Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
SarathW
Posts: 17594
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by SarathW »

Even Buddha has to reject or discard or modify some of his views before his enlightenment.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
dharmacorps
Posts: 1756
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:33 pm

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by dharmacorps »

The Buddha didn't teach others until his enlightenment so his views beforehand were not promulgated.

In any event, the question was why Nanavira was controversial. His suicide and change of mind about his teachings are the factors for me.
pulga
Posts: 1418
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by pulga »

SDC wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 9:09 pm
Also good to note that he shared the news of his stream entry to a senior monk in a private letter that was later shared without his consent (if I’m recalling the facts correctly).
Actually he gave a letter to the senior monk of the Island Hermitage asking that it not be opened until after his death. The monk opened it for some reason or other while Ven. Ñanavira was still living.
"Dhammā=Ideas. This is the clue to much of the Buddha's teaching." ~ Ven. Ñanavira, Commonplace Book
Dan74
Posts: 4120
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm
Location: Switzerland

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by Dan74 »

It seems to me that the conservative element of Theravada is always suspicious of teachers who go further than just explaining the suttas. Thus Ajahn Sumedho with his "sound of silence" method or the Burmese Sayadaws who propound somewhat different take on meditation or indeed, Ven Nanavira, predictably evoke a knee-jerk reaction, even before the actual content of their teachings is examined.
_/|\_
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 7755
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by SDC »

pulga wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 9:42 pm
SDC wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 9:09 pm
Also good to note that he shared the news of his stream entry to a senior monk in a private letter that was later shared without his consent (if I’m recalling the facts correctly).
Actually he gave a letter to the senior monk of the Island Hermitage asking that it not be opened until after his death. The monk opened it for some reason or other while Ven. Ñanavira was still living.
Thanks, pulga. I didn’t recall it had happened while he was still alive.
“By breaking the root of unknowing, it smashes the mechanism of deeds, and drops the thunderbolt of knowledge on the taking up of consciousnesses.” Thag 6.8
pulga
Posts: 1418
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by pulga »

SDC wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 10:54 pm Thanks, pulga. I didn’t recall it had happened while he was still alive.
My source is Stephen Batchelor's Existence, Enlightenment, and Suicide:
Nanavira's claim to stream entry was recorded in a letter in a sealed envelope that was only to be opened by the senior bhikkhu of the Island Hermitage in the event of his death. For some reason (perhaps a rumour of suicide?), the letter was opened in 1964 and the contents became known. To defuse the matter, Nanavira spoke openly about it for the first time to a fellow bhikkhu in Colombo, thus letting "this rather awkward cat ... out of the bag."
I don't know where he got the information from. He may have gotten it through interviews and conversations.
"Dhammā=Ideas. This is the clue to much of the Buddha's teaching." ~ Ven. Ñanavira, Commonplace Book
Jack19990101
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jun 09, 2021 4:40 am

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by Jack19990101 »

JamesTheGiant wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 12:03 am Why is Nanavira considered controversial? I've overheard conversations about Nanavira Thera, and people seem to be in three groups:

1) He's an evil heretic.

2) He's a genius sotapanna.

3) Nyana-who?

But I've never heard why some consider him to be a heretic.
I know he claimed to be a stream-enterer in a letter which was meant to be opened after he ended his own life... Super controversial, but there has to be more to it than that?


(I also asked this question on stackexchange)
He disturbed the status quo of standard interpretation of dependent origination.
I do believe he has attained sotapanna. I am amicable to his suicide.
I believe if he has entered the stream, suicide is a very logical contemplation with his condition.

Suicide is a risk to his monkhood but not to his ariyahood.
pulga
Posts: 1418
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by pulga »

Jack19990101 wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 1:38 am
I do believe he has attained sotapanna. I am amicable to his suicide.
I believe if he has entered the stream, suicide is a very logical contemplation with his condition.
Good point. Suicide is such a personal decision that I don't think anyone is justified in passing judgment on those who end their lives, whether or not they are enlightened. As for Ven. Ñanavira, his understanding of death may have been different than our own, making suicide preferable to returning to lay life.
"Dhammā=Ideas. This is the clue to much of the Buddha's teaching." ~ Ven. Ñanavira, Commonplace Book
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 18895
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by mikenz66 »

It's intriguing how people are still talking about someone who was only a monk for 15 years - less than half the time, for example, of our own Vens Dhammanado, or Pesala. Since he didn't teach, or even talk to many people, his following is presumably completely based on on people finding his writing helpful to them.

Mike
SarathW
Posts: 17594
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by SarathW »

mikenz66 wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 6:53 am It's intriguing how people are still talking about someone who was only a monk for 15 years - less than half the time, for example, of our own Vens Dhammanado, or Pesala. Since he didn't teach, or even talk to many people, his following is presumably completely based on on people finding his writing helpful to them.

Mike
I think people like controversies.
If he was alive perhaps no one will pay attention to him by now.
I remember in the past we had lengthy discussions about ven. Thanissaro, Ajaghn Braham, etc in this forum.
If they taught just generic Buddhism, no one will pay attention to them or the attention will be brief.
:shrug:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
User avatar
Ceisiwr
Posts: 15428
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by Ceisiwr »

pulga wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 1:56 am
Jack19990101 wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 1:38 am
I do believe he has attained sotapanna. I am amicable to his suicide.
I believe if he has entered the stream, suicide is a very logical contemplation with his condition.
Good point. Suicide is such a personal decision that I don't think anyone is justified in passing judgment on those who end their lives, whether or not they are enlightened. As for Ven. Ñanavira, his understanding of death may have been different than our own, making suicide preferable to returning to lay life.
Judgement, no but we are allowed to ask how that act is compatible with certain claims.
“When your last breath arrives, Grammar can do nothing.”

Ādi Śaṅkarācāryaḥ
User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 7352
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am
Contact:

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by cappuccino »

pulga wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 1:56 am making suicide preferable to returning to lay life.
Ñānavīra was suicidal because of lust
Last edited by cappuccino on Mon Nov 29, 2021 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 7352
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am
Contact:

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by cappuccino »

lay life is helpful for reducing lust
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 18895
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by mikenz66 »

SarathW wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 10:28 am
mikenz66 wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 6:53 am It's intriguing how people are still talking about someone who was only a monk for 15 years - less than half the time, for example, of our own Vens Dhammanado, or Pesala. Since he didn't teach, or even talk to many people, his following is presumably completely based on on people finding his writing helpful to them.

Mike
I think people like controversies.
If he was alive perhaps no one will pay attention to him by now.
I remember in the past we had lengthy discussions about ven. Thanissaro, Ajaghn Braham, etc in this forum.
If they taught just generic Buddhism, no one will pay attention to them or the attention will be brief.
:shrug:
If you have not had personal contact with someone, you tend to hear of them though their fame or controversy. But that is just the surface introduction. Whether they are worth paying attention to will become apparent after spending time with them (or their writings in this case).

Its not fame or controversy that make people worth listening to. As I implied above, I have no reason to take, for example, Ven Dhammanado's analyses less seriously than those of Vens Thanissaro, Brahm, or Nanavira.

[I mention Ven Dhammanado only because he posts here, so members have actually heard of him. There are clearly a lot of other knowledgeable people out there worth paying attention to.]

:heart:
Mike
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 7755
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by SDC »

mikenz66 wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 6:53 am It's intriguing how people are still talking about someone who was only a monk for 15 years - less than half the time, for example, of our own Vens Dhammanado, or Pesala. Since he didn't teach, or even talk to many people, his following is presumably completely based on on people finding his writing helpful to them.

Mike
I came for the mystique, but I stayed for the attitude.

The impression I usually get from those who are curious or even averse to his approach is the belief that understanding Nanavira means you’re supposed to adopt his description of DO or agree with his views on the commentarial tradition or - my favorite - also get a PhD in existential philosophy to understand him; this idea that his interpretation is meant to replace the orthodox interpretation. I hope people can trust me when I say that that aspect is almost secondary. It’s interesting and provocative, sure, but that he was able to develop those interpretations based on a certain attitude is what is most valuable.

If you approach it just to critique his interpretation based on another interpretation - like Bhikkhu Bodhi did - it’s just a matter of searching down discrepancies in the details, but what is most significant in his writing - as far as I can see - is how up close and personal he suggested the Dhamma be applied, which is a matter of perspective and view. Making use of it first requires you understand it, and you would then have to adopt it to see if it has anything to offer.

Unfortunately it is an investment, which really worries people, and I totally get that. I felt it when I first read him and actually got to a point where I felt like I had wasted my time trying to understand something that seemed empty once the excitement wore off. But I found my way back and eventually started to make more sense of his attitude and it completely changed the way I read suttas.
“By breaking the root of unknowing, it smashes the mechanism of deeds, and drops the thunderbolt of knowledge on the taking up of consciousnesses.” Thag 6.8
Post Reply