Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

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Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 06, 2013 10:22 am

Robertk has posted a thread with this title in Classical Theravada and invited people who are interested in other approaches to do this elsewhere. I think it may be worthwhile to explore why there are diametrically opposed approaches to this question.

Robertk says in the above thread:

But the point I was making on the Causes for wisdom thread is that it is very specific causes that condition right view, and that chief among them is wise consideration of the teaching(more about what I mean by 'consideration later) that are the prime conditions.

This consideration can be done while sitting in lotus position, or sitting on a chair. Or while walking slowly, or quickly. Or while shopping or talking...
Remember I am writing about the development of vipassana, not samatha

Samatha development is another matter. Some types of samatha such as anapanasati, to develop properly, need seclusion, need an erect posture and calling this 'formal practice' would be correct I think.


Ajahn Chah says:

Q: Is it advisable to read a lot or study the scriptures as a part of practice?

Answer: The Dhamma of the Buddha is not found in books. If you want to really see for yourself what the Buddha was talking about, you don't need to bother with books. Watch your own mind. Examine to see how feelings come and go, how thoughts come and go. don't be attached to anything. Just be mindful of whatever there is to see. This is the way to the truths of the Buddha. Be natural. Everything you do in your life here is a chance to practise. It is all Dhamma. When you do your chores, try to be mindful. If you are emptying a spittoon or cleaning a toilet, don't feel you are doing it as a favour for anyone else. There is Dhamma in emptying spittoons. Don't feel you are practising only when sitting still, cross-legged. Some of you have complained that there is not enough time to meditate. Is there enough time to breathe? This is your meditation: mindfulness, naturalness in whatever you do.
[...]
Q: You have said that samatha and vipassana or concentration and insight are the same. Could you explain this further?

Answer: It is quite simple. Concentration (samatha) and wisdom (vipassana) work together. First the mind becomes still by holding on to a meditation object. It is quiet only while you are sitting with your eyes closed. This is samatha and eventually this samadhi-base is the cause for wisdom or vipassana to arise. Then the mind is still whether you sit with your eyes closed or walk around in a busy city. It's like this. Once you were a child. Now you are an adult. Are the child and the adult the same person? You can say that they are, or looking at it another way, you can say that they are different. In this way samatha and vipassana could also be looked at as separate. Or it is like food and feces. Food and feces could be called the same and they can be called different. Don't just believe what I say, do your practice and see for yourself. Nothing special is needed. If you examine how concentration and wisdom arise, you will know the truth for yourself. These days many people cling to the words. They call their practice vipassana. Samatha is looked down on. Or they call their practice samatha. It is essential to do samatha before vipassana, they say. All this is silly. Don't bother to think about it in this way. Simply do the practice and you'll see for yourself.


http://www.buddhanet.net/bodhiny2.htm

Caveat: I have no idea how reliable the translation at Buddhanet is, but the main points I have read in a book of his talks before.

First I would be very interested to hear Robert's view and the views of other students of Khun Sujin, but of course everyone is welcome to share. For my part I think Khun Sujin's views are conditioned by the apprehension of the pitfalls of meditation whereby some practitioners develop quietly massive egos or cushion themselves from life through their bliss-escapes. Perhaps the path she advocates is safer?
_/|\_
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 06, 2013 10:30 am

Greetings Dan,

I do not see what makes these positions diametrically opposed?

To me, they're both says that daily behaviour should be undertaken in accordance with the truths of the Dhamma (and particularly the Satipatthana Sutta)...

Robert wrote:This consideration can be done while sitting in lotus position, or sitting on a chair. Or while walking slowly, or quickly. Or while shopping or talking...

Ajahn Chah wrote:Just be mindful of whatever there is to see. This is the way to the truths of the Buddha. Be natural....This is your meditation: mindfulness, naturalness in whatever you do.

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: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 06, 2013 10:38 am

Knowing something about the teachings is important. But in my opinion one of the chief causes of wisdom is watching yourself suffer. Practicing so that you make your mind into a sharp calm instrument of attention and then watching yourself and others suffer. Then i think you begin to let go of the hot poker.

But yeah im definitely in the "just do the practice" camp.
There is no comfort without pain; thus
we define salvation through suffering.
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon May 06, 2013 11:02 am

Dan74 wrote:Robertk has posted a thread with this title in Classical Theravada and invited people who are interested in other approaches to do this elsewhere. I think it may be worthwhile to explore why there are diametrically opposed approaches to this question.
It is a question formulated by robertk grounded in his Sujin point of view that rejects traditional practice oriented Dhamma. For more traditional practitioners, a formal type of practice utilizing this or that technique is what helps one cultivate causes and conditions that give rise to insight/vipassana. As one's awareness and concentration becomes more refined, insights may arise during the practice or during ones daily life, and all of this is in the context of the Buddha's teachings. It is the sort of thing that one could derive from the suttas or from the Visuddhimagga.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby daverupa » Mon May 06, 2013 11:13 am

Dan74 wrote: why there are diametrically opposed approaches to this question.


I seem able to trace it back to which texts (written and spoken) are taken as authoritative. For example, the first thread of this name having been posted in the Classical section showcases what that point of view requires in terms of textual support. Without that, the points are matters of Nikaya interpretation instead of the pursuit of a certain scholastic orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Kasina emphases, misunderstanding the etymology of satipatthana, thinking of vipassana & samatha as practices rather than qualities, the mundane/supramundane distinction - the differences compound at every turn.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby robertk » Mon May 06, 2013 2:38 pm

Thanks so much for opening the topic here Dan! I will probably run between the two. My reason for originally starting it in Classical is that sometimes someone comes along with ideas that are very unorthodox and it derails the thread. With any luck it wont happen here.
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Nyana » Mon May 06, 2013 3:04 pm

daverupa wrote:
Dan74 wrote: why there are diametrically opposed approaches to this question.


I seem able to trace it back to which texts (written and spoken) are taken as authoritative. For example, the first thread of this name having been posted in the Classical section showcases what that point of view requires in terms of textual support. Without that, the points are matters of Nikaya interpretation instead of the pursuit of a certain scholastic orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Are you suggesting that it wouldn't be possible to interpret the Nikāyas in a way that is consistent with later commentarial developments without explicitly maintaining the authority of the commentaries?

daverupa wrote:Kasina emphases, misunderstanding the etymology of satipatthana, thinking of vipassana & samatha as practices rather than qualities, the mundane/supramundane distinction - the differences compound at every turn.

All of these notions, except perhaps the one pertaining to etymology, have precedents in the Nikāyas.
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Virgo » Mon May 06, 2013 3:13 pm

Speaking for myself I feel I have benefited a great deal from the Sujin approach to Dhamma.

I have also benefited a great deal from more formal mahasi meditation that I have learned. I've also benefited a great deal from intentionally holding sila (5 precepts, 8 precepts, etc.) and looking at my mind when I do so.

Now, I am also more interested in Ajahn Chah and the Forest Tradition "approach". I think all these are beneficial.

But then maybe that is the "Sujin" in me -- everyone is going to do whatever they do, and like whatever they like, by conditions. It's all conditioned. It really can be no other way.

But I do not think that means that we cannot or should not "do".

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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Alex123 » Mon May 06, 2013 4:11 pm

Hello RobertK, all,

RobertK wrote:But the point I was making on the Causes for wisdom thread is that it is very specific causes that condition right view, and that chief among them is wise consideration of the teaching(more about what I mean by 'consideration later) that are the prime conditions.

This consideration can be done while sitting in lotus position, or sitting on a chair. Or while walking slowly, or quickly. Or while shopping or talking...
Remember I am writing about the development of vipassana, not samatha


It is harder to remember the Dhamma truths when one is at the club or a busy shopping mall. It is much easier to do it in a calm and secluded settings, at least at first. In plenty of suttas the Buddha recommended seeking secluded places, even for satipatthana. Even though for an Arahant it doesn't matter if he is at a busy location or in the forest, for us it does matter.

I personally noticed that I have better attention when secluded from distractions. I also notice the difference in mental states between sitting and reclining (I have poor health). So in some way, posture DOES DOES matter - at least for me. Of course it does not cause insight, it merely helps with attention and then it is possible to see the truths and get insight.

Even Visuddhimagga talks about seclusion for insight.
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon May 06, 2013 4:42 pm

robertk wrote:Thanks so much for opening the topic here Dan! I will probably run between the two. My reason for originally starting it in Classical is that sometimes someone comes along with ideas that are very unorthodox and it derails the thread. With any luck it wont happen here.
And that is, indeed, the problem with the Sujin point of view, it is unorthodox.
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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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Mr Man » Mon May 06, 2013 5:04 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
robertk wrote:Thanks so much for opening the topic here Dan! I will probably run between the two. My reason for originally starting it in Classical is that sometimes someone comes along with ideas that are very unorthodox and it derails the thread. With any luck it wont happen here.
And that is, indeed, the problem with the Sujin point of view, it is unorthodox.

Is that unorthodox with how Theravada has been implemented/taken up in the west or altogether unorthodox? From my experience there really isn't what you could call "orthodox" Buddhism in Thailand. I also think some of the thinking is shaped by traditional Thai notions for example the idea that we should focus on developing Parami rather than formal practice & the non-possibility for your average punter to practice formal meditation (hopefully I am not misrepresenting Khun Sujin robertk).
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Mr Man » Mon May 06, 2013 5:15 pm

Are there examples of those who would see Vipassana as a technique or something that only arises/is developed during formal practice?
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon May 06, 2013 5:30 pm

Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
robertk wrote:Thanks so much for opening the topic here Dan! I will probably run between the two. My reason for originally starting it in Classical is that sometimes someone comes along with ideas that are very unorthodox and it derails the thread. With any luck it wont happen here.
And that is, indeed, the problem with the Sujin point of view, it is unorthodox.

Is that unorthodox with how Theravada has been implemented/taken up in the west or altogether unorthodox? From my experience there really isn't what you could call "orthodox" Buddhism in Thailand. I also think some of the thinking is shaped by traditional Thai notions for example the idea that we should focus on developing Parami rather than formal practice & the non-possibility for your average punter to practice formal meditation (hopefully I am not misrepresenting Khun Sujin robertk).
What do you mean by orthodox?
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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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon May 06, 2013 5:34 pm

Mr Man wrote:Are there examples of those who would see Vipassana as a technique or something that only arises/is developed during formal practice?
While the Burmese vipassana meditation traditions see a central importance to meditation, they also place an emphasis on what would be called informal day-to-day practice, which is consistent with the Eightfold Path.
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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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby daverupa » Mon May 06, 2013 5:37 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Are you suggesting that it wouldn't be possible to interpret the Nikāyas in a way that is consistent with later commentarial developments without explicitly maintaining the authority of the commentaries?


I suggested that exegetical differences are traceable to the texts one uses as foundation & support. It's obviously possible to interpret the Nikayas in a Theravadan way, just as it is possible to do so in a Sarvastivadan way, and so on. However, looking for consistency with abhidhammas & commentaries is doing it backwards, as I see it.

Ñāṇa wrote:
daverupa wrote:Kasina emphases, misunderstanding the etymology of satipatthana, thinking of vipassana & samatha as practices rather than qualities, the mundane/supramundane distinction - the differences compound at every turn.

All of these notions, except perhaps the one pertaining to etymology, have precedents in the Nikāyas.


It begs the question why it fell to later disciples to extrapolate these details if the Buddha could have done so. Additionally, since the Nikayas were largely open to editorial manipulation for at least a century, as well as being subject to the vagaries of unintended oral tradition interpolations, I fail to find confidence in such vague precedents as these.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Mr Man » Mon May 06, 2013 5:43 pm

tiltbillings wrote:What do you mean by orthodox?


1)A consistency in implementation or understanding.

If Khun Sujin is unorthodox wouldn't that be in relation to what is orthodox?
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon May 06, 2013 5:50 pm

Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:What do you mean by orthodox?


1)A consistency in implementation or understanding.

If Khun Sujin is unorthodox wouldn't that be in relation to what is orthodox?
Damdifino. Scrap the word orthodox. If bhavana practice is a central practice to the various meditation traditions within Theravada, then the Sujin tradition is an outlier in its characterization of what bhavana is in these non-Sujin traditions: self/lobha driven wrong path practices.
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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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Mr Man » Mon May 06, 2013 6:28 pm

robertk, I'd be interested to hear how Khun Sujin "fits in" to Buddhism within the Thai context. Do her Thai students offer alms food, tam boon, wai phra, take the precepts from a monk etc. I understand that she is often on the Radio and is well known within "dhamma" circles. How is she generally received? Who were her Dhamma teachers/influences . Did she ever practice "formal" meditation?
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby Nyana » Mon May 06, 2013 6:59 pm

daverupa wrote:However, looking for consistency with abhidhammas & commentaries is doing it backwards, as I see it.

It's prudent to consult the earliest relevant stratas of commentary when attempting to interpret a given sutta passage. Not doing so can result in all kinds of interpretive nonsense, as I see it.

daverupa wrote:It begs the question why it fell to later disciples to extrapolate these details if the Buddha could have done so.

There's no evidence that the suttas were ever meant to be taken as comprehensive explanations of all aspects of the gradual training. Also, within the sutta collections there are numerous suttas that are said to have been expounded by disciples both during the Buddha's life and after his parinibbāna.

daverupa wrote:Additionally, since the Nikayas were largely open to editorial manipulation for at least a century, as well as being subject to the vagaries of unintended oral tradition interpolations, I fail to find confidence in such vague precedents as these.

So what do you have confidence in?
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Re: Vipassana: formal practice or technique or daily life?

Postby daverupa » Mon May 06, 2013 7:11 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:So what do you have confidence in?


I am confident that this pillory is off-topic.

:focus:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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