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 [Dhamma Talk]


The Mad Hatter's Teaparty


There is a statement made frequently in the suttas that a person holding wrong view, grasping it tightly, not letting it go easily, if he does not let that view go beforehand has the expectation of only two destinies at the breakup of the six sense-spheres at death: rebirth as an animal or in hell.[1] I have often wondered exactly what mechanism was involved in that. How it comes about.

The other night I had a vision while sitting which showed me how it comes about. I had asked myself about a certain beggar with whom I had been corresponding: "What is to happen with this fellow, believing as he does, hanging on tightly as he does to a wrong idea of Gotama's Dhamma?"

What I saw was a vision of him reaching up into a mass of flames cascading down on him from above. Every time he reached up the flames tore into him stripping off parts. The more he reached the more the flames shredded him into pieces and the pieces would turn into flames with his face looking out from the flame as he experienced the horrors and woes of pain they have in Niraya.

It is because he has, as the simile has it, grasped the Dragon by the wrong end.

He, and unfortunately what appears to be a growing number of individuals are of a school. They begin their study of the Dhamma with the preconception that it teaches a doctrine aimed at correcting the wrongs of the world. They hear that the Buddha, Buddhism, teaches compassion, and understanding 'compassion' the way they have always understood 'compassion' they think that they have received a mandate to re-write the Dhamma according to their understanding.

They are each characterized by this phenomena: they have begun to study the suttas and before they have a mature understanding of the suttas (most before even they have finished reading the suttas!) they have begun to rewrite what they continuously encounter and believe to be 'mistakes' in the Dhamma.

As a consequence of their writing they achieve a small notoriety which confirms to them that they are discovering the real meaning of the Dhamma so they are motivated to continue reading in the Dhamma. The more they read, the more 'mistakes' they will find and the more subject matter they will have for their corrections, for their discourses, and to feed their followers.

Their trifling fame flames their efforts, their efforts strip away all avenues of approach to what it is that is really being taught in the Dhamma.

They reach up into the Dhamma and see something that contradicts their thinking and letting go what they see, they create a doctrine that conforms to their belief. Bit by bit they rip themselves off from the true Dhamma and create a wrong Dhamma which they teach and become only to face the reality that a doctrine that attempts to right the wrongs of the world is destined to fail and frustrate the aims of anyone who believes it to be possible. Unable to face the hopelessness of their practice and it's failures they ever more deeply cling to the 'rightness' of their view and the errors of those who think differently.

Bit by bit they piece together a mirror image of the Dhamma and with each new bit make it more difficult to extract themselves, reverse course. And they lead their loyal followers down a painful path.

What you need to do if you find yourself tempted to go down this path, is to stop and think for a minute. Put aside your pre-conception in the case of this Dhamma and allow for the possibility that there may be something new in the world for you to learn. Allow for the possibility that it may be necessary for you to undergo a 180° turn ... or maybe more than one. The approach is not that difficult. When you catch yourself saying 'This cannot be correct,' or 'this just doesn't feel right' stop and deliberately adopt the stand that you will keep an open mind and assume that it is correct and try and see how it is correct rather than how it must be wrong. Continually making the effort to see how what is being said is correct from 'another point of view' will eventually result in a mirror view exactly similar to the wrong mirror view created by attempting to re-write the Dhamma. There will emerge a whole new possible perspective on seeing this world. At that time you will be able to make a rational choice as to whether you want to disgard your old view and adopt this new one. Or not.

Today I read on a certain beggar's blog an extremely long and completely backward description of the meaning of vitakka and vicara based on unproven and unprovable assumption after unproven and unprovable assumption. He cannot see in his argument the contradictions in his very argument (throughout the Suttas Vitakka and Vicara are used for 'thinking' — he even admits that this is the case, but in the Jhanas, it cannot mean that because the jhanas couldn't be accomplished with thinking ... an assumption that he knows what jhana is ... and, of course, he excludes from the discussion the discussion of what jhana is! But, also, of course, that does not prevent him from stating what he thinks is jhana as being, 'after all' what the Buddha 'simply taught') let alone the way his conclusion contradicts the real aim of the Dhamma.

In a word, he is unable to see jhana practice as a practice which begins in this real world and by a process of elimination arrives at complete detachment. He states, as do others, that it cannot be that jhana has in it, 'thinking'. But we do think in this real world, and Gotama, in his very careful descriptions of everything on this path would not have left out the step that goes from thinking to not thinking.

Gotama has, in fact, included that step. In the first jhana there is thinking and in the second thinking is to be let go.

First Jhana:
He, thus separated from sense pleasures,
separated from unskilled things,
with thinking,
with pondering,
there comes the solitude-born entheusiastic-pleasure
inhabiting The First Burning Knowledge

Second Jhana:
Again, friends, deeper than that, to a beggar,
thinking, pondering calmed,
become one with an inwardly tranquill heart,
not thinking,
not pondering,
there comes the serenity-born entheusiastic-pleasure
inhabiting The Second Burning Knowledge.

But because these seekers have grasped the dragon by the wrong end and see the practice of the system as a practice of worldly involvement, they see jhana practice as a 'getting' not a 'letting go'. So they cannot imagine a process of 'less and less' even when it is right in front of their eyes as it is in the descriptions of the first and second jhanas.

This is the question: What is to be done about this? It looks like a trend. It looks like a growing trend. One can imagine this trend completely taking over the popular conception of what it is that is Buddhism. This is especially the case where, as here, the doctrine being created is virtually identical to the existing doctrine held by the people here, that is, Christianity.



Before my mind's eye
there pass the the faces of men
and I see
and I hear sounds near and far:

This is the sound of little bells,
and beyond —
that is the sound of a big drum.

In the same way as if a man,
traveling along the Highway
were to hear the sound of a big drum
or a little drum
or cymbals
or little bells,
he would be able to say:

'That is the sound of a big drum.'
'That is the sound of a little drum.'
'That is the sound of cymbals.'
'That is the sound of little bells.'

I hear little bells
and beyond —
I hear a big drum
and I know:
there is no stopping Mara's Army on the march.



One can imagine getting quite upset about this. Thinking of doing something about it one can imagine a path of confrontation.



Perhaps even advocating the use of lies, deception and entrapment in order to root out the infidel!

Off with their heads!

And there we see we will have met the enemy and it is us.

That is not the way, This is The Way: Let it go.

If someone asks: So and so says this about the Dhamma, is this representing what Gotama said or is it a misrepresentation, we can respond: This is a misrepresentation. Gotama did not say this, advocate this. And one may point out what Gotama did in fact say, did in fact advocate. That's as far as we can go without ourselves abandoning the Dhamma as taught by Gotama.

Otherwise we should understand that this is a world that is a work of the imagination and the imagination knows no limits and in a thing without limits all possibilities will occur and here we have one of the more unfortunate of those possibilities being acted out in front of our eyes and we must refrain from the impulse to try and right this wrong by messing with the world unasked and in a way not in accordance with Dhamma and simply watch the show.

That is the practice.
Practicing is teaching by example.
Seeing the practice as it is actually lived is the only way people can see that it can be done in a way that does not require blind trust.

Teaching by example is compassion as it really is.

Say I.



PS: I think I have been careful here. This is not a confrontation. This is what I think about the doctrines of some well-intentioned people who are taking a painful path, leading other people astray, teaching a Dhamma that is not the Dhamma taught by The Buddha while claiming that it is, putting themselves above The Buddha and putting Gotama below themselves and by that marching in Mara's army.


[1] See AN 2.27

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