Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Caodemarte
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Caodemarte » Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:28 pm

Phena wrote:
Santi253 wrote:
bodom wrote:I guess the idea of Buddha Nature could be seen as upaya (skillful means) for some in the beginning. But as we know, all concepts, even skillful ones, must be let go of in the end.
I agree with you on this. What you are saying sounds very Zen-like.
Letting go of the "raft" is not exclusively Zen-like, it is just a natural consequence and progression of the Dhamma.

Yes, it s basic Buddhism. I think all Buddhist concepts are rafts (intended to be taught and used as skillful means at all times) and all must be let go.

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Javi
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Javi » Sat Jul 15, 2017 2:31 pm

The way I see Buddha nature is as an upaya and as a way of talking about Nirvana which is more immanent and subitist than other ways of talking about it.

Of course (with a few exceptions) most of the presentations I have seen make it clear that this buddha nature is not a atman or non empty.

The Theravada includes many concepts which were probably not taught by the historical Buddha (ideas found in Abhidharma and so on), and yet takes those teachings as helpful or even necessary in some cases.

So really, unless one is a sutta only fundamentalist, there is really no logical ground on which to say that a teaching is useless just because it is not literally stated in the earliest strata of the Buddhist literature.

Newton was a genius, but other great physicists built on his work and developed new theories which integrated newton's work.

I see ideas like those found in the Abhidharma and the Mahayana sutras as similar developments of other great Buddhist minds who had a different perspective on Nirvana and which could be helpful but are ultimately provisional and to be let go.

After all, most Buddhists agree that Nirvana is beyond concepts and so should not be sectarian about the concepts that other Buddhists find helpful.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

chownah
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by chownah » Sun Jul 16, 2017 3:41 am

Javi wrote:

So really, unless one is a sutta only fundamentalist, there is really no logical ground on which to say that a teaching is useless just because it is not literally stated in the earliest strata of the Buddhist literature.
Maybe it would be better to discuss what IS a logical ground for saying that a teaching is useless rather than to consider what is not.

So, what is the logical ground?
chownah

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Javi
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Javi » Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:11 am

chownah wrote:
Javi wrote:

So really, unless one is a sutta only fundamentalist, there is really no logical ground on which to say that a teaching is useless just because it is not literally stated in the earliest strata of the Buddhist literature.
Maybe it would be better to discuss what IS a logical ground for saying that a teaching is useless rather than to consider what is not.

So, what is the logical ground?
chownah
If it leads no one to nibbana or helps along the path, then I'd say it's useless.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

chownah
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by chownah » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:58 am

Javi wrote:
chownah wrote:
Javi wrote:

So really, unless one is a sutta only fundamentalist, there is really no logical ground on which to say that a teaching is useless just because it is not literally stated in the earliest strata of the Buddhist literature.
Maybe it would be better to discuss what IS a logical ground for saying that a teaching is useless rather than to consider what is not.

So, what is the logical ground?
chownah
If it leads no one to nibbana or helps along the path, then I'd say it's useless.
I don't think that this is a very logical sort of ground from a practical standpoint. Seems like this approach will only lead to arguementation as to what will lead to nibbbana or help along the path. If we all could determine what would lead to nibanna or what was helpful (and what was not) then I'm sure we would be living in an entirely different (and non existent) world.

Anyone could have an addiction of some sort and just think that it was helping them on the path.....this is to a great extent how humanity works all by itself without any influence from the buddha at all.
chownah

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Javi
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Javi » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:25 pm

chownah wrote: I don't think that this is a very logical sort of ground from a practical standpoint. Seems like this approach will only lead to arguementation as to what will lead to nibbbana or help along the path. If we all could determine what would lead to nibanna or what was helpful (and what was not) then I'm sure we would be living in an entirely different (and non existent) world.

Anyone could have an addiction of some sort and just think that it was helping them on the path.....this is to a great extent how humanity works all by itself without any influence from the buddha at all.
chownah

Of course it's logical, it's perfectly in line with the dharma and one just has to use careful observation and discrimination to notice if wholesome qualities have increased or not.

That doesn't mean it's not difficult and that disagreements or sectarianism won't arise, but it is logical.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

chownah
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by chownah » Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:46 pm

Javi wrote:
chownah wrote: I don't think that this is a very logical sort of ground from a practical standpoint. Seems like this approach will only lead to arguementation as to what will lead to nibbbana or help along the path. If we all could determine what would lead to nibanna or what was helpful (and what was not) then I'm sure we would be living in an entirely different (and non existent) world.

Anyone could have an addiction of some sort and just think that it was helping them on the path.....this is to a great extent how humanity works all by itself without any influence from the buddha at all.
chownah

Of course it's logical, it's perfectly in line with the dharma and one just has to use careful observation and discrimination to notice if wholesome qualities have increased or not.

That doesn't mean it's not difficult and that disagreements or sectarianism won't arise, but it is logical.
I like your reply. Let me respond to your earlier post differently. You posted:
If it leads no one to nibbana or helps along the path, then I'd say it's useless.
How could one know if it lead no one to nibbana or has not helped anyone along the path? Maybe your idea works best when it is applied by an individual to themselves and I am making the mistake of trying to apply it to everyone else.
chownah

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Javi
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Javi » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:06 pm

chownah wrote: How could one know if it lead no one to nibbana or has not helped anyone along the path? Maybe your idea works best when it is applied by an individual to themselves and I am making the mistake of trying to apply it to everyone else.
chownah
Well I didn't say it was easy, but we can attempt to carefully observe our thoughts and actions and the thoughts and actions of others (basically, practice satipatthana). If positive dhammas increase, then we know a practice or idea is helpful, if they don't...

Now speaking from my own experience I've noticed that Tibetan Buddhists, Zennists, Abhidhamma Theravadins and 'Suttantins' can all be quite advanced and developed along the path even though they have different ideas like Buddha nature and so on. So it's probably not an obstacle.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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bodom
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by bodom » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:58 pm

Just came across this little gem. It seems Thanissaro is very familiar with Dogen and even recommends his students to read the Shobogenzo:
My first exposure to Dogen came in 1975. I had returned from Thailand after completing my teaching fellowship with the Oberlin-Shansi Association. During my time in Thailand I had spent three months studying with Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, a teacher in the Thai Forest Tradition, and I wanted to devote my life to Buddhist practice. Part of the Oberlin-Shansi fellowship included a year back at Oberlin College, so I decided to use that opportunity to take courses in the Religion department. It so happened that James Kodera was on the Oberlin faculty, and he was offering a seminar in Zen Buddhism. That seminar was my first exposure to Dogen: both in reading Prof. Kodera’s PhD. thesis on Dogen, which later became his book Dogen’s Formative Years in China; and in reading a translation of the Shobogenzo Zuimonki. Of all my readings for the seminar, the latter book most impressed me as being similar in spirit and substance to my experience of studying with Ajaan Fuang. As for Dogen’s account of his time in China, the incident that most impressed me was his account of “dropping body and mind.” This seemed to me then –and still does now –very similar to what counts as stream-entry in the Theravada map of awakening experiences.

The following year, when I decided to return to Thailand to resume practicing under Ajaan Fuang, I stopped over in Japan to visit a Japanese friend. When he asked me which Japanese sites I wanted to visit, Eihei-ji was high on the list. We spent one evening and morning there, and I had the opportunity to pay my respects at Dogen’s tomb. When I returned to the States in 1991, I obtained a new translation of the Shobogenzo Zuimonki, and often read from it during the morning meditations at Metta Forest Monastery.”
https://www.google.com/amp/s/ancientway ... zenji/amp/

:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

Saengnapha
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:56 am

More 'stuff' to try and wrap your brains around? Thinking about thinking.

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aflatun
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by aflatun » Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:57 am

Wow. Thanks for this bodom, its really fascinating especially in light of the fact that I'm often left with the impression that Ajahn T. doesn't quite understand what is meant by "Buddha Nature" and related Mahayana ideas. But I do think his critique of how these ideas are misused is on point...
As for Dogen’s account of his time in China, the incident that most impressed me was his account of “dropping body and mind.” This seemed to me then –and still does now –very similar to what counts as stream-entry in the Theravada map of awakening experiences.
:thumbsup:

bodom wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:58 pm
Just came across this little gem. It seems Thanissaro is very familiar with Dogen and even recommends his students to read the Shobogenzo:
My first exposure to Dogen came in 1975. I had returned from Thailand after completing my teaching fellowship with the Oberlin-Shansi Association. During my time in Thailand I had spent three months studying with Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, a teacher in the Thai Forest Tradition, and I wanted to devote my life to Buddhist practice. Part of the Oberlin-Shansi fellowship included a year back at Oberlin College, so I decided to use that opportunity to take courses in the Religion department. It so happened that James Kodera was on the Oberlin faculty, and he was offering a seminar in Zen Buddhism. That seminar was my first exposure to Dogen: both in reading Prof. Kodera’s PhD. thesis on Dogen, which later became his book Dogen’s Formative Years in China; and in reading a translation of the Shobogenzo Zuimonki. Of all my readings for the seminar, the latter book most impressed me as being similar in spirit and substance to my experience of studying with Ajaan Fuang. As for Dogen’s account of his time in China, the incident that most impressed me was his account of “dropping body and mind.” This seemed to me then –and still does now –very similar to what counts as stream-entry in the Theravada map of awakening experiences.

The following year, when I decided to return to Thailand to resume practicing under Ajaan Fuang, I stopped over in Japan to visit a Japanese friend. When he asked me which Japanese sites I wanted to visit, Eihei-ji was high on the list. We spent one evening and morning there, and I had the opportunity to pay my respects at Dogen’s tomb. When I returned to the States in 1991, I obtained a new translation of the Shobogenzo Zuimonki, and often read from it during the morning meditations at Metta Forest Monastery.”
https://www.google.com/amp/s/ancientway ... zenji/amp/

:namaste:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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mikenz66
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:33 am

aflatun wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:57 am
Wow. Thanks for this bodom, its really fascinating especially in light of the fact that I'm often left with the impression that Ajahn T. doesn't quite understand what is meant by "Buddha Nature" and related Mahayana ideas. But I do think his critique of how these ideas are misused is on point...
Yes, TB is quite eclectic, with his "energy practices" and so on that I recall he said Ajahn Lee invented after a trip to India. And he's certainly taken an interest in various ideas and approaches.

I, too, sometimes think his criticisms can sound confused. I think that the problem is that sometimes he critiques misapplication of ideas and techniques and doesn't make clear the difference between the misapplication and the orginal. It's good to have this passage, which makes that very clear.

:heart:
Mike

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aflatun
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by aflatun » Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:38 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:33 am
I think that the problem is that sometimes he critiques misapplication of ideas and techniques and doesn't make clear the difference between the misapplication and the orginal. It's good to have this passage, which makes that very clear.

:heart:
Mike
Yeah totally, that's pretty much how I understand what he's doing too. If he would just add that qualification it would clear up a lot!

And in his defense, many contemporary teachers do mangle some of these doctrines (Buddha nature, rigpa, etc) via unfortunate cross pollination with various eternalist ideas (neo advaita), thereby violating the meaning of the source texts. So it is a problem.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

binocular
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by binocular » Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:33 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:33 am
I, too, sometimes think his criticisms can sound confused. I think that the problem is that sometimes he critiques misapplication of ideas and techniques and doesn't make clear the difference between the misapplication and the orginal. It's good to have this passage, which makes that very clear.
For the most part, Thanissaro Bhikkhu isn't writing reviews of particular works, this is why he rarely cites them.
He often criticizes particular ideas, but again, not as they are presented/understood by this or that particular author or school, but much more generally. That's why he doesn't (have to) cite particular texts directly.
aflatun wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:38 am
And in his defense, many contemporary teachers do mangle some of these doctrines (Buddha nature, rigpa, etc) via unfortunate cross pollination with various eternalist ideas (neo advaita), thereby violating the meaning of the source texts. So it is a problem.
And the general criticism strategy that he uses avoids all that.

The point is that there's a potentially problematic idea out there, such as "Buddha nature", for example.

If one thinks there are problem with "Buddha nature", one could address that by citing a specific author and a specific work. But that criticism would be applicable only to that specific author or work, no further.

Or, one could proceed more generally, and in general terms, point out what one thinks is the problem with "Buddha nature", whereby one's criticism applies to the premises one has pointed out as problematic. This approach is more widely applicable.

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:33 am
I, too, sometimes think his criticisms can sound confused. I think that the problem is that sometimes he critiques misapplication of ideas and techniques and doesn't make clear the difference between the misapplication and the orginal. It's good to have this passage, which makes that very clear.
This line of thinking can make one take for granted that "the original idea was a good one, but got corrupted over time". Such corruption is difficult or at least time-consuming to prove. It's much more cost- and time-effective to point out some general premises and address those. So, for example, it doesn't matter whether it's some Mahayana scholar or a Vajrayana scholar who has the most correct idea of "Buddha nature"; the real issue is that any assuming of a "true nature" is problematic.


And if there's one thing one can learn from Thanissaro Bhikkhu, it's time- and cost-effectiveness.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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mikenz66
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:23 am

binocular wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:33 pm
This line of thinking can make one take for granted that "the original idea was a good one, but got corrupted over time". ...
The point is that Ajahn Thanissaro's criticisms often don't appear to stand up to scrutiny if they are supposed to be about the orginal ideas/approaches. So my charitable assumption is that he is criticising the corruptions.

:heart:
Mike

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