Two Arrows: Dukkha to Insight

In these challenging times, how do we respond to difficulty and suffering without piling on extra levels of distress and reaction? A central question in all our lives, it’s also a central concern of the Buddha’s teachings.

This retreat will explore the Salattha Sutta, the Sutta of the two arrows, which evocatively describes the pain of being pierced by the first arrow of pain or difficulty, followed by the pain of the secondary arrows as a consequence of all our reactions that occur if we are not aware and wise.

Led by Vidyamala, Sona, Vishvapani, Vimalachitta and Nagabodhi, this team work with people across wide sections of society such as healthcare, education, criminal justice, political spheres and the workplace. They help people to engage more creatively with the challenges inherent in the human condition and to live with more joy and wisdom. We refer to this (in terms that fit with secular society) as ‘mindfulness’; but our work draws on the whole Dharma and our own experience of practicing it. It also expresses the inspiration we find in the Bodhisattva Ideal.

Here you’ll find video recordings of all the content from The Two Arrows: Dukkha to Insight Retreat so that you can follow along at your own pace. Helpful links are provided here to easily navigate the various elements of the retreat. There is also a free buddhist audio series from this retreat, available here.

Session 1 is not recorded as it was an unlead meditation session. If there are any errors, please email us.

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Day 1

Evening session

An introduction to the retreat from Vidyamala, followed by a led meditation from Vimalacitta.

The poem that Vimalacitta reads at the start of the meditation is Derek Walcott’s Love After Love.

Skip to the led meditation from Vimalacitta by clicking here.

Day 2

Morning session

Nagabodhi begins with a short meditation and introductory talk, and then the session proceeds with introductions from the team about their experience with this material, followed by a presentation and workshop with Vidyamala. The slides from the presentation are available here. The video about breathing with English captions is available here.

Skip to the team introductions, the presentation from Vidyamala or the meditation.

Afternoon session

Beginning with a reading from Tsongkhapa, Vimalacitta leads us through a guided body-scan meditation.

Evening session

Vishvapini starts with a settling exercise and shares his thoughts on how to approach the retreat (or non-retreat) followed by an ‘imperfect’ meditation.

Skip to the talk or the meditation.

Day 3

Morning session

Vimalacitta explores Vedana, sometimes translated as ‘feeling’, ‘sensation’ or ‘hedonic tone’ and leads us in a sesshin (series of meditations).

Skip to the start of the sesshin.

Afternoon session

Sona and Vidyamala guide us in some mindful movement.

Evening session

In this session Nagabodhi starts by leading a short arriving meditation and then speaks about the process of developing awareness throughout the day and how this relates to vedanā – or hedonic tone. He explores how if we can notice the raw experience and whether it’s pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, then we have freedom not to act in the usual habitual ways. He gives some personal stories with examples of ‘aha’ moments in this area of practice. Nagabodhi ends with a poem by David Whyte called Everything is Waiting for You.

In the second half, Vishvapani speaks briefly about vedanā and how it relates to the mettā bhavanā, then guides us in a meditation where we pay attention to vedanaā and our direct experience.

Skip to the introduction to the meditation, or the meditation itself.

Day 4

Morning session

Vidyamala begins by introducing how to investigate second arrows in our experience followed by a presentation by Vishvapani giving a more technical overview on primary and secondary suffering and the psychological responses around them.

As well as the video, linked below, there are some additional resources from this session:

Sona leading mindful movement

Skip to Vidyamala’s presentation, or the start of Vishvapani’s presentation.

Afternoon session

Vimalachitta leads through a mindful movement session.

Evening session

Vidyamala introduces and leads through a kindly awareness practice (a variation of the metta bhavana) with a vedana focus.

Day 5

Morning session

Nagabodhi explores a common misconception about how we’re supposed to stop all thought in meditation. Thought more generally can be very useful and could even be said to be one of the things that makes us human, but it becomes a problem when it runs away with itself and we start living in a ‘secondary reality’ most of the time. He refers to some of the Buddha’s teachings relating to this, including ‘in the seen only the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the cognised only the cognised’ from the Bahiya Sutta.

He then guides us in a series of short meditations where we come into contact with direct experience, including bodily sensations, energy and feelings, sounds, and thoughts.

Go straight to the meditation on the body, meditation on sound, final meditation.

Afternoon session

Sona leads us in mindful movement, helping us to lower the centre of gravity, and coming out of the head and into the body.

Evening session

Drawing on her own experience, and her experience of witnessing others, Vimalachitta gives a personal talk on the latter half of the title – Dukkha to Insight. Vimalachitta also reads quotes from Kafka and John O’Donohue. The talk is followed by a just sitting practice.

Skip to the start of the Just Sitting meditation.

Day 6

Morning session

Beginning with a personal exploration in conversation between Sona and Vidyamala around Dukkha and Sraddha, this session then goes on to a meditation led by Sona.

Go straight to the meditation.

Afternoon session

Join Sona and Vidyamala for another session of mindful movement.

Evening session

In this session Vishvapani briefly recaps everything covered in the retreat so far, and then outlines two approaches to Dharma practice: the ‘hedgehog’ – grounded in direct experience from the senses, and the ‘fox’ who steps outside and beyond, looking for the bigger picture.
He goes on to speak about the need to feed the soul and poetry and meditation are both examples of ways to do this. He examines a beautiful poem by William Wordsworth called Tintern Abbey which shows how Wordsworth went about his own meditation and how his contact with the sublime inspired his writing.

After a short break, Vidyamala leads a short threefold puja to ritually mark the end of the day.

Skip to the talk or the puja.

Day 7

Morning session

A mediation sesshin with Vimalachitta.

Skip to the first meditation, the second meditation, or the final meditation.

Afternoon session

Mindful movement with Sona followed by a Q&A Session with the team.

Skip to the Q&A.

Evening session

Vidyamala and Sona lead through the threefold puja with a reading from Khemini and the Green Tara mantra recorded from Taraloka. Followed by a 20 minute meditation sit.