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Thanissaro Bhikkhu

What does Thanissaro mean by "full enlightenment"?

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From this interview:


Q: Are there aspects of Buddhism that are still mysteries to you?
A: I'd like to know what full enlightenment is like.



Is he talking about Buddhahood as something separate from arahatship? Or is he saying he's not an arahat?

He also says "Monks can't talk about their attainments." But it seems strange to me that Thanissaro wouldn't be fully enlightened.

RE: What does Thanissaro mean by "full enlightenment"?
Answer
6/2/14 6:47 PM as a reply to J C.
After reading a lot of his stuff on Access to Insight, I'd say he is probably holding himself to the standard in the suttas. I'm guessing he would refer to something like this as "full enlightenment":

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.07.than.html

RE: What does Thanissaro mean by "full enlightenment"?
Answer
6/2/14 7:22 PM as a reply to J C.
I read the entire interview. Very interesting. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Published in 2004. Thanissaro was 55 years of age at that time. It helps to put things in context.

I especially liked the part where he mentioned that: "The purpose of therapy, Freud said, was to take neurotic individuals and return them to an ordinary level of unhappiness. The purpose of meditation is to take you from that ordinary level of unhappiness to a place where there is no unhappiness and no suffering." There's something very revealing in that statement. Although I doubt few here will understand what I'm speaking about.

Here's a small hint, anyway. We're talking about a monk speaking about Buddhism. Buddhism the religion, that is. You take it from there.

J C:

He also says "Monks can't talk about their attainments." But it seems strange to me that Thanissaro wouldn't be fully enlightened.

If you read the interview, and you know anything about monastic life, then you should know that the interview was canned spam for public consumption. In other words, he spoke about only what he was allowed to speak about. If you want to know more, become a monk and find out first hand.

RE: What does Thanissaro mean by "full enlightenment"?
Answer
6/2/14 7:35 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:
I read the entire interview. Very interesting. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Published in 2004. Thanissaro was 55 years of age at that time. It helps to put things in context.

I especially liked the part where he mentioned that: "The purpose of therapy, Freud said, was to take neurotic individuals and return them to an ordinary level of unhappiness. The purpose of meditation is to take you from that ordinary level of unhappiness to a place where there is no unhappiness and no suffering." There's something very revealing in that statement. Although I doubt few here will understand what I'm speaking about.

Here's a small hint, anyway. We're talking about a monk speaking about Buddhism. Buddhism the religion, that is. You take it from there.

J C:

He also says "Monks can't talk about their attainments." But it seems strange to me that Thanissaro wouldn't be fully enlightened.

If you read the interview, and you know anything about monastic life, then you should know that the interview was canned spam for public consumption. In other words, he spoke about only what he was allowed to speak about. If you want to know more, become a monk and find out first hand.


Please elaborate! With regard to the quote on an ordinary level of unhappiness, there was an article about negative side effects of meditation (depersonalization) and personality disorders posted on here that came to the conclusion that "you have to be somebody before you can be nobody", that is, you have to go through the developmental process of developing a healthy sense of self before meditation can help you, and if you try before that (as some people with BPD do) it can cause problems. I see Thanissaro's quote as similar, in line with the separation of the three trainings: you have to deal with whatever neurosis or real-world problems you have in the real world (first training) before, or separately from, the process of meditation. Is that what you mean? How is the religion part relevant?

On one hand, meditation isn't going to cure whatever psychological problems or neuroses you have, and on the other hand, psychotherapy won't help you get past an ordinary level of unhappiness.

RE: What does Thanissaro mean by "full enlightenment"?
Answer
6/3/14 1:28 PM as a reply to J C.
There is no rule for monk against talking of level of Enlightenment. There is a rule against bragging about one level of mastery of the jhanas. Venerable Vajiramedhi, a famous Thai monk, write extensively about the importance of telling people that it can be done. He is himself recognized as an Arahant and quite open about it. In his book "Nibbana in Daily Life", he give the names of many monks that were quite open about being Arahants, or at least, being explicit enough about it. My wife and I had a long discussion with him about the meditation difficulties we were encountering and he gave some very practical advices. He recounted his story of reaching equanimity while doing his master degree and finding himself bored for 6 months and various stories like that. It stresed the importance of knowking about the side effects we encounter on the path. He also believe that laypeople can get Enlightened. It was really a breath of fresh air compared by the obscurantism found with many monks.

RE: What does Thanissaro mean by "full enlightenment"?
Answer
6/3/14 6:03 PM as a reply to Simon T..
There is no rule for monk against talking of level of Enlightenment. There is a rule against bragging about one level of mastery of the jhanas.

I think the one you are referring to is Pārājika 4:

 4. Should any bhikkhu, without direct knowledge, claim a superior human state, a truly noble knowledge and vision, as present in himself, saying, "Thus do I know; thus do I see," such that regardless of whether or not he is cross-examined on a later occasion, he — being remorseful and desirous of purification — might say, "Friends, not knowing, I said I know; not seeing, I said I see — vainly, falsely, idly," unless it was from over-estimation, he also is defeated and no longer in affiliation.

And until not too long ago I would have agreed with you but then I came upon this one:

pācittiya 8. Should any bhikkhu report (his own) superior human state to an unordained person, when it is factual, it is to be confessed.

The following explanation fleshes that out a bit more:
pācittiya 8:

Not to announce to a layman a realisation that has been achieved. 

If a bhikkhu announces to a layman or to a sāmaṇera, a realisation partaking with a jhāna nature or with a stage of ariyā, and this realisation has genuinely been achieved, he commits a pācittiya.

On the other hand, a bhikkhu who makes such a declaration, while knowing it to be false, commits the pārājika 4. 

A bhikkhu must avoid making his attainments known, even to other bhikkhus. Apart from four exceptions when they can do so, ariyās never unveil their realisations:
- Under a violent threat.
- Undergoing an oppressive and virulent lack of respect.
- A t the time of passing away.
- To reveal it to his preceptor or to a fellow bhikkhu who does a similar practice.
source http://en.dhammadana.org/sangha/vinaya/227/92pa.htm#ch-----8

Thai monks seem more willing to speak openly about being Arahants. To find western monks you have to learn to read between the lines - but there are a number. A (western) arahant once told me that if you speak openly in the west about being awakened, people will rip you to pieces - a somewhat different reaction to what is found in Thailand. 

Maybe Thanissaro's statement is just a  way of deflecting those that are more interested in being around or meeting an awakened person than in doing the practice that he teaches. 


RE: What does Thanissaro mean by "full enlightenment"?
Answer
6/3/14 10:16 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:

A bhikkhu must avoid making his attainments known, even to other bhikkhus. Apart from four exceptions when they can do so, ariyās never unveil their realisations:
- Under a violent threat.
- Undergoing an oppressive and virulent lack of respect.
- A t the time of passing away.
- To reveal it to his preceptor or to a fellow bhikkhu who does a similar practice.
source http://en.dhammadana.org/sangha/vinaya/227/92pa.htm#ch-----8

Thai monks seem more willing to speak openly about being Arahants. To find western monks you have to learn to read between the lines - but there are a number. A (western) arahant once told me that if you speak openly in the west about being awakened, people will rip you to pieces - a somewhat different reaction to what is found in Thailand. 


Sounds like "undergoing an oppressive and virulent lack of respect" to me.

RE: What does Thanissaro mean by "full enlightenment"?
Answer
6/4/14 12:36 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:

Thai monks seem more willing to speak openly about being Arahants. To find western monks you have to learn to read between the lines - but there are a number. A (western) arahant once told me that if you speak openly in the west about being awakened, people will rip you to pieces - a somewhat different reaction to what is found in Thailand. 

Maybe Thanissaro's statement is just a  way of deflecting those that are more interested in being around or meeting an awakened person than in doing the practice that he teaches. 

I would agree with Chuck on this. It's not difficult to pick out prospective candidates if you know the teachings and can see that knowledge reflected in a person's writing or their way of being (if you have access to them personally). You have to learn to trust your intuition.

I was being a bit playful in my response. Of course, a "Buddhist" monk is going to try to promote his "religion" to others. That goes with the territory. Thanissaro is about as Buddhist as a monk can get/be. Many who come around here, maybe not so much.