New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Goob » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:57 am

I have always been impressed by Thanissaro Bhikkhu's skill in explaining the words of the Buddha in a very coherent and in a - to me - intuitively logical way and I'm always looking forward to his new books and writings. And today I found this, just released yesterday: Right Mindfulness: Memory & Ardency on the Buddhist Path (http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... 120810.pdf)

I haven't read it yet but I am looking forward to it and It seems very promising and perhaps a wee bit controversial since he's known to be very critical of the so-called Vipassana/Goenka movement's understanding of Mindfulness/sati as an open unreflexive awareness.

Anyway, enjoy!
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Anagarika » Sun Aug 12, 2012 3:00 pm

Thanks, Richard. I'm looking forward to reading this asap this week.

I have visited Ajahn Thanissaro's Wat Metta many times, and on one occasion, he asked one of the younger Bhikkhus to gather an entire box of his books (30+ pounds) so that I could send them to some friends of mine at a Wat in Thailand. All of these books were free, and in fact, Ajahn Geoff has never charged for his books.

Being at Wat Metta (San Diego, California, USA) is a good experience, too. Ajahn Geoff is a very serious man, he is clearly an Abbot in charge, but while he is somewhat reserved, just as a Dean of a great university might be, he's also friendly, willing to engage when there's a solid discussion ongoing, and he's a strong mentor to the monks, novices, and lay sangha at his Wat. I noted that he's most engaged when the Thai laity in at the temple, and he literally sat on the floor with them speaking Thai and organizing a calendar that was being put together. I get the sense that while he's somewhat reserved with the US public that just drops in at the Wat, he's very connected with the Thai people at the temple, reflecting his deep roots in Thailand. I really respected this about him. He's not a schmoozer looking for donations, or a 'businessman' as I've seen in Thailand with some Abbots...he's a brilliant man with a brilliant mind and an excellent writer, who seems happiest sitting with the Thai people working on a calendar, or with the younger monks reading that day's foreign press. And, with every book he writes, he gives them away for free, as the Buddha expressed.

If anyone ever has doubts about the health or longevity of Theravada in the West, a visit to Wat Metta will restore your faith should it ever wain.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Goob » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:24 pm

Hi Buddhasoup,

Yeah, I'm gonna get on it asap too, too bad I'm working a bit too much, I think it could really benefit my practice and overall understanding.

Funny that you mention staying at Wat Metta, I just asked permission to stay for a couple of months sometime in 2013 and Than Geoff said I was welcome. I hope I can make it (I live in northern Europe), it seems like a beautiful place.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:27 pm

Thanks Richard,

It looks good. Ajahn Thanissaro always has interesting perspectives. It's great that we have such good access to various interpretations of the Dhamma.

Since his targets of criticism are presented in such a cartoon manner, it seems unlikely that he is talking about any serious Buddhist teachers, so I don't see it as particularly controversial.

:anjali:
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Goob » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:06 pm

Mikenz66: No worries. Well, controversial or not (and I'm sure the intention is not to be controversial at all) just out of childish curiosity I googled one of the anonymous quotes found in the beginning chapters and it belongs to a very well-known and respected, asian theravada monk. Not that it matters tho, but hey, it's a forum ;)
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:26 pm

Hi Richard,

No problem. I don't recognise anything I've learned (from mostly Mahasi-style teachers) in his criticisms, so I don't find his statements particularly controversial. In fact, some aspects of Ven Thanissaro's instructions are very similar in concept to the Mahasi approach. I discussed some of these issues in this thread:
www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=41& ... 80#p174180

Of course, beginner introductions or sound bites can always create a false impression. Ajahn Chah is particulary susceptible to trivialisation by sound bite...

:anjali:
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby gavesako » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:49 pm

It would not be difficult to trace the quotes in his book which, as he writes, misrepresent the Buddha's teachings on mindfulness. In fact, if you have listened to his less formal Dhamma talks, he does drop a name or two occasionally... But his justification for presenting a valid criticism of teachings, not of persons, is well taken. It is based on the Buddha's instructions on How to Teach Dhamma:

Anguttara Nikaya 5:159
It is not easy to teach dhamma to others.
Concerning the teaching of dhamma to others, only after five things have been internally established is dhamma to be taught to others. What five?
1. “I shall speak a graduated discourse…“
2. “I shall speak a discourse that is insightfully-arranged…“
3. “I shall speak a discourse grounded upon caring…“
4. “I shall speak a discourse without motivation for personal gain…“
5. “I shall speak a discourse without disparaging myself or others…“
…thus is dhamma to be taught to others.

http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/2000b/ss_teaching.htm
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby danieLion » Sun Aug 12, 2012 9:36 pm

Deleted by author:
It was unfair of me to try influence the discussion with over generalizations.

Please accept my sincerest apologies.

I've learned valuable things from all the teachers I mentioned. It was disrespectful of me towards all of them to cast them in the light I did.

Best,
Daniel
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby danieLion » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:12 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:I noted that he's most engaged when the Thai laity in at the temple, and he literally sat on the floor with them speaking Thai and organizing a calendar that was being put together. I get the sense that while he's somewhat reserved with the US public that just drops in at the Wat, he's very connected with the Thai people at the temple, reflecting his deep roots in Thailand. I really respected this about him. He's not a schmoozer looking for donations, or a 'businessman' as I've seen in Thailand with some Abbots...he's a brilliant man with a brilliant mind and an excellent writer, who seems happiest sitting with the Thai people working on a calendar, or with the younger monks reading that day's foreign press. And, with every book he writes, he gives them away for free, as the Buddha expressed.

Hi BuddhaSoup,
At the same time, though, he is very innovative in teaching the Dhamma to Americans etc..., and of translating the Dhamma to our self-entitled culture in a way that balances attracting people to Buddhism while simultaneously showing them how it can often clash with our cultural assumptions, in particular to us spoiled-rotten Americans.
Best,
Daniel
Edit: see above post deletion.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:44 pm

danieLion wrote:When he's criticizing the "whatever comes up" method it's directed towards Joseph Goldstein et al.
Maybe, but he does not quote Goldstein, so it becomes hard to take what he says seriously as criticism of Goldstein, or any one else. It reads as a bit of a straw man argument. If one is going to argue against a postion, then put that position out there as accurately and fully as possible, then one should do one's best to beat it up, if it needs beating up. I do not see that as what has happened in this book.
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: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby danieLion » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:59 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:When he's criticizing the "whatever comes up" method it's directed towards Joseph Goldstein et al.
Maybe, but he does not quote Goldstein, so it becomes hard to take what he says seriously as criticism of Goldstein, or any one else. It reads as a bit of a straw man argument. If one is going to argue against a postion, then put that position out there as accurately and fully as possible, then one should do one's best to beat it up, if it needs beating up. I do not see that as what has happened in this book.

Perhaps,
I'm probably ignorant.
I use BOTH "methods" and value both teachers.

Maybe I'll ask him this autumn on his regular visit.
Best,
Daniel
Edit: see above deleted post
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby robertk » Mon Aug 13, 2012 1:14 am

Page 169:
Sometimes it’s argued that a person in jh›na is “incapable of speech” or cannot hear sounds, but neither of these assertions is supported by the Cannon.

Perhaps the venerable doesn't include the Abhidhamma pitaka in the Tipitika?

Katthavatthu PTS translation by Aung and Davids pages 331-332.



[
b]XV1118 Of Hearing in Jhana[/b]
From the commentary [by Buddhaghosa] Controverted point - That one who has attained jhana hears sound."The opinion is held by some - the Pubbaseilyans , for instance- that because the Exalted one called sound a thorn to first jhana, and if sound if not heard cannot be thorn in the flesh of one who had attained that state, it was inferable that such a one was able to hear.


It takes over a page for the Theravada to show why this is wrong
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Aug 13, 2012 1:17 am

Greetings Robert,

It's unclear from your citation whether you're quoting from:

- Katthavatthu
- "From the commentary [by Buddhaghosa]"

The first being canonical, the second not. Can you clarify?

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: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby robertk » Mon Aug 13, 2012 1:29 am

The actual Katthavathu makes the point that sound can't be heard in jhana. Buddhaghosa elaborates in the commentray to it.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:08 am

Greetings Robert,

Cool - thanks.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Anagarika » Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:35 am

robertk wrote:The actual Katthavathu makes the point that sound can't be heard in jhana. Buddhaghosa elaborates in the commentray to it.


Do we consider the Katthavathu to be Buddhavacana? It seems to me not, and I'm far from being a competent student or scholar on these points. It would seem that Ajahn Geoff's approach is consistent with what Buddha taught, with the Abhidhamma Katthavathu perspective coming much later in time and after divisions in the Sangha existed as to interpretation.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby danieLion » Mon Aug 13, 2012 3:04 am

Hi Robert,
robertk wrote:Perhaps the venerable doesn't include the Abhidhamma pitaka in the Tipitika?

I've often wondered this myself. AFIK, he's never stated such explicitly. I'd say he's at least dismissive of it, though.

But, I'M ONLY SPECULATING.
Best,
Daniel
Edit: see deleted post above
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby danieLion » Mon Aug 13, 2012 3:08 am

robertk wrote:Page 169:
Sometimes it’s argued that a person in jh›na is “incapable of speech” or cannot hear sounds, but neither of these assertions is supported by the Cannon

Hi again Robert,
Did you skip ahead? ;)
Best,
Daniel
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 13, 2012 3:14 am

robertk wrote:Page 169:
Sometimes it’s argued that a person in jh›na is “incapable of speech” or cannot hear sounds, but neither of these assertions is supported by the Cannon.


The Pali Cannon
Image

The Pali Canon

Image
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: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 13, 2012 3:24 am

danieLion wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:When he's criticizing the "whatever comes up" method it's directed towards Joseph Goldstein et al.
Maybe, but he does not quote Goldstein, so it becomes hard to take what he says seriously as criticism of Goldstein, or any one else. It reads as a bit of a straw man argument. If one is going to argue against a postion, then put that position out there as accurately and fully as possible, then one should do one's best to beat it up, if it needs beating up. I do not see that as what has happened in this book.

Perhaps,
I'm probably ignorant.
It's just that the only teacher I've ever heard say, "The meditation is about whatever comes up," is Joe G, and the only criticism I've ever heard using that exact phrase was from the good Rev.
The problem is, however, while Joseph Goldstein may say that meditation is about "whatever comes up," what is very seriously missing in Ven Thanissaro's exposition is the full context of Goldstein's teaching where Goldstein says that meditation is whatever comes up. Without that, if this is a criticism of Goldstein, the criticism is of a straw man. In reading though the chapter on "bare attention,' I cannot take Ven Thanissaro seriously.

In the good Rev's earlier works, he cited sources more
So, does he cite Goldstein in these earlier works?
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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