What Acharn Thate did and did not teach

I have noticed that there have been a number of posts on this forum that reference Luang Poo Thate. As a long time disciple of Luang Poo, I feel it is my duty to correct some of the misconceptions referenced here. By doing so, I hope that his teaching will be fairly represented.

First, I would like to say that there is no Thai version of the Flavour of Dhamma. This work is a compilation of works by Luang Poo Thate only available in English. The individual works are available in Thai.

Second, Luang Poo did not equate Jhana and the Bhavanga. Instead, he refers the mind entering the Bhavanga when it reaches Jhana. So, just to be clear, the Bhavanga exists even when the mind is not in Jhana. They are not one and the same but Jhana does relate to the Bhavanga.

Luang Poo also differentiates Jhana from Samadhi. Jhana being the attainment of the Bhavanga by gazing/focusing on an object. Samadhi being the attainment of the Bhavanga by investigating an object, particularly in the light of impermanence, suffering and non-self. The flavour of these two Bhavanga experiences being slightly different.

Third, Luang Poo did not teach that the “original Citta” is Jhana. He would say that Jhana is still an expression of the original Citta and therefore mundane, unless Jhana is being used by a Ariya. To be clear, he did say that Jhana is “one-pointedness”, as is Appana Samadhi, but it is still an impure state.

Fourth, Luang Poo was not an Eternalist. The whole concept of the original or true Citta is a singularity between the opposites. In this teaching there is no notion of any part of the human construct being eternal. The true Citta is unconditioned. It belongs to no-one.

Luang Ta Maha Boowa does describe this as “Knowingness” but this is NOT vinyana. Vinyana again being an expression of the Knowingness. This description is entirely consistent with that of Luang Poo Thate. From what I have read of Acharn Char, his description is also entirely consistent with both Luang Poo Thate and Luang Ta Maha Boowa.

I hope that this clarifies Luang Poo Thate’s teachings on these matters, for those who are interested.

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Hi @HinMarkPeng,

Welcome to the D&D forum!

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With Metta,
Ric
On behalf of the moderators

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Welcome to the forum.

I’ve always found Ajahn Thate’s teachings on bhāvanā puzzling and obscure. (Admittedly I’ve never read them in Thai, but only in the English translations of Siri Buddhasukh and ex-Bhikkhu Steven Paññobhāso). I’m afraid that your valiant attempt to clarify them actually makes them, at least for me, even more puzzling and obscure.

A few questions, if you’ve the time and interest:

  1. Would you agree that the term bhavanga in Ajahn Thate’s teaching has no connection whatsoever with the abhidhammic term of this name, i.e., each term denotes an entirely different referent? For example, bhavanga-cittas in the Abhidhamma are resultant consciousnesses (vipākacitta) and as such arise passively. And so to speak of them as something to be attained would be as nonsensical as speaking of eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, etc., as attainments.

  2. If so, then does the referent of the term bhavanga in Ajahn Thate’s teaching correspond to the referent of any term found in the Buddha’s teaching or in the Pali commentaries? If so, which term?

  3. In a similar vein, does “the original citta” in Ajahn Thate’s teaching correspond to anything at all in the Buddha’s teaching?

  4. Does the ajahn’s manner of differentiating jhāna and samādhi have any support in the Buddha’s teaching?

  5. In what sense is jhāna an “impure state”? What particular impurities are present when one is in jhāna? When an arahant abides in jhāna “for the sake of a happy abiding in the present”, would even this be an “impure state” in Ajahn Thate’s teaching?

  6. You write: “The whole concept of the original or true Citta is a singularity between the opposites.”
    But in which of its various senses are you using the word singularity? And between which particular opposites is the supposed “original citta” a singularity?

Thanks.

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Thank you for your interest Venerable Sir.

In a nutshell, Luang Poo’s primary interest in teaching was to provide a practical guide to meditation. He would often say that what he taught was not how Buddhist scholars interpreted the text, but it was a description of what actually happens when one practices. As such, it would be a futile exercise to try to do the comparisons that you refer to. I can only add that, in my own practice, I have never found anything inconsistent with Luang Poo’s explanations.

With regard to point 5., when a non-Ariya attains Jhana, the seeds of defilement are still present and this is the impurity. When a Arahant enters Jhana, this is a supramundane state as the impurities no longer exist.

With regard to point 6., the singularity is in the middle of all dualist conventions. You could say, it is the pinnacle of the Middle Path.

So, in summary, in my opinion, trying to compare someone’s interpretation of the text with the teachings of Luang Poo is a futile exercise. The real test is seeing how his teachings compare to the actual experience of meditation. In the latter, he is faultless. Furthermore, what he teaches is entirely consistent with all the other disciples of Acharn Mun, whether that be Acharn Char, Acharn Maha Boowa, Acharn Sim or anyone else.

I am not sure if this elaboration is helpful or not. I suspect the answers you seek are to be found within and not in a book or a forum.

Metta and may your practice be strong.

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Thanks for dropping by and contributing. But I have to be honest, it sounds to me like you’re describing the Upanishadic doctrine, while asserting that it is not eternalism.

We don’t speak for these teachers, they spoke for themselves. And as someone who lived for several years as a monk, speaking Thai, in these monasteries, it absolutely is the case that there are disagreements and discussions on all these points.

It’s much more useful to break a problem down, and look at small, manageable pieces. That way a more clear picture can be built up. Rather than making sweeping statements, look at a single passage, examine the vocabulary, relate it to other things. That’s how we learn.

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Acharn, thank you for your comments.

I agree that not all Thai teachers teach the same doctrine. There are disagreements but, on the core points of practice, all the followers of Acharn Mun that I spoke to, and I spoke to quite a few, had no real points of difference; only the way they expressed themselves.

I agree, we do learn that way. This is the basis of cinta maya panna and sutta maya panna. What Luang Poo Thate is describing bhavana maya panna. They are not necessarily the same. There is no vocabulary or paragraphs in a deep state of concentration.

Metta

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Bhante , do you have a pdf copy of the book Flavor of the Dhamma?

I am not aware of there being a PDF of the Flavour of Dhamma. However, if you contact W.A.V.E., they may be in a position to send you a hardcopy. W.A.V.E. has an extensive collection of text that they reprint from time to time.

I hope this helps.

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Sorry. email mistake. Correct email is.

Sorry address removed as posting it contravenes the forum rules. My apologies.

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This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

When the Wisdom Audio Visual Exchange existed they distributed their books worldwide. But as far as I know they ceased operations years ago. I’m not sure exactly when, but their website was hosted at Geocities, which went defunct in 2009.

When I was at Newbury we were still on the W.A.V.E print distribution list and received a box of books from time to time, pretty sure they were operational as of 2019.

They mostly do reprints of old publications.

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Yes, they’re still in operation. And yes, they only do reprints now. Using a photocopier!

Many old WAVE books can be found as scanned PDFs here (note, the English books start with EN)

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If they do have a copy, they will send it to India. They are a charity and rely on donations. The website was hosted at no cost. When this hosting arrangement ceased, they had to operate via word of mouth. As mentioned elsewhere, they do still operate but not online.

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Do those teachers you refer to, see parinibbana as a mere cessation of khandha’s without nothing remaining?Just going out like a flame? Just a definitive end of what we conventionally refer to as our lives without anything remaining?

Thank you for you question, Green.

The short answer is that the teachers that I have mentioned would, generally, not engage in such discussions of parinibbana because no one listening would be developed sufficiently to understand the answer and such a state is beyond words, so is impossible to accurately describe. However, Luang Ta Maha Boowa does give the simile of the ocean as a description in his book Sandhittiko Dhamma. He says,

The sum of all of those who “know”, all of those who are pure, flows into
Dhammadhātu and, at this, everything is identical. Oh, and there’s no need to
ask the Lord Buddha to confirm this. It’s absolutely crystal clear that the
number of times that Buddhas have reached Nibbāna in the past or will do in
the future has no meaning whatsoever. They will all combine into
Dhammadhātu. All the Arahants, all the Pacceka-Buddhas and all the Buddhas
are all Dhammadhātu. They all know this quite clearly.

Here, Dhammadhatu is a synonym for nibbana, parinibbana and nibbanadhatu. This is a state known and understood intrinsically by the meditator, there being no need to seek confirmation in the scriptures.

Luang Poo Tate did discuss the actual process of enlightenment, but he was silent on the the state of Parinibbana. However, I once heard him refer to it as Nibbanadhatu.

So, is parinibbana just the cessation of the khandas with nothing remaining? Well, all those teachers would say that the Khandhas cease. But, does anything remain? If by “nothing remaining” you are referring to the possibility that some identity that is part of our personal being could remain, their answer would be, “No such thing remains.” However, as Luang Ta Maha Boowa eluded to, this is not the end of the story. To understand his simile, one needs to revisit the terms Original Mind or, as I prefer to translate it “Originating Mind”. Thais have a second term for this, Citt Taa. Some translate this as “True or Real Mind” I prefer to translate it as the “Authentic Mind”. The teachers that I referred to could use either term.

A further discussion on this point would be lengthy and so I will stop here, unless you wish to continue. I note also that the term Original Mind has been discussed previously in this forum. However, having read some of the discussion, I don’t believe that the description given by the Thai disciples of Acharn Mun has been accurately presented.

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Thank you very much. It is amazing, for me at least, that different teachers come to such a different understanding and teachings. But i notice i lean towards what Luang Ta Maha Boowa teaches.

I agree.

Is it true that venerable Maha Boowa taught a knowingness or kind of awareness that exist independend of sense-objects? Did Acharn Thate also teach this?

Some declare there is no evidence for this in the sutta’s. What is your answer to that?
They believe that while all formations cease, also any kind of knowing ceases.

Is it true that venerable Maha Boowa taught a knowingness or kind of awareness that exist independend of sense-object? It is not seen arising and ceasing?

In order to explain this we need to revisit the matter of the Original Mind.

Owning up: First of all, let me say that in a previous post, in response to another person’s post, I referred to the Original Mind (my preferred translation is Originating Mind) as being unconditioned. This was done to simplify the response to the other post but is slightly inaccurate. What I probably should have said is: the Originating Mind is not a conditioned mind. In reality, it is neither conditioned or unconditioned. As I did say, it is beyond dualistic opposites.

To understand how the disciples of Acharn Mun use this term I think it is best to apply Luang Poo Tate’s distinction of Heart and Mind. In this distinction, the Heart can be referred to as the Originating Mind. It is a still “knowingness” with no past, no future; neither conditioned or unconditioned; a singularity in the middle of opposites. It belongs to no one. It has no “self”. The Heart is the origin of a Dhammas. Lung Poo Tate used to quote the following, “Manopubbaingama dhamma, All Dhammas are preceded by the heart.” For the ease of explanation, he also used to draw a distinction between the terms Mano and Citta,. Citta is the working, mundane mind (feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness) and Mano is the purified, supramundane mind, or Heart. Having said that, even he did mix and match linguistically on occasions.

The Citta, or Nama, or mind, is an expression of the Heart. Just as a smile or a frown is an expression of the face but is not the face itself. This is an important distinction because if the defilements were the same as the Heart, then there would be no way to be free of them. Luang Poo quoted “Cittam pabhassarain iigantukehi kilesehi”. “The mind is unceasingly radiant; defilements are alien interlopers.” It is the defilement that cease when freedom from suffering is reached.

It has previously been said that Luang Poo Tate taught that the Originating Mind was the same as Jhana. As I stated in my first post, this statement is incorrect, but it is relevant in terms of the discussion of the Originating Mind. It is relevant because, in achieving Jhana, the meditator does reach a singularity, where the mind and the mind object merge into one. The Thai teachers sometimes refer to this as the mind entering the Bhavanga. As Jhana is an imperfect, mundane state this is not the way to enlightenment and the Originating Mind. Jhana has to be accompanied by Right View in order for it to be on the path to enlightenment.

More importantly, Luang Poo talked about Samma Samadhi. This is the investigation of meditation objects with an emphasis on seeing them as Impermanent, Suffering, and Non-Self. At the Appana Samadhi level, this too is a singularity but it has a different “feel” to Jhana. While Samma Samadhi leads to wisdom, it too is not the Originating Mind. The wisdom gained helps to clean the mind and free it from defilements but the severing of the defilements does not happen until Maggasamangi is achieved at each of the Ariya levels. Maggasamangi is neither Jhana, the Bhavanga or Samadhi. He said, it is a singularity but unlike Jhana and Samadhi, it is the confluence of the eight components of the Path. This is why the Stream Enterer is able to glimpse Nibbana after he has broken the first three shackles. Because the Originating Mind is above all that exists in the conventional world. If this was not so, how could the Stream Enterer experience Nibbana?

So, some readers may not agree with the details above and it is not my intention or job to convince them otherwise. I believe that this is a fairer representation of what the Thai teachers taught and this is all that I seek to do. I hope this helps.

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sounds fully right to me. Just the use of the words could be problematic if there is an obsession to find exact correspondence in the books.
I understand are words coming from the experience instead readings. :pray: