Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

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mikenz66
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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:18 pm

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:without suggesting that they are the only ones to have figured it out...
Actually there's part of the talk, seemingly not transcribed in Tilt's notes where he says that others are now teaching a sutta-only approach as well, though he doesn't give names.
Yes, he says that after he (Bhante V.) explained the correct point of view some Bhikkhus started teaching his way. No mention of the Bhikkhus (such as those quoted by Geoff), who obviously didn't learn their stuff from Bhante V.

I've no problem with :
(a) People having a Sutta only approach.
(b) Teaching their particular take on meditation based on their interpretation of the Suttas and their experience.

As has been stated here, there are many, many, teaching that way.

What I find curious is the need to imply that everyone else got it horribly wrong and practitioners have been wasting their time on wrong paths, from Bhuddhaghossa's time (or before) to when Bhante V. figured it out all by himself.

Does anyone who has spent any time with real teachers seriously believe that they are all that confused?

:anjali:
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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by adeh » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:19 pm

The antagonism I'm talking about comes from just after the time he translated the commentaries into Pali and from what I've been told it's something that persists to this day. And I doubt that Sinhalese Buddhism is founded upon the Ven. Buddhaghosa as what he actually did was translate commentaries already in existence into Pali. He didn't 'write' the commentaries.

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:34 pm

Hi Alexi,
Alexei wrote:Bhikkhu Bodhi's middle way seems to be most healthy approach:
  • To be brief, I would say there are two extreme attitudes one could take to the commentaries. One, often adopted by orthodox Theravadins, is to regard them as being absolutely authoritative almost on a par with the suttas. The other is to disregard them completely and claim they represent “a different take on the Dhamma.” I find that a prudent middle ground is to consult the commentaries and use them, but without clinging to them. Their interpretations are often illuminating, but we should also recognize that they represent a specific systematization of the early teaching. They are by no means necessitated by the early teaching, and on some points even seem to be in tension with it.

    http://www.inquiringmind.com/Articles/Translator.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Thanks for that. What I find puzzling is the idea that the opinions and analysis of one or two particular modern day Bhikkhus must necessarily be superior to the recorded opinions of a number of a number of presumably well-practised ancient monks. As I've said before, I tend to read the Commentaries and Visuddhimagga as snippets of Dhamma talks by those ancient Bhikkhus.

So I treat them in a similar way to modern talks: Some are useful to me at this time, some are not.

:anjali:
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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:47 pm

kirk5a wrote:Thanks for taking a closer look at that Tilt. I'm more interested in his interpretation of the jhanas than anything. I take that to be his primary point in criticising Buddhaghosa - that one-pointed concentration to the level of total "absorption" is not what the jhanas are about. What do you think about that point?
If one wants to criticize the Visuddhimagga's take on the Jhanas, this certainly can be and has been done without attacking the author on a personal basis, essentially stating that he was too stupid to know to know the difference between Brahmanical stuff and Buddhist stuff, which also implies that Sri Lankan monks who employed Buddhaghosa were too stupid to know the difference. Basically, Vimalaramsi approach is via an extended ad hominem. There has been an number of extended discussions in this forum that look at the issue of jhana in the suttas vs the jhanas in the Visuddhimagga from a carefully done textual manner, from which one can actually learn something. What one learns from Vimalaramsi is that Vimalaramsi is willing to twist source material to meet his needs.
>> 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

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:54 pm

mikenz66 wrote: What I find curious is the need to imply that everyone else got it horribly wrong and practitioners have been wasting their time on wrong paths, from Bhuddhaghossa's time (or before) to when Bhante V. figured it out all by himself.

Does anyone who has spent any time with real teachers seriously believe that they are all that confused?
You look at his website's accounting of his background and tons of teachers are mentioned. From what he said and from how he said it in this talk, they are indeed confused and this guy among all of them is the only one to really get it right.
>> 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

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by legolas » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:01 pm

adeh wrote:The antagonism I'm talking about comes from just after the time he translated the commentaries into Pali and from what I've been told it's something that persists to this day. And I doubt that Sinhalese Buddhism is founded upon the Ven. Buddhaghosa as what he actually did was translate commentaries already in existence into Pali. He didn't 'write' the commentaries.
Am I right in understanding that the Visuddhi Maga gained new life when it was translated into English? Either way it is amazing that a form of Buddhism that is founded upon a translation of a translation of a translation of a commentary of a commentary etc. of a set of teachings that did not exist until centuries after the Buddha's Parinibbana can hold such sway. Mahayana is often ridiculed for introducing teachings that have little to do with sutta teachings and giving outlandish provenance for them. Perhaps Buddhaghosa was a terton and the Visuddhi Maga is a Tibetan terma. I have no problem with commentaries or other works based on the suttas. I read them all the time, but these "commentaries" by modern monks do not try and claim the authenticity of Buddha's word. They are written to explain Buddhism according to that monk, no infallibility is claimed and the reader is left to decide for themselves if the "commentary" is in line with the suttas. I think it is the fact that Abhidhamma and the Visuddhi Magga is either portrayed as the Buddha's teachings or they are portrayed as what the Buddha really meant to say that I find disturbing.

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by cooran » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:07 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
kirk5a wrote:Thanks for taking a closer look at that Tilt. I'm more interested in his interpretation of the jhanas than anything. I take that to be his primary point in criticising Buddhaghosa - that one-pointed concentration to the level of total "absorption" is not what the jhanas are about. What do you think about that point?
If one wants to criticize the Visuddhimagga's take on the Jhanas, this certainly can be and has been done without attacking the author on a personal basis, essentially stating that he was too stupid to know to know the difference between Brahmanical stuff and Buddhist stuff, which also implies that Sri Lankan monks who employed Buddhaghosa were too stupid to know the difference. Basically, Vimalaramsi approach is via an extended ad hominem. There has been an number of extended discussions in this forum that look at the issue of jhana in the suttas vs the jhanas in the Visuddhimagga from a carefully done textual manner, from which one can actually learn something. What one learns from Vimalaramsi is that Vimalaramsi is willing to twist source material to meet his needs.
He used to frequent the yahoo discussion groups, up until about 2005, with the same ''view'':
http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/Tripl ... ssage/5911" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by pulga » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:16 pm

adeh wrote:The antagonism I'm talking about comes from just after the time he translated the commentaries into Pali and from what I've been told it's something that persists to this day. And I doubt that Sinhalese Buddhism is founded upon the Ven. Buddhaghosa as what he actually did was translate commentaries already in existence into Pali. He didn't 'write' the commentaries.
I wouldn't say that the Ven. Buddhaghosa merely translated the earlier Sinhala commentaries. He wrote the Visuddhimagga as well as commentaries based closely upon the Sinhala traditional exegesis that existed on the island upon his arrival.

But you are correct: it is more accurate to say that Sinhala Buddhism is ultimately founded upon the Sinhala tradition that preceded Buddhaghosa. I still very much doubt, however, that there is a tradition of animosity towards Buddhaghosa within Sinhala society, especially amongst the nationalists.

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:23 pm

legolas wrote:
adeh wrote:The antagonism I'm talking about comes from just after the time he translated the commentaries into Pali and from what I've been told it's something that persists to this day. And I doubt that Sinhalese Buddhism is founded upon the Ven. Buddhaghosa as what he actually did was translate commentaries already in existence into Pali. He didn't 'write' the commentaries.
Am I right in understanding that the Visuddhi Maga gained new life when it was translated into English?
Probably not.
Either way it is amazing that a form of Buddhism that is founded upon a translation of a translation of a translation of a commentary of a commentary etc. of a set of teachings that did not exist until centuries after the Buddha's Parinibbana can hold such sway.
It is interesting that you are willing to be critical of something about which you know nothing. While the question of how innovative Buddhaghosa was in the Visuddhimagga is a question worth asking, it also important to note that he was working for the Mahavihara which was anything but innovative, resisting, among other things, the Mahayana influences that were affecting other Buddhist groups in Sri Lanka. If anything Buddhaghosa was quite conservative.
Mahayana is often ridiculed for introducing teachings that have little to do with sutta teachings and giving outlandish provenance for them. Perhaps Buddhaghosa was a terton and the Visuddhi Maga is a Tibetan terma.
Cute and in keeping with Vimalaramsi's style of scholarship, but carries no weight.
I have no problem with commentaries or other works based on the suttas. I read them all the time, but these "commentaries" by modern monks do not try and claim the authenticity of Buddha's word. They are written to explain Buddhism according to that monk, no infallibility is claimed and the reader is left to decide for themselves if the "commentary" is in line with the suttas. I think it is the fact that Abhidhamma and the Visuddhi Magga is either portrayed as the Buddha's teachings or they are portrayed as what the Buddha really meant to say that I find disturbing.
Buddhaghosa's commpendium does not claim to be Buddha-word, and he did not claim to be inflallible.
>> 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

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by Adrien » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:50 pm

Thanks for your analysis (page 3) tiltbillings, it was helpfull for me to have a better look at the situation.
Please don't hesitate to correct my english if you feel to

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:00 pm

Adrien wrote:Thanks for your analysis (page 3) tiltbillings, it was helpfull for me to have a better look at the situation.
You are welcome. It is one thing to state: here is what the VM says, here is what the suttas say and here is why I think the VM is wrong based upon the suttas, but it is another thing - not really meaningful at at all - to say that the VM is wrong because Buddhaghosa was too stupid to not know the difference between Hindu and Buddhist meditation, which is why I find Vimalaramsi's approach appalling.
>> 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

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by DNS » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:00 pm

Alexei wrote:Bhikkhu Bodhi's middle way seems to be most healthy approach:
  • To be brief, I would say there are two extreme attitudes one could take to the commentaries. One, often adopted by orthodox Theravadins, is to regard them as being absolutely authoritative almost on a par with the suttas. The other is to disregard them completely and claim they represent “a different take on the Dhamma.” I find that a prudent middle ground is to consult the commentaries and use them, but without clinging to them. Their interpretations are often illuminating, but we should also recognize that they represent a specific systematization of the early teaching. They are by no means necessitated by the early teaching, and on some points even seem to be in tension with it.

    http://www.inquiringmind.com/Articles/Translator.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
:thumbsup: Bhikkhu Bodhi is cool.

Bhante Punnaji takes a similar middle way position and not as rejecting as perhaps Bhante V. makes it sound at his website.

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by Adrien » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:28 pm

Similarly, Nanananda wrote in "Con­cept and Real­ity in Early Bud­dhist Thought" :
It is feared that the nov­elty of some of our inter­pre­ta­tions will draw two types of extreme reac­tion. One the one hand, it might give rise to a total antipa­thy towards the crit­i­cal analy­sis of doc­tri­nal points as attempted here. On the other, it might engen­der an unrea­son­able dis­trust lead­ing to a sweep­ing con­dem­na­tion of the com­men­taries as a whole. This work has failed in its pur­pose if its crit­i­cal scrutiny of the occa­sional short­com­ings in the com­men­tar­ial lit­er­a­ture makes any­one for­get his indebt­ed­ness to the com­men­taries for his knowl­edge of the Dhamma.
Please don't hesitate to correct my english if you feel to

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by alan » Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:43 am

Hi tilt. Thanks for your perspective.
Did V. actually say that B. was too stupid to know the difference between Hindu and Buddhist meditation? What is what is the difference, and why is it relevant?

What Mahayana influence was existing in Sri Lanka at that time?

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Re: Ven. Vimalaramsi on the Abhidhamma & the Visuddhi Magga

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:51 am

alan wrote:Hi tilt. Thanks for your perspective.
Did V. actually say that B. was too stupid to know the difference between Hindu and Buddhist meditation? What is what is the difference, and why is it relevant?
Well, as I recall, he claims in the talk that Ven B. didn't know anything about Buddhist meditation, and that he only knew Brahmin meditation. Of course, he gives no evidence for that assertion...


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