In Service to Awakening
Cloud Mountain's highest aspiration as a Dharma center is to support awakening, the deepest promise of the teachings of the Buddha. Different terms can be used to express this aspiration, including liberation, realization or enlightenment. All of these words point in the same direction: toward direct experience of unexpected and fundamental shifts in consciousness that profoundly and permanently alter our understanding of our own natures as human beings and the nature of reality and thus transform how we live in the world and interact with others.
Buddhism in general and one aspect of Buddhist training in particular, mindfulness practice, have entered mainstream culture. This movement has brought great benefit. Without a doubt, there are many wonderful life-enhancing benefits to be gained from meditation as a practice for training the heart-mind: decreased stress, increased happiness, greater emotional stability and mental ease, to name just a few. The quality of our daily lives can be significantly enhanced through mindfulness techniques drawn from Buddhist practices.
It is also important not to forget or overlook the profound possibilities inherent in the Buddha's teachings. Our retreats offer mindfulness along with the other important aspects of Buddhist training within an integrated whole to help practitioners to awaken as deeply as their aspirations allow. Buddhist training is much more than a self-improvement project; it is a sacred path of deep questioning and investigation into who and what we are at the most profound levels. Nor is this path necessarily about happiness; it is about the truth of reality and non-clinging.
In the Theravadin tradition (which maintains insight (vipassana) and cultivation of mindfulness as central practices), the trajectory of practice is to gain insight into the Three Characteristics in all phenomena: impermanence/change (anicca), unsatisfactoriness/suffering (dukkha) and the lack of any inherent "self" nature (anatta). In the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, the trajectory is deepening realization of emptiness and the Boddhisattva path, helping all beings to be free of suffering and attain full awakening. The concepts and specific paths of practice may vary from tradition to tradition. However, the aspiration in the heart of the individual will be similar, and when honored and cultivated will lead to profound realization of the truth of our natures as human beings, to the truth of reality itself, and to our place within the whole.