Cultivating the Boundless Abidings
Julie Püttgen
w/ Valley Insight Meditation Society

@ Julie Püttgen Studio, Lebanon, NH
September 22-November 10th, 2013


WEEK 1 (9/22/13)
Introductions; boundlessness as a felt-body experience; boundlessness through shared voice; brahmaviharas chant in English with gestures & movements; "what makes you free?" & "what makes you not-free?"

Brahmaviharas (Boundless Abidings) Chant:

I will abide pervading one quarter with a heart imbued with [loving-kindness]*;
likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth;
so above and below, around and everywhere; and to all as to myself.
I will abide pervading the all-encompassing world
with a heart  imbued with [loving-kindness]*:
abundant, exalted, immeasurable
without hostility, and without ill-will.

* verse 2: compassion; verse 3: gladness; verse 4: equanimity

for a sound recording of this chant, click here.

Assignment for Week 2:


WEEK 2 (9/29/13)
Boundlessness through listening at the four quarters, and above and below. Mudras as both a way to communicate skillful states of heart & mind, and as a way to contact them through bodily experience. Felt-body experience of five mudras & their correspondences to the Boundless Abidings:

Assignment for Week 3:

Week 3 (10/6/13)
Boundless Abidings practice with mudras, directions, times of year, colors, phases of life, like this. Reading and discussion of a section from MN 40. The sequence of abandoning unskillful states of mind>>pleasure>>tranquility of the body>>Boundless Abidings>>liberation through direct seeing. How the Buddha's teaching on "homelessness" can also mean being at home wherever you are & how that is another way of looking at taking refuge in the Buddha (the Good), the Dhamma (the True), and the Sangha (the Beautiful).

Assignment for Week 4:

Week 4 (10/13/13)
Loving-kindness (metta) meditation as a chanted & visualized practice, like this. Beginning with yourself:

Visualize the beginning of a circle of five people. Bring to mind a teacher/mentor/benefactor, sitting to your left. Chant the metta phrases (above: may you be safe...) Move around the circle: vizualize a good friend (a beloved pet can work beautifully in this role). Chant the metta phrases. Move a little further around the circle: visualize a neutral person - someone you don't know well. Chant the metta phrases. And finally: visualize a difficult person, sitting between the neutral person & yourself, at your right hand. (Choose someone with whom you have had conflict or difficulty, but whose memory is not overwhelming.) Chant the metta phrases. Visualize lovingkindness as a fire in the center of your circle. You five people are receiving and sending lovingkindness, amplifying the wishes and extending them to everyone nearby, to all the people & animals & forests & rivers & ponds & lakes. To all that is seen & unseen, near & faraway. To all of the Americas. To the whole fragile & amazing planet, as seen from outer space. To all those who are being born & dying. To those that are free & those that are not-free. To all beings everywher across the universe, in whatever realms of existence they may be. Now visualize someone in the public sphere of whom you do not approve. Invite this person to join your initial circle. Send them lovingkindness & see how their predicament resonates with your own. Gradually settle back into awareness of your body & the space in which you are sitting, and close the practice with the heartfelt wish that all beings be well.

When difficulties arise in this practice, you can shift your attention momentarily to the difficulties themselves, noticing your disappointment or frustration, and sending metta there.

We had a lively discussion of MN 50, The Rebuke to Mara, paying particular attention to when the Boundless Abidings practices are prescribed as skillful means (in response to unjust accusations) & when more sobering meditations are prescribed (in response to praise & flattery). This is a good reminder that the Boundless Abidings practices are not in themselves the goal of the Buddha's path. They are skillful means for purifying the heart, but we should remember not cling to them as some possession or accomplishment of an imaginary self.

Assignment for Week 5:

Week 5 (10/20/13)
On Rae's recommendation from last week, exploration of the Boundless Abiding of equanimity. Chanting practice of the Five Subjects for Frequent Recollection (audio):

Handa mayam abhinhapaccavekkhanapatam bhanamase
Now let us chant the passage for frequent recollection:

Jara-dhammohi jaram anatita (men chant anatito)
I am of the nature to age
- I have not gone beyond aging.

byadhim anatita (anatito)
I am of the nature to sicken - I have not gone beyond sickness.

Marana-dhammomhi maranam anatita
I am of the nature to die
- I have not gone beyond dying.

Sabbehi me piyehi manapehi nanabhavo vinabhavo

All that is mine, beloved and pleasing will become otherwise, will become separated from me.

(-komhi), kammadayada (-dayado), kammayoni,
kammabandhu, kammapatisarana (-sarano)
yam kammam karissami kalyanam va papakam va
tassa dayada (-dayado) bhavissami.
I am the owner of my kamma,
heir to my kamma, born of my kamma, related to my kamma, abide supported by my kamma. Whatever kamma I shall do, for good or for ill, of that I will be the heir.

Evam amhehi abhinam paccavekkhitabbam
Thus we should frequently recollect.

Discussion of MN52 & of "this awareness-release through equanimity [that] is fabricated & intended" vs. "the ending of the mental fermentations." Discussion of the fetters, using this table from Wikipedia as a guide:

Assignment for Week 6:

Week 6 (10/27/13)
We started today's session with a karuna (compassion) practice based on the reading from Ajahn Sucitto. Then, we read a section of the Atthakavagga together and discussed attachment to views (even delicious, holy-seeming views) as a challenge to the Boundless Abiding of equanimity. We talked about how this connects to the final section of the Metta Sutta, which says:

By not holding to fixed views
the pure-hearted one
having clarity of vision
being freed from all sense desires
is not born again into this world.

(there's an audio recording of the Metta Sutta here, for you to practice with if you like.)

Assignment for Week 7:

Week 7 (11/03/13)
We started this week's session with a mudita (sympathetic joy) practice based in part on pp.156-62 in Ajahn Sucitto's Meditation: A Way of Awakening.

Looking back 5 or 10 years ago, can you think of something you really wanted, but didn't get? Can you think of something you thought you really didn't want, that came to you anyway? How has abundance manifested in the unfolding of these situations? Can you extend this awareness to some situation of perceived lack or hardship that you are currently facing? Can you feel the generosity inherent even in the situations you perceive as difficult? Can you gradually ease any tendency towards "poverty mind," and rest in the awareness of all that is given to you in each moment? The air, freely available to be breathed. The earth, steadily holding you up, moment after moment. The benevolence of the body & of the space within which you find yourself.

We did a period of walking meditation, maintaining awareness of the breath & the steps & a mantra as we moved at a fairly quick pace, round and round the room. This is a good way of generating energy. We ended with a brief period of standing meditation and a reflection on gratitude (which is strongly connected with joy).

Finally, we discussed the possibility of extending Sunday afternoon sittings beyond next week (the official ending of this series of classes on the Brahmaviharas/Boundless Abidings). Consensus seems to be that this would be desirable and helpful. If you have ideas about this - please let me know.

Assignment for Week 8:

Week 8 (11/10/13)
We started this week's session with an upekkha (equanimity) practice based in part on pp.191-207 in Ajahn Sucitto's Parami: Ways to Cross Life's Floods.

During our meditation, Nobody the Shih-tzu gave everyone additional opportunity to practice with the Boundless Abidings, as he chased circles around the room, possibly in an attempt to herd us:

Having completed these eight weeks on the Boundless Abidings, it's time for a break, for now, but please stay tuned for more & feel free to suggest topics/times/formats that might be helpful to you.

I send out 1,000,000 thanks to all of you who made this class such a joy & such a precious opportunity to grow in the Buddha's teachings. Thank you for your presence & your correspondence. Thank you for your gifts of support. Thank you for your insights and stories and voices.

May you be safe & well in the midst of all that arises, and may your practice & your good hearts continue to grow into bright fulfillment.