Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:15 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Well, I guess the topic was Ven Mahasi. I think that fixating on the labelling aspect would be analogous to saying that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's entire approach is based on breath manipulation or Ajahn Chahs' on [insert random Ajahn Chah one-liner here].

I think a lot of people get confused between "noting" and "labelling" in the Mahasi technique, they are two different things. I think it arises because noting has to be taught in words and words are labels, so when the teacher says "note hearing, hearing" the student thinks that repeating the words "hearing, hearing" in his mind is noting.

Noting is just being aware of and observing the process of hearing, labelling it with words might be helpful for a beginner or when attention is scattered but should be dropped when not needed, before it becomes too habitual.

That's how I was taught anyway.
"Right effort is effort with wisdom. Because where there is wisdom, there is interest. The desire to know something is wisdom at work. Being mindful is not difficult. But it’s difficult to be continuously aware. For that you need right effort. But it does not require a great deal of energy. It’s relaxed perseverance in reminding yourself to be aware. When you are aware, wisdom unfolds naturally, and there is still more interest." - Sayadaw U Tejaniya

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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:36 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:Would it be fair to say that Ajahn Geoff does not bifurcate the elements of jhana, ie by describing a samatha jhana and a vipassana jhana? My understanding of a possible difference here is that Ven. Thanissaro's definition of jhana from the suttas encompasses jhana as being made up of both samatha and vipassana as byproducts or core integrated elements of jhana itself. Without samatha, or with vipassana only, it is not jhana as the suttas describe. I believe the analogy was the wings of a bird; that the bird, to take flight, needs the two wings of samatha and vipassana working together to be sutta jhana. I feel that this is where the Thanissaro definition, and that of the great Burmese teachers, differs.

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the Mahasi approach. You seem to be under the impression that the Mahasi method does not develop samatha and vipassana in tandem, whereas that parallel development is exactly how I have experienced the practice.

I'm not particularly familiar with Ven Thanissaro's particular instructions, but from his talks and writing I have the impression that they are not so different from the way I practice. Of course, like any teacher, he has his favourite tips and tricks, but I'm focussing on how mindfulness and samatha is developed in general, not particular technique.

The most significant difference in this jhana area, seems to me to be that is that Ven Thanissaro's (and many others') "sutta jhana" and what U Pandita calls "vipassana jhana" are much less absorbed than what is described as jhana in the Visuddhimagga, and by other teachers such as Ajahn Brahm.

Even then, without some parallel development of mindfulness and vipassana, I don't think that sort of "deep (Visuddhimagga/Brahm) jhana" is possible. That's clear from the instructions in the Visuddhimagga, and from Ajahn Brahm. So to me these approaches just have differences in emphasis, and order of development. Not some fundamental difference in Dhamma. And clearly all of these approaches are completely consistent with the suttas:
"There is the case of the individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. Then there is the case of the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquillity of awareness. Then there is the case of the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. And then there is the case of the individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.
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