Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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christopher:::
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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by christopher::: » Sun May 02, 2010 3:01 pm

I think sometimes "serious practitioners" forget to prioritize the brahmaviharas. When that happens, life is less joyful and loving, suffering is magnified, imo. Do Theravadins fall into this trap more then others? I haven't noticed that, at all, and as chiangmaigreg mentioned- if you know Thai folks, they're definitely not a bunch of sour, grim killjoys...

with the exception of some of the street protesters...
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by DNS » Sun May 02, 2010 3:06 pm

tiltbillings wrote: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys,
Yes, and that is why the Mahayana is far more popular than the Theravada. :D

Some 70 to 90 percent of all Buddhists are Mahayana (if you include Chinese folk religion who practice it with Daoism and mostly Mahayana Buddhism).

The different schools can be seen as skillful means for practitioners reaching the goal. But eventually all will have to realize the futility in chasing the joy and pleasure. I don't want to wait for the next Buddha, so Theravada it is, for me.

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by christopher::: » Sun May 02, 2010 3:26 pm

I must protest, David..! :heart:

I had the great pleasure of attending my first ever Theravadin Buddhist meeting today, with a teacher from Sri Lanka. He talked indeed of the futility of chasing "happiness" - believing that it comes with sensual pleasures, in getting this, attaining that, buying new things, etc...

BUT then his smile brightened and he talked of the joys of life, of mudita and of metta, of our relatedness to all living things. He rarely stopped smiling when he looked at us. So yes, chasing joy is futile, but happiness and joy can be experienced daily, in our lives.

Please don't let DW turn into the sour grey forum..!

:console:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by Anicca » Sun May 02, 2010 3:43 pm

From Ajaan Suwat as told by Ajaan Thanissaro in Generosity First:
After the second or third day of the retreat he turned to me and said, "I notice that when these people meditate they're awfully grim." You'd look out across the room and all the people were sitting there very seriously, their faces tense, their eyes closed tight. It was almost as if they had Nirvana or Bust written across their foreheads.

He attributed their grimness to the fact that most people here in the West come to Buddhist meditation without any preparation in other Buddhist teachings.
But the "real McCoys" of Buddhism are truly the happiest people on the planet and have a very healthy sense of humor in my opinion.

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by bodom » Sun May 02, 2010 4:29 pm

To anyone who has not already read Analayo's Satipatthana commentary, I highly recommend it as in the section on feelings he writes on the importance of joy in meditation practice. He gathers various instances throughout the tipitaka to illustrate this point. He writes:
Indeed, the early Buddhist monks delighted in there way of life, as testified by a visiting king who described them as "smiling and cheerful, sincerely joyful and plainly delighting, living at ease and unruffled." M 2 121; This description forms part of a comparison made by the king between the followers of the Buddha and other ascetics, whose demeanour was comparatively gloomy.


This passage is very inspiring to me.

:anjali:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by BubbaBuddhist » Sun May 02, 2010 7:02 pm

You know, i take great joy in my practice, it has literally saved my life. I have horror stories in my life, going back to my earliest childhood, and so consequently I have horror stories constantly threatening to play over and over in my head. There is a voice always trying to break in trying to convince me "This world is an awful place." I'll admit, in my weaker moments, I agree with that voice. But most of the time, my practice brings me great joy and keeps the shadows at bay. If it weren't for my practice, there is no doubt in my mind you would be receiving this message via Ouija board.

I was surprised sometimes at the seriousness and sometimes the harshness of the tone here. I left for a while until things cooled down a little because I attributed it to the settling-in period of a new board and energies ran hot while people felt each other out. As it turned out, that was exactly what it was as much of the harshness has abated, but the seriousness is still there. Now and then I'll post something funny and it turns into a serious moral dialectic--which strikes me as funnier than the original topic. So perhaps there is a subtle humor underlying the seriousness after all.

Of course, the quest for sambhodhi is a serous undertaking and not to be taken lightly. Maybe this is why so many of us come across so seriously online. Onscreen personalities may not reflect the totality of out makeup. I can assure you there's much more to me than what appears in pixel dots. Some of it quite unsettling.

My 2.5 cents.

The lingering stench of J
Author of Redneck Buddhism: or Will You Reincarnate as Your Own Cousin?

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by Reductor » Sun May 02, 2010 7:44 pm

I'm reading Great Disciples of The Buddha and it seems to me that if those that have accomplished to goal retain their personalities, ranging from the kindness of Ananada to the sternness of Kassapa, then that it is fine for those in training, too. I doubt that people who are naturally stern and grim are necessarily more dedicated to training than the smiling, happy go lucky sort. I doubt the opposite assertion too. Grim vs happy makes little difference: except one is more fun to have around.

I don't know that grimness is more prevalent in Theravada, at least not here. Although seriousness in practice and study is certainly the norm.
Bubbabuddhist wrote:Now and then I'll post something funny and it turns into a serious moral dialectic--which strikes me as funnier than the original topic. ... Onscreen personalities may not reflect the totality of out makeup. I can assure you there's much more to me than what appears in pixel dots.


Fun topics can be a good place to start a moral discussion, because people are less likely to have a formerly developed opinion on it. Of course, I bet that it does become a little wearisome to the original poster. :console: Not having much of a sense of humor, I don't post funny things, so I'm spared this little vexation. :D

Off screen though, I'm quiet, and not prone to monologue. So, there you have it, I too am different in RL.

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by tiltbillings » Sun May 02, 2010 8:46 pm

Path of Discrimination, Patisambhidadamagga p. 372, para XXI 17 in Nanamoli's translation. This abbreviated translation is by Kåre A. Lie"


Those who are filled with smiles and laughter, will perfect the virtues. That is smiling wisdom. Those who are filled with smiles and laughter will also attain perfect concentration and wisdom. Those who are filled with smiles and laughter will attain the path and the direct knowledges, and they will quickly realize the ultimate meaning, nibbana.
>> 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: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by bodom » Sun May 02, 2010 9:18 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Path of Discrimination, Patisambhidadamagga p. 372, para XXI 17 in Nanamoli's translation. This abbreviated translation is by Kåre A. Lie"


Those who are filled with smiles and laughter, will perfect the virtues. That is smiling wisdom. Those who are filled with smiles and laughter will also attain perfect concentration and wisdom. Those who are filled with smiles and laughter will attain the path and the direct knowledges, and they will quickly realize the ultimate meaning, nibbana.
Man those Theravadins are such pessimists, wanting to realize Nibanna and all. :smile:

:anjali:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by mikenz66 » Sun May 02, 2010 9:27 pm

Interesting question,

I think that it is useful to distinguish different aspects of the path when discussing this point. Personally, I became Buddhist because the monks and lay people at my local Wat seemed to happy, and clearly following the path tends to lead to a relaxed happiness. And that's generally what I find. No need to elaborate on that, it's been covered above.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the real breakthroughs (as opposed to making samsara a little more bearable) involve confronting just how bad samsara actually is. According to the texts, this will then lead to an even greater happiness, but I'm a little cautious about assuming that a little bit of "letting go" is enough to achieve the ultimate goal.

See, for example, Mahasi Sayadaw, Progress of Insight.
The insight stages 5-9: Knowledge of Dissolution (bhanga-ñāna), Fearfulness (bhayatupatthāna-ñāna) ,Misery (ādīnava-ñāna) Disgust (nibbidā-ñāna), Desire for Deliverance (muñcitu-kamyatā-ñāna) are, by all accounts, rather traumatic.
E.g. http://aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progres ... eliverance" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
9. Knowledge of Desire for Deliverance

When through this knowledge (now acquired) he feels disgust with regard to every formation noticed, there will arise in him a desire to forsake these formations or to become delivered from them. The knowledge relating to that desire is called "knowledge of desire for deliverance." At that time, usually various painful feelings arise in his body, and also an unwillingness to remain long in one particular bodily posture. Even if these states do not arise, the comfortless nature of the formations will become more evident than ever. And due to that, between moments of noticing, he feels a longing thus: "Oh, may I soon get free from that! Oh, may I reach the state where these formations cease! Oh, may I be able to give up these formations completely!" At this juncture, his consciousness engaged in noticing seems to shrink from the object noticed at each moment of noticing, and wishes to escape from it.
It gets better later:
11. Knowledge of Equanimity about Formations
...
He cherishes no desire nor hate with regard to any object, desirable or undesirable, that comes into the range of his sense doors, but taking them as just the same in his act of noticing, he understands them (that is to say, it is a pure act of understanding). This is "equable vision" at the stage of "equanimity about formations."
...
And of course Nibbana itself.

I think it would be wise not to mix up these different aspects and stages of practise when discussing whether we are killjoys or not...

Mike

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by nathan » Sun May 02, 2010 9:32 pm

Probably you can find criticism of anything and everything if you look around on the internet for a little while.
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: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by adosa » Sun May 02, 2010 10:00 pm

thereductor wrote:I'm reading Great Disciples of The Buddha and it seems to me that if those that have accomplished to goal retain their personalities, ranging from the kindness of Ananada to the sternness of Kassapa, then that it is fine for those in training, too. I doubt that people who are naturally stern and grim are necessarily more dedicated to training than the smiling, happy go lucky sort. I doubt the opposite assertion too. Grim vs happy makes little difference: except one is more fun to have around.

And apparently MahaKassapa too abided with a gladdened mind.
There are passages in theCanon where MahaKassapa, who was one of the strictest and sternest of the Buddha’s disciples, talks about the beauty of nature. The constant refrain in his verses is of how the hills, the mountains bathed in rain, and the jungle refresh him. Some of the first wilderness poetry in the world is in the Pali Canon—an appreciation of the beauties of not just nature but of wildnature. That sort of appreciation is part of the skill in learning how to gladden the mind.

From:

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... traint.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

adosa :smile:
Last edited by adosa on Mon May 03, 2010 1:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by DNS » Sun May 02, 2010 11:45 pm

christopher::: wrote: BUT then his smile brightened and he talked of the joys of life, of mudita and of metta, of our relatedness to all living things. He rarely stopped smiling when he looked at us. So yes, chasing joy is futile, but happiness and joy can be experienced daily, in our lives.
Yes, of course, I agree. For those who have progressed in the Dhamma and especially those who are at Noble levels, there is great happiness, great joy.

But for those not that advanced in the Dhamma / Dharma, Theravada gets a bad rap as a strictly stoic practice with little joy. Of course the Buddha and the Arahants were completely happy, full of joy and at peace. But because of that perceived perception of the differing traditions, most (the masses) go for the Mahayana (in my opinion). Which, in my opinion, is not an entirely bad thing. As a skillful means, those who are more inclined to accept Buddhism from a Mahayana practice can do so and then come to Theravada at some later time, if they so choose, rather than rejecting Buddhism completely if there were no other choice.

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by christopher::: » Mon May 03, 2010 1:36 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
christopher::: wrote: BUT then his smile brightened and he talked of the joys of life, of mudita and of metta, of our relatedness to all living things. He rarely stopped smiling when he looked at us. So yes, chasing joy is futile, but happiness and joy can be experienced daily, in our lives.
Yes, of course, I agree. For those who have progressed in the Dhamma and especially those who are at Noble levels, there is great happiness, great joy.

But for those not that advanced in the Dhamma / Dharma, Theravada gets a bad rap as a strictly stoic practice with little joy. Of course the Buddha and the Arahants were completely happy, full of joy and at peace. But because of that perceived perception of the differing traditions, most (the masses) go for the Mahayana (in my opinion). Which, in my opinion, is not an entirely bad thing. As a skillful means, those who are more inclined to accept Buddhism from a Mahayana practice can do so and then come to Theravada at some later time, if they so choose, rather than rejecting Buddhism completely if there were no other choice.
Well, my interactions with Western Buddhists are limited mostly to the Internet where my sense has been that a) there are both grim and joyful practioners in all schools and b) much depends on context.

Whereas my contacts with Theravadin (Thai mostly) and Mahayana (Japanese mostly) Buddhist laypersons here in Asia has been that most come to Buddhism for the positive message, not the negative, and that the Thai Buddhists are just as joyful as the Japanese, sometimes more so.

Life hits you over the head with the negative- death of loved ones, sickness, divorce, job loss, etc- and so for this reason i think when speaking to laypersons most clergy in Asia emphasize the path out of suffering, and the little things anyone can do to move forward with greater equanimity, kindness, happiness and joy, while still facing the inevitable hard times.

The bikkhu who spoke yesterday talked much of the brahmaviharas, and led all of us in a metta meditation. I think for many Asian Buddhists this is what helps to make Buddhism (both M & T) a balm and healing force in their lives, rather then a messenger of sad truths and endless suffering.

:heart:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Are we a bunch of sour, grim killjoys?

Post by christopher::: » Mon May 03, 2010 1:48 am

adosa wrote:
And apparently MahaKassapa too abided with a gladdened the mind.
There are passages in theCanon where MahaKassapa, who was one of the strictest and sternest of the Buddha’s disciples, talks about the beauty of nature. The constant refrain in his verses is of how the hills, the mountains bathed in rain, and the jungle refresh him. Some of the first wilderness poetry in the world is in the Pali Canon—an appreciation of the beauties of not just nature but of wildnature. That sort of appreciation is part of the skill in learning how to gladden the mind.

From:

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... traint.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

adosa :smile:
Thanks for that, adosa. The Sri Lankan bikkhu we met yesterday also spoke of this. To notice our inter-relationship with other living beings helps to break thru hardened views of self. It's a positive way of understanding anatta while cultivating mindfulness, metta, mudita & compassion.

Do you know who is the author of this pdf file?

:anjali:

edit: Nevermind, i found it... Thanissaro Bikkhu...!

The Skill of Restraint (MP3 audio)

:heart:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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