REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby Nyorai » Mon Mar 11, 2013 4:43 am

danieLion wrote:So as not to be misundertood: I'm not singling out Venerable Pesala here but rather using his comments as an example of the perspective I'm trying to understand.

The background issue here is that the modern uses of the word "meditation," as far I can tell so far, don't correspond to anything the Buddha taught in the suttas.

Now:

One:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:So, everyone born these days need to practise meditation....


Why do we need to? As Kant pointed out, "Ought implies can." This is problematic because:

Two:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:...Not just occasionally, and half-heartedly, but regularly, intensively, and with an ardent desire to gain insight leading to enlightenment. The kind of meditation practised today by most Buddhist is mere imitation of the real thing. Sitting for fifteen minutes, then changing your position, or just falling asleep on the meditation cushion will never reach the higher stages of insight in a million years.


I'm fine with the first and last sentence but not the bolded one. How could anyone possibly know this without going back in time and learning (or at least observing) from the Buddha and/or his approved teachers?

So, the perspective goes like this, from my point of view: You secular or modernist Buddhists don't have the REAL, original teachings of the Buddha on "meditation," but I (insert contemporary teacher's name) do and will teach it to you. To say, in effect, "I teach only original Buddhist meditation," seems not only provincialistic but also exclusionary. It also implies that some degree of BLIND FAITH is required to progress on The Path, something even the Buddha never demanded.

I would really appreciate hearing you thoughts one these matters as I find them to be serious issues for Buddhists living in the modern world.

Respectfully,
Daniel

The bold as mentioned is an imagination based on psychology aspect, majority desired to be seen as dignified person in the modern world. So, probably the only way is to enforce imitation of reality towards others. But it is also very forward looking for buddhism spreading, but it may be a problem if it is being impressed amongst buddhists. Too humble and too proud are not as fine either. BLIND FAITH is good for progress in buddhism practice into true Faith, and if BLIND FAITH being presumed as reality when it is not, may not augur well for the mentioned practitioner, as mentioned in your bold. Majority of buddhists who attained nibbana were due to blind faith that brought them into realization of the true faith. metta :anjali:
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:33 pm

Thanks to daverupa for posting this in the "Re: natural progression of meditation?" thread. It's quite relevant for this topic.

Learning meditation from the Buddha: a meeting with Ven Analayo

Some pertinent highlights:

V: As a dedicated meditator, what was your motivation for engaging with academic study?

A: I wanted a better understanding of the Buddha’s teaching, and I hoped to approach Buddhism both from the inside perspective of a Buddhist monk and meditator, and also to look at it scientifically. Being a meditating monk the most obvious topic was satipatthana, the development of mindfulness, and I found that there is almost no research on satipatthana or the Satipatthana Sutta, the principal canonical text concerning it.

The book I have eventually written is not only a vindication of Godwin’s teaching, but also an attempt to go back to the roots and ask, what were the Buddha’s basic ideas? What did he mean by insight meditation? What is written in the Satipatthana Sutta, and how can other suttas illuminate it?

The book reflects my particular perspective as both a scholar and a practitioner. Academics sometimes go off at tangents because without experience of practice they can get caught up in ideas that are a long way from the original meanings. On the other hand meditation teachers tend either to express their ideas and experience without going back to the sources, or else to be steeped in the Theravada tradition. For traditional Theravadins the suttas, which recount the Buddhas discourses, and the commentaries, which were written later, are one block. They see everything through the eyes of Buddhaghosha, the author of the Visuddhimagga [the most important commentary] unaware that there was an historical gap of 800 years between the Buddha and Buddhaghosha. So I wanted to separate these out. The ideas and techniques in the commentaries may well be good, but it’s important to know that some weren’t taught by the Buddha.

V: How would you characterise the Buddha’s approach to meditation as it emerges from the discourses?

A: In the discourses when a monk comes to the Buddha and says he wants to meditate, the Buddha usually just gives him a theme like, ‘don’t cling to anything.’ The monk goes off and when he returns he is an arahant! [one with a high level of realisation]. In other words, the Buddha gives the general pattern, not a precise technique such as you find in the Visuddhimagga, whose approach we have inherited. When the Buddha discusses concentration he talks about what happens with the mind. He says that when pamojja (delight) arises the mind naturally becomes joyful, and from that come happiness, calm, tranquillity and concentration. So you should enjoy meditating, and in enjoying itself the mind becomes unified.

At the same time the Buddha has a very clear, analytical approach, and when he speaks of ‘the five hindrances’, for example, he is pointing to specific experiences that imply specific antidotes. But that’s different from issuing technical instructions. You could say that the Buddha didn’t teach meditation so much as the skill of meditating or the ability to meditate. He was concerned with stirring the natural potential of individuals to awaken the mind on the basis of a very clear distinction that never gets lost between what is wholesome in the mind and what is unwholesome.


I also recommend his University of Hamburg lectures and any of his articles.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 13, 2013 5:19 am

I outlined this in my mind earlier today:

Do we make our experience conform to the teachings?

OR

Do we make the teachings conform to our experience?

OR

Do we attempt to somehow balance the two?

OR

Is there some other alternative?

Then, while researching what I thought was an unrelated matter, I ran into this passage in William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience, "LECTURE I: RELIGION AND NEUROLOGY."

In recent books on logic, distinction is made between two orders of inquiry concerning anything. First, what is the nature of it? how did it come about? what is its constitution, origin, and history? And second, What is its importance, meaning, or significance, now that it is once here? The answer to the one question is given in an existential judgment or proposition. The answer to the other is a proposition of value, what the Germans call a Werthurtheil, or what we may, if we like, denominate a spiritual judgment. Neither judgment can be deduced immediately from the other. They proceed from diverse intellectual preoccupations, and the mind combines them only by making them first separately, and then adding them together.

In the matter of religions it is particularly easy to distinguish the two orders of question. Every religious phenomenon has its history and its derivation from natural antecedents. What is nowadays called the higher criticism of the Bible is only a study of the Bible from this existential point of view, neglected too much by the earlier church. Under just what biographic conditions did the sacred writers bring forth their various contributions to the holy volume? And what had they exactly in their several individual minds, when they delivered their utterances? Thes are manifestly questions of historical fact, and one does not see how the answer to them can decide offhand the still further question: of what use should such a volume, with its manner of coming into existence so defined, be to us as a guide to life and a revelation? To answer this other question we must have already in our mind some sort of a general theory as to what the peculiarities in a thing should be which give it value for purposes of revelation; and this theory itself would be what I just called a spiritual judgment. Combining it with our existential judgment, we might indeed deduce another spiritual judgment as to the Bible’s worth. Thus if our theory of revelation-value were to affirm that any book, to possess it, must have been composed automatically or not by the free caprice of the writer, or that it must exhibit no scientific and historic errors and express no local or personal passions, the Bible would probably fare ill at our hands. But if, on the other hand, our theory should allow that a book may well be a revelation in spite of errors and passions and deliberate human composition, if only it be a true record of the inner experiences of great-souled persons wrestling with the crises of their fate, then the verdict would be much more favorable. You see that the existential facts by themselves are insufficient for determining the value; and the best adepts of the higher criticism accordingly never confound the existential with the spiritual problem. With the same conclusions of fact before them, some take one view, and some another, of the Bible’s value as a revelation, according as their spiritual judgment as to the foundation of values differs (my bolds).

He goes on and you may continue for yourself here.

Later in the lecture, he continues:

You see that at bottom we are thrown back upon the general principles by which the empirical philosophy has always contended that we must be guided in our search for truth. Dogmatic philosophies have sought for tests for truth which might dispense us from appealing to the future. Some direct mark, by noting which we can be protected immediately and absolutely, now and forever, against all mistake--such has been the darling dream of philosophic dogmatists. It is clear that the origin of the truth would be an admirable criterion of this sort, if only the various origins could be discriminated from one another from this point of view, and the history of dogmatic opinion shows that origin has always been a favorite test. Origin in immediate intuition; origin in pontifical authority; origin in supernatural revelation, as by vision, hearing, or unaccountable impression; origin in direct possession by a higher spirit, expressing itself in prophecy and warnining; origin in automatic utterance generally, these origins have been stock warrants for the truth of one opinion after another which we find represented in religious history. The medical materialists are therefore only so many belated dogmatists, neatly turning the tables on their predecessors by using the criterion of origin in a destructive instead of an accreditive way. They are effective with their talk of pathological origin only so long as supernatural origin is pleaded by the other side, and nothing but the argument from origin is under discussion. But the argument from origin has seldom been used alone, for it is too obviously insufficient. Dr. Maudsley is perhaps the cleverest of the rebutters of supernatural religion on grounds of origin. Yet he finds himself forced to write:

“What right have we to believe Nature under any obligation to do her work by means of complete minds only? She may find an incomplete mind a more suitable instrument for a particular purpose. It is the work that is done, and the quality in the worker by which it was done, that is alone of moment; and it may be no great matter from a cosmical standpoint, if in other qualities of character he was singularly defective, if indeed he were hypocrite, adulterer, eccentric, or lunatic.... Home we come again, then, to the old and last resort of certitude, namely the common assent of mankind, or of the competent by instruction and training among mankind".

In other words, not its origin, but the way in which it works on the whole, is Dr. Maudsley’s final test of a belief. This is our own empiricist criterion; and this criterion the stoutest insisters on supernatural origin have also been forced to use in the end...(my bolds,underlines).
Last edited by danieLion on Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 13, 2013 5:55 am

Echoing James, Aleister Crowley notes in Magick Without Tears, "Chapter III: Hieroglypics: Life and Language Necessarily Symbolic":

Very natural, the irritation in your last! You write:—

"But why? Why all this elaborate symbolism? Why not say straight out what you mean? Surely the subject is difficult enough in any case—must you put on a mask to make it clear? I know you well enough by now to be sure that you will not fob me off with any Holy-Willie nonsense about the ineffable, about human language being inadequate to reveal such Mysteries, about the necessity of constructing a new language to explain a new system of thought; of course I know that this had to be done in the case of chemistry, of higher mathematics, indeed of almost all technical subjects; but I feel that you have some other, deeper explanation in reserve.

"After all, most of what I am seeking to learn from you has been familiar to many of the great minds of humanity for many centuries. Indeed, the Qabalah is a special language, and that is old enough; there is not much new material to fit into that structure. But why did they, in the first place, resort to this symbolic jargon?"

You put it very well; and when I think it over, I feel far from sure that the explanation which I am about to inflict upon you will satisfy you, or even whether it will hold water! In the last resort, I shall have to maintain that we are justified by experience, by the empirical success in communicating thought which has attended, and continues to attend, our endeavors.

But to give a complete answer, I shall have to go back to the beginning, and restate the original problem; and I beg that you will not suppose that I am evading the question, or adopting the Irish method of answer- ing it by another, though I know it may sound as if I were.

Let me set out by restating our original problem; WHAT WE WANT IS TRUTH!; we want an even closer approach to Reality; and we want to discover and discuss the proper means of achieving this object
.

Very good; let us start by the simplest of all possible enquiries—and the most difficult—"What is anything?" "What do we know?" and other questions that spring naturally from these.

I see a tree.
I hear it—rustling or creaking in the wind.
I touch it—hard.
I smell it—acrid.
I taste it—bitter.

Now all the information given by these five senses has to be put together, although no two agree in any sort of way. The logic by which we build up our complex idea of a tree has more holes than a sponge.

But this is to jump far ahead: we must first analyze the single, simple impression. "I see a tree." This phenomenon is what is called a "point-event." It is the coming together of the two, the seer and the seen. It is single and simple; yet we cannot conceive of either of them as anything but complex. And the Point-Event tells us nothing whatever about either; both, as Herbert Spencer and God knows how many others have shown, unknowable; it stands by itself, alone and aloof. It has happened; it is undeniably Reality. Yet we cannot confirm it; for it can never happen again precisely the same. What is even more bewildering is that since it takes time for the eye to convey an impression to the consciousness (it may alter in 1,000 ways in the process!) all that really exists is a memory of the Point-Event. not the Point-Event itself. What then is this Reality of which we are so sure? Obviously, it has not got a name, since it never happened before, or can happen again! To discuss it at all we must invent a name, and this name (like all names) cannot possibly be anything more than a symbol.

Even so, as so often pointed out, all we do is to "record the behaviour of our instruments." Nor are we much better off when we've done it; for our symbol, referring as it does to a phenomenon unique in itself, and not to be apprehended by another, can mean nothing to one's neighbors. What happens, of course, is that similar, though not identical, Point-Events happen to many of us, and so we are able to construct a symbolic language. My memory of the mysterious Reality resembles yours sufficiently to induce us to agree that both belong to the same class.

But let me furthermore ask you to reflect on the formation of language itself. Except in the case of onomatopoeic words and a few others, there is no logical connection between a thing and the sound of our name for it. "Bow-wow" is a more rational name than "dog", which is a mere convention agreed on by the English, while other nations prefer chien, hund, cane, kalb, kutta and so on. All symbols, you see, my dear child, and it's no good your kicking!

But it doesn't stop there. When we try to convey thought by writing, we are bound to sit down solidly, and construct a holy Qabalah out of nothing. Why would a curve open to the right, sound like the ocean, open at the top, like you? And all these arbitrary symbolic letters are combined by just as symbolic and arbitrary devices to take on conventional meanings, these words again combined into phrases by no less high-handed a procedure.

And then folk wonder how it is that there should be error and misunderstanding in the transmission of thought from one person to another! Rather regard it as a miraculous intervention of Providence when even one of even the simplest ideas "gets across." Now then, this being so, it is evidently good sense to construct one's own alphabet, with one's own very precise definitions, in order to handle an abstruse and technical subject like Magick. The "ordinary" words such as God, self, soul, spirit and the rest have been used so many thousand times in so many thousand ways, usually by writers who knew not, or cared not for the necessity of definition that to use them to-day in any scientific essay is almost ludicrous (my emphases).
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:59 am

Buddhism is a logical development of the observed facts; whoso is with me so far is Sammaditthi, and has taken the first step on the Noble Eightfold Path.

Let him aspire to knowledge, and the Second Step is under his feet.

The rest lies with Research.


-Aleister Crowley, The Sword of Song: "Science and Buddhism" (p. 119).
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby Alex123 » Wed Mar 13, 2013 12:48 pm

danieLion wrote:I outlined this in my mind earlier today: Do we make our experience conform to the teachings? OR Do we make the teachings conform to our experience? OR Do we attempt to somehow balance the two? OR Is there some other alternative?



This is very very complicated issue. How do we know that everything in the sacred text is The absolute truth? If the texts made mistaken or misinterpreted teachings, then should we force our experience to confirm to them?


I guess the answer is to do one's best, develop one's own wisdom, use Suttas and general Dhamma as a guide and regularly check oneself.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:14 pm

Alex123 wrote:
danieLion wrote:I outlined this in my mind earlier today: Do we make our experience conform to the teachings? OR Do we make the teachings conform to our experience? OR Do we attempt to somehow balance the two? OR Is there some other alternative?



This is very very complicated issue. How do we know that everything in the sacred text is The absolute truth? If the texts made mistaken or misinterpreted teachings, then should we force our experience to confirm to them?


I guess the answer is to do one's best, develop one's own wisdom, use Suttas and general Dhamma as a guide and regularly check oneself.
That's how I interpret the James and Crowley quotes.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby Alex123 » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:53 pm

Coyote wrote:I would say yes. My acceptance of those teachings is based on intellectual understanding and experience - party of the Buddha's teaching as a whole, which then allows for faith in teachings that I have not yet "seen for myself".


Just because someone was right 100 times, it doesn't automatically mean that one will be right on 101st proposition. It doesn't even mean that one was right most of the time. One could be right 100 times and wrong 200 times...


Coyote wrote:But also intellectual understanding of the Buddha's arguments for belief in rebirth and kamma, e.g moral argument, praised by the wise ect.


Which suttas prove rebirth? There is a sutta using "Pascal's Wager" but it does require just as much faith. A Christian can say "If you don't believe in Lord Jesus Christ and be a Christian, then you go to eternal hell. Who cares about peace in this life if one will get eternal hell." Pascal's wager is totally broken if one adds >0% probability of Christian God or other Gods existing...
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