Early Buddhism: Teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha

1. The Acts of the Buddha - March 24, 2019

In this talk, Bruce briefly introduces the Seminary program and begins with a recounting of Shakyamuni Buddha's life based in the Buddhacarita by Asvagosa.

(Unfortunately, due to a technology glitch of some sort, the final 20 minutes or so were not recorded.)

2. The Four Noble Truths - March 24, 2019

Bruce continues his discourse on the Buddha's realization, reads from the Sutta / Sutra of the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma. Brief periods of silent practice and chanting are included.

3. The Twelve Nidanas - March 24, 2019

The recording begins with a brief period of silence (about 4 min.), followed by a reading from the Buddhacarita in which death is contemplated: The Dart: A Recollection on Death. Bruce then turns to the night of the Buddha's enlightenment and a contemplation of the 12 links of dependent origination.

4. Karma, Virtue, Detachment, & Eight Streams of Virtue - April 4, 2019

5. Generating Merit and an Analysis of the Eightfold Path

6. The Twin Verses from the Dhammapada - April 18, 2019

Here is a reading and discussion on the first verses from the Dhammapada, which introduces the central ethical attitude taught by the Buddha. (verses below)

The Twin Verses

We are what we think

Having become what we thought

Like the wheel that follows the cart pulling ox

Suffering follows an evil thought

While happiness follows a pure thought

Like a shadow that never departs

We are what we think

Having become what we thought

He abused me, he mistreated me, he defeated me, he robbed me

Having such thoughts keeps hatred alive.

He abused me, he mistreated me, he defeated me, he robbed me

Releasing such thoughts hatred ceases.

For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time

Hatred only ceases by love. This is an ancient truth.

The world does not know that all things come to an end here

Those who do, their quarrels cease at once.

One who lives for sensation

Senses uncontrolled

Immoderate, careless, lacking energy

The tempter Mara breaks

Just like the wind breaks a frail tree

The One who is mindful

Senses controlled, moderate, careful, energetic

Cannot be overthrown by Mara

Just like a mountain is untouched by a storm

The path to the deathless is awareness;

unawareness, the path of death.

They who are aware, do not die;

they who are unaware have never lived

Sorrow now, sorrow later; happiness now, happiness later.

The virtuous person is happy in this world, they are happy in the next,

they are happy in both.

Those who put on robes without renouncing samsara within

Disregarding self-control and truth are unworthy of the robes

Those who have truly renounced all defilement

Who are well grounded in virtues, disciplined and honest

These alone are worthy of the robes

Those who fail to distinguish

The nonessential from the essential

And the essential from the nonessential

Will, caught in thoughts and desires

Fail to attain the essential

But those who correctly realize

The essential as essential

And the nonessential as nonessential

Will, discovering the truth beyond words and desire

Attain the essential

7. Gaining Merit, The Six Recollections, and Three Trainings - April 25, 2019

Bruce begins by giving the parameters of the test for students in the Seminary program. This is followed by readings and discussion from early sutras / suttas on gaining merit as the power for living positively and progressing spiritually. Among other things, the discussion addresses questions around merit and the 3 trainings - Sila (moral discipline), Samadhi (meditation), and Prajna (wisdom). [About 4 minutes of the talk was interrupted due to technical difficulties.]

8. The Way - Ch. 20 from the Dhammapada and the Three Marks of Existence - May 2, 2019

The Dhammapada

Chapter 20: The Way


The best of paths is the Eightfold Path

The best of truths are the Four Noble Truths

Freedom from desire is the best of states

The best of beings is the all seeing one


This is the only way

There is no other to purify vision

Follow this path

And you will bewilder Mara


Entering that Path

You will make an end of suffering

Realizing how to remove the thorn of desire

I have taught you this path


You must exert yourselves

Buddhas only point the way

The meditative ones who rest in jhana

Escape the bonds of Mara


All conditioned things are impermanent

When one realizes this truth

One turns away from suffering

This is the path of purification


All conditioned things are unsatisfactory

When one realizes this truth

One turns away from suffering

This is the path of purification


All dharmas are without self

When one realizes this truth

One turns away from suffering

This is the path of purification


The lazy one who does not strive

Though young and strong is lethargic and slothful

With a mind of great thoughts

Such an indolent being

Never finds the road to wisdom


Be watchful of speech

Well-restrained in mind

And graceful in conduct

Purify these three karmic streams

And realize the path proclaimed by the sages


Wisdom springs from meditation

Without meditation wisdom wanes

Knowing what causes gain and what causes loss

Conduct your affairs so wisdom may increase


Cut down the forest of desires

Not just a tree here and there

The forest of desire is full of danger

Cut down the forest and the undergrowth

And be free


For as long as the slightest undergrowth

Of passion remains

So long will your mind be in bondage

Like the young calf bound to its mother


Cut off the love of self

With your own hands

As you would pluck a water lilly

Cultivate the path leading to Nirvana

As taught by the Thus Gone One


I shall live here during the rains

There in autumn and summer

So thinks the fool

Unaware death is approaching ever nearer


The one with a calculating mind

Ever concerned with increasing children and herds

Death seizes and carries away

Like a sleeping village

Swept away by a great flood


When death comes

Sons and kinsmen are no protection

Loved ones offer no refuge


Realizing this

The wise cultivate virtue

And with haste

Clear the path to Nirvana

9. Meditation - May 23, 2019

Two Categories of Meditation

1. Shamatha - focusing

2. Vipassana - spaciousness / awareness

Four Foundations of Mindfulness

1. Mindfulness of Body

2. Mindfulness of Feeling

3. Mindfulness of Mind

4. Mindfulness of Phenomena

Six Things to Bring to Meditation

1. agreeable place

2. few desires

3. simplicity of life

4. upright posture

5. absence of virtuous and unvirtuous thoughts

6. presence / purification

Five Signs of Attaining Shamatha

1. dawning of pure appearances

2. more restful sleep

3. diminishment of calculating mind

4. stabilization of awareness

5. increased mental pliancy

Nine Rules for Making Meditation a Positive Experience

1. Relax

2. Don't expect anything

3. Observe without prejudice

4. Let go

5. Accept everything that arises

6. Be gentle with yourself

7. Don't rush

8. Investigate yourself

9. Bring all problems to the path

10. The Jhanas - May 30, 2019

A reading and discussion from Tapussa Sutta from the Numerical Discourses, the Book of Nines, Sutta 41 in which the Buddha charts the meditative territory to be traversed.

1. Delightful Sensations

2. Joy

3. Contentment

4. Utter peacefulness

5. Infinity of space

6. Infinity of consciousness

7. No-thingness

8. Neither perception nor non-perception

9. Cessation

11. Eight Temporary Meditative Experiences - Nyam

Five Basic Nyam:

  • Brook on a Steep Hill
  • Turbulent River
  • Slowly Flowing River
  • Ocean Without Waves
  • Candle Undisturbed by the Wind

Three Fundamental Nyam:

  • Dewa - Bliss or joy
  • Selwa - Luminosity
  • Mitokpa - Non-thought