Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi & Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Will » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:03 am

Looks like the Ven. Bhikkhu agrees with Wallace:

I [B.B.] understand your [A.W.] exasperation with the tendency, in the “neo-Vipassana
movement,” to adopt (as you put it) “a kind of ethical neutrality that
acknowledges no significant difference between wholesome and unwholesome
mental states and rejects any attempt to favor one kind of mental process over
another.” I agree this is quite foreign to the whole tenor of the Buddha’s teaching.
In fact, I doubt very much that there is such a thing as “bare attention” in the
sense of mindfulness completely devoid of ethical evaluation and purposive
direction. In the actual development of right mindfulness, as I understand it,
sammā sati must always be guided in right view, steered by right intention,
grounded in the three ethical factors, and cultivated in conjunction with sammā
vāyāma, right effort; right effort necessarily presupposes the distinction of mental
states into the unwholesome and the wholesome.
I recall that when Ven. Nyanaponika would read statements about “bare attention” as
interpreted by some of the neo-Vipassana teachers, he would sometimes shake his head
and say, in effect, “But that’s not what I meant at all!” I remember many years ago I
meditated at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre. At the end of the corridor where I
did walking meditation there was a sign that read, “Allow whatever arises.” Whenever I
walked towards the sign and it came into my field of vision, I would always think of the
Buddha’s saying, “Here, a monk does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensual desire ...
ill-will ... cruelty ... or any other arisen unwholesome state, but abandons it, eliminates it,
and completely dispels it.” I was tempted to replace the sign there with one that had this
saying, but fortunately I resisted the temptation. If I had been discovered, I might have
been expelled.


Also see page 14 of the PDF for another meeting of minds lamenting the state of Dhamma teachings. At the end the Bhikkhu asks Wallace if Madhyamaka & Dzogchen suffer from the same problem of ignoring or expunging key elements of the Dhamma, and he said Yes.
Last edited by Will on Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:08 am

Journey wrote:A Correspondence between B. Alan Wallace and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi -
"The Nature of Mindfulness and Its Role in Buddhist Meditation"


http://shamatha.org/sites/default/files/Bhikkhu_Bodhi_Correspondence.pdf

Having now carefully read through this, I find Ven B's analysis quite good, though I am not so sure Wallace quite gets it or quite accepts what Ven Bodhi is saying. One thing we do get out of this is a name of a naughty modern vipassana teacher, whose point of view Wallace does not like: Christopher Titmuss, though not having read anything Titmuss has written not not having heard him speak I cannot say how accurate Wallace's portrayal is. Now, what would be useful, given that Ven Bodhi has given us a clear characterization and corrective to Wallace of "bare attention," is for Wallace to engage Titmuss in a dialogue. Also Wallace needs to drop the sniper ("Green Beret") business. With that he makes himself look uninformed and a bit of an axe-grinder.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi & Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:31 am

Will wrote:Looks like the Ven. Bhikkhu agrees with Wallace:

I [B.B.] understand your [A.W.] exasperation with the tendency. . . I was tempted to replace the sign there with one that had this saying, but fortunately I resisted the temptation. If I had been discovered, I might have
been expelled.
Yes and no. Ven Bodhi gives a nice corrective to Wallace's general tendency to caricature "bare attention," but Ven Bodhi does agree with Wallace concern about the stripped down vipassana, but even that is tempered; see Ven Bodhi on pages 15-16.

As for:
I remember many years ago I meditated at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre. At the end of the corridor where I did walking meditation there was a sign that read, “Allow whatever arises.” Whenever I walked towards the sign and it came into my field of vision, I would always think of the Buddha’s saying, “Here, a monk does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensual desire ... ill-will ... cruelty ... or any other arisen unwholesome state, but abandons it, eliminates it, and completely dispels it.” I was tempted to replace the sign there with one that had this saying, but fortunately I resisted the temptation. If I had been discovered, I might have been expelled.
I was at that 3 month retreat. It was quite an interesting time. Also, I servred Ven Bodhi for the time he was there. He certainly would not have been "expelled" had he changed that sign. I did much worse. But what is interesing about this little bit - “Allow whatever arises” - is that on page 8 Ven Bodhi states: ". . . in the early stages, the dhammānupassanā exercise of being aware of the five hindrances, their presence, absence, and the means to prevent them from arising. . . . letting the mindfulness take in any object that presents itself through any sense base." And he further talks about this sort of practice on pages 15-17.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby alan » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:47 am

Thanks Journey. I've set that aside to read again. Very useful post.

Hi tilt.

Don't get why are you offended by the sniper metaphor. What If he had said "a cat waiting to pounce". Would that have been better?
Thanks.
Last edited by alan on Sat Jun 26, 2010 3:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:49 am

alan wrote: Would that have been better?

No.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:18 am

tiltbillings wrote: Also Wallace needs to drop the sniper ("Green Beret") business. With that he makes himself look uninformed and a bit of an axe-grinder.

One of the differences between Theravada Abhidhamma and the Sarvastivada Abhidharma (which I understood most of the Mahayana schools use) is that in Theravada Abhidhamma sati is always a positive quality, whereas in Sarvastivada Abhidharma it is neutral. (See page 117 of "Abhidhamma Studies" by Nyanaponika Thera, which can be downloaded at Buddhanet.net). Thus, the sniper example makes no sense in terms of Theravada Abhidhamma, because there is no such thing as "wrong sati" there.

Mike
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby alan » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:25 am

Thanks Mike. But in general usage is it fair to say there is such a thing as wrong mindfulness? Wallace was responding to that question.
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 20, 2010 7:29 am

mikenz66 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Also Wallace needs to drop the sniper ("Green Beret") business. With that he makes himself look uninformed and a bit of an axe-grinder.

One of the differences between Theravada Abhidhamma and the Sarvastivada Abhidharma (which I understood most of the Mahayana schools use) is that in Theravada Abhidhamma sati is always a positive quality, whereas in Sarvastivada Abhidharma it is neutral. (See page 117 of "Abhidhamma Studies" by Nyanaponika Thera, which can be downloaded at Buddhanet.net). Thus, the sniper example makes no sense in terms of Theravada Abhidhamma, because there is no such thing as "wrong sati" there.
Indeed, but what it looks like what Wallace is trying to do is to wag a finger at those naughty modern vipassana teachers by trying to tie what he thinks they teach to something as heinous as deliberately shooting another human being.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi & Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Journey » Sun Jun 20, 2010 1:14 pm

Will wrote:Looks like the Ven. Bhikkhu agrees with Wallace:

I [B.B.] understand your [A.W.] exasperation with the tendency, in the “neo-Vipassana
movement,” to adopt (as you put it) “a kind of ethical neutrality that
acknowledges no significant difference between wholesome and unwholesome
mental states and rejects any attempt to favor one kind of mental process over
another.” I agree this is quite foreign to the whole tenor of the Buddha’s teaching.
In fact, I doubt very much that there is such a thing as “bare attention” in the
sense of mindfulness completely devoid of ethical evaluation and purposive
direction. In the actual development of right mindfulness, as I understand it,
sammā sati must always be guided in right view, steered by right intention,
grounded in the three ethical factors, and cultivated in conjunction with sammā
vāyāma, right effort; right effort necessarily presupposes the distinction of mental
states into the unwholesome and the wholesome.
I recall that when Ven. Nyanaponika would read statements about “bare attention” as
interpreted by some of the neo-Vipassana teachers, he would sometimes shake his head
and say, in effect, “But that’s not what I meant at all!” I remember many years ago I
meditated at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre. At the end of the corridor where I
did walking meditation there was a sign that read, “Allow whatever arises.” Whenever I
walked towards the sign and it came into my field of vision, I would always think of the
Buddha’s saying, “Here, a monk does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensual desire ...
ill-will ... cruelty ... or any other arisen unwholesome state, but abandons it, eliminates it,
and completely dispels it.” I was tempted to replace the sign there with one that had this
saying, but fortunately I resisted the temptation. If I had been discovered, I might have
been expelled.


Also see page 14 of the PDF for another meeting of minds lamenting the state of Dhamma teachings. At the end the Bhikkhu asks Wallace if Madhyamaka & Dzogchen suffer from the same problem of ignoring or expunging key elements of the Dhamma, and he said Yes.



Sure looks that way. On that and then some.

Bhikkhu Bodhi 1: We had also been indirectly connected in a conversation, over twenty years ago,
concerning the benefits of the monastic life. Roger Wheeler was the one who connected
us. He had sent me a tape you made, c. 1983, in which, on one side, you criticized
Christopher Titmuss for his view that Dharma is all about practice and has nothing to do
with “views,” and on the other side Stephen Batchelor for his view that monasticism will
necessarily play a marginal role in the development of Western Buddhism. I appreciated
your positions on both sides of the tape. Often, when I met a Western monk who inclined
towards Titmuss’s view, I would play side A of the tape when I met one who
leaned towards Batchelor’s view, I would play side B.
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Journey » Sun Jun 20, 2010 1:36 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Journey wrote:A Correspondence between B. Alan Wallace and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi -
"The Nature of Mindfulness and Its Role in Buddhist Meditation"


http://shamatha.org/sites/default/files/article/Bhikkhu_Bodhi_Correspondence.pdf

Having now carefully read through this, I find Ven B's analysis quite good, though I am not so sure Wallace quite gets it or quite accepts what Ven Bodhi is saying. One thing we do get out of this is a name of a naughty modern vipassana teacher, whose point of view Wallace does not like: Christopher Titmuss, though not having read anything Titmuss has written not not having heard him speak I cannot say how accurate Wallace's portrayal is. Now, what would be useful, given that Ven Bodhi has given us a clear characterization and corrective to Wallace of "bare attention," is for Wallace to engage Titmuss in a dialogue. Also Wallace needs to drop the sniper ("Green Beret") business. With that he makes himself look uninformed and a bit of an axe-grinder.



I appreciate your input, but do not share your view.
The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi found Alan Wallace's portrayal of Titmuss's view accurate enough to use when he himself came in contact with monks who inclined towards Titmuss’s view. ( see page 1 )
I found the overall exchange to be respectful, informed and insightful, I see no axes grinding there.
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:36 pm

Journey wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Journey wrote:A Correspondence between B. Alan Wallace and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi -
"The Nature of Mindfulness and Its Role in Buddhist Meditation"


http://shamatha.org/sites/default/files/article/Bhikkhu_Bodhi_Correspondence.pdf

Having now carefully read through this, I find Ven B's analysis quite good, though I am not so sure Wallace quite gets it or quite accepts what Ven Bodhi is saying. One thing we do get out of this is a name of a naughty modern vipassana teacher, whose point of view Wallace does not like: Christopher Titmuss, though not having read anything Titmuss has written not not having heard him speak I cannot say how accurate Wallace's portrayal is. Now, what would be useful, given that Ven Bodhi has given us a clear characterization and corrective to Wallace of "bare attention," is for Wallace to engage Titmuss in a dialogue. Also Wallace needs to drop the sniper ("Green Beret") business. With that he makes himself look uninformed and a bit of an axe-grinder.



I appreciate your input, but do not share your view.
The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi found Alan Wallace's portrayal of Titmuss's view accurate enough to use when he himself came in contact with monks who inclined towards Titmuss’s view. ( see page 1 )
I found the overall exchange to be respectful, informed and insightful, I see no axes grinding there.

A couple of things. Ven Bodhi is simply a lot more polite than I am. The sniper/Green Beret comment is way out of line and ignorant on any number of levels and speaks of axe-grinding. While the exchange was polite, Ven Bodhi did a nice job of dismantling Wallace's objections about "bare attention" but Wallace does not seem to quite get it. As for Titmuss, what are his views exactly that are being objected to, and whatever these views, are they indicative of his over all view of what he teaches? And how indicative are Titmuss' views of many modern vipassana teachers?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Journey » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:56 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Journey wrote: Also Wallace needs to drop the sniper ("Green Beret") business. With that he makes himself look uninformed and a bit of an axe-grinder.

One of the differences between Theravada Abhidhamma and the Sarvastivada Abhidharma (which I understood most of the Mahayana schools use) is that in Theravada Abhidhamma sati is always a positive quality, whereas in Sarvastivada Abhidharma it is neutral. (See page 117 of "Abhidhamma Studies" by Nyanaponika Thera, which can be downloaded at Buddhanet.net). Thus, the sniper example makes no sense in terms of Theravada Abhidhamma, because there is no such thing as "wrong sati" there.

Mike


Hi Mike,
Just to be clear, the above quote about Alan Wallace needing to drop the sniper business, etc - ( Journey wrote: ) that didn't come from me.


Thanks and thanks for your input.
J
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Journey » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:05 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
A couple of things. Ven Bodhi is simply a lot more polite than I am. The sniper/Green Beret comment is way out of line and ignorant on any number of levels and speaks of axe-grinding. While the exchange was polite, Ven Bodhi did a nice job of dismantling Wallace's objections about "bare attention" but Wallace does not seem to quite get it. As for Titmuss, what are his views exactly that are being objected to, and whatever these views, are they indicative of his over all view of what he teaches? And how indicative are Titmuss' views of many modern vipassana teachers?



Sorry, tiltbillings, you will have to grind away from here on in, without me. I am satisfied with the exchange between Venerable and Wallace, have stated my view, and have nothing further to add at this time.
Perhaps you could ask Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi what he objects to with regard to Christopher Titmuss's views, after all it was the Venerable that brought up Christopher Titmuss's name, not Wallace. ( see page 3 of the letter ).
Just a thought.
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:34 pm

Journey wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
A couple of things. Ven Bodhi is simply a lot more polite than I am. The sniper/Green Beret comment is way out of line and ignorant on any number of levels and speaks of axe-grinding. While the exchange was polite, Ven Bodhi did a nice job of dismantling Wallace's objections about "bare attention" but Wallace does not seem to quite get it. As for Titmuss, what are his views exactly that are being objected to, and whatever these views, are they indicative of his over all view of what he teaches? And how indicative are Titmuss' views of many modern vipassana teachers?



Sorry, tiltbillings, you will have to grind away from here on in, without me. I am satisfied with the exchange between Venerable and Wallace, have stated my view, and have nothing further to add at this time.
Cute. As I said Ven Bodhi did a fine job of correcting Wallace's misunderstandings of "bare attention" and giving a nice clear explication of "bare attention" in the process.

And thanks for finding this correspondence. It was very helpful.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Journey » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:35 pm

You are more than welcome.
I added a thought, but you were too quick for me, and had replied by the time I posted it. My thought that was added:

Perhaps you could ask Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi what he objects to with regard to Christopher Titmuss's views, after all it was the Venerable that brought up Christopher Titmuss's name, not Wallace. ( see page 3 of the letter ).
Just a thought.

Thanks for your time.
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 20, 2010 6:38 pm

Journey wrote:You are more than welcome.
I added a thought, but you were too quick for me, and had replied by the time I posted it. My thought that was added:

Perhaps you could ask Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi what he objects to with regard to Christopher Titmuss's views, after all it was the Venerable that brought up Christopher Titmuss's name, not Wallace. ( see page 3 of the letter ).
Just a thought.

Thanks for your time.

But it was Wallace's criticism of Titmuss that Ven Bodhi referenced.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Will » Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:38 pm

Another point of interest to me was when Bhikkhu Bodhi said the division of the 8-fold path into three divisions was only found in one place in the Tipitaka. Thus he has dropped using that and now thinks of the 8-fold path as a unity.

BB 2: First of all, I should state that I recently realized that the common way of dividing
up the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path into three categories--repeated so often in
popular books on Buddhism (including some that I wrote in my days of juvenile
innocence)--occurs only once in the four main Nikāyas. Moreover, this one occurrence is
in a sutta spoken by the bhikkhuni Dhammadinnā, not in one spoken by the Buddha.
True, the discourse is said to have been subsequently approved by the Buddha, but it
wasn’t spoken by him; and this method of imprimatur could be the way the Sangha
sought to authorize a text composed sometime after the parinibbāna, as I suspect is the
case with this one. I now prefer to take the eightfold path as an organic whole. We might
be able to isolate the three ethical factors, but the contemplative ones, I believe, should all
be taken together, without segregating them rigidly into distinct samādhi and paññā
groups.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:59 pm

Hi, Journey,

Yes, sorry, it's easy for me to get the quotes mixed up. I've fixed my original post.

Thanks again for your input.

Mike

Journey wrote:Hi Mike,
Just to be clear, the above quote about Alan Wallace needing to drop the sniper business, etc - ( Journey wrote: ) that didn't come from me.
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:30 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi, Journey,

Yes, sorry, it's easy for me to get the quotes mixed up. I've fixed my original post.
Actually, I think I am the one who originally messed it up. It sometimes gets a bit confusing with all the brackets and slashes.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby alan » Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:09 am

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