Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

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Ubhuti
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Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by Ubhuti » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:51 pm

Are there any teachings within the the Theravāda school which are considered esoteric, in other words only taught to advanced practitioners? From my understanding there do not appear to be any, which is quite different from the Mahayana schools, or any other religion for that matter.

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Alobha
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by Alobha » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:11 pm

As the Buddha himself put it:
"These three things, monks, are conducted in secret, not openly. What three? Affairs with women, the mantras of the brahmins. and wrong view.
"But these three things, monks, shine openly, not in secret. What three? The moon, the sun, and the Dhamma and Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata."
(AN 3:129; I 282-83)

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jun 16, 2015 6:26 pm

There are many teachings that you are unlikely to hear in popular discourses. The deeper teachings on meditation or the Abhidhamma, or the Vinaya, are not secret, but they are not appropriate for all audiences.

See the Anāthapiṇḍikovāda Sutta, for example. Anāthapiṇḍika was a devout disciple, a Stream-winner, and frequently visited the monks.

There's another discourse describing talk about morality to the immoral as being inappropriate, etc. Thus the Buddha would often remain silent if he knew that a teaching would not be of benefit to his audience.
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SarathW
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by SarathW » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:25 pm

"There's another discourse describing talk about morality to the immoral as being inappropriate"

Which Sutta is this?
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Pondera
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by Pondera » Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:58 am

Alobha wrote:As the Buddha himself put it:
"These three things, monks, are conducted in secret, not openly. What three? Affairs with women, the mantras of the brahmins. and wrong view.
"But these three things, monks, shine openly, not in secret. What three? The moon, the sun, and the Dhamma and Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata."
(AN 3:129; I 282-83)
What strange juxtaposition. Affairs and the moon. Mantras and the sun. ???
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No one in the audience knew. They shrugged their shoulders, however the wise man only laughed and shook his head. He didn't explain any further.

paul
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by paul » Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:55 am

"There are no dark corners of ignorance, no cobwebs of mystery, no smoky chambers of secrecy; there are no "secret doctrines," no hidden dogmas in the teaching of the Buddha, which is open as daylight and as clear as crystal. "The doctrine and discipline proclaimed by the Buddha shine when open and not when covered, even as the sun and moon shine when open and not when covered" (A.I,283).

The Master disapproved of those who professed to have "secret doctrines," saying, "Secrecy is the hallmark of false doctrines." Addressing the disciple Ânanda, the Master said: "I have taught the Dhamma, Ânanda, without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine; for in respect of the truths, Ânanda, the Tathâgata has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher who hides some essential knowledge from the pupil." D. 16

Although the doctrine is clear to everyone, there is however, a gradual progression of understanding and Right View in Theravada, dependent on practice.
-----MN 117:
"And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions [of becoming]; there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

"And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"One makes an effort for the abandoning of wrong view & for entering into right view: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view."

Ubhuti
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by Ubhuti » Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:28 pm

Many thanks for the responses.
paul wrote:"The Master disapproved of those who professed to have "secret doctrines," saying, "Secrecy is the hallmark of false doctrines." Addressing the disciple Ânanda, the Master said: "I have taught the Dhamma, Ânanda, without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine; for in respect of the truths, Ânanda, the Tathâgata has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher who hides some essential knowledge from the pupil." D. 16
Thanks Paul, I was aware of the clenched fist analogy but had to ask given the esoteric teachings of the other Buddhist schools.
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:There are many teachings that you are unlikely to hear in popular discourses. The deeper teachings on meditation or the Abhidhamma, or the Vinaya, are not secret, but they are not appropriate for all audiences.

See the Anāthapiṇḍikovāda Sutta, for example. Anāthapiṇḍika was a devout disciple, a Stream-winner, and frequently visited the monks.
Thanks Bhikkhu Pesala - At quick glance, the Anāthapiṇḍikovāda Sutta does not seem to contain anything different from many of the other suttas describing the training to remove clinging, so not sure why Sariputta would state that the advice is only meant for monks. Although I will take a deeper dive into the sutta when I get a chance.

Alobha wrote:As the Buddha himself put it:
"These three things, monks, are conducted in secret, not openly. What three? Affairs with women, the mantras of the brahmins. and wrong view.
"But these three things, monks, shine openly, not in secret. What three? The moon, the sun, and the Dhamma and Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata."
(AN 3:129; I 282-83)
This one is quite unique - thanks for sharing!


Finally, I have to ask about the idddhis. I understand these are not the aim of the practice and can be a distraction on the path, but I am interested to know if there is anything in the suttas that provides direct instruction on how to attain them once one reaches the 4th jhana. I would think these would be considered esoteric teachings given that the display of these powers to laymen by monks is forbidden in the Vinaya.

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vacvvm
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by vacvvm » Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:49 pm

Ubhuti wrote: Finally, I have to ask about the idddhis. I understand these are not the aim of the practice and can be a distraction on the path, but I am interested to know if there is anything in the suttas that provides direct instruction on how to attain them once one reaches the 4th jhana. I would think these would be considered esoteric teachings given that the display of these powers to laymen by monks is forbidden in the Vinaya.
here's the sutta where the Buddha describes why he doesn't recommend showing off powers, other than the miracle of instruction- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
it seems maybe psychic powers were not unknown to other practices, and he didn't want his teachings dismissed out of association (or to have the powers mistakenly taken as an aim of his teachings)

there's plenty of instruction on attaining the jhanas,for example: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; anapanasati meditation practiced in this way will lead to 4th jhana and then on to nibbana! the buddha's instructions are so concise though, more detail can be found in commentaries, the Visuddhimagga is a very detailed manual for all the samatha meditations.

However, read all one likes, its hard to imagine attaining much of anything without some extended, focused time meditating under the instruction of a knowledgable teacher

dhammarelax
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by dhammarelax » Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:14 pm

Ubhuti wrote:Are there any teachings within the the Theravāda school which are considered esoteric, in other words only taught to advanced practitioners? From my understanding there do not appear to be any, which is quite different from the Mahayana schools, or any other religion for that matter.
There are some teachings that although not a secret at all they are difficult to understand, and that could make them more appropriate for advanced practitioners, for example Dependent Origination, forming the core of the teachings the "Shape of suffering" as Thanissaro Bhhiku calls it is probably the most challenging concept to grasp not only in Buddhism but in the whole human knowledge.

smile all the time
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

SarathW
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by SarathW » Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:24 pm

In Sri Lanka, we learnt DO in the school ,when I was in grade 8.
:)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

dhammarelax
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by dhammarelax » Fri Jun 19, 2015 6:09 pm

SarathW wrote:In Sri Lanka, we learnt DO in the school ,when I was in grade 8.
:)
Sadhu, sadhu sadhu.

smile all the time
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

Ubhuti
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by Ubhuti » Fri Jun 19, 2015 9:05 pm

vacvvm wrote:
Ubhuti wrote: there's plenty of instruction on attaining the jhanas,for example: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; anapanasati meditation practiced in this way will lead to 4th jhana and then on to nibbana! the buddha's instructions are so concise though, more detail can be found in commentaries, the Visuddhimagga is a very detailed manual for all the samatha meditations.

However, read all one likes, its hard to imagine attaining much of anything without some extended, focused time meditating under the instruction of a knowledgable teacher
thanks vacvvm, I am working on more sitting and less reading these days :)

SarathW
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Re: Are any of the Theravāda teachings considered esoteric?

Post by SarathW » Fri Jun 19, 2015 10:51 pm

dhammarelax wrote:
SarathW wrote:In Sri Lanka, we learnt DO in the school ,when I was in grade 8.
:)
Sadhu, sadhu sadhu.

smile all the time
dhammarelax
Unfortunately I could not appreciate it at the time because it was part of my exam.
However I reap the benefit now.
:)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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