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Meditation not intended for householders?

zenguitarzenguitar Bad BuddhistNew England Veteran

Recently I was surprised to read this quote, attributed to Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi:

"I do not know of any discourse in which the Buddha teaches satipatthana meditation and systematic vipassana meditation to householders. Those are monastic practices, which normally presuppose renunciation — or at least a strong disposition to renunciation."

Is that true? If so, does it really mean that the Buddha meant to reserve meditation for monastics only?

(To give some context, this quote occurs near the end of this longer article which asks whether or not it is possible to separate mindfulness practice from Buddhism: http://www.salon.com/2014/12/06/mindfulness_truthiness_problem_sam_harris_science_and_the_truth_about_buddhist_tradition/ )

Comments

  • cazcaz Veteran

    :) Try Vajrayana a special method for everyone lay and monastic.

  • Is that true?

    No.
    I am a householder as are many here, we practice meditation.

    Buddhism with its emphasis in the Western emergence is promoting meditation as its gem. The personification of the inner path to emancipation from our troubles. So we start a cushion/chair sitting or a slow walking commitment. We want to taste. We want to cook rather than read the recipes.

    Some people when they start meditating, think meditating is like watching paint dry (one of my hobbies) and therefore too boring to do. Wrong. Or in fact this is exactly right . . .

    Initially everything seems to happen . . . except the tranquility and peace of mind we seek. We can not sit still, the posture is unbearable, we remember all the things we should or prefer to do. The mind body complex is an unsettled jumble of thoughts, emotions, sensations that does not match the serene stillness we expect. The Hindu mystics describe a chariot with the horses all pulling in different directions. Our mind is an uncontrolled mess.

    However with perseverance it comes. The breath slows, opens and deepens. The mind chatter lessens. Not maybe, not perhaps. Guaranteed. It is similar to yoga. We stretch and balance. We relax into pain. We push and hold. We find less is more. Benefits in well being - guaranteed.

    zenguitarsilverJeffreyDhammaDragon
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I really don't know how that could be, since his first 'students' were the young children in the forest. He guided them how to live mindfully, which is the beginnings of meditation.

  • @zenguitar said:
    "I do not know of any discourse in which the Buddha teaches satipatthana meditation and systematic vipassana meditation to householders. Those are monastic practices, which normally presuppose renunciation — or at least a strong disposition to renunciation."

    We'd better start renunciating then. :p

    zenguitar
  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    I'm not a scholar like some of y'all, so is this accurate?

    It doesn't matter to me one way or the other, it won't change my practice or anything. It would be an interesting thing to know.

    Rowan1980
  • @Hamsaka said:
    I'm not a scholar like some of y'all, so is this accurate?

    Yes, Bhikkhu Bodhi knows his onions. I gather the focus on meditation is very much a western thing.

    Hamsakazenguitarlobster
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran

    I feel I must object to the title of this thread. This, IMO, is simply fishing for "issues" that are not issues. It may be true that in some Buddhist countries there may be a laxity among householders, knowing that the monks and nuns are there for them, doing their spiritual work on their behalf. But this article from Salon magazine, which the OP supplies a link to, is about another subject entirely. These cited words are about the Buddha not teaching meditation or mindfulness techniques to Kings or Merchants or householders for their material benefit. Just read the article! The article is about modern-day would-be usurpers of some Buddhist techniques who would at the same time find the Buddhist traditions somewhat laughing-stock.

    ChazToraldrissilverJeffrey
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Extremely good points, @Nirvana.
    How many of the previous posters actually read the article before commenting?
    The quotation is accurate, but taken out of context of the article, is misleading.

    ChazHamsakalobster
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    I can't use the same quotation time and again, but the Buddha once discouraged Anathapindika, a rich merchant who was also a great supporter of the Buddha's cause, from going down the monastic life because he considered he was more useful to other fellow human beings in his present station in life.

    Whether monastic or layman, the practice of mindfulness is quintessential to treading righfully the N8Path.
    Since I don't intend to become a nun, I'll keep my meditation practice as a laywoman, as I have done for well over twenty years.

    But yes, I agree you have somewhat misread the article, @zenguitar, anyway.

    rohitShim
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    Thanks, except I am not asserting anything. I am simply asking if Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi's quotation is a true statement or not. I thought it was not, but I simply don't know the Pali Canon that well to say one way or the other.

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @zenguitar said:
    Thanks, except I am not asserting anything. I am simply asking if Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi's quotation is a true statement or not. I thought it was not, but I simply don't know the Pali Canon that well to say one way or the other.

    It is you who defines what is true to you.
    Anyone can say anything, but the Buddha told us not to take anything we hear or read as truth, and to always question everything, even if it was said by the same Tathagata himself.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @zenguitar said:
    Thanks, except I am not asserting anything. I am simply asking if Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi's quotation is a true statement or not. I thought it was not, but I simply don't know the Pali Canon that well to say one way or the other.

    >

    Perhaps then, it would be a good idea to study the Pali texts and look for relevant reference. The Buddha had a great deal of wonderful advice for the Lay householder on virtuous living and Right Attitude to their social and moral obligations to those dependent upon them, and towards those upon whom they depended.
    Enter the 'accesstoinsight' website for further reading....

    lobsterDhammaDragonrohit
  • @zenguitar. You can certainly begin investigating the Sigalovada Sutta which sets out the duties of a layman. Short and to the point.

    lobsterbookwormDhammaDragonDavid
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    Ok, thanks people.

  • Theres a lot of stuff you can read such as the need to meditate in the forest (which sucks if you live in a region without).

  • @Jeffrey said:
    The mind can awaken whether in a monastery or a house.

    Really? Or is that just wishful thinking? I've been on quite a number of retreats, and there is a pattern: after a week or two of serious practice a quite different state of mind develops, and there is a real sense of progress. But those effects invariably dissipate quite quickly on returning home to "normal" life. I realise that being a monk or nun isn't the same as being on permanent retreat, but the point stands.

    I'm not suggesting that lay practice isn't worthwhile, it obviously is, but I suspect that for many lay Buddhists it's more akin to a coping therapy than a path to full liberation.

    lobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited December 2014

    @grackle said:
    zenguitar. You can certainly begin investigating the Sigalovada Sutta which sets out the duties of a layman. Short and to the point.

    Not that short really: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.31.0.nara.html

    It seems to be about advice for leading an ethical lifestyle, I couldn't see any reference to meditation though.

  • It is you who defines what is true to you.

    But that's precisely what Buddhist practice aims to overcome - a purely egocentric view.

    lobster
  • @SpinyNorman said:
    I'm not suggesting that lay practice isn't worthwhile, it obviously is, but I suspect that for many lay Buddhists it's more akin to a coping therapy than a path to full liberation.

    True enough . . . however few of us are born monastics. On three occasions I have tried to be a monk. I am just too much of a dharma slacker [Lobster hangs head in shame]. However there are lay traditions of intense practice that put the regular uniformed sangha to shame. Retreats are a confirmation and invigoration but the degree of intensity is as always up to us.
    Most of us, speaking for myself are not that interested in being Buddhas, seems too fantastical . . . :)

  • rohitrohit Maharrashtra Veteran
    edited December 2014

    There is one story monk posted in fb. According to that Buddha had sent the group of monks to wealthy person so that they can have proper nutrition through offerings in bhikhsa to progress in their vipassana.

    The wife of that wealthy person served very good food to those young monks regularly and in return she learned vippasana from them. She excelled in vipassana more quickly than some of monks.

    When those monks returned to Buddha, they told about that lady being kind and excelled in Vipassana in less time.

    Buddha knew that lady was not only wealthy but also had proper nutrition and her will in spirituality. Therefore she prospered in practice of vipassana very quickly and also attained arahant hood.

    When some monks heard about this. They also asked to go that village and to practice their vipasssana. Buddha allowed them. But those young monks started to have attraction towards household life and started enjoying food. Many of them even started to attract towards that lady when she used to serve them food..

    After many days without any progress in vipassana. The monk returned and told buddha that they had good treatment from that wealthy lady and her husband but they did not able to concentrate on their mediation and even started to attract towards worldly things.

    zenguitar
  • @lobster said:

    However there are lay traditions of intense practice that put the regular uniformed sangha to shame.

    Not that I'm aware of - could you give some UK examples?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited December 2014

    @lobster said:
    Most of us, speaking for myself are not that interested in being Buddhas, seems too fantastical . . . :)

    That's fine, but are you clear about why you are doing Buddhist practice? I get the impression a lot of people aren't. It seems like for many people it's a way of being "spiritual" without having to take on any beliefs, or change anything, or give anything up, or even practice that much. Quite peripheral most of the time, a lot of armchair Buddhism.

    Barralobster
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited December 2014
    I can't bring myself to consider the monastic life right now because I still have responsibilities to live up to. There is still inter-being and impermenance is not a bad thing. We do what we can while we can do it.

    Back in the day it was hard to get the proper technique to fit the proper personality but these days the only danger is misinformation which is better than a lack of information. We don't have to leave our families on the quest for guidance. We have things like cars, planes and computers... Sometimes it looks from the outside that the monastic life can also be self indulgent. Like just another form of escapism that a life of compassionate action doesn't have time for. Suffering doesn't go on retreat.

    Let's face it, Buddha could have wandered off in any direction when he finally stood up from that tree. So which way did he go?

    The Gotamas were his first priority. They were fine when he left too. It wasn't like he left them with no means when Sidhartha split. When Buddha awoke, he went back to collect those that would choose to follow.
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    But that's precisely what Buddhist practice aims to overcome - a purely egocentric view.

    So, if Bhikkhu Bodhi had really said that certain meditations are monastic practices which presuppose renunciation, I have either to become a nun or give up on meditation altogether?

    If a Burmese monk tells me to hate people from a religious minority, I don't need to question that and simply follow suit?

    To develop right view, you need to use your reason: decide to take on certain things, decide to leave out other things.

    I see nothing egocentric about that.

    silverRowan1980
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    Nice little tete-a-tete this Christmas eve morning. ... . Hey! It's snowing! Here! :D

    rohitlobster
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited December 2014

    @SpinyNorman, I would say that even you on your retreat are not at all close to full enlightenment. So I guess you would have to say that whether you are in a monastery or a layperson you can still appreciate your mind. That is what I meant to said. Enlightenment might be far off but noticing awareness is right here. And noticing awareness is the path. No matter where a sentient being is they can still notice their awareness. No dhyana is necessary to notice your awareness and speaking of dhyana I think that's a difference between you and me in that my tradition just views the dhyanas as states of mind and that the dhyanas could be a help OR a hindrance depending on the situation of the practitioner in question. I do agree that there are advantages as you say of being in a monastery. Just the nature of mind is the same wherever you are. As far as enlightenment, like I said, I don't think you or any others on this forum are near enlightenment. It would be wonderful enough if some of us were 'hearers'. That is a rare accomplishment.

    For info on Dhyana from the perspective of believing it is the basis of enlightenment - > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhyāna_in_Buddhism

  • @silver said:
    Hey! It's snowing! Here! :D

    o:)

    Exactly so. Intense . . .
    . . . and now back to ding dong dharma . . .

    silver
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited December 2014

    My take is that meditation is not a private preserve. Your life is your life and how you choose to employ it is your choice and your responsibility.

    People of good sense and whispered uncertainties try different ways to serious up and bring a little peace to their lives. There is nothing saying they can't try meditation or that they will necessarily fall short of its promise... that's just hierarchical religious bullshit... which, it is clear, some people prefer.

    Your life, your choice ... don't let even the most blessed names tell you otherwise.

    rohitsilverDhammaDragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 2014

    @genkaku said:..... Your life, your choice ... don't let even the most blessed names tell you otherwise.

    >

    I have to agree here.

    Assuming for an instant that during our upbringing we were taught to respect our elders, be obedient children, and not answer back (I'm generalising here, let's not start a debate/discussion on everyone's own, diverse, personal familial experiences!) we grow up, mature and reach a certain age when we discover, maybe over time, maybe during a 'lightbulb moment' that - oh my goodness! Our parents/elders are actually NOT right all of the time, and are NOT perfect!

    That can come as a bit of a shock to some. It did, to me!

    In the exact same way, simply because an eminent name in Buddhism - no matter which tradition - has a glowing and respected reputation, and is vaunted as someone worthy of his calling and position, it doesn't mean we either should, or need to agree with everything they teach.

    I don't agree with all of TNH's instructions; I don't always consider HHDL to be an indisputable authority on something.
    In the same way that many RCs can hold the Pope to scrutiny and criticism, I think we should always remember that once upon a time, such revered Patriarchs in our chosen calling were just as we are now.

    It may come as a bit of a shock to our system to hear them saying something which immediately hits us as being outrageous, unfathomable, irregular and downright confusing - but simply because we consider them to be infallible 90% of the time, doesn't mean we should be stunned if the remaining 10% goes against our particular grain.
    It happens. They're not perfect.

    Read that again.
    They're NOT perfect.

    And the moment we realise this, and realise that some of their teachings and comments are open to argument, contradiction and question, the better and less stony our paths will become.

    This is what happens when we put people on high pedestals.
    Their rocking can alarm us.

    If we seat them on a cushion, maybe on a low platform, a few inches higher than ours, things gain a better perspective.

    Isn't this one of the reasons, incidentally, that monks are cautioned against sleeping on high beds, off the floor?

    And maybe why, when I have attended a Theravada Monastery to listen to teachings, the Monk speaking has always sat on the floor, exactly like his audience....

    An 'elevated position' doesn't necessarily denote that someone merits an Elevated Position.....

    Rowan1980DhammaDragon
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @genkaku said:..... Your life, your choice ... don't let even the most blessed names tell you otherwise.

    >
    >

    @federica‌ said:If we seat them on a cushion, maybe on a low platform, a few inches higher than ours, things gain a better perspective.

    >
    Isn't this one of the reasons, incidentally, that monks are cautioned against sleeping on high beds, off the floor?
    >
    >

    Very well said. So many need these reminders like, a lot.

    Rowan1980
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran
    edited December 2014

    @SpinyNorman said:
    That's fine, but are you clear about why you are doing Buddhist practice? I get the impression a lot of people aren't. It seems like for many people it's a way of being "spiritual" without having to take on any beliefs, or change anything, or give anything up, or even practice that much. Quite peripheral most of the time, a lot of armchair Buddhism.

    I find it patronising presuming to know why many people approach Buddhism, assuming their practice is peripheral and calling it "armchair Buddhism."

    It can be many things to many people, and as long as they are deriving some benefit from it, and behaving as good Buddhists, it's fine by me.

    JeffreyShim
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited December 2014

    @SpinyNorman said: That's fine, but are you clear about why you are doing Buddhist practice? I get the impression a lot of people aren't. It seems like for many people it's a way of being "spiritual" without having to take on any beliefs, or change anything, or give anything up, or even practice that much. Quite peripheral most of the time, a lot of armchair Buddhism.

    >

    @DhammaDragon said:I can't begin to describe how patronising I find presuming to know why many people approach Buddhism, assuming their practice is peripheral and calling it "armchair Buddhism."

    >
    It can be many things to many people, and as long as they are deriving some benefit from it, and behaving as good Buddhists, it's fine by me.
    >

    I don't find it particularly patronizing (although I'm kind of Magooing it here), I think it's a constructive thing to look closely and poke with a stick a few times, our own and others' motivations. It hurts more to leave these kinds of things unexamined.

    (Aw crp! It all hurts, gddmmit! ><)

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @silver said:
    I don't find it particularly patronizing (although I'm kind of Magooing it here), I think it's a constructive thing to look closely and poke with a stick a few times, our own and others' motivations. It hurts more to leave these kinds of things unexamined.

    I find that it is constructive to examine our own motives, but not very constructive to look aside and assume we can know what led others down this path and decide whether their Buddhism is not as good as my Buddhism.

    silverNirvana
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    "Remember you're unique. Just like everyone else".

    Or as Howard Cutler remarked in his book about HHDL ('The Art of Happiness') The important thing to remember (said His Holiness) is that we are never inferior to anyone. But neither are we superior....

    DhammaDragon
  • we are never inferior to anyone. But neither are we superior....

    :)
    Exactly so.

    Some people for example Julius Cesar, Baby Jesus, carved stone, Druid trees etc are elevated to the level of gods.

    In Buddhism, traditionally Shakyamuni was a teacher of gods. He is a clear example of the possibility of the human realm. When and if ready we find skilful means and teachings (dharma) that offer the potential to be free.

    If anyone finds a better way, let us know. I have a dustbin ready for Mr Cushion . . .

  • RhodianRhodian Veteran
    edited December 2014

    @lobster even you my son?

    Nirvanalobster
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @federica said:
    "Remember you're unique. Just like everyone else".

    Or as Howard Cutler remarked in his book about HHDL ('The Art of Happiness') The important thing to remember (said His Holiness) is that we are never inferior to anyone. But neither are we superior....

    Howard Cutler's "The Art of Happiness" is on my top ten list of recommended Buddhist bibliography.
    That quotation, fede, is the one that I repeat to my son every day.
    It's our Buddhist version of Julius Caesar and the idus of March :)

  • Lay people had less time than current lay people. They worked harder, died younger, were more sick, had no holidays. Wasn't "sati" and giving up of "lust" taught to lay people? Wasn't this the best to teach to a worker?

    Note this is not an assert, rather a question. For example a shepherd might be a disproof, one would need both an excellent historical knowledge of buddhism and pre Asoka India to compose a better answer, still this would not be enough.

    A french teacher told me Theravadin started teaching meditation to lay people to stop Buddhism decline.

    Theorical answer will not feed much 8)
    Certainly going for an intense 10-days course will reply =)

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