Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

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mikenz66
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by mikenz66 »

Hi SDC
SDC wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 11:49 pm I came for the mystique, but I stayed for the attitude.
Thanks. I like you comment that the attitude is the most useful thing, not the details of interpretation.

However, to persevere with any commentator or teacher, one needs to be inspired by their teachings. If not, it's better to move on. It's not as if there is a shortage of possibilities.

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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Dan74,
Dan74 wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 10:02 pm 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.
It's a bit more than that though. It's a way of relating to and understanding the Suttas which renders Theravada's own creations, including the Abhidhamma and commentaries (which are rooted in Abhidhamma) to be in error, misdirected, and better left unlearned.

That's a much more fundamental challenge to a tradition than the mere invention of some hokey meditation technique. Hence why he is so polarising.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by Dan74 »

retrofuturist wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 8:15 am Greetings Dan74,
Dan74 wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 10:02 pm 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.
It's a bit more than that though. It's a way of relating to and understanding the Suttas which renders Theravada's own creations, including the Abhidhamma and commentaries (which are rooted in Abhidhamma) to be in error, misdirected, and better left unlearned.

That's a much more fundamental challenge to a tradition than the mere invention of some hokey meditation technique. Hence why he is so polarising.

Metta,
Paul. :)
That may well be. I didn't get the impression that rejecting the Abhidhamma and related commentaries was an essential product of Nanavira's phenomenological attitude. But maybe it is.
_/|\_
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SDC
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

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mikenz66 wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 6:53 am Hi SDC
SDC wrote: Mon Nov 29, 2021 11:49 pm I came for the mystique, but I stayed for the attitude.
Thanks. I like you comment that the attitude is the most useful thing, not the details of interpretation.

However, to persevere with any commentator or teacher, one needs to be inspired by their teachings. If not, it's better to move on. It's not as if there is a shortage of possibilities.

:heart:
Mike
Exactly.

What had become a pastime was joining the ranks to upkeep an opposition to his legacy even if you didn’t read anything he wrote. At least on this forum (and a few others) that has diminished over the last ten years. I wouldn’t go as far as to say things have softened in his direction, but the whole story seems to have gotten a recalibration. Now there is more of a general indifference or disinterest instead of active opposition. Perhaps it is the widespread availability of his writings (along with new bio and documentary) that has made it more difficult to make unsubstantiated claims about his interpretation, which could’ve easily gone unopposed in the late 20th century when access to clear evidence was not so readily available.

Whatever the reason, it’s just nice to see less aggressive attitudes from both supporters and critics. Based just on his body of work, things should’ve never gotten so tense.
“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
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

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SDC wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 7:37 pm Whatever the reason, it’s just nice to see less aggressive attitudes from both supporters and critics. Based just on his body of work, things should’ve never gotten so tense.
Of course there is Paul's triumphalist post above if anyone is feeling nostalgic... :rofl:

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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Mike,
mikenz66 wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 8:25 pm Of course there is Paul's triumphalist post above if anyone is feeling nostalgic... :rofl:
More to the point, there's Mike engaging in bad faith, trying to scupper a topic that doesn't take his fancy. :roll:

What I said was not remotely "triumphalist" and that sort of partisan misrepresentation serves only to muddy the waters. Rather, what I said was a fair and accurate summation of Nanavira's own words...
Nanavira Thera, in the Preface to Notes wrote:These books of the Pali Canon correctly represent the Buddha's Teaching, and can be regarded as trustworthy throughout. (Vinayapitaka:) Suttavibhanga, Mahāvagga, Cūlavagga; (Suttapitaka:) Dīghanikāya, Majjhimanikāya, Samyuttanikāya, Anguttaranikāya, Suttanipāta, Dhammapada, Udāna, Itivuttaka, Theratherīgāthā. (The Jātaka verses may be authentic, but they do not come within the scope of these Notes.) No other Pali books whatsoever should be taken as authoritative; and ignorance of them (and particularly of the traditional Commentaries) may be counted a positive advantage, as leaving less to be unlearned.
(source)

Thank you though for the excellent reminder of the tag-team interruptions you and your old mate Tiltbillings used to pull in order to obfuscate and derail topics that weren't amenable to your Burmese understanding of the Dhamma. Fair to say, we are much better off now without those inane interruptions.

All the best.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by Ceisiwr »

I think it peculiar to completely ignore the commentaries. How one can know that what they say is wrong without actually reading them is beyond me, and to not read them because Ven. Ñānavīra said not to doesn't seem particularly wise IMO.

"In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way." - Grand Master Yoda

:meditate:
"For that is false, bhikkhu, which has a deceptive nature, and that is true which has an non-deceptive nature—Nibbāna. Therefore a bhikkhu possessing this truth possesses the supreme foundation of truth. For this, bhikkhu, is the supreme noble truth, namely, Nibbāna, which has an non-deceptive nature."

- Dhātuvibhaṅga sutta
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Ceisiwr,

He had read them to a point, as in Letters he would occasionally reference what they say.

In his Letters, he also said...
It is, to my mind, of the greatest importance that no occasion should be given for complacency about the traditional interpretation of the Suttas—people must not be encouraged to think that they can reach attainment by following the Commentaries
(Source)

I do not recall his precise reasoning (sorry, it's been a while) but given the common factor for sotapanna in the Suttas is a proper understanding of this/that conditionality and paticcasamuppada, it is not surprising that he would say something of this nature.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by tiltbillings »

Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 9:44 pm I think it peculiar to completely ignore the commentaries.
What is somewhat amusing is that in translating the suttas the translators often use the commentaries as a guide, which means that what we see of the suttas are filtered through a commentarial lens. Nasty little things those commentaries being able exert their dastardly influence that way.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by Ceisiwr »

tiltbillings wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 9:59 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 9:44 pm I think it peculiar to completely ignore the commentaries.
What is somewhat amusing is that in translating the suttas the translators often use the commentaries as a guide, which means that what we see of the suttas are filtered through a commentarial lens. Nasty little things those commentaries being able exert their dastardly influence that way.
Indeed. Also, welcome back. Long time. Hope you are well? :smile:
"For that is false, bhikkhu, which has a deceptive nature, and that is true which has an non-deceptive nature—Nibbāna. Therefore a bhikkhu possessing this truth possesses the supreme foundation of truth. For this, bhikkhu, is the supreme noble truth, namely, Nibbāna, which has an non-deceptive nature."

- Dhātuvibhaṅga sutta
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by tiltbillings »

Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 10:00 pm
tiltbillings wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 9:59 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 9:44 pm I think it peculiar to completely ignore the commentaries.
What is somewhat amusing is that in translating the suttas the translators often use the commentaries as a guide, which means that what we see of the suttas are filtered through a commentarial lens. Nasty little things those commentaries being able exert their dastardly influence that way.
Indeed. Also, welcome back. Long time. Hope you are well? :smile:
Doing well. All retired now, though for my my last job, I worked as a hospice nurse, which is something I had wanted to do for a very long time. I was good Dhamma practice.

I might not be here very long, but since I saw my name used above I thought I might add a word or two, and also figure out what "some hokey meditation technique" might be.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by Ceisiwr »

tiltbillings wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 10:05 pm Doing well. All retired now, though for my my last job, I worked as a hospice nurse, which is something I had wanted to do for a very long time. I was good Dhamma practice.
Glad you are doing well. Enjoy the retirement.
I might not be here very long, but since I saw my name used above I thought I might add a word or two, and also figure out what "some hokey meditation technique" might be.
Fair enough, but nice to see you posting again. Hope to see you more often.
"For that is false, bhikkhu, which has a deceptive nature, and that is true which has an non-deceptive nature—Nibbāna. Therefore a bhikkhu possessing this truth possesses the supreme foundation of truth. For this, bhikkhu, is the supreme noble truth, namely, Nibbāna, which has an non-deceptive nature."

- Dhātuvibhaṅga sutta
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

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retrofuturist wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 8:15 am Greetings Dan74,
Dan74 wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 10:02 pm 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.
It's a bit more than that though. It's a way of relating to and understanding the Suttas which renders Theravada's own creations, including the Abhidhamma and commentaries (which are rooted in Abhidhamma) to be in error, misdirected, and better left unlearned.

That's a much more fundamental challenge to a tradition than the mere invention of some hokey meditation technique. Hence why he is so polarising.

Metta,
Paul. :)
I've never given much attention to Ven Nanavira (I think the suicide thing played a part) but your post has triggered an interest.

Was he the first Western monk to raise doubts about the Therevada accretions?
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,
BrokenBones wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 11:03 pm Was he the first Western monk to raise doubts about the Therevada accretions?
Not sure.

Prior to Nanavira Thera you had Western scholars who would use textual analysis etc. to date the evolution of Theravada and start to work out what originated when, but he's the first I'm aware of who addressed and constructed arguments against the content of the Theravada works themselves.

Obviously Buddhadasa did this prior, but I'm taking note here of your "Western monk" distinction.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Why is Ñānavīra considered controversial?

Post by mikenz66 »

retrofuturist wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 9:25 pm Greetings Mike,
mikenz66 wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 8:25 pm Of course there is Paul's triumphalist post above if anyone is feeling nostalgic... :rofl:
More to the point, there's Mike engaging in bad faith, trying to scupper a topic that doesn't take his fancy. :roll:

What I said was not remotely "triumphalist" and that sort of partisan misrepresentation serves only to muddy the waters. ..
Really?
retrofuturist wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 8:15 am ... It's a way of relating to and understanding the Suttas which renders Theravada's own creations, including the Abhidhamma and commentaries (which are rooted in Abhidhamma) to be in error, misdirected, and better left unlearned.
To be fair, perhaps there is an implied "in my opinion" in your post that I didn't pick up on.

As for derailing, I actually thought this thread was actually very helpful and useful, and I thought is was ironic that you made your post around the time SDC was posting this:
SDC wrote: Tue Nov 30, 2021 7:37 pm Whatever the reason, it’s just nice to see less aggressive attitudes from both supporters and critics. Based just on his body of work, things should’ve never gotten so tense.
:heart:
Mike
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