Author Topic: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?  (Read 2694 times)

Offline vinasp

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2010, 05:58:58 pm »
Hi everyone,

 To expand on point 1 - the distinction between the ordinary man and the noble disciple. Here is a typical passage:

 "The uninstructed average man does not understand views, does not understand the origin of views, does not understand the cessation of views, does not understand the way leading to the cessation of views. For him views grow ; and he is not freed from birth, old age, death, from sorrows, griefs, ills, tribulations ; he is not freed from suffering, I say".
  "But the instructed noble disciple understands views, understands their origin, their cessation and the way leading to their cessation. For him views cease ; and he is freed from birth, old age, death, from sorrows, griefs, ills, tribulations ; he is freed from suffering, I say". G. S. IV pages 39 - 40.

 Many suttas contrast these two types, for example, just in the Majjhima Nikaya we find: MN 2.5, MN 36.8, MN 46.3, MN 64.5, MN 115.12, MN 22.15, MN 44.7, MN 109.10, MN 131.8 and MN 138.20.

 That they should invent names for those who do not understand and for those who do is not suprising. What is strange is that there appears to be an abrupt transition from ordinary man to noble disciple.

 It seems that there are two quite different ways to understand the teachings. There is a lower understanding which everyone can grasp, and there is a higher understanding which only a few can see. It is the sudden realisation of this alternative way to understand the teachings which is the abrupt transition from ordinary man to noble disciple.

 That the entire teachings can make sense in another way is not something which could come about by accident.

 Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline vinasp

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2010, 07:23:40 pm »
Hi everyone,

 To expand point 2 - here is the sutta:

  "Monks, there are these two companies. What two? The ariyan and the un-ariyan (1). And what, monks is the un-ariyan company?
 Herein, monks, in whatever company the monks understand not, as it really is, the meaning of "this is suffering"; understand not, as it really is, the meaning of "this is the arising of suffering"; understand not, as it really is, the meaning of "this is the cessation of suffering"; understand not ..."this is the practice leading to the cessation of suffering", - this company is called "the un-ariyan".
 And what, monks, is the ariyan company? ( the reverse of the above) ... These are the two companies, and of these two the ariyan company has the pre-eminence".

 PTS Gradual Sayings, Vol I, page 67. [AN i, 71]. Translated by F. L.Woodward.

 Woodward says in note (1) "Comy. distinguishes these as "that of ariyan disciples" and "that of the manyfolk" (puthujjanas)."

 So one group of monks - the ordinary men - does not understand the four noble truths, but the other group - the noble disciples - does understand. The four noble truths can be understood in two quite different ways. The monks who are ordinary men understand in the lower way, so they think that they have fully understood, but they have not. Only noble disciples really understand the four noble truths, by seeing the higher way to understand them.

 But this requires that the four noble truths be constructed in such a way as to allow these two interpretations. This is very difficult and since priority is given to the lower teaching, the result is that the higher teaching is obscured.

 These two ways to understand the four noble truths leads to two quite different interpretations of the entire teachings.

 Best wishes, Vincent.

Offline pickledpitbull

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2010, 09:10:41 pm »
I find nothing unusual about this, actually.  In my work I tend to explain things to co-workers (insiders) one way and customers (outsiders) another.

I think it goes back to not having to repeat yourself.  For the layman, the Buddha was usually starting from the beginning.  For the noble disciple he was able to build upon other teachings - kind of like Chem 101 and Organics.
You've been taught that there is something wrong with you and that you are imperfect, but there isn't and you're not.


~ Cheri Huber

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2010, 10:46:30 pm »

According to my Wiki: 
Quote
Hence the approximate date of the parinibbana is between 485 and 481 BC - which accords well with the Mahayana dating of 483 BC.[1]
.....which, since he lived to be 80 would have him born between 401 and 405 BC.

Socrates:  469 BC - 399 BC

Oops!  Guess the earlier user of the Socratic method was Socrates.  ( It only seems fair. )  Thanks for pointing that out.   >:D<


Many laypersons were transformed from a state of ignorance to a state of deep understanding based upon Buddhas Socratic method of questioning perfected long before the birth of Socrates ...

Socrates was estimated to have lived between 469 BC and 399 BC.  It is not certain when the Buddha lived, but their lives probably overlapped.  From Wikipedia, "The time of his birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE; more recently, however, at a specialist symposium on this question, the majority of those scholars who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death, with others supporting earlier or later dates."  Just saying.  :namaste:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline vinasp

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2010, 11:57:44 am »
Hi everyone,

 To expand point 3 - this is the text:

 10. "Again a noble disciple considers thus : ' is there any other recluse or brahmin outside possessed of a view such as I possess?"
 "He understands thus : 'there is no other recluse or brahmin outside possessed of a view such as I possess'. This is the third knowledge attained by him that is noble, supramundane, not shared by ordinary people."

 A modified version of the translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi in Middle Length Discourses. MN 48, page 422.

 The terms "recluse" and "brahmin" are often used to refer to bhikkhus. So this passage can be understood in two ways. One can take "outside" to mean outside the Buddhist order, or one can understand it to mean outside the inner circle. Both interpretations make sense.

 Best wishes, Vincent.


Offline vinasp

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2010, 12:02:05 pm »
Hi everyone,

 On point 4. This is the passage:

 "Pray, lord, if an ariyan disciple is in every way, altogether, in every respect and utterly, without the four limbs of stream-winning, can he in such a case be called ' an ariyan disciple who lives remiss' ?"
 "Of such an one, Nandiya, who ... utterly lacks the four limbs of stream-winning, I declare him to be one who stands without, in the ranks of the manyfolk".

 PTS Kindred Sayings, Vol V, page 341. [ SN V, 397].

Notes:
1. Ariyan disciple = noble disciple = ariya savaka.
2. Manyfolk = ordinary men = puthujjanas.

 Of the four limbs of stream-winning it is said: "Blessed with these four things, monks, the ariyan disciple is a stream-winner ..."
 PTS Kindred Sayings, Vol V, page 298. [ SN V, 344].

 Best wishes, Vincent.


 

Offline some1

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #21 on: January 04, 2010, 08:50:14 pm »
Hi overmyhead,

 Yes, I agree with everything you say. Those parts of the teachings which are deep and profound are not easily understood. However, I think that the teachings were composed with the intention of concealing certain things. Why else would they use the special "Dhamma language" as Buddhadasa calls it?
 Is it your understanding that there was no such intention to conceal?

 Best wishes, Vincent.
This might be an issue of how different traditions understand the Dharma. I was taught that there are no secret teachings, that nothing is obscure. I am aware that other traditions believe that Buddha was intentionally obscure, intentionally concealing certain things.
These three things, O monks, are conducted in secrecy, not openly. What three? Affairs with women, the hymns of the brahmins and a wrong view. But these three things, O monks, shine openly, not in secrecy. What three? The disc of the moon, the disc of the sun, and the Dhamma and Discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata. (AN:Tikanipātapāḷi:Tatiyapaṇṇāsakaṃ:Kusināravaggo:Paṭicchannasuttaṃ) -- "Numerical Discourses of the Buddha by Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi", Page 77
« Last Edit: January 04, 2010, 10:27:24 pm by some1, Reason: quoted the earlier posts »

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2010, 03:58:59 am »
The following was excerpted from:

Everyman's Ethics
Four Discourses of the Buddha
adapted from the translations of
Narada Thera
© 1995–2010
Access to Insight.Org

Quote
"How then, Lord, should the six quarters be worshipped in the discipline of the noble? It is well, Lord, if the Exalted One would teach the doctrine to me showing how the six quarters should be worshipped in the discipline of the noble."

"Well, young householder, listen and bear it well in mind; I shall speak." — "Very good, Lord," responded young Sigala.

And the Exalted One spoke as follows:

...."Inasmuch, young householder, as the noble disciple (1) has eradicated the four vices in conduct, [1] (2) inasmuch as he commits no evil action in four ways, (3) inasmuch as he pursues not the six channels for dissipating wealth, he thus, avoiding these fourteen evil things, covers the six quarters, and enters the path leading to victory in both worlds: he is favored in this world and in the world beyond. Upon the dissolution of the body, after death, he is born in a happy heavenly realm."....
 


reference:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/narada/wheel014.html

Suggest reading entire sutta.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Is Early Buddhism an esoteric system?
« Reply #23 on: February 27, 2010, 06:24:25 am »
The teachings have intentionally been made obscure and difficult to understand.

I've read quite a lot of suttas and I'm not sure what you're basing this view on.  My impression is that the Buddha taught in a straightforward way.  I see the references to the ordinary man and noble disciple as straightforward descriptions of people who don't practice dharma and people who do.

Spiny

 


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