Australian Brahmic Buddhism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:33 pm

I think his doctrinal departure and his unilateral decision to ordain Bhikkhunis are all of a piece psychologically.
The latter is an acting out of the former.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby darvki » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:30 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Ven. Brahmavamso's explicit contradiction (and tacit rejection) of the doctrines contained in the Canonical Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka and major parts of the Canonical Theravāda Khuddakanikāya, and Ven. Sujato's explicit rejection of the same doctrines, leaves very little "Theravāda" in what they are presenting. The doctrines contained in the Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka and Theravāda Khuddakanikāya texts such as the Paṭisambhidāmagga are what constitute the Theravāda as a unique doctrinal school (vāda). These treatises are all specific to the Theravāda. They have no parallel counterparts even amongst the other Sthaviravāda schools such as the Sarvāstivāda. Therefore, whatever it is that Ven. Brahmavamso and and Ven. Sujato, et al, are teaching, it cannot be called Theravāda. To call it Theravāda renders the designation quite meaningless.


Now I must retract my statement: I do understand. Thank you, Geoff.

PeterB wrote:Erm..... yes it is rather a big deal darvki. He's gone troppo.


Oh, please. It's not like he said he subscribes to Tathagatagarbha teachings or quoted the Lotus Sutra. He used Mahayanist ideas as poetic devices.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:10 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I believe I've heard Ven Sujato (on recording) explicitly state that he considers himself an "early Buddhist" (or some similar term), rather than "Theravada".

Of course,this is a possible approach (which seems to be popular among some members). I.e. considering all possible evidence to attempt to get a picture of what was actually taught by the Buddha by comparing surviving texts from all schools and gleaning information from other sources (Jain and Brahminic).

As I know from the extensive examples you've offered here, it's clearly not a trivial task to make sense of the consistency, or lack thereof, of the various parts of the Theravada Cannon, and the ancient and modern Theravada Commentaries. So this task of "figuring out exactly what the Buddha taught" by extending one's range to all possible sources seems to me to be extremely challenging. It's full-time PhD level stuff (which is what Ven Huifeng/Paññāsikhara, for example, is engaged in), and something I only have time to take a passing interest in.

I take it you are advocating picking a particular school (Theravada) and sticking with it? But do you see any reason (apart from difficulty) why the "early Buddhism" approach is not viable?

Well, the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka is the Theravāda Canon. And it's the Theravāda Canon for a reason. The treatises of the Khuddakanikāya and the Abhidhammapiṭaka present the parameters of the Theravāda as a unique doctrinal school (vāda). These are the "baseline" doctrines which distinguish the Theravāda from the other Sthaviravāda and non-Sthaviravāda schools. To dismiss most or all of these Canonical doctrinal teachings is to reject the Theravāda as a vāda. When this is done we often see the Suttapiṭaka -- usually without a comprehensive survey of the entire Suttapiṭaka -- being used to justify all sorts of pet theories. This creates a wild west situation where almost anything goes. Just find a sutta or two to justify one's pet theory and this makes one's interpretation is just as valid as any other.... This is quite an ill-conceived and unfortunate approach to Buddhist hermeneutics.

This isn't to say that text critical analysis is entirely unjustified. But to limit text critical analysis just to the sutta strata of received tradition and use this methodology to dismiss the abhidhamma strata of received tradition is problematic for a number of reasons. It fails to acknowledge just how indebted we all are to the entirety of the canonical, para-canonical, and commentarial texts for our understanding of Pāḷi as a language. It also implies (and is sometimes explicitly stated) that the compilers of the Abhidhammapiṭaka had already lost the realization of the dhamma within one or two hundred years of the Buddha's parinibbāna. These are just two of many faults and dubious assumptions which could be mentioned. IMO the bar should be set higher.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Kenshou » Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:21 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:It fails to acknowledge just how indebted we all are to the entirety of the canonical, para-canonical, and commentarial texts for our understanding of Pāḷi as a language.


That's a good point.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:02 am

Thanks Geoff,

As you have probably gathered, I agree with you, though I guess it is always prudent to be aware that the compilers and commentators of the Canon can make errors (which various modern commentators turn up from time to time).

:anjali:
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Dan74 » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:08 am

appicchato wrote:
Dan74 wrote:...he simplifies matters and makes things sound too simple and easy...

Forgive me...I'm basically speechless...what's wrong with taking a simple approach?...we might not be as screwed up as most of us (myself included) are now...

Be well...


I am sorry, Bhante, I didn't make myself clear - I was trying to figure out why people find Ajahn Brahm so objectionable. So I meant "too simple for some people".

From my point of view, there is nothing wrong with making things simple for his purpose, but sometimes they do convey a misleading perception of it all being too easy without giving the necessary details, the grit of practice, so to speak.

This is not a criticism of Ajahn Brahm, simply a downside to popular general audience expositions of the Dhamma. But they do serve their purpose and I am sure in different settings those details are provides.

As I understand now, the main concern about Ajahn Brahm is his perceived rejection of the Commentarial literature. This may place him outside the Theravada orthodoxy, but is still teaching the Dhamma, is he not?
_/|\_
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby adeh » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:25 am

Kenshou wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:It fails to acknowledge just how indebted we all are to the entirety of the canonical, para-canonical, and commentarial texts for our understanding of Pāḷi as a language.


That's a good point.


I've heard Bhikkhu Sujato say on several occasions just how indebted we are to the commentaries for our understanding of Pāḷi as a language....I think you guys are going a bit overboard in your condemnation of two people who both have an obvious and genuine dedication to the Dhamma....and I'm a little surprised at all this venom...you are talking about ordained Bhikkhus after all...
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:39 am

I think Adeh that if we label all plainly expressed views with which we disagree as " venom" we risk falling into a breach of right speech...
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby adeh » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:42 am

I wasn't talking about the views, I was talking about the tone....
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby adeh » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:45 am

I haven't communicated with Ajahn Brahm, but I have with both Bhikkhu Sujato and Ajahn Bramali and they are two very kind men who take the time to answer peoples questions....
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:48 am

Which unless you are telepathic you cannot detect. You are " hearing" a tone that YOU project.
It could be being voiced with great sadness, great compassion, humorous detachment, concern...we dont know do we ?

Its just pixels on a screen...we give it life.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby adeh » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:55 am

Yeah...what ever you say Peter....
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby bodom » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:56 am

:focus:

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby pilgrim » Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:35 am

What makes one a Theravadin? Do I have to unequivocally accept all 3 baskets, everything in the Commentaries, the Visuddhimagga and also reject the idea of bhikkhuni ordination? :rolleye:
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Sylvester » Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:38 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
pilgrim wrote: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.

darvki wrote:As for the link to Ajahn Sujato's article on the Agamas, I don't see how subscribing to a different transmission of the Buddhavacana because one finds it to be more reliable brings one outside the Theravada.


Ven. Brahmavamso's explicit contradiction (and tacit rejection) of the doctrines contained in the Canonical Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka and major parts of the Canonical Theravāda Khuddakanikāya, and Ven. Sujato's explicit rejection of the same doctrines, leaves very little "Theravāda" in what they are presenting. The doctrines contained in the Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka and Theravāda Khuddakanikāya texts such as the Paṭisambhidāmagga are what constitute the Theravāda as a unique doctrinal school (vāda). These treatises are all specific to the Theravāda. They have no parallel counterparts even amongst the other Sthaviravāda schools such as the Sarvāstivāda. Therefore, whatever it is that Ven. Brahmavamso and and Ven. Sujato, et al, are teaching, it cannot be called Theravāda. To call it Theravāda renders the designation quite meaningless.

All the best,

Geoff


One can still call it "Critical Theravada Buddhism" to the extent that such a Buddhism acknowledges the stratification and assign different soteriological value to the different strata of texts.

But, that might sound politically-incorrect and imply that other Theravada strains were uncritical or unthinking, so not quite useful.

Perhaps "Critical Textual Theravada"?

Which actually brings us to the nub of another issue. Is Theravada a "Sangha" that can be a "vada"? Is Ajahn Chah's lineage a "Sangha"?

One could of course insist that one need not fret about Vinaya technicalities, but I always thought that the Vinaya describes a "sangha" as being defined by a siima, and the Buddha clearly prohibited over-sized siimas. So, at best Ajahn Chah's lineage can describe themselves as a Nikaya, of which Ajahn Brahm is persona non grata.

As for the "vada" that is Theravada, even if a 7th Council were held to pass a resolution making it a creed of faith in the provenance of the Abhidhammic material and the authority of the Commentaries, that sanghakamma is limited to within the sangha seated inside that siima. It's too far easy to brandish the "schism" (sanghabeda) spectre without regard to what it actually entails.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Vossaga (Element) » Fri Mar 04, 2011 4:30 am

Dan74 wrote:He is a populariser, so he does "dumb it down" to some extent.

I find this a very insightful point. Ajahn Brahm himself is not Australian. He is English. So the "Australian Buddhism" may refer to the audience.

:toast:
Last edited by Vossaga (Element) on Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Fri Mar 04, 2011 4:41 am

pilgrim wrote:What makes one a Theravadin? Do I have to unequivocally accept all 3 baskets

A Theravāda practitioner dismissing the Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka and Theravāda Khuddakanikāya texts such as the Paṭisambhidāmagga is analogous to a Chan/Zen practitioner dismissing the Platform Treatise of the Sixth Patriarch or a Nyingma practitioner dismissing the Guhyagarbha Tantra. In each of these cases these texts form the doctrinal basis for practice and textual interpretation within each school.

Thus, if one fails to accept the canonical doctrines and path structure as presented in the Abhidhammapiṭaka and Paṭisambhidāmagga, then one isn't really engaged in Theravāda practice. This doesn't mean that every practitioner has to be an Abhidhamma scholar, just as not every Nyingmapa practitioner has to be a scholar of the Nyingma Canon. But it makes little sense for a Theravāda practitioner to dismiss well over a third of the Theravāda Canon, especially since it is this large section of materials which are unique to the Theravāda.

It's also worth mentioning that the Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka actually accords with the sutta strata of teachings nicely. In general, it is more conservative and therefore closer to the suttas than is the case for the extant Sthavira Sarvāstivāda treatises, etc.

If we approach the Abhidhammapiṭaka as a prescriptive and descriptive aid to help clarify practice and textual interpretation of suttas, and not as a closed system of ultimate truth which marginalizes the suttas as being of lesser importance, then this combination of canonical Vinayapiṭaka, Suttapiṭaka, and Abhidhammapiṭaka offers us a very workable and valuable set of teachings to guide our practice.

pilgrim wrote:everything in the Commentaries, the Visuddhimagga

The commentaries and the Visuddhimagga are not canonical. Moreover, the commentaries do not present a homogeneous doctrine. It's not uncommon to find multiple opinions presented regarding a particular canonical passage, etc. It's also not uncommon to find quite dubious etymologies of particular terms and an obvious lack of understanding of canonical metaphors, and so on. This is due to the commentaries being authored by people separated from the historical, geographical, and cultural situation of the early Buddhist community. This has been well documented by a number of translators and scholars. Therefore, while the commentaries are also important, they aren't of the same caliber as the Tipiṭaka.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Sylvester » Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:38 am

Hmm, why draw the line artificially at the Psm and Abhidhamma? What about the Classical Mahaviharins who insist that the Vsm and the Commentaries and Tikas should also be included in received Theravada? What about the other camp who argues that "Theravada" is simply a Vinaya ordination lineage, and not a doctrinal one?

I shudder to think that Ajahn Chah and Ven Nanananda have fallen between the cracks, based on this definition. The definition is not without its utility, but I think it only functions as such as an academic comparison between the different Schools. The Mahavihara position may well be taken to be one vein of Theravada, as I don't see the label as being anything more than a convenient identifier for people who prefer to work with the Pali Canon, or the parts of the Pali Canon they deem to have soteriological value.
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby Vossaga (Element) » Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:41 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Ven. Brahmavamso's explicit contradiction (and tacit rejection) of the doctrines contained in the Canonical Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka and major parts of the Canonical Theravāda Khuddakanikāya, and Ven. Sujato's explicit rejection of the same doctrines, leaves very little "Theravāda" in what they are presenting. The doctrines contained in the Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka and Theravāda Khuddakanikāya texts such as the Paṭisambhidāmagga are what constitute the Theravāda as a unique doctrinal school (vāda). These treatises are all specific to the Theravāda. They have no parallel counterparts even amongst the other Sthaviravāda schools such as the Sarvāstivāda. Therefore, whatever it is that Ven. Brahmavamso and and Ven. Sujato, et al, are teaching, it cannot be called Theravāda. To call it Theravāda renders the designation quite meaningless.

Hello Geoff

A question. Who or what exactly are the 'Elders' in Theravada? Are they the Buddha's arahant disciples, who followed & taught the Dhamma in the suttas? Or are they those who invented Abhidhamma? For example, if one follows only the suttas, what school or designation is that?

Thanks

:smile:
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Re: Australian Brahmic Buddhism

Postby cooran » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:05 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
pilgrim wrote:What makes one a Theravadin? Do I have to unequivocally accept all 3 baskets

A Theravāda practitioner dismissing the Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka and Theravāda Khuddakanikāya texts such as the Paṭisambhidāmagga is analogous to a Chan/Zen practitioner dismissing the Platform Treatise of the Sixth Patriarch or a Nyingma practitioner dismissing the Guhyagarbha Tantra. In each of these cases these texts form the doctrinal basis for practice and textual interpretation within each school.

Thus, if one fails to accept the canonical doctrines and path structure as presented in the Abhidhammapiṭaka and Paṭisambhidāmagga, then one isn't really engaged in Theravāda practice. This doesn't mean that every practitioner has to be an Abhidhamma scholar, just as not every Nyingmapa practitioner has to be a scholar of the Nyingma Canon. But it makes little sense for a Theravāda practitioner to dismiss well over a third of the Theravāda Canon, especially since it is this large section of materials which are unique to the Theravāda.

It's also worth mentioning that the Theravāda Abhidhammapiṭaka actually accords with the sutta strata of teachings nicely. In general, it is more conservative and therefore closer to the suttas than is the case for the extant Sthavira Sarvāstivāda treatises, etc.

If we approach the Abhidhammapiṭaka as a prescriptive and descriptive aid to help clarify practice and textual interpretation of suttas, and not as a closed system of ultimate truth which marginalizes the suttas as being of lesser importance, then this combination of canonical Vinayapiṭaka, Suttapiṭaka, and Abhidhammapiṭaka offers us a very workable and valuable set of teachings to guide our practice.

pilgrim wrote:everything in the Commentaries, the Visuddhimagga

The commentaries and the Visuddhimagga are not canonical. Moreover, the commentaries do not present a homogeneous doctrine. It's not uncommon to find multiple opinions presented regarding a particular canonical passage, etc. It's also not uncommon to find quite dubious etymologies of particular terms and an obvious lack of understanding of canonical metaphors, and so on. This is due to the commentaries being authored by people separated from the historical, geographical, and cultural situation of the early Buddhist community. This has been well documented by a number of translators and scholars. Therefore, while the commentaries are also important, they aren't of the same caliber as the Tipiṭaka.

All the best,

Geoff


Well said Geoff.

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