James has been a meditation teacher since 1978.
He is creator and teacher of the Awakening Joy course (since 2003).
He leads retreats, workshops and classes in U.S and abroad.
Co-founding Teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.
Co-author of Awakening Joy, the book based on the course
(with Shoshana Alexander).
He is a Guiding Teacher for One Earth Sangha, a website devoted to expressing a Buddhist response to Climate Change.
James lives in Berkeley, California with his wife, Jane.
He has two sons and three grandchildren.
So, this is always, for me a poignant time in the retreat. This is the last evening that we’ll all be together in this configuration after supporting each other, spending a month practicing internally and relating externally in the most unique kind of way. Just supporting each other and growing and waking up in opening the heart. And, as it’s said, everything that arises passes away. So, I just want to take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate our unique configuration for this month. And all the sincerity that each of you has brought to our practice and supporting each other, it’s such a privilege to witness and support you.
So, I want to share something that hopefully will be appropriate to those who are leaving and those who are continuing for another month. I hope that will happen.
At first day, I want to start with a contemporary prayer that maybe some of you have heard from ___, but since I got a greeting card with it, on it. So, once it’s on a greeting card, you know, it’s really made it. It says, “Dear God, so far, today, I’ve done okay. I haven’t gossip or lost my temper. I haven’t been crabby, mean, nasty, selfish, bitchy, or over-indulgent, and I’m very grateful for that. But dear God, in a few minutes, I’m going to get out of bed. And then, I’m probably going to need a lot more help. Amen.”
With the best of intentions and sincere aspiration and practicing for days, weeks, a month or two, years, we find that until we’re fully awakened, we are in process of learning and waking up, and it can be a humbling process, and it can be, and hopefully is a very exciting process no matter what up’s and down’s one goes through.
So, I thought first, I’d start the talk with a discourse of, by the Buddha, of the Buddhist telling the story of somebody who was certainly not fully cooked, and who was actually new to practice and, but very, very sincere in this practice. And the advice that the Buddha has for him and the people who are still developing their practice, not yet, or ___, or once returners as many of his disciplines are. So, ___ all you are ___ are non-returners, you can just kind of disregard this part. Everybody else, you might find this interesting.
This is called the Meghiya Sutta. M-E-G-H-I-Y-A. Meghiya. Meghiya was this monk who had newly joined the order and through, I would say amazing good karma, was the Buddhist attendant as he was the two of them were travelling around in a forest to be joined at a later time by other monastics. And this one morning, Meghiya goes for ___ round and on his way, on his way back home, he sees this mango grove, and he says, “Wow! What a great place to practice.” You know, it’s like, say, he was wandering the hills of ___ and all of a sudden came to Spirit Rock, you know, “Wow, this is a good place to practice.” Well, there’s always this perfect mango grove, and he really wanted to get on with it. He had great spiritual intention and urgency. So, he says to the Buddha, “I found this really great spot to practice. Can I go and practice?” And the Buddha knows, senses that this guy is pretty inexperienced and it might not be ready to do a self-retreat for a while. So he says in his kind way, “Why don’t you wait Meghiya? You know, I’m here all alone, why don’t you just keep me in company as my attendant?” It’s a nice way of saying, getting the point across. But Meghiya says, “You know, I really want to go practice. Please, can I go practice?” asked him the second time. You can hear what’s coming, right? Again, “I’m here all alone in the forest. The others will be coming in sometime. Just keep me in company if you feel like it.” And then Meghiya has the, I think this is a Pali word, ___, something like that. The nerve and the guts to say, “Look, oh Lord, you have done what’s needed to be done. I, still haven’t. Please, let me go practice.” So, the Buddha as he usually did, third time around, third time is a charm said, “Meghiya, now it is the time and do as you see fit. Go.” So, Meghiya goes, has his self-retreat. He probably didn’t have a ___, but had his exciting gear and was ready to sit at the ___ of the tree, and he says, let me quote it from the ___. He says, “Now, while vulnerable Meghiya was staying in the mango grove, he was, for the most part, assailed by these three kinds of unskillful thoughts. Thoughts of sensed desire. Thoughts of ill will. And thoughts of doing harm. Thoughts of cruelty. Sound familiar, you know? And the fourth occurred to him. “How amazing! How astounding! Even though it was through faith that I went forth from home to the homeless life. Still, I’m overpowered by these three kinds of unskillful thoughts—thoughts of sensed desire, thoughts of ill will, thoughts of doing harm.” So, he goes back to the Buddha after a while, he tries to hang out with it for a while. And then, just gets to be too much, then goes back to the Buddha. And, he says, something like, “You’ll never guess what happened to me.” And the Buddha says, “Yeah, this can happen sometimes when you’re not fully mature. You know, the mind can assail and create problems.” And that’s when he gives him five (5) supports for practice when the mind isn’t completely settled. Five other aspects to deepen our practice. And this is both for people going home, or also there can be the ___ for people who are staying here as well. So, the first of these, and these are probably not going to be new to you.
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