I have been reflecting on my Buddhist period of the last five years, and here I wanted to write a little about the highlights, the high points of my study which have really had an impact. I felt myself drawn from the beginning to a style of Buddhism which was concerned with a blend of practical knowledge and actual practice. This meant I appreciated the Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh and the Thai Forest monks, and because of circumstances also the Tibetan Gelugpa tradition.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Suffering retreat on YouTube. I did a mini-retreat at home, five days of silence and meditation with each day a video from Thay’s retreat. It was as close as I have gotten at home of being in a retreat with a renowned Buddhist teacher, and I found it a very powerful experience, I can recommend this especially if you live alone. The Israeli-Palestinian retreat was also very good.
Reading The Complete Teachings of Ajahn Chah. This is a free pdf download from the monasteries In Thailand, its quite a big book at 700 pages but it is very worthwhile. It contains a lot of dhamma talks on different subjects, and through it you get a real idea of how to practice in the style of this Thai Forest monk. It has a real focus on learning to observe ones own heart.
Awareness of the defilements. One of the teachings that made a big impact on me was the teaching of the Three Poisons, and the idea that you could learn to understand how the defilements work in the mind. It led to an effort to become mindful, to observe them in action, and to see with insight the roots of the defilements. It was one of the defining themes of the last years, and is still ongoing.
Reading In the Buddha’s Words by Bikkhu Bodhi. This is another quite lengthy free download, a long anthology of sutras which shows more clearly what the Buddha said to lay people and what he told to monastics. For me it was a point where I started being more discerning and less immediately accepting of the whole path. An important turning point.
Maybe other people will want to add their own highlights of recent times, what Buddhist teachings have really made a difference to them.