Suttanta method?

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Suttanta method?

Postby Ytrog » Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:41 am

I saw the forum title and I'm wondering what exactly the Suttanta method is. The google results makes me think it's the method as described in the suttas. Is this correct?

in the second result (the first is this forum) I found this description:

The discourses (Sutta) of the Buddha contained in the sutta-pitaka are referred to in Pali as suttantas (Sanskrit: sutranta), especially if fairly long. A suttantika (Sanskrit: sautrantika) monk was originally one who specialized in memorizing the discourses, as opposed to the disciplinary rules. Suttanta teaching was later contrasted with Abhidhamma teaching. Suttanta was held to be the Buddha's teaching in specific situations to meet particular individual needs; further exposition or qualification might be necessary for completeness. Abhidhamma, by contrast, provides a full and exact account, not tailored to any particular situation. Suttanta teaching is often concerned with describing or mapping processes over a period of time as sequences, whereas abhidhamma uses the same categories to analyse specific events as distinct moments (see Bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma). Although the abhidhamma method acquired great prestige and tended at times to supersede suttanta, the suttanta method has retained considerable practical importance in Theravada Buddhism. In north India it influenced the rise of the Sautrantika school, reacting against the Vaibhashika abhidharma


So, what is exactly the Suttanta method? :?
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Reductor » Fri Oct 01, 2010 7:00 am

Ytrog wrote:So, what is exactly the Suttanta method? :?


In meditation the classification is usually suttanta vs commentarial, commentarial being influenced heavily by the abhidhamma. But they are not the same, as I understand that the commentary intended to clarify the relationship between the abhidhamma and the sutta pitaka.

The suttanta 'methods' tend to be less exacting in their definitions, allowing more personal interpretation.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Ytrog » Fri Oct 01, 2010 7:02 am

Thanks. Do you have any leads? :thanks:
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:01 pm

I might be missing the point in terms of these new sub-forums, but doesn't Suttanta include vipassana?

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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:42 pm

thereductor wrote:The suttanta 'methods' tend to be less exacting in their definitions, allowing more personal interpretation.


So by that definition any modern method is a Suttanta method?
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:54 pm

thereductor wrote:
The suttanta 'methods' tend to be less exacting in their definitions, allowing more personal interpretation.
That kind of captures it. What this is essentially is a Theravada Protestantism, which is as much I am going to say here, though Dhamma free-for-all section is available.
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Reductor » Sat Oct 02, 2010 7:12 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
thereductor wrote:The suttanta 'methods' tend to be less exacting in their definitions, allowing more personal interpretation.


So by that definition any modern method is a Suttanta method?


Perhaps 'personal interpretation' is poor wording. Rather, in the sutta pitaka the terms are not as explicitly defined as they are in the commentary and abhidhamma. Also, note the word 'more' as a comparative. I'm comparing the suttanta 'method' to the commentary and abhidhamma. I am not saying that one can interpret the sutta pitaka in any way, shape or form that they choose. There's enough material within the sutta pitaka to clarify which interpretations are patently wrong, but not enough to remove every ambiguity (language itself cannot remove every ambiguity, IMO). Hence, there is some necessity for you, the meditator, to bring your experiences back to the sutta body in an attempt to clarify both the sutta and the experience itself.

Does that satisfy?
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 02, 2010 7:31 pm

thereductor wrote:There's enough material within the sutta pitaka to clarify which interpretations are patently wrong, but not enough to remove every ambiguity (language itself cannot remove every ambiguity, IMO).

That's certainly the way I see it. Furthermore, it seems to be an extremely modern idea that it is possible to figure out how to practise by just reading Suttas. I don't believe that I would ever have got anywhere just by reading Suttas (or Commetaries for that matter). I really needed (and still need) experienced teachers (either in person or via books, recordings, etc).

Perhaps some others have a less dull mind than me...

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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Reductor » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:06 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Perhaps some others have a less dull mind than me...

Mike


I really don't think your mind is dull. To the contrary. You just prefer one approach where I prefer another.

In school I was never much for Q&A, and I doubt that I've changed that much in the interim. Very likely that I would still fail to ask enough questions even if I had access to a teacher. To me its always been more of a strain to figure out their answer than it was just to read the material myself. That way I can do it at my leisure, and can follow which ever avenue of inquiry I'm inclined too.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:23 pm

Hi TheReductor,

Actually, I wasn't thinking in terms of personal instruction versus reading. The question is whether it is possible to become established in a Dhamma practise on the basis of only reading Suttas (or Suttas and Commentatries) with no input from other sources.

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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Reductor » Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:44 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi TheReductor,

Actually, I wasn't thinking in terms of personal instruction versus reading. The question is whether it is possible to become established in a Dhamma practise on the basis of only reading Suttas (or Suttas and Commentatries) with no input from other sources.

Mike


If we define 'dhamma practice' as a 'dhamma meditation practice' and 'established' as 'prolonged', then I would say that, no, it is very very unlikely to begin and maintain a practice completely in absence of modern input. Human learning is just so very complex, and people are naturally bent to the social. A person would have to be very intentional in avoiding other sources of information right from the beginning, and that seems sufficiently strange that I suppose it to be not possible. Moreover, the context and idiom of the suttas is a significant departure from the modern, so any person that were to try to go it completely alone would certainly fall into a greater or lesser state of confusion.

But this doesn't mean that a person who has already begun, having established a basic level of familiarity with teaching and practice, must continue their dependence on modern teachings. Of course, there are many reason that they might continue such a dependence.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 02, 2010 9:04 pm

Hi TheReductor,

Yes, that is consistent with the Suttas, when after some training the student is sent off by him/herself.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .horn.html
"As soon, brahman, as he is possessed of mindfulness and clear consciousness, the Tathagata disciplines him further, saying: 'Come you, monk, choose a remote lodging in a forest, at the root of a tree, on a mountain slope, in a glen, a hill cave, a cemetery, a woodland grove, in the open, or on a heap of straw.' On returning from alms-gathering after the meal, the monk sits down crosslegged, holding the back erect, having made mindfulness rise up in front of him. He, getting rid of covetousness for the world, dwells with a mind devoid of covetousness, he cleanses the mind of covetousness. Getting rid of the taint of ill-will, he dwells benevolent in mind; compassionate and merciful towards all creatures and beings, he cleanses the mind of ill-will. Getting rid of sloth and torpor, he dwells without sloth or torpor; perceiving the light, mindful and clearly conscious he cleanses the mind of sloth and torpor. Getting rid of restlessness and worry, he dwells calmly; the mind inward tranquil, he cleanses the mind of restlessness and worry. Getting rid of doubt, he dwells doubt-crossed; unperplexed as to the states that are skilled, he cleanses his mind of doubt.


Other Suttas speak of having instruction from others:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.094.than.html
"As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: 'The mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way. Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.


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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Oct 02, 2010 11:08 pm

Greetings thereductor, all,

thereductor wrote:Perhaps 'personal interpretation' is poor wording. Rather, in the sutta pitaka the terms are not as explicitly defined as they are in the commentary and abhidhamma. Also, note the word 'more' as a comparative. I'm comparing the suttanta 'method' to the commentary and abhidhamma. I am not saying that one can interpret the sutta pitaka in any way, shape or form that they choose. There's enough material within the sutta pitaka to clarify which interpretations are patently wrong, but not enough to remove every ambiguity (language itself cannot remove every ambiguity, IMO). Hence, there is some necessity for you, the meditator, to bring your experiences back to the sutta body in an attempt to clarify both the sutta and the experience itself.

Does that satisfy?

It satisfies me - it's well said. As is the discussion between yourself and Mike which followed it.

I disagree with Tilt that it's about "personal interpretation" because there's always a level of "personal interpretation" in the very process of learning and acquiring knowledge. All that is streamlined in the Suttanta method is that one's "personal interpretation" no longer need be filtered through an additional layer of "personal interpretation" as conducted by the esteemed commentators or meditation masters of any particular school of Buddhist thought. The Sutta Pitaka becomes the basis for instruction and other sources (e.g. teachers, commentaries) have value to the extent that they illuminate rather than obfuscate what is contained in the Sutta Pitaka. The results may end up being similar to that of Mahavihara Theravada (as one would hope) but it's a different process of getting there. It's a process that I think shows great respect and deference to our teacher, the Buddha, aligns with his instructions in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (about the Four Great References and his exhortation that his Dhamma will be our teacher when he's gone) and therefore shouldn't be degraded by others. If people degrade this method, they essentially degrade the Buddha and his Dhamma, IMHO.

That said, being anti-commentary or anti-tradition is going too far... it serves no benefit, because these things do have contributions to make where they can illuminate. I wouldn't endorse being anti-tradition, and I don't think it's inherent in the Suttanta method either. I don't see any need to take a definitive 'anti' or 'pro' stance with regards to any commentary... why not evaluate them with an open mind, based on their own merits, their consistency with the Buddha's teaching and our own experience?

Let us not forget that in the 2500+ years since the Buddha, the ignorance of human beings has managed to interpret, re-interpret and misunderstand the Buddha's message in countless different ways. Looking around at the various forms of Buddhism nowadays it's hard to reconcile that they all spawned from a single source. To me this is a product of taking the commentaries/masters as authoritative subjects rather than seeing them as a filter through which to view that which should be taken as authoritative. According to this text ( http://www.dharma.org/bcbs/Pages/docume ... gRoots.pdf )... "The Theravādin commentators apparently intended their writings in the Aṭṭhakathā – literally ‘discussions on the meaning’ –more as explorations than absolute statements of truth"... and I think that is a healthy way in which to regard them.

Again, it's a case of method, and if the outcomes are in alignment then that is a good thing... it indicates that a particular tradition is based on more than simply its own claims to legitimacy.

I hope the above goes some way to answering Ytrog's query, and to clarifying why this new sub-forum exists.

Metta,
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:54 am

mikenz66 wrote:That's certainly the way I see it. Furthermore, it seems to be an extremely modern idea that it is possible to figure out how to practise by just reading Suttas. I don't believe that I would ever have got anywhere just by reading Suttas (or Commetaries for that matter). I really needed (and still need) experienced teachers (either in person or via books, recordings, etc).


But you can still be Suttanta based (Modern Theravada) and have teachers. You can seek out those teachers who are also Suttanta. :tongue:

Most of my teachers have been primarily Suttanta. I did not seek them out, it just sort of happened.
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Kenshou » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:56 am

I like the sound of that, Retro.

I've come to regard the Theravadin commentary as I would any other teacher, another voice to listen to, another perspective that might prove useful, but not necessarily the final word, just like I wouldn't regard any other random bhikkhu's take to be the final word.
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Oct 03, 2010 1:00 am

tiltbillings wrote:What this is essentially is a Theravada Protestantism, which is as much I am going to say here, though Dhamma free-for-all section is available.


I can see how it is somewhat related to some Protestant denominations, for example, seeking to get back to the 'original teachings' that are sometimes found in some denominations.

But in other ways it can be seen as almost an orthodox version of Buddhism, getting back to the earliest teachings with less adherence to later teachings and interpretations. In that way it is perhaps more similar to the early Christian Gnostics, Jews who only follow the Torah, Samaritan and Ethiopian Jews who only follow the first six books of the Bible and reject the Talmud (Jewish commentaries).
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby cooran » Sun Oct 03, 2010 3:08 am

Hello all,

A couple of related threads:

did the buddha teach vipasanna meditation?
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1210

Meditation Mindfulness Technique
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1151

Personally, I don't think the Suttas delineate a particular Technique or Method - I believe that those hearing the suttas were in a group and able to access the instruction of someone well-versed in the Dhamma to practise correctly.

with metta
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 03, 2010 3:34 am

Hi David,
David N. Snyder wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:That's certainly the way I see it. Furthermore, it seems to be an extremely modern idea that it is possible to figure out how to practise by just reading Suttas. I don't believe that I would ever have got anywhere just by reading Suttas (or Commetaries for that matter). I really needed (and still need) experienced teachers (either in person or via books, recordings, etc).


But you can still be Suttanta based (Modern Theravada) and have teachers. You can seek out those teachers who are also Suttanta. :tongue:

Most of my teachers have been primarily Suttanta. I did not seek them out, it just sort of happened.

Yes, that's exactly my point. You didn't just read Suttas, you had teachers. Like Cooran, I don't think that the Suttas are really a particularly detailed instruction manual.

Above I quoted a Suttas http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 751#p90711 that talks about getting more detailed instruction from a teacher/friend, and there are many more, such as the Anapanasati Sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara's mother, together with many well-known elder disciples — with Ven. Sariputta, Ven. Maha Moggallana, Ven. Maha Kassapa, Ven. Maha Kaccana, Ven. Maha Kotthita, Ven. Maha Kappina, Ven. Maha Cunda, Ven. Revata, Ven. Ananda, and other well-known elder disciples. On that occasion the elder monks were teaching & instructing. Some elder monks were teaching & instructing ten monks, some were teaching & instructing twenty monks, some were teaching & instructing thirty monks, some were teaching & instructing forty monks. The new monks, being taught & instructed by the elder monks, were discerning grand, successive distinctions.

the Canki Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
... But to what extent is there an awakening to the truth? To what extent does one awaken to the truth? We ask Master Gotama about awakening to the truth."

"There is the case, Bharadvaja, where a monk lives in dependence on a certain village or town. Then a householder or householder's son goes to him and observes him with regard to three mental qualities — qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion, qualities based on delusion: ...

... he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.

And the difficulties in getting sufficient information from the Suttas is discussed here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 478#p90478
Dmytro wrote:Too often this "early Buddhism" approach" becomes a kind of reductionism - if it isn't mentioned expressly in the suttas, it's untrue. Given the fact that the descriptions in the suttas are stylized for ease of oral transmission, it's no wonder that lots of things are not mentioned.


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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Reductor » Sun Oct 03, 2010 3:59 am

Nice post, Retro.

I was thinking that we often loose sight of how the canon and the Theravada are related. That is, the Theravada is a supplement to the canon, and not the other way around. So where a mode of practice can be effectively defended with canonical material it should be considered as valid. To insist that such a position is invalid because it runs counter to the tradition is, to me, the making of inappropriate strife.

And while I do concur that the canon is not the most detailed manual, I hold that the details within its pages are sufficient for completion of the goal. Whether or not a particular practitioner can ferret out the information and act on it to the degree necessary to accomplish the goal is a matter of personal conditioning.

But with that said, I've certainly had some hard questions that I would have liked put to a teacher. But lacking such, I was forced to think them over long and hard. Perhaps I've gotten to the correct answers. Or perhaps not.

:namaste:
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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