Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby clw_uk » Sat Mar 21, 2009 1:07 pm

Wasnt sure where to post this so please move it if its in the wrong place


Ive heard a few people mention that they feel Thanissaro Bhikkhu has eternalist attitudes/views. Im not trying to state that he does or doesnt its just I myself have never had this impression so was just wondering what is the reason for this?




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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Mar 21, 2009 4:15 pm

i think it depends on your background. i dont feel he has them, i can sometimes see where others might feel he does though. i think this is because of my training in zen for years before comming to theravada, so maybe even if he is trying to put out an eternalist vibe, i who am not an eternalist am able to just read without being tainted by this. maybe a new student couldnt, or a more hardline older student wouldnt. also maybe the older more conservative student may feel Thanissaro is doing a disservice to the suttas (i've yet to hear anyone speak poorly of his vinaya translations) by being a bit more free wheeling than they feel should be done. but luckily we have more than one person translating texts, and other sources from which to gather information about how we should read the suttas.
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 21, 2009 7:45 pm

I think it depends on how you interpret his "Not-Self Strategy" approach that permeates his work:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html

To put is simplistically, I would say that those who interpret him as implying "perhaps there really is some sort of self beyond the khandas" think he is an eternalist. Those who interpret him as warning that having a view on not-self is counter-productive to practise don't think that he is an eternalist.

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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Ravana » Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:11 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Those who interpret him as warning that having a view on not-self is counter-productive to practise don't think that he is an eternalist.

I also think this is the case.

I am not too familiar with the way he teaches, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I've listened to some of his talks, and he seems to emphasize that practice is about taking the proper actions to take in the present moment that will propel us further along the path, and part of that is choosing which questions to think about and which questions to ignore. In his talks, sometimes when people ask questions he simply says "The Buddha said don't go there" or something to the effect of "thinking like that won't help" - it seems to me that he is saying, rather than trying to fathom what the ultimate reality is, we should consider how we should think about reality (and how not to think about reality) to reach our goal. So within the context of his teaching method, I can see why he teaches about anatta in a bit different manner. In my opinion, the question is not whether his view of anatta is correct or not, but the larger picture of his teaching method is correct or not - and that's definitely not a question I'm qualified to answer.
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:30 pm

Thanks Ravana, You're right, you have to look at the whole package. After doing that that I guess some would still take issue with his approach and some would not... I wouldn't want to say there was a "right" answer...

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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:02 am

clw_uk wrote:Ive heard a few people mention that they feel Thanissaro Bhikkhu has eternalist attitudes/views. Im not trying to state that he does or doesnt its just I myself have never had this impression so was just wondering what is the reason for this?



I have never, read, heard, or anything else something which would give me that impression, unless I done some selective cut and pasting.
anyone can say anyone holds views which are not theirs just by omiting a few words, I have seen people here use the quote box which looks like I have said one thing, but when I checked the post it was from, it continued to explain something else. I am sure you would of seen me put on occasion recently "and I go on to say".

I am sure any complaints be they about translation skills, or teaching method are not due to looking at the whole information provided, and people being bias to a particular view due to popularity, and not from close inspection.
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:05 am

Greetings,

From memory, I think this little controversy all came about on account of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's expositions on nibbana, but I don't remember the specifics.

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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:15 am

Manapa wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Ive heard a few people mention that they feel Thanissaro Bhikkhu has eternalist attitudes/views. Im not trying to state that he does or doesnt its just I myself have never had this impression so was just wondering what is the reason for this?



I have never, read, heard, or anything else something which would give me that impression, unless I done some selective cut and pasting.

Hmm, I tried to explain above why Ven Thanissaro's approach to Anatta is interpreted by some, such as our RobertK, to be eternalistic (because of not denying the possibility of an eternal self outside the khandas).
See viewtopic.php?f=16&t=663&p=8714#p8714
robertk wrote:
clw_uk wrote: ...
An anihilationist is someone who holds there is a self to be anihilated, dont assume that because someone says there is no rebirth one is an anihilationist

Of course he is, you can claim not to belive in self till the cows come home but the fact is you think that somehow life springs forth from a material process - which is self view to the nth degree.
Buddhists with strongly held self view are either eternalists like Thannisaro or anihiliationists like yourself. It is of course normal that people hold worng views but not good when you try to equate these views to what the Buddha taught.

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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:44 am

that may be but not denying something doesn't mean anything!
I don't deny that their is a teacup orbiting earth, doesn't mean I think one is. I also don't find it a useful question so don't bother answering it, when asked in any maner which confirms or denies its existence.


mikenz66 wrote:
Manapa wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Ive heard a few people mention that they feel Thanissaro Bhikkhu has eternalist attitudes/views. Im not trying to state that he does or doesnt its just I myself have never had this impression so was just wondering what is the reason for this?



I have never, read, heard, or anything else something which would give me that impression, unless I done some selective cut and pasting.

Hmm, I tried to explain above why Ven Thanissaro's approach to Anatta is interpreted by some, such as our RobertK, to be eternalistic (because of not denying the possibility of an eternal self outside the khandas).
See viewtopic.php?f=16&t=663&p=8714#p8714
robertk wrote:
clw_uk wrote: ...
An anihilationist is someone who holds there is a self to be anihilated, dont assume that because someone says there is no rebirth one is an anihilationist

Of course he is, you can claim not to belive in self till the cows come home but the fact is you think that somehow life springs forth from a material process - which is self view to the nth degree.
Buddhists with strongly held self view are either eternalists like Thannisaro or anihiliationists like yourself. It is of course normal that people hold worng views but not good when you try to equate these views to what the Buddha taught.

Metta
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby cooran » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:59 am

Hello all,

This thread of 10 pages (198 posts) from E-sangha may be of interest:

Ven. Thanissaro's views
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... 33364&st=0

metta
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby puthujjana » Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:23 am

Hej,

Bhante Dhammanando explained at E-Sangha why Thanissaro contradicts the Classical Theravada in some points:
Dhammanando wrote:His presentation of the Dhamma is radically at variance with the Mahāvihāra Theravāda orthodoxy on several dozen minor points and three major ones. The major ones consist of his eel-wriggling interpretation of anattā as a strategy; his partial eternalist conception of nibbāna; and his failure to incorporate the Abhidhammic conception of dhammas into his exposition of wisdom-related teachings (elements, aggregates, sense-bases etc.).

Best wishes,
Grand Inquisitor Dhammanando

http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... t&p=467908


Bhikkhu Santi wrote a long criticism at WebSangha:
Bhikkhu Santi wrote:
Thanissaro wrote:Books on Buddhism often state that the Buddha's most basic metaphysical tenet is that there is no soul or self. However, a survey of the discourses in the Pali canon — the earliest extant record of the Buddha's teachings — suggests that the Buddha taught the anatta or not-self doctrine, not as a metaphysical assertion, but as a strategy for gaining release from suffering: If one uses the concept of not-self to dis-identify oneself from all phenomena, one goes beyond the reach of all suffering & stress. As for what lies beyond suffering & stress, the Canon states that although it may be experienced, it lies beyond the range of description, and thus such descriptions as "self" or "not-self" would not apply.

This is simply not true. There are plenty of Sutta passages that either explicitly say that there is NO self in the ultimate sense or clearly imply that. An example that comes to mind is a Dhp. verse: "when even your self is not your own, how can there be sons or cows for you?" (attaa hi attano natthi...). I used to read Aj. Geoff's translations of the Suttas on accesstoinsight for years, since I was twelve years old actually, and I read all his essays and books. Now I don't like his writings any more, and sometimes find his translations in-credible too, because he tends to read the Suttas through his interpretation. His own interpretation comes first, then he tries to fit the Suttas into it. He actually admits this in the intro to his "Mind like fire unbound" when he says that first he took a short, enigmatic statement of LP Fuang (?) and came to a conclusion about the meaning of nibbana, then he went looking for Suttas to prove it. In his latest history book "Buddhist Religions" he presents his idiosyncatic interpretations with virtually no references as usual, and the one reference he did give to support his 'no self strategy' theory there to MN2 simply did not say what he said it says. He says that MN 2 (Sabbaasava Sutta) says that one who believes 'there is no self' is caught in the net of views... etc. Whereas actually it says one who believes "there is no self FOR ME" is caught in the net of views, the tangle of views, the thicket of views etc. That small little "me" in the Pali means that this is the view of the annhilationists not the Buddhists.

The Buddhist teaching of anatta and the nature of is very close to annhilationism, that's why you can find so much praise for the annhilationists in the Suttas, the Buddha called them the holders of 'the foremost of outside viewpoints' because: "they already have revulsion towards existence and non revulsion towards the cessation of existence, so when the Dhamma is taught to them for the cessation of existence they do not recoil from it". The Four Noble Truths are meant to be challenging, if they're presented as a mundane teaching for being relatively comfortable in Samsara then that's wrong.

The difficulty with interpreting and understanding the Four Noble Truths, anatta and the true meaning of nibbana is not that they are intellectually complicated or that there is not enough clear explanations in the Suttas the problem is that as ordinary people we have an extremely strong emotional resistance to accepting what they really mean. When I feel I have had the clearest most peaceful, insightful meditations what I have seen every time so far is how deep the defilements go, that in fact they are normally in complete control of our perceptions without us being aware of that. I also saw how when I tried watching impermanence and extending it to the past and the future with a relatively peaceful mind my mind totally rebelled, got frightened to the very depth of its existence, not on a discursive level or with any conscious intention. I saw how deeply, deeply frightened my mind is of accepting impermanence, even though theoretically I accept it. So it seems to me that this is why 99.99% of books on Buddhism and teachers of Buddhism compromise on the challengingness of the Four Noble Truths in one way or another - because the truth is too terrifying emotionally, not because the Suttas are intellectually hard to understand.

By teaching his extremely unique interpretation of nibbana, which is not as he claims supported by the Thai Kruba Ajahns, or at least not all of them by any means, he is effectively setting up one side of a bridge except for the keystone, then by teaching that the Buddha never taught that there is no ultimate self or essence he sets up the other half of the bridge. He leaves it to the extremely fertile imagination of biased ordinary beings to fill in the gap that "nibbaana is the ultimate self", which I've actually heard that he admits he believes in private. He bases this last point on Dhp. "all things are without-self (or, 'not self'), when one sees this with wisdom, then one turns away from suffering, this is the path of purification". So then I've heard that he says that this means that the perception "all dhammas are anatta" is just a part of the path of purification, it's not necessarily a fact that applies to the goal.

It's intriguing how his interpretations mirror so closely some of the other contemporary non-Buddhist teachers that are described in "Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge" and also the Puggalavaadins and their theory of a transcendent, ineffable self. He sometimes even uses the same similes. I wonder if there is some influence from past lives here?

I know I'm going to get flack for criticising such a popular teacher, and also he does teach a lot of good Dhamma that is not popular, like renunciation and the need for samaadhi (never mind that his interpretation of 'jhaana' is uniquely creative (!) too). However, sometimes I feel you just have to tell it like it is, even if he is famous. I've also benefitted alot from his translations of the Suttas, even if now I prefer Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's (or my own), at least he puts them out there for free, and imperfect as they are they are an entrance to the Suttas for many people, and that's great.

http://www.forum.websangha.org/viewtopi ... o&start=15


metta
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Mar 22, 2009 11:29 am

I would suggest following the advice given in the Sallekha Sutta:
“Other people may believe in a living soul or an ego-entity, but we will hold the right view that there are only mind and matter. We will practise effacement.

It is hard to avoid the two extremes of eternalism and annihilationism. I found this interesting passage in the Sayādaw's discourse:
According to eternalism, the ego continues to exist after death, while according to annihilationism it is annihilated by death. Both views attribute ego to a living being, the only difference being that the first view insists on permanence, while the second view rejects the continued existence of the ego after death.
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 22, 2009 3:59 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:It is hard to avoid the two extremes of eternalism and annihilationism.

Perhaps not just hard, but for a puthujjana perhaps impossible. What I can avoid doing, however, is to ascribe my mistaken view to the Buddha. I can say, "Maybe I don't get where the middle way is between nihilism and eternalism but I acknowledge that I may be deluded on the matter. I trust that when the Buddha said 'There is a middle way' that he wasn't lying. I resolve to keep developing the Noble Eightfold Path until I get it." That's my opinion anyway.
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby scarface » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:02 pm

One of the problems here is that people fail to distinguish the different orientations of the lineages that are grouped under Theravada. Monks of the Thai Forest Tradition are Nikayan in orientation and in a lot of ways don't really care for the Abhidhamma and the commentaries like the Visuddhimagga. Ven. Thanissaro has brought up this point before: the Thais in general (I think it was because of King Mongkut) are skeptical of anything that doesn't find support in the Suttanta. He has also mentioned that if you try to criticize the Abhidhamma and commentaries in Sri Lanka and Burma then there is a good chance that you will get kicked out of the country (he said it jokingly). If you're using the Suttas as your standard, then Thanissaro wins the "anatta" debate because he rightly points out that the "Three Characteristics of Existences" doctrine (often used to counter his argument) is a commentarial interpretation and finds no support in the Suttas. It then becomes obvious that pragmatic apophatic meditation techniques were reified into metaphysical doctrines by the Abhidharmists and the commentators:

"Almost any book on Buddhism will tell you that the three characteristics—
the characteristic of inconstancy, the characteristic of stress or suffering, and the
characteristic of not-self—were one of the Buddha’s most central teachings. The
strange thing, though, is that when you look in the Pali Canon, the word for
“three characteristics,” ti-lakkhana, doesn’t appear. If you do a search on any
computerized version of the Canon and type in, say, the characteristic of
inconstancy, anicca-lakkhana, it comes up with nothing. The word’s not in the Pali
Canon at all. The same with dukkha-lakkhana and anatta-lakkhana: Those
compounds don’t appear. This is not to say that the concepts of anicca, dukkha,
and anatta don’t occur in the Canon; just that they’re not termed characteristics.
They’re not compounded with the word “characteristic.” The words they are
compounded with are perception, sañña—as in the perception of inconstancy, the
perception of stress, and the perception of not-self—and the word anupassana,
which means to contemplate or to keep track of something as it occurs. For
instance, aniccanupassana, to contemplate inconstancy, means to look for
inconstancy wherever it happens."

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... ptions.pdf

Ven. Sujato (another Thai Forest monk) mentions his skepticism of meditation traditions that are based on the Abhidhamma and commentaries:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22XJ3tOIxMc
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Sep 14, 2009 7:49 am

scarface wrote:"Almost any book on Buddhism will tell you that the three characteristics—
the characteristic of inconstancy, the characteristic of stress or suffering, and the
characteristic of not-self—were one of the Buddha’s most central teachings. The
strange thing, though, is that when you look in the Pali Canon, the word for
“three characteristics,” ti-lakkhana, doesn’t appear. If you do a search on any
computerized version of the Canon and type in, say, the characteristic of
inconstancy, anicca-lakkhana, it comes up with nothing. The word’s not in the Pali
Canon at all. The same with dukkha-lakkhana and anatta-lakkhana: Those
compounds don’t appear. This is not to say that the concepts of anicca, dukkha,
and anatta don’t occur in the Canon; just that they’re not termed characteristics.
They’re not compounded with the word “characteristic.” The words they are
compounded with are perception, sañña—as in the perception of inconstancy, the
perception of stress, and the perception of not-self—and the word anupassana,
which means to contemplate or to keep track of something as it occurs. For
instance, aniccanupassana, to contemplate inconstancy, means to look for
inconstancy wherever it happens."


hmm.... what is this then "anatta-lakkhana sutta" (SN22.59)?
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby piotr » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:29 am

Hi, :smile:

acinteyyo wrote:hmm.... what is this then "anatta-lakkhana sutta" (SN22.59)?


In PTS edition this sutta is titled Pañcavaggiya-sutta.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:34 am

piotr wrote:Hi, :smile:

acinteyyo wrote:hmm.... what is this then "anatta-lakkhana sutta" (SN22.59)?


In PTS edition this sutta is titled Pañcavaggiya-sutta.

Hi piotr,
I also found this title. Guess this could be the "original" one and "anatta-lakkhana" came later in addition. :shrug:
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

:anjali:
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby piotr » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:58 am

Hi, :smile:

acinteyyo wrote:I also found this title. Guess this could be the "original" one and "anatta-lakkhana" came later in addition. :shrug:


As far as I know one can trace this title to the Commentary.
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Sep 14, 2009 9:09 am

piotr wrote:As far as I know one can trace this title to the Commentary.

sounds plausibly
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

:anjali:
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Re: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby D Niyama » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:33 pm

scarface wrote:"Almost any book on Buddhism will tell you that the three characteristics—
the characteristic of inconstancy, the characteristic of stress or suffering, and the
characteristic of not-self—were one of the Buddha’s most central teachings. The
strange thing, though, is that when you look in the Pali Canon, the word for
“three characteristics,” ti-lakkhana, doesn’t appear. If you do a search on any
computerized version of the Canon and type in, say, the characteristic of
inconstancy, anicca-lakkhana, it comes up with nothing. The word’s not in the Pali
Canon at all. The same with dukkha-lakkhana and anatta-lakkhana: Those
compounds don’t appear. This is not to say that the concepts of anicca, dukkha,
and anatta don’t occur in the Canon; just that they’re not termed characteristics.
They’re not compounded with the word “characteristic.” The words they are
compounded with are perception, sañña—as in the perception of inconstancy, the
perception of stress, and the perception of not-self—and the word anupassana,
which means to contemplate or to keep track of something as it occurs. For
instance, aniccanupassana, to contemplate inconstancy, means to look for
inconstancy wherever it happens."

hmm.... what is this then "Dhamma-niyama Sutta" (AN 3.134)?

hmm...who is the translator?...must have a poor memory

hmm...much more going on here than subjective perception or sañña

:cookoo:

"Monks, whether or not there is the arising of Tathagatas, this property stands — this steadfastness of the Dhamma, this orderliness of the Dhamma: All processes are inconstant. All processes are stressful. All phenomena are not-self.

"The Tathagata directly awakens to that, breaks through to that. Directly awakening & breaking through to that, he declares it, teaches it, describes it, sets it forth. He reveals it, explains it, & makes it plain.
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