Modern Thai Forest Buddhism may not be Buddhasasana

I was reading Dhammawheel forum posts and then I encountered this quote:

"The original heart/mind shines like pure, clear water with the sweetest taste. But if the heart is pure, is our practice over? No, we must not cling even to this purity. We must go beyond all duality, all concepts, all bad, all good, all pure, all impure. We must go beyond self and nonself, beyond birth and death. When we see with the eye of wisdom, we know that the true Buddha is timeless, unborn, unrelated to any body, any history, any image. Buddha is the ground of all being, the realization of the truth of the unmoving mind.” - Ajahn Chah

Is this in-line with the teachings of Gotama Buddha our Master as preserved in the Pāli Tipitaka canon?

I think “original mind” term is getting more and more popular among Buddhist communities.

And did the Buddha said “Self” and “Nonself” are something that we need to go beyond? This might just means that we need to attain the understanding of “Self” and “Nonself” and then only go beyond. What is that “beyond”?

If that’s Nibbana, aren’t Nibbāna is nonself too? Is Nibbāna a thing that we need to go beyond?

2 Likes

I’m not sure why The Thai Forest tradition is so popular, I can barely get myself to read your quotes, let alone a whole book. I don’t think I have ever finished an Ajahn Chah book.

He was supposedly a scholar but I don’t really see his books having many quoted material.

3 Likes

They certainly have their own opinions and they may be wrong sometimes, saying stupid stuff even, (honestly you will find this in all traditions) but I wouldn’t go as far as putting them into a category outside the Buddha Sasana.
But that’s just my opinion

1 Like

It depends on how they do ordinations. If they reject the commentary and cut corners in Sīma, then they are outside. It is the ordination that makes one Theravada, but one can be sanctioned for spreading wrong dhamma and curruptong families. It never happens. Not even to Ajahn Brahamavamso. He was unofficially kicked out but not with Pali vinayakamma. His monks are considered outsiders in the Ajahn Chah Thai Forest Tradition.

Dhammayut is notorious for excluding monks from the food line and patimokkha. The outside monk can collect food after last dhammayut monk but before samanera. Ajahn Chah forest tradition (in Thailand only) excludes others for ~ 3 months.

Ajhan Sujato believes that ordinations can be done in English with 3 Mahayana and 2 Theravada. This type of stuff will put them outside by default.

Supposedly this is what happened.to Mahayana. Supposedly, they never did an official act to split, but the ordinations were done in Mandarin. There is also another line added . This is the whole controversy for Bhikkhuni ordinations. See my blog article on it.

At Paauk, Mahayana are not considered sangha and although most of them use money illegally, “their donations are still green”. (We will accept). We cannot do that with Theravada monks making offerings with their own nissaggi money.

4 Likes

No. Nonself/anatta is a law of existence, about the worldlings.
Recall two Pali terms: Sankhata Asankhata.
Anatta is related to Sankhata, the nature of suffering and the cause of suffering. Anatta is synonymous to dukkha - anicca dukkha anatta.
Anatta is not related to Nibbana.

Nibbana is free of good and bad, kusala and akusala, which are the driver of kamma/causality. One who sees Nibbana also sees true Buddha, true Dhamma and true Sangha because only the Arya-puggala/Noble person can attain relief/release/Nibbana.
The True Buddha attained Nibbana. We should keep that in mind constantly. But there are Buddhists seeing him and feeling as if He’s here on earth, as statue, as stupa, etc. That’s not incorrect, in terms of merit-doing although such doing is egoistic/self-related if nibbana is not the aim.

I should say Ajan-Chah is correct.

6 posts were merged into an existing topic: Sabbe saṅkhārā anattā or Sabbe dhamma anattā?

I read some Ajahn Cha writings and there were parts I didn’t agree with and many parts that I really liked.

I sometimes read writings even by Zen people and can find accounts that are useful.
It can actually increase confidence and discernment as there can be more understanding of where they are right and where they are wrong.

16 posts were merged into an existing topic: Sabbe saṅkhārā anattā or Sabbe dhamma anattā?

Here is the refutation for such heresy:

Dhammaniyama sutta:
Taṁ Tathāgato abhisambujjhati abhisameti. Abhisambujjhitvā abhisametvā ācikkhati deseti, paññapeti paṭṭhappeti, vivarati vibhajati uttānī-karoti: ‘Sabbe dhammā anattāti.’”
https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/ChantingGuide/Section0033.html

Culasaccaka Sutta:
Rūpaṁ, bhikkhave, anattā, vedanā anattā, saññā anattā, saṅkhārā anattā, viññāṇaṁ anattā. Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā, sabbe dhammā anattā’ti.
https://suttacentral.net/mn35/pli/ms?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=asterisk&highlight=false&script=latin

Uppādāsuttaṃ:
Uppādā vā, bhikkhave, tathāgatānaṃ anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā. sabbe dhammā anattā.
https://suttacentral.net/an3.136/pli/ms?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=asterisk&highlight=false&script=latin

Theragatha-atthakata: Dasakanipato - (apara)-gotamattheragāthāvaṇṇanā:
Sammāsambuddho pana “Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā, sabbe dhammā anattā, santaṃ nibbāna”nti sayambhūñāṇena yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāya pavedeti, tasmā “Tassa vādo niyyāniko”ti

Dhammapada (279):
Sabbe dhammā anattā ti, yadā paññāya passati;
atha nibbindati dukkhe, esa maggo visuddhiyā.
https://tipitaka.fandom.com/wiki/Dhammapada_Verses_277,278_and_279-_Aniccalakkhana_Vatthu,_Dukkhalakkhana_Vatthu,_Anattalakkhana_Vatthu
Dp-pics_page432_image279r (1)

These alone refuted your ill-founded scripture doubt.

Next, to refute your doctrinal heresy… the first two stanzas used Sabbe Saṅkhara is to show all fabrications, be it done by the body, speech or mind, are all impermanent (Anicca) and bound to unsatisfactories (Dukkha). Both referred to Sankhata Dhamma only.

But the third stanza used “Sabbe Dhammā” is to show all phenomena, which included both Sankhata Dhamma & Asankhata Dhamma (aka Saupādisesā ca nibbānadhātu, anupādisesā ca nibbānadhātu), are not to be regarded as “self”.

By this, the Blessed One clearly showed the three marks of character of all, complete and well-preached.

1 Like

This exchange is relevant:

Q: Is this mind you are talking about called the ‘Original Mind’?

Ajahn Chah: What do you mean?

Q: It seems as if you are saying there is something else outside of the conventional body-mind (five khanda). Is there something else? What do you call it?

Ajahn Chah: There isn’t anything and we don’t call it anything – that’s all there is to it! Be finished with all of it. Even the knowing doesn’t belong to anybody, so be finished with that, too! Consciousness is not an individual, not a being, not a self, not an other, so finish with that – finish with everything! There is nothing worth wanting! It’s all just a load of trouble. When you see clearly like this then everything is finished.

-Q and A with Ajahn Chah from Seeing the Way.

And some selections from On the Nature of Nibbana by the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw.
:

About the Nature of Nibbāna
In the Pāḷi text of the Udāna the following passage occurs relating what Buddha uttered in triumph in relation to the nature of nibbāna. This utterance has been incorporated into the Canon as the Nibbāna-paṭisaṃyutta udāna.

“Atthi, bhikkhave, tadāyatanaṃ, yattha neva pathavī, na āpo, na tejo, na vāyo, na ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ, na viññāṇañ­cā­yatanaṃ, na ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ, na nevasaññā­nāsaññā­yatanaṃ, nāyaṃ loko, na paraloko, na ubho candimasūriyā. Tatrāpāhaṃ, bhikkhave, neva āgatiṃ vadāmi, na gatiṃ, na ṭhitiṃ, na cutiṃ, na upapattiṃ; appatiṭṭhaṃ, appavattaṃ, anārammaṇamevetaṃ. Esevanto dukkhassā”ti. (Udāna v 71)

“Monks! There is that base that has no elements of earth, water, fire, and air. It is neither the realm of Infinity of Space, nor the realm of Infinity of Consciousness, nor the realm of Nothingness, nor the realm of Neither Perception nor Non-perception. It is neither this world nor other worlds. No moon nor sun shines there. Here, monks, I say there is no going or coming. It has no foothold or residence. It is deathless, unborn, and unformed. It has no abode. Nothing ever occurs there. It has no sense-objects. It is the end of suffering.”

Nibbāna is Real
Since nibbāna means the cessation of mind, matter, and mental formations, suggestions have often been put forward that it signifies nothing and is thus useless. However, nibbāna is absolute reality, the reality of the nullification of the activities of mind, matter, and mental formations to which the knowledge of the Path, Fruition, and reviewing (paccavekkhaṇa) is inclined. It is the mind-object to which this knowledge is directed. Buddhas, Arahants, and Noble Ones vouch for the truth of its reality. For the sake of argument, let us say that there is no nibbāna where all the cycles of defilement, actions, and results cease. Then no one in this Universe can find peace. In the absence of nibbāna, defilement will play havoc with our lives to produce action, which will bring about results, which will create conditions for the arising of a new group of aggregates attended by suffering. It is only the Path and its Fruition that can exterminate defilements, and this extermination will bring the cycle of suffering to an end. This cessation of suffering is real. Buddhas and Arahants actually reach this stage, and after their parinibbāna all sufferings come to an end.

No Primary Elements in Nibbāna
In nibbāna there are no element of earth or solidity, no element of water or fluidity, no element of fire or thermal energy, and no element of air or motive force that can usually be met with in the world of the senses, such as the world of men and devas, or in the world of Form, such as the world of corporeal brahmas, etc. Possessing solidity, men, devas, and brahmas assume shapes and forms. Cessation means the end of such shapes and forms that possess mass. In the absence of mass, there are no elements of fluidity, thermal energy, and motive force.

Matter is Non-existent in Nibbāna
In the absence of the four primary elements there can be no derived materiality (upāda rūpa) formed by these four elements, for instance, the eye and the sight, the ear and the sound, etc. Since they are absent there will be no phenomena of seeing, hearing, etc., which occur in the sensual realm as sense-sphere consciousness and in the Form Sphere as form-sphere consciousness.

Consider this: without eyes one cannot see, without ears one cannot hear, without nose one cannot smell, without tongue one cannot taste, and without body one cannot get the sensation of touch. The physical sense bases are the seat of sensation, or the five sense organs that form the bases of consciousness. Devoid of the organs of sense, consciousness cannot arise. In the world of the brahmas, only the eye-base (cakkhu pasāda) and ear-base (sota pasāda) exist — nose-base (ghāna pasāda), tongue-base (jivhā pasāda), and body-base (kāya pasāda) being absent. So brahmas may possess noses and tongues in rudimentary forms or bodies or masses in great dimensions, but they do not know what smell is, what taste is, or what bodily impression is. However, there is the seat of consciousness usually called the heart-base (hadaya vatthu), in all sentient beings, whether celestial or human. So in these three realms, thought, knowledge, and absorptions can occur.

As I have said, as there are no primary elements in nibbāna, all matter dependent on these four elements are non-existent. Because of the absence of matter, there is no consciousness appertaining to the realm of the senses or to the realm of form — as, for instance, the first jhānic consciousness. For brevity’s sake I will discuss only about mind (citta), but whenever mind is mentioned one must remember it is accompanied by mental concomitants (cetasikā). Now the question arises whether in nibbāna there are still extant consciousness that arises without depending on matter as, for example, formless consciousness.

Absence of Formless Consciousness
Here, the text is also very explicit about the absence of formless sphere consciousness in nibbāna, whether it be consciousness appertaining to the abode of the Infinity of Space, or to the abode of the Infinity of Consciousness, or to the abode of Nothingness, or to the abode of Neither Perception nor Non-perception. In the realm of the Infinity of Space, rebirth-linking begins with the advent of consciousness relating to kamma result, mind and mental concomitants. For ordinary people, during the course of existence between rebirth-linking and death, wholesome or unwholesome consciousness, together with their concomitants arise. When such ordinary people are duly trained in the Dhamma they are known as trainees (sekkha).

Such trainees may become Arahants when they are reborn in the realm of the infinity of Space. In that case, only wholesome and functional consciousness arise together with their respective concomitants, but matter is absent there. Only mind and mental concomitants — all in a state of flux — are present. In that realm all phenomena are psychical. It just occurs to me that psychic beings need no food, clothing, or shelter, but it is usual for artists to depict this realm and others of the Formless Sphere as having palaces and mansions. However, in nibbāna they will be superfluous, as in nibbāna there is neither mind or matter.

Today non-Buddhists have become highly interested in space, but the space they have in mind is space in the physical sense. They may not be able to assimilate the idea of the existence of the realm of Infinity of Space, but the Buddha clearly differentiates the realm of mind and its constituents together with its state of absorptions from the realm of no-mind where all its concomitants and absorptions are nullified. A meditator who concentrates his or her mind on the rise and fall of the aggregates can aspire to reach the stage of knowledge of equanimity about formations. If he or she reaches that stage, he or she would feel the disappearance of the physical self, experiencing only a stream of consciousness that floats in space. As his or her knowledge progresses, this stream will become clearer and clearer. Strictly speaking, this is not absorption on Infinity of Space, but it is an insight akin to that absorption.

From the foregoing it may also be adduced that there is no consciousness and its concomitant appertaining to the realm of Infinity of Consciousness, and the same may be said of consciousness and its concomitant appertaining to the realm of Nothingness, and of Neither Perception nor Non-perception. The highest plane of existence is where perception is so subtle that it can be described as an intermediate stage between perception and non-perception. Equally subtle are contact, feeling, consciousness, and mental formations — concomitants of the mind that can be met with in that realm. In nibbāna such subtleties of the mind are entirely absent.

Those lacking confidence in the Dhamma and unable to realise the attainment of jhāna or ecstatic meditation (samāpatti), dispute all teachings relating to the realms of existence just described. What such sceptics should do is to practise insight meditation as taught by the Buddha. If they do they will attain jhāna that belongs to the realm of Neither Perception nor Non-perception, and realise for themselves the difference between the jhānic state in the Formless Sphere and nibbāna where such a state becomes redundant. It is futile to reject jhāna and nibbāna without any practical investigation.

Absence of Mind and Matter in Nibbāna
In nibbāna there are no such things as mind or mental concomitants, which can be met with in the sense-sphere or form-sphere. It naturally follows that mind and matter that belong to the thirty-one planes of existence are totally absent in nibbāna. However, some would like to propose that after the parinibbāna of the Buddha and the Arahants, they acquire a special kind of mind and matter in nibbāna. Such an extraordinary way of thinking may appeal to those who cannot do away with self or ego.

With regard to this proposition a learned Sayādaw reasoned that if there is a special kind of mind and matter in nibbāna, there must also be a special kind of rebirth which gives rise to a special kind of old age, disease, and death, which in turn bring about a special kind of sorrow, lamentation, suffering, distress, and despair. When the teachings explicitly say cessation, it will be improper to go beyond it and formulate an idea of a special kind of existence. Extinction points to nothing other than Nothingness. Nibbāna, which is not involved in mind and matter, cannot be made to get involved either in this world or in other worlds.

Nibbāna is Beyond All Realms
Hence the text says, “nāyaṃ loko, na paraloko,” which means “neither in this world nor in other worlds.” In the absence of matter there can be no concept of darkness; and in the absence of the concept of darkness, there can be no concept of light. Hence in nibbāna there is no sun nor moon. Where no new bodies of the aggregates arise there can be no darkness or light. Yet the question might arise whether it is possible for sentient beings to come to nibbāna in the way that beings from the lower realms come to the human world, or beings from the human world come to the world of devas. However, in nibbāna there are no such comings. The usual term to describe the realisation of nibbāna is that the Buddhas and Arahants “enter” nibbāna, or specifically, anupādisesanibbāna. This does not mean the arrival of new aggregates, but the cutting off of the flow of mind and matter that causes existence. It is the complete extinction of aggregates; and this extinction is recognised as anupādisesanibbāna. It is not a place where beings make their landing from other planes of existence.

No one goes out or gets transported from nibbāna to other planes of existence either. Beings with wholesome kammas depart this human world for the world of devas; and those from heaven might also come down to earth as human beings. Those with unwholesome kammas might prefer going down to the lower realms. In nibbāna there is no such coming and going.
-Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, On the Nature of Nibbana

Attributes of Nibbāna

Nibbāna Has No Mass
It is often asked whether the Buddhas and Arahants exist as individuals in nibbāna. There is no mass in nibbāna. As it is not built up with a special kind of matter or mind, it cannot be looked upon as a mountain peopled by individuals, standing solidly across the firmament, like heaven or earth.

Nibbāna is Deathless and Birthless
In the thirty-one planes of existence one is born to die and be reborn to die again. Nibbāna is deathless and birthless. In the world of devas and brahmas, birth means sudden appearance, and death means sudden disappearance. Nibbāna is the cessation of all aggregates. In such a cessation there is neither appearance nor disappearance.
-Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, On the Nature of Nibbana

Nibbāna Offers No Sense-objects
In the absence of mind, matter, consciousness, concomitants, etc., There can be no sense-objects, and in the absence of sense-objects no opportunities arise for mental formations to play their part. Nibbāna means the end of suffering. Since there are no primary elements and no mind and matter, everything ceases, and this cessation means eternal peace. All sufferings end.
-Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, On the Nature of Nibbana

1 Like

Is any existing modern tradition of Buddhism in line with “original” buddhism as defined by the suttas and commentaries? Im pretty sure most all of them deviate in one way or the other. Its more just that some deviate more than others.

2 Likes

Unless we are ariyapuggala, we all hold wrong-views. Study and practice should be done to straighten out wrong-views, which is the wholesome deed of diṭṭhūjukamma.

I find all these topics pointing out the faults in other traditions or exalting one’s own tradition to be unconstructive and harmful to some.

It is better to focus on the good in others. One should reflect on The Simile of the Good House.

1 Like

As far as I can tell I have good trust in the suttas and Commentaries. I have many friends who do too- see my recent thread about my trip to Bangkok.
If a teacher deviates from the tradition or is in conflict with the Commentary then that would be a red flag for me although I could still appreciate, possibly, the parts of their teaching that is useful.

Basically, when you ask this question, you are distrusting what we have and then you are on the quest for Buddhavajana (Ajahn Kukrit), EBT Ajahn Sujato, ven Ariyadhammika, ven Analayo, etc.
suttacentral and dhammawheel are better groups for this quest.

There is not such thing as modern group… because it is seeking to find only the oldest which is impossible to know and just makes one roam in the doubt realms.

Classical Theravada does not concern itself with these fringe groups.

1 Like

I suppose thats true. but considering that existing Buddhist schools often differ from each other in one way or the other its logical to conclude that all of them are wrong to a certain extent. In the same way that it is reasonable to have a degree of distrust in the accuracy of the suttas and commentaries considering that different schools of Buddhism have different texts that differ on various points. Although I do trust classical theravada texts the most I dont see any reason to think of them as flawless records and that it is only the other dozen or so sets of texts that had any errors in them.

I trust the theravada suttas and commentaries and the Buddhist schools that follow them (which is like what, 90% of existing Theravada schools in Asia?) but see no reason to think of any Buddhist tradition or text as infallible, including Thai forest. It is also not right to call thai forest not Buddhasasana when 95-96% of what they believe lines up pretty well with the suttas and commentaries. Especially when compared to the fringe groups like EBT as you stated.

True, not all of them follow the Sasana as intended by the Buddha. Seeing them should not make you think there aren’t any monk or any monastery not following the exact Sasana: Dhamma Vinaya.

Unlike Suttanta, and EBT I think that classical theravāda (which is the majority) is more focused on looking at what is correct rather than pointing out what might be wrong. There is just too much good stuff to sort through first.

Please know that the paṭibhāga nimitta arises when there are no faults (because they are ignored).
The rest of the world who do not see this nimitta would technically be “fault finders”.

1 Like

Bhante, there are monks who do not criticise others but focusing on their works. They even practice dutanga - minimum contact with the society. They live according to Buddha Sasana and Sangha Sasana. Yet they would correct wrong views and misinformation about the Dhamma, the Sasana.

1 Like

I was more getting at, different traditions contradict each other, therefore they cant all be the true Sasana. Similar to the, every religion cant be right since they contradict each other argument.

At most one can be the true sasana and every other tradition is not. However, just because they dont line up 100% doesnt mean they are wrong, most existing buddhist traditions line up with the suttas and commentaries upwards of 90% of the time and are in that sense “right”.

Realistically i dont think any existing tradition is 100% right, so theyre all wrong, or all right depending on how you look at it.

But yes, as Bhante Subhuti pointed out, the theyre all wrong mindset tends to be more common in the modern textualist movements, which makes sense since their whole speal is these large bodies of texts are all wrong/fake and only the ones here are right/legitimate.

1 Like

The Buddha established Dhamma and Sangha as His Sasana/Teaching.

He clearly explains Dhamm and Sangha. Dhamma is for the Sangha and vice versa. The Buddha taught what are essential for Sangha to attain liberation/Nibbana. The Buddha did not waste time with non-essential.

Monks are the Sangha. Ariyas are Ariya Sangha. Monks should follow the Dhamma and train, as established by the Buddha. Sure there are branches. Sunlun Sayadaw advised monks are supposed to ignore the branches and take the trunk of the Sasana, as established by the Buddha.

But whoever wholeheartedly training in the Sasana is a true Buddhist, a true follower of the Buddha. Intention is the essential element.

Everyone may practice in Sasana as much as they can, as much as they should. Not everyone will become the same.

Good to read
VI.Panditavagga
Verse 076 and the rest

VII.Arahantavagga
Verse 090 and the rest

VIII.Sahassavagga
Verse 100 and the rest

XXVI.Brahmanavagga
Verse 383 and the rest