SuttaCentral

Limitations of the EBTs


#42

There is plenty of clear instructions on how to reflect in suttas, like MN 61 which gives you instructions on how to reflect and ends with

Rahula, all those brahmans & contemplatives in the course of the past who purified their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions, did it through repeated reflection on their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions in just this way.

"All those brahmans & contemplatives in the course of the future who will purify their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions, will do it through repeated reflection on their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions in just this way.

When you see:

“All contemplatives and brahmans in the past who … And all contemplates and brahmins in the future will …”

It means that step is unavoidable, you see those lines also on suttas with the 5 hindrances and other necessary practices. The repetition and stock formulas in the text make it easy to search certain things like attainments, practical techniques, etc…


#43

Sometimes because there are so many sutta it can be difficult to find the snippet of sutta, which acts as a catalyst and connect two sutta concepts that are seemingly unrelated.

What fun! :man_shrugging:t5:


#44

Dear Bhante,

My interpretation from reading the Shopkeeper suttas AN 3.19 and AN 3.20, which seem to imply that one should both meditate and reflect as a practice together and not first achieve virtue and then later start meditating.

“So too, possessing three factors, a bhikkhu is capable of achieving a wholesome state not yet attained and of increasing a wholesome state already attained. What three? Here, a bhikkhu diligently applies himself to an object of concentration in the morning, in the middle of the day, and in the evening. Possessing these three factors, a bhikkhu is capable of achieving a wholesome state not yet attained and of increasing a wholesome state already attained.”

  • AN 3.19

(2) “And how is a bhikkhu responsible? Here, a bhikkhu has aroused energy for abandoning unwholesome qualities and acquiring wholesome qualities; he is strong, firm in exertion, not casting off the duty of cultivating wholesome qualities. It is in this way that a bhikkhu is responsible.

“Possessing these three qualities, a bhikkhu soon attains vast and abundant wholesome qualities.”

  • AN 3.20

That way I interpret is that one sits down to meditate, and is aware of their hindrances or issues, and then they focus on that specific issue until it is resolved, when it is resolved they return to meditation.

So for example, one sits down and meditates, becomes aware of having too many sensual desires thoughts arise, so they employ the antidote of looking at drawbacks, perhaps 32 parts of the body practice. After doing that for as many times as it takes, they go back to regular meditation to see if this is still an issue for them. There are different strategies one can employ to deal with certain obstacles.

You can also see this implied in ARV 12 (the four cultivation of meditation). One first abandons unwholesome states and then tries to attain pleasant abiding.

Overcoming unwholesome states is a pre-requisite for first jhana

Here, monastics, a monastic, quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from wicked and unwholesome things, having thinking, reflection, and the happiness and rapture born of seclusion, dwells having attained the first absorption.

  • ARV 8

Thinking and reflecting (vitakka and vicara) are similar to reflection: paccavekkhitvā and Paccavekkhaṇattho, needed for abandoning unwholesome states.

Paccavekkhitvā : having considered; having reviewed; having contemplated.


#45

Hi, Ven. @brahmali,

Yes, thank you for clarifying. I’d also add that I’ve noticed that some suttas use a “10 virtues” formula instead of the standard “5 precepts.” The 10 virtues dumps the 5th precept, expands on the 4, and adds the three poisons. I remember having a conversation with a few monastic friends of mine, wondering why the 5 precepts gets more attention than the 10 virtues :thinking:

Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for bringing this up! This is entirely consistent with the order of the 8-fold path, where right view comes first. w/o the wisdom component, and the purification of the mind, improving virtue can easily come across as repression (and can make people more, rather than less, depressed).

However, I’m a bit confused on how you are defining “meditation.” Are you defining it based on holding attention on an object? Because IMHO “meditation” is quite expansive — there are meditation techniques that do involve “thinking.” Like, do you consider recollection practice “meditation”? Some practices (like what I’m doing now) even allow for the the exploration of thoughts/emotions in the mind and aren’t about any defined “focus” — these are actually good beginner level practices for ppl who cannot keep attention on an object for very long w/o stress.


#46

Is this correct though? I had thought that by the time of the Visuddhimagga, meditation practice had been abandoned in favor of preserving the teachings through memorization, and that all present-day meditation practices are reconstructions, not the products of an unbroken tradition.

Please correct me if I am wrong about this.


#47

It’s quite possible, and the visuddhimagga always felt to me like a work of scholarship. Like the scholar Ven Buddhagosha was writing about practice, without experiencing it himself. I believe he clearly says so at it’s conclusion. However the vimuttimagga, has quite a different feel to it, IMHO. It’s possible that they were both derived from Sinhala commentaries that are now lost/preserved in those text books. Most monks into deep meditation know that there has to be ‘practice instructors’ and instructions, to make meditation ‘bear fruit’. it’s unlikely that those instructions weren’t written down somewhere as well. It’s unlikely that the much evolved scheme of the seven purifications arose out of nowhere!


#48

This seems reasonable to me.

If this works, great! But although contemplating the 31 parts of the body is an appropriate way of overcoming sensual desire, one still needs to be skilful in how one uses it. If the desire is too powerful, even this sort of contemplation can lead to repression rather than overcoming the problem. A critical thing is to be gentle. Sometimes all you can do is wait for the problem to subside. At other times a more indirect approach is better, such as a general contemplation of the downside of sensuality. This is where MN 54 comes in. Also, it is useful to contemplate the dangers even when the problem is not present. This helps you to incline the mind in the right direction and overcome the issue in a more global sense.

Absolutely, this is important. The dasa-kusala-kamma-patha, the “ten paths of skilful action”, are essential. This is the most detailed universal exposition of sīla in the suttas. It is this sort of exposition we need to focus on if we are going to develop the path fully. And we need to take both the positive and negative versions of the ten into account.

Yes, they dump the fifth precept. I think this is because the use of alcohol is mostly unskillful because of its consequences on our behaviour. As for the fourth precept, the ten virtues substitute right speech, which is a significant expansion. The added elements are not really covered by the fourth precept, which only covers lying.

I think one reason why the five precepts get more attention is that they are more universally applicable. People who are not involved in cultivating the mind in a systematic way may still keep the five precepts. But for anyone who wants to take the Buddhist practice further, they are a very good guide. You are quite right, they should be emphasised more.

The word I would translate as meditation is probably bhāvana or cittabhāvana. If you have a look at AN 2.12, which I quote from above, bhāvana covers the seven factors of awakening, which is really satipaṭṭhāna plus jhāna. This can include diverse practices such as the contemplation of the 31 parts of the body, mindfulness of breathing, recollection of one’s virtue, and more, all of which fall within the cultivation of the bojjhaṅgas. There is only one caveat: none of this can be done properly until mindfulness is established. Satipaṭṭhāna is done satimā, “with mindfulness”. Ānāpānasati is done satiṃ parimukhaṃ upaṭṭhapetvā, “having established mindfulness in front”. To be properly mindful, the hindrances have to be quite weak, otherwise you mind is incapable of staying in the present. Desire and ill will are always restless, dragging the mind into the future or the past. So a fairly profound cultivation of virtue - including reflections that reduce the defilements - is required before bhāvana is possible. As long as you get the overall sequence right, you will make progress.


#49

Where does it say mindfulness has to be of the present? That strikes me as a modern interpretation. AN 8.30 says you are mindful of things “said and done long ago.”

EDIT: Just to clarify, the reason I’m bringing this up is that I’ve found letting my mind wander to the past/future has been helpful in cultivating wholesome states of mind.


#50

Thank you Ajahn Brahmali :anjal:

If I may I’d just like to bring out some down-to-earth and practical aspects about sila :slight_smile:

Sila in all its wonderful diversity and depth is a practice that anyone can do. One doesn’t have to be good at meditation. One can always put the causes and conditions in place for movement along the path and development by practising sila. So it is suitable for everyone at all times :smiley: In fact, I have seen it be absolutely transformational in its effect.

While the idea of higher states of consciousness may be intriguing for many, it is worth while to prepare the ground. Even if one never reaches higher states of meditation in this life, the practice of sila will move one forward in the preparation for the future. So it is never ever a lesser achievement or a waste of time.

It is also something that is easy… there is no great cryptic message to de-code, one doesn’t need to know ALL the suttas :slight_smile:

Finally, in order to be able to practice sila, one needs to be able to quietly observe the nature of things, ie stop reacting to stimulus, and see… It is only through the quiet observation of things/beings, that one can know where sila can be applied, so it naturally means slowing down. I find it is often the very smallest acts of sila that are so powerful, (rather than a big grandiose gesture). This is a movement in the direction of stillness, and mindfulness. It fosters that gentleness and patience… you can’t do sila in a hurry :smiley:

So I find when all else is going awry in my own practice, I just stop! Stop… and simply focus on sila, for however long it takes.

Added: Actually I have come to the point where I believe that if one only worked on cultivating sila, in all its aspects, that that would constitute the whole of the path to liberation. This is because the natural process of the path is set in motion or gets its momentum from the effects of sila… basically if sila is taken to a certain degree, right view begins to be developed, etc. One can’t ‘not’ get smadhi etc etc all the way through the chain of cause and effect. So because it is something that anyone can do… I see it as truly vital in the journey to ultimate liberation.

May all beings be free from suffering

:anjal::revolving_hearts:


#51

Hi again ven @brahmali, one more thing on your last post,

Good point, and I’d also add that in MN 14, Buddha told a layman Mahānāma that the reason he still struggles w/ sensuality is that he hasn’t developed Samadhi. You need to have those spiritual happy juices going before trying to eradicate lust , otherwise you’ll just end up depressed.


#52

Perhaps this is a separate topic, but I’m not sure that the passage says that:

It’s for a mendicant who’s mindful. They have utmost mindfulness and alertness, and can remember and recall what was said and done long ago.
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu satimā hoti paramena satinepakkena samannāgato, cirakatampi cirabhāsitampi saritā anussaritā.
SuttaCentral

The passage speaks of being mindful and being able to recall.

I realise that sati does often mean memory, but the Buddha seemed to give it his own precise doctrinal meaning, in common with other words that he appropriated, such as kamma. This is, in fact, still a common approach for technical vocabulary. For example, in Mechanics , “work” has a very precise meaning (roughly: applied force times displacement), which obviously has some connection to “work”, as in “a job”, but is clearly not the same thing. The Suttas contain numerous puns on words that sound similar, and we could do the same with “work”:

The work that the labourer does pushing the cart up the hill is an important part of his work.

:heart:


#53

Yeah, this is off topic and I probably shouldn’t have brought it up lol :face_with_hand_over_mouth:. The only reason I felt inclined to do so is because imho the “present moment” is overemphasized in modern meditation practice, especially compared to its standing in the EBTs. I haven’t found the “present moment” a useful construct at all in my own practice, though many people do. Whatever works for you.


#54

Mindfulness gives you control over your mind:

Mindfulness exercises authority over them [all things]. (AN 8.83)

This means you can direct your mind to whatever you like. The mind is not out of control. Yes, you can be mindful of the past and the future, but a good test is to see if you are able to remain in the present. With mindfulness of breathing, for instance, it is essential to be able to remain in the present.

I agree. Sometimes you just need to observe your mind to see what your hindrances are, to find out the obstacles you need to overcome. But this is a weaker form of mindfulness. The mind is doing its own thing; you are not really directing it. Perhaps it shouldn’t really be called mindfulness.


#55

When we recollect the qualities of the Buddha we do not recollect them within him, but conceptually. We do not recollect the ‘buddha in the buddha’ (as we do not know him, directly). This type of contemplation is called buddhanussati, and we use a pre-defined formula to do so. itipiso, bhagava… To know something directly, it has to be done in the present moment or we might as well be recollecting the virtues of Atman and Braman - there would be no entry into yathabhutha nana or ‘reality’.


#56

Thanks for recommending MN 54! Looking forward to your lecture.


#57

I was thinking dhammavicaya would fit this description.


#58

This is why I mentioned the guidance of a teacher. One who has studied the suttas in detail and can help you make the connection rather than searching through thousands of suttas.


#59

this topic seems to be allover the place but on the importance of sila i’ve heard the training without perfected conduct being likened to inflating a punctured tire which won’t inflate obviously and so phenomena do not manifest if one doesn’t have sufficiently purified conduct. There are sutta on this;

(1)–(2) “Bhikkhus, for a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous, no volition need be exerted: ‘Let non-regret arise in me.’ It is natural that non-regret arises in a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous.

(3) “For one without regret no volition need be exerted: ‘Let joy arise in me.’ It is natural that joy arises in one without regret.

(4) “For one who is joyful no volition need be exerted: ‘Let rapture arise in me.’ It is natural that rapture arises in one who is joyful.

(5) “For one with a rapturous mind no volition need be exerted: ‘Let my body be tranquil.’ It is natural that the body of one with a rapturous mind is tranquil.

(6) “For one tranquil in body no volition need be exerted: ‘Let me feel pleasure.’ It is natural that one tranquil in body feels pleasure.

(7) “For one feeling pleasure no volition need be exerted: ‘Let my mind be concentrated.’ It is natural that the mind of one feeling pleasure is concentrated.

(8) “For one who is concentrated no volition need be exerted: ‘Let me know and see things as they really are.’ It is natural that one who is concentrated knows and sees things as they really are.

(9) “For one who knows and sees things as they really are no volition need be exerted: ‘Let me be disenchanted and dispassionate.’ It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate.

(10) “For one who is disenchanted and dispassionate no volition need be exerted: ‘Let me realize the knowledge and vision of liberation.’ It is natural that one who is disenchanted and dispassionate realizes the knowledge and vision of liberation. SuttaCentral

(1) “Bhante, what is the purpose and benefit of wholesome virtuous behavior?”

(2) “Ānanda, the purpose and benefit of wholesome virtuous behavior is non-regret.”

(3) “And what, Bhante, is the purpose and benefit of non-regret?”

“The purpose and benefit of non-regret is joy.”

(4) “And what, Bhante, is the purpose and benefit of joy?”

“The purpose and benefit of joy is rapture.”

(5) “And what, Bhante, is the purpose and benefit of rapture?”

“The purpose and benefit of rapture is tranquility.”

(6) “And what, Bhante, is the purpose and benefit of tranquility?”

“The purpose and benefit of tranquility is pleasure.”

(7) “And what, Bhante, is the purpose and benefit of pleasure?”

“The purpose and benefit of pleasure is concentration.”

(8) “And what, Bhante, is the purpose and benefit of concentration?”

“The purpose and benefit of concentration is the knowledge and vision of things as they really are.”

(9) “And what, Bhante, is the purpose and benefit of the knowledge and vision of things as they really are?”

“The purpose and benefit of the knowledge and vision of things as they really are is disenchantment and dispassion.”

(10) “And what, Bhante, is the purpose and benefit of disenchantment and dispassion?”

“The purpose and benefit of disenchantment and dispassion is the knowledge and vision of liberation. AN 10.1: What Purpose? (English) - Dasaka Nipāta - SuttaCentral

To purify the conduct and get the motivation to purify the conduct it is important to hear the Dhamma, to remember the Dhamma, to penetrate the meaning, to come to agreement, and becoming willing to contemplate the Dhamma, all this for the purpose of becoming willing and arousing desire for exertion;

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: “weighs,” “compares”). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.
[…]
We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for the final attainment of the truth."

“Exertion is most helpful for the final attainment of the truth, Bharadvaja. If one didn’t make an exertion, one wouldn’t finally attain the truth. Because one makes an exertion, one finally attains the truth. Therefore, exertion is most helpful for the final attainment of the truth.”

“But what quality is most helpful for exertion? We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for exertion.”

“Contemplating is most helpful for exertion, Bharadvaja. If one didn’t contemplate, one wouldn’t make an exertion. Because one contemplates, one makes an exertion. Therefore, contemplating is most helpful for exertion.”

“But what quality is most helpful for contemplating?..”

“Being willing… If one weren’t willing, one wouldn’t contemplate…”

“But what quality is most helpful for being willing?..”

“Desire… If desire didn’t arise, one wouldn’t be willing…”

“But what quality is most helpful for desire?..”

“Coming to an agreement through pondering dhammas… If one didn’t come to an agreement through pondering dhammas, desire wouldn’t arise…”

“But what quality is most helpful for coming to an agreement through pondering dhammas?..”

“Penetrating the meaning… If one didn’t penetrate the meaning, one wouldn’t come to an agreement through pondering dhammas…”

“But what quality is most helpful for penetrating the meaning?..”

“Remembering the Dhamma… If one didn’t remember the Dhamma, one wouldn’t penetrate the meaning…”

"But what quality is most helpful for remembering the Dhamma?.. "

“Hearing the Dhamma… If one didn’t hear the Dhamma, one wouldn’t remember the Dhamma…”

"But what quality is most helpful for hearing the Dhamma?.. "

“Lending ear… If one didn’t lend ear, one wouldn’t hear the Dhamma…”

"But what quality is most helpful for lending ear?.. "

“Growing close… If one didn’t grow close, one wouldn’t lend ear…”

"But what quality is most helpful for growing close?.. "

“Visiting… If one didn’t visit, one wouldn’t grow close…”

“But what quality is most helpful for visiting? We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for visiting.”

“Conviction is most helpful for visiting, Bharadvaja. If conviction [in a person] didn’t arise, one wouldn’t visit [that person]. Because conviction arises, one visits. Therefore, conviction is most helpful for visiting.”

Contemplating the Dhamma purifies conduct automatically, when one establishes this or that perception by contemplating ie foulness of the body, sexual desire shrinks and rolls away, if one contemplates unattractiveness in food then the craving for taste disappears. Thus as long as perceptions are maintained there is no need to exert any effort for abstaining due to lack of desire.

Thus more Dhamma one knows and remembers thus more effective one’s wisdom is and when wisdom is handed reins and exertion is exerted one becomes free from regret, joyful, serene etc

  1. Do not disregard merit, saying “It will not come nigh unto me”; by the falling of drops even a water-jar is filled; likewise the wise man, gathering little by little, fills himself with good.

Everybody can be more or less mindful, it is a training of concentration which leads to increase of mindfulness which is the opposite of obliviousness;

"And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to mindfulness & alertness? There is the case where feelings are known to the monk as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. Perceptions are known to him as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. Thoughts are known to him as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. This is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to mindfulness & alertness. [an4.41]


#60

Limitations of the EBTs

The EBTs present what (the many qualities) needs to be developed, what (the many obstacles/hindrances) needs to be overcome and what is to be achieved (i.e. the end of dukkha) by using the 8FP.

What is fundamentally missing in the EBTs is the how-to use the 8FP for achieving the end of dukkha.

Only one sutta (as far as I know) gives a hint about a very essential thing to achieve on the Path (IMHO by using the 8FP although it does not say it) “Dry up the remain of your past (sn 5.11)”.

When one realises how much one does/says/thinks (in daily life as well as in meditation) as result of emotionally unresolved issues of one’s past, then one becomes interested in finding out how to use the 8FP to make total peace with one’s past. When one has progressed on this task using the 1st 7 components of the 8FP then maintaining perfect sila is easy and as some suttas say, sati becomes easy to maintain in all situations and samadhi comes naturally (which clearly shows that sati and samadhi are not to be directly practiced but are the natural by-product of the proper use of the 1st 6 components to purify oneself (bhavana) from the hindrances or in another words from the 3 poisons greed/craving ill-will/aversion ignorance/delusion.

How to use the 8FP for our liberation from dukkha is the challenge that everyone of us has to discover for him/herself. For some strange/unknown reason this is a topic that no dhamma teacher, lay and monastic, is addressing. Is the ending of dukkha for oneself no more the goal of the dhamma practitioners?


#62

I think most dhamma teachers are addressing just that. We just have to know how to categorise it within the Noble eightfold path!

Having had given therapy to people for those childhood issues, I find the same issues is dealt with differently but satisfactorily, within Right effort. However Right effort requires the elements of the path that comes before it, including the idea that the problem lies in the mind, at the present.