Adhamma

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Adhamma

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sun May 09, 2010 12:40 pm

I'd like to post something from my blog that was in response to difficulty I encountered with a teacher who will remain unnamed but whose teaching style I think is representative of the sorry state of affairs that the teachings of the Buddha are in NYC to be sure and probably the US in general. Although I will be the first to admit that my intentions were definitely colored with a strong dose of dosa I do think the problem of teachers passing adhamma off as true Dhamma to those who have no other acquaintance with the teachings deserves some attention. In short, I would like to get feedback on how others deal with these issues. Do we simply ignore them? Do we we attempt to correct these people and move on when it seems to have no effect (which is what I did when I left the day-long retreat ayt the first break period)? I value this community so much because of the commitment of so many members to understanding the Dhamma on its own terms and would appreciate any advice, admonishments or corrections you have to offer. Sukhi hotu!

I had a somewhat disturbing experience today with a teacher who was billed as having some knowledge of the Pali Canon and the teachings of the Buddha but was remarkably evasive (I believe the canonical term is an “eel-wriggler”) when I asked questions that pertained to the suttas specifically and the Dhamma and the Discipline in general.

There are, monks, some contemplatives & priests who, being asked questions regarding this or that, resort to verbal contortions, to eel-like wriggling, on four grounds… There is the case of a certain priest or contemplative who does not discern as it actually is that ‘This is skillful,’ or that ‘This is unskillful.’ The thought occurs to him: ‘I don’t discern as it actually is that “This is skillful,” or that “This is unskillful.” If I… were to declare that “This is skillful,” or that “This is unskillful,” desire, passion, aversion, or resistance would occur to me; that would be a falsehood for me. Whatever would be a falsehood for me would be a distress for me. Whatever would be a distress for me would be an obstacle for me.’ So, out of fear of falsehood, a loathing for falsehood, he does not declare that ‘This is skillful,’ or that ‘This is unskillful.’ Being asked questions regarding this or that, he resorts to verbal contortions, to eel-like wriggling: ‘I don’t think so. I don’t think in that way. I don’t think otherwise. I don’t think not. I don’t think not not.’

I have to admit that I was incredibly disturbed by this and felt completely indignant when people in the audience asked this teacher for the definitive “Buddhist” perspective on whatever their particular concern was. I know that I should not allow my aversion to completely carry me away but it angers me to see people with a genuine interest in the Dhamma being led completely astray by teachers who indiscriminately use the term Buddhist to label their particular philosophy. I have no problem with Seon, Zen, Pureland, Yogacara, Madhyamika or other post-canonical Buddhist philosophies and religions but I think it’s important that we be clear about the provenance of our views. If one takes Chinul, Dogen, Amitabha or Atisha to be the authoritative guide for one’s practice that is fine but I do believe that one should make that clear when taking on the role of a teacher. To do otherwise is to do a disservice to the Lord Buddha and to hasten the end of the true Dhamma.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Adhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 09, 2010 2:39 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote: Although I will be the first to admit that my intentions were definitely colored with a strong dose of dosa I do think the problem of teachers passing adhamma off as true Dhamma to those who have no other acquaintance with the teachings deserves some attention.
It would help to tell us what it is that was said that you see as being a problem.
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: Adhamma

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sun May 09, 2010 3:06 pm

Basically, the issue was that this teacher stated that the Buddha taught that all one needs to do to escape suffering is to focus on the present moment (or the breath). This was in regard specifically to a discussion on restlessness. When I asked about other strategies such as those outlined in the Vitakkasanthana Sutta for removing distracting thoughts or even the Buddha's repeated exhortations to uphold the precepts as a way to mitigate restlessness and remorse I was told that he didn't want to get "sidetracked" with such things. I hope that gives a little more of a context.

[mod: Link added]
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Adhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 09, 2010 3:14 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote: I hope that gives a little more of a context.

I think that helps. Thanks.
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: Adhamma

Postby Monkey Mind » Sun May 09, 2010 4:26 pm

Khalil Bodhi, I think you might have to develop acceptance for the possibility that your Sutta studies are quite a lot more advanced than the average Buddhist, many Sanghans included. Reading your description, I suspect the monk either could not remember or was not familiar with the teaching you referenced.

Metta
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Mukunda » Sun May 09, 2010 5:54 pm

I'm wondering, is this person ordained or not. If so, in what tradition, if not, by what authority does he teach? I decided a while back that I was open to lay people teaching technique (i.e. sit upright, focus on the nostrils etc), I really couldn't care less about their interpretations of the dhamma. For my questions on sutta studies and the like, I rely on fully ordained (ordained under, and observing the full monastic code, not just ordained under the bodhisattva precepts as is common in Japan) for guidance and insight. While ordination is no guarantee, it is at least a verifiable credential, and at least one indicator of the teacher's dedication to the dhamma and students.
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Re: Adhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Sun May 09, 2010 9:18 pm

Dear All,
Monkey Mind wrote:Khalil Bodhi, I think you might have to develop acceptance for the possibility that your Sutta studies are quite a lot more advanced than the average Buddhist, many Sanghans included. Reading your description, I suspect the monk either could not remember or was not familiar with the teaching you referenced.

Since I was not at the session it is hard to comment in detail. To me this issue would be highly dependent on the context. If a teacher was running an introduction to meditation for a group of beginners with no Sutta knowledge then it might well be appropriate to avoid discussion of complex or advanced issues, and to focus the students on the method for a while. Of course, there are more and less skilful ways of doing this, and dealing with more advanced students who want to forge ahead...

I have sat through quite a few sessions when one of my teachers has been dealing with beginners and I sometimes notice that I feel like "he is not giving the whole picture", and "why doesn't he explain it like this or this?", etc. After a while I've realised that usually these perceptions are my problem, not his...

Mike
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Sun May 09, 2010 11:46 pm

I think Mike has covered it off quite well.

Did the teacher say there is only one technique to obtain release from suffering and you should ignore the others?

Or did he say that the technique he was teaching was potentially all you needed to obtain release from suffering, not to deny there were other possible techniques out there?

I suspect it was the latter and have found most teachers take this line, especially when teaching beginners, and don't allow themselves to be sidetracked by well meaning questioners.

I think you probably need to chill out. An accumulation of knowledge can be a hindrence if it prevents one from entering practice situations with open heartedness.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Adhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 09, 2010 11:59 pm

Greetings Khalil Bodhi,

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Basically, the issue was that this teacher stated that the Buddha taught that all one needs to do to escape suffering is to focus on the present moment (or the breath).

To the exclusion of Right View? To the exclusion of the Eightfold Path?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Adhamma

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon May 10, 2010 12:03 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Khalil Bodhi,

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Basically, the issue was that this teacher stated that the Buddha taught that all one needs to do to escape suffering is to focus on the present moment (or the breath).

To the exclusion of Right View? To the exclusion of the Eightfold Path?

Metta,
Retro. :)

i've read a lot over the years from teachers who place liberation solely in the hands of present moment mindfulness, i never quite bought into it as the Buddha taught oh so much more. however many teachers seem to wrap the whole package up into just mindfulness.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

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: Adhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 10, 2010 12:11 am

Greetings JC,

jcsuperstar wrote:however many teachers seem to wrap the whole package up into just mindfulness.

Which is fine so long as they're not claiming to be Buddhist teachers - the Buddha did not teach like that.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Adhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Mon May 10, 2010 12:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Khalil Bodhi,

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Basically, the issue was that this teacher stated that the Buddha taught that all one needs to do to escape suffering is to focus on the present moment (or the breath).

To the exclusion of Right View? To the exclusion of the Eightfold Path?


Good point. What did the teacher specifically exclude? What did the teacher Specifically say was unecessary?

I could say all you need to get from A to B is a car. Would you assume I meant you don't need petrol and don't need a map? Would you assume I said you can't walk or you can't take the bus?
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Mon May 10, 2010 1:07 am

Thank you everyone for your replies

I definitely agree that me chilling out about this is a good idea but JC pretty much hit the nail on the head with his characterization of this teacher's approach. The question of kamma and the 8FNP seem to have been thrown out in favor of a soteriology of the present moment. I, like Retro, am perfectly okay with such a teaching provided it's not proffered to others as Buddhadhamma. Thanks again everyone.

Metta
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Adhamma

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 10, 2010 5:08 am

As someone who teaches (not Dhamma) when a student asks me for help with doing a question and I see that he or she is not up to the task, I address the most basic part of the problem. I don't try to explain the whole thing because it would go over the student's head and be a waste of time. So perhaps the teacher felt that this person should focus on mindfulness of the breath in the present moment. Give a clear precise instruction is good teaching. Bad scholarship, but good teaching, IMO.

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Re: Adhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 10, 2010 5:13 am

Greetings Dan,

That might work outside the Dhamma, but in the Dhammavinaya, Right View is the forerunner to Right Mindfulness.

Extract from MN 117: Maha-cattarisaka Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... an.html#s1

"And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view. And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view...

"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view."

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Adhamma

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 10, 2010 5:21 am

Hi Retro!

Are you arguing for a uniform curriculum, where graduation is enlightenment? Kind of the opposite to Krishnamurti's pathless land?

But the Buddha did not teach like that and there are records of him giving the most bare essentials to newcomers. For some it was all that they needed. For others it was the first step.

Right View is often built up gradually not swallowed up in one gulp. We can read 10 books about the Right View and in the end have a mental picture and yet our conduct may be radically (or subtly) at odds with it. It develops with wisdom, deepens and penetrates every aspect of our lives.

I am not arguing against the Right View, just that "to everything its season."
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Re: Adhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 10, 2010 5:39 am

Greetings Dan,

Apologies, I actually quoted a different sutta to that which I intended to quote. This is the one I was thinking of.

SN 45.1
"Bhikkhus, ignorance is the forerunner in the entry upon unwholesome states, with shamelessness and fearlessness of wrongdoing following along. For an unwise person immersed in ignorance, wrong view springs up. For one of wrong view, wrong intention springs up. For one of wrong intention, wrong speech springs up. For one of wrong speech, wrong action springs up. For one of wrong action, wrong livelihood springs up. For one of wrong livelihood, wrong effort springs up. For one of wrong effort, wrong mindfulness springs up. For one of wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration springs up.

Bhikkhus, true knowledge is the forerunner in the entry upon wholesome states, with a sense of shame and fear of wrongdoing following along. For a wise person who has arrived at true knowledge, right view springs up. For one of right view, right intention springs up. For one of right intention, right speech springs up. For one of right speech, right action springs up. For one of right action, right livelihood springs up. For one of right livelihood, right effort springs up. For one of right effort, right mindfulness springs up. For one of right mindfulness, right concentration springs up."


Bhikkhu Bodhi : Connected Discourses, page 1523.

Does that more directly address your question?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Adhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Mon May 10, 2010 5:55 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Dan,

That might work outside the Dhamma, but in the Dhammavinaya, Right View is the forerunner to Right Mindfulness.


In the context of a daylong retreat with students at various levels from beginners to very experienced how would you recommend a teacher impart right view so that they can be qualified to begin mindfulness practice?
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Adhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 10, 2010 6:02 am

Greetings Goofaholix,

Goofaholix wrote:In the context of a daylong retreat with students at various levels from beginners to very experienced how would you recommend a teacher impart right view so that they can be qualified to begin mindfulness practice?

I don't know, I'm not a teacher... but the Four Noble Truths sounds like a decent place to start.

It doesn't have to be long... just long enough to improve the chances of them dwelling in Right Mindfulness, instead of Wrong Mindfulness. If they're going to sit there in Wrong Mindfulness they're wasting their time. Those who were more knowledgeable would probably appreciate the refresher and would have more respect for the teacher (thereby avoiding Khalil Bodhi's predicament) seeing that the teacher does not teach independently of Right View.

If there is no Right View, they may as well be doing Hindu or Christian meditation for all the good it will do them.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Adhamma

Postby PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 6:51 am

It is not unknown for some meditation centres to offer meditation classes only after they are satisfied that the inquirer has some of the basics such as the 4NT, 8FP etc.
Meditation on the breath is after all just one one wing of the house which also includes sila, Metta Bhavana etc
Meditation practise detached from the rest of the 8FP can be just be a mechanistic self help excercise.
There is nothing magicical about it. It does not awaken some intrinsic pre-existing state.
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