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Taking Freedom To Extremes: Teachings for Responsible Social Action
Dates: Dec 12, 2019 - Dec 15, 2019
Days: Thu - Sun (3 Nights)

Instructor(s): Kate Lila Wheeler, JD Doyle, Katy Wiss

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What instructions does the Buddha offer as we seek an appropriate response to the challenges and complexities of our social and political lives? Through the close reading of two suttas, “What Do You Think About Me?” and “The Simile of the Saw,” we will explore the Buddha’s teachings on the social allocation of power. In these texts, the Buddha instructs practitioners on how to enact responsible social action. He offers advice about allyship: when to speak out or not. He gives direction on how to deal with unruly others. He suggests basic attitudes and practices to stay in balance and at peace when we do enter into conflict. These are practical teachings to support us in caring for others who are enduring intolerable situations. Through meditation, reflection, and discussion, we will investigate our own attitudes and reactions as we rub up against these often demanding instructions. We will connect with others to collectively gain clarity that will support us as we engage in liberation practices for the sake of all beings.

Learning Intentions:

To connect with others and create community in resistance to oppression; encourage a view of practice that includes both formal sitting practice and action; learn how to grapple with demanding texts and find one’s own position informed by the discourses; recognize how the stories presented in the discourses invite us to deeply consider the often troubling nature of the social allocation of power and our resistance to it; understand from the Kinti Sutta (What do you think about me?) how Buddhist practice does not mean building a bubble of personal comfort but instead involves renunciation of despair and anger in service of wholesome action; consider action vis-a-vis non-action: not only how meditation can dissolve distress incurred in our worldly practice of Dharma; and also how ‘sharp speech’ may also imply that we may need to redirect others, or even rebuke them, and take action when we are not fully calm.

Experience Level:

Suitable for both beginning and experienced practitioners.

  • Kate "Lila" Wheeler is one of the coordinators of the 2016-2020 meditation teacher training at Spirit Rock, the most diverse Buddhist training in American history.  She was given rein to teach in the Theravada Insight tradition, Vajrayana, and the Advaita approach of HWL Poonja.  Kate grew up in Latin America and has spent time in traditional Asian practice communities, as as a nun in Burma in 1988 and the caves of Tso Pema more recently.  She practices at Spirit Rock, Pema Kilaya in Washington State, and some other communities in the West. 

  • JD Doyle serves as a Core Teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center and has held many roles there, including Board member and co-founder of the LGBTQI meditation group. JD is in the Spirit Rock teacher-training program and has participated in the Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP2) and the Community Dharma Leader Program (CDL4). JD has practiced Theravada Buddhism since 1995 in the U.S., Thailand, and Burma.

  • Katy Wiss began meditating in 1976.  She completed the Dedicated Practitioner and Community Dharma Leader Programs of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and has studied intensively at Chuang Yen Monastery.  She is currently in Spirit Rock’s teacher training program.  She holds advanced degrees in communication and regularly teaches meditation at a variety of locations in the NYC metro area. Her current practice focuses on the relational and social transformational dimensions of the dharma.