Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
budo
Posts: 635
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:16 am
Location: The world

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by budo » Fri Nov 02, 2018 12:16 pm

Volovsky wrote:
Fri Nov 02, 2018 11:26 am
All what has so far been written in this topic has nothing to do with the criticism of Mahasi system, but it is a criticism of Vism/Commentaries/Abhidhamma which is a much broader topic.
If you go down the wrong path, going deeper into the wrong path doesn't make you less wrong.

If your house rests on a faulty foundation, building higher won't make the foundation less faulty.

I'm not saying that his path/foundation is wrong, but if it is found to be wrong, then it is actually a criticism of his system.

auto
Posts: 521
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:02 pm

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by auto » Fri Nov 02, 2018 3:21 pm

depends on you, you can do what is instructed and see.

idea is to notice the result. Breathing in and out, notice the result of that action. In-breath belly rises, belly rises is the result, when you focus on belly rises it uses different perception, cultivating that perception is key to next nanas.

perception of light is the nanas of arising and passing away, knowledge and vision etc.

these are before cessation of formations, so that if you go outside of your room then you not only with the body are outside but also mentally. Formations cease. Where are the dark nanas, it is lamentation and sorrow what arise because you don't want to quit watching TV and quitting doesn't bring you any profit, feeling of loss, its required overcome by perception of rapid, vigorous noting.

i think that is in accord to the ceasing of the being through dispassion non-clinging.

why it is first path, because it will just cause relaxation, energy to fall from forehead downwards. What these energies do is gain you a perception of craving, sensual desires for objects what could nourish you because you end former formations.

anyway i don't use that manual, but still its fun to argue about different points, there are spinoffs and similar systems but fundamentals are even in regular life same.

Manopubbangama
Posts: 204
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2018 4:17 pm

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by Manopubbangama » Sat Nov 03, 2018 2:23 pm

Why are we allowed to criticize Theravadan teachers such as Mahasi Sayadaw, but somehow questioning the doctrinal violence inherent in various strains of Hinduism and Islam is considered somehow "Haram" here?

Honestly, I believe in the charter of free inquiry and have no issues with questioning Mahasi's methods, this is the sign of a healthy community if people aren't afraid to voice the concerns.

Its too bad that a tiny minority of religious political activists have hijacked the conversation and made thought-crimes out of thoughts/concerns of traditional Theravadins in good standing in the Theravadin community.

Certainly in Burma, for example, this kind of anti-thought does not exist to the extent that it does within a small minority of the Anglo-Saxon world.

This is not me trying to be provocative, but me attempting to see some standard here for discussion.
Last edited by Manopubbangama on Sat Nov 03, 2018 2:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"They too, beholding the Buddha — Kinsman of the sun, mighty and fearless — salute him from afar: 'Homage to thee, who art unique among mankind; glory to thee, the highest among men.' - DN 32

Manopubbangama
Posts: 204
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2018 4:17 pm

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by Manopubbangama » Sat Nov 03, 2018 2:30 pm

Volovsky wrote:
Fri Nov 02, 2018 11:26 am
rightviewftw wrote:
Fri Nov 02, 2018 3:55 am
As far as i know this is clearly a commentary invention. According to Vimalaramsi;
In the Visuddhimagga there are nine insight knowledges. In the sub-commentary written by Mahasi Sayadaw, there are 16 knowledges.


All what has so far been written in this topic has nothing to do with the criticism of Mahasi system, but it is a criticism of Vism/Commentaries/Abhidhamma which is a much broader topic.
Just my opinion, but I think one issue that we have as Westerners is that most of the Tikas are not available to us in translation and therefore, we don't really know what they say unless we learn Pali and to a lesser extent, Burmese. This is not universally true, but true to a large extent, nonetheless.

The Manuel of Insight has a single chapter explicitly on Abhidhamma concepts and its pretty bare bones at that, but without people taking time to try to think in this abstract way, without the use of normal everyday language, the Abhidhamma seems extremely non-user-friendly.

One other issue in my opinion, is that many people who tend to be guided by emotions and are not fully aware of the ancient tradition of Buddhist logic don't like to understand and navigate the teachings in terms of inference and empiricism.
"They too, beholding the Buddha — Kinsman of the sun, mighty and fearless — salute him from afar: 'Homage to thee, who art unique among mankind; glory to thee, the highest among men.' - DN 32

mbm
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Nov 03, 2018 2:25 pm

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by mbm » Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:20 pm

rightviewftw wrote:
Fri Nov 02, 2018 2:47 am
I can point out four things;

1. Stages of Insight
2. Re-attainment of Fruition
3. Notion that Sotapanna cannot break five precepts
4. Taking "restlessness in regards to the Dhamma" to mean "Imperfections of Insight"

All of these are questionable as far as i can tell.

In regards to;
#1. This is definitely not in the Sutta and i can't really tell if it is useful or not. It is however tied to #2 on the list.
#2. This is a strange one and i have no means of verifying the existence of this attainment. As far as i know there are no explicit instances of people entering these "Fruition Absorbtions" in the Sutta nor is there any Instruction in the Sutta advising people to develop this re-attainment of fruition upon attaining the Path. As far as i can tell nowhere are the Fruitions referred to as a meditative state to be re-attained at all.

Whereas in the Manual it says that the yogi having attained the path should master the fruition re-attainment before making resolve to attain the higher paths.

Questions arise like why before Parinibbana the Tathagata did not enter Arahataphala fruition when running the Jhanas up and down? Why is this attainment left out from the Sutta Pitaka?

#3. There is no agreement even among commentaries on this and this can certainly not be inferred from the Tipitaka alone. So there is not much to say about this.

#4. I personally can't tell how this was inferred from the Sutta pitaka.

My conclusion;
#1 & #2 are most important here and i personally can't tell if the Mahasi Method is a cookie-cutter system leading to attainment of the Path, if it leads to something else entirely or if it can go both ways dependent on the person.

Some people (ie Vimalaramsi and others (Aya Khema(?)) have criticized the attainment of path in this lineage saying; "Mahasi teaches that Nibbana is "blacking out".

I am not sure if Mahasi Sayadaw himself ever referred to it as a blacking out so i can't say if there is any validity to this or if people have merely misunderstood the teachings of MS.

Either way i am most grateful for Mahasi method because i found aspects of it most useful.
The Suttas have core teachings the Buddha taught over and over again.
Mahasi Sayadaw is a reformer and doesn't nessasarily have to conform to any view. When he is talking about some obscure commentary concept, he uses his common sense, draws from the core teachings of the Buddha and his own experience following those teachings. I have never seen one teaching from Mahasi Sayadaw that wasn't perfect. Everytime I thought there might be something imperfect with Mahasi's interpretations, I would find out later that Mahasi had a specific and perfect reason for it to appear that way.

SarathW
Posts: 10514
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by SarathW » Sat Nov 03, 2018 8:16 pm

Why are we allowed to criticize Theravadan teachers such as Mahasi Sayadaw, but somehow questioning the doctrinal violence inherent in various strains of Hinduism and Islam is considered somehow "Haram" here?
We are not criticizeing MS but we investigate the validity of his teaching.
In my opinion, it is quite OK as far as we do not have some malicious intent.

In regards to your second question, this is a Theravada forum. Discussing other religion if it is not connected to Theravada breaches the objectives of this forum.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

rightviewftw
Posts: 2219
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:50 pm

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by rightviewftw » Sat Nov 03, 2018 10:44 pm

mbm wrote:
Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:20 pm
Everytime I thought there might be something imperfect with Mahasi's interpretations, I would find out later that Mahasi had a specific and perfect reason for it to appear that way.
I like his teachings in general but i do think some of it is questionable in as far as commentary is questionable. In some spots he follows commentary and i do agree with it, another spot i don't agree with it, other spots he finds commentary useful and i don't find it very useful, other spots he follows the commentary and i having neither realized that part of the teaching myself nor having an intellectual understanding of the details remain uncertain.

IE this re-attainment of fruition, is it same as signless concentration, is signless concentration the same as cessation of perception and feeling, is cessation of perception and feeling same as fruition re-attainment, is there a way to explain them to be the same? How do we reconcile it with the notion that (saññāvedayitanirodha) - is accessible only to those non-returners and Arahats who have also mastered the eight jhānas?

I am not sure about these questions and i don't know of anybody who can explain this to me. Not having been able to realize re-attainment of fruition myself i remain doubtful.
How to meditate: Anapanasati, Satipatthana.
Intro to General Semantics
Factors & Perceptions

Parallel Dhammapada Reading
Chinese to Eng Dhp
"The statements; 'With the remainderless stopping & fading of the six contact-media is it the case that there is anything else?' '.. is it the case that there is not anything else .. is it the case that there both is & is not anything else .. is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?' objectify non-objectification. However far the six contact-media go, that is how far objectification goes."

User avatar
Volovsky
Posts: 288
Joined: Sat Jul 28, 2018 9:32 am

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by Volovsky » Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:08 am

rightviewftw wrote:
Sat Nov 03, 2018 10:44 pm
IE this re-attainment of fruition, is it same as signless concentration, is signless concentration the same as cessation of perception and feeling, is cessation of perception and feeling same as fruition re-attainment, is there a way to explain them to be the same? How do we reconcile it with the notion that (saññāvedayitanirodha) - is accessible only to those non-returners and Arahats who have also mastered the eight jhānas?
Would knowing answers to these questions change your practice in any way?

rightviewftw
Posts: 2219
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:50 pm

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by rightviewftw » Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:13 am

Volovsky wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:08 am
rightviewftw wrote:
Sat Nov 03, 2018 10:44 pm
IE this re-attainment of fruition, is it same as signless concentration, is signless concentration the same as cessation of perception and feeling, is cessation of perception and feeling same as fruition re-attainment, is there a way to explain them to be the same? How do we reconcile it with the notion that (saññāvedayitanirodha) - is accessible only to those non-returners and Arahats who have also mastered the eight jhānas?
Would knowing answers to these questions change your practice in any way?
I think that it can be quite important to anybody who has attained the path because Mahasi Sayadaw recommends not making determination for attainment of higher Paths until attaining mastery over the path already attained. He teaches that "firm determinations" need to be made and also says that if a yogi "messes up" this part and has perplexity between those conflicting determinations he might not be able to attain either for years.

All these things can cause restlessness, doubt and confusion, so it would be very good to have this cleared up.
How to meditate: Anapanasati, Satipatthana.
Intro to General Semantics
Factors & Perceptions

Parallel Dhammapada Reading
Chinese to Eng Dhp
"The statements; 'With the remainderless stopping & fading of the six contact-media is it the case that there is anything else?' '.. is it the case that there is not anything else .. is it the case that there both is & is not anything else .. is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?' objectify non-objectification. However far the six contact-media go, that is how far objectification goes."

User avatar
Volovsky
Posts: 288
Joined: Sat Jul 28, 2018 9:32 am

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by Volovsky » Sun Nov 04, 2018 2:58 am

rightviewftw wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:13 am
Mahasi Sayadaw recommends not making determination for attainment of higher Paths until attaining mastery over the path already attained.
That is interesting point. We might finally came to discussing Mahasi system, and not Vism. Does he specify, why one shouldn't try to attain higher phala before gaining mastery over the lower one? In case of jhāna it is clear: one might lose jhānas if one tries to rush too fast to the next one. But one cannot lose magga-phala...

User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 3754
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:30 am

3. Some Facts A Meditator Should Know

There are many fake lights of wisdom practice spreading actively in the world and this is a cause for concern. The following information was gathered from a Burmese meditation teacher.

Some time ago in a certain town in Burma, there was a prominent monk who taught his personal method of practice. He also wrote books criticising Ledi Sayādaw and Mahāsi Sayādaw. Shortly after these efforts, he had a fall. Paṇḍitārāma Shwe Taung Gon Sāsana Yeikthā’s chief abbot, Sayādaw U Paṇḍitābhivaṃsa is of the opinion that such retributive effects can befall detractors and critics of Mahāsi Sayādaw.

He states the following:
  1. Anyone who attacks Mahāsi Sayādaw will surely suffer a fall and the method of practice promulgated by this person, will not last long as the burning of dried paddy straw.
  2. The Mahāsi method is likened to a balloon of hot air and the greater that one forces it down, the higher will it rise.
  3. One who criticises the Mahāsi method is still aloof of the right path.
  4. One who does not appreciate that the Mahāsi method is correct is like a blind person.
Mahāsi Sayādaw faced numerous challenges when he first arrived in Sri Lanka to propagate the Dhamma. Many monks and the laity wrote articles in the press denouncing his method. Subsequent to these acts, they each suffered a fall. Later, the Mahāsi method became more prominent against that of his detractors which slid into obscurity. Today, his critics are forgotten.
---
Those who have practised his method know that it is correct. Those who criticise and cast aspersions are ignorant. They are either too lazy to do any serious meditation practice or excessively conceited due to an excess of reading and discursive thinking.
BlogPāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

User avatar
Volovsky
Posts: 288
Joined: Sat Jul 28, 2018 9:32 am

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by Volovsky » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:08 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:30 am
Sayādaw U Paṇḍitābhivaṃsa is of the opinion that such retributive effects can befall detractors and critics of Mahāsi Sayādaw.

He states the following:
  1. Anyone who attacks Mahāsi Sayādaw will surely suffer a fall and the method of practice promulgated by this person, will not last long as the burning of dried paddy straw.
  2. The Mahāsi method is likened to a balloon of hot air and the greater that one forces it down, the higher will it rise.
  3. One who criticises the Mahāsi method is still aloof of the right path.
  4. One who does not appreciate that the Mahāsi method is correct is like a blind person.
In my humble opinion such expressions are rather a counter advertising of the method.

BTW What does mean "fall" in this case.
Last edited by Volovsky on Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ruud
Posts: 115
Joined: Fri Apr 16, 2010 9:07 am

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by Ruud » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:24 am

I find the following quote, by Mahāsi Sayādaw himself in his Discourse on the Ariyāvāsa Sutta, displaying a very skillful approach to these kinds of questions:
Some people who have never meditated may have some doubt, which is hardly surprising for only seeing is believing. Their scepticism is due to their lack of experience. I was sceptical at one time, too. I did not then like the Satipaṭṭhāna method as it makes no mention of nāma-rūpa, anicca, anatta, and so forth. However, the Sayādaw who taught the method was learned, so I decided to give it a trial. At first I made little progress because I had lingering doubts about the method, which, in my view, had nothing to do with ultimate reality.

It was only later, when I had followed the method seriously, that its significance dawned on me.
I realised then that it is the best method of meditation since it calls for attentiveness to everything that can be known, leaving no room for absent mindedness. That is why the Buddha describes the Satipaṭṭhāna method as the only way — ekāyano-maggo.
So yes, Mahasi Sayadaw’s method is questionable, as per his own example, until by experience we clear our doubts.
Dry up what pertains to the past,
do not take up anything to come later.
If you will not grasp in the middle,
you will live at peace.
—Snp.5.11,v.1099 (tr. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Whatever is will be was. —Ven. Ñānamoli, A Thinkers Notebook, §221

User avatar
budo
Posts: 635
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:16 am
Location: The world

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by budo » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:54 am

Volovsky wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:08 am
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:30 am
Sayādaw U Paṇḍitābhivaṃsa is of the opinion that such retributive effects can befall detractors and critics of Mahāsi Sayādaw.

He states the following:
  1. Anyone who attacks Mahāsi Sayādaw will surely suffer a fall and the method of practice promulgated by this person, will not last long as the burning of dried paddy straw.
  2. The Mahāsi method is likened to a balloon of hot air and the greater that one forces it down, the higher will it rise.
  3. One who criticises the Mahāsi method is still aloof of the right path.
  4. One who does not appreciate that the Mahāsi method is correct is like a blind person.
In my humble opinion such expressions are rather a counter advertising of the method.

BTW What does mean "fall" in this case.
:shrug: I believe almost the whole cast in the first superman movie died from an accident. I don't think it means anything, really. Everyone is dying all the time everywhere and many from accidents. We call this "confirmation bias" when we want to attribute random events as the causes in our belief of a mechanism.

I agree with you it's not very convincing at all, and in fact quite the opposite.

rightviewftw
Posts: 2219
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:50 pm

Re: Are teaching of Mahasi Sayadaw questionable?

Post by rightviewftw » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:55 am

Volovsky wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 2:58 am
rightviewftw wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:13 am
Mahasi Sayadaw recommends not making determination for attainment of higher Paths until attaining mastery over the path already attained.
That is interesting point. We might finally came to discussing Mahasi system, and not Vism. Does he specify, why one shouldn't try to attain higher phala before gaining mastery over the lower one? In case of jhāna it is clear: one might lose jhānas if one tries to rush too fast to the next one. But one cannot lose magga-phala...
As i understand it the reasoning is that one uses it like the jhana for comfortable abiding and should establish oneself in it before going on a retreat making a firm determination for the fruition already attained not to arise and attainment of the higher paths.

It is taught that the attainment of fruition is reached by reaching the insight knowledge of equanimity towards formations whereas the next path is reached by maturing of all the insight knowledges "anew". Therein is the difference between path and fruition attainment, reaching the fruition is supposedly a lot easier.
In response to his critics, one of Mahāsi Sayādaw’s disciples published a book in Burmese entitled Mahāggharatana (The Great Precious Jewel) which sought to clarify and explain things.
Imo this is the way to go rather than making vain threats of karmic retribution.
How to meditate: Anapanasati, Satipatthana.
Intro to General Semantics
Factors & Perceptions

Parallel Dhammapada Reading
Chinese to Eng Dhp
"The statements; 'With the remainderless stopping & fading of the six contact-media is it the case that there is anything else?' '.. is it the case that there is not anything else .. is it the case that there both is & is not anything else .. is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?' objectify non-objectification. However far the six contact-media go, that is how far objectification goes."

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: kamui, SkillfulA and 89 guests