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the Wanderling

THE QUESTION ARISES: Is the practice of Zen, which by its own nature explores or professes the Enlightenment experience as attained by the Buddha and the ancient masters Outside the Doctrine, in direct contrast with or violate the premises of the Buddhist concept of Wrong Practice (silabbata paramasa)?

SILABBATA PARAMASA is generally translated into meaning the adherence to wrongful rites, rituals and ceremonies. Believing that a wrong practice is a right practice is called Silabbataparamasa, which is believing, maintaining, or supporting a wrong belief in the practice. According to the teaching of the Buddha, apart from the Eightfold Noble Path, all other practices are wrong practices and taking them as right practices amount to wrong belief in the practice.

Everything that appears at the six doors of senses constitute the Five Aggregates of Grasping, namely, rupa and nama, the Truth of Suffering. Meditating on rupa and nama is practising the Path by which the Four Noble Truths will be understood. Believing in and practising any other method which keeps aside the magga Path and which does not lead to understanding the Four Noble Truths, is wrong belief in the practice (silabbata paramasa ditthi).

There are people who are preaching that "It is not necessary to practise meditation nor to observe the precepts (sila)." That is to say, they are saying it is sufficient to simply listen to sermons and learn by heart the nature of rupa and nama." It will be necessary to consider whether such views amount to silabbata paramasa. In the opinion of some, such preachments amount to teaching wrong view in practice as this method excludes the three disciplines of:

  1. Samadhi

  2. Sila

  3. Vipassana

Although a person at a lesser level of insight may participate in Wrong Practice and even be unaware of such, a Sotapanna, a person of the first level of The Four Stages of Sainthood, and those above, being well-established in the knowledge of the Right Practice are not liable to hold the wrong view of silabbata paramasas. (1)

So, now back to the original question, "IS the practice of Zen, which by its own nature explores or professes the Enlightenment experience as attained by the Buddha and the ancient masters Outside the Doctrine, in direct contrast to or violate the premises implied or ingrained in silabbata paramasa?" You can learn how the Wanderling addresses that question HERE.

Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.







SOTAPANNA: called a stream-winner because he (or she) has entered the stream that leads to Nirvanna. The stream represents the Noble Eightfold Path. A Sotapanna is no longer a worldling, but one of Buddhism's Noble Ones.

A Sotapanna has eradicated the two worst defilements -- Ditthi (false view of mind and body) and Vicikiccha (doubts about the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha) -- and three of the basic fetters — namely, Sakkaya-ditthi, Vicikiccha and Silabbataparamasa from the Ten Fetters of Buddhism. He has also eliminated the coarse properties of the remaining defilements — the properties that can cast a person to the Apaya Abodes. For the Sotapanna the doors of the Apaya Abodes are closed forever, neither will he be reverted to a worldling again.

APAYA ABODES: The Nine Abodes of Living Beings:

The realms of the heavenly beings, the human realm, and the realms of destitution (apaya) are classed as the sensual realm, the abode of living beings who indulge in sensuality. Taken together, they count as one. The Realms of Form, the abodes of living beings who have attained rupa jhana count as four. The Realms of Formlessness, the abodes of living beings who have attained arupa jhana, are also four. So altogether there are nine abodes for living beings. Arahats -- who are wise to the Nine Abodes -- leave them and don't have to live in any of them (see also Pratyeka Buddha).

The nine abodes for beings [seven stations of consciousness and two spheres]:

  1. There are beings with diversity of body and diversity of perception. This is the first station of consciousness.

  2. There are beings with diversity of body and singularity of perception generated by the First Jhana. This is the second station of consciousness.

  3. There are beings with singularity of body and diversity of perception. This is the third station of consciousness.

  4. There are beings with singularity of body and singularity of perception. This is the fourth station of consciousness.

  5. There are beings who, with the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, thinking, 'Infinite space,' arrive at the dimension of the infinitude of space. This is the fifth station of consciousness.

  6. There are beings who, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, thinking, 'Infinite consciousness,' arrive at the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. This is the sixth station of consciousness.

  7. There are beings who, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, thinking, 'There is nothing,' arrive at the dimension of nothingness. This is the seventh station of consciousness.

    The two spheres are:

  8. The dimension of non-percipient beings;

  9. The dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.
    (Maha-Nidana Suttanta, DN 15)


When one has attained the First Jhana, the need for speech has ceased. When one has attained the Second Jhana, the need for directed thought & evaluation have ceased. When one has attained the Third Jhana, the need for rapture has ceased. When one has attained the Fourth Jhana, the need for in-and-out breathing has ceased (see: Pranayama. When one has attained the dimension of the infinitude of space, the perception of forms has ceased. When one has attained the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space has ceased. When one has attained the dimension of nothingness, the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness has ceased.

The first of the two spheres, called dimension of non-percipient beings, #8 above, is reached by those who, after attaining the Fourth Jhána, then use the power of their meditation to take rebirth with material bodies ONLY, they do not acquire consciousness again until they pass away from this realm. When one has attained the second sphere, #9, the dimension of neither-perception nor non-perception, the perception of the dimension of nothingness has ceased. When one has attained the cessation of perception & feeling, perception & feeling have ceased. See Kaivalya.

Five Aggregates of Grasping (PANCA UPADANA KHANDA):

"What, in brief, are the five aggregates subject to grasping that are suffering? These are the aggregate of matter subject to grasping, the aggregate of feeling..., the aggregate of perception..., the aggregate of mental formations..., the aggregate of consciousness subject to grasping. These are called, in brief, the five aggregates subject to grasping that are suffering."

The Buddha addressing the monks at the Deer Park at Isipatana
SACCAVIBHANGA SUTRA, Majjhima Nikaya 141

The mental picture one has of one's own body, not just the actual physical body itself.

Represent pure sensation, physical or mental, pleasant, painful or neutral.

The recording of sense data not only for perception but to retain perception as a basis for memory; the faculty of 'distinguishing a thing by its marks' as in seeing an object and identifying it as a table.

The popular translation but is literally 'confecting' or making up by which the conditioned part of the mind distorts neutral sense data into 'I see', 'I hear', etc. Thus they are volitional, 'I' biased and so are Karma producing agents. 'Mental configurations' is another translation.

Arises and dies away from moment to moment, depending upon conditions. It is important to note that, while at times it can be an all-over awareness, most of the time it is discriminative, because once the sense data have been received and have become conscious, they have already been tainted in the Sankharas by the 'I' thought.

Consciousness arises upon the basis of sense data, and because of the erroneous idea that 'I' am, there is a grasping after those sense impressions thought desirable to 'me' and a rejection of those thought undesirable. This results in Dukkha. If the sense data are seen as what they are, impermanent, correct responses can be made if required, but without grasping.

Refer as well to: The Five Khandhas

Five Aggregates:


While the core of the Therevada tradition consists of a non-religious technique of Vipassana meditation, the core of the Mahayana tradition consists of devotion to the Buddha and Bodhisattva's, who are perceived almost as gods. Zen Buddhism is a break away experiment within the Mahayana tradition, which again uses non-religious meditation to understand the emptiness of Self. That is to say, Zen returns to the original roots of Vipassana Meditation while other traditions seem to have strayed. (source)

Before achieving the Buddhahood, Siddharta Gautama developed supranormal skills based on yogic practices. This type of meditation is known as samatha because by calming down one's thoughts and by cultivating the power of concentration one's mind reaches Supranormal Perceptual States known as Siddhis. Thus, samatha meditation came from the pre-Buddhistic practices. What actually led Siddhartha to the Buddhahood was his own experimentation in meditation. This new meditation is known as Vipassana. Vipassana is a Pali term which means insight or penetration into reality. It is through Vipassana that one can attain Nirvana, the Goal of Buddhism. Even the one who has mastered samatha does not attain Nirvana; he has to develop Vipassana in order to attain Nirvana. An essential step of vipassana is satipatthana (i.e. mindfulness or awareness). Through satipatthana the meditator becomes aware of the present moment of life, each and every movement of his or her physical and mental existence. That kind of awareness is essential to have penetrating insight into the physical and mental phenomena which encompasses the whole world. Being aware of your feelings is traditionally know as vedanaanupassana satipatthana. When the process of feeling is seen clearly with satipatthana, the feeler disappears. In the absence of the feeler, observant, or ego, the meditator becomes in touch with the flux of life or the stream of existence. Normally one does not notice details in one’s activities. Only when one becomes mindful one sees the minute details of one's activities. Similarly in being fully attentive, one can take note of all the movements taking place in daily living. A step beyond the physical movements is thought. The meditator begins to see his or her thoughts, he or she begins to recognize the rising, continuing, and the fall of each thought. Thus, characteristics like impermanence of the physical and mental entities become revealed to the meditator. Seeing these characteristics is Vipassana. This way satipatthana leads to Vipassana. One's progress towards Enlightenment depends on Vipassana meditation, especially so, in the Zen tradition. (source)

Almost any book on early Buddhist meditation will tell you that the Buddha taught both types of meditation: Samatha AND Vipassana. Samatha, which means tranquility, is said to be a method fostering strong states of mental absorption, called Jhana. Vipassana -- literally "clear-seeing," but more often translated as Insight Meditation -- is said to be a method using a modicum of tranquility to foster moment-to-moment mindfulness of the inconstancy of events as they are directly experienced in the present. This mindfulness creates a sense of dispassion toward all events, thus leading the mind to release from suffering. These two methods are quite separate. Of the two, Vipassana is the distinctive Buddhist contribution to meditative science. Other systems of practice pre-dating the Buddha also taught Samatha, but the Buddha was the first to discover and teach Vipassana. Although some Buddhist meditators may practice Samatha meditation before turning to Vipassana, Samatha practice is not really necessary for the pursuit of Awakening. As a meditative tool, the Vipassana method is sufficient for attaining the goal. Or so we are told.

BUT if you look directly at the Pali discourses -- the earliest extant sources for our knowledge of the Buddha's teachings -- you'll find that although they do use the word Samatha to mean tranquility, and Vipassana to mean clear-seeing, they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms. Only rarely do they make use of the word Vipassana -- a sharp contrast to their frequent use of the word Jhana. When they depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying "go do Vipassana," but always "go do Jhana." And they never equate the word Vipassana with any mindfulness techniques. In the few instances where they do mention Vipassana, they almost always pair it with Samatha -- not as two alternative methods, but as two qualities of mind that a person may "gain" or "be endowed with," and that should be developed together. One simile, for instance (S.XXXV.204), compares Samatha and Vipassana to a swift pair of messengers who enter the citadel of the body via the Noble Eightfold Path and present their accurate report -- Unbinding, or Nirvana -- to the consciousness acting as the citadel's commander. Another passage (A.X.71) recommends that anyone who wishes to put an end to mental defilement should -- in addition to perfecting the principles of moral behavior and cultivating seclusion -- be committed to Samatha and endowed with Vipassana. This last statement is unremarkable in itself, but the same discourse also gives the same advice to anyone who wants to master the Jhanas: be committed to Samatha and endowed with Vipassana. This suggests that, in the eyes of those who assembled the Pali discourses, Samatha, Jhana, and Vipassana were all part of a single path. Samatha and Vipassana were used together to master Jhana and then -- based on Jhana -- were developed even further to give rise to the end of mental defilement and to bring release from suffering. This is a reading that finds support in other discourses as well. (source)

See also Shikantaza.


NOTE: It should be mentioned, in perhaps what could be seen by some as a CONTRAST to the gist of the content and thesis of silabbata paramasa (Wrong Practice), that the pursuit of Enlightenment outside the doctrine as taken by Hui-neng, the Wanderling and others, and presented through the various offerings of AWAKENING 101, and of which coincides more closely with the FOUR quotes BELOW --- is NOT in anyway in direct violation of silabbata paramasa.

There are those that say Zen is Wrong Practice because the concept of "outside the doctrine" is in itself, Wrong Practice. Not true. First, if you went to the three links above (Samadhi, Sila, and Vipassana) you will see that Zen DOES NOT exclude the three disciplines as outlined, matter of fact Zen embraces them in their pure form. Second, nowhere is it officially advocated or taken seriously that (1) "It is NOT necessary to practise meditation nor to observe the precepts" (as for the meditation part alone, the word Zen MEANS meditation. It is derived from the Chinese word "Ch'an", which is a short form for "Ch'ana", and which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word Dhyana, which means meditation), NOR (2) does Zen inherently block or inhibit anyone from pursuing an "understanding of the Four Noble Truths" in any way --- both (1) and (2) being main thrusts of silabbata paramasa philosophy. There are some exceptions, however. See Ugghatitannu.

The Buddha's Enlightenment transpired long before there was a "doctrine," long before rules had been thought of or traditions established. Zen harkens back to those same days of purity. As stated above: Zen Buddhism is a break away experiment within the Mahayana tradition, which again uses non-religious meditation to understand the emptiness of Self. That is to say, Zen returns to the original roots of Vipassana Meditation while other traditions seem to have strayed:

"Being neither teacher nor guru, and since from the first not a thing is, the most one can do is to offer a glimpse or help point the way. In the end it resides in you"

the Wanderling, Awakening 101

True Enlightenment, as experienced by the Buddha and transmitted through the patriarchs, is independent of verbal explanations, including the record of the Buddha's teachings (i.e., scriptures) and later doctrinal elaborations.

Albert Welter, T'ang Ch'an and the Myth of Bodhidharma

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration that 'The monk is your teacher.'

Ven. Wapola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught

The Buddha's Teaching was recorded in the Tipitaka several hundred years after the Buddha passed away, and this text was then copied and recopied over a period of thousands of years. The teachings were probably recorded very well, but it is possible to doubt that the reader will now understand what those who recorded the teachings meant. For me to refer merely to the texts all the time would be like guaranteeing the truth of the claims of another, claims of which I am not certain. But the things that I tell you I am able to guarantee, because I speak from my own direct experience.

The text is like a map: it is suitable for those who don't know the way to go, or have not yet arrived at the destination. For one that has arrived, the map no longer means anything.

Luangpor Teean Teaches Outside the Texts


AWAKENING 101: Introduction Page


Delivered on the 6th Waxing Day of Thadingyut, 1324, B.E