Glad to continue the discussion.
tiltbillings wrote:From what I undetrstand robertk is not a KS neophyte.
Yes, he’s been at it a lot longer than me, so I haven’t mentioned him among us of the newer crop. I think he’s actually quite good in using both terminologies, and in fact, I recall him criticising me on several occasions when I was dismissing conventional speak in favor of ultimate speak. I suspect he just doesn’t have the time to get into lengthy discussions at the moment.
So, you would not agree with robertk's highly dismissive and bitingly negative assessment of meditation practice: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=15952&start=80#p228511
What I find unfortunate in this is that KS does not really seem to understand what actual meditation is about as a process of growth in understanding, and the negative attitude she which has toward "sitting in the dark" is reflected in her students, and that has been reflected in this thread.
When I was trying to make sense of similar K.S. and her students' statements, as a meditator, I found it helpful to put the statements into context regarding who’s the speaker, to whom the statement is intended and how do both understand “bhavana” (translated as development, practice, meditation). If that’s alright, I’ll get into this in the next post as it is probably the central difference here.
tiltbillings wrote:Please do illustrate your point about conventional and ultimate language.
I used to get confused when just starting with Nina Van Gorkom books when in one sentence she would say something like – (a) “we should develop mindfulness”, but then in the next sentence she would say something like – (b) “no one can make mindfulness arise”. I’d then ask – but aren’t the two statements exact opposites?! I was then explained that they weren’t - it’s just that one is conventional speak, the other ultimate speak, both describing more or less the same thing.
(a) “we should develop mindfulness” - this is conventional speak, taking on the positive tone, reminiscent of the similar exhortations in the suttas and in meditation speak. (Incidentally, someone questioned the issue of “we” statements earlier - I don’t really know, but I suspect it’s one of those non-English expressions that got translated into English literally and then just stuck. It’s basically just an equivalent of “a person should develop mindfulness”, “one should…” type of conventional expressions, etc.)
Now, if I was looking for the worst in the statement (a), I’d conclude that it is advocating self-view and mindfulness as something permanent that isn’t conditioned. This of course isn’t the intended meaning of the statement. So, looking for the best in the statement, I’d say it is trying to point to something like a neutral statement (c) – “mindfulness is conditioned and not self”, because I presume that someone with developed wisdom, and accordingly developed mindfulness (as the intended end result of the statement (a)), would understand mindfulness as such.
(b) “No one can make mindfulness arise” – this is ultimate speak, as well as taking on the occasional negative tone of the commentaries (negative on people and actions, positive on dhammas). Now, if I was looking for the worst in this statement, I’d conclude that it is advocating fatalism and passivity. This of course isn’t the intended meaning of the statement. Rather, it is meant to emphasize anatta and conditionality of mindfulness. So, looking for the best in the statement, I’d say it is again trying to point to something like a neutral statement - (c) “mindfulness is conditioned and not self”.
So basically, the two can be interpreted in the same way if looking for the best in them, even though they seem entirely opposite. I feel that both types of speech can work, sometimes a person needs to hear it one way, sometimes it might help to hear it another way. I’m under the impression that a lot of misunderstandings in this thread arose due to looking for the worst in each other's statements.
Similarly, regarding K.S. and her students’ statements on meditation - even though a meditator can find them critical and hostile even, I generally find them really helpful when looking for the best in them. Of course, even then, the statements might not work for everyone. Anyway, I’ll get on the subject of criticising formal meditation in the next post, just please give me a few days to come up with something decent.