Unorthodox Vipassana

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby Nyana » Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:32 pm

mikenz66 wrote:So it is a little disappointing to find what appear to be rather elementary errors in a written document that purports to be a careful analysis of texts.

I agree. Teachers should always aspire to up their game. And FTR, I've been quite critical of the texts of a couple teachers from the Thai forest tradition in the past. Of course, the vast majority of monastics in the Thai forest tradition aren't scholars, and don't claim to be.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby ground » Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:19 am

Sacha G wrote:Thanks guys for all the interesting comments.
Actually I consider myself a disciple of Ajahn Amaro. I didn't know he was so welcoming to this idea of unconditioned awareness.( I knew Luang Po Sumedho was however).
So I might not be mistaken after all.


There is mistake only if you separate from what is taught in the suttas while striving for the "nibbana" that is taugth in the suttas. IMO you may add what you like but if there is preference of what you add over what is taught in the suttas then you are mistaken. Why? Because everything you add should be measured from a sutta point of view if you are striving for the "nibbana" that is taugth in the suttas.


Kind regards
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Sat Sep 24, 2011 6:38 am

" Nibbana is here and now. It is very simple. It is beyond description. It cant be bestowed or conveyed. It can only be known by each person for themselves. The problem is that we prefer ideas about Nibbana. Talking about Nibbana is less threatening to us than seeing its simplicity and immediacy. "


Luang Por Sumedho.

" We can spend a whole life time getting ready for the dance. We can get everything lined up and ready to go.We can make sure that our mental tuxedo is immaculate. We can spend so long at it that before the cab can turn up to take us to the ball the hearse gets to the house first. "

Ajahn Munindo.
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:45 pm

bodom wrote:Ajahn Sumedho speaks on the practice of noticing the "space" between thoughts here:

Noticing Space
http://www.meditationthailand.com/noticingsumedho.htm

:namaste:

I thought this worth bumping not only for the link to an excellent teaching from Luang Por Sumedho, but also for your wonderful quote from Ajahn Buddhadasa in your sig Bodom. Which dovetails nicely ..
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby bodom » Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:23 pm

PeterB wrote:
bodom wrote:Ajahn Sumedho speaks on the practice of noticing the "space" between thoughts here:

Noticing Space
http://www.meditationthailand.com/noticingsumedho.htm

:namaste:

I thought this worth bumping not only for the link to an excellent teaching from Luang Por Sumedho, but also for your wonderful quote from Ajahn Buddhadasa in your sig Bodom. Which dovetails nicely ..


: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: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby Sylvester » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:33 am

May I request that we banish the singular "the Forest Tradition"? It smacks of some fictional monolithic MNC-status, when there are so many forest traditions that can legitimately claim to be one. Brand-equity in the designation "the Forest Tradition" is not the monopoly of one group that happens to have a well-oiled internet machinery for outreach.
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:21 am

Generally: Thai forest tradition [note lower case lettering] referring to those monks ordained in Thailand, following the ascetic tradition of Ajahn Mun, etc.

More specifically: Western Forest Sangha in the lineage of Ajahn Chah, as in, for example: Abhayagiri Monastic Foundation. Morning and Evening Chanting (Pūjā), Reflections, and Suttas, as Used by Buddhist Monasteries and Groups Associated with the Western Forest Sangha in the Lineage of Venerable Ajahn Chah, 2004.

None of these are doctrinal traditions.
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby Sylvester » Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:45 am

Thanks, Geoff. Do note that my post above was not to take issue with your distinction; I was querying the upper-case concept.

Although, personally, I don't even believe that there is a/the Thai forest tradition. It is my belief that there are several Thai forest traditions, with very different approaches to monastic life. Ajahn Mun's and Ajahn Chah's legacies just happen to be better known in the West because of the Net, but those of us closer to the scene see a much greater variety on the ground.

To bring up in stark contrast one such difference, let's consider Ajahn Chah's and Ajahn Mahaboowa's attitudes to what I conveniently call "amulets". The former is famous for having nothing to do with these things, but it appears that the latter did not have issues with sitting in at "phuttaphisek" (Buddha-abisekha) ceremonies for these momentoes.

On the subject of study, even within Ajahn Mun's "lineage", there were a merry minority of monks who studied, even Commentarial material. One such example was Ajahn Thate. The other was Ven Thanissaro's teacher's teacher, Ajahn Lee.

Even geo-politics have left their mark on the "Thai" forest traditions. The Killing Fields led to a large influx of Cambodian monks into the eastern borders of Thailand. I personally know one such practising forest monk, and surprise, surprise, he's also an Abhidhammika.

You do realise, of course, that "Western Forest Sangha" is an ex-Vinaya concept, given the Buddha's prohibition against over-sized siimas. I suppose they do realise that, since a super-sized "sangha" would require a communal confession of the faith a la Nicean Creed.
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:19 am

Sylvester wrote:Although, personally, I don't even believe that there is a/the Thai forest tradition. It is my belief that there are several Thai forest traditions, with very different approaches to monastic life.

Sure. The same can be said for other group identities as well. The designation only goes so far.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:15 am

Sylvester wrote:May I request that we banish the singular "the Forest Tradition"? It smacks of some fictional monolithic MNC-status, when there are so many forest traditions that can legitimately claim to be one. Brand-equity in the designation "the Forest Tradition" is not the monopoly of one group that happens to have a well-oiled internet machinery for outreach.

Are you actually requesting that mentioning The Forest Tradition be bannned and that this should be enshrined in the TOS ?
I think must of us who know anything about what is being debated know precisely who or what is being referred to. So I for one will not desist from name checking the Forest Tradition until and unless in is so enshrined. I will make one concession. I will hitherto refer to "Ajahn Chahs Forest Tradition".

I realise that if ones approach to Buddha Dhamma is that of a scholar or at least is of a highly scholarly kind, the existence of a very influential group who set no store at all on the parsing of written material ( and one by the way who themselves do not use computers at all, their status as such is due entirely to the fact that the Dhamma they teach is a living thing, and it shows ) that must be galling.
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:27 am

Hi Peter,
PeterB wrote:I realise that if ones approach to Buddha Dhamma is that of a scholar or at least is of a highly scholarly kind, the existence of a very influential group who set no store at all on the parsing of written material ( and one by the way who themselves do not use computers at all, their status as such is due entirely to the fact that the Dhamma they teach is a living thing, and it shows ) that must be galling.

I don't think that Sylvester is devaluing Ajahn Chah's group by pointing out is that they are but one of a number of excellent Forest groups in Thailand. It is a boon for us that Ajahn Chah had the vision to build an organisation of Western Bhikkhus (a small part of his total legacy) thus making his teachings readily accessible in the West. But referring to them as "Forest Tradition" with no qualification may give the unfortunate impression that they are the only excellent forest group in Thailand.

:anjali:
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby nathan » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:35 am

Sacha G wrote:Hi
I just wanted to expose the unorthodox way I practice vipassana (not always but for a good part of my practice).
When I'm concentrated enough, I focus my awareness on the pure consciousness which appears "around" and "between" the thoughts (I hope it's clear enough). I would call this, "recognizing" of the pure consciousness.
Then I try to stay on it as much as I can, without paying attention to the thoughts. Like somebody looking at a mirror, and wanting to see the mirror itself, not the reflections.
When I leave the cushion, I try to be aware of my environment as just "phenomena" appearing on the surface of this consciousness, and I try to keep this detached awareness.
What do you think? Can you call this vipassana? Or does it sound more like zen/dzogchen/advaita? :juggling:
Thanx
Sacha


hi Sacha

The way that I would interpret your impressions of a kind of "pure consciousness" would be by way of what I have observed about mental qualities within the structure of the formless concentrations. During the practice of concentration and after one has abandoned the perception of form remaining within the fourth jhana one is left with only the mental qualities which are the underlying conditions which support the percipience of forms and the percipience of the qualities of sensations dependent upon the percipience of forms.

The more predominant of the four mental qualities involved in this compound are the quality which gives rise to the perception of an unbounded spacial perception or a spacial perception which is not impacted by a percipience of forms and the sensational qualities associated with forms and or the perception of the unbounded extension of the potential for percipience which is similarly not impacted by percipience of forms and or percipience of the sensational qualities of forms. These two mental qualities are aggregated extensions of the more rudimentary mental quality of the mental quality with the potential for percipience itself which by means of clinging further compounds this percipient quality into an aggregated field of sufficient volume to support and maintain its contacts with the perceptions of the bodily forms and the perceptions of the qualities of sensations which the perceptions of the bodily forms support much in the same way that the body has the capacity to aggregate the four elements to the extent necessary to maintain the forms of the body itself.

As such these mental qualities are also clearly dependent, conditional and compounded, continually demonstrate the characteristics of annica, dukkha and anatta and are subject to arising and passing. These mental qualities are directly observable within the formless concentrations and can be discerned and methodically investigated in that context. Apart from the four mental qualities found within the formless concentrations there are no other mental qualities which together compound to make up consciousness and while these can be isolated in this manner, even under the specific conditions pertaining to the formless concentrations these mental qualities do not constitute a 'pure consciousness' but rather are merely the mental qualities which are the conditions that make up consciousness when the consciousness aggregate is isolated by means of concentration from further compounding by means of additional clinging to the natural objects of percipience of the qualities of forms and the percipience of qualities of sensations bound up with forms.

Some insights into what these mental qualities are like may arise by examining mentality in the ways which you have described although it would be difficult to evaluate how clearly these mental qualities are discerned amid the flux and flow of more complex compounded perceptions.

Clearly the difficulties of discerning these qualities specifically and comprehending these qualities correctly are great considering how many otherwise very longstanding and dedicated and accomplished practitioners have mistaken these same qualities for some sort of consciousness which they allege to be 'pure' or even 'unconditioned'.

When carefully examined in isolation these mental qualities are discerned to be quite clearly and entirely conditional and apart from the presence of these mental qualities there can be no ongoing arising and passing of the aggregate of consciousness. When the four mental qualities which compounded together make up the conditional supports for consciousness are let go of entirely, when these mental qualities cease to arise and continue to not arise for a given period this is the interval during which the unconditioned dhamma is realized, during the complete cessation of feeling and perception which accompanies the letting go of precisely these underlying mental qualities which support conscious percipience.

When the four supportive mental qualities for percipience arise together as these typically do the most rudimentary of these qualities is capable of objectifying the other three mental qualities and it is one of these forms of objectification which together with a lack of discernment and insight can potentially support misperceptions or misconceptions that there is some type of consciousness which is 'pure' or unconditioned. However, again, by means of direct insight it can be determined with complete certainty that there exist no mental qualities which are not dependent and conditional and therefore no forms of consciousness which can be considered pure or unconditioned.

All of this aside however, in relation to establishing the insight into the distinctions between mentality and materiality and the distinction between the arising and passing of one instance and type of mentality or materiality and the next the kind of exercise you have described would appear to be very useful and beneficial. As such the exercise need not be considered unorthodox at all. Rather the only unorthodox aspect would be the reference to 'pure consciousness'.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:24 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Peter,
PeterB wrote:I realise that if ones approach to Buddha Dhamma is that of a scholar or at least is of a highly scholarly kind, the existence of a very influential group who set no store at all on the parsing of written material ( and one by the way who themselves do not use computers at all, their status as such is due entirely to the fact that the Dhamma they teach is a living thing, and it shows ) that must be galling.

I don't think that Sylvester is devaluing Ajahn Chah's group by pointing out is that they are but one of a number of excellent Forest groups in Thailand. It is a boon for us that Ajahn Chah had the vision to build an organisation of Western Bhikkhus (a small part of his total legacy) thus making his teachings readily accessible in the West. But referring to them as "Forest Tradition" with no qualification may give the unfortunate impression that they are the only excellent forest group in Thailand.

:anjali:
Mike

Point taken Mike.
I think however that suggesting that they have become as well known as they are because they have mastered the arts of online publicity is both untrue and unneccessary.
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby kirk5a » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:25 pm

nathan wrote:When carefully examined in isolation these mental qualities are discerned to be quite clearly and entirely conditional and apart from the presence of these mental qualities there can be no ongoing arising and passing of the aggregate of consciousness. When the four mental qualities which compounded together make up the conditional supports for consciousness are let go of entirely, when these mental qualities cease to arise and continue to not arise for a given period this is the interval during which the unconditioned dhamma is realized, during the complete cessation of feeling and perception which accompanies the letting go of precisely these underlying mental qualities which support conscious percipience.

Hi Nathan

Thank you for the very interesting commentary. I have been understanding the cessation of feeling and perception as something
1) only available to non-returners and arahants and
2) attained by only those non-returners and arahants who have mastery of the 8 jhanas, but not all non-returners and arahants fit this description

In going by this sutta for example, I do not see where the cessation of perception and feeling fits into ending the fermentations through the first jhana alone. Or so it appears.

"'I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said? There is the case where a monk, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
...
"Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then — through this very dhamma-passion, this very dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five of the fetters[1] — he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

What do you think? I'd appreciate any further thoughts you have on that. I've been wondering where this "cessation of feeling and perception" fits in, and so far, the explanation I've gotten is that it is non-essential. However, you seem to be saying it is essential to the realization of the unconditioned dhamma.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:20 pm

Hi Peter,

[Regarding Ajahn Chah's western bhikkhus...]
PeterB wrote:Point taken Mike.
I think however that suggesting that they have become as well known as they are because they have mastered the arts of online publicity is both untrue and unneccessary.

Sure. I would simply have said that they are well known in the West because:
(a) They are in the West; (b) They communicate in good English and have good rapport with Westerners; (c) They are well worth knowing.

:anjali:
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:30 pm

Agreed. I would add..... they walk the talk. Actually more accurately, they walk the walk.
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:35 pm

PeterB wrote:Agreed. I would add..... they walk the talk. Actually more accurately, they walk the walk.

That's what I meant by: "They are well worth knowing". :bow:

:anjali:
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:54 pm

:anjali:
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby Aloka » Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:55 pm

PeterB wrote:For whom Tilt ?
You had better tell THEM that. They would gently and politely beg to differ.
I must have attended several hundred hours of teachings by various Forest Ajahns including Ajahn Sumedho and I dont recall them referring to the Suttas at all.
Perhaps they are not Theravada . Seriously. And if they were not considered so I dont think they would lose sleep.


That hasn't been my experience Peter and Ajahn Sumedho often refered to the Four Noble Truths in the talks I attended last year.

I went to a talk given by Ajahn Amaro a couple of weeks ago and he made several references to suttas. I also listened to one of his MP3 talks a couple of days ago and he mentioned 4 suttas.
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Re: Unorthodox Vipassana

Postby nathan » Tue Sep 27, 2011 9:00 pm

kirk5a wrote:Hi Nathan

Thank you for the very interesting commentary. I have been understanding the cessation of feeling and perception as something
1) only available to non-returners and arahants and
2) attained by only those non-returners and arahants who have mastery of the 8 jhanas, but not all non-returners and arahants fit this description

In going by this sutta for example, I do not see where the cessation of perception and feeling fits into ending the fermentations through the first jhana alone. Or so it appears.

"'I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said? There is the case where a monk, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
...
"Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then — through this very dhamma-passion, this very dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five of the fetters[1] — he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

What do you think? I'd appreciate any further thoughts you have on that. I've been wondering where this "cessation of feeling and perception" fits in, and so far, the explanation I've gotten is that it is non-essential. However, you seem to be saying it is essential to the realization of the unconditioned dhamma.


hi Kirk5a

There are a variety of views within Theravada schools of thought about the significance of the various terms which are proximate to or synonymous with nibbana. The way that I have come to understand the related issues is that the unbinding and release that occurs with the complete extinction of clinging to the dependently compounded aggregate conditions is accomplished largely through discernment, revulsion, disenchantment, dispassion, renunciation and abandonment of any and all forms of clinging to the aggregate conditions and that the kind of comprehensive discernment involved in this work is sufficiently supported by the calm and concentration established within the first jhana.

With the ending of all clinging the arahant knows and understands they are released by determining that ignorance and all of the related fetters have been eliminated and that the fermentations have come to a complete end. When the arahant later dies, with the breakup of the body and with the abandonment of the clinging aggregates, there will be no reacquisition of and rearising of the clinging aggregates or conditions. In the absence of any and all clinging to conditions the only remaining resort or sanctuary at the breakup of the body is the unconditioned dhamma or 'the deathless' which would be realized as a lasting sanctuary at the time of death.

The advantage for those disciples who have pursued the development of all four jhana, the four formless concentrations and the cessation of feeling and perception is the knowledge of the nature of the unconditioned dhamma obtained through adverting to the realization of the unconditioned potentially before the complete extinction of all of the fermentations or else concurrently with the extinction of all of the fermentations and the capacity for revisiting this realization of the cessation of feeling and perception before complete unbinding and or before death and the breakup of the five aggregates.

So, in brief, nibbana is the extinction of clinging and all cause for the future rearising of clinging which is synonymous with the unbinding of the aggregate conditions while the deathless or the unconditioned dhamma is what is realized on whatever occasions all conditions cease to arise, be it temporarily or permanently.

(It is refreshing to be asked this question without also being accused of making claims of being a non-returner or arahant. Thank you. I recognize that this is what is generally inferred about these concentrations and this realization however I do not make such claims and I do not know why it is that I have had the good fortune to be able to establish these concentrations and realize the cessation of feeling and perception. What I have tried to do when appropriate is share some of the understanding gained thereby, forms of understanding which conform entirely with the understanding presented within the Buddhadhamma which is the reason why, ever since encountering it, I have recognized the faithfulness of the Buddhadhamma to what is encountered through direct investigation and have had complete faith and unwavering confidence in the Buddha's Dhamma as recollected and recorded within the Pali sutta discourses. As for the many types of inferences and theories based on that Buddhadhamma, the importance and accuracy of those various kinds of rationally inferred views do not always merit the same complete confidence.)
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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