Analayo

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katy steger, modified 7 Years ago.

Analayo

Posts: 1745 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi all,

Many people on the DhO recommend reading the German scholar-monk's work, "Satipatthana Sutta, The Direct Path". Its references and meticulous footnoting are outstanding, for example.

Here is an interview a friend sent me with Ven. Analayo. While he goes into how he practices metta and anapanasati meditation in the interview, I was particularly moved by how he committed to actually practicing per hour of study more hours of meditation. His work stands out for excellent documentation and now I know why, in part at least, it feels so accurate experientially.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

V: How has studying these suttas affected your own meditation?
Analayo: It’s the ground of my practice. Before I started my academic work I decided that however many hours I studied I would spend more hours meditating. That’s why it took me six years to complete my work. I would never lose touch with my meditation practice for the sake of theoretical study. On the other hand, though, a good knowledge of Buddha’s teachings ‘clears the path’ as it enables you to know what you’re doing and then you don’t experience doubt. Now I can learn from various meditation teachers without getting confused because I know what lines I am pursuing in my own practice.
The Buddha gave the talks that are recorded in the suttas because he thought people should know what they are doing. Meditation is like eating and the knowledge you have gained from the suttas is like the digestive juice that makes it possible for your body to digest the nutrients. The two belong together, but meditation has to have the priority. Doing PhD research is perhaps going to an extreme. But studying informed sources can be helpful for everyone. They can shine a beam of light onto your practice and that can inspire it.


And here is the link to the interview
http://www.wiseattention.org/blog/2012/09/07/learning-meditation-from-the-buddha-a-meeting-with-ven-analayo/
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Analayo

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Thanks! There's good advice for anger types like me.emoticon
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katy steger, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Analayo

Posts: 1745 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Richard, Ian and Rod,

Richard Zen:
Thanks! There's good advice for anger types like me.emoticon

Yeah, I totally agree. I felt it was awesome and useful that he readily showed his own area specific area of work and his sincerity in treating it and his knowledge that by just speaking openly of himself in this regard--- and, to my eyes, being very thorough in what he does, generally-- he knows it benefits others, builds conviction, that there is no need to lecture others, just being transparent about what he's doing with/for his own mind. To me, that is model teaching.

Ian:
Nice interview.
(...)
Well worth the reading(...)
Yeah, I agree.

I tend to look forward to reading him and hearing his talks/engagement of people. I have the strong tendency to comment on/judge the practice of teachers when they make certain kinds of statements (e.g., paper tigers, self-aggrandizement/other-disparagement), but in switching to more self-study and watching my own mind, I'm finding both my any anger/frustration and conceit at least get a fair chance of receiving treatment and that treatment is metta (friendliness) and patience, and I find a good rehabilitative course and guidance for engagement is given by these five points: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.159.than.html (which points avail a collaborative engagement and much better outcomes, imo), when I remember to apply them!

Rod C:
Actually Katy, I wanted to thank you for recommending this book to me on the basis of a footnote that mentioned Metta meditation as one of the best practices for the middle paths.
You bet! I was just passing on what this monk had said to a little group of people practicing metta with him. I'm thrilled you're thriving. I am plodding along and grateful emoticon
Rod C, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Analayo

Posts: 88 Join Date: 11/19/12 Recent Posts
Actually Katy, I wanted to thank you for recommending this book to me on the basis of a footnote that mentioned Metta meditation as one of the best practices for the middle paths. You gave this advice to me shortly after I reached what I thought was stream entry (actually working with a good teacher, it turned out to be 2nd path!).

So I adopted Metta meditation along with jhanas faithfully daily through 2nd and 3rd paths and now after the shift to technical 4th path a few weeks ago (confirmed by my teacher), I want to say that your advice was great and Metta was a wonderful smooth and effective way (along with all jhanas eventually up to 5 PL) to progress as well as benefitting quite a few people around me in quite obvious ways.

Thanks again for your advice - it worked emoticon

Rod
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Ian And, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Analayo

Posts: 784 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Thanks for the link, katy. Nice interview.

As much as I enjoy reading an interview with Ven. Analayo, the interviewer is no slouch himself when it comes to writing about the Dhamma, he being Vishvapani Blomfield, author of an excellent biography — Gautama Buddha, The Life and Teachings of The Awakened One — which I recommend to anyone interested in discovering a more realistic rendering of that incredible life. If Vishvapani hadn't written that book, and I had been given the time, I might have attempted to tackle that one myself. I found his interpretation of Gotama's life to be almost exactly the same as my own (based upon a reading of the suttas mixed with the wisdom of life experiences).

That said, Analayo brought up several insightful observations. One of the most important of which is to endeavor to become clear about the definition of the Pali words and what they mean from an experiential standpoint so that it becomes easier to figure out what he is referring to when he talks about these subtle experiences. Just getting a handle on what it means to be in samadhi can turn a person's practice around on a dime! The most compelling moment you will ever experience in this life is just this moment NOW! Once you understand the meaning of that sentence and its significance on your view and outlook, you begin to understand what mindfulness (sati) is all about, and why it is so important to one's practice and the Dhamma. It's not just a word — it is the foundation for awakening!
[indent]
An important term for meditative absorption is samadhi. We often translate that as ‘concentration’, but that can suggest a certain stiffness. Perhaps ‘unification’ is a better rendition, as samadhi means ‘to bring together’. Deep samadhi isn’t at all stiff. It’s a process of letting go of other things and coming to a unified experience.[/indent]
And once you begin to appreciate the stability of that experience, practicing contemplation in the endeavor to see and realize the truth of the teachings (the three characteristics, dependent co-arising, the five clinging aggregates, and the role of vedana in one's perception of experience and the affect it has on sankhara or volitional formations and tendencies, just to name a few) becomes so much easier to accomplish. This is why Gotama taught dhyana so often in the suttas, because when understood correctly, it is a harbinger for the "unification of the mind" upon an object. Not so much a one pointedness as a unification on an object with the intent to see into that object with insight!

Yet, even Analayo, it seems, still has things to work on when he makes comments like the following:

[indent]The process of developing insight is a matter of gaining self-knowledge and learning to act accordingly. If you sit down to meditate you need to feel the tendency of the mind – what it needs and what it wants to do. More broadly, I know that my tendency is towards anger and that means that I need to develop tranquillity to balance my personality.[/indent]
While developing tranquility in the face of anger is certainly a commendable accomplishment, my interpretation of what he means by his reference to "anger" (based upon what he mentioned previously in the interview: "I studied martial arts in Berlin and I found that the discipline offered a way to express and contain my anger, but it didn’t address the root of the problem.") is that its reference is to a deeper psychological outlook or response toward (perhaps) some hidden (unconscious) event (or events), and that what is needed is to gain insight into that event in order to root it out as an underlying reflexive mental response. This is just what the practice of satipattana was meant to help one accomplish: to see more deeply into one's own unconscious unwholesome mental tendencies in order to root them out one by one.

Indeed, later on in the interview, Analayo brings out the importance of satipatthana practice when he casually mentions:

[indent]Mindfulness has many facets. Many teachers speak of mindfulness of the body, but people don’t talk much about the contemplations of feelings, mind and dhammas that are also in the Satipatthana Sutta. But if you take any experience – like sitting here now – you can be aware of the bodily aspect, how you feel about what we are discussing; the state of mind that we are each in; and you can see it in the light of the Buddha’s teachings. Each situation has these four aspects and mindfulness can focus on one or all of these as appropriate.[/indent]
If one becomes acutely aware of vedana and how and when it arises within one's experience, it can act as a sign or signal of processes to come. It can tip you off before you allow something like anger to take hold of your consciousness so that you can take a step back and reconsider what action to take. Identifying an unpleasant (and even pleasant) feeling as it arises can sometimes provide insight as to its cause, and thereby help us to overcome any unwholesome mental tendency.

Vishvapani ends the interview with a question about the importance of reading and studying the discourses, something that I am always emphasizing that people ought to do more of:

[indent]V: How has studying these suttas affected your own meditation?

A: It’s the ground of my practice. Before I started my academic work I decided that however many hours I studied I would spend more hours meditating. That’s why it took me six years to complete my work. I would never lose touch with my meditation practice for the sake of theoretical study. On the other hand, though, a good knowledge of Buddha’s teachings ‘clears the path’ as it enables you to know what you’re doing and then you don’t experience doubt. Now I can learn from various meditation teachers without getting confused because I know what lines I am pursuing in my own practice.[/indent]
In addition to not experiencing doubt, knowing what Gotama taught helps one to weed out any ideas that extracurricular reading may bring to one's attention so that confusion over what was taught and what wasn't taught is less prevalent. One of the bugaboos that used to plague me was the metaphysical take (or impression) that so many (mostly Mahayana) writers on the Dhamma would promote, and yet a very close reading of the suttas really disavowed me of that impression about what was taught. That, in itself, (the de-emphasis on metaphysics) was a big relief, and it allowed me to see the teachings in a much simpler (and more profound and likely more correct) light as far as the intent was meant.

There is a lot packed into that interview if you know what to look for. Well worth the reading and pondering.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Analayo

Posts: 706 Join Date: 11/2/11 Recent Posts
Thanks Katy.

Georges, that's pure gold! Fantastic essay and really useful to anyone practicing in variations of the U Ba Khin style. Thanks.

Why is Analayo's stuff dotted all over the place? Is he unaware of the influence of his book?
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sawfoot _, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Analayo

Posts: 507 Join Date: 3/11/13 Recent Posts
analayo:

A: Being an ‘anger-type’ I thought it was important to develop metta. (loving-kindness). In Thailand I followed the Visuddhimagga approach of sending metta to oneself, a friend, a neutral person and an enemy, and verbalising good wishes. I found I got stuck in ideas, and when I turned to the suttas I saw that the Buddha just says that, ‘with a mind full of metta’ (that is an attitude or feeling of loving-kindness) ‘he radiates metta in all directions’. There’s no verbalisation, no particular people, just this radiation. That made an incredible change in my practice and from then on it evolved very strongly.

Another example is the counting methods in the commentarial approach to the mindfulness of breathing, which are also not found in the suttas. The Anapanasati Sutta describes how in sixteen steps you can be aware of the breath, the body, feelings, and what is happening in the mind. This extends to seeing the impermanence of the breath.

This is an excellent approach to practice. Firstly, you calm the mind by staying predominantly with bodily phenomena. Then you become aware of your whole self as it sits in meditation, and then you notice how the breath and the body become calmer. As soon as that happens thinking activity also calms down, and joy arises. You’re aware of these changes and encourage them, and that takes you away from the thinking activity of the mind.

The commentarial approach implies narrowing the focus of attention onto one point and only prescribes contemplating the most prominent characteristics of the physical breath – not the many other dimensions that are described in the sutta. Because you have so little material to work on, the practice can become boring, so your mind wanders, and you need counting as food for the mind. But counting can take you away from the bodily experience of the breath to conceptual ideas about it. However, if the mind has something it likes it will stay with it, and that’s the way to get into deep concentration.


I liked the interview also. Above was my favourite bit.