On so-called "Heart Practice"

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Dinsdale
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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Dinsdale » Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:02 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:54 pm
In particular, they see Right Effort as the attempt to merely "stay with things as they are".
There also seems to be an idea that fully accepting present conditions is a short-cut to equanimity, the cessation of craving and aversion.
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chownah
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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by chownah » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:19 pm

ryanM wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:27 pm
chownah wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:14 pm
[...]
MN 20 is it, I think.
That is the one....thanks for bringing it here.

MN20 is called "The Removal of Distracting Thoughts". It shows that one should deal with distracting thoughts and shows different methods to get rid of them. It says that when one gets rid of them "his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated." To me it sounds like if one is having trouble with sathipathana (MN10) because of distracting thoughts then one would first get rid of the distracting thoughts (MN20).
So, it seems that there is a time when thoughts should be actively dealt with and a time when perhaps they should just be observed. I think that the difference is in the degree of concentration at the moment.
chownah

Caodemarte
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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:42 pm

chownah wrote:
Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:19 pm
ryanM wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:27 pm
chownah wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:14 pm
[...]
MN 20 is it, I think.
That is the one....thanks for bringing it here.

MN20 is called "The Removal of Distracting Thoughts". It shows that one should deal with distracting thoughts and shows different methods to get rid of them. It says that when one gets rid of them "his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated." To me it sounds like if one is having trouble with sathipathana (MN10) because of distracting thoughts then one would first get rid of the distracting thoughts (MN20).
So, it seems that there is a time when thoughts should be actively dealt with and a time when perhaps they should just be observed. I think that the difference is in the degree of concentration at the moment.
chownah
I would not read it as a linear step by step process where one gets rid of distractions and then begins the practice. If you can get rid of distractions by effort that is great. It is often true that this just strengthens the distractions (try not to think of a pink elephant) and gives them more power. I remember one Buddhist teacher saying that anything fully observed disappears. This would apply to the self and distractions.

I would think there is a time and place for any of the remedies. Experience will show what works for the individual.

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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by chownah » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:43 am

Caodemarte wrote:
Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:42 pm
chownah wrote:
Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:19 pm
That is the one....thanks for bringing it here.

MN20 is called "The Removal of Distracting Thoughts". It shows that one should deal with distracting thoughts and shows different methods to get rid of them. It says that when one gets rid of them "his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated." To me it sounds like if one is having trouble with sathipathana (MN10) because of distracting thoughts then one would first get rid of the distracting thoughts (MN20).
So, it seems that there is a time when thoughts should be actively dealt with and a time when perhaps they should just be observed. I think that the difference is in the degree of concentration at the moment.
chownah
I would not read it as a linear step by step process where one gets rid of distractions and then begins the practice. If you can get rid of distractions by effort that is great. It is often true that this just strengthens the distractions (try not to think of a pink elephant) and gives them more power. I remember one Buddhist teacher saying that anything fully observed disappears. This would apply to the self and distractions.

I would think there is a time and place for any of the remedies. Experience will show what works for the individual.
I agree. Sometimes the problem can be that a distracting thought blocks or inhibits full observation and since it is not fully observed it does not disappear.
I have been think about this and I have been using thanissaro's translations for both MN 10 and MN 20.

MN 20 starts out:
The Blessed One said: "When a monk is intent on the heightened mind, there are five themes he should attend to at the appropriate times. Which five?

"There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful.
I think this shows that this sutta is about when someone is intent on the heightened mind (sattipathana for instance) there may be times (appropriate times) when unskillfull thoughts (embued with desire, aversion, or delusion) arise and that at the appropriate time there are five remedies which may be used. The first four remedies are 1. change the theme of your efforts, 2. scrutinize the drawbacks, 3. pay no attention to the unskillful thought, and 4. relaxing of thought fabrication. I would say that none of these is "confrontatinal" or stress inducing. Remedy 5. is a bit on the aggressive side or at least if not grasped properly it could easily lead to an increase of stress but it seems to me that this is a sort of "if all else fails try this" approach.
chownah

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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Dec 14, 2017 5:54 am

rolling_boulder wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 4:44 am

...this mind doesn't give us a chance to allow an experience to come to us so that we can learn from it...
So we make the effort to develop the patience and determination to just be with these difficult states of mind.
...We recognize the impatience, we watch it, and eventually it falls away. We do the same with restlessness and all of the other hindrances. We sense these things when they're coming up, but we're just with them, rather than willfully repressing them. We breathe with them and accept them. We accept them again and again.
Hi RB
This reminds me of one of the methods used in MN20 to remove distracting thoughts
“Here, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is giving attention to some sign, and owing to that sign there arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome. When he gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice might knock out, remove, and extract a coarse peg by means of a fine one, so too…when a bhikkhu gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome…his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.
Here in your example the advice is patient forbarence, khanti, to be developed as an alternative object. This can have the benefit of being able to respond even when the mind is trying to over react to situations, we become able to practice even when we have flare ups of greed hatred and delusion in non formal meditation settings.

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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by ryanM » Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:26 am

chownah wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:14 pm
That is the one....thanks for bringing it here.
Sure thing :smile:
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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:46 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:42 pm
I remember one Buddhist teacher saying that anything fully observed disappears.
Was this is reference to mind objects, like thoughts and feelings?
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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Caodemarte » Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:00 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:46 pm
Caodemarte wrote:
Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:42 pm
I remember one Buddhist teacher saying that anything fully observed disappears.
Was this is reference to mind objects, like thoughts and feelings?
Yes, but also In reference to everything. If you are fully occupied with your breath, for example, you have no room for the concepts that “This is me, this is the breath over there, etc.”

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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Pondera » Sat Dec 16, 2017 3:22 am

Anapanasati calls for you to actively calm the body - gladden the body - release the body. Oddly enough, the heart is mentioned in this thread as a figure of speech. No. The heart is where you find the analgesics to calm, gladden and release both the heart and the mind. I mean, even with arupa Jhanas! How does anyone expect to realize "Space" without actively dwelling on "Space". The karmic body is made of Space (among other elements). The storehouse of "Space" is in the heart. As are the other tranquilizing factors of the other Jhanas.

To just "sit and watch" is a heinous waste of ones ability and potential. But ignorance is even stronger a waste of ones ability and potential. I personally exhort everyone here to learn about their energy centres - in order to tap into the divine wonders of the heart!

- Pondera
Four simple meditations on earth, water, fire, and wind - leading to tranquility and pleasure, equanimity and peacehttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1G3qI6G ... sp=sharing

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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Dec 16, 2017 3:52 am

Pondera wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 3:22 am
Anapanasati calls for you to actively calm the body - gladden the body - release the body. Oddly enough, the heart is mentioned in this thread as a figure of speech. No. The heart is where you find the analgesics to calm, gladden and release both the heart and the mind. I mean, even with arupa Jhanas! How does anyone expect to realize "Space" without actively dwelling on "Space". The karmic body is made of Space (among other elements). The storehouse of "Space" is in the heart. As are the other tranquilizing factors of the other Jhanas.

To just "sit and watch" is a heinous waste of ones ability and potential. But ignorance is even stronger a waste of ones ability and potential. I personally exhort everyone here to learn about their energy centres - in order to tap into the divine wonders of the heart!

- Pondera
This is clearly not what is practiced in, or recommended by, Theravada teachings.

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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Pondera » Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:04 am

"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge and vision. He discerns: 'This body of mine is endowed with form, composed of the four primary elements, born from mother and father, nourished with rice and porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing, pressing, dissolution, and dispersion. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.' Just as if there were a beautiful beryl gem of the purest water — eight faceted, well polished, clear, limpid, consummate in all its aspects, and going through the middle of it was a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread — and a man with good eyesight, taking it in his hand, were to reflect on it thus: 'This is a beautiful beryl gem of the purest water, eight faceted, well polished, clear, limpid, consummate in all its aspects. And this, going through the middle of it, is a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread.' In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability — the monk directs and inclines it to knowledge and vision. He discerns: 'This body of mine is endowed with form, composed of the four primary elements, born from mother and father, nourished with rice and porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing, pressing, dissolution, and dispersion. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.'
DN 11

Clearly your horizons have not been broadened by what you've learned so far. What do you think the clear, limpid gem is? What do you think all of these colored threads are refering too?

Tell me I'm wrong. I don't really mind. I'm old enough to know what works. And I know what the gem is and I know what the threads are. My guess is you haven't the slightest idea. Correct? Let me enlighten you! While you're still young!
Four simple meditations on earth, water, fire, and wind - leading to tranquility and pleasure, equanimity and peacehttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1G3qI6G ... sp=sharing

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Pondera
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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Pondera » Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:04 am

"Then the Great Brahma, taking the monk by the arm and leading him off to one side, said to him, 'These gods of the retinue of Brahma believe, "There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not know. There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not see. There is nothing of which the Great Brahma is unaware. There is nothing that the Great Brahma has not realized." That is why I did not say in their presence that I, too, don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. So you have acted wrongly, acted incorrectly, in bypassing the Blessed One in search of an answer to this question elsewhere. Go right back to the Blessed One and, on arrival, ask him this question. However he answers it, you should take it to heart.'

"Then — just as a strong man might extend his flexed arm or flex his extended arm — the monk disappeared from the Brahma world and immediately appeared in front of me. Having bowed down to me, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to me, 'Lord, where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, I said to him,[2] 'Once, monk, some sea-faring merchants took a shore-sighting bird and set sail in their ship. When they could not see the shore, they released the shore-sighting bird. It flew to the east, south, west, north, straight up, and to all the intermediate points of the compass. If it saw the shore in any direction, it flew there. If it did not see the shore in any direction, it returned right back to the ship. In the same way, monk, having gone as far as the Brahma world in search of an answer to your question, you have come right back to my presence.

"'Your question should not be phrased in this way: Where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder? Instead, it should be phrased like this:


Where do water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing?
Where are long & short,
coarse & fine,
fair & foul,
name & form
brought to an end?
"'And the answer to that is:


Consciousness without feature,[1]
without end,
luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing.
Here long & short
coarse & fine
fair & foul
name & form
are all brought to an end.
With the cessation of [the activity of] consciousness
each is here brought to an end.'"
DN 11

The four great elements are the Jhanas. And they begin in the heart. Each one has its own place there and each one flows through karma - forever producing a foothold for consciousness - ie. the prerequisite for a karmic body - ie. the foundation of the physical body.

If you start with that as your point of reference you can actually see sukkha and piti. If you start with "sit and watch" as your point of reference it will take you no further than the first tetrad of the anapanasati technique
Four simple meditations on earth, water, fire, and wind - leading to tranquility and pleasure, equanimity and peacehttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1G3qI6G ... sp=sharing

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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Polar Bear » Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:19 am

Pondera wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:04 am
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge and vision. He discerns: 'This body of mine is endowed with form, composed of the four primary elements, born from mother and father, nourished with rice and porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing, pressing, dissolution, and dispersion. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.' Just as if there were a beautiful beryl gem of the purest water — eight faceted, well polished, clear, limpid, consummate in all its aspects, and going through the middle of it was a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread — and a man with good eyesight, taking it in his hand, were to reflect on it thus: 'This is a beautiful beryl gem of the purest water, eight faceted, well polished, clear, limpid, consummate in all its aspects. And this, going through the middle of it, is a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread.' In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability — the monk directs and inclines it to knowledge and vision. He discerns: 'This body of mine is endowed with form, composed of the four primary elements, born from mother and father, nourished with rice and porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing, pressing, dissolution, and dispersion. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.'
DN 11

Clearly your horizons have not been broadened by what you've learned so far. What do you think the clear, limpid gem is? What do you think all of these colored threads are refering too?

Tell me I'm wrong. I don't really mind. I'm old enough to know what works. And I know what the gem is and I know what the threads are. My guess is you haven't the slightest idea. Correct? Let me enlighten you! While you're still young!
I think you're clearly reading too much into the simile, the gem is a gem and the threads are threads. The 4 elements are just the matter that make up a physical body that is going to die and has to be fed and raised up by parents, and your consciousness is supported by and tied up to this body. When the mind has reached 4th jhana, that is when it has reached imperturbability, one can direct the mind to seeing the body for what it is, inconstant and subject to all kinds of dukkha, and see how consciousness is just an unsatisfactory process of cognition tied up with the body, then one can let go. It's really a straightforward sutta, the challenge is getting to the level of mental development where one can calm the mind that much and really allow the insight into the dukkha of body and mind percolate all the way down into every nook and cranny of the subconscious and uproot passion, aversion, and delusion forever.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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Pondera
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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by Pondera » Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:51 am

e]
polarbear101 wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:19 am
Pondera wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:04 am
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge and vision. He discerns: 'This body of mine is endowed with form, composed of the four primary elements, born from mother and father, nourished with rice and porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing, pressing, dissolution, and dispersion. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.' Just as if there were a beautiful beryl gem of the purest water — eight faceted, well polished, clear, limpid, consummate in all its aspects, and going through the middle of it was a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread — and a man with good eyesight, taking it in his hand, were to reflect on it thus: 'This is a beautiful beryl gem of the purest water, eight faceted, well polished, clear, limpid, consummate in all its aspects. And this, going through the middle of it, is a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread.' In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability — the monk directs and inclines it to knowledge and vision. He discerns: 'This body of mine is endowed with form, composed of the four primary elements, born from mother and father, nourished with rice and porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing, pressing, dissolution, and dispersion. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.'
DN 11

Clearly your horizons have not been broadened by what you've learned so far. What do you think the clear, limpid gem is? What do you think all of these colored threads are refering too?

Tell me I'm wrong. I don't really mind. I'm old enough to know what works. And I know what the gem is and I know what the threads are. My guess is you haven't the slightest idea. Correct? Let me enlighten you! While you're still young!
I think you're clearly reading too much into the simile, the gem is a gem and the threads are threads. The 4 elements are just the matter that make up a physical body that is going to die and has to be fed and raised up by parents, and your consciousness is supported by and tied up to this body. When the mind has reached 4th jhana, that is when it has reached imperturbability, one can direct the mind to seeing the body for what it is, inconstant and subject to all kinds of dukkha, and see how consciousness is just an unsatisfactory process of cognition tied up with the body, then one can let go. It's really a straightforward sutta, the challenge is getting to the level of mental development where one can calm the mind that much and really allow the insight into the dukkha of body and mind percolate all the way down into every nook and cranny of the subconscious and uproot passion, aversion, and delusion forever.
"These are the eight dimensions of mental mastery. Now, of these eight dimensions of mastery, this is supreme: when one percipient of the formless internally sees forms externally as white, white in their color, white in their features, white in their glow. And there are beings who are percipient in this way. Yet even in the beings who are percipient in this way there is still aberration, there is change. Seeing this, the instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with that. Being disenchanted with that, he becomes dispassionate toward what is supreme, and even more so toward what is inferior.
Kosala Sutta

As one who visualizes auras and sees colors internally, the threads are not "just" threads. Nor are the strings in the lyre simile just "strings". And that sort of is the point. The gem is eight faceted - it has the four elements and the four color kasinas + an oddly interesting fifth brown kasina.

So this is the point of learning what jhana is. Jhana is a temporary state of pain relief brought on by contact with one of the four great elements. The fourth jhana is no exception. However, You say the mind must be calmed in order to reach fourth jhana. Is this what defines jhana? A level of calmness? Is that reached by watching and letting go?
Four simple meditations on earth, water, fire, and wind - leading to tranquility and pleasure, equanimity and peacehttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1G3qI6G ... sp=sharing

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Re: On so-called "Heart Practice"

Post by rolling_boulder » Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:16 pm

Thanks for all the replies so far, very helpful.

I've been pondering this topic continuously and your input is not in vain.
Here are some thoughts. I hope it's not too long; this issue is extremely important to me.

For me, when I hear teachings along the lines of what we were discussing in the OP, it fills me with a feeling of shock and disappointment, disillusionment and doubt.
Maybe in this thread what I really want to do is get to the bottom of why that is. From there we can examine the issue more decisively.

I will tell you a story. Before I encountered Buddhism, I was your average modern young militant atheist, filled with ennui, a malingering sense of meaninglessness permeating my life.

With no way to put words to the problem, and no way to rebel against that crushing reality of an existence defined by nothing, related to nothing, with no sense of direction besides "try to be comfortable until you die," I was stuck in that ghost's state of sickening confusion, with no apparent way out.

Without even being conscious on a verbal level of this problem, I was reaching out for anyone who it seemed might have the answers. I tried many things to heal that pain: music, modern life-affirming psychology, ancient Greek philosophy. I tried self-optimization, self-help, exercise, literature, conformism, nonconformism, and entheogenic experiences with marijuana, LSD, and mushrooms. The psychedelics showed me at a profound level how arbitrary and socially constructed the normal human value system is. The Greeks taught me to own up to my condition virtuously and make the best of it. The exercise took my mind off the problem for a while. The music and literature, if they were any good, helped me to open up to my own emotional state. But ultimately, nothing scratched the itch. Nothing pointed the way out of this obscure problem which I couldn't even communicate.

Nobody around me seemed to have the same problem, or maybe everyone did, and they were all just hiding it. Like I was.

As Sartre put it so well in the Age of Reason:
He yawned. He had finished the day and he had also finished with his youth. Various well-bred moralities had already discreetly offered him their services: disillusioned epicureanism, smiling tolerance, resignation, common sense stoicism - all the aids whereby a man may savour, minute by minute, like a connoisseur, the failure of a life.
I wasn't satisfied with these things. I continued seeking. I also rejected the trap of nihilism, and its brother the Secular Humanist death cult, so willfully ignorant of the contradiction in stating that the Highest Good is the reduction of human suffering, and simultaneously claiming that death is the end of all suffering.

I encountered the Buddha Dhamma and everything changed.

Rather than affirming "life," Buddhism affirmed something that ran so deeply within me; this problem that I had been unable to recognize; and it made this the core fundament of its teaching: the First Noble Truth, dukkha.

Finally, for the first time in my life, there was something to move toward; something truly meaningful to strive for. Nothing less than the end of suffering, totally, forever.

It was so appealing to me that I was willing to forego my own disbelief (at the time) in the doctrines of rebirth and karma, knowing that there must regardless be a jewel of truth here to be found - that I must suspend my strong disbelief.

As I learned more and more about the topic, always wanting to get to the root of the issue, I eventually came to the Pali Canon, the authentic words of the Buddha himself, so awesome in their scope, and so successfully obscured by layers and layers of modern reinterpretation and commentary. And I discovered the Theravada, the self-proclaimed keepers of that amazing, world-transcending Truth. My enthusiasm and faith grew to a degree that I could not even understand. I could hardly believe that there was really something so valuable the entire time, one Google search away. I devoured the scriptures and teachings. It was joyful and tremendous.

My entire value structure reshuffled itself in terms of the Path; the highest good being progress toward the end of suffering, the only happiness which is final and true, by using the Four Supreme Efforts. That momentum eventually culminated in me leaving my family, friends, and promising young career behind in order to follow that profound truth.

When I encounter teachings of "acceptance of the way things are," "mindfully enduring," etc, again and again I find them presented as the "only thing you have to do-" that somehow, by patiently enduring, suffering will just end on its own without you needing to do anything. I find these teachings starkly opposed to the Dhamma of the Pali Canon that I find so inspiring and meaningful, that teaches that you really can find the end of suffering through your own efforts. I wouldn't have nearly such a problem with these teachings if they were presented as -merely- the development of patience, or as mindfulness exercises, but this is not how they are presented; they are usually presented as the whole of the path, that "letting go" is the whole of the path.

Even letting go of the Path itself!

Having goals in the practice is demonized to the extent that the Dhamma is now being presented by some, in my view, as just patiently enduring until you die. This view says that there's nowhere to go, that goals of increasing our peace, happiness, generosity, and kindness are actually counter intuitive, that all we have to do is let go of everything, even of the notion of getting anywhere with our practice. Most disturbingly, even happiness itself, in this view, is not a worthwhile goal, just a sankhara to be let go of. Anyone who says they want happiness from their practice is ridiculed as childish and unwise, still clinging to mental states.

All we have to do, in this view, is watch as we suffer and then when we see it happening we won't suffer anymore. Maybe this is just a straw man that I am creating out of these teachings and maybe they really do contain the entire Path somehow in some subtler way, but I just can't believe it. Perhaps it does, but I don't see how this teaching contains Right Effort. It stands opposed to the descriptions of Nibbana as the "ultimate happiness." It speaks, to me, of a practice of defeatism, more of a Taoist "going with the flow/ giving up on striving" than a Buddhist "going against the flow."

Or even worse, it is presented not only a defeatism but an acceptance, not in a sense of openness to, but of contenment with, unwholesome mental states. Effort to remove unwholesome states is derided as "a youthful overenthusiasm." Wholesome mental states, instead of being deepened, maintained, and intensified, are to "not be attached to." Rather than cultivation of the positive, this school of thought contents itself with negatives: non-greed, non-hatred, non-cruelty, as the Ultimate. It strikes me as sort of a neutral, schizoid, clinical state of mind. If that is Enlightenment, I would rather be unenlightened, to be quite frank.

Among followers of this teaching I find a lack of life energy, a certain dull listlessness, a lack of enthusiasm for the Dhamma that I find very disturbing. Nibbana is presented as just this: dull, detached, joyless awareness. When I discuss with such people the prospect of renunciation and ordination, rather than a celebration of "going to do battle with Mara" they have an attitude more along the lines of "well, if that's what you want, but it doesn't really matter either way... You'll probably just find that you don't like it... You can always disrobe if you want..." Seriously, that's the first thing they always say, in my experience. "You can always just disrobe."

If there's no goal, no striving, no concentration, jhana is a thing of the past, and enlightened people no longer exist, then why are we doing this? How can we have any meaning in our lives without a spiritual goal? Why even have monasteries? Why not go back to our old meaningless 9-5 existence? Why meditate at all? How could there be a benefit? Why bother?

How is it that we have come from a time when people would be invigorated, chastened and overjoyed at hearing a discourse from the Buddha, to our present state where we listen to a Dhamma discourse from a Theravada teacher and by the end of it we are kind of sleepy and complacent and fuzzily confused?

For me, the Dhamma is an active rebellion against meaninglessness. Not just trusting in awareness to give us detachment from meaninglessness.

Perhaps this hastily written post gets the idea across to some degree - I hope it is not too childish.
Am I tapping into something real here or am I just imagining at all? I feel forced to point it out if nobody else will.

RB
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

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