Listening to John Peackock, “Buddhism before the Theravada”
John Peacock is a Buddhologist, linguistic expert in the ancient languages of India and Tibet and expert translator of the early Buddhist cannon; ordained monk practicing in both Theravadan and Tibetan traditions; teacher of the dharma.
John Peacock’s teachings “Buddhism before the Theravada” are taken from the Nikaya, the earliest written scriptures written about the Buddha’s teachings.
He speaks on the history of Indian religions and the cultural context in which the Buddha lived and taught.
The Buddha was intensely engaged with the culture of his day.
The Buddha’s teaching was a response to the ritual religions of Brahamannic culture, the teachings of the ancient Vedas and primarily the Upanishads of his day.
Buddha was intensely engaged in deconstructing a mystical or metaphysical view of the world.
Buddha wanted to replace mysticism and metaphysics with an empirical relation to reality.
Dzongkar Rinpoche: there is “relative reality” or “your perception of reality” which is entirely a construct of your own mind (yogacharra) and then there’s actual reality, or “ultimate” reality.
Buddha wanted to help people understand actual reality.
The Buddha often taught in jokes and puns; these were unfortunately mistranslated and taken as literally true in Theravadan traditions, distorting the meaning of the teaching and text
The Buddha sometimes changed his mind about his teaching and practice throughout his life.
The word “buddha” never appears in the Pali cannon; it’s a later addition from Brahamannic tradition.
Dzogchen Ponlop: Buddha was not a “Buddhist.”
The Buddha calls himself “tathagata” which means (variously) “who has arrived at what is”.
Pain is inevitable. (Buddha, J. Peacock)
Pain is a natural consequence of being alive and having a central nervous system; thus pain is inevitable. (me)
Dukkha or “Suffering” is the intense desire and desperate attempt to avoid pain (my take on John’s teaching)
Anatta is “not self” which means that “you” have no fixed essence; “you” are constantly changing.
Peacock: the negation “no” or “not” refers to the modifier, “fixed” of the noun “essence”, not the transitive subject “you”.
For a complete understanding of “not self” from the Mahayana perspective, study Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation of the Heart Sutra.
There is a “self” but it’s not You. [me] It’s a necessary part of a functioning consciousness. It’s particular function is to help you coordinate learned responses to environmental stimuli. It’s an organ of consciousness, like “eye consciousness” which is located in the occipital lobe. The “self”— or in Buddhist terms, the “personality consciousness”or self dhatu—is the coordinated network of responses from several parts of the brain, including the frontal lobes (motivation, reward), the prefrontal cortex (executive function) and the limbic system (memory, emotions). The “self” is not a personal You. It’s an impersonal “self.”
Samsara is literally “going around in circles”; the repetition of fruitless or harmful behaviour.
Nirvana is a verb, not a place or state of being, not a noun or adverb.
Nirvana is a continuous process of awakening.
Upaadana or “Attachment” is translated better as “possessiveness”, “my” or “mine”.
The opposite or negation of attachment is not “non-attachment” or “detachment” but “right engagement” [J. Peacock] or “awakened engagement”, derived from boddhichitta, or “awakened heart.”
Metta: “boundless friendliness” towards oneself and towards others.
Dhammapada: “Mind precedes all things.” Even direct perception is a product of the mind; therefore, direct perception is no better an approximation of reality than anything else.
Dzogchen Ponlop said that “thoughts are momentary; thoughts expire as soon as they arise; therefore thoughts are self-liberating.”
Which means that ultimately all phenomena are self-liberating because all phenomena are constantly changing, arising momentarily and ceasing.
And when you awaken from the dream-delusion that is “institutional Buddhism” you are in for one of the most profound awakenings of your life. Now you don’t even have the delusion of Buddhism to keep you in a state of denial.