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Claims to Attainments

Ajahn Jayasaro - Talking About Enlightenment (Video)

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u76o7xZe3PE

Some paraphrased highlights:
(using "monk" not nun here because that is all I heard talked about in this video)
-There are senior monks who are known within the monastic society to be arahants with psychic powers.  Claimants are taken to them to have their attainment 'analyzed.'
-Ajahn Maha Boowa was one such monk.  
-Glowing, jolly, happy-looking monks are frequently not the arahants.
-There are personality traits (such as temperament) which are not directly linked to the defilments.

RE: Ajahn Jayasaro - Talking About Enlightenment (Video)
Answer
6/28/18 8:11 AM as a reply to Noah D.
There are personality traits (such as temperament) which are not directly linked to the defilments.

Exactly.

+1

RE: Ajahn Jayasaro - Talking About Enlightenment (Video)
Answer
7/1/18 6:33 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
For me, the process of watching this talk really hammered home some of the problems associated with concealment as practiced in this tradition.

Ajahn Jayasaro's logic is basically, "There's this longstanding rule not to talk about your attainments with non-monks. Ajahn Maha Boowa released a transcript of a talk he gave to monks that included discussion of his attainments. Because this longstanding rule exists, and laypeople believe in it, he confused and disappointed half of them (and fired up the other half). I don't like that, so I think you should just follow the rule."

What a crimped and constrained engagement with the topic.

When Thais open a restaurant, they'll often hang a big picture of a monk on the wall near the cash register because they believe this will give them merit and good luck and will make the restaurant a success. Clearly, it's not the case that the concealment rule prevents people from (1) discussing who's enlightened and who isn't--do you hang a picture of a monk you believe doesn't really get it?--and (2) taking on board a supernatural view, the supehero-level definition, of enlightenment.

Unlike the phenomenological, interview-based approach in the Mahasi tradition in which enlightenment and attainments are more openly discussed, the idea here is to figure out where you are on the path by finding somebody who can read your mind? 

How about, instead, grilling each other about what we have or haven't experienced, how we're living life, where and how we continue to suffer, and what we can do to integrate, deepen and share realizations that help other beings? 

So, yeah, I'm for openness, I guess. It allows you to bracket things and provide caveats, express your doubts and uncertainties, clarify what you understand and don't understand, etc. Open communities can help keep everybody honest, although of course the shadow side can be tremendous at times.

Also, when the monastic/layperson split basically no longer exists, as is the case in western countries, the dynamic really has to change, right? Hmm... 

RE: Ajahn Jayasaro - Talking About Enlightenment (Video)
Answer
7/8/18 3:57 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Pācittiya 8

"yo pana bhikkhu anupasampannassa uttarimanussadhammaṃ āroceyya, bhūtasmiṃ pācittiyaṃ."

Not to announce to a layman a realisation that has been achieved. If a bhikkhu announces to a layman or to a sāmaṇera, a realisation partaking with a jhāna nature or with a stage of ariyā, and this realisation has genuinely been achieved, he commits a pācittiya.

On the other hand, a bhikkhu who makes such a declaration, while knowing it to be false, commits the pārājika 4. A bhikkhu must avoid making his attainments known, even to other bhikkhus. Apart from four exceptions when they can do so, ariyās never unveil their realisations:

  • Under a violent threat.
  • Undergoing an oppressive and virulent lack of respect.
  • A t the time of passing away.
  • To reveal it to his preceptor or to a fellow bhikkhu who does a similar practice.

RE: Ajahn Jayasaro - Talking About Enlightenment (Video)
Answer
7/8/18 7:19 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
I think the reason this Vinaya rule was added was so that there would be no preferential treatments of monks by the lay community. For example if monk X is an Arahant and monk Y is not, the lay community, wanting to gain higher merit, may want to make donations to monk X and not to monk Y. 

This does not much apply anymore in the West.

I remember reading a text from the late Mogok Sayadaw (a reputed arahant and vipassana teacher in Burma) in which he said if one is serious about meditation, one should seek a teacher who is at least a stream-winner. When I first read that my thought was: "But how can we know (given the rule not to declare)? This is not a problem in the pragmatic dharma community, to which I am grateful.

RE: Ajahn Jayasaro - Talking About Enlightenment (Video)
Answer
7/8/18 7:42 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
I think the reason this Vinaya rule was added was so that there would be no preferential treatments of monks by the lay community. For example if monk X is an Arahant and monk Y is not, the lay community, wanting to gain higher merit, may want to make donations to monk X and not to monk Y. 

This does not much apply anymore in the West.

I remember reading a text from the late Mogok Sayadaw (a reputed arahant and vipassana teacher in Burma) in which he said if one is serious about meditation, one should seek a teacher who is at least a stream-winner. When I first read that my thought was: "But how can we know (given the rule not to declare)? This is not a problem in the pragmatic dharma community, to which I am grateful.
That's a good point--it might be a more beneficial rule where there are actual monasteries and begging monks as opposed to, say, Maryland. 

But of course, the rule doesn't quite work. I've actually heard Thais talk about the superhero powers of a particular monk whose image they had put up by the cash register, so they were totally willing to speculate about his attainments. Of course, this is a culture where something close to the televangelist phenomenon here is always a danger. The green light to openly brag about being enlightened could be a useful tool for the unscrupulous to rake in donations, buy private planes, etc.