Ben wrote:I seem to have misread your response to me, I don't see any evidence that you took my comments as criticisms. My apologies. . .
Well, now perhaps you can understand when I talk about others having misread or misrepresented what I wrote and intended to communicate. By the way, no apology necessary, just a simple acknowledgment is fine. I've been guilty of the very same thing myself (misreading people's responses) and kicked myself for having done so. So, forget-about-it. We're all susceptible to that.
Ben wrote:My own observation has been that those people who I believe are advanced on the path cleave more and more precisely to both the discipline and the Dhamma.
I find that description
to be indicative of my own point of view also, and is why I am adamant on other forums (the DhO, for example) that people read the Pali suttas so that they can learn first hand what the Buddha taught (i.e. from the most reliable texts that we have available to us) and follow with diligence the noble eightfold path as it is outlined with regard to the development and cultivation of sila
, and panna
. Now, if that sounds to you like someone who is slamming and redefining the Dhamma, then I guess I'm guilty of that.
This is why I view the assertions being made in this thread — accusing me of "redefining the Dhamma" and that I am "slamming those who take a more traditional point of view"— to be so ludicrous. This is a total misrepresentation and misreading of what I wrote. And I do not agree that any of those ideas represent anything that I hold to, and therefore reject them. Because of that, they are not worth addressing.
What I will do, though, is address the points in relation to what I wrote, hoping to clarify them for anyone who has misunderstood my words. The subject I wrote about has been written about before on both the e-sangha and websangha forums. I took a different approach to the material is all.
Four years ago, our friend Nana ("emptyuniverse" at the time) posted a piece (first on e-sangha, then on websangha) entitled "What is jhana?"
In the opening two paragraphs, he outlined the background behind his posting. One of those paragraphs I will quote in whole below. It defines my viewpoint on this subject and forms the basis for what I wrote. I agreed with it then, and I agree with it today. If you want to say that I'm a heretic for that, then I suppose I stand guilty as accused.
Nana wrote:The Theravada Abhidhammika commentarial tradition maintains that the meditator in the first jhana cannot see visual forms, hear sounds, nor feel tactile sensations within the body -- one of the defining characteristics of jhana for them being the complete cessation of sensory awareness. Such cessation, they say, is a prerequisite for jhanic attainment. Apparently this is stated (in regard to hearing sounds) in the Kathavatthu (“Points of Controversy” attributed to Moggaliputta -- the head of the Third Council). Now I am aware that eminent meditation masters like Ajahn Brahms define jhana in this way also (at least this appeared to be his position in the text of his that I read a number of years ago), and of course, as this definition is the accepted one of mainstream Theravada, he is not “wrong” in doing so. Nevertheless, I just don’t see any tangible and definitive evidence in the Suttanta to support this definition (more on this later), and the Buddha is clear in the “four great references” explained in the Maha-parinibbana Sutta, that on issues regarding the clarification or authenticity of Dhamma, the suttas of the Sutta Pitaka (i.e. Dhamma) and Vinaya Pitaka are the sole authority (and not the Abhidhamika commentators nor even the beloved Ajahn Brahms). And seeing as the Suttanta doesn’t definitively define jhana in the commentarial manner, it is possible that there may be a “middle way” resolution to this debate: Jhana is necessary for release, but jhana does not necessitate the complete cessation of all sensory awareness (I believe that this is the basic position of Ajahn Thanissaro also).
What is interesting to me are the passages that tilt pulled from my piece in order to make his point. It is what he left out of those passages that concerns me. I qualified the statement reading, "Owing mostly to descriptions like those given by Ajahn Brahm..." with the rest of the paragraph following it (highlighted in blue below, but which were left out of the passages that tilt pulled to make his point) to show that I acknowledged that view (a traditional view) as having some validity in certain circumstances.
Whereas more contemporary works like Ajahn Brahmavamso's Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond or Bhante Gunaratana's Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English may take more liberties in their descriptions, they also may become so invested in not offending a traditional outlook of the practice that they seem to end up parroting a lot of what has gone before. . . . Owing mostly to descriptions like those given by Ajahn Brahm, many practitioners have been lead to think that "true" absorption involves the inability to think, to hear sound, or to be aware of the fleeting nature of the breath itself. Perhaps this impression is so when one is first learning to dive down into absorption from the standpoint of calming the mind into a profound stillness. I don't deny the validity of the perception of any of these experiences at all. Yet, when one's practice becomes more mature, there seem to be two modes of absorption practice which can be seen to contradict one another in how they are described and experienced. The first relates to the initial effort to calm the mind to stillness during the practice of samatha with all that that stillness implies, and the second relates to the contemplation of phenomena in insight (vipassana) practice, with all the activity of the arising of insight that concentration implies.
That view is, as Nana points out, "a mainstream Theravada view." Nothing wrong with that. It just doesn't happen to always
be true in all cases. And there are more people than just myself who have reported this. So it's not
just me deciding that my perception of experience alone is the "ultimate arbiter" of truth. In addition, I endeavored to further show this by quoting from the Anupada Sutta
Did I go into the detail that Nana did to show these things? No, I did not. What I was interested in pointing out were the reasons for this disparity of views. That being that, yes, sometimes when one is aiming at achieving the very subtle calming absorptions, that sound, tactile sensations and the like can seem to disappear. But not that this was a requirement for defining all
jhanic experience. The Anupada Sutta
gives sufficient suttanta evidence for that, for those interested in a traditional view as expressed in the discourses, of which I am an adherent. One would think from that, by quoting from the suttas, that the tradition and traditional views in toto were not
being disparaged, only certain parts
(and I emphasize the word "parts") of the commentarial tradition. If you don't like that (i.e. that I disparage this part of the commentaries), well, then, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on that. But to extend this assertion any further than that is completely unreasonable and fallacious.
Need I continue? Or is that sufficient.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV