Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby Goofaholix » Fri May 07, 2010 1:20 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Goofaholix,

As mentioned earlier, I haven't been following the topic, I haven't even seen what Ajahn Sucitto said... I'm just saying that something shouldn't be exempt from critical examination simply because it is a bhikkhu speaking those words. I don't endorse or support Yosdak's indignance at critical examination of the Dhamma.

Let's all just let Arahang Tiltbillings win this one.
Sucitto and Thanissaro are 'obviously' well out of order. How dare they!


Metta,
Retro. :)


I think Yosdak was more likely indignant about Tilt's approach on this thread, not about the critical examination of the Dhamma.

I could be wrong, but I think if you'd been following the topic you'd interpret it the same.

PS If you're wondering what Ajahn Sucitto said, Page 1 Post 1
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 07, 2010 1:25 am

Goofaholix wrote:
I think Yosdak was more likely indignant about Tilt's approach on this thread, not about the critical examination of the Dhamma.

I could be wrong, but I think if you'd been following the topic you'd interpret it the same.
Could be wrong? Most likely.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby christopher::: » Fri May 07, 2010 8:42 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Christopher liked something about the passage and wanted to discuss it, 5 pages later I'm not sure whether he's had that opportunity.



Actually, although we have gone off on side-tangents (occasionally) this conversation has been very helpful. But, yes, the question of Ajahn Sucitto's meaning may still be worth examining, for some of us...

What is he advising us to do? How do we avoid a fracturing of experience, self-making? Is he describing a process that is purely Theravadan, a blending with the way Mahayanan traditions approach this, or simply an example of common ground?

This is what realization and liberation are all about, no? Developing a non-clinging mind, present, compassionate, non-reactive, free of fetters...

Was just listening to another dhamma talk where Ajahn Sucitto comes back to this topic. Here's a transcript of the first 2 minutes...


"Cultivation of great heart, there is depth and also breadth. Depth you might say is finding a sense of presence, anchoring, that's not through tension or holding on to a view or idea or a position. It's just feeling the presence, your own steadiness, your own wholeness, your own- that which looks after you...

Your own sense of sampajāna, awareness, that knows you're here, that which receives all these impressions that happens to you, that which comes through every day, no matter what. We ground ourselves in that. This is the ground, or the foundation. Without this everything goes out of balance.

We breathe into that, breathe out into that, take refuge in that.

Simplicity. Real simplicity..."

~Ajahn Sucitto
2008-11-09 Taking A Drive Down The Road Of Self 68:09


:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby Goofaholix » Fri May 07, 2010 9:34 am

christopher::: wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:
Christopher liked something about the passage and wanted to discuss it, 5 pages later I'm not sure whether he's had that opportunity.



Actually, although we have gone off on side-tangents (occasionally) this conversation has been very helpful. But, yes, the question of Ajahn Sucitto's meaning may still be worth examining, for some of us...

What is he advising us to do? How do we avoid a fracturing of experience, self-making? Is he describing a process that is purely Theravadan, a blending with the way Mahayanan traditions approach this, or simply an example of common ground?

This is what realization and liberation are all about, no? Developing a non-clinging mind, present, compassionate, non-reactive, free of fetters...

Was just listening to another dhamma talk where Ajahn Sucitto comes back to this topic. Here's a transcript of the first 2 minutes...


"Cultivation of great heart, there is depth and also breadth. Depth you might say is finding a sense of presence, anchoring, that's not through tension or holding on to a view or idea or a position. It's just feeling the presence, your own steadiness, your own wholeness, your own- that which looks after you...

Your own sense of sampajāna, awareness, that knows you're here, that which receives all these impressions that happens to you, that which comes through every day, no matter what. We ground ourselves in that. This is the ground, or the foundation. Without this everything goes out of balance.

We breathe into that, breathe out into that, take refuge in that.

Simplicity. Real simplicity..."

~Ajahn Sucitto
2008-11-09 Taking A Drive Down The Road Of Self 68:09


:anjali:


He does use a lot of Mahayanist, and perhaps new agish, sounding language, but when I examine this passage and the first one I understand him saying much the same as many of my other teachers.

Maybe I'm just filtering it through my own understanding but I don't see him defining doctrines or phenomena, but rather defining a process and a state of mind.

A mind that is grounded and stable and resting in a broad inclusive awareness, much like the sky where different objects arise and pass away within the sky but the sky remains the stable backdrop. So the mind allows whatever objects that arise and pass away to do so without clinging, without trying to make something happen, without the mind following or going out to seek the objects.

As soon as the mind starts going out to seek the objects, starts trying to make something happen then ones practice gets fractured, ones practice gets dualistic.

This is very similar to how one of my teachers Sayadaw U Tejaniya teaches the practice, though without the fluffy language that might offend some people.

Here he talks about being grounded in awareness, wheras in the first passage he talks about losing your groundedness through attachment to calm and attachment to ideas, and the fragmentation that follows those attachments.

Then at the end he talks about taking refuge in awareness.

This I think stands to reason, because what does Buddha mean? It means the one who knows, so taking refuge in the Buddha is taking refuge in knowing or awareness, well that's my take on it anyway.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby PeterB » Fri May 07, 2010 9:40 am

I do not know Ajahn Succito well, but I know him well enough to feel confident in saying that whatever you might think about his choice of words in this context, it certainly is not the result of any direct Mahayana influence...trust me. 8-)
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby christopher::: » Fri May 07, 2010 12:12 pm

~~~~~*((((( :smile: )))))))*~~~~~
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby Freawaru » Sat May 08, 2010 3:22 pm

I think the whole problem of teachers and their different way to express things comes down to: what is sati-sampajanna? How does one recognise one is indeed experiencing sati-sampajanna? Cause it is not easy to discern and recognize this specific kind of awareness. But it is sati-sampajanna we are required to develop so I think it is an important question and important answer.

There are a multitude of awarenesses. One is always kind of aware when awake for example. One is aware during dream and differently aware during lucid dream. The sati-sampajanna awareness is different from all these, though.

There is a meditative experience that is rather common so I will use it as a starting point because I think most of you will recognise it from own experience:

After two weeks of practice I was able to maintain concentration on the object for a minute or more at a time. This partial success in concentrating brought with it certain pleasant experiences. I increasingly found, on opening my eyes and rising from my seat, that my perception of the world and of myself had undergone subtle changes. Colours, textures, and shapes seemed to have become unusually clear and vivid; there was a refreshing newness, interest, and beauty in objects that had formerly been dull and humdrum; time seemed to have stood still, so that I lived in an eternal present moment -- while the effect lasted; and I felt as if I had been somehow purified of negative emotions and was radiating benevolence toward all beings.
http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/bucknell.htm


The person describing this experienced an increase of awareness of colours, textures, shapes and so on. But is this the awareness called sati-sampajanna? Is this what we should develop and stabilise? I do not think so. Still, in this description sati-sampajanna is suggested even without explicitly describing it. The author of the article (Rod) describes that he discerned a difference between how he usually is aware of colours etc and how he was aware of them at that moment he came out of sitting. Not the "living in an eternal present moment" but simply the recognition that now something was different than usual, a recognition that comes from being aware of how things arise now, at that moment he came out of meditation. And this, this awareness, is called sampajanna: it observes change in the present moment. Whatever arises it knows to be there and whatever does not arise it knows to be not there. Regardless of what ariseses and what not it knows what is there in every moment. Sounds easy but it is not.

Most kinds of awareness alter the other mind processes. When one sits and realises the mind has wandered from the object the mind stops it's wandering. When one become lucid during dream the dream changes, it stops for a moment, and one can alter the dream or wake up consciously. One is also aware during normal dreams but one only realises it was dream after waking. Like during emotional mind states one is not aware what happens at the moment but only in retrospect. Whatever had been happening the moment awareness knows it is already in the past and the mind stops the process.

This is different for sati-sampajanna: this kind of awareness does not alter the mind stream. It just notes whatever arises whenever it arises without interfering. It notices the mind wanders from the object during a sitting the moment it happens but the mind keeps wandering (and sati-sampajanna keeps knowing it). When the mind enters a state like the one described by Rod above sati-sampajanna knows it but it keeps knowing when that state changes back to being aware of colours as dull. When a dream scenery changes it knows it changes but it does not influence it (one can change the dream and other states with sati-sampajanna being present but that is, IMO, something else, a controling function, that arises from the presence of sati-sampajanna).

Sampajanna arises naturally for moments, especially when something new or surprising happens. The trouble is it does not last. The mind forgets to stay aware in this specific sense and falls back to it's normal awareness when it grows used to whatever arises. So it is very difficult to analyse and describe sati-sampajanna. To analyse and describe how it feels it needs to be stable for at least some duration. When sati-sampajanna is stable one can start to reflect back into it and analyse it and this is the point where terminology and analogy enters the equation.

For example sati-sampajanna feels spacious. One has the impression that everything arises and falls back inside some kind of space. Thus some describe it as spacious or call it "space" (a typical way to express this is the sky-clouds analogy). Trying to find borders or limits or a bottom from where things arise and fall back to one does not succeed - thus it is described as groundless or bottomless or infinite. But everything arises, exists and falls within it so some call it "ground of being" or "ground of existence" or some similar expression. Due to it's stability and not-changing in contrast to everything else some describe it as a "background". Because everything arises and falls inside it this awarenss itself is seen as empty (like space) and also empty of anything one can cling to, empty of anything that might lead to a lasting self-identity. Then there is the aspect of knowing that feels like seeing. One "sees" whatever arises the moment it arises. This analogy leads to the term "luminous" or "lucid" (from lux=light), because it is like a usually dark room (one's own mind) been lit up so one can see what is in it right now. What else? ... Ah, yes, when something appears it feels like a movement, something arises and a kind of spotlight shifts to it to illuminate it. Like a guard keeps waiting for someone to enter a door and alerting the king or castle when it happens: this is called "guarding the (sense) doors". Analysing this "spotlight" one notices that something moves with the movement of the objects, it stays with it, when something arises or the mind enters a new state this "it" moves with it - it feels like riding a horse or keep standing on a boat: A specific kind of balance is maintained even when the horse jumps or the boat is in a storm...

Probably I have forgotten some descriptions or do not know them yet - but all these analogies refer to the one and same kind of awareness: sati-sampajanna. Different teachers will describe it in different ways either by own experience or due to traditional analogies but this does not change the fact that the meaning is always the same.
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby christopher::: » Tue May 11, 2010 3:20 am

Thanks for your posts, Peter, Freawaru & Goofaholix.

It's hard to describe, hard to cultivate, but yes i think this is what teachers and practitioners (from various schools and traditions) who have experienced some depth of realization and stability of calm are talking about, sometimes using different words and analogies.

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby beeblebrox » Sun May 16, 2010 5:00 pm

This is only my second post on here... so hope you don't think this is too forward. I think both sides in here are wrong. :tongue: This thread is like a model of Samsara, it keeps on spinning around and around. Even when someone seems to concede, it just keeps on spinning.

I think Tilt is technically correct with this, but I also definitely disagree with his approach in here. He seems to cling to a certain idea like a madman... he wants to stick to the generally "accepted" definition of the "ground of being" (and then work from there)... whatever that might be. There is absolutely no relevance with this concept as far as the Dhamma is concerned (accepted definition nor otherwise).

I also understand the intentions in here about wanting to view this "ground of being" as something else, trying to get it to fit in with the Dhamma. After all, Buddha changed what kamma meant, in relation to what the brahmins and the public generally believed in at that time. Still, no matter how you try to put this concept of "ground of being" (or twist it into something else), it is really irrelevant to everything that he taught. Try to think about it.

I came across this today while reading Ven. Nanananda's Concept and Reality, page 94. It's not really related to being said in here, but it's definitely applicable. He said that it's good for the people who try to use dialectics to prove other people wrong (such as defining stuff till they appear right, or wrong, much like what you guys are doing in here).

Afterwards, Ven Nanananda also criticized the Madhyamika system (the middle way) for this very reason.

. . . Aggivessana, those recluses and brahmins who speak thus and are of this view: 'All is not pleasing to me,' if a learned man be there who reflects thus: 'If I were to express this view of mine that: "All is not pleasing to me," and obstinately holding to it and adhering to it, were to say: "This is the very truth, all else is falsehood," there would be for me dispute with two (view-holders): both with whatever recluse or brahmin who speaks thus and is of this view: "All is pleasing to me," and with whatever recluse or brahmin who speaks thus and is of this view: "Part is pleasing to me, part is not pleasing to me" -- there would be dispute for me with these two. If there is dispute, there is contention, if there is contention there is trouble, if there is trouble, there is vexation.' So he, beholding this dispute and contention and trouble and vexation for himself, gets rid of that very view and does not take up another view. Thus is the getting rid of these views, thus is the casting away of these views.


What do you guys think?
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 16, 2010 6:24 pm

beeblebrox wrote:
I think Tilt is technically correct with this, but I also definitely disagree with his approach in here. He seems to cling to a certain idea like a madman... he wants to stick to the generally "accepted" definition of the "ground of being" (and then work from there)... whatever that might be. There is absolutely no relevance with this concept as far as the Dhamma is concerned (accepted definition nor otherwise).
Madman, huh?, for knowing about a well known concept, something you seem not to know? Sorry for being over-educated, for knowing how this theistic concept came to be and how it has been traditionally used. That the good monk has made a poor choice of words, using it in a highly idiosyncratic way, with no indication from him that he doing so, is rather poor teaching, or it is simply ignorance. Just because he is a bhikkhu does not mean he is above criticism. If he going to teach, he should be held to a something of a higher standard; there should be a bit more care in his choice of words, rather, than using a term that is already loaded.

What do you guys think?
I think a lot of confusion was generated by a poor choice of words. Had this been the only discourse I heard or read by the good monk, I likely would not ever listen to, or read, another by him. I would wonder, is he one of those crypto-Hindu Buddhists, who are out there, who thinks there really is some sort of ground of being, godhead, ultimate spiritual essence taught by the Buddha? Or is he simply someone using an expression inappropriately, in a confusing matter? The latter, it would seem. Not only does it help to be somewhat educated in Buddhist history of ideas, but it would also do well to have some grounding in a general history of religious ideas. That is what I think in all my madmanness.

Now, me and my kitty must go, doggedly exposing some more plots and conspiracies to the dismay of others.
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This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby beeblebrox » Sun May 16, 2010 7:05 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Just because he is a bhikkhu does not mean he is above criticism. If he going to teach, he should be held to a something of a higher standard; there should be a bit more care in his choice of words, rather, than using a term that is already loaded.


I agree. :smile:
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby Goofaholix » Mon May 17, 2010 2:16 am

I had the opportunity to listen to the entire talk a few days ago. It starts out pretty boring but he later gets warmed up and it's actually quite an interesting talk.

In this talk Ajahn Sucitto refers to "ground" or "the ground" or "groundedness" in various ways I'd estimate a good 20-30 times at least.

Most of the times he refers to it as ground of this or ground of that, ground of being is just one of those. Without going into detail of why he chooses to use that term in so many combinations I'm convinced that any similarity with the usage of some obscure theistic philosophers is purely circumstancial.

If that's not good enough for some people too bad, I don't think teachers should be expected to consult their lawyers before delivering a dhamma talk.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Ajahn Sucitto: Fragmentation & Distancing from Experience

Postby tiltbillings » Mon May 17, 2010 5:27 am

Goofaholix wrote:Most of the times he refers to it as ground of this or ground of that, ground of being is just one of those. Without going into detail of why he chooses to use that term in so many combinations I'm convinced that any similarity with the usage of some obscure theistic philosophers is purely circumstancial.

If that's not good enough for some people too bad, I don't think teachers should be expected to consult their lawyers before delivering a dhamma talk.
Being, unquestionably, in the collective of "some people," a comment might be in order. To refer to Paul Tilich as an obscure philosopher is reasonable, I suppose, if one looks no further than the confines of the box one sits in. Among educated Christians, Tillich is a familiar name. Google "ground of being": http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe ... =&gs_rfai=

"Ground of being" has also found currency among new age-oids and some contemporary Advaita types. Why the Venerable choose that word, damdifino. Being in that group of “some people,” it is not one I would use.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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