Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Post Reply
Posts: 121
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:43 pm

Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by rohana » Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:56 pm

I don't think this has been posted before - this is basically a short interview with Ven. Anālayo by Bhikkhu Yogānanda, who conducted "The Heretic Sage" interviews with Ven. Nāṇananda:
  • Anālayo, The Meditative Scholar

    Bhante Anālayo’s works are marked by a pre­ci­sion and thor­ough­ness that seems to bor­der on per­fec­tion­ism. I first saw this in Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Awak­en­ing, and later in his other pub­li­ca­tions. Since com­plet­ing the work which earned him a Ph.D., he has moved on to com­par­a­tive stud­ies in Early Bud­dhism, and ranks among the best con­tem­po­rary schol­ars spe­cial­iz­ing in that largely unex­plored area. If his pub­lished works are any indi­ca­tion, the upcom­ing com­par­a­tive study of the Majjhima Nikāya is going to be a classic.

    When I was assist­ing Bhante Nāṇananda with pub­lish­ing some of his work online, I got in con­tact with Ven. Anālayo. He was the one who had tran­scribed the Nib­bāna – The Mind Stilled ser­mons and pre­pared, in typ­i­cal ‘Anālayan’ thor­ough­ness, the impres­sive list of ref­er­ences for each talk. I used the oppor­tu­nity to email him a few ques­tions about his monas­tic life and schol­arly work. The ques­tions and answers appear below:

    Q: What sparked your inter­est in Buddhism?

    “I had been intro­duced to the prac­tice of Bud­dhist med­i­ta­tion and found that this helped me to stay more calm and bal­anced in stress sit­u­a­tions, so I wanted to know more about the background.”

    Q: Could you please tell us about your monas­tic life: how you went forth, who your teach­ers were etc.?

    “My going forth etc. is a lit­tle com­plex. I orig­i­nally went forth in 1990 in Thai­land in a monastery near Huahin (after an inspir­ing med­i­ta­tion retreat at Wat Suan Mokh, the monastery of Ajahn Bud­dhadāsa). This was, how­ever, orig­i­nally only planned to be for the vassa, which I wanted to spend med­i­tat­ing in a cave close by the sea­side. I stayed on in robes for two years, in the end, since I found it was the most mean­ing­ful thing to do. How­ever, try­ing to keep the rules strictly com­bined with my Ger­man per­fec­tion­ism had cre­ated some prob­lems in my mind (stiff­ness, arro­gance towards those who are less strict etc.). I any­way had to go back to Ger­many to set­tle things, since orig­i­nally I had not left with the idea of liv­ing in Asia, so I went down to anagārika, did what I had to do in Ger­many, and in 1994 came to Sri Lanka, where in 1995 I took pab­bajā again, under Ven. Balan­goda Ananda Maitreya.

    “My main ref­er­ence point for the sub­se­quent period was Bhikkhu Bodhi, whom I con­sider as my teacher, as he guided me in Pāli etc. and we were through­out in reg­u­lar con­tact. In order to keep out of dāna oblig­a­tions and other things, and also out of my ear­lier expe­ri­ence with the rules of higher ordi­na­tion, I stayed samaṇera for 12 years. Thus it was only in 2007, after repeat­edly being urged to do so by Bhikkhu Bodhi, that I took higher ordi­na­tion, in the Swe­jin Nikāya, with Ven. Pemasiri of Sumath­ipala Aranya as my monas­tic teacher.”

    At first I mis­un­der­tood the ‘dāna oblig­a­tions’ Bhante men­tions as relat­ing to the way a Bhikkhu is to receive food. The Vinaya does not allow fully ordained monas­tics (Bhikkhus and Bhikkhu­nis) to grow, store, cook or even pick up unof­fered food for con­sump­tion. This stip­u­la­tion makes them entirely depen­dent on the lay sup­port­ers for their meals, which are ide­ally acquired through pinḍapāta – beg­ging for alms from door to door. But later he clar­i­fied the real rea­son, which has noth­ing to do with stor­ing food (which he has never done):

    “I went beg­ging every day and did not want to accept invi­ta­tions for dāna cer­e­monies. This was some­times dif­fi­cult to explain, as the laity is always so keen to invite us, but the fact that I was not a bhikkhu made it eas­ier for me to avoid such cer­e­monies, as laity usu­ally likes to invite fully ordained bhikkhus, and being a saman­era, one is a much less attrac­tive object for such invitations :-)

    Q: What made you inter­ested in com­par­a­tive studies?

    “After my going forth in Sri Lanka I wanted to bal­ance my prac­tice with a bet­ter under­stand­ing of satipaṭṭhāna, so I got into the Uni­ver­sity of Per­adeniya and did a PhD on the Satipaṭṭhānanasutta (I had already done a BA degree and some MA stud­ies in other sub­jects in Ger­many), which I com­pleted in 2000.

    “Dur­ing the course of that study, I had come to notice the inter­est­ing dif­fer­ences between the Pali and the Chi­nese ver­sions, so after I had com­pleted the PhD, I learned Chi­nese (Bhikkhu Bodhi had in the mean­time left Sri Lanka so I fol­lowed him to the US where he stayed at a Chi­nese monastery, which afforded me the occa­sion to get into Chi­nese) and also Tibetan.

    “Then I got into a study of the Satipaṭṭhānanasutta and even­tu­ally of the whole Majjhima from the per­spec­tive of their par­al­lels. This was under­taken as a post-doctoral degree called habil­i­ta­tion in Ger­many, at the Uni­ver­sity of Mar­burg, which I com­pleted in 2007. The book is at present in the final stage of revi­sion and will be pub­lished next year with Dharma Drum Aca­d­e­mic Pub­lish­ers in Taiwan.”

    Q: How did you get involved with Bhante Nāṇananda’s work?

    “I had met Bhikkhu Nāṇananda per­son­ally already sev­eral times, but when God­win Sama­raratne passed away, I found a tape with the first Nib­bāna ser­mon trans­lated into Eng­lish in his room (at the Lewella Med­i­ta­tion Cen­ter). After lis­ten­ing to it, I felt a strong inner call­ing that this is some­thing impor­tant and I should do what I can to help it become avail­able for oth­ers. So I went to visit Bhikkhu Nāṇananda and put my ser­vices at his dis­posal. From then one we had reg­u­lar con­tacts, as he would send me the tapes as soon as he had fin­ished trans­lat­ing, and I would then tran­scribe from the tape, search the ref­er­ences and then send him the print out for cor­rec­tions and reg­u­larly visit him to dis­cuss about the ser­mons etc.”

    Q: Are there any instances where you would dis­agree with Bhante Nanananda’s interpretations?

    “There are a few of the trans­la­tions where I would ren­der the Pali orig­i­nal dif­fer­ently, but this does not really mat­ter so much.”

    Like many sin­cere monks, Ven. Anālayo is reluc­tant to talk about his per­sonal med­i­ta­tion prac­tice, but his com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion to it, even while keep­ing up a thriv­ing schol­arly career, is so inspir­ing that I got per­mis­sion to men­tion it here.

    Q: How do you han­dle the—perhaps conflicting—demands of your schol­arly work and med­i­ta­tion practice?

    “I have kept up and do still keep up a strong prac­tice of med­i­ta­tion through­out. At present, I spend the first three days of every week in silent retreat just med­i­tat­ing, so that together with a long retreat at the begin­ning of the year I end up spend­ing nearly half of my time in retreat con­di­tions. I just men­tion it because I feel it is impor­tant in some way to make it clear that med­i­ta­tion has to be at the cen­tre of life, oth­er­wise the other things won’t work. It is so easy to get car­ried away by Dhamma activ­i­ties and for­get about the whole pur­pose of going forth.”

    Anālayo, The Meditative Scholar - Bhikkhu Yogananda
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43

User avatar
Posts: 8504
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by cooran » Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:06 pm

Thanks rohana!

With metta,
---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
Posts: 23044
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:10 pm

Indeed, thank you.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

User avatar
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by Ben » Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:46 pm

Thank you!
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR


User avatar
Posts: 3012
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by Dan74 » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:33 am

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu!

Posts: 2205
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am

Re: Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by Sylvester » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:02 am


User avatar
Posts: 257
Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:44 pm

Re: Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by kmath » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:09 am

rohana wrote: At present, I spend the first three days of every week in silent retreat just med­i­tat­ing
That's awesome.

Thanks for the post!

User avatar
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:19 am
Location: the deserts of Arizona

Re: Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by IanAnd » Mon Oct 21, 2013 4:33 pm

Interesting. Thank you for the post and link.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

User avatar
Posts: 458
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:14 am

Re: Interview with Bhikkh Anālayo

Post by Kamran » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:38 am

I would like to know more about his upcoming publications. He mentions a new Satipatthana book and a book about Metta meditation in a couple of his talks. If anybody has any information it would be appreciated.

"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: kamui, Yahoo [Bot] and 101 guests