QUOTE(Wolfgang @ Jul 6 2006, 11:34 PM)
I feel disappointed that you seem not to see through conceptional expressions and only feel assured if it is put in, allegedly, ultimate terms.
[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. ;-)
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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!
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. :-)
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.