The greatest gift is the
gift of the teachings
James Baraz's Dharma Talks at Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley
James Baraz
I try to convey that the wisdom and compassion we are looking for is already inside of us. I see practice as learning how to purify our mind and heart so we can hear the Buddha inside. In doing so, we naturally embody the dharma and help awaken that understanding and love in others we meet.
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2022-04-21 Gratitude for Our Home: Celebrating Earth Day 51:34
This Earth Day week we share an evening of gratitude and celebration for our natural world. When we get in touch with our love for something we are more motivated to care for it. Rather than going into the dire situation that most of us are all too familiar with, we can get connected with the beauty of the world that is our home We share a clip on the natural world and the experience of gratitude, which starts with an adorable little girl talking about the wonder of exploring nature instead of watching a screen followed by Brother David Steindl-Rast on gratitude. Although it is audio only you can still here the magic in the words. To see the video here is the link:
2022-04-14 Maranasati: Practice with Death and Dying 50:31
The Buddha suggested reflecting regularly on five aspects of life called the Five Reflections (also called the Five Remembrances). This talk focuses on what he called "the most supreme of all meditations": mindfulness of death or maranasati. Although contemplation of one's death might seem unsettling or scary, when undertaken as a conscious practice it can be extremely enlivening and even liberating.
2022-04-07 Clear Comprehension: The Buddha's Teaching on Four Different Elements of Practice 48:53
This talk explores the topic of Clear Comprehension (sampajañña in Pali) a powerful Dharma teaching on four different aspects of practice. In the Satipatthana Sutta the Discourse on the Four Foundation of Mindfulness, with regard to each foundation, the Buddha says the following: "Here, bhikkhus (practitioners), a bhikkhu (practitioner) lives contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief..." Clear comprehension means more than just having bare attention. Understanding and applying these four facets of Clear Comprehension can support a real deepening of our Dharma practice.
2022-03-17 Calming the Anxious Mind: Skillful Practices for Anxiety 52:02
Many people are experiencing stress and anxiety these days. Heartbreaking scenes of victims of the Ukraine invasion and other conflicts, potential escalation of war, political divisiveness or personal challenges all create an atmosphere of tension that is in the air. How can we use our practice to calm the mind and create space to hold it all without getting overwhelmed?
2022-03-10 The Dharma of Good Leadership 57:27
When a leader has the welfare of the people as a priority the country prospers. When a leader cares only for themselves the country declines. This talk explores the Buddha's teaching on the qualities that make a good leader, the influence a leader has on the people and the story of an actual leader who underwent a transformation from a feared merciless ruler to one of great wisdom and compassion. We discuss how these teachings apply to our contemporary world.
2022-03-03 Sad Heart, Breaking Heart: Working with the Invasion of Ukraine 58:10
The news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is particularly sad and disturbing Although there are conflicts like this happening around the world, an unprovoked invasion from one of the strongest military countries in the world into a European country that could feasibly escalate into another world war is deeply unsettling. We explore as a community how our practice can help us hold all the feelings that may be arising. Includes a 7 minute clip of Joanna Macy explaining her Spiral from her "Work that Reconnects."
2022-01-27 Remembering Thich Nhat Hanh 51:02
The great Vietnamese Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, passed away on January 22nd at the age of 95. Thay, as he was known to his students, was one of the most influential Buddhist masters in modern times.We spend the evening exploring his teachings and honoring his spirit. A short clip of him teaching is included as part of the evening.
2022-01-20 Equanimity with Uncertainty: Finding Balance in Difficult Times 51:13
Equanimity or Upekkha is a highly valued quality in Buddhist teachings. It is one of the Four Divine Abodes, one of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, one of the Ten Perfections and on a number of other lists. When highly developed it is the precursor to the experience of awakening. But what is equanimity? How can we cultivate it in our meditation practice? Even more, how can we access it in our daily life, especially in times like these with so much uncertainty, fear and sadness over the suffering in the world? We will explore various aspects of equanimity that can be pragmatically applied to our life off the cushion.
2021-12-30 New Year's Gathering: Letting Go and Moving On 51:53
As the year comes to an end, we mark and celebrate this transition point by reflecting on where we are in our lives and consciously get in touch with our vision for the coming year. The Buddha talked about the power of having Wise Intention and "Clear Comprehension of Purpose" to keep us facing in the right direction. As a community we can support each other through reflecting on what we've learned in 2021 and share a ritual to call forth our vision for the coming year.
2021-12-23 Winter Solstice and Holidays: A Time to Keep the Heart Open 53:11
When the days are shortest and darkness is all around, we have holidays to help us remember the light. In this talk we reflect on the heart practices of gratitude, forgiveness and love that help us stay connected to the light inside and around us.

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