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An Experiment With The Pali Canon

An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/12/15 8:42 PM
I'd like to run a little experiment with the Pali canon.  There are many things about the Dhamma that I have taken for granted or overlooked, the least of which is an over-focus on meditation in the West, at the absence of things such as morality training.  Pragmatic dharma, as a whole, seems to have its own version of all of this, by syphoning off meditation into different types, and by broad-brushstroking morality training as nothing more than 'down-to-earth, common sense' that is completely secular and simply involves being a 'good human'.

When I read the Pali canon, it feels like an instruction manual.  What if I removed all of my Western filters, and actually followed the instruction manual?  That is the experiment.

So this will be a journal, or a practice log for that.  As an initial step, I will try to practice right speech by avoiding 'idol chatter' and trying to condense my entries into as short a form as possible to get the point across.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/12/15 11:54 PM as a reply to Noah.
Some main points/ goals:

-Step 1 of the Dhamma is the practice of generosity, which I have completely overlooked.  I have come to believe that the purpose of generosity is to counter self-absorption, obsessive thinking, narcissism, and perfectionism, among other things.  In other words, it helps one get the 'big picture' and 'get out of their own head.'

-Regardless of timelines for path attainments, the Dhamma is a lifelong practice and commitment.  So another important adjustment for me to make involves thinking in the long-term.  Even if I had perfect enlightenment tomorrow, I would still have to make decisions concerning conduct, and mundane matters, in general.  How do I want to live, every day, for the rest of my life?  The canon covers this.

-Related to the above two points, I believe that keeping a sense of humor and an air of light-heartedness is a part of the path that I have been missing.  There is a ton of humor in the Pali canon.  It is frequently overlooked that the Buddha was a funny and clever dude.

-In addition to the timeline, the breadth of area that the Pali canon's instruction's cover is vast.  I intend to not be so quick to judge things as archaic and push them to the side.  I have been finding that many life lessons in the canon are directly applicable to modern dealings.  

-Cosmology is the basis of all Buddhism, being one of the main aspects of the Buddha's discovery on the night of his enlightenment.  Whether or not one chooses to take the doctrines of kamma, rebirth and merit literally, they are an unavoidable and necessary lens for skillful means.

Edit/ Added-on:

-Sensory control/rejection/renunciation is one one of the most important first steps, along with generosity and light-heartedness.  Taking this first little nudge towards "maybe I shouldn't believe everything I perceive and feel", makes it all (i.e. the precepts) seem much more possible.

-The Dhamma places equally importance on mental states from the past, the present, and the future, as well as the relationship between all three, and the relationship with conduct/ behavior.  This is different from the Western Buddhist practice of 'mindfulness.'

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/12/15 10:24 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:

When I read the Pali canon, it feels like an instruction manual.  What if I removed all of my Western filters, and actually followed the instruction manual?  That is the experiment.

I think you're on to something here, Noah. Keep at it.

What you are discovering is what I've been saying for the longest time. But most people are too fascinated by the forest to see the trees just in front of them.

I don't know if you'll reach the same place I did, but it should be an interesting journey for you.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/13/15 12:04 AM as a reply to Ian And.
12.11

-DN 1: The Buddha talks a lot about what the Dhamma is not.  Many of these schools of thought sound like slices of society in modern day.

-DN 2: The 'homeless life' is about self reliance and freedom from the machine... not putting any upwards limits on one's happiness and satisfaction.

-'Lovely in the beginning [...] middle [...] and end' only applies insomuch as one is actually open to the full range of teaching, and does not put too many initial filters and limiting factors on it.

-The Dhamma is about being a student of life, learning from past mistakes, thinking and then acting with wisdom, etc.

-One is supposed to reason out the Buddha's words within themselves before gaining faith... thus wisdom comes first and last.

-New way of dealing with libido in daily life: involves attitude going in + self-talk + humor + mindfulness = much more skillful resulting reactions than in the past

-Values fall along a grey-scale, and need to be adjusted for accordingly.  Some need to be dialed slightly down in importance (physical appearance, intelllect), some all the way down (self-image, feeling powerful), and some way up (honesty, virtue).


-DN 2.65: proof of mindfulness in daily life
-DN 2.75: precepts are supposed to be freeing and feel good, as the hindrances disappear… to the extent it ‘feels’ like discipline, you are doing it wrong!  And only after this baseline of feeling good, occurs, does one start to naturally get into jhana
-DN 2.76: Jhana is physical, “suffusing the body”
-DN 2.83: consciousness is “bound” to the body, and the body is made up of the 4 great elements
-DN 2.86: “mind-made body”= Buddha recommends astral projection! (as fruit of homeless life)... The Buddha wanted the monk’s inner experience to be interesting and entertaining (i.e. OOB, psychic powers, etc.)
-DN 2.97: psychic knowledge of ending the ‘corruptions’, i.e. knowing ‘birth is finished!’-- hints at how one might know they have attained a path
-DN 2.100: the king confesses to killing his father, the buddha ‘accepts’ the confession, saying it will help the king ‘grow in the ariyan discipline’, but when the king leaves, the buddha says ‘the king is done for, his fate is sealed’-- he didn’t lie to the king, since the confession will help him in the long run, but he may go through a hell realm first

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/13/15 12:06 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:
Noah:

When I read the Pali canon, it feels like an instruction manual.  What if I removed all of my Western filters, and actually followed the instruction manual?  That is the experiment.

I think you're on to something here, Noah. Keep at it.

What you are discovering is what I've been saying for the longest time. But most people are too fascinated by the forest to see the trees just in front of them.

I don't know if you'll reach the same place I did, but it should be an interesting journey for you.

Thanks Ian.  Only time will tell, but I have a good feeling about this.  Your writing has been very helpful in gently nudging me in this trajectory this whole time.  

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/13/15 2:06 AM as a reply to Noah.
12.12

-DN 3.1.2: The Dhamma is intertwined with superstitions and legends that were in India at the time (32 physical marks of a great man)
-DN 3.1.15: The Buddha uses tact and craft in conversation, making adjustments in real time.
-DN 3.1.21: The Buddha used force in conversation, when necessary (Vajra Pani backing him up), but returns to compassion quickly (in stanza 23).
-DN 3.2.4: The Buddha acknowledges relative degrees of morality (not just black & white).  Ambattha and his teacher suck because they did not even qualify for the lowest degree of morality training.
-DN 3.2.10: The Budddha goes through some of the specifics of virtue/ conduct... Buddhist morality is not just 'common sense.'
-DN 3.2.12: In order to show Ambattha his hidden 'marks of a great man', the Buddha gives Ambattha temporary x-ray vision... LOL!
-DN 3.2.17: Ability to remember past conversations meticulously seems to be a recurring theme.  Also, the Buddha forgives Ambattha's transgressions and declares goodwill.
-DN 3.2.19: The Buddha 'consents by silence', an interesting form of communication.
-DN 3.2.21: The Buddha gives Pokkharasati (Ambattha's teacher) the 'graduated discourse': generosity--> virtue--> heaven (cosmology)--> renunciation--> 4 noble truths.  Graduated discourse makes the student's mind "pliable, free from hindrances, joyful and calm."  All of this comes before the 4 noble truths!
-DN 3.2.22: Pokkharasati immediately gets SE and takes refuge, promising to practice morality.  This suggests that enlightenment is the realization of the necessity of morality, and not the other way around.  Also, Pokkharasati asks the Buddha to come visit him and his family.  This request for the Buddha to come visit him (and not the other way around), plus the late time of night of the visit in the Sutta, plus Ambattha's earlier rudeness, all show that the Buddha was treated as a totally normal human and was totally okay with working within those types of situations!


-When I practice addictive or compulsive habits, I feel bad in both the short term and long term.  It is important to remember this daily in order to reduce the desire for these habits in the first place.

-Listening to IMS teacher John Travis misrepresent Theravadan viewpoint in BG interview was holy shit moment (even IMS teachers don't necessarily know the suttas).  To paraphrase the misrepresentation: the Buddha advised us to stay in 'the universal' (not 'the personal')... the reason Western Buddhism needs psychology is to address 'the personal', because there are all types of problems that still remain when we emerge from 'the universal.'  To me, this message is obviously non-Buddhist.

-My LOA practice seems to be in line with the theory of merit, since prayer-work tends to manifest in years, and not weeks or months.

-It may not be that extreme to follow the Pali canon.  Perhaps it is more ridiculous to blindly follow the dictums of Western Buddhism.

-Realizations from breath meditation:
          a) thoughts about life affect the quality of the meditation, they are not just to be pushed down or 'vipassanized'
          b) writing out epiphanies is not necessarily a bad practice, even if it interrupts meditation... there are no hard-and-fast rules
          c) lute-tuning story applies... I can see how I have historically tried too hard to 'hold' the mind in one place (which maybe a Western filter of 'hardcore' meditation)
          d) this may not be a good time in my practice to take another in-person teacher or sangha... I should probably establish a formal practice first, and that could take a long time

-Did not drink coffee this morning because it felt wrong in my body to do so.  Starting to listen to body where before I was suppressing its messages.

-It is good to skillfully attach to merit: to all the good kamma one is developing (even if these are just seen to be conceptual tools and not reality).

-Good Thubten Chodron talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qfS9vK35UA  - She talks of 'loosening' as a part of developing compassion.  This is a theme I am picking up: the message is "lighten up, dude."
          -"Everyone wants to be free of suffering, just as much as I do" / "Just like me"
          -"The more we think about ourself, the more unhappy we get."

-It is okay if I suffer a little bit in the short term.  It is not okay if I suffer in the long term.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/13/15 10:51 AM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
What if I removed all of my Western filters, and actually followed the instruction manual?  That is the experiment.

Hi Noah,

I think you may be severly underestimating how deep those filters go. Even the concept of a western filter is a western filter emoticon If you could strip away all the filters what would be left ? You'd have no language, no education, no social conventions. I guess you could try to replace those with filters from another culture but wouldn't that culture be just as removed from India of 2,500 years ago as western culture ?

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/13/15 7:59 PM as a reply to Noah.
Paweł K:
wait, what?
aren't you practicing actualism now?

Haha, I can see why you'd be confused.  About three weeks ago I had a chat with a dharma buddy who convinced me that insight progress beyond 'technical 4th' was possible.  As I absorbed this information, my gut instinct started to be that I should switch back to spirituality.  This decision process took about two weeks.  Basically, the statistical likelihood of me benefitting from spirituality seems much higher than that of actualism, given sample size of success stories alone.  In short, I've just been bouncing around like a pinball.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/13/15 8:04 PM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:

Hi Noah,

I think you may be severly underestimating how deep those filters go. Even the concept of a western filter is a western filter emoticon If you could strip away all the filters what would be left ? You'd have no language, no education, no social conventions. I guess you could try to replace those with filters from another culture but wouldn't that culture be just as removed from India of 2,500 years ago as western culture ?


Hi Mark, I agree that we can never strip away filters completely. That being said, there is still a relative scale.  In other words, it is still worth the effort to make a partial gain.

Also, filters from other cultures can be used skillfully.  For instance, people in Asian countries do not have as much neurosis (at least on a conscious level), on average, compared to Westerners.  Than Geoff talks about this a lot.  Part of the reason for this is because they are less self-absorbed than Westerners, being a collectivist culture.  As a stereotypical Westerner in this regard, I acknowledge that I have a lot to gain from adopting aspects of an Ancient Indian filter and reading the Pali Canon.  

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/13/15 9:48 PM as a reply to Noah.
MCTB 2 goes to great lengths to try to correct the impressiont that people somehow got from it that morality isn't important. There are so many great books that are out there on Buddhist Morality that I didn't focus on that, and somehow that and many other factors seem to have converged to create an impression that somehow meditation is the most important thing.

MCTB was designed to counter a culture where Morality and relative psychological work and skillful living was nearly everything and the rest was largey ignored, so I can see how that message may come through, despite numerous places it works to try to say that Morality is key.

I myself strive mostly in Morality in my life as the core training that takes up the vast majority of my time.

As to the Pali Canon, you can refer people to it again and again, and, until they are somehow ready to go there, people just don't. My current audiobook I am listening to as I commute is The Dhammapada, The Udana, The Itivuttaka: Key Texts from the Khuddaka NikayaIt is just brilliant stuff, obviously.

I have read a substantial chunk of the Pali Canon over the years, taking it slowly, sutta by sutta, book by book, and am very happy that I have, and many parts of it, such as the MN, DN, Udanna, and Dhammapada, I have read multiple times.  The commentaries, while they do get a bad rap from some, still contain points that are valuable for practice pragmatically, but, like the Pali texts, are not uniform in their level of quality. Still, they are a remarkable resource for life and practice, and, coupled with good practice, really fill in a lot that one would otherwise be totally clueless about.

I think you are going in a good direction. Regarding "techical fourth path", I am not sure why that term grates against my sensitilibites so, but it probably relates to the long history of people having such low standards for it, standards they apparenly made up on their own. Anyway, practice and study well.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/13/15 11:52 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel:

As to the Pali Canon, you can refer people to it again and again, and, until they are somehow ready to go there, people just don't. 


Interesting observation.  I certainly would not have been able to read it with an open mind before burning out some of the other impulses to travel down path ways such as insight meditation, actualism, and hedonistic materialism.

I think you are going in a good direction. Regarding "techical fourth path", I am not sure why that term grates against my sensitilibites so, but it probably relates to the long history of people having such low standards for it, standards they apparenly made up on their own.


I have absolutely no attachment to the label 'technical 4th path' at all.  Its just a common understanding my teacher and I used, and that has also helped me communicate with others who have had similar experiences in meditation.  It is not my experience, by the way, that this network of people are each making up their own, individual standards, as there appears to be a huge degree of commonality.  I truly mean this as no disrespect.  Perhaps we would do better to come up with a different vocabulary that is less related to the suttas, but does honor the validity of the experience.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 2:07 AM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:

Hi Mark, I agree that we can never strip away filters completely. That being said, there is still a relative scale.  In other words, it is still worth the effort to make a partial gain.

Also, filters from other cultures can be used skillfully.  For instance, people in Asian countries do not have as much neurosis (at least on a conscious level), on average, compared to Westerners.  Than Geoff talks about this a lot.  Part of the reason for this is because they are less self-absorbed than Westerners, being a collectivist culture.  As a stereotypical Westerner in this regard, I acknowledge that I have a lot to gain from adopting aspects of an Ancient Indian filter and reading the Pali Canon.  
In regards to morality training do you find that the Pali Canon is suggesting you behave in a way that a moral Westerner would not behave ?

I think we can find examples of the Pali Canon ignoring the most important moral issues in Wesern culture. That is not a fault of the Pali Canon, it was developed in a different culture.

Generosity is an interesting example. There is a long tradition in the USA (I think you live there) of the wealthy donating significant portions of their wealth, it is quite the trend for billionaires at the moment. There is an interesting POV on this, some charity by early immigrants was a result of not having (or desiring) the social protection of a collectively controlled economy. The Protestant church provided a simple way of buying one's morality through charity. In exchange the social questions of why there were people that depended on charity did not need to be addressed. It could be argued that the USA is still following that Protestant pattern. It would be very easy to lay Buddhist generosity over that Western filter rather than see a Western filter.

I don't think the stereotypical Westerner has looked into the critical analysis of Western culture by recent Western philosophy (often influenced by Eastern philosophy). That seems to me a more effective path to strip away filters compared to reinterpreting the Pali Canon.

I'd be interested to hear of insights from the Pali Canon regarding morality that you are adopting and are in contradiction with the rules commonly accepted (but less often applied) in Western morality. I wonder why you are rejecting Western morality. I suspect it might be because you are comparing a theoretical Eastern morality from the Pali Canon with the everyday morality we see in Western society. You could more justly compare the 10 commandments to the 5 precepts, I doubt either would lead you very far astray. 

In Eastern cultures I think you'll find the same paradox between the texts and everday behavior. It is easy to put the blame on Western morality rather than accept that I've not been following Western morality but Western immorality to some degree. 

I agree other cultures are of great value for seeing our own filters. From my experience it is living in those cultures rather than reading about them where the greatest insights occur. A few years in a culture where you don't speak the language is well worth it!

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 2:47 AM as a reply to Mark.
Hey Mark,

My core effort here is to neither reject nor deny Western or Eastern philosophy.  As much as possible, the goal is to interpret the words in the text, as a human being.  Once again, I understand that we will always have filters and relative understanding, but since that is unavoidable and always the case, I consider that a fairly irrelevant point.  

It seems like your focus here is on a more macro/cultural lens, whereas I am mostly interested in the micro/personal life lens.  My understanding thus far is that the Dhamma is basically about making one's life work, having intuition and street smarts, and learning to work with one's mind skillfully (on all levels).  I am happy to admit that I am basically ignorant regarding the cultural examinations you have provided above.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 5:05 AM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
Hey Mark,

My core effort here is to neither reject nor deny Western or Eastern philosophy.  As much as possible, the goal is to interpret the words in the text, as a human being.  Once again, I understand that we will always have filters and relative understanding, but since that is unavoidable and always the case, I consider that a fairly irrelevant point.  

It seems like your focus here is on a more macro/cultural lens, whereas I am mostly interested in the micro/personal life lens.  My understanding thus far is that the Dhamma is basically about making one's life work, having intuition and street smarts, and learning to work with one's mind skillfully (on all levels).  I am happy to admit that I am basically ignorant regarding the cultural examinations you have provided above.
Hi Noah,

I don't think I was making the point that we always have filters. That was my initial point in reply to your desire to "remove all filters". I think we are on tha same page regarding that. 

My focus is not on the macro/cultural lens, however I don't think it is something that is separable from individual morality. But obviously we can avoid questioning those assumptions.  I guess there is an indirect critcism of the way the Pali Canon does not seem to address the "macro/cultural lens" and instead encourages a "micro/personal life lens" but I started another thread to address that.

The question I asked was "In regards to morality training do you find that the Pali Canon is suggesting you behave in a way that a moral Westerner would not behave ?" which seems relevant to the "micro/personal life lens" you are interested in.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 9:20 AM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:

The question I asked was "In regards to morality training do you find that the Pali Canon is suggesting you behave in a way that a moral Westerner would not behave ?" which seems relevant to the "micro/personal life lens" you are interested in.


I think the answer would be 'no.'  But the reasonings behind choices are different.




RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 9:53 AM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
Mark:

The question I asked was "In regards to morality training do you find that the Pali Canon is suggesting you behave in a way that a moral Westerner would not behave ?" which seems relevant to the "micro/personal life lens" you are interested in.


I think the answer would be 'no.'  But the reasonings behind choices are different.




I agree. What about the other way - are there presonal morality issues in modern Western cultures that are not considred in the Pali Canon ?

Things like pornography, climate change & the media come to mind. 

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 1:05 PM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:

I agree. What about the other way - are there presonal morality issues in modern Western cultures that are not considred in the Pali Canon ?

Things like pornography, climate change & the media come to mind. 


Yeah for sure.  But there are methods in the Pali Canon that can be applied to these situations.  Looking at our intentions, and our actual effects in the world, from past experience.  We can tell what actions have led to harmful climate change.  We are able to formulate a plan to do the opposite.  The Buddha would be into that (even if it would not be his main focus).  This is the theme of 'heedfulness' that Than-Geoff talks about.  This also goes along with the theme of ensuring long-term relief from suffering.

With pornography, it would be all about internal state.  Pornography promotes harmful (even if subtle), internal states of mind.  This was the Buddha's main focus: working towards more skillful states of mind.

Obviously there is more nuance to these modern themes but it could be easily overlooked that the Canon does address these types of things.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 1:42 PM as a reply to Noah.
12.13

-DN 4.5: Pokkharasati reappears, referenced as one who reveres Sonadanda… pattern of Buddha gaining respect of ever-more legit or ‘big’ figures in India… backed up by being called “the teacher’s teacher” in the next stanza
-DN 4.8: The Buddha’s reputation for skill in questions precedes him.
-DN 4.11: Being a nice guy, the Buddha asks Sonadanda a question he can answer, which helps him to save face.
-DN 4.14: The teachings of the Three Vedas are easily compromised.
-DN 4.17: The Buddha tricks Sonadanda into espousing his own teaching, by stripping Brahmin-hood of its more vain values.
-DN 4.18: The Buddha skillfully handles an attempted interruption to the conversation.
-DN 4.22: “Wisdom is purified by morality, and morality is purified by wisdom.
-DN 4.25: The Buddha has a ‘prepared seat.’  It occurs to me that the precept of not sitting on high seats might be because one can not sit higher than the Buddha did.
-DN 4.26: The Buddha is down with social tact; he is sophisticated.
-DN 4.27: The Buddha ‘fires up’ his students with enthusiasm, through Dhamma talks.

-DN 5.10: A king wants to make a great sacrifice, and asks his chaplain how to make it to his long term benefit.  The chaplain wisely advises him to make the people of his country happy first.
-DN 5.18: Sacrifice was bloodless, involving objects and substances only.  No servants were made to work- fairly liberal/ democratic view of the Buddha here.
-DN 5.19: ‘Sacrifice’ is seen to be synonymous with ‘generosity’ and rubs off on the people.
-DN 5.22-27: Kutadanta discovers, through a series of questions about better and better sacrifices, that taking the 3 jewels and practicing the Dhamma is the best type.
-DN 5.30: Just as in previous suttas, he feeds the sangha and they “eat until satisfied” (I wonder how much food that is).

-DN 6.5-11: Otthaddha asks the Buddha about his student Sunakkhatta, who only saw heavenly sights through meditation, but did not hear heavenly sounds.  Buddha explains that different types of Samadhi reap different types of heavenly perceptions.  
-DN 6.13: Buddha describes ten fetter model.
-DN 6.14: Buddha describes 8fold path as the way up the ten fetter model.
-DN 6.15-19: Going through the jhanas, one loses the desire to make attributions about the soul and the body (‘what am I?’).  Bodily satisfaction seems to replace the need for this.  Also, morality causes one to experience “blameless bliss” “as if they were freed from debt” or sickness, bonds, slavery, and perils of the desert.  This ‘protection’ idea is common, and is based on merit.  Although not hedonistic, the Dhamma absolutely involves the experience of pleasure!  This makes me question the idea of 'pure insight' being about total equanimity or 'seeing things as they are,' etc.  It seems that the Buddha's insight was intertwined with the realization that healthy pleasure is totally possible and necessary.

-DN 7: Short sutta repeating story at end of previous sutta.

-DN 8.3: Buddha does not put down all ascetics.  Their practice of mortification is unrelated to their future rebirth.
-DN 8.5: He encourages aspects of practice that are in line with the Dhamma already, and discourages those that are not, when talking to ascetics.  Dhamma is a gradual or relative thing, not a black and white proposition.  Also, Buddhist teaching is not in some bubble, but is rather a collection of ‘good ideas’ that many non-Buddhists are probably already practicing.  For more on the grey-scale aspect of discipline in the Dhamma, see Ambattha and the relative degrees of homelessness.  
-DN 8.6-8: Buddha has freed himself from all the unskillful things, while other teachers have only done so in part.  This suggests a gradual model of awakening that is intertwined with morality and his more customizable than the 10 fetter model.
-DN 8.13: Interesting phrase- “the Dhamma and the discipline”... suggests that they are separate.
-DN 8.14: Different ascetic diets… kind of reminds me of pop diets today.
-DN 8.15: “but if his morality, his heart and his wisdom are not developed and brought to realisation, then indeed he is still far from being an ascetic or a Brahmin. But, Kassapa, when a monk develops non-enmity, non-ill-will and a heart full of loving-kindness and, abandoning the corruptions, realises and dwells in the uncorrupted deliverance of mind, the deliverance through wisdom, having realised it in this very life by his own insight, then, Kassapa, that monk is termed an ascetic and a Brahmin.” -- this awesome quote seems to suggest to me that morality delivers or trains the heart, and that the heart delivers or trains wisdom… that the ‘heart full of loving-kindness’ leads to ‘dwell in the uncorrupted deliverance of mind.’

-Interesting C&E nana, with the breath being one with the mind… leading quickly into A&P… dismissed them because they weren’t skillful in leading towards sleep

-There is a way to be detached, but not dissociated.  One is still embodying one’s experience, but intuitively knowing its illusory nature.  A lot of 'insight' meditation I have done has had an element of dissociation to it, i.e. by vipassanizing things I take a special lens that makes them less painful (Shinzen's 'divide and conquer'), by noting things I simplify them down into one word and sort of push them away, by taking a more awareness based approach, I take a positive and bright lens which amplifies the energy in objects and makes them less painful.  Interestingly, I have always found that samatha practices have not had this effect, because they involve less moment-by-moment willpower, and more surrender, which has the automatic result of facing things naturally.

-The traditional Dhamma approach has more to do with learning to skillfully cultivate the right mindstate, regardless of moods, and also across all the nanas.  Rather than having specific strategies for specific nanas.  Although, the Buddha probably would not have been against using one’s intuition to some degree in meditation (i.e. tuning the lute).

-Noted today that it felt good to share positive feelings with coworkers, in the form of laughing together.  This fits in because connecting with others involves generosity and goodwill, freely giving smiles and compliments with positive intentions.

-Its hard to judge the Dhamma as working or not for someone until certain requirements are met:
  1. That they have practiced enough generosity to counter self-absorbed perfectionism.
  2. That they have practiced enough virtue to have the positive side effects of a good conscience and a good self esteem/ self efficacy.  
  3. That they have grokked the importance of the conceptual framework related to cosmology, merit, and renunciation (controlling sense-doors).


RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 4:03 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
Mark:

I agree. What about the other way - are there presonal morality issues in modern Western cultures that are not considred in the Pali Canon ?

Things like pornography, climate change & the media come to mind. 


Yeah for sure.  But there are methods in the Pali Canon that can be applied to these situations.  Looking at our intentions, and our actual effects in the world, from past experience.  We can tell what actions have led to harmful climate change.  We are able to formulate a plan to do the opposite.  The Buddha would be into that (even if it would not be his main focus).  This is the theme of 'heedfulness' that Than-Geoff talks about.  This also goes along with the theme of ensuring long-term relief from suffering.

With pornography, it would be all about internal state.  Pornography promotes harmful (even if subtle), internal states of mind.  This was the Buddha's main focus: working towards more skillful states of mind.

Obviously there is more nuance to these modern themes but it could be easily overlooked that the Canon does address these types of things.

Hi Noah,

I agree there's lots of common sense in the Pali Canon. But I think it requires making leaps in some areas where it could be wiser to look toward modern analysis of the issues.

In terms of western morality I've found Virtue Ethics relevant and it has a lineage from ancient Western civilizations. It is more centered on the layperson's concerns. I doubt Virtue Ethics would step over the boundaries of the Pali Canon but could have more practical advice for things like managing a team of people at work.

Values like the universal declaration of human rights seem important contributions which seem to go well beyond what the Pali Canon considered.

Certainly worth running your experiment, it is an interesting topic and I found the Western sources rich. It was frustration with the Pali Canon and insight from the eightfold path that got me more interested in Western morality.   Best wishes.

RE: An Experiment With The Pali Canon
Answer
12/14/15 6:06 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, very good post!  :-)
Daniel M. Ingram:
MCTB 2 goes to great lengths to try to correct the impression that people somehow got from it that morality isn't important. There are so many great books that are out there on Buddhist Morality that I didn't focus on that, and somehow that and many other factors seem to have converged to create an impression that somehow meditation is the most important thing.

MCTB was designed to counter a culture where Morality and relative psychological work and skillful living was nearly everything and the rest was largely ignored, so I can see how that message may come through, despite numerous places it works to try to say that Morality is key.

I myself strive mostly in Morality in my life as the core training that takes up the vast majority of my time.

As to the Pali Canon, you can refer people to it again and again, and, until they are somehow ready to go there, people just don't. My current audiobook I am listening to as I commute is The Dhammapada, The Udana, The Itivuttaka: Key Texts from the Khuddaka NikayaIt is just brilliant stuff, obviously.

I have read a substantial chunk of the Pali Canon over the years, taking it slowly, sutta by sutta, book by book, and am very happy that I have, and many parts of it, such as the MN, DN, Udanna, and Dhammapada, I have read multiple times.  The commentaries, while they do get a bad rap from some, still contain points that are valuable for practice pragmatically, but, like the Pali texts, are not uniform in their level of quality.Still, they are a remarkable resource for life and practice, and, coupled with good practice, really fill in a lot that one would otherwise be totally clueless about.

To the reading list of volumes in the Pali Canon within the Khuddaka Nikaya I would personally add the Sutta Nipata as a rare and virtually unheralded gem within the Sutta Pitaka. The Sutta Nipata is one of the oldest volumes (and therefore closest to the originator's actual communication) of suttas in existence. It contains clarifications of the teaching not found in other volumes, and is well worth anyone's reading and contemplating.

Buddharakkita's translation of the Dhammapada is not to be missed. Especially for those who see the wisdom of parcing the meaning of the words and terms being used in order to enhance their understanding of the subtleties of the information being conveyed.

For people who wish to break it down practice-wise in terms of topics and subject matter for study and examination, in order to focus on one aspect of the practice as opposed to another, the following would be the way I break it down by volume:

For suttas about the practice of meditation (including the deeper states of meditation and what can be found there in terms of realizations) there is nothing better than the Majjhima Nikaya. This Nikaya is probably the most accessible Nikaya for Westerner to begin reading and contemplating. It also contains aspects mentioned as highlights obtained from the other Nikayas, but the practice of meditation seems to be its main focus.

For suttas regarding an overview picture of key doctrinal points of the Dhamma (i.e. the thicket of views, commentary on metaphysics, the great discourse on dependent co-arising, a few references to the significance of the fruit available in deeper states of meditation, references to the integrity of the man Siddhattha Gotama which may affect the way you view what he was actually attempting to accomplish as opposed to what the religion of "Buddhism" recounts, as well as various other topics of related interest) the Digha Nikaya is a necessary resource. In all of these volumes that I am mentioning, the Introductions are chock full of interesting and insightful tidbits that you may not find elsewhere.

For suttas challenging the reader to gain insight into the main teachings of the Dhamma responsible for attaining an end to dukkha, both the Samyutta Nikaya and the Anguttara Nikaya are indispensible. The suttas in these two volumes are among the oldest of those recorded and therefore are not to be missed. Both these volumes (in all these recommendations, I'm speaking about the Wisdom Publication editions of these translated suttas together with their footnotes and not online translations) also contain insightful passages which will help the attentive practitioner to gain useful insight into the practice of mindfulness and meditation.

My favorite volumes are the ones containing the older (earlier?) suttas which are the Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas along with the Sutta Nipata. The footnotes are an indispensible part of the reading and comprehension process which help to clarify obscure passages for modern readers.

In peace,
Ian