In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, we meet Pascal Auclair, a teacher in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Pascal starts by telling us how he came to Buddhism when he was traveling in Asia with his partner and ended up at Buddhadasa Bhikkhu’s monastery in Thailand. He was touched by this experience of intimacy with reality. He was struck by the realization that reality is not completely easy and satisfying. He was also deeply affected by the simplicity of the practice of following the breath.
We then hear about another deep inspiration for Pascal’s practice. When he was twenty-five, before he went to Asia, Pascal learned that he was HIV-positive. At that time, there was no medication for HIV. He says that this experience made him more open to the teachings of Buddhism. In good health today, he recalls how this diagnosis was his encounter with the “Heavenly Messengers” of old age, illness, and death. He reflects on what his refuge was then, and how he faced his diagnosis. At that point he felt certain he would not live to the age of forty, and with this sense of time as precious, he set out to go to Asia.
Pascal tells us about the specific practices he learned on that first retreat in Asia. In these early days of practice, he was touched by the light, almost playful way that one can engage with awareness. He then shares the story of an early retreat he did at the Insight Meditation Society with famed Theravadin teacher Ruth Denison, and another retreat with S.N. Goenka. We hear about Pascal’s experience of being mentored by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. He also shares his own feelings and thoughts about being a dharma teacher, and his memories of how his grandmother was a profound teacher for him.
He shares his personal daily practice, from morning productivity to afternoon contemplation. Finally, Pascal reflects powerfully on the meeting of dharma practice and social justice. Just like the individual human system, the communities and societies are alive systems that can produce hardship and suffering or well-being and freedom. Pascal speaks of how he feels that he has a personal responsibility to increase his awareness and compassionate action in relation to social strife.