Wood for the Trees

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
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Myotai
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Wood for the Trees

Post by Myotai » Mon Dec 12, 2016 1:31 pm

Hi,

So, (and this might sound utterly obvious) having just got back from a short retreat in a Forest Tradition monastery and listened to the talks on Vipassana....there is very little if any difference between the Soto Zen practice of Shikantaza and that of Vipassana.

Sitting, being aware of everything that is coming up....not attaching or responding being as equanimous as possible.

Am I right.....<Tilt>?

JohnK
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by JohnK » Mon Dec 12, 2016 3:17 pm

My Vipassana teacher sometimes mentions the parallel with shikantaza, but not in any detail -- not enough to highlight want might be differences.
So, I look forward to additional discussion here; thanks for bringing it up.
"...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.

Bakmoon
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:01 pm

Myotai wrote:Hi,

So, (and this might sound utterly obvious) having just got back from a short retreat in a Forest Tradition monastery and listened to the talks on Vipassana....there is very little if any difference between the Soto Zen practice of Shikantaza and that of Vipassana.

Sitting, being aware of everything that is coming up....not attaching or responding being as equanimous as possible.

Am I right.....<Tilt>?
From the different explanations I have heard I do think there is a subtle bit of a difference. According to my understanding, in Shikantaza practice you are aware of everything and allow it to come and go. Vipassana practice is similar, but it's a bit more up close and more interested in carefully watching the stuff that comes up individually.

For example, in the Mahasi Sayadaw style of practice where you meditate on the sensations of the abdomen moving, you would carefully watch the expanding and contracting feelings.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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mikenz66
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:15 pm


paul
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by paul » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:13 pm

Since vipassana is the central process of the Noble Eightfold Path, producing wisdom (insight) from sila and samadhi, uniquely developed by the Buddha and what distinguishes Buddhism from Hinduism, it must be present in all Buddhist schools. But I suspect the textual descriptions of understanding , such as in the Vism. where it occupies nearly 400 pages, are more extensive and therefore vipassana is more an essential characteristic of Theravada than anywhere else.
Last edited by paul on Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

Lucem
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by Lucem » Mon Dec 12, 2016 10:39 pm

paul wrote:Since vipassana is the central process of the Noble Eightfold Path, producing wisdom (insight) from sila and samadhi, uniquely developed by the Buddha and what distinguishes Buddhism from Hinduism, it must be present in all Buddhist schools. But I suspect the textual descriptions of insight, such as in the Vism. where it occupies nearly 400 pages, are more extensive and therefore vipassana is more an essential characteristic of Theravada than anywhere else.
Vipassana meditation is not central to the path described by the Buddha. Vipassana meditation was invented in the 19th century and is indeed quite similar to zen. Vipassana is something similar to the 5th step of training described in MN 39 (witch is wakefullness, not mindfulness witch is a further step), extracted out of the context of the noble 8thfold path but still able to produce a small amount of benefit even by itself, without the buddhist context. It became so popular in the west because, been extracted out of the noble 8thfold path and still been somehow beneficial, it got popular to a secular audience. Also, the wakefulness step taught by the Buddha does not involve focusing on the nose or on the abdomen but just cultivating wakefulness and awareness. And this is not done just for the sake of it, it is done for the purpose of helping the previous step of training witch is restraint of the senses. Cultivating wakefulness just for the sake of been more wakeful helps a little on the buddhist path but not much since it is not used for the purpose of restraining the senses (by ending the tendency of taking delight in thoughts, sights, scents that bring delight). Bhikkhu Bhodi constantly complains about this development of wakefulness witch totally misses the point it used to have in the noble 8thfold path, sometimes even been advertised as able to help a person take more delight out of things in this world.

Therefore, it is a step of the training taken out of context and adapted for the use of a secular audience. It is very similar to zen because zen too developed because of the need to adapt to a secular audience. (chinese, japanese) This is why both zen and vipassana have become the most popular techniques with some roots in buddhism in the west.

To understand the method of training taught by the Buddha and what place wakefulness has in it, check this message of mine about MN 39: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 12#p405612
The sutta you need to read to find out how to practice is MN 39. It explains every step of the path in order. In short, it's something like this:

1) study of pali canon to understand dependent origination and arrive at right view. Right view is the first step of the path. Only then can you start practicing.

2) Conduct and livelihood

3) Restraint of the senses (witch is very difficult to do)
"And what more is to be done? 'We will guard the doors to our sense faculties. On seeing a form with the eye, we will not grasp at any theme or variations by which — if we were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail us. We will practice for its restraint. We will protect the faculty of the eye. We will achieve restraint with regard to the faculty of the eye. On hearing a sound with the ear... On smelling an aroma with the nose... On tasting a flavor with the tongue... On feeling a tactile sensation with the body... On cognizing an idea with the intellect, we will not grasp at any theme or variations by which — if we were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the intellect — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail us. We will practice for its restraint. We will protect the faculty of the intellect. We will achieve restraint with regard to the faculty of the intellect': That's how you should train yourselves.
4) Moderation in eating

5) Wakefulness (again, difficult to do)

6) Mindfulness and fully awareness (witch will happen only if previous steps are accomplished)

7) Abandoning the 5 hidrances

8) The 4 jhanas (notice how many things you have to do before been able to do them)

9) The 3 true knowledges

10) The person arrives at arahantship.



These can be divided into 4 big steps:

Step 1: Most lay buddhist (me included) are at step 2 - restraint of the senses witch is difficult to do in a lay environment. Restraint in senses is not meant in a general way like respecting the 5 percepts. When a thought comes to your mind, it has signs (characteristics, links to other thoughts, feelings, memories) that make it be pleasant or unpleasant. The aim of the training is the destruction of lust and delight. By abstaining from taking delight, the tendency to lust is also destroyed. There are numerous methods and advice in the suttas about how to do that. The most important been contemplation of impermanence. The eye is impermanent, changing, becoming otherwise. Eye sights are impermanent, changing every moment, becoming otherwise. Feelings born out of them are impermanent, changing every moment, becoming otherwise. Trying to find happiness in impermanent things means trying to find happiness in suffering. Lust towards impermanent things is developed because of taking delight in things pleasant eye sights, thoughts cognized by the mind, etc. By stopping to take delight in them and seen them as they really are (impermanent) the tendency towards lust is destroyed. Like a drug addict who has quit a drug. And it is much harder to do than quitting any drug, especially as a lay person compared to a monk because it is like trying to quit cocaine while having it all around yourself at your disposal.

Step 2: After you start trying to do this, you will notice that most of the time you are on auto-pilot and completely forget about this tendency to take delight in thoughts, eye sights, smells etc. At this point you need to develop wakefulness in order to do that all the time. Just imagine how much time this step is going to take. Only after you do these 2 steps can you say that you have arrived at "mindfulness and fully awareness".

Step 3: At this point you are a person fully mindful, with full awareness and lucidity all the day. And you do not grasp at signs and characteristics of objects, feelings, thoughts in search of delight. You have defeated an addiction stronger than any hard drug. Now, since you are so advanced and in control of what you are doing it is time to abandon the hidrances. The hidrances are subtle tendencies of the mind that remain even after the tendency towards delight is greatly subdued. (sensory desire, ill will, sloth and topor, restlessness and doubt) Remember you need to "build yourself a boat" out of skillful tendencies that will help you abandon the hidrances. This is the perfect time to resolve even these subtle problems with hidrances.

Step 4: After doing step 3, you can now start to develop jhana. First jhana characteristic is "rapture born out of seclusion" so you really need to do all those steps before you can enter jhana. There are no shortcuts. After you are able to enter the 4 jhanas, all you need to do is observe it with wisdom, observe how it is also a constructed, dependently arisen state and you will become enlightened. That is why it's sometimes called "enlightened through wisdom".

For more detailed information read MN 39: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

paul
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by paul » Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:01 pm

You're confusing the Vipassana movement with vipassana as an integral process of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Lucem
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by Lucem » Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:10 pm

paul wrote:You're confusing the Vipassana movement with vipassana as an integral process of the Noble Eightfold Path.
Some sutta quotes describing that ?

paul
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by paul » Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:23 pm

"Whereas ignorance obscures the true nature of things, wisdom removes the veils of distortion, enabling us to see phenomena in their fundamental mode of being with the vivacity of direct perception. The training in wisdom centers on the development of insight (vipassana-bhavana), a deep and comprehensive seeing into the nature of existence which fathoms the truth of our being in the only sphere where it is directly accessible to us, namely, in our own experience." --Bikkhu Bodhi, "The Noble Eightfold Path, chap. VIII, Wisdom.

Reading the complete chapter gives a fuller understanding of vipassana as the essential process of The Noble Eightfold Path, indeed this chapter is the culmination of the book.

"Today the practice of insight meditation has gained global popularity, yet in achieving this success it has undergone a subtle metamorphosis. Rather than being taught as an integral part of the Buddhist path, it is now often presented as a secular discipline whose fruits pertain more to life within the world than to supramundane release."Bikkhu Bodhi, "Two Styles of Insight Meditation". online essay.
Last edited by paul on Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Caodemarte
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by Caodemarte » Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:30 pm

Lucem wrote: ... It is very similar to zen because zen too developed because of the need to adapt to a secular audience. (chinese, japanese) This is why both zen and vipassana have become the most popular techniques with some roots in buddhism in the west...
This seems a bit ahistorical. Both vipassana and Zen (as a separate school) were histotcally developed by Buddhist monks primarily for Buddhist monks and practiced, in the main, by Buddhist monks. Lay that became involved were and are almost all Buddhist, not secular. Whatever you personally may think of either, both are Buddhist. How they are watered down in pop Buddhist or pop psychology or how insights adapted from them, adulterated, changed or absorbed into the general culture is a different subject.
Last edited by Caodemarte on Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lucem
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by Lucem » Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:38 pm

paul wrote:"Whereas ignorance obscures the true nature of things, wisdom removes the veils of distortion, enabling us to see phenomena in their fundamental mode of being with the vivacity of direct perception. The training in wisdom centers on the development of insight (vipassana-bhavana), a deep and comprehensive seeing into the nature of existence which fathoms the truth of our being in the only sphere where it is directly accessible to us, namely, in our own experience." --Bikkhu Bodhi, "The Noble Eightfold Path, chap. VIII, Wisdom.

Reading the complete chapter gives a fuller understanding of vipassana as the essential process of The Noble Eightfold Path, indeed this chapter is the culmination of the book.

"Today the practice of insight meditation has gained global popularity, yet in achieving this success it has undergone a subtle metamorphosis. Rather than being taught as an integral part of the Buddhist path, it is now often presented as a secular discipline whose fruits pertain more to life within the world than to supramundane release."Bikkhu Bodhi, "Two Styles of Insight Meditation". online essay.
But those are not suttas.
This seems a bit ahistorical. Both vipassana and Zen (as a separate school) were histotcally developed by Buddhist monks primarily for Buddhist monks and practiced, in the main, by Buddhist monks. Lay that became involved were and are almost all Buddhist, not secular.
But it did develop in China and Japan witch were pretty secular places, and still continue to be.

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Goofaholix
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by Goofaholix » Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:40 am

There are a wide variety of vipassana techniques and approaches.

Some are very similar to Shikantaza, I think I told you this a year or two ago, Sayadaw U Tejaniya for example and many IMS teachers influenced by him, or practices generally called choiceless awareness.

However traditional techniques like Mahasi or U Ba Khin are much more active and engaged with the meditation object(s), so not like Shikantaza at all on the surface of it.
Last edited by Goofaholix on Tue Dec 13, 2016 3:34 am, edited 2 times in total.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

paul
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by paul » Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:42 am

“If a bhikkhu should wish: ‘May I, by realising for myself with direct knowledge, here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom that are taintless with the destruction of the taints,’
let him fulfil the precepts, be devoted to internal serenity of mind, not neglect meditation, be possessed of insight, and dwell in empty huts.”
—MN 6 Sutta Central.

Any of the suttas describing the Buddha’s enlightenment refer to the six higher powers, the sixth of which is vipassana, or deliverance through wisdom. The first five higher powers are mundane, but the sixth is supermundane. Four to six appear frequently under the name of the ‘threefold higher knowledge’ (te-vijja) as in MN 4 and MN 19. Only the sixth is a necessary condition for sainthood.

Lucem
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by Lucem » Tue Dec 13, 2016 3:01 am

paul wrote:“If a bhikkhu should wish: ‘May I, by realising for myself with direct knowledge, here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom that are taintless with the destruction of the taints,’
let him fulfil the precepts, be devoted to internal serenity of mind, not neglect meditation, be possessed of insight, and dwell in empty huts.”
—MN 6 Sutta Central.

Any of the suttas describing the Buddha’s enlightenment refer to the six higher powers, the sixth of which is vipassana, or deliverance through wisdom. The first five higher powers are mundane, but the sixth is supermundane. Four to six appear frequently under the name of the ‘threefold higher knowledge’ (te-vijja) as in MN 4 and MN 19. Only the sixth is a necessary condition for sainthood.
Yes, vipassana means "insight". In the context of the suttas, it is a factor not a meditation method. What I was asking for were suttas where the so called vipassana meditation is mentioned.

What is your opinion about the MN 39 sutta quoted by me that explains the steps of training taken by a buddhist intended on awakening ?

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Mkoll
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Re: Wood for the Trees

Post by Mkoll » Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:28 pm

I always thought shikantaza meant "just sitting" which is basically being mindful of the body sitting, a la the first satipatthana's postures. Looking at the Wikipedia page for it, it seems like there are different interpretations of what the practice of shikantaza entails...
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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