Weekly readings

We are in the process of selecting our next book. Suggestions appear below; please feel free to email us if you have an opinion. We’ll begin discussing the next book on January 13.

In the meantime, on January 6, we’ll discuss the Five Precepts. Participants are welcome to bring whatever version they’d like to discuss. Here’s a link to the wording in Thich Nhat Hahn’s tradition, where the precepts are called “mindfulness trainings” to emphasis the continual nature of practice: https://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/

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Suggestions for book discussion (commentaries from Amazon)

Buddhism Plain and Simple (Steve Hagan)

This is a book about awareness. It’s about being “awake” and in touch with what is going on here and now. Practical and down-to-earth, it deals exclusively with the present, not with speculation, theory, or belief in some far off time and place. The teachings of the Buddha are plain and straightforward, and because they remain focused on the moment, they are just as relevant now as they have ever been. Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware, Right Now, Every Day is the book for anyone wanting to discover, or rediscover, the essence of Buddhism.

Everything is the Way (Elihu Genmyo Smith)

These days, when Zen has become a kind of shorthand for anything that’s enigmatic or aesthetically spare, it’s refreshing be reminded that Zen is at heart a practice for waking up from the dream we inhabit—in order to free ourselves from the suffering the dream imposes on us. Elihu Genmyo Smith’s eminently practical Zen teaching never loses sight of that central concern: Whether it takes the form of zazen (meditation), koan work, or just eating your breakfast, the aim of Zen practice is always nothing other than intimacy with ourselves and everything around us.

Integrated Buddhism (Ken Wilbur)

What might religion look like in the future? Our era of evolution in social consciousness and revolution in science, technology, and neuroscience has created difficulties for some practitioners of the world’s great spiritual traditions. How can one remain true to their central teachings while also integrating those teachings into a new framework that is inclusive of ongoing discoveries? Taking the example of Buddhism to explore this key question, Ken Wilber offers insights that are relevant to all of the great traditions. He shows that traditional Buddhist teachings themselves suggest an ongoing evolution leading toward a more unified, holistic, and interconnected spirituality. Touching on all of the key turning points in the history of Buddhism, Wilber describes the ways in which the tradition has been open to the continuing unfolding and expansion of its own teachings, and he suggests possible paths toward an ever more Integral approach.

Understanding Our Mind (Thich Nhat Hanh)

A finalist for the 2001 Nautilus Award, Understanding Our Mind, is Thich Nhat Hanh’s profound look at Buddhist psychology with insights into how these ancient teachings apply to the modern world. Based on the fifty verses on the nature of consciousness taken from the great fifth-century Buddhist master Vasubandhu and the teachings of the Avatamsaka Sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the direct experience of recognizing, embracing, and looking deeply into the nature of our feelings and perceptions. Presenting the basic teachings of Buddhist applied psychology, Understanding Our Mind shows us how our mind is like a field, where every kind of seed is planted—seeds of suffering, anger, happiness, and peace. The quality of our life depends on the quality of the seeds in our mind. If we know how to water seeds of joy and transform seeds of suffering, then understanding, love, and compassion will flower. Vietnamese Zen Master Thuong Chieu said, “When we understand how our mind works, the practice becomes easy.”

When Awareness Becomes Natural (Sayadaw U Tejaniya)

The flame of wisdom can be kindled in the midst of any life, even one that might seem too full of personal and professional commitments to allow for it. Such is the teaching of Sayadaw U Tejaniya, who himself learned to cultivate awareness in the raucous years he spent in the Burmese textile business before taking his final monastic ordination at the age of thirty-six. Train yourself to be aware of the clinging and aversion that arise in any situation, he teaches. If you can learn to do that, calm and deep insight will naturally follow. It’s a method that works as well for sorting the laundry or doing data entry as it does in formal sitting meditation. “The object of attention is not really important,” he teaches, “the observing mind that is working in the background to be aware is of real importance. If the observing is done with the right attitude, any object is the right object.”

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