Gradual practice

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Zom
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Gradual practice

Post by Zom » Thu May 28, 2015 10:16 am

In the suttas we can find numerous practices and methods, so it was interesting for me to make a systematized scheme which would embrace them all. Of special interest for me are the suttas describing gradual practice stages. These texts (several such suttas in DN and MN) are enormously overlooked while being very important because they show how one should practise correctly. Nowadays we have this popularized primitive approach where on the one hand there is “studying theory (suttas, abhidhamma, books, etc)” and on the other – “true practice” which is meditation retreats. Everything else is somewhat unimportant or “not leading to nibbana”. Maybe I exaggerate a bit, but generally, this is the case.

But if we take such wonderful texts as MN 39, MN 107, MN 125, we’ll see different approach to practice. As I see it, the most (nowadays) overlooked thing in these texts is phasing. This is illustrated by vivid similes (house building and calculating in MN 107, elephant training in MN 125). The main idea is that you should develop (to a necessary degree) one step/stage first before moving to the next. When someone starts directly with some higher stage (like meditation retreats or seclusion or keeping higher precepts all the time) – this is what can be called amateurish approach and, obviously, brings nothing but frustration from Dhamma practice, and I think this is one of the major reasons why people quit Buddhism entirely or, at the very least, dissatisfied with it. But with the right approach you build one storey first, only after that you start building second – you don’t start with the roof.

So here is the scheme of gradual way. All main stages I borrowed from such suttas like MN 39, but also added collateral practices which can be practiced at the certain stages mostly as additional (but not compulsory) helpful methods/tools (placed them in the scheme just as I see it). I’ve also written extensive comments with suttas citations on the scheme in Russian, but that will be tiresome for me to translate it all into English -) (though you can take a look using google tool which sometimes does decent automatic translation). If you have comments, we can discuss.
:roll:
Scheme 1.gif
Scheme 1.gif (10.5 KiB) Viewed 2122 times

Coyote
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Coyote » Thu May 28, 2015 4:21 pm

Have you seen this?
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
Iti 26

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Zom
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Zom » Thu May 28, 2015 6:30 pm

No I haven't, thanks. A good confirmation that gradual stages is an important teaching.

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daverupa
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by daverupa » Thu May 28, 2015 6:36 pm

Zom wrote:As I see it, the most (nowadays) overlooked thing in these texts is phasing. This is illustrated by vivid similes (house building and calculating in MN 107, elephant training in MN 125). The main idea is that you should develop (to a necessary degree) one step/stage first before moving to the next.
:goodpost:
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by SarathW » Thu May 28, 2015 9:51 pm

" I think this is one of the major reasons why people quit Buddhism entirely or, at the very least, dissatisfied with it."
Good point Zom. I like the chart as well.
:)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

SarathW
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by SarathW » Thu May 28, 2015 9:55 pm

Coyote wrote:Have you seen this?
Wow!
This chart blows my mind away.
I did not have time to study it yet.
I never new that the gradual training is such a fundamental teaching in Buddhism.
:twothumbsup:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

SarathW
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by SarathW » Thu May 28, 2015 11:18 pm

SarathW wrote:
Coyote wrote:Have you seen this?
Wow!
This chart blows my mind away.
I did not have time to study it yet.
I never new that the gradual training is such a fundamental teaching in Buddhism.
:twothumbsup:
ps: I decided to investigate more about the author Leigh Brasington. Following is the link to his website.

http://www.leighb.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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retrofuturist
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by retrofuturist » Fri May 29, 2015 12:26 am

Greetings Zom,

Well said, and that's an excellent diagram... once one works out that it starts at the bottom of the page!

I rejoice in your efforts to shine a light on certain matters that are generally (and erroneously) taken from granted.

:thumbsup:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Digity
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Digity » Fri May 29, 2015 3:24 am

Thanks for reminding me of this Zom. I recently realized I've been skipping over a major step in my practice...and that's sense door restraint. I've been ignoring this big time and didn't think it was that important, but I'm starting to see otherwise. I'm starting to see a lot of problems that have arisen due to my lack of sense restraint and I'm trying to get them under control now.

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robdog
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by robdog » Tue Jun 02, 2015 11:55 am

Thank you for the chart and posting Zom. I think the gradual training is very important, it helps me to not try and get ahead of myself.

SarathW
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by SarathW » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:40 pm

Agree.
Understanding gradual training is the best antidote for people who think that they hit a brick wall. (Some times I feel like that)
Many people give up Buddhism as they fail to see this important fact.
:)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Mr Man
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Mr Man » Tue Jun 02, 2015 10:47 pm

Zom, could you fit stream entry into your structure. I think it might be at a surprisingly low level (or maybe it just doesn't work). Can you also see a stage were going forth becomes appropriate? A good diagram. Thank you.

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Sati1
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Sati1 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:01 am

What strikes me about these synopses of the graduated training is how often the jhanas and recollection of past lives are mentioned, in contrast to insight practice and establishment of the four foundations of mindfulness. This seems to be very different from how the graduated training is generally taught nowadays.
Sati1
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----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Zom
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Zom » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:03 am

Zom, could you fit stream entry into your structure. I think it might be at a surprisingly low level (or maybe it just doesn't work). Can you also see a stage were going forth becomes appropriate? A good diagram. Thank you.
1. Going forth - I didn't mention it simply because it is not obligatory thing for practice (though, of course, often told about in the suttas). If we take, for example, MN 125 (or any similar sutta to that), it comes before "Morality" stages (4-5-6-7). However, if we think a bit, it can happen anywhere from 1st to 4th. One can meet Dhamma an go forth knowing nothing about it at all (like in some canonical cases). One can meet Dhamma, study it, and after that go forth - even without forming Right Views. Or one can study Dhamma, rectify his views, and only after that go forth. This is - if we take suttas speaking about gradual path. But actually one can go forth much later on.

2. Stream-entry relates to 3rd (Right View) stage. Not to the last one which is Enlightenment. However, interesting thing here, that it is not necessary to fulfil Right Views factor to 100% before moving to Morality stages. Lets say, Stream-Winner has 100% developed Right Views factor. While, for example, Dhamma-Follower - only 90%. And Faith-Follower - 80%. And Putthujana (non-ariya) -- like 75% or even 79% 8-) But still, this is not 20% or 30%, and so this is more than enough to move to the next stages (Morality). Later on, one will deepen his practice, and eventually reach 100% in Right Views factor (becoming a Stream-Winner). Same, by the way, applies to all other stages. It is not that they should be 100% developed before moving to the higher stage. Some 70-80% is enough I think, but this number will increase as the practice goes on, because you will still pay certain attention to previous stages.

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mikenz66
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:28 am

Sati1 wrote:What strikes me about these synopses of the graduated training is how often the jhanas and recollection of past lives are mentioned, in contrast to insight practice and establishment of the four foundations of mindfulness. This seems to be very different from how the graduated training is generally taught nowadays.
Perhaps it depends how you look at it. The GT sequence of
Sense restraint
Moderation in Eating
Meditative Mindfulness
Continual Awareness
as described in the suttas sounds to me like a typical "insight" retreat.

And on such a retreat there are various exercises that develop concentration (walking, breath, rise-and fall of abdomen, metta, etc).

These retreats may not be long enough to fully develop the jhana factors and develop Jhana and the "real insight" at the top of Zom's diagram, but they are certainly heading in that direction.

:anjali:
Mike

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