Dharma Talks Online
A treasure trove of these precious talks on the Dharma there for the taking.
Many of us listen to dharma talks online. I have been following the top ten or so teachers online for the last ten years.
My source for listening is usually three reputable sources: Dharma Seed, Audio Dharma, and Mindrolling Podcast. Following these three are a number of less outstanding offers including YouTube, numerous Buddhist organizations usually a part of a standing headquarters or meditation center that along with offering a full schedule of retreats and printed material have recorded talks on their individual sites, there are quite a large number of these in all Buddhist schools.
My reference here is exclusively directed toward my area of study: Vipassana.
At some point during my listening, I decided to keep a running tally of all the talks I listened to. There are many that do not come under the above origins and so were left out.
My dharma talks are kept together by stapling five-page packets of legal pad sheets. Each packet is assigned the next letter in the alphabet. So! The other day I reached a milestone of sorts by having gone through the alphabet and starting again with A-1. Each alphabet letter now has a corresponding number for the obvious reason.
From 2013 until now 2021, or eight years I’ve kept track in this manner. Five pages per alphabet letter and each page hold approximately 31 Dharma talks. So in that time period, I’ve listed over four thousand talks. Again this ignores the huge number of talks listened to from YouTube, and individual Buddhist centers as I said at the start. There were several years where I did not keep a running record of talks listened to, so the number gets higher. I hesitate to say just how many talks this may represent. In fact, I don’t really care to hazard a guess for the simple reason that it has very little importance.
It comes down to this being not so much a touting of the number of Dharma talks taken in so much as an accounting of the exposure I’ve undergone over the years. In other words, what’s the point? The point has everything to do with learning the Dharma. One may ask: is there in fact learning from the listening? I think it safe to say that yes, there almost has to be some sort of absorption of the information listened to. Be aware, and beware that you don’t want to fall into that trap of numbers.
Buddhism is a wide-ranging field full of and famous for its’ many lists and numbers! My list does not fall under that fact. The number of talks listened to is not that great either and yet I am careful not to self-inflate over having done this listening.
There is a popular app where the Meditator can set a timer for each meditation session. An amazing tool actually. But there is a downfall. If you start tracking the numbers and lengths of all your meditations you can fall prey to that thing of look at me, look at my impressive numbers. Best be very careful with this. I recommend using this app and at the same time, I voice some caution. The very fact that one might be sitting to notch up another session on the timer most certainly has a degenerating effect on the wonder of meditation. It misses the point and can be a momentary setback. Be careful.
I’ve used the Insight Timer for several years and need to remind myself this isn’t about keeping track of numbers so much as a very useful tool for timing your sessions. I add that the timer provides your choice of start and ending bells!
I think of my practice.
Dharma talks can be of huge help for those of us not fortunate to have teachers in our vicinity or even the country we live in. Listening every night to several talks, and usually doing one of the guided meditations offered in these sources has the effect of peeling away the onion skin. Yes, this is how I sense it.
The onion skin as you know is the cover of fog or the veil we all carry through life. The practice slowly peels away the layers to clarity. There are innumerable books on this issue. This piece certainly doesn’t attempt to explain in any depth.
Often times as is the case with countless practitioners, the words of the Dharma talk start to run through my head without sticking. When this happens it’s time for a reboot. Very important. Listening to Dharma talks is nothing if a concentrated effort at listening word by word isn’t happening. You may as well be watching tv. The key to successful Dharma talk listening is carefully taking in the words given by the teachers.
The top teachers in the Vipassana tradition in the US are very clear and emphasize the importance of listening, letting it through, grabbing at those bits and pieces that are speaking to you. They are equally expressive about how teachings need to be taken on a basis of trial and error, trying out the various techniques, say for example the breath, Loving Kindness or correct posture, that which may seem so simple! To try it and see if it fits. Yes, there is faith involved as well. Just as there is faith called for in every spiritual quest.
There are a number of widely respected very top Vipassana teachers ‘out there’, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzburg, Jack Kornfield to mention but a few. These three teachers are one of a small handful who traveled in the sixties to India and Southeast Asia and studied for years as monks and students under the great masters in Burma and Thailand. There is a growing list of wonderfully capable teachers who have studied under the three mentioned above. Tara Brach, Andrea Fella, and Gil Fronsdal to name three.
The other night listening to a short five-part series from Gil Fronsdal on breath and Jhanas (absorption states), I felt something happening within. At one point just before the guided meditation sequences were coming to an end I felt as though something ‘happened’. I got up from sitting on my bed and felt an undeniable sense of deep peace. The sensation lasted several days.
The teachers in the Dharma talks seem fond of saying that we have all enjoyed these moments. Perhaps sometimes we’re more aware of it than at other times.
This ‘sense of deep peace’ could’ve been the very beginning of entering into what is called the Jhanas, the first one. But for me, it was more evidence that there are things going on within that we would do well to not ignore.
The talks are easily forwarded to loved ones or fellow meditators making them a widely obtainable source of this precious information.
It’s difficult to think of a time on the planet when we might need this more!
If you ever have an interest in Buddhism, in any of its wide and rich variety, be sure to look up the Dharma talk sites, make doubly sure the teachers are in fact the ‘good ones’ and we’ll cross that flood together