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 mikenz66 » Sat May 19, 2012 10:21 am

Hi Ron, Thanks for the clarification.
Ron Crouch wrote:The contradiction is apparent. It goes back to "The Three Kinds of Full Understanding" ([paragraph] 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.

That's useful. Obviously I need to read these chapters again, more carefully.
Buddhaghosa wrote:[THE THREE KINDS OF FULL-UNDERSTANDING]
Vism XX 3. Here is the exposition: there are three kinds of mundane full-understanding,
that is, full-understanding as the known, full-understanding as investigation,
and full-understanding as abandoning, with reference to which it was said:
“Understanding that is direct-knowledge is knowledge in the sense of being
known. Understanding that is full-understanding is knowledge in the sense of
investigating. Understanding that is abandoning is knowledge in the sense of
giving up” (Paþis I 87).
...

Ron Crouch wrote: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.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby robertk » Sat May 19, 2012 11:10 am

Ron Crouch wrote:
Ron Crouch wrote: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.

:anjali:
Mike

Negative experiences' like aversion and fear can arise anytime, to anyone Buddhist or not, but thinking they are signs of insight is delusion.

The path is actually the gradual development of wisdom, which is always and automatically also the development of detachment (especailly from attachment to wrongview).

If these wrong ideas persist one might even have some 'experience' they believe is the attainment of nibbana.

http://www.abhidhamma.org/anguttara_nik ... he_ten.htm
Anguttara Nikaya Book of the tens XI (iii) 103 Wrongness


From wrong view proceeds wrong thinking; [.....]; from that wrong effort. From wrong effort proceeds wrong mindfulness; from that wrong concentration. From wrong concentration proceeds wrong knowledge. From wrong knowledge proceeds wrong release......




---------------------------------------
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Nyana » Sat May 19, 2012 1:48 pm

robertk wrote:Negative experiences' like aversion and fear can arise anytime, to anyone Buddhist or not, but thinking they are signs of insight is delusion.

Yes, in the context of the actual Pāli Abhidhammapiṭaka all skillful mental states and all path and fruition cognitions are accompanied by either joy and non-carnal pleasure or equanimity.

robertk wrote:The path is actually the gradual development of wisdom, which is always and automatically also the development of detachment (especailly from attachment to wrongview).

And the elimination of fetters.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby befriend » Sat May 19, 2012 2:02 pm

what about revulsion, there is revulsion then there is dispassion. when i see something as impermenent i then see it as suffering seeing the object as suffering there is revulsion towards it, disgust.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Nyana » Sat May 19, 2012 2:14 pm

befriend wrote:what about revulsion, there is revulsion then there is dispassion. when i see something as impermenent i then see it as suffering seeing the object as suffering there is revulsion towards it, disgust.

Translating nibbidā as "revulsion" is just as problematic as translating dukkha as "suffering." Neither carries the full range of meaning in the context of Buddhist insight. Moreover, if nibbidā isn't associated with joy or equanimity it's likely not very skillful or liberating. There's a distinction to be made between cultivating insight and cultivating hindrances.

The insight stages are advanced levels of practice with one very specific objective: to get outta Dodge and never come back. I suspect that most beginner and intermediate students aren't mentally or emotionally prepared for undertaking this sort of practice.

And when this type of practice is complicated by a machismo attitude akin to relating to meditation as if it were some kind of extreme sport, then there's little wonder why many problems and difficulties arise. This does students a disservice.

It's likely far more appropriate, effective, and beneficial to offer the majority of laypersons instruction on the 6 recollections and/or the 4 brahmavihārā.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sat May 19, 2012 3:56 pm

robertk wrote:
Ron Crouch wrote:
Ron Crouch wrote: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.

:anjali:
Mike

Negative experiences' like aversion and fear can arise anytime, to anyone Buddhist or not, but thinking they are signs of insight is delusion.

The path is actually the gradual development of wisdom, which is always and automatically also the development of detachment (especailly from attachment to wrongview).

If these wrong ideas persist one might even have some 'experience' they believe is the attainment of nibbana.

http://www.abhidhamma.org/anguttara_nik ... he_ten.htm
Anguttara Nikaya Book of the tens XI (iii) 103 Wrongness


From wrong view proceeds wrong thinking; [.....]; from that wrong effort. From wrong effort proceeds wrong mindfulness; from that wrong concentration. From wrong concentration proceeds wrong knowledge. From wrong knowledge proceeds wrong release......




---------------------------------------

Hi RobertK, thanks for getting back about this. Here's the thing though, this quote could apply to either your view or mine. It just says that having wrong thinking leads to a bad outcome. But who is wrong here?

Remember that you're claiming, and a few others as well, that if one has an insight properly then it never comes with suffering. If it does then the person is doing something wrong.

Could you provide a supporting citation for that view? If not, then let's just call it a personal opinion, rather than claim it is in the commentaries.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby manas » Sat May 19, 2012 7:20 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:
Remember that you're claiming, and a few others as well, that if one has an insight properly then it never comes with suffering. If it does then the person is doing something wrong.

Could you provide a supporting citation for that view? If not, then let's just call it a personal opinion, rather than claim it is in the commentaries.



Hi Ron,

imhe there can be a tremendous amount of suffering involved in getting there - after all, pulling out poisoned arrows from one's heart is painful - but the moment when one sees an aspect of Dhamma one did not see before, is a positive one. One can even look back at the pain it took to get there with a kind of gratitude, because one no longer sees it in the same way.
...

:anjali:
Last edited by manas on Mon May 21, 2012 7:58 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 19, 2012 8:05 pm

manas wrote: . . .
Thanks for that. It is appreciated and useful to hear that sort of thing.

But let me add, it is not only physical pain, but also mental pains -- the fears, anxieties, doubts -- that can arise during practice that are part of this question.
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 manas » Sat May 19, 2012 8:20 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
manas wrote: . . .
Thanks for that. It is appreciated and useful to hear that sort of thing.

But let me add, it is not only physical pain, but also mental pains -- the fears, anxieties, doubts -- that can arise during practice that are part of this question.


Hi Tilt,

yes, that's true; I have much work to do regarding mental pains, not just physical ones. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement re my post.

:anjali:
Last edited by manas on Sat May 19, 2012 8:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 19, 2012 8:42 pm

Geoff, Robert, Ron,
Ñāṇa wrote:
robertk wrote:Negative experiences' like aversion and fear can arise anytime, to anyone Buddhist or not, but thinking they are signs of insight is delusion.

Yes, in the context of the actual Pāli Abhidhammapiṭaka all skillful mental states and all path and fruition cognitions are accompanied by either joy and non-carnal pleasure or equanimity.

Thank you for the continuing interesting discussion.

I'm still wondering whether a useful point is being submerged, perhaps by Ron being slightly imprecise with one or two of his sentences that seemed to be saying that the fear was the insight. In the rest of his discussion I took him to be agreeing that the skilful insights were, indeed, free of aversion and fear (as in the Visuddhimagga passage I quoted on the terror nana), but that some of the other passages (and various reported experiences from modern teachers and practitioners) suggest that various fears and so on are possible/normal in the process of getting to the insights.

Based on my reading of suttas and commentaries, it seems unlikely that a practitioner, even a very skilled one, would not sometimes have various difficulties. I think we agree that those difficulties are not, in themselves, insights. The interesting question is whether it is possible to get to the insights without some disturbing experiences along the way.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sat May 19, 2012 9:51 pm

Yes, yes and yes!

This is exactly it. "Insight knowledge" is not a thing, it's a process with three steps. First, the experience of the insight knowledge (which can be pleasant, painful or neutral). Then the investigation of the the phenomena. Then the letting go - experience of freedom.

Don't parse out just the freedom part alone and say that is the only aspect that constitutes insight.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Nyana » Sat May 19, 2012 10:14 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Based on my reading of suttas and commentaries, it seems unlikely that a practitioner, even a very skilled one, would not sometimes have various difficulties. I think we agree that those difficulties are not, in themselves, insights. The interesting question is whether it is possible to get to the insights without some disturbing experiences along the way.

The insight stages can bring up all sorts of stuff. Which is why I think it's important to learn to differentiate between skillful and unskillful mental processes, even subtle ones. Again, there's a distinction to be made between cultivating liberating insight and cultivating hindrances.

Generally, my only concerns are:

(i) when people are encouraged by teachers and training centers to enter into practices that they aren't prepared for. I think it's prudent for many people to slow down the training process and engage in a more gradual, step-wise immersion into meditation practices.

(ii) when other conditions are created that will invariably give rise to painful experiences, motivated by the idea that this in itself will help generate insight into dukkha. I think this is a highly questionable approach, and probably isn't very effective.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 20, 2012 12:54 am

:goodpost:

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 » Sun May 20, 2012 1:48 am

Hi Geoff,

Thank you for your post.
Ñāṇa wrote:The insight stages can bring up all sorts of stuff. Which is why I think it's important to learn to differentiate between skillful and unskillful mental processes, even subtle ones. Again, there's a distinction to be made between cultivating liberating insight and cultivating hindrances.

Certainly. Which is why it is essential to have good guidance. I've had times where I could have been stuck in a dead end for a long time if I hadn't had someone to tell me that I was off on a tangent. [In my case it's often a laziness/detachment sort of thing that is very pleasant and is easily confused with equanimity and good samadhi...]

And I think that it's worth discussing these things, so practitioners will be aware that very unsettling things can happen, it's not some "failing" on their part, and they may well want to take note of your following advice:
Ñāṇa wrote:Generally, my only concerns are:

(i) when people are encouraged by teachers and training centers to enter into practices that they aren't prepared for. I think it's prudent for many people to slow down the training process and engage in a more gradual, step-wise immersion into meditation practices.

Sure, the guidance needs to be responsible.
Ñāṇa wrote:(ii) when other conditions are created that will invariably give rise to painful experiences, motivated by the idea that this in itself will help generate insight into dukkha. I think this is a highly questionable approach, and probably isn't very effective.

Yes, I don't see any need to create conditions for more dukkha. Anything I've tried brings up quite enough to study without the need to create more...

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ben » Sun May 20, 2012 2:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:Geoff, Robert, Ron,
Ñāṇa wrote:
robertk wrote:Negative experiences' like aversion and fear can arise anytime, to anyone Buddhist or not, but thinking they are signs of insight is delusion.

Yes, in the context of the actual Pāli Abhidhammapiṭaka all skillful mental states and all path and fruition cognitions are accompanied by either joy and non-carnal pleasure or equanimity.

Thank you for the continuing interesting discussion.

I'm still wondering whether a useful point is being submerged, perhaps by Ron being slightly imprecise with one or two of his sentences that seemed to be saying that the fear was the insight. In the rest of his discussion I took him to be agreeing that the skilful insights were, indeed, free of aversion and fear (as in the Visuddhimagga passage I quoted on the terror nana), but that some of the other passages (and various reported experiences from modern teachers and practitioners) suggest that various fears and so on are possible/normal in the process of getting to the insights.

Based on my reading of suttas and commentaries, it seems unlikely that a practitioner, even a very skilled one, would not sometimes have various difficulties. I think we agree that those difficulties are not, in themselves, insights. The interesting question is whether it is possible to get to the insights without some disturbing experiences along the way.

:anjali:
Mike


Indeed. I think some of those difficulties either accompany or occur within the proximity of the arising of insight. And what we know of the nanas as explained in the Vism and through direct experience is that "fear", "terror", or "revulsion", while heavily pregnant with emotional import in English, the reality is that the insight itself has equanimity as a characteristic. Maybe I am mangling what I am trying to say...
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sun May 20, 2012 2:41 am

There is another subtext that I'm picking up in some of the posts, which I find a little concerning, and I'd like to pose a question and get some feedback:

How is it decided who is ready to do insight practice? Who should decides this?
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 20, 2012 2:53 am

Greetings Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:How is it decided who is ready to do insight practice? Who should decides this?

Given that you teach people, what do you expect of them as a pre-cursor? What determines their readiness? Who would you not accept and why?

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 Ron Crouch » Sun May 20, 2012 3:47 am

I know this is a pretty strictly Theravadin community, but I just found this video of Buddhist scholar and Zen teacher Shinzen Young wonderfully describing the dukkha nanas and their correlates in Christianity. Thought I'd share it because it fits so well into our conversation here:



Also, let me just add that I'm really enjoying this thread. You guys at Dhamma Wheel have been gracious in letting me share my views (which appear to be very different than many of those held here) and I feel many are sincerely trying to understand through their disagreements - this is a good place!
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 20, 2012 4:00 am

Ron Crouch wrote:Also, let me just add that I'm really enjoying this thread. You guys at Dhamma Wheel have been gracious in letting me share my views (which appear to be very different than many of those held here) and I feel many are sincerely trying to understand through their disagreements - this is a good place!
Thank you for saying. And thank you for your input and sharing. It is appreciated.
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 » Sun May 20, 2012 4:11 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Ron Crouch wrote:Also, let me just add that I'm really enjoying this thread. You guys at Dhamma Wheel have been gracious in letting me share my views (which appear to be very different than many of those held here) and I feel many are sincerely trying to understand through their disagreements - this is a good place!
Thank you for saying. And thank you for your input and sharing. It is appreciated.


Seconded! And, its good to have you here too, Ron!
kind regards,

Ben
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