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Views & Visions

Views & Visions
8/2/15 7:53 AM
pariyatti --'learning the doctrine [dhamma]', the 'wording of the doctrine'.    
(from Manual of Buddhist Terms andDoctrines, by NYANATILOKA)

In the 'progress of the disciple' (aka the 'gradual path'), 3 stages may be distinguished:
(1) learning the wording of thedoctrine (pariyatti),
(2) practising it (patipatti),
(3) penetrating it (pativedha) and realising its goal.
This is a practice thread, reflecting an individual tendency that comes upon insight more readily through examining facets and variations of dhamma as fugal processes, experimentally contraposing symbolic themes in interplay with lived experience. It entertains views, perspectives, interpretations as pragmatic necessities of mental experience (living), but as floating, shifting filters and lenses, which now and again, and increasingly, come upon moments of confluence, of alignment that spontaneously engender clarity and light where the mind directly realizes the nature of it's own behavior. Momentary realizations are transient, but the process shapes the apparatus, the mental physique, so to speak, into patterns that develop and persist. It's also, paradoxically, the construction of de-constructive capabilities.

Soit's less of a narrative type historical log of sittings with this or that technique, and attainment of associated milestones. Elements along those lines may emerge. The overall approach, however, is beginning here in terms of building and exploring structures and frameworks of a non-linear nature, a variegated crystal with multiple facets.

Initially an indexed structure of different postings (with further hypertext linkages) which will likely be changing shape from time to time.

Contents / Index:

A couple of motivating realizations

Background (conditioning / kamma)

'early Buddhism' & 'what the Buddha taught'

Flavors of 'Jhana'


(Thread launched May 3rd,2015 -- full 'Flower' moon and Vesak / 'Buddha Day'-- that is, in Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Nepal, India and Malaysia; Vesak this year is on June 2nd, full 'Strawberry' moon, in Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and China/Singapore. Most years all use the same date, but every 2-3 years there's this one-month variance in the calendars.)

(Thread disappeared, We.29.Jly.2015; rebuilt starting Sa.01.Aug.2015…)

motivating realizations
8/2/15 7:51 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
1. Recent realizations adding perspective and leverage to both pariyatti and patipatti practice.

I. Daoist knowing, with Jeffrey Yuen

The point:

An observation, as a teaching Jeffery would voice occasionally – when one 'knows' something directly (e.g. something Daoist, something Buddhist, something in medical practice), one has no need to defend it against other views, or to convert anyone else to one's own view. When people go to lengths to voice and defend their views (or confront others' views), that betrays in security about their beliefs, and leads to seeking external confirmation to help overcome this position of weakness.


JeffreyYuen is a Daoist priest (88th generation lineage-holder of a sect going back some 2000 years), who specializes in studying, practicing, and teaching 'classical' Chinese medicine. (In this tradition, all priests are practiced in the Daoist basics, but then each 'specializes' in one or another area, e.g. medicine, feng-shui, rituals, exorcism, etc.). I was in a program for about a decade studying his medical teachings -- several weekends of lectures per year, and audio or video recordings otherwise. (His teaching is strictly oral; the lineage does allow writing to teach.)

He teaches 'classical' Chinese medicine in the sense of going back into the historical periods and writings, re-constructing the situation, the medical challenges, and the theories and practices evolved to cope – held together across history by a theoretical framework going back to the earliest Han era (ca. 2000 years ago) written documents.

(This is in contrast to 'TCM', or 'Traditional Chinese Medicine', which is a modern fabrication that extracts aspects of the historical traditions into a s/w dogmatic modernist system that's highly influenced by modern Western medicine, and is intended to project Chinese cultural and economic interests around the globe.)
Jeffery's teaching method is unusual: a series of courses each studying one or another significant historical period and it's 'school of thought'. He has the students immerse in seeing through the eyes of the culture of that period – their view of tradition, the salient social-economic melieu, kinds of health challenges prevelant at the time; to study and practice the theoretical view-points formulated, the methods of practice developed in that period. This depth of study for the, say, 6-month duration of the course, is to take it as if it were the only way to see things; and to use the period methods clinically. Then after such a course, Jeffrey would say let go of that view-point, which the students had to one degree or another internalized and mastered, and go off to use the same method studying some other period / school of thought.

(Chinese medical tradition does not insist, as Western medicine tends to, that there's one correct way to practice (i.e. what science says is the truth at this moment in history), and it doesn't reject other systems and traditions as quackery or superstition. Hence the practitioner of the 'classical' medicine has a wide range of perspectives (diagnostic and therapeutic) that can be applied, according to what matches what presents in any partcular patient as any particular time.)

Re The point (above)

Allthe varied traditional medical materials (2000 years of various, often diverging, historical periods and schools of thought), are relative to this or that momentary perspective, position of observation. Every such positional situation is relative, and transient. Knowing the nature of this flux of circumstance provides a certain freedom – freedom to employ whatever is appropriate at anytime, and freedom from having to identify with, invest one's "blood"in transitory,  relative realities.

This is a Daoist attitude, and sounds like Buddhism, which in fact played (still plays) a major role in Chinese history. The Chinese took to Buddhism in part because its basic outlook is so similar to their native Doaist worldview. Across those historical periods, especially from the time of the advent of Buddhism in China through the flowering of the Tang Dynasty (ca. 600-900 C.E.), many, if not most, of the 'Great Masters' associated with the prominent schools of medical thought were also advanced pratititioners of Doaism, Buddhism, often BOTH, and s/t primarily so, with medicine as a secondary career interest.

Forthe vast amount of historical and medical knowledge imparted in hundreds of hours of listening to Jeffrey teach, that realization about defending, convincing others of one's 'knowledge' or viewpoint, vs the security, unassailability of self-evident, direct knowledge (being also always recognized as relative to the basic fact that every human knower operates from the limitations of an individual perspective) – this was the core learning that remains with me. And actually, Jeffery would let on, on rare occasions, that this is the most important thing he seeks to teach.

II. Evidence and Equanimity, with Ven. Analayo


From Ven. Analayo's 2nd book on the topic – 'Perspectives onSatipatthana', pp 123-4
VII.4 DEPENDENT ARISING (paticcasamuppada) [various interpretations, in the context of the Satipatthana "contemplation of feelings")]

[1. traditional 3-lifetime model ]

Such direct contemplation need not cover all the twelve links that are enumerated in the common description of the dependent arising of dukkha. Traditional exegesis, found in works like the Patsambhidamagga of the Theravada tradition and the Jnyanaprasthana of the Saravastivada tradition, interprets this twelve-link model as extending over three consecutive lifetimes. This would obviously make it difficult to contemplate the whole series in the present moment.  From the viewpoint of this explanation, ignorance (1) and volitional formations (2) pertain to the past, whereas with consciousness (3) the present life period begins that leads via name-and-form (4), the six sense (5), and contact (6) to feeling (7). Based on feeling arise craving (8), clinging (9), and becoming (10), after which come the links that tradition reckons as pertaining to a future life, namely birth (11), followed by old age and death (12).

The traditional mode of interpretation can find support from the early discourses. For example, the Mahanidana-sutta and its parallels identify consciousness as that which enters the mother's womb. This passage occurs in the context of an exposition of dependent arising. Thus the
rebirth interpretation has its roots in the early discourses and it would not do justice to such passages if this mode of explanation were to be dismissed as being merely the product of later times.

[2. modern scholarly model based on Vedic creation myth ]

According to modern scholarship, the formulation of dependent arising by way of twelve links appears to involve a criticism of a Vedic creation myth. (Jurewicz 2000; cf. also Jones 2009 [and in Linda Blanchard's 'Dependant Origination in Context']) This would be in line with a general tendency in the early discourses to reinterpret ancient Indian ideas and conceptions in order to express Buddhist teachings. Rather than describing the creation of the world, however, the point made by this reinterpretation would be to reveal the conditioned genesis of dukkha.

[ 3. early Abhidhamma model of 12-links in a single mind-moment/process ]

Besides the three-life interpretation of this chain of twelve links, already the early Abhidhamma traditions present an alternative mode of interpreting the standard depiction of dependent arising. This alternative mode, found in works like the Vibhanga of the Theravada tradition or the *Mahavibhasa of the Sarvastivada tradition, applies each of the twleve links to a single mind-moment. From this viewpoint, the reference to "birth" in the context of the twelve links refers to the arising of mental states. According to the Abhidharmakosabhasya, the operation of all twelve links can thus take place within a single moment. This certainly makes the whole series more easily amenable to introspection analysis carried out in the present moment.

[4. 12-links analyzed as causes and effects ]

Traditional exegesis provides another interpretative tool,which divides the twelve links into causes and effects. Here ignorance (1) and volitional formations (2) are causes. The same is the case for the three links that arise after feeling: craving (8), grasping (9), and becoming (10). The other links are effects.

What causes the arising of dukkha are thus ignorant reactions (links 1 and 2), which manifest when feeling leads to craving, etc. (links 8, 9, and 10). This clearly puts a spotlight on feeling. It is as this juncture that ignorance needs to be deconditioned, so that reactions by way of craving can be avoided. In other words, feeling is the link where the presence of mindfulness can have a decisive effect on the dependent arising of dukkha."

[end of quotation ]

Analayo's analysis goes on to explore the practical implications of Satipatthana instructions –"…practice can be seen to explore the conditioned nature of feelings as well as the conditioning nature of feelings."

The point:

The point here arose in the context of an earlier debate going on in my own mind and with others as to which interpretation of the paticcasamuppada was really right, the best, truest to the Buddha's early ("real") teachings. Observing Analayo's even-handed summary of the leading candidates, followed by discussion of the practical interpretation of the satipatthana instructions – without his taking sides with any of the alternative theories – this rang a bell, led to considering what it means to feel it necessary to decide on and commit to one or another side in such a field of interpretations (and to engage in the usual debates that arise).

Subsequent studies (of various theories and the evidence for determining what's really the true, earliest teachings of the Buddha) brought out the point, which most scholars admitt, that all the evidence for any theory is indirect – historical, linguistic, epigraphic, whatever the type of evidence. More careful scholars treat this thematically, explaining how they select and evaluate evidence, and thoroughly considering alternative interpretations; they often then argue for this or that specific interpretation as the best fit, internally, externally consistent, or whatever. Other scholars betray a more aggressive agenda focusing on certain aspects and working to assert that their interpretation is clearly most justified, hence the correct one.

This study of other peoples views and investigations, argumentations, as well as my own, proved quite rewarding – rather than myself constantly trying to zero-in on who or what's right, more noticing how and the hints of why people are attempting to do just that.

The upshot is, given the usual wealth of supporting 'evidence' on all sides, and ways of arguing it up and down, back and forth, what determines where one decides to take sides, take a 'position'?  Can one discern a 'need' that drives some decidedc onclusion? Or a sense of prior or resultant 'faith' that feeds a comittment to a position? Is this, in all cases, a form of 'belief'?

III. Practical and theoretical perspectives working together – pariyatti process

The kind of knowledge in part I (above) is direct,  experiential seeing / observation and knowing / understanding. It is certain, unshakable for the person who experiences it. It doesn't require confirmation from other people, nor does it speak for other peoples' experience, that they should necessarily experience the same clarity in the same terms. (The issue of communicating this stuff.)

The theory of study, scholarship isn't to arrive at similar certainty of direct experience, but to entertain the breadth of possibilities of mental frameworks. It can familiarize one with models and maps, their workings and possible relevance. It's possible that practical experience will subsequently be found to approximate such models or maps, which then can help guide further experiential development by suggesting next steps to explore and warning of dangers.

Irecently found that Mahasi Sayadaw, in the 'Vipassana Treatise'(aka 'Manual of Insight') vol I, part 1, goes into this. He explicates parts of Sutta-s (and commentaries and subcommentaries) to show a distinction in the Buddha's teaching between direct knowing, and what he translates as 'hearsay' knowing. At great length he shows and interprets this, with s/w esoteric Pali terms -- i.e. not heard in run-of-the-mill type of (usually lay) dharma talks. The idea is that being fooled into takng 'hearsay' knowledge as truly valuable direct knowledge is to be guarded against.

In Mahasi's context, the interplay of pragmatic experience and guiding models (Buddha's teachings) is an important perspective. Yes, penetrating insight is direct knowledge, and it knows itself with certainty when it arises. But on the 'gradual path', most individuals begin from conditioned delusion, and work towards resultant clariy comes through a dialectic of practice and guidance. In fact, Mahasi positions his Treatise / Manualas as an exploration of this dialectic for more or less advanced students – those beyond the initial cultivation of noting etc. (as covered in the instructions of his various 'practical' and 'exercise' books); there come points in the development of practice where quite subtle distinctions must guide it through and around more subtle, 'advanced' delusions that tend to arise.

IV. Conclusions (for now)

This essay originally intended to outline past 'insights' noted from Jeffrey Yuen's teaching, and from observing the nature of evidence and interpretation in scholarly investigation. These insights have proven consistently rewarding in guiding observation and understanding my own (and others') behaviors in the areas of practice and communication – notably interaction here in DhO. Both in terms of direct personal experience of practice, and in terms of dealing with 3rd-party sources, in both practical and historical-theoretical matters. When is there solid,direct understanding? When is there more a working sort of faith or belief hypothesis operating? (Especially when is the latter masquerading as the former?)

Coincidentally, the discovery of Mahasi's remarkable Treatise/Manual, in just the last couple of days, has provided another framework, firmly grounded in (hardcore Theravadan) dhamma, which appears to add potentially valuable guidance in working out the further implications of those two 'insights' I came across.

Enough for now.

Tu.29.Jly.2015 -- initial post; re-entered Sa.01.Aug.2015

RE: motivating realizations
8/3/15 1:48 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Regarding I) the observation fits my experience too but the conclusion could lead to inaction when that is not the best choice. For example the Buddha engages in debate, converts people and it would seem to be motivated by compassion rather than a weakness in view.

There are many different styles of communication and some are confrontational. Confrontation does not seem inherently bad - although I've seen Right Speech interpreted in that way.

It seems like there is baby and bath water in there!