A Swift Pair of Messengers (2)

I’ve finally got around to putting up A Swift Pair of Messengers in various formats, especially as a print=on-demand book from Lulu.com. I promised these many months ago, optimistically saying they’d be ready in ‘a few days’! The hardcover from Lulu is really excellent, I’m very impressed with their quality.

Actually, I’ve been preparing all my old books, and one new one, for publication through Lulu.com. I’m awaiting the next round of proof copies from Lulu and hopefully will get these available in… well, perhaps best not to mention a time frame.

There was some terrific discussion on this after my last post, and if anyone has more comments or questions, that can be continued here. I notice that I didn’t answer everyone’s questions, so I’ll try to get on to that. If I don’t answer your question, please post it again, sometimes I miss things!

12 thoughts on “A Swift Pair of Messengers (2)

  1. Bhante,

    Do you know much about S.N. Goenka’s vipassana techniques? Are they the same type of “dry” technique promoted by the Mahasi school of thought?

  2. By the way James, the Goenka technique is just body scanning which takes one’s thoughts off the thinking and just being in present moment and aware of the body. They also misrepresent the Buddha’s teachings by claiming that by simply being aware of the body you can get rid of all past kamma and be awakened. This is wrong and not what the Buddha said. Buddha said time and time again that it’s the Eightfold Path that leads to Nibbana, which includes jhanas and in the jhanas perception of the body is gone long ago. This is the mistake that happens when people just learn meditation from their teachers and don’t bother to check with the suttas and the Buddha’s teachings.

    It’s incredibly important for us to read the suttas (& compare with the agamas) so that we know what the Buddha taught and if we do not check what the Buddha taught- then we might contribute to the Dhamma’s decline by allowing wrong Dhamma to popularize.
    Now we have to be careful not to base our whole practice on just one sutta – the Buddha said that if we hear something is said by the Buddha- check it against his Dhamma and discipline to know if indeed it is the Buddha’s teachings.

    ““Now if a monk should say that he has heard directly form the Blessed One, that he has learnt directly from him that such is the practice, such the discipline, such the Teacher’s instruction, then what this monk says should neither be accepted nor rejected. Without being accepted or rejected, his words and expressions should be learnt and then compared agains the Teaching and examined against the Discipline. If, when they are compared agains the Teaching and examined agains the Discipline, they do not in fact compare with the Teaching and do not bear examination the with Discipline, the the conclusion must be drawn that this is certainly not the word of the Blessed One but something the monk has mistakenly learn, in which case you should discard it. ” (mahaparinibbana sutta)

    The Goenka technique gained popularity i think because it’s run by an ex-business man (Goenka) so he knows about promotion, but also doing a body scan is a very introductory meditation technique which is helpful for beginners to get some peace in their mind. They also introduce impermanence however impermanence is wrongly translated as ‘rise and fall’ which is not accurate. The Buddha meant anicca as ‘origination and vanishing’ – so one should experience things like perception of body disappear not just change in content. Also the Goenka retreats say that you can be aware of subatomic particles. As a neuroscientist, this is complete nonsense: what we are aware of is a mental representation of what is stimulated by our sense receptors, which does not have an accuracy of the size of atoms!

    However once any method calms the mind, meditation towards jhanas should be practiced.

    The Buddha said time and time again “practice jhanas, bhikkhus, do not delay or else you will regret it later” (MN19) the Buddha told his disciples to practice jhanas, not to do ‘vipassana’ or ‘noting’ or whatever.

    By the way, you have enough instructions in the suttas:)

    Or if you do want to listen to a ‘live’ teacher, I found Ajahn Brahm’s teachings extremely helpful and exactly in line with the Buddha’s teachings. I’ve uploaded some talks. They are excellent guidance for meditation.
    loving kindness http://db.tt/cOH7tBI
    ‘contentment’ http://db.tt/kSONmg9

    • I’ve taken the liberty of copying the first footnote of this essay and placing it here because it shows how beautifully and sensibly good monastics should disagree with each and be open to each other’s views.

      Thank you to both these good monks for showing the rest of us how to behave! _/\_

      Ven Brahmali states in his footnote:

      “1 My sincere thanks are in particular due to Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, who in spite being the object of this critique, gave much time to provide detailed feedback on an earlier version. …”

    • I should’ve said…PART of the first footnote…there’s more to it…but you have to read it to find out!


    • wow, i’m surprised that someone even can doubt the Eightfold path!
      it’s quite funny isn’t ?

      The Buddha said (mahaparinibanna sutta) that we have to only believe a saying of the Buddha if it fits with all the other teachings. So i find it quite amusing that some can argue over some obscure passages mentioned only once or a few times, whereas the Eightfold path is mentioned hundreds of times! eightfold path has as the eight factor jhanas!

      I guess it’s for those who can’t meditate try to argue that the Buddha was wrong, one only needs a sevenfold or onefold path;) if a onefold and sevenfold path lead to nibbana, then the Buddha would say so. But we need all Eight 🙂

      The Fourth Noble Truth
      What is the Noble Truth of the Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering? 
It is the Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Samadhi.
There is this Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before….
This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by cultivating the Path…. SN 56.11

      “This is the only path (the Eightfold Path); there is none other for the purification of insight.” 
 Lord Buddha, Dhp. 274
Eightfold Path
At Sāvatthī. “Bhikkhus, I will teach you the Noble Eightfold Path and I will analyze it for you. Listen to that and attend closely, I will speak.”
      “Yes, venerable sir,” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:
      “And what, bhikkhus, is the Noble Eightfold Path? Right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samadhi.”

      Right view: Knowledge of suffering, knowledge of the origin of suffering, knowledge of the cessation of suffering, knowledge of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

      Right intention: Intention of renunciation, intention of non-ill will, intention of harmlessness.

      Right speech: Abstinence from false speech, abstinence from divisive speech, abstinence from harsh speech, abstinence from idle chatter.

      Right action: Abstinence from the destruction of life, abstinence from taking what is not given, abstinence from sexual misconduct: this is called right action.

      Right livelihood: Here a noble disciple, having abandoned a wrong mode of livelihood, earns his living by a right livelihood.

      Right effort: A meditator does whatever it takes to abandon unskilful states and prevent them from re-arising; and to arouse skillful states and maintain them.

      Right mindfulness: Having removed the five hindrances (Nivārana), a meditator dwells ardent, wise and mindful, contemplating  one of these four: the body;  pleasurable and painful sensations in any of the six senses; the mind; or Dhamma.

      Right stillness (samadhi): Distant from the five senses and distant from the five hindrances, a meditator abides in the first jhāna, which consists of a bliss caused by being distant from the five senses, with a residual mental movement on to the object of bliss and holding that same object. With the subsiding of this residual mental movement, one abides in the second jhāna, which consists of a bliss caused by a stillness with no mental movement, and with inner confidence. With the fading away of rapture, one abides in the third jhāna, equanimous, mindful and clearly comprehending, experiencing the bliss without rapture, of which the noble ones declare: ‘Equanimous and mindful, one dwells happily.’ With the fading away of all physical sensations as well as mental pleasure and pain, one enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna,  which consists of purity of mindfulness and equanimity. 

      ref: Sutta 8 of the Maggasaṃyutta in the Saṃyutta Nikāya

    • Hi Dania
      “wow, i’m surprised that someone even can doubt the Eightfold path!
      it’s quite funny isn’t ?” Who is it that was doubting the eight fold path? I Can’t work out who your comments are aimed at. Who can’t meditate and who was trying to argue that the Buddha was wrong? Thanks for the clarification.

    • Just wanted to clarify that the comment wasn’t aimed at anyone specifically but rather in general trying to find some passages that might suggest that u don’t need jhana (I.e. 8th factor of eightfold path) to get awakened just seemed surprising I was surprised at venerable Bodhi as well writing about that possibility though. I didn’t read his papers since the Buddha made the path to Nibbana clear already (8fold path) and it seems that nitpicking a way out of the 8th factor like some I hear try to do, is silly. I dont know of any traditions since right away i just want to learn Buddhism from the suttas and agamas (straight from the source) but i did hear that there are some people who just practice one factor and think that its enough- that is what i was surprised at. The Buddha after all was the best teacher. I praise bh Brahmali for writing to bh Bodhi about that. I also praise bh Bodhi for all the translation and writing book he’s done but it’s just the nature of samsara that noones perfect and he can make mistakes too.
      So pls don’t misunderstand, this is just opinion/comment that it’s shocking to hear of different traditions that don’t study the fundamentals of Buddhism (I.e. Four noble truths and eightfold path, like the Goenka method for instance. And I think there’s some others. But it’s important to say this since in the mahaparinibbana sutta Buddha did want his disciples to be able to correct Dhamma teachings if some are misrepresented. So it’s good we have blogs like this so people can remind us to go back to the Buddhas teachings an correct us if we misrepresent or understand them.

    • Dear Dania,

      I don’t think Bhikkhu Bodhi was saying that the 8th factor wasn’t necessary.

      I think he was writing about the possibility of the suttas saying that this was so.

      I think this is an important distinction.

      One of things I enjoyed about reading this paper was the (to me) obvious respect that Ven Brahmali has for Bhikkhu Bodhi. And I thought it was so sweet and wonderful that Bhikkhu Bodhi had given him feedback on this essay! They are obviously able to communicate with each other and it seems to me from what i’ve read elsewhere to be open enough to change their views after such communications.

      I hope one day I can learn to be as skillful.

      With respect and metta

  3. I can’t help but thinking that Theravarden and Vajrayana buddhism seem to be like two sides of a coin, extreme in their practises, but that neither seem to actually practise what they teach, or they just use it for themselves, their own enlightenment or power and control.

    The Buddha taught that Buddhism was about the middle way, sounds good to me, so I think I will try that road, umm oh look they have even upgraded the highway

    Best wishes

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