Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

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Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby adamposey » Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:53 am

I'll admit, before even continuing on, that I'm ignorant of much of what is even possible to study about Theravada Buddhism. As such, there could be a lot of things I say in this post, comparisons I make, and lines I draw, that will be incorrect. I would appreciate your guidance on this matter as I'm going to be laying out a small frustration, some theory, and so on.

Let me first begin by simply saying this: I am very, very, confused. I have attempted to curb my enthusiasm for this religion in such a way as to make sure I adopt the pillars of it (such as the 8 fold path and the five precepts) in an appropriate way. I've been doing more and more reading as recommended by the fine members of this forum, and not only has this done very little to quell my confusion in many ways it has exacerbated it. This is not your failing as a community, I assume it's mine for not understanding. Perhaps my frustration would be easier to quell if I had a teacher to guide me, and much of the reading I've done suggests as much.

My first frustration is with documentation in itself. The "reading list" for these forums spans dozens of articles that are many pages each. With varying degrees of quality of translation, etc., I suppose I only find this frustrating relative to the somewhat available documentation of other religions (The Qur'an, The holy bible (although it has many translations that vary slightly), and so forth..) I haven't really found or been told of just one set of documents that I can go to for the original discourses of the buddha, etc., Many of the admittedly great articles that you all link to provide interpretation of suttas for me, and I'm thankful that teachers have done this and published it; but it feels like, to make a comparison, I'm a Christian listening to sermons without ever reading the bible. It feels as though there is a piece missing. What SHOULD I be reading and will these texts in themselves help me with my practice?

My second area of confusion, and I've asked a lot of questions on the topic here, is vipassana. Perhaps I'm just misunderstanding the guides I've read, and the teachers, etc., but the more I read about it the more convinced I am that I'm doing something incorrect in my practice. My current approach is to sit, find my breath, spread loving-kindness, and then attempt to stay focused on my breath, just noting everything else that comes up and watching it without really trying to get involved or contemplate it. Is that essentially the correct practice, or is there a kind of "end all be all" guide to vipassana?

The last confusion I have is one of relativity. I am both thankful and kind of lost at the lack of ritual in theravada. This may be where my ignorance shows. The only other religion I know of that has basic rules for living and is as much a practice as it is a religion, is Islam. But Islam has its important practices, and things that must be done daily (praying five times a day facing mecca, etc.,). I want to be clear that I understand these rituals and practices are just trappings if they're all you do and focus on, but I particularly feel like in my case I'm a little too "free flowing" and that makes it very easy for me to "go off the rails" and lose track of my mindfulness or even just let my entire day go off the rails. Is there a practice to Theravada that I'm not aware of, or is it really just as simple as attempting to follow the path?

Again, I apologize for being so ignorant on these matters, but I'm thankful that I have such a wonderful community to, at the least, ask these questions of.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Oct 25, 2009 11:23 am

adamposey wrote:What SHOULD I be reading and will these texts in themselves help me with my practice?

Hi adamposey,
you won't find peace by reading. No one and nothing can free you but your own understanding. (Ajahn Chah) Without understanding how should texts help you with your practice? It's not the reading, it's your proper understanding which leads to wisdom. Sure you can read a lot and adopt what is written, but that's not wisdom it's just knowledge and without wisdom knowledge is useless. The only way to "improve" your practice is to go on with your practice. Texts just show the way in some way more or less, but how to enter the path must be understood by oneself. You'll know it by practicing. When you examined the breath, the body, the feelings, the thoughts all the dhammas you finally have to let them go. Don't cling to any of those things. Good, your confused. Examine this confusion, what is the origin? which conditions determine this phenomena "confusion"? Don't cling to "your confusion". It's just a dhamma like the others. Why get involved with it? When you fully examined the confusion then let it go, it'll vanish naturally. That's its natural way.

I can't say a lot about rituals. I don't pay them much attention.

I hope it helps you in one way or another...
best wishes, acinteyyo
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: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 25, 2009 11:25 am

Hi Adam
Thanks for your candid enquiry and the opportunity to respond to it.
I'll try and address each concern in turn.
What SHOULD I be reading and will these texts in themselves help me with my practice?

What worked for me for many years were the works of modern-day scholars such as Nyanaponika Thera, Bhikkhu Bodhi, etc, One book that I returned to recently which is a classic, is The heart of Buddhist Meditation by Nyanaponika Thera.
It wasn't after many years of practice that I approached the Tipitaka and the commentaries themselves. The Tipitaka itself is vast. One estimation I have heard put it at 30,000 pages. In recent years, Bhikkhu Bodhi has made the Tipitaka more accessible, so if you are particularly drawn to exploring the Tipitaka, then if you do so under the structure of his Majjhima Nikaya lecture series (made available via the Bodhi Monastery website), it will be of great benefit.

My second area of confusion, and I've asked a lot of questions on the topic here, is vipassana.

Your description of vipassana meditation isn't one that I am familiar with. I'm not sure how you have learned vipassana, but I recommend that you look at a residential retreat of vipassana meditation. I think this will sort out all of your problems you presented here. I think it will give you a particular 'practice' context in which to view and assess the post-canonical and canonical literature. After a retreat, you'll be naturally drawn to literature that will support your practice. Having taken a retreat, you will have gained supervised instruction and some depth of experience.

Is there a practice to Theravada that I'm not aware of, or is it really just as simple as attempting to follow the path?

The answer you get to this will be different coming from different people. The tradition in which I practice is very light on the ritual. My practice is really following the precepts, twice daily meditation, study, dana and selfless service.. Other practitioners will be more or less 'elaborate'.
I hope that helps.
metta

Ben
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby adamposey » Sun Oct 25, 2009 2:14 pm

Ben wrote:Hi Adam
What worked for me for many years were the works of modern-day scholars such as Nyanaponika Thera, Bhikkhu Bodhi, etc, One book that I returned to recently which is a classic, is The heart of Buddhist Meditation by Nyanaponika Thera.
It wasn't after many years of practice that I approached the Tipitaka and the commentaries themselves. The Tipitaka itself is vast. One estimation I have heard put it at 30,000 pages. In recent years, Bhikkhu Bodhi has made the Tipitaka more accessible, so if you are particularly drawn to exploring the Tipitaka, then if you do so under the structure of his Majjhima Nikaya lecture series (made available via the Bodhi Monastery website), it will be of great benefit.

Well, I suppose that I have an aversion to having other people "explain" to me what is what. It feels as though I'm, in some way, not getting the reality, but just one interpretation. That makes me very hesitant to spend money on these books, etc., In my eyes that would be like buying a book about how to be a practicing Christian from preacher and just trusting that his views would match my own.

Your description of vipassana meditation isn't one that I am familiar with. I'm not sure how you have learned vipassana, but I recommend that you look at a residential retreat of vipassana meditation. I think this will sort out all of your problems you presented here. I think it will give you a particular 'practice' context in which to view and assess the post-canonical and canonical literature. After a retreat, you'll be naturally drawn to literature that will support your practice. Having taken a retreat, you will have gained supervised instruction and some depth of experience.

There's only one monastery within driving distance called Bhavana Society. They look really, really, good at what they do and you've all spoken highly of them and shared their books. Mostly because of my schedule (work, school, second job.) I find that I have very little opportunity to just kind of drop it all for 3 days or 4 days and go to a retreat. They have no retreats for beginning meditation scheduled during the summer. Unfortunately.
The answer you get to this will be different coming from different people. The tradition in which I practice is very light on the ritual. My practice is really following the precepts, twice daily meditation, study, dana and selfless service.. Other practitioners will be more or less 'elaborate'.
I hope that helps.
metta

Ben


Thanks for all your answers. :)
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby Jechbi » Sun Oct 25, 2009 3:28 pm

Hi Adam, here are my completely biased suggestions:

1) Buy "The Long Discourses of the Buddha," a translation of the Digha Nikaya by Maurice Walshe. (As cheap as $23.95 at Amazon.) You can easily read this book, it's only about 600 pages long, and it takes you directly to the source.

2) Take a two week vacation and check this out. It's not too far from where you live. I really believe you'd benefit.

3) Regarding structure in your daily life, create it for yourself if it's useful. Commit to two periods of sitting meditation each day, one early in the morning and one in the evening. Set the alarm to make sure you don't miss it. Schedule your life around it. Make sacrifices for it. If you think that would be helpful.

Any way, Ben's suggestions are awesome. Other folks will have other thoughts. These are just mine.

Best wishes!
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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby pink_trike » Sun Oct 25, 2009 6:41 pm

Hi Adam,

You won't find what you're likely really looking by searching for the "definitive Buddhism 101". First, it doesn't exist and secondly, what you're likely looking for you wouldn't find there anyway even if it did exist. What you're likely looking for has to be found inside of you...it's a personal journey, not a workshop or college track. The suttas and all the commentary are simply guides, just like Lonely Planet publishes guides for traveling all over the world. I'd recommend finding a teacher and starting at the beginning. A good teacher will facilitate your inward journey, but you're the captain...and where your rowboat arrives is where you steer it.

You might consider a retreat here:

http://www.bhavanasociety.org/

This is Bhante Henepola Gunaratana's center

...and his book:

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Plain ... 977&sr=8-1

... is one of the best starter guides available...and like it says, it's in plain English.

It's your journey...take hold of the rudder and start rowing.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby adamposey » Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:01 am

pink_trike wrote:Hi Adam,

You won't find what you're likely really looking by searching for the "definitive Buddhism 101". First, it doesn't exist and secondly, what you're likely looking for you wouldn't find there anyway even if it did exist. What you're likely looking for has to be found inside of you...it's a personal journey, not a workshop or college track. The suttas and all the commentary are simply guides, just like Lonely Planet publishes guides for traveling all over the world. I'd recommend finding a teacher and starting at the beginning. A good teacher will facilitate your inward journey, but you're the captain...and where your rowboat arrives is where you steer it.

You might consider a retreat here:

http://www.bhavanasociety.org/

This is Bhante Henepola Gunaratana's center

...and his book:

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Plain ... 977&sr=8-1

... is one of the best starter guides available...and like it says, it's in plain English.

It's your journey...take hold of the rudder and start rowing.


One of the greatest frustrations I've experienced at starting has been due to Bhavana Society. Here is my situation with them. They are close, but not THAT close, about 2 hours driving from where I am. Not terrible for such a highly esteemed society to be so close to me. I like this. I believe the idea of a retreat is where I seriously begin to run into trouble, partially because, yes, I'm clinging.

A retreat would force me to do two things if I did it according to their schedule. I would have to leave work, and my classes, for the entirety of the retreat. I'm currently working two jobs to keep up on my bills, and double majoring at my college, suffice to say.. I keep busy. On deeper reflection this is probably why I want structure to my practice because so much of my life is just.. very much at the hands of others right now. I could drop all of that and just go, but I predict the damage to my life when I came back from retreat could be quite noteworthy.

The easy answer to that would be for me to go during the summer months when I don't have classes and I have vacation hours to take at work. Unfortunately therein is where my frustrations begin. There are no beginner's meditation retreats offered during those months, and when I sent an email asking if I could just come on my own I was told.. I'll just let you read the exact text I received:

Unfortunately, our monastic community is too busy preparing and leading scheduled retreats here, our abbot request is if you want to learn Vipassana meditation from a monastic at our center, you should register for a retreat and not burden our small monastic community with a separate teaching agenda.


That was a very disheartening answer for me, but I understand exactly what she means when she says that. I don't want to be rude and ask them to teach me privately if they simply don't have time for it.

So.. it feels like Gordian's knot situation.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby pink_trike » Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:32 am

adamposey wrote:
pink_trike wrote:Hi Adam,

You won't find what you're likely really looking by searching for the "definitive Buddhism 101". First, it doesn't exist and secondly, what you're likely looking for you wouldn't find there anyway even if it did exist. What you're likely looking for has to be found inside of you...it's a personal journey, not a workshop or college track. The suttas and all the commentary are simply guides, just like Lonely Planet publishes guides for traveling all over the world. I'd recommend finding a teacher and starting at the beginning. A good teacher will facilitate your inward journey, but you're the captain...and where your rowboat arrives is where you steer it.

You might consider a retreat here:

http://www.bhavanasociety.org/

This is Bhante Henepola Gunaratana's center

...and his book:

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Plain ... 977&sr=8-1

... is one of the best starter guides available...and like it says, it's in plain English.

It's your journey...take hold of the rudder and start rowing.


One of the greatest frustrations I've experienced at starting has been due to Bhavana Society. Here is my situation with them. They are close, but not THAT close, about 2 hours driving from where I am. Not terrible for such a highly esteemed society to be so close to me. I like this. I believe the idea of a retreat is where I seriously begin to run into trouble, partially because, yes, I'm clinging.

A retreat would force me to do two things if I did it according to their schedule. I would have to leave work, and my classes, for the entirety of the retreat. I'm currently working two jobs to keep up on my bills, and double majoring at my college, suffice to say.. I keep busy. On deeper reflection this is probably why I want structure to my practice because so much of my life is just.. very much at the hands of others right now. I could drop all of that and just go, but I predict the damage to my life when I came back from retreat could be quite noteworthy.

The easy answer to that would be for me to go during the summer months when I don't have classes and I have vacation hours to take at work. Unfortunately therein is where my frustrations begin. There are no beginner's meditation retreats offered during those months, and when I sent an email asking if I could just come on my own I was told.. I'll just let you read the exact text I received:

Unfortunately, our monastic community is too busy preparing and leading scheduled retreats here, our abbot request is if you want to learn Vipassana meditation from a monastic at our center, you should register for a retreat and not burden our small monastic community with a separate teaching agenda.


That was a very disheartening answer for me, but I understand exactly what she means when she says that. I don't want to be rude and ask them to teach me privately if they simply don't have time for it.

So.. it feels like Gordian's knot situation.

Waking up is rarely a "have cake, eat it too" situation. If it's important you find a way and deal with the changes that come of it. Every experienced practitioner here has experienced having to let go of something in order to move on the path.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby IanAnd » Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:44 am

Hello Adam,

First things first, here. Just what is it that attracted you to Buddhism, and Theravada in particular? If you are able to answer that question in your mind, perhaps you will begin to quell your confusion.

Of all the introductory literature that I've seen over the years concerning what Buddhism is supposed to be all about, this brief essay, Buddhism: A Method of Mind Training, by Leonard Bullen seems to cover all the important points that should help one discover whether or not they have any interest in pursuing what Buddhism has to teach. If you don't realize that Buddhism teaches mental cultivation, then you have missed the boat completely. On the other hand, if this is something that appeals to you, then you may wish to continue reading about Buddhism in its historical context, in order to further determine your continued interest. For that, there is an excellent book put out by an English professor, Rupert Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism, which will no doubt add to your knowledge and understanding of this path, while giving you some historical perspective of its development over the centuries.

Also, Walpola Rahula's classic What the Buddha Taught is an excellent introduction to the essential elements of the teaching. If you are a conscientious and mindful reader, it will answer many of your questions.

adamposey wrote:I haven't really found or been told of just one set of documents that I can go to for the original discourses of the buddha, etc.,... It feels as though there is a piece missing. What SHOULD I be reading and will these texts in themselves help me with my practice?

One of the historical notes that you may come across in your study of Buddhism is the fact that there are only two bodies of literature which, within the Theravada, have any significance to what we presently know of the original discourses of the Buddha. These two sources are so close to one another that many scholars have proclaimed them to be virtually the same in text and instruction. These are the Pali canon and the Chinese Agamas. I'm not as familiar with the Agamas because I've yet to find them in translation; but the Pali canon can be found in translation through the Wisdom Publications editions of the Digha Nikaya, the Majjhima Nikaya, and the Samyutta Nikaya. The Anguttara Nikaya, by a reputable modern translator, is only in an anthology form via AltaMira Press. Books from the fifteen volumes of the Khuddaka Nikaya are also available in separate volumes, to which the most famous of these, the Dhammapada, belongs.

adamposey wrote:The last confusion I have is one of relativity. I am both thankful and kind of lost at the lack of ritual in theravada. This may be where my ignorance shows....I want to be clear that I understand these rituals and practices are just trappings if they're all you do and focus on, but I particularly feel like in my case I'm a little too "free flowing" and that makes it very easy for me to "go off the rails" and lose track of my mindfulness or even just let my entire day go off the rails. Is there a practice to Theravada that I'm not aware of, or is it really just as simple as attempting to follow the path?

The path and the practice are, more or less, one in the same. The Path is the Noble Eightfold Path. And the practice is one of cultivation of the mind using meditation to develop calm (concentration) and clear seeing (insight) so that one might be able to see the reality that the Dhamma teaches.

One of the Ten Fetters of Existence that the Buddha taught was the fetter of "clinging to ritual." He taught that clinging to rites and rituals would not take one beyond aging and death, and that therefore one should not cling to either.

It is not easy to develop mindfulness to the extent that the Buddha recommended. So, yes, the practice of Theravada is "just as simple as attempting to follow the Path" (i.e. Noble Eightfold Path).

In peace,
Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby adamposey » Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:55 am

IanAnd wrote:Hello Adam,

First things first, here. Just what is it that attracted you to Buddhism, and Theravada in particular? If you are able to answer that question in your mind, perhaps you will begin to quell your confusion.


I've always, up until this point, been a very hard-edged anti-religion American secularist, basically. I was working on a paper for class (concerning buddhism) and I stumbled upon the four nobel truths, and I initially passed over them and continued studying the history. No big deal. But the truths stayed with me because they seemed so.. true? I did more and more and more reading and I found in myself a willingness to accept these truths, and a desire to follow the path. So, that was the day I decided to start researching. A week or two later, I'd made my decision that I wanted to practice. Theravada seemed like the appropriate approach for me, but I'll be honest in saying that part of my decision was based on geography: Bhavana society is closer to me than any other reputable establishment.

Also, Walpola Rahula's classic What the Buddha Taught is an excellent introduction to the essential elements of the teaching. If you are a conscientious and mindful reader, it will answer many of your questions.


I know this seems a dull question.. how does one read mindfully? What does it mean to read mindfully?

The path and the practice are, more or less, one in the same. The Path is the Noble Eightfold Path. And the practice is one of cultivation of the mind using meditation to develop calm (concentration) and clear seeing (insight) so that one might be able to see the reality that the Dhamma teaches.

One of the Ten Fetters of Existence that the Buddha taught was the fetter of "clinging to ritual." He taught that clinging to rites and rituals would not take one beyond aging and death, and that therefore one should not cling to either.

It is not easy to develop mindfulness to the extent that the Buddha recommended. So, yes, the practice of Theravada is "just as simple as attempting to follow the Path" (i.e. Noble Eightfold Path).

In peace,
Ian


I also don't want to suggest that I'm asking for a ritual to cling to. I suppose rather a bowling analogy would be best... I see ritual as being a risk but that it could also help to "keep one in bounds" if you will. Similar to how those bumpers at a bowling alley prevent the ball from falling into the gutter and keep it on track to hit the pins.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:29 am

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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby IanAnd » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:16 am

adamposey wrote:
Also, Walpola Rahula's classic What the Buddha Taught is an excellent introduction to the essential elements of the teaching. If you are a conscientious and mindful reader, it will answer many of your questions.


I know this seems a dull question.. how does one read mindfully? What does it mean to read mindfully?

Conscientious, meaning not to gloss over anything, not assuming that there is no significance. In Pali, the word sati is translated as "mindful" in English. Yet, one of its main meanings in Pali is "to recollect." It is related to the verb sarati, "to remember." This connotation of sati as memory appears also in its formal definition in the discourses, which relates sati to the ability of calling to mind what has been done or said long ago.

Sati is required not only to fully take in the moment to be remembered, but also to bring this moment back to mind at a later time. To "re-collect", then, becomes just a particular instance of a state of mind characterized by "collectedness" and the absence of distraction.

So, being conscientious and mindful is being careful not to become distracted by whatever phenomenon (in the form of words or phrases that may suggest a biased meaning to the mind) you may come across. It may also, in its form of "re-collectedness," suggest that the mind remain open to its own intuitions about that which it is exposed to. Heedful, in other words.

You seem as though you pay attention to the "little things." That habit will serve you will in your study of the Dhamma.

The reason I pointed out the close relationship between the Pali canon and the Chinese Agamas is that we find no such close relationship between these documents and the scriptures in the Mahayana tradition. This suggests a variance between the Mahayana scriptures on the one hand and the Pali canon/Agamas on the other. If you are familiar with the controversy in Christianity with regard to the documents that were ultimately chosen to represent Christianty in the Christian Bible, then perhaps this discrepancy has some meaning for you, too.

Not only are the Pali canon and the Chinese Agamas virtually identical in substance (suggesting that they derive from the same source), but they are among the oldest documents we have that are, as far as we know, based upon the original discourses of the Buddha. From my point of view, having read most of the translated discourses of the Pali scriptures and used their instruction in my own practice, I have been able to verify experientially their efficacy and veracity. As such, they are well worth looking into, as they will save one from becoming a victim of someone else's misguided opinion on a wide variety of related topics on which the Buddha spoke. As far as I am concerned, they are the closest thing we have today to the original discourses. Of course, not all people share this view, perceptions being different in diverse people.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby adamposey » Mon Oct 26, 2009 4:58 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:here's an amazon list of theravada books i made that might help

http://www.amazon.com/recomended-Theravada-books-for-newbies/lm/R283ILSR3KXA6X/ref=cm_srch_res_rpli_alt_4


That is very helpful. :) I purchased a couple books from it.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby notself » Wed Nov 04, 2009 7:15 pm

adamposey wrote:I also don't want to suggest that I'm asking for a ritual to cling to. I suppose rather a bowling analogy would be best... I see ritual as being a risk but that it could also help to "keep one in bounds" if you will. Similar to how those bumpers at a bowling alley prevent the ball from falling into the gutter and keep it on track to hit the pins.


Here is a chanting guide that you might find useful in structuring your own practice ritual.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#ovada

Here is a guide for Going for Refuge.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el282.html

Here is a guide to Uposatha:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... satha.html

Here is a guide to basic Vipassana
http://www.buddhanet.net/m_part1.htm

Here is a list of audio dhamma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Scroll down to the bottom and listen to a talk before you start to meditate. I find the fifteen minute talk helps prepare my mind for concentration.
http://www.dhammatalks.org/

I hope some of this is what you are looking for.
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby pink_trike » Wed Nov 04, 2009 8:44 pm

Sounds like information overload - it's a dis-ease of modern culture. So much to read. So much to talk about. You could easily go a whole life time in a blink of an eye just talking and reading...

When I stepped onto the path, teachers advocated and emphasized PRACTICE. Study came later...usually much later. After a student had settled into a committed practice, then sutras were generally given to them one at a time...one sutra was studied for an extended period of time, while continuing with a committed practice...before another sutra was introduced.

The "ritual" when early on the path is to sit regularly...commitment to practice is ritual. This commitment to practice and the practice itself is what prepares the mind to be able to understand the sutras.

Its really much simpler than what you're describing in your confusion. You can just stop. Sit. Breathe. Commit to sitting and breathing. In our intellectualized culture we think we have to "get it" before we do it. Our Dharma ancestors understood that we need to do it before we "get it".

I recommend Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana as a sensible starting place. Basically he says "Poop or get off the pot". You can download it here:

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html

From the introduction:

---

"The subject of this book is Vipassana meditation practice. Repeat, practice. This is a meditation manual, a nuts-and-bolts, step-by-step guide to Insight meditation. It is meant to be practical. It is meant for use.

There are already many comprehensive books on Buddhism as a philosophy, and on the theoretical aspects of Buddhist meditation.

This book is a 'How to.' It is written for those who actually want to meditate and especially for those who want to start now."

---
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 04, 2009 9:02 pm

Hi Pink,
pink_trike wrote:Sounds like information overload - it's a dis-ease of modern culture. So much to read. So much to talk about. You could go a a whole life time just talking and reading...

When I stepped onto the path, teachers advocated PRACTICE. Study came later...usually much later. After a student had settled into a committed practice, then sutras were generally given to them one at a time...one sutra was studied for an extended period of time, while continuing with a committed practice...before another sutra was introduced.
...

I think this is an excellent illustration of why a real-life teacher is so useful. It's much easier to accept the (standard) approach you are expounding when it comes from a real-life teacher that one has confidence in than from an internet forum (no reflection on you personally, of course :))

Personally, I took up practise because I was impressed by the monks at my Wat, and wanted to be happier (like them). Over the (relatively few) years it has become clear how deep their knowledge actually is. It takes a while because they are careful not to tell me too much about things that I have not experienced. Every so often I have a (minor) breakthrough, which always turns out to be old news to them...

Of course, it's trickier if you are working without a teacher. I would echo the advice to stick to some simple instructions from a reputable teacher for some time (measured in months or years), rather than seek out too many alternatives and risk confusion.

Metta
Mike
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby notself » Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:21 pm

I practice alone. After reading What the Buddha Taught, I jumped into Access to Insight and started reading the Suttas. At first I was totally lost. I didn't understand the definitions of the Pali words. I was confused by the sentence structure. I was baffled by the concepts. I kept on reading and found a good glossary, link below. Although having a teacher would have certainly helped, I managed to begin to figure things out. The Buddhist forums, especially E-sangha, helped tremendously. I now find even more useful information and discussion on this forum. The links that I pick up from posts are always terrific.

http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/dic_idx.html

Dive in, get lost and then found in the Suttas. :reading:
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby adamposey » Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:34 am

I've decided that I'm simply not in a position to study and practice entirely on my own. My confidence in my ability to gleam, from texts, the knowledge that I need to truly begin practicing well is not much. So, I've signed up for a beginner's meditation retreat next year: April 15, 2010 at Bhavana Society (which is a couple hours from here.)
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby pink_trike » Thu Nov 05, 2009 1:31 am

adamposey wrote:I've decided that I'm simply not in a position to study and practice entirely on my own. My confidence in my ability to gleam, from texts, the knowledge that I need to truly begin practicing well is not much. So, I've signed up for a beginner's meditation retreat next year: April 15, 2010 at Bhavana Society (which is a couple hours from here.)

Good decision. They'll get you set squarely on the path. :clap:
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Ritual, Practice, and The Path... What?

Postby adamposey » Thu Nov 05, 2009 2:04 am

pink_trike wrote:
adamposey wrote:I've decided that I'm simply not in a position to study and practice entirely on my own. My confidence in my ability to gleam, from texts, the knowledge that I need to truly begin practicing well is not much. So, I've signed up for a beginner's meditation retreat next year: April 15, 2010 at Bhavana Society (which is a couple hours from here.)

Good decision. They'll get you set squarely on the path. :clap:


Until the time they give me formal training I kind of wonder if I should actively make it a point to meditate. The reason I say that is.. what if I build up bad habits that will hinder me from meditating properly?
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