IMSB’s Thursday program in San Jose – Saratoga is organized into a series of courses on mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhist teachings and practices. With small group classes on a wide array of topics we can offer newcomers an ideal opportunity to learn meditation, and also enable seasoned meditators to refine their meditative skills and delve deeply into focused dhamma themes.

Registration is required for most of the classes, but periodically drop-in Deepening Practice and Community sessions will be integrated into the program in order to enhance experiential learning, stimulate reflective wisdom, and encourage good friendships as we practice together between scheduled series courses.

The Thursday Dhamma Classes in 2017 will be led by Shaila Catherine, Sharon Allen, Kimberly Allen, and Robert Cusick, along with a number of  guest teachers.

Where and When

Westhope Presbyterian Church
12850 Saratoga Ave
Saratoga CA 95070  map
Just 2 blocks off Highway 85 at the Saratoga Avenue exit at the edge of San Jose.

  • 7:00  Doors Open
  • 7:15 – 9:00  Meditation and teachings

Visit the Events Calendar for schedule of courses and more information.

The list below offers a glimpse of past or potential courses. You will find our upcoming course listings on the Events Calendar.

Courses scheduled in 2017 include:

Past Thursday Night Programs. Look for them again in the future:

Cultivating Mindfulness

A training for living in the present.

This course is an introduction to the meditative development of mindfulness through which we refine our ability to focus and bring clear attention to all aspects of experience. We will cultivate mindfulness of breath, sensations, emotions, thoughts and actions. This series includes exercises that enhance mindfulness, support the establishment of a daily meditation practice, and highlight balanced awareness in work and home life. The course is appropriate for beginners as well as practitioners who wish to refine fundamental meditation techniques for a stronger daily practice.

  • Why Meditate?: The power of mindfulness with breathing
  • Cultivating Presence: Mindfulness of the body
  • Emotional Presence: Mindfulness of mental states
  • Settling the Restless Mind: Mindfulness of thoughts
  • Awakened Living: Integrating mindfulness into daily life
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Developing a Kind Heart

A series that will open the heart and bring balance in relationships.

This series will nurture the development of four profound qualities of heart: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. These four qualities express a powerful and immeasurable intention of kindness toward ourselves and all beings. They are traditionally called the Divine Abodes (Brahma Viharas). When these qualities are well developed the heart-mind will be liberated from ill will, cruelty, envy, expectation and demand—one will dwell with a pure “divine” perception of all things.

  • Loving Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Empathetic Joy
  • Equanimity
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Overcoming Obstacles to Meditation

A practical series to help establish and deepen concentration and insight.

Mediation practice cultivates inner peace, clarity, concentration and joy. In order to experience these beautiful qualities, we must overcome the obstacles of agitation, dullness, distraction, obsessive thinking, and painful emotions, and we must learn to work skillfully with pain, illness, fear, and a wide range of obstructive patterns. This series course will investigate hindrances to meditation, and nurture the skills that will enable us to overcome the common obstacles to meditative insight. Through mindful inquiry we will recognize the presence, absence, and causal conditions for hindrances and thereby transform negative patterns into positive states.

Topics may include

  • Classic hindrances of desire, aversion, sloth and torpor, restlessness, doubt,  ­
  • Common obstructive forces such as obsessive planning, distraction, conceit, attachment, wrong understanding, pain, fear, worry, lack of discipline, unbalanced effort, discouragement etc.
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Fundamental Buddhist Principles

A series for those curious about what the Buddha taught.

Buddhist tradition offers a rich tradition of wisdom teachings, many of which are remembered as lists. This series will focus on the philosophy, principles, practices, and instructions that are fundamental to developing a meditative or Buddhist practice. It is intended as an introduction to Buddhism series, with an emphasis on the primary teachings that guide meditators to a liberating understanding of the mind, world, and life.

Topics may include basic Buddhist lists such as:

  • Four Noble Truths
  • Eightfold Noble Path
  • Three Trainings
  • Five Faculties
  • Three Characteristics
  • Three Poisons
  • Eight Worldly Dhammas
  • Seven Factors of Awakening
  • Five Precepts
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Concentration and Tranquility

With the joy of an undistracted mind.

This series will explore the role of concentration for calming the mind, deepening wisdom, enhancing enduring happiness, sharpening attentional focus, and resting the mind in a profound state of stillness. We will introduce meditation techniques aimed at strengthening concentration by using the breath as the primary meditation object. The instructions will cultivate skills for freeing the mind from distraction, and developing equanimity to maintain undistracted awareness. Combining deep concentration and penetrative insight we develop a liberating path.

The Eight-Fold Path of Awakening

Living with clarity and peace

This series will explore the Noble Eight-fold Path as a liberating practice. The Eight-fold Path is among the most practical and powerful core teachings of the Buddha. It offers practitioners a comprehensive approach for training the mind in the context of meditation, action, relationship, and life.

  • Right View
  • Right Intention
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Three Jewels

Where the mind rests with trust.

What do you turn to when your enthusiasm for practice fades? Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha can focus our intentions and inspire our practice. The potential for awakening, a clear path of training, and ongoing support of the community are three classic and accessible jewels of the Dhamma. In this series we will contemplate the stabilizing influence of finding refuge in the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, the timeless teachings of the Dhamma, and the courage and inspiration of the Sangha.

  • Awakening and the Buddha
  • Path of Training and the Dhamma
  • Community of Practitioners and the Sangha
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Strengthening Mindfulness

A series dedicated to cultivating profound insight.

This series will expand on instructions offered in basic mindfulness courses, offering new depths of understanding, integrating the practice with life situations, and helping students establish a daily meditation practice. Mindfulness training is a practical tool that can support wisdom in any activity, and it is at the heart of Buddhist meditation leading to direct realization that frees the mind from suffering.

The selection of topics will vary in each Strengthening Mindfulness course, and may include:

  • Mindfulness of speech and communication ­
  • Mindfulness in the workplace and right livelihood
  • Mindfulness of the body, pain, illness, and death­
  • Mindfulness with emotions and feelings
  • Mindfulness of intention and decision-making
  • Mindfulness in relationships ­
  • Applications of mindfulness to overcoming habits, craving, and fear
  • Using mindfulness to address personal issues such as eating disorders, addictions, anxiety etc.
  • Tips for establishing and strengthening a daily mindfulness practice
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Pillars of Dhamma

What we can do to improve our lives.

Three core practices support growth in Buddhist practice—generosity (dana), virtue (sila), and mental development (bhavana). These Three Pillars are sometimes called sources of merit because they are actions that lead to beneficial results. Practicing generosity we nurture an open, kind heart; practicing virtue we live happily, free from remorse; and developing wise attention, mindfulness, and concentration we prepare the mind for liberating insight.

  • Generosity—dana
  • Virtue—sila
  • Mental Development—bhavana
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Beautiful Mind: Cultivating the Faculties and Mental Powers

Nurturing the best in ourselves.

This series will explore the five spiritual faculties and their cultivation in meditation: faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. The Buddha stressed the importance of these controlling faculties and powers, which offer a complete structure for meditative development and culminate with final liberation. They are necessary features of meditative progress that can be undertaken as a sequential training or as a finely balanced system of wholesome forces.

  • Faith
  • Energy
  • Mindfulness
  • Concentration
  • Wisdom
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Ethics, Action, and the Five Precepts

For a life of harmony and clarity.

This series will explore virtue as the indispensable foundation of Buddhist practice. The series will emphasize the five training precepts, and may explore action, ethics, kamma, and cause-effect dynamics. The precepts are not rules to be obediently followed; they serve as guidelines for the intentional development of compassion, mindfulness, and wisdom. These five precepts offer us a joyful method to cultivate the heart, nurture harmony in our relationships, and free the mind from inner forces of greed and anger that if unrestrained may cause suffering for ourselves and others.

  • Introduction: Path of Virtue
  • Precept #1: Refraining from Killing
  • Precept #2: Refraining from Stealing
  • Precept #3: Refraining from Sexual Misconduct
  • Precept #4: Refraining from False Speech
  • Precept #5: Refraining from Intoxication
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Seven Factors of Awakening

For the mind that values freedom.

These seven qualities offer an effective framework for cultivating the mind, overcoming the hindrances, and balancing the energetic and calming forces that develop in meditation. When cultivated and balanced, the mind is ripe for awakening. This series will explore each factor to reveal its importance, function, and role in the process of awakening.

  • Mindfulness
  • Investigation
  • Effort
  • Joy
  • Tranquility
  • Concentration
  • Equipoise
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Antidotes For Three Poisons

To uproot the causes of suffering.

We suffer when the mind is affected by the poisonous influence of greed, hatred, or delusion. These unwholesome forces corrupt our thoughts and actions, perpetuate unwise choices, and exacerbate suffering. In contrast, the highest goal of the dhamma is the realization of nibbana, which the Buddha defined as the extinguishing of greed, hate, and delusion. This series will help students identify and work with the root causes of suffering. And also to recognize and rejoice when the mind is free from these poisons.

  • Greed
  • Hatred
  • Delusion
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Doorways to Insight

Knowing liberation through the ordinary.

You know everything changes, so why do you suffer when possessions are lost, relationships end, or friends die? Insight meditation is oriented toward seeing three characteristics—the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and emptiness of experience. In some ways these are ordinary and obvious insights. Every day we experience changing sensory impressions; we cannot control what happens; and we have never succeeded in attaining lasting happiness from transient phenomena. Yet, these simple insights have the power to uproot our deepest misperceptions. When we see them clearly, we do not cling; when not-clinging, the mind is freed. This series will explore the nature of insight, wisdom, and liberating knowledge with an emphasis on what are called the three characteristics, or three doorways to nibbana.

  • Impermanence
  • Unsatisfactoriness
  • Not-self
  • Insight Knowledge
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Five Contemplations

Five daily reminders for life.

The Buddha recommended five themes for daily reflection which can dispel tendencies toward procrastination, inspire a sense of urgency, strengthen the commitment to cultivate the good in our lives, and uproot attachments that cause suffering. In the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (AN 5:57 Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation) the Buddha urges both monastics and lay practitioners to frequently reflect on the universal nature of aging, illness, death, loss, and the consequences of action—no one is exempt from these conditions. This series will explore the profound implications of these five daily reflections.

  • Aging
  • Illness
  • Death
  • Change
  • Kamma
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Establishing Mindfulness: Teachings on the Four Satipatthanas

A practical and direct path.

Many practitioners consider the Satipatthana Sutta to be among the most important and practical teachings of the Early Discourses of the Buddha. It offers pragmatic instructions for establishing mindfulness with attention to body, feelings, mind, and various dhamma objects (physical and mental processes). These four satipatthanas, called establishments or foundations of mindfulness, are at the center of insight meditation teachings. They frame the practice of mindfulness within the liberating aim of the path, thereby providing- the means for our awakening.

  • Mindfulness of body
  • Mindfulness of feeling
  • Mindfulness of mind
  • Mindfulness of phenomena
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Four Noble Truths

Ways to realize the end of suffering.

No one wants to suffer, and yet we do. The first sermon that the Buddha gave after his awakening addressed the issue of suffering. He articulated four basic tenants that have been remembered as the four noble truths. They include the full understanding of suffering, the abandoning of the causes of suffering, the realization of the end of suffering, and the cultivation of the path leading to the end of suffering. It is through a wise relationship to suffering, that freedom will be known.

  • First Noble Truth
  • Second Noble Truth
  • Third Noble Truth
  • Fourth Noble Truth
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Ten Perfections (Paramis)

A series for developing the best of mind and heart.

Many powerful wholesome qualities are nurtured in the contemplative life. This series will explore the ten perfections (paramis) that support the path of awakening, and bring joy and harmony into our daily lives. These beautiful qualities are accessible to everyone, at every stage of our path, however, they are believed to have been perfected by the Buddha through his countless lifetimes as he strove to realize the ultimate perfection of Buddhahood. This series will provide a closer look at each of these respectable qualities to enable us to more fully develop them in our lives.

  • Generosity
  • Morality
  • Renunciation
  • Wisdom
  • Energy
  • Patience
  • Truthfulness
  • Determination
  • Loving-kindness
  • Equanimity
  • Deepening Practice: Meditation, Contemplation or Reflective Practices

Paths of Skillful Action

Living an ethical life in the modern world.

When we think of ethical practice in Buddhism, we often focus on the traditional five precepts. However a longer list of ten paths of skillful action (kusala-kamma-patha) occurs more frequently in the early texts. They overlap with the five precepts, and can help to reveal further what it means to live an ethically skillful life and how this encompasses and transforms the activities of body, speech, and mind. We will explore how these paths are described in the Pali texts and how we can understand and practice them in the modern world.

  • Skillful paths of bodily action
  • Skillful paths of speech
  • Skillful paths of mind

Balanced Practice

Developing a balanced practice.

The art of Dhamma practice includes engaging skillfully with complementary aspects of practice. Sometimes we are called to actively cultivate qualities, while at other times, letting go is more appropriate. We use both our head and our heart; we engage both inwardly and in the outer world; we need both restraint and boldness. Sometimes qualities that at first appear to be in opposition, are actually inseparable — like the front and back of a hand. This speaker series explores potential paradoxes and complimentary forces in meditation, as we learn to develop a balanced practice.

Topics will vary each time we offer this series, but may include:

  • Faith and Reasoning
  • Cultivation and Letting Go
  • On the Cushion and In the World
  • Escaping Suffering and Pursuing Happiness
  • Concentration and Insight
  • Walking and Sitting Meditation
  • Mindfulness of the Body and Mindfulness of the Mind
  • Study and Meditation
  • Reliance on Teachers and Self-reliance
  • Solitude and Community
  • Joy and Equanimity
  • Tranquility and Investigation
  • Confidence and Humility
  • Preservation and Innovation
  • Diligence and Relaxation