Confirmation

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Confirmation

Postby Zenainder » Sat Jun 29, 2013 3:15 am

Hey forum!

I hope you are all well and happy. I am on my flight back home from Taiwan. Before arriving there, though, I had read and heard that Buddhism was common in the country. Naturally, I sought temples only to find folk tradition, 1000's of gods, few monastics, and no knowledge of meditation. Mahayanna.

It is ironic as when I first journeyed into Buddhism through some Tibetan teachings of the dhamma, at first, I was considering following the teachings through them. After some research and consideration, I avoided the tradition as I felt it was unorthodox some how (don't ask how I knew it at the time, just was unsettled by it). And so my journey turned towards Theravada.

After having visited Taiwan, I need little console now to know that I am on the right path; even if Theravada is not 100% "original" (however that may be defined), but it seems to me to be the most balanced. The focus on the suttas and a keeping things as original as possible has gifted this tradition, imho, as a viable and effective means to realization. As I like to say it has little "bull shit" added.

Who knew that a business trip could be of such assistance on the spiritual path?

:)

Metta,

Zen
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Re: Confirmation

Postby cooran » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:47 am

Hello Z.,

Glad to hear something good came out of your trip! :smile:

With metta,
Chris
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Re: Confirmation

Postby chownah » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:49 am

Zenainder,
If you had stopped at a Theravada country and examined some of the temples you very well may have come away with the same bad feelings as you did from your Mahayana temple visits......the reality of Buddhist daily practice as done by the bulk of Buddhists is not very attractive to one who wants to follow what the Buddha taught without a lot of extraneous influences.
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Re: Confirmation

Postby Zenainder » Sat Jun 29, 2013 6:19 pm

chownah wrote:Zenainder,
If you had stopped at a Theravada country and examined some of the temples you very well may have come away with the same bad feelings as you did from your Mahayana temple visits......the reality of Buddhist daily practice as done by the bulk of Buddhists is not very attractive to one who wants to follow what the Buddha taught without a lot of extraneous influences.
chownah


Amazing and unfortunate how such a sophisticated way of life is numbed down into theistic nonsense. Nonetheless, a majority or minority of wayward temples I am still confident in the dhamma teachings. I wonder how it became so... dumbed down?
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Re: Confirmation

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 29, 2013 8:48 pm

I'm not sure it's a simple matter of "wayward temples". Though I'm sure there are some (perhaps many) "wayward temples" there is likely to be a large variety of both monks and lay people at any monastery. I would make a few points:
1. The Buddha taught a gradual path, which begins with dana and sila. It's not just a path of renunciation and meditation.
2. A large number of lay supporters is required to keep a monastery afloat. Take away the "non-serious" supporters (and the supporters with deep pockets) and there probably wouldn't be a monastery. It's those people who make it possible for others to pursue meditation practice and so on.
3. My experience is that some of those who might easily be mistaken to be not particularly serious, are, in fact, very advanced in some aspects. I've learned a lot from some of those people.

I would be careful about dismissing lay people who live a virtuous life, come in early in the morning to provide breakfast for the Bhikkhus, make donations, do chores around the monastery, and pay respect to the Buddha and Sangha as dumbed down.

:anjali:
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Re: Confirmation

Postby Zenainder » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:09 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I'm not sure it's a simple matter of "wayward temples". Though I'm sure there are some (perhaps many) "wayward temples" there is likely to be a large variety of both monks and lay people at any monastery. I would make a few points:
1. The Buddha taught a gradual path, which begins with dana and sila. It's not just a path of renunciation and meditation.
2. A large number of lay supporters is required to keep a monastery afloat. Take away the "non-serious" supporters (and the supporters with deep pockets) and there probably wouldn't be a monastery. It's those people who make it possible for others to pursue meditation practice and so on.
3. My experience is that some of those who might easily be mistaken to be not particularly serious, are, in fact, very advanced in some aspects. I've learned a lot from some of those people.

I would be careful about dismissing lay people who live a virtuous life, come in early in the morning to provide breakfast for the Bhikkhus, make donations, do chores around the monastery, and pay respect to the Buddha and Sangha as dumbed down.

:anjali:
Mike


Mike,

Oh please do not misunderstand me! I was referring more to the 1,000's of gods and little to no dhamma teachings at Taiwanese temples; essentially that form of Buddhism has become nothing more than another set of theistic belief and superstition. Each point I completely agree with!!! It isn't about others lack of practice, too serious practice, but the fact that Chinese Buddhism (or maybe only Taiwanese?) is numbed into folklore and if one brings up the dhamma there is nothing of it being taught and no knowledge of it in a "Buddhist" temple; that is what has me a bit puzzled. Even an intermediate mix with at least SOME dhamma being taught would be tolerable, but it is not even at that level. That is not to say I did not appreciate the people's faith, architecture, and art. Truly many devote people, without a doubt!

Don't take my comments too seriously, its more of what I've observed and I could be wrong --- it's happened before. :lol:

Laity supporting the monastics is something I will be apart of as well at my local temple. I am certain to find a mix of people in various amounts of devotion, which is not my concern. My opinion was more geared toward how such a beautiful and sophisticated way of life (Buddhism) can evolve into nothing more than another theistic belief system with its taboos and superstitions. Perhaps my host in Taiwan didn't know, but he seemed to think that the few monks that were present at a handful of temples only prayed and did not meditate. I simply found that a bit interesting is all. :)

To each his own in the end, of course. Simply carrying conversation. ^_^
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Re: Confirmation

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:30 pm

Hi Zenainder,

I certainly have the same impression from visiting Mahayana temples in Hong Kong and China. However, as Chownah says, if you visit a few famous temples in Bangkok will probably get a similar impression (though they thankfully don't have the incense sticks as big as your arm that I've seen in China :)). And when I visit such places, I probably don't seem particularly serious either --- I'm just another tourist. Yet there are obviously serious Buddhist in Thailand --- I know a few of them...

In any Buddhist country there is going to be a wide variety of seriousness. As I said before you left, my fellow countryman Ven Huifeng (who is certainly serious) is at Fo Guang Shan. Unfortunately that would probably have been a bit of a trip from where you were.

:anjali:
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Re: Confirmation

Postby Zenainder » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:01 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Zenainder,

I certainly have the same impression from visiting Mahayana temples in Hong Kong and China. However, as Chownah says, if you visit a few famous temples in Bangkok will probably get a similar impression (though they thankfully don't have the incense sticks as big as your arm that I've seen in China :)). And when I visit such places, I probably don't seem particularly serious either --- I'm just another tourist. Yet there are obviously serious Buddhist in Thailand --- I know a few of them...

In any Buddhist country there is going to be a wide variety of seriousness. As I said before you left, my fellow countryman Ven Huifeng (who is certainly serious) is at Fo Guang Shan. Unfortunately that would probably have been a bit of a trip from where you were.

:anjali:
Mike


I may have stopped by that place. Is it a Thailand temple with the four faces of Buddha outside? I met very friendly bhikkunis and did see a couple of bhukkis there. The place was also attempting to start the foundation for building a 74 ft tall Buddha statue --- regardless of tradition, I still think is pretty cool! I will post a few pics of the temples, which were mainly places of worship (1000's of them throughout Taiwan). There are only a handful of monastic temples from what I could gather.
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Re: Confirmation

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:18 pm

Zenainder,

Fo Guang Shan is a Mayahana group:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fo_Guang_Shan
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_R ... ounty.html

Here's Shi Huifeng when he was still a PhD candidate: http://hcbss.stanford.edu/event/between ... -knowledge

:anjali:
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Re: Confirmation

Postby Zenainder » Sat Jun 29, 2013 11:39 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Zenainder,

Fo Guang Shan is a Mayahana group:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fo_Guang_Shan
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_R ... ounty.html

Here's Shi Huifeng when he was still a PhD candidate: http://hcbss.stanford.edu/event/between ... -knowledge

:anjali:
Mike


I did not make it to that place. He practices something more than the folk tradition there? Looks like a nice monastery!
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Re: Confirmation

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:16 am

Hi Zenainder,
You can read Ven Huifeng's posts here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/search.php?a ... 2&sr=posts
http://www.dharmawheel.net/search.php?a ... 4&sr=posts
but I'd certainly rate him as highly serious... :sage:

:anjali:
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Re: Confirmation

Postby Zenainder » Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:31 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Zenainder,
You can read Ven Huifeng's posts here:
search.php?author_id=742&sr=posts
http://www.dharmawheel.net/search.php?a ... 4&sr=posts
but I'd certainly rate him as highly serious... :sage:

:anjali:
Mike


I do not question the seriousness of any practitioner regardless of tradition. I still enjoy reading some Tibetan writings and other Mayahanna teachings.I haven't fallen into a "bible thumpin" Buddhist ;-)
My commentary regarded the evolution of Buddhism and how it can (not always) has wandered away from the dhamma teachings and into superstitious religion.
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Re: Confirmation

Postby IanAnd » Sun Jun 30, 2013 6:55 am

Zenainder wrote:After having visited Taiwan, I need little console now to know that I am on the right path; even if Theravada is not 100% "original" (however that may be defined), but it seems to me to be the most balanced. The focus on the suttas and a keeping things as original as possible has gifted this tradition, imho, as a viable and effective means to realization. As I like to say it has little "bull shit" added. . . .

I do not question the seriousness of any practitioner regardless of tradition. I still enjoy reading some Tibetan writings and other Mayahanna teachings. I haven't fallen into a "bible thumpin" Buddhist ;-)
My commentary regarded the evolution of Buddhism and how it can (not always) has wandered away from the dhamma teachings and into superstitious religion.

Hello Zenainder,

Your impressions and intuition seem to have thus far served you well with regard to your observations about Buddhism in traditionally "Buddhist" countries. As others have said, you will find the authentic and the less authentic just about anywhere you look within this range of Buddhist homelands.

Might I suggest something to you which may save you both time and grief in your search for the authentic teaching, something which you have already alluded to in your opening post. I ended up having to wait nearly thirty years before I could avail myself of this suggestion, yet once accepted and carried out, it has made all the difference in the world in my understanding and appreciation for what Gotama had to teach. I'm not the only one who has had this impression; there are others here who have also had similar experiences with their pursuit of what they consider the authentic teaching.

That suggestion has to do with reading the translated Pali canon (translated, that is, if you prefer not to have to learn Pali in order to read the discourses in their original form). Wisdom Publication has put out an outstanding set of volumes of the four main Nikayas. In order to save time, I suggest you obtain them one by one (or all together) and begin reading and pondering them. There are important discourses in each one of them if you are interested in studying them from the standpoint of finding out what Gotama said about this or that aspect as it relates to not only meditation practice and the teaching in general, but also other areas which he expounded upon (like, for example, the sixty-two types of wrong view as taught in the Brahmajala Sutta in the Digha Nikaya, which may help answer questions you may have about clarifying his thoughts on ontological issues). There are other suttas which touch on soteriology and the importance (or non-importance) of metaphysics in his way of training the mind, and how he viewed these issues.

If you are interested in viewing what is considered the oldest suttas (and therefore those closest to what he actually might have said) then you will want to start with reading either the Samyutta Nikaya or the Anguttara Nikaya. These two volumes focus mostly upon the teaching and the various ways in which he attempted to get his points across to students. Don't be turned off by all the repetition you may find in these suttas; often times it serves to give the pondering mind a chance to consider a teaching from different standpoints such that a realization may occur just in the reading and pondering them.

If you are interested in learning about the practice of meditation and the intricacies involved there, I would suggest beginning with the Majjhima Nikaya, as there are many well thought-out discourses there dealing with this very important aspect of the practice.

For learning about the man himself and the integrity he displayed in carrying out his mission there is nothing better than both the Kalama Sutta (AN 3.65) and the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (DN 16). Of course you will learn something about the man in any of the suttas you read, but particularly in these two that I have highlighted. I have found in my own study and practice that the effort that one makes to view this man as a human being whose personality may be similar to actual human beings you have known in your life often pays off in amazing realizations which can help with the integration of knowledge and realizations of his intended message.

It will become important to study and make the effort to understand the definitions of certain key words and concepts that will be discussed over and over again. Words like nibbana (nirvana) and satipattana and their etymological derivation may well assist you in deepening your understanding and appreciation of the ideas being attempted to be conveyed. There are literally dozens of these words whose definitions need to be well defined in the mind before any significant understanding takes place. Do not be afraid to spend the time looking into the definitions of these words in order to help clarify their intended meaning as it will pay off in huge dividends in the end. For example, understanding that the word kamma (karma), as Gotama used it, was meant to refer to not only "action" but the "intention" to act, as explained in a famous passage in the Anguttara Nikaya at (AN 6.63): "It is volition, bhikkhus, that I declare to be kamma. Having willed, one performs an action by body, speech, or mind."

If what you are seeking is as pure and unadulterated a view of what Gotama had to teach, there is no better place to find it than by reading and pondering the recorded discourses themselves and receiving the teaching directly (or almost so, as these are as close as we can get to his actual words) from the horse's mouth. This way, any discrepancies you may perceive to be, you can go back and see to verify if they actually exist.

Of course, you will probably want to supplement your reading by reading essays and books by respected monastic interpreters of the teaching, people like Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Nyanaponika Thera, Ven. Analayo, Narada Thera, Bhikkhu Nanananda, and many more. Of the academic writers, I would recommend looking into Richard Gombrich (especially his two books How Buddhism Began and What the Buddha Thought). There are others that you may also wish to look into for clarification on various issues (Sue Hamilton's book on the five aggregates, Identity and Experience, The Constitution of the Human being According to early Buddhism, is one that comes to mind along with Steven Collins' book on the concept of anatta, Selfless Persons, Imagery and thought in Theravada Buddhism).

Hopefully, this has provided you with some food for thought and consideration in your quest. As well as the requested "confirmation."

In peace,
Ian
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Re: Confirmation

Postby Zenainder » Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:38 pm

IanAnd wrote:
Zenainder wrote:After having visited Taiwan, I need little console now to know that I am on the right path; even if Theravada is not 100% "original" (however that may be defined), but it seems to me to be the most balanced. The focus on the suttas and a keeping things as original as possible has gifted this tradition, imho, as a viable and effective means to realization. As I like to say it has little "bull shit" added. . . .

I do not question the seriousness of any practitioner regardless of tradition. I still enjoy reading some Tibetan writings and other Mayahanna teachings. I haven't fallen into a "bible thumpin" Buddhist ;-)
My commentary regarded the evolution of Buddhism and how it can (not always) has wandered away from the dhamma teachings and into superstitious religion.

Hello Zenainder,

Your impressions and intuition seem to have thus far served you well with regard to your observations about Buddhism in traditionally "Buddhist" countries. As others have said, you will find the authentic and the less authentic just about anywhere you look within this range of Buddhist homelands.

Might I suggest something to you which may save you both time and grief in your search for the authentic teaching, something which you have already alluded to in your opening post. I ended up having to wait nearly thirty years before I could avail myself of this suggestion, yet once accepted and carried out, it has made all the difference in the world in my understanding and appreciation for what Gotama had to teach. I'm not the only one who has had this impression; there are others here who have also had similar experiences with their pursuit of what they consider the authentic teaching.

That suggestion has to do with reading the translated Pali canon (translated, that is, if you prefer not to have to learn Pali in order to read the discourses in their original form). Wisdom Publication has put out an outstanding set of volumes of the four main Nikayas. In order to save time, I suggest you obtain them one by one (or all together) and begin reading and pondering them. There are important discourses in each one of them if you are interested in studying them from the standpoint of finding out what Gotama said about this or that aspect as it relates to not only meditation practice and the teaching in general, but also other areas which he expounded upon (like, for example, the sixty-two types of wrong view as taught in the Brahmajala Sutta in the Digha Nikaya, which may help answer questions you may have about clarifying his thoughts on ontological issues). There are other suttas which touch on soteriology and the importance (or non-importance) of metaphysics in his way of training the mind, and how he viewed these issues.

If you are interested in viewing what is considered the oldest suttas (and therefore those closest to what he actually might have said) then you will want to start with reading either the Samyutta Nikaya or the Anguttara Nikaya. These two volumes focus mostly upon the teaching and the various ways in which he attempted to get his points across to students. Don't be turned off by all the repetition you may find in these suttas; often times it serves to give the pondering mind a chance to consider a teaching from different standpoints such that a realization may occur just in the reading and pondering them.

If you are interested in learning about the practice of meditation and the intricacies involved there, I would suggest beginning with the Majjhima Nikaya, as there are many well thought-out discourses there dealing with this very important aspect of the practice.

For learning about the man himself and the integrity he displayed in carrying out his mission there is nothing better than both the Kalama Sutta (AN 3.65) and the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (DN 16). Of course you will learn something about the man in any of the suttas you read, but particularly in these two that I have highlighted. I have found in my own study and practice that the effort that one makes to view this man as a human being whose personality may be similar to actual human beings you have known in your life often pays off in amazing realizations which can help with the integration of knowledge and realizations of his intended message.

It will become important to study and make the effort to understand the definitions of certain key words and concepts that will be discussed over and over again. Words like nibbana (nirvana) and satipattana and their etymological derivation may well assist you in deepening your understanding and appreciation of the ideas being attempted to be conveyed. There are literally dozens of these words whose definitions need to be well defined in the mind before any significant understanding takes place. Do not be afraid to spend the time looking into the definitions of these words in order to help clarify their intended meaning as it will pay off in huge dividends in the end. For example, understanding that the word kamma (karma), as Gotama used it, was meant to refer to not only "action" but the "intention" to act, as explained in a famous passage in the Anguttara Nikaya at (AN 6.63): "It is volition, bhikkhus, that I declare to be kamma. Having willed, one performs an action by body, speech, or mind."

If what you are seeking is as pure and unadulterated a view of what Gotama had to teach, there is no better place to find it than by reading and pondering the recorded discourses themselves and receiving the teaching directly (or almost so, as these are as close as we can get to his actual words) from the horse's mouth. This way, any discrepancies you may perceive to be, you can go back and see to verify if they actually exist.

Of course, you will probably want to supplement your reading by reading essays and books by respected monastic interpreters of the teaching, people like Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Nyanaponika Thera, Ven. Analayo, Narada Thera, Bhikkhu Nanananda, and many more. Of the academic writers, I would recommend looking into Richard Gombrich (especially his two books How Buddhism Began and What the Buddha Thought). There are others that you may also wish to look into for clarification on various issues (Sue Hamilton's book on the five aggregates, Identity and Experience, The Constitution of the Human being According to early Buddhism, is one that comes to mind along with Steven Collins' book on the concept of anatta, Selfless Persons, Imagery and thought in Theravada Buddhism).

Hopefully, this has provided you with some food for thought and consideration in your quest. As well as the requested "confirmation."

In peace,
Ian


Ian,

Let me first say thank you for writing such a well thought out post and taking the time to do so. I will take to your advice regarding the pali canon and you've given a handful of names of venerable teachers / writers I will look up. Thus far I was only aware of Bhikku Bodhi & Nanananda. Oh, and the confirmation, was not in regards here. It was simply in my visits throughout Taiwan that confirmed, at least to me, that Theravada is a path worth working through. :)

Is those who practice as original to the teachings rare? Or is it a cultural aspiration? I could be wrong, but Theravada does not seem as prominent as Mayahana; perhaps less out spoken to the public, perhaps? Fortunately there is a practice nearby my residence in the States, so I hope to include visits there as part of my practice.
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Re: Confirmation

Postby Zenainder » Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:40 pm

Forum,

Also, please do not mistake me, I left with more resolve and inspiration as the amount of devotion to building those temples and maintaining them is by a donation base. And Taiwan has 1,000's of these places of worship. The "disappointment" was drowned out by their devotion and inspired within me further devotion to my practice. In short, I left with a smile. ;)

Zen
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