Adhamma

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Adhamma

Postby PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 7:06 am

You dont memntion the background of the teacher Khalil Bodhi. But I wonder if this is not another Theravada/Mahayana issue.
The two biggest Monastic Theravada centres in the South East Uk both offer day retreats. But in both cases I think I am right in saying they are not open to anyone who walks in. They are not advertised to the public. You get to know about them by being known to the Sangha..
There are several centres offering Vipassana courses but they require an application form .
In the case of the monastic led day retreats and all Vipassana courses I have had experience of, they start with taking Refuge and the Five or often Eight, Precepts.
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Re: Adhamma

Postby PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 7:40 am

retrofuturist wrote: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. :)

Quite so. With refernce to Krishnamurtis " Pathless Path " ( above ) that could almost stand as a negative statement concerning what The Way of The Elders is not.
I think it may have to be considered that there is the the possibility that Theravadins actually know rather a lot about their own tradition. Well meaning though it might be to explain it to us.
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Re: Adhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Mon May 10, 2010 7:52 am

Hi Retro,

retrofuturist wrote: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. ...

Different teachers have their own way of introducing Dhamma. I wouldn't like to second-guess anyone in particular. The better ones figure out what works for the particular students they are dealing with.

I certainly agree with Peter that the 4NT, etc need to be brought in, but my observation, based on sitting through, and sometimes assisting with, 1-2 hour evening sessions at my Wat is that a starting a session with a "short introduction to the Four Noble Truths" in such a situation is not an easy thing to pull off. All you need is one wise guy who starts arguing with the concept that craving leads to suffering, etc and you have half an hour of pointless argument. (Just like on the Internet... :))

What I've seen some teachers do with some success is to start off with some simple ideas that are easy for the skeptics to accept, such as:
"The Buddha told us to investigate our experience, so we're going to spend 15 minutes walking then 15 minutes sitting..."
After that the teaching proceeds by asking questions (what did you feel when you were sitting?, Did you want to change position? Did changing position make the pain go away?) and the 4NT can be brought in in response to the (usually rather predictable) answers.

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Re: Adhamma

Postby PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 8:00 am

I do see the problem Mike..but given the fact that all vipassana courses..Buddhist ones I mean not ones that have been divorced from their origin..begin with the Refuges and Precepts, it seems to me a good thing, and possibly a neccessary thing, for people to have some idea what that are saying..
There are exceptions. One of the London Wats has regular open days during which they give a " taster" of Vipassana of Walking Practice and so on.
But for longer courses the Refuges and Precepts are required. And required in an informed way.
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Mon May 10, 2010 8:12 am

retrofuturist wrote: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.


Ideally the 4NT should be understood as the basis of practice, I would certainly be more than concerned if a teacher discounted it.

However I don't see Right View as being so black and white, most people don't have a right view switch, most people don't have a conversion experience as their first step on the path.

Right View evolves over time, it evolves out of observing the consequences of wrong view, out of trying to do the practice with whatever views and baggage one brings to the practice and seeing the limitations of that.

For example somebody arrives at the daylong with the view that he is a self and things are permanent and meditation is for relaxation, should he blindly believe what the teacher tells him? should he just be turned away at the door?

No he starts practising mindfulness (or maybe something else), he starts observing the changeability and impersonal nature of his experience he starts seeing the limitations of his wrong view and his view gradually changes, as his view changes other factors of the path fall in line with it.

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


Yes, just like Gotama Siddhatha did during his years as a wandering ascetic
"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: Adhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Mon May 10, 2010 8:13 am

Hi Peter,
PeterB wrote:I do see the problem Mike..but given the fact that all vipassana courses..Buddhist ones I mean not ones that have been divorced from their origin..begin with the Refuges and Precepts, it seems to me a good thing, and possibly a neccessary thing, for people to have some idea what that are saying..

Sure, but I tried to make it clear that I was talking specifically about walk-in evening sessions. If someone (such as myself) is then interested enough to come for a weekend they have to take the Refuges and 10 Precepts from the Abbot (which I still find somewhat scary... Some Thai monks have a knack of going from joking around to dead serious in next to no time when the occasion calls for it... :anjali: )

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Re: Adhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Mon May 10, 2010 8:17 am

Hi Goofaholix,
Goofaholix wrote:For example somebody arrives at the daylong with the view that he is a self and things are permanent and meditation is for relaxation, should he blindly believe what the teacher tells him? should he just be turned away at the door?

No he starts practising mindfulness (or maybe something else), he starts observing the changeability and impersonal nature of his experience he starts seeing the limitations of his wrong view and his view gradually changes, as his view changes other factors of the path fall in line with it

I agree. We had one memorable session when my teacher bounced off some question or other and used it to launch into a variation on the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta. It would not have worked at all well if he'd tried to explain it before the walking and sitting...

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Re: Adhamma

Postby PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 8:32 am

Goofaholix wrote:
retrofuturist wrote: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.


Ideally the 4NT should be understood as the basis of practice, I would certainly be more than concerned if a teacher discounted it.

However I don't see Right View as being so black and white, most people don't have a right view switch, most people don't have a conversion experience as their first step on the path.

Right View evolves over time, it evolves out of observing the consequences of wrong view, out of trying to do the practice with whatever views and baggage one brings to the practice and seeing the limitations of that.

For example somebody arrives at the daylong with the view that he is a self and things are permanent and meditation is for relaxation, should he blindly believe what the teacher tells him? should he just be turned away at the door?

No he starts practising mindfulness (or maybe something else), he starts observing the changeability and impersonal nature of his experience he starts seeing the limitations of his wrong view and his view gradually changes, as his view changes other factors of the path fall in line with it.

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


Yes, just like Gotama Siddhatha did during his years as a wandering ascetic

Which has resulted in a situation whereby we dont have to reinvent the Wheel Of Dhamma.
It i still there even for those of us with dust in our eyes.
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Re: Adhamma

Postby PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 8:34 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Peter,
PeterB wrote:I do see the problem Mike..but given the fact that all vipassana courses..Buddhist ones I mean not ones that have been divorced from their origin..begin with the Refuges and Precepts, it seems to me a good thing, and possibly a neccessary thing, for people to have some idea what that are saying..

Sure, but I tried to make it clear that I was talking specifically about walk-in evening sessions. If someone (such as myself) is then interested enough to come for a weekend they have to take the Refuges and 10 Precepts from the Abbot (which I still find somewhat scary... Some Thai monks have a knack of going from joking around to dead serious in next to no time when the occasion calls for it... :anjali: )

Mike

Yes that is a similar situation to the one in which I learned.

:anjali:
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 10, 2010 11:21 am

retrofuturist wrote: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. :)

Hmmm....

Well, do you think you can have the Right View without right livelihood, right mindfulness and right concentration, for instance? Surely this linear scheme is a simplification.

But I am not entirely sure where the difference in views lies. KB was unhappy with a teacher who seemingly "dumbed down" Dhamma to mindfulness of the breath. Now if that's all he teaches, then his "Buddhism" is rather limited, I agree. All I meant was that in that particular instance that may have been the right advice (as Goofaholix described in more detail above). Is this controversial?
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Brizzy » Tue May 11, 2010 9:23 am

Dan74 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote: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. :)

Hmmm....

Well, do you think you can have the Right View without right livelihood, right mindfulness and right concentration, for instance? Surely this linear scheme is a simplification.

But I am not entirely sure where the difference in views lies. KB was unhappy with a teacher who seemingly "dumbed down" Dhamma to mindfulness of the breath. Now if that's all he teaches, then his "Buddhism" is rather limited, I agree. All I meant was that in that particular instance that may have been the right advice (as Goofaholix described in more detail above). Is this controversial?


Without Right View coming first everything else would be based on ignorance. It should not be the job of Dhamma teachers to teach worldly relaxation methods, there are a multitude of places where that could be learned. A Dhamma teacher should be teaching Dhamma and since only a Buddha knows the minds and capabilities of his listeners, the teacher should start at the beginning i.e. Right View. Also it is a linear scheme in the sense that you cannot start the ball rolling without Right View.

:smile:
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Dan74 » Tue May 11, 2010 1:19 pm

Also it is a linear scheme in the sense that you cannot start the ball rolling without Right View.


Which part of Right View do you think is essential before anything else?
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Tue May 11, 2010 9:35 pm

Brizzy wrote:Without Right View coming first everything else would be based on ignorance. It should not be the job of Dhamma teachers to teach worldly relaxation methods, there are a multitude of places where that could be learned. A Dhamma teacher should be teaching Dhamma and since only a Buddha knows the minds and capabilities of his listeners, the teacher should start at the beginning i.e. Right View. Also it is a linear scheme in the sense that you cannot start the ball rolling without Right View.


While the way it is presented in scripture might lead one to believe that Right View is a pre-requisite to practice in reality it often doesn't work that way.

It didn't work that way for me, I came to practice with a lot of incorrect preconcieved ideas and these changed over time as my practice developed.

One only has to listen to what's behind the questions that come up during question time on retreats to realise that a lot of people come to practice with some degree of wrong view.

It's them submitting to the process of practice that enable their view to change.
"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: Adhamma

Postby Dan74 » Tue May 11, 2010 11:40 pm

It was the same with me!

I think it's pretty uncontroversial that before building anything one has to lay foundations. And in case of Dhamma, these foundations are basically the Right View and sila. But for the foundations to even begin to solidify other aspects have to be developed to some extent, otherwise even the best teachings on the Right View will be misunderstood and perverted.

So it is not about discounting the importance of Right View but about a flexible organic approach to Dhamma teaching (and practice) as contrasted with a linear curriculum-like approach. I've been exposed to both (my very first retreat was with a lay Theravada teacher) and the latter didn't really strike a chord with me.

Of course, it can work with others, the tried and true formulas often bear great results. In my view though the great teachers of all traditions make the teachings their own and adapt them to the audience. I saw it recently with Ajahn Sumedho, I've seen it with my teacher and of course read it in the teachings of great masters.
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Kim OHara » Wed May 12, 2010 10:46 am

As a teacher - not of dhamma, of course - I've got to say that every teacher must start with his/her students' existing knowledge, skills and aspirations. Starting anywhere else will leave students completely adrift or bore them silly or fail to connect in some other way and they will (a) get nothing out of the teaching (b) not come back and (c) often be turned off the subject completely - as in, 'Yeah, I went to a meditation class once but it was a load of rubbish - all they did was chant in some weird language.'
So whoever is teaching a walk-in one-off class has to assume some degree of goodwill and a large degree of ignorance, and take it from there without teaching anything that is actually wrong. Anything that has to be skipped over in this process can be taught later, so long as the students get enough out of the first class to want to continue - and, if we value what we are teaching, what we want most of all is for them to continue.
Teaching such a class becomes a juggling act: how much needs to be said about background and fundamentals, how much attention can be given to an informed questioner without losing the rest of the group, how much can a topic can be simplified without actually misleading the students in a way that will become an obstacle later. A teacher who really knows his/her subject will manage it better than a one who doesn't, but experience of similar sessions plays a large part too and so does sheer teaching skill.
I wouldn't presume to say whether KB's teacher knew his subject or not on the basis of the incident in the OP, although I do think the question may have been handled better. Something like, 'Perhaps we can talk about that afterwards,' might have been the best response, but such things are very situation-specific.
Every time I work with a new bunch of students, I do it a bit differently: they are different, I am different and the setting is different. And after every time I do it, I think, 'Hey, it would have been better to say X at that point because it would have been a better lead in to Y,' or some such thing.

The other thought that came to mind while reading the thread was an image, a visualisation, of the learning path which I like and which may resonate with some of you. I find it helpful to think of it as a spiral staircase, not a straight one: progressing from one step to the next takes you around in a circle, and you reach the same point again but at a higher level. For instance, Right Speech supports and encourages Right Action and that encourages Right Livelihood; that improved ethical base supports Right Effort and Mindfulness which refine Right Views and Right Understanding and strengthen your Right Intention ... and with all that in place, you will be even more more mindful of Right Speech and Right Action, and so it goes.
Why do I bring that up here?
Simply because anyone can step onto that staircase at whichever rung they are level with at the time, and eventually their knowledge will be completed.

In keeping with the first part of this post, I'd better say right now that what I have I have could certainly be said better, but it's the best way I can say it right here and now.
:juggling:

:namaste:
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Brizzy » Thu May 13, 2010 5:39 am

Dan74 wrote:
Also it is a linear scheme in the sense that you cannot start the ball rolling without Right View.


Which part of Right View do you think is essential before anything else?


I don't really know.

As a personal view, kamma and the things it raises like gratitude would be a good start.


:smile:
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Brizzy » Thu May 13, 2010 5:51 am

Dan74 wrote:It was the same with me!

I think it's pretty uncontroversial that before building anything one has to lay foundations. And in case of Dhamma, these foundations are basically the Right View and sila. But for the foundations to even begin to solidify other aspects have to be developed to some extent, otherwise even the best teachings on the Right View will be misunderstood and perverted.

So it is not about discounting the importance of Right View but about a flexible organic approach to Dhamma teaching (and practice) as contrasted with a linear curriculum-like approach. I've been exposed to both (my very first retreat was with a lay Theravada teacher) and the latter didn't really strike a chord with me.

Of course, it can work with others, the tried and true formulas often bear great results. In my view though the great teachers of all traditions make the teachings their own and adapt them to the audience. I saw it recently with Ajahn Sumedho, I've seen it with my teacher and of course read it in the teachings of great masters.


I agree that it is an organic approach, in that certain parts of the path will reflect on other parts.

The primary importance of "Right View" must not be underestimated. Without it someone could be practicing excellent sila, but could degenerate quite easily - if someone who had right view also had excellent sila then degeneration would be less likely.

The eightfold path - like all things in this world is dependently originated - without right intention, right speech would not occur and without right view, right intention would not occur. That is not to say that there are not "good or well meaning" intentions, but without right view - they are not Right intentions.

:smile:
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Re: Adhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 13, 2010 5:58 am

Very well said, Brizzy. They don't all start with Right (samma) for nothing!

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 Shonin » Thu May 13, 2010 11:52 am

Brizzy wrote:A Dhamma teacher should be teaching Dhamma...


If I may quibble, the problem isn't that a dhamma teacher is teaching something other than dhamma (if a dhamma teacher teaches someone how to do pilates or tie their shoelaces this isn't a problem). The problem is when someone misrepresents adhamma as dhamma, since this confuses people about dhamma. There should be no problem with a dhamma teacher teaching breathing meditation or 'worldly relaxation techniques' as long as it is made clear that this is not all that Buddhism is about.
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Re: Adhamma

Postby Brizzy » Fri May 14, 2010 9:14 am

Shonin wrote:
Brizzy wrote:A Dhamma teacher should be teaching Dhamma...


If I may quibble, the problem isn't that a dhamma teacher is teaching something other than dhamma (if a dhamma teacher teaches someone how to do pilates or tie their shoelaces this isn't a problem). The problem is when someone misrepresents adhamma as dhamma, since this confuses people about dhamma. There should be no problem with a dhamma teacher teaching breathing meditation or 'worldly relaxation techniques' as long as it is made clear that this is not all that Buddhism is about.


I think that the problem arises, because "meditation" is actually an advanced practice in Buddhism. Sotapanna can be achieved without formal sitting. The problem being that meditation is taught as if it was the start of the path. An ordained monk could teach metta(not the meditation) or genorosity or sila to those people not ready to be buddhists or just discovering Buddhism, but it seems strange that an advanced practice should be taught so readily. Personally I think it is the western attitude of wanting the "highest" straight away, and not wanting to put in the groundwork.

:smile:

p.s. I hope I don't have to contend with an ordained monk teaching me pilates!
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