In this six-part teaching series on YouTube Ayya Jitindriya discusses some of the key contemplative paradigms and practices found in Early Buddhism. The sessions are 2-2.5hrs long and include a guided meditation, a talk from Ayya Jitindriya, and Q&A.
The series is not intended to be an exhaustive academic education on the subject of early Buddhism, but rather offers some extemporaneous reflections on these key paradigms, how we can apply them in practice, and what purpose they serve with regard to eliciting insight and freeing the mind from unnecessary cycles of suffering.
A synopsis for each session is below… And you can click on the session title to view the video on YouTube.
In this first session, Jitindriya introduces the Buddha-Dhamma series and lays out the context within which the Buddha’s teachings arose. She discusses the nutshell of these early Buddhist teachings – the Four Noble Truths – and describes how this paradigm functions, tracing the territory of experience from the conditioned to the unconditioned, and from the experience of dukkha (suffering/unsatisfactoriness) to the end of dukkha (liberation/awakening). This supreme nutshell of a paradigm contains within it all the Buddha’s teachings on liberation. In its simplicity and directness, it functions as a single sign-post for the meditator, and a clear map of the territory of awakening, indicating the key insights that dispel delusion. In its complexity, it can be unfolded to reveal in detail all the different aspects of dukkha, how it comes to be, how it is allayed, and the various ways to develop skill and wisdom on the path of awakening.
In this second session, Jitindriya initially gives some context for Early Buddhist teachings and how the different Buddhist traditions came to develop. She then goes on to discuss in more detail the fourth of the Noble Truths (Magga), known as the way, or path to the end of dukkha (the way of cultivation for liberation), in both its the mundane and supermundane aspects. This fourth truth describes in detail the approach or path of developing skill and wisdom in the service of realization/full awakening and the ending of dukkha. The whole approach is based in wisdom, right view, and the ethic of ahimsa, harmlessness, which inform the whole of the Buddha’s dispensation.
In this third session, Jitindriya discusses in more detail the five upadana-khanda (five aggregates affected by clinging): form, feeling, perception, mental formations and sense-consciousness; and the three characteristics of all conditioned existence /phenomena (anicca, dukkha, anatta: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self nature/empty nature). These are the essential aspects of our experience that need to be investigated and fully comprehended to clear up delusion. She cites the second discourse given by the Buddha (the Anattalakkhana Sutta) in which he taught this investigation to the first five disciples, after which they were all fully awakened. Jitindriya offers a guided meditation/enquiry to support an understanding of these processes within one’s own direct experience.
In this fourth session, Jitindriya discusses mindfulness and meditation – mindfulness in its broader context as one of the five spiritual faculties, as well as in its application in the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness. She also discusses the five hindrances (which the meditator inevitably encounters in their practice) and the seven factors of enlightenment – two of the main sets of dhammas in the fourth foundation of mindfulness. Jitindriya offers a guided meditation/enquiry to support an understanding of the foundations of mindfulness in a practical and direct way.
Jitindriya begins this fifth session with a guided meditation, then follows with a talk on the Early Buddhist model of the Ten Fetters [Pali: samyojana] – a unique and clear map that indicates the particular manifestations of clinging or attachment that fetter or obstruct the mind from realising full awakening. These fetters are grouped by way of the stages of awakening, according to which of the fetters are allayed with each stage. The first stage of awakening is called Stream Entry; the second: Once Returner; the third: Non-returner, and the final and full awakening is that of the Arahant. Jitindriya relates some stories from the Pali suttas that help to illustrate how these fetters may be allayed with the different stages of awakening.
Jitindriya begins this sixth and final session with a guided meditation, followed by a talk which discusses the key terms ‘the Conditioned’ and ‘the Unconditioned’, and their relationship to the concepts of ‘Samsara’ and ‘Nibbana’. Jitindriya refers to and builds upon the previous five talks in this series to draw together the primary paradigms of Buddhism’s view and way of practice to make clear what the Buddha is pointing to in terms of the arc of ‘suffering’ and ‘liberation from suffering’ – of what it means to be bound in ‘samsara’ (lit: ‘endless wandering’, or cyclic suffering) and to be released through wisdom with the realization of the deathless element. Jitindriya refers to several key suttas from the Pali Canon which help to elucidate these most profound subjects.
Credit: The above image is from an original artwork entitled ‘Buddha Hand’ by Arundhati Warrier.