Friday, August 8, 2014

Best Technique, Accomplished Laymen, Karmic Tendencies

Daniel Noreen
June 22

In your opinion or personal experience, what methods or techniques work best for results in real insight, and even, liberation?
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    Justin Chapweske Vipassana done correctly under the guidance of an awake teacher.
    June 22 at 2:57pm · Unlike · 2
    Soh Everyone will say their method works best because that's what worked for them. I do not believe in inherently superior or inferior methods or techniques. I'd say mine works best
    June 22 at 3:04pm · Like · 7
    Justin Chapweske I should qualify that my statement is based on my personal experience and not some objective authority.
    June 22 at 3:05pm · Unlike · 1
    Duane Eugene Miller It depends on what you're trying to do or emphasize in your practice. Although I agree to some extent that there is no objective way to approach this question, certain techniques are designed to cultivate certain results. Mahasi Sayadaw noting practice (a type of insight - vipassana - practice) is very effective at gaining a deeper knowledge of impermanence. Concentration practices (meditation on an object - the breath, visualizations, etc...) typically induces states of absorption (samatha jhanas) and are known for being extremely pleasant, even blissful. Other practices like Shikantaza or calm abiding are really good at developing equanimity. And of course there is metta practice for compassion and empathy. It's my experience that all these practices cultivate all of these qualities, it's just a matter of emphasis. Best to experiment and find a good teacher.
    June 22 at 10:16pm · Like · 1
    Daniel Noreen Soh, I was hoping to hear your bias!
    June 22 at 10:48pm · Like
    Daniel Noreen All of these practices are familiar to me, and was really is what I was expecting to hear from everyone So, thank you all for your input. I appreciate it.
    June 22 at 10:49pm · Like
    Daniel Noreen Has anyone had results in more esoteric practices, such as Mahamudra, dety yoga, or Phowa?
    June 22 at 10:56pm · Like
    Anthony Goh Beyond technique, I think the most important thing is spending as much time as possible around someone / lots of people who are "awake"... in real life, or online.... and to be practicing with the clear intent to wake up, aka bust duality... if this is clear, then maybe the actual type of practice won't matter so much.

    I would also add that having your psychological stuff basically together is really worthwhile, not saying you have to be perfect or anything but just not being running from life, running from interpersonal conflict... I have met a lot of people who are basically scared of their relationships, scared of work, scared of the contents of their life, and are trying to awaken to escape this... it doesn't seem to work well..

    but yeah I agree with everyone else on this thread. strongly intented vipassana, and contemplation worked for me.
    June 22 at 11:26pm · Like · 2
    Daniel Noreen Thank you Anthony. I agree TOTALLY with your comment. Having most of our "shit" together when going to digest and practice Dharma is a good idea, I myself have made the mistake of jumping in head first blindly when I was clearly not ready in that stage in life and mind, and ended up using Dharma as a means of escapism and it ended up becoming toxic for me.

    It was very difficult to have something I was so passionate about, become a source of even more suffering.

    Finding a community of awake people is probably, for me, the most difficult to accomplish. I have been searching for that very thing, and a teacher, and method, teaching that resonates with me for a long time. There has been several places that I have been apart of, Sangha that I have been involved with, traditions that I have followed, but there has always been a wall, always something that just "didn't feel right." By no means can I say they were wrong, or giving impure teachings, in fact I have seen the opposite I have seen others in those communities wake up. But, for myself, it hasn't worked.

    So, I have been practicing and contemplating Dharma for nearly 10 years now. For the first time, I am letting go of all that I have learned, been empowered with, been initiated with, and starting over from square one. I suppose I am just looking and searching for where to start.
    June 22 at 11:34pm · Like · 2
    Damian Hopewell Vipassana is pretty dependable. Mahasi noting and Goenka body scanning combined are think are a good combo. It is so concrete and systematic that I found it particularly effective. However, as one's practice progresses Vipassana can begin to feel a little contrived and effortful. It has a shadow side of maintaining a sense of someone doing something. Mahamudra and zazen style practices I found a very helpful counterpoint for Vipassana later on in my practice. One last thing is Byron Katie style enquiry off the cushion. That can be good to work with an enquiry practice that doesn't benefit so much from retreat style conditions.
    June 22 at 11:38pm · Like · 1
    Justin Chapweske Daniel Noreen - I've found sufficient support online. Soh's writing is very helpful. I used to belong to Kenneth Folk's forums (now defunct) and dharmaoverground.org. I know a lot of people moved to the awakenetwork.org
    June 23 at 6:48am · Like · 2
    Daniel Noreen Thanks guys, I appreciate your input. Moving into trying Vippassana is something new for me since most of practice has been involved more heavy into more Tantra meditation. It's a little strange to try something new when I'm so accustomed to something else. I have practices Zazen and Shikintaza a lot as well, which is really quite similar to Vipassana, isn't it?
    June 23 at 8:18am · Like
    Daniel Noreen Anthony Goh You say to "bust duality." Is this the same "end all" of being released from Samsara? Sorry if this comes off as silly question. But I hear duality concepts being thrown around a lot, and many people interpret it many different ways depending on tradition.
    June 23 at 8:22am · Edited · Like · 1
    Anthony Goh Hi, when I said "bust duality", I vaguely loosely meant some sort of non-dual perception, what most people loosely call vaguely 'awake'... e.g. it is clear when you look around that there is no-one inside and also maybe nothing outside. You are right, the terms are used v differently. The stages of various kinds of non-dual experience are well talked about on Soh's blog, awakening to reality.... google "thusness 6 stages".

    When the insight into anatta as they call it here in this group, is realised, then non-dual perception is totally clear as the sky is blue. But the "taints" as Soh has been talking about here, karmic tendencies to hold/grasp/divide are still there.

    re: zazen/shikantaza I have heard and read wildly different accounts of exactly what they are. For me personally I found the sense clarity of systematic vipassana invaluable for learning the difference between experience and thoughts about experience. I also do a lot of just sitting though.

    Have you tried liberation unleashed? It seems to be good for long term practitioners who now have a strong desire to see through the illusion of self and maybe just need a little push?
    June 23 at 10:48am · Like · 3
    Daniel Noreen No, I haven't heard of that before.
    June 23 at 10:56am · Like
    Daniel Noreen I looked into LU and it seems intriguing. So it seems to be a method into insight of Anatta. But, can this be taken as Buddhadharma? It seems to be a very secular approach, but given it's method, it seems to be appropriate being that. But is just having insight into Annata enough? Does that break away eons of karma, of bondage in Samsara, does it give clarity into Bodhichitta? I'm a bit skeptical.
    June 23 at 11:21am · Like
    Soh LU is mostly about non-doership. That's just one aspect of no-self... not the whole picture. Many progress into 'I AM' after that. But LU can be helpful for many. Like I said, many faces of self/Self.
    June 23 at 11:44am · Edited · Like · 3
    Logan Truthe Sometimes don't be limited by categories of traditions techniques etc. but allow your intuition to guide you. Sometimes it may not be the methods or schools that have a 'wall', it may one's own limitations, so in that case, you have to look inwards to identify blockages.
    June 23 at 1:42pm · Edited · Unlike · 1
    Òskar K. Linares Self-inquiry (koan on who am i?) together with Shikantaza for IAM. And later, something like shikantaza for now...
    June 23 at 7:09pm · Edited · Like
    Ville Räisänen Daniel, what is your tantra practice? Do you have a teacher, transmission or practice that really works, gives you experiental progress?
    June 23 at 7:19pm · Like
    Siddha Babananda Anthony Goh wrote: "When the insight into anatta as they call it here in this group, is realised, then non-dual perception is totally clear as the sky is blue. But the "taints" as Soh has been talking about here, karmic tendencies to hold/grasp/divide are still there."

    What are the methods non-tantric buddhism has for this? I know of vipashyana but do not know how it is practiced in classical buddhism. Does anyone know? Is it reasonable for a modern layman to expect liberation from all personal karmas with this method, without tantric tools?
    June 23 at 7:36pm · Like
    Soh Siddha Babananda: Even in the earliest tradition of Buddhism, the Buddha himself have stated that the numbers of his lay followers attaining the stage of non returner numbers numbering in the range of thousand ( Majjhima Nikaya 73 ), likewise for lay once returners or lay stream enterers, in other words in addition to removing the first three fetters of self-view, attachment to rites and rituals, and skeptical doubt, a very substantial number of his lay students also attained the elimination of the fetter of 'sensual desire' and 'ill will', therefore they will no longer take birth in the sensual planes like the human and lower deva realms, and instead at most be reborn one more time in the pure abodes to attain arahantship there. That's non-tantric Buddhism.

    Are there lay arahants? Yes, a number of arahants have attained arahantship as laymen in the suttas, however, interestingly all the laymen arahants simply renounced after attaining full arahantship. Why is this so? I can only say, with my own logical deduction (since I am not arahant), that since arahants have cut off all attachments, they simply are completely unattached to worldly life, they have no more interest in living a worldly life or enjoying pleasures of the worldly life. They have no more attachments to family ties or material belongings at all, and see no more reason to continue living as a lay man. I think they would rather live a simple life of pleasant abiding in their nirvanic bliss. This however does not mean they no longer engage in human interactions - many arahants are known to have many students in dharma and continue to benefit many people.

    Now when it comes to later forms of Buddhism, like Mahayana Buddhism, (even before the formation of Tantric Buddhism), there is becoming greater and greater emphasis on the role of a lay person in Buddhism. It does not mean that laymen have no role in Theravada Buddhism - in the suttas, one of the layman (I think was either a sakadagami or an anagami) was designated as the 'best lay dharma teacher' (in fact - one best lay Male and one best lay Female lay dharma teacher) basically by the Buddha, which also indicates his approval for experienced laymen and laywomen to teach the dharma, and the potential for laymen to be advanced in dharma practice and knowledge... nonetheless later on as the Theravada tradition developed it would appear that the emphasis has been more on the monastic community. It is unfortunate that in many Asian Theravada countries, most lay people only aim for gaining merits (e.g. through giving alms to monks) to be reborn in a higher realm or as a monk in the future lifetime, since they do not believe it is realistic for them to attain awakening and liberation as a lay person. This is without any scriptural basis, since their scriptures clearly state that there were abundance of awakened lay persons. This is especially so in recent centuries whereby Theravada has degenerated quite a bit, and it is only in the recent 1-2 century that there has been revival of the vipassana practices and emphasis on bringing dharma to lay practitioners, which has seen very good results so far. More and more people - monastic and lay practitioners alike are learning to do vipassana meditation.

    So, it is accepted notion even in the earliest tradition that laymen have great potential to attain liberation, and that Nirvana is not limited only for monastic monks and nuns. Nonetheless there is more emphasis on cultivation and practice within the monastic context.

    The Mahayana further shifts the focus away from monastic to the lay people and community. i.e. all the images of Bodhisattvas you see are almost always in the form of laymen, there is only Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva which manifested as a monastic monk. In the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Vimalakirti Bodhisattva is a 10th stage bhumi bodhisattva living as a lay person completely engaged in living the lay life and benefitting people in all walks of life, which probably became the role model for the emphasis of 'entering the marketplace' in Zen Buddhism. Because of this, laymen are seen in Mahayana (including non-tantric) Buddhism to be as equally capable of attaining the fruition of spiritual life as a monastic person.

    "The character of Vimalakirti is a pretext to express the teaching on emptiness ? the ungraspability of phenomena ? the most difficult aspect of the Buddhist teachings. He manifests this aspect by presenting seemingly contradictory characteristics: he lives alone yet he is surrounded by many servants; he lives a life of celibacy yet has a wife and children. He takes the teachings of the Buddha into every context: bars, brothels, schools and the market place. Vimalakirti is completely integrated within Indian society and, as a fictional figure, he illustrates integration in any type of society." -- http://www.vimalakirtiusa.org/about_vimalakirti.html

    The practice and engagement of the 10 paramitas (or 6) in the daily life becomes of utmost importance, allowing the twofold cultivation of merits and wisdom so necessary for the attainment of full Buddhahood. It is in fact in the very mundane activities of daily life and interactions that allows us the opportunity to attain the ten perfections (paramitas) that allows us to attain full Buddhahood. The paramitas are not just 'mundane qualities', but the actualization of awakened wisdom - for example, the perfection of generosity is not just the ability to give lots of money to other people, but rather, the selfless giving freed from any confusion of a giver-giving-gift. The wisdom of the emptiness of self and phenomena allows our act of generosity to be perfected. When our giving transcends giver-giving-gift, without attachments we relinquish and give and sacrifice for other beings out of genuine compassion, that is true generosity. The cultivation of the ten paramitas in conjunction of the wisdom of emptiness is itself a method for the liberation of taints, and does not require tantric methods, though one can very well implement them.
    Vimalakirti Buddhist Center - About - Vimalakirti
    www.vimalakirtiusa.org
    The Vimalakirti Buddhist Center is focused on a modern approach to Buddhism by e... See More
    June 23 at 9:10pm · Edited · Like · Remove Preview
    Soh It is said that at each of the ten bhumi stages, one of the perfections have been perfected. For example, the first bhumi perfects the perfection of generosity, second bhumi the perfection of precepts, so on and so forth... all these are part of the so called 'common/non-tantric Mahayana' path.

    In short, in the Mahayana (even non-tantric) path, as Huayan Patriarch Cheng'guan explained ( http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/.../httpssites... ), the essential wisdom that allows for the twofold liberation of afflictive obscurations and knowledge obscurations is the wisdom of twofold emptiness (this is similar to Tantric Buddhism as well). Then there is the emphasis on cultivating the paramitas.

    If you're asking about specific meditation methods, there are lots of meditation methods.

    For example in the early tradition, i.e. the suttas, Theravada, etc, the four foundations of mindfulness are said to lead someone to the stage of non-returner and arahant, in at most 7 years and as little as 7 days (mahasatipatthana sutta). I would think that would mean practicing them in a very diligent manner and not merely in a half hearted way. There are many methods involved in the four foundations of mindfulness, from anapanasati, to the contemplation of the impurities of the body. Different methods are taught with different emphasis. For example, the practice of the mindfulness of breathing is very suitable for someone with a very distracted and wandering mind, full of discursive thinking. Anapanasati is very suitable for developing the sort of calm abiding, mental samadhi, etc. Whereas, the contemplation of the impurities of the body can lead to the elimination of sensual lust. So there are also in fact many kinds of practices in the early tradition that can help overcome the taints.

    In Theravada Buddhism, there are number of different systems of vipassana being practiced nowadays, including for example the Mahasi Sayadaw's system which emphasizes the technique of 'noting' and the progress of insight based on Venerable Buddhaghosa's Visudhimagga, as well as the Goenka's system of vipassana practices. One similarity between them is that both emphasizes mindfulness of one's direct perception/sensations and being mindful of the three dharma seals of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self in direct experience. This leads to direct insight and realization.

    The Mahayana (non-tantric) tradition has its own set of shamatha and vipashyana teachings. Venerable Dharmamitra has a number of translations including Master Zhiyi's meditation manual of the Tiantai tradition's shamatha-vipashyana methods: http://www.kalavinka.org/ . Due to a large number of various Mahayana traditions, there are focus on different methods of practices, however the many non-tantric sects of Mahayana Buddhism have in recent centuries died out only leaving Zen and Pure Land Buddhism. Zen has a system of zazen, koan, practice-enlightenment.
    Awakening to Reality: Examination of the Five Aggregates
    awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com
    June 23 at 8:30pm · Like · 2 · Remove Preview
    Siddha Babananda Thanks for the input Soh. I have almost no exposure for classic buddhism but quite a bit to zen buddhism (have met and trained with many Japanese, American and European teachers). My purpose for bringing this matter up is just to ponder the situation aloud. I'm a non-sectarian tantric myself, after some years of zen training.

    I have no doubt the vast teachings of classic buddhism couldn't make one liberated in the sense of making all kinds of karmas transparent and neutralised. What I doubt though, is whether this is a realiastic situation for modern men timewise. My impression is that there hasn't been any lay masters in Theravada, though probably monastics but their practice situation is entirely different to laymen. Based on my own practice I'd say that purifying all karmas in this classic way would require a lot of time and effort on the meditation cushion for it to be attained, and also guidance from someone who has done it himself. By "a lot of time" I mean day and night for years and years, without any external distractions.

    What I've seen in many zen-teachers who sit a lot and do a lot of retreats I'd say that extremely few of them are able to attain this. Out of many dozens of zen-heirs I would say only one of them for sure has attained this (1-2 more perhaps but the rest, surely not).

    Personally, I'm so amazingly ignorant and have so extremely poor concentration and meditation skills that in my case I'm 100% sure that I couldn't attain liberation of karmas without tantric means.
    June 23 at 10:31pm · Like · 1
    Soh There is actually quite a number of lay Theravadin 'masters'/teachers around these days, a lot of highly accomplished lay Vipassana teachers are leading retreats (not least of all Goenka, Dipa Ma, Munindra, etc etc and nowadays many Western ones too), and lots of lay Theravadin practitioners who are not teachers but have reported very good results from their practice. Some of them are in this group so perhaps they can share about it. Purifying karmic propensities would require the deepening of insight and calm-abiding, so whatever methods help in that respect is able to result in the liberation of taints.
    June 23 at 10:48pm · Like · 1
    Soh Actually great effort is required, even in the Dzogchen and Mahamudra traditions (seen as the 'highest' methods in Vajrayana) to attain liberation. Usually years of retreat are required. However, an initial realization comes more easily and usually does not take that long.
    June 23 at 10:52pm · Like · 1
    Justin Chapweske I think many people get too hung up on karma. Through a certain lens, there is no karma. Where is the karma in this non-arisen now?

    I think the more pertinent question is: is there suffering now? Why?
    June 24 at 12:01am · Like · 1
    Soh I think karmic propensities shouldn't be underestimated, in fact, they are just as 'real' as 'pure scenery' 'pure sound' etc. Karmic propensities are totally exerted just like scenery and sound and touch, etc. It cannot be otherwise as it is empty (if it is inherently existing, then it is hidden somewhere, just like inherent view of 'awareness' would see it has an 'unmanifest Self', inherent view of karmic tendencies would make it into a mystical hidden 'subconscious force' or 'soul' hidden somewhere). They are all equally unreal and equally non-arising, yet equally luminous and totally exerted. That is, a fiction becomes our experiential reality. This only became more clear to me in recent times.. as I wrote in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/.../total...
    Awakening to Reality: Total Exertion of Karmic Tendencies
    awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com
    What really surprises me is how "karma" is able to "veil" reality. Why, it seems to be a "devil" stronger than "reality" itself
    June 24 at 12:20am · Edited · Like · 1 · Remove Preview
    Justin Chapweske Yes, but I see people using "will that technique purify my karma?" as an excuse for not just doing the work and getting stream entry,
    June 24 at 12:21am · Like
    Siddha Babananda Karma in action is an entirely different thing than karma (or no karma) in thought. It is a seducing concept. I wish I could remember what I just read Longchenpa said about this something like those being fools who play with this silly idea of there no being karma. To me, a while after stream entry, this point was clearly drawn home as there were so strong fears for 2½ months everyday that my legs were like overcooked spaghetti, *totally at loss*. Even if at this very moment there is no great suffering in my field of experience, there is very subtle sort and that subtle stuff one can't pierce through like snapping two fingers. Or at least, I haven't.
    June 24 at 12:23am · Edited · Unlike · 3
    Justin Chapweske How purified your karma is before you die doesn't matter. How are you paying attention to and reacting to This experience?
    June 24 at 12:23am · Like
    Siddha Babananda Justin: Do you mean karmic purification doesn't matter at all? That it doesn't have any relevance or impact with dying and life afterwards? I don't think so at all My exp is that after the I drops off, there can still be loads and loads of stuff to be deconstructed (vipashyana) whether by classic or tantric means. So what I am saying is that I certainly haven't been able to "just remain free", or be in "This exp" or something like that after awakening 'cause the bodyroom is filled with uninvestigated mindstuff.
    June 24 at 2:01am · Like · 2
    Piotr Ludwinski "How purified your karma is before you die doesn't matter" this is misleading bullshit
    June 24 at 2:08am · Like
    Siddha Babananda Well, it will become clear sooner or later
    June 24 at 2:13am · Like
    Justin Chapweske The instant before you die is too late. Practice is only ever now.
    June 24 at 4:15am · Like · 1
    Duane Eugene Miller Piotr, I don't see how that is misleading. In context of appreciation of the current moment, it seems dead on accurate to me. Please explain.
    June 24 at 4:26am · Like
    Siddha Babananda All Justin said was that "people get too hung up on karma" and that "where is the karma in the present moment?". I doubt that Justin meant to say that in his view karmas (karmas=subtle charges of energy stored in the subtle body which steer our mental, emotional and subconscious states constantly in many ways) don't exist at all, just that sometimes it is pondered too much and I do agree with him if awakenign is something that is not acknowledged important (I know such views to exist).

    If we were to deny karma all together, as some people (strangely) do, that I think would be misleading. To me that is like saying: no sky above us and neither ground below our feet. That is sheer confusion, denial of the facts due to sticking to some weird mental concept about the state of things. The sky is there and so is the ground. So is also the situation with karma unless the person has attained solid liberation and extinguished all ones karmas. I know several advaita/neo-advaita folks insist that karma doesn't exist while at the same time their body language and behaviour clearly demonstrates that is does. Hahahaha But that's the way people roll. Sometimes we are totally idiotic. Or maybe even most of the time.
    June 24 at 4:59am · Unlike · 5
    Albert Hong @op if you can see wisdom qualities in another being and then that being can also communicate a path to inspire and at the same time help you unreservedly through dark and light.

    finding such a friend, such a being is rare. and rarer is the desire to find such a being.

    our arrogance, pride will co opt the yearning.
    June 24 at 5:59am · Unlike · 6
    Kyle Dixon Karma proliferates endlessly as long as the illusion of mind remains in tact. Actions performed from the standpoint of the apparent subjective reference point are karmic actions and therefore incur buildup of karmic traces.

    Since the reference point is illusory, if the nature of mind can be definitively recognized and the practitioner remains in that wisdom, then karmic proliferation ceases during that time. The actual path consists of fluctuating between mind and the nature of mind, and so when even the greatest yogis are in post-meditation there is karmic proliferation. This is why Padmasambhava said 'though my view is as vast as the sky, my careful attention to cause and effect [karma] is finer than grains of tsampa'.

    When one's practice gets to a certain point and new karma is no longer being accrued, then karmic debts have to be paid. Karmic debts are latent traces from this life and past lives which arise in the form of certain experiences. For example my teacher became afflicted with stomach cancer while in retreat and was deathly ill, coughing up blood etc., but he knew this was merely the effect of past karmic action coming to fruition and so he maintained his practice and the cancer went away. If he had lost his view and grasped at the cancer dualistically it very well may have killed him.

    Even Buddhas can be susceptible to past debts. It is said that Buddha Sakyamuni died due to a past karmic debt coming to fruition. Nagarjuna also died due to past karmic debts. A jealous king went to kill Nagarjuna and tried to decapitate him with a sword. However he couldn't cut off Nagarjuna's head. Nagarjuna said to him you will not be able to sever my neck with that blade, for I have nearly exhausted all of my karma. However, I have seen that I have an unresolved karmic debt from a previous life where while working in a field cutting kusa grass I grabbed a handful and cut it with my blade. Unbeknownst to me there was a frog who was caught in the grass and I killed it. You cannot kill me with your sword but if you go retrieve a long blade of kusa grass you will be able to cut my head off with it easily. Surprised, the king went and found a long blade of kusa grass, returned to where Nagarjuna was and beheaded him.
    June 24 at 7:18am · Unlike · 8

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