Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:33 pm

Goofaholix wrote:I think we might find that teachers emphasise this initial phase because most of their students are at this initial phase, explanations of what to do with this new found mindfulness come later when mindfulness is established. There isn't a lot of point trying to understand and purify the workings of the mind if one can't even be present in the present moment consistently. It would be like trying to find your socks and underwear with the light off, the first step is to turn the light on then hunt for your socks and underwear.

I think this is a very good point. I recall a conversation we had here with Bhikkhu Pesala where he stated that most of what he's teaching (he is a genuine Mahasi-style teacher) is not actually insight meditation, but preliminary attention to arouse sati.
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1151#p14419

And that, I think, is related to the point that Wallace, and others, are trying to get across. Sure, most of us have to start with what we are capable of, but we should not write off the depth of development that is possible (with considerable work) just because it would take a lot of time an effort.

Mike
Last edited by mikenz66 on Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10539
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Sobeh » Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:34 pm

Goofaholix wrote:Yes, and how long does it take to teach and learn this "initial phase"?


Hold up; you are debating the specifics of the stage, which is missing the forest for the trees.

The rubric is asking about whether bare attention is taught alone, or in connection with the rest of sammasati. The vipassana method is not the issue here, but rather the content of the vipassana instruction. In other words, defining bare attention as "initial" means there are later steps. Defining it as "vipassana in sum" is thereby inaccurate and misleading. So, never mind a preliminary teaching or a later one: is a given vipassana teacher defining vipassana solely as bare attention, or not?

Bhikkhu Pesala, as noted, refers to bare attention as a preliminary step, so we expect there will be other meditative skills to learn and that we will not rely solely on bare attention over time. Quite contrary to this, the article is critiquing unnamed individuals who teach that bare attention is the whole of vipassana; the question is whether such individuals exist, which we can find out by discerning how various meditation teachers define vipassana to their students.

It is now largely a matter of finding examples.
User avatar
Sobeh
 
Posts: 329
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:35 am
Location: Salt Lake City, UT, US

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:40 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Since Wallace is clearly only criticising what he perceives in some modern developments it seems odd to accuse him of sectarianism. There is plenty of criticism of some of these things from Theravada teachers.
Who are these many modern Vipassana teachers he is criticizing? And - There is plenty of criticism of some of these things from Theravada teachers - all Theravadin 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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19765
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:51 pm

Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:There is plenty of criticism of some of these things from Theravada teachers - all Theravadin teachers?


I'm not sure where you are trying to go with this. You were complaining about Wallace being unspecific. I gave a reference to an article by Patrick Kearney, who has spent time as a monk with U Pandita and teaches Mahasi-style meditation (Chris has done retreats with him - I have only listened to recordings and read his articles). That's one example of a Theravada teacher pointing out shortcomings in some modern approaches with specific examples. Since I don't have the time to research exactly how many articles there are on the net on this issue, perhaps I should rephrase my statement to:
"There is some criticism of modern developments from some Theravada teachers."

There is plenty of discussion on forums like this one, about what is, and what is not, the correct path. Isn't that the whole point of the Forum? As I said, if Wallace is referring to some of the "insight" people I have met, who play down the rest of the 8-fold path, and turn the meditation teachings into a self-help exercise, then I certainly agree with many of his points.

In addition, he may have some genuine technical points that even some of the "serious" modern teachers may have got slightly muddled. I can't really comment on that because my depth of knowledge is not sufficient, but I did refer to Bhikkhu Pesala's comments here: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1151#p14424 which address a related, but not exactly the same, topic.

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10539
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Shonin » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:07 pm

With bare attention or mindfulness, insight arises by itself - we can see which behaviours and habits of mind lead to good conseqences and which lead to bad consequences. Awareness gives us the freedom to respond accordingly.
Shonin
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Sobeh » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:37 pm

Sobeh wrote:It is now largely a matter of finding examples.


tiltbillings wrote:Who are these many modern Vipassana teachers he is criticizing? And - There is plenty of criticism of some of these things from Theravada teachers - all Theravadin teachers?


Stop harping on unnecessary tangents; it is already admitted we need examples, and mikenz66 has merely provided one or two for our consideration. Either someone is defining vipassana correctly according to the rubric derived from the article, or they are not.

Your questions are impossible to answer - we can never know if he had specific teachers in mind, or if instead he was merely referring to a sense of such a thing in his mind, developed over thirty years (as I previously quoted). So, to answer your question directly: no one knows. Thanks for pointing it out. Does the question it raises, as I have delineated, also disappear as meaningless? Perhaps, if you perceive his critique to be utterly spurious, but you haven't said that. So which is it? Does the challenge bear investigation, or do you believe that the question assumes its own answer?

Be precise, instead of being rhetorical.

Shonin wrote:With bare attention or mindfulness, insight arises by itself - we can see which behaviours and habits of mind lead to good conseqences and which lead to bad consequences. Awareness gives us the freedom to respond accordingly.


Here is an example, tilt. A specific iteration of bare awareness and its relation to insight. This sort of statement can be critiqued according to the article's challenge and our own knowledge, and thereby generate discussion.
User avatar
Sobeh
 
Posts: 329
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:35 am
Location: Salt Lake City, UT, US

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:54 pm

Hi Sobeh,
Sobeh wrote:
Shonin wrote:With bare attention or mindfulness, insight arises by itself - we can see which behaviours and habits of mind lead to good conseqences and which lead to bad consequences. Awareness gives us the freedom to respond accordingly.

Here is an example, tilt. A specific iteration of bare awareness and its relation to insight. This sort of statement can be critiqued according to the article's challenge and our own knowledge, and thereby generate discussion.

Thank you for your post. Yes, this might be a good example, and one could ask:
  • Are the above instructions a sensible way to start teaching a beginner?
  • Is initial instruction on sila necessary for it to be effective?
  • Will insight actually arise with just the above instructions?
  • When should "right view" be introduced?
  • How much instruction on the 4NT and so on are necessary to understand "good consequences" and "bad consequences", etc?
  • ...
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10539
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:57 pm

Sobeh wrote:
Sobeh wrote:It is now largely a matter of finding examples.


tiltbillings wrote:Who are these many modern Vipassana teachers he is criticizing? And - There is plenty of criticism of some of these things from Theravada teachers - all Theravadin teachers?


Stop harping on unnecessary tangents
It is not a tangent; it is to the point that what he is saying is a rather broad condemnation of Theravadin vipassana practice.

Your questions are impossible to answer - we can never know if he had specific teachers in mind
Yes, yes. That is exactly right; is what a rhetorical and polemical stab at the Theravadin vipassana movement would look like. If walks like a duck....
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19765
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:58 pm

Also, keep in mind the OP: I'm curious exactly what Tiltbillings finds unimpressive about Wallace's critique, and what everyone thinks of the article he posted.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19765
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Sobeh » Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:08 pm

Dude, then just ask for an apology or something.

:heart:
User avatar
Sobeh
 
Posts: 329
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:35 am
Location: Salt Lake City, UT, US

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:10 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:There is plenty of criticism of some of these things from Theravada teachers - all Theravadin teachers?


I'm not sure where you are trying to go with this.
Even Wallace qualified his over the top statement with the word "many." For you, it is an unqualified Theravadin teachers. Does that mean all of them?

You were complaining about Wallace being unspecific. I gave a reference to an article by Patrick Kearney, who has spent time as a monk with U Pandita and teaches Mahasi-style meditation (Chris has done retreats with him - I have only listened to recordings and read his articles).
And I am now complaining about you being "unspecific."

That's one example of a Theravada teacher pointing out shortcomings in some modern approaches with specific examples. Since I don't have the time to research exactly how many articles there are on the net on this issue, perhaps I should rephrase my statement to:
"There is some criticism of modern developments from some Theravada teachers."
Obviously that would help; however, who are these people distorting the Dhamma?

The problem with Wallace is that many modern Vipassana teachers could be read to include any of the following:

Ledi Sayadaw (1846 - 1943)
Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1899 - 1971)
Mahasi Sayadaw (1904 - 1982)
Ajahn Chah Subhatto (1918 - 1992)
Luangpor Teean Jittasubho (1911 - 1988)
Mogok Sayadaw
Mogok Sayadaw PayarGyi
Sunlun Sayadaw (1878 - 1952)
Sayadaw U Silananda
Ajahn Buddhadasa (1906 - 1993)
Ajahn Naeb (1897 - 1983)
Taungpulu Sayadaw (1897 - 1986)
Mohnyin Sayadaw (1873 - 1964)
Ajahn Dhammadharo (1913 - 2005)
Ajahn Sumedho
Ajahn Amaro
Ajahn Sobin S. Namto
S. N. Goenka
Henepola Gunaratana
Bhikkhu Bodhi
Christopher Titmuss
Gil Fronsdal
Tara Brach
Jack Kornfield
Joseph Goldstein
Larry Rosenberg
Luangpor Thong
Rodney Smith
Mother Sayamagyi
Sayadaw U Pandita
Sharon Salzberg
Matthew Flickstein
Frits Koster
Sayadaw U Kundala
Sayadaw U Rajinda
Sayadaw U Pandita , Junior
Sayadaw U Lakkhana
Sayadaw U Janaka
Sayadaw U Jatila

So, who is he referring to? Essentially he has tarred the whole bunch of them as teaching a distorted Dhamma. And nowhere does Wallace point to anyone who he thinks has got it right, which would have mitigated the criticism, giving us some balance and some idea of what he thinks is correct within the Theravadin vipassana tradition; rather, everyone above remains suspect of distorting the Dhamma.

I have no problem with technical discussions of what bare attention means, what word might translate it, or how it is a function of sati. That is not the issue. The issue is that it claimed that there are many modern Vipassana teachers who are distorting the Dhamma, equating what they teach to: A sniper hiding in the grass, waiting to shoot his enemy. . . . This is really ugly. First of all, having discussed with a friend of mine who was a sniper in Vietnam the extensive training a sniper receives, it is clearly not bare attention, but a highly concentrated state of mind that is constantly calculating and evaluating his situation. Secondly, this bozo just tied what he claims many modern Vipassana teachers teach to what he thinks is a sniper's practice of killing other human beings.

This is an irresponsible set of statements by Wallace. It is the sort of thing that reads like a sectarian polemic. There is no balance in it.

The Patrick Kearney article, while harsh, gives us much with which to work.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19765
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:11 pm

Sobeh wrote:Dude, then just ask for an apology or something.


Dude? If you want to apologize for your above msg, please feel free to.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19765
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Shonin » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:02 am

mikenz66 wrote:Thank you for your post. Yes, this might be a good example, and one could ask:
  • Are the above instructions a sensible way to start teaching a beginner?
  • Is initial instruction on sila necessary for it to be effective?
  • Will insight actually arise with just the above instructions?
  • When should "right view" be introduced?
  • How much instruction on the 4NT and so on are necessary to understand "good consequences" and "bad consequences", etc?
  • ...


My statement comes directly from practicing, and teaching Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, which uses Goenka-derived meditation methods (via Jon Kabbat-Zinn and others). This involved mostly beginners with little or no meditation experience or understanding of Buddhist theory. Yes, a little theory is helpful, but mostly insights arise directly and organically from experience and out of group discussion and reflection from the teacher. It isn't 'Buddhism'. N8FP is not taught nor much Buddhist dogma. Yet the insights are real and the results are often remarkable.
Shonin
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:13 am

Shonin wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Thank you for your post. Yes, this might be a good example, and one could ask:
  • Are the above instructions a sensible way to start teaching a beginner?
  • Is initial instruction on sila necessary for it to be effective?
  • Will insight actually arise with just the above instructions?
  • When should "right view" be introduced?
  • How much instruction on the 4NT and so on are necessary to understand "good consequences" and "bad consequences", etc?
  • ...


My statement comes directly from practicing, and teaching Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, which uses Goenka-derived meditation methods (via Jon Kabbat-Zinn and others). This involved mostly beginners with little or no meditation experience or understanding of Buddhist theory. Yes, a little theory is helpful, but mostly insights arise directly and organically from experience and out of group discussion and reflection from the teacher. It isn't 'Buddhism'. N8FP is not taught nor much Buddhist dogma. Yet the insights are real and the results are often remarkable.
And it does not pretend to be other than what it is.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19765
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby Shonin » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:23 am

I also find it more accessible and relevant to most people that traditional Buddhism, which is why I've been doing it - I can better bring the benefits of meditation to people that way. On the other hand, I still practice with Zen and Theravada groups and study the Nikayas and other traditional texts.

I don't have any firm conclusion as to how MBCT and traditional Buddhism compare in terms of long-term efficacy. However I do know that I have persuaded my work colleagues to do mindfulness meditation, something they would not have touched if it was presented in a traditional Buddhist format.
Shonin
 
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:09 am

Does " Traditional Buddhism " actually exist in reality ? Not a rhetorical question btw.
It seems to me that there are a number of Traditional Buddhisms in the Theravada and some of them differ widely from others.
PeterB
 
Posts: 3903
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:17 am

PeterB wrote:It seems to me that there are a number of Traditional Buddhisms in the Theravada and some of them differ widely from others.
It certainly seems that way.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19765
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:31 am

Which begs the question what is this thread about ?
Back in the late 60's the debate was raging in UK circles about Vipassana with one side ( the Buddhist Society. the FWBO ) against and a number of teachers for. That debate still goes on, and the arguments for and against have not changed. In the end and by and large and to generalise, it comes down to a debate between those who have done it in an extended way, and those who have not.
There is another elephant in the room..which is about those who are confident that they can and do traverse the Jhanas and those who are unconvinced that this is really an option for we who live in a modern urban setting.
PeterB
 
Posts: 3903
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:41 am

PeterB wrote:Which begs the question what is this thread about ?
Back in the late 60's the debate was raging in UK circles about Vipassana with one side ( the Buddhist Society. the FWBO ) against and a number of teachers for.
Just as an aside, when I was in London in 1970 (I was 22) Maurice O. Walshe and his wife strongly suggested I do a retreat with the then Ven Dhiravamsa; but alas, there was no room, so I spent a week at Samye Ling.

About this thread, I think there is, in the linked interview, an underlying, unstated sectarian critique being leveled by a follower of a highly polemical school against what is seen as a threat or an offense or something that is just not quite in line with the right way of thinking about things Dhamma (as defined by Wallace).
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19765
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Alan Wallace on Modern Vipassana

Postby PeterB » Sat Jun 12, 2010 9:53 am

I think that you are not wrong Tilt old chap....just falling into a little Maurice C O Walshe there.
Pity that he ( Walshe ) isnt still around. His contribution to this forum would have been wonderful.A thought that will keep me smiling for the next ten minutes..
On a couple of occasions I was at retreats lead by he who became Dhiravamsa, and Walshe and Mrs Walshe were there as attendees.
PeterB
 
Posts: 3903
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

PreviousNext

Return to Theravāda for the modern world

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Mr Man and 4 guests