The precepts are training rules which prepare the discipline for advanced practice. There practitioners are able to make decisions about behaviour based on their experience about how those behaviours affect their practice. An advanced practitioner wouldn’t laugh because they are constantly aware of the foolhardiness of the conventional reality in which they live. If they behaved foolishly it would disorient the practice, their goal is different to the ordinary uninstructed worldling. Perceptions are based on views, and as right view develops, perceptions of what reality is change as a result.
The difference is the advanced practitioner has attained a different pleasure, and wouldn’t want to jeopardize that:
" “Even though a disciple of the noble ones has clearly seen as it actually is with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, still — if he has not attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that — he can be tempted by sensuality. But when he has clearly seen as it actually is with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, and he/she has attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, he cannot be tempted by sensuality.”
—Majhima Nikaya 14
A beginner may not be aware of it but through actions they are constantly giving allegiance to samsara, and that is unwise attention. The reverse is also true:
“Appropriate attention & inappropriate attention. When a monk attends inappropriately, unarisen fermentations arise, and arisen fermentations increase. When a monk attends appropriately, unarisen fermentations do not arise, and arisen fermentations are abandoned.”
—Majhima Nikaya 2
Right view is developed by studying dhamma so the objects of right attention can be recognized.
Music is a different matter. The suttas refer to ‘being in tune’ (Thanissaro), so knowing what that is is necessary to the practice.
Just don’t be too hard on yourself. None of us should see this Path of Practice as a cross that we bear in life. There are some monastics that have renounced all mundane pleasures, but that treat people badly, or are miserable, greedy, or angry.
Try to find a middle ground between being stressed and practicing as well as you can. You can be a “true Buddhist” and still enjoy music. Done mindfully, these mundane pleasures may not interfere with your meditation practice. If you wish to go forth, you’ll then be expected to forsake most of these mundane pleasures, but until then, your practice can thrive and you can still walk the middle ground of the Path quite well. Don’t worry, don’t stress about this.
Ajahn Sona was a professional guitar player before he became a monastic. As his Buddhist practice grew - before he entered the monastery - he found he didn’t want to listen to anything but classical, then nothing but Baroque, then only Gregorian chants, and then finally he didn’t listen to music.
It wasn’t about suddenly ripping away part of his life - it was discovering through his practice that something that was once important to him no longer was.
This takes place on different levels, depending on where you are on the path. E.g., I only give up all entertainments on Uposatha days. But, for example, I no longer use social media apps at all. That is an entertainment that I see for myself causes me suffering.
What’s confusing me the most is the fact that Buddhadasa Bhikkhu is saying a normal lay person is not a “true Buddhist”, only ariyas are. Wouldn’t make over 90% of Buddhists not real Buddhists? I thought anyone who took refuge was a “true Buddhist”.
Yeah, that’s the usual definition. Perhaps by “True Buddhists” Ajahn Buddhadasa here is referring to the ariya saṅgha, which (by definition) are those Buddhists who are (at least partially) enlightened.
You must always remember the context of a teaching that you read.
In many of Ajahn Buddhadasa’s talks, he’s addressing a group of Thai lay people who all consider themselves quite good Buddhists (they have, after all, come to hear his Dhamma talk!) and who likely (in Ajahn’s estimation) have become a bit complacent. So, he’s trying to rile people up a bit by reminding his audience that there are two levels of “Buddhists”: those “Buddhists” who are actually on the path to stream entry and beyond, and those “Buddhists” who took refuge and stopped there.
The four levels of ariya involve progressive autonomy with the severing of ten fetters. The first three involve overcoming reliance on precepts:
“As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices.”
—Majhima Nikaya 2
At the fourth level eventually the path itself is abandoned. There is a difference (in freedom from impermanence) between these supermundane stages and the mundane path, and also two levels of right view.
" Arya (Sanskrit ārya; Pāli: ariya) is a term used in Buddhism that can be translated as “noble”, “not ordinary”, “valuable”, “precious”,[a] “pure”, “rich”. Arya in the sense of “noble” or “exalted” is frequently used in Buddhist texts to designate a spiritual warrior or hero."
I just wish he had used a different phrase or word than “true Buddhist” because it seems like he’s saying most Buddhists aren’t actually Buddhist, and as a new Buddhist that’s kind of discouraging. Also, I assume stream winners are included under the ariyan label. My understanding is that they haven’t given up sensual desires completely. Is that correct?
Everyone who still has some sort of sensual attachment will find pleasure in music, dancing, singing. Until the third stage of enlightenment, sensual desire remains - its a process of purification by which these things are dropped bit by bit.
At the initial stage of the path, don’t worry about such things. As you progress, you will give these things up naturally, without any conflict, because you’ll see through them to the suffering that they involve and mask.
For now, just stick to perfecting the five precepts and right action, right speech, and right livelihood.
I’m still confused by the fact that he calls ordinary lay people Buddhists in name only. That would mean most Buddhists aren’t really Buddhist. What do you think he means by this? Am I, as a beginner and ordinary lay person a Buddhist in name only?
There are a couple ways to approach this line of thought. One, as this thread has been doing for the most part, is to think of it as an intellectual question and try to figure out the answer.
The other is to see this line of thinking as a form of doubt - one of the five hindrances. From that perspective there is no need to find an answer to the question. The important thing is to let go of the question, let go of the doubt, let go of the hindrance.