Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

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Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby Christopherxx » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:58 pm

Hi there,

I have heard that some scholars do not recognize the Mahasi method as being in accordance with the sutta.

I am wondering if anyone knows Bhikkhu Thanissaro position on this (I respect his work) and other scholars.

This thread is in no way meant to be an attack on Mahasi. Simply an examination of scholar opinions on his method and how it likens to the sutta in which it is derived.

Thank you in advance for taking your time to post.

Metta wishes!
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby marc108 » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:19 pm

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part2-b
These points may be illustrated with some meditation techniques that are currently popular in the West: In a "mental noting" practice, mindfulness is a matter of remembering to keep up the noting, alertness means seeing whatever phenomena arise to be noted, and ardency is a matter of sticking with the noting relentlessly and being ever more quick and precise in one's alertness. In terms of the factors constituting jhāna practice, the mindfulness and alertness here would be related to directed thought, ardency to singleness of preoccupation, while alertness aimed at evaluating the results of the noting — and ardency in keeping the "pressure" of the noting just right — would be related to evaluation. If this practice is then conducted in line with the texts, it should reach a stage where the mind settles down into the singleness of the first jhāna.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 23, 2012 2:42 am

Ven T's approach, as explained in his talks, is not so different from Mahasi, or other approaches. I.e. have a "primary object" (breath, motion of feet, etc) and also pay attention to what comes up.
See my comments here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 80#p174339

Like the meditation instructions from any teacher, Ven Mahasi, Ven Thanissaro, the ancient teachers whose experience is preserved in the commentaries, ..., teach "tricks", like noting (or counting breaths in some cases) that are not in the suttas. However, since no-one claims those techniques have any dhammic significance, whether or not they in the suttas is hardly an issue. Noting is simply a way of keeping ones attention focussed clearly on the phenomena that are arising, and cutting down on mental "commentary" that otherwise tends to inflict the beginning meditator.

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Aug 23, 2012 3:38 am

Greetings Christopher,

Your question and Mike's comment about "tricks" brings to mind the following that I read last week, and whilst it doesn't reference sutta, it gives some potential criteria etc.

From "Awareness Alone Is Not Enough: Questions & Answers with Ashin Tejaniya"
http://sayadawutejaniya.org/wp-content/ ... Enough.pdf
--------------------------------

LABELLING

Yogi: I have been trying to watch the mind, but labelling
automatically comes in because I used labelling for over two
months before coming here.

SUT: But the mind is labelling!

Yogi: Yes, but I keep using words in my mind like ‘thinking’.....

SUT: How does it feel when you see such labels come up in
the mind?

Yogi: It’s a little bit distracting. I try to push the labelling
aside...

SUT: NO, NO, don’t try to push it aside!! Just recognize
that the mind is labelling. You cannot stop a habit abruptly.
If you try to stop it forcefully, there will be a conflict.

Yogi: What’s the difference between labelling and just
observing or noticing? In either case you recognize what is
happening. What’s wrong with using words?

SUT: Labelling gives the mind a lot of work to do and
therefore it has less time to investigate. Phenomena are
happening at an incredibly fast rate, and labelling them will
therefore also be late, i.e. you are naming the experience
long after it happened.

Yogi: So just feel the emotion as opposed to labelling it?

SUT: Yes, by being aware of what is going on continuously.
When we observe something, the mind naturally comments
on what is going on. There is nothing wrong with that.
Mechanically labelling ‘fear, fear, fear’ is very different. That
is not only tiring and but it also prevents you from seeing the
details of your experience. It is unnecessary. But you cannot
stop the natural comments the mind makes when it recognizes
something.
Mechanical labelling weakens both awareness and
understanding of the mental processes. We don’t really need
labelling to explain anything to ourselves; we only need labels
to explain things to other people. When we use labelling, the
mind will get involved with all the meanings and associations
connected to that label. By using labelling we also target a
particular aspect of our experience and therefore cannot
see the whole picture.

--------------------------------

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: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Aug 23, 2012 3:40 am

retrofuturist wrote:Mechanical labelling weakens both awareness and
understanding of the mental processes. We don’t really need
labelling to explain anything to ourselves; we only need labels
to explain things to other people. When we use labelling, the
mind will get involved with all the meanings and associations
connected to that label. By using labelling we also target a
particular aspect of our experience and therefore cannot
see the whole picture.
Of course, that is not an accurate characterization of the Mahasi method.
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.

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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:06 am

tiltbillings wrote:Of course, that is not an accurate characterization of the Mahasi method.

And as I was trying to get across above, it is unfortunate that it is seen as the defining characteristic of Mahasi's approach. Labelling is just a bit of technique, that has to be dropped at some point.

U Tejaniya does some really interesting ways of approaching things. As with Ajahn Chah, he seems to be trying to really make his students confront what they are doing. Steve Armstrong (who teaches mostly Mahasi method) discusses him in some of his talks. U Tejaniya instructed him to watch and notice if he was using any "meditation technique", and stop doing it. Which would be a really interesting and challenging instruction for an experienced meditator, but presumably not what he would get a beginner to do...

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:15 am

Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:U Tejaniya instructed him to watch and notice if he was using any "meditation technique", and stop doing it.

That doesn't surprise me at all actually, given that as I was reading the aforementioned transcript I was thinking, "Hmmm... here's a meditation teacher that I think Robert would like".

:lol:

Anyway, I suppose we'd best get...

:focus:

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: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:20 am

Well, I guess the topic was Ven Mahasi. I think that fixating on the labelling aspect would be analogous to saying that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's entire approach is based on breath manipulation or Ajahn Chahs' on [insert random Ajahn Chah one-liner here].

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby Christopherxx » Sat Aug 25, 2012 10:51 pm

Thanks guys,

I think you've pretty much hit it right ont he head (tips and tricks) rather than it being a dogmatic issue or not.

:)
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby Kamran » Sat Aug 25, 2012 11:51 pm

I think its in his "Not Self" series of talks someone asks him about the Mahasi method and Thanissaro simply replied that he was not trained in that method, so he can't answer questions about it.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby Billymac29 » Sun Aug 26, 2012 12:03 am

Has Thanissaro ever commented on Mahasi Sayadaw? He has a few of his writings on his website http://www.accesstoinsight.org. I would find it odd that he would have his publications on his site if he didn't hold the Ven Mahasi in some kind of honorable regard, and respect his teachings in some matter. I could be wrong. Has anybody found anything showing Thanissaro's view on or of Ven Mahasi? I couldn't find any.
"whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of one's mind"
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:54 am

Hi Billy,

"Access to Insight" isn't Ven Thanissaro's website, it is John Bullitt's website:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/faq.html#whatis
Of course, it does have a lot of Ven Thanissaro's material, but also a lot of BPS and other material.

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby Billymac29 » Sun Aug 26, 2012 12:37 pm

mikenz66 wrote:"Access to Insight" isn't Ven Thanissaro's website, it is John Bullitt's website:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/faq.html#whatis
Of course, it does have a lot of Ven Thanissaro's material, but also a lot of BPS and other material.

:anjali:
Mike

Oh ok, woops.... I never noticed that before. Stupid me..lol
thanks Mike

with metta
"whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of one's mind"
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby fivebells » Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:54 am

Interesting thread. Since I learned about Mahasi via Daniel Ingram's book, I thought noting the breath for jhana and the three characteristics for insight was all there is to it. Thanissaro is explicitly critical of that kind of one-size-fits-all approach to meditation, e.g., Enlightenment is not a hot dog.

I'll have to take a look at In This Very Life some time.
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby SarathW » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:46 am

Any method is a good method!

I like the simplicity of Webu Sayadow, Mahasi etc. It is great for the beginner.

viewtopic.php?f=41&t=650

and the complexity of Ven. Thannisaro. It is great for the advanced.

viewtopic.php?f=41&t=20136
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby Anagarika » Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:15 am

My sense is that Ajahn Geoff is very much is the sutta jhanas corner, and while I have never read or heard of him commenting on the Burmese methods, I would surmise that he's not likely to be supportive of a method that is not jhana founded, ie founded on samatha and vipassana as core elements of jhana.

I was interested in the topic from the OP and found this: http://youtu.be/m3tUCtwmVGY Ven. Sujato's take on Mahasi method, which he both praises and distinguishes.

With the above, I'm not making any judgments...I'm meditation lazy some weeks, and struggle not only to practice steadily but to understand competently the practice as my teachers recommend. Everyone's mileage will vary with respect to their chosen meditation path.
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:11 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:My sense is that Ajahn Geoff is very much is the sutta jhanas corner, and while I have never read or heard of him commenting on the Burmese methods, I would surmise that he's not likely to be supportive of a method that is not jhana founded, ie founded on samatha and vipassana as core elements of jhana.

As has been pointed out on other threads, Ven Thanissaro's take on Sutta Jhana seems to be quite similar to the "Vipassana Jhanas" discussed by U Pandita in the context of the Mahasi approach: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=11742
It would be a mistake to assume that the Mahasi practitioners do not pay attention to the jhana factors. See: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... hanas.html especially from about here: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... Hindrances

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby Anagarika » Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:38 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:My sense is that Ajahn Geoff is very much is the sutta jhanas corner, and while I have never read or heard of him commenting on the Burmese methods, I would surmise that he's not likely to be supportive of a method that is not jhana founded, ie founded on samatha and vipassana as core elements of jhana.

As has been pointed out on other threads, Ven Thanissaro's take on Sutta Jhana seems to be quite similar to the "Vipassana Jhanas" discussed by U Pandita in the context of the Mahasi approach: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=11742
It would be a mistake to assume that the Mahasi practitioners do not pay attention to the jhana factors. See: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... hanas.html especially from about here: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... Hindrances

:anjali:
Mike


Would it be fair to say that Ajahn Geoff does not bifurcate the elements of jhana, ie by describing a samatha jhana and a vipassana jhana? My understanding of a possible difference here is that Ven. Thanissaro's definition of jhana from the suttas encompasses jhana as being made up of both samatha and vipassana as byproducts or core integrated elements of jhana itself. Without samatha, or with vipassana only, it is not jhana as the suttas describe. I believe the analogy was the wings of a bird; that the bird, to take flight, needs the two wings of samatha and vipassana working together to be sutta jhana. I feel that this is where the Thanissaro definition, and that of the great Burmese teachers, differs.
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby waterchan » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:20 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:Would it be fair to say that Ajahn Geoff does not bifurcate the elements of jhana, ie by describing a samatha jhana and a vipassana jhana? My understanding of a possible difference here is that Ven. Thanissaro's definition of jhana from the suttas encompasses jhana as being made up of both samatha and vipassana as byproducts or core integrated elements of jhana itself. Without samatha, or with vipassana only, it is not jhana as the suttas describe. I believe the analogy was the wings of a bird; that the bird, to take flight, needs the two wings of samatha and vipassana working together to be sutta jhana. I feel that this is where the Thanissaro definition, and that of the great Burmese teachers, differs.


:goodpost: :goodpost: :goodpost:

Ajahn Sujato has a free book on these two "wings", as you describe it, but he calls them "A Swift Pair of Messengers". I'm still working my way through that book, digging through all of his very heavy references to the Sutta Pitaka.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: Bhikkhu Thanissaro and other scholars on Mahasi

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:27 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:
Would it be fair to say that Ajahn Geoff does not bifurcate the elements of jhana, ie by describing a samatha jhana and a vipassana jhana? My understanding of a possible difference here is that Ven. Thanissaro's definition of jhana from the suttas encompasses jhana as being made up of both samatha and vipassana as byproducts or core integrated elements of jhana itself. Without samatha, or with vipassana only, it is not jhana as the suttas describe. I believe the analogy was the wings of a bird; that the bird, to take flight, needs the two wings of samatha and vipassana working together to be sutta jhana. I feel that this is where the Thanissaro definition, and that of the great Burmese teachers, differs.
Huh? Vipassana jhana can easily being seen as being quite congruent with sutta jhana. Vipassana jhana is not a matter of theoretical thought experiments. It is the result of actual practice. But one has to keep in mind that context that is behind this discussion, and that is the hardcore jhana of the Visuddhimagga.
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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