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The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience - Dhamma Wheel

The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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mettafuture
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The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby mettafuture » Tue May 21, 2013 4:38 am

Master Gautama detailed 40 meditation objects over the course of a 45-year teaching career. So why is it that Western Buddhists focus on just 1 or 2 of these objects (eg. anapanasati and metta)? Is it because our dhamma teachers don't feel that contemplating the elements or recalling the qualities of the Buddha could be compatible with our cultural sensibilities? Perhaps they aren't. But if that's the case, maybe we need to change something about ourselves rather than continue to selectively disregard large portions of the dhamma.

I also feel that it may be a mistake to introduce breath meditation to every new Buddhist as their first meditation object. I've heard people try to make the point that anapanasati can fulfill all four satipatthanas, therefore special attention doesn't need to be given to the individual satipatthanas. But does it really make sense to skip developing at least a rudimentary understanding of the body, feelings, consciousness, and mental objects before jumping ahead to the breath?

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

Postby Sekha » Tue May 21, 2013 5:53 am

There are many ways to practice the Dhamma. The Buddha highly recommended breath awareness, which is one of the reasons why teachers also recommend it as well. Another reason is that the breath is an object that suits everyone, even though it may not be the best object to start with for everyone. Other objects on the other hand may not suit everyone and must therefore be assigned personally, which requires specific skills that imo are not easy to develop.

In short, the breath is a sure bet, unlike other objects.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

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

Postby Sam Vara » Tue May 21, 2013 8:12 am


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

Postby mettafuture » Tue May 21, 2013 8:44 am

Last edited by mettafuture on Wed May 22, 2013 6:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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

Postby mettafuture » Tue May 21, 2013 8:48 am


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

Postby Sekha » Tue May 21, 2013 10:03 am

Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

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

Postby Sam Vara » Tue May 21, 2013 10:23 am


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

Postby daverupa » Tue May 21, 2013 11:14 am

Last edited by daverupa on Tue May 21, 2013 11:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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

Postby mettafuture » Tue May 21, 2013 11:15 am


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

Postby Sekha » Tue May 21, 2013 12:38 pm

Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

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

Postby mettafuture » Tue May 21, 2013 12:46 pm


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

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue May 21, 2013 12:59 pm

Last edited by Spiny Norman on Tue May 21, 2013 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue May 21, 2013 1:03 pm

"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Zenainder » Tue May 21, 2013 1:08 pm

If I may weigh in (haphazardly), I am from the States and was introduced to breath as my first meditation object. This is likely a limited comment coming from limited knowledge, but culturally speaking for a westerner to be still and focus on anything is an incredibly daunting feat. The western culture is fast paced and encourages perpetual distraction. It is also encourages to doubt, rather unskillfully I will add. With that in mind the breath is what I would consider a favorable meditation object for Westerners because it is easily relatable, leaves less room for doubt, and easy to understand.

It may be "cherry picking" to fit the culture, but one of the greatest things that struck me about Buddhism is that it is not cookie cutter and very personal. Westerners also tend to refrain from what may seem religious tradition and other objects may have that poor association. Personally, I consider it a skillful means of teaching.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue May 21, 2013 1:14 pm

"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

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

Postby Zenainder » Tue May 21, 2013 1:25 pm

Perhaps I am mistaken, but do not these come after stabilizing some rudimentary form of concentration on only the breath and cultivating stillness? Again, to throw the 4 tetrads, which are important, at a Westerner early on may overwhelm them. I am no meditation teacher, but being consistent and successful in the most basic of meditation for a Westener is no easy task. I would think that after stabilizing a consistent practice I would then introduce the tetrads. (Again I may be completely mistaken).
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mettafuture
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby mettafuture » Tue May 21, 2013 1:36 pm


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

Postby reflection » Tue May 21, 2013 2:06 pm

Medtation on breathing is what the Buddha supposedly used himself before his enlightenment. Or am I mistaken here? Don't know if there is any scriptural support, but this is what I heard.

I find many teachers teach other methods as well, but not as the main point. I don't have a problem with that because I myself think breath meditation is an all-encompassing way to samadhi while many other meditation methods are not - or less easy to be.

Also I think people have a tendency to switch from one thing to the other, do too much stuff in their meditation. The more objects they have, the more this may be.

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

Postby Alex123 » Tue May 21, 2013 3:25 pm

"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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marc108
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Postby marc108 » Tue May 21, 2013 4:49 pm

Buddhism has cultural bias within all cultures... that being said, the Buddha himself placed special emphasis on Anapanasati and I think that rather than being cherry picked for cultural convenience, the emphasis on breath meditation simply reflects the Buddha's own emphasis.

Also, nearly all of the Monastic and Lay Teachings I am familiar with that are giving teachings to westerners are including various forms of practice including the elements, recollections, etc.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."


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