The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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reflection
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by reflection » Wed May 22, 2013 12:29 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
reflection wrote:Medtation on breathing is what the Buddha supposedly used himself before his enlightenment. Or am I mistaken here? Don't know if there is any scriptural support, but this is what I heard.
I guess the sutta support would be based on: SN 54.8: Dipa Sutta — The Lamp
See: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 39#p246139 where I have listed the suttas I am aware of that discuss his awakening. This one is the only one that discusses a particular meditation object. Others mention jhana (but not the object used) and one is about dependent origination.

:anjali:
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by chownah » Wed May 22, 2013 2:57 pm

mettafuture wrote:
chownah wrote:I think that what you have shown is that breath meditation is more difficult for some people, not that it can not be done by them.
I never said breath meditation was impossible.
I guess I am misunderstanding you. Just to clarify then do you see any reason why someone who breathes would not be able to do breath meditation while they would be able to do some other type??
chownah

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ground
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by ground » Wed May 22, 2013 3:29 pm

mettafuture wrote:Master Gautama detailed 40 meditation objects over the course of a 45-year teaching career. So why is it that Western Buddhists focus on just 1 or 2 of these objects (eg. anapanasati and metta)? Is it because our dhamma teachers don't feel that contemplating the elements or recalling the qualities of the Buddha could be compatible with our cultural sensibilities? Perhaps they aren't. But if that's the case, maybe we need to change something about ourselves rather than continue to selectively disregard large portions of the dhamma.

I also feel that it may be a mistake to introduce breath meditation to every new Buddhist as their first meditation object. I've heard people try to make the point that anapanasati can fulfill all four satipatthanas, therefore special attention doesn't need to be given to the individual satipatthanas. But does it really make sense to skip developing at least a rudimentary understanding of the body, feelings, consciousness, and mental objects before jumping ahead to the breath?
There is a meditation object suitable for each and every condition and affliction. Breath meditation is said to be appropriate for discursive minds and discursive minds are a contemporary phenomenon. :sage:

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by mettafuture » Wed May 22, 2013 8:09 pm

chownah wrote:I guess I am misunderstanding you. Just to clarify then do you see any reason why someone who breathes would not be able to do breath meditation while they would be able to do some other type??
The student may have health issues, or the breath may be too subtle of an object for him/her to start with.
ground wrote:There is a meditation object suitable for each and every condition and affliction. Breath meditation is said to be appropriate for discursive minds and discursive minds are a contemporary phenomenon. :sage:
Elements meditation has helped me develop a more intuitive understanding of the three marks of existence. I also practice the 5 recollections, which, according to AN 10.92, can lead to stream entry. I'm using a combination of practices to cut away at my fetters from different angles.

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by daverupa » Wed May 22, 2013 8:41 pm

mettafuture wrote:
daverupa wrote:The thing about anapanasati is that we have the specific way the Buddha "satipatthana'd" breath meditation, while the other methods (kasina discs, etc.) are not as clearly described, at first.
The Mahāhatthipadopama Sutta (MN 28) has very clear instructions on how to meditate on the 4 elements, impermanence, and not-self. The Mahārāhulovāda Sutta (MN 62) covers the 4 elements and the 4 divine abodes, and it wraps it all together with a breath meditation bow.

The Buddha spent a lot of time prescribing different approaches for different people.
I think the Buddha spent a lot of time showing people how their current/favored practice could be aligned with satipatthana. That there came to be 40 examples of this ossified in the texts is indeed fascinating.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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reflection
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by reflection » Wed May 22, 2013 9:00 pm

mettafuture wrote:
reflection wrote:I find many teachers teach other methods as well, but not as the main point. I don't have a problem with that because I myself think breath meditation is an all-encompassing way to samadhi while many other meditation methods are not - or less easy to be.

I don't believe Master Gautama was the type who partook in idle chatter. When he said something, he likely said it for a very good reason.
Also I think people have a tendency to switch from one thing to the other, do too much stuff in their meditation. The more objects they have, the more this may be.
Or the more objects they know, the more tools they'll have to cut through their unique combination of hindrances and fetters.
Where did I say idle chatter? Those meditations certainly have a use. But I personally see them mainly as supports for breath meditation, because many of the objects mostly serve a single purpose. For example, metta is helpful against aversion, contemplation of virtue creates joy. But as a result, they are limited and for me not ideal as the main meditation. I don't see how contemplation of the sangha or death, for example, is an easy way into samadhi. In this sense breath meditation feels more encompassing in that it is a more calm and stable object. This may not be true for everybody, but probably for most it is. And what fits the most, is what will naturally get most attention. On a retreat for example, a teacher can impossibly cater to all. But one can get personal advise one on one.

I agree with you in that these objects deserve attention, but my experience is teachers do actually encourage them. Some recollections are also common chantings. But I don't follow any lay teachers so that may the difference in our experience, not sure.

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by mettafuture » Thu May 23, 2013 2:10 am

reflection wrote:Those meditations certainly have a use. But I personally see them mainly as supports for breath meditation, because many of the objects mostly serve a single purpose.
Lately I've been searching the Tipitaka for suttas where the Buddha prescribes only breath meditation to a lay person. Some may exist, but I haven't been able to find any.

I suspect there may be a reason why the 5 recollections (8 on Uposatha days) were generally presented as the preliminary practice to the laity. Consider the prerequisites for steam entry: abandonment of identity view, doubt, and ritual attachments. If you're a monk, chances are you've already abandoned these fetters. In recognizing this, the Buddha assigned a more direct path (anapanasati, jhanas, and so on) to the monastics who were ready.

How can a householder, who lives in a world full of distractions and sense pleasures, completely abandon the first 3 or 5 fetters using breath meditation alone? It seems rather obvious that they'll need the support of an additional practice to develop true insight, especially for a topic as profound as anatta.

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by Dinsdale » Thu May 23, 2013 8:28 am

daverupa wrote: I think the Buddha spent a lot of time showing people how their current/favored practice could be aligned with satipatthana.
Have you any examples of this from the suttas, Dave? ( apart from anapanasati ).
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by reflection » Thu May 23, 2013 9:27 am

mettafuture wrote:
reflection wrote:Those meditations certainly have a use. But I personally see them mainly as supports for breath meditation, because many of the objects mostly serve a single purpose.
Lately I've been searching the Tipitaka for suttas where the Buddha prescribes only breath meditation to a lay person. Some may exist, but I haven't been able to find any.

I suspect there may be a reason why the 5 recollections (8 on Uposatha days) were generally presented as the preliminary practice to the laity. Consider the prerequisites for steam entry: abandonment of identity view, doubt, and ritual attachments. If you're a monk, chances are you've already abandoned these fetters. In recognizing this, the Buddha assigned a more direct path (anapanasati, jhanas, and so on) to the monastics who were ready.

How can a householder, who lives in a world full of distractions and sense pleasures, completely abandon the first 3 or 5 fetters using breath meditation alone? It seems rather obvious that they'll need the support of an additional practice to develop true insight, especially for a topic as profound as anatta.
I don't see that much difference between laity and monastics. If anything it is a spectrum and not black/white. Also, that the suttas don't mention it doesn't mean it wasn't thought. Obviously many teachings were lost, especially those to the laity because they were not collected. Also, talks that address monks will probably have had lay people in the audience as well.

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by daverupa » Thu May 23, 2013 10:38 am

porpoise wrote:
daverupa wrote: I think the Buddha spent a lot of time showing people how their current/favored practice could be aligned with satipatthana.
Have you any examples of this from the suttas, Dave? ( apart from anapanasati ).
It's inferential; SN 47.6 says satipatthana is the ancestral homeland a bhikkhu should stay within; SN 47.8 shows how satipatthana's precise method is something each ultimately needs to develop in terms of their own case.

Satipatthana should be a constant practice & means that mindfulness is being held close, ready at hand, leading to dhamma-investigation: it doesn't mean we need to find the 'four tetrads of earth element bhavana'.

Anapanasati fulfills satipatthana because it facilitates jhana, which is to say it beings the awakening factors to fulfillment by development. Satipatthana practice precedes this, and can manifest in widely varying ways as the practice develops & proceeds. MN 10 has some examples.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by Dinsdale » Thu May 23, 2013 1:03 pm

daverupa wrote: Satipatthana should be a constant practice & means that mindfulness is being held close, ready at hand, leading to dhamma-investigation:
But following this logic, then nothing more than satipatthana would be required. And yet the 8-fold path has samadhi as well as sati.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by daverupa » Thu May 23, 2013 2:31 pm

porpoise wrote:
daverupa wrote: Satipatthana should be a constant practice & means that mindfulness is being held close, ready at hand, leading to dhamma-investigation:
But following this logic, then nothing more than satipatthana would be required.
This doesn't follow. While it is incorrect to say that only sati is required, it is correct to say that unremitting sati is a goal which comprises one aspect of the eightfold path. It is supported by sila, is part of samadhi, and leads to panna.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by mettafuture » Thu May 23, 2013 9:16 pm

reflection wrote:I don't see that much difference between laity and monastics. If anything it is a spectrum and not black/white. Also, that the suttas don't mention it doesn't mean it wasn't thought. Obviously many teachings were lost, especially those to the laity because they were not collected. Also, talks that address monks will probably have had lay people in the audience as well.
According to John Kelly's estimates, there are 390 suttas in the Tipitaka which directly or indirectly address laypeople.

I think we've been making a mistake by assuming that every lesson given to monastics could immediately be used by a lay person. Monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - by definition - further along with practice. The evidence to suggest that the Buddha intended for anapanasati to be the first and/or only meditation practice for lay followers is lacking.

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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by Dinsdale » Fri May 24, 2013 9:55 am

daverupa wrote:While it is incorrect to say that only sati is required, it is correct to say that unremitting sati is a goal which comprises one aspect of the eightfold path. It is supported by sila, is part of samadhi, and leads to panna.
Yes, agreed.
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Re: The Breath, and Cherry-Picking for Cultural Convenience

Post by tiltbillings » Fri May 24, 2013 4:36 pm

mettafuture wrote:Monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - by definition - further along with practice.
More correctly: Ideally monastics are of a different mindset than we are, and are - ideally by definition - further along with practice.
>> 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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