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Legacy of Venerable Dr. Bhante Punnaji


#1

Greetings friends in Dhamma!

I want to introduce you to translations and other work of not so widely known and somewhat controversial Bhante Punnaji which i have seriously studied, thought about and practiced for several years now along with other teachers.

I have been investing most of my time in past years solely to study and practice early Buddhism always having the intention to ordain eventually, but keeping back from it so that i can spend all the time I need to study and research all the various branches of Buddhism and their teachings, listening to all the teachers i could find, commentaries, interpretations and translations before i commit to ordination as being ordained my research would be limited along with access to internet etc. So you can say that i have been one foot monastic one foot lay for many years now living like a yogi and keeping 10 precepts while spending most of my time on research of early Buddhism.

I discovered Bhante Punnaji when i noticed that in the popular translations ‘mind’ refers to what is actually two words in Pali - ‘citta’ and ‘mano’ and that in the Pali dictionaries those two words have a crucial difference in meaning which then led me to further investigations in Pali and Very Early Buddhism. Before that i was mostly just blindly following what the traditional and popular interpretations and translations were saying, but this discovery led me to be more skeptical and investigative of the kind of interpretations and explanations that are going around and led me to rely on myself and my own investigations and verification more than anything. I guess i never took those suttas about not relying on something just because teachers say it or just because its believed by many or because its a tradition seriously. I realized that the translations and relying on interpretations of the meaning by someone else can prevent one to get to the actual message of the Buddha as in the case of mano and citta a crucial message is hidden by translating both of them as mind - how can one understand meaning of something if one does not fully know the terms involved?

After that i started to investigate Early Buddhism, Pali language and specifically Bhante Punnajis work in translations and hes explanation of paticca samuppada. At first i was very skeptical as he was going against what i have been told by most other Buddhist Teachers today and i was clinging to my existing views, but the more i investigated the more i realized that the things that never really made sense before started to make sense and that by this investigation and lending ear to Bhante Punnaji my practice and understanding was elevated to a level which i was to unable to accomplish over many years while following the popular interpretations and translations. The more i investigated the more all the doubts and confusion was eliminated and the more i started to see the how Bhante Punnaji translations and explanations were verified by my own experience and made sense in a profound way.

This is not to say that all others are wrong and Bhante Punnaji is right, but I want to encourage anyone interested in Early Buddhism, Pali and alternative translations to investigate the work of Bhante Punnaji. It will most likely require a good measure of patience as Bhante Punnaji goes in a different direction than the more widely known interpretations and translations and because just hearing Bhante Punnaji out will most likely not result in sudden epiphany and will likely require quite a bit of serious reflection and practice before one can understand and verify what Bhante Punnaji actually means, but with intelligent investigation and perseverance it is very unlikely that one will left empty handed. The biggest obstacle for most people probably would be dismissing something because it goes against the popular interpretations and clinging to ones own views as it was in my own case at the beginning, but as long as there is perseverance eventually one will be able to see the value of and verify in ones own experience teaching of what i now believe to be the most profound Dhamma teacher in modern age.

Unfortunately the Venerable Teacher passed away last year, but -

Bhante Punnaji has left a youtube channel: YouTube

Venerable Teacher has also written several books and articles with the digital versions freely available to everyone: Proto Buddhism - The Original Teachings of the Buddha : Level I - Selective Thinking (see more in the book section)

And if anyone is interested i can assist one in answering questions about and around how Bhante has explained the Dhamma.


Sanna v. Vinnana
#2

Yes , like he said, we have been wrongly intepreted the suttas.

We must know that Buddha did not speak english or pali but magadha language.

But I also see that there are still arahants though, even if the suttas is wrongly translated, through hard practising one can arrived also.

His teaching is also fit with those quotes from ajahn chah
And last arahant with relic, sayadaw mogok, his way of seeing paticca sammupada, also would agree with B.Punnaji’s intepretation

Thanks anyway for the book


#3

More books - level 2 and 3 of Ariyamagga Bhavana and Buddha The Radical Shrink which he wrote just before hes “death” ( :wink: ). Ariyamagga Bhavana books and the recorded talks on YouTube and elsewhere contain many unique translations and explanations of terms, very useful.

https://buddhaoriginalteachings.blogspot.com/p/buddha-radical-shrink.html

It is most fortunate that i have found you, we should get together to cross check and further each others understanding, it could also be a start of great community :innocent:

For the benefit of many we should gather everyone who respects and sees the value of these teachings and talk to each other often and without being met with resistance trying to convince someone, but in harmony with each other employing authentic autonomous morality.


#4

This is very interesting. Would you have an example or two for us of things that previously didn’t make sense? Bhante Punnaji’s work is a bit massive to assimilate all at once and it would help to understand some key points that illuminated your understanding. :pray:


#5

The most important thing is paticca samuppada.

I can try explaining it, but it is both hard to see and hard to present. Really making sense of it is following a way which leads to that, not by simply reasoning about it.

If you watch Bhantes videos about the topic and / or read the books i can try to answer questions that might arise in relation to that.


#6

I started a discussion about Ven Punnaji a while ago, particularly talking about a quote of his: “the only difference between a rock and a Buddha is that a Buddha has metabolism and a rock does not” (paraphrase).

I particularly like @karl_lew’s input to the discussion, if anyone is so inclined to read the thread:

It’s always read like poetry to me, and I’ve remembered it since he posted it.


#7

I see. But you will start another tanha upadana bhava also :sweat_smile:

I like the way he joke also, while others might think it is kinda harsh.

We can never be sure whether we are really helping the society and expand the teaching etc, you have to go through so many kind of ignorances, conclusions about buddha teaching already in their head.

But you can also be sure that you created the world , not the world created you (and also the world is phassa according to bhante, which in line)

But let me asks you this : If all these existences is energy coming and going, then rebirth is only energy which carry some amounts of information.

Then arahant is one who has cleared all the information/kamma carried by the energy which become pure energy, and after breaking of body , it become a drop of water in the ocean, or a bubble pop up in the air. Is it so?

Then suffering is just a human stupidity who think they exist?

Oh and did he left any relics?

They are all nice until here, just that the rock didnt even know about killing, about life and death, urgency, most important he dont know about time, he just there being still and some forces push him.
So it would be wise to be a totally rock, not only some part or sometimes


#8

If you think of it as energy or information you still think of it in terms of existing entities / quantification. Its an activity - like burning in one place starts burning in another place, the flame is not carrying information from one place to another it is only continuation of the activity of the burning that is going on. Arahant then is someone who has discontinued that burning which depended on upholding existence of the things or oneself and involving in the continuation of them which is the burning. You abandon upholding persistent identities, the belief of real existence of things and lust and hatred in relation to them and they are no more, the fuel for continuation of such existence is out.


#9

This world is formed by only matter and energy, matter is things we can see, but not energy, it doesn even have form, so it doesnt really exist but it can cause matter in movement. So activity is energy in your seeing.

Maybe it’ll be clearer this way of saying, i mean as a simile, me of course doesnt train in such a way, I continiously clear my mind from any past present future thinking…

Normal people burn with certain information carry to other substances which suitable for its burning:
If you are blue flame then you continue in another gas fueled flame
If you are red flame then you continue in other paper
When you havent met next substance you will be in potential energy instead of kinetic energy.

Arahant has no more continious flame so when it is out, the energy doesnt in heat energy or electromagnet or other no more, it just out.

Do you agree if the more accurate translation for tanha is reactions , rather than emotional reaction?
While craving only cover a little of its whole meaning
And reactions cover more than only emotional reactions

So at tanha, the energy is reacting to feeling, thus the energy create a prison for itself based on the reactions~ upadana, he called as “me” ~ bhava

When the energy create an existence, it is locked, prisoned, in past present future. While energy doesnt relate to time , only matters does.


#10

Bhante calls them emotional reactions to feelings because citta is the thing that is running the show, its activity of citta.


#11

Ah citta, if you read ajahn boowa book to arahant, his experience on attaining arahant also focus on citta

But citta itself is also source of piti and sukha , its not puppet, but a defiled citta is the puppet running show


#12

I read his book… and very nice to have his translation in our times … clears many many things up … which in line of our experience also, many people will gain benefits from him🙏🏻, though many also would disagree, because they are caught up in their belief.

But sometimes im confused how he switch the sanna meaning,
sometimes he said vinnana means sensation
sometimes he said sanna means sensation also in nirodha samapatti or sanna vedayita nirodha

And citta is also mentioned by sayadaw mogok

So the translation is correct… but there are also some point B. Punnaji make that we should ignore the citta, like it is the enemy, and mano is the thing we should care for

But I got to disagree because a defiled citta is enemy, not a free citta. Same with mano.

Even in satta bohjangga we need citta to produce piti to enlightment, and mano to investigate dhamma, so both cannot be ignored.

So it is the defilements , asavas, moha, avijjathe enemy , not citta, dont you think so?

And if tanha is translated into emotional reaction, then when neutral vedana arise, we wont be able to conscious of
So we need a better word for tanha , because like the craving , emotional reaction also not yet covers all the tanha meant.

The mahayanas not really the one causing all the disturbance but human defilements, mara etc
Because mahayana also like the front marketing of Buddhist where the serious practitioners feel something wrong and continue to study theravada and EBT’s. But the ignorants can stay in mahayanas, so it’s like a segment :sweat_smile:

And maybe because of his study on so many philosophers’ books , influence on his choice of word : awakening from the dream of existence , these are very speculative
One might thought there are new reality like when we awake from the dream. But there is no more reality to be awaken of. Just the end of dukkha. What do you think?


#13

He said that he is constantly working on trying to find the best English words to descibe the Pali terms. He worked on all this for more than 40 years and proclaimed it all mostly when he was already more than 80 years old. Bhante has shown perfect conduct hes whole life and if you watch the videos its apparent that he is never acting out of lust hate or delusion in the subtlest amounts.

If you continue reading and watch the videos too then you will find out that Bhante does not really says to ignore citta or that its the enemy, but only that the citta which is under the influence of lust, hate and delusion is undesirable. He also notes that in samadhi the citta is in equilibrium, that the mind is not split in two and is one pointed by the citta and mano working in the same direction, not like how it is normally with citta influenced by lust, hate and delusion pulling the mind in one direction and the rational thinking pulling in another. In short he speaks about purifying the citta, not trying to get rid of it :smile:

About tanha and other words for that matter just do your best to try to become aware (samma sati, satipatthana) of how they operate in reality - vedana paccaya tanha - how the feeling leads to the reaction (vedanupassana, cittanupassana! the emotions or reactions also lead to changes in body - kayanupassana!, and it all operates with the mind preceding the experience manopubbangama dhamma - so be aware of that - dhammanupassana!)

The word you use is not so important as long as you know the right Dhamma, just don’t assume that the English word definition explains the term, its only a label, you must understand and see, sati the underlying reality of that term and then you can find all sorts of words to try and describe it, but none of them really will be perfect or sufficient to actually fully understand and see.

It is also good to know that Buddha coined many of these terms, they have no analogue in puthujjana dictionary and even if there is something close to it it can be misleading because the dictionary definitions and common uses of the word will be in the context of and tied to puthujjana world of delusion.

For me awakening from the dream of existence seems like a lovely description as you have been chasing around entities (implying existence) which you have dreamed up unconsciously, then you wake up from all that - you become fully conscious of reality, of how the entities came to be, because this comes that.


#14

Ah I see… yes after I checked back, he didnt say so, just joking about it. Which I laugh also accordingly and implied so :anjal:

I like also his description on jhanas and nirodha samapatti which i found quite hard to tell people, my experience did same with his description, but confused in suttas.

Very grateful what he brought for the world too, this will make people to re-look again to the translations.

Ah see, just in your other thread people already assumed the non-existence. I still do think the awaken of the dream is a little bit dangerous words, you know how people’s conclusions and belief system react.

But yes I do agree , because you believe in existing first then you can react negate the existence and become non-existence

We cannot say “I do not exist”. Still there is “I”. New delusion inside a delusion.

We can only walk the 8fold paths and look into samadhi with satta bohjjanga : Now this I come to exist, because of identities, because of reactions of feelings, because of …

Then the cessastion, now since there is consciousness about these, then the cessation of mental construction leads to cessation of perceiving, leads to …
Then (blank out) …
Then on the consciousness back to existence, which goes back slowly and we can see the process of mental construction, then we know just now there is nibbana experience

From how he looked seems he is an ariyas definitely but I dont know if he’s an arahant. He even died consciously after giving dhamma talk. Parinibbana? Anyone said about these? Maybe a sariputta’s style than moggalana’s. But if you look at sayadaw mogok’s , who left relics, no doubt.


#15

The only way one can be sure in the end is that after arriving at the right meaning by diligent practice he verifies what was said by hes own experience and concludes that he has arrived at the same thing and that all uncertainty and confusion has been eliminated. Before that you might doubt and find some sort of arguments against what is being said all the time even if its perfectly valid all the time.

Bhante has given us tremendous gift, I’m amazed that he has not gone mad trying to arrive at the right meaning of the Pali terms :smile: . Because while the common words normal person would use can be translated, not easily, since the language is so old, but its doable, to translate the terms that Buddha coined just for the sake of explaining Dhamma is almost impossible. So basically every translator is given nearly impossible task of translating meaning of some terms that he can not possibly understand as he does not start with understanding the meaning of Dhamma or even hearing the right Dhamma, but is thinking in line with delusion like everyone else and the only way to understand the meaning for the translation to mean what is actually meant is first to hear correct Dhamma which the translator could not have done as he is only now trying to translate it! I hope you understand what I’m saying.

And even if some miracles happen and in some way someone by enormous personal effort arrives at the right meaning and tries to translate and even if he conveys it perfectly it does not mean that just hearing that will actually liberate one as understanding it is hard and teaching it is hard. Take for example Ananda who was Buddhas personal attendant all hes life, being around talking and listening to Buddha in person for many years, but only managed to awaken after Buddha was already passed away.


#16

@lovegood
I also began following Ven. Punnaji’s work somewhat seriously for about the last 6 months to a year before he died. And, yes, there is a challenge in the beginning concerning the shift of interpretation and loyalty to teachers. It wasn’t too bad for me, though, because his explanation of DO is not so far from what I was dealing with, which was the teachings of Ajahn Buddhadasa. What was helpful for me was thinking of what he does not so much as translation as much as (functional) explanation, elucidation and interpretation. (Because phassa does really just mean “touch,” it doesn’t mean “objectification,” though I certainly that that is what one does when one’s mind reaches reaches the phassa stage of DO.) To that extent, he’s a lot like Ajahn Buddhadasa. (Because jati really just does mean “physical birth,” though desire for [tanha] and clinging to [upadana] existence [bhava] does entail the mental birth of an atta.)
His entire concept of “awakening from the dream of existence,” “existence vs. experience,” the “paradigm shift” is outstanding. And his way of explanation, generally, is helpful for the psychologically-oriented, modern mind, I think, as well as just really insightful. I read the “Buddha, the Greatest Shrink” or whatever book that Bro. Billy put out in pdf just after he passed. I felt a few of the parallels with Freudian psychiatry were a little forced and, perhaps, unnecessary: it’s not always a one-to-one correspondence–nor need it be for the basic premise to stand.
My favorite part is that his entire structure is based on the Buddha’s awakening having taken place through cessation of perception and feeling and arising from that attainment to see the arising of DO, because I feel that way, too, but just wasn’t able to synthesize it as well as the Ven. It’s not a popular viewpoint, though there certainly is enough scripture to support such a view. My main disappointment/criticism (other than the fact that I think avijja as non-sentience is a bit of a stretch–though no more so than avijja being ignorance of the 4NT, which is standard Theravada fare), is that the Ven. didn’t teach anything practically regarding cessation: one, that makes the entire edifice of his teachings theory- and not experience-based; and, two, I just really want to find someone teaching cessation!


#17

Nice summary :slight_smile:


#18

Well it can be that avijja as insentience / unconsciousness will make sense for you later. If you still think of it as ignorance i would investigate how you understand sankhara.

What do you mean ‘practically regarding cessation’ / ‘teaching cessation’?

How i see it the ‘practicality’ is the supernormal eightfold way and seven steps to awakening, the jhanas and satipatthana which he explained extensively.

He also always talks in regards to hes own practice and experience, it is not factual to say that it is not experience based, it is. Quite opposite he speaks against armchair philosophy and such and declares that it is impossible to arrive at the reality like that, you obviously then are not very familiar with much of hes work.


#19

Okay, now this is getting close to “tuvaṃ tuvaṃ” (“You! You!”) It’s unnecessary and not beneficial to either of us.

I don’t think of avijjā as ignorance–and certainly not ignorance of the 4 Noble Truths, as I said in the post. I actually feel that insentience belongs right there where Venerable Punnaji says it goes: at the head of 12 factored DO. As I see it, the Buddha emerged from a state of cessation of perception and feeling and, as he emerged from it, as the Venerable teaches, he saw the arising of DO. What I said in the post, which may not have been perfectly clear, was that I felt that insentience as a translation for avijjā was a bit of a stretch. That being said, insentience as an explanation of what was the antecedent of (the Buddha’s witnessing of) the arising of DO–i.e., the state of cessation–I think is not only perfectly acceptable, but also supported by scripture (as I said in the post) and is the particular version of the Buddha’s awakening to which I subscribe. (Although I feel the 9 or 10 factored DO chain is a more likely candidate for the one the Buddha awakened to, which would make the avijjā=insentience question a moot point.)

While Venerable Punnaji teaches that the Buddha was himself awakened through cessation, he (the Venerable) does not teach cessation as a practice. (I know because I’ve written to Bro. Billy to ask.) To be honest, I assume he himself has not attained it; which would mean he himself could not possibly have personally experienced the same arising from cessation to witness the arising of DO which he teaches as the awakening of the Buddha. So I don’t think we could fairly say the “he also always talks in regards to hes own practice and experience,” but maybe that he often or usually does so.
On the other hand, perhaps he has attained cessation; if so, he definitely doesn’t teach it from a practical perspective, only theoretically.
Still, though, I think his is one of the best sets of teachings out there, and highly recommend giving him a listen.


#20

He talks about two basic ways of awakening.

he also talks about nirodha-samapatti

If you want to practice the ‘cessation’ way it is also possible as he talks how to get to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th jhana and further which will be most of the work. When you are perfect in all the jhanas and the following bases you can start thinking about ‘awakening by cessation’. Note that you can actually pass away ‘doing it’, good luck :smiley: