nyanasuci wrote:Dear Phra Sander,
Could you explain to us what is your understanding of connection between atta and nibbana? And what is Dhammakaya's grasp of it. Thank you.
I have just travelled back from Indonesia, and have not been online for a number of days. I am now just back online and happy to see your question, bhante. It is a good thing that we can have these kind of discussions, to clarify things and develop mutual understanding.
As I mentioned in a previous post, our wat feels that the nature of Nibbāna is something that is beyond intellectual understanding, and our abbot and our wat feels there is little use in going into debate about it. Our wat therefore has not much interest in propagating their views on Nibbāna to the general public. But if asked what is taught in our wat, then I can respond that we teach in accordance with Luang Pu Sod Candasaro's views on Nibbāna. His views were view coming from meditation experience, and are difficult to intellectually grasp or translate into English. Roughly then, Luang Pu made a distinction between Nibbāna as an attainment of mind, which in Thai he called phra niphan
, and as an āyatana, which he called nipphan
, existing outside of the sense-sphere realm, the rūpa and arūpa realm. Luang Pu taught that the attainment of Nibbāna is attā, because when someone has attained it, it is a state that is permanent, happiness and true self. Luang Pu Sod Candasaro did not intend to cause any controversy -- and nor does Wat Phra Dhammakāya -- he was simply describing his visions in meditation, and encouraging his students to attain the same. He also taught that the Buddha taught about anicca, dukkha and anattā, so that we would seek for that which is beyond these -- and opposite to it.
In the history of Theravāda Buddhism, there have been both scholars who said that Nibbāna is attā, and those who said that Nibbāna is anattā. Even in the Thai forest tradition, there is as you know Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, who has views on this matter which differ from mainstream opinion. I think it is a question which is hard to resolve by discussion. Surely the only way to really understand Nibbāna is to meditate.
"Of 16 teachers since the very beginning, six experienced nirvana temporarily. An additional three transcended beyond this world to Dhammakaya, and another three more achieved trance states like heavenly bliss. The remaining four only attained inner peace."
Asked about their purported temporary experience of nirvana, Dr. Yanathiro replied: "I am using the official definition, where one actually sees and communicates with Lord Buddha and his disciples.
In Luang Pu's original meditation method, attainments in meditation takes a lot of preparation and practice, and a firm foundation of moral discipline, patience, etc. Its is normally not something that people attain overnight, unless in very rare cases like in the Buddha's time. There is therefore no lowering of the goal of Nibbāna. It normally requires a lot of practice to attain it.
Please note that Wat Sod Dhammakāyaram is a different temple from Wat Phra Dhammakāya. Although they are also a wat in the tradition of Luang Pu Sod Candasaro, their approach to meditation is different from our wat. I wouldn't be able to describe those differences in detail, since I have never tried their method. But I can tell you that the meditation experiences described in the previous post certainly do not quite reflect the meditation practice of Wat Phra Dhammakāya.
Frankly speaking, in my own opinion, I think that the main point in which our wat quite distinguishes itself, is not the attā-anattā affair, but rather the approach in spreading Dhamma, which some people find too big/too noticeable/etc. Sometimes the ceremonies in our wat are joined by great numbers of people, which contrasts with the traditional image of the Thai wat as quiet place with a few monks, deeply hidden in the forest, remote from civilization. This then leads people to find fault withour wat in other matters, such as being commercial, honoring UFO's, using hypnosis, etc., all of which I have found to be untrue.
Better to go to Dhammakaya, especially if you like to be seen on TV!
I would say that there are people in many places in Thailand who have imperfect intentions in doing good. But then again, I don't believe there is any teaching in the Dhamma that says we can't show others our goodness. To do good, and to give others the opportunity to rejoice in such goodness, would seem to me quite allright, and quite different from wanting to be famous. Our wat emphasizes the rejoicing in others' merit quite a lot, but we don't emphasize fame.
As for not cooperating with other wats, in fact our wat cooperates with many wats in Thailand. In many days throughout the year, we invite monks from other wats in Thailand to join ceremonies for food offering, to join ceremonies for rejoicing in the achievements of Pāli graduates, etc. I am not aware of there being any enmity with any other wats to the extent that you are describing. In what city is your wat located?
As for the satellite television channel (DMC), this is a free channel with Dhamma on it, which is promoted by our wat. It has many programs with Dhamma on it, for people of all ages to study the Dhamma in a moder format. The reasons why DMC was started, was to encourage people to study the Dhamma in their free time rather than to watch other television channels, which often promote wrong view and immoral values.
I can somehow understand that Thai likes such simplified teachings which is according to their inspirations: building up merits (more your have richer you get), neat and shiny appearances, hierarchical system, praying to Buddhas and Arahats, etc, etc. But I do not understand why also Westerners are getting attracted to such movement.
Speaking for myself, I have felt attracted to the teachings and practice of Wat Phra Dhammakāya, because I like their meditation technique. I also felt I could apply the Dhamma teachings well in daily life. Finally, I think their approach in spreading the Dhamma is quite active, and i think can truly change society for the better. I don't feel that our wat is just about neat and shiny appearances, I do think that Luang Pu Sod Candasaro and our current abbot, Luang Phor Dhammajayo, have always been very sincere in their intentions to study, practice and teach the Dhamma so that the teaching of the Buddha can be in this world for a long time.
I have sometimes seen people refering to this website. I think the website is quite biased because of its focus on the dangers of religion, rather than its benefits. (Usually anti-cult organizations are set up by cult victims.) Most of their information comes from Thai news papers, about which I already expressed my opinion quite extensively.
I hope this helps.
In the Dhamma,