Approaching traditional Theravada Commentaries with caution

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 3579
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Approaching traditional Theravada Commentaries with caution

Postby clw_uk » Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:34 pm

[SPLIT TOPIC - decoupled from "in the commentaries"... where? ( viewtopic.php?f=19&t=978 ) in the Classical Theravada forum - Retro.]

My advice would be to read them with caution, although they do correctly elaborate on certain points, other times they can be wrong


:anjali:
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20082
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:40 pm

clw_uk wrote:My advice would be to read them with caution, although they do correctly elaborate on certain points, other times they can be wrong


While might have reason to disagree with the commentaries, it should not be done lightly. In other words there needs to be good, reasoned and exampled cause for doing so.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 3579
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:55 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
clw_uk wrote:My advice would be to read them with caution, although they do correctly elaborate on certain points, other times they can be wrong


While might have reason to disagree with the commentaries, it should not be done lightly. In other words there needs to be good, reasoned and exampled cause for doing so.




I agree, i was merely suggesting that one have caution when reading them, they might not be accurate
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10802
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:09 pm

clw_uk wrote:I agree, i was merely suggesting that one have caution when reading them, they might not be accurate

This may be true but I would advise being even more careful with arguments made in ignorance of the Commentaries.

Metta
Mike

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20082
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:10 pm

they might not be accurate


And upon what basis do you determine that?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 3579
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:58 pm

they might not be accurate

And upon what basis do you determine that?



Each commentary needs to be approached with caution because they are not the words of the Buddha but of later disciples that may still have had unknowing in them


Its not to say they are worthless, i have found that some have very good explanations as well as some that were not so good, each commentary should be investigated and compared with ones own experience and with what the suttas say etc


:anjali:
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20082
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:10 pm

clw_uk wrote:
they might not be accurate

And upon what basis do you determine that?



Each commentary needs to be approached with caution because they are not the words of the Buddha but of later disciples that may still have had unknowing in them


Unknowing in them. That maybe, particularly in terms of modern history, but I would take the commentaries far more seriously in terms of doctrinal matters than I would most of the rebirth deniers I have seen who seem to have a great deal of "unknowing in them."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 3579
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:13 pm

Unknowing in them. That maybe, particularly in terms of modern history, but I would take the commentaries far more seriously in terms of doctrinal matters than I would most of the rebirth deniers I have seen who seem to have a great deal of "unknowing in them."




Why does rebirth denial come into this :?
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 20082
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:17 pm

Why does rebirth denial come into this


It is a good example of the problem discussed.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 3579
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:20 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Why does rebirth denial come into this


It is a good example of the problem discussed.



Do you mean that the unknowing in the person could cause them to miss what the commentary is saying?
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
Posts: 16351
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Land of the sleeping gods
Contact:

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:24 pm

Hi Craig

I'm interested to know what qualifies you to criticise the commentaries?
Are you intimately familiar with them? Are you so highly realised yourself that you can discern error of view in the commentarial authors?

B
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 3579
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:26 pm

Ben wrote:Hi Craig

I'm interested to know what qualifies you to criticise the commentaries?
Are you intimately familiar with them? Are you so highly realised yourself that you can discern error of view in the commentarial authors?

B




I havent, all i did was offer some friendly advice, whats wrong in advising someone to have some caution or healty skepticism when reading them?
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10802
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:34 pm

clw_uk wrote:Why does rebirth denial come into this :?

Perhaps because the Commentaries are quite clear about it, but a common argument that one hears is that the "serious Suttas" don't talk about literal rebirth.

Another example would be Anatta, where the Commentaries (as quoted in the Visuddhimagga) seem quite clear that you won't find a self anywhere. For example:
"For there is suffering, but none who suffers;
Doing exists although there is no doer;
Extinction is but no extinguished person;
Although there is a path, there is no goer."

Visuddhimagga, XVI, 90.

However, the Suttas never quite seem to deny a "self outside the khandas", something Thanissaro Bhikkhu, for example, makes a lot of with his "not-self strategy" idea that permeates his writing and translations:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html

I do, of course, have a lot of respect for Ven Thanissaro. He's perhaps a good example of someone who has looked carefully and sincerely and rejected certain parts of the standard Theravada in favour of his readings and experience. However, whether or not one agrees with him, I think that it is important to realise that his translation on Access to Insight have his particular opinions embedded. And unlike Bhikkhu Bodhi he is not always clear where he differs from the Commentaries. Bhikkhu Bodhi is always at great pains to state: "The commentary says X, I disagree because of Y".

Metta
Mike

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 14813
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:38 pm

Greetings,

Once back at E-Sangha, venerable Dhammanando provided a "priority list" sourced from the commentaries themselves which showed the respective priority that certain sources of information (e.g. Suttas, Vinaya, Abhidhamma, Commentaries, other opinion) should be afforded. The list is of course self-referential with respect the commentaries (which may not make it entirely objective, or at worst, an attempt to establish an intellectual monopoly) but it would be good if venerable Dhammanando would be able to repost that list here, so we can understand how to, from a Classical Theravada perspective, prioritise different sources of Buddhist information.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

User avatar
clw_uk
Posts: 3579
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Wales, United Kingdom

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:44 pm

Well the main points i disagree with the commentaries on comes from meditation, the instructions in the Visuddhimagga to mindfulness of breathing held me back, it was only when i looked just at the sutta (and some teachings from Ven. U Vimalaramsi) did i make progress and now when looking back at the Visuddhimagga instructions it doesnt correspond much with my meditation exp.



However the instructions on loving-kindness did help


Now of course this is in reguards to meditation so it is probably down to one technique not working while another one does but it does show how they must be approached with caution, which is all i ever said


In reguards to doctrine they hit the mark except on some points that i personally disagree with
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

User avatar
zavk
Posts: 1161
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:04 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Approaching the traditional Theravada Commentaries with caut

Postby zavk » Sat Mar 21, 2009 12:20 am

Hi friends,

First of all, let me say that I am not very well read when it comes to the suttas and commentaries. I have only read the texts that directly address my formal practice and bits and pieces of others that elaborate on certain key doctrines, concepts and ideas.

I appreciate what you are suggesting Craig, that one ought to read the commentaries with critical reflexivity. But I also appreciate what Tilt is cautioning against, that one ought not to dismiss the commentaries too hastily without a nuanced understanding of the wider scriptural tradition.

But perhaps we could shift the focus here so that what we really examine is not so much the texts but the process of reading. This is not to dismiss the importance of the texts, but to suggest that these texts we are interested in do not exist outside their relationship with the reader, and the two are linked by the process of reading (we can say that a certain co-dependently originated relationship produce and shape them). To inquire into 'reading' is to be mindful of the dynamics behind language, words, meaning, interpretation. Regardless of whether one feels that a text is accurate or not, the notions of 'accuracy' and 'inaccuracy' are not self-evident but arise out of the processes of language, words, meaning, interpretation.

IMO, to inquire into the nature of language and words, the processes of words and meaning-making, is to inquire into the nature of thought, consciousness and subjectivity. Hence, I'd say that it falls within the purview of the dhamma.

Best wishes,
zavk
With metta,
zavk

User avatar
jcsuperstar
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: alaska
Contact:

Re: Approaching traditional Theravada Commentaries with caution

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Mar 21, 2009 4:15 am

the thing about the commentaries that makes them worth looking into beyond this idea that they were writen by arahants or whatever, is they were writen by people closer to the buddha's time, who's language and culture were very similar to his. something no modern commentator can say.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 1426
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Wat Pa Mieng Khun Pang, Chiang Mai

Re: "in the commentaries"... where?

Postby Dhammanando » Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:04 am

Hi Retro,

retrofuturist wrote:Once back at E-Sangha, venerable Dhammanando provided a "priority list" sourced from the commentaries themselves which showed the respective priority that certain sources of information (e.g. Suttas, Vinaya, Abhidhamma, Commentaries, other opinion) should be afforded.


I posted it here too:

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=914

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 14813
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Approaching traditional Theravada Commentaries with caution

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:09 am

1. Sutta: the three baskets of the Tipiṭaka.
2. Suttānuloma: a direct inference from the Tipiṭaka.
3. Atthakathā: a commentary.
4. Attanomati: the personal opinions of later generations of teachers.
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

User avatar
phil
Posts: 707
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:08 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Tokyo

Re: Approaching traditional Theravada Commentaries with caution

Postby phil » Sat Mar 21, 2009 6:44 am

Hi all

I posted this elsewhere before self-editing it out, but I think Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks on the Majhimma Nikaya do somewhat of a disservice to the commentaries, if I may use that blanket term. During a typical talk, there are usually a couple of cases where he says he disagrees with the commentary and expresses instead his own opinion. By virtue of his position as one of the leading translators he is seen as an authoritive figure, which is really questionable, if you think about it. He's a wonderful, modest, generous man (we all know about how he struggles constantly with migraines, but does all his great work and talks) but I think it's odd that a modern day bhikkhu's voice can come to be seen even nearly as authoritative as the ancient commentaries - but it is.

It's difficult to access the commentaries in English, but if possible I would like to read the commentary for every sutta I like, and sit with it, reflecting patiently on any gap between the way I interpreted it and the way the commentary puts it. I will continue to be motivated and inspired by my interpretation, but will hopefully (who knows) make the effort to reflect on the commentary as well. So far I haven't, one's own interpretation is so delicious!

Metta,

Phil
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)


Return to “Theravāda for the modern world”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests