Author Topic: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana  (Read 20839 times)

Purple

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I was wondering if anyone has checked out David Chapman's site, and if so, what you think about topics such as these:

https://meaningness.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/the-king-of-siam-invents-western-buddhism/

https://meaningness.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/theravada-reinvents-meditation/



These are all new ideas to me.  He seems to really do his research but, even though I've read through quite a bit of this site, I can't really decide what his position is.  He seems to look down upon what he calls "Consensus Buddhism," which is most of modern, mainstream Buddhism.  He calls Jack Kornfield one of Consensus Buddhism's founders, then points out in the second article above that Kornfield studied with Ajanh Chah, who was only 3 students removed form King Mongkut, whom he maintains more or less created the modern form of Theravada.

Then, in the first article above, he chronicles the 4 people who "reinvented" Vipassana meditation, which he says was a technique lost centuries before.  This certainly shines an interesting light on the notion that Vipassana was the method the Buddha taught and has been passed on more or less intact since his death.  Essentially, what he's saying is that modern Theravada is a little over one hundred years old, and has abandoned most of what we would consider "traditional" in an attempt to be more digestible by the Western world.   

I'm wondering how this sangha feels about these "facts," and whether they are accurate enough for me to refer to them as facts.  Chapman is very intelligent, and many of his posts are about things I've put a lot of thought into, such as the state of Western Buddhism and how it will adapt to this hemisphere.   

Despite what strikes me as very rational, no-nonsense approach, Chapman practices an obscure branch of Tibetan Buddhism called Aro.  The Vajrayana is traditionally the least rational and most-nonsense of the branches. 

I'd love for people to read through these two posts specifically, and maybe knock around the rest of his site in general so maybe we can discuss these ideas.

Thanks!

Purple

Stefan

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2011, 08:35:49 PM »

 I can't really decide what his position is.


remember ... you don't need to decide ...  ;) .... so, relax ...

I feel about these facts as I do feel about "buddhistic theory" in general ... I have absolutely no clue! I try to avoid any theory because I did this too long in my life ... comparing what all those wise guys have to say. Am I wise enough to compare them?
I am lucky I stumbled into Goenka's Vipassana by chance. I was not into buddhistic philosophy in any form, simply jumped into the pool of practice. Good luck for me!  ;) 

you might have noticed already ... on the forum the practice aspect is stressed at the moment ...

never mind, there are a lot of guys here who will go into detail, because they have the knowledge that I lack.

Metta, Stefan
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Masauwu

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2011, 09:00:00 PM »
I look at those articles almost like an old countryside carpenter scratching his head discovering scientists that classify wood according to its different characteristics, compare electron microscope magnified samples and speculate on the relation between different classes of trees. What i`m trying to say is, do you want to know everything there is to know about wood or do you want to build a table and some chairs? :)
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Purple

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2011, 01:02:12 AM »
Quote
I feel about these facts as I do feel about "buddhistic theory" in general ... I have absolutely no clue! I try to avoid any theory because I did this too long in my life ... comparing what all those wise guys have to say. Am I wise enough to compare them?

My thought is that this is a departure from plain ol' "buddhistic theory."  Well, not the Consensus Buddhism stuff, but the meditation stuff.  Meditation is practice, not theory, and most every school of Buddhism claims that its methods were handed down by the Buddha.  I'd certainly be interested if it's true that vipassana was handed down by four Asian dudes in the 20th century because everyone had forgotten how to perform the original version. 


Quote
you might have noticed already ... on the forum the practice aspect is stressed at the moment ...

That's what draws me to this forum.  But, once again, I'd be interested if there's evidence that the method of vipassana I used to practice, and have so recently, happily, begun practicing again, was created in Thailand a few years before my Grandma was born.  The reason I'm interested is because what drew me to the Theravada style in the first place was its simplicity and reliance on early scriptures and methods.  I was less interested in other styles that had absorbed cultural elements of the countries they were imported to.  Theravada and vipassana have always been represented as being closer to what the Buddha taught, though there's no real way to verify this.  Perhaps I was just naive to believe that in the first place. 

Quote
do you want to know everything there is to know about wood or do you want to build a table and some chairs?

I want to know as much about wood as I can.  As its been pointed out, theory can bog us down and detract from the practice of meditation.  I certainly understand that, especially after my last year languishing in the quandary of Zen.  However, I want to know as much as possible about the form of meditation that I practice.  After all, it's up to me to verify whether I think it's valid or not.  Would it not change anyone's views even a bit to find out that our current iteration of vipassana was cobbled together by folks who had never meditated?

Please understand I'm not being combative.  I'm not challenging anyone and everything I'm saying is with respect and concern.  I hope I don't come off as an insufferable jackass.

P.

dragoneye

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2011, 01:05:49 AM »
I too am not too concerned with the details that he presents in those posts. I find it interesting history; that is pretty much it. I didn't see that he was being derogatory in metioning Kornfield either. maybe it's just his style of writing.
My reaction might be due to the fact that I am not so interested in the religeosity of the Buddha. I am more inclined towards his philosophy as I understand it. I too came to him through the Goenka portal; pretty non-secular.
I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. I will always remember Yule Brenner and his role in the King and I; now I know what it was about ;)
Peace brother and much metta,
DE
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Masauwu

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2011, 06:43:50 AM »
I want to know as much as possible about the form of meditation that I practice.  After all, it's up to me to verify whether I think it's valid or not.
It`s ok to want to know more, sorry if i came out too strong. But once you try a method you will be able to notice and verify things about it that you were not able to by just using intellect. There are many forms of mindfulness meditation, every teacher tried to adapt it for a particular public or to overcome some specific initial hindrances or they just got it from their teacher, came to see that it worked on them so they stuck with it. But all these forms have the same essence, and you can find the most unaltered presentation of its principles in the Buddha`s own words if you are inclined to research. More specifically Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing and Satipatthana Sutta: The Foundations of Mindfulness.
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Stefan

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2011, 09:11:31 AM »

Theravada and vipassana have always been represented as being closer to what the Buddha taught, though there's no real way to verify this. 


that's the point, isn't it? we will never have scientific evidence ... pondering over "what was handed down throughout the centuries and what was reinvented some years ago" is an intellectual joy ... only way to find out is "go and see for yourself" ... and for the purpose of this analogy: walking is done by the legs, not by comparing road maps ...

Goenkaji claims that "his" method is closest to "what the Buddha taught" ...
I don't mind if it's true or kazunga ... it works great for me, that's it.


However, I want to know as much as possible about the form of meditation that I practice.


Me too. That's why I practice. Scripts are maps, practice is the real countryside. Maps are great and useful, helping us not to get lost. But they won't even help us out of the door ....


Please understand I'm not being combative.  I'm not challenging anyone and everything I'm saying is with respect and concern.  I hope I don't come off as an insufferable jackass.


Not at all. Or else I would have stopped posting on this thread ...  ;)
... serious: I hope I don' t sound too much like a 'know-it-better'. (see signature!)
I enjoy your attitude for the respect and the non-competitiveness you show.

Metta, Stefan
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torgeir

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2011, 01:54:25 PM »
Quote
I want to know as much about wood as I can.  As its been pointed out, theory can bog us down and detract from the practice of meditation.  I certainly understand that, especially after my last year languishing in the quandary of Zen.  However, I want to know as much as possible about the form of meditation that I practice.  After all, it's up to me to verify whether I think it's valid or not.  Would it not change anyone's views even a bit to find out that our current iteration of vipassana was cobbled together by folks who had never meditated?

The web is full of all kinds of information about everything remotely associated with Vipassana and Buddha these days. Yes, some of it makes for very compelling reading. New Buddha-blogs pop up every month. Fabulous claims and new historical discoveries are presented and discussed and debated at length. If you vow to investigate and research and find out everything to your intellectual satisfaction before you start practicing seriously, you will join the current trend that is sweeping the western world of Buddhism; you will become a member of the great world wide arm-chair Buddhist association. Good news: If you are happy with reading and pondering, you are in for a treat! A prediction for the future that you can bet the house on: The number of great and not-so-great books and blogs on Vipassana and Buddha will quadruple many times over in the very near future. This is, I suspect, how most so-called Western Buddhists practice: They read books and ponder. Maybe go on a retreat or listen to a Dhamma talk if they come across an author they like who is on the speaker circuit. Perhaps listen to a motivational audio recording or a "meditation" CD with the teaching flavor of the month. About ten years ago it was Richard Gere. But it could be Tony Parsons or David Chapman and another handful of Bodhi hopefuls. Meanwhile poor old Richard is discarded and nearly forgotten. Then read more books by this year's most popular Buddhist. And then ponder some more. Etc.
Best of luck to you! Go for it! You will have a large and growing "Sangha" of like minded adventurers of the WWGACBA, discovering the Buddha's teaching from the comfort of intellectual gymnastics, taking full advantage of this great information age..
For better or for worse. ;)


« Last Edit: July 09, 2011, 02:51:15 PM by torgeir »

Andrew

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2011, 02:06:50 PM »
Hi Torgier, Good to hear from you!

I think you mean GWWACBA, lets not make the mistake of confusing them with the WWGACBA who really are doing a great job with African Crested Baboons.  ;)

The People's Front


 
« Last Edit: July 09, 2011, 02:09:07 PM by Andrew »
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Stefan

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2011, 02:30:21 PM »

Master Torgeir!

Wise your words are!

Metta have, Stefan
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Purple

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2011, 03:28:01 PM »
I must agree.  Torgeir, your words are indeed wise.  Thank you.  And you are certainly correct about the armchair Buddhists.  Their numbers grow every year.

I failed to clarify something earlier:  I'm not letting Chapman's ideas STOP me from practicing.  I'm interested in them from an intellectual standpoint while I continue to work with vipassana as I've always known it.  I am a scholarly sort of person, always have been.  That's why I was attracted to the Vajrayana at first; it involves a lot of studying.  Of course, it also involves a lot of chanting for protectors of the Nirmanakaya to come down and slay those who pervert the teachings, but, hey...

I'm fascinated with Buddhism:  its history, transmissions, teachings, teachers, followers, adaptations, everything.  I enjoy learning about it.  That's where I'm coming form with Chapman's ideas.  It was a good point, however, that practice is the best way to inspect practice.  I can examine every history, both new and old, of how vipassana came to be, but actually using it to see if it works on my mind is the best choice. 

Andrew

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2011, 04:03:28 PM »
Brent,
I've been wondering for a while if anyone has done a cross discipline study on the historical Buddha. I familiar with the efforts to do this with Jesus, and really enjoyed the insights gained.

a book by this guy;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dominic_Crossan

called,

Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, 1994, ISBN 0-06-061662-8

Was really helpful to me, especially the conclusions he reaches about faith, but that's another discussion.

I see you were once looking for something similar about the Buddha, did you find anything?

Good to have you posting again by the way. Another friend of ours, who is taking a little break ATM, may be able to help out with your inquiries, he is currently studying a masters in Buddhism at Sydney Uni. Jeeprs is his avatar.

love

Andrew
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Morning Dew

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2011, 09:12:49 PM »
Quote
so-called Western Buddhists practice: They read books and ponder. Maybe go on a retreat or listen to a Dhamma talk if they come across an author they like who is on the speaker circuit. Perhaps listen to a motivational audio recording or a "meditation" CD with the teaching flavor of the month.
;D ;D ;D
Ha ha ha love the post. Fair play to you Master Yoda!

Be well

Purple

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2011, 09:22:11 PM »
Masauwu, thanks for the links.  I'm familiar with Access To Insight but it's kinda hard navigating around their site.  Those articles were right on time.

Andrew, I've yet to find anything really great written about the Buddha, cross discipline or otherwise.  The closest I've come is Stephen Batchelor's latest book "Confession Of A Buddhist Atheist."  The first half chronicles his monastic training, first in the Tibetan tradition and later in the Korean style.  He becomes totally disenchanted with both and breaks all ties to formal Buddhism while continuing to practice on his own.  The second half is his scholarly look at the life of the Buddha.  But he does it from the standpoint that the Buddha was a regular person with normal concerns that even extended to the political realm.  Such as the idea that the Buddha couldn't afford to piss off certain rulers, even if he didn't agree with their methods or views, because the community of monks relied on the ruler to provide them with shelter and protection during the rainy season. 

He certainly doesn't paint him as a political figure, he just emphasizes the fact that enlightenment wouldn't have solved all of the Buddha's problems.  Despite transcending worldly attachments he still had to live in world and deal with its residents.

It's kind of my dream to formally study Buddhism at a university.  I don't know what I'd do after that; probably try to teach or write.  But I'd love to do it.  I just don't have the money and there aren't any institutions anywhere near me that offer anything close.

Morning Dew

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2011, 09:31:38 PM »
Quote
I just don't have the money and there aren't any institutions anywhere near me that offer anything close.

Well you can start right here, right now  ;D

Here is the lesson No.1

Suffering does exist
Suffering arises from attachment to desires
Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path

May you be happy

Purple

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2011, 09:56:21 PM »
*gassho*

Jeeprs

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2011, 10:32:18 AM »
From my cursory reading of the texts, what he writes seems quite credible and researched. I am not sure how relevant it is to the individual practitioner, though. I think a pre-occupation with the 'correct' way, and the subsequent fear of being on the 'wrong' path, is perhaps misplaced. From my comfortable armchair, where I pontificate about these things, I think the right way is to make the best effort on the basis of what you think is the best information. Personally I have found that some of the Western Theravada teachers, like Ajahn Sumedho and Bikkhu Bodhi, make a lot of sense to me. Whether it is the 'real authentic' dhamma that goes all the way back to Sakyamuni is a difficult thing to ascertain, but I still think if you take their teachings on board and practice to the best of your ability, not too much can go wrong. Right motivation is pretty key, I would think.

Regarding those Dhutanga teachings, from the Wiki on them, surely that would not be feasible for anyone but a very seasoned and ascetic forest monastic. This particular middle-class carcass would probably last half a morning under those conditions.

Quote from: Purple
It's kind of my dream to formally study Buddhism at a university.  I don't know what I'd do after that; probably try to teach or write.  But I'd love to do it.  I just don't have the money and there aren't any institutions anywhere near me that offer anything close.

As it happens I am enrolled in a Master of Buddhist Studies course at the University of Sydney. I have just passed the first two units, 6 more to go over the next 18 months. It is indeed very interesting, although I am resigned to the fact that I am never going to master Pali or Sanskrit.

I have seen Stephen Bachelor speak, and also read two of his books, but I have to say that I don't subscribe to his minimalist approach. He is indeed an atheist, a bit too much so for my liking. I actually think he wants to discard some aspects of the teaching which are absolutely crucial to it. But I know he is held in high regard by others.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2011, 10:38:10 AM by Jeeprs »

Matthew

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2011, 10:56:05 AM »
The main detail he gets wrong is one shared by many Buddhists. Vipassana is not a meditation but a fruit of mindfulness.

Other than that his writing is interesting in style and historically, but to get such a fundamental fact wrong makes me take the rest as pure entertainment.

Matthew
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Jeeprs

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2011, 11:45:19 AM »
Bikkhu Bodhi review of Buddhism without Beliefs

David Loy review of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

B Allan Wallace review of Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Stefan

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2011, 11:55:42 AM »

The main detail he gets wrong is one shared by many Buddhists. Vipassana is not a meditation but a fruit of mindfulness.


I agree that this leads to a lot of confusion.

"Vi passana" ... see things as they really are ... that's a fruit of practice, not the practice itself.
It could not be! How should we actually practice that?

On the other hand, "Vipassana meditation" is a common saying for "meditation that leads to Vipassana".
Unfortunately, it has been established like that. We have to bear that in mind instead of clinging to a certain idea of what a word means. If you took the rest of his writings as pure entertainment just because he uses a "common phrase" ... that makes me feel uneasy. Let's not cling to words ...

Metta, Stefan
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Purple

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #20 on: July 10, 2011, 09:30:19 PM »
Jeeprs, I'm quite interested in your scholarly pursuits.  What are you going to do with your Master's once you graduate?  If you'd rather PM me than discuss it here I understand.  Or, hell, if you don't want to discuss it all I understand.

Once I get some previous school debt paid off I'd like to investigate my options for studying Buddhism formally.  I would probably have to go the online route as I'm in Lexington, KY and there aren't any schools near me with anything Buddhist in their curriculum.

Quote
I have seen Stephen Bachelor speak, and also read two of his books, but I have to say that I don't subscribe to his minimalist approach. He is indeed an atheist, a bit too much so for my liking. I actually think he wants to discard some aspects of the teaching which are absolutely crucial to it.

This is perfectly understandable.  I don't agree with all of his ideas but I find his intellectual approach very appealing.  I actually emailed him last week and asked if he could detail his practice a bit for me, just because I was curious about how he meditates.  Haven't heard back yet. 

Quote
The main detail he gets wrong is one shared by many Buddhists. Vipassana is not a meditation but a fruit of mindfulness.

Matthew, could your (or someone else) elaborate on this a bit?  Apparently, I'm one of the many Buddhists laboring under this misconception about vipassana.  Not to hijack my own thread but, hey...it's mine.

Thanks again to everyone.  This is really helping me.

Jeeprs

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2011, 10:39:04 PM »
For a long time, I had always meant to go back to Sydney Uni and finish a Master's program, so when I became aware of this Master of Buddhist Studies I enrolled. I don't really have a long-term plan, it is just a subject I love. It's all practice as far as I am concerned, a way of keeping the mind concentrated on dharma. A relative suggested I might consider doing corporate consulting on Mindfulness at Work. I am thinking about that. I don't really have the track record to be an academic - I am just doing it for the sake of doing it, really.

Matthew

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2011, 04:03:47 AM »
Purple,

Vipassana is not mentioned in the Sutta's as a meditation but as a "Phala" or fruit of meditation/Mindfullness/"Sati". It only started being referred to as a meditation in the Abhidhamma - a bunch of intellectualised writing by technical Buddhists, commentaries and discussion of Buddha Dhamma by people after his death and who largely missed the important points of practice.

Vipassana or insight arises when the mind has calmed. It is seeing things as they are. Yet you won't see things as they are until you have calmed the mind, naturally, not by force or by dissociation, but by quiet, calming of body and boredom. That is not to say there is no insight then BOOM: insight-city.

Insight arises in tandem with your calm/shamatha and is progressive. It comes sometimes slowly and sometimes in leaps and bounds.

None of these things are meditation. Mindfulness is meditation: Sati. Shamatha/Calm, Samadhi/One pointed mind, Vipassana/insight are all fruits of meditation and not techniques. There are techniques called these things but they all have their failings in terms of progressing on the path. They all miss out important steps.

The calm abiding achieved through mindfulness of breath almost certainly lays down new neural pathways which enhance and allow full insight into other usually unconscious processes to arise. The brain is incredibly plastic. The main thing that holds us all back from progress is fear of change - yet change is one thing we can never escape, though of course the ego tries hard and clings to anything to prop up it's crumbling walls and leaky roof.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew

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torgeir

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2011, 08:28:11 AM »
Quote
Vipassana is not mentioned in the Sutta's as a meditation but as a "Phala" or fruit of meditation/Mindfullness/"Sati"....Vipassana or insight arises when the mind has calmed. It is seeing things as they are. Yet you won't see things as they are until you have calmed the mind, naturally, not by force or by dissociation, but by quiet, calming of body and boredom....None of these things are meditation. Mindfulness is meditation...The calm abiding achieved through mindfulness of breath almost certainly lays down new neural pathways which enhance and allow full insight into other usually unconscious processes to arise....


I am afraid this all sounds just like a bunch of intellectualised writing by technical Buddhists, commentaries and discussion of Buddha Dhamma by people after his death who largely missed the important points of practice. ;)

Meanwhile, I will go and do some Vipassana meditation. :D




Andrew

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Re: David Chapman on the Re-Invention Of Buddhism and Vipassana
« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2011, 09:30:01 AM »
Master Torgeir,

Are you saying our dear friend Matthew is a technical Buddhist? I was sure he was an Irreverent one... :D

I feel you have reappeared with an excellent fire in your belly, this is a good thing IMO. It is the whole point, cut through the crust of the little self, the ego self, and mindfully BE. Am I missing the humour of your post if I say Matthew post isn't intellectualising at all, but rather just what you needed to hear? Forgive me if I'm misinterpreting this.

love

Andrew
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