Our new name
This issue, we are adopting the name Heartwood
for this publication. In Buddhist literature, "heartwood" (sara
) has several shades of meaning. Most directly, it signifies the goal of the path – Awakening – which is arrived at through fully treading a gradual path and not settling for lesser attainments. More broadly, heartwood refers to the most valuable result of something that comes with its full maturation.
This idea can be applied to the development of the Insight movement in the West, which is itself treading a gradual path. We can reflect on our deepest intentions in teaching and practicing the Dharma here in order to sense if our aspirations will carry us all the way to the heartwood.
InterSangha 2013: Conference theme
Consonant with this inquiry of heartwood is the theme for this year's InterSangha meeting (Aug 22-24): "Investigating Insight Meditation Practices in the West." The conference still includes nuts-and-bolts tools and practices for creating and growing a sangha, for these are very much a part of how we "practice sangha." InterSangha will also include some self-assessment of what we are really doing here with Insight practice, from the practitioners' perspectives.
Registration is underway; participation is by invitation. If you are a sangha leader (board member or volunteer/staff with key responsibilities) or teacher in the Insight tradition and would like more info, please email InterSangha@gmail.com
Insight Sangha Database
Also this issue we introduce a new resource for the growing Insight community: A searchable database of Insight sanghas all around the West. We hope it will become a comprehensive listing of Insight sanghas and a helpful tool for both students and teachers.
Enjoying our ongoing journey of wisdom and compassion,
Special message: Financial support for BIN
All of BIN's resources – such as the Sangha Database, this publication, and the InterSangha meeting – are freely offered. However, because they do incur real financial costs, our ability to continue offering them is dependent on the support of the Insight community. Donations to support BIN
are gratefully accepted. The simplest method is through our PayPal page
, but let us know if you'd prefer another option.
Interview with Joseph Goldstein: An Authentic Lineage of Awakening
By Kim Allen
In a 1993 interview with Tricycle
magazine about the Insight Meditation Movement, Joseph Goldstein wondered how much connection there would be to an "authentic lineage of awakening" in 20 years. Well, now it is 2013, and the BIN Journal decided to ask him. The conversation covered wide-ranging topics related to the current situation with teachers and teachings, as well as some thoughts about the future. We spoke with Goldstein by phone.
Understanding the Insight Meditation Movement
BIN: What is the Insight Meditation Movement? What distinguishes, characterizes, or unifies it?
Joseph Goldstein: What we might call the Vipassana or Insight movement is simply those people who engage in Insight meditation in one form or another. The different strands of Buddhism offer different methods, tools, forms, and metaphysics, but the essence of all is mindful awareness and nonclinging. One difference that we've seen in the West between Vipassana and other traditions, such as Zen or Tibetan, is that Westerners started the Insight tradition here, rather than Asian teachers. That means that from the beginning, we didn't have the Asian cultural forms as a framework. I don't see that as being better or worse, just different.
BIN: Describe the structure of the Insight movement/tradition at this time. To what degree does it contain a consistent set of practices and understanding of spiritual development?
JG: What we practice here derives directly from different Asian Theravada lineages of practice: those of Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Chah, Goenka, and now U Tejaniya, Pa'Auk Sayadaw, and others. Some Western teachers stick with one lineage fairly closely, while others offer more of a blend. What's interesting to see is that among the various Western teachers, there are different blends of practice developing, as influences from different practice lineages are incorporated into the teachings. Some teachers also add accents from other traditions like Dzogchen or Zen.
Insight and Theravada
BIN: Where does the Insight tradition fit into the Theravada tradition?
JG: It lies right at the heart of the tradition; it comes out of the specific practices of the Asian Theravada world. We are offering a Western expression of those teachings.
BIN: What innovations has the Western Insight movement contributed?
JG: We have emphasized certain aspects and styles of practice. First, the usual retreat format is one of silent, intensive practice, which is something not all traditions do. And within that form of retreat, generally we support individuals finding their own rhythm within the retreat. This differs from sesshin, for instance, where the whole group practices in concert.
Furthermore, there has been a growing integration of Western psychological understanding with the classical Buddhist teachings. I think our challenge is to find the right balance so that the psychological understanding is used in service of Liberation. There is some danger of making a "sense of well-being" into a goal in itself. Of course, having a greater sense of well-being is a positive and helpful development in our lives, but it doesn't necessarily lead us to the highest possibilities of freedom.
Teachers and teacher trainees
BIN: What boundaries and lines exist within the Insight tradition to distinguish different teachers and teachings? For example, only teachers who teach retreats at the major insight centers are invited to the Insight Teachers meeting held every three years.
JG: Basically, this was purely logistical. We needed to create some non-personal criterion so the numbers were workable. But we need to keep looking at whether this criterion still makes sense. The form needs to keep up with the evolving scene. I'm happy to hear about the Gen-X teacher's meeting and other such events starting to happen.
BIN: There are a number of teacher training programs that prepare people for various levels and types of teaching. How are these people trained?
JG: The trainees are familiarized with the lineages of Asia so that they become aware of where all this is coming from. But they don't necessarily identify themselves as being from one particular lineage. Especially the younger teachers who may not have practiced in Asia – perhaps they would identify more with the Western teachers and with various "blended" styles of practice.
I think what is important as a foundation for all the trainees is a good understanding of Right View: Regardless of the depth they teach from, their teaching should be in line with the Buddha's understanding of Right View, conveying the teachings of the Buddha as they understand them.
Looking to the future
BIN: The founders of the Insight Movement are beginning to slow down or retire, and will someday die. How might this movement change as that comes about?
JG: It's an interesting question. I think we're in pretty good shape. It's been one of the strengths of the Insight movement that it's always been decentralized. This was a conscious decision. When we created IMS, we made sure that it did not belong to one teacher. The Insight Movement as a whole is not so dependent on any particular teacher. People cycle out, and new ones come in. I feel good about that just continuing. I don't imagine there will be a conclave with black and white smoke after the founding teachers die.
BIN: Is there any appropriate planning for the future of the Insight movement which would be helpful to do now?
JG: What creates the future of the Dharma in the West is the standard of the teachers. The most important preparation work we are doing is the teacher training programs. That's what will keep it going. We need to be careful to maintain the quality of the teachings among all those who are training to be teachers. Hence, the strong focus on Right View.
In addition, the centers need to bring in newer teachers, and new centers need to form. The centers provide the space and structure for the teachers to come in and offer the teachings. There are "dual tracks" between the development of the centers themselves and the teachers; they are mutually supportive. At IMS, we have undergone huge organizational development in 37 years. We've learned a lot – sometimes painfully! But now we're in a really good space. And we have that organizational wisdom to pass on, just as we pass on the Dharma wisdom through teacher training.
Overall, I feel pretty optimistic about where the Insight movement is going. There are a lot of people – some of whom are in the various teacher training programs – who have a tremendous depth of understanding.
BIN: Do you think Insight is a lineage? Could it be considered an "authentic lineage of awakening"?
JG: The short answer is that it's too early to tell. Different Asian lineages are well-represented in what we teach here. But whether the style that blends them together will become its own lineage is still uncertain. My sense is that it will because the teacher trainees have been "brought up" with this mix, but we don't know how that will play out.
BIN: Can a student seeking Awakening find appropriate teachings from Western Insight teachers?
JG: Yes, within the spectrum of what's being taught, there are teachers who really hold to the idea of Enlightenment and Awakening as being the core of their practice and teaching.
Image courtesy of IMS
Searchable Database of Insight Sanghas
BIN has just launched a new searchable online Insight Sangha Database
. We aim for it to be a comprehensive listing of Insight groups in the West. Groups can be searched for by location, program offerings, and teacher type. There is a top-level listing of all groups, and each group also has its own summary page on which to offer key information, a short prose write-up, and a picture.
Of course we are familiar with the Sitting Groups listing from Inquiring Mind
, which has served the community for nearly three decades, and have even been in contact with IM. This new database is a natural unfolding into a new service offering. In addition to searchability, it offers details of each group's program offerings and live webpage/email links.
In addition, sanghas are able to maintain their own listing. The database is launching with entries for nearly 80 groups, but of course there are many more. Please have a look to be sure we represented your group accurately! If you'd like to maintain your listing or if your Insight sangha is not listed, please send email
This does raise the question, What is an Insight Meditation sangha? This does not have a sharp definition, but neither is it vague or undefined. The Insight Meditation Movement in the West was started by Westerners who trained at Theravada monasteries in Southeast Asia – these founding teachers include Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Christina Feldman, Christopher Titmuss, and Ruth Denison.
Insight sanghas feel a spiritual connection to these teachers and the meditation centers they founded: Insight Meditation Society, Spirit Rock, Gaia House, and Dhamma Dena.
Teachers and Insight groups who do not have a direct connection to the Insight Meditation Movement are welcome to be listed in the BIN database provided they primarily teach and practice in ways that are in harmony with these four centers, rather than identifying as “eclectic,” multi-traditional, or pan-Buddhist.
In addition, Insight groups are willing to call themselves “Buddhist,” rather than only using the term “mindfulness.”
BIN hopes this searchable Insight Sangha Database will be a valuable resource for the growing community of Insight groups, teachers, and practitioners in the West.
One Earth Sangha: A Buddhist Response to Climate Change
By Kristin Barker, Insight Meditation Community of Washington and One Earth Sangha
“We have a brief window of opportunity to take action, to preserve humanity from imminent disaster and to assist the survival of the many diverse and beautiful forms of life on Earth. Future generations, and the other species that share the biosphere with us, have no voice to ask for our compassion, wisdom, and leadership. We must listen to their silence. We must be their voice, too, and act on their behalf.”
- Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change
A group of Insight practitioners in the Washington DC area are creating a new sangha in response to the growing threat of climate change. Our mission is to create a community of teachers and practitioners to support one another in awakening and responding to this and other threats to our shared home. Beginning this summer, One Earth Sangha will gather, share and cultivate the Dharma perspective on climate change. Through our website at www.1earthsangha.org
, we’ll give sangha members ways to connect and support one another in practicing wise response. And we’ll keep you informed of opportunities to lend an honest and kind perspective, a Buddhist voice, to the larger conversation on protecting all beings from the harm of a warming world.
Super-storm Sandy, the historic Midwest drought, and devastating Western wildfires have given us a taste of our future. Unfortunately, because climate change has become so severely politicized in the US, we have not engaged in the necessary conversations. As a result, most citizens have not fully accepted what’s to come. Solutions like energy efficiency and renewable energy can reduce the suffering of a warming planet and are within our grasp, but humanity’s emotional response to the enormity of the climate crisis is creating a barrier to wise action.
The Buddhist community of teachers and practitioners can play an important role in helping one another, as well as the greater human family, transform the mental and emotional barriers. Our situation requires the essence of the mindfulness practice: to see, accept, and respond to the way things are with wisdom and compassion. We cannot prevent what is already underway: a warming planet. The skills of mindful presence cultivated in our practice can, however, play a critical role in humanity’s conscientious response.
What does it mean to live in accordance with Buddhist principals in the context of global climate change? What would our lives look like if we were to respond to the environmental crisis as an expression of our Buddhist path? How can Buddhism, with its understanding of greed, hatred and delusion, as well as its deep exploration of our connectedness and inter-being, contribute to a conversation about broad-scale transformation? How do we actualize the bodhisattva vow and help ourselves and others fully awaken to the truth of a warming world?
One Earth Sangha
will offer a place to live our way into the answers to these and other questions.
How you can help right now
: In this first stage, we are hosting a Request for Teachings
, a letter to teachers in the Insight tradition to contemplate the Dharma of, and engage sanghas on, climate suffering. It has been endorsed by Jack Kornfield, James Baraz, Tara Brach, Larry Yang, Joanna Macy, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, and Catherine McGee. We will take all the signatures on this request to the upcoming International Vipassana Teachers gathering at Spirit Rock. We invite you and your sanghas to join this effort.
Insight World Aid: Successful Mission to Cambodia
By Jeff Hardin, Executive Director, Insight World Aid
Insight World Aid’s first overseas mission was an outstanding success. In February of 2013 a brigade of volunteers participated in two weeks of travel, service, sightseeing and meditation practice in Cambodia. Twenty-six men and women left the comfort and safety of their ordinary lives in order to practice bringing an end to suffering in the world. Although we all came from different backgrounds and had different skill sets, we teamed together traveling and working in harmony. Our time together was aided and enlivened by the teachings and practices of mindfulness and compassion. Our volunteer service may have made a small impact on the lives of a few Cambodians who live in impoverished conditions but perhaps a bigger and lasting one on our own lives. This maiden voyage of IWA was a beautiful and memorable proof-of-concept of our slogan: “Wisdom and Compassion in Action.”
The IWA mission involved one week of volunteering and one week of sightseeing with meditation practices integrated throughout. Team IWA was part of a larger group of volunteers working in Cambodia that was organized by the Cambodian Health Professionals Association of America (CHPAA). CHPAA is an organization formed by survivors of the killing fields (Cambodia’s holocaust of the 1970’s) who provide free medical and dental care to impoverished Cambodians. Our volunteer work consisted of two components for IWA: 1) a group of 18 volunteers working in a temporary CHPAA health clinic in a small town; and 2) a group of 8 volunteers living and working at an orphanage in a rural setting. During our week of service we were able to provide a great many clinical services, medications, free check-ups, surgery and dental care for several thousand Cambodians. Although conditions in the clinic were challenging (hot, dusty, with overcrowding and suffering everywhere), the team worked together efficiently and joyfully providing much needed aid to those who otherwise have little or no access to quality health care. We were rewarded with countless smiles, bows, “thank you” and a few hugs.
Those who worked at the Wat Opot orphanage had equally challenging and deeply heart-opening experiences. The orphanage is a special place that houses and cares for HIV positive children who have been abandoned or discarded. The volunteers at the orphanage shared their kindness and diverse skills to nurture, educate and entertain the children. After our week of service we enjoyed spectacular sightseeing at the ruins of Angkor Wat, a world-famous Hindu and Buddhist temple complex. The trip was informed by and benefited from our daily efforts to bring mindfulness and compassion into our experience. We held regular group meditations, frequent debriefings, daily poetry reflections, and visited a famous Buddhist monk at his temple. We ended our trip with a daylong meditation retreat where we practiced in silence and then reflected on and shared about our experience together. Overall, the trip was a challenging but unforgettable experience that has touched many of our hearts deeply.
Images courtesy of IWA
Dharma Zephyr Completes Incorporation Process
By Christy Tews, Teacher, Dharma Zephyr Insight Meditation Community
During the last half of 2012 a dedicated group of practitioners led by Chas Macquarie solved all the questions leading to our 22-year-old organization - Dharma Zephyr Insight Meditation Community
- becoming a Nevada nonprofit corporation. We held our first annual meeting on February 24, 2013 with 25 attendees from Reno, Carson City, and Minden. These active practitioners helped steer the board toward the new directions our organization will be taking.
DZIMC began in 1990 with 4 practitioners sitting in the Washoe Valley, south of Reno, Nevada. Over the years we have grown to include sanghas spread over more than 60 miles of terrain from Reno through Carson City and south to Minden/Gardnerville. Eight groups now sit with our peer-led sanghas, including one housed at Warm Springs Correctional Center, a medium security prison in Carson City.
We are fortunate to have had the mentoring of John Travis, founder of Mountain Stream Meditation Center, throughout our years of practice. Kathy Schwerin and Christy Tews completed the CDL2 program offered at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and continue to mentor, teach, and lead the developing practice of our many participants. We take joy in the Dhamma and the many people who swim “against the stream” in northern Nevada.
Insight Meditation Center to Offer Spanish Dharma Newsletter
By Carrie Tamburo, Editor, Newsletter-in-Spanish
I am delighted to announce to the Insight Meditation community that the Insight Meditation Center of Redwood City will soon be publishing a semiannual newsletter in Spanish. Its purpose is to make the Dharma more widely available in the Latino/Hispanic communities, to be a vehicle through which Spanish-speaking voices of Dharma may be heard, and to shed light upon various aspects of cross-cultural Dharma. More information will be available when the publication is launched.
Summer 2013 Retreat and Dharma Program Announcements
A Call for Program Announcements
BIN welcomes announcements from Insight groups and teachers for publication in the BIN newsletter. It is an opportunity to inform the wider Insight community about programs, retreats, classes, and other happenings. It is especially useful to publish items that would be accessible to many people across the community.
We are working on standardizing the formats. For now, items may be sent to BuddhistInsightNetwork@gmail.com or through the Contact page
of our website (there is a Dharma Program Announcements category in the pulldown menu)
The following Guidelines shape what we publish:
Summer 2013 Program Announcements:
In the future, BIN will create a Retreat Database with a way to enter data in a standard format. For now, we accept entries by email.
Insight Meditation South Bay
Announcements come from Buddhist Insight groups and teachers, and are for Dharma-related programs
Announcements are for specific events/programs, not for ongoing events
At this time, we do not include announcements/advertisements for professional services or about secular mindfulness programs
Please include a website or contact email for further info, if possible
Announcements may be up to 125 words (more than 125 words, the announcement becomes an article and goes through a different process for inclusion)
will offer these retreats in California during 2013. For further information on any of these, please use www.imsb.org
Insight Retreat Center (Santa Cruz, CA)
Mindfulness, Concentration, and Insight, with Shaila Catherine (Jul 25 – Aug 4, Santa Rosa CA). Held at Angela Center in Santa Rosa, CA, this retreat will include instructions in concentration and jhana practice.
Clarity and Insight: an Insight Meditation retreat focusing on insight and the body, with Shaila Catherine and Bhante U Jagara (Nov 7 – 17, Ben Lomond, CA). Held at Quaker Retreat Center, this retreat will include instructions in the Four Elements Meditation.
: IRC is offering these and other retreats (registration available at http://www.insightretreatcenter.org/retreats/
). All IRC retreats are offered offered freely at no cost to anyone who participates. Most of the financial support comes from donations participants offer at the end of retreats. Their generosity is what allows others to participate in future retreats.
Lost Coast Retreat with Susie Harrington and Ayya Anandabodhi (Jun 9-22, Lost Coast, CA).
Dharma Integration Weekend with Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella, Jul 26-28, 2013 (2 nights)
Insight Retreat with Andrea Fella and Pamela Weiss, Jul 31-Aug 4, 2013 (4 nights)
Insight Retreat with Gil Fronsdal and Richard Shankman, Oct 20-27, 2013 (7 nights)
We have an unusual opportunity; each year we are offered the use of a private homestead, located on an inholding, right on the coast, deep in the wilderness. We walk eight miles along the seashore to where we practice, before our return walk out. Both camping and indoor sleeping are available. While it is remote and simple, hot showers, a hot tub and a complete kitchen with fresh food, make it an easy place to be at ease. This retreat is set in a place that naturally inspires our sense of awe and appreciation. http://www.desertdharma.org/Retreats/Retreats/LostCoast.html
Kind Awareness with Noah Levine (June 14-16, Mount Madonna, CA).
Using a hybrid of mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation techniques, Noah will offer an experience of the teachings and practices of the Buddha. We will learn to develop a greater sense of care for ourselves and for our world through the revolutionary spiritual practices of the Buddha. The workshop explores the ways in which true spiritual practice is an engagement with life that goes against the norms of our confused society and is therefore an act of rebellion. This ancient path of awakening our own deepest wisdom and compassion is accessible to all who choose it. Instructions in meditation and guidance in the Buddhist path to liberation will be offered. http://www.mountmadonna.org/live/3610.html
Kind Awareness: Vipassana Retreat with Noah Levine (July 16-20, Pagosa Springs, CO).
At this Insight Meditation retreat, we focus our attention on our breath, body, heart and mind. The instructions will be based upon the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in combination with exercises in lovingkindness and compassion. Each day will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, Dharma talks and interviews. http://taramandala.org/program/kind-awareness-vipassana-retreat/
The Heart of Mindfulness: Retreat with John Travis (Aug 18-23, Glenbrook, NV).
Starting with the basics of stabilizing the attention - concentration on the breath.Then exploring our sense of groundedness through- working with the body. As we stabilize ourselves we begin to have some awareness of our stories, emotions and ultimately our thinking process. At this point we can be open to what is referred to as choiceless awareness. Resting with a clearer mind and a more open and sensitive heart. The sheer beauty and wonder of Lake Tahoe shines. http://dharmazephyr.org/content/5-night-residential-retreat
Sensory Awareness retreat with Terry Ray (July 17-21, White River National Forest, CO).
Mindfulness of Body (Sensory Awareness) retreat held in cabins in White River National Forest above Vail Pass -- 11,000 feet outside of Vail CO. http://www.terryray.org/July_2013_Sensory_Awareness.html
Against the Stream Retreat with Noah Levine (Aug 23-30, Plainfield, MA). At this Insight Meditation retreat, we focus our attention to our breath, body, heart and mind. The instructions will be based upon the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in combination with exercises in lovingkindness and compassion. http://www.againstthestream.org/programs/residential-retreats/east-coast-retreat
Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage
. Dharmawheels is a sangha of bicyclists and their friends who come together to share the Dharma along with their love of cycling and to participate in an annual dana-supported Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage. On September 28-29, we will journey 150 miles from Spirit Rock to Ukiah, visiting Sae Taw Win, City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and Abhayagiri Monastery along the way. Joining us will be the bhikkhunis of Aloka Vihara. This is especially appropriate, for September 29th will be the 3rd Annual International Bhikkhuni Day, a day created to commemorate the Buddha ’s ordaining of women. Please join us. To learn more, visit http://www.dharmawheels.org