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 » Mon May 21, 2012 11:18 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote: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.


I have a few comments:

1. Much stuff is rather obvious, though not explicit, in the various suttas and references I gave some time ago, which you don't appear to have addressed.

2. In many cases, where you see "additions" I see the commentaries and the teaching of modern teachers as saying (in short): "In the experience of many, when one applies the Buddha-Dhamma, this is what tends happens". Not an addition, a report of other practitioner's experience. [In contrast to the mis-characterisation one sometimes sees that the commentaries as merely an academic exercise.]

3. Much of the advice in the commentaries (and modern approaches) is not actually claiming to be Dhamma, so is not a "Dhamma Addition", in my opinion. For example, the advice to use breath counting as an introductory exercise, or start with metta towards oneself are just useful, mundane, advice that has been found helpful by experience.

One final point: The suttas recommend getting advice from a local teacher who can admonish the student and, presumably, provide the sort of detail instruction discussed in points 2 and 3 above. The Buddha won't do that for us, unfortunately, so unless we maintain a living tradition that's a crucial piece of sutta advice that we can't take...

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 21, 2012 11:31 am

Greetings Mike,

I have no hesitation whatsoever in agreeing with all your four points.

I think they're on the money, and the reason being is that they're all good advice on how to construct your path. They are all instances of the proverbial "grass, twigs, branches, & leaves" that can be "bound ... together to make a raft".

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 kirk5a » Mon May 21, 2012 12:59 pm

retrofuturist wrote: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.

I believe MN 24 is considered one source to which these teachings are "traceable." While not an exact match to the details of the list of "insight-knowledges" we see today, for example as Ron linked to in his original blog post
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... gress.html

However, the above does follow the framework of the 7 "relay chariots" of the sutta.

Ven. Thanissaro says in an interesting footnote there:
Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Punna speak of this list of seven purities — purity in terms of virtue, mind, view, the overcoming of perplexity, knowledge & vision of what is & is not the path, knowledge & vision of the way, and knowledge & vision — as if it were a teaching familiar to both of them, and yet nowhere else is it mentioned as a Buddhist teaching in the discourses. The Atthaka Vagga (Sn 4), however, mentions various non-Buddhist sectarians who spoke of purity as the goal of their teaching and who variously defined that purity in terms of virtue, view, knowledge, & practice. Perhaps the seven types of purity listed in this discourse were originally non-Buddhist teachings that were adopted by the early Buddhist community and adapted to their own purpose for showing that these seven forms of purity functioned not as a goal of practice but as stages along the path to that goal. At any rate, this list of the seven purities formed the framework for Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purity), the cornerstone of his Pali commentaries, in which the seven purities cover all three parts of the threefold training in virtue, concentration, & discernment.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Mon May 21, 2012 4:14 pm

retro - what I'm teaching is right down the middle Visuddhimagga and Mahasi Sayadaw style buddhism - which I have never heard any claim isn't buddha-dhamma, buddhism, or theravadin. You are literally the first person I have ever even heard of making that claim. Maybe you're more buddhist than buddhist. An uber-buddhist. Cool. Please let go of that too. That is the self at work.

What concerns me more than the mischaracterization of me or what I teach though, is the almost fanatical attention to semantics and language. This is a tremendous distraction that teachers in almost every awakening tradition warn against. It has the potential to really get newbies way off track - and that is what concerns me here. Rather than actually practice and sort out whether this stuff works or not, they'll fly off into angel-on-the-head-of-a-pin territory and try to be a "good buddhist" rather than trying to see that as an illusion too.

I say all this not to try and turn you around retro - I just don't think that will happen in this setting or format. But rather for the lurkers who are just reading this and trying to understand. Buddhism is not about having an identity as a "buddhist". It is about doing the practice (a lot) and getting insight into the three characteristics via the insight knowledges (in the way I teach).
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Buckwheat » Mon May 21, 2012 4:32 pm

Sorry that I earlier gave the impression I thought Ron is "muddling" things. I don't know enough about Ron to make such claims. I think we can all agree there are people out there that do muddle the dhamma, and Ron seemed rather dismissive of that idea. My point was to say, there is muddling, and we should all be careful not to become one of those people. That applies to Retro, Ron, me, and everybody else that claims to have even the slightest knowledge of Buddhism.

Careful attention to semantics is a balancing act. If we give semantics too much attention, one will get lost in the sea of details. If we ignore it, we will not be able to tell the sea from a small pond. For this reason, I am a strong believer that one should refrain from teaching and proclaiming until his peers honor him with a request to teach. Only a very wise, experienced practitioner can understand when one should transcend semantics, and when one should dig into their messy details, based on the knowledge and experience of the student. And that understanding must be built on many years of practice with times of ignoring semantics and times of digging into the messy details. And there must be careful attention to the source: this practice is based on the words of the Nagarjuna, that practice is based on the words of Shakyamuni Buddha, and the other practice is based on the words of Ananda.

The teacher must be aware of fine distinctions, even if he does not drag the student into them. Just my opinion here.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon May 21, 2012 6:45 pm

retrofuturist, voicing only his opinion and belief, not objective fact wrote:Until then, it is Ron-Dhamma...
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 mikenz66 » Mon May 21, 2012 7:08 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

I have no hesitation whatsoever in agreeing with all your four points.

I think they're on the money, and the reason being is that they're all good advice on how to construct your path. They are all instances of the proverbial "grass, twigs, branches, & leaves" that can be "bound ... together to make a raft".

Wonderful. No more talk of "additions". :woohoo:

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon May 21, 2012 8:29 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:I have no hesitation whatsoever in agreeing with all your four points.

I think they're on the money, and the reason being is that they're all good advice on how to construct your path. They are all instances of the proverbial "grass, twigs, branches, & leaves" that can be "bound ... together to make a raft".

Wonderful. No more talk of "additions". :woohoo:


I could understand the problem if Ron were teaching, I don't know "that if you chant Coca Cola often enough you'll be reborn in a Pure Land where it's easy to become a Buddha" or something like that, then yes looking at Buddhavacana I don't think you'll find anything in the letter or the spirit that supports it.

However all he is saying really is when one practises one will still experience Dukkha and one will likely go through a period where it seems like Dukkha is all one can see/feel, the only problem being he labelled it with a Christian concept "dark night". I don't think there would have been any objection if he'd just labelled it Dukkha, but then we would be talking in very general terms not about a specific experience of Dukkha.

I'm sure nobody will say Dukkha is an addition and I think we all understand we need to look at our own personal experience to understand iDukkha not just a 2500 year old text, labelling something that is clearly in the spirit of Buddhavacana as an addition because different phrase is used isn't helpful.

To remain relavent to different audiences 2500 years later in a vastly different culture sometimes we need to be able to communicate the concepts of Buddhavacana using different language and concepts, the test is whether the message remains true to the spirit of Buddhavacana not whether it violates our attachment to semantics.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon May 21, 2012 8:46 pm

Perhaps we could get back to some of these topics:

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12455&start=120
Goofaholix wrote: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.

Yes, it's interesting what one becomes used to. I've become used to doing retreats where I basically practice, and consult maybe once a day. And that discussion is about what's actually being experienced, in plain language, no complicated concepts, analyis, discussion of Buddhist concepts, and so on. I'm there to observe...

As Goofaholix says, some Western-oriented retreats can go overboard, with what can seem at times like incessant chatter, rather than just getting on with it. Obviously necessary at the start, of course, but the problem I see is that it tends to induce a chatty atmosphere where question times can veer of into discussions about all kinds of conceptual "meaning of life" stuff, rather than focussing on the task at hand. Clearly some people need that at the start, but in my experience a good teacher will eventually, gently but firmly, put a stop to it and insist that we focus on what we are experiencing, not chat about what we think about what we are experiencing...

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon May 21, 2012 9:20 pm

mikenz66 wrote:As Goofaholix says, some Western-oriented retreats can go overboard, with what can seem at times like incessant chatter, rather than just getting on with it. Obviously necessary at the start, of course, but the problem I see is that it tends to induce a chatty atmosphere where question times can veer of into discussions about all kinds of conceptual "meaning of life" stuff, rather than focussing on the task at hand. Clearly some people need that at the start, but in my experience a good teacher will eventually, gently but firmly, put a stop to it and insist that we focus on what we are experiencing, not chat about what we think about what we are experiencing...


That's what I'm talking about. It's nice when teachers are taking a more proactive approach but if I'd wanted to be in a chatty atmosphere I would have stayed at home.

I think it's an important part of the practise to start by doing it wrong or with the wrong attitude, realise it yourself, adjust it yourself, and as a result integrate the deeper principles behind practise, so it's a process of learning to learn. A teacher can't do this for you, but a good teacher inspires confidence in you so you keep at it until you get 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
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Buckwheat » Mon May 21, 2012 11:54 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

I have no hesitation whatsoever in agreeing with all your four points.

I think they're on the money, and the reason being is that they're all good advice on how to construct your path. They are all instances of the proverbial "grass, twigs, branches, & leaves" that can be "bound ... together to make a raft".

Wonderful. No more talk of "additions". :woohoo:

:anjali:
Mike


Just because I agree with Newton's theory of gravity doesn't make it Buddha-dhamma. It would still be Newton-dhamma.

My only problem with the dark night is that somebody on this thread gave me the impression that it is an unavoidable part of the Buddhist path, and a reason to tell people not to meditate. Buddha never discouraged anybody from meditating that I know of. Instead he offered a treed to meditate under. The dark night may or may not be a part of the human condition, but we can't blame that on the Buddhist path. If psychiatric patients are running into problems with meditation, it is because they are not getting the right grounding from a good teacher. Again, just my opinion.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ben » Tue May 22, 2012 12:05 am

At its root, meditation is a compass and a path that gives you internal guidance about how to live. It leads you towards those states of mind in which wholesome states arise more frequently and unwholesome states arise less often. It's as simple as that.

~Dr. Paul R. Fleischman
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue May 22, 2012 12:45 am

Buckwheat wrote:My only problem with the dark night is that somebody on this thread gave me the impression that it is an unavoidable part of the Buddhist path, and a reason to tell people not to meditate. Buddha never discouraged anybody from meditating that I know of. Instead he offered a treed to meditate under.

In the Suttas the Buddha instructed followers according to their level. If they were beginners he taught them dana, sila, heavenly realms, etc first, not the four noble truths and jhana...
e.g. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
So, aiming at Suppabuddha the leper, he gave a step-by-step talk, i.e., a talk on giving, a talk on virtue, a talk on heaven; he declared the drawbacks, degradation, & corruption of sensual passions, and the rewards of renunciation. Then when he saw that Suppabuddha the leper's mind was ready, malleable, free from hindrances, elated, & bright, he then gave the Dhamma-talk peculiar to Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation, & path.


I've tried to carefully explain why I don't see the Theravada as deviating from the Buddha Dhamma, essentially by classifying non-canonical instructions as "Advice", not "Buddha-Dhamma".
I'd be quite comfortable to label anything other than the Tipitika not Buddha Dhamma, but of course then that would also include commentary and instructions from anyone, including those who loudly proclaim to "only teach/practise what the Buddha taught". (Unless all they ever do is recite suttas.... :reading: )

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby vinasp » Tue May 22, 2012 1:22 am

Hi everyone,

In AN Book of Fours, chapter XVII, there is a group of eight suttas which
explain the "four modes of progress".

1. The painful mode of progress with sluggish intuition.
2. The painful mode with swift intuition.
3. The pleasant mode of progress with sluggish intuition.
4. The pleasant mode with swift intuition. [AN 4.161]

Extract from AN 4.162:

"And of what sort, monks, is the mode of progress that is painful with
sluggish intuition?
In this case a certain one is by nature passionately lustful; he experiences
the perpetual pain and dejection that are born of lust. Likewise he is by
nature passionately malicious; he experiences the perpetual pain and dejection
that are born of malice. Likewise he is by nature passionately infatuated; he
experiences the perpetual pain and dejection that are born of delusion."

[ PTS Gradual Sayings, Vol II, page 153, translated by F.L.Woodward.]

My understanding, from reading these discourses, is that for some people
progress is slow and painful for the entire path, from start to finish.
For others, it it painful but progress is faster. For the lucky ones, progress
is pleasant.

These are not yet available on ATI, perhaps they can be found on another site?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby manas » Tue May 22, 2012 1:25 am

Hi Ron, all,

I wonder if some who 'take what is useful, and leave out what seems obscure or outdated' from the Buddha's teachings on meditation realize that samma vayama, samma sati and samma samadhi are only three aspects of an eight-limbed Path. Meditation isn't meant to be practised in isolation from right view, right resolve, right speech, and the rest... So I guess I wanted to ask Ron, where would you stand regarding this? Because I suspect that many of the problems that potential students might have had in the past could be due to thinking that meditation alone could somehow bring us to enlightenment, when the actual precription is much more extensive. (And regarding Virtue and the keeping of precepts, one would expect that these become integral to one's lifestyle over the long-term, and not just for the length of time one is on retreat; a change of heart, rather than just a temporary restraint which can be dispensed with once the work has been done...?)

with metta; and I am only asking because I seek your view on this, I'm not implying that you actually have such a view

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue May 22, 2012 1:59 am

Greetings Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:retro - what I'm teaching is right down the middle Visuddhimagga and Mahasi Sayadaw style buddhism

Then that is what it would be best to call it.

:meditate:

Metta,
Retro. :)
Last edited by retrofuturist on Tue May 22, 2012 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: fixed grammar
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 » Tue May 22, 2012 2:03 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

I have no hesitation whatsoever in agreeing with all your four points.

I think they're on the money, and the reason being is that they're all good advice on how to construct your path. They are all instances of the proverbial "grass, twigs, branches, & leaves" that can be "bound ... together to make a raft".

Wonderful. No more talk of "additions". :woohoo:

They're the additions to Buddha Dhamma that can be used to construct the path.

They don't need Buddha-dhamma TM stamped on them to make a good raft.

But similarly, if they're leaves, they're not branches. If they're branches, they're not grass etc. We don't call "branches" "grass", simply because they can both be used to build a raft, do we?

Out of interest, why is "additions" so problematic for you?

addition - a component that is added to something to improve it; "the addition of a bathroom was a major improvement"; "the addition of cinnamon improved the flavor"
addition - the act of adding one thing to another; "the addition of flowers created a pleasing effect"; "the addition of a leap day every four years"
addition - a quantity that is added; "there was an addition to property taxes this year"; "they recorded the cattle's gain in weight over a period of weeks"
addition - something added to what you already have; "the librarian shelved the new accessions"; "he was a new addition to the staff"

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/addition

I don't understand how any of that is in the least bit worth becoming consternated about. It is what it is.

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 » Tue May 22, 2012 2:03 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Ron,

Ron Crouch wrote:retro - what I'm teaching is right down the middle Visuddhimagga and Mahasi Sayadaw style buddhism

Then that is what it is would be best to call it.

:meditate:

Metta,
Retro. :)
Sure, just as there is Retro Style Buddhism.
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 » Tue May 22, 2012 2:05 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:Sure, just as there is Retro Style Buddhism.

Yes, the Noble Eightfold Path is fabricated.

As I said earlier (in that other topic), there are as many types of path and there are people on the path.

My path is not identical to anyone else's.

May your Tilt-fabricated-N8P cross you to the other shore!

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 » Tue May 22, 2012 2:10 am

retrofuturist wrote:
May your Tilt-fabricated-N8P cross you to the other shore!

Metta,
Retro. :)
My Tilt-fabricated-Buddha-Dhamma-N8P
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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