SuttaCentral

Clear and Defined Path To Nibbana


#41

“In many ways you have praised the teaching like this in the Vajjian capital: “The teaching is well explained by the Buddha—realizable in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves.”” - DN 24

This is a direct pointing to one aspect of the approach to teaching that is highly suspect i.e signed agreements to follow instructions unequivocally. There are other suspect practices as well that reflect a business-like agreement.

There is also the requirement to only share limited information about what is taught. This requires others to submit to the terms and conditions stipulated in the agreement that is signed at the beginning of a training camp if they wish to participate in the in-group.

There is a considerable amount of idiosyncratic information that is part of the teachings that are given and there is an attempt to control who should be aware of this information - the insiders - and who should not know this information (those who are not members of the group).

The Dhamma involves an open invitation for everyone to come and learn the teachings. No teachings are hidden or concealed or exclusively heard by a privileged in-group that others are unable to hear - if they take an interest.

The Buddha didn’t have a closed :fist: he had an open :raised_hand: approach to teaching. What he taught was open and transparent teachings that were accessible to one and all.

I believe the open-handed approach to teaching and learning is what ‘Mat’ was pointing to when he said:

The context of what is said is important if we are to understand the meaning and communicate effectively. However, its helpful that ‘Br. Joe’ pointed out:

This is not good advice if we are seeking clarity with regard to the 8-fold path. The Buddha didn’t encourage this view of practice. The Buddha encouraged a well-founded faith and he gave a lot of instructions on how to assess a teacher and what they teach. A familiarity with these teachings of the Buddha - found in the EBT’s - is an important aspect of the teachings.

The idea of ‘sticking’ to anything needs to be questioned. The purpose of the teachings is to find out what this stickiness is all about - in every shape and form - and find out if its helpful. We should not become attached to teachers ‘as if’ they have all the answers and we just have to poor their teachings into our minds and then close ourselves off to nefarious and dangerous ideas that are taught by others.

We need to discover how to discern the truth for ourselves. The EBT’s are a useful tool but they also need to be handled with care.

Its not just what we hear from elsewhere that’s important - no matter the source. It’s also important to understand our relationship to teachers and teachings if we are to discover for ourselves a clear and well defined path to Nibbana.


#42

Yes, there are a number of suttas where this happens, or is discussed, including:




#43

It’s not difficult to see how a business-model approach to teaching may come about when the teacher has been a successful businessman at some point in their life.

It’s possible to make a cost/benefit analysis of what you are planning to do and ‘how’ to bring it about. If there’s limited resources and time in which to attract attention to what you are teaching and get people involved then you will need an effective strategy.

It’s also important to give attention to your existing ‘customer base’ - how to retain them - and how to increase your market share.

In order to make the product/teaching more attractive you might want to advertise how it’s good for one and all, regardless of religion or, if you have no religious beliefs.

Especially, in a country like India where there is a bewildering array of alternative products/teachings to compete with.

If you get the P.R. right you may attract followers of other traditions to give-it-a-go without feeling threatened or suspicious.

The business-model has been so successful that it continues today after the death of the teacher - in the same format.

As long as the videos and voice recordings last and, the guidelines for assistant teachers and students is followed, the business model will continue to operate.

It was a clever-move but it seems to contradict the Buddha’s teachings in many and varied ways.


#44

To be clear I find that some of Goenka’s teachings are inaccurate, and don’t approve of his methods of forcing students to make a choice at the end of the first retreat.

However the body scan is addictive and some find it hard to stop doing it- even in their dreams. I think a gradual withdrawal might be a better approach, hence beginning to experience and explore the dhamma elsewhere. Some of us or most of us don’t (and can’t) rely on just one teacher. It’s a known fact of adult teaching that adults pick up what they want to learn and not necessarily what is being taught. This kind of independent though is essential for holistic and natural development in the Dhamma.


#45

That’s what keeps me going. Actually my practice has always been motivated by curiosity, a desire to really understand, rather than a wish to end suffering, or whatever.


#46

At some point - if not yet - retreats or, communal settings that are conducive to sustained practice are very helpful. We can make a lot of helpful adjustments in our lives that can make a positive difference in our Dhamma inquiry. Your doing fine! I can feel it in my waters. Best wishes, Laurence


#47

Yes, I know. It was an underlying message I was trying to direct your attention to.

Imagine:
Someone says look here at A (the Buddha)
Another says, in response, look here at B (disciples) then look at A.

The message I’m getting, not by direct words now is, 'I’m not going to really look at your feedback to see if I’ve fallen into ego states (have entered a blind spot about myself). So, I’m not interested in this type of relating and anyone can assume of me that I want this to be one sided. At the same time, responding with criticism to criticism is a war mentality and egotistical, imo.

All this, apart from clear warnings from the Buddha regarding the demise of Dhamma, partly due to putting precisdence on words of the disciples, which we find is a common theme in the establishment of any form of Buddhism, even early Buddhism, vis ‘the word of the Buddha’ is actually ‘of main (approved) disciples and the Buddha’.

Best wishes


#49

Greetings fellow SCD’ers

I just want to reiterate this little exerpt from the D&D guidelines :slight_smile:

Additionally, when posting, it is much better to make it clear that something is our opinion, or our experience, or our belief. By taking this approach it reminds us all that no-one owns the ‘truth’, that every thing is perception and impermanent. Moreover, it allows for more flexibility and more inclusive participation.

Metta :anjal::dharmawheel:


#50

The job to do and we so often forget, is to eliminate (completely get rid of): greed (non-essential Desires), hatred (fears/Aversions/ill-will) and Delusions (ignorance) - I call these three poisons DADs.
This job is the direct consequence of the first two truths: dukkha and the causes of dukkha. This job will result in experiencing nibbana (the third truth, the cessation of dukkha).
In order to do this job then we have to use the 8-fold path (the fourth truth) in a practical and effective way that bring results.

Unfortunately no dhamma teacher is teaching how to practically use the 8-fold path in order to eliminate these three poisons. That’s why we are our own refuge and take refuge in the dhamma (the four truths above). We will eventually discover for ourselves how to practically use the 8FP to achieve the above goal of removing one-by-one our DADs.
I have find a way to use the 8FP that works for me (I still have a bit of work to do with my specific DADs).
I have developed a Transforming Emotions course that I now present to interested people. I could email the course notes to interested people.


#51

I’ve done a number of retreats over the years, and I agree they can be very helpful. I’ve also lived in Buddhist communities.

The most interesting retreat I can remember was in Ireland, at Dzogchen Beara - fantastic location!
https://www.dzogchenbeara.org/about/


#52

I think I understand what you are saying. The Buddha-Dhamma - the EBT’s - is the go-to-place that informs your practice. Understanding the actual teachings of the Buddha as we find them in the EBT’s is the place where you have found everything you need to know about a clear and defined path to Nibbana.

You have also made it clear that not all the EBT’s are to be taken as the authentic teachings of the Buddha.

You don’t rely on the words of the students of the Buddha - contemporary teachers - as you have found this unnecessary and, potentially problematic. We can be mislead by lesser-lights so its best to go to the source of the illumination.

A problem that could arise with this approach is in relation to an accurate interpretation.

As we know, the early texts were recorded in ancient languages. Some are still in common use and, others are not. There may be multiple meanings that can be derived from the texts - divergent views and opinions may be formed.

This may lead to the absence of a clearly defined path to Nibbana?

Most of us are not Pali scholars so we rely on the consensus-view with regard to the meaning of the texts.

There seems be a lot of common ground held by the main translators. In most instances, where there are differences, they are easily understood. This has been my experience of the early teachings.

When someone comes along and completely reinvents the Dhamma-wheel we have to be aware of this fact. It would be gullible to rely on mavericks who follow their own interpretations and largely ignore others who have practiced well - don’t you think?

It seems that a clear comprehension of the teachings can be challenging whether we rely on our own interpretation of the early teachings, we rely on contemporary teachers or, we rely on our own meditation-related experience.

Challenging but not impossible!


#53

Just curiosity, but what choice are students forced to make?


#54

A Goenka retreatrant told me that she was told she had to make a choice, at the end of the retreat (when they are most happy) that they had to choose Goenka as her teacher or not. I’ve never heard any other retreat ending by having to make that kind of a choice- unless its a Tibetan system I suppose, or a hindu Guru thing.

with metta


#55

Oh, I see. By the way, I practiced in Tibetan Buddhism for many years and never came across this kind of thing.


#56

Of course, nobody can force anyone to practice in a particular way. I cannot remember the specific wording that Goenkaji used in the closing recording. What can be said, is it impressed upon the attendees of the course that they should not mix the body-scan practice with other practices.

The exception to this rule is ‘anapana’ meditation and ‘metta’ meditation. I don’t recall any other meditation practices that were taught at the camps I attended.

When it came to the anapana and metta techniques that were taught, these were also of a particular kind.

The metta technique was only introduced at the very end of the course. I am not sure if Goenkaji would have approved of many of the loving-kindness meditation practices that are in circulation. Particularly, those that involve visualisation techniques.

Goenkaji emphasised that what he was teaching had nothing to do with ‘imagination’. He believed that visualisation techniques were imaginative exercises so they could give rise to fantasies and delusions.

His metta technique was based on a theory of vibrations. The instructions involved charging subtle vibrations felt in the body with loving kindness. Then, sending out loving vibrations or, vibrations charged with loving kindness, out into the surrounding atmosphere.

I did experience subtle vibrations throughout the body - and many other experiences mental/physical - at the courses I attended.

He seemed to be saying that these vibrations are ‘actual’ physical phenomena that a practitioner can develop an awareness of. That does seem to happen in the practice.

The anapana technique Goenkaji taught was to keep the attention below the nostrils and above the upper lip. The focus could be narrowed to the area of the nostrils where the air entered.

Another awareness exercise is to notice through which nostril the air is passing. The flow of air passes at a varying rate between both nostrils.

With regard to ‘jhana’ I remember a recorded teaching - of Goenkaji - during the training camps. He said that people in the past had known how to practice these things but the art had been ‘completely lost’.

This lost art was not as efficacious as the body-scan technique because it only penetrated to superficial levels of the mind - levels that are deeper than ordinary waking consciousness.

It required the body-scan technique without ‘reactivity’ to penetrate into the mind to the level of the ‘old sankharas’ and purify the mind of its past reactions.

What is problematic about this explanation of the technique is there are other possibilities as to why the pleasant, painful and, neutral sensations arise while practicing it.

The Dhamma is apparent here and now, it is recognised because of its clarity and lucid description. It’s not opaque and mystifying to the perspicacious listener.

The greatest of theories is of little use if nobody can understand it without having to make a giant leap of faith - no matter how fascinating it may be.

When there is a heavy reliance on the views of a teacher without an ‘apparent’ and obvious explanation for what is actually taking place when we practice their teachings ‘we know’ we are in a situation where there’s no clear way forward.

The Buddha made it clear: his teachings are apparent, there is no reliance on awe and wonder or, strong experiences to determine there efficacy. Awakening is not an experience of any kind.

When it comes to the Buddha-Dhamma when something is unclear to us, we know it’s unclear and, when it’s clear we know it’s clear. The Buddha didn’t muddy the waters.

There is a theory of the ‘unconscious’ that is part of Goenkaji’s teachings. This is where the old-sankharas were said to be located. Through equanimity with sensation the old-sankharas come into the field of attention and cease.

These reactions to past experience were said to enter the field of attention through not reacting to the sensations felt in the body.

What I found unusual about Goenkaji’s account of Jhanas - as a lost art - was the fact that his own teacher did teach that Jhanas are important.

I have two books that are translations of U Ba Khin’s teachings that has an understanding of practice that is more in line with the EBT’s.

U Ba Khin was steeped in the early teachings. It would seem that the ‘Abbidhamma’ also plays an important role in that lineage.

The Jhanas are important in the teachings of Goenkaji’s teacher ‘Sayagyi U Ba Khin’. The first- jhana seems to be the goal of his anapana-instructions. ‘U Ba Khin’ also identified his teachings as ‘Buddhism’.

Somehow, for reasons that are not clear or specified, Goenkaji seems to have given his own twist to the teachings and practices he received from his teacher while insisting that others should adhere to his teachings assiduously.

The clear message that was given and recieved at the ‘Goenka-style course’ was a student should make a choice between practising as they were taught by Goenkaji or, not, but mixing the technique - the body-scan - with other practices should not be done.

If someone was foolhardy enough to do this it could lead to unwholesome and detrimental outcomes. The teacher knows best - take my word for it!

Its not clear how Goenkaji found out about the dangers and perils of mixing the body-scan technique with other techniques.

He seems to have come from a Brahmin-family and had some knowledge of the Vedas - and the Vedanta-tradition.

He then became a student of ‘U Ba Khin’ and never left and never experimented with other Buddhist practices and traditions. It may have been an anecdotal teaching past on through the lineage he belonged to?

Another clear message was the uniqueness and specialness of the technique that was taught, the source of which was the Buddha himself - this was the claim.

Unfortunately, this body-scan technique doesn’t seem to be a major theme in the Suttas. On the other hand, the lost art of the Jhanas is a central theme in the Suttas and, there relevance in the eightfold path.


#57

Very modestly put :slight_smile:


#58

This practice was part of a intensive metta period in my recent training, and it was unknown to me when doing it, but “citta” liked to do it. Very nice and subtle. Did walking/standing meditation with eyes closed and maneuvering by feeling and seeing vibrations around.


#59

I don’t know about seeing vibrations around but feeling very subtle vibrations in the body does seem to happen.


#60

Don’t think about it, know it sounds fanzy smansy:wink:

Just a pleasant surprise to see your information about doing this as a formal training under a acknowledged teacher, and i discovering it by following mostly intuitiv awareness as main method for practice.

And my experience is that vibrations is felt as clear and far away as one’s stillness is grounded and stable.


#61

Goenkaji also talked about feeling the vibrations of others. He said if someone is angry and next to you, particularly if they were directing anger at you, an advanced practitioner of the technique he taught could feel the charged vibrations as a sensation on the body.