Secrecy in the Dhamma?

the following is an email i answered with regard to the last blog entry on the vipassana knowledges. I thought that many people might have the same reservations and would like to share with you my take on this:

Well, believe me, the thought about whether to make such information available or not crossed my mind a ten-thousand times.

But here is the definite answer, i think:

“Tathāgatappavedito dhammavinayo, bhikkhave, vivaṭo virocati, no paṭicchanno”

“O monks, the teaching and guidance proclaimed by the Tathagata shines all openly – not covered up.” AN III. 2. 9

Buddha’s stance on the Dhamma is closer to our modern way of developing science and pushing the boundaries of knowledge than any kind of mystic circle of secret knowledge only transmitted from teacher to pupil. And as i think you have a valid point in that people might grow in their expactations, this must not be a bad thing. (cmp. how Ananda mentioned that the desire to arrive at Nibbana finally ends there but brings one closer through practice itself)

Yesterday, when i published this, i was thinking of how many suttas the Buddha gave describing in detail the experience of the 4 jhanas. He did not keep their experience or fabric to himself or some selected pupils. No, he wanted everyone to enjoy them, develop them, master them.

The reason for sharing this information is twofold: Get them motivated, make it clear that this is much closer and un-mystical then they might otherwise think, secondly allow open discussion about the best way to help others go through those stages. Isn’t it amazing how much like a natural process/LAW (Dhamma) this is, like the jhanas?

… So this works also as a feedback system, very much like the suttas do, in fact!

Very interesting indeed. It makes me wonder though, whether or not
it is beneficial to have such information, being that it builds
expectations for the potential meditator. Most vipassana teachers, I
have found, would not divulge this information to the student.

well, except for Mahasi Sayadaw and Ven. Sri Matara Nyanananda … see the links i provided today 🙂

it shouldn’t really be that much of a “secret”. The chart is basically a visualization of the comments given by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw. with some additional informations gleaned from the Suttas and myself seeing people “walk” through some of those stages.

remember one of my earliest experiences with meditation, I had attained
the first jhana for the first time. It took me over a year to do it
again. Why? Because then on, every time I sat in meditation, it was an
expectation, a goal, and the thinking that I was doing about it
prevented me from attaining it again.

Well, i really do believe that is due to the way one practices. I found many many long term meditators to stumble over the jhana but because of the way they concentrate (not taking one thought as a subject but letting the mind run without a pole, being instructed to be “just aware” of the breathing, which results in the mind wandering off for minutes) to have to wait for a long time to stumble over them again. Once you know how to find them consistently its easy. In a way, the mind needs to “identify” them or “tag them”. Then, once the signposts are up, the mind will find its way back into them quite easily.

That being said, it is nice to
have an idea on where you might be, and perhaps it will do no harm,
provided you don’t pay it any mind while you are on, or before you go on
retreat.

🙂 I guess many “vipassana masters” would like to crucify me on putting this up, but i believe in the objectivity of a Dhamma being very much science-like and Buddha’s open approach to all things concerned. Not fear but optimism governs his Dhamma.

I especially like your anthology on “Christianity in Buddhism”, and
you interpretations. I think that I will forward it to Lars.

Thanks, yes. After moving to the US i was (after a long time in a-religious Europe) “forced” to make clear to myself the differences between Buddhism and Christianity. Might help other Buddhists as well…

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1 comment

  1. Hi,

    this is in reference to the above blog entry and the one about the vipassana nana. What is your stand on why the Buddha discussed the experience of the jhana in great detail compared to the vipassana nana. Or am I just looking in the wrong places?

    Kind regards,
    Florian

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