Full Theravada

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Full Theravada

Postby Maitri » Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:50 pm

Hello,

I've recently been studying and practicing Theravada with a local Sri Lankan lineage temple & Bhante. Over the years I've noticed that some Westerners within Buddhism (in all the traditions) tend to shy away from the full aspects of the Buddhist/Theravada tradition. For instance, engaging in devotional practices such as chanting suttas, offering puja, and observance of holy days to focus on practice. I've noticed this in some Westerners who want only meditation and reduce Buddhism to psychology and self-help, but I would like to engage it as a real,living and vibrant tradition. Dare I say it... as a religion. I want to participate in all of the aforementioned practices and really root my life in the Dhamma as a lay person. I am not disregarding people who only meditate, but I don't find that to be enough for me.

I don't mean to make sweeping generalizations of Westerners ( heck, I'm one), but I sometimes I don't seem to find the same desire in others to practice in a holistic manner. I am not talking about being a fundamentalist, or acting in a strident manner at all. I am very open to textual criticism, debate and intellectual engagement of Buddhism. But I want to live in a way that is more of where the Dhamma is present in many facets of our lives instead of just meditation. My husband and I, for instance, chant portions of the Sigalovada Sutta together and refer to the Buddha's teachings on marriage as a way to live. I don't share this with other Westerners because I'm not sure how they would act. The Bhante has encouraged us to do this and also gave us a few others suttas to use as well.

So, I wonder are there other Westerners who practice a full Theravada way, or am I an outlier here :rolleye: I am also newly rediscovering Theravada, so any advice or personal anecdote too would be great! :buddha1:
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:58 pm

I personally do puja every morning, chant suttas, offer dana to bhikkhus when possible and see myself as an upasaka in the fullest sense. I would be cautious about the phrase "Full Theravada" but I see what you mean. There are people who practice in the manner you have described but-to be honest-I myself have met very few. Nonetheless you should continue to practice to the best of you ability, finding kalyana-mittas when you can and going it alone when this isn't possible. Whatever happens I wish you well.

Metta,

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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Virgo » Sat Apr 03, 2010 2:48 pm

It boils down to accumulations in the citta, what makes a person how they are.
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby meindzai » Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:31 pm

The basic practice of Buddhism is the eightfold path, and you are right that there is a lot more to it than just meditation. In fact the Buddha states that the other 7 parts of the path serve as "support and requisite" for right concentration.

However, some of the things you've included in your definition of "full Theravada" include cultural forms and adaptations. The eightfold path doesn't include pujas, chanting, etc. These can be supportive of the practice though, and I've done these things on occasion. I certainly do them when I'm on a retreat or visiting a monastery, but they don't form a regular part of my practice.

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Re: Full Theravada

Postby bodom » Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:42 pm

Use whatever inspires and motivates your practice. Just dont mistake the rituals AS the practice.

: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
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby cooran » Sat Apr 03, 2010 7:47 pm

Maitri wrote:Hello,

I've recently been studying and practicing Theravada with a local Sri Lankan lineage temple & Bhante. Over the years I've noticed that some Westerners within Buddhism (in all the traditions) tend to shy away from the full aspects of the Buddhist/Theravada tradition. For instance, engaging in devotional practices such as chanting suttas, offering puja, and observance of holy days to focus on practice. I've noticed this in some Westerners who want only meditation and reduce Buddhism to psychology and self-help, but I would like to engage it as a real,living and vibrant tradition. Dare I say it... as a religion. I want to participate in all of the aforementioned practices and really root my life in the Dhamma as a lay person. I am not disregarding people who only meditate, but I don't find that to be enough for me.

I don't mean to make sweeping generalizations of Westerners ( heck, I'm one), but I sometimes I don't seem to find the same desire in others to practice in a holistic manner. I am not talking about being a fundamentalist, or acting in a strident manner at all. I am very open to textual criticism, debate and intellectual engagement of Buddhism. But I want to live in a way that is more of where the Dhamma is present in many facets of our lives instead of just meditation. My husband and I, for instance, chant portions of the Sigalovada Sutta together and refer to the Buddha's teachings on marriage as a way to live. I don't share this with other Westerners because I'm not sure how they would act. The Bhante has encouraged us to do this and also gave us a few others suttas to use as well.

So, I wonder are there other Westerners who practice a full Theravada way, or am I an outlier here :rolleye: I am also newly rediscovering Theravada, so any advice or personal anecdote too would be great! :buddha1:


Hello Maitri,

Is your Bhante Sri Lankan or some other nationality? What 'lineage' is the temple a part of? Are there many westerners attending?


with metta
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Apr 03, 2010 9:03 pm

I participate in the rituals when I am in a traditional context but have never seen much point in doing so outside of a traditional context.

In Asia for most people most of the rituals and observances are about generating good luck or worshipping the Buddha as if he were a diety, neither of those are supported by the teachings.

So putting those motivations aside we are left with practices that could be seen as useful to humble and collect the heart in preparation for meditation, or as a kind of meditation themselves.

So if they are just another kind of meditation I guess a lot of westerners don't prefer meditations that appear outwardly to be no different from what you'd find in any other theistic religion.

It's interesting that westerners embrace ritualism in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, the former I think because deity worship is an integral part of the practice, the latter because their ritual is quite elegant I suppose. In comparison I think some Theravada rituals seem a bit tacky.
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"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby cooran » Sat Apr 03, 2010 9:42 pm

Goofaholoix said: I think some Theravada rituals seem a bit tacky


Hello Goof,

Which ones? and why?

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:29 pm

Greetings,

meindzai wrote:However, some of the things you've included in your definition of "full Theravada" include cultural forms and adaptations. The eightfold path doesn't include pujas, chanting, etc. These can be supportive of the practice though, and I've done these things on occasion.


Meindzai raises a good point. It's also interesting to note that one can partake of the "cultural forms and adaptations" without even following the Noble Eightfold Path - and could we call that "Full Theravada" or "Full Buddhism"?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Full Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Apr 04, 2010 12:35 am

bodom wrote:Use whatever inspires and motivates your practice. Just dont mistake the rituals AS the practice.


:thumbsup:

I agree, whatever works, go for it.

Some Theravadins might say that focusing on meditation is the core of the practice and that they are practicing the Buddhism of the Buddha. One of the first three hindrances (to enlightenment) is attachment to rites, rituals, and ceremonies.

Others might find value in the chantings and pujas for devotional purposes, developing humility, and the brahma viharas (by aspiring to the qualities of the Buddha and arahants and for respecting them).

From the suttas, the only chants I remember off-hand are the Homage to the Buddha:

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammaasambuddhassa
(Three times)

Homage to the Blessed, Noble and Perfectly Enlightened One.
(Three times)

I remember reading of the Buddha being served by lay people the lunch meal and / or after a Dhamma talk, the lay people reciting the Homage above. But I don't remember off the top of my head any other regular chants that were done by monks or lay people (in the Suttas).
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby meindzai » Sun Apr 04, 2010 12:52 am

To be honest, I think my practice could really benefit from a more devotional aspect. But I find it difficult to give priority to that aspect in private practice. It does end up feeling wierd to do alone.

-M
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:47 am

cooran wrote:
Goofaholoix said: I think some Theravada rituals seem a bit tacky


Hello Goof,

Which ones? and why?


I don't know if I meant specific rituals. I think if you spend a bit of time in Thailand you'll know what I mean, the plastic gold and glitter, money trees, endless chanting over a loudspeaker, buying and selling of good luck charms, dana fervour etc, gets to you after a while.

Of course the best elements of ritual can be incorporated into a practice environment, Ajahn Chah was quite skilful at that and giving us westerners learning opportunities as a result.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Mukunda » Sun Apr 04, 2010 3:31 am

As part of my daily practice, I bow, offer flowers and incense, and chant the Taking of Refuge and Precepts, 8 Fold Middle Path, Dependent Arising, 5 Recollections, and 3 Characteristics of Conditioned Existence prior to beginning my meditation, and after my meditation I chant one of several suttas and dedicate the merit. I also do a separate metta practice where I chant the Metta Sutta, the benefits of Metta, and a gatha for sharing metta prior to doing metta meditation.

At one time, I was very anti ceremony and ritual and thought just sitting in meditation was enough. But a friend convinced me to chant a couple of things prior to meditating, and it made such a huge difference in my practice, I expanded on it. Each time I sit to meditate, the ritual and chanting serve to remind me of what it is I am trying to accomplish, and reinforce the Buddha's teachings in my mind. Today I realize that being anti-ritual is as big a mistake as being attached to ritual. The rituals are nothing more than a useful tool, one I am grateful to have at my disposal.
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Maitri » Sun Apr 04, 2010 3:49 am

Hello,

Wow! Great and thoughtful replies, thanks!

I want to clarify that in addition to the devotional aspects I mentioned, I do meditate and follow the five precepts. I wasn't only advocating just devotional practice, but was curious how other Western Buddhists see that as a part of their lives. I know that "full Theravada" is probably not the best term to use, but I was trying to convey how to integrate some of the other aspects of the tradition in a way that is comprehensive and encompassing.

Chris,

The Bhante is Sri Lankan and the majority of people attending the temple on a regular basis are Westerners. As for lineage... I guess I meant that he is a Theravadan teacher from Sri Lanka as opposed to say Thailand or Vietnam. I am still not sure how the specific lineages within the Theravadan tradition work. If you could explain that I'd be really grateful! :jumping:

Mike,

Your practice is very encouraging to me. I too am doing the best as I can as an upasika in this day and age. Some Western Buddhists I've met tend to regard any aspect of devotion as "cultural baggage" and dis-regard it completely. I am not an awakened person, so I find chanting and reading the suttas to be a good reflection of what I am aiming for. I don't believe that just by chanting a sutta will I get magical benefits. It helps keep the dharma in my mind stream, so to speak. It also inspires me to practice.

Goof,

I agree some of the things you mentioned aren't appealing to me either. Just cultural preferences and aesthetics, I suppose. When I go temples that have neon or flashing lights behind the Buddha's head, I raise an eyebrow. :lol:
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:53 am

I think that it is a good attitude to approach the Dhamma as an holistic practice. Even the term from which we derive the English word "meditation", ie. "bhavana", is all about developing the mind (from citta-√bhū). The mind is a very complex thing, and approaching it's development from a number of angles and with a number of methods, is thus a very intelligent approach. The main idea behind puja, devotionals, and so forth, is that when we engage in these external actions, these actions will more readily aid in arising certain positive mental states internally. As such, correct practice of these pujas, etc. is also not other than "mental development", ie. what we usually call meditation. Of course, if we are only doing them for superficial reasons, or without the intention to arise these mental states, that is another matter! They are methods, methods to arise positive states such as faith, respect, etc. just as much as sitting meditation is a helpful physical (non-)action which is more conducive to mental calm, and focus, etc.
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:58 am

Nice summary, bhante.

:thumbsup:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Full Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:59 am

Hi Goofaholix,
Goofaholix wrote:I don't know if I meant specific rituals. I think if you spend a bit of time in Thailand you'll know what I mean, the plastic gold and glitter, money trees, endless chanting over a loudspeaker, buying and selling of good luck charms, dana fervour etc, gets to you after a while.

Yes, that stuff can be annoying, but I would not put devotional chanting (such as the morning and evening chants), taking refuges and precepts, giving alms to monks, and so on, in the same category. I find those things very helpful and inspiring.
Goofaholix wrote:Of course the best elements of ritual can be incorporated into a practice environment, Ajahn Chah was quite skilful at that and giving us westerners learning opportunities as a result.

Quite.

Mike
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Apr 04, 2010 8:21 pm

Maitri wrote:I agree some of the things you mentioned aren't appealing to me either. Just cultural preferences and aesthetics, I suppose. When I go temples that have neon or flashing lights behind the Buddha's head, I raise an eyebrow. :lol:


Yes, it's hard to imagine why someone would think flashing neon lights behind a Buddha image was a good thing to have.

mikenz66 wrote:Yes, that stuff can be annoying, but I would not put devotional chanting (such as the morning and evening chants), taking refuges and precepts, giving alms to monks, and so on, in the same category. I find those things very helpful and inspiring.


It certainly can be helpful and inspiring, but I don't think it's really necessary.

While Ajahn Chah made a lot of use of bowing, chanting, observance days etc teachers like Ajahn Buddhadasa and Luangta Maha Boowa didn't at all.

The monastery I ordained in was a branch monastery of Luangta Maha Boowa, in the 3 months I was there the only ritual I saw was the patimokkha chanting, chanting before the meal, and the formula monks had to perform when receiving requisites. The main shrine was very simple and there was very little religious paraphenalia around the monastery.

In a country steeped in superstition I think that's significant, I think they would be surprised to learn they weren't "Full Theravada".
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby general0bvious » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:59 pm

Mukunda wrote:At one time, I was very anti ceremony and ritual and thought just sitting in meditation was enough. But a friend convinced me to chant a couple of things prior to meditating, and it made such a huge difference in my practice, I expanded on it. Each time I sit to meditate, the ritual and chanting serve to remind me of what it is I am trying to accomplish, and reinforce the Buddha's teachings in my mind. Today I realize that being anti-ritual is as big a mistake as being attached to ritual. The rituals are nothing more than a useful tool, one I am grateful to have at my disposal.


I've noticed that too. I usually just take refuge in the three jewels and recite the five precepts, before I meditate, but it strengthens my resolve a bit. I want to expand it, since I feel that it could make a huge impact on my practice. A useful tool indeed :)
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Re: Full Theravada

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:50 am

general0bvious wrote:
Mukunda wrote:At one time, I was very anti ceremony and ritual and thought just sitting in meditation was enough. But a friend convinced me to chant a couple of things prior to meditating, and it made such a huge difference in my practice, I expanded on it. Each time I sit to meditate, the ritual and chanting serve to remind me of what it is I am trying to accomplish, and reinforce the Buddha's teachings in my mind. Today I realize that being anti-ritual is as big a mistake as being attached to ritual. The rituals are nothing more than a useful tool, one I am grateful to have at my disposal.


I've noticed that too. I usually just take refuge in the three jewels and recite the five precepts, before I meditate, but it strengthens my resolve a bit. I want to expand it, since I feel that it could make a huge impact on my practice. A useful tool indeed :)

It can be quite a stretch to go straight from daily busy-ness into meditation, and these kinds of activities make the transition easier.
Routine of any kind tends to make it easier, too, whether it's a matter of meditating at a set time of day, or doing a few yoga or qi gong moves before sitting (there was a thread on this a while ago), or just lighting a stick of incense.
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