Ajahn Brahm and Shaila Catherine: Dialogue on the Deep States of Samadhi
For this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken travels to Berkeley, California, to attend After Mindfulness, a two-day conference and retreat bringing together Buddhist practitioners from around the globe to ask the question what is mindfulness? At the conference, Daniel joins revered meditation teachers Ajahn Brahm and Shaila Catherine for a live panel discussion on the topic of deep states of samadhi. Both Shaila and Ajahn Brahm are widely revered for their knowledge on jhāna practices in the Theravada tradition. In this conversation, they discuss their shared and contrasting points of view on theory and practice. Both speak to the necessity of “letting go” as a primary orientation, and how deep states of absorption allow one to return to the world of the senses with unprecedented insight. Ajahn Brahm teaches the practice of letting go as a non-effort—that you can’t “do” letting go and how one must completely disengage from the “doer” frame of mind. Shaila shares a more systematic approach to this notion of letting go, and stresses the importance of developing a clear understanding of how one both enters and exits jhāna states.
About the Interviewee
Ajahn Brahm (Ajahn Brahmavamso Mahathera) is a Theravada Buddhist monk. He grew up in London and earned a degree in theoretical physics from Cambridge University. Disillusioned with the world of academia, he trained as a monk in the jungles of Thailand under Ajahn Chah. A monk for over thirty years, Ajahn Brahm is a revered spiritual guide and the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Serpentine, Western Australia—one of the largest monasteries in the southern hemisphere. He is also the spiritual director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia and spiritual advisor and inspiration for Buddhist centers throughout Asia and Australia. His winning combination of wit and wisdom makes his books bestsellers in many languages, and on his teaching tours Brahm regularly draws multinational audiences of thousands.
Shaila Catherine has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience. She has taught insight meditation since 1996 in the U.S. and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal, and Thailand, completed a one-year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhāna, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity. Shaila Catherine has practiced under the guidance of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw since 2006; she authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhāna and Vipassanā to help make this traditional approach to meditative training accessible to Western practitioners. She is also author of Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity. She is the founder of Bodhi Courses, an online dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a Buddhist meditation center in Silicon Valley.