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teachers and monistaries

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  • teachers and monistaries

    dear Ajahn
    first thank you for making the ability to ask questions available to us. It is truly wonderful to have this community.

    i had two questions.

    One, is it possible for enlightenment to happen without practicing Buddhisim? There is a teacher that I love and have travelled to see that had what he calls a sudden awakening after going through terrible mental suffering. He gives frequent talks and always is very wise and kind (like the teachers here at this site). He does not teach as a Buddhist, although he frequently refers to Buddhisim and other spiritual traditions. It is said he is enlightened.

    Two, there is a Theravaden thai forest monastary right near my home. I talked to the nuns there, they are kind and helpful but seem to practice differently than at BSWA For example they meditate doing movement with eyes open, i believe thats their main practice. Are there different schools within Theravada?

  • #2
    Dear Erin,

    One, is it possible for enlightenment to happen without practicing Buddhisim?
    According to the suttas, the only way to reach awakening is by practicing the eightfold path (see Dhp.274). Whether you call yourself a Buddhist or not is irrelevant.

    It is very difficult to know whether a particular person has reached awakening. Be careful of projection. It is very generous of you to call us "wise and kind", but the reality is that you don't know anywhere near enough about anyone of us to reach such a conclusion with any degree of confidence. As usual, if you want some clear-eyed advice on where to place your confidence, you can't beat the suttas. The Buddha said that you need to observe a person for along period of time, that you need to be attentive, and that you need to be wise; only then can you make an informed assessment of someone's spiritual development. But even then it is not always easy. In particular, it is difficult to distinguish between a person who is truly awakened and one who regularly attains samādhi. Both are likely to be very kind, gentle, and peaceful. Both are likely to speak of non-self in roughly the same terms, but only one will have seen it fully. In the end, the only truly verifiable difference between the two is that the samādhi attainer will eventually lose their serenity, whereas the fully awakened person will not. When the anger or irritation arises, then you know.

    Are there different schools within Theravada?
    Theravada is a single school in the sense that the canonical texts are the same for all Theravadins. But it is also a very large school, with hundreds of thousands of monastics. With such a large school you can expect a lot of diversity in terms of interpretation of the scriptures and also in terms of the practices pursued.

    The meditation technique you describe seems to be the one propagated by the Thai monk Ajahn Tien. Many people seem to find this technique useful. Any technique that takes one in the right direction is good. But there are two points I would like to make: (1) This method is not described in the suttas, and (2) it can only take you so far because the awareness of the body is such a prominent feature. My personal preference to follow the suttas as closely as possible.

    With metta.


    • #3
      Dear Ajahn
      It is true that I have never met the monks and nuns at all, but you take the time to talk to us and Ive listend to podcasts for hours. My best guess is that your motivation is kindness toward all of us out here, and when i listen I hear wisdom. But I take your point, Ive often thought how crushed I would be if my non Buddhist teacher got caught up in some awful scandal as it sometimes happens.

      I have put my trust in people in daily life and been shocked at some things they do even after i thought I knew them well.

      I think it is Ajahn Tien. If i recall what i read about him on the web (talk about untrustworthy) is that he was not a reader of suttas.


      • #4
        also I think the term enlightened means something different to those that follow this teacher, as he does not speak in terms of rebirth. His followers mean freedom from crazy compulsive thinking and the pain that is caused by it, so thats probably apples and oranges and I should have figured that out.



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