Listening to the Heart: A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism

Listening to the Heart: A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism

by Kittisaro, Thanissara


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A husband and wife share stories of struggle and triumph along the path of the Buddha, distilling his most essential teachings in this guide that is “luminous in clarity and depth” (Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance)

Husband and wife Kittisaro and Thanissara take turns co-authoring chapters in this deeply personal dharma book exploring the inner practice of meditation in support of awakening. Within the context of the lives of the authors, both monastics in their youth, awakening unfolds as a multifaceted process following the archetypal journey of the hero(ine). Traveling from innocence to disillusionment through the fields of trials and despair that lead to maturity, and ultimately to inspiration and a blessed life, Listening to the Heart tells the story of two unconventional individuals who have together embraced spirituality as the keystone of their lives.

At the heart of the book, through teachings on the nondual nature of reality, we enter the “intimacy with all things” as revealed in core Buddhist texts. Without ending at the goal of personal freedom, Thanissara and Kittisaro encourage us to go beyond the experience of inner peace to embodying wisdom in acts of service within the world. With a realistic appraisal of our current global crisis in which sustainability is threatened by catastrophic climate change, the authors encourage a preparedness that enables a mindful balance of equanimity and passionate engagement whatever the outcome of our global evolutionary journey.

The guiding refuge for this journey is the Buddha, the historical teacher and—most profoundly—that immediate and direct pure awareness, which we all can access. The book also draws on teachings and stories of Buddhist masters who are fearless, funny, and challenging. Eventually, we are led into the Mary-like presence of the goddess of mercy, Kuan Yin who, as a great archetype within Buddhist cosmology, reveals the deepest mystery of our own hearts and our capacity for merciful and compassionate response. As the inner process of awakening unfolds, it transforms seekers and their lives, as modeled by the authors. It both heals the personal self in its journey through its wounds and shadows, and yet at the same time dissolves identification with the self. The book then ends by returning to the simplicity of the authors' primary teacher, Ajahn Chah, with his encouragement to “Be the Dharma.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781583948392
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication date: 11/04/2014
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Married couple Kittisaro and Thanissara are the founders of Dharmagiri Hermitage in South Africa, from where they support several HIV/AIDS Outreach Programs and help guide and fundraise for Kulungile Care Center for orphaned and vulnerable children and teenagers. They have taught meditation internationally in Europe, the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and Israel for over 25 years.

Kittisaro (Harry Randolph Weinberg) grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he was valedictorian at Baylor School and winner of the National Prep Tournament before graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton and becoming a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. In 1976, he ordained with Ajahn Chah in Thailand and during his fifteen years as a Buddhist monk he helped found Chithurst Monastery and Devon Vihara in the U.K., teaching extensively throughout this time.

Thanissara grew up in an extended Anglo-Irish family in London, attending Southampton College of Art and traveling extensively in Asia in the 1970s. Also inspired by Ajahn Chah, she spent 12 years as a Buddhist nun in Thailand. She holds an MA in Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy Practice from Middlesex University and the Karuna Institute in the U.K. and cofacilitates the Community Dharma Leader Program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Chapter 1 An Invitation, Kittisaro 1

Chapter 2 A Stab to the Heart, Thanissara 25

Chapter 3 A Steady Mind, Kittisaro 49

Chapter 4 The Practice of Presence, Kittisaro 65

The Five Jhana Factors 68

The Buddha's Analogy for the Experience of Jhana 77

Working with Illness and Pain 79

Chapter 5 Two Kinds of Peace, Thanissara 83

Chapter 6 The Grit That Becomes a Pearl, Thanissara 97

Chapter 7 Desire: The Core of the Matrix, Thanissara 107

The Three Spheres of Desire 113

The Deeper Intention of Desire 124

Chapter 8 Dew Drops and a Lightning Flash, Kittisaro 127

Teachings from the Depth 134

Chapter 9 Nibbana: The Beautiful, Kittisaro 143

Chapter 10 Contemplative Ease, Kittisaro and Thanissara 151

Return the Hearing 155

Kuan Yin's Enlightenment 159

Chapter 11 Radical Reflection, Kittisaro 161

Skillful Means: Returning to the Source 171

The Shurangama Samadhi 175

Chapter 12 The Wounded Warrior, Thanissara 181

Chapter 13 Through the Night Door, Thanissara 197

Chapter 14 The Nectar in the Fire, Thanissara 207

Chapter 15 Until the End of Time, Kittisaro 219

The Four Bodhisattva Vows 222

Chapter 16 An Intimate World, Kittisaro and Thanissara 241

Notes 253

Bibliography 265

Acknowledgments 269

Index 271

About the Authors 281

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