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 » Sun May 20, 2012 4:44 am

Hi Ron,
retrofuturist wrote:
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?

As well as feeling, like Retro, that it would be interesting to hear your opinions, I will make some possibly wild comments.

I've known one person who managed to get pretty deep into meditation by himself (he lived like a hermit, on the dole [unemployment] and spent a lot of time at it), but my impression is that for most people living normal lives it is not easy to get into much trouble "at home", since without some sort of organisational support (at a monastery or organised retreat, etc) it's not easy to develop enough concentration and mindfulness. Therefore, the question is really thrown back to the skill of the teacher/organisation.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sun May 20, 2012 6:28 am

retrofuturist wrote: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. :)


Thanks for all the welcoming and warm comments. Now, let me get back to stirring the pot a bit by responding to this quote by retro. Let me say up front that this might stir the pot a bit more than usual. Let me also apologize for the lengthy reply. As Mark Twain would have said, "I didn't have time to write a short one."

@retro - I do have an opinion about this, but since I suspect that my view is likely different from many here I was hoping to hear from others first. Otherwise it would turn into a discussion about whether I'm right or wrong. However, as you've probably guessed, I don't mind being questioned (or even grilled). And since you asked me directly, here goes:

Firstly, let me set the context by stating what I think will be a pretty controversial view:

It is my personal opinion that many of the Dharma scenes in the West treat students in ways that are outrageously patronizing. Students are not given much in the way of direct, down-to-earth information about what to do and what to expect when they do it. They are definitely not told what the path of insight is, even though "insight" is talked about ad nauseum and the path itself is right in the texts (if you know where to find it).

Often, when a student asks something like "what is the path?" or "what is enlightenment" or "I'm experiencing this - is it normal?" or even a natural and obvious question once they understand what is going on like "what was this insight like when you experienced it?" they are given answers that are evasive, like quotes from another teacher or sutta. In the most extremely patronizing situations students are told that their questions or concerns are "just another thing to let go of" or their motive for asking the question is turned around on them as a sign of delusion.

Nothing, other than direct misinformation, is less helpful to a sincere student. I can't tell you about the horror stories my students have told me about this, as I'm very strict about their confidentiality, but I will say that many of them feel like they have been dismissed or persuaded they were stupid or worse for wanting to know very basic and very important things about their own direct experience of the path that are explicit in the texts.

We would never accept this behavior from doctors, professors, psychologists, or professionals of any other type, but somehow this is acceptable for meditation teachers, especially if they are wearing a robe. What would you think of a professor who responded to student questions by always referring to the textbook? Or to use another example, if you asked a doctor about the side-effects of a treatment, would you accept it if you were told to just take the medicine and not ask because questioning the treatment and its effects were a symptom of the disease? I hope you would fire that doctor.

When I have talked, skyped or emailed with other teachers about this attitude or approach, most agree that it is a bad thing. But they don't really know what to do about it. Some simply explain that it is "tradition" and leave it at that. A few have defended it by telling me that they don't feel students are "ready" and "shouldn't know everything." In other words, they've bought into the patronizing social structure. And a tiny minority have broken with tradition and faced some heat for it. However, I suspect (and no one has told me this - it's pure speculation) that many of these teachers are actually afraid to be completely frank, because it simply runs counter to the accepted culture in most dharma scenes. How did we get that attitude as a Western community? It seems wildly off-target to our professed values.

Weirdly, it is students, even more than teachers, who often defend and protect this patronizing attitude. They can be extremely harsh to other students who ask real and important questions. I really don't understand this, but my guess is that many of these students want to be a "good buddhist" and think that having a cryptic or evasive teacher (or just reading cryptic or evasive material) is what that means. That "not knowing" (to use a Zen phrase) means being a good buddhist.

I won't go into how I think it got this way (which is a whole discussion in itself), but the thing that bothers me is this: if we had a choice between a fully-disclosed, no secret, completely open-sourced dharma, or what we have now, what would we choose? Any rational person would choose the more open option (at least I believe that).

The core issue is that many people don't see that there actually is a choice. However, since the Dharma is still in its "landing phase" in the West, we actually do have a choice. We can change how it is structured for future generations. Do we choose to go with what the Buddha called the "open-hand" approach, or what we have now? It actually is up to us.

This all brings me to my original question: How do we decide if a person is ready for insight and who makes that decision?

This is a very real issue in my teaching practice that I've grappled with. In a traditional approach, students are just given a practice and not told why and if they do question it they are dissuaded from doing so. But now that I've clarified the context in which I'm making this decision in my own practice, and the objections I have to the tradition, let me explain how I sort this out:

Ultimately the choice to engage in insight practice is up to the student, however, I see it as my job to make sure that they have all the information they need to make a fully informed choice about whether or not to commit to it. I provide all the information up front, in a completely open manner, and trust that once they understand what they are committing to, that they will make the best choice for them. I explain as frankly as I can what the pain of the dark night and the joy equanimity are like in real day-to-day terms, and the reality of liberation and what that is like in a real-life manner. For many students, it is the first time they've had that happen. They finally have the information to make a real choice. That by itself is pretty empowering.

I also share what I know about other approaches that I'm not qualified to teach, the potential benefits of those approaches (especially those that don't have an explicit dark night), and offer to refer to another teacher who can teach in those traditions if they are interested in pursuing that.

There is one exception to all of this though. If the person is suffering from a mental disorder then that changes the whole process, because it means that their decision-making ability may be impaired. Luckily, given my profession, I'm in a pretty good position to evaluate how debilitating their condition is and whether their capacity to make a fully-informed choice is impaired. If someone is suicidal or psychotic for example, I refuse to teach them insight techniques, explicitly warn them away from them (with a full explanation as to why) and offer to teach them metta or concentration instead or refer them to another teacher. It is a tough decision to make, but it is really the only ethical one and fortunately I've never had a student take offense. Usually they are relieved that I was so frank with them. If they stay on with me as a student I require that they receive therapy concurrently with teaching. Most are already doing this, so it is not a problem. This is the only situation in which I would assume to make a choice on behalf of the student: when they are not capable of making that choice themselves in a fully-informed manner.

This comes up much more than non-teachers might expect. A huge number of students get involved in meditation through self-improvement or therapy. They are told that meditation will stabilize their mood and make them happier. If they do the practice correctly but instead experience panic, great disgust and inexplicable grief, they are often on their own and think they are hopeless. Sometimes they go to a temple or center, or pop onto a forum and tell their story or describe their symptoms, only to be told... to just "let it go."

Hopefully you can see from this what my experience has been like as a teacher and why I think it is so important that people be given all information on the benefits and down-sides of meditation up-front. It isn't just a little thing to me - it is a central problem in our dharma communities and psychology profession at the moment. There are a lot of people out there going through terrible stuff on their own because of our great misunderstanding of the insight path, that "mindfulness meditation" (which is often a proxy for insight meditation) only leads to happiness and reduced stress, and that suffering during it is somehow bad or wrong.

We first need to normalize that this happens and it is part of the path. Then we need to work on being totally up-front with people about it before they even begin meditating seriously. I've tried to do that as much as I can in my own teaching, however, by the time students usually get to me, they have already made a lot of choices without fully understanding the consequences.

My hope would be that we could have the same ethical standards as meditation teachers that researchers are held to in universities - before anyone participates in research they are told of all the potential benefits and risks of doing so. It's a pretty simple and common sense requirement. We should have at least that level of respect for people who participate in meditation.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 20, 2012 7:14 am

Greetings Ron,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and informative response to my question. I look forward to reading some of the responses that it (hopefully) elicits.

It's not something I can comment on directly, since I'm not directly involved with those sub-cultures in which "outsourcing" is prevalent, but I appreciated reading about your exposure and experiences.

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 9:12 am

Hi Ron, thanks for that. Perhaps I can relate what you say a little to my (rather limited) experience with monastic teachers whose approach is mostly based on Mahasi-style. [Most of our Bhikkhus cycle here from a Wat in Bangkok (though they are not all Thai --- one was Bangladeshi and one American, and Vietnamese turn up occasionally). This gives a bit of a lack of continuity, but you use what you can...].
Ron Crouch wrote:It is my personal opinion that many of the Dharma scenes in the West treat students in ways that are outrageously patronizing. Students are not given much in the way of direct, down-to-earth information about what to do and what to expect when they do it. They are definitely not told what the path of insight is, even though "insight" is talked about ad nauseum and the path itself is right in the texts (if you know where to find it).

My teachers tend to not talk much about the maps, though one, aware I'd read the Visuddhimagga, did talk about insight stages a little. It's actually not clear, from my point of view, how useful it would have been. What they have tended to do was to wait for me to come up with observations, then discuss it. I haven't found that
Ron Crouch wrote:Often, when a student asks something like "what is the path?" or "what is enlightenment" or "I'm experiencing this - is it normal?" or even a natural and obvious question once they understand what is going on like "what was this insight like when you experienced it?" they are given answers that are evasive, like quotes from another teacher or sutta. In the most extremely patronizing situations students are told that their questions or concerns are "just another thing to let go of" or their motive for asking the question is turned around on them as a sign of delusion.

Well, I've never really been bothered with most of those questions. "I'm experiencing this - is it normal?" is the main thing I've been concerned about and I've always had good answers about that. In fact, that's almost exactly how I've phrased it.

I'm puzzled that there could be teachers who would not give a straight answer to such questions, or, at least, a straightforward instruction about the way forward.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Nyana » Sun May 20, 2012 9:24 am

Ron Crouch wrote:This all brings me to my original question: How do we decide if a person is ready for insight and who makes that decision?

This is a very real issue in my teaching practice that I've grappled with. In a traditional approach, students are just given a practice and not told why and if they do question it they are dissuaded from doing so.

I think there may be a couple of other related issues here Ron. The first is the commonly encountered idea that insight meditation is somehow a "one size fits all" type of practice, suitable as the only truly Buddhist practice, etc., etc. The second, related to this, is the idea that vipassanā meditation and the vipassanā ñāṇa-s can, to varying degrees, be isolated from larger Buddhist framework of ethical training and meditation training. (I qualify this with the phrase "to varying degrees" because most teachers would likely maintain that some degree of appropriate ethical conduct is still required.)

But when we look to the classical training manuals such as the Visuddhimagga or the Śrāvakabhūmi, we find that they recommend assessing a student's personality and character traits, and selecting a meditation practice that's appropriate for that particular individual. Granted, the classification of temperaments given in these texts may seem a bit narrow or restrictive to our modern sensibilities, but the general principle still offers a more dynamic and comprehensive system for addressing the individual student than the "one size fits all" vipassanā meditation that is often encountered today.

Any thoughts?
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sun May 20, 2012 3:22 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Ron Crouch wrote:This all brings me to my original question: How do we decide if a person is ready for insight and who makes that decision?

This is a very real issue in my teaching practice that I've grappled with. In a traditional approach, students are just given a practice and not told why and if they do question it they are dissuaded from doing so.


But when we look to the classical training manuals such as the Visuddhimagga or the Śrāvakabhūmi, we find that they recommend assessing a student's personality and character traits, and selecting a meditation practice that's appropriate for that particular individual. Granted, the classification of temperaments given in these texts may seem a bit narrow or restrictive to our modern sensibilities, but the general principle still offers a more dynamic and comprehensive system for addressing the individual student than the "one size fits all" vipassanā meditation that is often encountered today.

Any thoughts?


If I remember correctly, that was about whether the a monk's temperament was of the craving or aversive type? And my recollection is that it was really aimed at sorting out which hinderances the monk would likely run up against and creating a practice that would best accommodate that. For example monks of the craving type should be placed in spare settings with tasteless food and meditate on loathsomeness of the body until they are ready for insight practice. I remember when I read that for the first time I was struck by two things: how down to earth and practical most of the suggestions were, and how much power and say-so the teacher has in the day to day life of the monk.

This seems like a pretty good idea overall in the cultural context from which it arises, but the challenge for me (and really for all of us) is to think through how it should be applied to modern students who may be on the path and getting insights but cannot become a monk or a student in the classical sense. I don't think that it would be respectful to tell a single mom who needs to prepare meals for her kids every day to make only bland food and get rid of all luxuries in the home. I'm not saying the commentaries are advocating such a thing, but rather that they aren't meant to guide us in the modern context, and we really don't have a good update.

I think that some of the traditional templates for what a dharma student is like don't really fit well into our lives today. We need to rethink the student-teacher relationship, especially in terms of the traditional power differences between students and teachers, and consider how to make the teaching more accessible and culturally congruent.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Nyana » Sun May 20, 2012 4:00 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:If I remember correctly, that was about whether the a monk's temperament was of the craving or aversive type? And my recollection is that it was really aimed at sorting out which hinderances the monk would likely run up against and creating a practice that would best accommodate that.

Well, in principle, it's more dynamic and comprehensive than that. There are six temperaments listed in the Vism., with advice on how these can be further combined to address the character of the individual. The Vism. then offers recommendations of meditation subjects appropriate for each temperament. In a contemporary context, this type of assessment can be further refined with reference to the interests, practice aims, and living situation of the student.

Ron Crouch wrote:This seems like a pretty good idea overall in the cultural context from which it arises, but the challenge for me (and really for all of us) is to think through how it should be applied to modern students who may be on the path and getting insights but cannot become a monk or a student in the classical sense. I don't think that it would be respectful to tell a single mom who needs to prepare meals for her kids every day to make only bland food and get rid of all luxuries in the home. I'm not saying the commentaries are advocating such a thing, but rather that they aren't meant to guide us in the modern context, and we really don't have a good update.

Agreed. However, there is still a lot of pragmatic advice in the traditional teachings. Which is why the onus is on contemporary teachers to continue to develop the traditional models to meet the needs of contemporary students.

Ron Crouch wrote:I think that some of the traditional templates for what a dharma student is like don't really fit well into our lives today. We need to rethink the student-teacher relationship, especially in terms of the traditional power differences between students and teachers, and consider how to make the teaching more accessible and culturally congruent.

I think meditation teachings are more readily available today than at any time in the past. The challenge is to create the conditions for authentic communication and training. It seems to me that this requires adaptability and receptivity on the part of both the teacher and the student. It also requires understanding and honoring the teachings of the ancient ascetic Buddhist path.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Goofaholix » Sun May 20, 2012 11:10 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:It is my personal opinion that many of the Dharma scenes in the West treat students in ways that are outrageously patronizing. Students are not given much in the way of direct, down-to-earth information about what to do and what to expect when they do it. They are definitely not told what the path of insight is, even though "insight" is talked about ad nauseum and the path itself is right in the texts (if you know where to find it).


Having done a lot of retreats both in the West and in Asia I'd say by contrast in West teachers give far more information than they do in Asia. In Asia you are generally given instructions on technique and I guess there is an assumption that you should already know about Buddhism and the purpose of meditation or you wouldn't be practising in the first place.

With westerners however this is not a safe assumption, as you've eluded some come to practise expecting it to just be a therapy or a relaxation technique and either haven't got the context of a Buddhist world view or have a pop culture buddhist world view.

I've always felt we get too much information on retreats in the West, but maybe that's because it's aimed at the lowest common denominator and for this reason is not clear enough about what to expect and this is what makes it "outrageously patronizing" in some respects.

One of my teachers says "our job is just to keep you motivated enough to keep enquiring into what's going on (keep doing the practise)". The problem is that too much information about what to expect will happen can lead to a meditator trying to manufacture those experiences or second guess the practise, and too much information not specifically related to the practise being undertaken here and now can lead to mind games or doubt.

It is up to the meditator to find his/her own feet and learn by doing, I've never been one to look to my teachers for answers rather only for encouragement and correction if I fall into wrong view or wrong practise. If a teacher considers themselves primarily a therapist however I can see this should require a very different working relationship with the students.

I think most of us get into practise expecting something very different from what we eventually discover and find so worthwhile, this is part of the process and what should happen if we are doing it right.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Buckwheat » Mon May 21, 2012 12:12 am

Hi Ron,
A lot of what you wrote above seems to be a symptom of poor teaching, which goes to the importance of finding the right teacher. And we come around to Retro's point that when people parade around pretending to proclaim the words of the Buddha, it only muddles the issue. We should always be clear when discussing sources. Visudhimegga is not the words of the Buddha. Zen Koans are not the words of the Buddha. Those writings may have value, but we have to be clear about who wrote them and who did not.

I have only had the opportunity to meet face to face with a few wise souls, but when I did they are able to read into my question deeper than I realized I was asking, and they usually give very direct and powerful advice that acknowledges the insights I have had, while pointing to those I still need to illuminate. Most importantly, they give me optimism about my path, and a way to move forward. I don't think that's pandering, I think it's help.

I do see a dark night aspect of the path, but I don't blame it on the path. In my teens I was totally lost and miserable, so I built up this sense of self based on what society considers a good person. Now, I am in the middle of another crisis because, through Buddhism and meditation, I have seen what a sham that all was. Now I am trying to figure out how to live my life in accordance with the dhamma, which is very frustrating at this point for me. However, this is not because of the Buddha's path. It is because my past karma led me to build a life based on lies, avoiding confrontation, indulgence in pleasures, and careless waste of precious resources. Trying to correct those errors is causing me a great deal of stress, but it's not the Buddha's fault. It's not meditation's fault. It is my fault for building up a self that was bound to crash at one point or another anyway. And the way out of this dark night seems to be clearly more Buddhism, not less. When I experiment with going back to my old ways, that is when the dark night gets darker. When I experiment with going deeper into meditation, that is when the dark night lightens a bit.

A lot of the victim's of meditation you mention, I think we have to a) direct them to competent teachers, and b) realize they may have been even worse off without the meditation. I'm 90% certain I would be dead right now without Buddhism entering my life. I'll take a dark night over suicide.

Finally - thanks for your open discussion.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon May 21, 2012 1:21 am

Buckwheat wrote:Hi Ron, And we come around to Retro's point that when people parade around pretending to proclaim the words of the Buddha, it only muddles the issue.
Who are these people? And just exactly what is that they are saying?

We should always be clear when discussing sources. Visudhimegga is not the words of the Buddha. Zen Koans are not the words of the Buddha. Those writings may have value, but we have to be clear about who wrote them and who did not.
I do not know of anyone who is claiming that these things are Buddha-Dhamma, as understood as being the actual the words of the Buddha, but Buddha-Dhamma, as Truth of the Buddha, that is a different question. One can certainly express the truth of impermanence as taught by the Buddha without quoting the Pali texts. One can certainly quote an actual sutta and explain its meaning, and either case keeping to the Buddha-Dhamma, the Truth of the Buddha.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 21, 2012 1:40 am

Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Who are these people? And just exactly what is that they are saying?

Ron Crouch wrote:There are many teachers who have taught people how to wake up and become enlightened. For this reason, it is customary to put the teacher’s name as a prefix. This helps the listener know which Dharma is being discussed. Most of what is taught on this site is “Buddha-Dharma”, though not all of it is. The Dharma taught by great teachers such as Lao Tzu, Ramana Maharshi, and Nisargadatta are examples of perfectly wonderful teachings from completely different traditions. If I were teaching you how to get to heaven through Christianity it would be perfectly acceptable (though a little weird) to call it “Jesus-Dharma.”

So why do I teach mostly Buddha-Dharma? Am I a Buddhist? Not really, or rather, if this self thinks it is a Buddhist then it is a rotten one. I honestly do not believe a lot of what is taught in Buddhism as a religion. What I do believe is that learning how to become enlightened is a skill, no different than learning to play the piano or learning to cook. Enlightenment, as you’ll discover, actually has very little to do with what beliefs you have and everything to do with learning and practicing specific skills that liberate the mind. And as it turns out, the best teachings that I have found on these skills happen to come from the Buddha. That’s why most of what is taught here is Buddha Dharma.

Source: http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/genera ... -teaching/

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 » Mon May 21, 2012 1:42 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Who are these people? And just exactly what is that they are saying?

Ron Crouch wrote:. . .
While interesting, it does not answer the question in the context that raised it.
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 Dmytro » Mon May 21, 2012 5:02 am

Hi Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:This all brings me to my original question: How do we decide if a person is ready for insight and who makes that decision?


You know, this question sounds very strange to me. Intelligent people who are interested in meditation get insights every day. Are we here to enforce on them the _right_ insight? And is such enforcement possible?

IMHO, every person is ready for insight. It starts from taking note of some aspects of experience.

"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

If a person notices her states of mind, she can acquire corresponding insights:

"Sariputta, a bhikkhu who desires to abide in voidance most of the time should reflect. When going for alms along a certain path, or in a certain region, or returning along a certain path, does interest, or greed, or anger, or delusion, or aversion, arise in my mind on account of forms cognizable by eye consciousness?"

http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... dhi-e.html

In the virtue-concentration-wisdom sequence, there's a natural development. As a person notices more and more about experience, she is able to move from insights about bodily behaviour to insights about states of mind, and then about the insights on how the mind works and suffering arises.

So the good test is to ask the person to describe the experience, and look for what she already notices. In such a way we can discover her area of insights. If we just support these insights, by asking to notice the interesting details, the insights will evolve.

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Mon May 21, 2012 5:25 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Who are these people? And just exactly what is that they are saying?

Ron Crouch wrote:There are many teachers who have taught people how to wake up and become enlightened. For this reason, it is customary to put the teacher’s name as a prefix. This helps the listener know which Dharma is being discussed. Most of what is taught on this site is “Buddha-Dharma”, though not all of it is. The Dharma taught by great teachers such as Lao Tzu, Ramana Maharshi, and Nisargadatta are examples of perfectly wonderful teachings from completely different traditions. If I were teaching you how to get to heaven through Christianity it would be perfectly acceptable (though a little weird) to call it “Jesus-Dharma.”

So why do I teach mostly Buddha-Dharma? Am I a Buddhist? Not really, or rather, if this self thinks it is a Buddhist then it is a rotten one. I honestly do not believe a lot of what is taught in Buddhism as a religion. What I do believe is that learning how to become enlightened is a skill, no different than learning to play the piano or learning to cook. Enlightenment, as you’ll discover, actually has very little to do with what beliefs you have and everything to do with learning and practicing specific skills that liberate the mind. And as it turns out, the best teachings that I have found on these skills happen to come from the Buddha. That’s why most of what is taught here is Buddha Dharma.

Source: http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/genera ... -teaching/

Metta,
Retro. :)



Retro - this strikes me as VERY strong identification with buddhism. The self takes root there too... it is absolutist and black and white thinking.

It all really comes down to how you decide what goes into the basket of Buddhism. What is it? Ask ten practitioners and you'll get just as many answers, and honestly, I don't really care much about that. I'm not religiously buddhist and my sense of self is not invested in buddhism (I understand that many folks are here, and I respect that as a difference between us). However, the technology to liberate oneself from suffering in buddhism and in particular in the Visuddhimagga is shockingly practical and works amazingly well to produce liberation. You don't have to follow any "ism" to become liberated. You just have to get your act together, train your mind and see things clearly. No need to "believe" in anything - that is a cultural artifact of western thinking. It's about what you do, not what you think.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Mon May 21, 2012 5:36 am

For further information on how the concept of Buddhism as a religion (and a lot of other things in buddhism) are really western misunderstandings of the cultural context, check out this series of wonderful talks by linguist and dharma teacher John Peacock called "Buddhism Before the Theravada":

http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/207/
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 21, 2012 5:43 am

Greetings Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:Retro - this strikes me as VERY strong identification with buddhism. The self takes root there too... it is absolutist and black and white thinking.

What does, Ron? You've quoted me saying "Greeting" and "Metta", and you've quoted Tilt asking a question... other than that, all I see are words from your website. Perhaps you could clarify your meaning here?

Ron Crouch wrote:It all really comes down to how you decide what goes into the basket of Buddhism. What is it? Ask ten practitioners and you'll get just as many answers, and honestly, I don't really care much about that. I'm not religiously buddhist and my sense of self is not invested in buddhism (I understand that many folks are here, and I respect that as a difference between us). However, the technology to liberate oneself from suffering in buddhism and in particular in the Visuddhimagga is shockingly practical and works amazingly well to produce liberation. You don't have to follow any "ism" to become liberated. You just have to get your act together, train your mind and see things clearly. No need to "believe" in anything - that is a cultural artifact of western thinking. It's about what you do, not what you think.

Can you please also clarify what question you think you're answering with this answer? Again, it's evidently not in response to what you quoted, since you largely quoted yourself. You may need to draw the dots a bit more clearly before your post will make sense to me.

Alternatively, if what you want to say is not directly related to Mike's topic, you may find that what you want to say would be better said in this topic...

Buddhism Fundamentalism?
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=12471

... I'm following that discussion too, so will see any posts you make there.

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 Prasadachitta » Mon May 21, 2012 6:01 am

Ron Crouch wrote:What is it? Ask ten practitioners and you'll get just as many answers, and honestly, I don't really care much about that. I'm not religiously buddhist and my sense of self is not invested in buddhism (I understand that many folks are here, and I respect that as a difference between us). However, the technology to liberate oneself from suffering in buddhism and in particular in the Visuddhimagga is shockingly practical and works amazingly well to produce liberation. You don't have to follow any "ism" to become liberated. You just have to get your act together, train your mind and see things clearly. No need to "believe" in anything - that is a cultural artifact of western thinking. It's about what you do, not what you think.



Hi Ron,

One of the practical aspects of Buddhist instruction is that its practice is founded upon a positive confidence (Saddha) in the Teacher/Teachings/Community. I can appreciate talking about this path as a "technology" but I think the analogy can only be taken a little way. I think that the principle of cultivating confidence as the foundation for making a concerted effort to verify that confidence is probably critical. I can attest to the fact that the "dark night" kind of thing is greatly mitigated at least. However confidence does not help much if you fail to make that concerted effort to verify. In other words what you think is a critical aspect of what you do. Seeing things clearly requires stepping out of your comfort zone and that requires confidence. Confidence can be cultivated and in my view that is what you might call the "religious" aspect of Buddhism.

Metta

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon May 21, 2012 6:06 am

Hi Retro
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Ron,
Ron Crouch wrote:Retro - this strikes me as VERY strong identification with buddhism. The self takes root there too... it is absolutist and black and white thinking.

What does, Ron? You've quoted me saying "Greeting" and "Metta", and you've quoted Tilt asking a question... other than that, all I see are words from your website. Perhaps you could clarify your meaning here?
...

The sequence I see is:
tiltbillings wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:Hi Ron, And we come around to Retro's point that when people parade around pretending to proclaim the words of the Buddha, it only muddles the issue.
Who are these people? And just exactly what is that they are saying?


viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12455&start=120#p189155
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
tiltbillings wrote:Who are these people? And just exactly what is that they are saying?

Ron Crouch wrote:There are many teachers who have taught people how to wake up and become enlightened. ....

I, and presumably Ron, understood that post as saying: "Ron is one of those muddling the issue", judging from his reply:
Ron Crouch wrote:Retro - this strikes me as VERY strong identification with buddhism. The self takes root there too... it is absolutist and black and white thinking.

If that wasn't what you meant, perhaps you could explain the meaning of post:
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12455&start=120#p189155
in more detail.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Mon May 21, 2012 9:33 am

"I, and presumably Ron, understood that post as saying: "Ron is one of those muddling the issue", judging from his reply"


Yes indeed - that is how I understood it.

Retro - in reading you I kind of go back and forth. In some respects you're posting some provoking and interesting stuff. However, you've closely skirted the line in flat-out calling me a fraud by insinuating that I'm slandering the buddha or that I'm misrepresenting what I teach. I've enjoyed the discussion, but I'm not going to continue if that continues. Life is simply too short for that.

capisce?
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 21, 2012 10:24 am

Greetings Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:However, you've closely skirted the line in flat-out calling me a fraud by insinuating that I'm slandering the buddha or that I'm misrepresenting what I teach.

I haven't called you a fraud.

What I have done is share with you teaching of the Buddha (i.e. actual Buddha-dhamma) that explains the duty of followers of the Buddha, when someone claims to be speaking the Buddha's dhamma. Listen carefully to the Blessed One's words...

Mahaparinibbana Sutta wrote:Then the Blessed One said: "In this fashion, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might speak: 'Face to face with the Blessed One, brethren, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a community with elders and a chief. Face to face with that community, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name live several bhikkhus who are elders, who are learned, who have accomplished their course, who are preservers of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with those elders, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a single bhikkhu who is an elder, who is learned, who has accomplished his course, who is a preserver of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with that elder, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation.'

"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn. Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline. If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it. But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve."

I have provided you the opportunity to see for yourself, that in the Buddha's teaching and in Theravada which accepts the Sutta Pitaka as Buddha-vacana, that unless someone's teachings are traceable back to the Buddha's discourses, they are not to be regarded as Buddha-dhamma. This isn't against you, it is impersonal... it is assessing your teaching against the Discourses as an objective exercise of traceability.

Your teachings may well be Dhamma for all I know... they may well be the best teachings on mankind since the Buddha died. Dhamma is the natural law, property of no one. Not mine, not your's, not the Buddha's... we can only hope that our understandings align to the natural law as best as we can.

But insight-knowledges (vipassana nanas)... they are not traceable back to the Buddha's discourses or Vinaya. Dark nights... they are not traceable back to the Buddha's discourses or Vinaya either, though I have given you ample opportunity to show how they are, and how they relate back to phenomena the Buddha actually taught.

I'm not saying insight-knowledges, dark nights etc. are fraudulent, and I'm not saying they're not Dhamma... I'm simply saying they're not recorded anywhere as being the Buddha's teaching. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest he taught those things, which you classify on your website as Buddha-dhamma. So... given that, the question must arise as to why you call them that? Why "muddle the issue" by doing so? I don't know your intentions for doing so - perhaps you'd like to tell us? Here's your chance to make crystal clear your intentions.

In summary, I have suggested you be more clear and transparent about where these teachings come from, lest you misrepresent noble teachers. There is nothing unreasonable about any of that. I have not regarded your Dhamma "with approval, nor with scorn"... and whilst you persist on calling it Buddha-dhamma, I may perfectly reasonably expect (particularly in a Theravada forum) that you should be capable of demonstrating that what you teach is actually the Buddha's teaching in accordance with the criteria established in the Buddha-dhamma of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.

Until then, it is Ron-Dhamma...

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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