Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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mabw
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Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by mabw »

I posted this under the above thread. I was hoping to get more responses, especially with regards to secrecy, but it probably got buried by the other posts. More discussion on the points raised below is appreciated.


Some thoughts and reflections
On secrecy:
Used to be quite bothered by this, but now tend to think this is not so absent from other traditions:
-there is express prohibition for laypeople to read the Vinaya in Chinese Buddhism. There is none as far as I know in Theravada, but I have been told by another that the Vinaya was somewhat restricted to monastics in the old days. Can someone confirm this?
-as far as I know, laypeople are not allowed to be present during the bimonthly confessional by monastics. Am I correct?
-I have read some Dhammapada stories in the past. As far as I can remember, 5 topics for meditation are given when one becomes a samanera. The impression I got was that meditation was quite exclusive to monastics in the old days. This is supported by the relatively few suttas that are actually addressed to laypeople. The practice given to laypeople consisted mainly of dana and buddhanusati AFAIK.
- I have attended talks, where the monastic would see his students and discuss meditative experiences. To a non-meditator like me, sometimes, the things they discuss sounds really weird. I can imagine this will totally freak out a total beginner to Buddhism.

On requirement of a teacher:

-Dhammapada Verse 392:
"If from somebody one should learn the Teaching of the Buddha, he should respectfully pay homage to that teacher, as a brahmin worships the sacrificial fire."
https://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/v ... ?verse=392

Admonition for requirement of a teacher is similar in Theravada as far as I am concerned, probably not to the extent of Tantra, but the standard answer about meditation practice is to first find a teacher.

-in the Canki Sutta, we read:

"When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

On seeing the teacher as the Buddha:
- I sometimes wonder, the point of looking for a teacher is supposed to be because he/she has "got it". If a teacher has yet to achieve the sublime states, how is he to teach the student? In Vajrayana at least, the seeing of the guru as the Buddha inspires faith which quiets the mind.

I hope I have not misrepresented anything here. I hope whoever is more knowledgeable than me would be kind enough to correct any mistaken notions I might have and to answer some questions I posed above.

Thank you in advance.
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robertk
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by robertk »

mabw wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 4:08 am . The impression I got was that meditation was quite exclusive to monastics in the old days. This is supported by the relatively few suttas that are actually addressed to laypeople. The practice given to laypeople consisted mainly of dana and buddhanusati AFAIK.
-
The Bhikkhu Sangha are clearly the arable field, the most fertile soil, for the teachings. Yet laypeople are not excluded from them.
Samyutta Nikaya (bodhi translation)
1832 V. The Great Book (Mahavagga)
53 (3) Dhammadinna
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Baranasi in the
Deer Park at Isipatana. Then the lay follower Dhammadinna,
together with five hundred lay followers,
approached the
Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side.
Sitting to one side, the lay follower Dhammadinna then said to
the Blessed One: "Let the Blessed One, venerable sir, exhort us
and instruct us in a way that may lead to our welfare and happiness
for a long time."
"Therefore, Dhammadinna, you should train yourselves thus:
'From time to time we will enter and dwell upon those discourses
spoken by the Tathagata that are deep, deep in meaning, supramundane, dealing with emptiness
.' It is in such a way that
you should train yourselves."
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Dhammanando
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by Dhammanando »

mabw wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 4:08 am On secrecy:
Used to be quite bothered by this, but now tend to think this is not so absent from other traditions:
-there is express prohibition for laypeople to read the Vinaya in Chinese Buddhism. There is none as far as I know in Theravada, but I have been told by another that the Vinaya was somewhat restricted to monastics in the old days. Can someone confirm this?
In Pali sources there isn't an explicit prohibition against teaching Vinaya to the laity, but nor is it depicted as a normal practice to do so. We know from one of the "gradual training" suttas in the MN, and from many passages in the Vinaya, that learning the Vinaya training rules was something you did after your going forth.

On the other hand, unlike with the Chinese Dharmaguptakas, there was no concerted effort to keep the rules concealed from the laity. We know from the Vinaya's account of the First Council that by the time of the Buddha's passing householders had in fact come to know what at least some of the rules were:
Then Venerable Mahākassapa informed the Sangha:

“Please, I ask the Sangha to listen. We have training rules that relate to householders. The householders know what is allowable for us and what is not. If we abolish the lesser training rules, some people will say, ‘The ascetic Gotama laid down training rules for his disciples until the time of his death. But they practice the training rules only as long as their teacher is alive. Since their teacher has now attained final extinguishment, they no longer practice the training rules.’ If it seems appropriate to the Sangha, the Sangha should not lay down new rules, nor get rid of the existing ones, and it should undertake to practice the training rules as they are. This is the motion.

https://suttacentral.net/pli-tv-kd21/en/brahmali
mabw wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 4:08 am -as far as I know, laypeople are not allowed to be present during the bimonthly confessional by monastics. Am I correct?
Yes, though the fortnightly Pātimokkha recital isn't a special instance, for the laity are excluded from the sīmā in all formal transactions of the Sangha, except those in which a layperson happens to be the subject of the transaction.
Anabhirati kho, āvuso, imasmiṃ dhammavinaye dukkhā, abhirati sukhā.

“To not delight in this dhammavinaya, friend, is painful; to delight in it is bliss.”
(Sukhasutta, AN 10:66)
SteRo
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by SteRo »

The misunderstanding is that secrecy in the context of teachings is about keeping something secret intentionally. However if there is a real teacher involved - and "real teacher" here refers to someone who knows what others don't know and does not refer to someone who is called "teacher" by traditional convention - the teaching always is secret in that even though many may hear the words of the teaching it can't be understood or can be only misunderstood.
So actually it doesn't make a difference whether something is taught or not taught because only a fake teaching will be understood by many but a real teaching will be a secret teaching and will not be understood or misunderstood.
The funny thing with vajrayana is that they think that understanding depends on rituals and that you can only "receive" (kind of "understand") a teaching when you have undergone a certain ritual. :roll: That shows that their so called teachers are not real teachers but are only teachers by virtue of traditional convention. Notice the similarity with what has been said in the context of vinaya and laity above. Only a ritual makes the difference. Buddhists are ritualists.
Cleared.
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cappuccino
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by cappuccino »

mabw wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 4:08 am seeing of the guru as the Buddha
gurus are less than worthless


because you want to learn from Gautama
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Aloka
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by Aloka »

The funny thing with vajrayana is that they think that understanding depends on rituals and that you can only "receive" (kind of "understand") a teaching when you have undergone a certain ritual.
No. this isn't true.....and I was involved with Vajrayana for a long time. How about you?

Are you just a reader of books and texts and internet woo ?
Last edited by Aloka on Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
Bundokji
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by Bundokji »

As i tried to indicate on the other thread, the issue of secrecy is universal in the human realm, not only amongst the religious, but also amongst the secular type as well.

This issue of secrecy can be approached in many different ways. At the most basic level, life itself appears to be a mystery. We live in a world with more than 7 billion inhabitants and very little disagreement on why we are here. Any attempt to answer why we are here has to provide a beginning. For the religious, a beginning is provided through some theory of creation, but the limitations of such theories make the answers open to dispute and unsatisfactory to those who believe in it. The skepticism towards religious theories is that how can i be sure that i got it right simply by following a tradition, considering the wars, misery and discrimination caused by religions. Secular theories also provide answers with beginnings (such as the big bang), and it hides behind the authority of science which explicitly admits that such theories are falsifiable, so the problem of uncertainty remains intact, and the suppression of the desire for an answer manifests itself in both secular and the religious through different ways of preaching. The way secular preach is through calling for rationality and praising the honesty and courage in admitting gaps in our knowledge. This supposed rationality can easily manifest it self in some heroic acts, such as wars to spread democracy, or liberate women and homosexuals.

In Buddhism, a known beginning is avoided altogether (ignorance has no known beginnings) and a purposeless and cyclic model of existence is presented to justify action that attempts to breaks-off from the vicious cycle and attain true knowledge.For the true knowledge to be satisfactory, it has to answer the question or deem it equally deluded, hence it is widely believed that awakening implies "the disappearance of the question". Some similes in the suttas are also open to interpretations such as the simile of the handful of leaves. It is a double edged sword in the sense that the Buddha taught only suffering and the end of suffering, but what is left out is the forest which he knew about and decided to remain silent, which is according to human logic he must have had some reasons that are not known to us. In this context, the handful of leaves are akin to the red-bill in the matrix movie, where few capable individuals are able to break away from the matrix and know it for what it is. Interestingly, in the same movie, puthujjanas are presented as equally dangerous due to their deluded state, hence revealing the secrets of the matrix to them is not to be done.

If we take Plato's cave as another theme, those who lived in the cave were only exposed to shadows, never been able to break away from their chuckles and see the world as it is. This presents the problem facing the one who succeeded in breaking away: how can he convey true knowledge to them except through allegories and myths that speak to the limitations of their minds that have been held hostage to seeing shadows and mistaking it as real? these allegories and myths are the conventional reality they are accustomed too, and the sage (or the guru) can use it the way that he sees fit in order to help them break free out of compassion (hence faith in him and his strange ways is necessary, questioning him is bad), even if this involve trickery, which can be forgiven later when they get awakened. :toast:
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
mabw
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by mabw »

cappuccino wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:03 am

gurus are less than worthless


because you want to learn from Gautama
1.You just went directly against the spirit mentioned in the Canki Sutta and Dhammapada verse I posted.

2. The Buddha is not around. Yes, his teachings and Sangha are around. But to access his teachings, u have no choice but to do it through an intermediary, the difference is degree. You cannot even translate from Pali into English accurately without a knowledge of the commentaries since they gloss certain obscure terminologies used in the texts which translators use to determine the sense of the verse. A lot of what is in the Suttas are left unexplained, and we have no choice but to read the commentaries for a sense of what people closer to the Buddha's time thought he meant. And that is the function of footnotes. And where do many of the footnotes in Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations point u to? The Visuddhimagga, which is, oh, by Ven Buddhaghosa. So you see, it is difficult to avoid having a teacher even if u wanted to.
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cappuccino
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by cappuccino »

mabw wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 2:35 pm So you see, it is difficult to avoid having a teacher even if u wanted to.
the virtues of the lay-follower:

He has right views … he will not accept any other teacher, not even for the sake of his life


The Buddhist Layman
mabw
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by mabw »

cappuccino wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 3:00 pm
the virtues of the lay-follower:

He has right views … he will not accept any other teacher, not even for the sake of his life

I recognise the Buddha as the ultimate teacher, with other teachers as ONE of the mediums I refer to to access his teachings. I will regard the "teacher" in your quote above to mean something along those lines. Your quote comes from the Milindapanha, which is a conversation between a king and the Venerable Nagasena. So I don't really know what the argument is about here since the King also had to clarify the Buddha's teachings with the Venerable.

I don't know what your position on the authority of the different scriptures is, but you do know that Milindapanha is not canonical in Thai and Sri Lankan Buddhism right? See wiki.

As for me, whether or not this work is canonical, my position remains, these are sourceS to access the teachings. To rely on one to the exclusion of the others is unwise, since the teachings inherited have gone through human hand, whether you like it or not.
SilenceMonkey
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by SilenceMonkey »

cappuccino wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:03 am
mabw wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 4:08 am seeing of the guru as the Buddha
gurus are less than worthless


because you want to learn from Gautama
Guru just means teacher. Buddha Shakyamuni was the first guru of Buddhadharma. Maybe you mean the vajrayana is worthless.
mabw
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Re: Breakoff from "Gurus in Vajrayana"

Post by mabw »

SilenceMonkey wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 3:42 pm
cappuccino wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:03 am
mabw wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 4:08 am seeing of the guru as the Buddha
gurus are less than worthless


because you want to learn from Gautama
Guru just means teacher. Buddha Shakyamuni was the first guru of Buddhadharma. Maybe you mean the vajrayana is worthless.
I sincerely hope it is not the latter. Such sweeping statements are not to be made lightly with a broad brush. And some of the things that our comrades on the other side says can be really quite powerful. Indeed, even non-Buddhists have great insight to things. I have always felt it better to learn from other in humility, rather than mentally build a wall and block everyone off. I find it difficult to see how this benefits oneself. That does not mean I don't have my own opinions of course. Just don't get too attached to them.
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