Pa Auk In The West

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
Christopherxx
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Pa Auk In The West

Postby Christopherxx » Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:09 am

Hi again Guys!

With so much material in the tradition (Bodhi, Mahasi, Chah, Thanissaro, Brahm, Analayo, Sujato, Gethin, U Pandita, Ledi, *Ancient* Buddhaghosa, All the other great writers/scholars) Why has Pa Auk not received the interest of the west.

Mahasi has direct and associated meditation centers as well as monasteries through America and Europe.

Ajahn Chah even more so (Canada, etc.)

Yet in my reference Pa Auk provides one of the most rich traditions within the Theravada mantle.

I would love to hear more from the posters.

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mikenz66
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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:14 am

There is some:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 60#p210827

And one of my Malaysian friends goes to Malaysia for Pa Auk retreats...

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Christopherxx » Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:31 am

Haha I have actually seen your post before and am familiar with that commentary to his work.

It still intrigues me though that his school hasn't been developed here in the west with monasteries, centers.

Hey Tilt, if your reading this what are your thoughts?

Do you find his writing orthodox theravada and in line with dhamma?

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:40 am

Christopherxx wrote:Do you find his writing orthodox theravada and in line with dhamma?

I would say that Pa Auk is honestly the most "orthodox" method/teacher out there; the incredible amount of cross-referencing with various commentaries and suttas blows me away when I read his writing. I don't think there is a meditation system more intellectually heft than his, and it all comes from very traditional Burmese Theravada.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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Mr Man
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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Mr Man » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:19 am

Is it because his association with the West does not go back so long?

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pilgrim
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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby pilgrim » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:34 am

I was thinking the same thing...My perception is that the tradition is experiencing strong growth in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and possibly Vietnam and has a following among mainland Chinese Theravadins. It is also popular in Sri Lanka ( thru Na-Uyana) but little known in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal and India.

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:05 am

Yes, he's very well respected in Asia. The group I attended in Hong Kong a few years ago were very fond of Pa Auk Sayadaw (and Ajahn Mun).

As LY says, he's very orthodox and uncompromising. It seems to me that it would be quite difficult to water his teaching down into something that would appeal to a broad secular or modernist audience with not a lot of time for retreat practice. If you watered it down, there wouldn't be much left would there?

While Mahasi/U Pandita/etc are also quite orthodox, in themselves, the nature of their approach happens to be such that it can be watered down but still leave something to do. A little bit of walking/sitting/mindfulness. Similarly with the approach of most of Ajahn Chah's students. Those approaches can be "light" or "heavy" depending on the student.

There is also just the "luck" of having some keen western students. I'm sure that there are hundreds of other teachers just as worthy as the few that happen to be famous in the West.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Christopherxx » Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:59 pm

Very good point Mike,

The lay community in this respect does have a lot of influence.

Maybe this forum should help to create an awareness of pa auk so that we may see some teachers/monasteries set up in our part of the world :)

This forum I am sure has a lot more influence than it knows.

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:15 pm

Hi Christopher,

Establishing monasteries in the West is not a trivial thing. Most of the Theravada monasteries that I have any knowledge about would not exist without the local ethnic communities. This is very obvious in the case of "ethnic" monasteries, but it is also for the Western Ajahn Chah monasteries, which get a lot of support from Thai and Sri Lankan communities.

The crucial "Lay Community" is the one that pays the bills.

My impression is that there is a much smaller Burmese community in the West than Thai, and that their resources are much more limited.

It happens that the teachings of Mahasi Sayadaw and his students became very popular in Thailand. Many Thai and Thai-trained monks (including most of the teachers I've had here) have spent time in Burma in Mahasi-related centres. So that, and the efforts of certain energetic westerners (Joseph Goldstein, among a number of others) who have spent time in Burma has had a great influence.

And there are clearly a lot of different teachers in Burma, only a few being famous among westerners (such as Mahasi, U Pandiata Pa Auk, U Tejaniya, etc)
In the talk series I mentioned here: viewtopic.php?f=43&t=13382&start=20#p210963 which are unfortunately not available anymore on the web Patrick Kearney mentioned that when he was a monk in Burma he visited a monastery with a very rigorous regime of sitting practice. I don't recall the exact details, but what's relevant to this thread is that Patrick commented that they seemed desperate to recruit him, an English speaker, with the hope of attracting more westerners. Looking at their approach he decided "This will never catch on in the West" and excused himself...

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Christopherxx » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:33 pm

Incredibly well put.

I would note one aspect however,

IMS is a great example of how a "western" developed model of buddhist practices can attract the lay and or curious/non-sectarian Caucasian crowd.

It would seem that a model that allows for a free and open western environment with trained teachers (from any perspective) can develop a thriving establishment (Look at Christian churches/centers) as an example.

It's up to us as strong proponents and students to be the ones to develop/start such initiatives.

:) thanks again for all your postings mike. Always appreciated and incredibly well spoken.

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Christopherxx » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:44 pm

(To sum up the above) the ethnic monasteries as you noted are here for a reason (community, culture, etc.)

As westerners we should have the teachings in our own environments in order to develop community/attraction :).

Ohh and I wanted to share this with everyone, I was informed by the Pa Auk Community that there is a development in the west.

Green Valley Forest Refuge

http://www.gvfr.org/

They are just beginning and will need to do a lot of updating/infrastructure but I hope this can be similar to the Mahasi Centers and Ajahn Chah Monasteries when developed :D

Hope everyone is having a great day!
Metta wishes

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:25 pm

Hi Christopher,
Christopherxx wrote:(To sum up the above) the ethnic monasteries as you noted are here for a reason (community, culture, etc.)

As westerners we should have the teachings in our own environments in order to develop community/attraction :).

Yes, that would be nice.

The Western Ajahn Chah monasteries have mostly Western monks (though, as I have said, ethnic lay support seems to be quite important), so that is one model.

As you have noted, there do exist places like IMS (and broadly similar insight places in other countries) that don't rely on ethnic communities. Which tends to mean that more of the expenses have to come directly from participants.

And don't forget the Goenka centres all over the world, which are mostly run by local people.

However, these (Insight/Goenka) places don't provide a monastic setting and don't often directly provide a "community" environment. There are, of course, various "insight" groups that meet weekly or so that provide some sense of community, and Goenka practitioners often have a weekly gathering. So some of that community thing is covered.

There are a variety of issues that one has to weigh up in choosing where to go for "live" interaction. For many of us there are choices between travelling infrequently to some other place, or being involved in a local community (monastic or otherwise) that may not necessarily be one's first choice, given different circumstances. For me, local community and teaching is important, and I attend the local Thai monastery and sometimes our local insight group. There are a couple of Ajahn Chah monasteries in my country, but quite far. If I lived close to one of them that's most likely where I would go (we have occasional visits from those monasteries, so I know some of the monks a little). Others in my city prefer the travel option to the local option. It depends on your priorities

In the end it often comes down to how much value one puts on being directly connected to a well-known teacher, relative to having access to a local community and good local teachers that no-one has heard of. Obviously a poor local teacher is not a good option, nor is a non-existent local teacher!. And, of course, there can be a combination of local community and occasional travel...

I'm sorry that this is getting us off topic, but my view is that there are actually a lot of local resources in many places. And working with those local resources may, in many cases, be a better option than wishing for a famous "brand" to arrive in town.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Christopherxx » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:07 am

Wise words Mike,

I feel I might have done a dis-service in not emphasizing the abilities and credentials of many local monks/temples.

For Ajahn Chah, Mahasi, Pa Auk, Ledi, etc. Where all just monks before their name/method became recognized.

Though I do feel that staying on topic is also important to this discussion or it falls to a universal discussion rather than a specific one.

As I started this discussion it was with the question "Why is Pa Auk not recognized as much within the West?"

The posts I think answered this question very well. Community/Ethnic Populations, The system is a very in depth sutta/commentary practice and so can be alienating to the general lay community.

Haha and your right Mike I guess I have a bit of a "attachment" to this brand. As recently in my studies it seems to stand out as very comprehensive and producing of good fruit.

(My only fear being that it is so heavily based on the commentarial work it may in fact have err'd by regional philosophy idioms, etc.

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:16 am

Have you read either Wisdom Wide and Deep by Catherine or Practicing the Jhanas by Snyder and Rasmussen? Both are great introductions to Pa Auk by westerners; Sheila Catherine especially is one of the wisest people I've ever encountered.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby pilgrim » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:35 am

Another point to be made when contrasting Mahasi/Pa-auk is that Mahasi was almost tailor-made for lay people as it emphasized immediate access to Vipassana. Pa-Auk, in my opinion, follows the Visuddhi Magga and its emphasis on the Commenteries version of jhanas, a practice which is very rigorous and requires long retreats for success. This may make it less accessible to lay people.

Apart from Green Valley, Pa-Auk also has a very large retreat centre being developed in Latvia.

Also, when in Myanmar, it appeared to me that a very popular monk was Mogok sayadaw who emphasised sutta study before practice. Again, this together with a lack of western disciples, may explain why he is little known outside the country.

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Christopherxx » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:31 am

Thanks for the information pilgrim. Definitely learned something today :).

And Yogurt thank you!

I am aware of the first text you mentioned but was desperately trying to remember that second text throughout the day.

Haha you are awesome!

Mike are you of any particular school/tradition. I always find you well versed and insightful. :namaste:

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby householder » Wed Oct 31, 2012 6:15 am

Spoilt for choice for meditation centers/teachers here in Yangon - as previously mentioned, Mogok Sayadaw is very popular, as is U Ba Khin, student of Ledi Sayadaw. Haven't set foot in a single yeiktha in the 5 or so months I've been here so can't comment on their techniques or why they haven't/wouldn't catch on in the West. Throw a stone and you'll hit a monastery, yeiktha or local dhamma centre though, so I'm sure there's excellent teachers we'll never hear of.

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Sekha » Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:44 am

Some reasons Pa Auk is less well-known:

1) He is strictly traditional and very dogmatic in his approach, which doesn't catch very well in the west

2) Pa Auk emphasizes only monastic training, and expects people to be Buddhists in the first place with desires to ordain, whereas westerners feel more comfortable with people who welcome other walks of life and do not look down on lay life.

3) When he teaches in the west, he doesn't care about how people organize his retreats (it's laymen's problem so if it's done wrongly not his problem) and he lets them charge HUGE amounts of money for participating to his retreats in the US.

There is though a number of foreigners practicing at the main center, and they are rather privileged there.
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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jun 08, 2013 7:37 pm

One obvious reason is that he is from a later generation of teachers.

Ajahn Chah, Mahasi, and Goenka centres started appearing in the west in the 70's. Pa Auk started teaching in the 80's and started getting his first western students in the 90's (according to his web site).
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Pa Auk In The West

Postby pilgrim » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:55 am

There has been many western monks who have trained with Pa Auk Sayadaw for many years. But they don't appear to establish their own communities. There is not much information on what they do after they leave the monasteries in Myanmar. I know of the Czech monk Ven Dhammadipa who travels extensively to teach. There is an American Ven Subhuti who presently lives in seclusion in Sri Lanka. Some join the Thai Forest monasteries. Perhaps it is the tradition's emphasis on technique and not community, that is a factor.


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