Australian Brahmic Buddhism

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Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Dmytro » Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:51 pm

Hello,

I am trying to come to terms with the new type of Buddhism that Brahmavamso and his colleagues represent. Formerly Brahmavamso has been a student of Ven. Ajahn Chah, and member of the Thai Forest Sangha, but after his expulsion he makes a lot of strange statements like: "Buddha Gotama is not a Sammasambuddha, since he studied with previous Buddhas".

The videos and statements like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOZtpCo3Vpk

make me wonder, what kind of Buddhist tradition is that.

So far I would call it "Australian Brahmic Buddhism".

Its typical features I observed are:

- Reliance on Sarvastivada Chinese Agamas, which are considered more reliable that Pali Nikayas;
- Usage of Dharmagupta Vinaya lineage for nuns ordination;
- The notion that the jhanas don't invlove any physical perception, lead by themselves to Nibbana, and there can be no attachment to jhanas;
- The notion that Nirodha-samapatti is essentially the same as Nibbana;
- Rejection of Pali Commentaries.

The origin of this kind of Buddhism can be traced to the works of Roderick Bucknell, former monk and scholar of Agama texts, but I would call it "Brahmic" since Brahmavamso gave it a defined form.

Any thoughts of how this new lineage may be called, and its relationship to Theravada?

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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:55 pm

With a heavy heart I have to say that I am struggling with the same issue.

It appears to me that Brahmavamso is periously close to being a schismatic. And may have crossed the Rubicon.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby robertk » Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:09 pm

I disagree with all the points that you say ven. Brahmavamso makes, however he is correct , according to theravada tradition, that there cannot be any perception of rupa while in any Jhana.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:13 pm

Does he seriuosly say that it is possible to get to nirodhasamapatti without breaking all of the lower fetters, through vipassana?
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby IanAnd » Wed Mar 02, 2011 6:58 pm

robertk wrote:... however he is correct , according to theravada tradition, that there cannot be any perception of rupa while in any Jhana.

Where in the Theravada tradition (with the possible exception of the Visuddhimagga) is this view promulgated? As it is certainly not promulgated in the suttas. And since this is the case, how can you make such a statement with a straight face?
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Vardali » Wed Mar 02, 2011 7:46 pm

I cannot comment on the other points (apart from that I haven't heard any dismissive comment from him on the pali cannon so far),
but my personal understanding of his meditation approach seems to differ concerning the following point:
Dmytro wrote:....
- The notion that the jhanas don't invlove any physical perception, lead by themselves to Nibbana, and there can be no attachment to jhanas;
- ...

My understanding of what he's trying to convey:
when entering jhanas, there is no physical sensation left (as you leave this in the nimitta stage), jhanas do help to move towards enlightenment, as it provides the fertile ground on which insight can thrive (as he states, "jhana is the gunpowder and reflection is the match"); as I am no expert I cannot confirm nor deny this, but it appears well in line with the anapanasati sutta how I understand it :shrug:

And considering that his "recipe" for getting into deep meditation is by fully "letting go", I would think that if you fully let go, it would indeed be inconsistent with being attached to jhanas (as this would prevent from entering jhana).

Anyway, that's how I have understood his teaching, but of course I might have gotten the wrong end of the stick here.
Though, you live, you learn, as they say :woohoo:
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby darvki » Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:23 pm

Dmytro wrote:I am trying to come to terms with the new type of Buddhism that Brahmavamso and his colleagues represent. Formerly Brahmavamso has been a student of Ven. Ajahn Chah, and member of the Thai Forest Sangha, but after his expulsion he makes a lot of strange statements like: "Buddha Gotama is not a Sammasambuddha, since he studied with previous Buddhas".


By his definition, are there then no Sammasambuddhas? I was under the impression all Sammasambuddhas have studied with previous ones in some of their past lives.

Also, how do you mean "after his expulsion"? I'm aware of Brahmavamso's situation, I'm just curious about the context. Was he not making such statements before his expulsion?

Dmytro wrote:Its typical features I observed are:

- Reliance on Sarvastivada Chinese Agamas, which are considered more reliable that Pali Nikayas


Regarding reliance on the Agamas, I am curious as to your source of knowledge for this. I in no way mean to challenge it, but I remember only Pali Canonical references in his literature.

PeterB wrote:It appears to me that Brahmavamso is periously close to being a schismatic. And may have crossed the Rubicon.


How do you figure? On the contrary, I thought he promoted breaking down sectarian barriers.

rowyourboat wrote:Does he seriuosly say that it is possible to get to nirodhasamapatti without breaking all of the lower fetters, through vipassana?


If it helps you understand his view, he does state that nirodhasamapatti necessarily leads to becoming an Anagami or Arahant. The above is an interesting claim. Where have you seen him say (or appear to say) this?

robertk wrote:according to theravada tradition, that there cannot be any perception of rupa while in any Jhana.


I'm quite certain that isn't true. Apart from the lack of evidence in the Suttas (which Geoff (Ñāṇa) for example can elucidate far better than I can) which needless to say wouldn't necessarily be influential on the orthodox view, there are certainly many teachers in the Theravada who do not hold this to be true. See Tilt's response here: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4220
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Vossaga (Element) » Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:31 pm

Dmytro wrote:The videos and statements like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOZtpCo3Vpk

Hello Dmytro

I will not comment on other aspects of Ajahn Brahm, except to say, for me, the meditation teaching using the glass, given in the video, is the essence of Buddha-Dhamma. I have never noticed the Buddha teaching 'counting', 'following' or 'mindfulness of breathing', as described in the Theravada Commentaries. The Buddha taught 'letting go & non-craving'. For me, mindfulness is maintaining the mind in a state of letting go & non-craving. In my opinion, if this understanding is accepted, the realisation will occur Anapanasati is Mindfulness With Breathing [As The Sign] rather than mindfulness of breathing. I agree with Ajahn Brahm's inference that any effort, apart from the effort to let go, is wrong effort. At Samyutta Nikaya 48.9, the Buddha advised right concentration has letting go (vossaga) as its sole object.

With metta

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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Kenshou » Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:45 pm

"Letting go" is nice but I daresay it's just not that simple. There are qualities which should be intentionally cultivated, in addition to those that should be given up. And until the right wholesome qualities are mature, I suspect that understanding and the relinquishment that follows are probably not going to be very deeply liberating.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby darvki » Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:00 pm

Dmytro wrote:The videos and statements like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOZtpCo3Vpk


I was unable to view the video earlier. I've just seen it now. I thought it was beautiful. What exactly are people finding wrong with it?
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:17 pm

Vossaga wrote:Anapanasati is Mindfulness With Breathing [As The Sign] rather than mindfulness of breathing.


This subtlety seems to be in accord with my recent focus on understanding the anapanasati Suttas. The simile of the incompetent and competent chef also makes reference to such an idea, although there the language is "picking up that sign". This means...

Vossaga wrote:I agree with Ajahn Brahm's inference that any effort, apart from the effort to let go, is wrong effort. At Samyutta Nikaya 48.9, the Buddha advised right concentration has letting go (vossaga) as its sole object.


that SN 48.9 also makes sense. However, I will disagree with the stated idea of effort. Sammavayamo, per SN 45.8:

"And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen. (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort."

Exclusive effort to 'let go' is Taoism.
    "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: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Sylvester » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:08 am

IanAnd wrote:
robertk wrote:... however he is correct , according to theravada tradition, that there cannot be any perception of rupa while in any Jhana.

Where in the Theravada tradition (with the possible exception of the Visuddhimagga) is this view promulgated? As it is certainly not promulgated in the suttas. And since this is the case, how can you make such a statement with a straight face?



As to which, there has been a long debate on the meaning of "kāmā" in the "vivicc'eva kamehi" section of the suttas' First Jhana formula. You might wish to acquaint yourself with that discussion before denying a possible provenance to the view within the suttas.

(NB - Dear Geoff - It's since been pointed out to me that while I understood Warder's nexus/junction correctly, I applied the wrong rule when analysing the kāma-guṇa formulae. Your definition of the kāma-guṇa was correct. :anjali: Nevertheless, I've been advised to just refer to how the CDP defines the kāmā versus the kāma-guṇa, and note AN 6.63's proscription against conflating the 2. So, it seems that the kāma-guṇa are a sub-set of kāmā.)

I'm just glad that Ajahn Brahm's cohort sees nothing wrong in referring to the Chinese Agamas. But for Ven Analayo's checking of the Sancetanika Sutta against its Chinese parallel, we might as well have given up being Buddhists and declared ourselves to be Niganthas. IMHO, reference to the Chinese Agamas fall within the 4 Great Standards of DN 16, especially when they can expunge silly mistakes that put Jain soteriology in the Buddha's mouth.

Of course, the Mahavihara Buddhists in DW must trot out the Abhidhammic lokuttara/lokiya Jhanas to flatly contradict the simple suttanta message that nirodha samapatti leads inexorably to Non-Return or Arahanta.

So, the OP's question should NOT be phrased -

Any thoughts of how this new lineage may be called, and its relationship to Theravada?


but should be limited to -

"Any thoughts of how this new lineage may be called, and its relationship to Mahavihara Buddhism?"

It's the same old grab to monopolise the imprimatur for what goes into the "Theravada" families.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Sylvester » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:17 am

daverupa wrote: However, I will disagree with the stated idea of effort. Sammavayamo, per SN 45.8:

"And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen. (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort."

Exclusive effort to 'let go' is Taoism.



Hi daverupa

Might it be possible to note that Right Effort precedes Right Sati? In the satipatthana practices, one does not see instructions to apply any effort to suppress the hindrances or other negative states that arise in the course of the satipatthana exercises. One just watches -

Thus he lives contemplating the body (etc etc) in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in the body. Or indeed his mindfulness is established with the thought: 'The body exists,' to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance, and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world. Thus, also, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body


I think this is where the "letting go" occurs, when understanding into Anicca grows from development of each of the satipatthanas.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Dan74 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:50 am

Just to point out that this video was made prior to Ajahn Brahm's expulsion. And expulsion was over the ordination of women issue not any perceived heresies.

I'd like to see clearly where people say that he diverges from what the Buddha taught.

He is a populariser, so he does "dumb it down" to some extent. And I understand if people take exception to this and to his manner. But what about the actual content? Where does he diverge?
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby robertk » Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:18 am

IanAnd wrote:
robertk wrote:... however he is correct , according to theravada tradition, that there cannot be any perception of rupa while in any Jhana.

Where in the Theravada tradition (with the possible exception of the Visuddhimagga) is this view promulgated? As it is certainly not promulgated in the suttas. And since this is the case, how can you make such a statement with a straight face?

Just put it down to intense delusion, sorry to interrupt.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby pilgrim » Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:28 am

Every teacher has his own style of teaching and his particular emphasis. I don't think it is fair or even accurate to say this constitutes a new tradition.

And isn't every Theravada bhikkhuni including the thousands in Sri Lanka descended from the Dharmagupta lineage.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Dmytro » Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:56 am

Hello,

He is a populariser, so he does "dumb it down" to some extent. And I understand if people take exception to this and to his manner. But what about the actual content? Where does he diverge?


Some quotes to substantiate the description of "Australian Brahmic Buddhism", and to put it in wider contexṭ.

rowyourboat wrote:Does he seriuosly say that it is possible to get to nirodhasamapatti without breaking all of the lower fetters, through vipassana?


Yes, he never talks about practicing vipassana, saying that instead:

"For one who experiences samādhi there is no need to make resolutions, to choose, or decide, ‘Oh, may I see things as they truly are’ (yatā bhūta-ñā adassana): it’s a natural process, it happens as an automatic consequence, for one who achieves samādhi. You are seeing truly all the insights that come up from the process of meditation which produces jhāna."

Brahmavamso conflates "Nirodha" as the epithet of Nibbana with Nirodha-samapatti:

"The Buddha would also very often equate Nibbāna and nirodha, cessation. Even though it is not true Nibbāna, it is close. Why is it close? It is close because a lot of cessation has already occurred. In these very refined states a lot has ceased, by ceasing it has ended, disappeared, finished. That is why it is very close to Nibbāna."

"This cessation is the ending of everything. Sometimes people get afraid. It is bleak, thinking of Nibbāna as cessation, ending! Whether we like it or not, that’s just what happens. We don’t have any say in it."

http://www.scribd.com/doc/38209909/Ajah ... his-Moment

"Very often the Buddha would equate Nibbana and nirodha, cessation, and here in these states a lot has ceased, by ceasing it has ended, disappeared, finished."

http://www.metta.lk/english/ways-jhana.htm

"Nirodha-samāpatti, the end of all perception and feelings. Nibbāna here and now. To actually see the ‘doer’ and the ‘knower’ in the mind as just arising and falling, as insubstantial, instead of entities which exist by themselves."

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... actice.pdf

Sylvester in this thread writes another strange idea of Brahmavamso's group:

"Of course, the Mahavihara Buddhists in DW must trot out the Abhidhammic lokuttara/lokiya Jhanas to flatly contradict the simple suttanta message that nirodha samapatti leads inexorably to Non-Return or Arahanta."

As Sylvester's message also shows, this group attempts to label other points of view, which consider the Pali Suttas and Commentaries to be of value, as "Mahavihara", and to hijack the Theravada title to themselves.

About jhanas as a liberation vehicle, attachment to which is impossible:

"Then, as one progresses onwards to the higher Jhanas and contemplates why each further one is ever more pleasing, one comes to understand that it is because one is letting go of refined mental attachments, such as the attachment to rapture, happiness and equanimity. It becomes clear that even these most lofty of mind states are just refined forms of suffering, because when one lets them go, then more suffering goes too. The higher one goes , the more Dukkha is let go of and through this process Dukkha becomes known. One cannot know fully the Truth of Suffering, and thus the Buddha's Four Noble Truths, except by letting go of suffering through the experience of Jhana.

It is very odd, therefore, that some suggest that the practise of Jhana leads to attachment. How can, what is the practice of letting go, lead to attachment?"

http://www.viet.net/anson/ebud/ebmed075.htm

Brahmavamso on following Dharmagupta Vinaya:

"... One of the biggest myths is that bhikkhunis in the Mahayana tradition are somehow separated from the Theravada. But the truth of the matter is, there is no such thing as a Mahayana Vinaya. In all the Mahayana schools, they follow mostly a Dharmagupta Vinaya. Dharmagupta is one of the Theravada sects. They follow Theravada Vinaya. So the bhikkhunis we see even now in Taiwan and China is a lineage that is unbroken since the time of the Buddha. ..."

http://www.bangkokpost.com/leisure/leis ... i-question


The historical dogmatics in Brahmavamso's group is handled by Sujato.

Sujato about preferring the Sarvastivada, and Mula-Sarvastivada in particular:

"Sometimes i think it's just that Sarv is a bit stale and
ordinary and Mula-S is a sexier theory! Of course, it is not at all
unlikely that within one school there may be several different
versions of the canon. After all, even within the arch-orthodox
Theravadins the Burmese Tipitaka today differs substantially from
the Sinhalese and Thai. Even within the four Nikayas we witness the
movement of the Maha Satipatthana Sutta from the Digha to the
Majjhima, probably in the fifth (Burmese) council."

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5270

"So in such cases, the Chinese translations are just as accurate and authoritative as the Pali, and sometimes may even be more reliable."

http://sites.google.com/site/santipada/ ... allytaught

Sujato on inauthenticity of Pali Satipatthana sutta, in comparison with Chinese versions and Mahayana sutras:

"These philosophical suppositions, inherited from the tradition and largely unexamined, underlie and inform the major schools of contemporary Theravāda meditation. Meditators practice precisely in order to see the elements of ‘ultimate reality’. The prime source text for this approach is the ‘Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta’, which we suggest would be better called the ‘Piltdown Sutta’. Is it too much to hope that the revelation that this is one of the latest and least authentic of all the texts in the Nikāyas will cause such meditation schools to question their own assumptions and methods?"

http://sites.google.com/site/santipada/sathipattana

Sujato on Theravadin Abhidhamma:

"I suggest that the abhidhamma is most profitably considered, not as a psychology or as a philosophy, but as a mystical cult."

"A History of Mindfulness" by Sujato, page 199:

"the Theravada Abhidhamma scholars, for all their insistence on radical momentariness, still betray a nervousness, amounting almost to neurosis, in their obsessively repetitive texts, a massive attempt to freeze the Dhamma in a matrix of abstract, contextless, and bloodless dhammas"

"It's time"by Sujato:

"It’s time. We need a new paradigm. Buddhism is suffering from schizophrenia; there is a split in consciousness between the historical and the mythic conceptions of the origin of the Dhamma. For 2500 years Buddhism has been constantly changing, adapting, evolving; yet the myths of the schools insist that the Dhamma remains the same. All existing schools of Buddhism justify their idiosyncratic doctrines mythologically; this is what all religions do. Thus the Theravada insists that the Abhidhamma was taught by the Buddha in Tavatimsa heaven during his seventh rains retreat. The Mahayana claims that the Mahayana sutras were written down in the time of the Buddha, preserved in the dragon world under the sea, then retreived by Nagarjuna 500 years later. Zen claims authority from an esoteric oral transmission outside the scriptures descended from Maha Kassapa, symbolized by the smile of Maha Kassapa when the Buddha held up a lotus. All of these are myths, and do not deserve serious consideration as explanations of historical truth. Their purpose, as myths, is not to elucidate facts, but to authorize religious convictions."

By his definition, are there then no Sammasambuddhas? I was under the impression all Sammasambuddhas have studied with previous ones in some of their past lives.


That's a question for Brahmavamso.

Also, how do you mean "after his expulsion"? I'm aware of Brahmavamso's situation, I'm just curious about the context. Was he not making such statements before his expulsion?


He did made such eccentric statements before, but with time the key notions of his movement are drifting further and further.

Ajahn Brahm's inference that any effort, apart from the effort to let go, is wrong effort.


The reason I put this to your attention is that I meet with Brahmavamso's Russian followers with such deluded notions.
The practice is masked under the seemingly authoritative terms like "letting go" and "nirodha-samapatti", but actually leads to a meditative blackout, with no development of wisdom (panna).

The "letting go" Brahmavamso talks about is slipping without any resistance into the passion for "beautiful representation" (subha-nimitta):

the breath calms down. It changes from a coarse, ordinary breath, to a very smooth and peaceful “beautiful breath.” The mind recognizes this beautiful breath and delights in it. The mind experiences a deepening of contentment. It is happy just to be there watching this beautiful breath.

...

You do not need to do anything here, because the intense beauty of the nimitta is more than capable of holding the attention without your assistance. Be careful not to go assessing. Questions such as, “What is this?” “Is this jhana?” “What should I do next?” and so on are all the work of the “doer” trying to get involved again. This is disturbing the process. You may assess everything once the journey is over. A good scientist assesses the experiment only at the end, when all the data is in. So do not assess or try to work it all out.


http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issu ... brahm.html
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/s_ ... imitta.htm

And isn't every Theravada bhikkhuni including the thousands in Sri Lanka descended from the Dharmagupta lineage.


Fortunately there's another example, Siladhara nuns in the Thai Forest Sangha:

http://www.amaravati.org/fsn/html/81/order.htm

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby pilgrim » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:28 am

I agree to a number of the statements by Aj Brahm, but I don't want to get into a lenghty discussion on this. I just want to point out that the Siladhara of Amaravati are not bhikkhunis. The Siladharas . like Thai Mae Chi, Cambodia Doun chi, Sri Lankan Dasasilamathas are modern day improvisations and do not have a recognised lineage.

All the present day Theravada bhikkhunis in one way or another started their ordination from the Mahayana nuns , which would mean the Dharmagupta lineage. So "Aj Brahm's nuns" are not special in this way.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Dmytro » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:46 am

pilgrim wrote:I agree to a number of the statements by Aj Brahm, but I don't want to get into a lenghty discussion on this. I just want to point out that the Siladhara of Amaravati are not bhikkhunis. The Siladharas . like Thai Mae Chi, Cambodia Doun chi, Sri Lankan Dasasilamathas are modern day improvisations and do not have a recognised lineage.


Mae Chi are in no way a "modern day improvisation". The first records of Mae Chi in Thailand are found in the description of the Ayutthaya kingdom (1350-1767):

http://books.google.com.ua/books?id=7tn ... 2&lpg=PA62
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Dan74 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:49 am

Dmytro, what I mostly am getting from your lengthy post is that the chief problem with the teachings of Ajahn Brahm is the overemphasis on letting go and the likely development of samatha at the expense of vipassana. Is that right?

I recall Ajahn Chah teaching that samatha and vipassana are like two wings of a bird - both necessary for meditation to be successful. Do you think Ajahn Brahm has turned his back on this teaching?

I recall him speaking about this at a conference in Perth but don't remember the details anymore. But maybe I can get that DVD..
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