Literality of The Gradual Training

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Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby danieLion » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:54 pm

Hi,

How literally should lay followers (I think it's clear for monks and nuns) take the gradual training (GT)?

The logic of the GT makes good common sense to me.

But: even the modern Buddhist meditation teachers, including several Theravadin Ajahns, who include the GT in their teachings also teach mindfulness, jhana, etc... to lay people without strictly adhering to the serial or sequential order of the GT.

For instance, if we've cultivated strong mindfulness or had some success with jhana before ever having heard of the GT, are we then to consider our accomplishments to that point as invalid because they don't fit into the GT scheme once we've become aware of the it? Or, does recognizing the GT simply more properly contextualize ones practice? If so, how?

A more general way of putting it might be: what kind of order can we validly infer from the notion of "gradual"?

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:05 pm

Greetings DanieLion,

It's an interesting question.

The only thing I've got to add into the mix at the moment is that the teaching of meditation to laypeople often happens in a formal "retreat" environment, and these are invariably group situations. When you have a group, you necessarily have people with different skills, dispositions, knowledge, experience, learning styles and such (which are attributes connected to a gradual teaching)... but on account of having a group, there's some necessity to homogenize the instructions as well, and there's no guarantee that homogenization is going to meet everyone's needs.

It must be a challenging proposition. I suspect some monks may prefer for lay people to follow more of a gradual program, but if someone has decided they want to do meditation, similarly they don't want to discourage that.

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:17 pm

Hi Daniel,
danieLion wrote:For instance, if we've cultivated strong mindfulness or had some success with jhana before ever having heard of the GT, are we then to consider our accomplishments to that point as invalid because they don't fit into the GT scheme once we've become aware of the it? Or, does recognizing the GT simply more properly contextualize ones practice? If so, how?

I don't think the point is to have "heard of the GT", the point is to be taught in an appropriate way, isn't it?

Clearly there is all kinds of variation amongst teachers, but the retreat situations I'm familiar with are quite consistent with this sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .horn.html
Morality

"'Come you, monk, be of moral habit, live controlled by the control of the Obligations, endowed with [right] behavior and posture, seeing peril in the slightest fault and, undertaking them, train yourself in the rules of training.' As soon, brahman, as the monk is of moral habit, controlled by the control of the Obligations, endowed with [right] behavior and posture; seeing peril in the slightest fault and, undertaking them, trains himself in the rules of training, the Tathagata disciplines him further saying:

Sense-control

"'Come you monk, be guarded as to the doors of the sense-organs; having seen a material shape with the eye, do not be entranced with the general appearance, do not be entranced with the detail; for if one dwells with the organ of sight uncontrolled, covetousness and dejection, evil, unskillful states of mind, may flow in. So fare along controlling it, guard the organ of sight, achieve control over the organ of sight. Having heard a sound with the ear... Having smelt a smell with the nose... Having savored a taste with the tongue... Having felt a touch with the body... Having cognized a mental state with the mind, do not be entranced with the detail. For if one dwells with the organ of mind uncontrolled, covetousness and dejection, evil, unskillful states of mind, may flow in. So fare along controlling it; guard the organ of mind, achieve control over the organ of mind.'

Moderation in eating

"As soon, brahman, as a monk is guarded as to the doors of the sense-organs, the Tathagata disciplines him further, saying: 'Come you, monk, be moderate in eating; you should take food reflecting carefully, not for fun or indulgence or personal charm or beautification, but taking just enough for maintaining this body and keeping it going, for keeping it unharmed, for furthering the Brahma-faring,[4] with the thought: Thus will I crush out an old feeling, and I will not allow a new feeling to arise, and then there will be for me subsistence and blamelessness and abiding in comfort.'

Vigilance

"As soon, brahman, as a monk is moderate in eating, the Tathagata disciplines him further, saying: 'Come you, monk, dwell intent on vigilance; during the day while pacing up and down, while sitting down, cleanse the mind of obstructive mental states; during the middle watch of the night, lie down on the right side in the lion posture, foot resting on foot, mindful, clearly conscious, reflecting on the thought of getting up again; during the last watch of the night, when you have arisen, while pacing up and down, while sitting down, cleanse the mind of obstructive mental states.'

Mindfulness and clear consciousness

"As soon, brahman, as a monk is intent on vigilance, the Tathagata disciplines him further, saying: 'Come you, monk, be possessed of mindfulness and clear consciousness, acting with clear consciousness whether you are approaching or departing, acting with clear consciousness whether you are looking ahead or looking round, acting with clear consciousness whether you are bending in or stretching out [the arms], acting with clear consciousness whether you are carrying the outer cloak, the bowl or robe, acting with clear consciousness whether you are eating, drinking, munching, savoring, acting with clear consciousness whether you are obeying the calls of nature, acting with clear consciousness whether you are walking, standing, sitting, asleep, awake, talking or being silent.'

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby danieLion » Sat Jun 09, 2012 6:09 am

Hi Retro and mikenz66,
I really appreciate your posts and get what you're saying about retreat, but as Sujato's pointed out (citation upon request) the practice of retreat itself was taught by the Buddha as part of the GT.
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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 09, 2012 6:29 am

Hi Daniel,

Perhaps you could elaborate on exactly what you think is being left out by modern teachers.

I would add that I don't see any of these lists (eightfold path, gradual training, satipatthana sutta, or elaborations such as the progress of insight) as "strictly literal" in the sense that they are instructions or steps that are always strictly sequential. Clearly some won't happen without others (jhana without preparatory practice, for example) but those suttas are concise summaries of main points, and I think it would be far-fetched to imagine that there won't be come circularity or backtracking in real practice.

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jun 09, 2012 8:14 am

Hi Danial
I don't think the GT is strictly upheld even within the texts as those discourses which are to large groups would include those at different stages and the first three discourses (especially the fire sermon & the notself characteristic sermon) were taught without it, & as its components can be taught individually or within the GT framework.

like many lists in the canon it would be interesting to see how it corresponds to the Agama version, and from memory there is a difference (I remember it being in Venerable Analayos talks and possibly the satipatthana book?) in order - possibly a slightly different order in the middle, and maybe a substitution(?) of a similar item also found in the canon and pointing in the same direction.
the main thing here is, is it 100% necesary to have the order as expressed or if it neccessary to complete the individual parts in a order of which is best at a given time? I believe it is the latter as this allows adaptability to circumstances and individual needs.

Edit - although it could be argued that when one perfects one aspect of the training the next one in the list could be fully perfected and not before the prior one would the next be able to be perfected properly, although I have my doubts that would be the case.
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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby chownah » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:24 am

What is gradual training?
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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby Dmytro » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:43 pm

Hi DanieLion,

It's like building a house. One can put up a temporary roof without any foundation. But to build a high and stable building one needs to start from a strong foundation and support beams first.

Dutiya - agāravasuttaṃ - Second on unruliness

Bhikkhus, that bhikkhu who is unruly, rebellious and not of the sharing nature with co-associates in the holy life should complete the lesser ethics is not a possibility. Without becoming complete in the lesser ethics, that he should complete the training is not a possibility. Without completing the training, that he should complete the mass of virtues is not a possibility. Without completing the mass of virtues, that he should be complete in concentration is not a possibility. Without becoming complete in the mass of concentration, that he should be complete in wisdom is not a possibility.

‘‘So vata, bhikkhave, bhikkhu agāravo appatisso asabhāgavuttiko ‘sabrahmacārīsu ābhisamācārikaṃ dhammaṃ paripūressatī’ti netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati. ‘Ābhisamācārikaṃ dhammaṃ aparipūretvā sekhaṃ dhammaṃ paripūressatī’ti netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati. ‘Sekhaṃ dhammaṃ aparipūretvā sīlakkhandhaṃ paripūressatī’ti netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati. ‘Sīlakkhandhaṃ aparipūretvā samādhikkhandhaṃ paripūressatī’ti netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati. ‘Samādhikkhandhaṃ aparipūretvā paññākkhandhaṃ paripūressatī’ti netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati.

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

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby ground » Fri Jun 22, 2012 1:36 am

constructivist views are widespread due to being conditioned accordingly e.g. through educational systems. But actually "gradually" does not apply. The matter is is too complex and thought tries to deal with complexity by means of simplification and categorisation. This simplification and categorisation however has a negative feed back, i.e. is a hindrance in itself because it undermines balance.

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby cooran » Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:42 am

Hello all,

Gradual Awakening
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=8789

and:

‘Just as the ocean slopes away gradually, tends down gradually without any abrupt precipice, even so this Dhamma and discipline is a gradual doing, a gradual training, a gradual practice. There is no sudden penetration of knowledge’ (Ud.54).

with metta
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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby ground » Sun Jun 24, 2012 2:47 am

Yes, from my perspective "sudden" is not applicable either but that does not render "gradual" in the sense of "first you have to do this and then that and then ... " (like an "educational curriculum") still is not applicable even if you can find the term "gradual" in translations.

If "gradual" qua "curriculum" would be valid then what about the awakanings reported in suttas that occurred through merely listening to a teaching?


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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:04 am

Hi Ground,

One suspects that the disciples who were awakened after hearing a few words of Dhamma had very well-developed paramis. Besides, looking at the reported time-line (in the Vinaya, presumably?), even the first five bhikkhus, who would have been skilled in concentration, etc, spent a week working towards full awakening, with the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.harv.html delivered at the start the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.059.mend.html at the end. Presumably during that time they did not just sit around, but practised under the Buddha's guidance.

For the rank and file, it seems to have been more of a slog, as described in the suttas such as the one I linked to above: viewtopic.php?f=14&t=12749#p192675

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby ground » Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:28 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Ground,

One suspects that the disciples who were awakened after hearing a few words of Dhamma had very well-developed paramis.

Yes. One may suspect and/or believe and/or hope ... but one will never be able to get evidence even if volitional affirmation of one's belief or hope arises.

So it is important to know that it is volition that determines what is possible or not.

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jun 24, 2012 7:23 am

ground wrote:So it is important to know that it is volition that determines what is possible or not.

kind regards

Forgive me if I am miss understanding you but, there is more to life than just Kamma, circumstance, disease & natural phenomena also conditioning factors, not everything results from Kamma.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby ground » Sun Jun 24, 2012 7:30 am

Cittasanto wrote:
ground wrote:So it is important to know that it is volition that determines what is possible or not.

kind regards

Forgive me if I am miss understanding you but, there is more to life than just Kamma, circumstance, disease & natural phenomena also conditioning factors, not everything results from Kamma.

No problem. This is not the first time you misinterpret my words. :)

The context of
gound wrote:So it is important to know that it is volition that determines what is possible or not.

is
gound wrote:Yes. One may suspect and/or believe and/or hope ... but one will never be able to get evidence even if volitional affirmation of one's belief or hope arises.



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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby danieLion » Mon Jun 25, 2012 2:35 am

The more I read the suttas the more it seems like calling it THE Gradual Training is a misnomer. It might be more accurate to call it a gradualist style of training because the actual application of "the" method varies wildly.
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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 25, 2012 2:46 am

Well, sure, a skilful teacher varies the training according to the student.

From the Sutta I quoted above:
"It is possible, brahman, to lay down a gradual training, a gradual doing, a gradual practice in respect of this dhamma and discipline, Brahman, even a skilled trainer of horses, having taken on a beautiful thoroughbred first of all gets it used to the training in respect of wearing the bit. Then he gets it used to further training — even so brahman, the Tathagata, having taken on a man to be tamed, first of all disciplines him thus: ...

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby danieLion » Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:02 am

mikenz66 wrote:Well, sure, a skilful teacher varies the training according to the student.

From the Sutta I quoted above:
"It is possible, brahman, to lay down a gradual training, a gradual doing, a gradual practice in respect of this dhamma and discipline, Brahman, even a skilled trainer of horses, having taken on a beautiful thoroughbred first of all gets it used to the training in respect of wearing the bit. Then he gets it used to further training — even so brahman, the Tathagata, having taken on a man to be tamed, first of all disciplines him thus: ...

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MIke

Hi Mike,
Right. But my main point stands. The broader sutta context does not support referring to it as "THE" gradual training. Perhaps I'm being to literal?
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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 25, 2012 3:14 am

danieLion wrote:But my main point stands. The broader sutta context does not support referring to it as "THE" gradual training. Perhaps I'm being to literal?

I think so. The Buddha taught differently to different audiences.

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Re: Literality of The Gradual Training

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jun 25, 2012 5:42 am

ground wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:
ground wrote:So it is important to know that it is volition that determines what is possible or not.

kind regards

Forgive me if I am miss understanding you but, there is more to life than just Kamma, circumstance, disease & natural phenomena also conditioning factors, not everything results from Kamma.

No problem. This is not the first time you misinterpret my words. :)

The context of
gound wrote:So it is important to know that it is volition that determines what is possible or not.

is
gound wrote:Yes. One may suspect and/or believe and/or hope ... but one will never be able to get evidence even if volitional affirmation of one's belief or hope arises.



Kind regards

Hi Ground
That doesn't change what I thought you were saying, there are other factors in the world other that kamma alone which determines what is possible.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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