Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
mettafuture
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:13 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby mettafuture » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:12 pm

"The point of practice is to be present, in the here and now, and to have inner peace. :)"

That's a paraphrase of the summary I often hear Western Buddhist teachers giving. It's cute and poetic, but it doesn't really explain much.

Now here's a quote from Satipatthana: Direct Path to Realization by Venerable Analayo.

"The whole purpose of practicing the path taught by the Buddha is to eradicate the influxes (asava), uproot the latent tendencies (anusaya), and to abandon the fetters (samyojana). These three terms refer to the same basic problem from slightly different perspectives, namely to the arising of craving (tanha) and related forms of unwholesomeness in relation to any of the six sense-spheres."

I like that much better! It clearly outlines the problem, and the cause. Now if only there were more English language teachers, or books, explaining HOW to eradicate the influxes, uproot the latent tendencies, and to abandon the fetters, using meditation objects OTHER than the breath, I'd be a very happy camper.

User avatar
bodom
Posts: 4661
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby bodom » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:20 pm

See these recommendations:

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=341

In my opinion, having read them all, they are all straight Buddhadhamma. Nothing new age here and they are all written for a western audience.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

User avatar
m0rl0ck
Posts: 1051
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:51 am

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:30 pm

mettafuture wrote:"The point of practice is to be present, in the here and now, and to have inner peace. :)"

That's a paraphrase of the summary I often hear Western Buddhist teachers giving. It's cute and poetic, but it doesn't really explain much.

Now here's a quote from Satipatthana: Direct Path to Realization by Venerable Analayo.

"The whole purpose of practicing the path taught by the Buddha is to eradicate the influxes (asava), uproot the latent tendencies (anusaya), and to abandon the fetters (samyojana). These three terms refer to the same basic problem from slightly different perspectives, namely to the arising of craving (tanha) and related forms of unwholesomeness in relation to any of the six sense-spheres."

I like that much better! It clearly outlines the problem, and the cause. Now if only there were more English language teachers, or books, explaining HOW to eradicate the influxes, uproot the latent tendencies, and to abandon the fetters, using meditation objects OTHER than the breath, I'd be a very happy camper.


imo people vastly overcomplicate it, take a look at the instructions in the anapanasati sutta
[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'


Its basically, breathe look inward and relax. My practice took great strides when I chucked method execpt for those simple instructions. I like huang po's instructions as well, "practice non-clinging". Doesnt get any simpler than that.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html

User avatar
Goedert
Posts: 312
Joined: Tue May 18, 2010 9:24 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: SC, Brazil

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby Goedert » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:40 pm

Actually I think westerns over COMPLICATE the practice.

This because of cultural reason, the of trying to understand everything.

It is like bodybuilding. One can understand how the muscular fibers work to grow up, undertand the rules of protein and others nutrients, etc. But the guy is not doing the work outs, because he thinks to lift a weight is to simple, it has to be more complex...

Kind regards

User avatar
Thaibebop
Posts: 287
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:37 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby Thaibebop » Sat Jul 10, 2010 5:05 pm

I think there are a lot of oversimplifying that goes on. For some I think it is an attempt to help westerners not used to eastern thinking find a easy place to start, for others the simplification sells better. I have always disliked oversimplification to appease the 'hippy-dippy lets all feel good' crowd. I feel the lessons are lost when that is done.

Shonin
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby Shonin » Sat Jul 10, 2010 5:23 pm

If you start talking to beginners about influxes, anusaya and fetters they'll run a mile. How about looking at it this way:

Lesson One:
"The point of practice is to be present, in the here and now, and to have inner peace. :)"


Lesson Two (or Ten or whatever):
"The whole purpose of practicing the path taught by the Buddha is to eradicate the influxes (asava), uproot the latent tendencies (anusaya), and to abandon the fetters (samyojana). These three terms refer to the same basic problem from slightly different perspectives, namely to the arising of craving (tanha) and related forms of unwholesomeness in relation to any of the six sense-spheres."

User avatar
kc2dpt
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:48 pm

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby kc2dpt » Sat Jul 10, 2010 8:35 pm

Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Some oversimplify.
Some overly complicate.
Some benefit from simple instructions.
Some benefit from detailed instructions.
:shrug:

I think the problem with oversimplification is when the lack of details leads us to practice wrongly. It is like following the directions "go west" and then you hit a river and are forced to stop. If you had more details you would know that just a little ways south was a bridge you could cross before continuing west.

I think the problem with overly complicating is when the study of details becomes cause for procrastinating practice. It is like studying a pile of maps but never leaving your house.

In both cases the destination is not reached.

Clearly what we all want is just enough instruction.
But that is hard to come by.
:reading:
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

User avatar
OcTavO
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:27 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby OcTavO » Sat Jul 10, 2010 9:56 pm

I don't get the feeling it's any more simplified here in the west than it is by lay practitioners all over the world.

On the flip side I feel that Mahayana traditions overcomplicate things. Even standing here at the front door of Theravada practice, with only the Pali canon and associated commentaries stretching away before us it's a pretty daunting learning experience. How anyone has the courage to decide to learn all that and two millenia of extra, additional commentary and tradition on top of it is beyond me! :jawdrop:

User avatar
Spiny Norman
Posts: 3164
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Spam, wonderful spam

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:59 am

Maybe there's a difference between oversimplifying dharma ( the teachings ) and oversimplifying practice. For me daily practice needs to be relatively simple, otherwise I lose track and get confused. :juggling:

P
"I ride tandem with the random, Things don't run the way I planned them, In the humdrum."
Peter Gabriel lyric

PeterB
Posts: 3909
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby PeterB » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:00 am

porpoise wrote:Maybe there's a difference between oversimplifying dharma ( the teachings ) and oversimplifying practice. For me daily practice needs to be relatively simple, otherwise I lose track and get confused. :juggling:

P

A very good point porpoise. I think we sometimes see an over complication of practice and a dumbing down of the underpinning philosophical basis.

User avatar
jcsuperstar
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: alaska
Contact:

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:26 am

OcTavO wrote:I don't get the feeling it's any more simplified here in the west than it is by lay practitioners all over the world.

On the flip side I feel that Mahayana traditions overcomplicate things. Even standing here at the front door of Theravada practice, with only the Pali canon and associated commentaries stretching away before us it's a pretty daunting learning experience. How anyone has the courage to decide to learn all that and two millenia of extra, additional commentary and tradition on top of it is beyond me! :jawdrop:

from what i've seen that's not what the mahayana does at all. they usually stick to one or two sutras and never pay any attention to anything "hinayana". commentaries on the heart sutra are a dime a dozen where you'd be very hard pressed to find one commentary on a sutra from the agamas
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

PeterB
Posts: 3909
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby PeterB » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:43 am

Quite so jcs. The Mahayana often have rituals of gothic complexity. But often seem to sloganise selected parts of the Dhamma. Hence "we are all Buddhas" and so on.

User avatar
OcTavO
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:27 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby OcTavO » Sun Jul 11, 2010 1:58 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:from what i've seen that's not what the mahayana does at all. they usually stick to one or two sutras and never pay any attention to anything "hinayana". commentaries on the heart sutra are a dime a dozen where you'd be very hard pressed to find one commentary on a sutra from the agamas


Really? I have to admit I'm not very au fait in matters of Mahayana, aside from a few experiences in local Zen and Shambala centers. The Zen priests I've sat with seemed to have a very healthy respect for the Tipitaka. One of them said to me: "the heart of all the teachings are right there (in the Pali Canon), it's where all our traditions come from," But I guess she may not be the norm. :smile:

User avatar
m0rl0ck
Posts: 1051
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:51 am

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:22 pm

OcTavO wrote:Really? I have to admit I'm not very au fait in matters of Mahayana, aside from a few experiences in local Zen and Shambala centers. The Zen priests I've sat with seemed to have a very healthy respect for the Tipitaka.


Thats been my experience as well.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html

User avatar
jcsuperstar
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: alaska
Contact:

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:33 pm

OcTavO wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:from what i've seen that's not what the mahayana does at all. they usually stick to one or two sutras and never pay any attention to anything "hinayana". commentaries on the heart sutra are a dime a dozen where you'd be very hard pressed to find one commentary on a sutra from the agamas


Really? I have to admit I'm not very au fait in matters of Mahayana, aside from a few experiences in local Zen and Shambala centers. The Zen priests I've sat with seemed to have a very healthy respect for the Tipitaka. One of them said to me: "the heart of all the teachings are right there (in the Pali Canon), it's where all our traditions come from," But I guess she may not be the norm. :smile:

the pali canon is not a part of the Mahayana Tripitaka, they have the agama sutras which are similar and have some overlapping, but not the pali canon. the Tibetan canon has even less.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

User avatar
kc2dpt
Posts: 956
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:48 pm

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jul 11, 2010 3:27 pm

porpoise wrote:Maybe there's a difference between oversimplifying dharma ( the teachings ) and oversimplifying practice. For me daily practice needs to be relatively simple, otherwise I lose track and get confused.

This is the most insightful thing I've read online in a long time. Thank you very much. :anjali:

Looking at my own life, I've read a lot of suttas and a lot of commentaries and attended a lot of lectures and I consider it all valuable and important to my understanding of the Dhamma. On the other hand, my practice is very simple: try my best to avoid the unwholesome and cultivate the wholesome. These two sides are brought together thus: all that study informs my deciding what is un/wholesome.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

Terasi
Posts: 79
Joined: Thu Jul 08, 2010 5:47 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby Terasi » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:51 pm

"Western-style" Buddhism are easier to swallow for beginners like me. As long as it doesn't stray far from Dhamma, I think the simple and straightforward one is better to introduce people to Buddhism. Beginners like me can relate to searching for happiness, simple and appealing. If you talk about nibbana, you'll have to explain what it is, it will be too long, difficult and intimidating for us.
Before I knew Western-style teachers in Theravada, I was terrified with Buddhism because the ones I've been were so complicated and ceremonial that I didn't even know what Buddha actually taught. So yeah, let there be variety to benefit different kinds of people.

User avatar
mettafuture
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:13 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby mettafuture » Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:02 pm

bodom wrote:See these recommendations:

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=341

In my opinion, having read them all, they are all straight Buddhadhamma. Nothing new age here and they are all written for a western audience.

:anjali:

Do any of those books give instructions on how to meditate on the 6 recollections - the original objects of meditation for the lay community, or on how to deal with hindrances and asavas as they arise?

Overcomplicating practice can be as much of a problem as oversimplifying it. I used to have a problem doing both. But I've done enough research, and talked with enough people to know exactly what I need to read, practice, and study. I just find it a little frustrating there are so few resources (that I know of) that detail something other than calmness and present moment awareness.

How great would it be if there was a big book that made mention of all the important topics in Theravada Buddhism like the 4 noble truths, 8 fold path, 5 precepts, 10 fetters (and/or 3 influxes), and the triple refuge? It could even include quotes from the Buddha and his disciples. A great title for it could be 'In The Buddha's Words', and perhaps Bhikkhu Bodhi could write it? :D

But seriously... We already have 1 amazing book that explains the dhamma. Now we just need one that details the practice, from different angles, so different people can find a shoe that fits.

User avatar
bodom
Posts: 4661
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby bodom » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:00 pm

mettafuture wrote:Do any of those books give instructions on how to meditate on the 6 recollections - the original objects of meditation for the lay community, or on how to deal with hindrances and asavas as they arise?


Of course.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

User avatar
mettafuture
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:13 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Do Western Buddhists oversimplify practice?

Postby mettafuture » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:53 pm

bodom wrote:
mettafuture wrote:Do any of those books give instructions on how to meditate on the 6 recollections - the original objects of meditation for the lay community, or on how to deal with hindrances and asavas as they arise?


Of course.

:anjali:

Lol. Which ones?


Return to “General Theravāda discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Sam Vara and 6 guests