Watering Down the Dharma

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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 6:40 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 6:40 AM

Watering Down the Dharma

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: msj123
Forum: The Big Issues

The other day I was listening to Buddhist Geeks talking with B. Alan Wallace. He was talking about how he believed it would take a monk 3 – 9 months of sitting 8 hours a day to reach the first jhana. Once done, he also said that the jhana should be reproducible at will. This led me back to the age old debate as to whether the dharma is being watered down to make it easier. A lot of people tend to easily dismiss this as unnecessary. It reminds me of the ongoing debates about the “optional” 5th Precept.

Master Sheng Yen has suggested that one should have little contact with the world in order to master Theravada type practice (http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2003/fall/interviewshenyen.html). Indeed, in the Pali Canon, most (if not all) of the meditation based suttas are directed at bhikkus.

Given that there are various levels of concentration that may be called jhana (easy to achieve) or JHANA (as in Wallace’s example), might not the same apply to the fruits of practice? Is a lay American practitioner with some retreat and daily meditation experience really as much a stream-enterer (having achieved this stage) as a monk who has left home and dedicates almost all their life to practice, or a marathon monk in Japan who sits for a week straight without moving, food, or water? Is arhatship really significantly easier to attain than going to medical school, as suggested in MCTOTB?

Keep in mind I have nothing but respect for the realization of those attained on this board, which is far greater than my own. I continue to learn a great deal from those here, primarily because so many are clearly further along than I am. Nevertheless, these questions have been brewing and I thought I should put them to the panel. Thanks for your insights, and for putting up with my questions!

Matt
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 10:50 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 10:50 AM

RE: Watering Down the Dharma

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
daniel doesn't say anywhere in mctb that arahatship is easier to attain than a medical degree. he does say that it's less work in total. trust me, cracking stream-entry was one of the hardest things i've ever done. (on another note, however, second path seems to have pretty much just done itself).

as for whether the insight attainments are the same in the case of householders and reclusive mendicants, yes. concentration's probably not as strong, nor life as tranquil, in the case of most householders.. but for the opportunity to go skating or sailing or surfing, grow my own food, have a family, be with loved friends, write my own rules, and change em when i please? i wouldn't trade back.
Trent S H, modified 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 12:30 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 12:30 PM

RE: Watering Down the Dharma

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
The way I try to think about this issue is very analytical, perhaps it will help.

Try to think of time & achievements as a bell curve. Some people will travel the path extremely quick compared to others, some will travel the path extremely slow compared to others; most will fall in the middle. Ergo, if you see most people saying "it's going to take you a month to master the first Jhana if you are off retreat," then you know that is somewhere around average. That is only used as an example, and the same goes for insight realizations. Some people may take a long time, some people may blow through it. To complicate things, some jhanas may be harder for some people to attain than others, just as some parts of the insight cycles may be tougher for them than they were for others.

In the end, the only answer which will satisfy in this way is having seen duality completely through, which is not something that will be "different" based on one's setting or the way at which one approaches the task of dissolving "this" and "that."

Personally, I have traveled the majority of the path in about 6 months (who knows, maybe I will get hung up here and sit here the rest of my life?), with mostly the internet and a few conversations with Daniel as a teacher. I work 10 hours a day, commute 2 hours, and have a serious relationship. I have not been on a retreat. Why does this matter? Only to say to say that thought of time-frames is irrelevant. Just investigate; you can go fast or slow, and most of this is probably already decided based on how "you" have become conditioned throughout your life.

Pragmatically, all you can do is practice and do your best to figure out what this whole thing is about, in the time you have available.
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Kenneth Folk, modified 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 1:55 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 1:55 PM

RE: Watering Down the Dharma

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
msj123, thanks for this post. It's a very important question. Here's a story:

In the California desert there lives a group of young men who worship bicycles. They call themselves the Blessed Brotherhood of the BMX. They do not work, but subsist entirely on the donations of their devotees. They spend their days riding bicycles. They can ride bikes on one wheel, make their bikes jump into the air, do backflips, frontflips, 360s and 720s. They believe strongly that unless a person can do a backflip on a bicycle, that person has never ridden a bicycle at all.

Elsewhere, around the world, millions (billions?) of people are using their bicycles to get to work, go to the market, tour the countryside, or play. Are they not riding bikes?

Perhaps the well-intentioned members of the Blessed Brotherhood of the BMX have adopted an extreme view of what it means to ride a bicycle in order to justify their own lifestyle. While it's true that they are unparalleled masters of biking, they have somehow lost touch with what biking is really all about.

It's like that with jhana. It isn't that jana as taught by Leigh Brasington is "jhana light." Rather, jhana as taught by Ajahn Brahm is "extreme jhana." Do you see how defining things in terms of extremes results in flawed definitions?

What I've just written applies to jhana. It does not apply to Paths. With regard to Path it isn't even possible to talk of light or extreme. Paths are biological facts. You either have them or you don't. What you put yourself through in order to get there is entirely irrelevant. Make sense?

Kenneth
Eric Calhoun, modified 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 5:20 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/25/09 5:20 PM

RE: Watering Down the Dharma

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/25/09 Recent Posts
Sheer awesomeness!

I don't have much more to add other than what I was going to say was that it always comes back to the Middle Path. Seeing how the vast majority of all dharma media tragically/comically veers off to one side or another brings up such gratitude for this forum and community.
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 2/26/09 4:35 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/26/09 4:35 AM

RE: Watering Down the Dharma

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: msj123

:-)
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 2/26/09 4:49 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/26/09 4:49 AM

RE: Watering Down the Dharma

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: msj123

Kenneth,

I think you give good advice. Your posts have a very positive and inspiring feel to them. Your post seems to have "cooled" the burning doubt sensations for now. I do admit that doubt is probably my primary obstacle right now: no matter how much I practice, how much I gain in equanimity, concentration, and sensory clarity, how the path is proven over and over, how things sychronistically align to teach me insights, I have strong lingering doubts that I will get there from here. It is easy enough to work with anger, pain, greed, desire, aversion, etc. but doubt seems to be more powerful than any of these.

I suppose the solution is to practice? ;-)
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 2/26/09 6:39 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/26/09 6:39 AM

RE: Watering Down the Dharma

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
hi msj,

equanimity isnt a set of sensations but also an attitude. equanimity regarding doubt - or having no involvement with it - is a wonderful thing, as it obviates the conflict without diminishing the intensity of investigation. i think you should spend a whole lot of time noting doubt because what you note you will own and when you own strong doubt it will be your friend and do all this work for you.

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