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HomeBuddhistA Q&A with IMS Teacher Rodney Smith – Insight Meditation Society

A Q&A with IMS Teacher Rodney Smith – Insight Meditation Society

Transcending Identity: A Retreat for Advanced Practitioners
May 2 – 8, 2023
Register for this on-line retreat.

Rodney Smith spent eight years in Buddhist monastic settings, each at IMS and a number of other years as a Buddhist monk in Asia. He ordained with Mahasi Sayadaw in Burma then practiced for 3 years with Ajahn Buddhadassa in Thailand. He disrobed as a monk in 1983 and, after returning to the West, began working in hospice care and educating vipassana meditation all through the U.S.

At the top of 2016, Rodney retired from a full-time educating function after greater than 30 years of educating. He served as a senior trainer for IMS and the founding and guiding trainer of Seattle Insight Meditation. He is writer of the books Touching the Infinite: A New Perspective on the Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness; Lessons From the DyingStepping Out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self, and Awakening: A Paradigm Shift of the Heart.

Here, Rodney explains extra in regards to the upcoming on-line retreat, Transcending Identity, which he’ll co-lead with IMS Teacher Narayan Helen Liebenson.

Why did you select to discover the subject of Transcending Identity?

Many skilled practitioners in all probability have spent a number of years getting their minds so as by studying easy methods to work with it cooperatively, they usually could really feel the advantages, corresponding to a much less dense and extra uplifting spirit, much less reactivity, a quieter disposition, and a kinder coronary heart. But now, having felt these advantages, many are asking what’s the final trajectory of all this meditation follow? Is it nearly self-care and modification of character?

So, what’s the decisive goal and function of perception meditation? The non secular journey is to maneuver out of our projections onto actuality into its true nonreducible essence. What are the expressions of this essence that lies past phrases? It remains to be, full, mysterious, easy, formless, unchanging, boundless, and timeless.

One of the methods to appropriate the goal of our follow is utilizing certainly one of these expression of formless consciousness as our central inquiry. For instance, the timeless is a aspect of the basic essence, but our minds measure time incessantly though it’s mentally derived. This begins a deep investigation into time previous, current, future, and now. Examining now, we see that each one of time might be discovered inside now, the remaining is simply thought-induced ideas about durations of time. Anything that holds all of time is itself timeless. When now could be understood as an entry into formless consciousness via the timeless, we permit now to enter our consciousness as its sole perspective by eliminating every part that’s time certain.

Reality turns into distorted via our conceptual overlay upon it, and the sense-of-self drives us towards higher conceptual utilization and away from formless consciousness. As lengthy as our sense-of-self, which is the embodiment of ignorance, stays in control of our follow, we might be misguided by its confusion and adherence to conceptual pondering. The sense-of-self is a mere strategy of thoughts that establishes our individuality and separation however has no understanding of the non secular journey going ahead. It is perpetually caught inside its conditioned tendencies because it makes an attempt to uncover the unconditioned.

This goal of follow is to find and abide throughout the elementary essence of actuality and which means releasing the self as we’ve got identified it to be and abiding inside consciousness with out type. Awareness then descends again into the physique and rests with out battle throughout the interactions of an energetic life, facet by facet with the formless essence of life that’s with out movement. Form and the formless residing collectively as an unsolvable paradox, however as one and the identical when lived.

In your e book, Touching the Infinite, you wrote in regards to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, is that sutta related to what you might be saying?

Many years in the past, I used to be providing a two-year class on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and thought to myself that there appears to be a lacking piece, which was a transparent goal and vacation spot. When I requested different skilled practitioners how they understood the aim of the Four Foundations, essentially the most constant reply I acquired was that it elevated the subtlety of the mindfulness. I knew that delicate seeing was nonetheless seeing type, only a extra nuanced expression of type, and that delicate formations would by no means develop into the formless. There is not any entry to the formless via formations, delicate or gross, till the thoughts stops conceptualizing it as type.

It dawned on me that the Heart Sutra was a close to excellent match when paired with the Four Foundations: type is vacancy and vacancy is type. That was the lacking piece: that was the view and goal that accomplished the Four Foundations. The Four Foundations was the strategy, the Heart Sutra the course. Two seminal suttas working as a single appropriate complete.

The course description states that the main focus of this system might be on “uprooting our false identity within our encased narrative and aligned ego structures.” Can you give us a little bit of element round what this exploration will embody?

Form and the formless are collectively in each perceived second, however we transfer previous the attention of the thing to the that means we give the thing. I might ask the reader: on this second what’s looking of your eyes, not what you’re looking at, however what’s seeing? Not who’s seeing, however what’s the seeing itself? Reside throughout the seeing and we may have moved from type to the formless. Focus on the thing and we’ll stay fashioned. The sense-of-self can’t transfer into that seeing, however we is not going to depart the self behind so long as we imagine it as a real illustration of us. Releasing it’ll solely happen once we completely understand what the individuate self truly is, and the way it dependently arises inside time, ideas, reminiscence, and data.

Using the Four Foundations, we transfer ahead via the First Foundation by withholding the “knowledge and remembrance” we put money into the physique, permitting it to fall again from the one thing the thoughts fabricated from it into the nothing it’s. The Second Foundation explains how “basic contact and feelings” create our worldview. Out of the nothing it’s comes the conceptual one thing we imagine it to be.

Despite the truth that formless consciousness will not be a type that may be perceived, it may be uncovered. The path towards the limitless is thru the wordless. We discover ways to give up our phrases again into the stillness from which they got here. We want the craving and urgency of the guts to maneuver into what’s inconceivable to know, can’t be managed, and has no accompanying sense-of-identity. Why would we want to go there…solely as a result of it’s true, full, and full in and of itself.

Participants ought to have 10+ years of follow, together with intensive retreat expertise. Why is that this necessary?

Slowly shifting out of phrases into the wordless might be completely complicated to the conditioned sense-of-self that also relies upon upon phrases. The sense-of-self resists the unknown by arousing the state of worry. The journey ultimately brings up all our previous conditioning and traumas, which, if sudden, can shake our psyche. What is wondrous to expertise is that our previous conditioning can’t maintain itself as the sunshine of the unconditioned formless consciousness begins to shine upon it.

When we shift from type to the formless, our perceptual discipline modifications accordingly. The worldview we as soon as knew and counted upon for our stability is altered, and the brand new notion might be disorienting till we discover our footing. This new perspective is a related, heart-centered existence that’s mysterious and nonetheless.

The questions we’ve got for every participant who wish to be part of us are: Is there curiosity and curiosity about this journey? Do you are feeling an inward pull to return, versus becoming a member of since you suppose it might be good for you? A wholesome curiosity might be a sign of readiness, whereas forcing oneself ahead signifies a necessity for extra inward stability. This journey requires a steadiness and maturity of follow. Since we can’t interview the members to display screen for that maturity, we set a 10-year minimal of honest follow historical past with a number of residential retreats. Granted this isn’t a really sound strategy to measure maturity, however throughout this weeklong retreat we’ll gently introduce the matters and ease our method into them.

What can members count on with this program?

Best to reach with your curiosity intact whereas anticipating nothing. We do encourage the retreatants to comply with the complete schedule and keep the whole time. Of course, anybody can depart voluntarily at any time.

Is there anything you prefer to members to know or perceive earlier than registering?

Narayan and I each have about 50 years of follow and have been educating collectively for greater than 25 years. This will not be conceptual to us. It is a dwelling reality. Narayan approaches the timeless via the guts, not the mentally derived coronary heart however the limitless magnanimous coronary heart of freedom. I strategy the limitless by seeing what’s left after every part false has been discarded. Usually one, if not each, of those two intertwined pathways will resonate with college students.

We take the coed’s welfare very severely and can again you away instantly if we understand a striving mentality or an unwillingness to remain inside your self or inside your individual timing and realization. We level towards the non-practice follow of stress-free, observing, permitting no matter arises to come up and inquiring into that which lies hidden. This is about releasing and surrendering our separation, that’s all.


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