are the practice implications of sunyata in relationship to dhatus (elements) and khandas (aggregates)?
How is the realization of sunyata a rarified insight? How is it ordinary and everyday? Where does the field of practice lie?
Topic 4. Majjhima Patipada: The Middle Way of Life Without Dukkha
What is the relationship between the "middle way of Dhamma teaching" (idappaccayata-paticca-samuppado) and the "middle way of practice" (majjhima-patipada)?
With which pairs of extremes does your mind most often entangle itself?
Classic examples are indulgence in pleasure & indulgence in pain, being & non-being, good & evil, I am right & I am wrong, positive clinging & negative clinging, and passivity & aggression. Are any of these relevant in your life? What of more modern examples?
How can we know when our practice is "in the middle"? What are the signs when it has gone off into a ditch on either side?
Hint: "Middle" cannot be worked out geometrically.
Which aspects of our culture are in line with the middle way and which conflict with it?
Topic 5. Atthangika Magga: The Noble Eightfold Path to Dukkha's End
Use your critical mind - what are the major differences in the presentation of the path, from these three sources (Bhante G, Sutta, & Ajahn Brahmali)?
Do these differences make any difference in how you practice?
How is your understanding changed or informed by these differences in language, style, and temporal/geometric understanding?
According to your own practice, where do you diverge and/or agree with the various nuances?
According to your own practice and situation, how does one follow this path today?
6. Satipatthana: Holding Life in Mindfulness
"'But what is your proper range?' the hawk asked. 'What is your own ancestral territory?'" SN 46.6 (from the readings)
Good question - what IS our proper range, our own ancestral territory? (in terms of citta, sati, and the path)
While reading the Analayo book, you may want to focus especially on one foundation of mindfulness per week, for the next four weeks, delving deeply and exploring with Analayo's guidance and inspiration.
How does one go about cultivating mindfulness? What's the secret? Is there a definitive recipe?