Request for Uposatha Day Proposals

Dear readers,

During the last year or so I have posted to this blog every Uposatha Day. I’ve run several series of posts on such topics as the Noble Eightfold Path, History of Buddhist Cultural Adaptation, Karma and Rebirth, Buddhist Religiosity, Not-Self, and now Faith. And before all that I was posting a travel log from Burma. I want to ask my readership: What would you like me to write about in the coming months?

Incidentally, I am working on another literary project, a book, tentatively entitled Through the Looking-Glass: How to Become a Buddhist Monk, which describes autobiographically how and why one would do such an odd thing, in an attempt to inspire others to follow this noble pursuit. It started with my Burmese writings and has gotten out of hand. I am thinking of serializing it here, posting a chapter irregularly every couple of weeks, separate from Uposatha Day postings.

Anyway, let me know what Buddhist topics you might like to hear about.

In the Dhamma,

BC

20 Responses to “Request for Uposatha Day Proposals”

  1. Kim Says:

    Anything about meditation itself. Seems like that is glossed over a lot.

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    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      You might have observed that a constant theme in my writings is a holistic comprehension of Buddhist teachings and practice, which as the Buddha describes it has many aspects that function together as a system. American Dharma tends to be out of kilter. For this reason I have focused in my writings on those parts that are often sidelined, such as religiosity, faith and virtue, or on the interrelatedness of the parts, represented in my discussions of the Noble Eightfold Path and of Karma. Of course the thinness of the monastic sangha has been a special concern of mine.

      Meditation is the part clearly most favored in American Buddhism. It is great that Americans have so much energy around meditation; it is a valuable pursuit, one that occupies much of my time. However, meditation alone is not Buddhism, it is Yoga. Many American Buddhists, even teachers, regard meditation either as the entirety of Buddhist practice or as the gateway to the rest of Buddhist practice. I can understand how this misunderstanding can arise in American Zen. Zen means meditation (from Jhana, which is Samadhi). Dogen often emphasized that zazen is the entirety of the practice, but you have to be careful in reading Dogen: He also said ritual conduct is the entirety of the practice. But even Theravada, normally the most orthodox school of Buddhism, is represented by the Vipassana or Insight Meditation movement which again gives almost exclusive attention to meditation. Rather than the gateway to the rest of Buddhist practice meditation is the culmination; it is the climax of the Noble Eightfold Path; that is primarily what makes it Buddhist meditation rather than simply Yoga.

      So this is why I have not put much attention on meditation. There are many strong meditators in America, wonderful meditation teachers and many good books on meditation, so I have not felt there is a gap I could contribute to. However, I am available for one-on-one instruction for people in the Austin area, and from afar for those who have been unable to find a good meditation teacher in your area. But I don’t feel my writing on this topic has a particular urgency. My favorite book on meditation is Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Gunaratana, which in spite of its Theravada orientation I always enthusiastically recommended to my Zen students when I was a Zen priest. It covers obstacles to practice very clearly. It is for everybody.

      But see the question on Theravada and Zen below.

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  2. Mike Says:

    Bhante,

    I would be really interested to hear how you view relationship between Theravada praxis and doctrine and that of the Zen lineage from which you made your transition. Also, any musings on sila and nekkhamma (especially as they pertain to the lay life) would be welcome. Thank you for your blog and your posts. Anumodana!

    Best wishes,

    Mike

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    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      Mike, This is a big interest of mine, but a difficult one to write about except from the perspective of my own experience. This suggests that there is no worrisome difference; Zen is very much akin to the Theravada forest tradition in spirit, which to the extent it is concerned with study at all is founded on the Suttas rather than the Abhidhamma and commentarial tradition.One of the things I’ve been looking at for some time and which I probably will be ready to write about sometime soon is the place of shikantaza, the primary Soto Zen meditation technique within the range of meditations the Buddha described in the Satipattana Sutta. My preliminary findings are that it is almost exactly cittanupassana, mindfulness of mind, the third of the four foundations of mindfulness. Again, this is a bit difficult to pin down because the method of teaching zazen is radically different than the Buddha’s method, but again my experience, which I would like to get others to confirm, reveals this correspondence.

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  3. Visakha Says:

    The Jatakas

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    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      I am so sorry I still have not produced a review of your excellent four volumes of Jataka stories. I have spent little lime studying these stories of the previous lives of the Bodhisattva but was hoping to find myself in the position to say something insightful, other than that your rendering is very well written, a delight to read and wonderfully illustrated, formatted and packaged. I hope I can find time to sit down and compare the various renderings of the Jatakas and learn more about their origin and role in the teachings.

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  4. Michael Says:

    Dear Bhante,

    Thank you for your postings. I would like to hear your perspective on energy and effort. The Buddha talked about both and it is quite common to hear teachers taking them as synonyms. But if that is right why would the Buddha use them separately, if it is all the same why not just stick with effort. In the bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma it is energy which appears more often, not effort. So I suspect there must be some fundamental differences between effort and energy and would like very much to hear your views.
    Thank you

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  5. Al Says:

    Venerable,
    I’d love postings on actual practices (meditation, refuge, renunciation, study) that we as householders can engage in. Thank you for this blog – whatever the topic, the Uposatha day posts always support my observance.

    Like

    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      Al, As a matter of fact I was thinking of writing a series on householder practice. Most of the Buddha’s discourses are addressed to monastics, and the same can be said about Dogen’s writings, etc. On the other hand over all of the Buddha’s many hundreds of discourses much can be found addressed to lay folks. However, I think though that a lot of extension and adaptation of the Buddha’s advice is required to deal with modern circumstances. This is more true of lay practice than monastic practice.

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  6. Brian Farley Says:

    I’m struggling with paticca samuppada lately, but any Dhamma topic is always appreciated. I also look forward to reading your book as I’m considering going forth. However, I would like to hear more personal insights from westerners who have taken that path.

    Metta,
    Brian

    Like

    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      Brian, I have to admit I struggle with dependent coarising as well. Many of the twelve links are clear enough, others are a bit obscure. I have read the accounts of a number of writers on this and find that they don’t seem to agree very well and often strike me as contrived. For instance,a traditionl analysis holds that the entire sequence spans three lifetimes, but others deny that, and both arguments are compelling. Birth (jati) seems pretty explicitly to be one of the links, but then since craving comes before birth and suffering after, that seems to discount present suffering resulting from present craving, which is the most relevant experience we have about any of this. The Buddha said that figuring out dependent coarising was not easy, but sometimes I suspect that we are missing a sutta. I’ll give a full report if I figure it out. Someone was supposed to give me a copy of Buddhadasa’s book on this topic a couple of weeks ago; maybe that will help. If you figure it out, I’ll let you post a full report.

      That is great that you are considering ordination. It is the sanest thing a person can do. I emailed you separately concerning that.

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  7. Máthé Veronika Says:

    Dear Bhante,

    I would like to read on meditation practice, especially on how to deal with strange experiences, loss of interest and other obstacles “on the road”. And please post the chapters.

    Greetings & thanks for your blog,

    Veronika

    Like

  8. Rick Potts Says:

    Bhante,
    I like Mike’s idea. I would like it if you could spend some time helping us understand the significance behind chanting, in any linage, and the rituals and routines many of us are aware of, but have never grown up. We as adults tend to question and pick apart things we have faith in and still have yet to completely understand.

    be well

    rick

    Like

    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      Veronka,
      See my response to Kim above. Do you have a meditation instructor? This is generally important, especially in early stages. You are welcome to ask me questions directly by email or phone call if you need assistance. Get Bhante G.’s book if you don’t have it already.
      BC

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    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      Hi, Rick. Did you read my two part series on Buddhist Religiosity? This should touch on what you are asking. In particular I talk about the position of those, like myself, who come to Buddhism without a religious background. We start out as parasitic mistletoe and should endeavor to put down roots. I feel that I still suffer from a deficit in this regard. My faith is very solid at this point, and has maybe come from the best place, working with the teachings and the practices and verifying them time after time in my own experience. But I also have ample opportunity to observe the way Burmese from very devout families have internalized a very joyful and easy faith from childhood. The contrast between them and me shows up particularly in chanting. Burmese chant a lot, they memorize a lot, and they chant for a long time, sometimes even days on end with people coming in and out in shifts to keep it going day and night. I don’t find much joy in chanting, though I’ve gotten adept at memorization (in Pali). Other rituals like bowing I find very valuable. Does this help?

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  9. Joan Denson Says:

    I’d like to hear more about “how and why one would do such an odd thing” as take vows as a monk. ” Through the Looking Glass… “is such a cool name too.

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    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      Hi, Joan. If you look at the index on the right (I think you will not see the index from the page, but almost any other page) you will find a number of writings on monastic life. The book project I referred to will provide I hope a lot more clarity. It is a decision of great faith, bold and resolute. Depending on which side of the looking glass you are standing on at the time it can seem like the craziest decision one can imagine, or the sanest. From the side I am standing on I can report it is a joyful life in which the only problems that are arise are from my own mind and easily recognizable as such, it is a harmless life with abundant opportunity to be of benefit to others, and it is the life most conducive to development on the path (we also tend to pull others along with us).

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  10. bhikkhucintita Says:

    Thank you all for your many thoughtful suggestions.

    Like

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