The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby Kasina » Mon Jun 09, 2014 7:53 am

mikenz66 wrote:Sure, there are some interesting ideas in their work. But I'm not aware of them addressing the subject of this thread. Which is why I said.
mikenz66 wrote:It's interesting in how it differs from other criticisms.
Most modern criticism of the Theravada Commentaries (translated and/or written by Buddhaghosa) that get brought up here concern tricky doctrinal points (e.g. Ven Nanananda etc) to do with the nature of reality, or other subtle issues.

I may be wrong, since I have not read everything that they have written...

Personally I find the idea of some "Great Betrayal" overly hyperbolic. As far as my experience goes, there's some helpful stuff in the ancient commentaries. And there's some helpful stuff in the writings of Ven Nanananda and other modern interpreters. It's useful that we have these various analyses to draw out the possible ways of interpreting and applying the Dhamma.

:anjali:
Mike


I meant that they are of more substance than the complaints in the paper.
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:11 am

Well, they do make some interesting points (Ven Nanananda much more than Ven Nanavira, in my view) but as far as I'm concerned, it's a matter of taste whose particular interpretations you find useful... It's not as if any commentators can prove that their interpretation is the only possible one.

But perhaps we should get back to the topic. I guess one interesting question is whether the blame for the (alleged) misguided emphasis on "merit making" really originates from misleading statements in the Commentaries, or whether it is from ignorance of the Dhamma on the part of the merit makers.

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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby Denisa » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:24 am

Kasina wrote:For anyone looking for more in-depth criticism of Buddhaghosa/Commentarial views, I might recommend the writings of Ven's Nanananda and Nanavira.

:anjali:

Thank you very much Kasina, I'll look into them. I'm already going through the writings by Bhikkhu Sujato & Bhikkhu Analayo, and finding many more through their bibliographies. I have no concern in Buddhaghosa & Commentaries as they contradict too much with the Sutta. My main focus is first four Nikayas.

culaavuso wrote:
Mkoll wrote:There is a sutta where the Buddha lays out the various kinds of mental states and views that one may have when giving. I seem to remember that the best mental state was the view that (rough quote): "this giving is for the purification of mind". Lower in the order was the "business transaction" view, but it is still productive of merit.


AN 7.49: Dana Sutta wrote:Having given this gift seeking his own profit — with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself, [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the Four Great Kings. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.
...
but with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of Brahma's Retinue. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a non-returner. He does not come back to this world.


As always thank you very much Mkoll & culaavuso, that's exactly what I was talking about.

There's nothing Buddhist about going up & down in realms (born in deva realms and then coming to a lower realm). Or wondering in Samsara because that's the default, there's no need of a Buddhism to do that. Buddha's teachings needed for those who need to end the Samsara.

85. Few among men are those who cross to the farther shore. The rest, the bulk of men, only run up and down the hither bank.
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:46 am

Hi Denisa,

Denisa wrote:There's nothing Buddhist about going up & down in realms (born in deva realms and then coming to a lower realm). Or wondering in Samsara because that's the default, there's no need of a Buddhism to do that. Buddha's teachings needed for those who need to end the Samsara.

Sorry, I don't understand this statement. Are you claiming that the suttas do not talk about such realms? There are a number of sutta references here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... /loka.html
And many more in the links of the suttas references in Bhikkhu Bodhi's book "In the Buddha's Words".
There are links to on-line versions of most of the suttas here:
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14640
In particular see Chapter I, section (4), and Chapter V.

:anjali:
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby Kasina » Mon Jun 09, 2014 4:11 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Well, they do make some interesting points (Ven Nanananda much more than Ven Nanavira, in my view) but as far as I'm concerned, it's a matter of taste whose particular interpretations you find useful... It's not as if any commentators can prove that their interpretation is the only possible one.

But perhaps we should get back to the topic. I guess one interesting question is whether the blame for the (alleged) misguided emphasis on "merit making" really originates from misleading statements in the Commentaries, or whether it is from ignorance of the Dhamma on the part of the merit makers.

:anjali:
Mike


I agree.

Sorry, back to topic then. I just thought someone might be interested in them.
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby LXNDR » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:26 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Denisa,

Denisa wrote:There's nothing Buddhist about going up & down in realms (born in deva realms and then coming to a lower realm). Or wondering in Samsara because that's the default, there's no need of a Buddhism to do that. Buddha's teachings needed for those who need to end the Samsara.


Sorry, I don't understand this statement. Are you claiming that the suttas do not talk about such realms? There are a number of sutta references here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... /loka.html
And many more in the links of the suttas references in Bhikkhu Bodhi's book "In the Buddha's Words".
There are links to on-line versions of most of the suttas here:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14640
In particular see Chapter I, section (4), and Chapter V.

:anjali:
Mike


the purport of the Dhamma is to cross over the stream to the other side, not to splash about in the stream, so aiming at accumulating merit and fixation on it basically defeats the purpose of the Dhamma, the first thing a person should be concerned with is realizing nibbana

but the shift in focus of the practice for laity is understandable, they cannot invest as much time in it as monks so chances of realizing nibbana soon enough for them are even slimmer anyway

the Dhamma wasn't meant for laity in the first place and thus compromise had to be invented to engage them in it and keep as benefactors of the Order


Upaneyyam Sutta (SN 1.3) wrote:
Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was staying near Saavatthii, at Jeta Grove, in Anaathapi.n.dika's park. Now a certain deva, as the night was passing away, lighting up the whole Jeta Grove with his effulgent beauty, approached the Blessed One and, having approached, stood on one side.

Standing thus on one side, the deva spoke this verse before the Blessed One:


Life but leads to doom. Our time is short.
From Decay there's naught can keep us safe.
Contemplating thus the fear of death,
Let's make merit that will bring us bliss.

[The Blessed One replied:]

Life but leads to doom. Our time is short.
From Decay there's naught can keep us safe.
Contemplating thus this fear of death,
Scorn such worldly bait, seek final peace.



http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:21 pm

LXNDR wrote:the Dhamma wasn't meant for laity in the first place and thus compromise had to be invented to engage them in it and keep as benefactors of the Order
There are many, many suttas directed addressed specifically to laypeople and householders by the Buddha himself. There are suttas where householders are said to have Noble attainments. Are you suggesting that all of these suttas are later inventions?
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby LXNDR » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:06 pm

Mkoll wrote:
LXNDR wrote:the Dhamma wasn't meant for laity in the first place and thus compromise had to be invented to engage them in it and keep as benefactors of the Order
There are many, many suttas directed addressed specifically to laypeople and householders by the Buddha himself. There are suttas where householders are said to have Noble attainments. Are you suggesting that all of these suttas are later inventions?


no, i am not

the compromise could have been invented by the Buddha himself, if everybody would go forth into the homelessness there would be nobody left to feed the Sangha

however if practicing Dhamma wouldn't require renunciation of the world, Buddha wouldn't have created the Order or recommended a recluse lifestyle, after all this is the way he himself achieved liberation

nibbana is difficult enough to be attained even by a renunciate, let alone by a lay person immersed in worldly affairs
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:27 pm

LXNDR wrote:however if practicing Dhamma wouldn't require renunciation of the world, Buddha wouldn't have created the Order or recommended a recluse lifestyle, after all this is the way he himself achieved liberation
The Buddha taught householders how to practice the Dhamma. So practicing Dhamma doesn't require renunciation of the world.

Perhaps you meant that realizing Nibbana requires renunciation of the world?
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 09, 2014 11:04 pm

Mkoll wrote:
LXNDR wrote:however if practicing Dhamma wouldn't require renunciation of the world, Buddha wouldn't have created the Order or recommended a recluse lifestyle, after all this is the way he himself achieved liberation
The Buddha taught householders how to practice the Dhamma. So practicing Dhamma doesn't require renunciation of the world.

Perhaps you meant that realizing Nibbana requires renunciation of the world?

Yes, that's a good way of putting it. The suttas linked from In the Buddha's Words http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14640 have been organised into different levels of practising the Dhamma, ranging from making merit to renunciation.

While I do know some Asian lay people who I would say over-emphasise merit, it's not so clear cut. Some of them, while not being so obviously gung ho as a lot of Western converts have clearly made quite a lot of progress with their practice. Their calm and so on is obvious if you spend time with them.

On the other side, I see some Western converts who don't see the need to develop the basics of generosity and virtue.

So I think that it is important to examine the big picture, and not dismiss the teachings directed to lay people.


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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby SarathW » Tue Jun 10, 2014 2:44 am

:goodpost: Mike
I certainly agree with you.
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby LXNDR » Tue Jun 10, 2014 4:54 am

Mkoll wrote:
LXNDR wrote:however if practicing Dhamma wouldn't require renunciation of the world, Buddha wouldn't have created the Order or recommended a recluse lifestyle, after all this is the way he himself achieved liberation
The Buddha taught householders how to practice the Dhamma. So practicing Dhamma doesn't require renunciation of the world.

Perhaps you meant that realizing Nibbana requires renunciation of the world?


you can put it this way, at the same time it's the realization of nibbana which is the principle goal of the Dhamma, let's recall the the 3d and 4th Noble Truths, and anything which doesn't serve this goal properly is of little importance

i can imagine that Buddha couldn't tell laymen who would donate to the Order and sustain monks 'You're out of luck, fellows'
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 10, 2014 5:00 am

LXNDR wrote:It's the realization of nibbana which is the principle goal of the Dhamma, let's recall the 4th Noble Truth, and anything which doesn't serve this goal properly is of little importance

Certainly, and according to the suttas, generosity, virtue, and so on are important foundations for that goal, as I mentioned above: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=20959#p294557

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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby LXNDR » Tue Jun 10, 2014 5:18 am

mikenz66 wrote:So I think that it is important to examine the big picture, and not dismiss the teachings directed to lay people.
:anjali:
Mike


mikenz66 wrote:
LXNDR wrote:It's the realization of nibbana which is the principle goal of the Dhamma, let's recall the 4th Noble Truth, and anything which doesn't serve this goal properly is of little importance

Certainly, and according to the suttas, generosity, virtue, and so on are important foundations for that goal, as I mentioned above: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 59#p294557

:anjali:
Mike



absolutely, i don't deny the importance of these qualities, generosity is itself a type of renunciation

the teachings to laity should not be dismissed, not least because implementing them does good to the society, but they should be taken for what they are and their importance for success in attaining the 'final peace' should not be overemphasized
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby pegembara » Tue Jun 10, 2014 8:08 am

LXNDR wrote:
Denisa wrote:I did lot of charity, especially towards poor people even before I became a Buddhist. But it never occurred to me: "how much merit I gain from this generosity? Is it big? Whether people recognize me for my generosity? What will I get in next life?" I did them because it helps someone in need, made them happy, and I felt wholesomely happy by letting go something I possess. Only after getting touched with Buddhism I saw a greater deal of emphasis on merit making. From my understanding on kamma, every action (in this case generosity) can create a result whether you worry about merit or not. I think if one crave for merit that will not serve the purpose of generosity/letting go, it would be more like a business transaction.


i agree and think that from the practice standpoint to be beneficial for the giver the giving must be devoid of egotistic motives

the theory of recipients of different degrees of worth, giving to whom endows with different amount of merit, is counterproductive in this respect, because it can corrupt minds of potential givers and help to enroot their conceit rather than uproot it, make them think of their own good while deciding to give rather than of the recipient's, make their decision selfish


I take this to mean that the Buddha was employing skillful means initially through spiritual materialism as a starting point. The last few sentences reveal his real intention which is to transcend the world.

Once, when the Buddha was dwelling near Savatthi at the Jeta Grove, the householder Anathapindika visited him and, after greeting him politely, sat down at one side.
The Exalted One addressed Anathapindika, “Are alms given in your house, householder?”
“Yes, Lord, alms are given by my family, but they consist only of broken rice and sour gruel.”
“Householder, whether one gives coarse or choice alms, if one gives with respect, thoughtfully, by one’s own hand, gives things tht are not leftovers, and with belief in the result of actions, then, wherever one is born as a result of having given with respect, the mind will experience pleasantness.”
“Long ago, householder, there lived a brahman named Velama who gave very valuable gifts. He gave thousands of bowls of gold, silver and copper, filled with jewels; thousands of horses with trappings; banners and nets of gold; carriages spread with saffron-colored blankets; thousands of milk-giving cows with fine jute ropes and silver milk pails; beds with covers od fleece, white blankets, embroidered coverlets, and with crimson cushions at the ends; lengths of cloth of the best flax, silk, wool and cotton. And how to describe all the food, sweets and syrups that he gave? They flowed like rivers.”
“Householder, who was the brahman who made those very valuable gifts? It was me.”
“But, when those gifts were given, householder, there were no worthy recipients. Although the brahman Velama gave such valuable gifts, if he had fed just one person of right view, the fruit of the latter deed would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred people of right view, the fruit of feeding a Once-returner would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Sakadagamis, the fruit of feeding one Non-returner would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Anagamis, the fruit of feeding one Arahat would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Arahats, the fruit of feeding one Non-teaching Buddha would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Paccekkabuddhas, the fruit of feeding a Perfect One, a Teaching Buddha, would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a Sammasambuddha, the fruit of feeding the Order of monks with the Buddha at its head would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed the Sangha with the Buddha at its head, the fruit of building a monastery for the use of the Sangha would have been greater.”
“…and though he built a monastery for the monks, the fruit of sincerely taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha would have been greater.”
“…and though he sincerely took refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha, the fruit of sincerely undertaking the Five Moral Precepts would have been greater.”
“…and though he sincerely undertook the Five Precepts, the fruit of developing (concentration on radiating) metta, even for just to the extent of a whiff of scent, would have been greater.”
“…and though he developed universal lovingkindness, the fruit of cultivating the awareness of anicca-even for the moment of a finger snap-would have been greater.”
Anguttara Nikaya, Navakanipata, Sutta 20
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby SarathW » Tue Jun 10, 2014 8:22 am

Thanks Pegembra.
It is very interesting.
I wonder why he did not mention Dukkha and Anatta.
:thinking:
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby Mkoll » Tue Jun 10, 2014 9:56 am

SarathW wrote:Thanks Pegembra.
It is very interesting.
I wonder why he did not mention Dukkha and Anatta.
:thinking:

Perhaps, because he was addressing a householder and not monks, he didn't go into the teaching as deeply. I think this is true in many cases.
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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:14 am

It seems that in some circumstances only one member of a list is mentioned (in this case anicca). Another argument would be that anicca implies the other two, as in the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta.

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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Jun 10, 2014 12:49 pm

LXNDR wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
LXNDR wrote:the Dhamma wasn't meant for laity in the first place and thus compromise had to be invented to engage them in it and keep as benefactors of the Order
There are many, many suttas directed addressed specifically to laypeople and householders by the Buddha himself. There are suttas where householders are said to have Noble attainments. Are you suggesting that all of these suttas are later inventions?


no, i am not

the compromise could have been invented by the Buddha himself, if everybody would go forth into the homelessness there would be nobody left to feed the Sangha


Hi LXNDR,

They're not compromises... I think you probably underestimate how deep the Buddha's teachings actually go.

LXNDR wrote:however if practicing Dhamma wouldn't require renunciation of the world, Buddha wouldn't have created the Order or recommended a recluse lifestyle, after all this is the way he himself achieved liberation


The Buddha still needed a girl (Sujata) to feed him some rice pudding, before he actually achieved liberation.

nibbana is difficult enough to be attained even by a renunciate, let alone by a lay person immersed in worldly affairs


Right, the nibbana is difficult... that was why the Buddha needed a girl to feed him.

I wonder what the morning star represented..?

It is a small planet that leads the sun. The Buddha saw it on the day of his enlightenment.

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Re: The Great Betrayal of Theravada Buddism

Postby pegembara » Wed Jun 11, 2014 4:29 am

SarathW wrote:Thanks Pegembra.
It is very interesting.
I wonder why he did not mention Dukkha and Anatta.
:thinking:


Anicca covers the other 2 aspect. It is because of anicca that there is also anatta.

Image

Where has the caterpillar gone to?

The caterpillar did not become a butterfly. It remains as a caterpillar. The butterfly is not a caterpillar but it's existence depends on the caterpillar. Cause and effect.

Constant change (anicca) means that there is no permanent unchanging entity (anatta). Seeing in this way it becomes clear that nothing ever dies because in reality there are no-thing. "Things" don't exist the way we think they do. There are only processes. Birth, aging and death are only processes happening to no one.

To use a Zen quote (oops, sorry)

“Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You can not say that winter becomes spring, or that spring becomes summer.” Dogen


“See this world with its gods,
considering self in what is not-self.
Immersed in this recognition of objects,
they imagine this as real.

Whatever they can imagine,
only becomes something else.
Therefore such is falsehood,
its ever changing nature."


Sn. 3.12 – Dvayatānupassanāsuttaṃ
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