nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

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Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Post by Jechbi » Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:58 am

Hi Mike,

I'm going to defend the Ven. Dhammadharo position as I understand it, because the more I read it, the more I like elements of it and the more convinced I am that it's actually a complementary criticism that, properly understood, can provide insight regarding what's really going on during sitting meditation -- namely, that these processes are not self. I stand to be corrected. But here goes:
mikenz66 wrote:2. The approaches advocated also seem to involve choices (to study, to think about not-self, etc). Thus they would be subject to exactly the same criticism of "self making" as "formal meditation".

I would particularly appreciate it if anyone could shed light on the second point.
In the context of this comment:
Ven. Dhammadharo wrote:We can be aware while studying and listening, in order to learn that such moments are not self.
... we might conclude that any activity (including sitting) can involve awareness in order to learn that such moments are not self. To expand on that, to make use of the words of Ven. Dhammadharo:
The more we [INSERT ACTIVITY HERE] in the right way, if there are conditions for it, the more will we understand the difference between just thinking and being aware. We will understand the difference between trying to control realities and just letting awareness arise naturally and being aware of what appears for one brief moment.
The volitional action, or kamma, presents itself in each moment, and it is always not-self. Each meditator, each moment, brings different kamma. Yeah, very often the kammic content will include the delusion of a self. But that also is not-self. I think that's what Ven. Dhammadharo and other critics are getting at. It's essentially an examination of the kamma that some folks might bring to the "meditation" experience. So from that perspective, you're right, activities such as studying and "thinking" about not-self would be subject to the very same criticism, depending on the kamma that presents during the course of these activities.

And that all seems very much in keeping with Abhidhamma teachings as well, at least in my limited understanding.

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Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:14 am

Thanks Jechbi for your analysis. I'm not really interested in "attacking" anyone. I'm more interested in figuring out the meaning, so your post is very helpful.

Since this is an Abhidhamma forum, I don't want to veer off into a discussion of meditation experiences, which is not really appropriate here, but I certainly agree that this "danger" of "enhancing the self" is something that we need to be aware of, and something that many teachers do talk about.


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Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Post by jcsuperstar » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:19 am

from my readings of her, i do notice a slight anti meditation thing going on, ther eis this idea of who meditates and that we cant set up a situation for mindfulness, it just happens cause of causes and conditions, but then she'll say things liek "when i study" etc which is what? the exact type of situation but since it isnt meditation it's fine i guess?

it seems a bit odd that we can set up a period for study and that is kosher but to set up a period to meditate is somehow wrong.

right now i'm, reading "mindfullness in daily life" my next chapter is on samatha, maybe it'll provide me with some insights on her ideas about meditation.
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Re: nina van gorkom vs burmese abhidhamma styles?

Post by pt1 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:17 am

Hi Mike, JC, all,

I remember wondering about similar things when just starting with Nina's books - like when she says first that there is no self that can control and direct dhammas like sati or panna, and then saying in the next paragraph that we should study and be mindful. One of the helpful things to understand was that these are two ways of speaking about things - ultimate and conventional, which are often employed in works on abhidhamma.

For example, when talking on the ultimate level of a single citta with its cetasikas, there's no point really talking about people, methods, meditation, doing something specific, etc, because this citta lasts for a nanosecond or so, and then disappears forever, and the only thing that can be said about it is that it was accompanied by certain cetasikas, and that's about it. And of course, this citta cannot be taken for any kind of a self, because its arising was conditioned by the preceding citta which was just as short, etc. So, it's just pointless to talk about any control, methods, or self, on the ultimate level (which is why I love studying abhidhamma - understanding anatta and anicca comes so naturally from it). On the conventional level though, sure, it can be said that people need to study and be mindful, but I feel this is only due to necessities of language because abhidhamma generally focuses on the ultimate level.

Regarding "no method" approach, Nina and A.Sujin's students follow dry insight approach, so I don’t see much point arguing with them about meditation. I think there is even a sutta which says something like - if you are a samatha student and you are interested in insight, then go talk to people who are good at insight. And I feel that A.Sujin's students can offer a lot on insight. As I understand it, insight is all about being able to verify in practice the ultimate level of things - citta and it's kusala/akusala cetasikas, rupas, and finally nibbana.

Regarding criticism of certain methods on DSG, I found that Nina usually tries to draw attention to the kind of citta at the present moment - is it akusala or kusala, rather than getting drawn into speculative arguments about certain teachers/methods. I mean, regardless of what particular method one is following (even if it's a no-method), the success of the practice at the moment will be determined by the kind of the citta at the moment. Kusala is kusala, and akusala is akusala no matter whose teachings one is following.

Anyway, these are just my observations.

Best wishes

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