Saturday, October 2, 2010

Batchelor And Buddhism

In his long career Stephen Batchelor has moved from Buddhism, to skeptical Buddhism, to complete skepticism and now to something that isn’t Buddhism at all but which, for unaccountable reasons, he is still insists on calling Buddhism. I can quite understand why Batchelor initially revolted against the closed system of Gelupa scholasticism but in his book Buddhism Without Belief he pretty much made a break with Buddhism as a Buddhist would usually recognize it. Pity really. I read his earlier books with interest, having a bit of a skeptical streak myself, but after Buddhism without Belief I decided not to bother with his writings any more. So I have not read his most recent offering, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, but here is a review of it by Allan Wallace which includes (to me) a thoroughly sensible critique of Batchelor’s so-called Buddhism.


Ken and Visakha said...

Thanks, Bhante! We never would have found this cogent article otherwise.

David ( said...
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Luke said...

It seems very harsh to judge a man not by his actions, but instead by his conceptual beliefs of dogma. I'm very glad that we have people, buddhist or otherwise that spend large amounts of time trying to understand life and act accordingly. Thank you stephen batchelor for provoking conversation which might help us let go of clinging to our beliefs quite so hard.

Ken and Visakha said...

Obviously Batchelor has made a good living out of Buddhism. He has dabbled here and there, written a lot, and made a good living out of his Buddhist connections, as coordinator of the Sharpham Trust, co-founder of the Sharpham College for Buddhist Studies, a Guiding Teacher at Gaia House meditation centre, and contributing editor of Tricycle. He and his wife now live in Aquitaine, France. Buddhism has been his bread and butter. It certainly is no great credit of his if his watered down, personalized creed has kept people from authentic Buddhism of any tradition.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Luke,
My only problem with Stephen Batchelor (and it is by no means a ‘harsh’ one)is that what he says is Buddhism is not. That going through the Dhamma has helped him intellectually evolve and approach what he’s looking for makes me happy. Just don’t confuse your own ideas with the Buddha’s.

richard said...

lots of people with the same issues as him...

Lozang said...

Stephen Batchelor explains his approach to karma and rebirth at

Scott said...

I was really rather disappointed with this review. First off, trying to claim parallels between what Batchelor is doing and happenings in the history Maoism or Nazi Germany was an exceptionally low blow and cheap tactic. Secondly, the review author ignored the many specific quotations from the Pali scriptures that Batchelor cites to defend his views. On many crucial points the Tipitika does not speak with one voice, and it is not that simple to say that Batchelor's views contradict these writings, since these writings are themselves not always self-consistent.

One view of Batchelor is that he is taking Western science seriously and asking what of Buddhism can survive that attitude. If you accept both that Western science is not badly mistaken about the nature of reality and that the Buddha was not delusional about a number of points, one is almost forced to reinterpret the Buddha as Batchelor is doing. People are of course free to take the attitude that if science and Buddhism are in conflict, then so much the worse for science. This is the attitude that Christians have often taken, much to the detriment of that religion. I would hate to see Buddhism fall into that trap.

NellaLou said...

In many religions those who strongly disagreed with the core tenets went on to establish their own sects or even completely different religions. I'm thinking of Mormonism, Christian Science, Sufism, various gnosticisms, Theosophy and so forth. The vast majority of these remain rather small.

It doesn't really matter what Stephen Batchelor wants to think about his version of contemplative science for himself. What is relevant is that by using the "Buddhism" brand (and making a pretty fair living off of it), then implying the values of that brand are inferior in some ways to his own interpretations he's insulting the entire tradition as well as those of us who espouse it rather than his own peculiar notions. And the "proofs" he supplies are very inadequate. Just because he hasn't personally grasped something he assumes that it is non-existent. I myself have never seen an aardvark but by the many reports available I am fairly confident there is something people label aardvark out there somewhere. Unfortunately Stephen Batchelor doesn't seem to have that ability to acknowledge that others may just have a little more understanding of the subject than he does.

What he's doing in capitalist terms is like the local shoemaker making a pair of running shoes, labeling them Nike or Adidas and then advertising them as Nike. It's like a knock off.

yuri said...

I am myself an atheist practising Buddhist Meditation and I respect Buddhism as a religion but remain myself totally unreligious. Just like Batchelor I see that there are specifically Buddhist superstitions and prejudices, and following the 8-fold Path can be done without religious attitudes. And I also see total uselessness of such discussions which remind me of how Christian dogmas are defended by their theologicians. Regarding rebirth and kamma they were important elements of Buddha's teaching but, I think, in Kalama sutta the Buddha said that the faith in kamma and rebirth is not a must, and following the Path is what is really important and fruitful. In meditation I found out that multiple births and the law of kamma do exist, but why should I mind that someone has not yet discovered this. Why should I anathemise him? That is a clear case of clinging to what is believed to be a "true Buddhism". Not a particularly Buddhist approach, in my view.

richard said...
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richard said...

" In particular, he regards the doctrines of karma and rebirth to be features of ancient Indian civilisation and not intrinsic to what the Buddha taught"

just reading that line from his bio found in his website is more than enough to stop me from reading the rest...

im no scholar, but i do know enough to discern from what makes sense and credible reading from BS and self-flattery

what he is doing is other people and to himself

Han Keat Lim said...

I believe most of people don't realize that by practising Buddhism they should look inside themselves instead of outside.

yuri said...

To Richard. Nothing can harm people unless they choose to be harmed. Buddhism is free enough to encompass such divergent views as Pure land School and Forest Sangha school. "If you meet a Buddha - kill him!" is another kind of buddhist views but nobody worries and tries to excommunicate those who follow the teachings of the person who said it.
Rebirth, Kamma and Nibbana are things to be believed before one is enlightened and gets direct knowledge of them. But the Buddha did not see in not believing them any obstacle to one's progress on the Path. Practice is more sure way than intellectual knowledge of Doctrines.

MidPath said...

Product differentiation...complete with a different style of robe and colours. Smart. Batchelor will be the only nominee if there is an award for a global entrepreneur.

Holly said...

I read "Confessions Of A Buddhist Atheist" and found it very interesting, though I could not agree with all of his conclusions. But I am very uncomfortable with some of the comments here. Attack his conclusions as much as you want, but must you also attack his character? I do not think some of these statements would be considered Right Speech. Please think about this before you post any comments about someone who considers himself a fellow Buddhist.

MidPath said...

Ok I will take the sneer off. I think it is such a waste of time it is absolutely unneccessary.

Batchelor says perplex questioning is central to the path and perplexity keep awareness on its toes.

One being perplexed or puzzled and confused can help one to be more aware?

I am no scholar too and the critiques of the three Bikkhus is enough.

The Rear Naked Post said...

Well, if you're not a reincarnated Lama, not a recipient of transmission from a lineage traceable back to Dogen, and do not offer and sell empowerments along with time shares in Flrida, I am really not sure if I can trust what you say.

All of the above, tongue in cheek, Bhante. Many thanks and Metta to you for such a wonderful and information blog, and I look forward to more. You are a diamond in the mud of western Buddhism.

I recently ordained in Thailand, and host a rather inept blog,

KoSa said...

Saadhu Saadhu Saadhu! Allan Wallace has written a wonderful review.

I may not agree with some of the more psychologizing arguments (they seem to personal) but in terms of a fair representation of Buddhism, his article is immaculate.

True that the Tripi.taka speaks with many voices, however, an interpretation of the Tripi.taka which sees one part as flatly contradicting another is just the poorest form of exegesis.

Even Naagaarjuna and Candrakiirti unambiguously emphasize how their teachings are couched in the understanding of karma and rebirth (see the Madhyamakaavataara or the last two chapters of the Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa, or see the Pratiityasamutpaadah.rdayakaarikaavyaakhyaanam).

I do not wish to suggest that Batchelor may be in actual bad faith (who can tell his intention?) but to think of rebirth as a sort of cultural accretion over the core of Buddhism is a truly sad misrepresentation of the Dharma, practically of any school known to me.

Regarding the Kalama Sutta, if I am not mistaken, isn't the context that of someone who has not yet chosen whether to be a Buddhist or not? That makes a great difference, and then one can very well pick and choose something, even leaving out fundamental teachings, but without claiming to represent the Dharma. I believe this point is also very well made by Wallace.

Thank you for posting the link!

KoSa said...

'Rebirth, Kamma and Nibbana are things to be believed before one is enlightened and gets direct knowledge of them. But the Buddha did not see in not believing them any obstacle to one's progress on the Path.'

That's not quite the case, in my understanding. If we explain the Path as the Noble Eightfold Path, the first element is Right View, which is always explained as having trust in karma and rebirth, and trust in the Three Jewels. Hence, if one doesn't consider the teachings of karma and rebirth plausible, one is forsaking the fundamental horizon within which all other teachings are couched - the very basic orientation of Buddhist practice.

KoSa said...

'If you accept both that Western science is not badly mistaken about the nature of reality and that the Buddha was not delusional about a number of points, one is almost forced to reinterpret the Buddha as Batchelor is doing.'

That's a simplistic statement on a number of counts: first of all, Allan Wallace himself offers a different (to me more sensible) alternative, being himself a trained scientist.

Some would simply say that modern science, rather than having mistaken knowledge, has incomplete knowledge, since some features of the nature of the reality are entirely outside of the type of experimentation available to modern science. It is not a matter of rationalism vs. its opposite - since there a sound and rational arguments to support the claim that science offers only an incomplete picture.

To give a concrete example, although modern science may not be able to *prove* karma and rebirth, it is most certainly not in a position to *disprove*: while proofs of karma and rebirth have to looked for through other epistemic means (I shall say no more, Wallace himself has written abundantly on this topic, you may check his own website).

If one is not open to such arguments, and thinks that modern science is *the* supreme epistemic tool, then of course this is not compatible with Buddhism. In that case, rather than re-interpreting the Buddhist teachings in forceful and unwarranted ways, it is better to abandon being a Buddhist, while retaining whichever aspect of Buddhism one may find useful (which was, in fact, Wallace's suggestion). And most certainly, it is better not to propose oneself as the ultimate representative of Buddha's true intent.

yuri said...

To KoSa. I understand that Kalama sutta is very uncomfortable to people who see Buddhism only as a religion and not so much as a Teaching. In it The Buddha indeed addressed people who wanted to follow His teaching. But about believing or not believing Kamma and Rebirth he mentioned "noble disciples" - who are free to believe these doctrines or not. Please read the sutta - it is worth it!
The right views are the acceptance of Three Noble Truths (the Path being the Fourth). And there is not a word in them concerning Kamma or Rebirth.

yuri said...

In my previous comment I mentioned Buddhism as a Teaching. That is The Teaching of how to put an end to human suffering. And the way to it does not go through such discussions as the current one! :)

KoSa said...

Dear Yuri, thanks for your comment:

tatra bhikṣavaḥ
katamā samyagdṛṣṭiḥ? astyayaṃ lokaḥ, asti paralokaḥ, asti pitā, asti
dattam, asti hutam, asti iṣṭāniṣṭasukṛtaduṣkṛtānāṃ karmaṇāṃ
phalavipākaḥ, santi loke samyaggatāḥ samyakpratipannā iti | iyaṃ
bhikṣavaḥ samyagdṛṣṭiḥ

Among these, oh Monks, what is Right View? This life exists, the next life exists, there is a father, there is donation, there is oblation, there is the maturation of the result of karmas corresponding to something desirable, non-desirable, well-done, or badly done, and there are in this world people who have set forth well, who are practicing well. This, oh Monks, is Right View.


KoSa said...

Dear Yuri, forgive me for the previous post, I should have also included some quotations from the Pāli (in case you prefer the Pāli Nikāyas to than the Sanskrit Āgamas); hence, here is the corresponding passage from the Pali Canon:

‘‘Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi? Sammādiṭṭhiṃpahaṃ [sammādiṭṭhimahaṃ (ka.) evaṃ sammāsaṅkappaṃpahaṃkyādīsupi], bhikkhave, dvāyaṃ [dvayaṃ (sī. syā. kaṃ. pī.) ṭīkā oloketabbā] vadāmi – atthi, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi sāsavā puññabhāgiyā upadhivepakkā; atthi, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi ariyā anāsavā lokuttarā maggaṅgā. Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi sāsavā puññabhāgiyā upadhivepakkā? ‘Atthi dinnaṃ, atthi yiṭṭhaṃ, atthi hutaṃ, atthi sukatadukkaṭānaṃ kammānaṃ phalaṃ vipāko, atthi ayaṃ loko, atthi paro loko, atthi mātā, atthi pitā, atthi sattā opapātikā, atthi loke samaṇabrāhmaṇā sammaggatā sammāpaṭipannā ye imañca lokaṃ parañca lokaṃ sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā pavedentī’ti – ayaṃ, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi sāsavā puññabhāgiyā upadhivepakkā.

(Majjhima Nikāya, Uparipaṇṇāsapāli)

And is Right and Wrong View not so important? Please read the following:

301. ‘‘Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppannā vā akusalā dhammā nuppajjanti uppannā vā akusalā dhammā parihāyanti yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi. Sammādiṭṭhikassa, bhikkhave, anuppannā ceva akusalā dhammā nuppajjanti uppannā ca akusalā dhammā parihāyantī’’ti.
302. ‘‘Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppannā vā micchādiṭṭhi uppajjati uppannā vā micchādiṭṭhi pavaḍḍhati yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, ayonisomanasikāro. Ayoniso, bhikkhave, manasi karoto anuppannā ceva micchādiṭṭhi uppajjati uppannā ca micchādiṭṭhi pavaḍḍhatī’’ti.

(It basically says that there’s nothing better than Right View and Nothing worse than Wrong View).

I hope this is useful, and that you may see that I am writing carefully with sincere intentions, thank you again 

KoSa said...

P.S.: Yuri

'he mentioned "noble disciples" - who are free to believe these doctrines or not.'

I believe he mentioned 'disciples of the Noble Ones' rather than 'Noble Disciples'.

Now, there are two points I would like to add here, specifically about the Kalamasutta.

First point: Suttas should not be read in total isolation, one should read the Canon more broadly and gather a better sense of their context.

Second point: strictly speaking, until one becomes a Sota-aapanna, it is believed that one cannot have a direct realization of karma and rebirth, and neither of selflessness. That means that, before that, one accepts the teachings of the Buddha (about anatta, about kamma, about rebirth) as plausible, and hence takes refuge in them. However, it is a somewhat 'mediated' conviction, something slightly artificial, until one obtains that direct realization. I believe the advice of the Kalamas should also be understood in that context - as ordinary persons, we can certainly think that the basic teachings of anatta and rebirth (two sides of the same coin) are plausible, which is the basis for taking the Dharma/Dhamma as a refuge: however, that is still far from a direct realization. The fact that our conviction is not 100% genuine is proved by the fact that we have not yet abandoned negative actions of body, speech and mind (someone who had seen rebirth directly, would have much greater impetus to abandon them).

As Husserl would have put it belief or doubt is not a matter of choice. Even if we are convinced that something is plausible and hence take it as a refuge, surely lingering doubts will remain until we experience it directly. But that does not mean we should disregards the plausibility of the Dharma.

yuri said...

Dear KoSo, unfortunately Buddhism. like practically any other religion is not free from contradictions. And that is why Buddha in Kalama sutta recommends not to rely on Sacred Scriptures but on one's own practice and experience.
As to "noble disciples" or "a disciple of Noble ones" this is the matter of translation. I used a Russian translation. And it is not relevant to what we are discussing but the Four Solaces ARE!!! Btw, I do not see any connection between anatta and kamma-rebith doctrine. Anatta simply states that nothing in the world has any selfhood. But my main point in the discussion was that we should be tolerant enough to accept different views on Buddhism if the core of Buddhism (4 Trusths and 8-fold Path) is not rejected. And Kalama sutta clearly shows that kamma and rebirth are not core elements of Buddhism if we look at Buddhism as the sure way to be freed from suffering.

KoSa said...

Thanks again for your intelligent comments Yuri,

But I shall insist on the same points.

1. Suttas should not be read in isolation, and the contradictions are not in the Dharma, but in Batchelor’s (in my opinion) poor exegesis; read the Suttas and the Sūtra I just quoted and you can see that the Buddha himself emphasized rebirth; in the Buddhist treatises, the possibility of believing that there is no rebirth is discussed at length, and it is explained clearly that it contradicts dependent arising (it is a form of reification);
2. the relationship between anatta and rebirth is very close. Anatta is the other side of the coin of dependent arising, and dependent arising is always explained in terms of rebirth (even by Nāgārjuna, for that matter). Moreover, when a Sota-āpanna has direct realization of selfless, that is the time when he becomes sure about rebirth (because he also sees dependent arising, which refers to the process of rebirth); in that case, the translation ‘disciples of the Noble Ones’ is a pertinent distinction, because it would be self-contradictory to say that someone is a Noble One & is not sure about rebirth (since, becoming a Noble One entails becoming 100% sure about rebirth);
3. alternative interpretations is one thing, complete arbitrariness is another. Not all interpretations can be considered sound and acceptable – it’s not a matter of dogma, but of philosophical and exegetical coherence. If someone tells me that the Buddha was born in Florida I cannot accept it just for the sake of openness of interpretation. To keep on saying ‘we should be open, we should be open’ cannot be used as mere rhetorical tactic to support our own egotistic and groundless interpretations. Batchelor’s ideas, in my understanding, are just as severely inconsistent as that, and hence I support Wallace’s criticism wholeheartedly.

KoSa said...

P.S., Yuri:

You mentioned:

4 Truths and 8-fold Path

About the 4 Noble Truths:

What is the second? Duḥkhasamudaya. How is Duḥkha explained? As the five aggregates. What is the arising of the five aggregates? The first moment of birth.

About the Noble Eightfold Path:

What is the first part? Right View. How does the Buddha explain Right View, in the context of the Noble Eightfold path:

Among these, oh Monks, what is Right View? This life exists, the next life exists, there is a father, there is donation, there is oblation, there is the maturation of the result of karmas corresponding to something desirable, non-desirable, well-done, or badly done, and there are in this world people who have set forth well, who are practicing well. This, oh Monks, is Right View.

Hence, if one denies rebirth, one is contradicting the main point of the Noble Eightfold Path. Elsewhere, the Buddha has stated:

There is no transgression worse that Wrong View, there is no flawlessness better than Right View.

I did not invent this, it's in the Canon. It's hard to propose an interpretation that denies rebirth and is still in any way consistent with the 4 Noble Truths and the 8fold Path, since both of them are always explained (by the Buddha, not by me) within the context of many birth (please check the Samyuttanikaaya, or the Sanskrit Nidaanasamyukta, or the Shaalistambasuutra, or the Arthavinishcayasuutras, for example).

KoSa said...

However, for the sake of honesty and clarity, let me add this:

Batchelor is not the first to have put forth such a position. In fact, some Japanese Zen masters (despite the warnings of the very great Zen Masters like Dogen, quoted by Wallace) have in recent times put forth similar ideas. I also believe that if one criticizes Batchelor’s position in this way, one should extend the criticism to some of Ven.Buddhadasa’s own writing. Because of all this, I think that Wallace's criticism was on occasion to person-specific.

I would like to make it clear that for me it’s not a matter of implicit authority in the speaker, but of philosophical depth and of cogency in reading the sources (and I think someone who denies rebirth in Buddhism lacks both). For someone to deny the importance of rebirth in Buddhism is as arbitrary as someone saying that the Four Noble Truths were never taught in Buddhism, only Three Noble Truths were taught. If someone were to state that, I would think it’s incoherent exegesis (or, the person can’t read). Once again – being open is one thing, but being careless and self-referential is another.

One great Pali scholar, Prof.Gombrich, was apparently asked whether he is a Buddhist. He said that he really admires Buddhism, but he cannot be a Buddhist, because rebirth is crucial to the Buddhist teachings and he cannot find it plausible.

I think that's a cogent and honest position, which one may take while integrating aspects of the Buddhist path in one's life. I also believe Batchelor should perhaps do the same.

yuri said...

Dear Kosa, I see no point in prolonging this philosophical discussion. You do not have to spend your time to convince me about rebirth and kamma as I have discovered that they are there from my practice. But before it happened I was least concerned about them - what I really concentrated on was practice - exactly how Buddha advised us in Kalama Sutta. And this worked. And though I acquired that direct knowledge of kamma and rebirth, I stopped calling myself a Buddhist. I no longer need any refuge, I no longer need any teacher, unless he is a fully enlightened one, but most modern teachers have not yet reached even the stage of sotapanna. I no longer need scriptures - I know what I should do but it is now only the problem of time and concentrated, diligent effort... And I know now that long discussions on Dhamma with lots of quotations are just another distraction. So my recommendation is - practise!

MidPath said...

9 + 18 + 27 + 36 + 72 = 162.
1 + 6 + 2 = 9

Only the number 9 can add up this way. Can anyone explain why the number 9 add up this way.

999 - 9 + 108 - 36 = 1062
1 + 0 + 6 + 2 = 9

MidPath said...

This is the trouble with people. It is nothing other than cravings. Crave for popularity and recognition. So they try to raise some eyebrows. If Batchelor reject the core teachings then why use HIS name? Might as well claim a new findings and call it Batchelorism and refrain from aligning his findings with Buddhism.

yuri said...

Dear Kosa, this is to inform you that Buddha did call his disciples as "noble disciples" - "ariya savako". And savaka - disciples included monks and lay people.

KoSa said...

Thank you Yuri, of course that's correct and fairly obvious. But I don't understand - how does it affect my line of argumentation? I think I am missing something.

yuri said...

Dear KoSa, you wrote "in that case, the translation ‘disciples of the Noble Ones’ is a pertinent distinction, because it would be self-contradictory to say that someone is a Noble One & is not sure about rebirth (since, becoming a Noble One entails becoming 100% sure about rebirth)". And I show that NOBLE DISCIPLES is the term used and Buddha said that they can practise without believing in rebirth and kamma. The meaning is that they will learn about those aspects themselves as I have learnt. Here is the obvious example of the precedence of practice over theoretical points and disputes. It is obvious that we will not be able to persuade each other to accept our points of view. And what is so important about points of view? So why waste time which can be better used for PRACTICE! :) ) ) With practice comes DIRECT KNOWLEDGE when there is no longer any need to leaf through thick volumes even if they are called holy scriptures. With metta!

KoSa said...

Dear Yuri,

the fact that the term Noble Disciples is a possible translation in some contexts does not mean that it is the best one in all contexts. In this case, I believe the other translation (‘Disciples of the Noble Ones’) to be preferable, for reasons I gave you above (and I am not the only one to think that, please check the available translations). The reason (I repeat it) is that if we take the term ‘Noble’ in its strict sense of someone who has realized selflessness, it would be impossible for the same person not to have realized karma and rebirth as well (because, it would mean not having understood even the basics of dependent arising).

If you think discussion, of a question and answer type, does not help your practice, then I would certainly recommend you not to answer any further and rather concentrate on what you find more meaningful. Please do not feel in any way obliged to answer. But thank you for the attention so far.


yuri said...

Dear KoSa, I would only like to add that I stopped calling myself a Buddhist when I learnt that there, where the Path leads us to, there is no Buddha, no Dhamma, no Sangha, no Kamma, no Rebirth... They are good for small initial steps. But we should not be too strongly attached to them. And if you need some confirmation from Buddha here it is: «When a bhikkhu's mind, through absence of lust, does not attach to those dhammas which encourage attachment, is not averse ... is not deluded ... is not intoxicated, he will be without dread or perturbation, fear or horror, and will feel no need to believe in anything, even the words of a sage." [A.II.120] Believe me. I am only trying to help, though you may of course see it differently. Metta!

KoSa said...

Dear Yuri,

it is kind of you to share your impressions about your own personal practice. As for the passage you have mentioned, I wonder whether you may have confused the word 'dharmas' with the Dharma? The sense is quite different.


MidPath said...

Dear Yuri,

Are you talking about Emptiness or Sunyata? If not, please excuse and ignore me, if yes then perhaps you may have forgotten the two aspects Emptiness.

Emptiness does not deny the existence of each and every thing but it denies the existence of a fixed and unchanging self behind each and every thing.

You have acquired direct knowledge.
But others may be sway to realize the second aspect without the first and will believe that nothing is worth striving for as everything is hollow and meaningless.

Separately, can you share with us on what is in your days practice and how.

yuri said...

Dear MidPath, no, I do not mean Sunnata (Shunyata) - which is just another state of mind, helpful for reaching our goal. And it is not what lies there - at the end of the Path. I am reluctant to speak about that as so far I have only seen glimpses of that and not the full picture. But Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha are indeed not needed there. They are like vitamins to keep us moving from here to there. :) Moreover, what is there is difficult to describe in our usual terms and also what can be described is better not described at all. In my case it was premature knowledge that created a serious problem for further advancement.
About my practice. First and foremost - two meditation sittings - before going to bed and early in the morning about 5 or 6 o'clock (the best time!) . I do not reach deep states every time but I do nor worry about that. But when I reach them something always happens. Indescribable peace and clarity. But no special ideas spring up, or answers to questions. This happens later like unexpected insights - sort of flashes in my mind - in ordinary life. Amidst usual events or during contemplation on something. Plus to this I practise mindfulness when I am not too busy and it gradually becomes a habit. Fruit of these two techniques is sweet indeed. Growing understanding of myself and others, growing kindness and compassion, growing feeling of the moment. And disappearing irritation, anger and fears. That is the reason for my insistance on practice - it has transformed my life in many wonderful ways. Thank you very much for asking these questions!

MidPath said...

Dear Yuri,

Thank you for your answers. It is is rather scary for me as I have not gotten to the stage where I could practice that much like two sittings a day. Yes I will do so when the time comes when work is done. But what I do is practice mindfullness as much as I can throughout everyday.

Scary because you say there is no Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, no karma and no rebirth. You added that premature knowledge that created a serious problem for further advancement.

I am both curious and yet afraid to know.

Ken and Visakha said...

Dear KoSa,

I'm glad I came back to read the later exchanges. Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!!

yuri said...

Dear KoSa, there is nothing scary in what I call premature knowledge. The problem is different - it sort of dampens desire to advance, or at least to advance fast... But I have overcome the problem by laying aside what I learnt till the appropriate time. Stopped thinking about that and returned to practice. But for some people it could become a sort of fixation and lead them astray into the realm of fantasising... Anyway, as far as I understand it happens extremely rarely before complete awakening. So there is no point in discussing it.
One thing about fear. When meditation becomes deeper, there may come a moment of blind fear, when your consciousness kind of bursts and starts expanding at tremendous speed - it is the moment when our ego becomes mortally frightened of disappearing and you hurriedly stop meditation and later you most probably will be afraid of going to deep levels. That is what used to happen to me. My teacher Ajahn Sumedho gave me a wonderful tip - to make that fear the object of attention! - to observe how it works in my body - tensed heart, clenched fists, sweat, spasms, fast breath... As soon as you really focus on that, the fear disppears and never returns. And then followed my break-through preceded with a gallery of faces of people who were my karmic predecessors. Men, ladies of various races - Euriopean, Indian, Japanese and even a Negro! :) And then came boundless Peace and Clarity... This is not yet enlightenment - but you definitely get the pre-taste of it and it triggers transformation processes of which I spoke before. I am sorry, I feel myself awkward in using Shravasti Dhammika blog for that. My own blog is only in Russian. So thank you for your interest in my experience, and wish you successful advance on the Path! Metta!

KoSa said...

Dear Yuri, perhaps you should address the last comment to MidPath rather than me? (I think it would be nice towards him, considering that he is the one who asked you the question)

Good luck with everything!

MidPath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MidPath said...

Dear Kosa, it must be a typo error.

Dear Yuri, once again thank you for your answers and I am glad that you clarified the serious problem as a result of premature knowledge. Yes I heard of and also experience the same myself and yes it is better not to decribe. It may frighten the beginners on the Path.

Unlike you, who stop calling yourself a Buddhist, Batchelor who does, should not confuse and frighten the beginners for they may need the vitamins to move on. They need to take refuge to move along.

And I agree with you that practice is the way and I hope can agree with me that right speech (or writings) is also practice.

yuri said...

Dear MidPath, I haven't read anything by Batchelor so I cannot and do not want to be a judge. I am sure that the less we judge others, the better it is for our spiritual growth. But a simple fact that he does not believe in reincarnation and kamma doesn't put him outside Buddhism if he is serious in practice. That was my only reason to participate in the discussion. I have to repeat it again that Buddha himself didn't consider this to be a must for his disciples. Practise, and you will learn these things later! Ehipassiko! That was Buddha's approach. No blind faith, but sensible and even common sense judgement on what is good and what is bad. And PRACTICE! About the triple refuge. Useful for many, no doubt! But when Ajahn Sumedho conducted a week-long retreat in Moscow, solemn taking this refuge as well as 5 precepts was planned for the last day. But when I achieved the breakthrough I had mentioned before, I saw that this ceremony was unnecessary for me, and left two days before. I lost all doubt about the Path suggested by Buddha, but I also understood that I was outside Buddhist Religion, though, of course, I consider all Buddhists, all seekers for Truth on the Way to Nibbana as my brothers and sisters. Metta!

KoSa said...

Dear Yuri,

I am a bit disappointed with your last post, since, it seems that all what I have written so far has passed completely unnoticed. I hope that at least some of the other users may have taken notice of what I wrote…

On one hand you say to stick to practice, while on the other you rather inflexibly stick to your own interpretation of two small passages of a single Sutta, disregarding all what is found in the rest of the Canon (Pāli and Sanskrit) and also, disregarding even the possibility that the Kalamasutta could be understood in a different way. Rather than relying on practice, it seems to me that in this case you are relying on a very opinionated interpretation of the Dharma – without any openings towards changing your mind. But that’s just my impression, I could well be mistaken.

Well, in my humble opinion you are confusing doing some Buddhist practice with being a Buddhist. These two things are quite distinct. Someone is a Buddhist if one takes Refuge Vows (and this has little sense if one does not believe in rebirth, since ‘Refuge’ means a remedy against the round of rebirths). On the other hand, even a non-Buddhist is very much welcome to try out some Buddhist practice and integrate it within one’s life. And this is all what had been suggested to Batchelor, even by Allan Wallace.

If I may add, perhaps we should not assume that other people are practicing less, or less effectively, than we are - it's hard to tell and it's a very strange assumption to think of oneself as necessarily the best of practitioners. At least, it leaves me rather perplexed.

Once again thank you for your kind contributions,

MidPath said...

Yes Yuri, thank you for your answers and I am honoured to receive your attention.

Yes the less we judge, the better it is for our spiritual growth. Indeed! I learn this practice too, that to mindfully not allow negative thoughts to arise, and if it does, to let it go as soon instead of bearing such thoughts for too long. In other maintain an equal mental position.

Maintaining such an equal mental attitude is taught by the Buddha and reminded by HIS Sangha. So once more, please allow me to persuade for the sake of fellow walkers on the Path and especially for the beginners. We should help them and protect them from being confused with what Batchelor says. And both agreeing or disagreeing and express also some form of judgment...agree?

sorry I am not good at spelling...but I join you here on of the words in praise of the Lord Buddha's Dhamma....Svakato Bhagavata Dhammo Sanditiko Akaliko..Ehipasiko Opanayiko Pacattam Veditabo Vinuiti...

yuri said...

Dear MidPath, "Ehispassiko" is a Pali word that means that instead of blind faith, investigate for yourself and then make up your mind based upon the evidence. And that is why I am so gratefull to Buddha who did not demand that we should believe every word he said but find for ourselves in the course of practice. Even in the time of Buddha there were many people who did not believe in Karma and repeated births though this was still the most wide spread BELIEF. So Buddha adressed himself to all kind of people including those who did not believe in those two aspects. In the West there are very many people who do not accept multiple births and Karma as real facts of life. But should it be used as a pretext to close Buddhism for them? Buddha rejected this approach in Kalama Sutta.
I was one of those who did not believe in Karma and Rebirth. But I practised and as a result reached meditational break-through. And then I really discovered that these aspects of our existence were true. For example, in insights that followed my breakthrough I remembered certain long forgotten events in my early years where I was very wrong and immediately an event in my recent years came to my mind and I saw how these two events were connected. So it was Practice and not beliefs that discovered for me the real setup.
So it seems to me that Batchelor's approach can be useful for the Western mind. While in the East traditional approach can be more effective. But I cannot insist as I have not read the book. We could discuss more if you join FaceBook in English where I have my page, though I am not at the moment active there. It's "yuri.runov" page there. Metta!

yuri said...

Dear MidPath, to find me in Face Book you can key in Yuri Runov in search field. No dot in my name and capital letters are OK.

MidPath said...

Dear Yuri. Thank you again for your answers. I am not a Facebook user..but ok..I will find you there after this.

I thought Ehipassiko means to come see for yourself. Meaning see for yourself and you will believe it by yourself. Meaning you do not have to belive it just because I tell you so. And because the Dhamma is is so immediately apparent - Sanditthiko - the seeker will be able to see it quickly. And because it is timeless - akaliko - it remains relevant 2500 years later and beyond. why it remains relevant? Because the Dhamma is logic and sense. And through your meditation you have seen it and realize that Karma and Rebirth is true.

Tweaking and changing so dratically just so that those who have difficulty accepting Rebirth is too much to do for a few who cannot or do not wish to see. I tend to think that such persons are used to the God idea and a one life and eternity therafter. So to have them accept that it takes more than one life time is just too much to take.

Further, you who have realize that Karma and Rebirth is true. Then what if someone start off with the No-Karma-No-Rebirth and later to realize there is ?...what will happen to these people ? I really cannot imagine and fear the worst for them.

I don't think that that is Batchelor's intention. To tweak just so that more people could accept the Way.