Suttanta method?

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

Re: Suttanta method?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 03, 2010 4:00 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote: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.

Of course people can get all sorts of things wrong. But it seems to me that many (most?) who make use the Commentaries have exactly the attitude you quoted, as Davis explains on the page you quoted from:
Jake Davis wrote:There is thus a strong tendency to regard as
corrupted those canonical texts that would contradict the
assertions of the commentators. A few powerful monks have
taken issue with this extreme stance, however, notably the
Mahāsi Sayadaw. The Theravādin commentators apparently
intended their writings in the Aṭṭhakathā – literally ‘discussions
on the meaning’ – more as explorations than absolute statements
of truth, according to Warder’s reading.
…we have in these ancient ‘discussions on the meaning’ not a
dogmatic system but an enquiry carried on by these old teachers
of the school into the real nature of things. They build on what
has come down to them but they also seek to extend and improve
it, and some conclusions they offer as tentative or controversial.

I think it is quite obvious to anyone has actually read any commentarial literature that it is a discussion. Certainly, as indicated in the quote, Mahasi Sayadaw and his students present it as such.

:anjali:
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 03, 2010 5:58 am



That's a useful list. An easy way to add to it is from the Contents page of Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words selection. You can download the introductory material as a PDF here: http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... n=&image=1 though the book itself is inexpensive...

Most of the Suttas can be found at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/index.html and http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/ but note that the numbering schemes can vary a little and some of the translations are not so easy to read as Bhikkhu Bodhi's clear prose...

In The Buddha's Words
VII. The Path to Liberation
Introduction 223
1. Why Does One Enter the Path?
2. Analysis of the Eightfold Path (SN 45:8) 239 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
3. Good Friendship (SN 45:2) 240 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
4. The Graduated Training (MN 27) 241 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
5. The Higher Stages of Training with Similes (from MN 39) 250 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

VIII. Mastering the Mind
Introduction 257
1. The Mind Is the Key (AN 1: iii, 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10) 267 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
2. Developing a Pair of Skills
3. The Hindrances to Mental Development (SN 46:55, abridged) 270 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
4. The Refinement of the Mind (AN 3:100 §§1–10) 273 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
5. The Removal of Distracting Thoughts (MN 20) 275 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .soma.html
6. The Mind of Loving-Kindness (from MN 21) 278 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
7. The Six Recollections (AN 6:10) 279
8. The Four Establishments of Mindfulness (MN 10) 281 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .soma.html
9. Mindfulness of Breathing (SN 54:13) 290 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
10. The Achievement of Mastery (SN 28:1–9, combined) 296 http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ggo-e.html


:anjali:
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Ytrog » Sun Oct 03, 2010 8:46 am

Thanks to all for your answers. I come to the conclusion that I really need to study the tipitaka more as I see some very interesting links here.
To summarise: the suttanta method tries to base the practise almost exclusively on the methods described in the suttas resulting in a more free-form practice. This would, however need more experience/guidance than a more modern method based on the abhidhamma and the commentaries.

If I understand correctly the commentaries where a bit like an ancient precursor of this forum with far more experienced participants.
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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sun Oct 03, 2010 10:38 am

Ytrog wrote:To summarise: the suttanta method tries to base the practise almost exclusively on the methods described in the suttas resulting in a more free-form practice. This would, however need more experience/guidance than a more modern method based on the abhidhamma and the commentaries.


So in the suttas we have the methods described, for example, in the Satipathanna and Anapanasati Suttas. These can be used as a basis for vipassana but were not originally described in that way, and particular methods called "vipassana" subsequently emerged? Something like that? :)

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Re: Suttanta method?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 03, 2010 10:36 pm

Hi Spiny,

I don't really know if you can generalise about styles of teachers. If you consider teachers who say that they base their approach primarily on the Suttas you actually have quite a range, from "hard jhana" (e.g. Ajahn Brahm and some of the other Ajahn Chah lineage such as Ajahn Chandako), through a kind of mixed jhana/vipassana-oriented model (e.g. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Bhante Vimalaramsi, and various others) to more of a vipassana-oriented model (e.g. Ajahn Tiradhammo, Ajahn Munindo, and various others of the Ajahn Chah lineage).

Similarly, if you look at some of the famous Burmese teachers who do make use of commentaries , you also have a range from Pa Auk Sayadaw (who teaches a "hard jhana" that sounds rather similar to what Ajahn Brahm teaches) to the more vipassana-oriented style of Mahasi Sayadaw, Sayadaw/U Pandita/etc, or Sayadaw U Tejaniya.

I normally use a Mahasi-style approach, but I've done a couple of short retreats with Ajahn Tiradhammo (who has been in New Zealand for a few years), and from my point of view there are more similarities than differences. He teaches a different primary object when sitting (breath vs abdomen) and doesn't teach the Mahasi-style noting. Other than that it's the usual Satipatthana stuff, starting with grounding oneself in the body then adding feelings, mind states, etc.

Note that I only mention these particular Bhikkhus because I am familiar with them from books, recordings, or a little personal contact. And you can easily find their teachings on the Internet. [No point in mentioning the various teachers I've had at my local Wat...] Obviously there are thousands of other Theravada teachers, most of whom we in the West don't have access to due to language issues...

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