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Why complicate things while the Buddhas' Teaching can be summarised in one verse

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Dhammapada

Verse 183: Not to do evil, to cultivate merit, to purify one's mind - this is the Teaching of the Buddhas.

I feel we often lose ourselves in details pondering the Buddha's words, while actually it can be all quite simple, if we want to.
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  1. Jerrod Lopes's Avatar
    Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
  2. Franz Li's Avatar
    There is a famous exchange between Ven Ananda and the Buddha (DN-15 "The Great Discourse on Causation"):
    Ven Ananda: “It is wonderful and marvellous, venerable sir, how this dependent arising is so deep and appears so deep, yet to myself it seems as clear as clear can be.”

    “Do not say so, Ānanda! Do not say so, Ānanda! This dependent arising, Ānanda, is deep and it appears deep. Because of not understanding and not penetrating this Dhamma, Ānanda, this generation has become like a tangled skein, like a knotted ball of thread, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not pass beyond saṃsāra with its plane of misery, unfortunate destinations, and lower realms...."

    Of course it is possible to over-complicate things. But there is also a risk of overrating our understanding. As intelligent as Ven Ananda, he once made the same mistake, and he was already a stream-winner at the time. Over-confidence.

    Remember the 8th of the ten fetters: "Conceit". "Conceit" can be "I am superior to them"; or "I am inferior to them"; or "I am their equal". In any case, it is the ego.
  3. Leon Roijen's Avatar
    @Jerrod /facebook *like* ;-)

    @Franz Li: Of course I just wanted to make a statement and it is certainly not that simple that we can understand the Buddhas'/Buddha's Teaching by just one verse -at least it isn't that way for ordinary people and I consider myself one of them- but lay followers can attain full enlightenment and I really doubt if they need all the answers to all the questions about the dhamma that are asked on forums and that even the scholars don't always agree on.

    I think one who honestly *practises* the dhamma will advance much quicker than a person who knows every possible sutta but is rather unsuccesful at putting the Teaching in practice.
  4. Mara Pacers's Avatar
    Leon

    Ajahn Brahm once told me, in a brief exchange I had with him, that he thinks this over-complication, intellectualising and reading too much is often a hindrance in itself.
  5. Franz Li's Avatar
    "... I really doubt if they need all the answers to all the questions about the dhamma that are asked on forums and that even the scholars don't always agree on...." -
    - you can "doubt" all you want about other people, but it's up to them. It's exactly because of "doubt" that they ask questions. Besides, "Doubt" is the 2nd of the 10-fetters. We all have doubts. Don't let them bother you.

    "....I think one who honestly *practises* the dhamma will advance much quicker than a person who knows every possible sutta but is rather unsuccesful at putting the Teaching in practice...."
    - When it is framed as a "foregone conclusion" nobody can argue against it. It's like saying: an overweight person who diet and exercise can lose weight a lot faster than those who just read diet books and watch lots exercise videos. Of course it's true.

    I have heard this line of arguments used in temples a lot: when one person is accusing another person as NOT "practicing." Then they debate what they mean by "practicing": sitting? walking? attending retreat? doing prostration to the Buddha statue? chanting mantra? pilgrimage to India? helping out in the temple kitchen? volunteer at food banks? visiting hospitals? becoming vegetarian?

    Each person has lived through countless number of lives. Each is different. They will find their unique path within the broad outline of the Eightfold Noble Path. It can be complicated for some and simple for others. Ven. Sariputta heard just a few words from Ven Assaji and he became a stream-enterer. Simple enough. But how many people can claim to be as wise?
  6. Leon Roijen's Avatar
    @Mara: I agree. I remember reading Ajahn Chah even went so far as to tell his monks to lock their books away.

    @Franz: " [I]It's exactly because of "doubt" that they ask questions.[/I]"
    Sometimes that's true indeed, but often it is about over-complication and intellectualising as Mara (Ajahn Brahm) stated above and then it's more like doubt for doubt's sake or the pleasure one gets (or the attachment one has to) from intellectual debate than gathering information on things about the Teaching we are unsure about.

    [I]Then they debate what they mean by "practicing[/I]"

    The verse I cited above says it all: "Not to do evil, to cultivate merit, to purify one's mind - this is the Teaching of the Buddhas". If one does these things, one is practicing.

    [I] "Ven. Sariputta heard just a few words from Ven Assaji and he became a stream-enterer. Simple enough. But how many people can claim to be as wise? "[/I]

    There is difference between information, knowledge, wisdom, and insight.
    Of course we need all of them. But it is wisdom and insight that matter most. And they can't be developed by just accumulating information and knowledge.

    Of course, having both deep knowledge, wisdom and insight is perfect, but I often come across people all over the internet who are just meditating, hoping to develop wisdom and insight but who don't even know the basics of buddhism, and on the other hand, there are people who are just piling up heaps of buddhist-related information in their brains, but do little to put it in practice.
    Needless to say I recognised this in myself, too.
    Updated 22nd-December-2016 at 09:36 PM by Leon Roijen
  7. Franz Li's Avatar
    There is a tendency to "weaponize" the master teacher's words. But we should pay attention to the fact that "we hear what we wish to hear, and ignore the rest."

    At Tibetan sites people probably quote the Dalai Lama. At the Dhammaloka site people quote Ajahn Brahm, of course.

    But think about it: how did Ajahn Brahm learn Dhamma and be able to discourse on the Suttas, the Vinayas, clarify fine points of the original Pali passages, relate the ancient text to meditation practices, correct wrong ideas and interpretations, answer questions ranging from Dhamma teachings to how to apply Dhamma in everyday life situations?

    Ajahn Brahm was not born knowing all these, even if he has strong past kamma in Dhamma. He had invested many hours studying the texts and learn from his many teachers too. If one just quote this or that passage from the various Ajahns to make a point, just beware of the biased pick and choose. Besides, Ajahn Brahm had said that don't hold his word so rigidly, because even he had changed his mind. Impermanence!

    If Ajahn Chah told some monks to lock their books away and never read a single text from the ancient teachings, how is he different from Zen (Ch'an)? Zen sect proclaims their lineage came from a totally different source (than the mainline tripitaka). They say Zen teaching is complete void of any text (verbage) teachings. Zen then point to their own tenets like "Buddha Nature", "Original Mind", etc. Zen is full of riddles and befuddling stories, like the Zen master chopping a cat into halves to settle disputes between Zen monks. Don't "copycat" !!

    As for the well-known Dhammapada passage: the obvious question is "How does one Purify the Mind"? Why did Buddhaghoṣ bother to wrote the big thick dome called "The Path of Purification" (Visuddhimaga)? Is "Purify the Mind" so very simple?

    Needless to say, we need a balanced approach. It's like baking (which requires much higher precision than cooking, because of food chemistry) - read and study the recipe carefully, then go into the kitchen and do the baking. Practice. The first batch usually does not turn out perfect. Return to a better recipe book and try another batch.

    Anyone who has teacher's training would know that there are many kinds of learning approaches, and each student learns differently. Don't upset yourselves that some are bookworms and others never crack a book.
  8. Leon Roijen's Avatar
    @Franz: [I]"Don't upset yourselves that some are bookworms and others never crack a book"
    [/I]
    Oh, I'm not upset :-) I just observe that some over-complicate, intellectualise too much (thank you Mara!) and discuss about trivial, unimportant things and lose themselves in the process.
    There were questions the Buddha refused to answer ( [url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_unanswered_questions[/url] ) because they draw us into a net of dogmatic views that do not correspond to the way things really are. An example from that Wikipedia-page:

    "Another example drawn from the fourteen unanswerable questions also shows that the propositions do not correspond to the way things really are. Take the example of the world. According to Buddhist teaching, the world does not exist absolutely or does not exist absolutely in time. The world exists dependent on causes and conditions—ignorance, craving, and clinging. When ignorance, craving, and clinging are present, the world exists; when they are not present, the world ceases to exist. Hence the question of the absolute existence or nonexistence of the world is unanswerable. Existence and nonexistence, taken as absolute ideas, do not apply to things as they really are. This is why the Buddha refuses to agree to absolute statements about the nature of things."

    I think if the Buddha was still among us, and he saw all these discussions in the internet, and he was asked to shed some (more) light on all these questions and discussions started every day again, there would be many more than these 14 questions he would not answer :-)

    Don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely not against knowledge, that would be silly, after all, right understanding is one of the steps of the eightfold path, but once we have gained a certain amount of knowledge (and here I'm really talking about "information", not "wisdom" and "insight") there is not much too be gained from accumulating even more "data".

    And last but not least about Ajahn Brahm and other monks: They are teachers, so they "have to be" "above" lay persons as far as knowledge is concerned. An English teacher is supposed to have more knowledge about English than his students, too.
  9. Leon Roijen's Avatar
    Addendum: My grandmother used to show us her hand and make us see the length of her fingers. She then said: One keeps learning until all fingers have the same length. Meaning no matter how old you grow, there are always still things to learn.

    So I hope that convinces you I'm not against learning in general - I just wanted to make a point that over-compilcating things, too much intellectualising, especially in religious matters - where not just the brain but also the heart has an important role to play - may lead us astray.
  10. Jong Woo's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Franz Li
    There is a famous exchange between Ven Ananda and the Buddha (DN-15 "The Great Discourse on Causation"):
    Ven Ananda: “It is wonderful and marvellous, venerable sir, how this dependent arising is so deep and appears so deep, yet to myself it seems as clear as clear can be.”

    “Do not say so, Ānanda! Do not say so, Ānanda! This dependent arising, Ānanda, is deep and it appears deep. Because of not understanding and not penetrating this Dhamma, Ānanda, this generation has become like a tangled skein, like a knotted ball of thread, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not pass beyond saṃsāra with its plane of misery, unfortunate destinations, and lower realms...."

    Of course it is possible to over-complicate things. But there is also a risk of overrating our understanding. As intelligent as Ven Ananda, he once made the same mistake, and he was already a stream-winner at the time. Over-confidence.

    Remember the 8th of the ten fetters: "Conceit". "Conceit" can be "I am superior to them"; or "I am inferior to them"; or "I am their equal". In any case, it is the ego.

    I love your point. It in deed, could be conceit and ego.
    We keep making the same mistake over and over again that we think, we understand the Dharma but actually we don't!
    As scientific experiments confirm, from the moment our senses interact with stimuli, our senses choose to interact with the only those they are accustomed to.
    Therefore we see only what we are already conditioned, not anything else.
    That is the reason why for many, Dharma does not make a sense at all.
    We need patience and understanding before we jump to a conclusion.
    People are different meaning that each of us is conditioned in a different manner and of course, see things diffidently.
    I respect your insight and knowledge in Sutta.

    Meta.
  11. Marcia Beloved's Avatar
    I can only look at my own practice and use it as my reference.
    Yes, one can overccomplicte things.
    And yes, I do have some conceit due to standing solidly on a path of practice and having strong conviction.
    But over and over, matters I thought I understood, I understand again in a different way.
    Wisdom arises and I feel happy and satisfied, even proud at times.
    Then I keep practicing and some days or months later, wisdom arises and there is peace and a greater understanding of the same matter.
    Wisdom arises and ignorances flakes away, layer by layer.
    We must not overcomplicate the process but we must keep practicing correctly and with right effort until the heart is clear, cool, calm and clean.
    The path is not complicated but the mind and heart are very entangled with kilesas.
    We just have to keep at it!
  12. Jerrod Lopes's Avatar
    Very well put, Marcia.

    I will add my own view that too often I think some mistake the Buddha's words for the views they "should" have. His words are only a guide. We cannot make his thoughts ours, his views ours. It is a path we each take alone. His words are a wonderful guide, but we will never find liberation in them. We have to make our own.