Theravada and discouragement

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Theravada and discouragement

Postby duckfiasco » Sat Nov 30, 2013 11:26 pm

My mind likes to play a nasty trick.
The latest instance, I was reading through a very long article by Thanissaro on rebirth.
He mentioned how much the Buddha stressed the jhanas, like wholesome placeholder pleasures to make renouncing the grosser sense pleasures easier.
Okay, I never had luck with the jhanas but I pulled up an article about them anyway.
Immediately, it stresses abandoning the life of a householder, how the Buddha advocated homelessness as a bare minimum to obtain the first jhana, and all of these requirements and difficulties.
Then if you even get that far, unless you obtain all eight, you won't be able to deal with the subtle hindrances.
And if you don't do that, then you might get a nice rebirth but the one after that is likely to be in the animal or hell realms anyway.
But there's good news! Since it might take a zillion lifetimes to find release from suffering, just do what you can!
That somehow makes it worse :rolleye:

I have the distinct experience of Theravadan Buddhism and the suttas making nirvana and therefore helping others with their suffering utterly unattainable for a worldly householder like me.
It's for someone else, a (dare I say it) "real" Buddhist.
It makes me want to chuck Buddhism in the trash bin.

And when this kind of doubt comes up, it reminds me of the kinds of things I've heard from others.
Things like "Well, at least it's what the Buddha actually taught, as far as we can tell. Those Zen folks go off one sutta and ignore the absence of a Buddha-nature in the Tripitaka. Nirvana/samsara being the same is heresy. And Tibetan Buddhism? Let's not even go there."

Don't worry!
I know better than to take the advice of that thinking by now.
I've already had this happen SO many times in the past, but I've always just ended up coming back to Buddhism six months later. Done with that!

Yet this is a really ugly, frightening display of doubt and discouragement.

I'm wondering if anyone else would characterize their experience with the suttas and Theravadan authors as primarily discouraging.
If so, why? If not, why not?

I'd like to deal with this heavy baggage that I've somehow picked up relative to Theravadan Buddhism and especially the jhanas.
I want to just brush it all off as "well that's why I prefer Mahayana!" but that feels like a cop-out :P
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby reddust » Sat Nov 30, 2013 11:54 pm

I've meet or read of Theravada meditation teachers that have never said this regarding Jhanas. To become a Bodhisatta in Theravada you have to meet a real live Buddha per their definition, that's kind of hard because Gotama Buddha is gone. But you never know, you could of met him in a previous life. One thing to keep in mind the Pali Cannon was written for monks and I don't see many stories of householders. I figured it's because monks wrote the cannons, it is their story they are telling. I read many stores of Gotama Buddha lecturing householders and many were said to have attained arhatship. Did all of them join the holy sangha? I don't know, there are stories that if you don't join the holy sangha once you've become an arhat you will die. EDIT: are the monks trying to protect their place? I'm a naughty girl and asked that question…. :tongue: If you ask many modern Theravada meditation teachers they say Jhanas are attainable without letting go of daily householder life. Although you have to go into retreat away from daily stresses for some time. I can give citations but I don't have my notes on this laptop and I don't want to look them all up right now. So I'm not going to debate.

Any teacher or lay person who discourages the practice and study of the Dhamma to anyone is likely to cause Obstruction to Dhamma (Dhammantaraya). You can't tell who has ripe Paramis and who doesn't unless you are a Buddha yourself. I do have this book on my desk that I can cite (The Requisites Of Enlightenment by The Venerable Ledi Sayadaw) (http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh171.pdf)
Mind and mental events are concepts, mere postulations within the three realms of samsara Longchenpa .... A link to my Garden, Art and Foodie blog Scratch Living
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:58 am

there is always Amitabha Buddha and his vow's and also i have heard Garchen Rinpoche say that if you remember the deity and mantra and practice visualization of the deity, and you remember him 6 times a day, you will remember the deity in the bardo and attain liberation.

self generation is such a powerful practice in that sense.

i dont worry too much about deep meditational attainments, i practice what i have in front of me, and i have faith in that. faith is an important factor Garchen Rinpoche gives much value, and presses its importance and the beneficial energy.

really, if theravada texts really put you down, ignore the text, you dont know who wrote it. you dont know if buddha said that you cant attain liberation without attaining the jhanas. that may be a theravada perspective who knows, but i practice vajrayana which is much more powerful and skillful for householders life. although i have myself the urge to go be a monk to gain deep meditation experience but for now i solely rely on my deitys and the triple gem and i feel safe and protected from samsara.
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 1:46 am

Yes, it will take a long time. Hell, Mahayana takes three aeons. That's a large part of why the ten virtues are so important and part of why the first three perfections are so important. To ensure three aeons of ease and resources.

My advice to you is not to undertake the spiritual path. It is too difficult, too long, and is too demanding. I suggest you ask for your money back, and go home. This is not a picnic. It is really going to ask everything of you. So, it is best not to begin. However, if you do begin, it is best to finish.
-Chogyam Trungpa


However, recall cause and effect. Every cause has an effect. Every virtue you create directed to Enlightenment will ripen in Enlightenment. And when you create a stream of virtue (such as being a Bodhisattva) Enlightenment becomes guaranteed. Only a matter of time.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby dude » Sun Dec 01, 2013 2:37 am

I'm wondering if anyone else would characterize their experience with the suttas and Theravadan authors as primarily discouraging.
If so, why? If not, why not?

Oh yeah. At least I would if I thought it was the whole story.
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:48 am

duckfiasco wrote:My mind likes to play a nasty trick.
The latest instance, I was reading through a very long article by Thanissaro on rebirth.
He mentioned how much the Buddha stressed the jhanas, like wholesome placeholder pleasures to make renouncing the grosser sense pleasures easier.
Okay, I never had luck with the jhanas but I pulled up an article about them anyway.
Immediately, it stresses abandoning the life of a householder, how the Buddha advocated homelessness as a bare minimum to obtain the first jhana, and all of these requirements and difficulties.
Then if you even get that far, unless you obtain all eight, you won't be able to deal with the subtle hindrances.
And if you don't do that, then you might get a nice rebirth but the one after that is likely to be in the animal or hell realms anyway.
But there's good news! Since it might take a zillion lifetimes to find release from suffering, just do what you can!
That somehow makes it worse :rolleye:

I have the distinct experience of Theravadan Buddhism and the suttas making nirvana and therefore helping others with their suffering utterly unattainable for a worldly householder like me.
It's for someone else, a (dare I say it) "real" Buddhist.
It makes me want to chuck Buddhism in the trash bin.

And when this kind of doubt comes up, it reminds me of the kinds of things I've heard from others.
Things like "Well, at least it's what the Buddha actually taught, as far as we can tell. Those Zen folks go off one sutta and ignore the absence of a Buddha-nature in the Tripitaka. Nirvana/samsara being the same is heresy. And Tibetan Buddhism? Let's not even go there."

Don't worry!
I know better than to take the advice of that thinking by now.
I've already had this happen SO many times in the past, but I've always just ended up coming back to Buddhism six months later. Done with that!

Yet this is a really ugly, frightening display of doubt and discouragement.

I'm wondering if anyone else would characterize their experience with the suttas and Theravadan authors as primarily discouraging.
If so, why? If not, why not?

I'd like to deal with this heavy baggage that I've somehow picked up relative to Theravadan Buddhism and especially the jhanas.
I want to just brush it all off as "well that's why I prefer Mahayana!" but that feels like a cop-out :P


Compare the Pure Abodes of Thervadan to the Pure Land of Mahayana.
Also Buddha recollection is taught in both sects.
The pali canon speaks of two types of desciples the faith follower and the knowledge follower.
Faith being a prerequisite for Enlightenment.

Many Thervadans pray and work towards going to Tusita heaven to practice with Bodhisattva Maitreya.

Most people have not experienced Jhana much less transversed thru the 3 nimittas and recieved the counter sign.......But it can be done with diligent practice.

Have you tried Nembutsu Samadhi?

basically all jhana meditations are based on the same principle......(mindfulness/awareness and concentration on the "mental object"

Nembutsu is based on the "mental hearing" which is to say hearing with the mind and not the ears.

Kasina is based on "mental seeing" you see the object with your mind not your eyes.

Anapanasati is based on concentration of the "sensation object"

All of these will lead you to a Nimitta. Develop the nimitta further and you will access Jhana.
(the actual practice instructions is super super easy.......the practice itself is not easy)
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:53 am

dude wrote:I'm wondering if anyone else would characterize their experience with the suttas and Theravadan authors as primarily discouraging.
If so, why? If not, why not?
Quote the contrary. For me the Pali Canon merely helps to remind me of the need and importance of determination and insistence in my practice.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby ball-of-string » Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:29 am

Risking controversy, my experience is that the lay people who (privately) speak of a jhana experience confirmed by their teacher, had the experience while on a retreat (20 days or longer). If you are even occasionally watching television, accessing Facebook, texting people, reading the newspaper, engaging in sexual behavior, etc...these activities are so powerfully detrimental to the development of concentration that jhana does not seem likely. But even in the Buddha's time, lay people went to the market, participated in festival entertainments, and other powerful distractions. It was a rare lay person who was willing to abandon these experiences of common lay life for long enough period to develop the concentration needed for jhana...
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby thunderbumble » Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:59 am

I recommend reading, "The Breath of Love",
Ven.Bhante Vimalaramsi - Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center.
I do believe he steers clear of the, Visuddhimagga
He's a purest. What you need to do is relax.
Relax in the Love Of Buddha.
He also addresses, "Metta" Meditation very well.
I will say I'm a Jodo Shin Buddhist, gratitude is the heart, "kokoro" (heart mind kanji)
I do Naikan-Metta following the breath of love/gratitude.
First, generate gratitude/ love to the Buddha.
Then the from my body parts outward,(feet, hands...)
Meditation cushion, car....
Eventually I settle and can follow the beating of my own heart and relax, let go. Buddha Loves you!
Love the Buddha!
The Buddha taught


So, bhikkhus, you should train in this way: The heart-deliverance of loving-kindness will be maintained in being and made much of by us, used as our vehicle, used as our foundation, established, consolidated, and properly managed. That is how you should train
Samyutta Nikaya 20:3
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby jeeprs » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:10 am

I know just what you mean and sometimes I get that perspective of being caught up in a process that will take 'aeons of kalpas' to work out. But there is also a 'here and now' perspective - that right mindfulness and so on, have immediate application, that in some sense you realize the benefits of that right away - this minute, in fact. We all need to understand the factors of mindfulness and the hindrances, right now. Otherwise, what else are we doing. 'Oh, I'll put off being mindful until some future existence'. That is not likely, who knows what the future will bring?

Also be mindful of the polemical intent and social circumstances within which those texts are written down. They are written for an audience, in a social context. The social context was very different from our own. That is not to belittle them or deny their importance, but if you're speaking in the context of a culture which values the monastic vocation and the virtue of solitude, then the texts are reflecting that.

But I think overall, the sense of the immediate benefits of right mindfulness and insight, is what to concentrate on.
He that knows it, knows it not.
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby futerko » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:18 am

thunderbumble wrote:(feet, hands...)
Meditation cushion, car....

That is a very interesting progression, and one that I haven't yet encountered through my own practice.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby yan kong » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:44 am

Forget the jhanas. Let your experience contribute to your humility; if you're not a monastic then be humble that you still live the life of a householder, if you are a monastic then be humble because you live on the generosity of others. Quite importantly recognize your feelings of discouragement for what they are, a hindrance to your practice and let them go.

Metta.
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby daverupa » Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:26 pm

One may not need jhana to attain stream-entry, which is quite an accomplishment and not something beyond reach of householders.

One doesn't need "all eight" jhana for awakening, either. The first four are fine, and if I need to find it, I can cite the sutta that mentions how even first jhana can be sufficient.

("All eight" because the last four are more often not mentioned as part of sammasamadhi.)

Dealing with the hindrances happens before jhana anyway; they don't need to be permanently uprooted for this, but they do need to be in abeyance in order for jhana to manifest, which does require a seclusion from sensuality that cell phones and television and chit-chat all interfere with.

One can continue to scrub away at the hindrances and perhaps even attain once-returnership, without jhana.

So long as satipatthana is being engaged, there are immediate benefits, to say nothing of these future benefits. Motivation comes easily when even minor benefits are available to memory instead of just the imagination, in my experience.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby seeker242 » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:02 pm

duckfiasco wrote:I'm wondering if anyone else would characterize their experience with the suttas and Theravadan authors as primarily discouraging.
If so, why? If not, why not?


No, because I agree with point 8 and 9 in the Basic Points Unifying the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna

8: There are three ways of attaining Bodhi or Enlightenment according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely, as a Sravaka (disciple), as a Pratyekabuddha (Individual Buddha) and as a Samyaksambuddha (Perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest and most heroic to follow the career of a Boddhisattva and to become a Samyksambuddha in order to save others. But these three states are on the same Path, not on different paths. In fact, the Sandhinirmocana-sutra, a well-known important Mahayana sutra, clearly and emphatically says that those who follow the line of Śrāvakayāna (Vehicle of Disciples) or the line of Pratyekabuddha-yana (Vehicle of Individual Buddhas) or the line of Tathagatas (Mahayana) attain the supreme Nirvana by the same Path, and that for all of them there is only one Path of Purification (visuddhi-marga) and only one Purification (visuddhi) and no second one, and that they are not different paths and different purifications, and that Sravakayana and Mahayana constitute One Vehicle One Yana (ekayana) and not distinct and different vehicles or yanas.

9: We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard to the ways of life of Buddhist monks, popular Buddhist beliefs and practices, rites and rituals, ceremonies, customs and habits. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.


it reminds me of the kinds of things I've heard from others.
Things like "Well, at least it's what the Buddha actually taught, as far as we can tell. Those Zen folks go off one sutta and ignore the absence of a Buddha-nature in the Tripitaka. Nirvana/samsara being the same is heresy. And Tibetan Buddhism? Let's not even go there."


Deluded comments from deluded minds it seems to me.

:namaste:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby sukhamanveti » Mon Dec 02, 2013 9:44 pm

duckfiasco wrote:Immediately, it stresses abandoning the life of a householder, how the Buddha advocated homelessness as a bare minimum to obtain the first jhana, and all of these requirements and difficulties.
Then if you even get that far, unless you obtain all eight, you won't be able to deal with the subtle hindrances.
And if you don't do that, then you might get a nice rebirth but the one after that is likely to be in the animal or hell realms anyway.
But there's good news! Since it might take a zillion lifetimes to find release from suffering, just do what you can!
That somehow makes it worse :rolleye:

I have the distinct experience of Theravadan Buddhism and the suttas making nirvana and therefore helping others with their suffering utterly unattainable for a worldly householder like me.
It's for someone else, a (dare I say it) "real" Buddhist.
It makes me want to chuck Buddhism in the trash bin.


In the Chapter of Eights in the Aṅguttara Nikāya (at AN 8.21), we read of the householder Ugga (=Skt. Ugra) of Vesālī (Vaiśālī). This was a layman of extraordinary spiritual achievements. He eventually abandoned the fetter of sensual desire and lived a celibate life, although he had been married to four wives (good reason to go celibate?). He was generous with his wealth, giving impartially to individuals of noble character. If he encountered a monk who did not teach Dharma to him, he would teach that monk the Dharma. Having abandoned the five lower fetters (identity view, doubt, wrong grasp of rules and observances, sensual lust, and ill will), he attained the stage of enlightenment of a non-returner. This means that after his death he would have been reborn as a deva in a Pure Abode where he would attain his goal, becoming an arahant (arhat). At AN 5.44 we read that after his death, he appeared to the Buddha as a deva "of stunning beauty." The Buddha asked if it is as Ugga wished. Ugga replied that he is satisfied: "Surely, Bhante, it is as I had wished." I find his life story to be a source of encouragement and inspiration. Even in Theravada, with its emphasis on the monastic life, a layman can walk the path to enlightenment.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby theanarchist » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:37 pm

duckfiasco wrote:
I'm wondering if anyone else would characterize their experience with the suttas and Theravadan authors as primarily discouraging.
If so, why? If not, why not?

I'd like to deal with this heavy baggage that I've somehow picked up relative to Theravadan Buddhism and especially the jhanas.
I want to just brush it all off as "well that's why I prefer Mahayana!" but that feels like a cop-out :P



Do you seriously think that the average "housholder" practitioner of the other buddhist traditions (zen, Tibetan) archieve the goal of their practice in this one life? Most buddhists in countries like Burma and Sri Lanka don't live as monks and nuns in the forrest.

You seem to be much more busy thinking about what you can't have right now than spending time to do what you can. And who sais you can't become a Theravada monastic/hermit if that is really what you want later in your life?

There is a lot of conceptual thinking and craving going on in your mind. I think it would be very much in accordance with those suttas if you reduce that unhealthy craving and gnawing dissatisfaction because it's destructive.
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby shaunc » Fri Dec 27, 2013 9:45 am

We all have the Buddha nature within us, many practitioners (myself included) have had realisations & possibly even brief moments of enlightenment. A true Buddha however can stretch each moment into the next & be enlightened 24/7. So what is it that stops a layman from achieving this. The life of a householder stops him achieving this, sooner or later, he/she has to go to work, paint the laundry, cook the dinner, mow the lawn, etc.
In zen there is a saying. Before enlightenment, I chopped wood & carried water. After enlightenment I chopped wood & carried water.
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Re: Theravada and discouragement

Postby muni » Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:21 am

Discouragement can be an encouragent when seen as „oh no! I‘ll go for it“ or it can bring one very down. Also we can give ourselves so much pressure and turn exhausted from striving or frustration to hurry on- to get it.

Don’t listen to whatever is said, ( by inner talk/fret or outer) since if we cling to these we are harming ourselves like we hold on passing winds.

There is the possibility for all since we all are pure nature. One master repeatedly told us to remain humble, not forget the following life.
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