Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monastics?

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mettafuture
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Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monastics?

Postby mettafuture » Thu Dec 26, 2013 7:37 pm

Many Western Buddhists try to blur the lines between the discourses given to monastics (ex. monks) and the laity, claiming that most of the teachings directed to monastics can be immediately put into practice by a lay follower. But is it a mistake to assume this, or to start with these practices? Shouldn't we first focus on the teachings that were specifically addressed to us?

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby manas » Thu Dec 26, 2013 10:56 pm

mettafuture wrote:Many Western Buddhists try to blur the lines between the discourses given to monastics (ex. monks) and the laity, claiming that most of the teachings directed to monastics can be immediately put into practice by a lay follower. But is it a mistake to assume this, or to start with these practices? Shouldn't we first focus on the teachings that were specifically addressed to us?


Hi mettafuture,

could you be a bit more specific? Which teachings / practices are you referring to here?

kind regards,
manas :anjali:

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:46 pm

mettafuture wrote:Many Western Buddhists try to blur the lines between the discourses given to monastics (ex. monks) and the laity, claiming that most of the teachings directed to monastics can be immediately put into practice by a lay follower. But is it a mistake to assume this, or to start with these practices? Shouldn't we first focus on the teachings that were specifically addressed to us?

Hi, Mettafuture,
I don't know if we "try" or if we do it accidentally, just by failing to distinguish the two kinds of teachings, but I agree that it is a bit of a problem and I have said so here a few times.
But Manas' question is a good one ... I will stand back and let you answer it before saying any more.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby SarathW » Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:12 am

Any advantages mental state improves the future!
I do not think this has to be done in any particular order.

See also :

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=110&start=1680#p272701

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby mettafuture » Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:51 am

manas wrote:
mettafuture wrote:could you be a bit more specific? Which teachings / practices are you referring to here?

All of them, really. Every teaching that was originally given to a monastic. Lay followers could, of course, read these teachings, and learn from them, but I believe it might be better if new Buddhists started with the teachings that were originally addressed to the laity. There had to have been a reason why the Buddha gave so many varied discourses, and didn't teach the exact same thing to everyone.

Take the famous Anapanasati Sutta, as one example. This discourse was given to "elder monks", respected arahants who were just a few steps under the Buddha himself, and yet teachers throughout the West present this discourse as a kind of fast track for fulfilling the four foundations of mindfulness. But how can the four foundations be fulfilled without a clear comprehension of what they are? It seems like some important steps are being skipped.

I propose the following "syllabus" for new Buddhists (and maybe for most of us):
  • Review suttas given to lay followers. Put 5 precepts and some of the other lay teachings into practice.
  • Review wider range of suttas, particularly the Satipatthana Sutta. Begin Satipatthana practice.
  • Anapanasati study and practice. Study all other suttas.
  • Attain stream-entry. :meditate:

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby Mkoll » Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:50 am

mettafuture wrote:Take the famous Anapanasati Sutta, as one example. This discourse was given to "elder monks", respected arahants who were just a few steps under the Buddha himself, and yet teachers throughout the West present this discourse as a kind of fast track for fulfilling the four foundations of mindfulness.

Dear mettafuture,

I think there were other, less accomplished monks there as well as the elder monks.

On that occasion the elder monks were teaching & instructing. Some elder monks were teaching & instructing ten monks, some were teaching & instructing twenty monks, some were teaching & instructing thirty monks, some were teaching & instructing forty monks. The new monks, being taught & instructed by the elder monks, were discerning grand, successive distinctions.


Regardless, you are right in that he definitely was talking to monks here and same with the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. This is an interesting question and it's good that you've brought it up.

:anjali:
Peace,
James

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby mettafuture » Fri Dec 27, 2013 10:49 am

Mkoll wrote:
mettafuture wrote:Take the famous Anapanasati Sutta, as one example. This discourse was given to "elder monks", respected arahants who were just a few steps under the Buddha himself, and yet teachers throughout the West present this discourse as a kind of fast track for fulfilling the four foundations of mindfulness.

I think there were other, less accomplished monks there as well as the elder monks.

You're absolutely right. The younger monks most likely remained present during the Anapanasati discourse.

Regardless, you are right in that he definitely was talking to monks here and same with the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. This is an interesting question and it's good that you've brought it up.

Thank you. And I apologize to everyone if I was rude or disrespectful in any way. I just feel it's very important more of the Buddha's teachings be included in our Western curriculum. I'm not sure how most teachers today are doing it, but the teachers I've had taught a very simplified and secularized version of Buddhism that glossed over many of the teachings that were given to the laity. I also wonder why more teachers don't teach directly from the suttas, as in read a sutta and give commentary on its meaning. Perhaps that would feel too much like church for some people?

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby chownah » Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:59 pm

I think it is not a mistake for laity to focus on practices which are shown in the Suttas as being addresses to monastics.

I think there is a problem for some laity in that they do not have the ability to carry through on these teachings quickly enough to see benefits right away and then they get discouraged. This is an issue of readiness, not an issue of monk hood or not.

Everyone does best by finding what teachings resonate with their life and which bring results.......it is a mistake to not investigate some teaching just because it was addressed to monastics in the Suttas.

chownah

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby pulga » Fri Dec 27, 2013 3:18 pm

chownah wrote:Everyone does best by finding what teachings resonate with their life and which bring results.......it is a mistake to not investigate some teaching just because it was addressed to monastics in the Suttas.


This brings to mind the Anātha­piṇḍik­ovādasutta (M143).

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby Thitadhammo » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:02 pm

Fritz Schaefer (10.05.1923 – 17.10.2012) wrote a book called "The Buddha did not only teach for monks and nuns" - "Der Buddha sprach nicht nur für Mönche und Nonnen" wherein he collected most of the discourses held for laypeople, illustrating a realistic and gradual approach to Dhamma practice for those living in the house.

http://www.amazon.com/Buddha-sprach-nicht-M%C3%B6nche-Nonnen/dp/3921508800/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388159769&sr=8-1&keywords=der+Buddha+sprach+nicht+nur+f%C3%BCr+M%C3%B6nche+und+Nonnen

Hardcover, 880 pages
Publisher: Kristkeitz Werner; 2., vollst. überarb. A. edition (May 1, 2002)
Language: German
ISBN-10: 3921508800
ISBN-13: 978-3921508800
Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.1 x 2 inches
Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
Bodhi Vihara in Freising, Germany
http://bodhi-vihara.org

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby bodom » Fri Dec 27, 2013 5:25 pm

mettafuture wrote:Many Western Buddhists try to blur the lines between the discourses given to monastics (ex. monks) and the laity, claiming that most of the teachings directed to monastics can be immediately put into practice by a lay follower. But is it a mistake to assume this, or to start with these practices? Shouldn't we first focus on the teachings that were specifically addressed to us?


This is one reason that I started this thread:

Suttas for the Householder
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=259

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby mettafuture » Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:36 pm

chownah wrote:Everyone does best by finding what teachings resonate with their life and which bring results.......it is a mistake to not investigate some teaching just because it was addressed to monastics in the Suttas.

Of course it would be. My point was about starting with, and focusing only on (select) teachings that were given to monastics. There must have been a reason why the Buddha didn't give the exact same instructions to everyone. The teachings he gave to monks and nuns might be more advanced, for someone who's further along the path. It would make sense if we worked our way up to those teachings from the teachings the Buddha first gave to lay followers, as a math student would start with algebra before calculus.

Thitadhammo wrote:Fritz Schaefer (10.05.1923 – 17.10.2012) wrote a book called "The Buddha did not only teach for monks and nuns" - "Der Buddha sprach nicht nur für Mönche und Nonnen" wherein he collected most of the discourses held for laypeople, illustrating a realistic and gradual approach to Dhamma practice for those living in the house.

That sounds like a really good book. Unfortunately it's written in a language I don't know. :( Many of the dhamma talks that cover topics I want to learn more about (recollections, elements, kasinas, etc) aren't available in English either. Maybe it's about time I learn more languages.

bodom wrote:
mettafuture wrote:This is one reason that I started this thread:

Suttas for the Householder
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=259

:anjali:

I love that thread. :)

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby dhammapal » Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:16 am

mettafuture wrote:Many Western Buddhists try to blur the lines between the discourses given to monastics (ex. monks) and the laity, claiming that most of the teachings directed to monastics can be immediately put into practice by a lay follower. But is it a mistake to assume this, or to start with these practices? Shouldn't we first focus on the teachings that were specifically addressed to us?

Sutta Nipata 2.14
Dhammika Sutta (extracts)
translated from the Pali
by John D. Ireland

Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi in the Jeta Grove at Anathapindika's monastery. Now the lay-follower Dhammika with five hundred other lay-followers approached the Lord. Having drawn near and having saluted the Lord respectfully he sat down at one side. Sitting there the lay-follower Dhammika addressed the Lord as follows:

"I ask Gotama [1] of extensive wisdom this: How acting is a disciple virtuous — both the disciple who has gone from home to the homeless state and the followers who are householders?
<...>
The Buddha:
A wise man should avoid unchastity as (he would avoid falling into) a pit of glowing charcoal. If unable to lead a celibate life, he should not go to another's wife.
From: Dhammika Sutta translated from the Pali by John D. Ireland

With metta / dhammapal.

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby mettafuture » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:43 am

Would it be fair to say that stream-entry is the minimum goal for a practicing Buddhist?

To attain stream-entry, 3 fetters must be eliminated:
1) Identity view
2) Uncertainty regarding practice
3) Attachment to external rituals

From what I've read and learned from my own practice, contemplating the elements raises awareness of the 5 aggregates and how they interconnect with the surrounding world, which in turn counters identity view.

Investigating and practicing the Buddha's teachings, and/or recollecting the qualities of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha (anussati), counters uncertainty.

And maintaining focus on Buddha-dhamma by way of the Five Precepts, and not letting outside philosophies muddle your practice, eliminates the 3rd fetter.

Is this, essentially, the essence of "bare minimum" lay Buddhist practice?

Edit: Removed " and monastic community" from third to last sentence to fix bad grammar.
Last edited by mettafuture on Mon Dec 30, 2013 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:57 am

mettafuture wrote:Would it be fair to say that stream-entry is the minimum goal for a practicing Buddhist?

To attain stream-entry, 3 fetters must be eliminated:
1) Identity view
2) Uncertainty regarding practice
3) Attachment to external rituals

From what I've read and learned from my own practice, contemplating the elements raises awareness of the 5 aggregates and how they interconnect with the surrounding world, which in turn counters identity view.

Investigating and practicing the Buddha's teachings and monastic community, and/or recollecting the qualities of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha (anussati), counters uncertainty.

And maintaining focus on Buddha-dhamma by way of the Five Precepts, and not letting outside philosophies muddle your practice, eliminates the 3rd fetter.

Is this, essentially, the essence of "bare minimum" lay Buddhist practice?

You can set the bar as high as you like - and all credit to you! - but I think your "bare minimum" is way higher than that of most lay Buddhists. Keeping the Five Precepts (and the extra three on Uposatha days) and giving to the local temple seems to be pretty much the norm. It's much the same as the typical lay Christian's practice - church once a week, a bit of charitable work or donations, and keeping the basic morality rules, the Commandments.
I am not saying that this pattern is ideal, of course. Sincere Christians and Buddhists alike will aspire for more but the reality is that most lay people of both faiths (and I could probably broaden that to say all faiths) are not very interested in the religion they happened to be born into. The world would be a different place if 99% of Christians actually tried to "love one another", wouldn't it?

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby tsurezuregusa » Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:21 pm

Hello,

I neither believe it is a mistake nor do I believe it is a western thing.

If it increases the wholesome dhammas and decreases the unwholesome dhammas, how could it be a mistake? Do you think this blurring is decreasing the wholesome?

Even the old commentaries (atthakattha) explain on occassions that the term bhikkhu is meant to include the laity, the serious practioner. And then there is the Ledi Sayadaw. He can be credited with intensifying the practice of the laity. This expanded the role from simple merit-making to studying the teachings, especially the Abhidhamma, and practising meditation. He sayed, lay people could be monks of the world. And before him, there were the dark ages of meditation even among the monastics. For Ledi Sayadaw and his role see Erik Braun and expanding on this Ingrid Jordt's take on Burma's mass lay meditation movement. It is not a western thing.

Kind regards,
Florian
My 'Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha' Facebook site

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Re: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby daverupa » Mon Dec 30, 2013 3:58 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
mettafuture wrote:Would it be fair to say that stream-entry is the minimum goal for a practicing Buddhist?

I think your "bare minimum" is way higher than that of most lay Buddhists. Keeping the Five Precepts (and the extra three on Uposatha days) and giving to the local temple seems to be pretty much the norm. It's much the same as the typical lay Christian's practice - church once a week, a bit of charitable work or donations, and keeping the basic morality rules, the Commandments.
I am not saying that this pattern is ideal, of course.


I think the reality on the ground is as you say, for the most part, with pockets of individuals and groups performing both above and below that average.

But I think that stream-entry is a perfectly serviceable goal, and that not having this basically renders traditional devotional Buddhism a Pure Land endeavor, which simply doesn't make sense to me.
    "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: Mistake for laity to focus on practices given to monasti

Postby mettafuture » Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:09 pm

Kim OHara wrote:You can set the bar as high as you like - and all credit to you! - but I think your "bare minimum" is way higher than that of most lay Buddhists.

That's exactly my point! :D If you want to follow a more traditional path, and you believe samsaric existence is something that should be escaped, you likely need to spend more time working on eliminating the first 3 fetters. But like you said, the bar can be set wherever you want, with or without regard for the fetters. There are no "rules" carved in stone in Buddhism.

I am not saying that this pattern is ideal, of course. Sincere Christians and Buddhists alike will aspire for more but the reality is that most lay people of both faiths (and I could probably broaden that to say all faiths) are not very interested in the religion they happened to be born into. The world would be a different place if 99% of Christians actually tried to "love one another", wouldn't it?

Yes it would be. We would all benefit if we set our bars just a tad higher, and maybe over to the left a little. :D

But I don't think the bar for stream-entry is too high. It's just 5 precepts (8 on Uposatha days), 3 recollections, and maybe some breath / elements meditation.

tsurezuregusa wrote:If it increases the wholesome dhammas and decreases the unwholesome dhammas, how could it be a mistake?

Because we're focusing too much on the simplified and likely more advanced practices (Anapanasati) without first developing a clear comprehension of what the individual aspects of those practices are (Satipatthana). And we're not spending enough time on the practices that were originally prescribed to us (the recollections), or on that practices that were said to directly chip away at the first 3 fetters.

Even the old commentaries (atthakattha) explain on occassions that the term bhikkhu is meant to include the laity, the serious practioner. And then there is the Ledi Sayadaw. He can be credited with intensifying the practice of the laity.

Mahasi Sayadaw is one of the people who inspired this thread.

With metta, everyone. :meditate:


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