Bhante Vimalaramsi

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Khalil Bodhi
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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by Khalil Bodhi » Sat Dec 24, 2011 6:44 pm

Hi ancientbuddhism,

Thank you for your post and your opinion. Mettaya!
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by Brizzy » Sun Dec 25, 2011 2:07 am

Hi Tilt,

Having stated that this subject should not be pursued on this thread, you then go and further it, using my pm!
Since you saw fit to use a portion of my pm on your post, I thought it only fair to post the full message to put it in context.
Hi Tilt,

No need to apologise, I am not offended at all. I would point out though, that if I have ever put up a post that said 'Goenka talks crap on so many levels', I would certainly not be in a position to pm you now. Even this pm is a result of what would happen if I made the above comments in a posting.
Having said that I do not think it should be a free for all, but there should be a balance in what one 'school' is allowed to say about the other and what another 'school' is not. I think one of the main causes for contention is that people of my ilk are concerned that the Buddha's teachings are being/have been changed. I personally couldn't care less about Buddhaghosa's teachings and if they do or they don't fit into the Buddha's teachings. I would much prefer to refer to the original suttas and have contemporary teachers, who I can relate to, to explain things. I don't see the point of having contemporary teachers explaining a commentary that is meant to explain the suttas. There seems to be one level to many there. It might make people think that the Buddha was a poor teacher.

Metta
Your contention is that you have issue with.........
V's gross distortion of the Buddhaghosa story in order to impeach Buddhaghosa teachings, which basically is an ad hominem attack and it lacks intgerity. Also, the snide, flippant attitude towards other teachers, both in terms what was said, how it was said and the body language.
This is your contention, not fact.

Metta

:smile:
Ignorance is an intentional act.

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Dec 25, 2011 2:25 am

Brizzy wrote:Hi Tilt,

Having stated that this subject should not be pursued on this thread, you then go and further it, using my pm!
Since you saw fit to use a portion of my pm on your post, I thought it only fair to post the full message to put it in context.
And it was not identified as being your msg and full context makes no difference to my point.
Brizzy wrote:Your contention is that you have issue with.........
V's gross distortion of the Buddhaghosa story in order to impeach Buddhaghosa teachings, which basically is an ad hominem attack and it lacks integrity. Also, the snide, flippant attitude towards other teachers, both in terms what was said, how it was said and the body language.
This is your contention, not fact.
And it is a contention that I supported by V's own words and actions: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 40#p117352 And as I said, if you wish to re-litigate this, then please use the older thread. And again as I said, you do not have to agree with me, but the point of what I said in the PM was that my complaint about V was not his dismissal of the commentaries. It is, rather, as I said, his unnecessarily prejudicial dismissal of other teachers and his distortion of the Buddhaghosa story. Now, if you want to discuss these issues further, take it to the thread linked in the msg.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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tiltbillings
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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Dec 25, 2011 8:54 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Tilt,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question with great links and by pin-pointing your problem with Bhante V. I, too, find it troubling but do like the technique. You mentioned you were familiar with other teachers who employ a similar "smile and relax" method and, if you happen to remember them and don't mind sharing their names I'd appreciate it.
The "smile and relax" I first heard it talked about by Joseph Goldstein during a 3 month reteat in the 70's. He said he got it from Munindra-ji.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by Khalil Bodhi » Sun Dec 25, 2011 12:21 pm

Nice. Thanks for that. Merry Christmas!
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

Uposatha Observance Club:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=1 ... 279&v=info
My Practice Blog:
http://khalilbodhi.wordpress.com

2600htz
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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by 2600htz » Sun Dec 25, 2011 1:29 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Khalil Bodhi wrote:Tilt,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question with great links and by pin-pointing your problem with Bhante V. I, too, find it troubling but do like the technique. You mentioned you were familiar with other teachers who employ a similar "smile and relax" method and, if you happen to remember them and don't mind sharing their names I'd appreciate it.
The "smile and relax" I first heard it talked about by Joseph Goldstein during a 3 month reteat in the 70's. He said he got it from Munindra-ji.
Hello Tiltbillings:

"smile and relax" are general statements, probably every person on earth is using this instructions in some way or another, that doesnt mean they are doing the same thing that this or another buddhist meditator.

So my guess is that Joseph Goldstein and Munindra-ji are doing different meditations that B.Vimalaramsi if we go to the details. Anyways i would love to know they are doing simmilar things.

With metta.

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by befriend » Sun Dec 25, 2011 1:32 pm

bhante V teaches to say the metta phrase, then relax the tension in the mind caused by craving, this makes the mind bright and alert and happy then smile again and then send metta to your spiritual friend again.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Dec 26, 2011 6:14 am

2600htz wrote: "smile and relax" are general statements, probably every person on earth is using this instructions in some way or another, that doesnt mean they are doing the same thing that this or another buddhist meditator.

So my guess is that Joseph Goldstein and Munindra-ji are doing different meditations that B.Vimalaramsi if we go to the details. Anyways i would love to know they are doing simmilar things.

With metta.
What Joseph G. talked about was recognizing the tension that one might be carrying, or that might arise as a result of a particular mind state or object of awareness. Sometimes it is easy to get into a state of grimness or tension while sitting in meditation. He talked about making a deliberate effort to physically and mentally relax, to let the face and body go soft, which makes it easier to let the mind relax and to let go, and part of all this is to put a small smile on one’s face, which has a rather interesting effect of lightening up one’s affect.

Whereas Joseph G. talked about this as an as needed practice, Vimalaramsi incorporated, as an integral aspect, something like this into the method he devised, which is really naught more than a variation of the Burmese methods. As I have said, if Vimalaramsi’s method speaks to you, then use it. I am not criticizing the actual meditation method he has devised and is teaching.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by 2600htz » Mon Dec 26, 2011 7:46 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
2600htz wrote: "smile and relax" are general statements, probably every person on earth is using this instructions in some way or another, that doesnt mean they are doing the same thing that this or another buddhist meditator.

So my guess is that Joseph Goldstein and Munindra-ji are doing different meditations that B.Vimalaramsi if we go to the details. Anyways i would love to know they are doing simmilar things.

With metta.
What Joseph G. talked about was recognizing the tension that one might be carrying, or that might arise as a result of a particular mind state or object of awareness. Sometimes it is easy to get into a state of grimness or tension while sitting in meditation. He talked about making a deliberate effort to physically and mentally relax, to let the face and body go soft, which makes it easier to let the mind relax and to let go, and part of all this is to put a small smile on one’s face, which has a rather interesting effect of lightening up one’s affect.

Whereas Joseph G. talked about this as an as needed practice, Vimalaramsi incorporated, as an integral aspect, something like this into the method he devised, which is really naught more than a variation of the Burmese methods. As I have said, if Vimalaramsi’s method speaks to you, then use it. I am not criticizing the actual meditation method he has devised and is teaching.
Hello Tiltbillings:

I just listen to a Joseph Goldstein dhamma talk on "mindfulness of breathing instructions" and found it very good:).
Even while i train under B.Vimalaramsi instructions, im not an advanced student, so mainly i just want to see the differences between teachers techniques, nothing else :).
I repeat, im not interested in saying wich teacher is better or worst.

The little differences i notice:

-Joseph G. uses the suttas, B.Vimaralmsi also does. But Joseph G. takes an open approach on the controvertial parts of the sutta, while B.Vimaralmsi sticks with one choice.
While reading (MN-118). 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body." Goldstein explains to the students they can experiment with taking this instruction as "being sensitive to the physicall body, or the breath body" and the student can choose the one who fits him the most. Vimalaramsi explains that this means "the breath body, not the physicall body" (even while he does a meditation where u have complete awareness of the physicall body). Same with the step of 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' Goldstein says the student can choose to calm the physicall body, or to calm the breath. While Vimalaramsi says this always means to calm the body and mind tightness,specially in the head. Goldstein also recommends to calm body and mind, but he states that the student might feel more inclined sometimes to calm the breath.

So the differences in that matter are subtle, yet they seems to be there and hipotetically they could lead to different results sometimes.

-Distractions/hindrances. Joseph G. seems to take a "noting and coming back to the object" approach (?). While Vimalaramsi is against noting, and he uses the "6rs": recognice a distraction (just knowing u are not in the object anymore without the need to do a "noting" of what pulled you), release attention to thoughts and the distraction, relax tightness in body and mind, resmile, return to the object, repeat process. Here he states that without doing this relax before coming back, you bring back craving to the object. The smile is used as a secondary object theme (as stated in MN-20 The Relaxation of Thoughts).

(?)About this matter im not really sure if thats Joseph G. posture, because i only listen to that dhamma talk and how the deal with distractions was mention breafly. I think he also said that the student should go with the predominant experience of the moment, so if pain is coming, the student should note this and be with it for a while. While Vimalaramsi is against that, he always saids to never stick with a distraction.

-Concentration/ collectedness. B. Vimalaramsi is against "focusing" or any form of one pointed concentration. He doesnt use nimmita, or access concentration, neighborhood concentration, etc.
Its also never refered in terms of "the mind settling in the object" as the cause of concentration. For Vimalaramsi, concentration/collectedness is refered always in terms of the letting go of a distraction. When a person lets go of an attachment, the mind stops being pulled away so naturally becomes very still in what its doing without the need of any focusing. So thats the singleness of mind he talks about (as a factor of jhana).

This is one of the main differences i found between Vimalaramsi and the few other teachers i know. Sadly i couldn´t find a Joseph Goldstein talk where he refers to this matters, but maybe here is a difference.

-Insight. For Vimalaramsi, what the student must practice always is "to see how mind goes from being in the object, to being pulled away and being in a distraction". Thats his main meditation instruction. So the student by repeating over and over again the process of being in the object and getting pulled away begins to learn that first there was a feeling,later the craving,later the clinging, and so on, until finally he sees the process in a clear way and he is able to let go of craving. So what Vimalaramsi teaches as insight is to see dependent origination (or usually part of it, starting by the feeling or contact link, but i guess this depends on the level of the student and in wich jhana he is on). He states that this happends from the first jhana to the cessation of perception and feeling. So the student sees D.O in all of the jhanas.

I also dont know whats Joseph Goldstein posture regarding insight. But i guess is mainly to see the 3 marks of existence in different ways right?. This could be another difference...

-Jhana. Vimalaramsi defines jhanas as levels of understanding. And he teaches from the first jhana to cessation of perception. Iv heard that Vipassana teachers usually don´t practice jhana?. Im not sure about this, correct me him him wrong. Or they use concentration and jhana until the concentration is strong and then switch to insight?. If thats the case there might be another difference, because Vimalaramsi states that he teaches Samatha/Vipassana meditation joked, where samatha and vipassana happend in the same time.

Well thats all i can think about it for the moment,
Also, i might be talking way over my head so any correction on statement will be appreaciated.

With metta.

PD: Tiltbillings, why do you call it variations of the Burmese method?, What is the Burmese method?. From what i heard, Goldstein and Vimalaramsi they both used nothing more than the suttas as their base for instructions, would that be the Suttas method? haha. :namaste: . I repeat, im way over my head, i dont know much about buddhism traditions. And sorry if i made grammar mistakes because this is not my native language.

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Dec 27, 2011 7:16 am

=” 2600htz”]I just listen to a Joseph Goldstein dhamma talk on "mindfulness of breathing instructions" and found it very good:).
Even while i train under B.Vimalaramsi instructions, im not an advanced student, so mainly i just want to see the differences between teachers techniques, nothing else .
I repeat, im not interested in saying wich teacher is better or worst.
Thank you for your considered reply. The issue here for me concerning Vimalaramsi does not have to do with his meditation instructions, but it is interesting to look at what Joseph G. has to say in light of what Vimalaramsi has said.
But Joseph G. takes an open approach on the controvertial parts of the sutta, while B.Vimaralmsi sticks with one choice.
While Joseph G. has been trained in formal Mahasi Sayadaw type practice, he also recognizes that techniques are not sacred. While it is important when using a technique to be impeccably disciplined with its use, there is also a recognition that they are not set in stone and that it may be quite useful to experiment with them. As one’s practice matures, as one gains insight, what worked at one time may not be as effective for deeper practice or for the place one may find oneself.

These sorts of techniques that Joseph G., Vimalaramsi and others teaches are not what the Buddha taught, but they are ways of putting into practice what the Buddha taught.
So the differences in that matter are subtle, yet they seems to be there and hipotetically they could lead to different results sometimes.
Different results? Maybe, but it should be a matter of leading to insight into the dependent arising and falling nature of all that we are, seeing the anicca, dukkha, and anatta nature of what we imagine ourselves to be, all leading to letting go.
-Distractions/hindrances. Joseph G. seems to take a "noting and coming back to the object" approach (?). While Vimalaramsi is against noting, and he uses the "6rs": recognice a distraction (just knowing u are not in the object anymore without the need to do a "noting" of what pulled you), release attention to thoughts and the distraction, relax tightness in body and mind, resmile, return to the object, repeat process. Here he states that without doing this relax before coming back, you bring back craving to the object. The smile is used as a secondary object theme (as stated in MN-20 The Relaxation of Thoughts).
A rose by any other name . . . . Vimalaramsi’s technique is a bit more busy than what Joseph G. is advocating, but noting when done correctly is a very effective technique for cultivating concentration, mindfulness, and for letting go of “distractions.”
-Insight. For Vimalaramsi, what the student must practice always is "to see how mind goes from being in the object, to being pulled away and being in a distraction". Thats his main meditation instruction. So the student by repeating over and over again the process of being in the object and getting pulled away begins to learn that first there was a feeling,later the craving,later the clinging, and so on, until finally he sees the process in a clear way and he is able to let go of craving.
As you are describing this, there seems to be a lot of conceptual thought going on here. If one simply pays attention with a concentrated, mindful mind, one sees that without having to look for it.
Tiltbillings, why do you call it variations of the Burmese method?, What is the Burmese method?. From what i heard, Goldstein and Vimalaramsi they both used nothing more than the suttas as their base for instructions, would that be the Suttas method?
What is the Burmese method? In the case of Joseph Goldstein, I would say the Mahasi Sayadaw method, but he is certainly not slavish to it.

You might find this thread of interest:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 55&start=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
It is an argumentative thread, but if you can overlook that, you might find it interesting in regards to your question. Now, it is not easy to have one’s teacher criticized, and you may not want to read that thread, which is fine, and if you do read it you certainly can, not without justification, dismiss what I have to say in it as coming from an opinionated blowhard.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 8:05 am

tiltbillings wrote: These sorts of techniques that Joseph G., Vimalaramsi and others teaches are not what the Buddha taught, but they are ways of putting into practice what the Buddha taught.
This is a key point. Any elaboration of how to use the suttas in practice is, clearly, "not literally what the Buddha taught" and that applies to every teacher. One certainly doesn't find the "smile" and "6Rs" instructions in the Suttas, for example. However, such elaborations are not contradictory to the suttas, and they seem to be helpful to many practitioners.

Buddhism is a living tradition and we benefit from the experience and interpretation of those (ancient and modern) who have practised well. As the Buddha recommended:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced:
...
:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by 2600htz » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:18 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
=” 2600htz”]I just listen to a Joseph Goldstein dhamma talk on "mindfulness of breathing instructions" and found it very good:).
Even while i train under B.Vimalaramsi instructions, im not an advanced student, so mainly i just want to see the differences between teachers techniques, nothing else .
I repeat, im not interested in saying wich teacher is better or worst.
Thank you for your considered reply. The issue here for me concerning Vimalaramsi does not have to do with his meditation instructions, but it is interesting to look at what Joseph G. has to say in light of what Vimalaramsi has said.

Thank you for the answer! , oh my god im really bad using this multi quoting thing but i will try :) .
But Joseph G. takes an open approach on the controvertial parts of the sutta, while B.Vimaralmsi sticks with one choice.
While Joseph G. has been trained in formal Mahasi Sayadaw type practice, he also recognizes that techniques are not sacred. While it is important when using a technique to be impeccably disciplined with its use, there is also a recognition that they are not set in stone and that it may be quite useful to experiment with them. As one’s practice matures, as one gains insight, what worked at one time may not be as effective for deeper practice or for the place one may find oneself.

These sorts of techniques that Joseph G., Vimalaramsi and others teaches are not what the Buddha taught, but they are ways of putting into practice what the Buddha taught.

Good point.
So the differences in that matter are subtle, yet they seems to be there and hipotetically they could lead to different results sometimes.
Different results? Maybe, but it should be a matter of leading to insight into the dependent arising and falling nature of all that we are, seeing the anicca, dukkha, and anatta nature of what we imagine ourselves to be, all leading to letting go.
-Distractions/hindrances. Joseph G. seems to take a "noting and coming back to the object" approach (?). While Vimalaramsi is against noting, and he uses the "6rs": recognice a distraction (just knowing u are not in the object anymore without the need to do a "noting" of what pulled you), release attention to thoughts and the distraction, relax tightness in body and mind, resmile, return to the object, repeat process. Here he states that without doing this relax before coming back, you bring back craving to the object. The smile is used as a secondary object theme (as stated in MN-20 The Relaxation of Thoughts).
A rose by any other name . . . . Vimalaramsi’s technique is a bit more busy than what Joseph G. is advocating, but noting when done correctly is a very effective technique for cultivating concentration, mindfulness, and for letting go of “distractions.”

Here i disagree. If what Joseph G. does is "noting and coming back" i would say that its very different to the "6rs" that B. Vimalaramsi does, so i wont call it "a rose by any other name".
Its like saying that there is no difference between just coming back and noting and coming back. I repeat, i only care about differences,im not into effectiveness.
-Insight. For Vimalaramsi, what the student must practice always is "to see how mind goes from being in the object, to being pulled away and being in a distraction". Thats his main meditation instruction. So the student by repeating over and over again the process of being in the object and getting pulled away begins to learn that first there was a feeling,later the craving,later the clinging, and so on, until finally he sees the process in a clear way and he is able to let go of craving.
As you are describing this, there seems to be a lot of conceptual thought going on here. If one simply pays attention with a concentrated, mindful mind, one sees that without having to look for it.

B. Vimalaramsi explain that this seeing isn´t done in a conceptual way. Its made as you say by attention and repetition, in a "mechanical" way, and the doing of the "6rs".
The instruction its putted in that way to show where is the real practice.

Tiltbillings, why do you call it variations of the Burmese method?, What is the Burmese method?. From what i heard, Goldstein and Vimalaramsi they both used nothing more than the suttas as their base for instructions, would that be the Suttas method?
What is the Burmese method? In the case of Joseph Goldstein, I would say the Mahasi Sayadaw method, but he is certainly not slavish to it.

ohh ok

You might find this thread of interest:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 55&start=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
It is an argumentative thread, but if you can overlook that, you might find it interesting in regards to your question. Now, it is not easy to have one’s teacher criticized, and you may not want to read that thread, which is fine, and if you do read it you certainly can, not without justification, dismiss what I have to say in it as coming from an opinionated blowhard.
Thank you, i read it. The main discussion was that Vimalaramsi´s method is no different that Burmese vipassana/Mahasi Sayadaw variations. But for the moment i don´t see it that way because of the things we had talk about (specially the difference between "noting and coming back" and the "6rs"). I dont see you as an opinionated blowhard because we are talking about completely objective differences, not talking about preferences or personal ideas :).

Anyways im still not sure in a good way what are the simmilarities and differences in other matters, because i don´t understand in a good way the Burmese vipassana/Mahasi Sayadaw/Joseph G. method.


-Do they use momentary concentration or any simmilar kind of concentration? what is concentration for them?
-In the refered topic u did say: "The point is that the more one pointed concentration the more likely the concentration is to suppress the hindrances, which is, of course, not eradicating them via insight.". Do u agree with this supressing or not?
-Do they go throw the jhanas? what type of jhanas?
-They don´t think vipassana can happen with the practice of Brahma-Viharas?
-They switch from samatha to vipassana? they are strictly vipassana? they joke samatha and vipassana?
-How does insight exacly comes to be?
-They also always see D.O or is D.O just one of many different insight?

Well, it seems i did extend too much so it might be a lot of trouble to answer, so do it as you please, in a short or long way :)

With metta.


:namaste:

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:38 am

2600htz wrote: . . . .
Thanks. It will be a day or two before I'll have the time to give your msg the time it requires.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:41 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Hi All,

I have heard some criticisms of late of Bhante Vimalaramsi and would be interested in hearing why some people have an issue or issues with him.
  • passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmī’ ti sikkhati; ‘passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmī’ ti sikkhati.
    [...]
    passambhayaṃ cittasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmī’ ti sikkhati; ‘passambhayaṃ cittasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmī’ ti sikkhati.


    He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in tranquillising the bodily formation’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out tranquillising the bodily formation.’
    [...]
    He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in tranquillising the mental formation’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out tranquillising the mental formation.’

These two lines —the final parts of the first and second tetrads of the Ānāpānassati Sutta (MN. 118)— are what Ven. Vimalaraṃsī cites as "proof texts" in support of his notion that the sine qua non of Buddhist bhāvanā is the willed relaxing of a supposed "tight mental fist" in one's head. As far as I know, it is on these passages alone that his theory is based. (If he has at any time cited others, then I welcome correction).

My first "issue" with Ven. Vimalaraṃsī is his claim that the above two modes of ānāpānassati are in some manner, or for some reason, of much greater moment than all the others. This is merely the venerable's personal opinion, for in the Suttas the Buddha doesn't single out any of the sixteen modes as meriting greater attention than the others.


Moving on to a more serious problem, it seems to me that the above passages simply cannot sustain the interpretation that the venerable imposes upon them. When citing these passages he is wont to present his case rather tersely, but when the reasoning is unpacked, it seems to go something like this:

1. The Buddha instructs the yogāvacara to tranquillize the bodily formation while breathing in and out.
2. To tranquillize means to relax.
3. That which is in need of relaxing must be something tense, tight or strained.
4. This tense, tight or strained thing may be tropologized as a "tight mental fist".
5. This mental fist is composed of attachment, aversion and self-view.
6. Willed relaxation of this "fist" brings about the letting go of attachment, etc.
7. Repeatedly doing so leads to the purification of the mind and attainment of the noble paths and fruits.

I'm not sure if I've got the latter stages of his thinking exactly right (it's ages since I last read him), but for present purposes it doesn't really matter, because the mischief lies in points 2 and 3.

In English usage the primary sense of the verb "to tranquillize" is to calm someone/something that is agitated or disturbed. The word has also a secondary sense —largely occurring in medical contexts— where it means to relax that which is tight or strained. A person suffering from stress and tension, for example, may take a tranquillizer.

Now Vimalaraṃsī's argument requires one to assume that the secondary sense of the English verb "to tranquillize" is the primary sense of the Pali verb "passambhati", (or if not that, then it is at least the sense that the Buddha had in mind when he taught the Ānāpānassati Sutta).

And what's wrong with that? What's wrong is that the venerable ought not to have assumed anything of the kind. Rather than making the linguistically naïve assumption of there being a perfect symmetry between the semantic range of "passambhati" and that of "tranquillize", he ought to have investigated how "passambhati" and related words (passaddha, passaddhi, passambhayaṃ, etc.) are used in the Suttas. Had he done so, he would have discovered that all the Pali words that occur in binary opposition to passambhati have to do with agitation or disturbance or turbulence. Passambhati and its derivatives NEVER occur in opposition to any of the Pali words denoting tightness or tenseness.

This is not of course to say that the method devised by Ven. Vimalaraṃsī may not be an effective practice, but merely that it is not nearly so well-grounded in the Suttas as he imagines it to be.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando

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Khalil Bodhi
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Re: Bhante Vimalaramsi

Post by Khalil Bodhi » Sat Dec 31, 2011 12:00 am

Sadhu Bhante! I really appreciate your detailed analysis and will certainly be reading it more than once.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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