radical friendship clearing the way

The aim of this program is to support, for new generations of dedicated practitioners, the types of friendship, inquiry, and quiet that are conditions for obtaining 'the wisdom from which the spiritual life sets out' (ādibrahmacariyika-paññā) (Aṅguttara Nikāya 8:2).

The program will include online coursework and online meetings, closely integrated with small silent retreats. Periods of critical inquiry and periods of quiet practice alike will be supported and protected by the community of spiritual friends that we cultivate together, across distance and over time.

attha = meaning

  • the word attha in the language of the Pāli Buddhist texts (Sanskrit artha), from the Indo-European root er-1, connoting motion, gives the sense of "something gone towards, reached, attained".

    • thus both the dictionary "meaning" (attha) that a word aims at, and also the success aimed at in life, both in the sense of worldly prosperity, and also in the sense of spiritual wealth - that which makes a life deeply meaningful.

    • In this last regard, paramattha means, in the early Buddhist texts, not an ultimate level of reality (this usage comes in the commentaries), but rather the highest/deepest/most meaningful place/state/aim to go towards.

  • also notable here is the word attā, which means 'self, controller, experiencer', and its well-known negation anattā, 'non-self', the uncontrolled nature of things that is seen when the lens of taking things personally (I-making & mine-making) falls away.

    • Attha and Attā are pronounced and spelled differently: the word attha ('meaning') ends with an aspiration - a small burst of breath out 'ha' - at the end, and a short 'a'; attā ('self') has no aspiration and does have a long ā on the end.

radical friendship = mettā

  • the Pāli word mettā (from mitta 'friend') means a kind of friendliness that is radically pure of I-making & mine-making. We aim to build the program out of this kind of friendship, for the sake of ease and the relinquishment of stress:

  1. Collaborative Leadership: decisions and responsibility for this program do not belong to any one person, but rely on individuals with enthusiasm and care for particular areas of operation forming teams that are empowered to take responsibility for those areas.

  2. Gathering Community: supported by an ongoing community where no one's perspective is more safe from challenge than that of others, because there is a range of generational, cultural, socioeconomic, and political perspectives, a cohort of young dedicated practitioners can come & see for themselves what is most meaningful.

  3. Guidance & Support: in the Pāli discourses, friendship with those (kalyāa-mittā) intent on seclusion, dispassion, cessation, and release is said to be not half but “the whole of the spiritual life.” (Samyutta Nikāya 45:2). We will begin by turning for guidance to those best able to inspire us in that way, even as we critically examine this idea of practice.