Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

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Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby Sokehi » Thu Feb 27, 2014 9:37 pm

So the title says it basically what I'm contemplating about. From my earlier days of zen practice I still recall some monks on retreat teaching that their could be Nirvana without even practicing. The classical "heard a sound, sudden enlightenment".

So canonically speaking: is this a possibility from a classical theravadan view? Is something like this somewhere to be found in the scriptures?
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby culaavuso » Thu Feb 27, 2014 9:39 pm

MN 70
MN 70: Kitagiri Sutta wrote:Monks, I do not say that the attainment of gnosis is all at once. Rather, the attainment of gnosis is after gradual training, gradual action, gradual practice. And how is there the attainment of gnosis after gradual training, gradual action, gradual practice? There is the case where, when conviction has arisen, one visits [a teacher]. Having visited, one grows close. Having grown close, one lends ear. Having lent ear, one hears the Dhamma. Having heard the Dhamma, one remembers it. Remembering, one penetrates the meaning of the teachings. Penetrating the meaning, one comes to an agreement through pondering the teachings. There being an agreement through pondering the teachings, desire arises. When desire has arisen, one is willing. When one is willing, one contemplates. Having contemplated, one makes an exertion. Having made an exertion, one realizes with the body the ultimate truth and, having penetrated it with discernment, sees it.

Now, monks, there hasn't been that conviction, there hasn't been that visiting, there hasn't been that growing close ... that lending ear ... that hearing of the Dhamma ... that remembering ... that penetration of the meaning of the teachings ... that agreement through pondering the teachings ... that desire ... that willingness ... that contemplation ... that exertion. You have lost the way, monks. You have gone the wrong way, monks. How far have you strayed, foolish men, from this Dhamma & Discipline!
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby Sokehi » Thu Feb 27, 2014 9:41 pm

Ah! I've read this some time ago but couldn't recall it. Thank you very much! :anjali:
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:12 am

Sokehi wrote:So the title says it basically what I'm contemplating about. From my earlier days of zen practice I still recall some monks on retreat teaching that their could be Nirvana without even practicing. The classical "heard a sound, sudden enlightenment".

So canonically speaking: is this a possibility from a classical theravadan view? Is something like this somewhere to be found in the scriptures?

There are references to those hearing one teaching and they attained Nibbana, and some may of been lay-people who then ordained, but I would need to look this up???

in general these occurrences are thought to of been to people who meditated previously, and the teachings are thought to of been given in a meditative situation. (see Venerable Analayo's first lessons on the Chinese Agama for a reference.
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby culaavuso » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:47 am

Cittasanto wrote:There are references to those hearing one teaching and they attained Nibbana


One reference of this sort is the story of Bāhiya in Ud 1.10. The description given suggests that he was already quite advanced in various ways before hearing the teaching, though, so he may have already completed the earlier requisites of the gradual part of the path. It's also worth noting that the explanation of the Dhamma is a way of training, so even in this case it is not "without practice".

Ud 1.10: Bāhiya Sutta wrote:I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. And on that occasion Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth was living in Suppāraka by the seashore. He was worshipped, revered, honored, venerated, and given homage — a recipient of robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick. Then, when he was alone in seclusion, this line of thinking appeared to his awareness: "Now, of those who in this world are arahants or have entered the path of arahantship, am I one?"

Then a devatā who had once been a blood relative of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth — compassionate, desiring his welfare, knowing with her own awareness the line of thinking that had arisen in his awareness — went to him and on arrival said to him, "You, Bāhiya, are neither an arahant nor have you entered the path of arahantship. You don't even have the practice whereby you would become an arahant or enter the path of arahantship."
...
A third time, Bāhiya said to the Blessed One, "But it is hard to know for sure what dangers there may be for the Blessed One's life, or what dangers there may be for mine. Teach me the Dhamma, O Blessed One! Teach me the Dhamma, O One-Well-Gone, that will be for my long-term welfare & bliss."

"Then, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

Through hearing this brief explanation of the Dhamma from the Blessed One, the mind of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth right then and there was released from effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance. Having exhorted Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth with this brief explanation of the Dhamma, the Blessed One left.


See also Ud 5.5 which describes a "sudden drop-off only after a long stretch", which may explain Ud 1.10 quoted above.
Ud 5.5: Uposatha Sutta wrote:Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch; in the same way this Dhamma & Vinaya has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual practice, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch. The fact that this Dhamma & Vinaya has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual practice, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch: This is the first amazing & astounding quality of this Dhamma & Vinaya because of which, as they see it again & again, the monks take great joy in this Dhamma & Vinaya.
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby chownah » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:11 am

I think it depends on perspective. If you view a persons entire life up to the time of enlightenment the it will seem that enlightenment was attained gradually but if you focus in on the moment that enlightenment occurs it will seem that it was attained suddenly........is this too obvious to even be mentioned?
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby lyndon taylor » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:19 am

I think in most cases today, instant enlightenment is about as likely as an instant PhD in philosophy from Harvard. Of course occasionally they give out honourary PhDs from Harvard to people hardly qualified. Buddhism is a path that begins right where you started and progresses as you come to a better and better understanding of many different things, I couldn't begin to tell you how many, cause I'm not there yet.

There is a new agey thing floating around we are already all Buddhas, we are all already enlightened, leave your donation at the door.... But I'm not buying into that stuff!!
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:54 am

Sokehi wrote:So the title says it basically what I'm contemplating about. From my earlier days of zen practice I still recall some monks on retreat teaching that their could be Nirvana without even practicing. The classical "heard a sound, sudden enlightenment".


It depends on what you mean by practice. If you mean following the 8-fold path; that it isn't necessary, then no, nibbana is not possible without the 8-fold path.

If you mean formal sitting meditation; then yes, it appears that it can be done without formal sitting practice -- although probably very difficult that way. There are monks who just heard a Dhamma talk from the Buddha and attained enlightenment. The Commentaries report that their practice was well developed prior to that. You could make your life your meditation, practicing the precepts, the 8-fold path, having mindfulness, concentration and tranquility in everyday life, eventually extinguishing self-view, attachments, ill-will, anger, etc and then attain enlightenment. Although I am sure most would agree that this would be difficult without some practice at noble silence and quietude of sitting meditation at least once in a while. The sitting is the practice and the performance is life.
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby Kare » Fri Feb 28, 2014 9:31 am

Sokehi wrote:From my earlier days of zen practice I still recall some monks on retreat teaching that their could be Nirvana without even practicing. The classical "heard a sound, sudden enlightenment".



Don't you believe those guys. As far as I know Zen, there are years and years of diligent practice preceding those sudden moments of awakening.

So either you do it the Theravada way: Practice for years and years, and then comes awakening.
Or you do it the Zen way: Practice for years and years, and then comes awakening.
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby boris » Fri Feb 28, 2014 10:04 am

Kare wrote: So either you do it the Theravada way: Practice for years and years, and then comes awakening. ...


It does not has to be so, or at least it was not so in the Buddha time. In many Suttas we can find that monks realized nibbana now and here soon after ordination. According to SN 38: 16 realization of nibbana does not take much time, on condition that monk is happy with his style of life and is practicing in a right way. But in these beautiful times there was one decisive factor which seems to be absent now, that is good friend who himself realized nibbana and who could help others in this realization.
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:30 pm

Thanks Culavlavuso
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby Sokehi » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:03 pm

Very well, many helpful postings plus some with regards to the Canon, wonderful! :anjali:

Out of purpose I just said "without practice". From what I know of living 39 years this Life and Practicing in Therms of Dhamma for 16 years now I'd say it's or it must be impossible to be suddenly enlightened without any preceding efforts towards it, or at least a wholesome conduct and investigation into how things are with regards to their true nature. I don't believe in any shortcuts, reflecting my own conduct over those years, failures and by wrong view supported Thinkings and Doings I am sure, very very sure, that the eightfold path is the way. But I was curious if there is anything to be found within the canon that gives an example of sudden, unexpected, untrained etc. breakthrough towards Enlightenment.

Thanks to all of you for clearing this up :anjali:
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

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Re: Nibbana without Practice - possible in theravada?

Postby lyndon taylor » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:37 pm

Since we don't have the Buddha in person as our teacher, I can't think it realistic to have the same relatively quick awakenings recorded in the scripture, though I guess anythings possible sometime, but perhaps on a much smaller scale.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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