Hi @Christopher, sent you a private mesage. Let me know if there’s any problem getting it.
Hi @Christopher, have you heard of Jake Davis? He teaches retreats at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and with Vipassana Hawaii (I would would post links, but the monastery computer firewall only lets me access a handful of websites). He is an excellent teacher and has a tremendous knowledge of Pali and the EBTs. He was ordained for a time in Myanmar, and teaches meditation largely within the tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw - I did a study/meditation retreat with him that was wonderful.
Thank you, Brenna. I believe I’ve seen flyers advertising his retreat when I’ve been on retreat at BCBS. For some reason, I thought he primarily did retreats for young people. But I’ll look into it further.
The retreat he teaches yearly at BCBS is for young adults, but I think all of his other retreats with Vipassana Hawaii and elsewhere are open to everyone.
Yes Gil Fronsdal, Leigh Brasington, and Santikaro. But also Akincano Mark Weber, and most especially John Peacock - except that, alas, he is not teaching in the US much anymore. Those two, with Stephen Batchelor, and Christina Feldman have started Bodhi College in Europe and are teaching less in the US now. Christina Feldman most certainly teaches Jhana and knows her suttas. You can catch her at IMS and Spirit Rock but if you want to do Jhanas with her you would probably have to go to Gaia House.
Ajahn Sucitto does indeed teach long retreats all over the world. He will be teaching a month-long at the Forest Refuge in Nov-Dec 2018. Getting in is by lottery. He also teaches a 3-week retreat at Vallacitos Mountain Retreat Center in Colorado every other year. He doesn’t emphasize jhana, however, but in interviews he will offer guidance.
My sense is that Bhikkhu Analayo is not all that keen on teaching Jhanas, feeling that the boundless states accessible through the brahmaviharas are sufficient for liberation. He doesn’t exactly give interviews when he is teaching but he sits in the hall all day and is available to talk to - at least this is true at BCBS and IMS. Once he knows you he might be more accessible. Of all teachers I have met, however, he is the one who most insists that you have to look after yourself and be your own teacher.
Of course, all of these folks disagree with each other on all sorts of points, and probably none of them meets all your criteria.
Thank you, Suravira. That’s very helpful information.
I like Bhante Dhammavuddho and he meets all your criteria except for being in the U.S. http://www.vbgnet.org/
It might be helpful to know that in the United States, air travel is becoming more difficukt even for US citizens. Even for local hops, a passport or prior registration with federal government is being required as of this year. These are not free, nor instantly available, except if one gets special handling by officials…
For undocumented persons air travel looks likely to be a quick route to deportation. lol Even people registered for assylum requests or under amnesty programs have recently been abruptly deported.
Thanks for your thoughtful and well-considered comment. I’ve been wanting to reply for a few days now! Please allow me to respond.
EDIT: for some reason the above post came back up on my thread, and I didn’t realize it was a year ago! Anyway!
There are two things going on here. “Early” implies a date: it is a historical term, and is used throughout historical studies in exactly the sense we are using it here. It’s not a value judgment: early is not “better” or “worse”. Is the “Early Heraclian dynasty” better than the “Late Heraclian dynasty”? To make this distinction is to make a meaningful statement based on the facts, not a value judgment.
How a person values that is up to them. For myself, yes, I am interested in what the Buddha taught, and less interested in things taught by the Buddha’s students. That’s my value judgement. But that remains the same, regardless of whether we use the term “early” or not.
Within contemporary Taiwanese Mahayana there is an active discussion on the meaning and implications of the historical approach to Buddhism. It is perfectly rational to accept that the texts we refer to as “EBTs” are indeed early, but at the same time to hold that the historical approach is not an appropriate way of understanding the Dhamma.
You say that the term “early” here imposes an unnecessary burden of theory. But what else can we use? “Synoptic” is a technical term not understood at all by non-specialists. Worse, it’s not even accurate, if the point is to distinguish early texts: for many Mahayana texts and later treatises are synoptic between the Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit traditions. “Common”? Again, many later texts are common; and not all early texts are; most of them are missing from Tibetan, for example. Terms are just terms, and they are never perfect. But “early” captures something that is both true and meaningful, and it allows us to talk about what is important to us in a simple and accessible way.
Yes, theories evolve, and paradigm shifts happen. But a paradigm shift doesn’t mean that the former theory is merely wrong. Newton’s theory is still perfectly fine and viable; it’s just been nuanced and expanded in larger contexts. Geometry is still by and large Euclidian, even if you have to allow for the curvature of spacetime when plotting trips to Mars. Grammar was pretty much perfectly described by Panini, and we’re still just using explainers of his work.
And the historical perspective on the strata of Buddhist texts has been solidly established for over 150 years and is accepted by all serious scholars. Like the theory of evolution—which as taught by Darwain had no notion of genetics or DNA—it improves with better information. In the past, scholars argued that the Pali canon was literally the source of the later scriptures. Now it is recognized as one version of a set of overlapping and similar canons of the schools. In the past, Pali was believed to be literally the language of the Buddha. Now it is accepted to be one of the dialects of the region, similar but not necessarily identical to the language spoken by the Buddha.
So yes, changes and evolution happens and will continue to happen. And this is precisely the difference between a historically based approach and a fundamentalism. We have changed, and we will continue to do so. I’ve personally changed my views many times, on very important matters. But fundamentalists will not change, no matter what the evidence.
Nevertheless, while in theory it could be overturned by new evidence, for practical purposes the overall picture of the historical situation of Buddhist texts is solidly based and broadly supported. It’s not going anywhere.
It depends what kind of belief you’re talking about. One of the “fundamental” statements on Christian fundamentalism—and please forgive my vagueness here, I am recalling an argument made by Bishop Spong read several years ago—stated a series of propositions that were fundamental to Christian belief. In those days, “fundamentalism” was not yet a derogatory term. One of those “fundamentals” was the assertion of the virgin birth. However, as pointed out by Spong, Mark does not mention the virgin birth, and nor do the letters of Paul, which are earlier than any of the Gospels. Thus all the earlier sources are silent. The later John has a more metaphysical take. The virgin birth is sourced from a few lines in Matthew and Luke only. Thus it is true to say that the virgin birth was a significant belief in the early Christian community, but it is wrong to say that it is fundamental to Christian belief, as it is ignored by the majority of the sources from that period.
Likewise, if a Mahayanist says that the Prajnaparamita is a profound expression of the Buddha’s teaching, historical scholarship has no say in the matter. Or if a Theravadin says that the Abhidhamma is a complete description of the ultimate reality of the mind, historical scholarship cannot help. But if a Mahayanist or an Abhidhammika says—and they very frequently do—that their texts were promulgated by the Buddha himself, they are simply wrong.
What principles, exactly? AN 2.23 says that one who says what was not spoken by the Buddha was spoken by him misrepresents the Buddha. Forgetting the Buddha’s words and attending to later teachings is said to be a decisive factor in the ending of Buddhism (SN 20.7, AN 5.79). This is not merely a matter of historical correctness, for correct understanding of what the Buddha taught and didn’t teach directly affects ones’ spiritual welfare (AN 1.132-139, SN 55.53).
You worry that the term EBT creates a new schism. But that is not what schism means in the EBTs. On the contrary, the EBTs say that schism is created by those who thus misrepresent the Buddha (AN 10.42). This is, in fact, part of the core Vinaya definition of schism:
monks explain non- dhamma as dhamma, they explain dhamma as non-dhamma, they explain non-discipline as discipline, they explain discipline as non-discipline, they explain what was not spoken, not uttered by the Truth-finder as spoken, uttered by the Truth-finder, they explain what was spoken, uttered by the Truth-finder as not spoken, not uttered by the Truth-finder.
And this is precisely my experience. It is those who base themselves on sound historical principles who are working to overcome barriers, not create them.
I have lived and practised and worked extensively with Buddhists in all schools for many years. I helped form the Australian Sangha Association, a non-sectarian representative body, and a few days ago joined in a discussion with monastics from all traditions. They have, incidentally, happily invited me to talk on my work at the next conference (again!)
I have lived in “Theravada” and it is very inward-looking and fundamentalist. Most Theravadins are utterly suspicious of the Mahayana. And it is still an absolutely stock piece of Mahayana rhetoric to dismiss the so-called “Hinayana”.
My work in Sects & Sectarianism has tried to critique this and establish a meaningful ground for connections between traditions. Likewise, others in the EBT field—Vens Bodhi and Analayo are just the most well-known examples—have, in their own ways, tried to bridge the sectarian gaps. The successful revival of the bhikkhuni order in Theravada is one of the very practical fruits of this study, and it would not have been possible without establishing the historical connections between the lineages. Our work on SuttaCentral is, of course, another example where we regularly contact, build bridges, and create meaningful outcomes with monastics and laity from all the different traditions.
Please, go to any of the traditional Buddhist countries and see who is doing comparable work there. As far as I can see, it is really only in Taiwan and other East Asian countries that a meaningful effort is being made to address and understand the differences and commonalities between traditions—and this is 100% driven by the underlying historical text scholarship of Master Yin Shun and others. Historical understanding has already led to many very positive and vital reforms in modern Taiwanese Buddhism, and hopefully it will lead to many more.
Traditional Buddhism is too often uneducated, decadent, and fundamentalist. Historical scholarship is a recurring source of vitality and reform. Yes, some people will get upset. Good. That means it’s working.
Splendid, bhante! Keep the good stuff coming.
I am pretty sure the Mahamevnawa monasteries, founded by Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero teach as close to EBT as possible. There are several in the United States.
I live in Canada and the only monastery in my city is a Mahamevnawa monastery. It is very nice having them around. I wish I could go more often to their regular programs.
We live in the same area. Too funny.
We do? What part of Canada are you in?
We shouldn’t give out too much information publicly, I’ll PM you, but I used to live in North York when I went to York University. Now I live in Whitby.
FYI, Bhante Rahula now teaches at the recently opened Lion of Wisdom (LOW) Meditation Center in Gaithersburg Maryland. Bhante Yogavacara Rahula: Travel/Teaching Schedule
Thank you for the much needed clarity in this area!
Bhante, Thank you for your wonderful reply. I agree with most everything you stated, and I would be interested in researching more into who is seriously conducting critical analysis of the differences and commonalities between textual traditions in Asia.
Many blessings, Weston
Such a good read to stumble onto this day. Gratitude.