Gradual practice

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Sam Vara
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:00 pm

Zom wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:42 pm
Were the scriptures to say that they definitely did not, then that would of course be a different matter.
But scriptures do say. There's at least one text dealing with that and giving the number of deceased stream-winners in one village. They were a majority, while those with jhanas were a minority (1600 / 50 -- as far as I remember). More than that - also scriptures do say that "people are deteriorating" - and even in Buddha's lifetime less and less monks attained nibbana. Extrapolate that tendency 2500 years in the future, and here you are, with that "1 in 1 billion" .)
Well, even if you could find that text, it appears to be talking about one village, and attaining jhana, rather than benefitting from meditation. I don't think that extrapolations like that are particularly useful, and shouldn't be used to generate specific odds.
Scriptures are very clear on the matter as you see. And if we take commentarial scriptures... well, they say no arahants can live in our time. Non-returners at best. This fits well with what one can see in the world now, concerning Buddhism and Buddhists.
Yes, scriptures are clear, but so are individuals giving accounts of their experiences. It's not the clarity which is the issue here. Both involve a claim being expressed, an interpretation of that claim, and then an act of faith as to which one chooses to believe. The scriptures are apparently contradicted by the individuals, and vice versa, leaving the uncommitted with no means of choosing between the two. I suspect that the act of faith is paramount here.

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SDC
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by SDC » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:05 pm

budo wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:43 pm
I will never know 100% for certain if my experiences align with the labels because I never met the Buddha, and unfortunately he's not here to evaluate me, therefore I can only rely on secondary sources.
I respectfully disagree. When these things are understood in our experience, they are understood beyond doubt. So whatever that understanding may be, it will either align with the suttas or it won't. Question is, what is the quality of the understanding? Are you evaluating experience as compared to a particular theory or model or are you directly seeing experience for how it is? That is where I think we all sell ourselves short in terms of goals of the practice - we assume it will only ever be an understanding of the Dhamma. No, I do not believe that --- it will be the Dhamma, end of story. Full access.

If mindfulness is fully developed, then, "While doing [such and such], he knows, "I am doing [such and such]". There is no aligning immediate experience with a model or theory as an end, there is direct knowing of what that experience is and the associated significance is based upon that direct knowing, not on how close two conceivings came to aligning (See MN1). Does that make sense?

If you get to the Dhamma you will be 100% certain and you will then be able to go back to the labels and retrofit your direct knowledge into the labels and decipher what the Buddha meant when he said the words and what the translators did to best fill the gaps in what they clearly did not know when they translated - what they did not know in terms of direct knowledge of Dhamma.

I am not saying, "Rely on yourself." What I am saying is aim for the possibility that you will one day be able to rely on yourself. Have that opening as a possibility or you'll never move past believing that you will never know 100% for certain and that you must rely on secondary sources.

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Zom
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Zom » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:10 pm

The scriptures are apparently contradicted by the individuals, and vice versa, leaving the uncommitted with no means of choosing between the two.
Yes, this is a common argument I hear all the time. However, I don't know of anyone who could boast at least jhanic attainment (and here I mean not mere words and unsubstantiated statements, but real demonstration, like Ram Bomjon did - and he is the only person in the world I know who could show this, hence so popular). So, I don't know an individual who goes against this tendency shown in the texts, both canonical and commentarial. All whom I know fit it quite well 8-)
Well, even if you could find that text, it appears to be talking about one village, and attaining jhana, rather than benefitting from meditation.
There are much better texts for the topic showing right place of meditation on the Path. Like MN 107 for example. And with that, I don't know texts where Buddha encouraged beginners in Buddhism to start with meditation or even advised to try it. Yes, there are passages like "Here are empty huts, roots of trees, go to seclusion there and meditate". But such texts are surely not for beginners, and one more nice sutta confirms that - AN 10.99.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:45 pm

Zom wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:10 pm
The scriptures are apparently contradicted by the individuals, and vice versa, leaving the uncommitted with no means of choosing between the two.
Yes, this is a common argument I hear all the time. However, I don't know of anyone who could boast at least jhanic attainment (and here I mean not mere words and unsubstantiated statements, but real demonstration, like Ram Bomjon did - and he is the only person in the world I know who could show this, hence so popular). So, I don't know an individual who goes against this tendency shown in the texts, both canonical and commentarial. All whom I know fit it quite well 8-)
I don't know about Ram Bomjon, I'm afraid, nor about the objective measurement of jhana. Maybe one of our contributors here will submit a very long video of themselves in meditation, so we will be able to make up our minds! I'm more concerned about the general benefits of a meditation practice for those who consider themselves to be Buddhists. If they say it helps with other aspects of the path, then it would appear strange to contradict them based on nothing but evidence from the suttas and commentaries. Important though we might hold such evidence to be, our understanding of it could presumably be as mistaken as the personal testimony and conviction. Both require a prior faith as to what we count as more important.

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by rightviewftw » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:55 pm

Then Anathapindika the householder, surrounded by about 500 lay followers, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there the Blessed One said to him, "Householder, you have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick, but you shouldn't rest content with the thought, 'We have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick.' So you should train yourself, 'Let's periodically enter & remain in seclusion & rapture.' That's how you should train yourself."

When this was said, Ven. Sariputta said to the Blessed One, "It's amazing, lord. It's astounding, how well put that was by the Blessed One: 'Householder, you have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick, but you shouldn't rest content with the thought, "We have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick." So you should train yourself, "Let's periodically enter & remain in seclusion & rapture." That's how you should train yourself.'

"Lord, when a disciple of the noble ones enters & remains in seclusion & rapture, there are five possibilities that do not exist at that time: The pain & distress dependent on sensuality do not exist at that time. The pleasure & joy dependent on sensuality do not exist at that time. The pain & distress dependent on what is unskillful do not exist at that time. The pleasure & joy dependent on what is unskillful do not exist at that time. The pain & distress dependent on what is skillful do not exist at that time. When a disciple of the noble ones enters & remains in seclusion & rapture, these five possibilities do not exist at that time."
...
i am pretty sure meditation is adviced here

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Zom » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:16 am

Maybe one of our contributors here will submit a very long video of themselves in meditation, so we will be able to make up our minds!
Why not -) 12 hours in a row would be enough for start -) Less than those 96 hours by Bomjon, but still something.
I'm more concerned about the general benefits of a meditation practice for those who consider themselves to be Buddhists. If they say it helps with other aspects of the path, then it would appear strange to contradict them based on nothing but evidence from the suttas and commentaries. Important though we might hold such evidence to be, our understanding of it could presumably be as mistaken as the personal testimony and conviction. Both require a prior faith as to what we count as more important.
It helps, but in what way and how much? Could they achieve same results in other spheres without formal meditation? Did they try this way and that way to compare? Again, are these gainings and benefits real? Maybe wishful thinking? People tend to cling to things in which they put a lot of effort and time, tend to justify it at all costs. Rare are those who can say: "Ah yes, spent years on this, but lets be frank, it gave nothing".
i am pretty sure meditation is adviced here
Why not. But again. Were these people newbies in Buddhism? Hardly.
Last edited by Zom on Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:17 am

rightviewftw wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:55 pm

i am pretty sure meditation is adviced here
Yes, and also here:
Pessa said to the Buddha: “It’s incredible, sir, it’s amazing, how much the Buddha has clearly described the four kinds of mindfulness meditation! They are in order to purify sentient beings, to get past sorrow and crying, to make an end of pain and sadness, to complete the procedure, and to realize extinguishment. For we white-clothed laypeople also from time to time meditate with our minds well established in the four kinds of mindfulness meditation.
We meditate observing an aspect of the body … feelings … mind … principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. It’s incredible, sir, it’s amazing! How the Buddha knows what’s best for sentient beings, even though people continue to be so shady, rotten, and tricky.
https://suttacentral.net/mn51/en/sujato

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Zom » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:19 am

Yes, and also here:
Again - text show no evidence that this is an instruction for newcomers/beginners.

Even for monks we see such instruction like this:

“Well then, mendicant, you should purify the starting point of skillful qualities. What is the starting point of skillful qualities? Well purified ethics and correct view. When your ethics are well purified and your view is correct, you should develop the four kinds of mindfulness meditation in three ways, depending on and grounded on ethics".
Last edited by Zom on Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

rightviewftw
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by rightviewftw » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:19 am

Zom wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:16 am
Why not. But again. Were these people newbies in Buddhism? Hardly.
Well apparently they were newbies enough in as much as they would be content with just offering Dana!
Also you have no idea who those 500 people were... Clearly the apparent message is that if you are Buddhist enough to offer Dana you should also meditate.

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:27 am

Zom wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:16 am
Maybe one of our contributors here will submit a very long video of themselves in meditation, so we will be able to make up our minds!
Why not -) 12 hours in a row would be enough for start -) Less than those 96 hours by Bomjon, but still something.
96 hours? I'll Google this tomorrow. Impressive!
It helps, but in what way and how much? Could they achieve same results in other spheres without formal meditation? Did they try this way and that way to compare? Again, are these gainings and benefits real? Maybe wishful thinking? People tend to cling to things in which they put a lot of effort and time, tend to justify it at all costs. Rare are those who can say: "Ah yes, spent years on this, but lets be frank, it gave nothing".
The same applies to any aspect of the Graduated Teaching. Do we know anyone who jumped over the Dana section, and then progressed directly to Sila? Are the gains real, or just imaginary?

In fact, lots of people, especially Westerners, started off with meditation techniques, liked what they found, and thereafter adopted other aspects of the path in order to increase progress. I know several people who took up precepts and reading suttas after engaging in secular mindfulness and meditation programmes.

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Zom » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:27 am

Well apparently they were newbies enough in as much as they would be content with just offering Dana!
Anathapindika hardly was a newbie here, given the context that many people became buddhists by then. Anyway, there is no clear evidence anywhere in Canon that Buddha said something like "Meditate, newbies!" However, opposite statement can be found.
The same applies to any aspect of the Graduated Teaching. Do we know anyone who jumped over the Dana section, and then progressed directly to Sila? Are the gains real, or just imaginary?
There is no Dana in Buddha's gradual training program, by the way. Dana, though widespread, still is a collateral practice.
In fact, lots of people, especially Westerners, started off with meditation techniques, liked what they found, and thereafter adopted other aspects of the path in order to increase progress. I know several people who took up precepts and reading suttas after engaging in secular mindfulness and meditation programmes.
Still much more came to Dhamma without meditation. There was a poll somewhere both on this forum and on ours as well. As far as I remember only 1/4 of people said they came to Dhamma through meditation. Many more didn't come to Dhamma through it.
Last edited by Zom on Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by rightviewftw » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:30 am

Zom wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:27 am
Well apparently they were newbies enough in as much as they would be content with just offering Dana!
Anathapindika hardly was a newbie here, given the context that many people became buddhists by then. Anyway, there is no clear evidence anywhere in Canon that Buddha said something like "Meditate, newbies!" However, opposite statement can be found.
Well what is newbie? If a person thinks that just offering robes is enough i consider him a newbie(unless he is just being complacent). What is a newbie to you?
What seems like 500 lay non-meditators who are content with offering robes, how more newbie-like do you want it?
Also you posted a quote pertaining to Satipatthana meditation, you can not extend it to other types of meditation based on that excerpt alone.

Even non buddhists get a lot of benefits from meditation and this is well-documented.
Last edited by rightviewftw on Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:37 am

rightviewftw wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:19 am
Zom wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:16 am
Why not. But again. Were these people newbies in Buddhism? Hardly.
Well apparently they were newbies enough in as much as they would be content with just offering Dana!
Also you have no idea who those 500 people were... Clearly the message is that if you are Buddhist enough to offer Dana you should also meditate.
Hmm, somehow there is this idea that if someone's main outward practice seems to giving dana then the person concerned is a "newbie".

According to the sequence here: http://aimwell.org/DPPN/anathapindika.html it appears that the sutta you refer to would have been after Anāthapiṇḍika became a stream enter.

:heart:
Mike

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Zom
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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Zom » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:41 am

I'm not a newbie buddhist, but I'm too content every time I give (and have given) dana. Do you see what I mean? No context is shown in the sutta. What was the situation? Why Buddha actually said that? Maybe it was Uposatha day and he urged them to do something more this very day, this very evening? If so, they were "content" with it at that very moment and that very day - and you don't know what else and how else did they practise. Sutta doesn't say things like: "These buddhists practised nothing, but dana only, they didn't have right views, they were immoral, they behave badly, killed others, etc etc etc" to be sure they were newbies.

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Re: Gradual practice

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:42 am

Zom wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:19 am
Yes, and also here:
Again - text show no evidence that this is an instruction for newcomers/beginners.

Even for monks we see such instruction like this:

“Well then, mendicant, you should purify the starting point of skillful qualities. What is the starting point of skillful qualities? Well purified ethics and correct view. When your ethics are well purified and your view is correct, you should develop the four kinds of mindfulness meditation in three ways, depending on and grounded on ethics".
Two points here.

First, the text shows that these people were apparently below that standard indicated in your above quote. Rather than having "ethics well purified and (...) view (...) correct", the teaching seems to be for people who are "shady, rotten and tricky". This doesn't seem to apply to anyone but Pessa, and significantly the Buddha gives a standard Graduated Teaching later in the sutta, yet does not advise Pessa not to meditate, or says that he is wasting his time.

Second, the Graduated Teachings typically advocate the completion or perfection of one task before tackling the next. But they don't, as far as I can see, argue that the completion or perfection is a necessary prerequisite of further progress; merely that it is desirable. It is quite possible that the four kinds of mindfulness meditation are accomplished to the extent that one's ethics and views are purified and correct, and that there is no need to delay the meditation until purification and correction are consummate.

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