The Dogma of the Buddhist Master’s Infallibility: A Reappraisal of “Buddhist Modernism”

Thanks for posting this article and opening this discussion. Tis is indeed [quote=“sujato, post:2, topic:5924”]
an important article.

I have been practising in the Tibetan tradition myself for many years and met quite a few Lamas, and have been given many initiations or “empowerments” in this tradition.

In that little centre where I first met Buddhism, and which became my Buddhist “home” then, the atmosphere was always dominated by a sense of metta and compassion, and also by a critical way of using one’s own mind. This was very good for me, because I was quite naive at the time.

And of course there was often mention of this special kind of relationship between teacher and student, as shown for example in the relationship between Milarepa, the famous Tibetan yogi, and his master Marpa. Marpa made Milarepa perform much hard work and refused to give him teachings until he was physically exhausted and close to suicide. This happened in order to “purify” the bad kamma Milarepa had made earlier in his life - he had killed many people. Milarepa never lost faith in Marpa, his teacher, during this difficult time. And then, when Marpa thought he was ready, he gave him the necessary teaching, and Milarepa made quick progress… That’s how the story goes.

Milarepa plays an important role in the transmission lineage I was involved in, and I always found his story very inspiring. And there wasn’t anything in the behaviour of those teachers I met, especially the ones from the older generation which now has died out, that would make me suspect of things as described in the above article. And I’ve never been offered anything that would involve sexual practices.

At some point I came across articles and books that described various types of abuse happening within the Tibetan community, including sexual abuse, which concerned also well-known and well-respected Lamas, and that was a huge shock to me! On one hand I didn’t want to believe it, but I also didn’t want to base the most worthy thing I was pursuing in my life on a lie! And it never really occurred to me to give up the Dhamma altogether… So I had to find my way somehow through the inconvenient truths.

As years went by I also came across Theravada books and teachings, including the suttas of the Pali canon which the Tibetans unfortunately don’t study at all (or at least the ones I met didn’t). But we started to do that in our little centre, and that broadened my view of Buddhism.

As our centre was always so little it was not attractive for teachers who teach mainly for the sake of making money. (There’s no point of expecting much financial profit when the audience consists of five or six people… ) The Lamas who visited us were mainly coming because of a feeling of connectedness with the first Lama who had been the spark for the foundation of the centre, and who had already passed away when I arrived there. So it was more like meeting with friends, and they would convey us teachings and initiations they would give nowhere else in the West.

This gave me the feeling of being privileged on one hand; but still there always remained that feeling that I would never be fully included. I would never be really told everything, there would always remain something that was hold back. This feeling grew stronger the more I had also contact with people who practised in the Theravada tradition, and this yearning “When will I finally meet ‘my’ guru?” eventually gave rise to the realisation that that even “my” guru would still hold something back!

This was finally the point that made me stop the practices taught by the Tibetan teachers. Together with the fact that with these practices I had never found access into deeper meditation, but with what I learned from teachers like Bhante @sujato or Ajahn Brahm I did - or at least I start to understand how this works, and that it can be done even by me…

What I appreciate so much in the Theravada tradition is the clarity and transparency of the teachings, and it inspires me a lot to see this attitude right at the beginning, in the way the Buddha himself was teaching. And it is such a relief that there is no inherent sense of being included or excluded… The teachings are just there, free and open, for anybody to practice without anything being held back!

One thing is very deplorable in the Tibetan system, and maybe this has something to do with the potential for misogyny and abuse playing an important role there. This is the fact that the Tulkus are taken away from their families already at such a very young age. If I remember right the Dalai Lama was taken to the monastery at the age of four, and others already when only two years old! There they are brought up in a male-only world, abandoned by the woman whom they used to trust before, their mother, not allowed to see her unless once or twice a year or so. Even if this was said to happen for the sake of something “higher” - what does a two-year-old understand by that? No wonder that they don’t develop much respect and trust for women!

And in addition to that they are told from this very early age on that they are something special, other than “ordinary” human beings, more advanced, more pure, more worthy of respect. When you are told this from the age of two on you cannot not believe it! If they are really born with more than average good qualities the damage made by that might be limited; but maybe not all of them are… Therefore it shouldn’t surprise that some of the Lamas seem to have strange character traits and behaviour, that they abuse their position of power and the people surrounding them, and women in particular.

All this doesn’t mean that I don’t have an immense gratitude towards my Dhamma friends who are running this little centre: They were the ones who brought me into contact with the Dhamma, and over so many years shared their understanding with me, shared their lives with me! Whatever difficulties they might be in, I wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever I can to help them out! And to my Tibetan teachers too I feel very grateful. Even if today I see many things in a different light, from their perspective they gave me so much! I still do feel privileged, so lucky to have met the Dhamma in this life, and kind teachers who shared with me so much, and who didn’t abuse me even if this potential is inherently present in the system they represent. And Dhamma friends who still are my friends, even if our paths are a bit different now!

Thank you again, @LucasOliveira, for posting this article that provided the opportunity for me to review this most important part of my life, my journey with the Dhamma, and by doing so becoming even a bit clearer about some aspects of it! :anjal:


I never mentioned having devotion to a ‘self’, by which it seems apparent that you mean an ‘atta’. I said devotion to someone. Since there is no atta to be found is any someone, it would be a false assumption to believe that that meant having devotion in an atta.

Furthermore, if you question how devotion can aid in mind training resulting in realisation of anatta, then how is this different from questioning anything that can aid in such.

Yes, following the buddhadhamma can be dangerous. It can result in loosing our friends, loosing our reputation, loosing our identity even. All those can even be a part of the real beneficial process, as what we might call ‘side effects’. Sometimes even loosing our sanity unfortunately, with psychosis or even suicide, can result when practice goes wrong (there have been some discussions on facebook about this from vipassana retreats recently). However, it is really quite unlikely for anyone to get enlightened who does not try to follow the teachings at all cost.

I see a lot of devotion in Early Buddhism. Many people seemed to become monks or nuns after brief encounters with the Buddha. That I would say comes from devotion. (Most/many) people paid attention when he taught, with a devotional attitude so far as I can see. Sometimes this extended to such an openness (which is the most significant characteristic of devotion) that they attained stream entry just by listening to him. This seems likely to be the same kind of approach as in Advaita satsangs, and in the Tibetan practice of ‘pointing out instructions’ (pointing out the nature of mind). All these require a deep openness which is readily available through devotion and thus why it is so important in those traditions.

Basically, one thing devotion can do it break down the self-created barrier between oneself and ones teacher, which in turn can be used to break down the who self-other barrier. But the ‘mechanics’ of that are less relevant for this conversation.

I might also mention the practice of buddhanusati (hope I spelled that right), which may not be so different from the Tibetan practice of Guru Yoga. Holding in mind the precious qualities of an enlightened one can have a profound effect. It seems to me that this draws one into those qualities, that bathing the mind in those qualities by summoning them to mind, draws our own mind into manifesting those qualities. That is very useful.

I will quote from Nyanaponika Thera:

Devotion, being a facet and natural accompaniment of confidence (saddha), is a necessary factor in the “balance of faculties” (indriya-samata) required for final deliverance. Confidence, in all its aspects, including the devotional, is needed to resolve any stagnation and other shortcomings resulting from a one-sided development of the intellectual faculties. Such development often tends to turn around in circles endlessly, without being able to effect a break-through. Here, devotion, confidence and faith — all aspects of the Pali term saddha — may be able to give quick and effective help.
Mentioning the value of a respectful, reverential attitude together with the blessings “avoiding fools and associating with the wise,” the Buddha obviously regarded such an attitude as fundamental for individual and social progress and for the acquisition of any further higher benefits. One who is incapable of a reverential attitude will also be incapable of spiritual progress beyond the narrow limits of his present mental condition. One who is so blind as not to see or recognize anything higher and better than the little mud-pool of his petty self and environment will suffer for a long time from retarded growth. And one who, out of a demonstrative self-assertion, scorns a reverential attitude in himself and in others will remain imprisoned in his self-conceit — a most formidable bar to a true maturity of character and to spiritual growth. It is by recognizing and honoring someone or something higher that one honors and enhances one’s own inner potentialities.

Deeele I am sorry if you are having trouble with this. But it is worth remembering that without actually taking refuge in such people who are at least stream enterers, we are not even Buddhist! Right?

I know many people who have attained stream entry, but I don’t think I can help you with that. Also there is an aspect of your logic which I would like to address. You asked:

So, you are specifically asking where stream enterers can be found who

  1. do not declare themselves to be stream enterers and
  2. who no unenlightened people believe to be stream enterers.

That is a rather bizarre question. Are you just trying to make it hard for yourself? If you were in the Buddha’s time that would mean you would be disqualifying all those who declared they had attained stream entry. Why would you do that? Why be so fussy about which stream enterers you are accepting?

And then, if anyone who is not an arahant believes a stream enterer to be a stream enterer, you are also disqualifying them. How bizarre! Out of all the availability of being able to take Buddhist refuge, you seem to be deciding to make it as impossible as you can to take refuge. Unless I have misunderstood somehow?

Every couple of weeks, I go to my local vihara and take the refuges and the precepts. There is a little ceremony involved, with a few bows and a standard set of chants. Am I supposed to ask whether the monk performing the other side of the chants is a steam-enterer? I never thought that was important. In fact, sometimes when I’m at home, I will do the chants by myself. Also, when I feel like I need to give my self a bit of a moral boost, I will chant the precepts in my head.


I don’t think there are infallible teachers, except the Buddha himself in the EBTs.

"There is the case, Bharadvaja, where a monk lives in dependence on a certain village or town. Then a householder or householder’s son goes to him and observes him with regard to three mental qualities — qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion, qualities based on delusion: ‘Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on greed that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, “I know,” while not knowing, or say, “I see,” while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?’ As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on greed… His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not greedy. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. This Dhamma can’t easily be taught by a person who’s greedy.

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on greed, he next observes him with regard to qualities based on aversion: ‘Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on aversion that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, “I know,” while not knowing, or say, “I see,” while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?’ As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on aversion… His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not aversive. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. This Dhamma can’t easily be taught by a person who’s aversive.

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on aversion, he next observes him with regard to qualities based on delusion: ‘Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on delusion that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, “I know,” while not knowing, or say, “I see,” while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?’ As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on delusion… His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not deluded. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. This Dhamma can’t easily be taught by a person who’s deluded.

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. 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. MN95

So the model here is not one of naivety. Nor is it one of constant incredulity.

If after a time, the person looks steady, and generally wholesome then review their teachings and then put them into practice. Then one can see for oneself.

As I said before, it takes a lot of expertise and time to process the EBTs and communicate it in a way that is generally helpful. It makes sense to rely on good teachers who can do that, if not by personal contact, then via books and other media. To strive at this alone is possible of course, and should be encouraged but reliance on a teacher is not a bad thing, especially to not skew into unwholesomeness, incorrect translations or conceit.

One approach is to learn from more than one teacher:

"The individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, should approach an individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment and ask him: ‘How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: ‘Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

"As for the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquillity of awareness, he should approach an individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness… and ask him, ‘How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: ‘The mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

Taking refuge in triple gem -for me it is purely conceptual. The Buddha doesn’t have to be here, we don’t need to have understood all of the Dhamma or have a living ariya standing in front of us. I know the Buddha was like this to some degree, what the Dhamma is like and the ariya sangha must be like.

with metta


But Ananda was a stream enterer at the time? Stream enterers are self-sufficient in the Dhamma.

[quote=“Deeele, post:19, topic:5924”]
How can devotion to a ‘self’ or ‘someone’ result in the realisation of ‘not-self’ (‘anatta’)? [/quote]

We conceptualize by dividing, contrasting and we label accordingly. I know what it feels like to decide for myself what I want to do, as opposed to being forced to do something. Through contrasting the two I can label one “freedom” and the other “slavery”.

I also know that if someone pinches my arm, I feel pain. If someone pinches the screen in front of me, I feel nothing. The movement of my fingers on the keyboard are under control of volition. The glass to the right of me is not. It therefore makes sense to distinguish between this body/mind-organism and the rest of the field of experience.

This is not different from distinguishing black from white, red from green or yellow from blue. The common way of doing this is to refer to one part as “me” and the rest as “not me”. Or self/other. This is not something we are supposed to stop doing in order to become enlightened. A cat is probably not able conceptualize this way, and yet the cat is neither a stream-enterer nor an arahant. In short, distinguishing and labeling in and of themselves do not create the illusion of a self. As far as I have understood it, this is simply the khanda of perception doing its thing.

The illusion of self, as I understand it, has to do with beliefs and/or misinterpretation of experience. Such as:

  • I might think there is an inner “I” that is the supreme ruler of this body/mind organism. But if that were true, I could will away cancer, cure any illness by just wanting the body to get rid of it, remain slim while stuffing myself with tons of high energy foods every day.

  • I might also think that there is a foundation to the universe, something eternal, unchanging, divine and supreme, and that a little spark of THAT is my true self, which can never be born, become sick, grow old or die. But if that were true it could not experience anything, since experience requires interaction, change, movement. This true self would be locked in its own universe, without experiencing anything and without ever being able to interact with anything. What it would even mean for something like that to exist I do not know.

  • I might feel like there is a true “me” within the body. Someone who moves arms, thinks thoughts, feels feelings, etc. An experiencer that has remained the same throughout my life. Sometimes this “me” feels like a presence within the head, or warm and fuzzy feelings within my chest area (the spiritual “heart”) etc. But whatever I interpret as my self in actual experience cannot possibly be my self in this sense. Whatever feels like me cannot be my self, because it is being experienced and yet the self is supposed to be the experiencer, as opposed to the experienced. Teeth cannot chew themselves. Should this self be only a theoretical construct and not something I think can be experienced, it cannot be unchanging for reasons already mentioned. Also, if I we practice mindfulness meditation we can see that feelings do not consist of two parts, experiencer and experienced. Or consciousness of feeling and the feeling itself. The feeling is just the feeling, and there is no such thing as a feeling we are unconscious of. Consciousness is part and parcel of the experience itself and is not some separate entity we can call a self.

  • I might mistakenly think that the reason reason why labeling things and persons with names such as man, woman, cat, dog, self, other, tree, snake, etc. actually works, is because these things have an inner identity/essence/substance that makes them what they are. Some people who think that way might believe the inner essence of women make them unsuited for ordination. But suppose I take a walk into the wilderness and I start to get hungry. I come across a particularly flat rock. I use it as a table and eat from it. Has a change of identity/essence/substance happened to the object such that its rock-essence has been transformed into table-essence? Or have I merely labelled an object that has no true inner identity on the basis of social conventions I have learned? Is there really such a thing as an ipad-essence or iphone-essence?

There other ways erroneous ways of selfing I have forgotten to mention, but the point is that the simple distinguishing between this/that and calling this “self” and that “other” does not mean one is making any of the above mistakes, consciously or unconsciously. Distinguishing between sound and silence does not mean someone thinks silence has an inner essence that would make a deaf person able to recognize silence when she has never experienced the sound necessary to draw the contrast between the two.

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That brings me to a philosophical question I don’t know the answer to. I received the precepts and a “Dharma name” some years back from a Chan priest. For reasons unknown to me, that particular order uses the same five precepts everyone here would be familiar with, rather than the ten that Chan/Zen usually uses. (We also chanted the refuges in Pali before every sitting, which was my first encounter with anything in that language.)

I recite the refuges and precepts every morning (very quietly, so passing Pali scholars won’t have to wince at my pronunciation) and frequently expand the usual five to the full eight, if I know I won’t be expected to eat with someone in the afternoon. Nobody ever gave me those additional three precepts. So did I steal them, thus violating the first precept? The document I have just says “received the precepts,” without mentioning a number, so perhaps I can get away with my behavior with a bit of lawyerly eel-wriggling. :innocent:

Thank you so much for that story. It’s very heartfelt and honest. I’m glad that your own experiences were mostly positive!


I don’t know what the Chan tradition says, but it doesn’t seem to me that in Theravada tradition, one is literally getting the precepts and refuges from anyone. For one thing, the bhikkhu who leads the precept-taking is saying exactly the same things as the person who has made the request. For example, such things as:

Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi

I undertake the precept to refrain from taking the life of any living creature.

The lay follower is just repeating the statement of the undertaking after the bhikkhu. So, it always seemed to me that the bhikkhu is actually making the same undertakings as the lay follower. They’re doing it together. The bhikkhu is just the leader of a group of people undertaking the precepts, and what is initially requested is just some kind of guidance or assistance in reciting them - since presumably the bhikkhu knows the words by heart, and the lay follower might not, and also because the “follow-the-leader” hearing and repetition adds some order or structure to the event. It’s not like a marriage ceremony where the officiant first asks you whether you agree to follow a precept, and you then agree. And at the end, the leader doesn’t say, “Now you have received the precepts” or “You have hereby been precepted” or something like that. He just says, “These are the precepts” and reminds the group why we all undertake them.

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That’s good to know. I’ll stop looking over my shoulder for the approach of the Precept Police. :grin:

Zen/Chan makes a big hairy deal out of the whole thing-- people are evaluated as to whether they’re worthy (most outfits require regular attendance/study for x amount of time), which seems kind of weird to me, but who am I to argue with tradition?

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Well, you should check with someone else to see if I have gotten it wrong. :slightly_smiling_face:

In the suttas, there are some places where a lay follower asks the Buddha simply to know him as a lay follower. But in other places the lay follower asks the Buddha to accept him as a lay follower, and that’s usually followed up by some statement of a commitment to follow the Buddha for as long as one lives. Since the follower is not actually joining the order, it’s not clear to me what this acceptance consists in. But presumably if a king asked the Buddha something like “Is Sīgālovāda one of your followers?”, and the Buddha had accepted him as such, he would acknowledge that fact and answer “yes.”

I know that in some forms of Theravada, there is a higher level of lay practice that involves taking ten lifetime precepts, or the eight precepts for a lifetime. But I don’t think that option exists where I practice.

The Dogma of the Buddhist Master’s Infallibility: A Reappraisal of “Buddhist Modernism”

This is true for the Theravada too.

Posted this link on the Dhamma Wheel and there they talk about such problems in Theravada. Everyone knows that these mistakes are found in any school.

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“Someone”, “self”, “a being”. Are these things different?

Why now do you assume ‘a being’?
Mara, is that your speculative view?
This is a heap of sheer formations:
Here no being is found.

SN 5.10

If it was not different, the teachings would not be about ‘not-self.’ The teachings point to ‘selfing’ as the problem rather than, for example, viewing phenomena as merely phenomena.

Viewing a teacher as five aggregates or as many elements or as emptiness is not the same as viewing a teacher as “someone”.

For example, the monk below is devoted to the elements (dhatu), as MN 115 instructs. Unlike Vakkali in SN 22.87, the monk below is not devoted to a ‘self’, such as when Vakkali believed the Buddha was a ‘self’ or when Rahula in MN 62 believed the Buddha was a ‘self’ or a “someone”.

MN 117 states devotion to teachers is wholesome but defiled.

When bowing in a conventional environment, the mind should bow to emptiness (sunnata) if it wants stream-entry.

This does not appear to be true. In my reading, stream-entry was attained by insight, as described in SN 56.11, as follows:

And while this discourse was being spoken, there arose in the Venerable Kondañña the dust-free, stainless vision of the Dhamma: “Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.

Advaita teaches “oneness”, which is similar to sexual union. Lust for people & enchantment creates this oneness of “Advaita”, which means “One God” or “One Deity” or “One Self”. For example, the New Testament teaches we are one body in Christ. This is Advaita and personality view of the cosmic or greater self.

This lust for the guru is what results in abuse because the lust is for receiving love from the guru.

Exactly, similar to sexual intercourse, where two selves merge into one self. But this is not the realisation of not-self. It is the giving of self to another self; similar to when Jesus said: “Give up your life for my sake”.

I think it is different because buddhanusati is about only about mental qualities and not about a “someone”.

Devotion here is ‘chandha’. It is devotion to Dhamma (Truth) rather than affectionate devotion to a “someone”. Dhp 212 advises to avoid affection.

This was only Nyanaponika’s opinion. This is the problem of taking refuge in gurus. We start to believe Western monks like Nyanaponika are the Buddha.

This is harsh speech to me & nihilism, i.e., destroying one self in order to worship another self.

This sounds wrong. In SN 6.2, reverence is given to the Dhamma and not to samsaric entities.

This sounds like self-views. There is no such thing as “own” inner potentialities. The EBTs state to honor the Dhamma and the Dhamma alone (SN 22.87; SN 6.2; DN 16; etc).

This scenario is not real & only fantasy. In MN 131, it is said: “Let one not trace back the past”.

Not bizarre when the EBTs state the Dhamma is the only refuge.

If there was a Noble Sangha, why do the monks disagree with each other? In the Buddha’s time, because of the Buddha, most monks agreed with each other. But since the Buddha’s passing, the Sangha has become more & more divided & sectarian. I think, today, the only Noble Sangha is the practitioner & that the 3rd refuge is for the purpose of telling people they themselves can become enlightened.

Yes. DN 16 states after the Buddha’s passing, only the Dhamma is to be taken as the refuge. As for respecting the convention of other ‘persons’, this is only the practise of sila (morality).


Therefore, Ānanda, live with yourself as an island, yourself as a refuge, with no other refuge, with the Teaching as an island, the Teaching as a refuge, with no other refuge. And how, Ānanda, does a monk live with himself as an island, himself as a refuge, with no other refuge, with the Teaching as an island, the Teaching as a refuge, with no other refuge?

Here, Ānanda, a monk dwells contemplating the nature of the body in the body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world; he dwells contemplating the nature of feelings in feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world; he dwells contemplating the nature of the mind in the mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world; he dwells contemplating the nature of things in various things, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world.

Thus, Ānanda, a monk lives with himself as an island, himself as a refuge, with no other refuge, with the Teaching as an island, the Teaching as a refuge, with no other refuge. For whoever, Ānanda, whether at present or after my passing, lives with himself as an island, himself as a refuge, with no other refuge, with the Teaching as an island, the Teaching as a refuge, with no other refuge, those monks of mine, Ānanda, will go from darkness to the highest—whoever likes the training.”

DN 16

In EBTs no one ever ‘gives’ the precepts. That assumes someone ‘has’ the precepts and equally they could be ‘stolen’ I suppose! The wording is ‘I undertake the training rule…’ Once I was accused of falsely taking the eight precepts because I didn’t take it from a bhikkhu, by someone who didn’t know much about the dhamma, as I only had 5 precepts and monks have hundreds! There doesn’t seem to be any indication that one has to take them repeatedly either, rather the emphasis is of course, on keeping them.

with metta


When we keep, we fear. When we fear, we suffer.
We keep because we have that, if we do not have that then we do not need to keep.
However, when we have that, we should keep.

I regularly offer a refuge and precepts ceremony for people online who don’t have a sangha near them, and I’ve come across people in other traditions, such as Tibetan, who say this is the wrong thing to do because the precepts in tibetan are a whole process and ceremony connected with a teacher. So it is tradition Dependant.

In Theravada they are “given” out like candy anytime a lay person comes to the monastery. Indeed however, a monk does not “give” the precepts, traditionally it has come down that way in the ceremony, but no one can give precepts to anyone, they are something taken up by the person who is choosing to live more skillfully by having the precepts as a moral guide.

The first time I took the refuge and precepts was at a Chan monastery and it was in chinese, but the master there, like the one you know Andy, also studied the pali suttas, in fact it’s a monastery Bhikkhu Bodhi often taught at, so it seems some people in Chan are pretty open to other traditions.


It is absurd to take any reference to a person as being a reference to the Brahminical atta doctrine. You refer to me as ‘Senryu’ - does that mean that you are propounding the atta doctrine as well? Even the Buddha used the term ‘self’ (atta) in the conventional sense. Does this mean he also believed in the Brahminical atta?

If you think that having devotion towards someone means that they believe in the Brahminical atta, you should consider that such a position also implies that any of the Buddha’s disciples, arahant or otherwise, who showed respect to anyone, including the Buddha, similarly believed in the atta doctrine.

I would like to classify that as nit-picking. My point is that disciples attained stream entry by listening to their teacher open-heartedly, and that devotion can be a vital element of such a phenomenon. That the arising of insight occured while they were listening in that open state is no refutation of my position. Rather it is a description of an aspect of that process of what occurs while devotedly listening to an enlightened master, giving the result of stream entry.

So far as I am aware, Advaita teaches ‘not-twoness’. If you find twoness in nibbāna I would be most interested to hear about that. I would also be very interested to hear your etymological explanation for your claim:

If you have some reasonable evidence for your claims, I would be very happy to examine it. If however you are merely assuming that any claim to transcend the self-other delusion not expressed in precisely Early Buddhist terms must be false, I will have to simply disagree with you. I cannot bring myself to hold such a narrow view on this matter.

If you propose that the Buddha is not someone but a guru is someone, I would have to point out your logical inconsistency. And if you would assume that the practice of guru yoga assumes that there is any self-existing entity in all the universe, I would have to point out your error.

My PED has no entry for ‘chandha’. But here you seem to be complaining about Tibetan Buddhism’s devotion. So let’s examine that to see if your complaint checks out.

Devotion in Tibetan Buddhism is the translation most commonly of the term མོས་གུས་; and also of the term དད་པ་, which can also be translated as ‘faith’, or even as ‘confidence’.

མོས་གུས་ so far as I understand is the Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit term adhimukta, which in Pāli is adhimutti; or adhimokṣa, which in Pāli is adhimokkha.
The PED defines adhimutti as:

intent upon (–° or with loc. or acc.), applying oneself to, keen on, inclined to, given to Vin I.183; A V.34, 38; Dh 226; Sn 1071, 1149 (°citta); Nd (2) 33; J I.370 (dān°) Pug 26; PvA 134 (dān°).

And adhimokkha as:

firm resolve, determination, decision M III.25 sq.; Vbh 165 sq., 425; DhsA 145, 264. See Dhs. trsl. 5; Cpd. 17, 40, 95.

དད་པ་ is the Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit term śraddhā which in Pāli is saddhā, which so far as I understand Early Buddhism teaches that we should have towards the Buddha, dhamma and sangha. Ones guru in Tibetan Buddhism is the most important member of the sangha, and thus a worthy object of our saddhā.

Do you find these to be against the teachings of the Buddha?

Let me rephrase your question: ‘If there are some people who have attained at least stream entry, why is there disagreement between a group of thousands of people, almost all of whom have not attained stream entry?’ I hope that the answer is self evident.

Oh, now I understand that you are in disagreement with the entire Buddhist community for the last 2,500 years. I would be open to the possibility of having your view proven to me, but for the meantime I will simply have to disagree with you and assume that taking refuge in all 3 jewels is standard Early Buddhist doctrine.

I think here is where we obviously disagree. Five ascetics listened in SN 56.11 but only one ascetic experienced stream-entry. This appeared to have occurred when Kondañña’s mind stopped listening to Buddha but, instead, observed the arising & ceasing of craving & becoming. It seems when becoming or the sense of ‘existence’ (bhava) ended in Kondañña’s mind, it was realised: “All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation”. For this to occur, the teacher had to be abandoned, the same as occurred in MN 56, when new stream-enterer Upali became independent of the teacher (Buddha) and said to Buddha he wished to depart from the Buddha’s presence; to which the Lord Buddha replied: “Now is the time to do what you think is fit”. Neither Upali had any attachment to his teacher nor did the teacher (Buddha) have attachment to the student Upali because both minds abided in emptiness (sunnata) & detachment.

Notice the translation below says: “seen the truth” (rather than “heard the truth”).

Best wishes :sunflower:

When the Blessed One perceived that the mind of Upāli, the householder, was prepared, pliant, free from obstacles, elevated and lucid, then he revealed to him that exalted doctrine of the Buddhas, viz. Suffering, its Cause, its Ceasing and the Path.

Just as a clean cloth, free from stain, would take the dye perfectly, even so, to Upāli, the householder, whilst seated in that place, there arose (in him) the spotless, stainless vision of Truth. He knew: Whatsoever has causally arisen must inevitably pass utterly away.’

Then Upāli, the householder, having thus, in the Dispensation of the Exalted One seen the Truth; attained to the Truth; comprehended the Truth, penetrated the Truth, overcome doubt; cast off uncertainty and gained full confidence without dependence on another, said to the Blessed One:

“Well, Venerable Sir, we must be going now. We have much to do.”

“You, householder, are aware of the hour.”

Thereupon Upāli, the householder, delighted with the words of the Blessed One, having expressed his gratitude, rose from his seat, saluted the Blessed One respectfully, passed round him to the right, and proceeded to his residence.

MN 56

MN 1 distinguishes oneness from Nibbana.

Ekattaṃ ekattato sañjānāti He perceives unity as unity. … Nibbānaṃ nibbānato sañjānāti He perceives Nibbāna as Nibbāna. MN 1

Nibbana is the end of greed, hatred & delusion therefore “twoness” can occur in Nibbana, as well as “oneness”.

For example, EBTs describe ‘internal’ & ‘external’ (MN 148) and ‘duality/dyad’ (SN 12.19), in an enlightened manner.

It seems like you follow Advaita rather than Buddhism. In Buddhism, Nibbana is the destruction of craving rather than the destruction of two-ness or three-ness or four-ness.

In MN 12, the Buddha declared he discerns the diversity in elements, inclinations & dispositions of beings therefore, obviously, the Buddha did not abide in advaita (union of Self & Brahman).

According to Richard King, a professor of Buddhist and Asian studies, the term Advaita first occurs in a recognizably Vedantic context in the prose of Mandukya Upanishad.

I didn’t post any inconsistencies or errors. There is conventional language, which sometimes must be used in discussion.

All dhammas fall into right (samma) and wrong (miccha) therefore there can be wrong saddha.

I did not say this. I referred to monks. Famous guru monks have many disagreements in doctrine, such as Maha Boowa, Ajahn Chah, Buddhadasa, Ajahn Brahm, etc. Are you going to claim which of these monks was enlightened and which was not?

The entire Buddhist community is obviously not enlightened therefore I rest my case. :innocent:

I was just reading something which I feel is relevant to this point, and may help to explain why it appears that you are at odds with the whole Buddhist tradition in your view that the Buddha cannelled the whole idea of the triple refuge in favour of one single refuge. From SN36.19:

“Three kinds of feelings, carpenter, have been spoken of by the Blessed One: pleasant feeling, painful feeling, neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. These are the three kinds of feelings that have been spoken of by the Blessed One.”

When this was said, the carpenter Pañcakaṅga said to the Venerable Udayī: “The Blessed One did not speak of three kinds of feelings, Venerable Udayī. He spoke of two kinds of feelings: pleasant feeling and painful feeling. As to this neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, venerable sir, the Blessed One has said that this is included in the peaceful and sublime pleasure.”

A second time
and a third time the Venerable Udayī stated his position, and a second time and a third time the carpenter Pañcakaṅga stated his, but the Venerable Udayī could not convince the carpenter Pañcakaṅga nor could the carpenter Pañcakaṅga convince the Venerable Udayī.

The Venerable Ānanda heard this conversation between the Venerable Udayī and the carpenter Pañcakaṅga. Then he approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and reported to the Blessed One the entire conversation. The Blessed One said:

“Ānanda, it was a true method of exposition that the carpenter Pañcakaṅga would not approve of from the bhikkhu Udayī, and it was a true method of exposition that the bhikkhu Udayī would not approve of from the carpenter Pañcakaṅga. I have spoken of two kinds of feelings by one method of exposition; I have spoken of three kinds of feelings by another method of exposition; I have spoken of five kinds of feelings … six kinds of feelings … eighteen kinds of feelings … thirty-six kinds of feelings by another method of exposition;
and I have spoken of one hundred and eight kinds of feelings by still another method of exposition. Thus, Ānanda, the Dhamma has been taught by me through different methods of exposition.

“When the Dhamma has been taught by me in such a way through different methods of exposition, it may be expected of those who will not concede, allow, and approve of what is well stated and well spoken by others that they will become contentious and quarrelsome and engage in disputes, and that they will dwell stabbing each other with verbal daggers. But when the Dhamma has been taught by me in such a way through different methods of exposition, it may be expected of those who will concede, allow, and approve of what is well stated and well spoken by others that they will live in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes.

I think this provides good reasoning why not to take one isolated teaching to anul a whole mass of teachings.

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