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Self-Love: Being a Bodhisattva to Yourself
Dates: Nov 12, 2020 - Nov 15, 2020
Days: Thu - Sun (3 Nights)

Instructor(s): Elizabeth Monson

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Shantideva’s poetic exhortations to himself in his great work, The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Bodhicaryāvatāra), stand out in Buddhist literature as a moving example of how one human being took a journey deep inside himself to discover not only how to turn his life towards the care of others, but just as importantly, how to cultivate an abiding love and kindness towards himself. Together, we will explore Shantideva’s work with the goal of teasing out his profound realizations and instructions on how to access the sustainable sources of self-love and compassion that abide within us all. Uncovering these sources can help us to transform ingrained habits and feelings of self-hatred, worthlessness, and lack of confidence into experiences of sympathy, warmth, and acceptance. With the nearly-epidemic levels of self-dislike that seem to plague many of us today, drawing on Shantideva’s insights can provide us with an inspired way to reconfigure our relationships to these parts of ourselves.

In this hands-on course, we will use methods of close-reading to explore our own interpretive encounters with Shantideva’s text. We will draw on insights into the perspectives and sensibilities of a person who wishes to actualize her awakened nature, a nature that is innately open, wise, and responsive. We will focus on how Shantideva’s metaphorical descriptions of both the impediments to self-love and its actualization provide a practical template for re-configuring our usually reactive experience of and relationship to, the difficult situations, emotions, and energies that we encounter in our daily lives. We will also explore the meditative techniques of Tonglen and Benefactor practice to help support our intellectual realizations with contemplative practices of transformation.

This course combines close textual study with contemplative and meditation practice for a unique encounter with Shantideva as human being, archetype, inspiration, and embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

Learning Intentions:

To learn how close interpretive readings of textual sources can deeply inform and transform personal practice and ethical life; to see how Shantideva’s example teaches us how to inquire into and work with the patterns of self-dislike, fear, and worthlessness that often hold us back from living with openness, joy, and warmth; and to develop a personal “shadow-practice” – a practice of facing into what most holds us back, along with contemplative and meditative techniques that can enable us to be present with and metabolize our difficult states, just as they are.

Experience Level:

Suitable for both beginning and experienced practitioners.

Noble Silence and Mindful Speech:

Noble silence will be observed following the evening session through breakfast the following morning.

  • Elizabeth Monson, PhD, is the Spiritual Co-Director of Natural Dharma Fellowship and adjunct Professor at Harvard Divinity School. She currently serves as the managing teacher of Wonderwell Mountain Refuge, a Buddhist meditation retreat center in Springfield, NH. She holds a Doctorate in Religious Studies with a focus in Tibetan Buddhism and Ethics from Harvard University. She has been studying, practicing, and teaching Buddhism for over twenty-five years and is currently working on a book for the Shambhala Publications series Lives of the Masters.