The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu May 23, 2013 1:03 pm

daverupa wrote:Satipatthana should be a constant practice & means that mindfulness is being held close, ready at hand, leading to dhamma-investigation:


But following this logic, then nothing more than satipatthana would be required. And yet the 8-fold path has samadhi as well as sati.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby daverupa » Thu May 23, 2013 2:31 pm

porpoise wrote:
daverupa wrote:Satipatthana should be a constant practice & means that mindfulness is being held close, ready at hand, leading to dhamma-investigation:


But following this logic, then nothing more than satipatthana would be required.


This doesn't follow. While it is incorrect to say that only sati is required, it is correct to say that unremitting sati is a goal which comprises one aspect of the eightfold path. It is supported by sila, is part of samadhi, and leads to panna.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby mettafuture » Thu May 23, 2013 9:16 pm

reflection wrote:I don't see that much difference between laity and monastics. If anything it is a spectrum and not black/white. Also, that the suttas don't mention it doesn't mean it wasn't thought. Obviously many teachings were lost, especially those to the laity because they were not collected. Also, talks that address monks will probably have had lay people in the audience as well.

According to John Kelly's estimates, there are 390 suttas in the Tipitaka which directly or indirectly address laypeople.

I think we've been making a mistake by assuming that every lesson given to monastics could immediately be used by a lay person. Monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - by definition - further along with practice. The evidence to suggest that the Buddha intended for anapanasati to be the first and/or only meditation practice for lay followers is lacking.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri May 24, 2013 9:55 am

daverupa wrote:While it is incorrect to say that only sati is required, it is correct to say that unremitting sati is a goal which comprises one aspect of the eightfold path. It is supported by sila, is part of samadhi, and leads to panna.


Yes, agreed.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 24, 2013 4:36 pm

mettafuture wrote:Monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - by definition - further along with practice.
More correctly: Ideally monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - ideally by definition - further along with practice.
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.

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby mettafuture » Sat May 25, 2013 1:29 am

tiltbillings wrote:
mettafuture wrote:Monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - by definition - further along with practice.
More correctly: Ideally monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - ideally by definition - further along with practice.

Ideally, or generally. One must renounce material possessions for a holy life centered on the study, transmission, and practice of Dhamma to become a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni. This act in and of itself places monastics a step ahead of the householder, and is why they are generally the teachers, and why we are generally the students.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 25, 2013 3:01 am

mettafuture wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
mettafuture wrote:Monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - by definition - further along with practice.
More correctly: Ideally monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - ideally by definition - further along with practice.

Ideally, or generally. One must renounce material possessions for a holy life centered on the study, transmission, and practice of Dhamma to become a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni. This act in and of itself places monastics a step ahead of the householder, and is why they are generally the teachers, and why we are generally the students.
It seems you have an overly idealistic idea of what monastics in Buddhist countries are like. There are very good monastics who are teachers, but they are a very small percentage. Also, being a monastic teacher does not necessarily mean one is a better teacher than a lay teacher just because one is a monastic.
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: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby mettafuture » Sat May 25, 2013 9:05 am

tiltbillings wrote:It seems you have an overly idealistic idea of what monastics in Buddhist countries are like. There are very good monastics who are teachers, but they are a very small percentage. Also, being a monastic teacher does not necessarily mean one is a better teacher than a lay teacher just because one is a monastic.

I wasn't talking just about monastics in Buddhist countries, nor was I making a statement on anyone's ability as a teacher. I was saying that there's a difference between monastics (renunciates) and lay followers. Bhikkhus and bhikkhunis are "a step ahead" in practice because they've given up more of the things that impede enlightenment.

Regarding the original topic: Western teachers must stop attenuating the Dhamma to make it more "culturally compatible." Important teachings, particularly the ones that were given specifically to the laity, should be presented as options and tools for practice. This includes teachings on the recollections, the divine abodes, and the elements.

And breath meditation may not be the best starting point for everyone, or the starting point that the Buddha intended for the laity. The Buddha gave very specific teachings to householders and non-householders, and it would be irresponsible for us to gloss over this distinction.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Sekha » Sat May 25, 2013 9:20 am

mettafuture wrote:Bhikkhus and bhikkhunis are "a step ahead" in practice because they've given up more of the things that impede enlightenment.

I think what tilt wanted to underline is that this assumption of yours is often proven to be false. Becoming a bhikkhu does not imply that one has given up more than lay people. This was already mentioned by the Buddha in the suttas. Do we really need to talk about how buddhist monks like to dress in laymen's clothes at night, go party in night clubs and resort to the services of prostitutes?


mettafuture wrote:Western teachers must stop attenuating the Dhamma to make it more "culturally compatible."
Important teachings, particularly the ones that were given specifically to the laity, should be presented as options and tools for practice. This includes teachings on the recollections, the divine abodes, and the elements. And breath meditation may not be the best starting point for everyone, or the starting point that the Buddha intended for the laity.

This is your opinion, and we certainly hear it and respect it. Others though may have a slightly different one, which is also respectable.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat May 25, 2013 9:41 am

mettafuture wrote:Regarding the original topic: Western teachers must stop attenuating the Dhamma to make it more "culturally compatible." Important teachings, particularly the ones that were given specifically to the laity, should be presented as options and tools for practice. This includes teachings on the recollections, the divine abodes, and the elements.


I think you have a point, but I don't think we can dictate to western teachers. Pragmatically it's probably a case of seeking out teachers with experience in the kind of practices we want to explore and develop.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby mettafuture » Sat May 25, 2013 9:53 am

Sekha wrote:I think what tilt wanted to underline is that this assumption of yours is often proven to be false. Becoming a bhikkhu does not imply that one has given up more than lay people.

Yes it has. They've given up their hair, clothes, homes, possessions, etc, many things that householders are still attached to.

Do we really need to talk about how buddhist monks like to dress in laymen's clothes at night, go party in night clubs and resort to the services of prostitutes?

The monks who the Buddha prescribed anapanasati to did this? Those are the monks that I'm talking about.

This is your opinion, and we certainly hear it and respect it.

It's not an opinion. It's a fact. Presenting the Dhamma in an inaccurate or incomplete way is undoubtedly wrong.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Sekha » Sat May 25, 2013 12:37 pm

mettafuture wrote:
Sekha wrote:I think what tilt wanted to underline is that this assumption of yours is often proven to be false. Becoming a bhikkhu does not imply that one has given up more than lay people.

Yes it has. They've given up their hair, clothes, homes, possessions, etc, many things that householders are still attached to.

okay. let me repeat myself again. this will be the last time. 1) householders are not necessarily attached to the above things 2) monks have not necessarily given up the above things.

mettafuture wrote:
Do we really need to talk about how buddhist monks like to dress in laymen's clothes at night, go party in night clubs and resort to the services of prostitutes?

The monks who the Buddha prescribed anapanasati to did this? Those are the monks that I'm talking about.

sorry then, but it is not clear at all what kind of monks you want to refer to. From your original statements, it sounds like you consider monks in general as invariably more advanced than any lay people. I take the above statement of yours as an unreckoned acknowledgement of the point I want to underline.


mettafuture wrote:
This is your opinion, and we certainly hear it and respect it.

It's not an opinion. It's a fact. Presenting the Dhamma in an inaccurate or incomplete way is undoubtedly wrong.

If you want to engage in a discussion, you have to be a bit more open minded my friend. I don't see any evidence that teaching anapanassati to everyone is inaccurate (actually it is to the contrary fully supported by the teaching of very respectable monks such as the Webu Sayadaw). The following sutta further demonstrates that practicing anapanassati alone is enough to reach Nibbana, and therefore is by no means "incomplete".
If a monk should wish: 'May I, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enter & remain in the cessation of perception & feeling,' then he should attend carefully to this same concentration through mindfulness of in-&-out breathing.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:anjali:
Last edited by Sekha on Sat May 25, 2013 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat May 25, 2013 4:24 pm

The five recollections are essential nutriment for a lay practitioner, if you ask me. They contain the teachings of anatta, anicca and dukkha in a nutshell, so they amount to a kind of short version of the Dhamma.

Of course the words "householder" and "layperson" are broad and can include people who are basically living like monks, but without ordaining, as well as people who (like me) are deeply enmeshed in worldly existence. For the latter, it's definitely true that the opportunities for meditation practice can be limited. (I think this was one of the reasons why lay-oriented practices such as Pure Land chanting became popular in East Asia).

But no matter what we're engaged in, we can keep the recollections in mind.

I don't recall coming across any teachers who teach only breath meditation and ignore everything else -- even the most secular-minded teachers I listen to discuss other aspects of the Dhamma. But if there were such a teacher, I would probably think of him/her as being a "meditation teacher" rather than a "Buddhist teacher" per se.

Just last week I heard this excellent talk by an contemporary teacher on the topic of the recollections.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Sekha » Sat May 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I don't recall coming across any teachers who teach only breath meditation and ignore everything else -- even the most secular-minded teachers I listen to discuss other aspects of the Dhamma. But if there were such a teacher, I would probably think of him/her as being a "meditation teacher" rather than a "Buddhist teacher" per se.

There was the Webu Sayadaw who was pretty single minded on anapanassati
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby reflection » Sat May 25, 2013 4:58 pm

mettafuture wrote:
reflection wrote:I don't see that much difference between laity and monastics. If anything it is a spectrum and not black/white. Also, that the suttas don't mention it doesn't mean it wasn't thought. Obviously many teachings were lost, especially those to the laity because they were not collected. Also, talks that address monks will probably have had lay people in the audience as well.

According to John Kelly's estimates, there are

I think we've been making a mistake by assuming that every lesson given to monastics could immediately be used by a lay person. Monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - by definition - further along with practice. The evidence to suggest that the Buddha intended for anapanasati to be the first and/or only meditation practice for lay followers is lacking.


You keep saying wasn't the intended only practice. Just to be clear, I never said so and already agreed other things deserve attention as well. But for me anapanasati is very beneficial and it is my main 'formal' practice. I don't need suttas to support or argue this because I see the benefits directly. If it doesn't work for you, of course, you are free to practice in another way. You already said people have their own unique set of hindrances and problems, which of course is true. Perhaps some can do with theirs by focusing mostly on anapanasati. This has not much to do with being a monastic or not.

Because to say monastics are by definition further with the practice is not true. It would mean the moment you ordain you somehow are further with the practice than all lay people. And the moment you disrobe, you lose this - this is silly of course. So in the suttas we also see lay people easily reaching high attainments while some monastics don't, or have a hard time. It's not as black and white.

With respect to teachers, I also think we shouldn't generalize. Most I know are very skilled at teaching other methods as well, and often do, even methods not evidently in the suttas, but still helpful. The emphasis on breath meditation is probably because it seems to work for most people - naturally that's what gets most attention. If you feel you need some other teachings, I think it is best to talk to teachers in private.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby mettafuture » Sat May 25, 2013 5:56 pm

Sekha wrote:householders are not necessarily attached to the above things

The act of going forth and giving up material possessions for a holy life isn't something that can be devalued. It's a very significant act that most householders don't want to do, or can't do because of personal obligations.

From your original statements, it sounds like you consider monks in general as invariably more advanced than any layman

I didn't say "invariably more advanced." I said "a step ahead." A step implies a little, not a lot.

I don't see any evidence that teaching anapanassati to everyone is inaccurate

I never said teaching anapanasati to everyone was inaccurate. I said that anapanasati may not have been the meditation object that the Buddha wanted the laity to start with because there's little evidence in the Tipitaka to suggest this. But you do find several suttas where the Buddha prescribes devotional practices to the laity.

And the teachers who imply that breath meditation is the only meditation that matters, or try to secularize the teachings by saying that rebirth and kamma are merely states of mind are presenting the Dhamma in an inaccurate way.

Lazy_eye wrote:I don't recall coming across any teachers who teach only breath meditation and ignore everything else

Unfortunately teachers of this type exist. This is what I'm objecting to.

Just last week I heard this excellent talk by an contemporary teacher on the topic of the recollections.

I'll give it a listen.

reflection wrote:You keep saying wasn't the intended only practice. Just to be clear, I never said so and already agreed other things deserve attention as well.

Then we agree.

But for me anapanasati is very beneficial and it is my main 'formal' practice. I don't need suttas to support or argue this because I see the benefits directly.

And I don't object.

Because to say monastics are by definition further with the practice is not true.

They were in the Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118).

"I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara's mother, together with many well-known elder disciples — with Ven. Sariputta, Ven. Maha Moggallana, Ven. Maha Kassapa, Ven. Maha Kaccana, Ven. Maha Kotthita, Ven. Maha Kappina, Ven. Maha Cunda, Ven. Revata, Ven. Ananda, and other well-known elder disciples."

In this text, the Buddha was addressing elder monks, arahants, and stream-enterers.

If you feel you need some other teachings, I think it is best to talk to teachers in private.

The Buddha wouldn't have taught 40 objects of meditation if he didn't feel that we needed to at least know about them.
Last edited by mettafuture on Sat May 25, 2013 6:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat May 25, 2013 6:01 pm

reflection wrote:Because to say monastics are by definition further with the practice is not true. It would mean the moment you ordain you somehow are further with the practice than all lay people.


It seems to me that monastics are by definition farther ahead when it comes to Right Intention, in that they have made a full commitment to cultivating renunciation.

As an ordinary joe householder, I can't say this. At some point there are tradeoffs to be made because commitment to household life requires that some things not be renounced. Therefore Right Intention is not complete.

Certain aspects of satipatthana are clearly designed to speed along the letting-go process as efficiently as possible, so in that sense they might be beyond the scope of (some people's) lay practice.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby reflection » Sat May 25, 2013 6:14 pm

@mettafuture, I think we agree on the essentials indeed. Perhaps its just our experience with teachers that differs. A nice sutta is this one, about picking up the right object at the right time.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby reflection » Sat May 25, 2013 6:22 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
reflection wrote:Because to say monastics are by definition further with the practice is not true. It would mean the moment you ordain you somehow are further with the practice than all lay people.


It seems to me that monastics are by definition farther ahead when it comes to Right Intention, in that they have made a full commitment to cultivating renunciation.

As an ordinary joe householder, I can't say this. At some point there are tradeoffs to be made because commitment to household life requires that some things not be renounced. Therefore Right Intention is not complete.

Certain aspects of satipatthana are clearly designed to speed along the letting-go process as efficiently as possible, so in that sense they might be beyond the scope of (some people's) lay practice.

While I think I agree in general, again this "by definition" is what I don't agree with. You can define monastics being the ones wearing the robes physically, but that's about it. In their mind they may still be wanting to wear jeans in a matter of speaking.

Some lay people may be very willing to ordain, but have a dept, or physical problems, not enough money to travel, or whatever thing outside of their own intentions that keeps them from ordaining. In the suttas there supposedly is also the example of a lay person who had his sick parents to take care off, so he couldn't ordain. If anything, that shows right intention to me. Don't know the specific text.

Also, in my book, completing right intention is part of being a non-returner. That's why they don't have anger or sensual craving. And non-returning is something that lay people were able to reach.

But actually, as an edit, I just realized all of this is quite off topic and doesn't matter for the application of anapanasati. At least, it does not to me.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 25, 2013 6:40 pm

mettafuture wrote:
Sekha wrote:I think what tilt wanted to underline is that this assumption of yours is often proven to be false. Becoming a bhikkhu does not imply that one has given up more than lay people.

Yes it has. They've given up their hair, clothes, homes, possessions, etc, many things that householders are still attached to.
And what do they get in turn? People bow down to them, give them food and other gifts; they have nice places to stay; they minimal labor -- if any -- to do; their education and health care are paid for, etc etc. Being a monk in a Buddhist country can have significant benefits, whether or not the monk deserves them or not.

This is your opinion, and we certainly hear it and respect it.

It's not an opinion. It's a fact. Presenting the Dhamma in an inaccurate or incomplete way is undoubtedly wrong.
And all monks teach the Dhamma in the pure way that you seem to think it should be taught? And all lay teachers dilute the Dhamma from what you think it should be?
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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