nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Discussion of Abhidhamma and related Commentaries

Moderator: Mahavihara moderator

nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:33 pm

i read a coment somewhere that there is a difference in how the burmese vipasanna teachers and how the DSG/nina van gorkom use or teach abhidhamma in relation to practice or something? i dont know, but i've been reading a lot of her books (i bought 6 recently and i'm reading my 3rd now) and i like them a lot, how is her teaching different from the burmese or the same, are there different styles out there? what are your experiences?

just curious....
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
User avatar
jcsuperstar
 
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Location: alaska

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:03 pm

It seems to me that admirers of Nina van Gorkom take a much harder line than she herself does. The admirers I've encountered tend to focus on two messages:

1) You can't force insight to happen; and
2) Insight-oriented practices merely reinforce the conceit of self.

These are useful cautions, in my opinion. But they are not sufficient reasons to completely toss out the insight practices, which is what some of these admirers seem to propose.

btw, if you look at Pages 27-29 of the Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, you see that right out of the starting gate these concerns are addressed:
... citta is fundamentally an activity or process of cognizing or knowing an object. It is not an agent or instrument possessing actual being in itself apart from the activity of cognizing. The definitions in terms of agent and instrument are proposed to refute the wrong view of those who hold that a permanent self or ego is the agent and instrument of cognition.

and
In the case of citta ... its manifestation -- the way it appears in the meditator's experience -- is as a continuity of processes ...
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:10 pm

Yes, What Jechbi said...

That basically any "formal" meditation is misguided. That the Satipatthana Sutta does not contain instruction on meditation...

See this thread: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 210#p16923

As Jechbi says, it's not clear that Khun Sujin and Nina are as "hard line" as some of their students. And Nina's books are certainly useful expositions of Abhidhamma, and the warnings that Robert has in the above thread are worth keeping in mind, even if you don't fully take on his view.

Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10374
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:25 pm

mikenz66 wrote:. And Nina's books are certainly useful expositions of Abhidhamma,

Are they expositions of the actual Pitaka texts or later works?


2) Insight-oriented practices merely reinforce the conceit of self.

Anything can be used to reinforce the self, but if this is directed the Mahasi Sayadaw practice, it is off base.
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: 19547
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby cooran » Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:57 pm

Jechbi wrote:It seems to me that admirers of Nina van Gorkom take a much harder line than she herself does. The admirers I've encountered tend to focus on two messages:

1) You can't force insight to happen; and
2) Insight-oriented practices merely reinforce the conceit of self.

These are useful cautions, in my opinion. But they are not sufficient reasons to completely toss out the insight practices, which is what some of these admirers seem to propose.

btw, if you look at Pages 27-29 of the Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, you see that right out of the starting gate these concerns are addressed:
... citta is fundamentally an activity or process of cognizing or knowing an object. It is not an agent or instrument possessing actual being in itself apart from the activity of cognizing. The definitions in terms of agent and instrument are proposed to refute the wrong view of those who hold that a permanent self or ego is the agent and instrument of cognition.

and
In the case of citta ... its manifestation -- the way it appears in the meditator's experience -- is as a continuity of processes ...


Please offer direct quotes from Nina and "the admirers" you mention ~ otherwise this is just an imaginary debate. I have met Nina and the Dhammastudy Group she is involved with in Bangkok - and her Teacher Khun Sujin many, many times.

Your post puzzles me, and some more factual/actual detail would be appreciated.

metta

Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7590
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:17 pm

Hi Chris,

Well, for example, the thread Mike referred to. And there's this fine article, a Q&A with Nina.
When you write about the development of vipassana, you don’t speak about concentration methods or sitting practice.
Vipassana, insight, is actually panna (wisdom) which has been developed to clearly understand realities as they are, as non-self. It is not some special practice, it is not sitting or breathing. If one wishes to induce calm by sitting one still wants to get something. There is subtle clinging which can pass unnoticed. The aim of vipassana is to have less ignorance of realities, including our defilements, even subtle ones. Therefore it can and should be developed in daily life; any object can be an object for mindfulness and understanding.



Not trying to debate, and not trying to puzzle folks. I think it's worth acknowledging and respecting these differences.

Metta
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 27, 2009 12:20 am

Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:. And Nina's books are certainly useful expositions of Abhidhamma,

Are they expositions of the actual Pitaka texts or later works?

Well, that's not always clear to me, since I'm not an expert. I've been rereading Nina's "Abhidhamma in Daily Life" in parallel with Bhikkhu Bhodhi's commentary, A comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma: the Abhidhammattha Sangaha, and Nina's book certainly seems to contain much of the same post-canonical material.
tiltbillings wrote:
2) Insight-oriented practices merely reinforce the conceit of self.

Anything can be used to reinforce the self, but if this is directed the Mahasi Sayadaw practice, it is off base.

Robert and others (see the thread I linked to above) certainly do direct this criticism at Mahasi Sayadaw. My impression is that can be a problem with any approach (including reading the Tipitika...) but most meditation teachers that I've paid any attention to offer strategies to overcome the pitfalls.

In partial answer to Chris' request for references here is a quote from Abhidhamma in Daily Life
http://www.vipassana.info/nina-abhi-23.htm
B. Could you give an example of wrong practice of vipassana?

A. There is wrong practice if, for example, one thinks that in the beginning, one should be aware only of certain kinds of nama and rupa, instead of being aware of whatever kind of nama or rupa appears. There is wrong practice if one thinks that there should not be mindfulness of the characteristics of lobha, dosa and moha when they appear. Then one selects the nama and rupa one wants to be aware of and the wrong view of self cannot be eradicated. Another example of wrong practice is thinking that vipassana can only be developed when sitting. In that way one sets rules for the practice, one thinks that one can control awareness. Thus one cannot see that mindfulness too is anatta (not self).


Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10374
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:13 am

in one of her books ive read she seems to take a swipe a the mahasi method, something to the effect of directing attention at the abdomen isnt mindfulness of breathing or something like that.

i find her books very informative, and just the right about of a scholarly bent to make up for my otherwise practice based practice ( :shrug: yeah, i couldnt think of a good way to put that)

but sometimes i get the feeling that they just dont think meditation is practical or even important. and other times i feel theres a kinda fatalistic bent to her teachings.

but, good for balenceing out my dhamma study, and still highly recomended reading
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
User avatar
jcsuperstar
 
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Location: alaska

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby cooran » Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:08 am

jcsuperstar said: in one of her books ive read she seems to take a swipe a the mahasi method


Which book, and what is the exact quote please?

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7590
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:59 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:in one of her books ive read she seems to take a swipe a the mahasi method, something to the effect of directing attention at the abdomen isn't mindfulness of breathing or something like that.


Here are some quotes.

Buddhism in Daily Life
http://www.zolag.co.uk/bdlfinal.pdf
It is extremely difficult to be mindful of breath in the right way
so that there can be true calm, freedom from lobha, dosa and
moha. It may happen that one takes for breath what is not breath,
the rúpa conditioned by citta. Some people follow the movement
of the abdomen and they erroneously take this for mindfulness of
breath.
If one has no accumulations for mindfulness of breath,
one should not force oneself to take up this subject. There are
many other subjects of meditation which can condition calm.

This is not actually a criticism of Mahasi meditation, since the Mahasi school does not classify observing abdominal motion and sensations to be "mindfulness of breathing".
See here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 311#p18145
U Pandita wrote:It has been said that by noting the rising and falling of the abdomen, meditators are distancing themselves from the teachings of the Buddha. The answer to this is a firm and definite “no.” Quite apart from the success that meditators have achieved by noting rising-falling, there is much solid evidence in the Buddhist scriptures, such as Salāyatana Vagga Samyutta, to show that the method is very much a part of the Buddha’s teachings regarding mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of the elements (dhātu), and mindfulness of the five aggregates (khandhas).


Further on there is this answer to a question, where her interpretation seems completely standard (and, of course, compatible with the Mahasi school):
Question: I heard of people who concentrate on the movement
of the abdomen. They say that sometimes there is awareness of
the arising and falling of rúpa and sometimes there is awareness
of the knowing of the arising and falling of rúpa. Is this the right
way of developing awareness?

Nina: What we call abdomen is in reality many different kinds
of rúpa. Sati can be aware of only one characteristic of rúpa at a
time. For example, through the bodysense we can experience the
characteristics of hardness, softness, heat, cold, motion and pressure,
but we can experience only one of these characteristics at a
time.


Here is more about mindfulness of breathing:
http://www.zolag.co.uk/bpath.rtf
We cling to breath since our life depends on it. Breathing stops when our life comes to an end. When this subject is developed in the right way, it has to be known when there is clinging to breath or to calm; it has to be known when there is akusala citta and when kusala citta. Otherwise it is impossible to develop calm with this subject. It is difficult to know the characteristic of breath, one may easily take for breath what is not breath. Following the movement of the abdomen is not mindfulness of breathing. Some people do breathing exercises for the sake of relaxation. While one concentrates on one’s breathing, one cannot think of one’s worries at the same time and then one feels more relaxed. This is not mindfulness of breathing, which has as its aim the temporary release from clinging. Mindfulness of breathing is extremely difficult and if one develops it in the wrong way, there is wrong concentration, there is no development of wholesomeness. For the development of this subject one has to lead a secluded life and many conditions have to be fulfilled.


Here is some more about vipassana, with some key points hightlighted.

Buddhism in Daily Life
http://www.zolag.co.uk/bdlc.html
Question: So, seeing things as they are is the practice of vipassana, insight. Most people think that it is a complicated form of meditation which can be learnt only in a meditation centre. That is the reason why most people will not even try it. But from our conversation it appears that vipassana is seeing the things of our daily life as they are. Do you find that one has to have much theoretical knowledge before one starts the practice of vipassana?

Nina: The word meditation frightens many people; they think that it must be very complicated. But in reality one does not have to do anything special. If one wants to develop vipassana one needs some theoretical knowledge. One does not have to know about all physical elements and mental elements in detail, but one should know that the body is made up of physical elements and that these are different from mental elements. There are many different physical elements and these elements are continually changing. One should know that there are many different mental elements: one citta arises and falls away, then the next citta arises and falls away. Cittas arise and fall away successively, one at a time. Seeing is one citta, hearing is another citta, thinking is again another citta, they are all different cittas.

Developing vipassana does not mean that one has to be aware of all those different elements at each moment; that would not be possible. Nor does one have to do anything special; one can perform all the activities of ones daily life. One gradually begins to understand that there are only physical phenomena and mental phenomena and one begins to be aware of these phenomena quite naturally, without having to force oneself, because they are there all the time.

When we understand that these phenomena can be known as they are only through direct awareness of them, awareness will arise by itself little by little. We will experience that awareness will arise when there are the right conditions. It does not matter if there is not a great deal of awareness in the beginning. It is important to understand that awareness is not self either, but a mental phenomenon which arises when there are the right conditions. We cannot force awareness to arise.

In understanding more about physical phenomena and mental phenomena, and in being aware of them in daily life, wisdom will develop. Thus there will be more wholesomeness and less unwholesomeness.

That it is not possible to force awareness or sati to arise is a common theme. However, I don't think that disagrees with what the Mahasi school (or any other competent meditation approach) teaches. Rather, it disagrees with some cartoonish views of the teachings... Whether Nina is taking the cartoon view is not something I would like to speculate about.

Metta
Mike


Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10374
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Oct 27, 2009 9:23 pm

A crtical view of taking the rise and fall of the abdomen as the object has a long pedigree for people of a certain age. The late Christmas Humphries activly campainged against it, without imo having the full picture concerning the practise. I think Nina Van Gorkom may be of a generation to have been influenced by this.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:04 am

thats not the book i read (i have that one along with about 6 others of hers, but i cant seem to find that one..), but that is almost the exact quote... wierd


the rising and falling of the abdomen is the mahasi style i learned at wat mahathat in bangkok, the place n.v.g. first went to learn about buddhism, so i think there may be a conection there? that's why i said it "seems" to be a swipe, i'm not sure really, but i get a sort of "why even bother with meditation" type attitude from her writings, like only some people have what it takes to really practice, the rest of us have eons to go before we're at that stage, i got this same sort of "it takes eons of lives" attitude from some tibetans too, which i always replied, well how do you know it hasent been those eons already and youre wasting your life now?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
User avatar
jcsuperstar
 
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Location: alaska

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:59 am

Hi Sanghamitta,

sanghamitta wrote:A crtical view of taking the rise and fall of the abdomen as the object has a long pedigree for people of a certain age. The late Christmas Humphries activly campainged against it, without imo having the full picture concerning the practise. I think Nina Van Gorkom may be of a generation to have been influenced by this.


Nina is of that generation, but her critique (and that of her teacher, Khun Sujin, and their circle) is unrelated to that of Humphreys. What the Sujinists reject is the very idea that there is such a thing as a formal method by which satipatthana and vipassana can be developed. And so their critique is not directed merely against this or that proposed satipatthana method but against all proposed methods and any conceivable method that anyone might ever care to propose.

Here's a dialogue between a Sujinist and an advocate of formal meditation that might help to clarify the Sujinists' position.

http://www.dhammastudy.com/behere.html

Best wishes,
Dhammanando
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
User avatar
Dhammanando
 
Posts: 1266
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Wat Pa Mieng Khun Pang, Chiang Mai

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 29, 2009 10:46 am

Goodness all those typos in my post... :roll: I must proof read before sending.

Thank you Bhante, that is certainly a very different situation to the objections back in the '70s from the then Buddhist "establishment" towards the " Burmese Method" ...
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:20 pm

Ven. Dhammanando wrote:Here's a dialogue between a Sujinist and an advocate of formal meditation that might help to clarify the Sujinists' position.

http://www.dhammastudy.com/behere.html

That's an interesting little catechism, but it seems more like a commentary on the particular kamma that someone might bring to the experience of "sitting meditation" or "study" or any kind of activity. Even reading and studying:
Ven. Dhammadharo wrote:... there will be listening in the right way as much as conditions will allow. There will be studying of Dhamma in the right way as much as conditions will allow, no more. It is not self. Hearing now is not self. Studying is not self. Right attention is not self. So, if we think that we can study and we can listen we are misleading ourselves. We can be aware while studying and listening, in order to learn that such moments are not self.

I don't find anything in that Q&A that necessarily conflicts with sitting practice as it actually occurs, at least for some. As it states in the "Comprehensive Manual of Abdhidhamma," this all manifests in the meditator's experience as "a continuity of processes." Each moment presents with different kamma, and it's not all going to be the same for every "sitting meditator" all the time. This is a highly specialized criticism, imho.

Metta
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:55 pm

Hi Jechbi,
Jechbi wrote:I don't find anything in that Q&A that necessarily conflicts with sitting practice as it actually occurs, at least for some. As it states in the "Comprehensive Manual of Abdhidhamma," this all manifests in the meditator's experience as "a continuity of processes." Each moment presents with different kamma, and it's not all going to be the same for every "sitting meditator" all the time. This is a highly specialized criticism, imho.

This bit summarises most of the arguments I see from Khun Sujin's followers:
Bhikkhu Dhammadharo wrote:If you try to concentrate on your feet going around no awareness of anything. It is just a self who is trying to direct awareness, an idea of what you think awareness is, to some place or other of the body, because we want to know this, we want to know that. It is not natural. It is not getting rid of attachment, it is increasing it.

I.e. any attempt to be aware of anything (such as the breath) is creating a "self". [Which is, of course, a pitfall that most meditation teachers will point out...]

The aspects of the argument that I find puzzling are:

1. They have a fatalistic ring. See, for example, MN101 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
...it is not proper for you to assert that, "Whatever a person experiences — pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain — all is caused by what was done in the past.

I understand (intellectually) that there is no "chooser", but that does not mean there is not "choice".

2. The approaches advocated also seem to involve choices (to study, to think about not-self, etc). Thus they would be subject to exactly the same criticism of "self making" as "formal meditation".

I would particularly appreciate it if anyone could shed light on the second point.

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10374
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:23 pm

mikenz66 wrote:This bit summarises most of the arguments I see from Khun Sujin's followers:
Bhikkhu Dhammadharo wrote:If you try to concentrate on your feet going around no awareness of anything. It is just a self who is trying to direct awareness, an idea of what you think awareness is, to some place or other of the body, because we want to know this, we want to know that. It is not natural. It is not getting rid of attachment, it is increasing it.


Obviously the good monk hasn't a clue as to what Mahasi Sayadaw practice actually is, if this is directed at that type of practice. If it isn't, damned if I know what it is directed at.
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: 19547
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby cooran » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:39 pm

Bhikkhu Dhammadaro has been dead for many years, and, of course cannot expand on or defend his snipped remarks.
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7590
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:46 pm

Being dead makes defending anything rather difficult. Not just the snippets, but the extended remarks - criticisms - at this site:

http://www.dhammastudy.com/behere.html

to whom are they directed?
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: 19547
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:12 pm

Hi Chriis,
Chris wrote:Bhikkhu Dhammadaro has been dead for many years, and, of course cannot expand on or defend his snipped remarks.

I don't think anyone expects Ven Dhammadaro to respond. Ven Dhammanando simply offered the conversation as an example of the arguments given by Khun Sujin's students. One can find many similar conversations at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastudygroup/messages and on this forum, e.g. http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 210#p16923

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10374
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Next

Return to Abhidhamma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests