How relevant the Pali Canon?

Ben Tasmania, modified 10 Years ago.

How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 8 Join Date: 7/30/10 Recent Posts
Hi everyone,

I'm new here. Some of you have no doubt worked out that I do not practice Daniel Ingram's strand of insight meditation,and I am very comfortable with the tradition in which I have been practicing for many years.

I'm curious as to how important the Pali Canon is to you. If you feel it is relevant or tangential to your practice, and what parts of the canon are particularly so.
Thanks for your kind consideration.

Ben

Note to moderators: please feel free to move the thread to the relevant sub-forum if this is not the right place.
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Nikolai S Halay, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
I am sure there are some golden nuggets in the Pali canon. However, as I have read a little the Dhammawheel forum, I am of the opinion those who are extremely trusting of and attached to all the scriptures are also possibly of the belief that to get stream entry and beyond is some high up in the clouds goal and thus don't put in the effort and momentum needed to get there. Those who adhere to all those traditional beliefs about awakening, probably also have big doubts that a layman can be an aharat. All very disempowering in my opinion. But each to his own. My personal opinion of course and from my own experience, just pure dogma.. I personally never read much before. I was never really interested. I found those I knew who were extremely attached to the word of the scriptures, would have certain non-negotiable mindsets which inhibited any fast progress that they could make. "There are no arhats in the world", "Arahats need to become monks or die in 7 day", "a stream enterer has to be this and that, etc etc."

I also am of the opinion that it is not even vital to read even one Pali sutta in order to go and get stream entry. If you believe you can get it done , work in the right way and gain a momentum in your insight practice then you will get 1st path. If you don' believe it can be done, you wont. If you don't work in the correct way, you wont. If you don't gain a momentum, you wont. You don't need to read one pali sutta to get it done these days.

My 2 cents
Ben Tasmania, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 8 Join Date: 7/30/10 Recent Posts
Thanks Nikolai for your response.

Yes, I was one of the founding members of Dhamma Wheel and stepped down as global moderator a few weeks ago. I accepted a new position in rural Tasmania where I am living in a semi-secluded environment and I can devote a little extra time to practice and study prior to going to Burma later this year. I felt priveleged to be able to serve a globally disparate sangha, however inconsequentually as moderator, but felt the time was right to give someone else an opportunity to serve in that capacity.
Prior to my involvement in Dhamma Wheel, I was also a theravada moderator on 'the old grey forum' e-Sangha before a hostile vajra-alligned admin demoted its Zen and Thv staff. I can understand that a forum like Dhamma Wheel which is tailored to meet the needs of the broad Theravada tradition, may not suit your particular needs.
The reason I asked the question 'How relevant the Pali Canon?' was out of sincere interest. I noted that among my own co-practitioners, there wasn't a great interest in the Canon I was wondering whether the students of Daniel Ingram, who are also intensely focused on meditative practice, had a similar disposition. My interest in the canon was due to the fact that after many years of practice, I was desiring some intellectual nourishment that would support my practice. It lead me from my own teacher's discourses to the works of Ledi Sayadaw and others to the translations of parts of the Nikayas and some commentarial literature. I have found it to be of extraordinary benefit.
kind regards

Ben
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Nikolai S Halay, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Hi Ben,

I meant no disrespect in my last post, so sorry if I seemed blunt. That can happen on an internet forum emoticon I was just expressing my strong opinion on such things. It stems from my own experience. I was a Goenka practitioner for many years as you are yourself. I was a Pali student even at Dhamma Giri once, so i did do some chanting study. That's about it . But I never felt the pull to keep reading the suttas. I understand that for some yogis it is key. But I also think , and Im talking about certain actual dhamma friends of mine back in Australia who are immersed in all the scriptures this and scriptures that, it is sad that they have come away with the idea that stream entry is not possible for them nor for anyone in this lifetime. There is a lot of dogma still adhered to as the truth there and it can become a great hindrance to progress for some in my experience. I occasionally go to the the Dhamma Wheel to read the arguments over some of that dogma and it is truly sad that all that energy in researching and arguing about what the Buddha meant isn't being used to actually go and get it done and see if all the stuff found in suttas and commentaries holds up. Some does. Some doesn't.

I have to admit though, after progressing quite a bit, I have come across a sutta or two which make me smile. This is after getting it done though.

I'm glad you find your studies of Pali to be of benefit. I just hope that you are keeping an open mind about all of what you read and not allowing anything you've read to stop you going for 1st path and beyond as soon as possible.

Metta and mudita,

Nick
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Florian Weps, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Ben,

And welcome, btw.

A significant part of my practice during the past four years was reading the Sutta Pitaka. I read, cover-to-cover, the Majjhima, Digha, Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas, and major bits of the Khuddhaka Nikaya (Dhammapada, Sutta Nipata, parts of Thera/Therigatha, Udana, Itivuttaka) - anything I could get in translation. These old texts have been an integral part of my practice.

I also skimmed bits of the Vinaya (the Mahavagga) - mainly for the stories of Sariputta and Moggalana and other great figures of the early sangha. I didn't read the Abhidhamma, but I appreciate it as the foundation of the maps of insight popular here on the DhO, and which I find so useful in practice.

A few words on how I found reading these ancient texts to be a practice in their own right: they provided a sense of inspiration to me, similar to reading about the adventures of the strong practitioners here on DhO; they are a good safeguard against forming rigid opinions about Buddhist doctrine: because while there are the central, well standardized themes of the four noble truths and so on, there are also many, many divergent suttas about, for example, dependent arising, and these are far from standardized; furthermore, the suttas convey a sense that the Buddha would teach stuff tailor-made for a particular situation and audience, instead of quoting from a rigid body of dogma. Finally, there often were moments of recognition - "hey, that's how I experienced it, too!" - and little promises or suggestions for things to watch out for: "yeah, I get this and this, but what's that all about?" And so on.

As to relevance: it varied over the years. I was really into the technical meditation suttas of the Majjhima Nikaya for a long time; then the expositions of the four noble truths caught up with me, and they became a little map of much of my experience. When I was agonizing about why I couldn't seem to crack equanimity and get stream-entry, I was slogging through the latter chapters of the Samyutta nikaya (about stream entry). Reading through the Anguttata, which amounts to another cross-section of the teachings, I'd become aware of many of the things touched upon in each section, as I was quite a routine meditator and observer by that time. Finally, as I read the Sutta Nipata, there was so much good stuff in there which I'd missed on my previous reads, when I was mainly into the the sheer inspirational passages of the Parayanavagga.

Reading this old stuff also was a challenge in another way - I had to be on the constant watch-out against becoming a sutta thumper and scripture quoter. It's so enticing to assume that all that's worth saying has been put down in some sutta or other, to shrug off the responsibility to speak from experience. But that's dangerous, because it's so easy to mistake knowing the Dharma for knowing all about the Dharma.

A few months ago, I finished the Holy Books Reading Project. This coincided nicely with a big shift in my experience and practice, and so there is a sense of completion there that goes beyond having read the last line in the last book on that reading list.

What's been your experience with the old texts, then?

Cheers,
Florian
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I personally got stream entry having read just a little of the Pali Canon. I was in India and had access at that time to just a few texts but read everything I could find, being very dharma obsessed then. It was strong technique, following simple mindfulness instructions as directed, coupled with the maps from the commentaries and elaborated by Mahasi Sayadaw that got me stream entry and the jhanas.

Then, when I got back and was trying to figure out how to finish the thing up and had very mixed experiences with various teachers, I got quite frustrated, and so in the middle paths I devoured large chunks of the Pali Texts, MN, DN, SN, Ud, Jataka, Vinaya, Abhidhamma, everything that was available online in the late 90's on access to insight, as well as the commentaries Visuddhimagga and Vimutimagga, and everything else I could find, basically. I found it a very mixed bag, but there is some real gold there if one digs and ignores the stuff that is of blatantly low quality, which is plenty.

It was my own practice that helped the most, in the end, as well as hanging out with people who already understood what I wanted to understand, and having straightforward conversations with them, which was the inspiration for a place like this, where what works is key, being able to talk openly and honestly is key, and the spirit that it can be done is key.
Ben Tasmania, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 8 Join Date: 7/30/10 Recent Posts
Thanks Daniel for your reply.
From what I can gather, I calculate we might have been in India at roughly the same time. I was there 1989/90, served and sat with Goenkaji during the winter program at his main centre at Dhammagiri when the long courses were being held.
I'm interested to know what parts of the canon you considered to be 'low quality'.
Like you, for me also, practice is key. But as I alluded to when I replied to Florien, introspective self-analysis is something that I engage in as part of practice.
being able to talk openly and honestly is key, and the spirit that it can be done is key.

I understand. And I just want to make it clear that while I come here with a difference in how I approach the Dhamma, I come here in a spirit of friendship and respect.
Metta

Ben
Jigme Sengye, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 189 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I have the MN, the DN, the Visuddhimagga, the Vimutimagga and A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma. Are there are any specific gold nuggets in those that you recommend as particularly useful for the practice? I realize there are a few that you mention in your book (the jhana and power sections in the Visuddhimagga and the Vimutimagga or MN 111), are there any others that really stand out?
Ben Tasmania, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 8 Join Date: 7/30/10 Recent Posts
Thank you Florien for your kind welcome and your very extensive reply. I appreciate it!!

I'm heartened to learn that the Pali Canon has been an instrumental in your own practice. I'm very impressed with the wide range of your reading of the Canon.
For me personally, like many here, practice (bhavana) is key. But that being said, I try to marry bhavana with pariyatti. I am mindful that meditation on its own can be a source for wrong view, as per the Buddha in the Brahmajala Sutta and that study on its own is limited.
Recently I had the experience of serving on a ten-day course and I was reading the Ch XVII, Visuddhimagga (on dependent origination). It was like it was going straight in and my old conception of dependent origination shattered as it unravelled as I began to realise the vastness and profundity of the teaching. I don't think that depth of realization was likely to occur outside of a retreat environment where I was serving and sitting with great intensity and I also believe that my intellectual understanding provided the ground for deeper meditative insight. My teacher has a great saying,'pariyatti (study) and patipatti (practice),should go together hand-in-hand.
.
I'm slowly going through Majjhima and have the Samyutta by my side. My exposure to the Abhidhamma is via the commentarial work Abhidhammatthasangaha as translated and annotated by Bhikkhu Bodhi and others. That work is quire remarkable. The Vism goes where I go and while some of it is of little interest to me (ascetic practices), some of it I return to time and again and find myself seeing deeper.
I'm going to Burma at the end of the year to attend a long-retreat and I have the opportunity before I go to learn some Pali, which I think will come in handy.
Thanks again for your reply Florien and its nice to meet you!
metta

Ben
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Florian Weps, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Ben Tasmania:
I'm heartened to learn that the Pali Canon has been an instrumental in your own practice. I'm very impressed with the wide range of your reading of the Canon.


Just don't expect me to be an expert or scholar in anything scripture-related. I just read the texts, I didn't make a systematic study of it.

Ben Tasmania:
For me personally, like many here, practice (bhavana) is key. But that being said, I try to marry bhavana with pariyatti. I am mindful that meditation on its own can be a source for wrong view, as per the Buddha in the Brahmajala Sutta and that study on its own is limited.


Yeah, though all this preoccupation with wrong view and so on - that's something which fell away with stream-entry, in my case. In the Suttas, it's presented as "unwaveing faith" and the like; a bit sneaky and perhaps ill-translated, as to me it was much more like all this worrying about what that teacher said and how to reconcile it with this bit of scripture, that simply lost its fascination and capacity to captivate ("to fetter"). The meaning of much of this stuff I'd been obsessing about became plain, plain in the sense of unspectacular and everyday, not glittery, not holy or profound, not special at all, "Oh, it's just that? That's what it is about? I've known that for ages, I just never suspected it was that". And thus, not a great object for uncertainty and doubt to obsess about any more.

Ben Tasmania:
Recently I had the experience of serving on a ten-day course and I was reading the Ch XVII, Visuddhimagga (on dependent origination). It was like it was going straight in and my old conception of dependent origination shattered as it unravelled as I began to realise the vastness and profundity of the teaching. I don't think that depth of realization was likely to occur outside of a retreat environment where I was serving and sitting with great intensity and I also believe that my intellectual understanding provided the ground for deeper meditative insight. My teacher has a great saying,'pariyatti (study) and patipatti (practice),should go together hand-in-hand.


Pariyatti, patipatti, and, of course, pativedha. The latter being the reason why we're doing all this strange stuff in the first place.

Momentum, totality of application, inclining the mind towards the Dhamma with whatever works, whatever it takes, whether reading scripture or doing inspirational practice or whatever, and, I've found, discussing the Dhamma with like-minded people like the crowd here at DhO to work really well - that's the recipe. I've never been on retreat, btw (well, a couple of solitary day-long mini-retreats).

Ben Tasmania:
I'm slowly going through Majjhima and have the Samyutta by my side. My exposure to the Abhidhamma is via the commentarial work Abhidhammatthasangaha as translated and annotated by Bhikkhu Bodhi and others. That work is quire remarkable. The Vism goes where I go and while some of it is of little interest to me (ascetic practices), some of it I return to time and again and find myself seeing deeper.
I'm going to Burma at the end of the year to attend a long-retreat and I have the opportunity before I go to learn some Pali, which I think will come in handy.


Oh yes, Pali. I'm such a language geek, I had to prevent myself from spending a lot of time learning Pali (at the expense of hitting the cushion).

I had to promise myself that I can learn all the Pali I want once I'm enlightened, though. emoticon

Ben Tasmania:
metta
Ben


And mudita to you, Ben, for that great opportunity to go on a long retreat!
Florian
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Aziz Solomon, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 24 Join Date: 4/9/10 Recent Posts
It is several years since I started meditating (in the Goenka tradition) and I have only just started to take an interest in the pali canon. I used to pride myself on the fact that I didn't need to get caught up in all that archaic stuff in order to reap the benefits of meditative practice. I had just assumed that it wouldn't be relevant. But starting now with the dhammapada and Bhikkhu Bodhi's anthology, In the Buddha's Words, I am humbled. What amazes me is how utterly ahead of their time so much of the texts still are. The mind is as it was 2500 years ago, and it continues to elude us.

And the metaphors remain so vivid and the humour is still fresh (at times even wicked!)

I have been particularly surprised by the continuing relevance of the ethical dimension too, which I have tended to overlook as I explore the meditative disciplines in search of my own salvation.
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Aziz Solomon, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 24 Join Date: 4/9/10 Recent Posts
By the way, Ben, as a Goenka meditator myself, I have found this forum to be exceptionally supportive. I think you'll find the atmosphere conducive to discussing the nitty gritty of vipassana in a very non-dogmatic, non-sectarian spirit, even amongst those who have their criticisms of Goenkaji's approach.

Perhaps this isn't the thread for it, but I would be very interested to hear what draws you more to the U Ba Khin/ Goenka approach than the Mahasi approach. A few of the contributors to this forum who have had extensive experience of both techniques have found that they have made more progress following Mahasi's instructions. My own experiments with Mahasi's instructions (via Daniel Ingram) have certainly been fruitful, but I have been wondering whether there are any compelling reasons to continue more narrowly committed to the U Ba Khin tradition that I have not yet thought of.
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 784 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Ben,

I'd have to agree with the take that Florian provides here.
Florian Weps:

A significant part of my practice during the past four years was reading the Sutta Pitaka. I read, cover-to-cover, the Majjhima, Digha, Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas, and major bits of the Khuddhaka Nikaya (Dhammapada, Sutta Nipata, parts of Thera/Therigatha, Udana, Itivuttaka) - anything I could get in translation. These old texts have been an integral part of my practice.

I also skimmed bits of the Vinaya (the Mahavagga) - mainly for the stories of Sariputta and Moggalana and other great figures of the early sangha. . . .

Although I haven't been able to find a good, thorough translation of the Anguttara Nikaya yet. I used what was available at the time, which was Nyanaponika Thera's "Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya," which amounts to only about 10% of the extant suttas available in that volume. Have been waiting for Bhikkhu Bodhi's Wisdom Publications edition to finally make it to print. Last I heard, he is working on writing the section introductions and footnotes which means that the translation itself is done, thank goodness.

My approach to reading the suttas has been to tie it to the human being (and not the larger-than-life mythical figure) who was Siddhattha Gotama, and to use my own life's experience (not speculating on any supernormal or metaphysical data, but using down-to-earth physical data that is available to anyone who is observant of their own life's experiences) in an endeavor to figure out exactly who this person was and what it was that he taught. With regard to learning a little more about "who this person was" I am indebted to Hans Wolfgang Schumann's book The Historical Buddha, The Times, Life and Teachings of the Founder of Buddhism, which filled in much biographical detail that is not found by reading the discourses themselves.

For instance, in this book we learn about the geographic, social, and political environment into which Siddhattha was born and lived. These are all important details to know about if one is to construct some kind of realistic picture of this person in order to learn about the context of events and ideas that shaped and influenced him, that played a role in creating the personality that we see portrayed in the discourses themselves. Of course, much of the personality that we see in the translated discourses is a caricature of sorts, created out of a tradition's veneration for this mythic figure "the Buddha." I wanted to go beyond the myth that has been created around this personality and to see more clearly into the mind and motivations of the actual historical man himself, in all his humanness. There is much to be gained by using this process, as it provides one with some cutting insight that might otherwise be glossed over and lost. Also, it gives one a more accurate and true picture of the man who taught these incredibly intelligent and life-changing concepts.

That Siddhattha was a thinker is unquestioned. And as Schumann writes: "That he, like the majority of his contemporaries, believed in the existence of gods (who, too, were mortal and subject to the law of rebirth), is undoubted. But that he really saw Brahma so vividly with his own eyes, as the texts declare, is probably the interpretation of later monks." Passages like this add some much needed realism and balance to some of the stories told about this man.

According to one story, that even a god such as Brahma Sahampati would implore Gotama to teach his Dhamma despite those who might not understand it, tells us something about the gods themselves. That despite their being gods, they too might benefit from hearing and understanding this teaching that Gotama had learned. He argued that: "The world will perish if the Fully Enlightened One does not decide to teach his doctrine. May the Exalted One therefore teach it! There are some beings with little dust in their eyes. If they do not hear the Dhamma they will be lost. But if they hear the Dhamma they will attain [to liberation]." Once Gotama acquiesces to Brahma's entreaty, Schumann writes: "Satisfied, Brahma bowed to the Buddha, circled around him to the right according to Indian etiquette, and vanished. The gods, too, know how to behave towards an enlightened one."

Of course, there is also the struggle to figure out the meaning of nuanced passages within the suttas, wherein it becomes advantageous to have the person himself there in front of you to be able to clarify and explain these questions that come up. Thankfully, due mainly to the fine translation and explication abilities of translators like Maurice Walshe, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, Nyanaponika Thera, Bhikkhu Bodhi, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu, many of these questions can be answered by reading the footnoted passages and introductions (where appropriate) to the sutta in question.

I also agree with the comments Florian has made here:
Florian Weps:

A few words on how I found reading these ancient texts to be a practice in their own right: they provided a sense of inspiration to me, similar to reading about the adventures of the strong practitioners here on DhO; they are a good safeguard against forming rigid opinions about Buddhist doctrine: because while there are the central, well standardized themes of the four noble truths and so on, there are also many, many divergent suttas about, for example, dependent arising, and these are far from standardized; furthermore, the suttas convey a sense that the Buddha would teach stuff tailor-made for a particular situation and audience, instead of quoting from a rigid body of dogma. Finally, there often were moments of recognition - "hey, that's how I experienced it, too!" - and little promises or suggestions for things to watch out for: "yeah, I get this and this, but what's that all about?" And so on.

As to relevance: it varied over the years. I was really into the technical meditation suttas of the Majjhima Nikaya for a long time; . . . Finally, as I read the Sutta Nipata, there was so much good stuff in there. . .

There's a kind of intimacy to be found in the discourses that is not found in any other Buddhist literature. We learn about the situational context of important passages in the discourses that is not present in books written as interpretations of the teachings. Plus there's the added value of hearing the teachings directly, as it were, from the horse's mouth. There's no way to equivocate or wriggle out of something that was taught. The reader is forced to accept what is taught within the context of the actual discourse, and to figure out for himself how that lesson and context relates to his own experience.

I found that reading and studying the discourses first hand helped in clearing up misunderstandings in context and intention being asserted by other writers on Buddhism, ideas which amounted to "wrong view" being put into the mouth of the Buddha. There is so much insight to be plumbed from the discourses that one could virtually create a life's career writing explication of the suttas (as indeed some people have).

Yet what gets me is the audacity of some contemporary thinkers and pundits to presume that they can improve on what is already perfection, or that they have figured out something that the Buddha somehow missed. When in actuality it is they who have not fully comprehended what was taught.
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Florian Weps, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

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Good Points, Ian.

I forgot to mention I read most of the Suttas in German translation (there is a German translation of the entire Anguttara Nikaya, by Ven. Nyanaponika).

That sense of intimacy/being there, despite the formulaic oral transmission, that struck me, too. I only ever got that with one other text of similar age: the Symposium by Plato.

Anyway, just wanted to mention that about the translation.

Cheers,
Florian
Mike NZ, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 12 Join Date: 12/14/09 Recent Posts
Hi Ian,

Thank you for your excellent post. I like what you say about intimacy and recognition. I can recall being at certain points in retreats and thinking "Those similes about the hindrances are really spot on!"

The personalities of the Disciples can also shine through. Analyses attributed to Sariputta or Maha Kaccana do feel to me like distinct voices echoing down the millennia...

Clearly there are different opinions on how much one can use the Suttas as a "do it yourself" manual. My experience was that the Suttas (and ancient commentaries) made considerable sense, and were a considerable help, to me in the context of what I was taught (mainly Mahasi-style meditation by monks from my local Wat, with some input from other, mostly monastic, teachers). I don't think I would have got far without live teachers.

Mike
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: How relevant the Pali Canon?

Posts: 784 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Mike NZ:

Clearly there are different opinions on how much one can use the Suttas as a "do it yourself" manual. My experience was that the Suttas (and ancient commentaries) made considerable sense, and were a considerable help, to me in the context of what I was taught (mainly Mahasi-style meditation by monks from my local Wat, with some input from other, mostly monastic, teachers). I don't think I would have got far without live teachers.

Hi Mike,

I wholly agree with your statement about there being a range of "opinions on how much one can use the Suttas as a 'do it yourself' manual." There probably are not many people at all (if any at all, myself included, except for the background I already had in meditation in coming to the suttas) who could take the discourses alone and with little or any help, begin to make something from them. As I mentioned, there are too many nuances that depend upon someone with some experience to be able to explain or clarify. Even with the background I had, I still needed, here and there, some help which I was fortunate enough to be able to get from the footnoted and introductory material in the translations I was reading as well as interactions with others like this one online.

In my opinion, having a live teacher or guide at some point in one's journey with this practice is virtually indispensable. We all need contact with someone who has some experience. The point at which I took up Buddhist meditation practice and a more thorough study of the Dhamma was ten years ago, when I was 48 and had already been practicing other forms of meditation for twenty years. I had to rely a lot on my own ability make out the correct interpretation of nuances based upon my nine years in association with my first meditation teacher (who, compared to what I have since learned from my own studies of Buddhist meditation, really didn't know -- or express to me -- that much about meditation technology; he may have known about it, but if he did, never expressed it to me during the time I spent with him).

That experience gave me enough background to be able to use the suttas as a very reliable stepping stone to figuring out the practice myself (with, of course, valuable assists along the way from more experienced practitioners). I won't pretend that it was always easy; but it was certainly helped along by the accumulation of experience I had gained and by being in a position of being "forced" to somehow "get it" by concentrating, analyzing, and experimenting with the instruction. I learned what worked and what didn't work by "doing." And spent a great deal of time just contemplating and endeavoring to understand what was being said in the media (mostly books, essays, and treatises) I was using to guide myself.

One thing I can say is that having read and digested the discourses, understanding them as they were meant to be understood, puts one in a unique position of having confidence in one's viewpoint or outlook on the Dhamma. No one can tell you what the Buddha taught or didn't teach because you have read and comprehended the discourses yourself first hand. And you know (at least with enough certainty as can be gathered by knowing you have availed yourself of the most authentic material we have on this subject, that being the Pali discourses) that its going to take a mountain of evidence to move you from your position. And while I may stop to consider another person's opinion about a point, if it doesn't accord with what I already know (from direct experience) and understand about the material under discussion, it is quite easy to dismiss such positions as being a misunderstanding of the teaching. And I don't say that with any arrogance attached to it. I've had to change my position many times when it's been pointed out that I was wrong. It takes an open mind and incisive discernment to study and implement this material, and without a kind of honesty within oneself, one runs the risk of self-delusion, which is exactly the opposite of what we are all looking to achieve.

All the best to you and others,

Ian

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