Non verbal transmission of Dhamma


To learn a skill you have to practice it, you might be shown it or read about, but you have to practice it to understand it, and this doesn’t mean that there is no thinking going on while you are practicing it.
Ask any professional to describe what they are doing and most likely they describe it perfectly, there might however be someone who couldn’t explain how or why he is a great painter, but in regards to knowledge of the Dhamma, that is not accidental.

Someone may be born a great painter, so to speak, and unable explain how or why they paint so good, but The Dhamma is not something that comes naturally, one has to intentionally, knowingly try and understand and if you do that, you cannot forget how you understood it and thus explaining how you understood "the four noble truths"etc would be easy, since you know it clearly.

I think what you are saying is that Non-verbal knowledge is more instinctual?


The point of the infinite meditations is to relinquish any return.

In a conventional relationship, “We agree to love each other”. There is a an assumption of reciprocation that fuels one’s own love. This “bargaining love” is very shallow because it fails when there is no return.

With the infinite meditations, the circle of return gets so large that we no longer expect return–we simply extend metta without any thought of return. The importance of extending metta towards all people is not so much that they are affected by a “purifying beam of love”, but that we become equanimous in the giving, extending the same love (or equanimity) to rich, poor, sane, insane, virtuous or craven.

This is the same intention one has when swinging a bat at a ball. One aims to infinity and lets go. Home run!


I think the Dhamma is completely natural - it is only that delusion obscures it’s view.

In the case of paccekabuddhas

In the case of Paccekabuddhas, there would be a complete absence of Buddhist jargon and labelling. Instead an alternative system would have been derived by which thought and perhaps discussion can occur. As such, I imagine the descriptions would sound completely unfamiliar to those with a standard Buddhist lexicon.

There is a degree of flexibility around all of these things - and they are ALL approximations anyway, as all of the individual ‘filters’ of perception, communication, etc. are applied.


What are you giving others exactly?
Does one give others ones intention of love?
If so, why would one do that?

You have implied that one begins by expecting a return but that the field is so large that, the return becomes unfathomable and so we stop thinking about it. This means that the need for getting something in return is still there…waiting to be fulfilled.
The ‘love’ that is given is conditioned but then changes into unconditioned because one cannot fathom the return. So By not understanding the extent of the return/vipaka kamma…one enters the highest state of upekkha.?

The point of the BV, I don’t think is about NOT wanting to get anything. It’s very much done because it is a pleasant abiding for you. One might not be able to fathom the vipaka kamma, but we certainly do it (if done rightly)because we have a faith that Buddha was not speaking nonsense when he said that a finger snap of dwelling in BV produces unfathomable meritorious results…for oneself, pleasant abiding here and now or birth in some extremely wonderful realm etc

But again, we must consider that when we both speak about BV, we mean different things. As I have said in other discussions,one cannot DO Brahmaviharas, they are results of understanding what mind is and purifying it of defilements etc
I do not consider BV to be as easy as sending kind thoughts and intentions to people, because then most of us are making unfathomable streams of merit naturally without even knowing it.
It is quite easy to wish non-harm and love to horrible people on the other side of the planet, but try and live with them and see just how long the “the unconditional love”( that one might think one has) lasts.

The simile of the saw is a good example of what one is capable of ,if the mind is in fact free of hate etc.


We debated this once before:


To be able to see that delusion obscures the Dhamma, you would have to assume/ think that you are in a position to see it, which is delusion.
That idea assumes that one is not deluded, that it is something else which is deluded.

I don’t know what you mean exactly by ‘natural’, but if the Dhamma is natural and then becomes obscured later on by delusion then it is not so great. It implies that we all can understand the Dhamma while it is obscured by delusion.
The Dhamma is all about knowing/wisdom, which is not present when there is ignorance present.

It’s like saying “i might be ignorant but really underneath it all I am wise/arahant”,or “I might be full of hate but really i am naturally full of unconditional love”.

Indeed, one does not have to use established Buddhist language. One could use ones own words, which would correspond to the meaning of Dhamma.
Most people can parrot what they read,but that is not a sign of understanding, but the ones that can describe the actually meaning in their own words are more likely to have understood what they read or were told.

We can all say that all sankharas are anicca, but it doesn’t make a difference in Understanding.

For the most part people use words without understanding their meaning e.g try and describe what ‘Feeling’ is in your experience. It is a word that is used quite often, and yet if you actually saw and Understood the nature of Feeling, you would be free from suffering. But it takes a Buddha to instruct us in this regard.

You say ‘feeling’, but what is that which you designate?
The assumption that one already knows what it is, is the very thing that obscures the Dhamma.


Kasyapa? If this means Mahakassapa, then we cannot disregard the many verbal teachings given to him by the Buddha already.
Does the sutra imply that the first teaching that he gave to Mahakassapa was ‘the picking of the flower’? If so, then why did he then afterwards instruct Mahakassapa verbally?


Because it is not a historical story, and doesn’t make sense when juxtaposed against the actually historical account.

But I think it is infused with interesting ideas.


I think there is a sutta (but i cannot find now) in which (memory reconstruction):
Sariputta ask the Buddha why some Tathagatha teaching last a long time, while other do not.
The Buddha replied that some make teaching defined/clarified, while other do not.

If there is this sutta, then it seems it is possible to have non-verbal tranmission of Dhamma, though it tend to not last a long time.


Perhaps I can give an example to clarify what I meant. Eg Dependent Origination is a natural process of cause and effect that the Buddha described. Whether an individual is aware of it, sees it, or understands it, or if they are unaware of it, or even consciously disagree with it, doesn’t determine if it exists or doesn’t exist. The process of DO exists, irrespective of what individuals think or feel about it, or even if they have no thoughts or feelings about it at all.

IMHO Dhamma is natural in this same way. The relationship between Dhamma and any individual does not affect Dhamma. Just like ‘things are the way they are’ no matter what an individuals beliefs about them are. Dhamma is independent from peoples thoughts, feelings and fabrications. Here I am talking about “Dhamma” (the reality that the Buddha could see) not “transmission of dhamma”.

Given that awakening is a gradual process, so too is the loss of delusion. On the path, lets say that one purposefully puts in place the causes and conditions for Dependent Liberation (the

Noble 8 fold path) then one can expect a gradual lessening of defilements and delusion, glimpses and insights into Dhamma and ‘the way things really are’. These things are the constants - It is ‘us’ and our defilements and levels of delusion, that change all the time.

As such, I believe that one can strive to awaken to the Dhamma, and to lessen delusion.

I certainly agree with



“This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.”[1]

"Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.


The Buddha Gotama said that he was the foremost in the description and that the other Buddha’s were less so…a less detailed description.
I also cannot remember the sutta.
There is an example somewhere, of Buddha Vipassi, who’s description of paticcasamupada only went up to nama-rupa and vinnana.


What i meant was that the knowledge of the Dhamma does not come naturally…oops


SN12.4 About Vipassī vs. SN12.23 Vital Conditions


There’s not even one mention of a person attaining nibbana this way in the suttas.


I have to disagree 150% with the idea that if you can’t put your understanding into words you don’t really understand it. Understanding is limitless; language is extremely limited. Not being able to verbalize ones understanding could mean either you haven’t completely realized your understanding, certainly…but it could also mean that your transcendent realization is simply out of reach of mere words.


This is a topic of great interest to me as well, having begun my practice in Thai Forest and now focused completely on Rinzai Zen.
Obviously Zen touts it’s credentials as being “outside the scriptures” and a “wordless transmission,” and especially in Rinzai, the only way to demonstrate ones understanding in sanzen is WITHOUT words.
I don’t have anything to add re: this idea in the EBT’s, but I am fascinated by the idea that our human conditioning as primarily verbal/textual communicators (despite vision being our most highly-attuned sense) cannot adequately express our deeper nature, and attempting to seek wisdom through words only keeps us locked in a samsaric state of attachment to lower levels of awakening.


I think it could be a case where some people have a predisposition for teaching and they can put their experience in words beautifuly (like some Ajahns). The others could realize the same or more but simply don’t have this gift.


I would like to stay open. I greatly appreciate this website as a set of clear instructions.
Everything is teaching us.
I refuse to be offered the key (suttas) to my prison cell (samsara), hang it on the wall and worship for the rest of my life. I want to open the door. And if a bottle of oil (other traditions or religions) helps me with the lock I want to use it.


Koans use words don’t they?