This blog contains announcements, insights and articles from the Insight Meditation Community of Washington


Treasure Hunt: Exploring Buddhism’s Early Teachings

Buddhist traditions have been arising, developing and spreading in the world for 2,500 years. For most of their history, the traditions remained fairly isolated from each other, both geographically and culturally. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that Buddhism “came to the West,” and the various Asian traditions started to encounter each other. This was also a period in which the West created its own versions by applying its own cultural lenses to interpret, highlight, add to and discard parts of the historic traditions. Many experience the everything-all-at-once situation as an all-you-can-eat buffet. However, I felt caught in the middle of cafeteria food fight!

The Question of Essential Human Goodness

Like other spiritual traditions Buddhism has debated over the course of its history whether human nature is basically good or basically flawed. Buddhism today, through its myriad forms, presents to us two very different models of human nature: one of inherent goodness and purity, and one of plasticity, of malleability, of no- essence. Where we come down in this issue – consciously or unconsciously – determines what we see as our existential starting point and necessarily leads to two very different frameworks of intention and effort. It has a profound effect on what we think our Dharma practice should be about....

Unraveling Modern Buddhism’s “Genetic Code”

If you are interested in the idea that Buddhism has a “genetic code,” it might be an example of the influence and appeal of the scientific worldview.  In fact, as author David McMahan points out in The Making of Buddhist Modernism it is, in part, because Buddhism was presented to Western audiences in the late 1800’s as “scientific” that it gained a foothold in the culture....

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

Back in May, during the last class for 2008-2009, I asked them what they had remembered most; what lessons had stuck.  Jacob recalled Jennifer’s teaching on Buddhism’s “five hindrances:” craving, aversion, restlessness, sloth and confusion.  The hindrances hinder peace, wisdom and kindness; they make it hard to experience freedom and happiness.  We teachers make use of visual queues whenever we can and in this case each hindrance was portrayed with the image of an animal: Craving as a pig, aversion as a rooster, restlessness as a monkey, sloth as…a sloth, and confusion as a mole.  We do not teach that the hindrances are “bad” or that the children are doing anything wrong if they experience them.  Instead, we help them become aware – invite them to experience for themselves...