Exploring the Heart of Freedom is a sixteen-month program designed to cultivate our understanding of the core teachings of the Buddha, deepen our meditation practice, and help us to embody the dharma in spiritual friendship and community.
Jointly offered by IMS and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS), the program consists of five residential retreats in Barre, MA, which will include meditation practice, dharma study, and relational practices such as small group inquiry and contemplative sharing. Between retreats, participants will engage in ongoing study and practice, with bi-weekly teacher-facilitated online meetings in small groups.
The program will be taught by Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass, Nicola Redfern, Roxanne Dault, and Vance Pryor.
The curriculum is structured to gradually deepen an embodied understanding and practice of the foundational teachings in the Pāli canon in a way that is responsive to the diverse and, at times, challenging conditions of contemporary life.
The program will explore the following teachings and practices as the foundation for a Buddhist path.
- Meditation practices to develop insight:
Satipaṭṭhāna meditation, especially as taught in The Four Establishments of Mindfulness, the key discourse for insight meditation practice
2. Meditation practices to develop calm and tranquility:
Samatha meditation and mindfulness of breathing as taught in the Anapanasati Sutta
3. Meditation practices to cultivate the heart-mind:
the four brahmavihāra meditations of kindness (mettā), compassion (karuṇā), appreciative joy (muditā), and equanimity (upekkhā)
4. Relational meditation practices:
grounded in mindful speaking and listening, we will explore a range of interpersonal meditation methods to strengthen our collective wisdom and compassion
- The First Noble Truth: an exploration of dukkha in its many forms and the ways it can serve as a wake-up call in our own lives
- The Second Noble Truth: investigating the cause of dukkha, including the three core afflictive energies of greed, aversion, and delusion
- The Third Noble Truth: Awakenings: expressions of Nibbāna within the Pāli Canon and later Buddhist teachings, and their relevance for our own practice here and now
- The Fourth Noble Truth: the Eightfold Path to awakening, of ethics and moral restraint (sīla), meditation (samādhi, bhāvanā), and transformative wisdom (paññā)
- Foundational Buddhist insights: impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), not-self (anattā), emptiness, dependent origination, karma
- The Three Refuges: Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha including the role of dāna, faith, spiritual friendship, and community as supports for the path
Buddhist Practice in a Contemporary Context
- Sutta study: engaging classical texts in ways that illuminate their relevance for contemporary lay practitioners
- Socially-engaged Buddhism and the cultivation of bodhicitta: practicing for the benefit of all beings; addressing the environmental crisis, social injustice, and other contemporary challenges
- Reflecting on the broader conditions of our own practice: understanding contemporary practice in its cultural and historical contexts
- Appreciating the multiplicity of Buddhist lives: exploring the many ways we can live a Dharma-centered life