Really Confused...!

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible in order to double-check alignment to Theravāda orthodoxy.
woodsman
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:45 am

Really Confused...!

Post by woodsman »

Hello and thanks for adding me. I am facing what feels like an insurmountable confusion at the moment that is stopping my practice moving forward, as it were - so any advice from those much more experienced than me would be welcomed.

I initially started studying and practising in the Theravada tradition and found the practices and earthy explanations offered by Ajahn Cha' and others really helpful. Then I developed an interest in other traditions, specifically Zen and the Tibetan schools. I guess being exposed to the Tibetan school is where my confusion stems from. So rather than rant on about lots of examples of what I see as paradoxes and contradictions I will offer one in particular that troubles me.

The Tibetan school for example often talk in detail about practices that assist in the stages after the death of the body. They seem in COMPLETE contrast to those taught in the Theravada - in fact with my limited experience of the Theravada there are no such teachings. So far as my reading goes when ya gone ya gone!

How can this be so? How can there be such an antithesis of teachings from two Buddhist tradition.

So here is my problem, I now feel that I am missing out on practices that I 'should' be doing rather than merely using insight practices. Its created a sense of urgency and anxiety that is impeding my practice. Has anyone else experienced this if so how on earth did you reconcile it?

Thanks,

Woodsman

Calahand08
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:10 am

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by Calahand08 »

I don’t know if this helps but I stick to suttas taught by the historical Buddha, and to me there is no doubt or contradiction , but I’m a beginner myself :namaste:

char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by char101 »

You will get over it. I used to read the tipitaka translation from the pali text society (my vihara had an almost complete collection), and the first time I read Mahayana sutras I just cant believe that it is expounded by the same person (or the same Buddha). The style and meaning is just too different.

The solution: just accept that they really are different teachings and stick to the one that you are comfortable with. Don't assume that you can mix teachings from different sects, they are incompatible.

woodsman
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:45 am

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by woodsman »

char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:11 pm
You will get over it. I used to read the tipitaka translation from the pali text society (my vihara had an almost complete collection), and the first time I read Mahayana sutras I just cant believe that it is expounded by the same person (or the same Buddha). The style and meaning is just too different.

The solution: just accept that they really are different teachings and stick to the one that you are comfortable with. Don't assume that you can mix teachings from different sects, they are incompatible.
The problem is a fundamental inability to ignore the contradiction. I don't want to merely pick based upon an aesthetic preference, I want to pick that which is right and correct.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 6651
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by Sam Vara »

woodsman wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:43 pm

The problem is a fundamental inability to ignore the contradiction. I don't want to merely pick based upon an aesthetic preference, I want to pick that which is right and correct.
What is the criterion for you knowing that one is more "right and correct" than the other? What could anyone on an internet forum do to help you choose between them? Both sets of practitioners might attempt to convince you of the superiority of their position. But it doesn't really help knowing which one can be presented most logically, or which has the fastest or surest path, or which has the most alluring or terrifying visions of the hereafter. You would just be going by other people's reports of how things are. Which, in turn, raises the question of why you believe them.

char101
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by char101 »

woodsman wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:43 pm
char101 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:11 pm
You will get over it. I used to read the tipitaka translation from the pali text society (my vihara had an almost complete collection), and the first time I read Mahayana sutras I just cant believe that it is expounded by the same person (or the same Buddha). The style and meaning is just too different.

The solution: just accept that they really are different teachings and stick to the one that you are comfortable with. Don't assume that you can mix teachings from different sects, they are incompatible.
The problem is a fundamental inability to ignore the contradiction. I don't want to merely pick based upon an aesthetic preference, I want to pick that which is right and correct.
And how are you going to determine which is right and correct? Everyone will say that their beliefs is the one that is right. At the end it all come back to your choice. Whichever you choose what I am saying is don't mix and match teachings from different sects. They are sects but you should better consider them different religions.

User avatar
bodom
Posts: 6455
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by bodom »

The Criterion for the right and true Dhamma:
The Eight Principles  

I have heard that at on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Vesali, in the Peaked Roof Hall in the Great Forest.

Then Mahapajapati Gotami went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, stood to one side. As she was standing there she said to him: "It would be good, lord, if the Blessed One would teach me the Dhamma in brief such that, having heard the Dhamma from the Blessed One, I might dwell alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute."

"Gotami, the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead:

to passion, not to dispassion;
to being fettered, not to being unfettered;
to accumulating, not to shedding;
to self-aggrandizement, not to modesty;
to discontent, not to contentment;
to entanglement, not to seclusion;
to laziness, not to aroused persistence;
to being burdensome, not to being unburdensome':

You may categorically hold, 'This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Teacher's instruction.'

"As for the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead:

to dispassion, not to passion;
to being unfettered, not to being fettered;
to shedding, not to accumulating;
to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement;
to contentment, not to discontent;
to seclusion, not to entanglement;
to aroused persistence, not to laziness;
to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome':

You may categorically hold, 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher's instruction.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Mahapajapati Gotami delighted at his words.

— AN 8.53
:namaste:
The heart of the path is so simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice.

Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing.

Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this-just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle.

- Ajahn Chah

JohnK
Posts: 1108
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by JohnK »

Just a few thoughts:
"When ya gone ya gone" is not a correct characterization of the Buddha's teachings in the Pali discourses. So the contradiction may not be quite as deep as you imagine.
That said, you might consider reading Joseph Goldstein's One Dharma where he considers the challenge/opportunity presented by the diversity of "Buddhisms." While there are different teachings, it is good to keep your eye on the ball: liberation through non-clinging.
Keep practicing generosity, the precepts, and meditation (including metta); know this dukkha from the inside; consider its causes; see things change.
Best wishes.
:anjali:
Those who grasp at perceptions & views wander the internet creating friction. [based on Sn4:9,v.847]

User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 4161
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by cappuccino »

woodsman wrote: So far as my reading goes when ya gone ya gone!
Buddha speaks about rebirth every other time he speaks

User avatar
TLCD96
Posts: 85
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 8:43 pm

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by TLCD96 »

I don't really think they contradict each other at all in the context of rebirth (though certain ideas about how rebirth might take place will differ). Both Theravadin and Mahayana scriptures talk about rebirth, and speak in praise of a favorable rebirth (which is always a result of virtue) while holding Nirvana to be supreme. The difference seems to me that Theravadin teachers such as Ajahn Chah place more emphasis on realizing liberation in this life while Mahayana teachings often emphasize the Bodhisattva vow. I'm sure there are some Theravadins who deny rebirth and those who insist on its reality, but I find Ajahn Chah's position to be helpful:
Question: Is there truly a life after this one?
Luang Por Chah: If I tell you will you believe me?
Question: Yes, sir.
Luang Por Chah: Then you’d be a fool.
Whether you affirm or deny rebirth, if that becomes a viewpoint you attach to and identify with, then it becomes a source of suffering and something of an obstacle to your practice. When you hold viewpoints the doors to doubt, confusion, and contention are open; obsessing over what is right on a doctrinal level will prove burdensome. We won't know what the truth is until we see it for ourselves. Better to pick a tradition which resonates with you and stick with it, this is not just a matter of aesthetics!
All of us are bound by birth, aging, and death.

dharmacorps
Posts: 1158
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:33 pm

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by dharmacorps »

OP, I understand your confusion. I experienced the same when I researched and tried to practice Tibetan Buddhism. Nothing against it-- it just wasn't a match for my temperment. I find the Pali canon very practical and accessible though.

Dan74
Posts: 3320
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by Dan74 »

I am kinda of surprised that you say these practices for post-mortem are so important.

Firstly all Buddhist practices are not just for now but for the post-mortem, in the sense that if we practice right, we either attain liberation or ensure a favourable rebirth and continuing practice, leading to liberation (entering the stream).

Secondly, having interacted a lot with Tibetan Buddhists and read a bit, as well as having attended a few teachings (so not entirely clueless, but not knowledgeable either) I hadn't come across specific post-mortem practices with the exception of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. A fairly small part of what Tibetan Buddhism entails and something that fits in fairly well practice-wise into the broader Buddhism, since it emphasises letting go of greed and aversion.

Ultimately, there are some differences between the schools and one just needs to make a choice. People do it based on all sorts of grounds. My preference is to find a solid teacher and Sangha to practice with. That's the sort of support one needs to really establish oneself in the Dhamma.
Last edited by Dan74 on Tue Jan 14, 2020 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
_/|\_

woodsman
Posts: 69
Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:45 am

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by woodsman »

Thanks, but I guess the talks on Rebirth for example are not particularly reassuring - (AFAIK) at the moment of death there is an annihilation of all that we are and experience ourselves as now. I appreciate that there is a continuation of potentialities and karmic propensities, but nothing 'here' will be reborn according to the Theravada from my understanding.

There is of course the other difference in practices, like the Tibetans definitely prescribe an analytical 'reductio ad absurdum' form of meditation on the nature of the self. The mechanics of which I see nowhere in the Theravada. I am not suggesting that one is right but the absence of a focus on 'Emptiness' in the Theravada is palpable from my readings of late. Theravada seems to intimate at it but the Madhyamika has it as the fulcrum of its teaching and practices, why is this?

I dunno....I had no idea there were so many anomalies :thinking:

User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 4161
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by cappuccino »

woodsman wrote: but nothing 'here' will be reborn according to the Theravada from my understanding.
just expect to continue from where you are

User avatar
Aloka
Posts: 6678
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Really Confused...!

Post by Aloka »

woodsman wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:58 pm
the absence of a focus on 'Emptiness' in the Theravada is palpable from my readings of late.
Hi woodsman,

You might like to have a look at this article "Emptiness in Theravada Buddhism" by Gil Fronsdal who's a teacher at the USA Insight Meditation Centre:
https://www.insightmeditationcenter.org ... -buddhism/

also this essay "Emptiness" by the late Thai teacher Ajahn Buddhadasa:

https://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha196.htm

...and here's a sutta for you to read: SN 20.7 , Ani Sutta: The Peg:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html


:anjali:

Post Reply