Jump to content

Most Liked Content

#2035 Views about anatta etc: thanissaro

Posted by RobertK on 21 September 2013 - 05:02 PM

Old post on dsg which might interest you Daniel

[dsg] Re: Report on the Meeting at the Foundation (1)
(79404) Reply NextPrevious
buddhatrue26 Nov, 2007
Hi Dieter and Ken H.,

--- In dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com, "kenhowardau"
<kenhowardau@...> wrote:
Do I remember correctly that a DSG
> member wrote a complaint to the owner of accesstoinsight ..?
> -----------------------------------
> Yes, but it wasn't about this kind of thing. James had a discussion
> with them on another matter.

I have some time today, as classes are cancelled for a big test, so I
thought I would post. I wouldn't really say that I "complained" to
Mr. Bullitt, editor of Access to Insight, I just pointed out to him
what I saw as an obvious misrepresentation of a sutta. This is part
of what I wrote to Mr. Bullitt:

What disturbs me the most about Thanissaro's article is where he
writes, "In fact, the one place where the Buddha was asked point-
blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When
later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or
that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view
that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible. Thus the question
should be put aside." The sutta that Thanissaro is referring to is
the Ananda Sutta and that isn't at all what the sutta states- and
Thanissaro should know since he translated it! In that sutta, the
Buddha refused to answer the question because he knew that either
answer would be misunderstood. To answer yes or no to the person
asking, a wandering ascetic, would have resulted in confusion because
the questioner wasn't fluent in the Dhamma, he was of a different
faith. The Buddha doesn't say that the question should be put aside
because it "falls into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path
of Buddhist practice impossible." The sutta in question doesn't state
anything of the sort: <end quote>

Mr. Bullitt must have sent my e-mail to Thanissaro because the article
in question "The Not-Self Strategy" was revised August 14, 2007 and it
no longer contains the statement I found objectionable. Actually, the
article has been rewritten to argue the specific point I made in my
e-mail to Mr. Bullitt, that the Buddha refused to answer the question
because the questioner was from a different faith. Thanissaro now
writes in the new, revised article:

"The first passage is one of the most controversial in the Canon.
Those who hold that the Buddha took a position one way or the other on
the question of whether or not there is a self have to explain the
Buddha's silence away, and usually do so by focusing on the his final
statement to Ananda. If someone else more spiritually mature than
Vacchagotta had asked the question, they say, the Buddha would have
revealed his true position. This interpretation, though, ignores the
Buddha's first two sentences to Ananda: No matter who asks the
question, to say that there is or is not a self would be to fall into
one of the two philosophical positions which the Buddha avoided
throughout his career. As for his third sentence, he was concerned not
to contradict "the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are
not-self" not because he felt that this knowledge alone was
metaphysically correct, but because he saw that its arising could be
liberating. (We will deal further with the content of this knowledge
below in Point 2.) Thus it would seem most honest to take the first
dialogue at face value, and to say that the question of whether or not
there is a self is one on which the Buddha did not take a position,
regardless of whether he was talking to a spiritually confused person
like Vacchagotta, or a more advanced person like Ananda. For him, the
doctrine of not-self is a technique or strategy for liberation, and
not a metaphysical or ontological position."

These sentences were not in the original article; and what I quoted
from the original article is now missing. I am glad that Thanissaro
changed his original article because it did blatantly misrepresent
what the sutta in question states.

Personally, however, I still don't agree with Thanisarro's
conclusions. Thanissaro writes, "This interpretation, though, ignores
the Buddha's first two sentences to Ananda: No matter who asks the
question, to say that there is or is not a self would be to fall into
one of the two philosophical positions which the Buddha avoided
throughout his career." The Buddha doesn't say anything in this sutta
about `No matter who asks the question'!! It matters a great deal who
asks the question! The Buddha was mainly concerned about his teaching
being misinterpreted by members of other sects so he refused to answer
the question.

Show all messages in this topic
Reply to this message...

#2029 Views about anatta etc: thanissaro

Posted by RobertK on 21 September 2013 - 04:50 PM

i found another old post by ven. Dhammanando on this
Hi Elaine,

If you don't mind I would prefer to keep my contributions to the thread
impersonal. I'm not at all interested in discussing whether Thanissaro
is a goodie or a baddie, but would rather focus on the question of
whether the "strategic" interpretation of anatta is in accordance with
the Dhamma. That this interpretation happens to originate with
Thanissaro is of no especial importance, given that it's now being
voiced by all sorts of people.

> If a person uses this "anatta strategy" to realize the real anatta, is
> it still wrong?

The question that needs to be addressed is *can* anatta be realized by
the "anatta strategy"? If this strategy consists in a wrong view of
anatta, then the answer is no.

> Are you doubting/accusing Ajahn Thanissaro of having wrong-view of
> Anatta?

It does seem to be the case.

> Have you written an e-mail to Wat Metta to inform Ajahn about it?

Whatever for? The ajahn is perfectly aware that his take on anatta is
not the Theravadin one. He cites the Theravadin view in his "Not Self"
essay, asserts that it's not in accordance with the Suttas, and then
opposes it with a novel interpretation of his own.

> Moreover, Ajahn Thanissaro is a reputable monk.

There are thousands of reputable monks. But since not all of them agree
on the fundamentals of Dhamma, at least some of them must be in error.
So again, it's better to keep the discussion impersonal:

"Suppose a bhikkhu were to say: 'In such and such a place there is a
sangha with elders and reputable teachers. I have heard and received
this from that sangha,' then, bhikkhus, you should neither approve nor
disapprove his words. Then, without approving or disapproving, his
words and expressions should be carefully noted and compared with the
Suttas and reviewed in the light of the discipline. If they, on such
comparison and review, are found not to conform to the Suttas or the
discipline, the conclusion must be: 'Assuredly this is not the word of
the Buddha, it has been wrongly understood by this bhikkhu,' and the
matter is to be rejected. But where on such comparison and review they
are found to conform to the Suttas or the discipline, the conclusion
must be: 'Assuredly this is the word of the Buddha, it has been rightly
understood by this bhikkhu.' "
(Mahaparinibbana Sutta)

Best wishes,

#1467 Quotes on not speaking out

Posted by RobertK on 28 December 2010 - 12:22 PM

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

Galatians 5:1 (New American Standard)

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

"He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper."

"No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear."

Edmund Burke (Irish politician and orator 1729-1797)

It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

Emiliano Zapata (Mexican revolutionary 1879-1919)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

"Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense"

Winston Churchill (British Orator, Author and Prime Minister
during World War II 1874-1965)

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

Voltaire (French author 1694-1778)

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive ... those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C. S. Lewis (English author 1898-1963)

"With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter's definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. .A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority." (1965)

Stanley Milgram (American psychologist 1933–1984)

"Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery."

Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. (*) ME 1:193, Papers 1:125 (American Politician 1743-1826)

"When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaties and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stiring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader"

Plato (Greek Philosopher 427 B.C.-347 B.C. )

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws.

John Quincy Adams (American President 1825-1829)

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Martin Niemoller (German Pastor 1892 - 1984)

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Pioneering Aviator and Author June 22, 1906 – February 7, 2001)

#1157 Pyschology dangerous?

Posted by RobertK on 21 June 2007 - 05:43 AM

Get Shrunk at Your Own Risk

By Sharon Begley
June 18, 2007 issue - No one bats an eye when a drug for a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or depression causes serious side effects such as nausea, weight gain, blurred vision or a vanishing libido. But what few patients seeking psychotherapy know is that talking can be dangerous, too—and therapists have not exactly rushed to tell them so

For treatments that come in a bottle, the Food and Drug Administration requires proof of safety and efficacy. For treatments that come from the lips of psychologists and psychiatrists, there's no such requirement. But while therapists fight over whether they should use only treatments for which there is rigorous scientific evidence for efficacy, they have largely ignored something more fundamental. "The profession hasn't shown much interest in the problem of treatments that can be harmful," says psychology professor Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University. "Of the few psychotherapies that have been tested for safety, too many cause harm to at least some patients."

The failure to heed Hippocrates reflects the assumption that psychotherapy is, at worst, innocuous. That naive trust should have been blown out of the water when "recovered memory" therapy actually created false memories, often of childhood sexual abuse, tearing families apart. But the "Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Therapy," the clinicians' bible, devotes only 2.5 pages out of 821 to adverse effects, even though documented risks of therapies could fill a small book.

"Stress debriefing," for instance, is designed to prevent symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in those who have suffered or witnessed a trauma. In a three- to four-hour group session, a therapist pushes patients to discuss and "process" their feelings and to describe in detail what they experienced or witnessed. Many of those who undergo stress debriefing develop worse PTSD symptoms than those who deal with the trauma on their own, controlled studies show, probably because the intense reliving of the trauma impedes natural recovery. Burn victims who underwent stress debriefing, for instance, had worse PTSD 13 months later than victims who had no psychotherapy; people who went through it after being in a car crash had greater anxiety about travel three years later than those who did not.

Psychotherapy for dissociative-identity disorder (formerly called multiple-personality disorder) can pose even greater risks. Some therapists believe that the best treatment for these fractured souls is to bring out the hidden identities, called "alters," through hypnosis or helping alters leave messages for one another. Unfortunately, many alters cause "self-injurious behavior, suicide attempts, and verbal and physical aggression," notes Lilienfeld in a paper in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. In addition, the "let's meet the alters!" techniques can actually create alters in suggestible patients. "As more alters come out, it gets harder to get the patient back to having one identity," Lilienfeld says. The longer someone stays in therapy, the more alters show up, evidence that "many and perhaps most alters are products of inadvertent therapist suggestion." So much for "First, do no harm."

Story continues below ↓


Few of us will need therapy for multiple-personality disorder. But everyone will experience grief—and counseling for normal bereavement may not always be benign. A 2000 study found that four in 10 people who lost a loved one would have been better off without grief counseling (based on a comparison with people who were randomly assigned to a no-therapy group). That was especially so for those who experienced normal grief. In that case, counseling sometimes prolonged and deepened grief, leaving more depression and anxiety than in those who worked through their loss on their own.

That 40 percent figure is likely inflated, argues psychologist Dale Larson of Santa Clara University. But he agrees with Lilienfeld's estimate that 10 to 20 percent of people who receive psychotherapy are harmed by it. Even the American Psychological Association acknowledges that too many clinicians practice "psychoquackery," as psychologist John Norcross of Scranton University puts it. If we had FDA-style regulation of psychotherapies—difficult though that would be to do, especially since the effects of psychotherapy depend on the therapist—"fringe therapies would not be on the market."

How fringe is "fringe"? In percentage terms, very. But the number of people undergoing potentially risky therapies reaches into the tens of thousands. Vioxx was yanked from the market for less. To be sure, even risky psychotherapies don't harm everyone, just as most people who took Vioxx will never have a heart attack. What is remarkable about psychotherapies, though, is that few patients have any idea that "just talking" can be dangerous to their mental health.