Misunderstandings of the Dhamma - Alternative views

Inspired by a few other discussions, e.g. here, I would like to use this space to collect what exactly people see as previous misconceptions they had.

E.g. ‘previously I thought it’s important to bow in front of a statue, now I see how it contributed to a closed mind-set’.

Or: ‘previously I thought faith is not important, now I make much progress with devotional practice

Or, alternative definitions of key concepts, jhana-factors, enlightenment-factors, etc in contrast to how they are interpreted by renowned translators.

Please, as per definition most people will disagree with what people find out for themselves as these are minority interpretations. This is not meant to disprove their understandings but rather collect opinions & views that don’t find space in the common understanding of Theravada Buddhism.


To make a start, for me personally, I found that a new understanding of āyatana had a tremendous impact on my meditation practice. I presented the case in detail here.

Just in short, I came to understand that depending on ‘where we are’, i.e. in which mental space we locate our experienced self, we will experience accordingly. So for example as long as I define myself as a sense-being, my mind will bounce back to experience normal senses, no matter how hard I try in meditation to transcend it.

So now I more often become aware in meditation that the mind is in a very specific place and that part of my practice is to dislocate the whole realm of experience in order to progress.

In my own private language I call the ‘normal’ way of processing ‘object-processing’ and the more important new way ‘subject-adjustment’.

Anyhow, I feel I really wasted years of meditation practice by focusing on meditation objects whereas now I work much more with the meditation-subject.


I used to think that the three marks were things to be believed, I now see them as theories to be investigated, using satipatthana practice.


Could you elaborate on what this means, practically speaking? Do you mean focussing more on the mind-base, rather than on the 5 “physical” sense-bases?

I’ve worked a lot with the sense-bases in the context of satipatthana, it’s quite illuminating.

I’m still working on a meaningful description. Basically, I avoid interacting with any object. Rather I try to get a sense where ‘the mental space is located’ and to move to another place. For example if I move the whole thing to a space of joy, then I open the door again and joy is just there, I don’t have to ‘hunt it down in the meditation object’.

It doesn’t seem to me that there are too many possibilities to move to. It’s either senses, light, joy, space, darkness, or abstract consciousness. Just it’s important that I don’t use these as objects but as ‘different neighborhoods to move to’.

Also, it’s not yet that the mind is super stable and solid in there. But the glimpses are encouraging enough for me.


I used to think sati-sampajanna meant , a wilful concentration on a single object. Now i understand it to be a relaxed state of being or watching whatever arises and ceases.


Bhikkhu Cintita has written a good essay on the āyatani, not sure if you’ve had a chance to peruse: https://bhikkhucintita.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/sixspheres.pdf

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I used to think that ethical practice wasn’t really that important. I thought that it was enough to meditate, and that simply being aware was all that “right mindfulness” meant. Now I see that sīla is absolutely foundational, and I can’t have effective samādhi nor develop any sort of paññā without it, and “right mindfulness” goes with right view and effort and requires some navigation of skillful and unskillful states.

I also used to think concentration meant forcing my attention to remain on one object, when now I approach it as trying to relax everything else but attention on the object.


Please, if you don’t mind, there are enough places in the forum to post sutta quotes. This is explicitly a space for people to share the personal shifts in their practice.

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A useful analogy I heard was of focusing a torch beam in tighter on a particular spot - a spot that one is interested in seeing more clearly.

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I agree. This thread will work best when focused on personal shifts in practice rather than general advice or suggestions, or theory.


I’ve removed my post.


Could you please clarify some of your interesting remarks? Sorry, it was too concise for me…

So do you see work on hindrances now as work on sati /dhammavicaya?

That one I didn’t understand at all. How do you connect practice with “gratification - drawback - escape”? Is it dispassion-practice?

Could you refer to a text or passage?

Excellent! Thanks for your insights and looking forward to your individual treatments of the matter.

I wonder if Bhantes @sujato and @Brahmali can comment on this?
specifically, from the sanskrit and english translation of that above, it seems to confirm @crizna assertion that in northern EBT schools, there is no controversy for V&V (vitakka & vicara).
vitarka = thinking ( state of enquiry of mind)
vicāra = evaluation (A mental murmur of judgment (pratyavekṣako manojalpas) )

  1. do you agree with that? (in northern EBT schools there would be no way to translate V&V as "placing the mind & keeping it connected)
  2. as leaders of the EBT movement, how do you weigh the northern EBT schools vs. Theravada EBT and consider that in your English translations?

Just my request to please take the discussion on these topics here or here


The definitions given here are actually quite broad. As far as I can see, they do not preclude vitakka and vicāra from being very refined, even pre-verbal movements of the mind.

The quote given here is not from the EBTs, but from commentaries. But in general an EBT is an EBT, regardless of school affiliation. It’s precisely for this reason that comparative study can be so illuminating.


I used to reject the notion of gradual training. If the aim of the practice is to awaken from the dream of existence, then whatever i do through the gradual training has to be an expression of my own deluded state of mind ensuring its continuation. Then i began to notice that denying my existence does not make it magically disappear, and this is when the idea of gradual training began to make sense. I can use my time in this world learning to act more sanely/less harmfully and things do not have to be either white or black.


Hi all

Not sure how much longer I’ll be on this site, as I seem to have a conflicting definition of Right Speech and not sure if I should put my new views all in one post or in individual ones. Generally I find, there are many quotes for the common understanding and few quotes for a different understanding and the different one leads to ending of suffering, when the common ones don’t, or only seem to on the surface.

So I’ll start with Right Speech. I used to agree that Right Speech had to be kind/pleasant, but now I understand and allow it to have three qualities: true, beneficial and either pleasant/kind or not pleasant/kind.

(note: I am using the common use of ‘kind’ in this paragraph, which seems to be identified by pleasantness, not intention.)

I used to believe the Buddha taught to take the Triple Refuge, now I believe he taught to take only one refuge: one’s Dhamma practice, which includes developing faith in the Triple Gem.

I used to believe the path was not step by step, now I believe it is gradual, step by step.

I used to believe the Noble Eightfold Path was the only path, but now I believe, as the tradition teaches, the Buddha taught the path in many ways:
1 step: strive on with diligence (his last words)
2 steps: develop calm and insight
3 steps: develop ethics, meditation and wisdom

12 steps: Transcendent Dependent Origination

I used to believe the Buddha taught ‘there is no self’ now I believe this is based on:

  • taking the quote sabbe dhammaa anattaa out of context to be: there is no attaa
  • interpreting attaa as self
    I found out that obliterating concepts of self, is a core Hindu philosophy.

I’ve tried to present all my old and new views in my more recent book: 20090407 The Broken Dhamma or the Karma that Kills the Dogma of Buddhism | Brother Joe Smith - Academia.edu

best wishes