Why Meditate?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ben » Fri May 18, 2012 6:06 am

Hi Ron,
Thank you for your very detailed and informative answers to our members' questions. I think over the years, I've seen quite a bit of what you refer to as 'dark night' experiences interpreted as adverse reactions by new-to-meditation practitioners and some inexperienced teachers. I've also seen clients of some psychologists who have similar destabilizing experiences as a result of enthusiastic mindfulness meditation programs that were, in your words, "cut adrift" because the treating specialist didn't have the knowledge or experience to assist the person.
I hope you are enjoying your experience here at Dhamma Wheel.
kind regards,

Ben
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Fri May 18, 2012 6:22 am

Thanks Ben - very cool site! I'm glad my friend let me know about the conversation over here. I'm looking forward to checking out more of the topics.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 18, 2012 6:25 am

Thanks Ron for the detailed replies. It's very useful to have informed discussions about the Dhamma and how it may be applied.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Fri May 18, 2012 6:28 am

@ retro - hey, please don't take any offense from me - enlightenment is a team sport and we're all in this together.

I respect your desire to be exacting, if you aren't a monk you might do well as one. I went through a period where I was very much the same way, ended up in a monastic way, but have got pretty far from that as the website shows.

Much respect.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 18, 2012 6:44 am

Ron Crouch wrote:@mikenz66- regarding the question of whether the path inevitably leads to a dark night, the answer is, unfortunately, "it depends." The issue rests on the kind of meditation a person is doing. In classical buddhism there is a distinction made between "wet" and "dry" insight, which is the difference between the insight knowledges (nanas) experienced directly after deep concentration ("wet" = jhana) or without deep concentration ("dry" = no jhana). If you are doing it wet, then the dukkha nanas (dark night stages) seem like a breeze, a mild bit of turbulence in an otherwise smooth flight. If you are doing it dry however, then the dukkha nanas can really rock your world - and not in a good way. In the old texts and commentaries they divide it up into these two types as if they were all or nothing, but in truth almost everyone mixes it up and so the ambiguous answer of "it depends." Essentially, it depends on how deep your concentration is and how well you use it to move through the insight stages. So, while everyone will go through the insights into suffering in one form or another, how you experience it depends a lot on your concentration. Stronger concentration equals less difficulty.
And, of course, it depends upon what is meant by jhana. There is the sutta jhanas vs the Visuddhimagga jhana squabble, which has flared-up across this forum periodically, but then not all the sutta jhana-wallas agree among each other as to the true nature of jhana and then there are the vipassana jhanas and on and on....

Those who of you who have the true type of jhana, please levitate to the front of the room.

I find your above discussion of value, and I think that it is fortunate that the wet/dry dichotomy is not engraved in carbon steel and with such teachers as Joesph G., who are deepily grounded in practice and the teachings, we see these issues addressed in way that indicates a living, adapting and growing tradition(s).
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: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 8:01 am

Greetings Ben, Ron, all,

Ben wrote: I think over the years, I've seen quite a bit of what you refer to as 'dark night' experiences interpreted as adverse reactions by new-to-meditation practitioners and some inexperienced teachers.

Nevermind for the moment quite who says what about the mind-states of other practitioners, I think it's not unreasonable from a Theravada perspective for someone claiming such experiences to be able to map their own experiences back to one of the simplest, most generic qualitative descriptions of mindstates provided the Buddha (later evolved in the Abhidhamma). Namely... the six mental roots (mula).

DN 33 wrote:There are three roots of the unwholesome: greed, hatred and delusion; and there are three roots of the wholesome: non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion.

To expand on an extract from Nyanaponika's "The Roots Of Good And Evil" I quoted previously...

The Unwholesome.

The three unwholesome roots are not restricted to the strong manifestation suggested by the English terms greed, hatred and delusion. To understand their range it is important to know that in Pali these three terms stand for all degrees of intensity, even the weakest, of the three defilements, and for all varieties in which these appear. In their weak degrees their unwholesome influence on character and kammic consequences is, of course, not as grave as that of their stronger forms. But even weak forms may carry the risk of either growing stronger or making a person’s character more susceptible to their graver manisfestations. A fuller view of the various forms the unwholesome roots assume may be gained from a list of their synonyms, partly taken from the Dhammasaṅgaṇī, the first book of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka.

Greed — liking, wishing, longing, fondness, affection, attachment, lust, cupidity, craving, passion, self-indulgence, possessiveness, avarice; desire for the five sense objects; desire for wealth, offspring, fame, etc.

Hatred — dislike, disgust, revulsion, resentment, grudge, ill-humour, vexation, irritability, antagonism, aversion, anger, wrath, vengefulness.

Delusion — stupidity, dullness, confusion, ignorance of essentials (e.g. of the Four Noble Truths), prejudice, ideological dogmatism, fanaticism, wrong views, conceit.

The Wholesome.

Though formulated negatively, the three wholesome roots signify positive traits:

Non-greed — unselfishness, liberality, generosity; thoughts and actions of sacrifice and sharing; renunciation, dispassion.

Non-hatred — loving-kindness, compassion, sympathy, friendliness, forgiveness, forbearance.

Non-delusion — wisdom, insight, knowledge, understanding, intelligence, sagacity, discrimination, impartiality, equanimity.

I would welcome anyone here, who wishes to speak about this "dark night" phenomena (a term originally derived from Abrahamic religion, rather than Buddhism) to map back what they're saying to Theravada definitions. It might help to de-mystify it and improve clarity on precisely what is being discussed, and whether it is wholesome or unwholesome, or whether the broader "dark night" experience can alternate between the two.

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: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 18, 2012 8:03 am

retrofuturist wrote:I would welcome anyone here, who wishes to speak about this "dark night" phenomena (a term originally derived from Abrahamic religion, rather than Buddhism) to map back what they're saying to Theravada definitions. It might help to de-mystify it and improve clarity on precisely what is being discussed, and whether it is wholesome or unwholesome, or whether the broader "dark night" experience can alternate between the two.
Are you speaking from direct experience?
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.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 8:07 am

Greetings Tilt,

retrofuturist wrote:I would welcome anyone here, who wishes to speak about this "dark night" phenomena (a term originally derived from Abrahamic religion, rather than Buddhism) to map back what they're saying to Theravada definitions. It might help to de-mystify it and improve clarity on precisely what is being discussed, and whether it is wholesome or unwholesome, or whether the broader "dark night" experience can alternate between the two.
tiltbillings wrote:Are you speaking from direct experience?

I'm not claiming to have "direct experience" of "dark night" because "dark night" is not part of the vocabulary of The Teacher and I understand and map my experiences in accordance with the vocabulary of the suttas.

If the "dark nighters" amongst us might be so kind as to translate back through to the language of Theravada (or even better, to the suttas) it would help those outside their specific meditation sub-culture know whether we have in fact experienced anything resembling this phenomena.

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: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 18, 2012 8:09 am

retrofuturist wrote:I would welcome anyone here, who wishes to speak about this "dark night" phenomena (a term originally derived from Abrahamic religion, rather than Buddhism) to map back what they're saying to Theravada definitions.

I've already posted various quotes from suttas (and Ajahn Chah) above that seemed rather clear to me. I've nothing to add that would not be simply repetitive.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 18, 2012 8:12 am

retrofuturist wrote:If the "dark nighters" amongst us might be so kind as to translate back through to the language of Theravada (or even better, to the suttas)

Doubt, worry, restlessness, dukkha, nibbida. Is that enough words?

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 18, 2012 8:13 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

retrofuturist wrote:I would welcome anyone here, who wishes to speak about this "dark night" phenomena (a term originally derived from Abrahamic religion, rather than Buddhism) to map back what they're saying to Theravada definitions. It might help to de-mystify it and improve clarity on precisely what is being discussed, and whether it is wholesome or unwholesome, or whether the broader "dark night" experience can alternate between the two.
tiltbillings wrote:Are you speaking from direct experience?

I'm not claiming to have "direct experience" of "dark night" because "dark night" is not part of the vocabulary of The Teacher and I understand and map my experiences in accordance with the vocabulary of the suttas.
That does not mean that one who is doing the practice diligently according to the suttas would not experience such.

If the "dark nighters" amongst us might be so kind as to translate back through to the language of Theravada (or even better, to the suttas) it would help those outside their specific meditation sub-culture know whether we have in fact experienced anything resembling this phenomena.
In other words, you are in absolutely no position to judge this in any meaningful, experiential way.
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.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 18, 2012 8:14 am

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:If the "dark nighters" amongst us might be so kind as to translate back through to the language of Theravada (or even better, to the suttas)

Doubt, worry, restlessness, dukkha, nibbida. Is that enough words?

:anjali:
Mike
Apparentrly not. For it to truly count the suttas MUST literally say "dark night of the soul."
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.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ben » Fri May 18, 2012 8:17 am

Its not part of my vocabulary either, Retro. Its just a term used by some people who use it to refer to a particular type of experience.
kind regards,

Ben
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

Sayagyi U Ba Khin


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 18, 2012 8:24 am

Perhaps some of the disagreement in discussion boils down to a difference in opinion about what is "Dhamma", what is "advice" or "experience", and how the Commentarial and modern material should be classified.

To me, the Visuddhimagga descriptions of the nanas is not an attempt to "add" to the Dhamma. To me It seems like a (sometimes patchy) record of collective experience of applying the Dhamma, to be read in the same way as advice from a modern teacher, whether Ajahn Chah, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Bhikkhu Nanananda, or whoever...

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 8:28 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:If the "dark nighters" amongst us might be so kind as to translate back through to the language of Theravada (or even better, to the suttas)

Doubt, worry, restlessness, dukkha, nibbida. Is that enough words?

:anjali:
Mike
Apparentrly not. For it to truly count the suttas MUST literally say "dark night of the soul."

It's hard to tell if you're being unnecessarily hostile there, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're not, and accept that this really is what you thought I meant. Let me be perfect clear - it's not.

Mike's descriptions are perfectly adequate and show a mixture of kusala and akusala mindstates, and are precisely what I asked for as a means of decrypting this "dark night"-speak. Thank you Mike.

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: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 8:34 am

Greetings Tilt,

retrofuturist wrote:If the "dark nighters" amongst us might be so kind as to translate back through to the language of Theravada (or even better, to the suttas) it would help those outside their specific meditation sub-culture know whether we have in fact experienced anything resembling this phenomena.

tiltbillings wrote:In other words, you are in absolutely no position to judge this in any meaningful, experiential way.

I went to Ron's site where he explained his experiences and many of the words he used to explain the experience were words identical to what were described as unwholesome roots, in the text quoted above.

The error in your judgement is that you think I am trying to "judge"... rather, I'm trying to understand if "dark night" is wholesome, unwholesome, according to the Dhamma, or whether it is in fact divisible into separate experiences, which themselves are either wholesome or unwholesome according to the Dhamma.

I am trying to relate that back to the Buddha's teaching on Right Effort that says...

SN 45.8 wrote:"And what, monks, is right effort?

[i] "There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[ii] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.

[iii] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[iv] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort."

If it is in some way taboo within a particular meditative subculture for someone outside that subculture to make valid inquiries and ask how their world-view corresponds to the Buddha's teaching, then that says more about the subculture than it says about the one making inquiries. I have appreciated Ron's candour and transparency on this matter.

Frankly, such a Right Effort-geared analysis, combined with an honest appraisal of the constituent components of "dark night" (such as that provided by Mike) show the practitioner precisely how to progress through the phenomenon in question.

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: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 8:49 am

Greetings Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:@ retro - hey, please don't take any offense from me - enlightenment is a team sport and we're all in this together.

No offense taken, and I appreciate your refreshing candour.

Ron Crouch wrote:I respect your desire to be exacting, if you aren't a monk you might do well as one.

Perhaps one day, yes.

Ron Crouch wrote:I went through a period where I was very much the same way, ended up in a monastic way, but have got pretty far from that as the website shows.

I hope your decisions have served you well.

(I also hope you'll consider rewording your site to take down the claim you teach mostly Buddha-Dhamma, but ultimately that's your decision...however, I'm quite sure you could say something a bit more exacting that reflected what you teach. "Derived primarily from the Theravada Buddhist tradition" for example...)

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: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 18, 2012 8:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:Frankly, such a Right Effort-geared analysis, combined with an honest appraisal of the constituent components of "dark night" (such as that provided by Mike) show the practitioner precisely how to progress through the phenomenon in question.

And, of course, lucky for us, an honest appraisal of progress is greatly aided by the collective experience and advice of ancient and modern teachers and practitioners of the Bhuddha-Dhamma.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 8:52 am

Greetings Mike,

Yes. As Ron said, "We're all in this together".

Let us delight in this Dhamma.

AN 10.66 wrote:"When, friend, there is delighting (in this Teaching and Discipline), this pleasantness is to be expected: whether going, standing, sitting, or lying down, the pleasant and the easeful are attained; whether one has gone to a village, a forest, the root of a tree, an empty hut, an open space, or in the midst of monks, the pleasant and the easeful are attained. When, friend, there is delighting (in this Teaching and Discipline), this pleasantness is to be expected."

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)
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 18, 2012 11:09 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

retrofuturist wrote:If the "dark nighters" amongst us might be so kind as to translate back through to the language of Theravada (or even better, to the suttas) it would help those outside their specific meditation sub-culture know whether we have in fact experienced anything resembling this phenomena.

tiltbillings wrote:In other words, you are in absolutely no position to judge this in any meaningful, experiential way.

I went to Ron's site where he explained his experiences and many of the words he used to explain the experience were words identical to what were described as unwholesome roots, in the text quoted above.

The error in your judgement is that you think I am trying to "judge"... rather, I'm trying to understand if "dark night" is wholesome, unwholesome, according to the Dhamma, or whether it is in fact divisible into separate experiences, which themselves are either wholesome or unwholesome according to the Dhamma.
Then you need to choose your words far more carefully, it would seem. Mike and Ron have certainly expressed their understanding of this issue right from the start according to the Dhamma.

Frankly, such a Right Effort-geared analysis, combined with an honest appraisal of the constituent components of "dark night" (such as that provided by Mike) show the practitioner precisely how to progress through the phenomenon in question.
Which is a point that Mike has clearly made.

(I also hope you'll consider rewording your site to take down the claim you teach mostly Buddha-Dhamma, but ultimately that's your decision...however, I'm quite sure you could say something a bit more exacting that reflected what you teach. "Derived primarily from the Theravada Buddhist tradition" for example...)
So, the Theravada is not Buddha-Dhamma. Wow!. You are probably on ther wrong forum.
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.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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