The stream of the Dhamma

Everything has always happened by itself though we thought we were doing it!

‘Entering the stream’ is a curious phrase? On entering a stream we are carried by it’s momentum.

There’s a contrast between the notion of being carried by a stream and, the metaphor of ‘going against the stream’ in order to wake up from the samsaric nightmare - the delusion.

Struggle arises when there is a state of resistance. We can turn life into a battlefield.

Fundamentalists - Buddhist and otherwise - believe the religious life is a battle between the forces of good against evil.

I know people who are tortured by their religious imaginations. Believing that the evils - and, evil-doers - in the world are out to get them and, wreak havoc!

The paranoid belief that someone or, something, is a constant malevolent threat to our well-being is a sure sign that our minds have been derailed. There are exceptions but, things would be pretty grim if this was the case.

I have a friend who believes that pigeons have been fitted with monitoring-devices to keep track of his thoughts and movements. The spies are onto him!

Surely, the Dhamma is more profound, subtle and, liberating than this? An endless struggle with life itself. A struggle against nameless fears and worry?

We can conceive of the practice as a valiant struggle to overcome the forces of Mara - living in the ‘hope’ of victory. Hoping that we will not be vanquished by the wicked foe!

We must strive, like a brave-warrior strives, to annihilate the hindrances, the kilesas, and wipe-out, wipe away the stain of being.

“Winter ends, spring returns and, the grass grows by itself.” - Basho

What is the difference between fundamentalism and literalism. I’m wondering if there could be a cause for concern in this that may be overlooked?

Fundamentalism thrives in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. It drives the believer to the brink of madness and, beyond.

When people are ‘made’ to fear they can be controlled. This is something we need to keep in mind in our own journey in the Dhamma and, in the current political climate.

Cults thrive on fear, loneliness, estrangement from others, from the world, from our own existence.

The Dhamma is subtle, making for peace…

I find some teachers are particularly gifted communicators because they allay people’s fears and anxieties. They find a way to make the Dhamma more accessible and, interesting.

The interest enables the listener to go deeper, to see more clearly. Ajahn Brahm is a great exemplar of this skillful communication.

There are also teachers and practitioners which seem to respond to messages of fear, personal struggle, black-and-white thinking, the good guys and the bad guys.

How do we explain these differences?


OK - is that all?

What came to mind was the debate that was triggered when Ajahn Brahm played an important role in a bhikkhuni-ordination.

He felt for his dear friends in the Dhamma - his students - who were female and wanting to ordain.

Much of the resistance to the ordination was institutional. There was a group of people - including monastics - who believed it was a bad idea for a number of reasons.

Some of those reasons were technical and, others, may have included attitudes towards women?

Was it just kamma which created a law in Thailand outlawing bhikkhuni-ordination or, was something else in play?

Perhaps, sexist attitudes in the Thai-sangha and, in their society, may have contributed to the ‘repression’. The action of subduing someone or something by force.

It looks like the anti-bhikkhuni law in Thailand is on the brink of changing - thank goodness?

Its an uncanny coincidence that the hell-fire and brimstone types - fundamentalists - often have sexist attitudes.

It seems like there’s an ‘ideology’ of fear and control in circulation and, this leads to unnecessary oppression and intolerance.

When people who have adopted this ideology take an interest in the Dhamma we seem to find a particular slant on the teachings manifesting.

So, kamma plays a role but, other processes - individual and collective - may also be responsible?

No it’s not all. But it was a brief answer to indicate my opinion that it’s easy to overthink things.
Maybe a better answer would be, “it’s just the way things are.”
Maybe I was looking for a way to bring the discussion round to the EBTs. That must be it!

I do remember hearing EBT teachings about other causes for things happening other than kamma.

Did you have something in mind when you wrote this? Anything EBT-ish or otherwise?

I just remembered the Buddha’s advice given to lay people on how to live harmoniously with loved-ones, how to be a good and supportive friend, how administrators should govern i.e. the good qualities of a ruler.

Are there any teachings like this in the EBT’s?

If these teachings are attributable to the Buddha, could it be that these forms of interaction are important? Do they have a very real impact on life and, living?

What I am ‘getting at’ here is, through attending to the Buddha’s advice on relationships - as friends, partners or, important decision makers - we are likely to have an impact on the worlds in which we find ourselves?

Instead of seeing ourselves as the passive victims of kamma and vipaka, what some people say: is just kamma! There may be something more going on here?

If, the EBT’s seem to ignore the full-spectrum of ‘cause and effect’ relationships we may want to ask why?

Why some things are not given attention that clearly have a major impact on our collective harmony or, collective dukkha?

For example, we can practice Buddhism in some countries where it’s tolerated, protected by law. In others, we might have to practice secretively in order to avoid persecution.

This means these untaught themes of inquiry - in the early teachings - do seem to have real-world repercussions for the practice of the 8-fold path.

Without access to the teachings and, the freedom to practice we may find it difficult.

The women in Thailand found it difficult to practice as bhikkhunis, not out of ‘choice’ - they didn’t have one.

What is your take on right effort, @laurence? :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Dear Mat, I always benefit from your input on these important teachings. We need some EBT references and you may be able to help?

But, for what it’s worth, I’ll give it a go!

I know there are different kinds of effort. I have a habit of learning the hard way.

I have put a lot of effort into things and should have probably stopped before it started to have a negative impact.

At other times, I was to lazy and indifferent and suffered the consequences.

Sometimes, the degree of effort is not that skillful due to a lack of clarity or commitment. A reluctance to really change things for the better?

At other times, there may be great inspiration and a whole-hearted willingness to embrace truth, awareness, kindness.

When this happens and, many other important variables are in play, the progress of insight may arise effortlessly and beautifully. I would call this: accelerated learning. :heart_eyes:

Here you go…

And what, monks, is Right Effort?

[1] "There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds &…

"Abandon what is unskillful, monks. It is possible to abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible to abandon what is unskilful…

"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one’s right effort…

Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence… AN 6.55: About Sona (English) - Chakka Nipāta - SuttaCentral


Yes, and that pitch ‘changes’ as we move in the Dhamma.

It’s supported and subverted by many variables that come and go. At times of accelerated learning there’s pitch-perfect movement and transformation.

At these times in our practice, it may seem as if we are carried - as if in a stream.

The Dhamma is a source of blessings! The blessings of new insights, profound natural stillness and, much more.

Waking up is like this, it can have many unexpected twists and turns. It’s a living process that moves towards freedom. An open loving-:heartbeat:, full of wisdom, generosity and, bliss.

At times, the raft gets water-logged and it looks like we are going to sink or swim. It’s not always that difficult - is it?

The Dhamma changes everything in beautiful ways.

I hope this is helpful but, if it isn’t then, ignore it! :slight_smile:

Does the Buddha come across, like this…? That’s why EBTs are calm and actually helpful to read.


Well, if you want my honest opinion, it’s a mixed bag - don’t you think?

The Buddha seemed to have an interesting conversation going with a chap called: Mara.

As a psychologist, if somebody appeared for therapy and told you they had been visited by somebody like Mara - throughout most of their adult life - what would you recommend?

Mara was actually a nice chap. He wanted the Buddha to give up struggling in a remote jungle, return to his palace and keep doing good deeds - would you have listened to him? My point is he was going with the flow.

Sure but all chocolates have chocolate, sugar,etc. Everyone has craving, aversion and delusion.

The Buddha said all unenlightened people are ‘mad’, referring to the delusion. Cognitive therapy would agree re the distorted thinking. I’m a psychiatrist by the way and not a psychologist.

1 Like

Well, you might think he was a nice chap? That might be your loving-kindness practice? Maybe you’ve abandoned the fault-finding mind?

I suppose Mr. M might have something nice about him? I hope he is kind to his daughters. I hear he has beautiful daughters. I hope they are kind to their old-man.

May Mara be well and happy - may he be liberated!

He certainly made the Buddha’s life-story a more interesting read - I guess that’s sumfin?

This is where you start getting creative again Mat - bless your cotton socks.

No, I didn’t say anything about ‘going with the flow’ - you did - do you see?

Being carried by the stream of the Dhamma does not mean: going with the flow - you know that, right? Well, so do I - OK?

If you need to believe that Laurence is saying something he has not ‘actually’ said then, you may benefit from finding out why? Just a thought! Yours L :heart_eyes:

I think its easy to make the blissful bits nice and comfy. There’s also a side to the Dhamma which is harsh reality- not an excuse to be unpleasant to people but actually. It makes sense to approach Dhamma teachers who are gifted in these various ‘departments’ to benefit from their talents! Please note that I’m beginning to ramble a bit here and everything I say is not a response to what you wrote! :heart:

1 Like

Dear Mat, I’m curious about the chronology of these events? We know - from the story - that the decadent life he lead with his family didn’t seem to help much.

He wasn’t really a prince and, he didn’t live in any palaces - is that correct? He was a man from a privileged family, a Sakyan from the Sakyan ‘Republic’.

That would make the prince in the palace story a creative invention. Princes live in principalities, kingdoms and, such like, not republics?

Then, we hear about his life of search and struggle. I am not sure he had a hard-time when he was with ‘Alara Kalama’ and ‘Mr. Ramaputta’ - as they may not have been the extremist ascetic types - were they?

I mean, like those that fasted till they looked like skeletons or, practiced tortuous forms of penance in an attempt to purify their kamma. The ‘dog-watch ascetic’ comes to mind. I doubt that he was a jhana-teacher like Alara and Uddaka?

Then, he was practicing with the four ascetics, that sounded like a real struggle, lots of self-mortification.

Then, he went to the river-side and sat under the :evergreen_tree: having given-up on pointless and unskilful struggle and abnegation.

When he woke up he taught a middle-way. He gave the example of tuning the strings on an instrument - not to tight, not to loose. Don’t cause yourself to suffer through stressing-out and, don’t be lazy and negligent.

If, Mara met the ‘Buddha’ when he was under the bodhi-tree, he was probably chilled-out, as cool as a cucumber? He was certainly cool when he saw the morning :star2:.

Maybe, this is the way we should practice if, we can help it?

Yes, he may have been the son of wealthy warlord or maybe a chieftain.

Try this: A Sketch of the Buddha's Life: Readings from the Pali Canon

Live, sir! Life’s the better way;
you may gain merit if you live,
come live the life of purity, pour
libations on the holy fires
and thus a world of merit gain.
What can you do by struggling now?
The path of struggling too is rough,
and difficult and hard to bear.
Snp 3.2: The Striving of Gotama (English) - Sutta Nipāta - SuttaCentral


1 Like

Yer, that’s the Brahmin-thing, this wasn’t his cup of tea. I guess it’s a case of different strokes for different folks.

At what point in the story was he struggling in a way that was difficult and hard? I thought he abandoned the difficult and hard things he was up to before he woke up. I thought he saw the error in those practices he was doing before his awakening.

I thought the 8-fold path was a middle-way. A way that involved fine-tuning, adjusting the pitch to gain balance and equilibrium. You can’t play a nice tune if the strings are to tight or to lose.

I am not sure that what you are saying about practice was actually taught by the Lord Buddha.

“If you haven’t cried deeply a number of times, your meditation hasn’t really begun.” - Ajahn Chah

Have you tried living in a jungle?

Compare that with cushy sofas and food whenever you want it? (I’m not saying all Buddhists should go live in jungles but there was enough hardship- famines, poisonous serpents, wild elephants, clingy householders who don’t get it etc etc)

Best to withhold judgement or ask someone familiar with EBTs.

It depends on why your crying? I am not sure that Ajahn Chah was talking about crying over the hardship of ascetic practices.

I have cried a few times during intensive practice but, it wasn’t about the long hours of meditation, it wasn’t about the frugality and simplicity of the living conditions, it wasn’t about the harshness of the place or the season or the dangerous :snake: etc.

I read that the Buddha had a good relationship with wild creatures. He didn’t have a fear of wild marauding ‘elephants’ etc. One was pacified by his loving-kindness.

As we cool-down with a kind-heart in practice our relationship to the wild-places in nature can change a lot. A forest can be a very beautiful place to frequent.

The wilderness may have been a better place to spend a lot of time for various reasons.

The squalor that may have been widespread in the iron-age settlements at the time may have been far less inviting. A potential health hazard - in a number of ways.

I love jungles, they’re one of my favourite environments. I am not sure the Buddha lived in forests because he wanted to live a difficult life, full of struggle and hardship.

He was living through intentionally hard and difficult practices when he didn’t know any better. He did teach the value of simplicity and, not being wasteful and self-indulgent. He did teach patience and, understanding, if things are difficult and challenging.

I am pretty sure we shouldn’t intentionally make life difficult for ourselves as if, that was something worth doing. That would be neglecting our own well-being for no good reason.

The Buddha taught that the pleasure of jhanas and, the pleasantness of living in a forest were both OK for his monastic followers. You may know the Sutta-source of this teaching?

“Sir, what is a delightful place?”

“Shrines in parks and forests, well-made lotus ponds, are not worth a sixteenth part of a delightful human being. Whether in village or wilderness, in a valley or the uplands, wherever the perfected ones live is a delightful place.” - Ramanayakkasutta