Lay Yogi?

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Lay Yogi?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Sep 20, 2010 1:57 pm

Hi DW-ies,

I'm wondering if you could help clear up a question that arose in some discussions I had with a friend on another forum. I've brought this topic up before, but one can never have enough clarity...

My friend insists that it is useless to embark on any kind of yogic practice until or unless one has permanently renounced worldly life. His argument is that you can't make any progress in insight until you have mastered the jhanas, and you can't master the jhanas while you have any sense desires, so you have to sever all worldly attachments before you can even think of making progress in meditation.

My understanding, drawn from some threads we've had here, is that one can make progress via retreats or even, in some cases, by finding some time/space for meditative seclusion amid the hustle of daily life. The jhanas serve to temporarily dispel the hindrances and establish stability/serenity so one can proceed. Also, it's not necessarily true that one has to master samatha before you can begin vipassana -- it's not so linear. There are lay-oriented groups such as IMS which are serious about meditation but whose members (as well as some of the teachers) live as householders. There's also the "mass meditation" phenomenon in Burma, plus we have the Buddha's own teachings about the possibilities for laypersons.

I'm not out to prove my friend wrong (he won't budge in any case!) but am just seeking to work out my own understanding and make some decisions about my practice. I think it's quite possible that Western Buddhism emphasizes the "yogic" aspect too much, and doesn't pay enough attention to the cultivation of Right view and sila. On the other hand, if all the householder should do is concentrate on being a virtuous person, one might as well be a Christian or Muslim (i.e. adhere to the mainstream religion of one's community), since all the major religions teach basic morality, how to get to heaven, etc.

If you have some sutta references to bring to bear on this question, I'd be especially grateful. Are differences between the Burmese and Thai Forest traditions relevant here? For a lay practitioner, is one more "open" than the other in terms of the possibilities for progress?

I may also post this at another forum, just to get the "pan-Buddhist" perspective.

:namaste:

Thanks,
LE
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:11 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
My friend insists that it is useless to embark on any kind of yogic practice until or unless one has permanently renounced worldly life. His argument is that you can't make any progress in insight until you have mastered the jhanas, and you can't master the jhanas while you have any sense desires, so you have to sever all worldly attachments before you can even think of making progress in meditation.
To make progress insight you do not need to become a monk nor do you need to master the jhanas. Retreats are good and if you can do a 10 day retreat or two a year, all the better. What is necessary is constancy in practice, and not just sitting meditation, but the precepts and such things as giving. (Of course, opinions are going to vary, but my opinion is the opinion you should listen to because I said so.)
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: Lay Yogi?

Postby Mr. G » Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:48 pm

Dipa Ma was a householder...and it's said she went far as a householder. :namaste:
Even if my body should be burnt to death
In the fires of hell,
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice
- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby Prasadachitta » Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:03 pm

Hi Lazy Eye,

My opinion is what Tilt said. However, It might be the case for your freind that only strict monastic practice will be effective enough for him to realize insight in this life. My primary reason for saying this essentially lies in the fact that you say he believes it.

Take Care

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby unspoken » Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:18 pm

I'm not out to prove my friend wrong (he won't budge in any case!) but am just seeking to work out my own understanding and make some decisions about my practice. I think it's quite possible that Western Buddhism emphasizes the "yogic" aspect too much, and doesn't pay enough attention to the cultivation of Right view and sila. On the other hand, if all the householder should do is concentrate on being a virtuous person, one might as well be a Christian or Muslim (i.e. adhere to the mainstream religion of one's community), since all the major religions teach basic morality, how to get to heaven, etc.


:sage: You are right at a point where cultivation of sila is important for meditation. Basically speaking, sila, precepts and sublime attitude is to build up a self confidence on "blameless" for everyone. As you are blameless, you will have less worries, less thoughts and problems which will interfere your progress in meditation

One does not necessary to get into Jhanas so that you can only get insight or must renounce the worldly life of a person to get into Insight too. samatha is just like enzymes, it speed up the metabolic rate of our body ( progress of gaining insight). Its like you chant suttas, you are paying homage to the buddha etc. is also samatha. We want concentration so that the progress won't easily been broken or stop.
Samatha also gaining tranquility in the end. While you need tranquility to gain wisdom. Its when you practice the 4th sublime attitude which is wishing people in tranquility, its same as practicing samatha. We gain wisdom, we gain insight. What I do is i will stop thinking any kind of problems or siding any sides to solve problems (become peaceful which does not like or against one particular part or side or a person , group etc) which insight will rise. When we are blameless, we are untouched by other bad factors. And that, will lead us to a more tranquil state.

Everything is related my friend, all is relevant and dependent. Only happiness itself is independent.
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:16 pm

mr. gordo wrote:Dipa Ma was a householder...and it's said she went far as a householder. :namaste:


Dipa Ma: http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2 ... pa_ma.html
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: Lay Yogi?

Postby ground » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:22 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:My friend insists that it is useless to embark on any kind of yogic practice until or unless one has permanently renounced worldly life. His argument is that you can't make any progress in insight until you have mastered the jhanas, and you can't master the jhanas while you have any sense desires, so you have to sever all worldly attachments before you can even think of making progress in meditation.

I am inclined to agree that sense desires have to be abandoned but I think that this achievement is already a significant progress and that this is actually an aspect of renouncing wordly life. Being engaged in worldy life however does not seem to be a good foundation to achieve this. Is it possible to life "in the world" without being engaged in it? :thinking:

Kind regards
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:33 pm

TMingyur wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:My friend insists that it is useless to embark on any kind of yogic practice until or unless one has permanently renounced worldly life. His argument is that you can't make any progress in insight until you have mastered the jhanas, and you can't master the jhanas while you have any sense desires, so you have to sever all worldly attachments before you can even think of making progress in meditation.

I am inclined to agree that sense desires have to be abandoned but I think that this achievement is already a significant progress and that this is actually an aspect of renouncing wordly life. Being engaged in worldy life however does not seem to be a good foundation to achieve this. Is it possible to life "in the world" without being engaged in it?

Kind regards
What does it mean to abandon sense desires? Seeing them as they arise and fall, in terms of their impermanance is the most effective way of letting go the hold they can have. It also involves using the precepts and such things as giving. While this is very hard work, it should not be war. The practice involves every choice we make, and cultivating mindfulness is the central practice of the Dhamma. It is the practice that allows us to tread lightly in the world without (too often) getting lost in it.
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: Lay Yogi?

Postby bodom » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:34 pm

I am inclined to agree that sense desires have to be abandoned


Abandoned to what extent?

The Buddha doesn't see it as necessary.

‘Good, Gotama, wait! Other than bhikkhus, bhikkhunis and lay disciples of Gotama, who wear white clothes and lead the holy life. Is there a single lay disciple, who wears white clothes, leads the holy life, while partaking sensual pleasures, and doing the work in the dispensation has dispelled doubts. Has become confident of what should and should not be done, and does not need a teacher any more in the dispensation of the Teacher. "Vaccha, not one, not one hundred, not two hundred, not three hundred, not four hundred, not five hundred. There are many more lay disciples of mine, wearing white clothes leading the holy life, while partaking sensual pleasuresand doing the work in the dispensation have dispelled doubts Have become confident of what should and should not be done and do not need a teacher any more.’ -- MN 73


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:45 pm

There is one sutta where the Buddha mentions the foremost lay female disciple in jhanas...

The point is that this idea that lay people cannot attain jhanas is wrong. I know many people who have done it- deep as version of the jhanas you want. It takes 2-3 hours of daily practice though.

At the same time I dont know anyone who did well in their vipassana (by this I mean completing one cycle of it) without jhana (but there maybe those out there). Maybe there are qualities in those practitioner which allow for both samatha and vipassana to flourish (saddha, viriya, sati, and potential samadhi, potential panna)

with metta

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With Metta

Karuna
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& Upekkha
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby bodom » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:50 pm

There is one sutta where the Buddha mentions the foremost lay female disciple in jhanas...The point is that this idea that lay people cannot attain jhanas is wrong.


Dont forget about Citta the householder!

Well, venerable sir, to whatever extent I wish, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I enter and dwell in the first jhaana, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. [299] Then, to whatever extent I wish, with the subsiding of thought and examination, I enter and dwell in the second jhaana¦.Then, to whatever extent I wish, with the fading away as well of rapture... I enter and dwell in the third jhaana¦. Then, to whatever extent I wish, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain... I enter and dwell in the fourth jhaana." BB transl. SN 41.8


Also see:

The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli SuttasVen. Bhikkhu Bodhi

http://www.viet.net/~anson/ebud/ebdha267.htm

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby ground » Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:35 pm

Interesting. Thank you for your comments and links!

Kind regards
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:04 am

Ok, thanks to all who replied, I appreciate it.

Do you think there are different points of view among Theravada traditions, e.g. Burmese or Thai Forest? My understanding is that Burmese does not place as much emphasis on the jhanas (?)

Also, for any "pan-Buddhists" out there, would Mahayana and Vajrayana answer the OP differently?

I'm basically trying to get a sense of what's realistic in terms of practice goals. My intention is to practice whatever is appropriate for a "lay disciple, who wears white clothes, leads the holy life, while partaking sensual pleasures". Well, okay, maybe not the white clothes...
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Sep 23, 2010 12:52 am

I hope the venerable will weigh in and correct/ supplement what I am about to say, but FWIW I recall quite a few texts which call for abandonment of desire in Mahayana.

In Tien-Tai there is a classic meditation manual which states that without it, higher Jhanas (as understood in Tien-Tain, I guess) are impossible.

In Complete Enlightenment Sutra, it says that without leaving behind sensual desire, any attainment would be in the service of Mara.

Various Chan/Zen masters have spoken about freedom from the sense objects.

So in that sense at least, renunciation is essential in due course. Of course much can be done before then too, so I find your friend's absolutist statement pretty absurd.

Like I said elsewhere, we start exactly where we are, whether we like it or not, and this means some steps are appropriate now and others later. In Korea where monastic tradition is still strong, there are many serious lay couples who practice together and are very committed. Some may eventually ordain, some not. But I guess the important thing is to practice hard in whatever situation one is in, then the next correct step will be naturally illuminated.
_/|\_
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby ground » Thu Sep 23, 2010 1:54 am

Lazy_eye wrote:I'm basically trying to get a sense of what's realistic in terms of practice goals. My intention is to practice whatever is appropriate for a "lay disciple, who wears white clothes, leads the holy life, while partaking sensual pleasures". Well, okay, maybe not the white clothes...

Honestly "partaking in sensual pleasures" appears too undifferentiated to me and thus there is too much bias towards wrong understanding.

Dan74 wrote:So in that sense at least, renunciation is essential in due course.

Yes. Renunciation is essential. I understand this to be true as to the Buddha's teaching in the suttas of the pali canon and also as to the the tibetan Mahayana. However renunciation does not necessarily mean "becoming a monk". It means letting go of all worldly attachments and the wrong view of "I" and "mine" as a prerequisite for virtuous conduct.

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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:20 am

Dan74 wrote:Renunciation is essential in due course. Of course much can be done before then too, so I find your friend's absolutist statement pretty absurd.

Like I said elsewhere, we start exactly where we are, whether we like it or not, and this means some steps are appropriate now and others later. In Korea where monastic tradition is still strong, there are many serious lay couples who practice together and are very committed. Some may eventually ordain, some not. But I guess the important thing is to practice hard in whatever situation one is in, then the next correct step will be naturally illuminated.


Good to hear from you, Dan! I believe we were having this same conversation back in February. I feel a bit silly bringing it up again...so thanks for being willing to address it again. :)

I think we're all in agreement that renunciation is essential at some stage of the practice -- and perhaps, to some degree, at all stages of the practice. It's not my intention to debate that. What I've been trying to get a clearer understanding of is whether it makes sense for a non-renunciant to meditate, as opposed to just trying to collect merit -- and if so, how that meditation practice should take shape. Should it be limited to simple breath counting? If not, what would be a good program to set for oneself? What would be a realistic set of goals and expectations? By non-renunciant I mean someone who has decided to go on living an "ordinary" worldly life, within the guidelines our teacher provided for householders.

My friend seems to argue that it's pointless to try any type of serious meditation unless one has permanently abandoned mundane life and gone off to some mountain hermitage, and again I'm not here to dismiss what he's saying, only to point out that such a stance seems to undermine the approach taken by groups such as the IMS
(many if not most IMS teachers, let alone students, are laypeople) and even some Ch'an organizations, e.g. Dharma Drum.

Venerable has addressed the topic before and I wouldn't want to try his patience by querying him about it again! Here's a definitive post he wrote back in May:

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?p=10047#p10047

...the next correct step will be naturally illuminated.


If one has a spouse and kids, though, or parents to look after, the "next correct step" isn't a solo decision. The Korean couples you mention have the benefit of sharing the same faith and goals, but that may not happen so readily in the West. Probably quite a few of us here have spouses who are not Buddhists.

TMingyur wrote:Honestly "partaking in sensual pleasures" appears too undifferentiated to me and thus there is too much bias towards wrong understanding.


Yeah, I see what you mean. What I had in mind was partaking in sensual pleasures as appropriate within the parameters set by the five precepts.
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:25 am

Hi Lazy_Eye!

Thanks for linking to the venerable's post. It sums things up quite neatly. Although some aspects may be debatable. Cuffs can seem to fall off in certain situations and environments and when those change, they may snap back on before one can notice!

I guess in every situation there are some opportunities to practice and in the end it becomes a question of priorities. Sure it is easy to dream of ordaining and leading a holy life but is this what we really want?

To me, at least, motivation seems to be key.
_/|\_
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:36 am

N
tiltbillings wrote:
mr. gordo wrote:Dipa Ma was a householder...and it's said she went far as a householder. :namaste:


Dipa Ma: http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2 ... pa_ma.html

A great role model. And one unencumbered by thoughts of becoming a Bodhisattva or realising her Cosmic Nature.
She led a life consistant with understanding things as they are...and found that could be done in the context of a householder life. Its about the small things , done with consistency and with diligence, not grandiose plans for Buddhahood on a spotlit stage.
Its not what you eschew. Its what you do with awareness.
Last edited by Sanghamitta on Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lay Yogi?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:40 am

Sanghamitta wrote:Its not what you eschew. Its what you do with awareness.
Nor is it about credentials or the supposed certitude of attainment. It is, indeed, what you do with awareness.
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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