Focused and Fearless- read it?

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Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:27 am

Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity
by Shaila Catherine

Product Description

Jhana is a powerful meditative technique that opens the way to unfettered joy, radiant calm, and abiding happiness. Focused and Fearless presents this ancient meditative tradition as interpreted through the practice of a contemporary American teacher, and as such, it represents a landmark shift in Theravadan Buddhism by bringing jhana into the reach of busy practitioners. The book speaks to both non-meditators and meditators from any tradition, helping those who simply want to understand how to attain extraordinary states with ease while offering a creative, contemporary slant on this ancient path of happiness and wisdom. An engaging mix of contemporary examples, practical exercises, and how-to instructions that anyone can try, Focused and Fearless is an accessible, friendly, and wise guide that is ideal for both novices and the more seasoned practitioner who wishes to explore advanced meditative states.


Shaila Catherine studied with Buddhadasa among others
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:30 am

Hi JC,

You can listen to some of her talks on her site: http://www.imsb.org/index.php
What I've listened to seems quite good. We've been using a study guide she put together for the MN in a local discussion group.

Metta
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby bodom » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:46 pm

Yeah great book. Great exercises. Seems to make jhana possible for any of us.

:namaste:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:54 pm

JC,

Thanks for the recommendation! I'm finishing up Ajahn Brahm's book, Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond and I'm curious if you have read that as well and would be willing to compare the two. (Time is precious, as we all know, and I'm already two books behind! :D )

Regards: AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Jan 25, 2009 2:18 pm

i went ahead and ordered this one, i'll let you guys know what it's like
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby Element » Sun Jan 25, 2009 10:41 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:Shaila Catherine studied with Buddhadasa among others

Shaila may have heard Buddhadasa teach but she would not have been a student as in a student-disciple relationship. Buddhadasa did not accept disciples in the normal sense of the word.
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Feb 11, 2009 6:09 am

so ive read most of it, and i would recomend it for someone looking for a practical easy to understand meditation manual, there are sutta refferences and little practice hints. i would compaire it to ajahn brahm's book.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:51 am

jcsuperstar wrote:so ive read most of it, and i would recomend it for someone looking for a practical easy to understand meditation manual, there are sutta refferences and little practice hints. i would compaire it to ajahn brahm's book.

JC,

Thanks for following up! :twothumbsup: If I may, was there much information in this book that was not present in Ajahn Brahm's? Time is too short for reruns! :reading:

Thanks again!

AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby puthujjana » Tue Dec 22, 2009 11:16 am

"Once you understand anatta, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy."
- Ajahn Chah
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:25 pm

Hi AdvaitaJ,
AdvaitaJ wrote:Thanks for following up! :twothumbsup: If I may, was there much information in this book that was not present in Ajahn Brahm's?

I think you already got the book, but I'll make some brief comments anyway...

Though I don't use either Ajahn Brahm's or Shaila's approach as my primary practise, I've found both of these books really useful. The advantage of Shaila's is that it has more of a balanced survey of approaches and explanations, and perspectives on insight-oriented vs. concentration-oriented practise. Whereas Ajahn Brahm's is very much focussed on his particular approach and point of view.

Metta
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Thu Dec 24, 2009 1:30 am

Mike,

Thanks for the follow-up. I finished Shaila's book a couple weeks ago.

It worked.

Kind regards: AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 24, 2009 2:45 am

Hi AdvaitaJ,
AdvaitaJ wrote:It worked.

Great... :group:

Mike
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby salmon » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:30 am

I'm going to pull up this old thread instead of using my other one since there's already a discussion on it. Having read both Ajahn Brahm's book and (recently) Catherine Shaila's...I have a couple of thoughts.

Ajahn Brahm's teaching is very traditional and close to the methods mention in the sutta. Catherine Shaila's, on the other hand, is more "modernized" and apparently easier to understand/relate to. I like the way Catherine Shaila dedicates each jhana level to strengthening insight meditation. There is a more balanced approach to the uses of jhana. Ajahn Brahm sticks strictly to pure samathat until a certain proficiency is attained before using jhana as a tool to springboard into vipassana. Both methods work fine, depending on your temperament.

However, I do feel that Catherine Shaila has somehow "over simplified"/misclassified jhana levels and I have some concerns over how close it is to the Buddha's teaching of jhana. For instance, Catherine Shaila mentions in her book (for one of the exercises) that practitioners should attempt going from access concentration direct to first jhana, access concentration direct to second jhana, access concentration direct to third jhana, access concentration direct to fourth jhana. This does not fall in line with the Buddha's teaching that jhana has to be "moved up" chronologically.

Nonetheless, both are interesting reads.
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:14 am

Hi Salmon,

I'm no expert on this, but Shaila's approach seems to be based on Pa Auk Sayadaw's approach and the Visuddhimagga. I.e. a more "commentarial" approach, not necessarily "untraditional". I believe that the Visuddhimagga does talk about skipping through the Jhanas in different orders.

It is interesting that Ajahn Brahm talks about following the Suttas closely, but his descriptions of the Jhanas are very "deep", more like in the Visuddhimagga than in the Suttas.

Metta
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby Kenshou » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:07 am

mikenz66 wrote:It is interesting that Ajahn Brahm talks about following the Suttas closely, but his descriptions of the Jhanas are very "deep", more like in the Visuddhimagga than in the Suttas.


Yes, that is sort of funny. His jhanas seem pretty much exactly like those of the visuddhimagga, or at least what I know of them (haven't read the entirety of that text). Complete sensory detachment, dramatic visual nimittas and the like. My thoughts are that since he is a monk and an enthusiastic meditator, he is capable of those very deep jhanas, however, that doesn't mean that those jhanas are the only acceptable ones.

Shaila's jhanas seem rather similar to those of the suttas as I understand them, or at least, she gives a more general description. And there is certainly more than one way into jhana, so, a more general guide to developing the jhana factors and not necessarily focused on a single method might be a more practical approach to attempting to expose as many people as possible to the jhanas, which struck me as what Shaila has done in her book.

And additionally, Shaila's jhana method seems to allow the possibility of using the state to gain insight, where Brahm's requires leaving the state and using the resulting clarity-of-mind after the fact for working on insight. Though those are probably both viable options, the former one strikes me as being closer to the method described in the suttas.

Both methods are probably "traditional" enough in their own right, depending on from what perspective you're judging them, so the individual is free to decide which agrees with them more.
Last edited by Kenshou on Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby salmon » Fri Feb 05, 2010 6:19 am

I have to admit that I have not read the description of jhanas in the Visuddhimagga. My bad. I will make it a point to go read up on that now. And on the Pa Auk method too.

Shaila's jhanas feel more conducive to developing insights, and it would be, what I suppose we call, Vipassana Jhana?

And additionally, Shaila's jhana method seems to allow the possibility of using the state to gain insight, where Brahm's requires leaving the state and using the resulting clarity-of-mind after the fact for working on insight. Though those are probably both viable options, the former one strikes me as being closer the method described in the suttas.


I agree with you here that Shaila's doing a good job balancing jhana and insight. A.Brahm's method stems from the traditional forest kammathana style of jhana meditation. Most would find it easier to use Shaila's methods as she is a layperson like us, hence her experiences are what we would find easier to relate to.
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby Kenshou » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:10 am

I believe the term vipassana jhana refers to stages in the development of insight, and aren't really related to the 4 jhanas of samatha meditation. But the two methods don't have to be separate. Jhana can be used a practical state from which to develop knowledge (à la the suttas), or insight can be practiced purely (the contemporary vipassana movement), or jhana can be practiced purely to great depths (Brahm, Visuddhimagga). It's good to have options.
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:20 am

salmon wrote: A.Brahm's method stems from the traditional forest kammathana style of jhana meditation. Most would find it easier to use Shaila's methods as she is a layperson like us, hence her experiences are what we would find easier to relate to.

Ajahn Brahm's approach is also much more "absorption oriented" than what many of the other western students of Ajahn Chah teach (e.g. Ajahn's Tiradhamma, Munindo, Sumedho).

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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:51 am

mikenz66 wrote:
salmon wrote: A.Brahm's method stems from the traditional forest kammathana style of jhana meditation. Most would find it easier to use Shaila's methods as she is a layperson like us, hence her experiences are what we would find easier to relate to.

Ajahn Brahm's approach is also much more "absorption oriented" than what many of the other western students of Ajahn Chah teach (e.g. Ajahn's Tiradhamma, Munindo, Sumedho).


I think he was probably referring to the forest lineage as a whole, not just Ajahn Chahs disciples in the West. In Thailand it's pretty much assumed to be part of the practice.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Focused and Fearless- read it?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 9:40 pm

Goofaholix wrote:I think he was probably referring to the forest lineage as a whole, not just Ajahn Chahs disciples in the West. In Thailand it's pretty much assumed to be part of the practice.

Yes, that's a good point. But it is interesting to wonder why Ajahn Brahm's instructions appear so different from his western contemporary Ajahn Chah students.

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