The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby DarwidHalim » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:24 am

It is not a challenge.

Buddha himself know he is the 4th Buddha coming to this earth. He himself know all previous buddha has disciples that can be saved. He himself know in the future Buddha Maitreya will come after him and the dharma will be alive again.

He knew all of that.

With this background, thinking he cannot see there are people with little eyes in their eyes, are a joke.

If I know previous buddha has so many disciples that can be saved, and in the future Buddha Maitreya will again have so many disciples that also can be saved, I really cannot see the point why at this moment, there are no people with little dust that I can save.

Talking about clairvoyance, it seems that Brahma Sahampati can read Buddha's mind. This is not possible if Buddha doesn't have the intention for him to know. Buddha disciple can have cliarvoyant such as reading the mind of ordinary people, but they cannot read the mind of Buddha. They have to ask. There are level of clairvoyant. You may be able to read his mind, but it doesn't mean you can read her mind. It depends on whether his dust is more or less than you.

So, the act of the challenge, actually is Buddha idea for the request of turning the dharma wheel, which in this case can be for the higher realm where that Brahma belong to.

This is another perspective to see the issue.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby Zom » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:35 am

Firstly, is the challenge itself even real, or is it simply an opportunity for Brahma Sahampati to make great merit? Is it an apocryphal text? Hagiography? etc.


As I see it - it was real.

Secondly, assuming it is real, how do you think the fact he was dealing with a great diversity of "beings with little dust in their eyes and those with much, those with keen faculties and those with dull, those with good attributes and those with bad, those easy to teach and those hard, some of them seeing disgrace and danger in the other world" impacted the form of his teaching?


I don't see the point in this kind of question. I think there is no doubt that he taught things according to the readiness of a certain individual.

Thirdly, in terms of stating what would be difficult for others to see, the Buddha says that "For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me." Do you believe there is there any reason why he specifically mentioned aspects of the teaching directly connected with "this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising*", and omitted reference to other key teachings such as the five aggregates, six senses, four elements, kamma, jhana, the Noble Eightfold Path, rebirth etc.? Sure, he couldn't mention everything, but was the choice of subject matter that appears in the sutta intentional and of significance? Is all the Dhamma "hard to see", or just some aspects of it?


As I see it "Hard to See" here means that understanding that comes with two stages of stream-entry and of arahantship. This is very difficult for people to understand anatta even on conceptual level, especially anatta of yourself (stream-entry). Not to speak of a complete cessation of psycological experience of "my self" (arahantship) as well as complete cessation of every kind of experience and feelings in final nibbana. Anatta and paticca-samuppada is the major Buddha's "invention". Because of not knowing this teaching such powerful ascetics as Uruvella Kassapa, Bahiya and ect. couldn't reach nibbana. But hearing this teaching, grasping this idea of anatta, they almost immidiately realized nibbana, attained arahantship. The same would have happened with Alara Kalama and Udakka Ramaputta, if they had a chance to hear Buddha. And as we see from other suttas, for example DN1, the major point in wrong views is the idea of "self". No matter what was the view or philosophical system in those ancient times - it was based on the idea of "self" (all 62 views listed there). So this is anatta idea that is hard to see, hard to accept as a truth.
Last edited by Zom on Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:37 am

Hi Retro,
Thanks for leaving this 'open.'
retrofuturist wrote:Open are the doors to the Deathless
to those with ears.
Let them show their conviction.
Perceiving trouble, O Brahma,
I did not tell people the refined,
sublime Dhamma.

just a side note, This was used by Ajahn Sumedho for Amaravatis opening, and was sometimes mentioned by those who were unlocking the gate, temple & other buildings.
Then Brahma Sahampati, thinking, "The Blessed One has given his consent to teach of Dhamma," bowed down to the Blessed One and, circling him on the right, disappeared right there.[/b]

I have bolded the aspects of this sutta that represent the challenge that faced the Buddha in communicating the "the refined, sublime Dhamma", which "is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise."[/quote]
the chant used to request a talk on Dhamma although not from here (not 100% sure where the reference indicates) expresses what happened
Requesting a Dhamma Talk(BV,v.1) wrote:“Brahmā ca lokādhipatī sahampatī, Kat’añjalī adhivaraṃ ayācatha; Santīdha sattāpparajakkha-jātikā, Desetu dhammaṃ anukamp’imaṃ pajaṃ.”
“The Brahma-god Sahampatī, Lord of the cosmos, with palms joined in reverence, Requested a favour: Some beings here have little dust in their eyes, please teach the Dhamma out of compassion for them.”


Firstly, is the challenge itself even real, or is it simply an opportunity for Brahma Sahampati to make great merit? Is it an apocryphal text? Hagiography? etc.

I personally feel that when The Lord Buddha looked over the World, the mass of people who wouldn't understand, or would understand with great difficulty were so prevalent that the Lord Buddha may of felt that meeting those who would understand would be quite rare and the task of talking to those who would not understand would of been so burdensome it could take up to much time, and not give an opportunity to those who would of understood to hear the True Dhamma, or be a distraction for them?
The Lord Buddha may of been looking in general, like at a pie chart, or at a colour coded pin location of all people, and it wasn't until the Brahma Sahampati mentioned to The Lord Buddha that there are those who can see, that they were the ones given sole attention.
I have heard that past Sammasambuddhas who didn't teach or lay down many much in the way of Dhammavinaya used their psychic powers to teach, they looked at a beings mind and knowing what was the most effective teaching for them, gave it! so less situational teachings would of happened where a group would have things explained to them in a way they could all understand, such as the Fire Sermon, or teachings explaining the uses/ins & outs of the practical/philosophical aspects of the teachings were less common so plenty of Arahants but few people who were like or close to Sariputta.
Secondly, assuming it is real, how do you think the fact he was dealing with a great diversity of "beings with little dust in their eyes and those with much, those with keen faculties and those with dull, those with good attributes and those with bad, those easy to teach and those hard, some of them seeing disgrace and danger in the other world" impacted the form of his teaching?

see above also.
He taught as the situation arose, when something presented itself which could be used as a teaching he used it, so there was a wide veriety of means to understand the truth or simply improve oneself in order to gain a foothold in the True Dhamma and progress from there, there was no distinction between the maps people used and everyone could see where they were on them, or how to get to the goal, like the difference between a tomtom device and a street map, people were given basic tools needed for the journey and needed to think, they could navigate with a 2004 road map and the road signs in 2012, not being completely reliant upon specific instructions given by one who knows.
A builder and a handyman is another example, a builder has all the information/tools to do something, and may only need advise over a phone, where as a handyman has may need to hire or buy more tools/experts, or undergo a more comprehensive training to do the same job, and the Builder can also anticipate better what needs to be done for better more lasting results.

Thirdly, in terms of stating what would be difficult for others to see, the Buddha says that "For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me." Do you believe there is there any reason why he specifically mentioned aspects of the teaching directly connected with "this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising*", and omitted reference to other key teachings such as the five aggregates, six senses, four elements, kamma, jhana, the Noble Eightfold Path, rebirth etc.? Sure, he couldn't mention everything, but was the choice of subject matter that appears in the sutta intentional and of significance? Is all the Dhamma "hard to see", or just some aspects of it?

* - Including in cessation mode, as indicated by the sutta portion immediately following.

the not mentioning everything could of been a person specific instruction, like asking for directions when you know your lost, the basic tools where already there, or accessible, it was simply a case of nudging in the right direction.


just to note these are my own Ideas and I am being general not
Feel free also to discuss any other specific issues that interest you under the broad heading of "The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma".

Metta,
Retro. :)[/quote]
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:23 pm

It occurred to me that perhaps we should be careful about reading this passage:
The Buddha wrote: "This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment. For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me."

And the related:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
The Buddha wrote: "Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Deep is this dependent co-arising, and deep its appearance. It's because of not understanding and not penetrating this Dhamma that this generation is like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, and bad destinations.

One could observe that the problem is not "for a generation unable to understand complicated concepts", it's "for a generation delighting in attachment...".
The Buddha despairs of the generation "relinquishing acquisistions, ending craving", not "failing the Dhamma-study exam".

Since the Dhamma is "beyond the scope of conjecture", it's clearly not some intellectual pursuit...

Words like "understand", are, perhaps, a misleading translation in this case if they invoke associations with intellectual analysis.

:anjali:
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:34 am

Greetings Mike,

It is the Dhamma that is profound, hard to realize etc.... and that is so independent of the concepts the Buddha used to express it.

Whether the concepts themselves are profound, hard to realize etc. is another matter, but it is certainly related to the challenge the Buddha had at hand. Whether the concepts are simple or multi-layered etc. they must still be pointing to that which is profound, hard to realize etc. If they are interpreted in such a way that they point to the facile and obvious, there may be grounds for concern.

The Blessed One was communicating something very profound, hard to realize etc. and (as had been pointed out by others above) had to pitch different messages to different audiences of different capabilities. It's not unsurprising perhaps, in the scheme of the "gradual teaching", with gradual progress with it's long slope (i.e. beginning, middle and end), that various aspects of the Dhamma of increasing subtlety or profundity (both of which are probably a better choice of word than "complexity") are introduced at different points along that learning curve.

For example, I don't think (from the sutta evidence available, at least) that the Buddha would sit down a complete noob layperson and explain the ins-and-outs of dependent origination to them. There would be no point. Something simple, morality-based, uncontroversial (i.e. to not unncessarily upset the listener) would produce better results than something that resulted in bewilderment.

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


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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:35 am

Hi Retro,

Sure, but what does "hard to realise" actually mean?

Something can be hard to realise because it takes practice and persistence, like training to run marathon distances, but it's quite clear what has to be done.
Or it can be hard to realise because, in addition to taking time, it is very difficult to understand the technicalities, like studying for a degree in mathematics.

I think the interesting thing about your questions is whether or not realising the Dhamma hinges on understanding some intricate technicalities, like the math example. Or whether, to paraphrase a number of teachers: "Doing this practice is extremely simple, keeping up the effort is hard."

:anjali:
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby fig tree » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:47 am

The idea that an "awake one" would in any meaningful sense be reluctant to help out has always seemed very out of place to me.

I have no way of knowing, but my gut reaction has been to suspect that what really happened is that the Buddha described to some of his followers how upon awakening he had reflected on the comfort of awakening, the challenges of leading anybody else to it, and the benefits to the many of deciding to do so in spite of those challenges (with or without a friendly deva to serve as a sounding board), and that the story that has come down to us is a kind of dramatization.

It provides an opportunity to highlight the merits of the gradual path, that benefits people of all levels of nearness to awakening.

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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:26 am

Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:Sure, but what does "hard to realise" actually mean?

Does anyone happen to know the Pali words used that have been translated as "hard to realise"?

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


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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby kirk5a » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:05 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:Sure, but what does "hard to realise" actually mean?

Does anyone happen to know the Pali words used that have been translated as "hard to realise"?

Metta,
Retro. :)

duranubodha

Anubodha [anu + budh] awakening; perception, recogni- tion, understanding S i.126 (?) = A v.46 (anubodhiŋ as aor. of anubodhati?); Pug 21; Miln 233. Freq. in compn. ananubodha (adj.) not understanding, not knowing the truth S ii.92; iii.261; v.431; A ii.1; iv.105; Dhs 390, 1061; VvA 321 (= anavabodha) and duranubodha (adj.) hard to understand, difficult to know D i.12, 22; S i.136.


http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :1043.pali

This Dhamma is hard to awaken to. Owing to the mind's attachments, which are difficult to release.
"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: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:09 am

Greetings,

Thanks Kirk. :thumbsup:

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


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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:03 am

So does it mean technically difficult, like math or philosophy? It doesn't seem so, judging from the sutta descriptions of how the Buddha taught lay people:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ml#gradual
and how the gradual path for monks is described:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .horn.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/index.html

However it would be interesting to hear from a Pali expert.

:anjali:
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:32 am

Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:So does it mean technically difficult, like math or philosophy?

I think it's more to do with the difference between nippapañca and papañca... maths, sciences, philosophy etc. falling into the latter category.

The deepness of the Dhamma resides in the layers of defilement, differentiation and obscurity that are removed with proper knowing of the Dhamma... not the layers added.

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


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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:34 am

You mean, in English, the Dhamma is straightforward, not complicated?

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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:39 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:You mean, in English, the Dhamma is straightforward, not complicated?

I wouldn't say either, actually.

Nippapanca is a synonym of nibbana, and signifies the absence of conceptual proliferation.

The absence of conceptual proliferation is not straightforward to achieve, because it is nibbana, and nibbana is elusive.

It is not complicated either, because complication involves conceptual diffusion and differentiation, which is the antithesis of nibbana.

Therein lies part of the "challenge"... explaining that which goes beyond concepts, with language that is inherently conceptual.

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


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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:11 pm

Hmm, OK, let me try to express myself better.

My argument, is, in short:
    1. The path is straightforward, not hard to understand intellectually, but accepting it and doing it is not easy.

    2. Where there is complication, the complication is over matters of interpretation. It's important to get the interpretation straight but those complications are not actually Dhamma challenges in themselves.

Let's look at how the teachings are delivered:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ml#gradual
Suppabuddha the leper, he gave a step-by-step talk, i.e., a talk on giving, a talk on virtue, a talk on heaven; he declared the drawbacks, degradation, & corruption of sensual passions, and the rewards of renunciation. Then when he saw that Suppabuddha the leper's mind was ready, malleable, free from hindrances, elated, & bright, he then gave the Dhamma-talk peculiar to Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation, & path. And just as a clean cloth, free of stains, would properly absorb a dye, in the same way, as Suppabuddha the leper was sitting in that very seat, the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye arose within him, "Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation."

There is a nice talk on this by Gil Fronsdal that elaborates on this:
http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/1/
The Pedagogy of the Buddha 2012-02-19

In his Dhamma talk the Buddha "softens up" the student by talking about giving, positive things such as heaven, then points out the drawbacks of sensuality to make renunciation seem attractive. At the point the student is ready to accept that suffering is caused by clinging (i.e Noble truths/dependent origination).

The description for monks goes:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .horn.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Morality, Sense-control, Moderation in eating, Vigilance, Mindfulness and clear consciousness, Overcoming of the five hindrances, Jhana, Liberation.
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. He discerns, as it has come to be, that 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress...

The descriptions in those suttas are very similar to what one would do on a modern meditation retreat, restraint, mindfulness while walking, sitting, etc...

Looking at the description of how the Buddha addresses his lay followers, or instructs his monks, I see nothing particularly complicated. And thinking about this has clarified, at least for me, what really a "Dhamma Talk" (Step-by-step talk" in the first quote above) actually is.

Such a talk is designed to gladden the mind and prepare the student to accept the teachings. To prepare the student for liberation. They are straightforward and uncomplicated.

There are, of course, other types of talks/writings, that are difficult and complicated. And for good reason. They are discussing how to interpret the suttas, commentaries, etc, in order to be able to accurately practice. Examples of these would be Ven Nananada's discourses on Nibbana, Ven Nanavira's various notes, and comparative analyses of the suttas by the likes of Vens Sujato and Analayo. Such analyses may well be useful in making sure that one is practicing the path correctly (if one doesn't trust that one's teachers to have their interpretations reasonably straight).

However, in view of how the Buddha taught, based on the suttas I quoted above, I think that it wold be a mistake to think that such analysis is the path, or the real "Dhamma Challange".

:anjali:
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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby kirk5a » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:53 pm

Really nicely said, Mike. My mind is gladdened by reading it. And now, the laundry.
"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: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:50 pm

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Hmm, OK, let me try to express myself better.

Much clearer, thanks. I think you've drawn distinctions clearly now.

mikenz66 wrote:There are, of course, other types of talks/writings, that are difficult and complicated. And for good reason. They are discussing how to interpret the suttas, commentaries, etc, in order to be able to accurately practice.

... though I'd replace "in order to be able to accurately practice" with "in order to understand experience". This seems more consistent with the example you give of Suppabuddha the leper who didn't seem to do any great volume of any particular "practice" in the example given in order to achieve stream-entry (at which point he becomes a sekha, aka "trainee"), but if those two phrases in question are synonymous "in practice", then that's great.

The point about stream-entry is relevant, because once someone has the stainless Dhamma eye, the "challenge" in teaching the Dhamma to them is greatly reduced, because they are already en route to nibbana.

The "challenge" seems to be in getting them to that point of stream-entry.

mikenz66 wrote:The path is straightforward, not hard to understand intellectually

If that is so, why does it take a sammasambuddha to rediscover it?

If that is so, why does the Blessed One say, "if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me." (note that he says "not understand me", as opposed to "not follow the straight-forward path I teach")

Perhaps there is more to "the path" than how it looks from here? To put what I'm saying into perspective, Suppabuddha achieved more through attentive listening to the Buddha, than any ascetic or Brahman outside the Buddhasasana achieved, no matter how much or how diligently they practiced their respective Wrong Paths. If "the path is straightforward, not hard to understand intellectually", I'd suggest you're either under-estimating the path, or too lightly dismissing the intense efforts and intelligence of some of the Buddha's contemporary religionists who went in search of freedom. Possibly both.

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


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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Sat Mar 17, 2012 3:29 am

Interesting topic.

1) A genuine story or saint-making storytelling? Is it true that the dhamma is difficult to teach?

I'd assume the story is original to the time and that the Buddha had a hand in its creation. Did the events actually happen? No, but it's great representative storytelling. Does it make a valid point? Yes -- teaching the dhamma is a challenge.

2) How did the wide variety of people he was speaking to affect the form of his teaching?

As far as I can tell, he taught by trying to understand where people were in their lives and practices, and to speak to them in the paradigm they were familiar with, bending its terms to match his dhamma.

3) Why does he mention dependent arising? Is all the dhamma hard to see or just the bits he mentioned?

Now that's a tough question to answer, because the answer is complex.

As mentioned above, the things he specifically names are either directly dependent arising or liberation from it. The Buddha is naming the difficulties as seeing the process and how hard it is to imagine what it would be like to be free of it.

Is it actually hard to see? This might depend on one's background and life experience. To anyone who has never delved into any actual "science of the mind" the concept itself could be difficult. Even for those of us who started from science, a beginner's grasp of what's being said can result in an uncomfortable feeling in the gut (speaking from personal experience), and perhaps even a reluctance to grasp the full implications. And then once one has really understood it, seeing it in action -- finding ALL the ways it plays out in one's own life -- that's *really* challenging.

Is the rest of the teaching as hard to see? As mentioned by Ñāṇa, the rest of the teaching *is the same stuff* (it is all dependent arising and the escape from it) so in that sense, yes. But the rest of the teaching has more of an "entry level" access to it that provides a great "front door" for the teaching. It offers a place to start to see things in one's own life, and the skills to make that possible, so at that level it's not as difficult. But because all the apparently "entry level" teachings are actually trying to get us to see dependent arising and how to escape from it, it's really not as easy as it seems.

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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Sat Mar 17, 2012 3:38 am

mikenz66 wrote:It occurred to me that perhaps ... One could observe that the problem is not "for a generation unable to understand complicated concepts", it's "for a generation delighting in attachment...". The Buddha despairs of the generation "relinquishing acquisistions, ending craving", not "failing the Dhamma-study exam".

Since the Dhamma is "beyond the scope of conjecture", it's clearly not some intellectual pursuit...

Words like "understand", are, perhaps, a misleading translation in this case if they invoke associations with intellectual analysis.



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Re: The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 17, 2012 8:21 am

retrofuturist wrote:If that is so, why does the Blessed One say, "if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me." (note that he says "not understand me", as opposed to "not follow the straight-forward path I teach")

Addressed above. Understand is a very general word.
If I said: "Do you understand that what you did was wrong?" to someone I caught cheating, it wouldn't be a philosophical inquiry...
retrofuturist wrote:Perhaps there is more to "the path" than how it looks from here?
retrofuturist wrote:Obviously there is, and I don't want to waste time on the wrong sort of effort.

To put what I'm saying into perspective, Suppabuddha achieved more through attentive listening to the Buddha, than any ascetic or Brahman outside the Buddhasasana achieved, no matter how much or how diligently they practiced their respective Wrong Paths.

Yes, exactly, the Buddha taught him directly and clearly, as the Sutta explains. He got just the right information he needed.
retrofuturist wrote:If "the path is straightforward, not hard to understand intellectually", I'd suggest you're either under-estimating the path, or too lightly dismissing the intense efforts and intelligence of some of the Buddha's contemporary religionists who went in search of freedom. Possibly both.

Not at all. I'm saying that the difficulties do not appear to me to be ones of intellectual analysis. Are there any suttas where the teaching is done by complex intellectual analysis?

The suttas where progress is made seem quite the opposite.
Consider, for example, SN 22.59 Anatta-lakkhana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html
No rocket science in that, just straightforward question and response. I recall one of my teachers going through much the same process with our group, sitting attentively after walking and sitting. Towards the end one (Christian) participant looked a little puzzled and asked "But what about my soul?".

Unfortunately, the teacher wasn't the Buddha, so had not prepared our mind expertly enough for use to achieve arahantship... Presumably still quite a bit of clinging there, hindering the understanding...

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