Hello! Welcome to the Awakening to Reality blog.

For all new to Awakening to Reality blog, I highly recommend reading the 'Must Read' articles on the right panel, such as 


If you are interested in realizing and actualizing these insights, do read the following (free) e-books:

1) The Awakening to Reality Practice Guide by Nafis Rahman:

  • Update: Portuguese translation now available here

2) The Awakening to Reality Guide - Web Abridged Version by Pablo Pintabona and Nafis Rahman:

Special thanks to these individuals for their efforts in making these compilations. I trust they will greatly benefit spiritual aspirants.

3) The Awakening to Reality Guide - Original Version compiled by Soh:

  • Feedback:  "I also want to say, actually the main ATR document >1200 pages helped me the most with insight. I am not sure how many have the patience to read it. I did it twice 😂 it was so helpful and these Mahamudra books supported ATR insights. Just thought to share.", "To be honest, the document is ok [in length], because it’s by insight level. Each insight is like 100 plus pages except anatta [was] exceptionally long [if] I remember lol. If someone read and contemplate at the same time it’s good because the same point will repeat again and again like in the nikayas [traditional Buddhist scriptures in the Pali canon] and insight should arise by the end of it imo.", "A 1000 plus pages ebook written by a serious practitioner Soh Wei Yu that took me a month to read each time and I am so grateful for it. It’s a huge undertaking and I have benefitted from it more that I can ever imagine. Please read patiently."  - Yin Ling


In response to someone's question in the thread https://www.facebook.com/groups/AwakeningToReality/posts/25213616491586443/?__cft__[0]=AZXkHSYlt0_3clNUX1ISUZkTb00AWIr5o6iHYR-Zb_6j9P-tFwql-mzbotFKgjq3z7atolRc3PcS4gHaYdfFuzjWM-59vtruRXAr0mBlmc0kbbUP5BV-0qU2vhMjIJcTCyfFj65HS4FO_8814BpM-OSY&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R]-R


First of all before I get into the main part of your questions, I just wanna mention a little about fetter model. Atr model actually doesnt emphasize fetter model. But I have to bring up fetter model, or rather correct people's misunderstandings of it from time to time in response to situations because of the questions and pervasive misunderstanding of the path, including the nature of stream entry (often misunderstood or mistaken as some sort of black out vacuum states or some other lesser insights before anatta and so on) or perhaps people thinking realisation of anatta is the ultimate finality or the final enlightenment and so on when in fact it's just stream entry. If i do bring up fetter model, it is usually due to a particular type of question (or misunderstanding(s)) that i deem appropriate to discuss that as a response.


Although the Buddha himself taught the fetter model, his teachings also do not revolve entirely around fetter model (in the sense that he did not start every teaching with “hey sotapannas, here is how you can reach sakadagami and anagami” etc) — it focuses on the path and wisdom that ends suffering, with the fetter model being just one aspect out of his multi-faceted teachings that perhaps get mentioned only on occasions. The fetter model is not listed among my almost 20 “must read articles” on the atr blog. It is however good to understand the fetter model correctly and it often is tied to understanding the four noble truths and the soteriological purpose of dharma. Hence one article that John Tan and I liked a lot written by someone on reddit is included in the Insightful Materials section of the blog - https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2020/08/insight-buddhism-reconsideration-of.html "The Meaning of Stream Entry"

But if people ask me about AtR, will I tell them to start by reading about stream entry? Nope (unless they have a Theravada background). I will usually tell them to first read these two articles:

Thusness/PasserBy's Seven Stages of Enlightenment - https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html

On Anatta (No-Self), Emptiness, Maha and Ordinariness, and Spontaneous Perfection - https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2009/03/on-anatta-emptiness-and-spontaneous.html

And then proceed to read the AtR practice guide.

And if I feel that the person has already realized the I AM, I will also tell them to read this: Buddha Nature is NOT "I Am" - https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2007/03/mistaken-reality-of-amness.html

The key in AtR is not fetter model or bhumi model or whatever. It is rather to distinguish, penetrate deeply and integrate the View, Realization and Experience which I discussed partly in a very old article I wrote in 2011: Experience, Realization, View, Practice and Fruition - https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2011/12/experience-realization-view-practice_16.html

To keep things simple, if you are a beginner, you just need to read the Thusness 7 stages to have an overall picture and focus on the self enquiry chapter in the AtR practice guide to begin with. To realize I AM in the beginning is crucial. Atr practice guide: https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2022/06/the-awakening-to-reality-practice-guide.html

Although the 7 stages may seem many, the most crucial as John says is 1, 5 and 6. Without realizing these realizations at least, one cannot be said to have true insight into the nature and essence of mind/consciousness and phenomena crucial for liberation.

Tl/dr: Read the Thusnesss 7 Stages and also the On Anatta [etc] article, then read and practice based on the AtR Practice Guide.








https://www.amazon.com/Self-Help-Your-Nerves-overcoming-stress-ebook/dp/B06Y5V8LNB/ref=sr_1_1?dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.a7FuP960Gzkw9rUHVNgfJcTdTnfqvs33getfo74y-MbZgquxsRhgIRao27fhyLChP9GijwIPoe_PDtWXcNv39WMMEG-D4mISA8M53eBl7X7G_AoDDhGjSKU5s5-zrSApyo7ciilfSZJK6KNqmgoaLf-QYtCo6d3fwtOYrAf-60u3IF7smdGpHnyB4S6wheca-D4BMaIci3uiG--5Tq4NLcvEKFj-twEtAh9w-NiwmyM.PenB5buQCG9KaDWj93v3f0bteynSVfrlzKDoOF0rlyw&dib_tag=se&keywords=Self+Help+for+Your+Nerves+%3A+Learn+to+Relax+and+Enjoy+Life+Again+by+Overcoming+Stress+and+Fear&qid=1712853550&s=books&sr=1-1





There is a book Yin Ling shared that she found to be genuinely helpful for those suffering anxiety. Although I do not have anxiety, I trust this book will be beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety (which is very common in this day and age), and even for those who do not currently suffer from anxiety.

Based on what I've seen from the book, even though it does not teach anatta as a realization, this book leads to the energetic signature of the non-doership aspect of anatta through the practices, which is important and key for solving anxiety as John Tan said before. 

A good book.


Also, this practice can be helpful and important, should be done everyday, even if you start with just 15~20 minutes a day it can be good and beneficial:

Excerpt from “Open Mind, Open Heart” by Tsoknyi Rinpoche:


“Vase Breathing


One of the methods that helped this woman and countless others cope with emotions is a practice that helps us draw lung back to its center, or “home.” For this, we use a special breathing technique as a tool, because breath is a physical correlation to the subtle wind energy of lung.


This technique is called vase breathing, and it involves breathing even more deeply than the type of deep diaphragmatic breathing often taught in many yoga and other types of classes with which people may be familiar.


The technique itself is rather simple. First, exhale slowly and completely, collapsing the abdominal muscles as close to the spine as possible. As you slowly breathe in, imagine that you’re drawing your breath down to an area about four finger widths below your navel, just above your pubic bone. This area is shaped a bit like a vase, which is why the technique is called vase breathing. Of course, you’re not really drawing your breath down to that region, but by turning your attention there, you will find yourself inhaling a bit more deeply than usual and will experience a bit more of an expansion in the vase region.


As you continue to draw your breath in and your attention down, your lung will gradually begin to travel down there and begin to rest there. Hold your breath down in the vase region just for a few seconds - don’t wait until the need to exhale becomes urgent - then slowly breathe out again.


Just breathe slowly this way three or four times, exhaling completely and inhaling down into the vase area. After the third or fourth inhalation, try holding a little bit of your breath - maybe 10 percent - in the vase area at the end of the exhalation, focusing very lightly and gently on maintaining a bit of lung in its home place.


Try it now.


Exhale completely and then breathe slowly and gently down to the vase area three or four times, and on the last exhalation, hold a little bit of breath in the vase area. Keep this up for about ten minutes.


How did that feel?


Maybe it was a little uncomfortable. Some people have said that directing their breath in this way is difficult. Others have said that doing so gave them a sense of calmness and centeredness they’d never felt before.


Vase breathing, if practiced ten or even twenty minutes every day, can become a direct means of developing awareness of our feelings and learning how to work with them even while we’re engaged in our daily activities. When our lung is centered in its home place, our bodies, or feelings, and our thoughts gradually find a healthy balance. The horse and rider work together in a very loose and easy way, neither trying to seize control or drive the other crazy. In the process, we find that subtle body patterns associated with fear, pain, anxiety, anger, restlessness, and so on gradually loosen up, that there’s a little bit of space between the mind and the feelings.


Ultimately the goal is to be able to maintain that small bit of breath in the vase area throughout the day, during all our activities - walking, talking, eating, drinking, driving. For some people, this ability becomes automatic after only a short while of practice. For others, it may require a bit more time.


I have to admit that, even after years of practicing, I still find that I sometimes lose my connection to my home base, especially when meeting with people who are very speedy. I’m a bit of a speedy person myself, and meeting other speedy people acts as a kind of subtle body stimulus. I get caught up in their restless and displaced energy and consequently become a bit restless, nervous, and sometimes even anxious. So I take what I call a reminder breath: exhaling completely, breathing down into the vase area, and then exhaling again leaving a little bit of breath in the lung’s home.”


 John Tan:


明心还需见空性,明空性也需证妙心。


Soh’s translation:


"After apperceiving the (radiant/luminous) mind, one still needs to see the nature of emptiness; even understanding the nature of emptiness, one also needs to realize to the marvelous heart (Mind)."



----


Other relevant quotes:



“Should be recognition of radiance clarity is implied and naturally realized.


The recognition should be directly into realizing appearances as empty clarity therefore both 能所双亡 (ChatGPT translate: both subject and object are not found) as both are merely conventionally designated and dependently arise.


As 五祖 (ChatGPT translate: the Fifth Patriarch) told 慧能 (ChatGPT translate: Huineng), 不识本心 学法无益 (ChatGPT translate: Not knowing the original mind, learning the Dharma is of no benefit). Like 10 ox herding pictures, 能所双亡 (ChatGPT translate: both subject and object are not found) comes at a later phase.”

“Even when clarity is authenticated, still one got to differentiate between no-mind and anatta. Then "I" as reified construct and extend to phenomena to realized primodial purity of one's mind.”


—-


John Tan's reply on something Malcolm wrote in 2020:


“This is like what I tell you and essentially emphasizing 明心非见性. 先明心, 后见性. (Soh: Apprehending Mind is not seeing [its] Nature. First apprehend Mind, later realise [its] Nature).


First is directly authenticating mind/consciousness 明心 (Soh: Apprehending Mind). There is the direct path like zen sudden enlightenment of one's original mind or mahamudra or dzogchen direct introduction of rigpa or even self enquiry of advaita -- the direct, immediate, perception of "consciousness" without intermediaries. They are the same.


However that is not realization of emptiness. Realization of emptiness is 见性 (Soh: Seeing Nature). Imo there is direct path to 明心 (Soh: Apprehending Mind) but I have not seen any direct path to 见性 (Soh: Seeing Nature) yet. If you go through the depth and nuances of our mental constructs, you will understand how deep and subtle the blind spots are.


Therefore emptiness or 空性 (Soh: Empty Nature) is the main difference between buddhism and other religions. Although anatta is the direct experiential taste of emptiness, there is still a difference between buddhist's anatta and selflessness of other religions -- whether it is anatta by experiential taste of the dissolution of self alone or the experiential taste is triggered by wisdom of emptiness.


The former focused on selflessness and whole path of practice is all about doing away with self whereas the latter is about living in the wisdom of emptiness and applying that insight and wisdom of emptiness to all phenomena.


As for emptiness there is the fine line of seeing through inherentness of Tsongkhapa and there is the emptiness free from extremes by Gorampa. Both are equally profound so do not talk nonsense and engaged in profane speech as in terms of result, ultimately they are the same (imo).”


Dalai Lama - "Nature - there are many different levels. Conventional level, one nature. There are also, you see, different levels. Then, ultimate level, ultimate reality... so simply realise the Clarity of the Mind, that is the conventional level. That is common with Hindus, like that. So we have to know these different levels...." 


-- See more at Recognizing Rigpa vs Realizing Emptiness, and the Different Modalities of Rigpa 


-----




[20/3/24, 11:51:11 PM] John Tan: Currently u r just practicing natural opening of radiance right?

[20/3/24, 11:56:50 PM] Soh Wei Yu: mostly yes

[20/3/24, 11:58:40 PM] John Tan: Yes and u believe and have great confidence that focusing on the purity and undeserving openning of one's radiance led to liberation correct?

[20/3/24, 11:58:52 PM] John Tan: Unreserved

[20/3/24, 11:59:41 PM] Soh Wei Yu: yes but i think that is also contingent on how clear is one's insight into emptiness

[20/3/24, 11:59:52 PM] Soh Wei Yu: for example anatta is also one type of wisdom into emptiness.. the initial one

[21/3/24, 12:00:03 AM] Soh Wei Yu: without that its not even possible to openly taste radiance as appearance for example

[21/3/24, 12:01:03 AM] John Tan: Yes what else?

[21/3/24, 12:03:34 AM] Soh Wei Yu: emptiness must extend to all self and phenomena as reified, mere names and imputations, non-arisen... and must lead to presence as free from extremes, illusory in taste, like space, a kind of insubstantial presence-absence rather than solid and real. beyond that theres still subtler cognitive obscurations

[21/3/24, 12:08:07 AM] John Tan: In one sense yes but the purpose is see without confusion what exactly are conventional in our thoughts moments and we will understand clearly all our discussions above.  Especially after anatta.

[21/3/24, 12:08:55 AM] Soh Wei Yu: oic..

[21/3/24, 12:11:21 AM] John Tan: Now I ask u, is ur body more important than empty radiance?

[21/3/24, 12:20:19 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Hmm.. they are inseparable.. thats why yoga etc are important

[21/3/24, 12:22:03 AM] John Tan: Normal exercises will do to balance ur energy before one is in a natural state of effortless and unreserved openning.

[21/3/24, 12:23:15 AM] John Tan: Exotic poses can harm ur body if not carefully practice esp without proper guidiance

[21/3/24, 12:23:29 AM] Soh Wei Yu: oic..

[21/3/24, 12:24:49 AM] Soh Wei Yu: my dad told me when you demonstrated some poses or asanas, it seemed quite extreme and maybe harmful lol.. i told him its because you practice for many many years and are flexible and you also warned about dangers of extreme yoga before

[21/3/24, 12:25:10 AM] John Tan: Yeah

[21/3/24, 12:26:12 AM] John Tan: Not suitable for ppl without guidance. Not advisable for ppl.  Just normal exercises will do.

[21/3/24, 12:26:19 AM] Soh Wei Yu: i see..

[21/3/24, 12:26:47 AM] John Tan: I dun advice ppl to practice that way.

[21/3/24, 12:26:57 AM] Soh Wei Yu: oic..

[21/3/24, 12:27:38 AM] John Tan: But for u, u need to discipline to do some exercises to balance over focus of radiance.

[21/3/24, 12:27:54 AM] Soh Wei Yu: ic..

[21/3/24, 12:41:27 AM] John Tan: Also u got to have clear understanding of what if one only focus on emptiness of conventional yet without any taste of radiance.

[21/3/24, 12:57:48 AM] Soh Wei Yu: then its just a cessation of concepts and reification on a mental level only right

[21/3/24, 1:02:26 AM] John Tan: Not exactly, cessation of concepts and reification  should lead to direct taste of radiance.

[21/3/24, 1:03:53 AM] John Tan: More like non-attachment due to seeing through, what will experience be like?  Go sleep.

[21/3/24, 2:07:57 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Hmm.. more like a mental release i think. But it will still be inferential understanding of emptiness rather than a sort of realising of our nature isnt it

[21/3/24, 2:08:02 PM] Soh Wei Yu: https://youtu.be/f8y0QKXZGHs?si=o26rUnamdVvBwCgC

[21/3/24, 2:08:20 PM] Soh Wei Yu: First thirty minutes talk about anatta, emptiness, hinayana vs mahayana vs brahman


...


[21/3/24, 9:57:12 PM] Soh Wei Yu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=oXi_WOnOLmE

[22/3/24, 12:57:56 AM] Soh Wei Yu: im going to Taiwan tmr lol

[22/3/24, 12:57:56 AM] Soh Wei Yu: sat and sunday will be at his monastery for short retreat

[22/3/24, 8:04:55 AM] John Tan: 👍

[22/3/24, 8:09:47 AM] John Tan: 👍

[22/3/24, 8:30:46 AM] John Tan: Yes quite good.


....


[22/3/24, 8:36:38 AM] John Tan: This is like the question I asked u yesterday, does realizing emptiness of conventional lead to authentication of one's radiance?

[22/3/24, 8:51:39 AM] Soh Wei Yu: So in his case his is from realizing emptiness of the conventional leading to authentication of radiance?

[22/3/24, 8:52:35 AM] Soh Wei Yu: I would say.. If one can truly see through the conventional subject action object structure, it will lead to authenticating radiance as appearance

[22/3/24, 8:56:12 AM] John Tan: Not exactly.  Rather from realizing emptiness of conventional into spontaneous perfection and self liberation.

[22/3/24, 8:58:19 AM] John Tan: That is what I said yesterday, it is not possible to see through "reification" and not recognize appearances as one's radiance.


But one can keep practicing penetrating emptiness of the conventional and not authenticate radiance.  During this intermediate phase, what is it like is my question to u yesterday.

‎[22/3/24, 8:59:22 AM] John Tan: ‎image omitted

[22/3/24, 8:59:25 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Oic.. hmm like first stanza of anatta without going into second?

[22/3/24, 9:01:04 AM] John Tan: Something like that.  So u need to know the emptiness 法门 (Soh: the dharma door of emptiness), radiance 法门 (Soh: the dharma door of radiance) and then 大圆满 (Soh: great perfection/spontaneous perfection).

[22/3/24, 9:03:52 AM] John Tan: Actually no matter which path when practice with the right understanding can lead to self liberation if we have the right understanding and view from start.


However during the journey, practitioners need more season practitioners to point out to them what they lack.

[22/3/24, 9:04:23 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..

[22/3/24, 9:05:09 AM] John Tan: That is y u need to know clearly, the intermediate phase if without authentication of radiance or radiance without understanding emptiness of phenomena.


...


[22/3/24, 9:12:22 AM] John Tan: Yes because u start from I M to the recognition of appearances as radiance clarity but lack direct insight of how emptiness of conventional can equally lead to that.  


That is y I m now trying to lead u to see that from all those questionings.

[22/3/24, 9:14:20 AM] John Tan: It is not that "emptiness" alone cannot lead to authentication of radiance, it will but only at the mature phase.

[22/3/24, 9:15:06 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..

[22/3/24, 9:15:58 AM] John Tan: However for those that can see and understand it and skewed towards 顽空 then pointing radiance is necessary.

[22/3/24, 9:17:06 AM] John Tan: Actually the 7 phases of insights r quite complete already, just need to refine proper wordings and explanations.


...


John Tan:



“Should be recognition of radiance clarity is implied and naturally realized.


The recognition should be directly into realizing appearances as empty clarity therefore both 能所双亡 (ChatGPT translate: both subject and object are not found) as both are merely conventionally designated and dependently arise.


As 五祖 (ChatGPT translate: the Fifth Patriarch) told 慧能 (ChatGPT translate: Huineng), 不识本心 学法无益 (ChatGPT translate: Not knowing the original mind, learning the Dharma is of no benefit). Like 10 ox herding pictures, 能所双亡 (ChatGPT translate: both subject and object are not found) comes at a later phase.


Even when clarity is authenticated, still one got to differentiate between no-mind and anatta. Then "I" as reified construct and extend to phenomena to realized primodial purity of one's mind.”


"This.  He already clearly implied radiance in emptiness."


As John Tan said before,


“When we authenticate radiance clarity directly, we have a first hand experiential taste of what is called the "ultimate free from all conceptual elaborations" but mind is not "free from conceptual elaborations".”




Wrote some time back:


Seeing selfness or cognizance as a subject and phenomena as objects is the fundamental elaboration that prevents the taste of appearances as radiance clarity.. then even after anatta, there are still the subtle cognitive obscurations that reified phenomena, arising and ceasing, substantial cause and effect, inherent production and so on.


So elaboration is not just coarse thinking like labelling but to me is like a veil of reification projecting and distorting radiant appearances and its nature.


Another way to put it is that the fundamental conceptual elaboration that obscures reality/suchness is to reify self and phenomena in terms of the extremes of existence and non existence through not apprehending the nature of mind/appearance.


….


If you mean just authenticate radiance clarity like I AM, then it’s just nonconceptual taste and realisation of presence.


That moment is nondual and nonconceptual and unfabricated but it doesnt mean the view of inherency is seen through. Since fundamental ignorance is untouched the radiance will continue to be distorted into a subject and object.

 

What is the master who at this very moment is seeing and hearing? If you reply, as most do, that it is Mind or Nature or Buddha or one's Face before birth or one's Original Home or Koan or Being or Nothingness or Emptiness or Form and Color or the Known or the Unknown or Truth or Delusion, or say something or remain silent, or regard it as Enlightenment or Ignorance, you fall into error at once.
What is more, if you are so foolhardy as to doubt the reality of this master, you bind yourself though you use no rope. However much you try to know it through logical reasoning or to name or call it, you are doomed to failure. And even though all of you becomes one mass of questioning as you turn inward and intently search the very core of your being; you will find nothing that can be termed Mind or Essence. Yet should someone call your name, something from within will hear and respond. Find out this instant who it is!
If you push forward with your last ounce of strength at the very point where the path of your thinking has been blocked, and then, completely stymied, leap with hands high in the air into the tremendous abyss of fire confronting you-into the ever-burning flame of your own primordial nature-all ego-consciousness, all delusive feelings and thoughts and perceptions will perish with your ego-root and the true source of your Self-nature will appear. You will feel resurrected, all sickness having completely vanished, and will experience genuine peace and joy. You will be entirely free.
- Bassui Tokusho, Letter to layman Ippo

https://www.facebook.com/groups/AwakeningToReality/posts/25196752283272864/?__cft__[0]=AZXBflTLeDk0GWy2yxDMHursCLy0ZFbO88YnPgAl9NeT24-xhWM8yMQKEHih6R58JBYoinw1dOBkoCaT12Jj5CqsRaaR5hvWsy5_HdLViRaQMqfswivm6e-wmTpE2Ef4dGqFkDvDGAXv_SoX8ELumhC2jPDcQ2WmGVQWuNsDKxS3P6tnUc5rpdODJrE9nhmfhKo&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R]-R

Soh Wei Yu
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Top Contributor
But back to the main topic of the OP which has more to do with smoking than about the details of realization.
I am not implying that once one gets to anatta realization for example, then one is free from all habits and kleshas. In AtR anatta realization is just stream entry. Once one gets to non returner, there is no more desire for sense pleasures. They will not have any desire for sensuality, not cigarettes and not even sex (see: Early Buddhism's Model of Awakening). In the bhumi system likewise, Buddhahood is when the twin obscurations of afflictions and knowledge obscurations are totally removed. That is quite an advanced phase of one's practice. All Buddhist traditions, as Acarya Malcolm told me before, including Dzogchen, accepts the elimination of the twin obscurations as Buddhahood. On this point all Buddhist traditions agree, even if the means and methods may differ.
To expand on the anatta and cigarettes part, Zen Master John Daido Loori Roshi smoked his whole life, yet from the book I read I consider him to have clearly realized anatta and total exertion, and I do recommend his books. He died at the age of 78 from lung cancer, so clearly not a good idea to smoke of course. There's another guy, non-Buddhist, Actual Freedom Richard also chain smokes, his experience is quite similar to AtR anatta and total exertion too, but not into twofold emptiness.
I asked John Tan about this smoking thing before over a decade ago, about teachers that realise anatta and still smoke (I don't smoke nor does John Tan just for the record, but I'm curious as to what he says). He said yes, even if one has a clear and deep insight into anatta, it is insufficient to get rid of such habitual patternings. He also said many times before that practice goes on after realization and it is not a finality. Even if you realise Thusness Stage 5 anatta, which he says 'seems like a pseudo finality', or even 6, it is not to be seen as finality nor anything close to Buddhahood yet. (can just be 1st bhumi -- see Buddhahood: The End of All Emotional/Mental Afflictions and Knowledge Obscurations)
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Soh Wei Yu
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Top Contributor
There's a stream enterer who also drunk alcohol and was subjected to criticism, Buddha's replies was interesting:
SN 55.24 PTS: S v 375 CDB ii 1811
Sarakaani Sutta: Sarakaani (Who Took to Drink)
translated from the Pali by
Maurice O'Connell Walshe
© 2007
The Pali title of this sutta is based on the PTS (Feer) edition.
[At Kapilavasthu] Now at that time Sarakaani the Sakyan, who had died, was proclaimed by the Blessed One to be a Stream-Winner, not subject to rebirth in states of woe, assured of enlightenment. At this, a number of the Sakyans, whenever they met each other or came together in company, were indignant and angry, and said scornfully: "A fine thing, a marvelous thing! Nowadays anyone can become a Stream-Winner, if the Blessed One has proclaimed Sarakaani who died to be Stream-Winner... assured of enlightenment! Why, Sarakaani failed in his training and took to drink!"
[Mahaanaama the Sakyan reported this to the Buddha who said:] "Mahaanaama, a lay-follower who has for a long time taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha — how could he go to states of woe? [And this can be truly said of Sarakaani the Sakyan.] How could he go to states of woe?
"Mahaanaama, take the case of a man endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, declaring 'He is the Blessed One...,'[1] the Dhamma... the Sangha... He is joyous and swift in wisdom, one who has gained release.[2] By the destruction of the cankers he has by his own realization gained the cankerless heart's release, the release through wisdom, in this very life, and abides in it. The man is entirely released from the hell-state, from rebirth as an animal,[3] he is free from the realm of hungry ghosts, fully freed from the downfall, the evil way, from states of woe.
"Take the case of another man. He is endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha... the Dhamma... the Sangha... he is joyous and swift in wisdom but has not gained release. Having destroyed the five lower fetters,[4] he is reborn spontaneously[5] where he will attain Nibbaana without returning from that world. That man is entirely released from... states of woe.
"Take the case of another man. He is endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. But he is not joyous in wisdom and has not gained release. Yet by destroying three fetters[6] and weakening lust, hatred and delusion, he is a Once-returner, who will return once more to this world and put an end to suffering. That man is entirely freed from... states of woe.
"Take the case of another man. He is endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. But he is not joyous in wisdom and has not gained release. Yet by destroying three fetters he is a Stream-Winner, not subject to rebirth in states of woe, assured of enlightenment. That man is entirely freed... from states of woe.
"Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But perhaps he has these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. And the things proclaimed by the Tathaagata are moderately approved by him with insight. That man does not go to the realm of hungry ghosts, to the downfall, to the evil way, to states of woe.
"Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe.[7]
"Why, Mahaanaama, if these great sal trees could distinguish what is well spoken from what is ill spoken, I would proclaim these great sal trees to be Stream-Winners... bound for enlightenment, how much more so then Sarakaani the Sakyan! Mahaanaama, Sarakaani the Sakyan fulfilled the training at the time of death.'[8]
Notes
1.
These are, of course, the standard formulations for referring to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. They seem to fit awkwardly into the context here and may have been interpolated.
2.
These terms are used of Saariputta at SN 2.9 (not translated here). Cf. the distinction between difficult and easy progress in VM XXI, 117.
3.
Theosophists and others maintain that rebirth as an animal, after a human existence, is impossible. This view is not supported by the Buddhist texts of any school.
4.
Cf. n. 300. This is the anaagaamin or "Non-Returner."
5.
I.e., not born from a womb by spontaneously arising in another world (in this case the "Pure Abodes" (suddhaavaasaa), where they will attain to final release without returning to this world).
6.
These are the first three of the five lower fetters (orambhaagiya-sa.myojanaani Vol. I, n. 83), i.e., sakkaaya-di.t.thi "personality-view" or belief in a permanent, really existing self; vicikicchaa "doubt" (once the "personality-view" has been shattered, there can be no further fundamental doubt about the Dhamma); and siilabbata-paraamaasa "attachment to rites and rituals" (siila + vata). It is noteworthy that even at this (second) stage on the Path, sensuality (kaamaraaga) and ill-will (vyaapaada), the fourth and fifth fetters, are only weakened but not destroyed. Their destruction is, however, inevitable.
7.
An encouraging message for many! Cf. the end of MN 22, and also the charming image of the new-born calf in MN 34. The Commentary (MA) to MN 22 says such people are termed "lesser stream-winners" (cuulasotaapannaa). This term is discussed in VM XIX, 27. The stress laid here on the importance of faith is interesting in view of later developments such as the Pure Land Schools (e.g., Jodo-Shishu or "Shin-Buddhism" in Japan).
8.
Sarakaani in fact became a Stream-winner at the moment of death.
Soh Wei Yu
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John Tan also wrote before,
"When we develop a negative state, also understand that it takes many many more folds of effort to over it.
Because of this, cultivating good habits and abstain from negative ones although is mundane practice is also crucial.
That is y I always put down all those promoting dwelling in bad habits are also ok type of teachings. They don't know how much more effort is needed to correct it."
Yin Ling asked, "Which kind of dwelling in bad habits is ok?
Like anger but see through anger as empty?"
John Tan replied,
"YL: 'Like anger but see through anger as empty?

John: No, that is different. Seeing that is empty does not mean u don't have to deal with anger. It just mean dealing with anger by understanding it's nature.

YL: 'Which kind of dwelling in bad habits is ok?'
John: Like advising it is ok to take cannabis or no need practice type. There is the relax and openness type of practice but that requires deep understanding.
If left alone, the samsaric mind will almost without fail skews towards the negative side perhaps due to the heavier vibration of the material world (sounded new age). It is important to develop good habits from start."
I agree with him about advising against cannabis (unless you have valid medical reasons, and Buddha did recommend use of cannabis for certain types of pain) and often paste this excerpt to people on reddit:
"Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith wrote years ago, "Marijuana impairs short term memory, and that is necessary for mindfulness by definition.", "Everything can be medicine and everything can be poison; but that depends on the skill of the physician.
On the other hand, serious meditation practitioners generally avoid all drugs, as well as being intoxicated on alcohol.
In order to discover exactly how deleterious the effects of herb are on meditation, you would have had to have stopped smoking herb completely for at least a year and then resume it to observe its effects on your meditation practice.
Have you done this experiment?
I have. I can report that the effects of smoking herb on one's meditation practice is definitely not good. It leaves one with a cloudy fog which lasts anywhere from a day to a week depending on how much herb one has smoked and its quality. So now I do not smoke herb, nor do I take other kinds of drugs, all of which in my younger days I have done in large quantities. So, you are not speaking with someone who has no personal experience.
Of course, regular people who do not imagine themselves great meditators may do as they please, but not practitioners.
Of course, you may persist in your folly, that is your choice. But at least I have satisfied my obligation to inform you it is a folly.""
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Soh:

I agree that we should not be judgmental about someone’s wisdom on the basis of whether he or she smokes. Heck, even drinking alcohol — Alan Watts was a known alcoholic but John Tan and I find him to be quite deep in insights and has a lot to share. Unlike many redditor Buddhists, we do not think Alan Watts should be judged unfairly from the basis of a few behaviors. Having said that, John Tan stopped his infrequent/occasional drinking of alcohol for business entertainment many years ago after he found that it has detrimental effects on his qi/wind. 


However. Regarding views about engaging in sense pleasures without desire and attachment, I very much doubt that it is possible, as the Buddha states, "“Bhikkhus, that one can engage in sensual pleasures without sensual desires, without perceptions of sensual desire, without thoughts of sensual desire—that is impossible." (Alagaddūpama Sutta) 


Vajrayana may say use sense pleasure as part of the path and method. That is fine to me but not to be equated with the goal, the elimination of the twin obscurations.


I do not see how without sensual desire even at the anagami level, one can continue to engage in sense pleasures. This is why in the suttas none of the anagamis and arahats engage in sense pleasures including lay anagamis, only sotapannas and sakadagami do. I can cite many passages on this one. This has nothing to do with conduct and vows but about the afflictions driving behaviours. If there is no craving or inclination towards sense pleasures, there can be no impetus to engage in them. Just like if there is no craving for heroin you just won’t use it, unless you are using prescribed opiates for extreme pain. An anagami or arahant may still need to taper off opiate medication gradually when he or she recovers due to physiological reasons of bodily acclimatization (you might have bad withdrawal symptoms otherwise), but there won’t be the slightest clinging, craving or reminiscence for the state of opiates, nor will there be “relapse” as there can be no craving at all. 


Even sex — there is no impetus to do that for someone free from kleshas, it is not my judgement or conjecture but this is just how it is, even in the scriptures it is abundantly clear. Sex for example, by itself is not something really bad, but it just falls off by itself at some point, and arahants are known as completely dispassionate, with no desire whatsoever for life nor death. But that is far along the path, when one is almost fully liberated and awakened. I don’t know of any that has reached that state now, although the last person to attain Buddhahood in recent times is Thrangu Rinpoche (https://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2023/11/thrangu-rinpoche-attained-buddhahood.html). Unlike cigarettes and tobacco which is a known cancer-causing radioactive carcinogen (although that may not be known as fact in older times), there is no need to avoid or repress sex. I just told someone yesterday due to a question he asked, “Unless you choose the life of monastic, or have achieved anagami stage, i do not advise people to take up celibate path. It is ok to find a partner and get married. John tan has a wife and two kids.”


I have also read that Nisargadatta visited a prostitute, I think Joan Tollifson and many others said it, including someone else who said “According to Ramesh Balsekar, Nisargaddata used to visit a local prostitute. He was not ashamed or concerned with enjoying sex.” That is fine by my books in the sense that it does not make me have less respect for him, just like Alan Watts’ liking for alcohol, tobacco and women does not make me lose any respect for him and his wisdom. I do not think anybody should be judgmental or lose confidence in their writings and teachings or stop looking deeply into these teachings just because of these points. Of course it is not to say that we are saying smoking is fine. We can accept that smoking is unhealthy and avoid it for our own sake and still not get judgy about those who smoke. Also, there are stories of mahasiddhas who find prostitutes, drink alcohol and so on. But as Acarya Malcolm said, mahasiddhas are just those who have attained at least the first bhumi. (They are not all Buddhas.) 


Sexual desire for example is only eliminated in higher bhumis as krodha/kyle dixon points out (and similarly for all other sensual desires) before, “Āryabodhisattvas on the higher bhūmis overcome sexual interests. Below that you will still experience sexual urges and attraction.”

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