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 » Sat May 19, 2012 5:08 am

Ron & Mike,

Excellent posts!
with Metta

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat May 19, 2012 5:12 am

Mike, I personally feel that you'd have to jump through a small hoop to say they're not contradictory. But maybe the hoop is just an illusion. I notice that much of this thread seems to be semantical misunderstandings and argument, up until page 4 or so at least

:namaste:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sat May 19, 2012 5:14 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:There are just as many people though who don't have such a nice experience of it. And many really feel like they were suckered into something without being given all the important information up front. I don't worry about you. I worry about them. I see them all the time in my teaching practice.

Does this "important information" also involve a thorough grounding in the teachings of the Buddha?

I see risks in following a "meditation technique" which is designed to induce certain experiences, but in which the knowledge of the Dhamma that provides the context to these experiences is "outsourced" to a teacher. That "outsourcing" might be functional in a retreat situation or when there's regular ongoing contact with a teacher, but outside of that, the only person who is with the practitioner 24/7, is the practitioner themselves. If they understand the Dhamma, from the variety of different perspectives and angles from which the Buddha saw fit to teach it, perhaps they would be more equipped to manage the transition?

Possibly then, it's not a case of deterring those who are not hard-core, manly and committed enough to get to the end, but in encouraging the gradual instruction of the kind Mike mentioned above first, so they have a solid grounding in the fundamentals of the Dhamma before attempting practices which might otherwise induce "dark nights"? (such fundamentals including, Right Effort, mudita and other quite elementary things that seem very useful in the specified situation). There's a great many lay people who have benefited over the centuries from the wisdom of the Buddha... it seems a shame to deter the current generation from mental cultivation, on account of such things.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Hi retro - man, I love you - you write the most interesting and provoking stuff!

I have to say that "outsourcing" is a likely a big problem in many dharma scenes, but I don't think you and I agree on what to do about it. My take on it is that "outsourcing" occurs whenever people place their complete faith in a teacher, a religion, a technique, a particular sutta, etc, instead of being very very pragmatic about what they are directly experiencing on the path and what causes and conditions (to use a bit of dharma-speak) led to it. A teacher is more of a coach and a sounding-board to make sense of what is happening and refine technique, and not ever a place to outsource ones' own experience. That's where things get cultish to me and give me the heebe-jeebies.

The goal is to ground the practice in one's own reality, not in any ideal, even if the ideal comes from a great teacher or a great sutta. In short, people need to get real. They need to get way more practical about this stuff and how it directly impacts them. Way too many people intellectualize and get lost in the minutiae of language and pali translations, and on the other hand, way too many people in lost in the feeling of belonging and compassion that comes from teachers and sanghas. What is needed is a middle-way (more dharma-speak). And that middle begins squarely in ones' own direct experience.

If one sees that the source of suffering is none other than oneself and the conditions that lead to either suffering or liberation are in one's own hands, then sila is a forgone conclusion. The key is getting people to see that it is in their hands.

Lastly, just let me say - "manly" - really?

P.S. For anyone hung up on my admonition to not meditate if you don't want to become enlightened let me point out that I really love meditation and while I am all in favor of warning people away from meditation if all they want is a self-improvment project, if what you want is liberation (and I suspect almost everyone on this forum does) then meditate all the time! Don't stop! On the cushion or off, cultivate insight and be mindful. Just know it might be rough for the "self" - but no problem right? It's a fiction anyway.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat May 19, 2012 5:20 am

Ron Crouch wrote:
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.
Hope that helps.
"


I think it's clear something has gone wrong. The eightfold path starts with right view, everything else is developed simultaneously, and if you're not doing that, you're supposed to ask someone skilled in the area you're lacking in to help you. People need to be able to concentrate in order to gain proper insight. If people had true insight into dukkha, then they wouldn't create more dukkha for themselves by worrying about it, it's all impermanent, and believe it or not, and I heard this from a pali scholar so it's not personal knowledge unfortunately, but impermanence doesn't translate quite properly into english. Anicca and Anatta have a certain amount of positive connotation to them in the pali, they're supposed to be a little liberating just from hearing about them. I THINK THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST SERIOUS POINTS BUDDHIST PRACTICE FACES RIGHT NOW, PEOPLE NEED TO LEARN TO BE CALM AND COLLECTED/CONCENTRATED WHILE THEY'RE MEDITATING.


I'm no expert, but anybody with common sense can see my point. Samadhi and Sati go hand in hand and vipassana is a quality that means clear seeing it's not a vehicle for liberation from what I've read so far and there are certainly some Bhikkhus who would agree with me. Thus, using simple common sense, I deem the Bhikkhus deeming samadhi/samatha and sati/vipassana to be something developed in tandem. Let's not create unnecessary dichotomies where it's best if there were none.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sat May 19, 2012 5:38 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:
I THINK THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST SERIOUS POINTS BUDDHIST PRACTICE FACES RIGHT NOW, PEOPLE NEED TO LEARN TO BE CALM AND COLLECTED/CONCENTRATED WHILE THEY'RE MEDITATING.


I'm no expert, but anybody with common sense can see my point. Samadhi and Sati go hand in hand and vipassana is a quality that means clear seeing it's not a vehicle for liberation from what I've read so far and there are certainly some Bhikkhus who would agree with me. Thus, using simple common sense, I deem the Bhikkhus deeming samadhi/samatha and sati/vipassana to be something developed in tandem. Let's not create unnecessary dichotomies where it's best if there were none.



I think we agree on this, and I emphasize concentration for all my students before developing insight (for reasons that I think I've made clear).

Maybe this is inappropriate for this forum, and Ben can chime in and let me know if I'm crossing a line in this particular online community, but I would be much more interested in hearing about your personal experience with the mix of concentration and insight than any thoughts about it. When you are calm and collected and concentrated during meditation what happens?

Please keep in mind that I know this is a personal question, so I do not ask it in any challenging way. I know how important concentration is for fruitful insight and any personal experiences you (or others) would feel safe in sharing would be wonderful examples...
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 19, 2012 5:41 am

Hi PB,
polarbuddha101 wrote: I THINK THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST SERIOUS POINTS BUDDHIST PRACTICE FACES RIGHT NOW, PEOPLE NEED TO LEARN TO BE CALM AND COLLECTED/CONCENTRATED WHILE THEY'RE MEDITATING.

No need to shout... :tongue:

I don't see anyone arguing against this here. That's what most of us are trying to do. However, it's not always easy...

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 19, 2012 5:44 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:Thus, using simple common sense, I deem the Bhikkhus deeming samadhi/samatha and sati/vipassana to be something developed in tandem. Let's not create unnecessary dichotomies where it's best if there were none.
And I do not know of anyone who teaches Buddhist meditation that would say differently.
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 » Sat May 19, 2012 5:48 am

Greetings Ron,

Ron wrote:The goal is to ground the practice in one's own reality, not in any ideal, even if the ideal comes from a great teacher or a great sutta. In short, people need to get real. They need to get way more practical about this stuff and how it directly impacts them.

Well said. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Nanavira Thera...
Nanavira Thera wrote:Only in a vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence, is a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation; and only a man who does apprehend this is prepared to listen to the Buddha's Teaching. But human kind, it seems, cannot bear very much reality: men, for the most part, draw back in alarm and dismay from this vertiginous direct view of being and seek refuge in distractions.

Indeed it's true that various sources of information and help available can either be applied directly as a means of understanding one's experience, or serve as distractions and grounds for speculation. It is pretty self-evident which use of knowledge is superior.

This holds true for everything from "the minutiae of language and pali translations" to "teachers and sanghas". All potentially useful, all potentially distracting - depends what's done with it.

Ron Crouch wrote:Lastly, just let me say - "manly" - really?

:lol:

Image

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 polarbuddha101 » Sat May 19, 2012 5:51 am

Mike, I apologize, the caps lock was meant for emphasis not to indicate volume or anger or frustration.

Tilt, I'm glad you feel that way but I've read things that seem to indicate otherwise. So it's just what I've gathered indirectly. If there isn't this problem then awesome.

:namaste:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby cooran » Sat May 19, 2012 5:59 am

Retrofuturist said: it's not a case of deterring those who are not hard-core, manly and committed enough to get to the end


Not for any of those lower beings who are female, eh?

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 19, 2012 6:04 am

Enough of the battle of the sexes...

I'm off to watch a rugby game for a while, but I'd be interested to see Ron's (and others') take on what I posted from the Visuddhimagga and Mahasi Sayadaw above:
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12455&start=60#p188867

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 19, 2012 6:05 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:Tilt, I'm glad you feel that way but I've read things that seem to indicate otherwise. So it's just what I've gathered indirectly. If there isn't this problem then awesome.

:namaste:
Do believe everything you read? There is classically a division between the "wet" and the "dry" approach, but the reality is that in actual practice the division is more apparent than real. What is called vipassana meditation cultivates and requires considerable samatha qualities. This is not from reading, but from working with a number of teachers of "vipassana meditation." I think we need to be careful here in assuming that the classical wet/dry descriptions are hard and fast.
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 polarbuddha101 » Sat May 19, 2012 6:06 am

tiltbillings wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:Tilt, I'm glad you feel that way but I've read things that seem to indicate otherwise. So it's just what I've gathered indirectly. If there isn't this problem then awesome.

:namaste:
Do believe everything you read? There is classically a division between the "wet" and the "dry" approach, but the reality is that in actual practice the division is more apparent than real. What is called vipassana meditation cultivates and requires considerable samatha qualities. This is not from reading, but from working with a number of teachers of "vipassana meditation." I think we need to be careful here in assuming that the classical wet/dry descriptions are hard and fast.


No, I certainly don't believe everything I read, but I do take it into consideration. Anyways, like I said, awesome!

:namaste:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 19, 2012 6:07 am

Greetings Chris,

:lol:

... in case the humour was only evident to myself (as is often the case), the "manly" aspect was a reference to those intrepid explorers, wandering through dark nights, fighting demons, wrestling kilesas and ferocious beasts with their bare hands, in order to impress their lady-friends and comrades... those doing manly things in a manly way. (i.e. it was actually a subtle dig at manliness itself, much like the following clip)



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 » Sat May 19, 2012 6:10 am

retrofuturist wrote:Well said. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Nanavira Thera...
Nanavira Thera wrote:Only in a vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence, is a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation; and only a man who does apprehend this is prepared to listen to the Buddha's Teaching. But human kind, it seems, cannot bear very much reality: men, for the most part, draw back in alarm and dismay from this vertiginous direct view of being and seek refuge in distractions.
A nice description of the dark night of the soul. It actually takes a fair amount of practice/work to confront the abyss, which is really what bhavana is about.
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 cooran » Sat May 19, 2012 6:26 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Chris,

:lol:

... in case the humour was only evident to myself (as is often the case), the "manly" aspect was a reference to those intrepid explorers, wandering through dark nights, fighting demons, wrestling kilesas and ferocious beasts with their bare hands, in order to impress their lady-friends and comrades... those doing manly things in a manly way.



Metta,
Retro. :)


Hello Paul,

No worries Paul, all good - working as a social worker in a public health system, I’ve learned to put the Akosa Sutta into practice, even when insults and disparagement are really meant.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

with metta
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 19, 2012 6:28 am

Greetings Chris,

cooran wrote:I’ve learned to put the Akosa Sutta into practice, even when insults and disparagement are really meant.

:twothumbsup:

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 Ron Crouch » Sat May 19, 2012 6:42 am

mikenz66 wrote:Enough of the battle of the sexes...

I'm off to watch a rugby game for a while, but I'd be interested to see Ron's (and others') take on what I posted from the Visuddhimagga and Mahasi Sayadaw above:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 60#p188867

:anjali:
Mike



The contradiction is apparent. It goes back to "The Three Kinds of Full Understanding" (page 3 in Chapter 20 — Purification by knowledge and vision of what is and what is not the path), which essentially describes the trajectory that a practitioner experiences through a single insight stage (and in the path overall). First you know it by "tasting" it directly, then you see it going in and out of existence on its own (nothing to do with you), and then you stop identifying with it completely. When you go through the analogies in the Visuddhimagga they include examples from all of those understandings (read the other examples and this becomes clearer). Once you are ready to transition out of a stage and into the next you'll be very dispassionate about it because you've let it go. Then you'll taste the next one and work through that.

The key thing here is to understand that if you are having these negative experiences, as Mahasi points out, it is part and parcel of the path. Don't blame yourself or think you've really messed up. This is insight.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ben » Sat May 19, 2012 7:42 am

Hi Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:Maybe this is inappropriate for this forum, and Ben can chime in and let me know if I'm crossing a line in this particular online community, but I would be much more interested in hearing about your personal experience with the mix of concentration and insight than any thoughts about it. When you are calm and collected and concentrated during meditation what happens?

Please keep in mind that I know this is a personal question, so I do not ask it in any challenging way. I know how important concentration is for fruitful insight and any personal experiences you (or others) would feel safe in sharing would be wonderful examples...


Its fine. Usually, I would prefer the discussion to go into the 'personal experience' forum or within the 'general meditation' forum but I think we can leave it here.
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 Mr Man » Sat May 19, 2012 8:23 am

To the original question "Why Meditate?". I would say we should practice because we have the opportunity, which is a blessing. The first noble truth applies to all - meditators and non meditators. Worth remembering that there is much more to Buddhist practice than meditation.
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