2014 Thanksgiving Monastic Retreat – “Just Right” Practice
Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, Ajahn Ñāṇiko and Debbie Stamp
Thanksgiving Retreat, Nov. 21, 2014 to Nov. 30, 2014
Angela Center in Santa Rosa, California
7 sessions, 122 excerpts, 8:08:56 total duration

A classic ten-day Thanksgiving Retreat held at the Angela Center before it closed due to fire damage.

External website
Sessions:    1    2    3    4    5    6    7
Session 1 – Ajahn Pasanno – Nov. 22, 2014 Download audio (55:13)

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1. [0:19] “In what cases, if any, is it useful to try to assess whether stream entry has occurred? Or is this question best left aside?” [Stream entry]

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2. [5:17] “How should I repay your kindness, the immense kindness of the Buddha?” [Gratitude] [Buddha]

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3. [8:21] “Is walking meditation as “good” as sitting meditation. Can one achieve the level of undistractedness that one needs to be able to investigate the human experience? Or is it part of the bigger picture of mindfulness / or seven full days to experience stream entry?” [Posture/Walking] [Posture/Sitting] [Insight meditation] [Stream entry]

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4. [17:16] “Thank you for your talk on mindfulness today—very helpful. I've been practicing for a long time (and have even had a few insights that made big impressions on me) and while my sila has definitely improved, my mindfulness is a priority and I might have a tad more wisdom, my mind looks for ways to suffer. Sometimes I feel like a total failure as a Buddhist. I understand that letting go of identity view is the answer, but how? What am I missing?” [Long-term practice] [Suffering] [Self-identity view]

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5. [22:44] “In your ānāpānasati talks, you talk about sikkhita, defined as…to train, and to learn from. I'm not sure how active to be because when I train, I have a goal in mind, but when I learn from…I'm more relaxed and open to what is revealed. Similar, today with mindfulness defined as…looking after something, I'm not sure how to point the compass without coming from self view. Thank you.” [Right Mindfulness] [Mindfulness of breathing] [Right Effort]

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6. [29:26] “It appears that walking is far more comfortable than sitting these days, but I have never found it to be that settling for my mind. Please offer some advice on how to get “the most” out of walking meditation.” [Posture/Walking]

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7. [36:36] “In the context of deep love—like between spouses or between parent and child—what is the application of the concept of non-attachment? What does it mean?” [Family] [Relinquishment] [Relationships]

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8. [39:46] “A scientist—popular, interesting—said as parting shot to his audience, “don't trust the senses,” i.e., we'd still think the world flat, and that the sun actually rises and sets, if we trusted the sensory world. Your thoughts on clear comprehension via “sense-doors?” The “just-rightness” of it all. I wonder if we still thought the world flat and the sun to rise whether we might care for it.” [Sense bases] [Science] [Clear comprehension]

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9. [44:13] “How does one work with the vedanā and neutral sensations?” [Mindfulness of feeling] [Feeling] [Neutral feeling]

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10. [50:37] “If unwholesome thoughts arise and it creates fear and a repeating pattern, what is the best method for breaking the patterns? For instance, mettā meditation replacing the fear or attention with something else? Thank for the inspiration.” [Fear] [Goodwill] [Unskillful qualities] [Volitional formations]

Session 2 – Ajahn Pasanno – Nov. 23, 2014 Download audio (59:07)

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1. [0:12] “On “The Discourse on Setting in Motion the Wheel of The Dhamma,” toward the end it says, “my knowledge and vision of reality of regarding the Four Noble Truths, in their three phases and twelve aspects.” What are the “three phases and twelve aspects?” Thanks for your teachings.” [Four Noble Truths] [Knowledge and vision]

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2. [2:29] “In the chant on “The Buddha's Words on Loving Kindness,” what does the line that says “unburdened with duties” mean? Does it mean that we are to not have duties, or that we do not feel burdened by them, or does it mean something else? Thank you!” [Work] [Chanting]

Reference: Amaravati Chanting Book, p. 37

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3. [7:11] “This has happened a few times only but I'm puzzled, please help. When my mind was very calm, a sudden sort of energetic feeling is all over the body and my spine feels very cold. And then suddenly I have a flash of memory from childhood of drowning in the tank in our backyard. On a different occasion I saw the dead putrefied face of an old woman, horrific, mouth wide open. How do I deal with all this? I get a shock and concentration stops, sometimes sending shivers.” [Meditation/Unusual experiences] [Concentration] [Rapture] [Recollection/Death]

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4. [13:15] “You spoke about “training the heart” over the last couple of days. Could you tell more what “heart” actually means from the point of practice? Thanks you.” [Mindfulness of mind] [Heart/mind]

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5. [14:58] “I didn't totally understand the difference between the mind and mental qualities in regards to the four foundations. Would you elaborate?” [Mindfulness of mind] [Mindfulness of dhammas]

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6. [18:38] “You mentioned that asubha practice can cool sensual desire. But what if what you are attracted to is not so much a physical thing but an attraction of the heart—of good qualities you see. What cools the heart if you are hooked?” [Unattractiveness] [Dispassion] [Clinging]

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7. [22:41] “How often and for how long do you recommend practicing meditation at home? Daily, twice a day, 45 minutes, 30 minutes? Thank you!!!” [Meditation/General advice]

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8. [26:36] “How do you know if sloth and torpor are present or if you're just plain tired? When is it better to rest the mind or the body than to meditate?” [Sloth and torpor]

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9. [30:42] “For all the monastics individually—when was the last time something made you really angry, and if you don't mind sharing, what was it? Just trying to feel the humanness within the robes. Thanks.” [Aversion] [Monastic life]

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10. [32:16] “Thank you for so many wonderful teachings. I am contemplating cessation and would like to hear more about the cessation of the body-death. I have been with a few beings as they have died, 1 human and a few pets. Is the manner of death important to having a “good” rebirth? Does being afraid or suffering a great deal affect the next life directly or is the experience of death just added to ones overall karma?” [Death] [Rebirth] [Cessation] [Fear] [Suffering] [Kamma] // [Stream entry]

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11. [38:01] “Is it possible to post a list of the focuses of the 16 steps? It would be a helpful resource for the remainder of the retreat.”

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12. [38:36] “Its been years since I needed to do so much laying down meditation. My back is not cooperating this retreat. Can you refresh my memory on tricks to not fall asleep? Eyes open feels as if I struggle to maintain it.” [Posture/Lying down] [Sloth and torpor]

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13. [42:53] “Regarding the anussatis, how does one recollect or contemplate the devas?” [Recollection/Devas]

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14. [48:27] “Regarding the 1st precept of non-killing / non-harming, what to do on a practical / decision level regarding something like termites? I sold my last house because I didn't want to fumigate, but I can't keep moving to avoid killing termites / ants that eat at a house. Thank you for your compassion and explanation.” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Killing] // [Abhayagiri]

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15. [54:49] “The problem of extremes. Yesterday, pīti. This morning, the horrors of the bait and craving for annihilation in all their ugliness. Then, pīti again. The only thing I've figured is to back off from meditation when things get too extreme. Any other suggestions?” [Meditation/General advice] [Rapture] [Craving not to become]

Session 3 – Ajahn Pasanno – Nov. 24, 2014 Download audio (1:15:26)

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1. [0:13] “During my meditation, I can occasionally calm the mind to the point where it seems devoid of thought. It is temporary, like a door opening. How should I use this opportunity? Concentrate on the breath? Wait for thoughts to arise and watch them? Explore / investigate a topic that is causing my suffering? Other? With gratitude.” [Tranquility] [Meditation/General advice] [Concentration]

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2. [5:11] “With all of many excellent frames of reference the Buddha has given us to understand our experience, it can be confusing to know which to use when! Do you recommend training systematically or letting ones intuition be as their guide? Thank you.” [Right Mindfulness] [Intuition]

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3. [6:19] “Can you please speak a little more about the process of bringing in a wholesome, brightening reflection into meditation? This morning you spoke about using directed thought / evaluation to explore the primary object (breath) then bringing in the “brightening” object. In this way, the attention shifts back and forth from breath to “brightening” object? Should one use this reflection often? Always? Please speak about this process. Thank you.” [Directed thought and evaluation] [Gladdening the mind] [Mindfulness of breathing] [Recollection]

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4. [12:05] “I've enjoyed practicing with connecting the breath to whatever is conditioning the mind. Twice however, when evaluating, I've come across something new: a plain, white, fizzy, barrier. It's not un-friendly and I can feel a faint tug from whatever is behind it but that's as far as I get. Have my saṅkhāra’s developed a new stealth technology? Are they allowed to do that? Any advice on how to proceed (or secret passwords)? Gratefully appreciated.” [Mindfulness of breathing] [Meditation/Unusual experiences] [Volitional formations]

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5. [15:09] “As I understand it, it is rare and fortunate to have a human birth because of the amount of suffering in the human realm that may lead one to practice to end suffering. On the other hand, devas have less suffering. Therefore they would be less motivated to practice to end suffering, correct? If so, would it not be better for one to wish oneself and others to be reborn in the human realm if one aspires full liberation?” [Human] [Deva] [Rebirth] [Liberation] [Suffering]

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6. [18:07] “When you described pīti yesterday, it was different than how I think of it. Sometimes, I get a feeling of a great, expansive happiness like the realization that this practice actually works. It's exciting and empowering but I'm not jumping up and down. It's a combination of the mind settling and opening. Is that a cousin of pīti? Does pīti only happen in meditation?” [Rapture]

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7. [20:34] “Thank you for these wonderful teachings. I understand that “citta” is both the heart and mind but my felt experience is often so different. My mind is often crabby and critical and down right mean, at least to me, but my heart is soft and sweet and easily moved. In fact, my mind can make my heart cry! Please help with this dilemma. Much mettā.” [Nature of mind] [Heart/mind] [Judgementalism]

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8. [22:25] “I know parting with loved ones is a natural course of life, but deep sadness and grief arises when I reflect on that. Could you instruct on how to work with this grief? Is there a level of understanding when there is no grief? Thank you!” [Grief]

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9. [31:39] “1. What is meant by “releasing” the mind? Releasing it from any hindrance? Can you place illustrate with examples? 2. How is “calming mental fabrication” different from “releasing the mind?” Any examples to illustrate? 3. When mental fabrication causes a bodily or verbal fabrication such as in anxiety or sensual desire, it it too late to breathe and calm fabrications?” [Mindfulness of breathing] [Tranquility] [Volitional formations] [Release]

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10. [39:11] “How do you use mindfulness of breathing when are doing a recollection? Do you first use mindfulness of breathing to settle the mind / body and then turn your attention to the recollection? Is the awareness of breathing in the background?” [Mindfulness of breathing] [Recollection]

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11. [43:20] “Should I focus on one object of mindfulness at a time or can I be mindful of all 4 at one time? Thank you!” [Right Mindfulness]

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12. [45:16] “You mentioned “inner confidence…” can you describe it in more detail and the ways to cultivate it? Respectfully.” [Jhāna] [Faith] [Self-reliance]

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13. [50:59] “Dear Aj. Karuṇadhammo, could you say a bit more about how you find a belief in rebirth to be motivational? And that it “just makes sense?” Do you think, perhaps, about the person who will inherit your rebirth and how it would be good to load them up with good kamma? Thanks!” Answered by Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Rebirth] [Kamma] [Faith]

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14. [56:15] “Could you please speak a bit about karma and volition? For instance, if an unwholesome thought such as anger, or fear arises or wants to arise of its own accord in the mind, does one get unwholesome karma? Or is the bad karma produced only through the grasping or rejection of it? Or is bad karma produced only if action is taken? Or are different kinds of karma produced for thought vs. action?” [Kamma] [Volition]

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15. [63:05] “Please talk about 1) whole-body breathing 2) choice-less awareness. Thank you Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo for wonderfully helpful talks.” [Mindfulness of breathing] [Relinquishment]

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16. [69:18] “Is contemplating the heart center a form of the second foundation of mindfulness?” [Mindfulness of feeling]

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17. [71:05] “How does one work with ones own judgments that come up so often during the meditation practice? (They are mostly judgments of myself, for not getting there…)” [Judgementalism] [Guilt/shame/inadequacy]

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18. [74:16] “I have enjoyed the mindfulness instruction and Dhamma talks very much. When talking about the main subject in English, could you also please use the equivalent word in Pali? For words such as “the Four Noble Truths,” “hindrances,” and “the Four Foundations of Mindfulness,” etc.”

Session 4 – Ajahn Pasanno – Nov. 25, 2014 Download audio (1:10:29)

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1. [0:03] “How refined should the practice of being sensitive to the entire body be? Say, should I be able to sense my earlobe or liver? I find it hard to sense the body when it gets calm. Is it normal or is it a lack of discernment?” [Mindfulness of body] [Mindfulness of breathing]

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2. [2:03] “It's my first time listen to Ajahn Ñāniko. What have you done to him Luang Por?” [Ajahn Ñāṇiko]

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3. [2:31] “Would you say more about the meaning of merit? Are there other words or definitions in English? Thanks again for your teachings.” [Merit]

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4. [5:22] “I find the mind especially distractable during meal times. Partly this reflects longstanding habits of talking, reading, listening to news, etc, while eating. In the retreat context, it's also due to the heightened “social” aspect of meal time (even though in silence). Can you give some suggestions for staying more present and mindful while eating? A deep bow of gratitude for your wonderful teachings…” [Food] [Habits] [Meditation retreats] [Present moment awareness]

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5. [10:28] “A Buddhist teacher explains as I understand it, that the first three factors of enlightenment are causes and the last four are the effects. And that a meditation practitioner therefore works on the first three (with right view) and the last four will follow in time. Please comment. Thank you.” [Factors of Awakening] [Right View]

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6. [15:03] “What is a stream enterer? Can a stream enterer go back? Are there lay people who attain stream entry and remain in lay life?” [Stream entry] [Lay life] // [Stages of awakening] [Great disciples]

Written question in Thai: ขอโอกาสกร้าบพระเดชพระคุณหลวงพ่อ ถาม คําถาม Q: Stream enterer คืออะไร? การมุ่สู่โสดาปัตติผล? หรือการมุ่งสู่นิพพาน? Q: นอกจาก นางวิสาขา มหาอุบาสิตแล้ว มีฆราวาส/lay person คนใดบ้างที่เป็นเพียงคนธรรมดาไม่ได้ออกบวช แต่สามารถบรรลุโสดาปัตติผลได้? Q: ผู้ฏิบัติที่ยังมีสามี/ภรรยา สามารถจะมีวาสนาสั่งสมบุญบารมีเพือให้บรรลุสุ่โสดาปัตติผลได้ไหม? โดยที่ไม่ต้องเลิกร้าง/แยกเตียงกับคู่ครอง ขอแนวทางคิคด้วย [Question in Thai]

Reference: The Island by Ajahn Pasanno

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7. [19:51] “Regarding yesterdays teaching that rebirth is happening every moment, could you give instructions on how to discern the preceding step, becoming (bhavanga)? Would you consider transition from sleep into an awakened state being as “rebirth” and whether there is becoming manifesting upon waking up?” [Rebirth] [Becoming]

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8. [22:16] “Do the monks at Wat Pah Pong chant “Chinnabunchon?” Would you show how to chant it?” [Wat Pah Pong] [Chanting]

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9. [26:09] “I have an autoimmune disorder of undiagnosed origin. I was wondering if it was worth this precious time of practice to send mettā and thoughts of healing to the body. If so, how do you recommend approaching it? Also, is this compatible with seeing this ailment as a heavenly messenger (and as a contemplation of the body's demise)? As symptom management reduces it to a mild physical irritation should I also contemplate unpleasant feelings? Or is it best to just stay grounded in the breath and mettā and not risk proliferation. Much gratitude.” [Sickness] [Mindfulness of feeling] [Recollection/Death] [Proliferation] [Goodwill]

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10. [30:40] Comment: Thank you so much Luang Por for reminding us that chanting is also listening, paying attention, and being mindful. I noticed that when we were chanting at a fast pace, several people wouldn't be able to follow. Many of us are not familiar with Pali or Pali translated into English (combined with low light and small print). Some of us might just need a little more time. So thank you. [Chanting] [Gratitude]

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11. [31:30] “Is it a good remedy to sit with eyes open when afflicted with sloth and torpor? Standing? Any other ideas?” [Sloth and torpor] [Posture/Standing]

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12. [36:35] “What is the English translation of the meal time blessing? Thank you.” [Gratitude] [Chanting]

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13. [39:09] “The last two 3:30pm sittings have been challenging. Restless body and proliferating mind. I guess it's my time of day for anxiety. I use several techniques—mettā, 32 body parts, watch my long breaths—and by the time the bell rings, my internal landscape has changed. Thank you all for your teachings. Now, my question. I am still very attached to my husband and children. I don't want to relinquish the intimacy I share with my husband. I will suffer when they are gone. How do I reconcile this practice of relinquishment with the reality that I am a wife, mother and householder? With love.” [Gratitude] [Family] [Lay life] [Relinquishment]

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14. [45:25] “My relationship with my kids can be so contentious and draining—so different than I thought it would be. How can I love and train them even though it seems they were born to resist these things?” [Family] [Conflict]

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15. [47:56] “Although in reasonable condition, I am realizing that fear / anxiety of death / non-becoming is pervasive in the background of my daily life. Does the Buddha speak to that which continues after the body dies? Other than the five recollections and contemplating impermanence, does he offer guidance on how to best prepare to greet ones own death? Thank you so much.” [Recollection/Death] [Rebirth] [Impermanence] [Fear]

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16. [57:30] “Can you please talk a bit about samatha meditation and its uses for calming a very agitated or restless mind and how one might go about finding a “disk of earth” or an object of suitable color? Do they sell these somewhere? Amazon? Thank you for your explanation.” [Calming meditation] [Kasiṇa]

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17. [61:33] “I am wondering if Buddha spoke about what part of us reincarnates. Is it possible to remember our past lives? Thank you.” [Rebirth] [Psychic powers]

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18. [65:48] “The other day when I was meditating, my heart started beating very fast. Then I got really cold and my body started shivering. I started breathing very deep to calm the body down but still couldn't control the shaking. At times like this, is it better to stop and take care of the body or keep meditating through it? Thank you.” [Meditation/Unusual experiences]

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19. [67:40] “Can you provide a reference as to where this printed version of the 16 stages of ānāpānasati comes from? Author, publication?”

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20. [68:20] “The delusional gravity of the mind has grown stronger as I have aged. I can space out now like never before! Do you have suggestions for cutting through this spacey delusion?” [Delusion] [Ageing]

Session 5 – Ajahn Pasanno – Nov. 26, 2014 Download audio (1:24:46)

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1. [0:15] “How do I use the teaching today about investigating the cause of suffering when working with betrayal? Been married to high school sweetheart for 40 years. Raised children together and best of friends. Lately he has gone off the deep end. Midlife crisis? - who knows, but he started drinking and acting out sexually. The feelings of shock, betrayal, hurt, anger and fear are beyond words. If new relationship I would leave, but he has been in my life since I was a child. Impossible to accept but hard to leave. How do I find the cause of suffering (noble truth) you spoke of today? And how to bring some equanimity and space around this?” [Cause of Suffering] [Family] [Intoxicants] [Sexual misconduct] [Aversion] [Equanimity]

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2. [8:50] “How does a “stream enterer” know in their next life that she/he is a stream enterer?” [Stream entry] [Rebirth]

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3. [10:52] “Can you talk about the quality of disgust, and how it is beneficial for practice? For example, awareness of the disgusting nature of eating and the digestive process arises when I'm eating. In all honesty, I try to finish my food as quickly as possible when this happens. Unpleasant. Is there a better / more skillful way to hold this experience?” [Disenchantment] [Food]

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4. [24:15] “I just wanted to share my gratitude for Ajahn Karuṇadhammo, Ajahn Ñāniko, and Debbie (you too Luang Por) for giving each day, very needed and timely encouragements—sometimes immediately answering a question I had just posed to myself. It's like you are all just reading my mind / heart. Questions go deeper and so do your reflections on Dhamma. (Bow, bow, bow, añjali.)” [Gratitude] [Ajahn Pasanno] [Ajahn Ñāṇiko] [Teaching Dhamma]

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5. [25:51] “There is a borderline between being fierce (in a wholesome way) and being aggressive. I can't say anything about Dhamma teachers as I have never experienced Thai Ajahns, but a few yoga teachers I've studied with in my opinion were rather just exercising their power over students. How to tell the difference between a teacher who genuinely means well to their students while acting fierce-fully from someone on a power trip?” [Teaching Dhamma] [Fierce/direct teaching]

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6. [34:00] “It seems that suffering in the lives of many people, my own included, comes from feeling unworthy or unlovable. Would you have any thoughts on why so many people feel that way and what will help to let go of this feeling? Thank you!” [Guilt/shame/inadequacy]

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7. [39:33] “It was such a joy to hear Khun Debbie give a Dhamma talk at the retreat along with the monastics. She is a jewel. Actually you all are…(triple gem). Thank you.” [Gratitude] [Teaching Dhamma]

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8. [40:03] “Perception can be very slippery. I experience it as a veil, view, filter, or lens that colors a situation. The traditional Buddhist teaching of, “tinted glasses” and “bowls of water,” is very helpful. However, identification is strong. Do you have suggestions for how to see through perception? How to know when it is coloring my world view?” [Perception] [Self-identity view] [Delusion]

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9. [43:52] “What is the difference between directed thought and verbal fabrication? Thank you for showing us patience.” [Directed thought and evaluation] [Volitional formations]

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10. [46:55] “Thank you so very much for your very compassionate, clear, and useful teachings. Can you please talk a little bit about dependent origination so that we may put an end to the causes of suffering? Thank you again for your compassionate teachings and humor. We appreciate you and the rest of the Sangha!” [Gratitude] [Dependent origination] [Cessation of Suffering]

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11. [52:10] “How can one investigate without getting the mind too active? I find that when I try to investigate or reflect, my mind gets so active that I find myself getting caught up in it. Thank you.” [Investigation of states] [Recollection] [Proliferation]

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12. [55:03] “Are the teachings being recorded? What happened to the usual football game? Do you know?”

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13. [55:45] “This is a comment to say thank you to the whole Sangha, really, for your interest in practice. We were doing walking meditation and there was such a contrast between the cars driving through and the walking practice. Usually, I feel more alone in practice. It feels so good not to be the odd one out. You guys almost made me cry with sweeping the walking paths yesterday. Thank you Sangha.” [Gratitude] [Posture/Walking] [Spiritual friendship]

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14. [56:47] “I once heard a Tibetan teacher say “the Dharma is one.” Can the Dhamma mean phenomena in general or am I just misunderstanding?” [Mindfulness of dhammas] [Dhamma]

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15. [57:55] “My body does not physically handle sitting or stationary positions for long periods of time. I would like to do more walking meditation. Walking has a lot more distractions. Can you give some specifics on where to put my focus? Rise and fall of breath, feet, skeleton moving? Where to look, etc. Is it possible to achieve the same level of calmness, concentration and insights when the body is moving and you cannot close the eyes or keep focus on one spot?” [Posture/Walking] [Proliferation] [Calming meditation] [Insight meditation]

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16. [63:57] “Was the fire sermon a “teaching moment” of hyperbole? I love to take photographs, for example, and it helps me engage much more deeply with the world outside my skull. And it fills me with rapture, compassion, and joy! Does the Buddha's recipe for liberation truly entail cutting off this experience of beauty? Where's the Theravada equivalent to the Zen “suchness” —the awe of life and its ephemerality? Thank you!” [Dispassion] [Impermanence] [Suchness] [Recreation/leisure/sport] [Liberation] [Compassion] [Happiness]

Sutta: SN 35.28: Ādittapariyāya Sutta

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17. [71:40] “I've wondered for some time how to put together (a) birth, aging, death or dukkha and (b) the cause of dukkha as craving. Is it correct to say that the source of dukkha is in the mind (i.e., craving)? If so, what does it mean to say that birth, aging, and death—facts that we don't control and can't change—are dukkha? Thank you for your generosity and wisdom.” [Cause of Suffering] [Craving] [Noble Truth of Suffering]

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18. [74:24] “I was very fortunate to receive a Pali name from the Sangha. At first, I was very energized in my practice but then I saw it as just another identity to work with, particularly from a pride and self-view side. I seldom use my Pali name these days but I realize that I am neglecting this gift. How do I use my Pali name skillfully in my practice?” [Pāli] [Self-identity view] [Language]

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19. [80:06] “Was Pali ever a conversational language? Do you know of a translation of suttas that use more common, everyday words? For example, saying…letting go or releasing instead of relinquishing. I like to use simple words in the day to remind myself.” [Pāli] [History/Early Buddhism] [Sutta] [Translation] [Language]

Note: Bhante Sujato's translations (available on suttacentral.net) use less technical terms.

Session 6 – Ajahn Pasanno – Nov. 27, 2014 Download audio (1:06:27)

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1. [0:15] “A question regarding the 5 precepts. In daily life, I am really good about keeping #1, 2, 3 and 5; but somehow I found that the precept #4 is really hard. I find myself lying everyday such as: “Do I look good?” → Yes, of course. “Do you want to eat some more?” → No, thanks, I’m full (but in fact the food didn’t taste good). Or speaking at a wrong time, speaking too long, toos hort, too harsh or speaking with a wrong tone of voice. This is the hardest one for me. Kindly advise. Thank you.” [Five Precepts] [False speech] [Right Speech]

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2. [3:12] “What is left once there is no self? Is it the same as enlightenment? Can a person still function in a daily life (drive a car for example)?” [Not-self] [Stages of awakening]

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3. [8:05] “Thank you for bringing much needed yoga to the retreat and many thanks to Corina for her wonderful classes and her selfless service!” [Gratitude]

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4. [8:28] “How and when did Buddhism come to Thailand?” [History/Thai Buddhism]

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5. [11:43] “Can you define / explain saṅkhāras—mental formations? For example, what phenomena does it include? How can one evaluate what is or is not a saṅkhāra? How does it differ from the hindi / yogic samskara? Thank you.” [Volitional formations] [Culture/India]

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6. [16:27] “I’m wondering why the chanting says, “for me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge,” and the same for the Dhamma and the Sangha when all three are refuges. Also, why are the Dhamma and the Sangha referred to as “Lord?” Thank you.” [Chanting] [Three Refuges]

Reference: Amaravati Chanting Book, p. 23

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7. [19:06] Comment: I’ve recently been blessed with two local Dhamma teachers separately teaching on the hindrances. Both suggested noticing when the hindrances are not present. That’s been a hard concept to recognize. Today’s teachings on looking at the opposite of a hindrance when it is present allowed me to become consciously aware and look at “why is the opposite not present in this moment” and “what I need to release the hindrance?” I guess I’m a right-brain person. Thank you for the change in perspective. [Hindrances] [Cessation] [Gratitude]

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8. [19:59] “Can you please explain releasing the mind (again) in the context of the 12th step of the ānāpānasati. Thank you for your teachings. Mettā!” [Release] [Mindfulness of breathing] [Mindfulness of mind]

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9. [24:50] “Is my understanding of the first noble truth correct in that it doesn’t deny enjoying things in life, but point to their temporary nature and underlying unsatisfaction once enjoyment ceases? Can I be a Buddhist and still enjoy my chocolate? Sincerely, chocolate lover.” [Noble Truth of Suffering] [Sensual desire] [Impermanence] [Suffering] [Food]

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10. [28:21] “I have heard that based on the pleasure of jhāna, it is possible to overcome sexual desires more skillfully. But to have sammā samādhi one needs pāmojja. My heart has to battle sexual desire almost everyday and it is no less than painful to keep fighting the same battles. So in a way I have been doing all my recent walking meditations with a little sadness over not having yet overcome sexual desire, and not being to enter jhāna as easily and happily as Ajahn Karuṇadhammo describes. What do I do?” [Jhāna] [Sensual desire] [Gladdening the mind]

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11. [34:20] “A limerick composed on the occasion of the 2014 Thanksgiving Retreat: If you’re late for a sit you must hurry in/From washing dishes by a drain smelling like durian (this part is true!)/Then you sit sit sit sit/‘Til you’re tied to be fit/And your belly is empty to put curry in.” [Artistic expression] [Humor]

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12. [34:58] “My heart really wanted to serve you and the rest of the Sangha food today (of all days—Thanksgiving) out of gratitude and also because I thought that food had to be directly placed in the alms bowl of a monk in order for it to be consumed. So can you please give us a quick guide on the Vinaya rules regarding the offering of food and other things / requisites to monks? Thank you for your explanation so we can better serve the Sangha.” [Gratitude] [Almsfood] [Food] [Mutual lay/Saṅgha support]

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13. [42:54] “Does the process of refining awareness by calming the breath and becoming sensitive to the body of more subtle layers purify the mind and body? In preparation for more subtle states? Or? P.S. A little wish to hear Dhamma from Ven. Kassapo too. His appearance of equanimity is a solid reference for me this week. Añjali.” [Mindfulness of breathing] [Mindfulness of body]

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14. [46:29] “How is it possible to be your student if I live far away (in the northwest)? In what ways does Abhayagiri connect with those not in proximity? Thank you!” [Abhayagiri]

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15. [48:30] “Can you please explain whether there is a difference between “mind” and “consciousness,” because everything seems to be experienced in the mind; the body is experienced in the mind; feelings also seem to be experienced by the mind, as well as perceptions, sensations, etc. Thank you for your teaching and explanation.” [Heart/mind] [Consciousness] [Aggregates] [Nature of mind]

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16. [50:32] “Do the monks have any prescribed physical exercises / stretching that they do to keep limber and agile with all their sitting?” [Monastic life] [Excercise]

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17. [52:23] “Is having a ½ glass of wine at the Christmas or special dinner breaking that precept? Does the precept mean not getting intoxicated or not ever drinking substance?” [Intoxicants]

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18. [54:03] “If the body is a sack of grains, my legs after 7 / 7:30pm are electric jumping beans. This has occurred on retreat for 30 years. At first, I assumed it was the usual resistances / saṅkhāras. For a decade, I’ve known it’s a neurological syndrome that many have (R.L.S.) and although it affects other parts of life, e.g., sleep, it’s never so intense as on retreat in the evening. As I calm and cleanse, it actually gets worse, even on longer retreats. If I don’t focus on exhaling calm and mettā, I would drive my neighbors crazy, twitching and squirming like a bored 4 year-old. But I’m not bored and I want to hear the teachings. The level of controlling the legs necessarily, even with calming, creates sometimes a kind of negative pīti—thunderbolts in the body with no delight or rapture! I intuit an ancient root to it but, what to do? Alternative and western guidance have not helped much. From your vast experience of squirming mediators, any advice? Any research on sitting and milder neurological phenomena like this? Right now, besides leaving the hall / tortured endurance / drugs / cutting off my legs, suggestions for a middle way?!” [Meditation/Unusual experiences] [Rapture] [Restlessness and worry]

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19. [57:52] “I would like to invite my aging mother to live with my family. Our family observes the precept of no-killing. However, my mother is not vegetarian. My spouse insists that everyone in the house must uphold the precept. I think it’s unfair to impose that on my aging mother. Is my spouse holding onto fixed views? I very much would like to honor my filial duty and at the same time maintain harmony in the family. As a practitioner, what is the best way to handle this situation? Thank you, Ajahn, for your time and advice.” [Family] [Killing] [Vegetarianism]

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20. [60:03] “Can you clarify (and simplify!) the four frames of reference? I have read Ven. Thanissaro’s book and it’s pretty challenging to remember from one paragraph to the next as it is so wonderfully dense. In particular, four frames especially as it pertains to mindfulness of breathing? Thank you!” [Right Mindfulness] [Ajahn Ṭhānissaro] [Mindfulness of breathing]

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21. [62:14] “I appreciate so much the confidence you have given me to follow my own sense of what is wholesome. This teaching has really given me some much-needed ease and discovery!” [Gratitude]

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22. [63:31] “I would like to add studying to my practice. I’d like to learn more of the fundamental lists. Would you recommend a book or two for starters? Thank you for your generosity of spirit.” [Learning]

Session 7 – Ajahn Pasanno – Nov. 28, 2014 Download audio (1:18:54)

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1. [0:09] Comment: A very long thank you note in Thai: ขอบคุฌหลวงพ่อที่มอบความดีงามใน้แก่มวลมนุษย์ ขอบคุฌหลวงพ่อที่สอนให้ทําแต่ความดี ละเว้นความชัว และสอนให้เดินตายรอยพระพุทธเจ้า ขอบคุฌความรักจากคณะสงฆ Debbie และ Retreat Mgr. ในแชร์ธรรมะและส่งดีๆ ให้กับพวกเรา การมีพระสงฆ์ที่ดีๆ ในระพุทธศาสนา สร้างคุณค่าดี สร้างความรักและความสงบสุขอันแท้จริงให้กับโลก [Question in Thai] [Gratitude]

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2. [0:29] “Thank you for all of your thoughtful and pragmatic meditation tips. Do you have advice regarding the future-oriented mind? Speculation, planning, considering, obsessing really, about scenarios. Normal ideas are not working.” [Restlessness and worry] [Proliferation]

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3. [3:56] “I love clues that help identify that some experience is or is not what I thought it is. For example, Ajahn Ñāniko’s point that just a blank purely absorbed state is not jhāna, (a wrong conclusion anybody any get to) and that instead it should be more “broad-based” and mettā-bhāvanā is very useful for that. This sort of “TEST” for the labels we may jump to apply to our experience is very useful insight—“cool” if I may say. Are there more such “tests?” P.S. This is to help prevent my mind from becoming too proud, or thinking I have attained some state when not.” [Jhāna] [Goodwill]

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4. [8:23] “Thank you for talking about the nun who got enlightened the other day. Also thanks to Debbie for her talk! As a female myself, I find it inspirational hearing stories about women on the path. Most teachers, well-known disciples, the Buddha himself, were males, so at times I struggled to connect to the teachings. It felt too mind-focused, too “male” (as more women in my view connect through the heart, or at least I do). I see a lot of heart and compassion in the Dhamma now and I am learning more about women in Buddhism. It would be great to hear more stories about them in Dhamma talks and perhaps one day even have a guest nun visit and give a talk. Thank you.” [Women in Buddhism] [Compassion] [Women's monastic forms]

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5. [10:02] “The guidance through seeing the non-self in relationship to the elements was very helpful. Can you explain what to look for in order to see the non self in relationship to strong emotions like grief. When do you look for the emptiness in emotions and when do you experience or express them. How does one balance the two?” [Not-self] [Grief]

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6. [19:06] “How is compassion (karuṇā) is different from loving-kindness (mettā)? Is compassion similar to empathy? I am also wondering if it means you feel the pain of the person you feel compassion for.” [Goodwill] [Compassion]

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7. [25:06] “Ajahn Ñāniko and Tan Kassapo: “Why be a monk?” Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.” Answered by Ajahn Ñāṇiko and Ajahn Kassapo. [Monastic life/Motivation] // [Suffering]

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8. [26:19] “A question for all the bhikkhus: Can you please recall a time when you were intensely attacked by the armies of Mara and had a lot of suffering and what did you do to overcome it? What strategy did you use or whether nothing worked at all and you just had to be patient with it and accept it? Thank you for your teaching.” [Monastic life] [Māra] [Suffering] [Patience]

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9. [32:26] “Can one contemplate pain using the four elements or is here a more direct way to penetrate physical pain? Many thanks for your teachings.” [Pain] [Elements]

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10. [38:37] “Thank you Ajahn Ñāniko for encouraging us to see Dhamma in hearts around us, and within. Apart from your beloved teachers and tradition, where else in our modern world do you see Dhamma in the hearts of those who also in various ways seek the end of suffering for all? Who particularly inspires you? Who is worthy of respect? For example, your support of Julia Butterfly Hill was inspired by her courage and heart, correct? Also, could a future Buddha be in the Sangha? Is it already happening? Your thoughts, Ajahn Pasanno and those of your esteemed company appreciated.” [Teachers] [Respect] [Buddha] [Gratitude]

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11. [45:13] “Thank you so much for these wonderful teachings. Sometimes a very intense light nimitta arises and it feels like all of my energy rushes to my forehead. I try to ignore the nimitta but it gets brighter and undulating. I try to pull it down to my feet but that doesn’t work. I’ve tried all sorts of things but ultimately I just stop sitting; start walking. The nimitta gives me a headache and is draining. 1) Why does it happen? 2) What to do? Deep gratitude.” [Meditation/Unusual experiences] [Nimitta]

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12. [50:42] “Following this morning’s talk on non-self, do you have any advice for reflecting on remorse / regret in the context of non-self? Remorse / regret are usually not big in my life except in one area: that of missed obligations to others. Investigation in this area rarely fortifies or informs me. It usually triggers either a well-tuned system of aversion / distraction or else despair. I do have confidence in the Buddha’s teachings and so an inkling that this can all be dismantled somehow. It’s quite a small inkle but it did try to get my attention this morning so any reflections or directions are deeply appreciated.” [Not-self] [Restlessness and worry]

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13. [57:01] “Sometimes when I sit I get this really strange feeling that parts of my body (arm for example) are moving but I know in reality I have not moved. It’s usually when I’m in deep concentration. Do you know what is happening?” [Meditation/Unusual experiences]

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14. [59:37] “Please tell us what the chant is referring to when it mentions the “3-fold bliss.” Thank you!” [Chanting] [Happiness]

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15. [60:09] “Is the ego the same as self? If different, in what ways?” [Self-identity view] [Western psychology]

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16. [64:11] “I enjoy the teaching about devas, they seem to be a good counter-balance for left-brain people. Is it correct to say that the Hindu deities are included into the Buddhist universe as higher devas, mighty but not omniscient and impermanent beings? I am particularly interested in Shiva, who for me is a positive symbol of cessation, relinquishment and play of the elements. I know that Brahma is mentioned a lot in the Canon, but what about Shiva? Also, since Thailand borrowed a lot from Indian culture, are there any devotional practices for Hindu deities, and if yes are they somehow integrated with Buddhism, perhaps on a folk level?” [Deva] [Culture/India] [History/Thai Buddhism] [Culture/Thailand] [Devotional practice]

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17. [70:33] “I was practicing yogic prāṇāyāma for about a year to alleviate a medical problem. However, as my practice develops I notice effects on the mind particularly during breath retentions. Yogic literature states that there is a complete and spontaneous cessation of breath in full samādhi. Is it true that some scriptural Buddhist sources say that there is a cessation of breath in the fourth jhāna too?” [Culture/India] [Mindfulness of breathing] [Jhāna]

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18. [75:56] “Overall, why do you think there is no application of conscious control of breath in Buddhist practice, e.g., no scriptural references to prolonged exhalations to help calm down the mind? Is it conceivable to speculate that Gautama Buddha did practice prāṇāyāmas with his two teachers before joining the ascetics but somehow did not find them useful?” [Mindfulness of breathing] [Buddha/Biography]