Teachers

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Re: Teachers

Postby Annapurna » Fri Jul 30, 2010 6:17 am

Ben wrote:I agree with Mike.
A teacher is absolutely crucial in assisting one with the practical application of the Dhamma - especially as a beginner. Likewise, a judicial selection of literature will support one's own cinta-maya-panna which is a basis for deepening one's own bhavana-maya-panna. My own teacher has a saying that pariyatti and patipatti should go 'hand in hand'.
My core Dhamma books include the suttas and the Vism. Some works by latter-day scholars such as Ledi Sayadaw and Venerable Analayo are also extremely important.
kind regards

Ben



Hello, Ben, I was at no point speaking about personal eye to eye contact with a teacher in flesh and blood.
I even started by explaining what my teacher recommended.

I am talking about modern I N T E R P R E T A T I O N S vs correct translations.

Like, we were recently talking about self acclaimed Arahants, who got critisised for revealing traits that don't seem Arahant like and should we not much rather read trustworthy translations of the oldest scriptures instead ?
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Re: Teachers

Postby Annapurna » Fri Jul 30, 2010 6:51 am

octathlon wrote:Hi Annapurna,
Annapurna wrote:On my bookshelf you won't find hundreds and thousands of interpretations and explanations of the Dhamma- Itruly think that the Buddha was the best teacher anyhow, uncompared, and I don't need all those books.

Why do you? (if you do)

Where does this need come from -to read interpretations?

Are the original teachings really so hard to understand?`Or not enough?


Yes indeed, for me they are hard to understand. The statements of the Buddha are very straightforward and terse.

If I'm speaking to someone who speaks my language, and who is from the same culture as I am, then I can make a plain statement using one specific word for a concept and they will likely understand exactly what I mean, but even then they might misunderstand. And if they aren't from my same culture, they are more likely to misunderstand even though we speak the same language. And if they speak a different language and my one word has to be translated to a word or two of their language, much of the subtleties, nuances, and cultural context of my word is lost. Sometimes there isn't even a decent way to translate it at all. Then if they live in a time 2500 years later than my time..., well, I think you can see why I need some commentary and interpretation. :D


Hi, Octathlon, you say:

Yes indeed, for me they are hard to understand. The statements of the Buddha are very straightforward and terse.


I looked up straightforward, to make sure my understanding of the word is correct.

1. (of a person) honest, frank, or simple
2. Chiefly Brit (of a task, etc.) simple; easy

Thesaurus:

Adj. 1. straightforward - free from ambiguity; "a straightforward set of instructions"
unequivocal, univocal, unambiguous - admitting of no doubt or misunderstanding; having only one meaning or interpretation and leading to only one conclusion; "unequivocal evidence"; "took an unequivocal position"; "an unequivocal success"; "an unequivocal promise"; "an unequivocal (or univocal) statement"


I also looked up "terse"

neatly or effectively concise; brief and pithy, as language.


So if the teachings are brief, direct and simple, leaving no doubt, possessing no ambiguity, then how can they possibly also be hard to understand?

It seems a contradiction to me?

Also, all the while I agree that cultures differ, and times change, but didn't we all agree elsewhere, in another thread, that the teachings of the Buddha have a universal character and are therefore applicable even today, 2500 years later?


Could you give an example of what you find hard to understand, just so that I know what you mean?

Thank you.

Not trying to trap you or anything, only seeking to understand, quite harmlessly. :hug:

Anna
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Re: Teachers

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:22 am

because the Buddha tells us to kill our mother and father.

Dhammapada-Verse 294. The Destroyer Who Reaches Nibbana

One’s mother and father having slain
and then two warrior kings,
a realm as well its treasurer,
one goes immune, a Brahmin True.


what the heck does that mean?

Explanation: The brahmin kills the mother - craving, kills the father - egotism, self-cherishing: They represent the two views, Eternalism and Nihilism, opposed to Buddhist thought. The subordinates are clinging to life. And he destroys the defilements which cling to life. Having destroyed all these, the brahmin (arahat) goes without punishment.


oh thanks someone other than the Buddha for explaining that to me...

also sometimes, as in the case above, reading one verse, or a few suttas is not enough to really understand a point, and maybe someone how has gone through hundreds of suttas and collects the ones that deal with a specific topic can flesh out a deeper meaning than one would get from just reading that point being made in one sutta..
also there are competing ideas about certain teachings of the Buddha, and one could find it useful to see which make more sense instead of just reading on one's understanding or misunderstanding of a text as may be the case. i mean it was recommended by the Buddha after all, in the kalama sutta:
"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them.

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Re: Teachers

Postby Annapurna » Mon Aug 02, 2010 5:23 am

Explanation: The brahmin kills the mother - craving, kills the father - egotism, self-cherishing: They represent the two views, Eternalism and Nihilism, opposed to Buddhist thought. The subordinates are clinging to life. And he destroys the defilements which cling to life. Having destroyed all these, the brahmin (arahat) goes without punishment.


oh thanks someone other than the Buddha for explaining that to me...


And, what is the source of the explanation...?

In other words, was the explanation only discovered this century, or in the last one, or was it already available, lets say, 2000 years ago?
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Re: Teachers

Postby nameless » Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:18 am

I think first of all our ability to understand is based on our conditioning, which is different for all of us. If the Buddha were still alive in person, it is probably true that he could tailor the teaching to our conditioning. But as it stands, our conditioning is very different from people who lived in the Buddha's time and country. He taught using similies (metaphors?) a lot. Cart behind the ox, butcher cutting up an animal and splitting its innards, separating sesame seeds from whatever else seeds. I have NEVER had to do or see someone do any of those things, except the ox cart. It is probably likely that one or two generations down, they would even find the ox cart hard to imagine.

Another thing is there's a lot of ways to interpret words. So for example, the Satipatthana Sutta. "Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body". If you come fresh to Buddhism without prior knowledge, what would that mean? He said bhikkhus, does that mean only monks can practice? (BTW not seeking that these questions be answered, just presenting the confusion one might have if no commentaries were available). "Body in the body"? What does that even mean?

Then later on the sutta expands on what body in the body means, great! But then it says "Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, gone to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty place..." What? I live nowhere near a forest. Should I go to the foot of a tree on the roadside? Empty place? Where in this city do you find an empty place in this day and age?". "Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally" Internally and externally? What does that mean? And so on.
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Re: Teachers

Postby octathlon » Fri Aug 06, 2010 3:10 am

Hi Anna,

I am very sorry, I didn't see your July 30th message to me until today! :embarassed: I wasn't ignoring your question! I only noticed this thread again since someone posted and brought the thread to the top of the new post list. Not the first time I've re-found "lost" threads days later. :embarassed:

Anyway, I see some others have addressed the question, but let me give you an example, too.

First, looking at the definition you posted, I suppose I shouldn't have used the word "straightforward" after all! I mean, when I read the suttas, it sounds simple and straightforward, but I'm often not sure just which variation of meaning the translated word is meant to convey. Or even worse, maybe I think it's obvious when I read it, then I read expert commentaries and they have a different interpretation. For example, I have been trying to follow this verse in 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.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

Take #3, that I highlighted as an example. I interpret it to mean just what it says, so "straightforwardly", so while I am paying attention to my breathing, I am also trying to be "sensitive to the entire body" which I take to mean be aware of the entire body. But what do I read later in several commentaries? No, this doesn't mean the physical body, it means "the body of the breath"! And then #4, calming the bodily fabrication - calm/relax the body, right? No, no, no, they say, it means calm the "breath body", not the physical body! :!: :?: :!:

So that's one example. I like studying languages so I'll probably study some Pali, and I'll look at the Pali word that was used, but for now I have to read translations and commentators explanations, and remain confused.
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