Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

thumbnail
Noah, modified 5 Years ago.

Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
My teacher sent me an interesting article on the New Burmese Method and the Visuddhimagga, as seen from a Thai Buddhist perspective.  I'm not particularly sold on all the in-fighting, and have personally found the Burmese maps and methods do be tremendously transformative, but its a good read regardless.  Here's the link: http://begintosee.blogspot.com/2011/02/bhante-vimalaramsi-turns-whole-history.html 

Here's some highlights: 

"Before he became a monk, he was a Vedic scholar.

He was not a meditator, but he became very prideful about his ability in Pali.

He started thinking he knew Pali better than his teachers did. His teacher read his mind. He said: “No you don’t and the only way you can overcome this unwholesome state you developed is by going to Sri Lanka.” For a 1000 years the Sri Lankan had put all of the commentaries in Sri Lankan, not Pali. So his teacher told him that he had to go to Sri Lanka and change all the Sri Lankan back into Pali. So, that is what he did. When he got to Sri Lanka the first book he wrote was called the Visuddhimagga. . . . 

So, what Buddhaghosa did was said: “:Yes this is right; you cannot attain nibbana by practicing absorption concentration.” So, through the commentaries he that read, he started making changes. And he came up with vipassana - insight knowledge. In the Visuddhimagga there are nine insight knowledges. In the sub-commentary written by Mahasi Sayadaw, there are 16 knowledges. And supposedly you are supposed to be able to attain nibbana by seeing anicca, dukkha, or anatta. After you get to what to what they call Sankharu – pekkha; that means “equanimity to formations.” That is the 11th insight knowledge. When you go through this knowledge - far enough - you get to a place where you will see anicca arise 4 or 5 times very, very quickly. Or dukkha arise 4 or 5 times very, quickly. Or anatta arise 4 or 5 times very, quickly. And then you have a black-out. When you come back you will see all the insight knowledges you have gone through; it will happen automatically and you have them in the right order. That’s what they call nibbana. I understand these insight knowledges all the way up to 16. That is not nibbana.
thumbnail
tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
howdy noah,
pretty provocative.  i read a bit about buddhaghosa in the intro to the vissudhimagga which i have as pdf.  the biography alone is really interesting never mind the technical differences.

can you share the rest of the article?

cheers

tom
Jeff Nieves, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 48 Join Date: 2/27/15 Recent Posts
Interesting. Would love to see the email!
thumbnail
Noah, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
@Tom & Jeff:

Sorry I forgot to post the link!  I added it to the op, and here it is a second time: http://begintosee.blogspot.com/2011/02/bhante-vimalaramsi-turns-whole-history.html 
Caro, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 91 Join Date: 5/10/15 Recent Posts
I don´t get the impression that this article contains a fair examination of Burmese Vipassana practice based on the Visuddhimagga.

"...So what they are teaching is not according to what the Buddha said; their teaching is according to a person that doesn’t meditate did - what he says is nibbana. But he has no direct knowledge..."
I doubt Buddhaghosa could have described meditative experiences the way he did without having experienced them.

".. That’s what they call nibbana. I understand these insight knowledges all the way up to 16. That is not nibbana..."
From my understanding of Mahasi Sayadaw´s teaching, at the experience of cessation, one realizes experientially that all phenomena, including awareness / the mind itself are conditioned and impermanent, thus at the moment of cessation all phenomena stop. To me that sounds pretty much in line with the description of nirvana in the suttas.
If experienced with sufficient clarity, I found that the way a cessation "descends on the mind" has such a quality of otherworldly peace to it, that I can see how people came up with the descriptions of Nirvana in the suttas as a wonderful state beyond words.

Undoubtedly the description of the progress of insight sounds somehow strange. But it does give a structured framework to insight meditation which can be immensely helpful.
Jeff Nieves, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 48 Join Date: 2/27/15 Recent Posts
I mean, I think it's pretty unarguable that the commentaries are not exactly what exists in the Suttas, but I do think that dudes like Vimalaramsi ask the wrong questions. He seems more concerned with the commentaries perfectly aligning with the suttas than whether they lead to the cessation of suffering. 

I also feel like it's Vimalaramsi's schtick to attack the commentaries. He's done it in every video I have ever seen of him, and that has always made me wary of him. He wears his bitterness on his sleeve. He's also the dude who says arhats who don't ordain burst into flames.

Plus, his criticism has holes in it. He's stating that Buddaghosa invented the progress of insight, while neglecting to mention that it exists in the Vimuttimagga, a document that is hundreds of years older than the Visuddhimagga.

All that being said, I do agree that the Visuddhimagga is one of the most unapproachable texts I've ever encountered!

Also, I do think that it's problematic that everyone is constantly claiming that their practice is exactly what the Buddha taught. You've got the Zen peeps who claim that the Buddha winked the true dharma to them. You've got the Tibetans acting like visualizing themselve as a thousand armed bodhisattva has something to do with what the Buddha taught. 

It's actually pretty confusing for people when they start practicing. That being said, I don't think that anyone, including the Pali Cannon purists, can really claim they know, in a perfect way, exactly what the true dharma is and isn't.

I wish this emphasis on things being directly from the Buddha's mouth would die a quick death. I think the emphasis should be on whether a particular technique or tradition relieves suffering.

Thanks for sharing the article, Noah!
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Jeff Nieves:
He's also the dude who says arahats who don't ordain burst into flames.

Where does he say this?

Psi
Jeff Nieves, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 48 Join Date: 2/27/15 Recent Posts
I saw it in a youtube video a few years ago. I'm not sure which video it was anymore. I'll try to find it again, but if I can't, it's possible that my memory served me wrong or that I misunderstood him.
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Jeff Nieves:
I saw it in a youtube video a few years ago. I'm not sure which video it was anymore. I'll try to find it again, but if I can't, it's possible that my memory served me wrong or that I misunderstood him.
Hmmm...  It also could be, that we all, as humans, say things at one time or another, for whatever reason.  But, as spiritual practitioners, for lack of a better term, also advance and further purifiy the mind.  i.e. stages of enlightenment. So, it also may be that what one of us says now, may not hold true for that mind in the future. 

What I am saying , is that minds change, especially under the constant application of systems such as the Noble Eightfold Path, and especially when practiced in its entirety, and as continuously as possible, i.e. 24/7.  Change may even occur in the very next mind moment of practice.

What may be thought of as truth today , may be seen as delusion in the future.  The Buddha went through this process, why should we think we would not also?  He sorted through what was delusion and not delusion, wholesome and unwholesome.  Abandoned one set and kept the other, one by one, as they occured.

And then again, we may all be subject to spontaneous combustion....  




Psi
Jeff Nieves, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 48 Join Date: 2/27/15 Recent Posts
The subtext of The Fantastic Four suddenly makes so much more sense. Johnny Storm was an Arahant!
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Psi:
Jeff Nieves:
He's also the dude who says arahats who don't ordain burst into flames.

Where does he say this?

Psi
Similar , maybe this is where all this stems from...  Which is funny, because this is taken from commentary, and not from the Suttas, if I am not mistaken, so I think everyone is safe to practice without fear of spontaneous combustion,  emoticon

One could always use a Fire Extinguisher as a Kasina.

 Bolding mine, Does not say in flames specifically , lol
Arahant Lay followers

The Commentaries mention some lay followers who attained full enlightenment, such as Uggasena who was a lay man with the householder responsibilities with family and work as an acrobat in side shows.The Milindapanha mentions by implication that lay people can attain full enlightenment:

"If a layman attains arahant-ship, only two destinations await him; either he must enter the Order that very day or else he must attain parinibbàna"
Milindapanha III.19

"You say that if a layman attains arahantship he must either enter the Order that very day or die and attainparinibbàna. Yet if he is unable to find a robe and bowl and preceptor then that exalted condition of arahantship is a waste, for destruction of life is involved in it.

"
"The fault does not lie with arahantship but with the state of a layman, because it is too weak to support arahantship. Just as, O king, although food protects the life of beings it will take away the life of one whose digestion is weak; so too, if a layman attains arahantship he must, because of the weakness of that condition, enter the Order that very day or die."

Milindapanha III.62

The Milindapanha, which is almost as old as the [rest of (Burmese ed.)] Pali Canon above implies that lay people do/did attain enlightenment. It is just that they all ordained or died within 7 days or less.Many of the arahants mentioned in the Pali Canon who attained enlightenment were either monks or nuns or ascetics from other traditions, so technically, perhaps the ascetics were not lay followers.

But there is a list of 21 lay followers in AN 6.131 - 151 / 3:450 f; PTS ed AN 6.119-120 who attained full enlightenment. One is listed as a doctor, others as householders, so it does not appear they were all ascetics.

http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Lay_arahant
thumbnail
tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
howdy jeff,
i have to first admit that i'm in no danger of spontaneously combusting. :-)

what i'm about to say is not well considered and definitely could be taken as devisive speech but i have to concur with you on a point.

despite having found great value in bhante v's almost unique emphasis on the "calming" instruction in satipatthana, i am always a bit put off by his persona.  his language is almost always couched in terms which 'elevate' him above his 'peers'.  he makes too much of 'his' rediscovery of the importance of the buddha's instruction to 'calm the bodily formations'.  is that REALLY necessary?  methinks not.
Jeff Nieves, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 48 Join Date: 2/27/15 Recent Posts
I've also benefited from his take on things.  But yeah, I think he goes way too far with a lot of what he says.
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Jeff Nieves (3/21/16 9:59 AM as a reply to Noah)

More perspective…

"… unarguable that the commentaries are not exactly what exists in the Suttas, but I do think that dudes like Vimalaramsi ask the wrong questions. He seems more concerned with the commentaries perfectly aligning with the suttas than whether they lead to the cessation of suffering. … it's Vimalaramsi's schtick to attack the commentaries."

Sutta
-s, commentaries, Visudhimagga,… the Pali Canon is huge, a complex amalgam of layers of interpretation by succeeding generations across vast ages by people dedicating their lives to the study and practice (and towards the goal of realization). In one way, it can be seen, used as a reference work: for in-depth study of any particular issue one can follow the related threads through that maze of literature. One of the principles inherent in the tradition is that the whole should be preserved and passed-on, even when one doesn't understand every partof it; others, in another time and place, may be able to gain more understanding, appreciation for what we, at the moment, can't fathom. In the Visudhimagga, there are passages where Buddhagosa himself admits to not being able to understand certain issus, but he passes the texts on, and attaches sutta references and what commentators had to say about it, for others to work with.

[btw: the assertion that Buddhagosa and other commentators, and the "abhidhammikers" (authors of Abhidhamma) were not meditation practitioners largly results from poor scholarship, often motivated by outright prejudice. I have traced down the background of beliefs like that through the work of various scholars cited in justifying such views. Could write a sizable essay applying literary and contextual criticism to their writings to demonstrate that these views are, at best, hypotheses on the basis of s/w shakey evidence, and s/t flagrant bias. But I'd rather spend the time practicing; very few would be interested in wading through it all; and people are, afterall, entitled to their own beliefs.]

PaAuk Sayadaw (at the start of an interview in Richard Shankman's book The Experience of Samadhi), answering the question why there is so much disagreement about the jhana-s? (compare the 'jhana wars' in DhO terms):
"One reason there is disagreement about jhana and samadhi is because people do not understand the Pali texts well. … People should trace back to the original suttas, the original commentaries and subcommentaries, and then to the Visuddhimagga, and only then will they understand the meanings."

Who has the time to do that? And it takes as well guidance of others who know the way around in it. It may seem strange by modern Western standards, but Asian traditions are based largely on a system of learning (and realizing) that involves initially years of virtually memorizing vast texts by rote, e.g. in the early years. Then they continue with practice, under guidance, and over the decades come to directly see the meanings conveyed texts, at least those relevant to their own practice and constitutional inclinations. (I've had first-hand exposure to such a system also in the transmission of classical Chinese medicine.)

"…the Visuddhimagga is one of the most unapproachable texts I've ever encountered…"
My experience too, though one can't help be affected by plowing through it; and – short of re-reading it in depth -- some passages or others will likely stand out in memory and prove haunting, even rewarding (in my experience). Then too, there's discussion as to whether the Visudhimagga is intended as a rigid step-by-step practice manual, or as an encyclopedic overview of the traditional material, which one can use to explore and carve out one's individual path.

That's all pretty much a blind spot in our Western conditioning – largely more to focus from the start on analytical abilities, and in fact to attack and dismiss "older" viewpoints that don't match current biases, whether we throughly understand them, in their original context, or not. Sure, the Buddha is said to have recommended pragmatic inquiry, irrespective of mere "tradition" or "authority", though (as per Than-Geoff's interpretation) that means not to go off in the direction of wallowing in skepticism and iconoclasm, but to evaluate, accept guidance, and find what's truly valuable for oneself, and pursuing that wholeheartedly. When that works out, whenone's "got it" for oneself (or perhaps in spite of oneself), then comparing with others, especially devaluing their dearly held views, is all, at best, irrelevant.

re: Psi(3/20/16 7:43 PM as a reply to Jeff Nieves)
"… we all,as humans, say things at one time or another, for whatever reason…"
That's what we do. (Maybe what I'm doing here.) But, as the Buddha also taught (is it said), if we're paying close attention (sati), we will recognize it, andfigure out how to do better.

While I'm at it, a very interesting passage later in the Pa Auk Sayadaw interview conducted by Richard Shankman (emphasis added):
"… But that access concentration [as the gateway to absorptive jhana] and the four-elements access concentration not the same. Because of this similarity, when your samadhi is strong enough to discern four elements in each kalapa, the commentary says that is access concentration. Such a level of access concentration occurs throughout the vipassana. At that time their samadhi is vipassana samadhi, vipassana concentration, which is nearly the same as access concentration."

Sound familiar? Has anyone else come across similar ideas in MCTB2? perhaps in Mahasi's Treatise on Insight? In Mahasi's vipassana-khanika-samadhi, translated by U. Pandita as vipassana-jhana?

It's popular to juxtapose PaAuk Sayadaw's emphasis on concentration with, i.e. vs Mahasi's emphasis on vipassana. When looked at closely, they're both talking about the same thing. What PaAuk terms "discern four elements in each kalapa" is exactly what's taught in advanced stages of the Mahasi practice of "noting" (as direct knowledge, gnosis), particularly in walking meditation. The "four elements" are the sensory subqualities -- heavy/light, hard/soft, motion/change, fluidity/cohesion, and temperature; a "kalapa" is each discreet mental phenomenon composed of those elemental qualities that forms the perception of each moment of bodily awareness (i.e. in walking). To discern the fabrication of sensation from those elements is the path to understanding materiality and mentality (namarupa).

(This take on element-meditation I've not read directly in Mahasi's writings, though it's surely in there; rather I learned it from retreat instructions and dhamma talks of Ven. Thuzana Sayadaw, abbot at Tathagata Meditation Center (SanJose, Calif), colleague of U. Silananda and U. Pandita, and was probably himself ordained by Mahasi. It's more vivid than reading due to being practiced in the retreat setting. And having been earlier also taught the same method by Shaila Catherine and U. Jagara – both students of Pa Auk Sayadaw – in retreat settings.)
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Chris J Macie:

re: Psi(3/20/16 7:43 PM as a reply to Jeff Nieves)
"… we all,as humans, say things at one time or another, for whatever reason…"
That's what we do. (Maybe what I'm doing here.) But, as the Buddha also taught (is it said), if we're paying close attention (sati), we will recognize it, andfigure out how to do better.
Well, yes.  That is the point I was trying to make.  We say things, make mistakes, with the Path, we should be improving over the years.  

So, what I am saying, are old videos actually a reflection of the current state in this very moment? Maybe they are, maybe they are not. Not trying to stick up for nor criticize anyone here, everyone is responsible for their own speech and actions, Bhantes, Venerables, Bhikkus, and Peeps included, whatever may be the Identification Flavor of the day.

So, yes, best to, recognize, no blame and change.  For myself, I have recognized alot of unwholesomeness in my past speech, actions, and communications.  Some stemmed from delusionary thinking that is no longer relevant, yet the writing still remains for all to see...  

It is a process.

I do see that Bhante V has always given credit to where credit is due, the Buddha.  As far as I know, he has never claimed that they are his teachings.

As for Buddhagosa and The Path of Purification, it has some good pointers, and from what I can tell, has some definite sidetracks that could lead one astray from what the Buddha was trying to teach. 

I always thought of Bhante V's rediscovering of what the Buddha taught, was more of a "new" to him kind of rediscovery.  Though he does seem to come off as if it was a giant rediscovery of some sort.  And, perhaps it is to the traditions or monasteries he was training within. But, for others, the Third Noble Truth and Dependent Origination is part and parcel of the course. Relaxing, the way he teaches is the same as abandonment, not clinging, is the same as tranquilizing the body formations, tranquilizing the mental formations.  To me, all basically the same stuff, different Labels, different descriptions.  And yes, it goes deeper than all that.

Really, humans, whether they be labelled, teachers or friends,  can only point out ways, all the rest is DIY, do it yourself , anyway.  Or do it your not self.  haha

Psi
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Psi(3/22/16 10:56 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie)

"I do see that Bhante V has always given credit to where credit is due, the Buddha.  As far as I know, he has never claimed that they are his teachings."

That rings a bit ingenuous. He repeatedly attempts to discredit mainline Therevadan teachers and traditions, claiming rather vague support for this from various ill-defined sources. He asserts that they, Mahasi for instance, are mistaken about the nature of "nibbana", but that Vimalaramsi knows what it really is.

"As for Buddhagosa and The Path of Purification, it has some good pointers, and from what I can tell, has some definite sidetracks that could lead one astray from what the Buddha was trying to teach."

You are certainly not alone in such views – indeed side-tracked by popular, superficial, prejudicial, and usually just cursory readings of Buddhaghosa's work and the commentarial tradition in general.

How do you derive your ability to discern "what the Buddha was trying to teach"? How does this fit with your general "maybe…maybe not" tone?

"Really, humans, whether they be labelled, teachers or friends,  can only point out ways, all the rest is DIY, do it yourself ,
anyway.  Or do it your not self.  haha"

Excellent example of the laisse-faire"romanticist" attitude that Than-Geoff documents. Welldone.
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Chris J Macie:

"As for Buddhagosa and The Path of Purification, it has some good pointers, and from what I can tell, has some definite sidetracks that could lead one astray from what the Buddha was trying to teach."

You are certainly not alone in such views – indeed side-tracked by popular, superficial, prejudicial, and usually just cursory readings of Buddhaghosa's work and the commentarial tradition in general.
I was referring to the expanding upon things in The Path of Purification on subjects related to the Paranormal Path and Reincarnation stuff.  Which I think is a sidetrack to what the Buddha taught.
How do you derive your ability to discern "what the Buddha was trying to teach"?
Investigation of The Cessation of Dukkha, and the Practice of the Path leading to the cessation of Dukkha.  

How does this fit with your general "maybe…maybe not" tone?
Teachers convey both Wisdom, and Ignorance, one has to separate these.  Diamonds in the Dust.

"Really, humans, whether they be labelled, teachers or friends,  can only point out ways, all the rest is DIY, do it yourself ,
anyway.  Or do it your not self.  haha"

Excellent example of the laisse-faire"romanticist" attitude that Than-Geoff documents. Welldone.
Maybe, I have not read Than-Geoff's documents, but Clinging to Teachers and other Raft Making one day could be abandoned, if a mind were so inclined.

There may be a Raft, but, eventually one has to let go of the raft, "hands off".  emoticon

Psi
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
Psi:

"Really, humans, whether they be labelled, teachers or friends,  can only point out ways, all the rest is DIY, do it yourself ,
anyway.  Or do it your not self.  haha"

Excellent example of the laisse-faire"romanticist" attitude that Than-Geoff documents. Welldone.
Maybe, I have not read Than-Geoff's documents, but Clinging to Teachers and other Raft Making one day could be abandoned, if a mind were so inclined.

This point alone I will try to expand upon, as it's pivotal to all the rest (enumerating which would be like "poking at a nest of wasps"; I'll try for the queen bee here).

My comment was referring to a sort of poetic individualism, relativity of viewpoint inherited from the Romantics, and reading that into your comments.

Going deeper, I've noticed in talking to others about Thanissaro's Buddhist Romanticism that (some, at least) people just can't get the point at all – the point that ideas in Buddhism get filtered and transformed according to latent cultural biases, becoming stuff that has nothing to do with, even contrary to, the "original teachings" (but let's not go there for now).

That led to the hypothesis (tempting to say "insight") that the deeper layer in TG's thesis is, irrespective of what crypto-Romanticists are doing with Dharma, the way we understand ANYTHING AT ALL is by translating it into our own tacit culturally conditioned conceptual schemes, which is largely the Western Romantic worldview of the last two centuries. (One irony being that Thanissaro's own literary genre – cultural history – is a product of Romantic culture.) And that seeing through this is at the core of Gotama's teaching.

That brought to mind Alexander Piatigorsky's momentous but virtually unknown book "The Buddhist Philosophy of Thought".* One of his core points, rabid phenomenologist that he was, was that looking at ALL the other Western analyses (i.e. all the other variations on the title of his own book, across two centuries up to his writing, 1980s), what they do is little more than say "oh, Buddhist thought, or philosophy (Abhidhamma) is basically just this or that kind of system" where "system" means this or that Western conceptual framework, often the speciality of the particular author. Using phenomenological perspective, Buddhist thought (Piatigorsky pointedly avoided the term "Buddhism") is NOT a philosophy, NOR a psychology, but rather META-philosophy, META-psychology. That is, about the very roots and nature of all such mental conceptualizing. And that the Abdhidhamma, for all it's inscrutable specificity, is about taking mental process apart analytically (and meditatively) to the extreme, the most basic bits, to realize what the mind does. As I like to put it, a handbook of reverse-engineering Gotama's "handful of leaves" into the full forest panoply of his insights.

Enough, as this is probably incomprehensible. Thanks for the patience.

* a rather rare book, going for up to several hundred $$ on the internet – but there's a free scanned copy also floating around, e.g. at that "Handful of Leaves" website that I pointed to once here in DhO. I have copies of both versions.
thumbnail
Noah, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Chris Macie:

That led to the hypothesis (tempting to say "insight") that the deeper layer in TG's thesis is, irrespective of what crypto-Romanticists are doing with Dharma, the way we understand ANYTHING AT ALL is by translating it into our own tacit culturally conditioned conceptual schemes, which is largely the Western Romantic worldview of the last two centuries.


This has become more relevant to my direct practice as of late, as the teacher I've been working with stresses this sort of thing.  I would add that in there are orders of importance in terms of how much one aspect of suffering is currently at the fore.  For instance, before meditating, someone might have to deal with psychological issues within the Western medical framework, not be dissecting Western lenses from a meta view.  Even after beginning the meditative process, there will need to be some sort of conceptual structure that is probably a modern interpretation of an ancient framework.  Perhaps investigation of our cultural lenses might be of a tertiary importance, in terms of treating the arrow wound, and not describing the origin of the arrow, etc.  Perhaps not.
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Noah (3/24/16 8:35 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie)

".. Perhaps investigation of our cultural lenses might be of a tertiary importance, in terms of treating the arrow wound, and not describing the origin of the arrow, etc.  Perhaps not."

"Orders of importance" – yes, on the level of "preliminary work", one could say. Your 1st 2 priorities – clearing obstacles, entering a structured practice. But I would venture that understanding the nature of conditioning (e.g. cultural lenses) doesn't come first, but relates to the end-goal: howto avoid being in a war-zone and offering oneself as target to arrows.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Chris J Macie:

... the Abdhidhamma, for all it's inscrutable specificity, is about taking mental process apart analytically (and meditatively) to the extreme, the most basic bits, to realize what the mind does. As I like to put it, a handbook of reverse-engineering Gotama's "handful of leaves" into the full forest panoply of his insights.


Perhaps. Maybe the nature of how one investigates shapes what is seen. As I understand it, each school developed its own Abhidhamma and they are not the same.

A digital sampling scope taking many quick measurements of a signal - when viewed over a large time frame - seems continuous yet when viewed closely appears as a sequence of discreet measurements. But this is simply an artifact of the way the signal was sampled and it is impossible to know if the original signal was continuous or not.

It may be that when the mind focuses in on ever smaller elements of experience that these elements are not actually there (as discreet elements) but rather artifacts of how the mind is being used to investigate.

Perhaps the different views - summarized as Mahayana buddha nature vs Theravada mind moments are the product of Buddhisms own double slit experiment.
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Chris J Macie:

This point alone I will try to expand upon, as it's pivotal to all the rest (enumerating which would be like "poking at a nest of wasps"; I'll try for the queen bee here).

My comment was referring to a sort of poetic individualism, relativity of viewpoint inherited from the Romantics, and reading that into your comments.

Going deeper, I've noticed in talking to others about Thanissaro's Buddhist Romanticism that (some, at least) people just can't get the point at all – the point that ideas in Buddhism get filtered and transformed according to latent cultural biases, becoming stuff that has nothing to do with, even contrary to, the "original teachings" (but let's not go there for now).
Well, I would have to read in full Thannissaro's Buddhist Romanticism to know for sure exactly what you are referring to, and yes even then I may not know.   I do not think I have much of an overlay of any cultural viewpoints or much of a cultural bias.  I have never really synchronized with cultural types of things and have more of a , "hey guys, we are on a planet spinning in the middle of nowhere, and we evolved from single celled creatures, so wake up."

Which is why I lean towards what the Buddha taught, clear, concise, down to earth, methodical. All the way to the root.  Stripped bare of all the cultural viewpoints and traps.

And, on the other hand, there is a thing called Buddhism....  Which contains a papanca of needless things.

So, yes I am probably definitely agreeing, that there is what the Buddha taught, and then there is Buddhist Romanticism, and Buddhisms, that have been filtered and transformed through latent cultural bias, becoming stuff that has nothing to do with and is even contrary to, the "original teachings."

Psi
Small Steps, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 248 Join Date: 2/12/14 Recent Posts
"I have never really synchronized with cultural types of things and have more of a , "hey guys, we are on a planet spinning in the middle of nowhere, and we evolved from single celled creatures, so wake up."


This is a pretty modern, Western view of things. I hope you can see how that's already a "cultural type." emoticon
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Small Steps:
"I have never really synchronized with cultural types of things and have more of a , "hey guys, we are on a planet spinning in the middle of nowhere, and we evolved from single celled creatures, so wake up."


This is a pretty modern, Western view of things. I hope you can see how that's already a "cultural type." emoticon

Haha, emoticon, maybe, but, is it a cultural view, or an observation?  Evolution and Astronomy do not rely upon cultural views, they are observations.  


Psi
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re:Chris J Macie(3/24/16 7:06 AM as a reply to Psi)

"…I've noticed in talking to others about Thanissaro's Buddhist Romanticism that (some, at least) people just can't get the point at all…"
That was a jumping-off point, noticing a difficulty, in a couple of informal discussions with individuals, grasping that there might be a difference between the dominent (romanticist) understanding of Buddhist teachings. Which, upon reflection, resulted in a more general case:

" … the hypothesis (tempting to say "insight") that the deeper layer in TG's thesis is, irrespective of what crypto-Romanticists are doing with Dharma, the way we understand ANYTHING AT ALL is by translating it into our own tacit culturally conditioned conceptual schemes, which is largely the Western Romantic worldview of the last two centuries. … And that seeing through this is at the core of Gotama's teaching."
This was a reflection upon a realization of the extent to which my own mind has been conditioned by this world-view, and the book opened investigation this. Much of the material was familiar, much rather superficially, but a lot from in-depth study ca. 50 years ago in cultural history and related studies (Hegel, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell,…) and the experience of those 50+ years, and then measuring it off against the radical nature of Buddha's teaching (in the form of Thanissaro's summary in his Chapter 2). A sort of toe-hold on a new direction of examination. Then, having aired that out here, s/w surprisingly, many of the responses here came out more or less just like that initial encounter (above, the jumping-off point), which was more informal, anecdotal. In the responses, it's become better documented -- the apparent phenomenon that the unself-reflective, Romanticist-conditioned (i.e. 19th-21st-century Western) mind has such difficulty grasping the issue:

Chuck Kasmire
(3/24/16 12:09 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie)
apples and oranges: physical science (the quantum uncertainty conceptual construct) and the analytical phenomenology of self-reflective consciousness. Perspective differences between traditions – is nibbana as experienced then subject to uncertainty?

Psi (3/24/16 5:35 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie)
"I do not think I have much of an overlay of any cultural viewpoints or much of a cultural bias."
How would you know. demonstrate this? And deferring to Small Steps(3/24/16 6:28 PM as a reply to Psi).

Psi
(3/24/16 7:15 PM as a reply to Small Steps)
"Evolution and Astronomy do not rely upon cultural views, they are observations."
Are you sure? Than-Geoff's book goes into detail documenting the close inter-relationships between the scientific thought of the time and the development of the Romantic worldview / mindset. And particularly pivotal are the evolution, so to speak, of the notion of "Evolution", and (and in connection with the former) the contemporaneous reframing of "Astronomy" – both of which pretty much the way they're still considered today.

What seemed at first an "hypothesis" has being furnished with some unexpected documentary evidence. I think, though, it's not worth pursuing here. Perhaps another thread, but, as in the original thread announcing TG's book, I have scant hopes of constructive dialog, since, there and here, the vocal skeptics haven't read the book. (Nor need they – so many such recommended referencs are put forth on DhO that no-one has the time to read everything, nor does anyone have the right to demand that.)
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Noah (3/19/16 4:01 PM)

Thanks for the links. Listening to / watching the video is a bit more informative than just reading the text, adding insight into this guy's (Vimalaramsi) tone and attitude.

I've read and listened to a good deal of his stuff, as it comes up every so often here on DhO. Many of his interpretations seem to jive with standard Therevada understanding, though a bit more simple-minded, and while his "scholarship" in general is rather weak, in the issues here put-forth (Abhidhamma, Buddhaghosa, etc.) it's starkly idiosyncratic (from Greek idios, "self-preoccupied", as in the English derivative 'idiot'). He accuses Buddhaghosa and others of "pride", which is obviously dear to his heart, as he comes across as very much "full of himself".

The perspectives that Caro and Jeff Nieves brought up are quite to the point. Analyzing his arguments in detail is doable but would be, IME, a waste of time, a distraction. I will add a bit from a different perspective… Starting with Vimalaramsi's bio (http://www.dhammasukha.org/ven-bhante-vimalaramsi.html), and a promotional video ("Bhante Vimalaramsi Background and how he Re-discovered the Path" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLf2hIT4hms). Not just a bit of pretention (c.f. the issue of titles below), but paralleling himself with the Buddha himself, in re-discovering it all.

The claims include 40 years studying with a long list of reputable names, Burmese, Thai, Sri Lankan, etc.; further name-dropping using the Dalai Lama. He claims "between 12 and 15" long retreats – why not a specific count? In the "background" video (which contains mostly promotional material),  he simply says "I became a monk". No mention (that I've found there or anywhere else) of when or where ordained, by whom or in what lineage.

He claims the titles "Most Venerable “Bhante" Vimalaramsi Mahathera". In another place I recall he adds "Sayadaw" to this list. "Bhante" is simply a term used among monks in various ways (a thread on SuttaCentral goes into that); according to U.Jagara it is used by monks in addressing other monks who are more senior in time since ordination. "Thera" ("elder") is used to indicate an acknowledge higher status, often 10 years and more after vows, e.g. "Nyanaponika Thera"(a teacher of Bhikku Bodhi). "MahaThera" (great elder) conveys even more status, e.g. "Nyanatiloka Mahathera" (Nyanaponika's teacher, one of the first Europeans to enter Theravada monasticism). "Sayadaw" is an official Burmese title for one granted status as teacher, usually after 20 years of practice/study, including mastery of Abhidhamma. All these titles (other than "bhante") are usually documented as officially bestowed.

In lieu of any documentation, Vimalaramsi's use of these titles is like calling oneself "President","Prime-Minister", "Chancellor", and "King" (likewise mixing multiple national traditions). That is to say, the suspicion arises that it's all faked, little more than self-promotion. Much of his video stuff was in Malaysia, where he's apparently made an impression – no indication of the context, lineage, or institutions. Then there's his invention of "American Forest Tradition".

Furthermore, his robes, the way he carries himself (e.g. posing in the promotional videos), and the way he speaks – off-handed about traditions he criticizes, constantly boasting about the authority of his own interpretations – suggest to me that he has not studied or practiced the Vinaya (the monastic code, which is arguably an important part of the Buddha's own and "early" teachings) in any depth. The behavior, especially verbal, is so unlike any of the genuine Theravada (or other) monks that I've observed and listened to, in person or on video. In particular the arrogance, even when s/t masked in a show of humility.

If the guy just offered some pragmatic dharma (some people have benefited), no harm done. But to caricature respectable traditions doesn't seem that virtuous, which undermines the whole enterprise.
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Chris J Macie:


He claims the titles "Most Venerable “Bhante" Vimalaramsi Mahathera". In another place I recall he adds "Sayadaw" to this list. "Bhante" is simply a term used among monks in various ways (a thread on SuttaCentral goes into that); according to U.Jagara it is used by monks in addressing other monks who are more senior in time since ordination. "Thera" ("elder") is used to indicate an acknowledge higher status, often 10 years and more after vows, e.g. "Nyanaponika Thera"(a teacher of Bhikku Bodhi). "MahaThera" (great elder) conveys even more status, e.g. "Nyanatiloka Mahathera" (Nyanaponika's teacher, one of the first Europeans to enter Theravada monasticism). "Sayadaw" is an official Burmese title for one granted status as teacher, usually after 20 years of practice/study, including mastery of Abhidhamma. All these titles (other than "bhante") are usually documented as officially bestowed.

In lieu of any documentation, Vimalaramsi's use of these titles is like calling oneself "President","Prime-Minister", "Chancellor", and "King" (likewise mixing multiple national traditions). 
I had always heard these terms, but never gave them much credit for anything, I thought that this was just a way to keep monks together and form some sort of social order, to enable social function.  

In other words, The Longest Practioner has to have the fetter of being the Abbot.  I see it as more of a burden instead of a Grand Wazoo title.

Venerable , to me, just means ten years of practice, Thera means a twenty plusser, etc...  But, I did not ever convey any staus with these tites, because my understanding is that there is no ego support needed when one practices the Dhamma.

Likewise, my understanding of lineage, was not one of any official sanctioning by some council or long or shortly held traditions or associations.  I was under the impression lineage meant the process of change that occurs when one changes from a Worlding to a Noble One, i.e. one that has broken free from at least some of the fetters that bind one to the world.

In this same fashion, I think too, that too that there is too much emphasis put upon rites, rituals, and traditions within alot of what is called Buddhism.  Some of it is clingy and superstitious, from what I have come to understand.  

For example, Vinaya Thumpers, and those that may spread tales that Laypeople may not become Noble Ones.
Bhikkhu Bodhi explains

The word "noble," or ariya, is used by the Buddha to designate a particular type of person, the type of person which it is the aim of his teaching to create. In the discourses the Buddha classifies human beings into two broad categories. On one side there are the puthujjanas, the worldlings, those belonging to the multitude, whose eyes are still covered with the dust of defilements and delusion. On the other side there are the ariyans, the noble ones, the spiritual elite, who obtain this status not from birth, social station or ecclesiastical authority but from their inward nobility of character.

These two general types are not separated from each other by an impassable chasm, each confined to a tightly sealed compartment. A series of gradations can be discerned rising up from the darkest level of the blind worldling trapped in the dungeon of egotism and self-assertion, through the stage of the virtuous worldling in whom the seeds of wisdom are beginning to sprout, and further through the intermediate stages of noble disciples to the perfected individual at the apex of the entire scale of human development. This is the Arahant, the liberated one, who has absorbed the purifying vision of truth so deeply that all his defilements have been extinguished, and with them, all liability to suffering.
Also, I will be the first to admit, I am still learning.  Societal Functions are mysterious, and can be like poking at a nest of wasps.  emoticon

Psi
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Psi:
For example, Vinaya Thumpers, 
Well, that was kind of a meany head thing to say, I apologize to the world.

Sorry

Psi
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Psi(3/23/16 2:50 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie)

"I had always heard these terms, but never gave them much credit for anything, I thought that this was just a way to keep monks together and form some sort of social order, to enable social function."
Sorta. But would you undergo surgery under the knife of someone with no or fake credentials?

"Venerable, to me, just means ten years of practice, Thera means a twenty plusser, etc...
"
Sorta. The way I learned it: "Venerable" means ordained; "majjhima" means having 5-9 years after ordination under one's belt (but they don't wear belts); 10 year + gets you "thera", obviously "elder".

"Likewise, my understanding of lineage, was not one of any official sanctioning by some council or long or shortly held traditions or associations."
Most commonly "lineage" means within a well-defined tradition, a string of person-to-person teachers. European guild/craft traditions, for example; also the PhD tradition (not the ones you can buy on the street in China) carrying on the work of one's "mentor", and "oral exams" being okayed by a bunch of people as "you can be one of us". S/t, especially in Asian, via family, as in martial-arts lineages often go by family names, like "Wu", "Chen" or "Yang" versions of TaiJiQuan. More to the point here, as in Ajahn Mun –Ajahn Lee – Ajahn Fuang – Ajahn Thanissaro…; or Mahasi Sayadaw– Pandita or Silananda Sayadaw – Thuzana Sayadaw…; or Nyanatiloka Mahathera – Nyanaponika Thera – Bhikkhu Bodhi –Ven. Analayo…

"I was under the impression lineage meant the process of change that occurs when one changes from a Worlding to a Noble One, i.e. one that has broken free from at least some of the fetters that bind one to the world."

That's a bit more technical – an Abhidhamma notion of switching object within a single mind moment ("cognitive series"). Only two cases: 1) the moment of jhana absorption, switch from object-nimitta to the mind itself (?); and 2) path moment, switch from anything else (mundane) to nibbana.

Apologies for the pedantic tone; more precision can help eliminate extraneous "noise" in discussions.
thumbnail
Vince, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 82 Join Date: 9/28/14 Recent Posts
I've spoken with many individuals who follow Vim's teachings and others who work with him at his meditation center on a facebook group dedicated to his method. I've noticed that he has almost a cult following, where anything contradicting the idea that he isn't an infallible master is met with avoidance and denial. I've also been told by senior members of his staff that many individuals who regularly follow his method reach Nibbana, as witnessed by them personally. 
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re:Vince (3/22/16 9:35 AM as a reply to Noah)

"I've spoken with many individuals who follow Vim's teachings and others who work with him at his meditation center on a facebook group dedicated to his method. I've noticed that he has almost a cult following, where anything contradicting the idea that he isn't an infallible master is met with avoidance and denial."
Unfortunate, all these dubious aspects – yellow or red flags – of this teacher and his organization's behavior. Some of his framings of teaching are valuable, have helped some individuals. Like a wide range of teachers who derive their teachings from Buddhism, in various ways, but are clear about their lineages, and that their methods are adaptations to modern conditions. For instance, Culadasa, Buddhapaksa, Buddhist Geeks, and even MCTB. This suits the variety of people who are seeking something, and many derive benefit from following these teachings.

A salient feature with Vimalarmsi is the flagrant impersonation of Theravadan authority – "Most Venerable, Mahathera, Sayadaw" – with only suspiciously vague references to his having any concrete basis for such claims. Recently Bhikkhu Bodhi, in a talk given nearby last December, made a good case for distinguishing genuine Theravadan teaching from "false dhamma". Thanissaro Bhikkhu's recent book (Buddhist
Romanticism
) also makes such a case. They are not saying that other takes on Buddhism aren't beneficial, or that other traditions are invalid. They are warning that overtly false representations of Theravada dhamma , leeching off a prominently recognized name, so to speak, does harm (in the sense of not Right Speech and Right View) to the tradition, as well as deluding people. Fostering delusion being in direct contradiction to basic Buddha teaching – ignorance and delusion as the root cause of dukkha, even the basis of the other two prominent causes, desire/craving and aversion/hatred.

"I've also been told by senior members of his staff that many individuals who regularly follow his method reach Nibbana, as witnessed by them personally"
Vim does find it necessary to pointedly redefine "nibbana" to suit himself. His staff members are empowered to validate attainments at this level? The videos are clearly advertising, as is the use of testimonials. In the "background" video, he mentions how he started off with quitting his job "at which he was very successful". Maybe that was in marketting?
Chuck Kasmire, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Noah:
My teacher sent me an interesting article on the New Burmese Method and the Visuddhimagga, as seen from a Thai Buddhist perspective.  I'm not particularly sold on all the in-fighting, and have personally found the Burmese maps and methods do be tremendously transformative, but its a good read regardless. 

edit - sorry, double post.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Noah:
My teacher sent me an interesting article on the New Burmese Method and the Visuddhimagga, as seen from a Thai Buddhist perspective.  I'm not particularly sold on all the in-fighting, and have personally found the Burmese maps and methods do be tremendously transformative, but its a good read regardless.  Here's the link: http://begintosee.blogspot.com/2011/02/bhante-vimalaramsi-turns-whole-history.html 


Thanks for posting this Noah. I have seen this before and it is an interesting article. Vimalaramsi apparently taught the Mahasi method for some time before changing his practice so presumably he found something worthwhile there as well.

I have learned over the years that this is a very sensitive topic for this community. The central theme of the post is a guy saying he practiced the Mahasi technique for a number of years and went through the various stages and experiences that they teach and then he switches to practicing from the suttas, and has a different experience. This is quite pragmatic - in the sense of this is what I did and such and such was the result.

That this second experience based on sutta practice is 'nibbana' is speculative but then other teachers talk about nibbana as well. Daniel for example says the blips are nibbana - again, speculative. Vimalaramsi implies that the commentaries got it wrong while Daniel says the suttas are confused and needed the commentaries to straighten things out. All speculation and hardly pragmatic.

Much of the discusion has been about his personality. Bhante V has a quirky personality. He says some odd things at times. But the OP - is essentially an observation. Others have made observations of a similar nature - Sujato, Than Geoff, and me - for example. Apparently Mahasi and Chah didn't agree either (based on a comment from Jack Kornfield).

I think the heart of why this is such a difficult topic to engage in has to do with authenticity. Each side views its position as being the authentic experience of the Buddha even though neither side can ever prove it. And of course, if one side is authentic then obviously the other is not - which doesn't go over well. Not very pragmatic.

One solution is to say there are many kinds of awakenings or some such and kind of gloss over the differences. I don't find this pragmatic either as it doesn't address the practice -> result aspect.

I can understand that for Mahasi practitioners it doesn't sit well to read these kinds of critiques. All I can offer is that if you practice in some other tradition (from the suttas for example) it doesn't sit well to hear that everyone regardless of practice will go through the progress of insight and the blips - and if they weren’t aware of it they just aren't paying close enough attention or that the suttas are confused, corrupted, and so on.

Speculation about others level of skill, motivations, or which is the one true authentic teaching of the Buddha, the one true definition of jhana, etc. - it’s all speculation as well as devisive. Of course, this is just speculation.
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Chuck Kasmire (3/24/16 11:25 AM as a reply to Noah)

"Apparently Mahasi and Chah didn't agree either (based on a comment from Jack Kornfield)."
Does Kornfield claim that Mahasi had a face-to-face argument? Or that either is on record saying pointedly that the other was wrong? Or is he taking comments, teaching frameworks out of context and juxtaposing them for his own purposes (as master guru of the Dharma Manadala)?

"…if you practice in some other tradition (from the suttas for example) it doesn't sit well to hear that everyone regardless of practice will go through the progress of insight and the blips - and if they weren’t aware of it they just aren't paying close enough attention or that the suttas are confused, corrupted, and so on."
In the sutta-s, in the commentaries, even in the Visudhimagga, there are repeated mentions of variations of path methodology appropriate to individual tempermental differences. Even Mahasi Sayadaw acknowledges the validity of the jhana-samadhi tract for some, the vipassana-khanika-samadhi tract for others. (He emphasizes the latter as in some ways more effective in this particular day-and-age, but not as the one-and-only.)

I agree that the 16- or whatever stages-of-insight approach is taken a bit over-seriously in some quarters, and hence over-reacted to in others.
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Noah:
So, back on topic , here is a link to an article by Bhante Vimalaramsi entitled, What is Anatta?  Here he explains expounds more upon his view of what he sees in the Suttas, as compared to the Visuddhimagga.  I do not see anything in this article that is offensive or anything of the sort.  In fact from my experience, this is pretty much a good article on how to follow what the Buddha taught.  I am not saying the whole of the teaching is summed up in this one little article, but that this article lines up with what the Buddha taught.

And, from my point earlier, even this was written in 2003, Bhante has had another 13 years of pracitice and teaching experience since then, alot can happen on the path in 13 years....  

And, to me it is pretty obvious, that while the Vissudhimagga has some valuable information in it, not all of it stems from the Buddha.

But, pragmatically, just take what works from each teacher, and just leave the rest.  No biggie. No dogma.


http://library.dhammasukha.org/what-is-anatta.html

Psi
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Psi:
So, back on topic , This is a pretty good talk, and from experience, I have to agree with the teaching, from Buddha, in this talk by Bhante Vimalaramsi.

Basically, one trains in abandoning the five hindrances, one can train either in formal meditation or in daily life.  In formal meditation this is a way to have jhana arise. But , it does differ from Concentration practices, where one is focused more on a singular point, or object, that type of concentration , from what I have experienced works, but is more of a temporary suppression of the five hindrances.  Abandoning the hindrances, and understanding how they arise, and how they can be abandoned, is a more beneficial path as it cultivates Insight into the nature of things and how it works.  This Insight can then be resurrected and used at anytime one remembers to do so.  

So, here is the link , just FYI, he covers what he sees as differences in the Suttas and the Commentaries, in regards to jhana.

There speculation around about how the Buddha did not teach how to enter jhana in the Suttas, and that it may be because it was so commonly taught back then, or that jhana teachings were left out, lost , or discarded.  I now think not, entering the jhanas, as the Buddha defines them, is indeed taught in the Suttas, and it is done by abandoning the five hindrances as they arise. (or before, if one has trained that far).  And then abandonng each of the more subtler movements of the mind in stages. (at least until the path is cut, then access is not necessarily so linear) At least that is part of my current understanding.  Makes it all less of a riddle, the pieces fit , anyways.

Psi

And this link is 8 years old, so I do not know exactly what Bhante Vimilaramsi would or could add, at the present time.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USJPI7MP3Tw 


thumbnail
Nicky, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 484 Join Date: 8/2/14 Recent Posts
Psi:

BV is correct here, when he states: "This said to me, that the key word was understands , not concentrates only on the breath at the nostril tip, upper lip, or the abdomen, nor does it say to focus so intently on the breath that everything else is ignored. It simply says that one understands when they take a long or short breaths, or understands when the breath is fast or slow, or whether the breath is coarse or fine." 

The Vissuddhi Magga is non-Buddhist when it instructs its various concentration or Hindu yogic techniques. Anapanasati is not a concentration or hatha yoga exercise. It is an exercise in experiencing how the breath, body & mind are freed from dukkha via the practise of abandoning craving & attachment.

That said, BV remains unclear about some of the Pali words & phrases. 

The phrase: "He trains himself" refers to an advanced level of practise rather than mere "earnestness". "Trains himself" means the 3 trainings (tri sikha) of morality, concentration & wisdom are being fully employed & engaged. Wisdom refers to engaging the four noble truths by practising 'letting go'. BV is trying to say this indrectly but he does not understand the Pali language. BV is practising in the right way but does not intellectually understand the Pali so to reconcile his practise with the suttas. 

Similarly, the Pali is "experiencing all bodies" and "tranquilizing the body conditioner". The kaya sankara (body conditioner) is the breathe (as defined in MN 44). "All bodies" (sabba kaya) means experiencing the interrelationship betweem the quality of the mind (nama kaya), flesh body (rupa kaya) & breath. In MN 118, the Buddha states: "the in & out breath is a body (kaya) amongst other bodies (kaya)". 

I can repeat myself so many times in vain because people don't respect the Buddha. emoticon



emoticon
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Nicky

I can repeat myself so many times in vain because people don't respect the Buddha. emoticon

emoticon
Is it repeating in vain, if you had said something 99 times?

But what if one would not have understood until the hundredth time?

It is just the nature of dust, and eyes...

Psi
thumbnail
Nicky, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 484 Join Date: 8/2/14 Recent Posts
Psi:

Its strange how superstitous & dogmatic buddhism can be, when words such as "bodily formation" are used, which mean nothing. 

What on earth is the "bodily formation"? Is it the arms & legs? How can arms & legs be directly tranquilised? Why would the Buddha use such a vague phrase? 

The phrase is 'kaya sankhara'. The word 'sankhara' can mean 'formation', but it can also mean that which forms or conditions (conditioner); just like shampoo is not the 'hair condition' but 'hair conditioner'.

MN 44 explicitedly defines the kaya sankhara as the in & out breathing. Therefore, why would BV dogmatically use the meaningless term "bodily formation" for the breathing?

The breathing is the body conditioner because without breathing, the body cannot live. When a body dies, mouth to mouth resussitation is given to bring the body back to life. Further, if the breathing is poor, the body becomes unhealthy. If the breathing is short & agitated, the body becomes stressful. If the breathing is long, refined & smooth, the body will be relaxed and flexible. 

Yoga practises such as hatha yoga or pranayama aim to manipulate the breathing to bring tranquility to the body & mind. That is why the breathing is the 'body conditioner' rather than the bodily condition/formation.

This is so straightfoward yet BV insists on using the ridiculous phrase: "bodily formation". emoticon

 
thumbnail
Nicky, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 484 Join Date: 8/2/14 Recent Posts
Psi:

it states: "These laws are; Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta, that is, everything is impermanent, a source of suffering, and everything is not-self. " 

if everything is a source of suffering, our lives would be constantly hellish 

thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Nicky:
Psi:

it states: "These laws are; Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta, that is, everything is impermanent, a source of suffering, and everything is not-self. " 

if everything is a source of suffering, our lives would be constantly hellish 

Yes, that is the beginning of the essay, that is how he says he was initially trained for 20 years.  That is the first Noble truth , right?  There is dukkha?  And I think one should not just stop there, but continue on with the other Noble Truths, i.e the cause, the cessation, and the path leading to the cessation.  So, in that way our lives would not be constantly hellish.  But, Nicky, I know you already know this, and I am glad you pointed this out.

 People can get stuck on the observing Three Characterisitics and go round and round observing in circles, yet not understand what to do next, or rather before.  It is like trying to catch a ball that has already whizzed past.  The moment for cessation of dukkha would be just before the moment that is generally practiced in Vipassana Noting Methods, though it does seem to take care of this at the latter Stages of Insight.  Of course there is more to it than just that, there is the whole Noble Eightfold path, and deeper patterns and formations to unbind...

and the non arising of Ignorance in the first place would be nice. 

But, I am still working on that.

Your Wisdom is always appreciated.

emoticon

Psi
thumbnail
Nicky, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 484 Join Date: 8/2/14 Recent Posts
Psi:
Your Wisdom is always appreciated.

emoticon

the 3 characteristics are not related to the 4 noble truths

the 4 noble truths explain the suffering of the mind

the 3 characteristics explain the nature of all conditioned things, which include mental & material things

for example, a rock or cloud has the 3 characteristics, yet a rock or cloud does not suffer because they do not have a mind

the 2nd characteristic is 'unsatisfactoriness'. the word 'dukkha' here is different to 'dukkha' in the 4 noble truths

'unsatisfactoriness' means the rock or cloud are unable to bring true or lasting happiness to a human mind. this is why they are unsatisfactory

therefore, all (conditioned) things are not a source of suffering 

the true teaching is all conditioned things are dukkha in that they cannot bring lasting happiness 

nibbana, which is the unconditioned, can bring true & lasting happiness 

lol...another of my rants emoticon
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Psi (3/24/16 7:38 PM as a reply to Noah)

"What is Anatta?  Here he explains expounds more upon his view of what he sees in the Suttas, as compared to the Visuddhimagga."

Yes, back on topic... Thanks for the article and video – quite revealing.

However, it convinces me that there's something very wrong with the presentation. I believe the claim that BV studied / practiced "vipassana meditation" for 20 years can not refer to genuine ordained practice in the Mahasi lineage.(Maybe he really means Western / American "vipassana meditation"; that I might believe.)

In depth, ordained practice in Mahasi monasteries is more than just noting and the stages of insight – a popular reduction. In any of Thai or Burmese (or other) mainline traditions, the whole panoply of Buddha teachings is cultivated – samadhi, vipassana; sutta-s, commentaries (the writings of modern teachers are "commentaries); less uniformly Abhidhamma (a sort of Burmese speciality, and s/w frowned upon in Thai circles). I am confident of this view from reading more deeply in Mahasi's works beyond the popular "intro" books, and in interacting with current Mahasi lineage monks in retreat. Certainly they routinely teach the standard method to beginners, but beyond that are open to, even enthusiastic about other, more common dimensions of dhamma and practice, e.g. jhana cultivation, element-insight, abhidhamma topics, etc., many of which in common with most other major traditional schools. What they do (practice) and teach is essentially identical to, say, Pa Auk tradition, and, more roughly in terms of means, but definitely in terms of goal, the same core practices as in the Thai traditions.

The man (Vimalaramsi) is obviously not stupid. He can not have seriously practiced (bhavana) in agenuine Asian tradition for 20 years and not have gotten, at ground zero, solid and accurate schooling rooted in the suttas, and NOT as secondary to some primary filtering through Visudhimagga or other derived framework. The focus on the Visudhimagga as the primary authority, as the definitive essence of Theravada, is largely a fabrication of Western scholars and other "authorities". In short, as good as some of his perspectives and methods may be, his apparent need to, yes, outright fake his background and credentials, and cultivate self-promoting devisiveness against more genuine teachers and traditions, is unneccesary and harmful.

… offered as a s/w well-informed viewpoint.
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Chris J Macie:
re: Psi (3/24/16 7:38 PM as a reply to Noah)

"What is Anatta?  Here he explains expounds more upon his view of what he sees in the Suttas, as compared to the Visuddhimagga."

Yes, back on topic... Thanks for the article and video – quite revealing.

However, it convinces me that there's something very wrong with the presentation. I believe the claim that BV studied / practiced "vipassana meditation" for 20 years can not refer to genuine ordained practice in the Mahasi lineage.(Maybe he really means Western / American "vipassana meditation"; that I might believe.)

In depth, ordained practice in Mahasi monasteries is more than just noting and the stages of insight – a popular reduction. In any of Thai or Burmese (or other) mainline traditions, the whole panoply of Buddha teachings is cultivated – samadhi, vipassana; sutta-s, commentaries (the writings of modern teachers are "commentaries); less uniformly Abhidhamma (a sort of Burmese speciality, and s/w frowned upon in Thai circles). I am confident of this view from reading more deeply in Mahasi's works beyond the popular "intro" books, and in interacting with current Mahasi lineage monks in retreat. Certainly they routinely teach the standard method to beginners, but beyond that are open to, even enthusiastic about other, more common dimensions of dhamma and practice, e.g. jhana cultivation, element-insight, abhidhamma topics, etc., many of which in common with most other major traditional schools. What they do (practice) and teach is essentially identical to, say, Pa Auk tradition, and, more roughly in terms of means, but definitely in terms of goal, the same core practices as in the Thai traditions.

The man (Vimalaramsi) is obviously not stupid. He can not have seriously practiced (bhavana) in agenuine Asian tradition for 20 years and not have gotten, at ground zero, solid and accurate schooling rooted in the suttas, and NOT as secondary to some primary filtering through Visudhimagga or other derived framework. The focus on the Visudhimagga as the primary authority, as the definitive essence of Theravada, is largely a fabrication of Western scholars and other "authorities". In short, as good as some of his perspectives and methods may be, his apparent need to, yes, outright fake his background and credentials, and cultivate self-promoting devisiveness against more genuine teachers and traditions, is unneccesary and harmful.

… offered as a s/w well-informed viewpoint.
Well, I do not know anything about credentials and monsasteries, so I plead ignorance.  

I do think that the Noble Change of Lineage supercedes any Human to Human transmissions of lineage.

That is the difference , it seems between, Sangha and sangha.  Though both may intertwine.  Sangha meaning taking refuge in the Noble Ones, robes or no robes.  And sangha as a looser term meaning anyone who puts a butt on a cushion, or has a robe and lives in a monastery, emoticon

So, from what I understand, there is a Sangha that exists independent of fabrications, and a sangha that is dependent upon fabrications.

And, yes, I agree that what Mahasi Sayadaw taught goes far, far beyond just noting, and it is obvious that Mahasi Sayadaw taught from the Suttas, and the Vissduhimaggha.

For example here:

http://www.saraniya.com/page/ebooks/ebooks-mahasi-sayadaw.html


Chris, I do also want to say that your contributions are always appreciated and much respected, you put alot of work and thought into many of your posts.  And, from that effort, I have learned alot.  emoticon

I believe that what you are Investigating here is done out of Compassion.

I do not feel that for one to teach that they should do anymore than Understand and Live what the Buddha taught, I do not think that any formal Temple of Monastery is required, though it woild certainly be helpful to many, if that access was available.  And perhaps , though a hindrance to some who may wish to hide from the world and cling to physical isolation from worldy dukkha.  And, to your point, if someone is to claim 20-30 years of monestary training, they should be able to show the where, whens, whats and whos.  Otherwise it is a kind of eggshell claim, Easter joke...

And, I agree, any teacher, or individual, their ideas and viewpoints, background and history should always be subject to Investigation.  

Everyone is responsible for their own actions.

 But, that coupled with the Understanding that those on the Noble Eightfold Path do change and evolve, i.e. If the Path is followed correctly, that is.

And, of course I am still working on that myself,  in a fun way, hopefully ...

Metta

Psi


thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
[quote=Psi

]I do not feel that for one to teach that they should do anymore than Understand and Live what the Buddha taught,

With this added caveat...
The Way of Extinguishing)
16. “Cunda, that one who is himself sinking in the mud should pull out another who is sinking in the mud is impossible; that one who is not himself sinking in the mud should pull out another who is sinking in the mud is possible. 
http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/middle-length-discourses-buddha/selections/middle-length-discourses-8-sallekha-sutta

Psi
thumbnail
Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Psi (3/26/16 8:55 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie)

"… I do not think that any formal Temple of Monastery is required…"

Right.   What I'm defending is maintaining clear awareness of a difference between each generation's right to make sense of hand-me-downs (a sort of literal translation of "tradition"; might also says "drag-alongs") – e.g. the levels of lay teachers and derivative systems – and the careful preservation of the hand-me-downs themselves – the more formal, strict traditions. Otherwise what would the more ambitious interpreters in succeeding generations have to bounce off of, to rebel against, to "turn on its head"? Lacking that sort of stake-in-the-ground (to use one of the Buddha's metaphors), the whole enterprise would fizzle away in a maze of trivial variations in short order. Like the parable / story of lining-up 100 people, whispering something to the 1st, who passes it on the the 2nd, all the way down the line; what comes out the other end will hardly resemble the initial input.

Thanks for that quotation (3/26/16 9:02AM as a reply to Psi) about being stuck in the mud – that's a good one.

And also the further stuff on lay people and Arahantship. Just as the Buddha appears to have put a lot of effort in making his points clear over that 45 years, he also worked hard to fashion a system (the Vinaya – monastic codes) to help keep it going in his absence, which included an emphasis on strictness. Just as some don't get it quite right about his core teachings (e.g. by biased-filtering or cherry-picking), also some carry the strictness thing to silly extremes – the little scholastic quibbles as in Milindapanha III.19 that you quoted.

P.S. Another quibble about his reverence Vim: Checking back to confirm a vague memory, I found (written and on video) that his teaching of metta practice, though actually quite good, is basically the method from the Vimuttimagga and Visudhimagga – the "may I be happy… may others…", which is found nowhere in the suttas. Well, maybe he has more time to get his act together?
thumbnail
Psi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 1095 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Chris J Macie:

P.S. Another quibble about his reverence Vim: Checking back to confirm a vague memory, I found (written and on video) that his teaching of metta practice, though actually quite good, is basically the method from the Vimuttimagga and Visudhimagga – the "may I be happy… may others…", which is found nowhere in the suttas. Well, maybe he has more time to get his act together?
Yes, I know, this is pretty funny.  For some reason I could never practice Metta in this way myself.  Also, I could never get into his Spiritual Friend technique.  But, I have tried not to mention this, because if a method actually works for some, it works.  And I do not want to get in the way of anyone's progress. But, you have let the cat out of the bag, haha.   What you are saying is true, as far as I have also investigated.

For Metta, I just arouse Metta from within, independent of such mental triggering techniques, or use Metta as an antidote when the poison of ill will arises in daily life or formal meditation.

This below is an excellent study on Metta, 

http://www.seeingthroughthenet.net/files/eng/books/other/Deliverance_of_Heart.pdf


 And , like I stated earlier, I do not suggest clinging to any teachers, for on the one hand we could have Renegades teaching whatever, and on the other hand have a teacher teaching what was handed down to them through a lineage, and teaching because it was told to them a certain way.
The criterion for rejection

4. "It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them.
And from this, is what I derive that the Buddha's teaching is a do it yourself job, in the end.  Teachers and friends can help, but also hinder.  Unless, they are fully and one hundred percent out of the mud, and even then they may not be able to teach. 

Which, is why I try to use them all, some have gotten out of certain parts of the mud more than others, at least so it seems.  

Perhaps, Some of the Teachers and Bhikkhus out there could probably use little of that very advice, ie.e learning also from others. As they have been placed and fettered by positions where it is not so easy to be admonished and not so easy to abandon the fetter of identity view, and conceit.
"This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie."[1]

"Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.
And from the above, ponder, was the Buddha prescribing bhikkus to be teachers or gurus? 

Or teach out of friendship?  emoticon

Metta

Psi

I do not remeber the Sutta, Help!  But, there is a case where bhikkus were set upon by bandits, and the bandits were to take a monk and hold him hostage, but were indecisive upon which monk to take, they asked who is the leader here, the Eldest stood forth as leader, then the elder was asked, which monk should be taken as hostage?  But none were suggested as the were all considered equals.  There is more to the sutta than that, a deeper explanation on how  all bhikkus were considered equal, the Venerable and even the newest Bhikkhu.  The bandits eventually just left, too perplexed to carry out the kidnapping.
thumbnail
Nicky, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Bhante V on Buddhaghosa, Mahasi, and Visuddhimagga

Posts: 484 Join Date: 8/2/14 Recent Posts
Noah:
My teacher sent me an interesting article on the New Burmese Method and the Visuddhimagga, as seen from a Thai Buddhist perspective.  I'm not particularly sold on all the in-fighting, and have personally found the Burmese maps and methods do be tremendously transformative, but its a good read regardless.  Here's the link: http://begintosee.blogspot.com/2011/02/bhante-vimalaramsi-turns-whole-history.html 



One does not need to be oversensitive about 'in-fighting'. Just browse the Visuddhimagga & it will be found much of it differs from the original scriptures. 

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf

Regards. emoticon 

Breadcrumb