Overview of Buddhism

More than two thousand five hundred years ago The Buddha taught in Northern India for forty five years. After the death of the Buddha, the teachings were maintained as an oral tradition. Insight meditation is based on the early teachings of the Buddha. The earliest written record of the Buddha’s teachings is the Pali Canon which is the basis for all Buddhist traditions. The Buddha’s discourses are called suttas in Pali or Sutras in Sanskrit, and are the oldest records we have and the closest we have to the words of the historical Buddha.

They are arranged in several volumes:

The Digha Nikaya, the collection of one discourses;

The Majjhima Nikaya, the collection of middle length discourses;

The Samyutta Nikaya, the collection of thematically linked discourses;

The Anguttara Nikaya, the numerical discourses;

and The Khuddaka Nikaya, the minor collection.

It is said that Gotama Siddhartha left his family and went in search of spiritual awakening. He spent six years practising depths of concentration and ascetic practices and eventually came to Bodhgaya in Bihar where he sat under the Bodhi Tree. Here, it is said, that he had a profound awakening to the truth of things, discovering The Middle Path. Following this, he reflected on his experience for seven weeks. He then walked to Sarnath to the deer park where he began teaching a small group of friends. This is known as the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the Discourse of the Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma. 

On a silent Insight Meditation Retreat the liberating teachings of the Buddha are explored. There are periods of sitting, walking, reclining and standing meditation throughout each day. The purpose is to understand through direct experience the unshakeable liberation of the Heart-Mind. The practice is one of non-clinging awareness, not claiming a particular experience as “me” or “mine” but seeing ourselves as part of the totality of organic life. This is to be with life directly rather than through the limited and narrow fabrication of the constructed self. In this way our habit of dividing reality into “me” and “the world” ceases and we realise the non-dual nature of reality. Through attention and awareness we deepen the heart’s capacity for stillness and natural freedom. When we no longer see from a self-centred perspective, consciousness is unbound and vast. In this expansiveness, insights and non-dual wisdom emerge.  This understanding is expressed as compassionate action for the benefit of all.

Each day on retreat there are meditation instructions based on the Four Foundations of Awareness taken from the Satipatthana Sutta or the Anapanasati Sutta. Both these suttas have precise instructions for meditation practice. In addition, there is a Dharma talk, Inquiry period and guided meditations. The Dharma talks and inquiries address issues such as fear, isolation, anxiety, depression and unhelpful mind states based on greed, hatred or negativity, and delusion. The talks and teachings may focus on any of the themes and teachings below or refer to one of the more than 5000 discourses of the Buddha.

The Truths of the Noble Ones: The Four Noble Truths

In life there is suffering (not all life is suffering), there are causes and conditions that lead to suffering, there is the cessation of Suffering (Liberation, Nirvana) and the path to the cessation. Our suffering is to be understood, desire and clinging are to be abandoned, liberation is to be realised and the path is to be cultivated.

The Eightfold Noble Path

Right View        

Right Intention

Right Speech

Right Action

Right Livelihood

Right Effort

Right Mindfulness

Right Samadhi (Meditative Concentration)

The Three Characteristics of Existence

Anicca (Impermanence)

Dukkha (Suffering)

Anatta (Not-self)

The 12 Links of Dependent Arising are:

  1. Ignorance (Avijja) or not knowing or understanding the causes of problematic arisings.
  2. Volitional Formations (Sankharas) of body, speech and mind arising through, habit, conditioning and addictive or reactive behaviours.
  3. Consciousness ( Vinnana), the knowing faculty of mind.
  4. Name and Form (Nama-Rupa), mentality and materiality, mind and matter.
  5. The Six Senses, the five senses plus thought.
  6. Contact or Impression (Phassa)
  7. Feelings or Sensations (Vedana). This refers to the feeling tone of each contact through the sense doors.
  8. Desire (Tanha)
  9. Grasping or Clinging (Upadana)
  10. Becoming (Bhava)
  11. Birth (Jati)
  12. Old Age and Death (Jara-Maranam)

The Three Refuges

The Buddha

The Dharma

The Sangha

The Three-fold Training

Sila (Ethics)

Samadhi (Concentration, the mind that is unified or gathered)

Panna (Wisdom)

The Five Aggregates of a Human Being

Material Form



Mental Formations


The Five Hindrances

Sense Desire


Boredom and Apathy

Restlessness and Worry


The Eight Worldly Conditions

Gain and Loss

Success and Failure

Praise and Blame

Pleasure and Pain

Four Foundations of Awareness

Mindfulness of Form

Mindfulness of Feelings 

Mindfulness of Mental States

Mindfulness of the Dharma

Five Precepts

To revere all life.

To refrain from taking what has not been freely given.

To refrain from engaging in sexual harm.

To speak what is true and useful.

Not heedlessly engaging in alcohol or drug use.

Four Divine Abidings

Loving Kindness (Metta)

Compassion (Karuna)

Appreciative Joy (Mudita)


The Seven Factors of Awakening


Investigation (Inquiry)



Ease (tranquillity)



Four Absorptions

Inner Happiness

Sublime Joy


Neither Pleasure nor Pain

Four Formless Realms

Realm of Infinite Space

Realm Of Infinite Consciousness

Realm of Infinite Nothingness 

Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception

Four Noble Ones





Deep Dharma Themes

The Emptiness Teachings

Teachings of Conditionality and the Unconditioned

Teachings of Suchness

Teachings of Nibbana or Liberation.