Jump to content


Member Since 29 Apr 2006
Offline Last Active Oct 22 2013 12:52 AM

Posts I've Made

In Topic: Dhamma for Disciples of Goenkaji's Vipassana

16 July 2006 - 06:25 AM

QUOTE(Wolfgang @ Jul 11 2006, 03:35 AM) View Post

Dear Sukinder,
Sorry? - Are you mad? - Thank you for such a wonderful and lovely post.
I think now we are both sure to agree that we disagree. Having put so much effort to arrive at this conclusion, I think we both have earned our time off. Anyway, lately we both seem to be the only ones involved in any real discussion here.

Dear Wolfgang,

It appears that you have become very quiet. Yes I think we should agree to disagree, for now at least. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t continue discussing, does it?

I should have mentioned that in spite of our present disagreement, I feel that you do make good contributions to discussions here. Knowing myself to be a worldling often revolving around certain habitual ways of thinking about things, including Dhamma, I feel that I can learn from other perspectives including your own. Besides I continue to discover in me, inclinations not only to wrong view, but also those bordering upon superstition! So indeed I am in need of being instructed from as many good minds as I can meet.

So please Wolfgang, do continue to contribute to this list, perhaps not in this particular thread, but others. I look forward to hearing from you and I feel confident that we can all learn from each other.

With metta,


In Topic: Abhidhamma is needed for right view?

10 July 2006 - 04:28 AM

QUOTE(Wolfgang @ Jul 8 2006, 08:21 PM) View Post

Dear Robert,
are you saying - in our context - that Sukin has right view when she claims to know not one, from the practice traditions, to have right view?

Are you saying I should abstain pointing out to Sukin that she better stop such generalizations, because only one like the Buddha could know?

Are you saying here I am the only one with wrong view, and only those who studied Abhidhamma have it right?

All that would be implied in the way you now present these very Suttas!



Dear Wolfgang,

One clarification.

What I suggested was regarding those who rely on the Suttas and *deny* the Abhidhamma. The implication of this is that, as I understand the Dhamma to be, there is no contradiction between Sutta and Abhidhamma. Therefore if someone denies the Abhidhamma, then according to me, that person doesn’t understand the Dhamma as I understand it, therefore from my perspective, wrong. And this relates to my other statement about relying on the Sutta alone demands much greater power of discrimination than with Abhidhamma help.

Also when I said that I have not found one single person relying on the Sutta alone to have right view, I mean exactly ‘my experience’, and not including others, whom I have never met, read or heard.



In Topic: Dhamma for Disciples of Goenkaji's Vipassana

09 July 2006 - 11:52 AM

QUOTE(Wolfgang @ Jul 6 2006, 11:34 PM) View Post

Dear Sukin,

I feel disappointed that you seem not to see through conceptional expressions and only feel assured if it is put in, allegedly, ultimate terms.

Dear Wolfgang,

[I see that Robert has responded, but I haven’t read the posts yet. I am sure I would then have to change my response, which I am not willing to do having put so much time and energy into this one. So please don’t mind if any of this is redundant.]

I appreciate that you put in so much effort in responding to me. Hope that you are not having a hard time with this, because I am. Anticipating having to give a long response, the tendency to proliferate and inability to be concise. In addition to this are the facts of short attention span, typing at ¼ the speed of the average person and a hip problem- the reason I go for physical therapy, I can’t sit down in one position for long. :-/

I am responding by giving remarks under various headings, starting with:-
Reference to past experience

Referring to the past for understanding is quite unreliable. Sanna and citta vipallasa is most likely to involve. Generally what is registered and later on recalled is conditioned by ignorance and attachment not only at the time it happened, but also now. I choose to remember only that which I like and make connections with yet other events creating an idea of causality which in fact is not true. Generally, anything I think/explain to myself is more often than not, only to ‘please’ me. There is a process of selective thinking involved. In any case, the past ‘thought’ up, should be seen as mere stories, better not to be taken seriously.

So I repeat again, I express my objection about Goenka, not based on any “thinking” about my past experience, but about his “view” about the ‘practice’ as I see it now.
Views as being motivation for action

I believe that any correct understanding of the Buddha’s Teachings must necessarily lead to the conclusion that whatever arises now does so by a complex set of conditions. In the case of impulsion, this by natural decisive support condition is determined to a large extent by one’s accumulations. Conventionally, we could say, that however one reacts to any sense or mind door experience; it is determined by one’s accumulated tendency to do so.

It makes sense therefore, that any understanding of any dhamma must take place ‘naturally’, not being obscured by any idea of a better time and place. In fact this being a result of view, one which thinks wrongly about the nature of dhammas, having identified with a concept of ‘situation’, forgetting that whatever arises in any of the six doorways are but momentary fleeting dhammas, we end up following any reasoning based on such perception of concepts. For example we reason that, as against the hectic lay life, the retreat situation is more conducive for the arising and development of sati and panna.

Such thinking is in fact a hindrance for sati to arise outside the retreat situation. Yes sure, sati can arise at anytime, even in retreats ;-). However when we have had this wrong view about the value of retreats over normal outside situations, then we are placing ourselves to be fooled by the various cheating dhammas.

You Wolfgang have stated that you have experienced sati of the desired level, only a fraction of the time. And I think you are sincere, without the development of sacca parami, there is no chance of wisdom being developed. But I think you are aware of the claims by many meditation camps of producing students of high attainments. What do you make of that?

You talk of retreat attendants questioning the practice, but do you know of anyone who questions the very idea of retreat itself? I think agreeing to attend a retreat limits the range and scope of enquiry made, such that one might question the effectiveness of the method and opt for another, but that’s about how far one is willing to go given the level of understanding most of us have.

Or have you? If so, what is the reason that you persist with it?
Scholars v/s Meditators

You seem to be labeling me a ‘scholar’. I don’t see myself as one, nor do I picture any of my friends, including Robert, as being so. Personally, I could never become a scholar even if I wanted to. I was never able to retain anything studied, like names or formulas. The way I used to learn was reflection on real life situation.

Anyway, as I said, Abhidhamma is not about knowledge of lists, but the understanding that whatever dhamma is being referred to, this can be known “now”, through whatever level of panna, intellectual or direct. The important point, no matter if one understands directly or not, is the “confidence” that this is the way it is now.

And so it seems that in so far as this confidence about the present moment being what needs to be known is lacking, and one thinks instead, that another time, place and posture is more conducive, then the level of panna corresponding with this is also lacking. What I believe most meditators to be doing when they talk about carrying over their meditation from the formal sessions to normal situations, is a matter not of the development of understanding and hence confidence, but more like self-hypnosis into an imitation saddha.

Regarding the sutta, the meditators referred to are those who have had Jhana attainments and the scholars are those who have reached levels of vipassana which neither you nor I can hope to achieve in this life. So indeed, both these groups are worthy of respect and veneration. But are you comparing us with these folks? No, neither of us are worthy of the kind of respect. ;-)
Bhikkhuni Sutta

I doubt that you see craving as leading to panna. You probably have in mind the fact that for us putthujanas, the craving and conceit is very strong and that even in matters of Dhamma, most of the time it would be these that influence us. I agree wholeheartedly with this. However what I have in mind is the fact of craving and wrong view as being instigator of “ideas” such as ‘formal meditation’, and that these ideas are then followed.

My understanding is that the very concept of retreat etc. is a conceiving and could not ever come as a result of panna. The object of understanding is always the present moment. Even to try and catch realities now, is a result of an understanding which ignores the fact that realties already fall away, not remaining there for any ‘self’ to catch. It is by constantly being aware of this ‘self’ at work, always wanting more even in matters of Dhamma, that one day sati may arise to know the present moment. And in retreat situations we are in fact catering to this ‘self’. Nothing is an obstacle to panna except such kind of wrong understanding being actualized.

And of course, craving is abandoned only by having craving as object of insight. This is what is meant by using ‘craving to abandon craving’.

Be sure though, I am not asking you or anyone to stop meditating, this is not going to make panna arise and solve the problem. Besides we do what we do due to conditions, accumulations being decisive. What we need to determine is whether anything is done with wrong understanding, and following someone’s idea or one’s own reasoning about retreat gives plenty of opportunity to note and investigate such wrong views.
Thana Sutta

What I had in mind when thinking about Sila, was the case of someone following the precepts conditioning outward behavior which was hard to find fault with. I guess this same principle can apply to “Dhamma knowledge” as well. Someone may have good theoretical knowledge and is able to always give the correct answers, but to determine the “understanding” behind the words may require time. But then again, what is this concept of time? Is it about months and years, or simply that we should not believe our first impressions?

What do you think, if someone were to speak of a soul and says that what the Buddha meant by anatta was something other than the fact of there being no self, would you not immediately recognize his wrong view? What one person may not recognize as being wrong, another more discerning may, don’t you think?
Don’t Judge

Yes it is never nice to point fingers nor is it wise to quickly judge. Generally I don’t make it my business to do so. I also admit to lacking tact when communicating with others. But I do feel strongly when it comes to wrong view being proclaimed as right view. And having little reason to doubt my evaluation, there will inevitably be some criticism coming from me.

I don’t appreciate the notion of ‘different paths leading to the same goal’. If you talk about ‘satipatthana’ as being the practice and yet differentiate between time, place and posture, and how you could choose to go to a retreat and I doing it my way, then I don’t believe that we are talking about the same ‘One Way’. Sorry. And you will at least understand now, why almost any teacher and Buddhist institution is potential object of criticism by me.

Is this arrogance on my part? Maybe, but it should not make any difference.
Canki Sutta

Yes I admit to stating to the effect that, “Only this is true, anything else is worthless”. However this in the Sutta refers only to wrong view. How could it apply to Right View, the one discovered by the Buddha? I have always admitted to the level of my understanding as being very superficial and only conceptual, and don’t claim to directly know. But this is and will remain the level at which I judge any view at all. There can be intellectual appreciation of right view, and this implies some recognition of wrong view. So what is the harm in expressing my understanding?
Conceptual Expression

You say that you are disappointed that I don’t see through conceptual expressions.

No I have no problem with conceptual expressions at all. In fact if someone were to start talking only in terms of dhammas, I would probably judge him as silly. I am not against the use of conventional expressions, but I can’t help noting any wrong view behind the words, whether ultimate or conventional.
Buddha teaching about the way to Heaven

To not have the capacity to appreciate the Teachings on paramattha dhammas is one thing, and *not* a problem. Kusala of other levels can be taught. But to think that “realization” of this can come through study and observation of conventional reality by ‘self’, this *is* a problem.

You say that the “practice tradition” [better call this ‘formal meditation’ because I don’t believe any right practice to be involved] are interested in understanding dhammas. I ask, is ‘breath’ as seen and taught a reality or concept? Is place a reality or concept? Is posture a reality or concept? Is ‘noting’ done by self, a reality or concept? Is anything said about the reality of citta, cetasikas and rupa at all? Does anyone have any *interest* in knowing these?

You say that the practice is supposed to lead to the realization of dhammas. As far as I can see, this is false hope. Thinking conditions more thinking, perhaps not the kind that most recognize, but more subtle? And believing wrongly what is not sati to be sati, conditions not samma, but miccha ditthi. And this is usually very alluring.

And this is the reason why the path necessarily starts with hearing the Teachings and correctly understanding this at that level, for else wrong practice follows. Moreover the practice happens only when and if the accumulated panna at the intellectual level has grown in strength, and this arises by conditions and not by any decision to “do”. Let us be contented with such humble beginnings, this is better than being deluded into believing that one “sees” correctly and calling wrong practice right.
Upanissa Sutta

As I said earlier, it should be expected that there will be akusala cittas, even when we think about Dhamma. But surely you wouldn’t say that moments of wrong understanding is a condition for right understanding to arise in the future would you?
When I go for dhamma discussions or open the computer to read the mails, 99% of the time it is lobha leading the way. I do not however consider these moments to be “useful”, but only those which do involve sati and panna (part of the remaining 1%) would I consider it to be “development”.

Regarding the arousing of faith, anything can be a condition, but only when accompanied by panna. You say “giving time to investigate”, what chance is there for this if there is no understanding “now”? Should we not always come back to the present moment? Is this not the only real test of any developed understanding?
Personal / Generalization

Yes whatever explanations that I give are very much my own reasoning and extrapolation and may not exactly reflect the facts. However there being some general rules one of which is that we are *all* driven by ignorance and craving, so I think my words can at least be good reminder of these. ;-)

Hopefully what I refer to is always dhammas and not stories/concepts. At this level there are certain fixed laws and little diversity and unpredictability unlike in the case conventional reality. In the latter we can excuse ourselves for being ‘different’, but here, lobha is lobha, not your lobha or mine. Sati is always sati and has the same characteristic, metta is not tanha and wrong view cannot lead to panna. So I think not only it is quite safe to generalize, but in fact always good to point out!

On the other hand you suggest that I might have persisted with my formal practice. Here you seem to be caught up in a story, a fiction. This is bad enough when evaluating one’s own past experience, worse when projecting into the future, and worse still when suggested to others to follow the same. Sorry again.
Dukkha Sanna

You say that you gain dukkha sanna in attending retreats and that I avoid it in not doing the same. Avoiding dukkha dukkha and viparana dukkha is the norm of my existence, and this I will admit to as being not skillful. But wouldn’t any decision then to stoically bear pain not only be another face of tanha, but also encouraging of wrong view? And can wrong view really have dukkha sanna?
Superiority Conceit

Conceit I have plenty, but so far the superior kind, not so much. If there is a feeling of having found the “right” Teachings and understanding correctly, I usually feel ‘gratitude’ and never ‘superior’ in any way.

You accuse me of thinking that I know more than Sariputta. I consider myself to be no more than a speck of dust lodged under one of his toe nails. I think rather than to have come to that conclusion, you could have seen any apparent disagreement as being between *you* and I, your interpretation of Sariputta’s words and mine!
Missionary Attitude

I think you needn’t worry about my remarks creating confusion. Before anyone reaches my posts here, they will probably wade through other posts by Robert and Scott. If they are not put off there by the views expressed and finally reach my post, I think that they would overlook any negative comments I make and agree with the general understanding. ;-)

I am not interested in converting anyone, period. My own wife a Sikh, who I see as having strong wrong views, I have little desire to convince her. My children, to whom I am absolutely attached, I will express my understandings to them when the time comes, but I don’t have any expectations that they will adopt the same outlook.

On the other hand, Goenka and others, whose words reach millions directly, what if these fellows are wrong? Yet I don’t worry about it. :-)
Different personalities

You say that I ‘don’t differentiate between personalities- but at the same time talk about reality-concept distinction’.
Well, the difference in personalities that you would like me to consider is conceptual, and as I have explained earlier, at the level of realities, we are basically all alike, same kind of attachments, aversions and wrong views, no you, no me, only dhammas……

Sorry for the marathon post.

With metta,


In Topic: Dhamma for Disciples of Goenkaji's Vipassana

09 July 2006 - 11:46 AM

QUOTE(Scott Duncan @ Jul 4 2006, 08:50 AM) View Post

Dear Sukin,

Thanks! Although not addressed to me, I learned a lot from your excellent post.

With loving kindness,


Dear Scott,

You are welcome, and this is encouraging. I have been admiring and learning much from your posts on the other list as well.
In my case it is mostly only intellectual understanding, no insight into anything yet. But I guess that its alright, as long as I don’t mistake it for anything more than what it really is.

With Metta,

In Topic: Dhamma for Disciples of Goenkaji's Vipassana

03 July 2006 - 03:31 PM

Dear Wolfgang,

I apologize for the delay in responding. Two weeks ago, and for the next few more weeks, I go everyday for Physical Therapy, and this is taking 3 hours of my day, including traveling. I will therefore here, respond only to one point in your post. I am glad to hear that you did not wish to discontinue with our discussions.

QUOTE(Wolfgang @ Jun 21 2006, 09:05 PM) View Post

To be understood, the Buddha talked consistently (to laypeople) in terms of conventional truth, to eventually arrive at ultimacies

The same holds true about public expressions of popular teachers. Today it would have no lesser effect if popular teachers would start out with teaching the Abhidhamma (which for most western laity is nothing more than classifications of dhammas in the Suttas; a sort of index if you like, like a thick telephone book) - than make most beginners shake their heads unbelievingly and leave again..

I can understand why people would react negatively to a particular idea about Abhidhamma. I too had similar reaction once a few years ago, when my impression of the Abhidhamma was that was a set of teachings full of lists about abstract ideas and very difficult to study. I guess I was lucky to have come across the same teachings on a later date, which was then presented not as ‘abstract ideas’, but something very immediate and practical. And this I now see as being what Abhidhamma is truly about!

Yet at the same time, there is some sense in viewing not only the Abhidhamma, but also the rest of the Tipitaka, not as “prescription” for certain actions to take, but as “description” of Reality/realities. In other words, we are told about the reality of kusala, akusala, vipaka and avyakata dhammas. And we leave it to conditions to dictate the level at which these will be understood, i.e. whether there will be “application” or just “intellectual” appreciation at any given moment.

It seems to me that another reason that people object to the idea of studying Abhidhamma, is because of a preconceived idea about ‘theory’ v/s ‘practice’. That Abhidhamma being only theory is because their ideas about practice, is such that it must involve taking certain actions, and you won’t find any recommendation to follow some conventional practice in the Abhidhamma. In the conventional world there is always a theory to put into practice, and self-view is never a problem, this will not work when it comes to the world of conditioned dhammas. Here ‘self-view’ is the great hindrance, there being in reality ‘no self’ to put any theory into practice. In fact, the concept of ‘theory’ itself is altogether different in this case.

With so much ignorance and tendency to akusala, should we not pause to consider whether any desire to practice is indeed a moment of understanding? Can non-understanding or worse, wrong understanding lead to right understanding?

We learn that every moment is conditioned and that ultimately there is only citta experiencing an object. No ‘self’ standing apart from the experience to direct the show. Logically it makes sense that ‘understanding’ is the most useful of dhammas. We also know that “intention” is only so good as the roots and other mental factors conditioning the citta.

Thinking of developing sati and panna and following any idea associated, does not make these arise. But they are developed each time that there is satipatthana. In the meantime, we may like to correct our understanding at the pariyatti level, and this would be an instance of Ditthujukamma. More useful in the development of the Path than attending weeks or months of retreat, where we don’t even give ourselves the chance to question what goes on and whether the practice and theory agree.

Now the Abhidhamma, when studied with the understanding of its relevance to the present moment experience, can and does shed light upon this tendency to ignorance and craving to take the lead. It helps us to recognize more and more the wrong paths. Dhamma as taught in the Suttas requires much greater power of discrimination to see through the illusion of ‘self’ and ‘situations’. We see the Teachings as prescriptive precisely because we identify with a self and conventional ‘doings’. The Buddha’s direct audiences were not fooled by reference to conventional reality. We too can understand that in fact the Teachings are ultimately about the nature of Paramattha Dhammas and not about ‘self needing to do something’.

To say that one starts with conventional Dhamma and that this will one day lead to understanding at the paramattha level, is I think, self-deceptive. Without knowing about ultimate realities and what constitutes practice at that level, we are likely to be fooled by ‘conceptual reality’. This is not of course saying that Dhamma has no practical use in conventional everyday life. Even when there is no idea about ‘eradicating kilesas’, surely there can be application of Dhamma to one’s day to day living, and even here, one will see its superiority over every other religion and philosophy.

But the problem is that today’s Buddhist teachers, what they have in mind is the idea of ‘practice’-patipatti, leading to understanding/penetration/eradication of kilesas which is not found on a correct ‘intellectual understanding’- pariyatti. And I have not found *one single* person, who reject/downplay the Abhidhamma, to be teaching/studying the Dhamma with Right View.

The Buddha’s audience may have heard Dhamma in conventional form, but surely they would not have resisted any reference to Khandhas, Ayatanas, Dhatu, Nama/Rupa and so on. Today’s Buddhists on the other hand, want only to hear the conventional form of the Teachings and resist any reference to ultimate realities. This seems to me to be often due to the fact that the latter denies any ‘power’ in a ‘self’ to determine the course taken and outcome got. People who resist the Abhidhamma seem to be attached to the idea of ‘control’ and apparent results, both of which are conditioned by ignorance and wrong view.

But presenting the Abhidhamma does not have to be off-putting. Personally I think, being told about citta, cetasikas and rupa as being all there is, is most compassionate of the teacher. Any book by Nina Van Gorkom for example will show how close to life and useful Abhidhamma is, and she presents it so gently! In fact, to deny an aspiring student of the Abhidhamma is to be cheating him of the best of Teachings and to risk misleading him.

But of course, this is only because the teacher himself does not understand, and I don’t believe that there is any ill-intention. Take for example, Goenka.

I believe that he truly thinks that his interpretation of the Dhamma is correct and that the prescribed practice is effective and right. As far as I am concerned however, his is a path of increasing ignorance and wrong view. If any of his students still manage to speak rightly about dhamma, it is probably because they also study the Texts and reflect on the Teachings from time to time. “Projecting” a theory on to experience is the norm for us putthujanas, so with Buddhist theory it is so easy to fall prey to the illusion of “knowing”. In Goenka’s teachings, the illusion starts from step one.

The intention arises to ‘note’ sensations at a particular location on the body. This is concept about space/location and self, most probably with also a visual idea. Without any sati and panna at this point to know “thinking”, which would have been far more useful, instead this idea conditions memory and thinking about ‘sensations’ at the particular location. And lo and behold, there *is* the experience of sensations right there and then.

Alas this is only a form of thinking, though not of the visual kind, but in terms of bodily feelings, however it is equally unreal. And because there is no panna to know this, it is instead taken to be very real, whether we then label it sensation/vedana or rupa. This is the first “illusion of result’.

From here further proliferation happens in the form of scanning the rest of the body. And now, there is in addition, the ‘illusion of “control”’. These both together, condition strong wrong view, imo. And the interpretation of the Buddhadhamma becomes quite distorted; after all it has to fit with the observation made, doesn’t it? Imagine, body consciousness which is vipaka, even this seems to arise associated with the intention to note!!! :-/

Yet, two of the most important understandings every beginner of Dhamma should have, is the difference between reality and concept, and between kamma and vipaka. Without this, there is no chance of development. We end up taking what is not sati for sati and concept for reality.

Sure, all this being quite different from the experience of one’s day to day life outside of the meditation room, it immediately becomes the object, not only of attachment, but conceiving conditioned by wrong view. Even though this will be quite well hidden behind Buddhists concepts.

As long as there is a sense of observer/observing, you can be sure that it is the thinking mind taking charge. The experience of satipatthana does not happen in this way. Here one dhamma is known for an instant, immediately to be followed most likely, by the usual ignorance and craving. And so one would at least begin to appreciate the difference between a moment of sati and that of forgetfulness, and perhaps also take a tiny step away from the wrong path.

Besides, during those moments when there is no satipatthana, but there is understanding of the level of pariyatti or cintamaya panna, one knows it for what it is. And unlike when one believes oneself to be ‘practicing’/direct experience, but in fact is only ‘thinking’, there is correct estimation[more or less], of where one is at. Better to know that one’s panna is weak and move from there, than to wrongly estimate and be forever lost.

So Wolfgang, I think it is wise to carefully study the Texts, including the Abhidhamma, with the intention to further one’s ‘understanding’, no matter if this is only at the intellectual level and not to be too eager to “experience”.

Hope this has not been too preachy and you do not mind that I am so strong against the formal practice tradition. Also this has become longer than I expected. :-/

But I look forward to any comments by you.