Seeking help with sutta study guide

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby seaturtle » Sun Jul 21, 2013 6:30 pm

In studying the suttas I recently began journaling on the suttas I was reading. Out of this journal I created a study guide and would like to get some feedback on it, in part to check my own understanding and in part to see if it is something anyone else may find useful. It differs a bit from what I have found looking for study guides in that it is more inquiry-based, meaning that it is about 30-40% questions, and it designed to get the reader thinking about their own experiences instead of the technical meaning of the suttas. It is organized thematically and covers just a few basic topics (the four noble truths, eightfold path, and three refuges) to rouse interest and energy to practice. Part of the inspiration comes from conversation I have had with Christian friends and problems I have had explaining my faith or misunderstandings I have encountered. It is also fairly short, about 3 pages of text covering 13 suttas. The writing is a combination of comments meant to clarify the themes and questions to get the reader thinking about the relevance of the Buddha's words.

I'm still a bit unsure about posting the guide. I feel quite unqualified to teach, as I have been interested in Buddhism for only a few years (since 2007) and have had little opportunity to study with a teacher, due to the area where I lived. I have considered letting my thoughts on the suttas go, but since they persist I decided to follow them and see where it leads. Instead of posting the whole guide I wanted to start by just seeing if there is anyone out there who would be interested in looking at it and offering constructive and critical feedback (even though the thought of critical feedback still scares me some).
To be born human and encounter the great joy
of the good Dharma is a chance rarer than
a turtle thrusting its neck through a yoke
floating freely in the great ocean.
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby Holdan » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:12 pm

seaturtle wrote:...it designed to get the reader thinking about their own experiences instead of the technical meaning of the suttas...

Hi. You have made a distinction here between what can be experienced & what is the suttas. What is the distinction here, you are referring to? Thanks :?:
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:54 pm

Hi seaturtle,

This sounds like an interesting project. Useful ways of approaching Sutta study are welcome here. How about posting an example from one sutta to illustrate your approach?

:anjali:
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby seaturtle » Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:23 am

Holdan - I may not have phrased my distiction clearly. The goal is simply to avoid a long discussion on translations or words.

Anyway, below are the first two. They may help clarify what I am trying to do, or then again, maybe not.

1. SN 56.48 is about human birth and how rare being born human is. The imagery used is of a blind sea turtle who surfaces once a century poking its head through a hoop floating on the ocean. While this translation uses the phrase "by chance" to describe how this happens another interpretation is just that the odds of the turtle poking his head through the hoop are exceedingly rare. Being born human is an opportunity, and here the Buddha describes our obligation as human and introduces the four noble truths, which show how the cessation of suffering & stress is a spiritual endeavor.  ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )
What other life forms exist in this world? What do you know about their lives? What is your experience of being born human?
2. SNP 3.8 tells us that we all will experience death, and our grief will not protect us but will only increase our suffering. The first truth is sometimes translated as life is suffering. This translation causes some confusion. The first truth, the truth of Dukkha, tells us that hardship is woven into living. Every being experiences hardships, whether obvious or hidden. Death is one hardship every being experiences. Life is (mostly) pleasurable. Living beings want to continue living. But death is inevitable. Death is an example of Dukkha. As humans we have an awareness of the nature of death. This awareness is also an example of Dukkha. ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html )
Does Dukkha cease to exist when you don't focus on it? What Dukkha exists in your life? Where is Dukkha obvious? Where is Dukkha hidden?
To be born human and encounter the great joy
of the good Dharma is a chance rarer than
a turtle thrusting its neck through a yoke
floating freely in the great ocean.
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 24, 2013 1:08 am

Hi Seaturtle,

Thank you for posting those examples. They are, indeed, excellent reflections.

You might find Sharda Rogell's study guide for the Majjhima Nikaya, "Pressing Out Pure Honey", interesting:
http://www.shardarogell.com/reading-and ... pure-honey
For each sutta she has a summary, some notes, and then a section called "Practice".

Her practice suggestions are along similar lines to yours. For example, for MN 18 Madhupinndika Sutta, The Honeyball, she suggests:
1. When a sequence of thoughts occurs, see if you can identify the arising of delight in relation to those thoughts. Notice if there is the tendency toward proliferation due to this delight.
2. If so, see if you can notice the felt ­sense of the unsatisfactory element (dukkha) of this proliferation.


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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby santa100 » Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:55 am

If you live in Saratoga Springs, NY, it's about 2hr 15 minutes away from Chuang Yen monastery in Carmel, NY. Bhikkhu Bodhi currently lives there. He's teaching the Majjhima suttas every Saturday morning. More info. can be found here: http://www.baus.org/en/

For the DN, SN, and AN, you can build upon Ven. Thanissaro's existing summary pages on accesstoinsight.org:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/index.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/index.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/index.html

Enjoy the study..
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby SarathW » Wed Jul 24, 2013 4:01 am

Hi Seaturtle
Your proposed work seems very interesting. Please continue with your work.
I am sure you are one of those sea turtles, poking its head through a hoop floating on the ocean.
:twothumbsup:
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby seaturtle » Wed Jul 24, 2013 3:31 pm

Thanks all. The book by Sharda Rogell looks interesting. I like her writing style. I've listened to a talk or two by her but did not realize she had written any books.
Thanks, too, for the info on the center in Carmel, NY. I actually just moved back to Saratoga in May. I lived in Wyoming for the past 8 years and opportunity to listen to the Dharma participate in Sangha were part of the reasons for moving back. I'm hoping to get to INS in Barre, MA, one day, too.
To be born human and encounter the great joy
of the good Dharma is a chance rarer than
a turtle thrusting its neck through a yoke
floating freely in the great ocean.
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:31 pm

santa100 wrote:For the DN, SN, and AN, you can build upon Ven. Thanissaro's existing summary pages on accesstoinsight.org:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/index.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/index.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/index.html

Slightly off topic, but I think that those summaries are written by John Bullitt (the majority of the translations are by Ven Thanissaro but it is John's website).
See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/faq.html#general

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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:37 pm

Hi Seaturtle,
seaturtle wrote:Thanks all. The book by Sharda Rogell looks interesting. I like her writing style. I've listened to a talk or two by her but did not realize she had written any books.

I'm pleased we could be of assistance. Do feel free to post some more of your sutta-study ideas. I like the approach that you (and Sharda) have taken of giving suggestions on how to apply the concepts from the suttas.

:anjali:
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby santa100 » Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:00 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Slightly off topic, but I think that those summaries are written by John Bullitt (the majority of the translations are by Ven Thanissaro but it is John's website).
See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/faq.html#general


Ah yes, thanks for the correction Mike. Credits to both Ven. Thanissaro and John Bullitt.. :anjali:
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Re: Seeking help with sutta study guide

Postby seaturtle » Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:24 am

Here are the suttas I chose to discuss the second, third and fourth noble truths.

3. SN 3.23 discusses the three poisons (unwholesome roots) as the source of stress. The second truth is craving is the origin of Dukkha. One source of confusion here is to think that all desire is a form of craving. This is not true. Craving is unwholesome desire, desire rooted in ignorance and delusion. Craving creates addiction, causing us to desire things even when these things harm us or those we care about. Craving can also be inverted, causing ill-will and the desire to harm or destroy other beings. ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )
What does it mean to crave, grasp, or cling to experience? What is your experience of craving, grasping, and clinging? How do craving, grasping, and clinging turn into greed, aversion, and delusion? If greed and aversion are fueled by ignorance, how do they create yet more ignorance and delusion?
What is your experience of greed, aversion, and delusion? Do you experience Dukkha when you react to an experience with greed, aversion, or delusion? 
4. SN 12.23 is the transcendental dependent origination sutta. It talks about emancipation (freedom from the three poisons), the destruction of the taints (cankers), and the causes & conditions leading to the destruction of the poisons & the taints. Emancipation is the third truth, freedom from suffering, and the transcendental dependent origination takes us backwards through the chain from the third truth to the first truth. ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html )
What does emancipation mean? What does it mean to be free from Dukkha? How do you seek relief from Dukkha? What is the difference between relief from Dukkha and release from Dukkha? In what ways does seeking relief from Dukkha make one a slave to Dukkha?
5. AN 3.71 reiterates the importance of abandoning the three poisons (unwholesome roots) and introduces the fourth truth, the eightfold path as the path that leads us to abandon the three poisons. ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )
How does one get from the truth of craving to the eightfold path? How can the eightfold path lead you to let go of experiences? How can letting go of experiences lead you to abandon the three poisons?
6. SN 45.8 expounds upon the noble eightfold path, explaining each path factor.  The challenge of the eightfold path is that it makes spirituality an integral component to everything we do in life, from our thoughts and beliefs, sub-thought intentions, and what we pay attention to and concentrate on, to how we behave, talk, and even make a living.  ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )
How well do you know yourself? What views do you hold, resolves do you make, what is your moral code, what guides your speech, how do you choose your livelihood, what are you attentive of, what do you concentrate on, and what do you put effort into? Can you focus all of these qualities on our sense of spirituality?
What parts of the eightfold path are you comfortable with? What factors do you feel we have already begun to develop? What are your limits? What factors do you struggle to understand? What factors do you feel we are still weak in?Here are
To be born human and encounter the great joy
of the good Dharma is a chance rarer than
a turtle thrusting its neck through a yoke
floating freely in the great ocean.
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