Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby suttametta » Sun May 06, 2012 3:55 pm

Greetings all,

How can we not take unconventional positions? It seems to me when the Buddha described iddhi, he was talking in a realm science would call the power of suggestion. For example, the Samaññaphala Sutta mentions the "mind-made body" and what it can do, i.e., touch the sun. So, the Buddha is not talking about his physical body. He is talking about his mind. Thus, the laws of physics do not apply here. The question is whether it is possible to have a direct perception in this way? By way of evidence, all we have today are the anecdotal reports from those who have died on the operating table to be revived, and they have reported memories of sensory experiences that should not have been possible given they were clinically dead. We can't just reject this, the jury is still out. I personally had an out of body experience. I understand out one can have a body one place and a mental-body somewhere else, and that body can fly into the universe. Though that universe may be only in my mind, somehow it turns out to have all the right contents of the universe, as if they were identical (mental and physical), indistinguishable, where valid knowledge could be had.

This experience led me to delve deeply into accounts of iddhi, or siddhis in the Hindu and Buddhist world. What I have surmised for myself is that we are dealing with the power of suggestion. Actually, this turns out to be profound, as the mind can basically do perfect simulations and in certain settings those holographic representations can be perceived by others. One telling account that always haunts me is the story of a Tibetan woman from the 11th Century named Achi Chokyi Drolma. She was believed to be the incarnation of the Vajrayana deity called Vajradakini. In Tibetan history there are many such believed incarnations. When Achi was ready to exit life on Earth, she gathered her disciples in a cave where she had placed a human corpse. Then she "transformed" the corpse into a sumptuous feast and most of her disciples ate wonderful Tibetan delicacies and even more other wordly delicacies from the dakini's realm. That was, of course, the case only for those who had "pure view" and faith in Achi as an incarnation of Vajradakini. A few other of her disciples only saw these folks eating the flesh of a human corpse, and, disgusted, left. The others, who stayed and enjoyed then witnessed Achi get on her horse and fly into the sky. By all accounts, Achi was gone, and her body was never seen again, except by those who could see her as a pure manifestation of wisdom who could call on her in ecstatic visions.

I believe this story accounts for two critical issues in dhamma. 1) How iddhi really work. and 2) Our existential dilemma regarding them. It is clear from this account, and there any many many others like it, that iddhi are brought on by the power of suggestion, and that power is quite powerful. And how we view the world, what lens we decide to use, will alter our experience; our experience is all we have to call an existence, it seems. In the Pali resources, the Buddha mentions that some of his disciples wouldn't see any special qualities like light, etc. The counter to this are the suttas where Buddha displayed miracle powers to even non-believers, but I believe the power of suggestion extends to many other phenomena, i.e., when the Buddha halted the elephant with loving-kindness. Modern research has identified "mirror-neurons" that mirror states of others. It would seem some have a power to suggest so strong, that if you are in their presence, you may not be able to avoid the suggestion. Or it may be that our brains are built this way, so that when one person has a transcendent mind, we will reflect that to some extent.

Incidentally, I feel this fact resolves the so called "hinayana-mahayana" debate. Liberating oneself is the act of liberating all sentient beings. The Dzogchen tantras bear this out. Iddhi are for those who are okay with "nonordinary" experiences. I feel that while developing these iddhi may not be useful for our own liberation, letting go of ordinary thought patterns and allowing ourselves to experience iddhi in others, may be useful in our own liberation. Being open minded.

For me, the boundaries between traditions are porous. That might be bothersome to some. I will try to speak Latin in Rome. For me, this is about a Buddha "mandala" or lens. To see through this different lens, rather than trying to filter Buddhism through the lens of modern science. Thank you for your time.

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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby befriend » Sun May 06, 2012 4:44 pm

what do you expect buddhist teachers to say when one of there students enters the 4th jhana. which is the level one reaches and obtain the divine eye, and sees the transmigration of beings due to there karma. siddhis are taught as real things in buddhism. buddhism is about reality not about what one wants reality to be.
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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 06, 2012 4:56 pm

Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Who determines what is an odd view?

Tilt you do.
Not at all oddly, that is a non-answer.
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.

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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby Mr Man » Sun May 06, 2012 6:22 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Who determines what is an odd view?

Tilt you do.
Not at all oddly, that is a non-answer.

Thank you :)
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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 06, 2012 6:44 pm

Mr Man wrote:The idea that we should ignore the bad qualities/odd views of those in position of authority is really, in my opinion, not great advice.

As I've pointed out, the views Ajahn Brahm expresses would hardly be unconventional or odd in Theravada circles (apart from the Bhikkhuni ordination saga...).

Which "bad qualities" are you talking about? His bad jokes?

Of course, exactly how we interpret and make use of the content of the suttas in our development is, ultimately, our responsibility, and there are various ways of making use of those passages, not necessarily by taking them as literal, "scientific" discourse. After all, the Buddha is talking about how we interpret our personal experience...

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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby Mr Man » Sun May 06, 2012 7:05 pm

Mike, my comments were not specifically in relation to Ajahn Brahm but more general. Possibly I should have made that clearer (seemed clear to me). The "bad qualities" phrase was taken from a post by Ven. Pesala. I tried to soften the phrase be adding "odd views"
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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun May 06, 2012 7:10 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Of course, exactly how we interpret and make use of the content of the suttas in our development is, ultimately, our responsibility, and there are various ways of making use of those passages, not necessarily by taking them as literal, "scientific" discourse. After all, the Buddha is talking about how we interpret our personal experience...


Well said. It seems to me that iddhis are not a problem if we approach them as experiential states rather than trying to establish their objective basis relative to science. The latter effort might be interesting from the standpoint of a brain researcher or psychologist, but it has no particular significance for the Buddhist path. In fact, it strikes me as a fruitless digression -- and since the iddhis are not really central to the goal of liberation, it ends up being a digression about a digression, so to speak.

As was noted in a previous discussion, anecdotes relating to NDEs often include experiences which are similar to the iddhis.

NDErs claim that without physical bodies, they are able to penetrate through walls and doors and project themselves wherever they want. They frequently report the ability to read people’s thoughts.


The great thing here is that we don't actually have to get bogged down in speculation what NDEs amount to in scientific terms -- such discussion is beside the point. The anecdotes suggest that under some circumstances people have mental experiences which could be defined as supranormal. Anyone who has ever experimented with acid or "magic mushrooms" would agree. So why wouldn't it be just as plausible that deep meditative states can also lead to highly unusual perceptions?
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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 06, 2012 7:46 pm

Mr Man wrote:Mike, my comments were not specifically in relation to Ajahn Brahm but more general. Possibly I should have made that clearer (seemed clear to me). The "bad qualities" phrase was taken from a post by Ven. Pesala. I tried to soften the phrase be adding "odd views"
:anjali:

OK, as I said, if you meant views about iddhis and rebirth then most Theravada Buddhists have "odd views".

And it's a matter of taste whether Ajahn Brahm is simply "gladdening the heart" or whether his jokes really are that bad... :tongue:

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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby Cittasanto » Sun May 06, 2012 8:33 pm

Mr Man wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:then there was no need for comparison or comment there then! .

What do you mean? I shouldn't comment? It is my opinion that you have compleatly misunderstood what I wrote, which is odd because it is actually, in my opinion, very simple. Can you focus on my original post (if you like)?: "The idea that we should ignore the bad qualities/odd views of those in position of authority is really, in my opinion, not great advice".
:anjali:

what I meant was there was no need for the comparison or comment, as tilt called it a "non answer."
and if you read I actually do address your original post.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby Cittasanto » Sun May 06, 2012 8:40 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Mr Man wrote:Mike, my comments were not specifically in relation to Ajahn Brahm but more general. Possibly I should have made that clearer (seemed clear to me). The "bad qualities" phrase was taken from a post by Ven. Pesala. I tried to soften the phrase be adding "odd views"
:anjali:

OK, as I said, if you meant views about iddhis and rebirth then most Theravada Buddhists have "odd views".

And it's a matter of taste whether Ajahn Brahm is simply "gladdening the heart" or whether his jokes really are that bad... :tongue:

:anjali:
Mike

They are that bad, as are most Dhamma Teachers Jokes :)
but I would say he was aiming to inspire faith, Ajahn Sumedho used Nibbana, Ajahn Brahm the more meditative possibilities (for lack of better word)
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby Mr Man » Mon May 07, 2012 2:48 pm

Cittasanto, unless I am mistaken what till called "non-answer" was my most direct answer to his most direct question. Not sure how that relates to "comparison". :)
Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Who determines what is an odd view?

Tilt you do.


With regard to Ajahn Brahm I would say that although his beliefs may coincide with traditional Theravadan view I think that possibly some of the evidence and anecdotes that he uses to support those beliefs are not very strong or convincing and possibly don't align with traditional Theravadan view.

I don't think levitation (the physical body floating off the floor) is possible but I could be wrong ;)



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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby mikenz66 » Mon May 07, 2012 7:52 pm

This talk by AB has some relevance to this discussion:
http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/component/ ... igion.html
5 Types of Religion
Ajahn Brahm talks about 4 things that religion should not be and offers up a "best practice model".

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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby marc108 » Mon May 07, 2012 9:49 pm

i don't find Ajahn Brahm's teachings to be too unconventional... he's way less stiff and way more playful than most other teachers and that can be problematic for some people. he is unconventional socio-politically (and a hero imo) for sure with ordaining Bhikkhunis & whatnot. ive benefited a lot from his light-hearted but accurate teaching of the Dhamma.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby mikenz66 » Mon May 07, 2012 10:31 pm

I think some who have not spent time with monastics might be surprised how playful many of them are...

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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby manas » Tue May 08, 2012 3:00 am

This thread provides an opportunity for me to share a strange situation: how one can learn so much from someone, and be sincerely indebted to them for sharing their teachings & expertise, and yet not agree with every single thing they say. A case in point is 'Mindfulness, Bliss & Beyond', a book by Ajahn Brahm. This book helped me immensely, as it is packed full of helpful tips on the 'how-to' of anapanasati. To give Ajahn Brahm the credit he is due: this book changed the way I practise meditation, it precipitated a breakthrough for me. The fact that I don't agree with every single word of it doesn't lessen the help it has given me (and continues to give). I take what helps from it, and as for the rest, I put it down to imperfection - I mean, Ajahn Brahm isn't perfect; I'm not perfect; and as afaik neither is anyone else, either here at DW or elsewhere (fully enlightened Buddhas excepted).

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Last edited by manas on Tue May 08, 2012 3:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby mikenz66 » Tue May 08, 2012 3:08 am

Good point Manas,

I have learned a lot from talks and books by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ajahn Brahm, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and Bhikku Nananada (among others). All of them (and others) have points where they seem to disagree, and I consider quite normal and healthy...

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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby Dan74 » Tue May 08, 2012 4:28 am

Friends who have attended retreats with Ajahn Brahm report that he is more serious and goes into a lot more depth during the retreat. Which is natural - AB is a great populariser of Theravada which necessarily involves "dumbing it down" somewhat, making it sound easy to provoke engagement. I think this is what irks some people.

As for his take on the Dhamma, I am sure there are some controversial points but any living teacher teaching from experience would be the same. And as others have noted of course he is not perfect. But perhaps perfect enough for most of us.

Not to say that people should not challenge some points he makes and that everyone should love him. Of course not. I go to his talks when he comes but I don't quite click with him as much as I do with some other teachers). I am sure he doesn't mind! :D
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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby waterchan » Sat May 10, 2014 3:02 am

mikenz66 wrote:I think some of us who work in physics (or other sciences) have a more realistic view than non-practitioners: that science is just one of our tool boxes.


I realize this is an old post, but I would like to hear you elaborate on what you meant by this statement. :smile:
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 10, 2014 6:29 am

Greetings Dan,

Dan74 wrote:Which is natural - AB is a great populariser of Theravada which necessarily involves "dumbing it down" somewhat, making it sound easy to provoke engagement. I think this is what irks some people.

I don't think it's that so much... it's more the way he conflates "speculating about how existence, why we're here, the nature of the universe, other religions" (to quote greggorious) along with the actual Dhamma.

If Ajahn Brahm were to more clearly differentiate between the Buddha's teachings (or even Theravada's teachings) and his own speculative excursions, I think there would be less ire drawn... especially when you consider that the Dhamma of the Buddha actually contains plentiful warnings against pointless speculation on such matters (see MN 63 - Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta as one such example)

Metta,
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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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Ajahn Brahm, unconventional

Postby cooran » Sat May 10, 2014 6:41 am

I was at a talk by Ajahn Brahm in Brisbane a year or so ago. He told the same jokes I'd heard from him before, the same stories I'd read in his books - and then he said abortion was o.k. up to about 16 or more weeks. At that point quite a number of the audience walked out.
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