Letting go or taking control?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Letting go or taking control?

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:37 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cayVaYJK9ww#t=35m20s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CMXPDXw9Lc#t=4m25s

(I hope the time tags work, first starts on 35:20, second on 4:25)

I perceive some disagreement between these two teachers on this point. Any thoughts?
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:40 am

Greetings Dennenappelmoes,

I don't have time to sit through some videos.
Perhaps you would like to transcribe or link to part of the transcribed talk and focus this thread around a point you would like discussed.
It won't only help me but it could mean you'll have more quality contributions.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:29 am

Basically what Ajahn Brahm says (repeatedly in his talks) is that meditation is about not controlling your mind in any way. You should be kind and gentle, asking "mind, what do you want to do today?". Even if you'd fall asleep, don't fight it and just let it happen.
Ajahn Sona in his video seems comes off very strict and determined. He stresses that vipassana isn't about just observing, what it's all about is that you actually do something about it once you observe something. For example, if you observe anger, it is your duty to diminish it. Observing is only one page in the manual, it's all about what you do next.

To anyone who can watch the videos, try to do so because when you hear them talk you really get a sense of difference in their attitudes and this is just my summary of what they say. Strange isn't it? Thanks in advance :hello:
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:52 am

Hi Dennenappelmoes,

The contradiction is only apparent, in my view. Ajahn Brahm clearly doesn't advocate an "anything goes" attitude. He often talks about discrimination (as does the Buddha). But, as any half-decent meditation teacher will tell you, you can't overcome the hindrances by sheer force of will. You need to be smarter than that, as he explains:
Ajahn Brahm wrote:Meditators fail to overcome the hindrances because they look for them
in the wrong place. It is crucial to success in meditation to understand that
the hindrances are to be seen at work in the space between the knower
and the known. The hindrances’ source is the doer, their result is lack of
progress, but their workshop is the space between the mind and its
meditation object. Essentially, the five hindrances are a relationship problem.

Skillful meditators observing their breath also pay attention to how
they watch their breath. If you see expectation between you and your
breath, then you are watching the breath with desire, part of the first
hindrance. If you notice aggression in the space in between, then you are
watching the breath with the second hindrance, ill will. Or if you recognize
fear in that space, maybe anxiety about losing awareness of the
breath, then you are meditating with a combination of hindrances. For
a time you may appear to be successful, able to keep the breath in mind
for several minutes, but you will find that you are blocked from going
deeper.You have been watching the wrong thing. Your main task in meditation
is to notice these hindrances and knock them out.
Thereby you
earn each successive stage in meditation, rather than trying to steal the
prize of each stage by an act of will.

[Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond/Happiness Through Meditation, Page 48]

:anjali:
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:16 am

Hi Mike,
Thank you for that quote. That was very insightful :)
I still think though that Ajahn Sona deviates from this a bit when he talks about "reshaping the contents of the mind" since what Ajahn Brahm is writing about there is dealing with hindrances rather than what is in the mind. Ajahn Brahm says, the way I read it, we should learn to behave properly when observing our mind, whereas Ajahn Sona says we should make our mind behave properly, since he mentions arising anger as an example.

Do you think it would be correct to say that we should let go and accept when it comes to monitoring whatever is in the mind, while keeping mindfulness and a sense of duty when it comes to monitoring how we relate to the mind? I might be mistaken in separating it like this but to me that would make sense as it combines the acceptance and kindness with the mindfulness and the proactive attitude of reshaping things.
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby reflection » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:36 pm

Hi!

This may come across as a mister-know-it-all answer, and I'm sorry for that, but ask yourself this: Who lets go and who controls?

If you see that there is no one letting go and no one controlling, you see that both instructions are wrong in a sense. They split the experience up between "you" and "the mind". The instructions "you let go" or "you control" are thus both incorrect. Of course, the teachers have to say it like this, because when putting things into words, you need a framework. If you can see behind this veil, by having some experience in meditation, you see you don't always know if it's letting go or controlling that happens in meditation. Take anger for example. Option one: Anger arises, if it is let go it go, it is replaced by kindness. Or option two: Anger arises, it is replaced by kindness, so it is let go. Who's to say what's what? It's not always so clear.

On the more conventional level, in my experience, usually when mindfulness is weak (so the hindrances are strong) it is useful to deliberately replace states of mind. This is at the level of course thoughts still. When mindfulness is stronger and thoughts are disappearing, it's better to not take deliberate action, because it will create too much restlessness. So the 'let go' instruction can be seen as a tool mainly for restlessness. Although in the end, it's all about letting go in a sense.

The Buddha instructed both ways. He said whoever makes letting go their object easily achieves samadhi. But he also gave more "taking control" instructions. Even thing like "crushing the mind". So he also said we should learn to be skillful enough to see how we should treat the mind. Sometimes we relate to it in one way, sometimes in another way.

At a certain point in meditation everything goes automatically and you forget about the instructions. But I dare to say that it is one of the most common problem preventing people from deep meditation: they don't stop interfering with the mind. So that's why Ajahn Brahm gives it so much importance.

I can't speak for the teachers, so this is only my view. They may agree or disagree. I know Ajahn Brahm also teaches some deliberate actions in the first stages of meditation. Don't know too much about Ajahn Sona.

:anjali:
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Sat Apr 27, 2013 1:42 pm

Thanks for your reply reflection :) I am aware much of this is figures of speech and frameworks. I feel the same way about the role of instruction. The reason why I brought this up was more because conflicting instructions can affect my confidence in my practise, than because I really feel I need to gain intellectual knowledge about all the nuts and bolts. They do feel less contradictory now. I guess it is all about dealing with hindrances properly, to not become either too lax and giving in to desire on the one hand and not too uptight and having aversion on the other. I guess it's just: Just be mindful, act skillful, and the rest is just the result of that :anjali:
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 1:51 pm

Dennenappelmoes wrote:Hi Mike,
Thank you for that quote. That was very insightful :)
I still think though that Ajahn Sona deviates from this a bit when he talks about "reshaping the contents of the mind" since what Ajahn Brahm is writing about there is dealing with hindrances rather than what is in the mind....

I think Ajahn Brahm is also talking about reshaping the mind, by gaining insight into the hindrances. But I think Reflection has covered almost all of the issues, so there's not much left for me to say.

You raise the issue of doubt. This is why I would advise just paying attention to one teacher (or group of similar teachers) for a while (months) until you've got a good practical understanding of their approach. Trying to mix instructions from different teachers can be really confusing. And even the Buddha's instructions can seem contradictory if you don't pay attention to the level and type of person that he is instructing.

:anjali:
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:46 pm

reflection wrote:Hi!

This may come across as a mister-know-it-all answer, and I'm sorry for that, but ask yourself this: Who lets go and who controls?

If you see that there is no one letting go and no one controlling, you see that both instructions are wrong in a sense. They split the experience up between "you" and "the mind". The instructions "you let go" or "you control" are thus both incorrect. Of course, the teachers have to say it like this, because when putting things into words, you need a framework. If you can see behind this veil, by having some experience in meditation, you see you don't always know if it's letting go or controlling that happens in meditation. Take anger for example. Option one: Anger arises, if it is let go it go, it is replaced by kindness. Or option two: Anger arises, it is replaced by kindness, so it is let go. Who's to say what's what? It's not always so clear.

On the more conventional level, in my experience, usually when mindfulness is weak (so the hindrances are strong) it is useful to deliberately replace states of mind. This is at the level of course thoughts still. When mindfulness is stronger and thoughts are disappearing, it's better to not take deliberate action, because it will create too much restlessness. So the 'let go' instruction can be seen as a tool mainly for restlessness. Although in the end, it's all about letting go in a sense.

The Buddha instructed both ways. He said whoever makes letting go their object easily achieves samadhi. But he also gave more "taking control" instructions. Even thing like "crushing the mind". So he also said we should learn to be skillful enough to see how we should treat the mind. Sometimes we relate to it in one way, sometimes in another way.

At a certain point in meditation everything goes automatically and you forget about the instructions. But I dare to say that it is one of the most common problem preventing people from deep meditation: they don't stop interfering with the mind. So that's why Ajahn Brahm gives it so much importance.

I can't speak for the teachers, so this is only my view. They may agree or disagree. I know Ajahn Brahm also teaches some deliberate actions in the first stages of meditation. Don't know too much about Ajahn Sona.

:anjali:


Taken as a whole, this post clearly exposes many facets of the issue.

There's a certain art to the bolded aspect; one must tune the string, as it were, but one doesn't only do it once.

:thumbsup:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby Monkey Mind » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:22 pm

I think it is worth considering the intended audience of each video clip. Both teachers are abbots at monasteries, and both teachers teach to lay people. The Ajahn Brahm clip is from his weekly podcast that has an international following of lay people, most are probably casual meditators. The Ajahn Sona clip was presented to monastics and lay people on an intensive meditation retreat.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:31 am

See also this Sutta Class:
Anguttara Nikaya 5-21(1), 8-81(1), 10-61(1), 10-62(2), 10-76(6), 10-103(3), 11-3(3)
http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/component/ ... 11-33.html

From 42:30 to about 49:00 Ajahn Brahm sounds rather like Kuhn Sujin (see this topic: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=15952):
"You can't develop them, just look at the Anatta-lakkana sutta...This is the great myth, that we can make ourselves enlightened... we do need another ... that was the great thing about a Buddha arising ... it makes enlightenment possible... just cause and effect ..."

:anjali:
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:37 pm

Thank you Mike, I listened to all of that :anjali: Monkey Mind's comment makes sense as well. Thanks :goodpost:
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Re: Letting go or taking control?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:03 am

Hi Dennenappelmoes,

Glad you liked it. That seemed like a particularly good sutta class, with a lot of interesting material.

:anjali:
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