Ajaan Lee Method

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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rolling_boulder
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Ajaan Lee Method

Post by rolling_boulder »

Hi,

I generally practice based on the method Thanissaro Bhikku recommends (really the Ajaan Lee method) simply because it's accessible, it's the first thing I tried and it works pretty well for me.

However I've had difficulties with it lately so I've been searching around for some other methods. Please forgive my ignorance on the matter because I came to this tradition from the suttas first. When seeking meditation instruction online it seems that there is a duality expressed by many teachers (that I had never picked up on in the texts) that there is samatha practice and vipassana practice, and the two are different.

I found this really confusing, honestly, because Thanissaro never really speaks in these terms.

However, now that I'm aware of this perception of the 2 kinds of Buddhist meditation, my inclination is to think of the Ajaan Lee method as a type of samatha meditation. (I.E. putting down a solid foundation in the breath and getting the mind very still so that it can be easily observed.)

Is this the right way to view it and can anyone provide more info regarding the samatha - vipassana dichotomy?
Are both "types" of meditation paths to awakening?

Another confusion I have is regarding "controlling the breath." In Ajaan Lee's method you consciously control the breath and make it comfortable, even rapturous. Ajaan Lee seems to be a bit of an outlier here in that most teachers appear to recommend against controlling the breath, and recommend instead just letting it be and observing it with equanimity.

Maybe someone here with a lot more experience can point me in the right direction because all these apparently conflicting views are only confusing me and reducing my saddhā.

Thanks very much
RB
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

SarathW
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by SarathW »

Hi RB
This may some help.

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/6162/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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mikenz66
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by mikenz66 »

Hi RB,
rolling_boulder wrote: However, now that I'm aware of this perception of the 2 kinds of Buddhist meditation, my inclination is to think of the Ajaan Lee method as a type of samatha meditation. (I.E. putting down a solid foundation in the breath and getting the mind very still so that it can be easily observed.)

Is this the right way to view it and can anyone provide more info regarding the samatha - vipassana dichotomy?
Are both "types" of meditation paths to awakening?
The path involves development of a number of factors, including tranquillity and insight. These can be developed in various orders: together, one before the other, alternating, etc... . Different teachers have developed various approaches, which worked for them and/or their students. In my opinion there is no "one true method".
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=25479
rolling_boulder wrote: Another confusion I have is regarding "controlling the breath." In Ajaan Lee's method you consciously control the breath and make it comfortable, even rapturous. Ajaan Lee seems to be a bit of an outlier here in that most teachers appear to recommend against controlling the breath, and recommend instead just letting it be and observing it with equanimity.
Yes, Ajahns Lee and Thanissaro are outliers in that most methods that are well-known in the West are based on "just observing" the breath (or other objects). However, making the breath comfortable doesn't seem to me to contradict the suttas, and of course most of us do various things to make ourselves comfortable (sit on a cushion, do some stretching or exercise and so on).

Where it's possible to run into problems is when mixing up instructions from different teachers. I'd advise sticking to one method (which may be a method several teachers --- such as Lee and Thanissaro in this case --- teach) for a few months without worrying too much about other methods. Once you are well established in a method it's easier to understand the variations.

:anjali:
Mike

Pinetree
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by Pinetree »

However I've had difficulties with it lately so I've been searching around for some other methods.
What difficulties ?

This ^^ is where you should start.

Different meditation types cultivate different mind skills.

And the same meditation instructions can cultivate different wholesome or unwholsome states, for different people, or same person at different times.

Eventually, you need to gain a feel:

- what you can work with (you will need a teaching that you can understand and put it to practice)
- what are you actually cultivating while working with a certain method (so how your practice actually works as you apply it)
- what is most helpful for you to cultivate
- in what direction a certain type of meditation progresses through deepening the practice

Last part is more difficult to understand, because I remember Ven. Yuttadhammo saying once something like: "If you keep doing exactly the same thing, it will eventually stop working".

So, while getting established in (A) method for few months or years and then switching and learning something completely different can be helpful, you should know how that first (A) method is organized or layered to drive personal progress over a longer period of time. Which is ideally achieved with the help of a teacher.

So you should not be worried that there are different approaches to meditation, but it can still be useful to learn a little about them.
Is this the right way to view it and can anyone provide more info regarding the samatha - vipassana dichotomy?
While there are more ways meditation is taught, I wouldn't put emphasis on the dichotomy.

Yes, what you are practicing seems to be closer to samatha. Other ways to practice samatha are chanting mantras on beads, focusing on the image or statue of a deity, or focus on the sound, this is a very interesting link:
http://www.lionsroar.com/the-sound-of-silence/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Vipassana is a lot about clear and objective awareness of whatever mental state or mental object is in the present moment.
That definition, might sometimes equally apply to samatha, but what is for me an important difference is that Vipassana has no requirement for peace and tranquility. So you could perfectly well practice Vipassana near a highway, watching cars coming and going at 100 miles per hour (which of course is not the usual way to practice, but I'm trying to give you a more vivid picture).

To further elaborate upon my highway example, samatha is like meditating upon a timelapse photograph of a highway. Vipassana is meditating upon each and every car as it it coming and going.

If you're not familiar with the term "time-lapse", I'll put a link with an example, but I'm sure you have seen pictures like this before:
http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free- ... age5053918" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

This is a link which in my view gives a good and more in depth answer to your question:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDDY4gOexVA" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

paul
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by paul »

The Buddha came into a tradition of samatha and grafted his own method of vipassana onto it, so the Path is an amalgamation, but complete freedom cannot be achieved without the insight that is the deciding liberating factor in Buddhism, samatha can only result in suppression of the hindrances. Actually there are three trainings, sila, samadhi and panna and these function in an interactive way to produce the insight which gradually purifies Right View. The Thanissaro approach is samatha oriented, but it’s inevitable one will eventually have to understand the necessary role of insight. To get a knowledge of the role of insight, study a different author from an earlier era since samatha is now emphasised by the current teachers :
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... d.html#ch8" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
-Bikkhu Bodhi, “The Noble Eightfold Path”.

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mikenz66
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by mikenz66 »

Pinetree wrote: This is a link which in my view gives a good and more in depth answer to your question:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDDY4gOexVA
Thanks. Nice explanation by Ven Yuttadhammo...

:anjali:
Mike

Cormac Brown
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by Cormac Brown »

rolling_boulder wrote:Hi,

I generally practice based on the method Thanissaro Bhikku recommends (really the Ajaan Lee method) simply because it's accessible, it's the first thing I tried and it works pretty well for me.

However I've had difficulties with it lately so I've been searching around for some other methods.
Hi RB,

What difficulties have you experienced? You might want to try switching to a different topic for a while, such as the Buddha/Dhamma/Sangha, or focus on Metta. Or are the difficulties simply the "doctrinal difficulties" that you detail below?
Please forgive my ignorance on the matter because I came to this tradition from the suttas first. When seeking meditation instruction online it seems that there is a duality expressed by many teachers (that I had never picked up on in the texts) that there is samatha practice and vipassana practice, and the two are different.

I found this really confusing, honestly, because Thanissaro never really speaks in these terms.
Generally he maintains that the Ajaan Lee method develops both in tandem, and that the modern notion of the two as completely separate practices is misguided - as do most Thai Forest teachers. Read this talk: Go, Do Jhana.

To paraphrase the line in the Dhammapada, "There's no jhana for one without discernment/ No discernment for one without jhana." Upasika Kee Nanayon has a lovely simile comparing samatha and vipassana to two hands washing one another: if each hand tries to wash itself individually, they'll be nowhere near as effective. Ajahn Wanchai, I think, compares them to the two wheels on a bicycle.

Also read Ven. T's excellent essay on the subject: One Tool Among Many: The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice.
Another confusion I have is regarding "controlling the breath." In Ajaan Lee's method you consciously control the breath and make it comfortable, even rapturous. Ajaan Lee seems to be a bit of an outlier here in that most teachers appear to recommend against controlling the breath, and recommend instead just letting it be and observing it with equanimity.

Maybe someone here with a lot more experience can point me in the right direction because all these apparently conflicting views are only confusing me and reducing my saddhā.
Why are you allowing the fact that not everyone in the world agrees on the finer points of meditation practice to reduce your saddha? When did everyone in the world ever agree upon anything? Saddha is conviction that the Buddha knew what he was talking about. It's a strength (bala) and one that you need to develop by practising Buddhanusatti, reading the suttas, and by putting his teachings into practice. If your saddha is based on the views of the world coming into accord, then it's actually a weakness, and not the sort of saddha meant by the Buddha.

Study Ven. T's teachings a bit more, or at least more carefully - his point that the breath is a sankhara i.e. an intentional activity means that there's always an element of controlling: this method is aimed at making the controlling more skillful, while simultaneously gaining insight into the role of intention and fabrication in leading to more/less suffering.

I sympathise with the fact you've run into difficulties and doubts: I've had my fair share. I recommend returning to the suttas and really getting to grips with them. That should boost your saddha. Also read more into Ven. Thanissaro's teachings: it sounds like you need to develop a more mature understanding of them. I recommend listening regularly to his talks at http://www.dhammatalks.org. Also you can try phoning him during his daily calling hour - he's very helpful, as is the other monk who sometimes answers.

Hope this is of some help,

Cormac
“I in the present who am a worthy one, rightly self-awakened, am a
teacher of action, a teacher of activity, a teacher of persistence. But the
worthless man Makkhali contradicts even me, (saying,) ‘There is no
action. There is no activity. There is no persistence.’ "
AN 3.138, trans. Ven. Thanissaro

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fivebells
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by fivebells »

rolling_boulder wrote:most teachers appear to recommend against controlling the breath, and recommend instead just letting it be and observing it with equanimity.
If you're looking for confidence regarding Thanissaro's approach to this, I recommend chapters 4 & 5 of his Right Mindfulness. The rest of the book is gold, too.

fijiNut
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by fijiNut »

rolling_boulder wrote:Hi,

I generally practice based on the method Thanissaro Bhikku recommends (really the Ajaan Lee method) simply because it's accessible, it's the first thing I tried and it works pretty well for me.

However I've had difficulties with it lately so I've been searching around for some other methods. Please forgive my ignorance on the matter because I came to this tradition from the suttas first. When seeking meditation instruction online it seems that there is a duality expressed by many teachers (that I had never picked up on in the texts) that there is samatha practice and vipassana practice, and the two are different.

I found this really confusing, honestly, because Thanissaro never really speaks in these terms.

However, now that I'm aware of this perception of the 2 kinds of Buddhist meditation, my inclination is to think of the Ajaan Lee method as a type of samatha meditation. (I.E. putting down a solid foundation in the breath and getting the mind very still so that it can be easily observed.)

Is this the right way to view it and can anyone provide more info regarding the samatha - vipassana dichotomy?
Are both "types" of meditation paths to awakening?

Another confusion I have is regarding "controlling the breath." In Ajaan Lee's method you consciously control the breath and make it comfortable, even rapturous. Ajaan Lee seems to be a bit of an outlier here in that most teachers appear to recommend against controlling the breath, and recommend instead just letting it be and observing it with equanimity.

Maybe someone here with a lot more experience can point me in the right direction because all these apparently conflicting views are only confusing me and reducing my saddhā.

Thanks very much
RB
Hi RB,

Ajahn Lee's method is in line with the Suttas and what the Buddha taught See the Anapanasati sutta below (my emphasis added on whole body awareness and training in the feelings of comfort and rapture)

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' [7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

"[9] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.' [10] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in satisfying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out satisfying the mind.' [11] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in steadying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out steadying the mind.' [12] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.'[5]

"[13] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.' [14] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.' [15] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on cessation.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on cessation.' [16] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'
Also note that calm and insight is being developed in tandem. Have faith in this method, it works.

Caodemarte
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by Caodemarte »

Concerning the two kinds of meditation: Some teachers hold that each is separate and/or both are developed at once, one arises after the other, or one by one.

dhammarelax
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Re: Ajaan Lee Method

Post by dhammarelax »

rolling_boulder wrote:Hi,

I generally practice based on the method Thanissaro Bhikku recommends (really the Ajaan Lee method) simply because it's accessible, it's the first thing I tried and it works pretty well for me.

However I've had difficulties with it lately so I've been searching around for some other methods. Please forgive my ignorance on the matter because I came to this tradition from the suttas first. When seeking meditation instruction online it seems that there is a duality expressed by many teachers (that I had never picked up on in the texts) that there is samatha practice and vipassana practice, and the two are different.

I found this really confusing, honestly, because Thanissaro never really speaks in these terms.

However, now that I'm aware of this perception of the 2 kinds of Buddhist meditation, my inclination is to think of the Ajaan Lee method as a type of samatha meditation. (I.E. putting down a solid foundation in the breath and getting the mind very still so that it can be easily observed.)

Is this the right way to view it and can anyone provide more info regarding the samatha - vipassana dichotomy?
Are both "types" of meditation paths to awakening?

Another confusion I have is regarding "controlling the breath." In Ajaan Lee's method you consciously control the breath and make it comfortable, even rapturous. Ajaan Lee seems to be a bit of an outlier here in that most teachers appear to recommend against controlling the breath, and recommend instead just letting it be and observing it with equanimity.

Maybe someone here with a lot more experience can point me in the right direction because all these apparently conflicting views are only confusing me and reducing my saddhā.

Thanks very much
RB
Read the Anapnasati Sutta and practise exactly what it says.

Smile
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

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