This is becoming a real problem now...

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

This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:23 pm

Hello everyone,

A bit of self disclosing here now as I have tried all other avenues to no avail...

I have always been interested in different meditation forms, different traditions and their various practices. This has often led to a sense of confusion as to why some 'Buddhist' traditions are in apparent contradiction to others - not so much philosophically, but more in terms of technique and practice.

Of late this confusion has been intruding into my practice exhausting me...frequently to the point of avoiding meditating altogether. I have been practicing one form or another for over 25 years. The last 5 or 6 years have been within a theravadin framework - weaned on Prasangika and Nargajuna I see Theravadin practices as more valid (too strong a word) than some of the complex Mahayana ones. Within the last couple of years I was reading some of the works of Sheng Yen, Chan practitioner who wrote a wonderful book on Silent Illumination (similar to Shikantaza, Just Sitting in Zen for those unfamiliar) called 'the Method of No Method'.

I flirted with that practice for a while and had some extremely swift and really quite interesting experiences that seemed to parallel those being spoken of in the writings both contemporary and traditional.

Excellent, so what's the problem?

The issue is that this appreciation of both traditions has led to a rigid dichotomy in my mind that swings between Silent Illumination practice and Vipassana within the Theravadin tradition. The fact is I find it utterly impossible to reconcile the two. Cannot mix as that feels like pouring custard onto a Thai curry :quote: ...not good!

My whole practice at the moment seems to be a subtle inner dialogue that's trying to establish itself into some sort of cohesion eliminating one practice completely and entirely in favour of another. And so it goes, swinging back and forth, back and forth until nearly every session for the last couple of months have been infected with this spanner in the works. Abandon one for the other, full in the knowledge that the other will come calling almost immediately!

My mind has become like a child so easily tempted. Its ridiculous but palpable and grinding me to a halt! If practicing SI and doing well (as it were) it only takes one glance at my holiday photos of my trip to Thailand and thats it. Out goes the Chan practice and in with the Theravadin....I know this sounds stupid but believe me its a real issue for me and once in that 'new' mindset all else seems mundane and of no interest. Give it a week and I might glance at a book to do with Zen/Chan and kaboom....instantly transported back into Chan Land....! I currently have no consistency and no structure to my practice often missing sessions as the exasperation sits in as soon as I lay in bed considering getting up to sit.

All advice and help appreciated.

BB...
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:07 pm

It seems to me that most of the Nikaya instructions are guidelines and frameworks, leaving it up to the practitioner to tweak things just right in their own case.

For my clarificatory question, nevermind the four satipatthana categories for a moment because they are examples of implementation, not the end-all-be-all of ways. So:

Are you able to keep mindfulness close, and with that, investigate experience in terms of the Dhamma? In other words, are you able to align your practices to the awakening factors? Do your practices address the hindrances?

I find that the world of different methods are ways of doing the above, and they're thick on the ground because there are so many different starting points. The key is not to think of methods in the world as objectively right or wrong, but as helpful or not helpful right here. Put another way, it's far less important to be able to say "I'm doing it right!" than it is to be able to say "I can see progress!"

:heart:
    "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: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Sam Vara » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:20 pm

daverupa wrote:It seems to me that most of the Nikaya instructions are guidelines and frameworks, leaving it up to the practitioner to tweak things just right in their own case.

For my clarificatory question, nevermind the four satipatthana categories for a moment because they are examples of implementation, not the end-all-be-all of ways. So:

Are you able to keep mindfulness close, and with that, investigate experience in terms of the Dhamma? In other words, are you able to align your practices to the awakening factors? Do your practices address the hindrances?

I find that the world of different methods are ways of doing the above, and they're thick on the ground because there are so many different starting points. The key is not to think of methods in the world as objectively right or wrong, but as helpful or not helpful right here. Put another way, it's far less important to be able to say "I'm doing it right!" than it is to be able to say "I can see progress!"

:heart:


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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Zenainder » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:55 pm

Are you looking for experiences or looking to develop insight and concentration? If it's experience, of course, you are going to find ambiguity and hence the restless nature of the mind in what is ambiguous.
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:59 pm

Hi BB,

I can only give you the same advise I got from the venerable Ajahn I always ask for help when things start to get difficult. With respect to different techniques he told me, a specific technique doesn't matter much.
Find one that suits you and then stick to it.
He said, if you change techniques frequently you will progress a bit but when it becomes more difficult and refined, from gross to subtle you will lack the necessary conditions to gain insights which will only be developed through constancy in practice.
And keep in mind, meditation (bhāvanā) means mental development, don't let your mind run after its preferences but instead learn to train it to gain insight in the nature of the mind.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby reflection » Mon Jul 08, 2013 4:11 pm

I think especially when we are in doubt, it's important to actively reflect on the effects of our meditation. For example, by looking at your state of mind at the end of a session, or end of a day, or perhaps week. Ask yourself if the state of mind is more calm and kind due to the meditation, or perhaps not. Reflect on what worked and what didn't work. This way you get short term information on what the approach does to you. Then this information you can use on selecting which approaches work for you and which don't.

Because, as the Buddha said, if we approach the Dhamma correctly, the results will already be good in the beginning. Of course, beginning is a relative term, but in my experience you don't need to spend months waiting for the results of a particular approach because cause and effect are visible on the short term as well, although perhaps not always as easy to see.


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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Nyana » Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:06 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:The issue is that this appreciation of both traditions has led to a rigid dichotomy in my mind that swings between Silent Illumination practice and Vipassana within the Theravadin tradition. The fact is I find it utterly impossible to reconcile the two.

I'd suggest simplifying things to their basic components as mental qualities, i.e. the mental qualities of calm (samatha) and insight (vipassanā). All aspects of Buddhist samādhi are included within the development of samatha and the development of vipassanā. This is clearly stated in the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra:

    Know that śamatha and vipaśyanā include all of the many aspects of the states of meditative concentration which I have taught for śrāvakas, bodhisattvas, and tathāgatas.

The purpose of developing samatha is to abandon the hindrances and thereby compose the mind. The purpose of developing vipassanā is to eliminate the fetters and thereby attain liberation from saṃsāra.
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:12 pm

I guess it feels like I have to embrace all the attributes that come with a particular practice. For example, I gather the majority I'd you have a shrine/altar that is in essence recognisable as a Theravadin shrine. So by proxy you are enjoying the Thai(ness) for example of this tradition. Maybe even learning to speak Thai, eating Thai. You get the idea. This is massive for me despite seeing the emptiness of it all and how irrational and skewed it is to think this way.

So for example, I have been reading some Ajahn Cha today. Beautiful, so clear and inspiring. Reminds me with a warm feeling of the shrines and altars I saw I the small villages in Thailand. Looking forward to learning more of the chanting I do when visiting my local group. Then in a breath I find myself in Zen Land for no reason other than a brief thought about something I saw on a video about a Zen Monastery in the US. Then I am seduced again by the simplicity of Zen and its intimate relationship with nature....my magna books hahaaha...etc...etc. Then the Theravada feels like an old memory.....all this within a few minutes.

I am sure there is a name for this type if fetter and I am pretty desperate now to address it as I am without doubt well and truly stuck.

Thanks again for your help... _/|\_
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Nyana » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:25 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:So for example, I have been reading some Ajahn Cha today. Beautiful, so clear and inspiring. Reminds me with a warm feeling of the shrines and altars I saw I the small villages in Thailand. Looking forward to learning more of the chanting I do when visiting my local group. Then in a breath I find myself in Zen Land for no reason other than a brief thought about something I saw on a video about a Zen Monastery in the US. Then I am seduced again by the simplicity of Zen and its intimate relationship with nature....my magna books hahaaha...etc...etc. Then the Theravada feels like an old memory.....all this within a few minutes.

I am sure there is a name for this type if fetter and I am pretty desperate now to address it as I am without doubt well and truly stuck.

Sounds to me like thoughts and memories. Thoughts and memories can be thieves that rob us of sammāsamādhi.
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:43 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:I am sure there is a name for this type if fetter and I am pretty desperate now to address it as I am without doubt well and truly stuck.

I would say it's just craving, grasping for pleasurable feelings, desire. When we let go of gross forms of pleasure like material possessions, wealth and so on our mind tends to grasp for more subtle forms of pleasurable feelings. Be mindful, what are your intentions when it comes to practice? Always remember finally we don't practice because this or that technique is beautiful or this or that tradition acts or speaks about something we like, we want to cut through defilements and understand suffering in order to get rid off it.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

:anjali:
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:12 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:I guess it feels like I have to embrace all the attributes that come with a particular practice.


I wonder what underlies this notion...
    "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: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Zenainder » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:24 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:I guess it feels like I have to embrace all the attributes that come with a particular practice. For example, I gather the majority I'd you have a shrine/altar that is in essence recognisable as a Theravadin shrine. So by proxy you are enjoying the Thai(ness) for example of this tradition. Maybe even learning to speak Thai, eating Thai. You get the idea. This is massive for me despite seeing the emptiness of it all and how irrational and skewed it is to think this way.

So for example, I have been reading some Ajahn Cha today. Beautiful, so clear and inspiring. Reminds me with a warm feeling of the shrines and altars I saw I the small villages in Thailand. Looking forward to learning more of the chanting I do when visiting my local group. Then in a breath I find myself in Zen Land for no reason other than a brief thought about something I saw on a video about a Zen Monastery in the US. Then I am seduced again by the simplicity of Zen and its intimate relationship with nature....my magna books hahaaha...etc...etc. Then the Theravada feels like an old memory.....all this within a few minutes.

I am sure there is a name for this type if fetter and I am pretty desperate now to address it as I am without doubt well and truly stuck.

Thanks again for your help... _/|\_


Thoughts arise and cease. Let go and simply watch. Significance is a delusion and although it may be perceived as such it is still empty. You are still learning the very basics of being mindful. Once established you will realize there is no need to take a ride on the thought express. ;)
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby reflection » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:36 pm

Sounds to me you are grasping at the outer forms of Buddhism, instead of seeing through this cultural layer and looking at the core. Is there a fetter for this? I think yes, you could put it under attachments to rituals. I can't really help you get some insight in it because I haven't got real experience with it personally. All I can say is try to find the essence, try to find 'your own' Buddhism inside. Perhaps some time practicing in solitude away from books, altars, media and all that can help with this. I don't mean sitting in a hut in the mountains, but just refrain from dhamma talks, forums and things like that for a while - all the things you might associate with a particular tradition. But as I said, I have no personal experience so this is advice based on sort of an extrapolation of the little experiences I have in this regard.

Metta!
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:29 am

Beautiful Breath wrote:Cannot mix as that feels like pouring custard onto a Thai curry :quote: ...not good!


Most people would be happy to have their Thai Curry first followed by the custard second and see no problem in that. It all ends up in the same place though.

You can have both, they are just practises, you practise then you stop, a lifestyle of awareness though carries on.
"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: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:50 am

...bizarre that such a small and superficially innocuous thing can have such a huge impact on a long established practice.

I am thinking it might be to do with some form of identity. Feeling 'Theravadin' or feeling 'Zennie' when seduced by a particular practice/tradition.

I keep telling myself these things but it helps little in terms of the mind succumbing to the waves of attachment and clinging to views.

My Pali is sadly lacking, but I listened to a talk by Shaila Catherine recently. she was speaking about the dangers of fixation 'Diti'? That all seemed to ring true. Not being tethered to a particular view as it becomes our yoke. We can become like a dog chained to a post.

Its so powerful as it can incorporate everything that could be linked to a tradition. Food, music even down to the type of film I might watch.

Being liberated from this would be nice...! :woohoo:

BB...
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Zenainder » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:16 am

Beautiful Breath wrote:...bizarre that such a small and superficially innocuous thing can have such a huge impact on a long established practice.

I am thinking it might be to do with some form of identity. Feeling 'Theravadin' or feeling 'Zennie' when seduced by a particular practice/tradition.

I keep telling myself these things but it helps little in terms of the mind succumbing to the waves of attachment and clinging to views.

My Pali is sadly lacking, but I listened to a talk by Shaila Catherine recently. she was speaking about the dangers of fixation 'Diti'? That all seemed to ring true. Not being tethered to a particular view as it becomes our yoke. We can become like a dog chained to a post.

Its so powerful as it can incorporate everything that could be linked to a tradition. Food, music even down to the type of film I might watch.

Being liberated from this would be nice...! :woohoo:

BB...


BB,

Apply mindfulness when these feelings arise. Insight must dawn within, we can only show you the door and gives theories.

Metta,

Zen
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Anders » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:35 am

at wat pah nanachat, I was told how at least one student who was new to meditation was handed a copy of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind because "it says the same thing as what we're doing, but it's not as dry as the suttas."

I've been told similar things from monastics at Cittavevika. So it may be that the contradiction is more apparent than real.

Maybe try and contact someone like Ajahn Amaro who has some fair knowledge of mahayana teachings and talk to him about your contradictions between vipassana and shikantaza.
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Beautiful Breath » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:52 am

Anders wrote:at wat pah nanachat, I was told how at least one student who was new to meditation was handed a copy of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind because "it says the same thing as what we're doing, but it's not as dry as the suttas."

I've been told similar things from monastics at Cittavevika. So it may be that the contradiction is more apparent than real.

Maybe try and contact someone like Ajahn Amaro who has some fair knowledge of mahayana teachings and talk to him about your contradictions between vipassana and shikantaza.


Thanks Anders,

Its not so much of a contradiction - on the contrary, I can see a parallel through all traditions - its the feeling compelled to imerse in one or the other thats the problem.

BB...
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby IanAnd » Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:57 pm

Hello BB,

You say you've been meditating for over 25 years. I'm trying to picture who I'm speaking (writing) to in order to understand your particular situation better. You must be somewhere in your mid 40s to mid 50s in age, then. That is old enough for you to begin putting two and two together, and examining your direct experience with more wisdom (self-honesty) and reflection.

I like the suggestions that Nyana and acinteyyo have provided you. The latter having said:

"I would say it's just craving, grasping for pleasurable feelings, desire. When we let go of gross forms of pleasure like material possessions, wealth and so on our mind tends to grasp for more subtle forms of pleasurable feelings. Be mindful, ... Always remember finally we don't practice because this or that technique is beautiful or this or that tradition acts or speaks about something we like, we want to cut through defilements and understand suffering in order to get rid off it."

Nyana: I'd suggest simplifying things to their basic components as mental qualities, i.e. the mental qualities of calm (samatha) and insight (vipassanā). All aspects of Buddhist samādhi are included within the development of samatha and the development of vipassanā....

The purpose of developing samatha is to abandon the hindrances and thereby compose the mind. The purpose of developing vipassanā is to eliminate the fetters and thereby attain liberation from samsāra.

Beautiful Breath: So for example, I have been reading some Ajahn Cha today. Beautiful, so clear and inspiring. Reminds me with a warm feeling of the shrines and altars I saw I the small villages in Thailand. Looking forward to learning more of the chanting I do when visiting my local group. Then in a breath I find myself in Zen Land for no reason other than a brief thought about something I saw on a video about a Zen Monastery in the US. Then I am seduced again by the simplicity of Zen and its intimate relationship with nature...

Nyana: Sounds to me like thoughts and memories. Thoughts and memories can be thieves that rob us of sammāsamādhi.

Beautiful Breath wrote:Its not so much of a contradiction - on the contrary, I can see a parallel through all traditions - its the feeling compelled to immerse in one or the other that's the problem.

Perhaps you need to explore more deeply (through insight) this "feeling" compelling you to immerse in one or the other, as that is the cause of the ambivalent position you find yourself in. Clear that up, and everything associated with it in your mind will automatically clear up. See?

Both practices have you aimed in the same direction. There is no difference, for all practical purposes. And yet, why you can't see that, and everyone here can is beyond us! :shock: Only you can set yourself free of this delusion! So, get to work.

In peace,
Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: This is becoming a real problem now...

Postby Aloka » Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:13 pm

Anders wrote:Maybe try and contact someone like Ajahn Amaro who has some fair knowledge of mahayana teachings and talk to him about your contradictions between vipassana and shikantaza.


Hi BB,

Yes I agree with Anders. Ajahn Amaro is an ideal person to talk to about your practice . As you are in the UK, you can arrange to see him at Amaravati Monastery or go to one of his talks during the rains retreat and approach him for a chat during the tea break.

http://www.amaravati.org/

with kind wishes,

Aloka
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