Ingram, et al - "Hard Core Dharma" & claims of attainment

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Snowmelt
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by Snowmelt » Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:40 am

I composed a number of passionate, immoderate responses addressing the assertions of Daniel Ingram. The only thing I can feel pleased about at this point is that I did not actually post them ("... good is restraint in speech ..."). Suffice it to say that I will not be following any of his recommendations. I am blessed beyond words that those who drew me to Buddhism in the first place - Ajahn Chah, his students, and their students - continue to hold my heart in their hands. Kindly they are, dignified, quietly-spoken and simple.

upekkha
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by upekkha » Fri Mar 06, 2009 1:34 pm

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

I understand the Sutta does not mean to support the position that the Dhamma is a freethinker's kit to truth which invites each one to accept and reject whatever he likes,
though I am sure you would agree with me on the matter that until one reaches at least stream-entry, one can only speculate on what it is to be enlightened, and so we can certainly look at the Suttas, see what they describe, and that would still be in the field of speculative thought, which the Buddha was very clear about.

I am not saying we should dismiss every belief, but being aware of our own limitations as unenlightened worldlings and keeping in mind that we are in the field of speculative thought is something I think is very helpful in dealing with such issues.

:namaste:

Ben wrote:Hi Upekkha

The Kalama Sutta was uttered by the Buddha, with a specific message tailored to the needs of a specific audience.
A Look at the Kalama Sutta by Bhikkhu Bodhi: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_09.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
It is well worth the read.
In this issue of the newsletter we have combined the feature essay with the "Sutta Study" column as we take a fresh look at an often quoted discourse of the Buddha, the Kalama Sutta. The discourse — found in translation in Wheel No. 8 — has been described as "the Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry," and though the discourse certainly does counter the decrees of dogmatism and blind faith with a vigorous call for free investigation, it is problematic whether the sutta can support all the positions that have been ascribed to it. On the basis of a single passage, quoted out of context, the Buddha has been made out to be a pragmatic empiricist who dismisses all doctrine and faith, and whose Dhamma is simply a freethinker's kit to truth which invites each one to accept and reject whatever he likes.

But does the Kalama Sutta really justify such views? Or do we meet in these claims just another set of variations on that egregious old tendency to interpret the Dhamma according to whatever notions are congenial to oneself — or to those to whom one is preaching? Let us take as careful a look at the Kalama Sutta as the limited space allotted to this essay will allow, remembering that in order to understand the Buddha's utterances correctly it is essential to take account of his own intentions in making them.
Kind regards

Ben

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kc2dpt
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by kc2dpt » Fri Mar 06, 2009 1:49 pm

upekkha,

You have said a number of times now that as unawakened beings we do not know for certain if the suttas are true. I do not think any one here disputes this idea. But the fact that you seem to be overlooking is that this is a discussion forum for Buddhists. A Buddhist is one who tests the suttas to see if they are true. This testing is done by implementing the teachings found within the suttas and seeing where they lead. Likewise, if one rejects the suttas then they are not practicing Buddhism. That's fine if that's what one wants to do but then it makes no sense to say "I'm a Buddhist and I teach Buddhism but I reject the suttas." This is simply a nonsensical thing to say.

If you keep wanting to address every argument in every thread here with the response "Well, we don't know if the suttas are true" then you might want to ask yourself why you are participating in a Buddhist discussion.

Relevant to this thread, if one rejects all the Buddha's descriptions of arahantship then one cannot reasonably claim to be an arahant. It would be like saying "I reject the teaching that apples are red and have edible skin. I believe they are yellow and have inedible skin." What you're talking about is not an apple but rather a banana. Likewise, Ingram is clearly not talking about Buddhism but rather a religion of his own making. I think it is clear he is in fact saying Buddhism is false.

Rather than saying this is a book written by an arahant, it seems to be more accurate to say this is a book written by one who rejects the notion of arahantship as a false path.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

upekkha
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by upekkha » Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:21 pm

Hi Peter,

This really depends on how you define Buddhist but the title of this forum is 'a discussion forum on the Dhamma of the Buddha'.. not only for Buddhists.. A wise man once told me that Buddhism and the teachings of the Buddha have been at odds for 2000 years...

I am certainly not rejecting anything my friend, I am simply admitting to the fact I have not realized them completely (ie, not enlightened), and therefore aware of my limitations.
Some Buddhists might not agree with you that a Buddhist is one who tests the suttas to see if they are true.. many are just Buddhists by faith, but thats another topic we could go on about for ages.

In regards to religion.. I'm not quite into that, I'm looking to realize the entire truth of mind , matter, and beyond by personal experience, and I believe this is exactly what the Buddha was encouraging people to do.. not to call themselves Buddhists or to adhere to certain dogmas, or to believe his descriptions of what it is to be an arahant, he encouraged others to become arahants and realize this for themselves.

And finally in regards to Daniel's website.. you're certainly welcome to have your own view on the man or what he is saying, I just thought some people might find it helpful for their practice to explore that website.

Peter wrote:upekkha,

You have said a number of times now that as unawakened beings we do not know for certain if the suttas are true. I do not think any one here disputes this idea. But the fact that you seem to be overlooking is that this is a discussion forum for Buddhists. A Buddhist is one who tests the suttas to see if they are true. This testing is done by implementing the teachings found within the suttas and seeing where they lead. Likewise, if one rejects the suttas then they are not practicing Buddhism. That's fine if that's what one wants to do but then it makes no sense to say "I'm a Buddhist and I teach Buddhism but I reject the suttas." This is simply a nonsensical thing to say.

If you keep wanting to address every argument in every thread here with the response "Well, we don't know if the suttas are true" then you might want to ask yourself why you are participating in a Buddhist discussion.

Relevant to this thread, if one rejects all the Buddha's descriptions of arahantship then one cannot reasonably claim to be an arahant. It would be like saying "I reject the teaching that apples are red and have edible skin. I believe they are yellow and have inedible skin." What you're talking about is not an apple but rather a banana. Likewise, Ingram is clearly not talking about Buddhism but rather a religion of his own making. I think it is clear he is in fact saying Buddhism is false.

Rather than saying this is a book written by an arahant, it seems to be more accurate to say this is a book written by one who rejects the notion of arahantship as a false path.

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clw_uk
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by clw_uk » Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:27 pm

its important with the Kalama Sutta that it doesnt urge you to follow what you like, it does advise you to heed the advice of the wise


not to call themselves Buddhists or to adhere to certain dogmas,
These are conventions, i dont think anyone who has a good grasp of Dhamma would think "I am a theravadin" and take this as real and accept something just because it is written and is a "dogma"


You seem to be saying that because we say "i am a buddhist" or have descriptions of arahantship then we are on the wrong track, just because we say these things doesnt mean we take them as reality


:anjali:
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

upekkha
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by upekkha » Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:59 pm

clw_uk wrote:its important with the Kalama Sutta that it doesnt urge you to follow what you like, it does advise you to heed the advice of the wise


not to call themselves Buddhists or to adhere to certain dogmas,
These are conventions, i dont think anyone who has a good grasp of Dhamma would think "I am a theravadin" and take this as real and accept something just because it is written and is a "dogma"


You seem to be saying that because we say "i am a buddhist" or have descriptions of arahantship then we are on the wrong track, just because we say these things doesnt mean we take them as reality


:anjali:
Oh.. Sorry, I don't mean that at all!
I don't mean to suggest anyone is on the wrong track or criticize anyone or anything of that nature, my intention was to share what I see at this moment, and recommend some reading material which I found useful, and thats it.

may all here be successful. :namaste:

Individual
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by Individual » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:05 pm

Dhammanando wrote:And an Ingramist assessment of the Arahant Chapter of the Dhammapada:

  • Arahantavagga

    1. The fever of passion exists not for him who has completed the journey, who is sorrowless and wholly set free, and has broken all ties.
No passions!? No sorrows!? Limited Emotional Range Model.
  • 2. The mindful ones exert themselves. They are not attached to any home; like swans that abandon the lake, they leave home after home behind.
Don’t stay in one place!? Limited Possible Action Model.
  • 3. Those who do not accumulate and are wise regarding food, whose object is the Void, the Unconditioned Freedom — their track cannot be traced, like that of birds in the air.
Don’t accumulate!? Limited Possible Action Model
  • 4. He whose cankers are destroyed and who is not attached to food, whose object is the Void, the Unconditioned Freedom — his path cannot be traced, like that of birds in the air.
Cankers destroyed!? Limited Emotional Range Model.
  • 5. Even the gods hold dear the wise one, whose senses are subdued like horses well trained by a charioteer, whose pride is destroyed and who is free from the cankers.
Senses subdued!? Pride destroyed!? Limited Possible Thought Model.
Free from the cankers!? Limited Emotional Range Model.
  • 6. There is no more worldly existence for the wise one who, like the earth, resents nothing, who is firm as a high pillar and as pure as a deep pool free from mud.
Resents nothing!? Limited Emotional Range Model.
  • 7. Calm is his thought, calm his speech, and calm his deed, who, truly knowing, is wholly freed, perfectly tranquil and wise.
Calm thought, speech and deeds!? Perfectly tranquil!? Aagh, this one’s a real bummer. Limited Possible Action Model and Limited Emotional Range Model and Limited Possible Thought Model.
  • 8. The man who is without blind faith, who knows the Uncreated, who has severed all links, destroyed all causes (for karma, good and evil), and thrown out all desires — he, truly, is the most excellent of men.
Thrown out all desires!? Limited Emotional Range Model.
  • 9. Inspiring, indeed, is that place where Arahants dwell, be it a village, a forest, a vale, or a hill.
Ah, now that’s a cool verse!
  • 10. Inspiring are the forests in which worldlings find no pleasure. There the passionless will rejoice, for they seek no sensual pleasures.
Passionless!? Seeking no sensual pleasures!? Bah, we’re back again with the Limited Emotional Range Model.

All in all not a very reliable text: nine obviously apocryphal verses and just one that might have come from the Buddha.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
If Arahants are the same as Buddhas, then it seems to be an imponderable. Am I wrong?

Arahants are good, free, happy, equanimous, devoid of craving, etc., etc.., all of that is good enough for me. Any virtuous, pleasing description of Arahants seems justified, but any unpleasing, contentious description of Arahants seems unjustified. I would not like to hear that Arahants are either slaves to dispassion, chained to dispassion, merely puritanistic robots with kiriya cittas, nor would I like to hear that they are actually not much different from putthujanas. Because I am a putthujana, know I am nothing like an Arahant, being a slave chained to craving is horrible, and yet I can't see how being "limited" by dispassion would be superior to being limited by craving.

Different people seem to be inspired in different ways. If hearing, "Arahants are just like you, but only choose to think and act differently," inspires you, then great. If hearing, "Arahants have kiriya cittas, can't do X, Y, and Z unwholesome actions," inspires you, then great. Neither statement does anything for me.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by jcsuperstar » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:56 pm

you know i never even considered this in any indepth sort of way. but you have a very valid point, if a person doesnt accept what a religion teaches then why would they consider themselves a part of that religion?
Peter wrote:upekkha,

You have said a number of times now that as unawakened beings we do not know for certain if the suttas are true. I do not think any one here disputes this idea. But the fact that you seem to be overlooking is that this is a discussion forum for Buddhists. A Buddhist is one who tests the suttas to see if they are true. This testing is done by implementing the teachings found within the suttas and seeing where they lead. Likewise, if one rejects the suttas then they are not practicing Buddhism. That's fine if that's what one wants to do but then it makes no sense to say "I'm a Buddhist and I teach Buddhism but I reject the suttas." This is simply a nonsensical thing to say.

If you keep wanting to address every argument in every thread here with the response "Well, we don't know if the suttas are true" then you might want to ask yourself why you are participating in a Buddhist discussion.

Relevant to this thread, if one rejects all the Buddha's descriptions of arahantship then one cannot reasonably claim to be an arahant. It would be like saying "I reject the teaching that apples are red and have edible skin. I believe they are yellow and have inedible skin." What you're talking about is not an apple but rather a banana. Likewise, Ingram is clearly not talking about Buddhism but rather a religion of his own making. I think it is clear he is in fact saying Buddhism is false.

Rather than saying this is a book written by an arahant, it seems to be more accurate to say this is a book written by one who rejects the notion of arahantship as a false path.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Dhammanando
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:09 pm

Hi Individual,
Individual wrote:If Arahants are the same as Buddhas, then it seems to be an imponderable. Am I wrong?
The imponderable is "the Buddha-range of Buddhas" (buddhānaṃ buddhavisaya), which is understood to refer to that of Sammāsambuddhas, not their arahant disciples.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

Snowmelt
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by Snowmelt » Fri Mar 06, 2009 7:15 pm

To put Daniel Ingram's utterances into perspective: it is like a Christian saying that the Bible is nonsense, or like a Muslim saying that the Koran is nonsense. Such an assertion would make it clear that the speaker belonged to neither religion.

I think that just letting your mind wander where it wants is highly detrimental to advancement on the Path, and reading endless texts purporting to be about Buddhism, particularly those whose authors contradict the most basic tenets of the Pali Canon, involves allowing your mind to do just that. I think the reason why people do this is because they haven't the wisdom to stay with the Pali Canon; in the best Western tradition, they want endlessly to leap to the next shiny bauble, hopelessly and desultorily searching for a magic bullet that will make them fully Enlightened without effort ("Quick, give me an Enlightenment pill, I've only got five minutes before the match starts on TV!") This is proliferation and distraction and delusion; it will *never* lead to Enlightenment. Or, they are like water boatmen: skating across the surface of Buddhism, never diving in; this is a complete waste of time and effort. I think the only people who can expose themselves to this kind of stuff without risking ill effects are those monastics who have thoroughly digested and comprehended the Canon and its implications over many years, and who live it every day, all day. "Books, books, books. Too many, too many, too many. Dustbin, dustbin, dustbin."

Snowmelt
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by Snowmelt » Fri Mar 06, 2009 7:26 pm

Individual wrote:Because I am a putthujana, know I am nothing like an Arahant, being a slave chained to craving is horrible, and yet I can't see how being "limited" by dispassion would be superior to being limited by craving.
I think this demonstrates how words can mislead us: "dispassion", I think, has a generally negative connotation in normal English usage. But it is not so to me, in the context of Buddhism. To me, it is a result of the calming and releasing of craving, the result of understanding and insight. It is not a quality that is added to a person's character, but one that results when negative qualities begin to disappear from one's character. It is not a limiting factor, but the result of the removal of a limiting factor. To give an example: a youthful parent is horrified and deeply distressed when their toddler says "I hate you" for the first time, whereas a grandparent, wise and equanimous with experience and insight, reacts calmly with "yes, dear, but you still won't get any dessert unless you eat your vegetables first". :)

upekkha
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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by upekkha » Fri Mar 06, 2009 7:32 pm

Snowmelt wrote:To put Daniel Ingram's utterances into perspective: it is like a Christian saying that the Bible is nonsense, or like a Muslim saying that the Koran is nonsense. Such an assertion would make it clear that the speaker belonged to neither religion.

I think that just letting your mind wander where it wants is highly detrimental to advancement on the Path, and reading endless texts purporting to be about Buddhism, particularly those whose authors contradict the most basic tenets of the Pali Canon, involves allowing your mind to do just that. I think the reason why people do this is because they haven't the wisdom to stay with the Pali Canon; in the best Western tradition, they want endlessly to leap to the next shiny bauble, hopelessly and desultorily searching for a magic bullet that will make them fully Enlightened without effort ("Quick, give me an Enlightenment pill, I've only got five minutes before the match starts on TV!") This is proliferation and distraction and delusion; it will *never* lead to Enlightenment. Or, they are like water boatmen: skating across the surface of Buddhism, never diving in; this is a complete waste of time and effort. I think the only people who can expose themselves to this kind of stuff without risking ill effects are those monastics who have thoroughly digested and comprehended the Canon and its implications over many years, and who live it every day, all day. "Books, books, books. Too many, too many, too many. Dustbin, dustbin, dustbin."
Hi Snowmelt,

You assume several things i don't agree with in your post;
the first one is that a person who attains arahatship must by definition be 'Buddhist', that is, defines oneself as Buddhist.
Remember, arahatship is complete liberation from ignorance isn't it? therefore, it is not bound up in these terms, specifically 'religion', 'buddhism', etc.

and second, you are assuming that the Buddha taught a religion, by using the analogy of Christianity, Islam, etc, and the Buddha actually taught a non-sectarian path to liberation and enlightenment which is not bound up in these worldly terms.

and lastly, the book in question is actually a guide to help people who are walking on this path..
Basically it concentrates on the three trainings, Sila, Samadhi, Panna, and it also contains advice for more advanced practitioners (sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami).

I recommend it to anyone walking on the path of Dhamma. besides being a source of inspiration, it is a very practical guide, specifically to those practicing in the Burmese tradition (importance on vedana, sensations)

all the best!

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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by Snowmelt » Fri Mar 06, 2009 7:58 pm

upekkha wrote:You assume several things i don't agree with in your post;
the first one is that a person who attains arahatship must by definition be 'Buddhist', that is, defines oneself as Buddhist.
Remember, arahatship is complete liberation from ignorance isn't it? therefore, it is not bound up in these terms, specifically 'religion', 'buddhism', etc.
I am certainly asserting that the Buddha Dhamma is the path to Nibbana, yes. The Pali Canon seems quite clear that there was no other way in the time of the Buddha, and I do not see that those religions that have arisen since even have Enlightenment as a goal. Also, Ingram says he was the student of a Buddhist, the implication being that he achieved arahantship through following the Buddha Dhamma; not that I believe he is an arahant - for one thing, it seems inconceivable to me that an arahant would repudiate the precepts as he does.
upekkha wrote:and second, you are assuming that the Buddha taught a religion, by using the analogy of Christianity, Islam, etc, and the Buddha actually taught a non-sectarian path to liberation and enlightenment which is not bound up in these worldly terms.
To me it is a path; it is convenient to call it a religion. Whatever we want to call it, its foundation in this Buddha-less age is the Pali Canon, which Ingram tosses out as casually as yesterday's garbage. An arahant, it seems to me, would be likely to consider the effect this would have on the world before doing so. This also leads me to wonder why this particular "arahant" behaves so differently from every other I have ever heard of.
upekkha wrote:and lastly, the book in question is actually a guide to help people who are walking on this path..
Basically it concentrates on the three trainings, Sila, Samadhi, Panna, and it also contains advice for more advanced practitioners (sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami).

I recommend it to anyone walking on the path of Dhamma. besides being a source of inspiration, it is a very practical guide, specifically to those practicing in the Burmese tradition (importance on vedana, sensations)
The ultimate practical guide and source of inspiration has already been provided: it is the Pali Canon. *Everything* required to become Enlightened is in there. Why look elsewhere? The notions that the Canon is deficient or insufficiently inspiring are just incomprehensible to me; I sometimes shed tears of joy and relief when I read it. This discontent with the fundamental source of the Dhamma, this proliferation and repudiation, may well be what leads to the eventual extinction of the Dhamma. I reiterate that people endlessly seek out modern texts through lack of the wisdom to see that the Pali Canon is all that is needed. It is a form of materialism, among other things.

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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by nathan » Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:42 pm

On the Arahat thing, I don't think the Buddha ever said 'anyone can do this' I recall comments to the effect that 'this teaching is for those with little dust in their eyes' implying that those who could penetrate it's depths are actually quite rare.

I think the character assassination has gone far enough. The man isn't deliberately trying to hurt anyone or start a new religion with stolen fragments of pali text. We've looked at very little of the book itself which is primarily about vipassana. A lot of people have difficulty with vipassana. Is there anything useful in the book regarding vipassana? Is there anything misleading about vipassana in the book? These are things that it would actually be beneficial to know and even Dr. Ingram might appreciate it if there is something that could be better about his discussion of vipassana.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Re: Dhamma book written by arahat?

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Mar 06, 2009 9:07 pm

Hi Snowfelt,
Snowmelt wrote:Also, Ingram says he was the student of a Buddhist, the implication being that he achieved arahantship through following the Buddha Dhamma; not that I believe he is an arahant - for one thing, it seems inconceivable to me that an arahant would repudiate the precepts as he does.
To be fair, what Ingram repudiates is the Sutta teaching that arahants are incapable of transgressing certain precepts. As far as I know, he doesn't repudiate the precepts themselves. The exposition of sīla in his book is pretty much like that which one would get from Kornfield or any of the fluffier sort of North American vipassanā teachers. Which is to say, it's a bit woolly and lacking in clearcut descriptions of what each precept entails, but nonetheless not actually misleading.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

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