The Buddha declared that true purity of the heart can only come from a bliss within that lies apart from sensuality and the critical mind — namely, the bliss of the Jhānas. Indeed, the Jhānas are so essential to the Path that nearly all of the descriptions of the Buddha's own enlightenment experience are predicated upon his attainment of the Jhānas. Moreover, the spiritual practitioner's first proof by direct experience that a higher state of consciousness is possible comes with the attainment of the Jhānas. Consequently, experiencing the Jhānas provides a degree of self-confidence in spiritual practice that is unavailable in most mainstream religious traditions.
In our modern world, which is rightly dominated by the scientific method and the individual's well-founded expectation of empirical evidence, the Jhānas are an indispensable proving ground for the spiritual path. The Jhānas allow practitioners to verify for themselves through their direct experience that a higher level of consciousness is possible by following the Buddha's teachings. This higher level of consciousness consists of profound mental stability and the epiphany of insight.
Rachael O’Brien has been practicing meditation and investigating the spiritual path for over 25 years. She has studied the mystical writings and practices of Medieval Christianity, Vedanta, and Tibetan Buddhism. In 2011, Rachael found her home in the Theravadin Buddhist tradition through the writings and lectures of the late Venerable Ayya Khema. In 2013, she began practicing the Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (TWIM) method developed by the late Bhante Vimalaramsi Mahathero. In 2015, Bhante Vimalaramsi invited Rachael to teach the Dhamma. She has taught and led a weekly sutta study group for the past eight years. Rachael has given many 10-day residential meditation retreats and been invited to give talks to Dhamma groups across the United States.
Rachael has taught with Bhante Vimalaramsi, Leigh Brasington, Ven. Ananda (Heart Dhamma), and Delson Armstrong. She is part of the Community Dhamma Leader (CDL) group, which retreats annually at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.
Rachael's approach is practical and ecumenical, drawing from both Buddhist and non-Buddhist sources to help students achieve their meditative potential. As a householder who works full-time, Rachael is especially adept at understanding and addressing the challenges that lay people face in their progress along the spiritual path.
Although she remains in lay life, Rachael has committed herself to a livelihood that accords with the principles of the Dhamma. She currently works as an advocate for those living with mental illness and intellectual disability. She has taught Bhante Vimalaramsi’s “Six Rs” formulation of Right Mindfulness and Right Effort in the public school system and at professional conferences.
For more information about Rachael, please visit her website at:
Reflections on my TWIM retreat with Rachel
Rachel mindfully creates retreat conditions conducive to students’ deep learning of the Dhamma. Her wealth of linguistic knowledge and insightful reading of early Buddhist teachings make her a true conduit of the Dhamma. I am deeply grateful for the clarity of her teaching and heartfelt connection to TWIM meditation practice.
-Cassandra Gearhart, Ph.D. 1/1/14
Weekly Sutta Study Classes
All are welcome to join my weekly Dhamma study group where we investigate and discuss the Pali Canon. The class includes online interactive attendance every Thursday 7:00 pm Eastern, 4:00 pm Pacific.
To attend, go to:
Dhamma Talks Easter Retreat 2023
The Gradual Training Dhamma talks were presented daily by Rachael O'Brien, April 8-15, 2023.
A eight part series on Gradual Training constituting about eight hours in total. It is a comprehensive expose that reflects the Buddha's practices and principles as described in Pali Canon. These talks were presented by Rachael O'Brien, April 2023 during a 10-day TWIM retreat. They are best understood when listened to in numeric order as they were presented. Taken together they reveal teaching and practice that is profound and empowering for the benefit of those seeking an end to suffering. The Gradual Training series provides answers to most questions asked about TWIM and sutta based principles found in the Buddha's teaching.
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