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 daverupa » Sun May 27, 2012 12:29 am

mikenz66 wrote:How do you interpret the many passages like the following?
I discerned, as it was actually present, that 'This is stress [dukkha]... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.'

To me, it seems to be talking about experiencing dukkha.


It's the experience of right view; where is that anywhere described as being an experience of dukkha?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 27, 2012 12:34 am

Greetings,

Yes - Right View, proper discernment.

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 » Sun May 27, 2012 4:17 am

Ron Crouch wrote:Most teachers simply do not tell students that these insight stages exist and are part of the insight path. To me this is a big ethical lapse in our dhamma communities.


Hi Ron,

It is obvious to me from my knowledge of the Nikayas and other stories of enlighted masters (like Milarepa) that there is difficulty to be expected. I have known a fair amount of difficulty in my practice and friends I practice with have shared immense difficulties with me. Im somewhat dubious of the idea of a model that posits a seemingly generic type of difficult phase as a precise step on the path. I agree that whitewashing insight practice by not acknowledging that people often work through intense difficulty is not at all helpful. I also agree that these difficulties may not have arisen at all without the effort to practice. However, my view of practice is much more holistic than the one you and possibly the VM seem to describe. I wont go into to that now. I don't doubt the efficacy of the Burmese techniques or the use of the VM as a guide. I have attended a few of Kenneth Folks workshops and he strikes me as a very authentic and kind person who is doing his best to help people effectively meditate. I suspect that there are ways to mitigate the difficulties that arise without hindering further progress. On the contrary I would say that there are ways to greatly mitigate that difficulty while advancing the process of insight. I think the Buddha spells these ways out in his historical record and I think that the various Buddhist traditions have many of these ways embedded into them. Not only that I think it is our task to continually strive to find new ways and refresh old ones in accord with Buddhist principles. I hope that we strive to do this while at the same time realistically recognizing and acknowledging that the path is not always easy. On the contrary.

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 Ron Crouch » Sun May 27, 2012 5:32 am

daverupa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:How do you interpret the many passages like the following?
I discerned, as it was actually present, that 'This is stress [dukkha]... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.'

To me, it seems to be talking about experiencing dukkha.


It's the experience of right view; where is that anywhere described as being an experience of dukkha?



In order for there to be right view, there has to be something to view. He clearly describes that dukkha is "actually present." The order of this statement is very clear - first there is the actual experience of dukkha, then investigation into its origin and the way out, then the liberation from them.

Direct experiencing - investigation - liberation: this is how insight unfolds.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 27, 2012 5:34 am

Hi Dave, Retro,
daverupa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:How do you interpret the many passages like the following?
I discerned, as it was actually present, that 'This is stress [dukkha]... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.'

To me, it seems to be talking about experiencing dukkha.


It's the experience of right view; where is that anywhere described as being an experience of dukkha?


Evidently there are many different ways to read the Suttas...

What is quoted above is:
"This is stress [dukkha]...".

I've always presumed that this means that we have to actually examine the dukkha in our experience, not just think about it. See Ajahn Chah's statement that I quoted back here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12455#p188525

Perhaps it's just semantics, but the Buddha (or Sariputta in this case) talks about even jhana states as being unsatisfactory:
Thanissaro wrote:Ven. Sariputta explains to Ven. Udayin how even the most exquisitely refined and beautiful mental states are beset with dukkha; only Nibbana itself can truly be called "pleasant."

AN 9.34: Nibbana Sutta — Unbinding
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Sariputta wrote:"Furthermore, there is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & stress — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. If, as he remains there, he is beset with attention to perceptions dealing with equanimity, that is an affliction for him...


:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sun May 27, 2012 5:39 am

Prasadachitta wrote:
Ron Crouch wrote:Most teachers simply do not tell students that these insight stages exist and are part of the insight path. To me this is a big ethical lapse in our dhamma communities.


Hi Ron,

It is obvious to me from my knowledge of the Nikayas and other stories of enlighted masters (like Milarepa) that there is difficulty to be expected. I have known a fair amount of difficulty in my practice and friends I practice with have shared immense difficulties with me. Im somewhat dubious of the idea of a model that posits a seemingly generic type of difficult phase as a precise step on the path. I agree that whitewashing insight practice by not acknowledging that people often work through intense difficulty is not at all helpful. I also agree that these difficulties may not have arisen at all without the effort to practice. However, my view of practice is much more holistic than the one you and possibly the VM seem to describe. I wont go into to that now. I don't doubt the efficacy of the Burmese techniques or the use of the VM as a guide. I have attended a few of Kenneth Folks workshops and he strikes me as a very authentic and kind person who is doing his best to help people effectively meditate. I suspect that there are ways to mitigate the difficulties that arise without hindering further progress. On the contrary I would say that there are ways to greatly mitigate that difficulty while advancing the process of insight. I think the Buddha spells these ways out in his historical record and I think that the various Buddhist traditions have many of these ways embedded into them. Not only that I think it is our task to continually strive to find new ways and refresh old ones in accord with Buddhist principles. I hope that we strive to do this while at the same time realistically recognizing and acknowledging that the path is not always easy. On the contrary.

Metta

Prasadachitta



Prasadachitta,

I love your balanced approach to thinking about this stuff. That is the sign of mature practice!

No worries if the VM or Mahasi system doesn't seem like a good fit for you. As you point out, there are other ways to go.

Great points,

Ron
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby danieLion » Sun May 27, 2012 6:52 am

Hi Ron,

It seems to me you're blaming the general problems of discernment on psychotherapy. This might be a good time to recall your "causes aren't correlations" training and incorporate it into your analysis of the relationship between psychotherapy and practice. Psychotherapists have been "harming" (cf. your Dr. Britton reference) people for years, long before several of them co-opted "mindfulness" to attract more clients.

The problem is neither Buddhist nor psychotherapeutic. The problem is dukkha/samsara. There are crappy therapists and crappy meditation teachers and a whole lot of messed up people in the world. "Adversities" will happen. Identifying causes in this mess, as the Buddha duly noted, is merely academic. In the Buddha's sense, then, the "dark night" is much more banal than most of us want to admit. It's not a special occurrence at some so called "stage" on the Path. Perhaps this stems for your belief that the purpose of meditation is to become enlightened? For that, I'd recommend some good doses of Ajahn Sumedho.

The Buddha didn't teach that life is suffering or that the self is a dream. As Thanissaro (Hang on to Your Ego et al) points out, the Buddha taught you need a healthy ego (Thanissaro also, to my surprise, generally speaks highly of psychotherapy as a beneficial supplement to practice). The Buddha didn't eradicate all his senses of self. The Buddha taught what is not self, not that there is no self. He taught us to see our senses of selves for what they are: inconstant (anicca) aggregates (khanda).

Christian Mysticism and practice, are in my opinion, incompatible. I love St. John of the Cross, but Uniting my SOUL with GOD is not part of any Buddhist practice I'm aware of.

Also, you've not addressed the problems inherent in psychotherapeutic classifications/taxonomies/diagnosis tools themselves. Psychopathology is itself culturally bound. Realities like death, old age, sickness, disease transcend cultural boundaries.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 27, 2012 7:00 am

Greetings Daniel,

danieLion wrote: Perhaps this stems for your belief that the purpose of meditation is to become enlightened? For that, I'd recommend some good doses of Ajahn Sumedho.

Do you wish to provide a link to at least one relevant reference? It's a bit unreasonable to expect Ron to fish around the talks and works of Ajahn Sumedho on the off chance of stumbling across something pertaining to your note here.

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 27, 2012 7:02 am

Hi Daniel,
danieLion wrote:It seems to me you're blaming the general problems of discernment on psychotherapy. ...

I don't see where.

Many teachers, not just Ron (I've quoted Sayadaw Mahasi and Ajahn Chah above) have students who go through various difficulties. The Buddha evidently had students with problems, since there are lots of suttas that talk about how to solve them. Was the Buddha a poor teacher?

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby danieLion » Sun May 27, 2012 7:12 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Many teachers...have students who go through various difficulties. The Buddha evidently had students with problems, since there are lots of suttas that talk about how to solve them. Was the Buddha a poor teacher?

Hi Mike,
I nowhere claimed practitioners don't have difficulties (so you're question "Was the Buddha a poor teacher?" have no relevance to my post).
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 27, 2012 7:18 am

danieLion wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
Many teachers...have students who go through various difficulties. The Buddha evidently had students with problems, since there are lots of suttas that talk about how to solve them. Was the Buddha a poor teacher?

Hi Mike,
I nowhere claimed practitioners don't have difficulties (so you're question "Was the Buddha a poor teacher?" have no relevance to my post).
metta

Sorry, I guess I was misreading:
danieLion wrote:The problem is neither Buddhist nor psychotherapeutic. The problem is dukkha/samsara. There are crappy therapists and crappy meditation teachers and a whole lot of messed up people in the world.

to imply that when people have "dark night" experiences it was because of poor teachers or therapists.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby nibs » Sun May 27, 2012 7:44 am

danieLion wrote:The Buddha didn't eradicate all his senses of self. The Buddha taught what is not self, not that there is no self. He taught us to see our senses of selves for what they are: inconstant (anicca) aggregates (khanda).


Hi Daniel,

I'm curious about the above claim. Can you point to a sutta/s where it negates the Buddha 'eradicating all of his 'sense of selves'. Would a 'sense of self' not be considered a fabrication of mind? And a non-construing mind, one free from fabrications not be free from any 'sense of self' as a result?

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby danieLion » Sun May 27, 2012 7:50 am

Ron Crouch wrote:As far as the movement in psychology to integrate mindfulness into therapies, as you may imagine, I'm a bit torn about it, and this is something that I've thought a lot about. I'm apprehensive about the gung-ho attitude that many in psychology have about bringing some of these very powerful techniques into people's lives without really understanding the repercussions that they may have. I've met some of the people who are promoting and developing these approaches and while they are universally well-intentioned, it is my personal sense that they don't have a very deep understanding of meditation or how powerfully it can effect the mind.

Ajaan Lee wrote:Some people won't practice concentration because they're afraid of becoming ignorant or going insane. The truth of the matter is that normally we're already ignorant, already insane, and that to practice centering the mind is what will end our ignorance and cure our insanity. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... l#foreword

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby danieLion » Sun May 27, 2012 7:53 am

mikenz66 wrote:
danieLion wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
Many teachers...have students who go through various difficulties. The Buddha evidently had students with problems, since there are lots of suttas that talk about how to solve them. Was the Buddha a poor teacher?

Hi Mike,
I nowhere claimed practitioners don't have difficulties (so you're question "Was the Buddha a poor teacher?" have no relevance to my post).
metta

Sorry, I guess I was misreading:
danieLion wrote:The problem is neither Buddhist nor psychotherapeutic. The problem is dukkha/samsara. There are crappy therapists and crappy meditation teachers and a whole lot of messed up people in the world.

to imply that when people have "dark night" experiences it was because of poor teachers or therapists.

:anjali:
Mike

Yes, I see now. I should've been clearer. People have "dark nights" because they live in darkness (dukkha/samsara). IOW, "dark nights" are dependently originated.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby danieLion » Sun May 27, 2012 8:12 am

danieLion wrote:The Buddha didn't eradicate all his senses of self. The Buddha taught what is not self, not that there is no self. He taught us to see our senses of selves for what they are: inconstant (anicca) aggregates (khanda).


nibs wrote:Can you point to a sutta/s where it negates the Buddha 'eradicating all of his 'sense of selves'.

I don't understand this sentence. Would you please re-state it? Thanks (If you're asking what I think, consider that in the suttas the Buddha uses personal pronouns to refer to himself all the time).

nibs wrote:"Would a 'sense of self' not be considered a fabrication of mind? And a non-construing mind, one free from fabrications not be free from any 'sense of self' as a result?

nibs

Are you saying being free from fabrications equals ceasing to exist? The only way you could have "no self" is to not exist. IOW, the not-self strategy is an attempt to accurately perceive how one exists (as opposed to who or what one is).
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby nibs » Sun May 27, 2012 8:52 am

danieLion wrote:
nibs wrote:Can you point to a sutta/s where it negates the Buddha 'eradicating all of his 'sense of selves'.

I don't understand this sentence. Would you please re-state it? Thanks (If you're asking what I think, consider that in the suttas the Buddha uses personal pronouns to refer to himself all the time).


Ok. Where does it say in the suttas a 'sense of self' does not dissapear for good at full awakening? Or is this some conclusion one has come to oneself due to there being no talk of the 'disappearance' of 'sense of self' in the suttas? Isn't there a sutta that speaks to the use of conventional terms such as 'I' and 'me'? I'm sure I've read it a few times. Let me look for it. Using such words would not strictly signify that one is not free of such a fabrication (of a felt sense of existing).

Are you saying being free from fabrications equals ceasing to exist? The only way you could have "no self" is to not exist. IOW, the not-self strategy is an attempt to accurately perceive how one exists (as opposed to who or what one is).


Are you saying the 'sense of self/selves' is a sense of 'existing' and is not a fabrication? I would agree there is correlation between sense of 'self' and 'existing' but would not agree that such experiences are not fabrications of mind.

I don't think there is a 'self' that exists to then not 'exist'. Are you saying this? There is though a mind/body organism. I'm not referring to this but the mental fabrications of a mentally felt sense of 'me-ness', which is illusory, no? I was wondering how the Buddha would experience 'sense of selves' if we consider a 'mentally felt sense of existing/self' as simply a fabrication of mind. How could it not be a fabrication? Isn't it the mind (mis) reading sensations and mental overlay that way? What if the mind stopped construing that sense of 'self" via seeing that there was no need for such a 'mental overlay' of 'me-ness'? You don't think this is possible?

Isn't the notion of the 'deathless' pointing to this? isn't it pointing to freedom from construed 'things', 'objects' and thus a 'subjective' reaction towards the 'object' of consciousness in the form of a 'sense of self', a sense of exisiting? Or are you saying that those experiecnes (of 'self'/existing) continue to arise but are seen as the three C's only. Wouldn't seeing how that 'me-ness' arises also lead to seeing its cessation as well? Sorry for all the questions. i am truly curious as to how one gets to this view.

"But when one doesn't intend, arrange, or obsess [about anything], there is no support for the stationing of consciousness. There being no support, there is no landing of consciousness. When that consciousness doesn't land & grow, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. When there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering & stress." Cetana Sutta


Isn't the sense of 'self' arising due to 'consciousness' landing on an 'object' within the field of experience? Sensations? Mental phenomena?

"'I am' is a construing. 'I am this' is a construing. 'I shall be' is a construing. 'I shall not be'...'I shall be possessed of form'... 'I shall not be possessed of form'... 'I shall be percipient'... 'I shall not be percipient'... 'I shall be neither percipient nor non-percipient' is a construing. Construing is a disease, construing is a cancer, construing is an arrow. Therefore, monks, you should train yourselves: 'We will dwell with an awareness free of construings.' Yavakalapi Sutta


Isn't one construing such an experience of a 'sense of self/existing'?

In Theravada, atammayata has been referred to as the ultimate concept. It literally means “not made of that.” But atammayata can be rendered in many different ways, giving it a variety of subtle shades of meaning. Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñanamoli (in their translation of the Majjhima Nikaya render it as “non- identification”—picking up on the “subject” side of the equation. Other translators call it “nonfashioning” or “unconcoctability,” thus pointing more to the ”object” element of it. Either way, it refers primarily to the quality of awareness prior to or without a subject-object duality.

http://www.abhayagiri.org/main/book/138


Isn't the sense of 'self' simply a subjective like experience that arises to establish some sort of relationship of aversion, craving, meh!-ness with an 'object'? Both 'subject/object being 'construed?

Ayya Khema talks a bit about the sense of 'me-ness' dropping away more and more till it is no more (arahat). I'll look for the quotes.

Edit: To relate this to the main theme of this thread, I think the sense of 'self' has a lot to do with 'dark night' and 'why one meditates'.
Last edited by nibs on Sun May 27, 2012 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby nibs » Sun May 27, 2012 10:00 am

Here is Ayya Khema talking about the stages of awakening and what happens to the sense of 'me-ness'. This is me praraphrasing but she says soemthing like "the anagami still has ignorance (still a very faintest hint of a “me”) Very faint but it is there: There is a conceiving of a self".


http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/334/talk/7851/


And from the same audio above:

“Taking the next step amounts to the same guidelines. Maybe there is that slight difference that the mind resolves that this person of mind and body is willing to disappear. Totally and utterly willing to disappear. No nothing that can hold them, nothing that needs to be done. Nothing that is important, that person is willing to disappear. And as the person is willing to disappear, there is that in the fruit moment, the path moment being something that one can’t explain, because it is a non-occurrence, this is what the technical term is, in the fruit moment, there is that feeling of having disappeared, and having disappeared creates enormous bliss. One may think and the Buddha also talked about the that worldings may think it is dreadful to disappear, but actually it’s marvelous, because with that disappearance which may feel like …..(pause)…hm..falling into ..….falling in to..…no that is not true….this is very hard to describe….I was going to say falling into the depths of a hole but that is not quite it. Maybe falling into the depths of a cloud and disappearing in there, but even that is not quite it, but that is the best anyway, that is happening right now, with that nothing that happens in the world can ever have really close impact." Ayya Khema
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby danieLion » Sun May 27, 2012 11:06 am

nibs wrote:Ok. Where does it say in the suttas a 'sense of self' does not dissapear for good at full awakening?

Where does it say it does?

The Buddha wanted us to examine our assumptions about self, not come to ultimate conclusions about the ontological (metaphysical) status of self/selves.

Let's start with a passage from MN 22, Alagaddupama Sutta: The Water-Snake Simile
"And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmas, & Pajapati, search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that 'The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathagata) is dependent on this.' Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now.

"Speaking in this way, teaching in this way, I have been erroneously, vainly, falsely, unfactually misrepresented by some brahmans and contemplatives [who say], 'Gotama the contemplative is one who misleads. He declares the annihilation, destruction, extermination of the existing being.' But as I am not that, as I do not say that, so I have been erroneously, vainly, falsely, unfactually misrepresented by those venerable brahmans and contemplatives [who say], 'Gotama the contemplative is one who misleads. He declares the annihilation, destruction, extermination of the existing being.'

"Both formerly and now, monks, I declare only stress and the cessation of stress.


Thanissaro's introduction states that
Thanissaro wrote:This is a discourse about clinging to views (ditthi). Its central message is conveyed in two similes, among the most famous in the Canon: the simile of the water-snake and the simile of the raft. Taken together, these similes focus on the skill needed to grasp right view properly as a means of leading to the cessation of suffering, rather than an object of clinging, and then letting it go when it has done its job.

The first section of the discourse, leading up to the simile of the water-snake, focuses on the danger of misapprehending the Dhamma in general, and particularly the teachings on sensuality. The discourse doesn't explain how the offending monk, Arittha, formulated his misapprehension of the Dhamma, but the Commentary suggests a plausible scenario:

"Here the monk... having gone into seclusion, reasons as follows: 'There are people living the household life, enjoying the five pleasures of the senses, who are stream-winners, once-returners, and non-returners. As for monks, they see pleasurable forms cognizable via the eye, hear... smell... taste... feel (pleasurable) tactile sensations cognizable via the body. They use soft carpets and clothing. All this is proper. Then why shouldn't the sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel of a woman be proper? They too are proper!' Thus... comparing a mustard seed with Mount Sineru, he gives rise to the pernicious viewpoint, 'Why did the Blessed One — binding the ocean, as it were, with great effort — formulate the first parajika training rule (against sexual intercourse)? There is nothing wrong with that act.'"

Regardless of how Arittha actually arrived at his position, the Commentary's suggestion makes an important point: that just because an idea can be logically inferred from the Dhamma does not mean that the idea is valid or useful. The Buddha himself makes the same point in AN 2.25:

"Monks, these two slander the Tathagata. Which two? He who explains a discourse whose meaning needs to be inferred as one whose meaning has already been fully drawn out. And he who explains a discourse whose meaning has already been fully drawn out as one whose meaning needs to be inferred..."

Having established this point, the discourse illustrates it with the simile of the water-snake, which in turn is an introduction to the simile of the raft. It is important to underline the connection between these two similes, for it is often missed. Many a casual reader has concluded from the simile of the raft simply that the Dhamma is to be let go. In fact, one major Mahayana text — the Diamond Sutra — interprets the raft simile as meaning that one has to let go of the raft in order to cross the river. However, the simile of the water-snake makes the point that the Dhamma has to be grasped; the trick lies in grasping it properly. When this point is then applied to the raft simile, the implication is clear: One has to hold onto the raft properly in order to cross the river. Only when one has reached the safety of the further shore can one let go.

Taken together, these two similes set the stage for the remainder of the discourse, which focuses on the teaching of not-self. This is one of the most easily misapprehended teachings in the Canon largely because it is possible to draw the wrong inferences from it.

Two mistaken inferences are particularly relevant here. The first concerns the range of the not-self teaching. Some have argued that, because the Buddha usually limits his teachings on not-self to the five aggregates — form, feeling, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness — he leaves open the possibility that something else may be regarded as self. Or, as the argument is often phrased, he denies the limited, temporal self as a means of pointing to one's identity with the larger, unlimited, cosmic self. However, in this discourse the Buddha explicitly phrases the not-self teaching in such a way as to refute any notion of cosmic self. Instead of centering his discussion of not-self on the five aggregates, he focuses on the first four aggregates plus two other possible objects of self-identification, both more explicitly cosmic in their range: (1) all that can be seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect; and (2) the cosmos as a whole, eternal and unchanging. In fact, the Buddha holds this last view up to particular ridicule, as the teaching of a fool, for two reasons that are developed at different points in this discourse: (1) If the cosmos were "me," then it must also be "mine," which is obviously not the case. (2) There is nothing in the experience of the cosmos that fits the bill of being eternal, unchanging, or that deserves to be clung to as "me" or "mine."

The second mistaken inference is that, given the thoroughness with which the Buddha teaches not-self, one should draw the inference that there is no self. This inference is treated less explicitly in this discourse, although it is touched upon briefly in terms of what the Buddha teaches here and how he teaches.

In terms of what: He explicitly states he cannot envision a doctrine of self that, if clung to, would not lead to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair. He does not list all the possible doctrines of self included under this statement, but MN 2 provides at least a partial list:

I have a self... I have no self... It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self... or... This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

Thus the view "I have no self" is just as much a doctrine of self as the view "I have a self." Because the act of clinging involves what the Buddha calls "I-making" — the creation of a sense of self — if one were to cling to the view that there is no self, one would be creating a very subtle sense of self around that view (see AN 4.24). But, as he says, the Dhamma is taught for "the elimination of all view-positions, determinations, biases, inclinations, & obsessions; for the stilling of all fabrications; for the relinquishing of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding."

Thus it is important to focus on how the Dhamma is taught: Even in his most thoroughgoing teachings about not-self, the Buddha never recommends replacing the assumption that there is a self with the assumption that there is no self. Instead, he only goes so far as to point out the drawbacks of various ways of conceiving the self and then to recommend dropping them. For example, in his standard series of questions building on the logic of the inconstancy and stress of the aggregates, he does not say that because the aggregates are inconstant and stressful there is no self. He simply asks, When they are inconstant and stressful, is it proper to assume that they are "me, my self, what I am"? Now, because the sense of self is a product of "I-making," this question seeks to do nothing more than to induce disenchantment and dispassion for that process of I-making, so as to put a stop to it. Once that is accomplished, the teaching has fulfilled its purpose in putting an end to suffering and stress. That's the safety of the further shore. As the Buddha says in this discourse, "Both formerly and now, monks, I declare only stress and the cessation of stress." As he also says here, when views of self are finally dropped, one is free from agitation; and as MN 140 points out, when one is truly unagitated one is unbound. The raft has reached the shore, and one can leave it there — free to go where one likes, in a way that cannot be traced.


And in a footnote to this passage, Thanissaro says,
Thanissaro wrote:Annihilationism is one of the two extremes of wrong view criticized most heavily by the Buddha (the other is eternalism, as represented by the sixth of the six view-positions). Some interpreters, citing this passage, have tried to limit the meaning of annihilationism simply to the idea of the annihilation of an existing being. The teaching that there is no self, they then argue, does not count as annihilationism because there is no self to be annihilated. This interpretation ignores SN 44.10, which counts the statement "there is no self" as siding with annihilationism.

As for the term, "existing being": SN 22.36 and SN 23.2 state that a being is defined by his/her/its objects of clinging. SN 5.10 indicates that one of the ways of overcoming clinging is to focus on how the concept of "being" arises, without assuming the truth of the concept. And as MN 72, SN 22.85, and SN 22.86 maintain, when clinging is gone, one is called not a being but a tathagata — who, freed from clinging, cannot be classified as or identified with anything at all.


SN 44.10 (mentioned above), Ananda Sutta: To Ananda (On Self, No Self, and Not-self) is also instructive:
Then the wanderer Vacchagotta went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he asked the Blessed One: "Now then, Venerable Gotama, is there a self?"

When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.

"Then is there no self?"

A second time, the Blessed One was silent.

Then Vacchagotta the wanderer got up from his seat and left.

Then, not long after Vacchagotta the wanderer had left, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "Why, lord, did the Blessed One not answer when asked a question by Vacchagotta the wanderer?"

"Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism [the view that there is an eternal, unchanging soul]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of consciousness]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?"

"No, lord."

"And if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"


Also note Thanissaro's comment in his Introduction to the Avyakata Samyutta (Undeclared-connected) this sutta comes from.

Thanissaro wrote:Even more controversial is SN 44.10, which addresses an issue not included in the standard list of ten undeclared questions: Is there a self? Is there no self? Many scholars have been uncomfortable with the fact that the Buddha leaves this question unanswered, believing that his statement that "all phenomena are not-self" implicitly states that there is no self. Thus they have tried to explain away the Buddha's silence on the existence or non-existence of the self, usually by pointing to the fourth of his reasons for not answering the question: his bewildered interlocutor, Vacchagotta, would have become even more bewildered. Had the Buddha been asked by someone less bewildered, these commentators say, he would have given the straight answer that there is no self. However, these commentators ignore two points. (1) The Buddha's first two reasons for not answering the questions have nothing to do with Vacchagotta. To say that there is a self, he says, would be siding with the wrong views of the eternalists. To say that there is no self would be siding with the wrong views of the annihilationists. (2) Immediately after Vacchagotta leaves, Ven. Ananda asks the Buddha to explain his silence. Had the Buddha really meant to declare that there is no self, this would have been the perfect time to do so, for bewildered people were now out of the way. But, again, he did not take that position.

One peculiarity of this approach to the Buddha's silence on this issue is that many commentators, noting the Buddha's desire not to bewilder Vacchagotta, assume somehow that their readers and listeners at present would not be bewildered by a doctrine that there is no self, and feel free to jump into the breach, stating baldly what they believe the Buddha was simply too reticent to say.

Another attempt to explain the Buddha's silence on this issue focuses on the second reason for his silence, saying that the annihilationists had laid claim to the slogan that there is no self, so — because the Buddha did not want his own doctrine of no self to be confused with theirs — he avoided their slogan. This explanation, however, is not supported by the Canon. The doctrines of the annihilationists are presented in a fair amount of detail in the Canon, and nowhere are they quoted as saying outright that there is no self. Thus there is no basis for saying that it was their slogan. Second, there are many instances where the Buddha, when asked a categorical question concerning an issue where he wanted to give a nuanced answer, showed himself perfectly capable of rephrasing the question in more nuanced terms before giving his reply. Had he held a nuanced doctrine that there is no self, he could have easily rephrased Vacchagotta's question before answering it. The fact that he chose not to do so, either in Vacchagotta's or Ven. Ananda's presence, indicates that he felt that this issue, too, was a thicket of views based on a misunderstanding, accompanied by suffering, and not leading to awakening.

So how is the statement "all phenomena are not self" to be taken? As a path to awakening. According to Dhp 279, when one sees this fact with discernment to the point of becoming disenchanted with stress, it forms the path to purity. Here the term "phenomena" covers fabricated and unfabricated phenomena. The fabricated phenomena encountered along the path include the aggregates, elements, and sense media. The unfabricated phenomenon, encountered when these fabricated phenomena cease, is the deathless. AN 9.96, however, points out that it is possible, on encountering the deathless, to feel a dhamma-passion and dhamma-delight for it, thus preventing full awakening. At this point the realization that all phenomena are not-self would be needed to overcome this last obstacle to total release. And once there is release, one becomes, like the Tathagata, indescribable: "deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the ocean." At that point, the path is abandoned, like a raft after it has been used to cross a river, and positions that "there is a self" and "there is no self" would not apply.


And Consider DN 15, The Maha-nidana (Great Causes) Sutta:
Assumptions of a Self

"To what extent, Ananda, does one assume when assuming a self? Assuming feeling to be the self, one assumes that 'Feeling is my self' [or] 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling]' [or] 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious to feeling, but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.'

"Now, one who says, 'Feeling is my self,' should be addressed as follows: 'There are these three feelings, my friend — feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and feelings of neither pleasure nor pain. Which of these three feelings do you assume to be the self?' At a moment when a feeling of pleasure is sensed, no feeling of pain or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pleasure is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pain is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of pain is sensed. Only a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed at that moment.

"Now, a feeling of pleasure is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. Having sensed a feeling of pleasure as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of pleasure, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of pain as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of pain, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, 'my self' has perished.

"Thus he assumes, assuming in the immediate present a self inconstant, entangled in pleasure and pain, subject to arising and passing away, he who says, 'Feeling is my self.' Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume feeling to be the self.

"As for the person who says, 'Feeling is not the self: My self is oblivious [to feeling],' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, where nothing whatsoever is sensed (experienced) at all, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"

"No, lord."

"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling].'

"As for the person who says, 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, should feelings altogether and every way stop without remainder, then with feeling completely not existing, owing to the cessation of feeling, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"

"No, lord."

"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.'

"Now, Ananda, in as far as a monk does not assume feeling to be the self, nor the self as oblivious, nor that 'My self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' then, not assuming in this way, he is not sustained by anything (does not cling to anything) in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

"If anyone were to say with regard to a monk whose mind is thus released that 'The Tathagata exists after death,' is his view, that would be mistaken; that 'The Tathagata does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death' is his view, that would be mistaken. Why? Having directly known the extent of designation and the extent of the objects of designation, the extent of expression and the extent of the objects of expression, the extent of description and the extent of the objects of description, the extent of discernment and the extent of the objects of discernment, the extent to which the cycle revolves: Having directly known that, the monk is released. [To say that,] 'The monk released, having directly known that, does not see, does not know is his opinion,' that would be mistaken.


Consider also DN 9, Potthapada Sutta: About Potthapada
Potthapada, there are these three acquisitions of a self: the gross acquisition of a self, the mind-made acquisition of a self, and the formless acquisition of a self. [9] And what is the gross acquisition of a self? Possessed of form, made up of the four great existents, feeding on physical food: this is the gross acquisition of a self. And what is the mind-made acquisition of a self? Possessed of form, mind-made, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties: this is the mind-made acquisition of a self. And what is the formless acquisition of a self? Formless and made of perception: this is the formless acquisition of a self.

In his introduction to this sutta, Thanissaro states,
Thanissaro wrote:This sutta portrays two modes by which the Buddha responded to the controversial issues of his day. The first mode — illustrated by his contribution to the discussion on the ultimate cessation of perception — was to adopt the terms of the discussion but to invest them with his own meanings, and then to try to direct the discussion to the practice leading to the cessation of suffering & stress. The second mode — illustrated by his treatment of whether the cosmos is eternal, etc. — was to declare the issues as unconducive to awakening, and to refuse to take a position on them.

Several other suttas — such as MN 63, MN 72, and AN 10.93 — portray the Buddha and his disciples adopting the second mode. This sutta is unusual in its extended portrait of the Buddha's adopting the first. Many of the technical terms he uses here — such as the perception of a refined truth, the peak of perception, the alert step-by step attainment of the ultimate cessation of perception, the acquisition of a self — are found no where else in the Canon. At the end of the sutta, he describes them as "the world's designations, the world's expressions, the world's ways of speaking, the world's descriptions, with which the Tathagata expresses himself but without grasping at them." In other words, he picks them up for the purpose at hand and then lets them go. Thus they are not to be regarded as central to his teaching. Instead, they should be read as examples of his ability to adapt the language of his interlocutors to his own purposes. For this reason, this sutta is best read only after you have read other suttas and are familiar with the more central concepts of the Buddha's teachings.

Of particular interest here is the Buddha's treatment of the three "acquisitions of a self." The first — the gross self — refers to the ordinary, everyday sense of identifying with one's body. The latter two — the mind-made acquisition and the formless acquisition — refer to the sense of self that can be developed in meditation. The mind-made acquisition can result from an experience of the mind-made body — the "astral body" — that constitutes one of the powers that can be developed through concentration practice. The formless acquisition can result from any of the formless states of concentration — such as an experience of infinite space, infinite consciousness, or nothingness. Although meditators, on experiencing these states, might assume that they have encountered their "true self," the Buddha is careful to note that these are acquisitions, and that they are no more one's true self than the body is. They are one's acquisition of a self only for the time that one identifies with them. The Buddha goes on to say that he teaches the Dhamma for the sake of abandoning every acquisition of a self "such that, when you practice it, defiling mental qualities will be abandoned, bright mental qualities will grow, and you will enter & remain in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for yourself in the here & now."

And in Thanissaro's note to this passage he says,
Thanissaro wrote:Acquisition of a self (atta-pa.tilaabho): According to the Commentary, this refers to the acquisition of an individual identity (attabhaava-pa.tilaabho) on any of the three levels of becoming: the sensual level, the level of form, and the formless level. The term attabhaava-pa.tilaabho is used in a number of suttas — among them AN 4.192 — where it definitely refers to the type of identity one assumes on experiencing rebirth in a particular level of being. However, there are two reasons for not following the Commentary's equation of atta-pa.tilaabho with attabhaava-pa.tilaabho. (1) As AN 4.72 makes clear, there is a type of attabhaava-pa.tilaabho — rebirth in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — that would not be covered by any of the three types of acquisition of a self mentioned in this sutta. Thus the Buddha seems to be limiting his discussion here to the alternative selves posited by Potthapada. (2) In a later passage in this sutta, the Buddha refers to the acquisition of a self as something he can point to directly in his listeners' immediate range of experience. Thus the term would seem to refer to the sense of self one can attain as a result of different levels of experience in meditation here and now.


See also: SN 22.1, SN 22.42, SN 22.47, SN 44.1, MN 44, MN 109 (where the Buddha reprimands a monk for taking the not-self teaching too far), AN 3.40 (where the Buddha includes the self as one of the three governing principles) and AN 4.200.
metta
danieLion
 
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby danieLion » Sun May 27, 2012 11:42 am

nibs wrote:Isn't one construing such an experience of a 'sense of self/existing'?

When you're not construing your hand, where does it go? When you are construing it, where is it? It's existence does not dependent on you construing it, but when you're not construing it it doesn't go away; and you know this because when you rely on it, it works--it's there for use.

So with self. When not awake, you perceive it with wrong view. When awake, you perceive it with right view.

Could you walk without a sense of form? Buddhas still walk, right? Could you know your hungry or full without a sense of feeling? Buddhas still eat, right? Could you tell time without perception? Buddha's still distinguish day from night, right? Could you make a decision or behave without formations/fabrications? Buddha's still decide and behave, right? Could you see, hear, smell, taste, touch or construe without consciousness? Buddha's still see, hear, smell, taste, touch and construe, right?

Form, feeling, perception, formations/fabrications and consciousness are not just in your imagination. If they were, you wouldn't cling to them, and if you didn't cling to them, you wouldn't need to let go of the perception that one or any combination of them is Me, I or Mine.
metta
danieLion
 
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby danieLion » Sun May 27, 2012 12:04 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:If you want to verify for yourself that they are part of the path please read them in the Visuddhimagga. They start on page 666, in the chapter entitled: Purification by Knowledge and Vision of the Way
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... on2011.pdf

Why would their inclusion in the VM convince anyone they're part of the Path?
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