Kataññu for sharing. Interesting read although I was a bit confounded at the ending of the essay with all the mentions of chakras, mantras and Tibetan Yogic practices, with relation to the sutta
To find the use of the term “mystics” when referencing to bhikkhus/bhikkhuni’s and the term “psychedelic experience” referencing to the side effect of developing psychic powers through the practice as said in the suttas, are also quite puzzling for me.
with reverence, respect and gratitude,
The reference to “mystic” is quoted from the Pali-English Dictionary (PED) of the Pali Text Society and still the definitive reference for Pali definitions in English. Mantrayana is referred to prominently by the Buddha in the Pali Canon, both in the form of what I term “proto-Tantra” and also in terms of the use of protective mantras. Mantras are also used in the Theravada. As for chakras, they are part of the Indian tradition and the Buddha was an Indian. They also figure prominently in the Kalachakra and the Tibetan Buddhist system generally. The system of rising through the eight jhanas (‘ecstasies’) is not really that different from the chakra system after all. Finally, with respect to the psychedelic experience, it was Terence McKenna who alluded to the similarity of Buddhist cosmology and the cosmology revealed by the psychedelic experience. These correspondences are explored in a book called Zig Zag Zen. Psychedelics are both the root and origin of the Vedic religious experience and are (or were) used in Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism also exhibits shamanistic characteristics.
Añjali! Thank you very much for your reply. I apologize in advance if I may be very direct and assure you that I am not being belligerent or arrogant. I find senseless debates/talks not useful for the practice either. I like things plain and simple.
Out of compassion, please point me to the suttas in the Pali Tipitaka where it mentions Mantrayana? I lack knowledge of them having almost read the entire translated portions of the Tipitaka.
“Mystics” for me doesn’t do any service to the well practiced monks and nuns. The suttas explicitly tell us the Buddha never held any of his knowledge with a closed fist so does those monastics when they teach. The teachings are very open for everyone. So there is no mysticism involved.
I beg to differ. The the dhamma practice as taught by the Buddha does not show shamanism. Contemporary Buddhism may show it due to cultural additions but not the early practice. Please see below sutta what the Buddha said about monastic practice:
From my understanding, chanting in Theravada is unable to physically protect anyone. Chanting, rightly understood with wisdom, directs the mind and rouses inspiration and confidence. If I were to chant the mettā sutta and someone pierced me with a sharp object, would I not bleed?
In addition, the Buddha urged those who are willing to listen to rouse “energy” for the cleansing of their minds. The only physical energies mentioned in the suttas I can think of are the natural elemental energies going through the body as we live, get sick, old and finally, die. The Buddha did say though that the only energetic passion a person should have is to gain that full emancipation of the mind.
With all due respect to Mr. Terrence McKenna, I don’t think he really practiced Buddhism to understand what he was writing about.
I really appreciate your time providing feedback. May you find bliss upon bliss upon bliss.
with añjali and kataññu,
It isn’t, and it never has been. Even the authors insisted that it was no more than a “provisional” dictionary. No Pali scholar uses the definitions found in that dictionary uncritically. In fact, pretty much any relevant substantial work of translation or academic analysis will contain multiple mentions of terms missing or wrongly-defined in the PTS Dictionary.
If you search for the term “mystic” on SuttaCentral, you will find many hits. However, all of them are in translations or texts that are a hundred years old or more. No contemporary Pali scholar would use the term “mystic” in the context of early Buddhism.
It really isn’t. It is true, there are a couple of protective verses, although perhaps only one of them, the so-called “Khandhaparitta” has a serious claim to be an authentic early text.
Theravada is not early Buddhism. In early Buddhist texts, phrases are used in meditation to help with “recollection”, anussati, but there is no suggestion that they have any mystical or magical power.
Dear Ajahn, I’m studying this sutta now and I will be happy to read above, but link seems not to work. Could you please repost it if possible?
Isn’t this modern materialism (that there is no ‘metaphysical’ karmic outcome):
"When this was said, Ajita Kesakambalin said to me, ‘Great king, there is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves. A person is a composite of four primary elements. At death, the earth (in the body) returns to and merges with the (external) earth-substance. The fire returns to and merges with the external fire-substance. The liquid returns to and merges with the external liquid-substance. The wind returns to and merges with the external wind-substance. The sense-faculties scatter into space. Four men, with the bier as the fifth, carry the corpse. Its eulogies are sounded only as far as the charnel ground. The bones turn pigeon-colored. The offerings end in ashes. Generosity is taught by idiots. The words of those who speak of existence after death are false, empty chatter. With the break-up of the body, the wise and the foolish alike are annihilated, destroyed. They do not exist after death.’
This is not to say that the Buddha insisted on belief in the ‘metaphysical’:
"Now, Kalamas, one who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires four assurances in the here-&-now:
"‘If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.’ This is the first assurance he acquires.
“‘But if there is no world after death, if there is no fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then here in the present life I look after myself with ease — free from hostility, free from ill will, free from trouble.’ This is the second assurance he acquires.”
Could you check the link again? It works for me.
Thank yuo is working
"He hears — by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the human — both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far. Just as if a man traveling along a highway were to hear the sounds of kettledrums, small drums, conchs, cymbals, and tom-toms. He would know, ‘That is the sound of kettledrums, that is the sound of small drums, that is the sound of conchs, that is the sound of cymbals, and that is the sound of tom-toms.’'DN 2
The metaphysical elements in the suttas, it must be remembered, are devoid of any intrinsic reality, and are not self. Indeed, the Buddha himself called visions of past life, mental fabrications, in discussion with another monk (sutta?).
So this isn’t the same as developing a theory about the heavens, afterlife or psychic abilities and believing it despite evidence to the contrary.
Here the jhana practitioner develops a skill in seeing and hearing what is happening in the heavens, when they direct their minds to such an ability - the experience comes first, and the theory might follow that.
Similarly the ability to feel a ‘psychic body’ and then get that body to ‘sink into the ground, touch the sun and the moon’ are a form of intense imagination much like some Tibetan practices that vividly imagine various bodhisatvas.
It helps to remember that the Self is a similarly vivid creation of our imagination.
Just like the Self, some of the fabrications talk back. As a Psychiatrist and a meditator I know that they seem to take on a life of their own. Because they seem to ‘exist’ one cannot deny that they (or the raw experience of it) exist. Equally ‘glitches in the way they manifest’ (‘deva, make your body coarse so you won’t sink through the ground’ -sutta?) suggests a ‘mind made’ nature to these phenomena. Some studies show a large portion of the population may rarely experience hallucinations, while not having the concomitant symptoms of mental illness, suggesting a latent ability of the mind, which jhana practice might ‘awaken’ (a hallucination in itself is ‘normal’, and not adequate to diagnose a mental illness).
Then there are inexplainable incidents as well. People who turn to look at you the exact moment you were looking at them - while not anything to do with jhana, there is uncanny synchronosity which cannot be explained away as coincidence as it keeps happening repeatedly (to me at least!).
I once did a guided past life regression for two of my friends. I attempted to visualise what they were experiencing while regressing myself. I saw one of my friends in a certain situation in what may have been a past life (or a creation of my mind) and coming to, wrote it in to my phone. Then all three of us finished and swapped our experiences. One of my friends had the exact experience that I described on my phone and was surprised to read my description. The conclusion I could come to was that 1) we both saw a past life experience we were both present in 2) one mind fabricated a scene and the other mind read it. (3- that Right not to believe this unlikely story😂)
The Buddha seem to know there was something more than mere materiality going on. The exact nature of it is probably unknowable (‘acinteyya’).
However the experience of Devas, Rebirth, Kamma, Special powers all have a hand in positively motivating practice so they were kept in, especially because other religions at the time had similar experiences, and it was part of their culture.
The Buddha said that it was not essential to believe karma and rebirth (Kalama sutta) and special powers were optional for arahaths (susima sutta). He only accepted Devas only after he could see their forms clearly, conversed with them, knew their clan names, and could see the kamma which gave rise to them in the respective plane (sutta?).
Keeping an open mind helps with the ego. Quantum physics is still in its infancy and we may find strange things in our physical world that we have yet to discover.