Why Meditate?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
Bagoba
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Bagoba » Thu May 17, 2012 7:41 pm

I think his essay is based on buddhist meditation, and by asking him if the risks are worth Enlightenment if reincarnation doesn't exist, you're taking it out of context, since Enlightenment, the ultimate goal of buddhist's practice and meditation, is to put an end to the everlasting cycle of rebirths, if I understood correctly.
Last edited by Bagoba on Thu May 17, 2012 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"This path is a thorough investigation and understanding of the limitations of the mortal condition of the body and mind. Now you're developing the ability to turn away from the conditioned and to release your identity from mortality." Ajan Sumedho, "Mindfulness, the path to the Deathless." http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/deathless.pdf

Bagoba
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Bagoba » Thu May 17, 2012 7:51 pm

On another note, I used to practice Vajrayana buddhism, and our Lama was always warning us to never undertake any Vajrayana meditation practices without proper guidance, because of the risks involved (which seems to be consistent with the cases you mention). Some Vajrayana meditation practices are actually forbidden to newcomers, while others can only be practiced by very advanced practitioners, and so on...
"This path is a thorough investigation and understanding of the limitations of the mortal condition of the body and mind. Now you're developing the ability to turn away from the conditioned and to release your identity from mortality." Ajan Sumedho, "Mindfulness, the path to the Deathless." http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/deathless.pdf

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mikenz66
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu May 17, 2012 8:10 pm

Hi Bagoba,
Bagoba wrote:I think his essay is based on buddhist meditation, and by asking him if the risks are worth Enlightenment if reincarnation doesn't exist, you're taking it out of context, since Enlightenment, the ultimate goal of buddhist's practice and meditation, is to put an end to the everlasting cycle of rebirths, if I understood correctly.
I wan't sure which post you were referring to. I guess you mean this one:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 31#p188614" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
Mike

Bagoba
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Bagoba » Thu May 17, 2012 8:13 pm

Yes Mike.
"This path is a thorough investigation and understanding of the limitations of the mortal condition of the body and mind. Now you're developing the ability to turn away from the conditioned and to release your identity from mortality." Ajan Sumedho, "Mindfulness, the path to the Deathless." http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/deathless.pdf

Cafael Dust
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Cafael Dust » Thu May 17, 2012 9:26 pm

We think we shall be vulnerable without hatred, greed and delusion. But we learn that in truth, the poisons cause us to be constantly, heartbreakingly vulnerable. So meditation seems dangerous to those who have not yet realised that there is no safety to settle for. And on the bright side, we are wrong in all our misgivings.
Not twice, not three times, not once,
the wheel is turning.

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retrofuturist
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 2:57 am

Greetings Ron,
Ron Crouch wrote:I wanted to offer myself up for questions directly about this essay and what I meant by it, since there is a lot of speculation here. Despite having a last name that is suspiciously close to "grouch" and having written such a rough essay, I'm actually a pretty easy going person! I really enjoy answering questions, so don't hesitate to ask me directly. What would you like to know?
Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.

:buddha2:

I don't have any questions per se, but do feel free to respond to any of the comments that have been made by myself or others.

If you do decide to respond to my comments, I'll give you some context, so you know how best to pitch your points. I follow the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha, as opposed to any of the subsequent "paths" developed by subsequent commentators (e.g. Buddhaghosa) or meditation "masters" (e.g. Mahasi, Ingram). First and foremost, I am a Buddha-dhamma practitioner - my path is based on the Buddha's Dhamma, as much as is it is possible for me to do so. If you can make your points with recourse to the Buddha's teaching, rather than the teachings/terminology/frameworks of later Buddhist sects/lineages/teachers/subcultures then I will be all ears. :thumbsup: I have nothing inherently against those other paths and teachings, other than that they are not mine - they are not Buddhavacana, so they are not my path to follow.

I do express reservation however when alternate paths are:

1 - at odds with the Buddha's instruction and;
2 - are being taught as Buddha-dhamma (as claimed on your site - http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/genera ... -teaching/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)

... and this reservation is in accordance with the Buddha's instructions on the "four great references" in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.
Mahaparinibbana Sutta wrote:And there the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Now, bhikkhus, I shall make known to you the four great references. Listen and pay heed to my words." And those bhikkhus answered, saying:

"So be it, Lord."

Then the Blessed One said: "In this fashion, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might speak: 'Face to face with the Blessed One, brethren, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a community with elders and a chief. Face to face with that community, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name live several bhikkhus who are elders, who are learned, who have accomplished their course, who are preservers of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with those elders, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a single bhikkhu who is an elder, who is learned, who has accomplished his course, who is a preserver of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with that elder, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation.'

"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn. Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline. If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it. But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve."
So yeah, if you do wish to respond, you can at least see what I consider authorative, and can hopefully understand why I believe pushing post-Buddha paths as Buddha-dhamma is wrong, and (depending perhaps on your intention) slanderous to the Buddha.
AN 2.23 wrote:"Monks, these two slander the Tathagata. Which two? He who explains what was not said or spoken by the Tathagata as said or spoken by the Tathagata. And he who explains what was said or spoken by the Tathagata as not said or spoken by the Tathagata. These are two who slander the Tathagata."
Call what you teach meditation, liberating, enlightening, or whatever you like, but calling it Buddha-dhamma is disingenuous, when it bears little or no relation to it, as is the case with respect to your earlier quoted blog entry on "dark night" - a notion or experience without any real parallel in the teachings of the Sutta Pitaka. Reflecting and repackaging the teaching of a particular meditation sub-culture does not maketh the Buddhadhamma.

P.S. I like that 'artwork' picture of you on your site, it makes you look like Hank Scorpio.

Image

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Polar Bear
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Polar Bear » Fri May 18, 2012 3:40 am

From what I recall, dark nights are things that happen to Mother Teresa whereby the realization that there is no caring eternal god out there looking after everybody finally enters the brain :guns:

In buddhism, it's all impermanent, so don't worry, be happy. You're free :tongue:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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mikenz66
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri May 18, 2012 4:31 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote: Call what you teach meditation, liberating, enlightening, or whatever you like, but calling it Buddha-dhamma is disingenuous, when it talks bears little or no relation to it, as is the case with respect to your earlier quoted blog entry on "dark night", a notion or experience without any real parallel to the teachings of the Sutta Pitaka.
I guess it just shows that different people interpret the suttas quite differently. I see accounts of difficulties and struggles all over the Sutta Pitaka, as I've pointed out above.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Ron Crouch » Fri May 18, 2012 5:45 am

Wow - that's a lot. I'm going to try and address everyone as succinctly as possible. So forgive me if I don't give each point a full answer.

@ retrofuturist - If you are saying that what Buddhaghosa wrote (the Vissudimagga) isn't buddhism then you're pretty much saying that most of mainstream Theravada isn't really buddhism and you pretty much have a beef with all of what is currently considered buddhism. If you don't allow any commentary and no further works by enlightened folks beyond the tipitaka, well then Theravada's out, so is Tibetan, so is Zen, Pure Land, and modern teachers like Jack Kornfield or Joseph Golstein - forget about it! I don't have much to say to that except that it sure sounds like you have some pretty serious standards for what is in or out when it comes to buddhism. Good luck with that. If it leads you to enlightenment let everyone know so they can get away from all the garbage.

P.S. - I totally dig the Hank Scorpio reference - made my week!

@mikenz66- regarding the question of whether the path inevitably leads to a dark night, the answer is, unfortunately, "it depends." The issue rests on the kind of meditation a person is doing. In classical buddhism there is a distinction made between "wet" and "dry" insight, which is the difference between the insight knowledges (nanas) experienced directly after deep concentration ("wet" = jhana) or without deep concentration ("dry" = no jhana). If you are doing it wet, then the dukkha nanas (dark night stages) seem like a breeze, a mild bit of turbulence in an otherwise smooth flight. If you are doing it dry however, then the dukkha nanas can really rock your world - and not in a good way. In the old texts and commentaries they divide it up into these two types as if they were all or nothing, but in truth almost everyone mixes it up and so the ambiguous answer of "it depends." Essentially, it depends on how deep your concentration is and how well you use it to move through the insight stages. So, while everyone will go through the insights into suffering in one form or another, how you experience it depends a lot on your concentration. Stronger concentration equals less difficulty.
Hope that helps.

@Challenge 23 - you really have two questions there - "what's up with the circular argument?" and "what's enlightenment?" The first one is easy so I'll take that one first: I'm not appealing to your logic. I may have a PhD but I don't write on my website from an academic perspective. If anyone is looking to me for that please look elsewhere! On a deeper level though, the point I'm trying to make is that the urge to become enlightened is actually an utterly irrational one to the self. One way of looking at enlightenment is that it is the task of putting the self completely out of business, firing it from its job, taking away its crown and authority, and seeing the whole self-improvement project as the joke it is.
So here is the rub - when "you" read the essay, it is actually the self that is really taking in the info and filtering through it to see if it fits its agenda (unless you're already awake). That is why soooo many essays on enlightenment appeal to the self: be a better person, be nice all the time, master your emotions, have a yoga body, learn French, have whiter teeth, etc. My point with this essay was to, in a sense, be utterly real and introduce an radically different view from all of that. When you are trying to meditate to be a better person, that's fine. But don't be fooled. That is not what it's about. When you finally get what it's about the idea of being a better person is absurd because that is a motive that only a self can have. If you are meditating to become enlightened (and I'm talking for real now, not the "idea" of being enlightened, but the reality of it) then there really is a deep yearning to be free from the self that is truly irrational to the self. The essay was an attempt to speak directly to that yearning without appealing to any self-improvement projects that people might have in mind.

Also - as regards Dr. Britton's research at Brown: I'm collaborating with her on this research and we presented on this topic together at the Buddhist Geeks conference in Los Angeles last year. For the project I've interviewed many well-established and mature practitioners (some teachers themselves) from every buddhist tradition that I know of (literally) on their experience of the dark night. The similarities between their accounts is striking. I've also talked informally with people in the Christian contemplative tradition who describe a very similar process. My suspicion is that this isn't a "buddhist thing" or "christian thing" but rather it's a human thing. I believe Dr. Britton is putting together a grant proposal for NIMH and wants to get the word out about this.
That's part of where I come in - I want to get psychologists more aware that the meditation that they are having so many clients practicing (in DBT, MBSR, ACT, and a bunch of other therapies) might not be as harmless as it first appears. As it stands, it is being given out to people like aspirin. And some of these clients learning it are suicidal. There needs to be more warning about the destabilizing effects for psychologists. And more information for practitioners in general, and that is where the essay (and this reaching out to people) comes into play.
I won't go into numbers, but I've been contacted by many people who were introduced to meditation through therapy or some self-improvement group, who started doing it sincerely, found that it helped a lot at first, and then became destabilized. Some to the point of hospitalization. A lot of them get referred to me for meditation teaching from other teachers and psychologists who think my background in psychology might help. Most psychologists have no idea what to do about this and are shocked that it could even happen, so these folks are usually cut adrift without any real help for years. They wander in and out of dharma scenes and therapy circles where they hope to get relief but no one really talks about the dark night or normalizes the experience. I cringe to think about how many people are out there going through that right now. So yes, maybe warning people away from meditation may seem a bit over the top in the essay, but man, if you had seen what I've seen you'd really understand.

@Travis - that's it exactly. First noble truth in action. As it is felt rather than "believed."

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retrofuturist
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri May 18, 2012 6:05 am

Greetings Hank, oops, I mean Ron,
Ron Crouch wrote:@ retrofuturist - If you are saying that what Buddhaghosa wrote (the Vissudimagga) isn't buddhism then you're pretty much saying that most of mainstream Theravada isn't really buddhism and you pretty much have a beef with all of what is currently considered buddhism.
No, that's not what I'm saying... and you're continuing to be very loose and free-wheeling with your definitions. What I'm doing is being diligent in the differentiation between what is Buddha-dhamma (i.e. the Dhamma of the Buddha) and Buddha-vacana (i.e. the Voice of the Buddha) and what is not. Everything else that everyone (wise or dull) has come up with (valuable or worthless), which has since come to being, that may have been since placed under the catch-all of "Buddhism" or any of the discrete Buddhist traditions is not the Buddha's Dhamma - it is their Dhamma. In summary, Buddha-dhamma is a subset of Buddhism. Whether their unique Dhamma-additions are efficacious or not is for them to claim, but the market-place of such additions is not my domain... when they overstep their domain and say their own unique sectarian teachings are Buddha-dhamma, then I may point out that they are not, out of respect for my Teacher, who did not like him or his Dhamma to be misrepresented. It is not good to hi-jack the Buddha's good name and leverage that for the dissemination of one's own Dharma.
Ron Crouch wrote:If you don't allow any commentary and no further works by enlightened folks beyond the tipitaka, well then Theravada's out, so is Tibetan, so is Zen, Pure Land, and modern teachers like Jack Kornfield or Joseph Golstein - forget about it!
As I said before, I have no inherent objections to those things... only that these additions aren't for me, if what they say cannot be resolved back to the suttas. To me, the Buddha is The Teacher. Others may choose other teachers and other Dhammas if that's for them. People may do what they like so long as they are not fraudulently purporting to be something they're not.
Ron Crouch wrote:I don't have much to say to that except that it sure sounds like you have some pretty serious standards for what is in or out when it comes to buddhism.
When it comes to what I practice, yes... and when it comes to what is Buddhavacana, yes, you're right... I do have serious standards. There is more than enough in the Sutta Pitaka to keep me going for this lifetime.
Ron Crouch wrote:Good luck with that.
Thanks. It's going great.
Ron Crouch wrote:If it leads you to enlightenment let everyone know so they can get away from all the garbage.
The Buddha-dhamma leads to enlightenment, but I don't see how that fact has any bearing on whether subsequent sectarian additions are "garbage" or not. Your statement is non-sequitur. For all I know, your excursions through the Dark Night may well lead to enlightenment too, since what do I know about the efficacy of your path when I have not walked it? I can only speak of how what you describe of it correlates to my path, and how it correlates (or otherwise) to the teachings of the Buddha.... and that is what I have done. This is done not to cause upset, but to differentiate what is and is not the Buddha's teaching, for the benefit of anyone who may care who is interested in the blessed one's teaching, out of conviction that he is indeed the unsurpassable teacher.

The Buddha is cool. 8-)

:buddha1:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Ben
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Ben » Fri May 18, 2012 6:06 am

Hi Ron,
Thank you for your very detailed and informative answers to our members' questions. I think over the years, I've seen quite a bit of what you refer to as 'dark night' experiences interpreted as adverse reactions by new-to-meditation practitioners and some inexperienced teachers. I've also seen clients of some psychologists who have similar destabilizing experiences as a result of enthusiastic mindfulness meditation programs that were, in your words, "cut adrift" because the treating specialist didn't have the knowledge or experience to assist the person.
I hope you are enjoying your experience here at Dhamma Wheel.
kind regards,

Ben
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Ron Crouch
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Ron Crouch » Fri May 18, 2012 6:22 am

Thanks Ben - very cool site! I'm glad my friend let me know about the conversation over here. I'm looking forward to checking out more of the topics.

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mikenz66
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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri May 18, 2012 6:25 am

Thanks Ron for the detailed replies. It's very useful to have informed discussions about the Dhamma and how it may be applied.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by Ron Crouch » Fri May 18, 2012 6:28 am

@ retro - hey, please don't take any offense from me - enlightenment is a team sport and we're all in this together.

I respect your desire to be exacting, if you aren't a monk you might do well as one. I went through a period where I was very much the same way, ended up in a monastic way, but have got pretty far from that as the website shows.

Much respect.

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Re: Why Meditate?

Post by tiltbillings » Fri May 18, 2012 6:44 am

Ron Crouch wrote:@mikenz66- regarding the question of whether the path inevitably leads to a dark night, the answer is, unfortunately, "it depends." The issue rests on the kind of meditation a person is doing. In classical buddhism there is a distinction made between "wet" and "dry" insight, which is the difference between the insight knowledges (nanas) experienced directly after deep concentration ("wet" = jhana) or without deep concentration ("dry" = no jhana). If you are doing it wet, then the dukkha nanas (dark night stages) seem like a breeze, a mild bit of turbulence in an otherwise smooth flight. If you are doing it dry however, then the dukkha nanas can really rock your world - and not in a good way. In the old texts and commentaries they divide it up into these two types as if they were all or nothing, but in truth almost everyone mixes it up and so the ambiguous answer of "it depends." Essentially, it depends on how deep your concentration is and how well you use it to move through the insight stages. So, while everyone will go through the insights into suffering in one form or another, how you experience it depends a lot on your concentration. Stronger concentration equals less difficulty.
And, of course, it depends upon what is meant by jhana. There is the sutta jhanas vs the Visuddhimagga jhana squabble, which has flared-up across this forum periodically, but then not all the sutta jhana-wallas agree among each other as to the true nature of jhana and then there are the vipassana jhanas and on and on....

Those who of you who have the true type of jhana, please levitate to the front of the room.

I find your above discussion of value, and I think that it is fortunate that the wet/dry dichotomy is not engraved in carbon steel and with such teachers as Joesph G., who are deepily grounded in practice and the teachings, we see these issues addressed in way that indicates a living, adapting and growing tradition(s).
>> 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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