I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

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Reductor
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by Reductor » Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:01 am

zan wrote: I have no idea why but this whole post made me smile. Thank you for writing it. It is full of great advice. I was looking for the short cut but you are likely correct.
It's no surprise to me - I'm very funny and insightful! Hahaha.

Seriously though, because you found it even a little helpful, and because it made you smile, I rest satisfied. :anjali:

paul
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by paul » Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:23 am

If you read the introduction to the Vism. you see that its intention was to consolidate and preserve the Theravada meditation tradition up to that time in the face of rising Mahayana influence. It is a manual of Theravada meditation based on the centuries of practical experience since the time of the Buddha. If you start to find the Vism. valuable, it means you are beginning to address some of the substantial issues of Theravada meditation.
Last edited by paul on Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:03 am, edited 2 times in total.

form
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by form » Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:40 am

paul wrote:If you read the introduction to the Vism. you see that its intention was to consolidate and preserve the Theravada meditation tradition up to that time in the face of rising Mahayana influence. It is a manual of Theravada meditation based on the centuries of practical experience since the time of the Buddha.
It is certainly controversial, those that practice the meditation methods from it versus those insist strictly from nikaya info will be vastly different. Momentary concentration, access concentration, skipping jhanas.....

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mikenz66
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:22 am

form wrote:
paul wrote:If you read the introduction to the Vism. you see that its intention was to consolidate and preserve the Theravada meditation tradition up to that time in the face of rising Mahayana influence. It is a manual of Theravada meditation based on the centuries of practical experience since the time of the Buddha.
It is certainly controversial, those that practice the meditation methods from it versus those insist strictly from nikaya info will be vastly different. Momentary concentration, access concentration, skipping jhanas.....
Controvesial to whom? More "controversial" than the various different approaches developed by modern teachers based on their own particular interpreations of the suttas?

I think this is good advice:
Reductor wrote: You should read the Visudhimagga. You should read the Pali suttas. You should think them over and make a full time job of it, brother.
Read what the ancients preserved. Read modern interpretations. Make up you own mind about the similarities and/or differences.

The comparison is not straightforward. In some areas (such as the definition of jhana) some modern interpreters of the suttas (such as Brahm, Sujato, Analayo etc) are quite consistent with the Visuddhimagga, whereas others are very different... I'm therefore skeptical of sweeping claims that "such and such is inconsistent with the suttas".

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form
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by form » Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:34 am

Like those examples, I gave at the end. Some mentioned those do not appear in the nikaya. But for me I am not confused, I just do whatever that works for me. I like to listen to different opinions, but I stick to what works for me.

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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:50 am

form wrote:Like those examples, I gave at the end. Some mentioned those do not appear in the nikaya. But for me I am not confused, I just do whatever that works for me. I like to listen to different opinions, but I stick to what works for me.
This idea that if there is some idea that is not in the nikayas then it is "wrong" seems illogical to me.

The nikayas don't contain detailed meditation instructions in the sense that the Visuddhimagga, or modern books by teachers such as Ajahn Brahm https://bswa.org/teaching/basic-method- ... ahn-brahm/ or Thanissaro Bhikkhu http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... 130123.pdf contain detailed instructions. The practice sections of the Visuddhimagga are more comparable with those books and articles, not the suttas... The appropriate test is whether those instructions are compatible with the suttas.

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form
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by form » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:02 am

But how do u test it against the suttas when certain instructions are additional, I also heard some are different from the suttas.

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mikenz66
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:37 am

form wrote:But how do u test it against the suttas when certain instructions are additional, I also heard some are different from the suttas.
How do you test Ajahn Brahm's or Thanissaro Bhikkhu's instructions against the suttas?
Brahm wrote:Another useful method of developing silent awareness is to recognize the space between thoughts, between periods of inner chatter. Please attend closely with sharp mindfulness when one thought ends and before another thought begins — There! That is silent awareness! It may be only momentary at first, but as you recognize that fleeting silence you become accustomed to it, and as you become accustomed to it then the silence lasts longer. You begin to enjoy the silence, once you have found it at last, and that is why it grows. But remember silence is shy. If silence hears you talking about her, she vanishes immediately!

https://bswa.org/teaching/basic-method- ... ahn-brahm/
Visuddhimagga wrote: CHAPTER VIII
195. But how long is he to go on counting? Until, without counting,
mindfulness remains settled on the in-breaths and out-breaths as its object. For
counting is simply a device for setting mindfulness on the in-breaths and outbreaths
as object by cutting off the external dissipation of applied thoughts

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... on2011.pdf
Are those instructions in the suttas? No. Is that a problem? Not in my opinion... Do you have to do it that way? No. Could you work out effective approaches for yourself by reading just suttas? Possibly, but why not take advantage of the experience of experts?

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form
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by form » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:08 am

I have never explore brahm, as for thanisarro I believe he can meditate looking at the stuff he said.

The brahm stuff you quoted won't work for me looking at it. It could work for others.

The vmagga stuff you quoted works for me big time. Although I dun remember seeing in the book which I have on my shelf. Maybe I dun really read it. I learn it from somewhere I dun remember. :)

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mikenz66
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:27 pm

Here's some of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's instructions. They are quite different from those of Ajahn Brahm, who advocates letting the breath simply do whatever it does. Thanissaro advocates manipulating the breath to feel more comfortable:
Thanissaro wrote: Start by taking a couple of deep, long in-and-out breaths. This helps to energize the
body for meditation and makes the breath easier to observe. Deep breathing at the
beginning of meditation is also a good habit to maintain even as you become more skilled
in the practice, for it helps to counteract any tendency to suppress the breath as you try to
make the mind still.

Notice where you feel the sensations of breathing in the body: the sensations that tell
you, “Now you’re taking an in-breath. Now you’re taking an out-breath.” Notice if they’re
comfortable. If they are, keep breathing in that way. If they’re not, adjust the breath so
that it’s more comfortable. You can do this in any of three ways:

a. As you continue breathing deep and long, notice where a sense of strain develops in
the body toward the end of the in-breath, or where there’s a sense of squeezing the breath
out toward the end of the out-breath. Ask yourself if you can relax those sensations with
the next breath as you maintain the same breathing rhythm. In other words, can you
maintain a sense of relaxation in the areas that have been feeling strained toward the end of
the in-breath? Can you breathe out at the same rate without squeezing it out? If you can,
keep up that rhythm of breathing.
b. Try changing the rhythm and texture of the breath. Experiment with different ways
of breathing to see how they feel. You can make the breath shorter or longer. You can try
short in and long out, or long in and short out. You can try faster breathing or slower
breathing. Deeper or more shallow. Heavier or lighter. Broader or more narrow. When you
find a rhythm that feels good, stick with it as long as it feels good. If, after a while, it
doesn’t feel good, you can adjust the breath again.
c. Simply pose the question in the mind each time you breathe in: “What kind of breath
would feel especially gratifying right now?” See how your body responds.
...
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... 130123.pdf
Either approach seems to me to be quite consistent with suttas such as the Anapanasati Sutta, so I'd use whatever works for you...

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Coëmgenu
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by Coëmgenu » Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:19 pm

zan wrote:I have used this amazing, wonderful tome as a guide and reference for the last fifteen years. In doing so I have probably read about twenty five percent of it, as I reference the same sections over and over.

I have never read it cover to cover though and I would like to do so. However, I read some criticisms of it that make me wary. I want to get a deeper and more complete understanding of the Theravada commentary tradition, but these criticisms imply - hopefully incorrectly - that I would end up learning Mahayana Buddhism instead but cleverly disguised as the Theravada commentary tradition. I have always assumed that this was incorrect and have continued to use the invaluable advice and instructions found within. The sections that I am familiar with have no Mahayana undertones at all and can easily be traced in the suttas. But now that I want to do a cover to cover reading I wanted to get advice from the intelligent individuals on this fine forum.

[...]

I do not want to end up with a flawed understanding of the commentary tradition due to blending with Mahayana ideas.

If this is not true, could someone explain why? I would love it if someone could debunk this idea. It seems a little unbelievable that the Mahavira elders would somehow not notice someone adding Mahayana ideas to their carefully preserved tradition. If it was a ten volume fifteen thousand page work, then I could see the elders being overwhelmed enough to miss these things, but The Visuddhimagga is not such a large work that it would prevent it being read carefully by a large cross-section of people who could easily spot such unwanted blending.

If it is true, what would be the best way to learn the commentary tradition pre Mahayana blending?
Greetings!

I have not heard the specific claim that the Visuddhimagga, commentaries, et al., contain "Maháyána" infiltration before, but it sounds like something that a very poorly informed sutta-alone ideologue would claim.

A bit of context on that label I just (mis)used: modern Theraváda is the product of a sort of "back to basics/back to the suttas" movement in various Theraváda societies, the most recent of these, I think, being the Thai anti-tantra reforms of King Rama IV. That is not to say that the Páli scriptures and teachings were unknown or unpracticed before these reforms (such has never been the case internationally) but rather, one of the modern results of this "back to Páli" movement is that suttas are now available for widespread lay study for thhe first time.

New tendencies have formed (almost always for the better IMO) in how Theraváda practitioners approach and interact with Buddhist scriptures. At its most authentic and purest, the sutta-movement, sometimes called Suttanta, it simply a directed focus on the teachings preserved in the suttas that may or may not be exclusively focused on said literature. Nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing wrong with considering Buddhavacana that is older to be more authoritative than materials that entered into writing later.

Every movement, however, has its extremists and fundamentalists. I suspect the claim that the Visuddhimagga is "Maháyána" originates in one of these fundamentalist circles and is an attempt to discredit by means of association.

There could be an argument, valid IMO, that practitioners of Theraváda should approach the Visuddhimagga with caution, based on the fact that some sections of it are based on the much earlier text called the Vimuttimagga. The Vimuttimagga was produced at the Abhayagirivihāra, a very historically important monastery in Sri Lanka were both Páli and Sanskrit Maháyána literatures were disseminated. Because they taught Maháyána alongside Theraváda, some prominent monks at the Mahávihára considered the Abhayagirivihāra to be heretical, or at least to have certain tendencies that allowed for heretical practices and views to proliferate to various extents.

However just because the Vimuttimagga was produced at Abhayagirivihāra, does not mean it is a Maháyána text. Both Pali and Sanskrit manuscripts were proliferated there, and the Vimuttimagga does not quote Maháyána scriptures.

Furthermore, the later Visuddhimagga is a Mahávihára text, making it even less likely to contain Maháyána teachings.

I hope that offers some context. I apologize for my inconsistent diacritics, my phone can only do acute accents (á) but my autocorrect sometimes changes them to macrons (ā) and sometimes doesn't.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

santa100
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by santa100 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:41 pm

Some analogy, in software engineering, if a system only has static final classes, it'd be a dead system right from the get-go for there'd be zero flexibility and zero chance for maintenance. There should be various interfaces and abstract classes APIs with behaviors specified but not locked so that they can be sub-classed or extended with specific implementations as needed. The Buddha Dhamma system is also like that. The suttas are like abstract classes, some already had concrete implementations in place, some with open method definitions with the details to be filled in later on as appropriate. This leaves enough flexibility room on the practitioner side to implement the specifications to fit his specific situation. And as long as s/he sticks with the API method signature and as long as the method returns the same output/result data type, then s/he won't have to worry about violating the original specs. or breaking the system. Similarly in the martial arts world, the teacher won't be able to teach you every possible moves and combinations. So just because some move hasn't been seen in the arsenal doesn't mean it violates the system. As long as it sticks to the specs. (ie. rules of engagement, safety measures, etc.) and the results (be able to survive the fight and walk out of the ring alive and on one's own two feet) then it's perfectly legit. Matter of fact, it's vital in martial arts to adapt and evolve. In a real fight, a fighter who only resorts to some specific moves without proper adaptation and adjustment is a dead fighter.

form
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by form » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:27 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
zan wrote:I have used this amazing, wonderful tome as a guide and reference for the last fifteen years. In doing so I have probably read about twenty five percent of it, as I reference the same sections over and over.

I have never read it cover to cover though and I would like to do so. However, I read some criticisms of it that make me wary. I want to get a deeper and more complete understanding of the Theravada commentary tradition, but these criticisms imply - hopefully incorrectly - that I would end up learning Mahayana Buddhism instead but cleverly disguised as the Theravada commentary tradition. I have always assumed that this was incorrect and have continued to use the invaluable advice and instructions found within. The sections that I am familiar with have no Mahayana undertones at all and can easily be traced in the suttas. But now that I want to do a cover to cover reading I wanted to get advice from the intelligent individuals on this fine forum.

From Wikpedia:

"Kalupahana notes that the Visuddhimagga contains "some metaphysical speculations, such as those of the Sarvastivadins, the Sautrantikas, and even the Yogacarins". Kalupahana comments:

"Buddhaghosa was careful in introducing any new ideas into the Mahavihara tradition in a way that was too obvious. There seems to be no doubt that the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries are a testimony to the abilities of a great harmonizer who blended old and new ideas without arousing suspicion in the minds of those who were scrutinizing his work."

I do not want to end up with a flawed understanding of the commentary tradition due to blending with Mahayana ideas.

If this is not true, could someone explain why? I would love it if someone could debunk this idea. It seems a little unbelievable that the Mahavira elders would somehow not notice someone adding Mahayana ideas to their carefully preserved tradition. If it was a ten volume fifteen thousand page work, then I could see the elders being overwhelmed enough to miss these things, but The Visuddhimagga is not such a large work that it would prevent it being read carefully by a large cross-section of people who could easily spot such unwanted blending.

If it is true, what would be the best way to learn the commentary tradition pre Mahayana blending?
Greetings!

I have not heard the specific claim that the Visuddhimagga, commentaries, et al., contain "Maháyána" infiltration before, but it sounds like something that a very poorly informed sutta-alone ideologue would claim.

A bit of context on that label I just (mis)used: modern Theraváda is the product of a sort of "back to basics/back to the suttas" movement in various Theraváda societies, the most recent of these, I think, being the Thai anti-tantra reforms of King Rama IV. That is not to say that the Páli scriptures and teachings were unknown or unpracticed before these reforms (such has never been the case internationally) but rather, one of the modern results of this "back to Páli" movement is that suttas are now available for widespread lay study for thhe first time.

New tendencies have formed (almost always for the better IMO) in how Theraváda practitioners approach and interact with Buddhist scriptures. At its most authentic and purest, the sutta-movement, sometimes called Suttanta, it simply a directed focus on the teachings preserved in the suttas that may or may not be exclusively focused on said literature. Nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing wrong with considering Buddhavacana that is older to be more authoritative than materials that entered into writing later.

Every movement, however, has its extremists and fundamentalists. I suspect the claim that the Visuddhimagga is "Maháyána" originates in one of these fundamentalist circles and is an attempt to discredit by means of association.

There could be an argument, valid IMO, that practitioners of Theraváda should approach the Visuddhimagga with caution, based on the fact that some sections of it are based on the much earlier text called the Vimuttimagga. The Vimuttimagga was produced at the Abhayagirivihāra, a very historically important monastery in Sri Lanka were both Páli and Sanskrit Maháyána literatures were disseminated. Because they taught Maháyána alongside Theraváda, some prominent monks at the Mahávihára considered the Abhayagirivihāra to be heretical, or at least to have certain tendencies that allowed for heretical practices and views to proliferate to various extents.

However just because the Vimuttimagga was produced at Abhayagirivihāra, does not mean it is a Maháyána text. Both Pali and Sanskrit manuscripts were proliferated there, and the Vimuttimagga does not quote Maháyána scriptures.

Furthermore, the later Visuddhimagga is a Mahávihára text, making it even less likely to contain Maháyána teachings.

I hope that offers some context. I apologize for my inconsistent diacritics, my phone can only do acute accents (á) but my autocorrect sometimes changes them to macrons (ā) and sometimes doesn't.
I do not see anything mahayana-like in vimuttimagga, even in visuddhimagga. Just more detailed and specific instructions on certain aspects for example meditation.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by Coëmgenu » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:33 pm

form wrote:I do not see anything mahayana-like in vimuttimagga, even in visuddhimagga. Just more detailed and specific instructions on certain aspects for example meditation.
Indeed, I suspect whoever told the OP there was "Mahāyāna influences" was trying to discredit the literature, or was labelling everything that does not fit their definition of "Pāli sutta orthodoxy" as "Mahāyāna".
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

rajitha7
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Re: I want to read the Visuddhimagga but...

Post by rajitha7 » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:03 am

The Sutta are classified based on the length of the discourses. It's hard work for a newcomer to find a spot in the vast collection to begin learning.

It is this niche the "intermediaries" try to fill. They sequence the teaching in such a way there is a definite beginning, middle and ending. Both ancient intermediaries such as Buddhagosha, Nagarjuna and new ones such as Goenka attempt to find a structure for the beleaguered newcomer.

Buddhagosha begins with Sila (discipline) and proceeds to teach the Jhanaas. Nagarjuna is obsessed with the Emptiness. Goenka is all about Vipassana. If there is a common denominator, all appear to want to jump to the deep end fast. These intermediaries send the newcomer up the wrong path even though they are well-intentioned. That is because they do not follow the course set out by the Buddha.

The Buddha has already laid out a specific program to follow. It's called the "Noble 8-fold path". The beginner ought to pick up the thread of learning from here. A good Sutta to begin learning is SN.55.5. If a beginner wants to find a sequence, perhaps following a topic and expanding is a good methodology.

There must be many with Eternalist and Nihilist views who are learning Vipassana. The Buddha calls this a fetter one needs to remove in order enter the path. One needs to have formed the correct view of the teachings first.

That is not to say the commentaries are useless. There are perhaps good insights one could get. Although the commentaries should always be secondary. The primary source should be the Suttas.
Unsurpassed is the Lord’s way of teaching the Dhamma concerning one’s proper moral conduct. One should be honest and faithful, without deception, chatter, hinting or belittling, not always ready to add gain to gain, but with the sense-doors guarded, moderate in food, a promoter of peace, observant, active and strenuous in effort, a meditator, mindful, with proper conversation, steady-going, resolute and sensible, not hankering after sense pleasures, but mindful and prudent. This is the unsurpassed teaching concerning a person’s proper ethical conduct. - Sampasādanīya, Dīgha Nikāya 28

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