Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

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cjmacie
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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by cjmacie » Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:17 pm

.
More on the "breath body' (sabbakaya) issue, and Than-Geoff’s view.

He clearly argues strongly for “physical” sense as distinct from the “group” or “body-of-the-breath” sense of kaya, which I believe has to do with his lineage of interpretation and training (especially Ajaan Lee), and also that his prime goal is practical teaching of the dhamma, rather than sophisticated abhidhamma-like analytical interpretations. Similarly as his translations are s/t criticized as to philological details, where his aim is more readability, together with s/t unusual renderings and a s/w poetic style to convey an aura of special meaning to the sutta language (rather than being more common-language prosaic).

On the other hand, he has characterized the Buddha’s teaching as a “radical phenomenology” (notably in the book Buddhist Romanticism), which caught my eye. I subsequently asked him about that (last year when he was in town for his annual day-long at IMC, Redwood City, Calif). He doesn’t claim extensive study of phenomenology, and uses the term s/w informally. I do think, though, from the overall tenor of his understanding (his teaching), and from the way he uses the term in that book, that his intuitive grasp of phenomenology is accurate. (I did give him a copy of the article that came up here earlier about Edmund Husserl – the father of phenomenology – and his expression of great interest in the teachings in the Pali Canon through the contemporaneous German translations of Neumann.)

Looking more closely at TG’s analysis (quoted above in bodom » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:11 pm), there’s evidence (bolded phrases in the excerpts quoted below) that he means “physical” body in a rather more phenomenological than strictly scientific (externally observed) sense.

“...With step 4 this principle is obvious: You’re trying to calm the effect of the breath on the felt sense of the body...”

“...it seems best to interpret “body” as meaning “physical body” in all of these contexts, and to interpret “entire body” in step 3 as referring to the entire physical body as sensed from within.”

That is to say, the body as experienced, as phenomena, in line with the Buddha’s view, rather than as an ontological thing, which is strongly suggested by the (ontologically biased) mundane Western idea of the “physical” body. TG elaborates (in his book) on that idea of “sensed from within” as phenomenological, the locus of applying the dhamma being one’s own private experience, which cannot be fully communicated or known by externally.
Javi wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 2:55 pm
cjmacie wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 1:22 pm
....Sabbakaya debate....
I hear you cjmacie, and I agree. However the point still stands that some interpret the third anapanasati step as a narrow focus of attention on the breath on a particular spot, this would, phenomenologically, still be different than a broader sense of interoception.
The anapanasati, I believe, works in either case. The mind attends to a single object (actually a phenomenal image or representation) at any one time. If it’s some sense of the whole “body” breathing, that’s the single present “whole” of bodily experience. If it’s the touch of breath at the nostrils, that’s also the single present “whole” of bodily experience at that time. In between the differences are of degree or scope, converging on the unification of samadhi (which many consider to be what anapanasati is about). Note that the whole-body scanning technique runs through a succession of foci, from one (perceived) body part to the next. This could be considered rather a khanika-samadhi exercise across shifting objects, but when the mind attempts to integrate all that into a single mental image / object, “entire” means unified; anapanasati steps 3 and 4 “sensitive” to that single unification, “calming” the same. The mind isn’t enumerating all those individual part at this point.

Actually, I suspect that Than-Geoff is teaching more a khanika samadhi (momentary concentration) approach, the broader sensory “breathing body” field more like the Mahasi use of the coarser movement of the abdomen with breathing rather than the relatively “fine-body” approach at the nostrils more suitable or ananpana / absorption samadhi – for practical, introductory reasons, as most Westerners less likely to be able to concentrate as narrowly (the same motivation behind the Mahasi technique). Than-Geoff certainly knows the fully absorbed jhāna-s, as per his videos talking about them, but for general teaching (reaching the broadest audience), he avoids teaching what he calls “jhāna-by-the-numbers”. And, as evident elsewhere in his teachings, he emphasizes the application of switching back and forth between concentration and insight, which is the proper end goal of both the khanika-samadhi and the appana-samadhi approaches.

Again, Than-Geoff prefers to avoid abhidhamma / Visuddhimagga type perspectives, such as the analysis of 5-door sensory mind-moments coupled with immediately succeeding mind-door mind-moments that form perception as mental mirror of the sensory stimuli, as implicit, I sense, in the Buddhadasa presentation of the “material body” and the “mental body”.

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Re: Origin of Thanisarro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by cjmacie » Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:22 pm

phil wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 1:39 pm
...In Japan the use of "ki" for healing (for example in reiki or kikou) has similarities...
As a matter of fact, Japanese ‘ki’ is modified pronunciation of Chinese ‘qi’. The pictograph is the same, as Japanese literary language is rooted in Chinese characters. ‘Ki’ is ‘qi’; ‘Do’ is ‘Dao’, etc., as also in ‘Ai-Ki-Do’ – the martial art (don’t recall what the ‘ai’ is, but it’s from Chinese too).

In fact, the word “Japan” has the Chinese characters for sun (‘ri’ s/t pronounced with a ‘zhe’ or ‘jhe’ sound) and root (‘ben’, as in root of a tree); so ‘jheben’ = ‘Japan’, or ‘riben’ like ‘Nippon’ – the “Land of the Rising Sun” (rising from its roots).

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 6:31 pm

Thanks for the interesting comments CJM. Perhaps I'll just have to listen to those talks again to find the passage I was referring to!

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Re: Origin of Thanisarro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by Caodemarte » Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:08 pm

cjmacie wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:22 pm
......
As a matter of fact, Japanese ‘ki’ is modified pronunciation of Chinese ‘qi’. The pictograph is the same, as Japanese literary language is rooted in Chinese characters. ‘Ki’ is ‘qi’; ‘Do’ is ‘Dao’, etc., as also in ‘Ai-Ki-Do’ – the martial art (don’t recall what the ‘ai’ is, but it’s from Chinese too).
Ai means harmony 合. I do not know how it is pronounced in Chinese.

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Re: Origin of Thanisarro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:24 am

Caodemarte wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:08 pm
Ai means harmony 合. I do not know how it is pronounced in Chinese.
You can hear a modern standard pronunciation here:
https://translate.google.com/?source=gt ... /%E5%90%88

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Re: Origin of Thanisarro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:53 am

cjmacie wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:06 pm
mikenz66 wrote:
Tue Sep 26, 2017 9:08 pm
He has some interesting things to say in the talks linked here:
viewtopic.php?t=25834#p376203
mikenz66 wrote: Ven Thanissaro's Thai Forest Masters day-long lecture series http://www.audiodharma.org/series/16/talk/5996/ may be of interest to you. I think he mentioned that Ajahn Lee learned some of the practices on a trip to India. (Unfortunately, searching through four hours of talks to locate the exact passage is not easy!)
Sorry to chime in here so late, but I was there for those talks and don’t recall mention of this, which would have peaked my interest. Tracking this down would be informative (though probably laborious).
OK, go to about 19:30 of the second talk.
Ajahn Lee took two trips to India, one in the 1930s, the other in 1950. In 1950 he spent quite a while there. And one of the questions that occurred to him was: You see these yogis sitting all day under the sun and standing on one leg. How do they do that? And, being Ajahn Lee, he didn't go up and ask them, he went into meditation and asked the question in his meditation. And the answer that came out was: they're playing with the breath energy. So he said: well, they are using it for that purpose, can we use it for other puposes? And so he started working with the breath energies in his meditations. When he came back to Thailand he wrote Method 1 of Keeping the Breath in Mind.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/tha ... ml#method1
...
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Re: Origin of Thanisarro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by cjmacie » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:26 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:53 am
Ajahn Lee took two trips to India, one in the 1930s, the other in 1950. In 1950 he spent quite a while there. And one of the questions that occurred to him was: You see these yogis sitting all day under the sun and standing on one leg. How do they do that? And, being Ajahn Lee, he didn't go up and ask them, he went into meditation and asked the question in his meditation. And the answer that came out was: they're playing with the breath energy. So he said: well, they are using it for that purpose, can we use it for other puposes? And so he started working with the breath energies in his meditations. When he came back to Thailand he wrote Method 1 of Keeping the Breath in Mind.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/tha ... ml#method1
...
Thanks for finding that.

Curious -- it seems to imply that Ajaan Lee was in some sense inspired by seeing Indian practitioners, but actually devised his own method independent of Indian teaching.

In his autobiography he mentions that, in all his wanderings, he enjoyed exchanging information (mutual teaching) with all sorts of people -- s/t he taught, other times he learned. He may have picked-up those aspects of his method which resemble Chinese qi-cultivation s/t in those contacts, as he did often cross paths with Thai-Chinese, as documented in the autobiography.

Or maybe it comes through Thanissaro B.'s variations on the method (as in his stock body-scan guided meditation), from some exposure, however brief, to Taoist qi-work techniques.

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:36 pm

Yes, it doesn't sound like direct instruction, but the account on that talk is rather brief, and, as you say, Ajahn Lee seems to have picked up ideas from many sources.

I guess one's attitude to these admixtures depends on how one views the suttas and their relationship to personal instruction and personally-worked-out methods. I.e. whether where on sits in the spectrum of seeing the suttas as a set of instructions or a framework for understanding.

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by bodom » Sun Oct 29, 2017 12:55 am

So here it is, the origin of Ajahn Lee's technique, as explained in Thanissaro's new book:
It’s interesting to know how Ajaan Lee arrived at this technique. In the late 1940’s, he had gone to India and had noticed all of the yogis who could sleep on beds of nails or stand on one leg all day. So he asked himself, how did they do that? His way of answering that question was not to go ask them but to sit in meditation and to pose the question in his mind. The answer he came up with was that they were playing with the breath energies in the body. So he decided to give it a try himself, not for the purpose of sleeping on beds of nails, but to see if it could help with concentration and also to deal with his own personal ailments. After he returned to Thailand, he wrote down what he had learned in what is now Keeping the Breath in Mind, Method 1.

A few years later, he went off to spend the Rains retreat in a part of the jungle in northern Thailand, a place that required three days just to walk there. Soon after he arrived, he had a heart attack. There were no doctors around, no medicine, nothing. So what was he going to do? He decided to use the breath energies. You’ll notice, if you look at Method 1, that most of the breath energies he was dealing with there were in the head. With Method 2, he was more interested in energies in the body. Because he was dealing with a heart ailment, he started with the energy in the back of the neck. If you’ve ever had a heart problem, you’ll know that there’s a lot of tightness in that part of the body.

From there, Ajaan Lee expanded his research into the breath energies to the point where he was dealing with the entire body. And it worked: His heart condition improved, and at the end of the Rains retreat he was able to walk out of the jungle. Then he wrote down Method 2, and that’s what he taught for the rest of his life.
https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Wri ... n0001.html

: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

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:02 am

Thanks Bodom. That's basically what he said in the talk (naturally!).

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by bodom » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:04 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:02 am
Thanks Bodom. That's basically what he said in the talk (naturally!).

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Sorry Mike I completely missed your last post! Well good seems we have gotten to the bottom of it then.

: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

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:11 am

No problem. It's often better to have a text one can read, rather than having to search through several hours of recordings!

However, that daylong is worth listening to, as it has some interesting observations about Ajahns Mun, Lee, Maha Bua, Chah from someone who has had some personal contact with those different manifestations of the Forest Tradition. Due to the success of the Ajahn Chah strand with attracting westerners, we tend to hear a lot more about that in the West.

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by bodom » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:11 am
No problem. It's often better to have a text one can read, rather than having to search through several hours of recordings!

However, that daylong is worth listening to, as it has some interesting observations about Ajahns Mun, Lee, Maha Bua, Chah from someone who has had some personal contact with those different manifestations of the Forest Tradition. Due to the success of the Ajahn Chah strand with attracting westerners, we tend to hear a lot more about that in the West.

:heart:
Mike
Will definitely be giving a listen. Thanks!

: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

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by JohnK » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:17 pm

This is off the direct topic, but from the 3 talks on Thai Forest Masters referenced in this thread.
I just thought to post a couple of quotes.
"As long as you feel a need for happiness, there is going to have to be a sense of self that can produce this and will consume it. When you have a happiness that doesn't require any of that, then you can let it all go." [from Thai Forest Masters, 9/19/2015, pt.2, approx 43:00]
Here he is quoting Ajaan Lee at approximately 1:19:00:
"Right views and wrong views are an affair of the world. Nibbana doesn't have any right views or wrong views. For that reason, whatever is wrong view, we should abandon; whatever is right view, we should develop until the day it can fall from our grasp."
Thanissaro Bhikkhu says about that Lee quote:
"That is probably the most elegant statement of the path..."
Thought I should re-post the source:
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/16/talk/5996/
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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Re: Origin of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Meditation Method

Post by bodom » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:35 pm

JohnK wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:17 pm
This is off the direct topic, but from the 3 talks on Thai Forest Masters referenced in this thread.
I just thought to post a couple of quotes.
"As long as you feel a need for happiness, there is going to have to be a sense of self that can produce this and will consume it. When you have a happiness that doesn't require any of that, then you can let it all go." [from Thai Forest Masters, 9/19/2015, pt.2, approx 43:00]
Here he is quoting Ajaan Lee at approximately 1:19:00:
"Right views and wrong views are an affair of the world. Nibbana doesn't have any right views or wrong views. For that reason, whatever is wrong view, we should abandon; whatever is right view, we should develop until the day it can fall from our grasp."
Thanissaro Bhikkhu says about that Lee quote:
"That is probably the most elegant statement of the path..."
Thought I should re-post the source:
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/16/talk/5996/
:thumbsup:

Excellent thanks John.

: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

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