New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dmytro » Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:47 am

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dmytro » Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:51 am

Rupert Gethin, current President of the Pali Text Society, was the person whose book initiated my study of 'sati' and other Pali terms.

He writes:

"To find a similarly succinct definition of mindfulness in the texts of early Buddhism is not so easy. Such definitions as there are are rather different incharacter. In response to the question ‘what is the faculty of sati?’ we are told that someone who has sati ‘possesses perfect sati and understanding: he is someone who remembers and recollects what was done and said long before’ (S V 197–98). Another early response to a direct question about the characteristics of sati is found in the Milindapanha (Mil 37–38) where it is explained that sati has two characteristics (lakkhana): ‘calling to mind’ (apilapana) and ‘taking possession’(upaganhana). Thus sati is explained as calling to mind wholesome and unwholesome qualities such that the meditator is in a position to know which qualities are the ones he should pursue and which are the ones he should not; this is likened to the manner in which a king’s treasurer constantly reminds the king of his glory and property. Secondly, sati is said to follow the outcome of qualities andso to know which qualities are beneficial and which are not with the result that the meditator can remove those which are not helpful and take possession of those which are helpful; this is likened to the manner in which a king’s adviser keeps the king informed about what is and is not beneficial.The early Abhidhamma literature (see Dhs 16) lists a number of terms that are intended to illustrate the nature of sati and which are of some interest: recollection (anussati), recall (patissati), remembrance (saranata), keeping in mind (dharanata), absence of floating (apilapanata), absence of forgetfulness (asammussanata).
These ancient definitions and the Abhidhamma list of terms seem to be rather at odds with the modern clinical psychotherapeutic definition of mindfulness, and even perhaps with the more recent Buddhist definitions of mindfulness offered by way of exposition of the practice of satipatthana."

http://www.scribd.com/doc/99110733/On-S ... ethin-2011

Another place where Rupert Gethin explains the original meaning of 'sati' is his excellent book 'The Buddhist Path to Awakening':

"What the Milindapanha account is suggesting, I think, is that sati should be understood as what allows awareness of the full range and extent of dhammas; sati is an awareness of things in relation to things, and hence an awareness of their relative value. Applied to the satipatthanas presumably what this means is that sati is what causes the practitioner of yoga to 'remember' that any feeling he may experience exists in relation to a whole variety or world of feelings that may be skilful or unskilful, with faults or faultless, relatively inferior or refined, dark or pure. The idea is probably clearest with the regard to feeling (vedana), but, of course, should be extended to cover body (kaya), mind (citta) and dhammas."

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:55 pm

Dmytro wrote:Rupert Gethin, current President of the Pali Text Society, was the person whose book initiated my study of 'sati' and other Pali terms.

He writes:

"To find a similarly succinct definition of mindfulness in the texts of early Buddhism is not so easy. Such definitions as there are are rather different incharacter. In response to the question ‘what is the faculty of sati?’ we are told that someone who has sati ‘possesses perfect sati and understanding: he is someone who remembers and recollects what was done and said long before’ (S V 197–98). Another early response to a direct question about the characteristics of sati is found in the Milindapanha (Mil 37–38) where it is explained that sati has two characteristics (lakkhana): ‘calling to mind’ (apilapana) and ‘taking possession’(upaganhana). Thus sati is explained as calling to mind wholesome and unwholesome qualities such that the meditator is in a position to know which qualities are the ones he should pursue and which are the ones he should not; this is likened to the manner in which a king’s treasurer constantly reminds the king of his glory and property. Secondly, sati is said to follow the outcome of qualities andso to know which qualities are beneficial and which are not with the result that the meditator can remove those which are not helpful and take possession of those which are helpful; this is likened to the manner in which a king’s adviser keeps the king informed about what is and is not beneficial.The early Abhidhamma literature (see Dhs 16) lists a number of terms that are intended to illustrate the nature of sati and which are of some interest: recollection (anussati), recall (patissati), remembrance (saranata), keeping in mind (dharanata), absence of floating (apilapanata), absence of forgetfulness (asammussanata).
These ancient definitions and the Abhidhamma list of terms seem to be rather at odds with the modern clinical psychotherapeutic definition of mindfulness, and even perhaps with the more recent Buddhist definitions of mindfulness offered by way of exposition of the practice of satipatthana."

http://www.scribd.com/doc/99110733/On-S ... ethin-2011

Another place where Rupert Gethin explains the original meaning of 'sati' is his excellent book 'The Buddhist Path to Awakening':

"What the Milindapanha account is suggesting, I think, is that sati should be understood as what allows awareness of the full range and extent of dhammas; sati is an awareness of things in relation to things, and hence an awareness of their relative value. Applied to the satipatthanas presumably what this means is that sati is what causes the practitioner of yoga to 'remember' that any feeling he may experience exists in relation to a whole variety or world of feelings that may be skilful or unskilful, with faults or faultless, relatively inferior or refined, dark or pure. The idea is probably clearest with the regard to feeling (vedana), but, of course, should be extended to cover body (kaya), mind (citta) and dhammas."
Which is to say that sati is not simply remembering. From the same book, page 32, Gethin: "What is meant, I think, is that sati is understood as a quality of mind that 'stands near' or 'serves' the mind; it watches over the mind. One might say that it is a form of 'presence of mind'."
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 Sep 10, 2012 5:02 pm

Dmytro wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I do not see a conflation with what Ven Bodhi has had to say. You'll need to spell it out.


I don't need it.
That is a very odd response. Ven Bodhi is not obviously, nor by implication conflating sati, with anupassanā, and certainly not that you have shown.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby danieLion » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:06 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Which is to say that sati is not simply remembering.
That's right. It's remembering in relationship to the other seven path factors.

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:35 pm

danieLion wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Which is to say that sati is not simply remembering.
That's right. It's remembering in relationship to the other seven path factors.
The interesting issue is: what does "remembering' mean? What does "remembering" mean in terms of the practice? Dmytro seems to quotes Wallace approvingly:
Dmytro wrote:A mindful balance: What did the Buddha really mean by "mindfulness?"

Alan Wallace

The primary meaning of sati, on the other hand, is recollection, nonforgetfulness. This includes retrospective memory of things in the past, prospectively remembering to do something in the future, and present-centered recollection in the sense of maintaining unwavering attention to a present reality. The opposite of mindfulness is forgetfulness, so mindfulness applied to the breath, for instance, involves continuous, unwavering attention to the respiration. Mindfulness may be used to sustain bare attention (manasikara), but nowhere do traditional Buddhist sources equate mindfulness with such attention.


http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha344.htm
And as I said: Okay. He described three different functions, all of which can, to some degree depending upon what is being done in terms of one's practice, overlap. It is this one -- present-centered recollection in the sense of maintaining unwavering attention to a present reality -- that is the meditative core of what is called vipassana meditation, but that does not mean the other two are not also at play to varying degrees.

Or as Gethin characterizes sati: "presence of mind." Remembering, yes; however, the meaning of sati, while is plays off "remembering," it is a bit richer in what it is trying to get across in terms of practice than merely "remembering."
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dmytro » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:36 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Dmytro wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I do not see a conflation with what Ven Bodhi has had to say. You'll need to spell it out.


I don't need it.
That is a very odd response. Ven Bodhi is not obviously nor by implication conflating sati with anupassanā, and certainly not that you have shown.


Well, you may think what you want, but I know my needs very well. If you would like me to clarify something, please say so.

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:04 pm

tilt wrote:
Dmytro wrote:I don't need it.
That is a very odd response. Ven Bodhi is not obviously nor by implication conflating sati with anupassanā, and certainly not that you have shown.


Well, you may think what you want, but I know my needs very well. If you would like me to clarify something, please say so.
I think we are having a miscommunication here, and I apologize. Let me clarify. I am asking to you clarify your suggestion Ven Bodhi is conflating things, because the text you quoted did not clarify anything in terms of your statement: "Well, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi remains a pupil of Ven. Nyanaponika, who conflated 'sati' with 'bare attention'." It is this statement that needs clarification so I can see your point about the possible "conflation."
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dmytro » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:06 am

tiltbillings wrote:I think we are having a miscommunication here, and I apologize. Let me clarify. I am asking to you clarify your suggestion Ven Bodhi is conflating things, because the text you quoted did not clarify anything in terms of your statement: "Well, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi remains a pupil of Ven. Nyanaponika, who conflated 'sati' with 'bare attention'." It is this statement that needs clarification so I can see your point about the possible "conflation."


There indeed seems to be a miscommunication.

Did I suggest in this statement that Ven Bodhi is conflating things? What I said is that Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi remains a pupil of Ven. Nyanaponika. This can explain why he partly supports the position of Ven. Nyanaponika and writes, for example, with respect, that: "Nyanaponika was a keen scholar of the Buddhist psychological system known as Abhidhamma and thus his choice of ‘attention’ to characterize sati could not have been due to carelessness."

The passage from Satipatthana-Vibhanga I quoted illustrates the key misinterpretation by the English Pali translation tradition - in the words of Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi:

We should remember that sati, in the context of satipaṭṭhāna practice, is always practiced as part of an’anupassanā,’ and this word helps to bring out the role of sati.


Satipatthana-Vibhanga clearly shows that 'sati' isn't a part of 'anupassana', and these two play very different roles, though they work together.

Let's imagine that we excavated in the year 3000 the tablet from the ancient London Underground which says "Mind the gap". "Mind" here wouldn't mean obvious "jump over" or "cross" or "watch". Mindfulness is established when crossing the gap, and alerts to watch it. 'Sati-patthana' points to the places where mindfulness is to be established, so that skilful behaviour would be developed, and unskilful avoided.

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:27 am

Thank you for your response.
Dmytro wrote:
The passage from Satipatthana-Vibhanga I quoted illustrates the key misinterpretation by the English Pali translation tradition - in the words of Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi:

We should remember that sati, in the context of satipaṭṭhāna practice, is always practiced as part of an’anupassanā,’ and this word helps to bring out the role of sati.


Satipatthana-Vibhanga clearly shows that 'sati' isn't a part of 'anupassana', and these two play very different roles, though they work together.
What Ven Bodhi said:


    We should remember that sati, in the context of satipaṭṭhāna practice, is always practiced
    as part of an’anupassanā,’ and this word helps to bring out the role of sati. We usually
    translate ‘anupassanā’ as “contemplation,” thus ‘kāyānupassanā’ as “contemplation of
    the body,” but this might be somewhat misleading. It might be more accurate, and more
    literal, to translate it as “observation.” The word is made up of a prefix ‘anu’ which
    suggests repetition, and ’passanā’, which means “seeing, viewing.” So sati is part of a
    process that involves a close, repetitive observation of the object.

sati, in the context of satipaṭṭhāna practice, is always practiced as part of an’anupassanā,’ I think that is reasonable, in the context of how the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is structured.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby danieLion » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:59 am

It would be ideal to know what they (Joe G. and Rev. T) think of each other.

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby danieLion » Sat Sep 15, 2012 7:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Which is to say that sati is not simply remembering.
That's right. It's remembering in relationship to the other seven path factors.
The interesting issue is: what does "remembering' mean? What does "remembering" mean in terms of the practice?

What I'm trying (and probably failing) to get at is that we don't want to think about the sati/remembering connection because it de-"mystifies" or at least diminishes our romantic idealizations and imaginations of sati as more than remembering. But while we might lament the deglamorization of sati seeing this necessary connection entails, it highlights the crucial and pivotal importance of remembering to practice--which our hopes in and opinions and beliefs about sati distract us from. Try doing without all the functions and purposes remembering serves in your practice and you'll very quickly see just how much of it involves simply remembering. You'll also notice that doings like this are a very different activity than "bare awareness" doings like meditating on "whatever-comes-up."

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Sep 15, 2012 7:44 am

danieLion wrote: Try doing without all the functions and purposes remembering serves in your practice and you'll very quickly see just how much of it involves simply remembering. You'll also notice that doings like this are a very different activity than "bare awareness" doings like meditating on "whatever-comes-up."
Are you one of those who is advocating a strawman notion of "bare attention" and vipassana practice?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dmytro » Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:24 am

What Ven Bodhi said:


    We should remember that sati, in the context of satipaṭṭhāna practice, is always practiced
    as part of an’anupassanā,’ and this word helps to bring out the role of sati. We usually
    translate ‘anupassanā’ as “contemplation,” thus ‘kāyānupassanā’ as “contemplation of
    the body,” but this might be somewhat misleading. It might be more accurate, and more
    literal, to translate it as “observation.” The word is made up of a prefix ‘anu’ which
    suggests repetition, and ’passanā’, which means “seeing, viewing.” So sati is part of a
    process that involves a close, repetitive observation of the object.

sati, in the context of satipaṭṭhāna practice, is always practiced as part of an’anupassanā,’ I think that is reasonable, in the context of how the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is structured.


Drawing implications from only one sutta, and disregarding all others, is the major source of this misunderstanding.

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:23 pm

Dmytro wrote:
What Ven Bodhi said:


    We should remember that sati, in the context of satipaṭṭhāna practice, is always practiced
    as part of an’anupassanā,’ and this word helps to bring out the role of sati. We usually
    translate ‘anupassanā’ as “contemplation,” thus ‘kāyānupassanā’ as “contemplation of
    the body,” but this might be somewhat misleading. It might be more accurate, and more
    literal, to translate it as “observation.” The word is made up of a prefix ‘anu’ which
    suggests repetition, and ’passanā’, which means “seeing, viewing.” So sati is part of a
    process that involves a close, repetitive observation of the object.

sati, in the context of satipaṭṭhāna practice, is always practiced as part of an’anupassanā,’ I think that is reasonable, in the context of how the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is structured.


Drawing implications from only one sutta, and disregarding all others, is the major source of this misunderstanding.
Maybe, but not that you have shown. I'll go with the far more learned Ven Bodhi on this.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dmytro » Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:16 am

As a side note - it's interesting to note the character of the arguments.

"Such-and-such interpreter and commentator, with his vast store of knowledge, couldn't have erred. (And he knew much more than any of you.)"

The same type of arguments were applied in the evolution of Buddhism in the East.
Seems like the first wave Western interpreters and commentators are assigned the role similar to Ven. Buddhaghosa's.
And now the sub-commentaries appear.

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby badscooter » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:13 am

Dmytro wrote:As a side note - it's interesting to note the character of the arguments.

"Such-and-such interpreter and commentator, with his vast store of knowledge, couldn't have erred. (And he knew much more than any of you)"


I haven't seen that quote on this thread. Though I can guess who it was meant for. Not a very intellectual response in my opinion.

To error is human. I think we can all agree. But when it comes to knowledge I think the venerables have a bit more then lay people chatting on this thread. Nothing wrong with showing respect to their teachings. I have Ven Bodhi's translation of the Majjhima Nikaya next to my bed, and I'm quite grateful.

May all be well
:)
"whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of one's mind"

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby twelph » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:22 am

Dmytro wrote:As a side note - it's interesting to note the character of the arguments.

"Such-and-such interpreter and commentator, with his vast store of knowledge, couldn't have erred. (And he knew much more than any of you.)"

The same type of arguments were applied in the evolution of Buddhism in the East.
Seems like the first wave Western interpreters and commentators are assigned the role similar to Ven. Buddhaghosa's.
And now the sub-commentaries appear.


It seems as if the more authority given to each subsequent interpretation, the more the practice deviates from the Buddha's original message. Also, when you mix ideas from other Buddhist traditions, new age philosophies, and then add modern psychology to the mix things become even more distorted. A useful way of validating these interpretations would be to refer back (often if possible) to what the Buddha actually said in his discourses. I don't see this happening as often as I would like.

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:02 am

twelph wrote:
Dmytro wrote:As a side note - it's interesting to note the character of the arguments.

"Such-and-such interpreter and commentator, with his vast store of knowledge, couldn't have erred. (And he knew much more than any of you.)"
Of course, such and such interpretor and commentator might be quite wrong, but simply stating he or she is wrong without actually doing the work of dismantling his or her argument does not raise the quality of the argumentation, either.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dmytro » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:28 am

tiltbillings wrote:Of course, such and such interpretor and commentator might be quite wrong, but simply stating he or she is wrong without actually doing the work of dismantling his or her argument does not raise the quality of the argumentation, either.


Sure. The "Four Great References" from the Mahaparinibbana sutta are an excellent guide here.


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