http://web.archive.org/web/201204071014 ... ic-sage-2/“If one does not approach the commentarial literature with a critical eye, one would be trapped. Unfortunately many are. In fact, I had to remove a few pages from the manuscript of Concept and Reality on Ven. Nyanaponika’s request”.
I’m disappointed to hear that, as Concept and Reality had already become my favourite commentary on the Buddhist teachings. There are some delightfully understated criticisms of the traditional views in the book, and I wonder what we have lost in the editorial process at the hands of Ven. Nyanaponika Thera, an undoubtedly very learned yet quite conservative scholar. When I express my dismay, Bhante Ñāṇananda adds that now he tends to agree with Ven. Nyanaponika.
“I did it unwillingly, but later on I also thought it may have been too much as it was my first book. Perhaps what is left is quite enough. The message still gets through. Some of that I could restate in the Nibbāna sermons as I had the backing of my teacher.”
This teacher is Ven. Matara Sri Ñāṇārāma Mahathera, then abbot of the Nissarana Vanaya and an illustrious elder of the Sri Lankan forest tradition. I ask Bhante what the response of the Sangha was when those controversial sermons were delivered.
“Apart from a very few, the others didn’t really understand. Some went around criticising, calling me a heretic. Fortunately it didn’t get out of hand thanks to the teacher. But then some others like Ven. Khemānanda were very appreciative.”
Our discussion moves on to Ven. Ñāṇavīra Thera. I wonder what influence this radical monk had on Bhante Ñāṇananda, but I can’t muster enough courage to ask directly. So I just let him speak on his views.
“It is true, Ven. Ñāṇavīra made a start. But I think he went to an extreme in his criticisms, until his followers were dropping even the useful things. And he failed to make the necessary distinctions between saupādisesa and anupādisesa Nibbāna elements. That led to an idealized view of the noble disciple. And now there is a lineage of ‘Ñāṇavīrists’ who fail to see anything beyond Ven. Ñāṇavīra’s views. They are simply idolizing him.”
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