Exposing the Lack of Jhana Among the Orthodoxy
Correspondence with Sudhamma 04-19-04,
--- Au Yeong <email@example.com> wrote:
<< Dear Jeff,
I can make some enquiries through the grape-vine as I do not know personally of anyone proficient in the level you are talking about. Preceptors are assigned in most cases by the Abbot (or Chief Priest). The preceptor that is assigned may not be at par with your spiritual level. He may even be lower than your attainments. You will have to abide by the choice. You have no choice in choosing the preceptor. If you cannot agree and be at peace with that, then ordination is a risky affair to both you and the Sangha.
That only leaves you with the next best choice of action, ie cultivate on your own, and follow through the Teachings as laid down. Don't seek ordination. Afterall, Siddharta was not ordained by anyone. Of course, this is a very lonely path as you are not tutored and supported by the Sangha. That is the significant downside. I know that you are now on this course for the past 30 years. Why do you need to change course and seek ordination?
Response from Jhanananda:
Hello Sudhamma, and thank-you for your wise and insightful counsel. Yes, you are right I have been practicing and "cultivat(ing)" on my own for a very long time, and it has been a very successful practice path. However as you say it is a lonely path, and I do seek a community (sangha) with whom I can abide in peace and mutual respect.
I do not care whether my preceptor has inferior knowledge and attainment. However, if I must negate my directly acquired knowledge and attainments to acquire that community (sangha) or preceptor, then it would seem unproductive.
Yes, I am aware the Buddha had no preceptor or ordination, and I am even willing to simply ordain myself and even launch a whole new vehicle of Buddhism if necessary, however I do not much like the idea of messianism, and would simply prefer to be one of many humble servants of the dhamma. Again, however to be that humble servant of the dhamma, it seems unfruitful to negate this already acquired knowledge and attainment.
My search for a preceptor has been somewhat unfortunate. I began seeking a preceptor in 1974. At that time I was unaware of any Theravadan monasteries in the USA. I was also deeply impoverished due to the intensity of my practice regimen, so I could not simply travel to Asia to find one, as many of the more affluent Americans, like Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Robert Hover and Ruth Denison have.
I underwent discipleship under Yogi Bhajan for 3 months in 1974. I found him to be a raging egotist in the guise of a spiritual teacher, so I left. In 1976 I entered into a 10 year discipleship with Swami Amar Jyoti who spent the entire time attempting to grind my ego into submission. After 10 years I realized it was not my ego he was trying to grind down but my knowledge and attainments, because apparently he was threatened by someone with superior knowledge and attainment to his own. In 1990 he was found to have been seducing the wives of his disciples all along.
From 1990 to 2003 I was a member of a lay sangha here in Tucson where I served as board member and in other capacities. There I sought to build a teacher training program, whereby I and others could transition from devotees to teachers. Eventually all of the teachers who served that community were able to filibuster the board of my sangha to have me removed from office. No such teacher training program has surfaced.
As you can see for a very long time I have been looking around the sangha for abbots, preceptors and teachers who openly speak in support of jhanic attainment, and who will take an interest in my ordination. One of the best known teachers, who openly speak in support of jhana, is Bhante Gunaratana. I had been in email communication with him off and on over the last 3 or 4 years. This year I decided that I would sit a retreat led by him at all costs. And, now that my parenting responsibilities or now mostly over, I would seek ordination through him.
I applied online to enter into his ordination program at Bhavana Society. Then I went to LA to attend a 9 day retreat led by him at Thanti-Thitsar Vipassana Meditation Center, in Riverside, California www.ttvmc.org
When I arrived at the center the donor who owned the property said she had heard a great deal about me and warmly welcomed me. When she heard that I was seeking a place to teach from she asked me to be the resident teacher at her center.
By the end of that retreat she withdrew her offer and announced that Bhante Rahula would be the resident teacher at Thanti-Thitsar Vipassana Meditation Center. It might be worth noting that Bhante Rahula is Bhante Gunaratana's lead student and Bhante Rahula's mother lives in Riverside. When I returned home from Riverside I received an email from Bhavana Society rejecting my application for entering their ordination program. While I honor and respect Bhante Rahula's needs, and I am even willing to bow to those needs, I find the whole business with Bhantes Rahula and Gunaratana rather unsavory.
After Bhavana Society rejecting my application for entering their ordination program and Thanti-Thitsar rejected me as their resident dhamma teacher I sent a web-wide request for ordination (as you know). While I have received many interesting responses and even a number of offers I have found none who support a dialog on or about jhana who are willing to allow me to enter their ordination programs.
Last month Bob Roberts of Bell Springs Hermitage http://www.bellsprings.org invited me to lead a 100 day rains retreat at his center. We worked together for a month to organize and promote this retreat. Last week a conflict on his board erupted over this proposed retreat. There is a Theravadan Forest monastery near by, Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery <<www.abhayagiri.org>>. Bell Springs used to have links to Abhayagiri on their web site and they have had a 14 year relationship with those monks. The Monastery recently requested having any reference to their center removed from the Bell Springs website.
So, you can see that I have tried in many ways to become ordained and to participate in a sangha, however that journey has been most unfortunate and unsuccessful. I am however willing to keep seeking a community (sangha) with whom I can find a welcome company in peace and mutual respect.