Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Mar 01, 2013 9:03 pm

The Thorny Mind
Sayādaw U Paṇḍita wrote:There are five kinds of doubt which load to the thorny mind. A yogi is pricked by doubt regarding the Buddha, the great master who showed the path to enlightenment. One doubts the Dhamma, the path that leads to liberation; and the Sangha, the noble ones who have uprooted some or all of the kilesas. Next come doubts of oneself, of one’s own morality and method of practice. Last is doubt of fellow yogis, including one’s teacher. When so many doubts are present, the yogi is filled with anger and resistance: his or her mind becomes thorny indeed, he or she will probably feel quite unwilling actually to practice this meditation, seeing it as dubious and unreliable.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:48 pm

kirk5a wrote:What about papañca, as I raised in my first post, and about which Ven. Pesala agreed? Why have you not addressed that point which I raised on page 1? Is it inconvenient for your view? Did you do some research on papañca before you replied to me? All you did was ask a question in response (what if it resulted in dispassion; being unfettered;...?) and didn't provide any explanation of how critcial thinking avoids papañca at all.

It's easy to say "it's not about doubting or speculation." But how does critical thinking escape the grip of papañca (mental proliferation/objectification)? As in the following:
"Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies. Based on what a person objectifies, the perceptions & categories of objectification assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable via the intellect.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Making a definitive or final determination of what papanca is difficult. But it does have practical applications in terms of active vipassana and dhamma practice in general. Here's what my research has revealed.

ONE:
The translation of papanca as conceptual proliferation was first made by Katukurunde Nanananda Thera in his research monograph Concept and Reality in Early Buddhism On pp. 89-90, in the section, “Limitations of the Dialectical Approach," we find this passage:

This sutta [the Cûla Suññata Sutta of the Majjhima Nikâya], which brings out the early Buddhist attitude to Suññatâ, has a moral for the dialectician himself. The history of Buddhist thought bears witness to the fact that there is a danger lurking behind the dialectical skill to blow up concepts (my bold). The dialectician might sometimes develop a complex of his intellectual superiority and proceed to demolish indiscriminately all (my bold; Cf. David D. Burns' Cognitive Distortion 1, All-Or-Nothing-Thinking, below) concepts and theories around him, subjecting them to ridicule.
He might throw all (my bold) ethics to the winds and lull himself into the belief (my bold) that he has arrived at the Truth (Cf. Albert Ellis' last Irrational Belief listed below). He might even hide his sceptic head ostrich-like in a mass of dialectical verbiage, in a vain attempt to escape the concepts of
the 'dull-witted worldlings'. Such wiseacres are haunted and balked by those very concepts the moment they peep out--or maybe even before that--for the simple reason that the paradoxes true of the emancipated sage are not true of them (Cf. Dr. Burns Cognitive Distortion, "Emotional Reasoning," below). The purpose of developing dialectical consciousness is not to play intellectual hide-and-seek, but to be alive to unsound facts of experience within and without oneself. Hence the dialectician has to realize the fact that he is at the mercy of concepts even in his dialectical attempt to demolish concepts. This chastening thought should humble him all the more and prod him on to transcend them with whatever tools there are within his reach...(my emphases). Concepts, for all their vicious potency to delude us, are not to be blamed per se, for they are merely objectifications (Cf. the end of the second Thannissaro quote from Skill In Questions, below) or projections of our own tanha, mana, and ditthi--our cravings, our conceit, and our views. Hence, in the last analysis, concepts have be tackled at their source (my emphasis: this is also the goal of REBT and CBT). They are not so much to be demolished as to be comprehended and transcended. The attempt to dislodge concepts at the purely intellectual level leads to infinite regress in thought as in evident in MN I 497 and ff. (Kitagiri Sutta, MN 70.19-27).


Bhikkhu Bodhi, in note 229 to his translation of The Majjhima Nikaya, states,
In a penetrative study, Concept and Reality in Early Buddhism, Bhikkhu Nananda explains papanca as "conceptual proliferation," and I follow him in substituting ‘proliferation’ for Nm’s "diversification" (p. 1204).


TWO:
Richard Gombrich, in his appendix to his book What The Buddha Thought, provides this reflection on papanca.

V. Papanca
In Sri Lankan and Pali, panca means 'five'. So papanca looks as if it should mean 'quintuplication'.... In Samkhya philosophy, and also sometimes in the Moksadharma section of Mahabharata XII, the world evolves from a primal unity into sets of five, such the five senses and the five great elements (mahabhuta), so the multiplication of entities could fittingly be described as quintuplication. However, those texts postdate the Buddha by centuries, and...early Buddhism had six senses and four...elements. The word papanca does not seem to occur in Vedic literature early enough to be known to the Buddha. However, we have plenty of evidence that the Buddha was familiar with the first book of the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad. In 1.5.3 this text lists the five kinds of breath (ana) which are said to permeate the human body; this list became canonical for the entire subsequent history of brahminism. The text says that all these are nothing but prana. Prana is the standard word for what we call 'breath', the breath of life. So the Upanisad is saying that we make five things out of what is really just one. Moreover, that one thing is life-breath. 'Several Upanisads equated breath with life and even with a person's self' (FN 6: Patrick Olivelle, The Early Upanisads [1998], p. 23.). (Remember that atman may originally have meant 'breath'.)

The text as we have it does not use any word for quintuplicaton. However, the central message of the text as a whole is that we are bound to the cycle of rebirth by our ignorance of an essential unity, that of the atman: we conceptualize multiplicity--in this case ideating five entities--where really there is only one.

At this point I must not be misunderstood. The Buddha was no Vedantin, urging us to see the essential unity behind apparent but delusory multiplicity. He was, indeed, opposing that doctrine.... The Budda is denying that we can distinguish, either perceptually or linguistically, between clear-cut substances. But he is not denying that we can distinguish between processes. The process of feeling, for example, is different from the process of willing. And...you karma and my karma are by no means the same thing (pp. 205-206; Equinox: 2009)!


THREE:
Reverend Thanissaro, in his Translator’s Introduction to MN 18 (Madhupindika Sutta: The Ball of Honey, the same sutta kirk5a cited and which I'm responding to here) has this to say about papanca.

This discourse plays a central role in the early Buddhist analysis of conflict. As might be expected, the blame for conflict lies within, in the unskillful habits of the mind, rather than without. The culprit in this case is a habit called papañca. Unfortunately, none of the early texts give a clear definition of what the word papañca means, so it's hard to find a precise English equivalent for the term. However, they do give a clear analysis of how papañca arises, how it leads to conflict, and how it can be ended. In the final analysis, these are the questions that matter — more than the precise definition of terms — so we will deal with them first before proposing a few possible translation equivalents for the word.

Three passages in the discourses — DN 21, MN 18, and Sn 4.11 — map the causal processes that give rise to papañca and lead from papañca to conflict. Because the Buddhist analysis of causality is generally non-linear, with plenty of room for feedback loops, the maps vary in some of their details. In DN 21, the map reads like this:

-the perceptions & categories of papañca > thinking > desire > dear-&-not-dear > envy & stinginess > rivalry & hostility

In Sn 4.11, the map is less linear and can be diagrammed like this:
-perception > the categories of papañca

-perception > name & form > contact > appealing & unappealing > desire > dear-&-not-dear > stinginess/divisiveness/quarrels/disputes

In MN 18, the map is this:
-contact > feeling > perception > thinking > the perceptions & categories of papañca

In this last case, however, the bare outline misses some of the important implications of the way this process is phrased. In the full passage, the analysis starts out in an impersonal tone:

-Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises [similarly with the rest of the six senses]. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling.

Starting with feeling, the notion of an "agent" — in this case, the feeler — acting on "objects," is introduced:

-What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one "papañcizes."

Through the process of papañca, the agent then becomes a victim of his/her own patterns of thinking:

-Based on what a person papañcizes, the perceptions & categories of papañca assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye [as with the remaining senses].

What are these perceptions & categories that assail the person who papañcizes? Sn 4.14 states that the root of the categories of papañca is the perception, "I am the thinker." From this self-reflexive thought — in which one conceives a "self," a thing corresponding to the concept of "I" — a number of categories can be derived: being/not-being, me/not-me, mine/not-mine, doer/done-to, signifier/signified. Once one's self becomes a thing under the rubric of these categories, it's impossible not to be assailed by the perceptions & categories derived from these basic distinctions. When there's the sense of identification with something that experiences, then based on the feelings arising from sensory contact, some feelings will seem appealing — worth getting for the self — and others will seem unappealing — worth pushing away. From this there grows desire, which comes into conflict with the desires of others who are also engaging in papañca. This is how inner objectifications breed external contention.

How can this process be ended? Through a shift in perception, caused by the way one attends to feelings, using the categories of appropriate attention [see MN 2]. As the Buddha states in DN 21, rather than viewing a feeling as an appealing or unappealing thing, one should look at it as part of a causal process: when a particular feeling is pursued, do skillful or unskillful qualities increase in the mind? If skillful qualities increase, the feeling may be pursued. If unskillful qualities increase, it shouldn't. When comparing feelings that lead to skillful qualities, notice which are more refined: those accompanied with thinking (directed thought) and evaluation, or those free of thinking and evaluation, as in the higher stages of mental absorption, or jhana. When seeing this, there is a tendency to opt for the more refined feelings, and this cuts through the act of thinking that, according to MN 18, provides the basis for papañca.

In following this program, the notion of agent and victim is avoided, as is self-reflexive thinking in general. There is simply the analysis of cause-effect processes. One is still making use of dualities — distinguishing between unskillful and skillful (and affliction/lack of affliction, the results of unskillful and skillful qualities) — but the distinction is between processes, not things (see Gombrich, above). Thus one's analysis avoids the type of thinking that, according to DN 21, depends on the perceptions and categories of papañca, and in this way the vicious cycle by which thinking and papañca keep feeding each other is cut.

Ultimately, by following this program to greater and greater levels of refinement through the higher levels of mental absorption, one finds less and less to relish and enjoy in the six senses and the mental processes based on them. With this sense of disenchantment, the processes of feeling and thought are stilled, and there is a breakthrough to the cessation of the six sense spheres. When these spheres cease, is there anything else left? Ven. Sariputta, in AN 4.174, warns us not to ask, for to ask if there is, isn't, both-is-and-isn't, neither-is-nor-isn't anything left in that dimension is to papañcize what is free from papañca. However, this dimension is not a total annihilation of experience. It's a type of experience that DN 11 calls consciousness without feature, luminous all around, where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing, where long/short, coarse/fine, fair/foul, name/form are all brought to an end. This is the fruit of the path of arahantship — a path that makes use of dualities but leads to a fruit beyond them.

It may come as cold comfort to realize that conflict can be totally overcome only with the realization of arahantship, but it's important to note that by following the path recommended in DN 21 — learning to avoid references to any notion of "self" and learning to view feelings not as things but as parts of a causal process affecting the qualities in the mind — the basis for papañca is gradually undercut, and there are fewer and fewer occasions for conflict. In following this path, one reaps its increasing benefits all along the way.

Translating papañca: As one writer has noted, the word papañca has had a wide variety of meanings in Indian thought, with only one constant: in Buddhist philosophical discourse it carries negative connotations, usually of falsification and distortion. The word itself is derived from a root that means diffuseness, spreading, proliferating. The Pali Commentaries define papañca as covering three types of thought: craving, conceit, and views. They also note that it functions to slow the mind down in its escape from samsara. Because its categories begin with the objectifying thought, "I am the thinker," I have chosen to render the word as "objectification," although some of the following alternatives might be acceptable as well: self-reflexive thinking, reification, proliferation, complication, elaboration, distortion. The word offers some interesting parallels to the postmodern notion of logocentric thinking, but it's important to note that the Buddha's program of deconstructing this process differs sharply from that of postmodern thought.


In his book, Skill In Questions, Thanissaro notes:

It’s commonly recognized that people attend to a teaching in line with the views they bring to it. But it’s a common mistake to regard these views as lying somehow outside of the field of action—thinking that, for instance, one’s understanding of the world may guide one’s actions while at the same time not noticing that one’s choice of a view and the way one attends to it is a type of action as well. The Buddha, however, saw clearly the kammic aspect of building a view, holding to it, forming questions based on it, and attending to its different features. All of these actions form the frame for how people listen to a teaching and what they take away from it. So when the Buddha, in the typical formula at the beginning of his talks, told his listeners to “listen and attend well,” he wasn’t simply telling them to pay attention to all of his words. He was also telling them to bring appropriate attention to what he was saying, framing the questions they brought to the teaching in terms of appropriate attention and placing his comments in the same framework as well.

It might seem strange that the Buddha would be asking his listeners to bring right view to his teaching even before they had heard his teaching, but he was depending on the fact that all people have experienced stress, and all search for someone who knows a way to put an end to stress (AN 6:63, Chapter One). This is the primal search, beginning in early childhood, from which all other searches grow. The question embodied in this search—“Who knows a way or two to stop this pain?”—is probably the most earnest question we ask. In advising his listeners to bring right view to his teaching, the Buddha was simply recommending that they approach it from the viewpoint of this earnest, primal search, and not through the lens of less primal issues. For anyone sensitive to the problem of stress, this is not too much to ask.

To help clarify the issue of what does and doesn’t count as appropriate attention in this area, the Buddha in MN 2 defined appropriate attention primarily as knowledge of which sorts of questions deserve attention and which don’t. The implication here is that those deserving attention are the ones most worth bringing to his teachings. He then provided lists to illustrate both categories of questions. Although the lists are not exhaustive, they provide important insights into where the line between appropriate attention and inappropriate attention can be drawn, and why it is drawn precisely there.

The questions deserving appropriate attention, predictably, are those defined in terms of the four noble truths. Those not deserving attention are these:

“This is how one attends inappropriately: ‘Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?’ Or else one is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?’”—MN 2

These questions are framed in terms of two dichotomies—me and not me, existence and non-existence—placed in the time frame of past, future, and present. Although the texts don’t explicitly make this connection, these terms correspondto what MN 18 calls the “perceptions & categories of papañca.” Papañca is a difficult term to translate (my bold). Some common English equivalents for it include objectification, complication, elaboration, differentiation, and proliferation.

In ancient Indian artistic theory, papañca referred to the elaboration of an artwork’s basic theme: the process of embodying that theme in specific objects—the notes of a musical piece, the colors and forms of a painting, or the words and images of a literary work. The Buddha, however, had his own uses and explanations for the term. Without giving it a formal definition, he cited it functionally in MN 18 and DN 21 to describe the sort of thinking that leads to conflict. In Sn 4:14 he identified the root of papañca-classifications as the thought, “I am the thinker.” Because this thought turns the “I” into an object or being; and because the classifications derived from this thought deal with the status of individual objects existing in a world of objects, “objectification” is probably the best translation for the Buddha’s use of the term, papañca. The one caveat here is that, unlike the modern psychological use [Daniel's note: this is true for Freudian psyhcoanalysis but not for REBT or CBT] of “objectification”—in which the subject treats other people as objects—objectification in the Buddha’s sense begins when the subject objectifies itself. Only then does it apply the same process to others (hard copy, pp. 68-70; Pdf, pp. 53-53).


FOUR:
In his essay, “Papañca-Saññā-Sankhā” Bhikkhu Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli elaborates on all of the above:

This compound has represented, to paraphrase John D. Ireland from his Udāna translation notes, a stumbling block which even the ancient commentaries find difficult to define. If the importance of the term is to be deduced from the extent of its difficulty then indeed understanding of this compound carries a lot of significance in regard to grasping of the Buddha’s Teaching.

There are various translations of papañca-saññā-sankhā, with currently the most prominent ones being either Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s “notions [born of] mental proliferations” translating the term papañca as ‘proliferation’; or Ven. Ñāṇamoli Thera’s “calculations of perceptions of diversifications” where he renders papañca as ‘diversification’. Beyond these two, plus the PTS Dictionary definition, I am not familiar in detail with any other different interpretations of this compound. I am aware that Ven. Ñāṇananda in his “Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought” addresses this topic to a certain degree and also that Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi based his views of the term upon this interpretation (Note 1) but I, myself, have never actually read Ven. Ñāṇananda’s book so my view on this matter will come from perhaps, to some extent, a different angle.

To start with, the respective terms ‘diversification’ and ‘proliferation’ do not deviate from the meaning of papañca. According to the PTS dictionary, papañca is “expansion, diffuseness, manifoldedness” or “obstacle, hindrance or delay”. The other members of the compound are defined as saññā (perception) and sankhā (sign or characteristic). So the above-mentioned translations would, to some degree, convey the nature of papañca-saññā-sankhā quite accurately and, as Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi says in The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Note 2) (endnote no. 229, p. 1204-5), “no rendering [of this compound] is utterly beyond doubt”. The question which raises itself then is not how to etymologically trace the exact roots and origination of the compound, since such, a task in this case proves impossible in the absolute sense (and many seem to agree with this). Rather, it is better to focus and try to find out within one’s own experience and practice what is implied existentially and phenomenologically in the Suttas by this term.

At the risk of being incomprehensible on some points, I would try to use ‘descriptive’ language, rather than overly technical terms as people’s general views are already quite firm in regard to such terminology and it is very likely that they will be coming from a quite different place than me, probably too different which could obstruct them from understanding what I’m trying to say. In order to reduce this possibility to a minimum I thought of using some more common terms in my descriptions which carry less chance of being misunderstood. I hope I won’t miss the mark too much.

Those familiar with phenomenology and the philosophy of existence should not have any problems in understanding a statement like all our experience is intentional or teleological or simply—significant. Each thing (dhamma) which is being experienced in our everyday life has, as its inherent nature, to point to other thing(s), within the experience as a whole. The thing’s significance is not something ‘steady’ or ‘inchangeable’, although it often might appear so. The significance of a thing is, rather, something which is being acquired through the repetition of the respective experiences of that very thing. During this, the whole perception of a thing comes to ‘grow’ in a course of time, so to speak, and though there are certainly significances which are recognized as common to all people, at a more fundamental level they are all individually acquired and carried by each of us (Note 3).

Without going into greater details let us say that in the Suttas this intentionality of experience is what is meant by the statement “with the grain” or anuloma. Actually, it is probably better to be more precise and to re-qualify this and say: taking for granted this intentionality, holding it and appropriating it, makes this with of “with the grain” to appear. In the arahant’s case, the ignorance is completely destroyed, yet the grain still remains, i.e. things do not stop pointing to other things, but this ’with’ ceases to exist and is being replaced by ‘against’ as a result of which we get “against the grain”—patiloma. What has changed is the fundamental direction of regarding this very directionality of experience. Thus, even in the case of complete liberation things continue to be teleological (my bold) or ‘with purpose’ so they still point to other things and so on. All this is being mentioned for the reason that the term papañca is probably too often misunderstood to simply mean ‘mental proliferation’, ‘when one thinks or analyzes too much’ or something like that. Although these things do imply papañca (or to be more precise ignorance and desire-and-lust), the above said nevertheless shows us that if papañca is anything, it is certainly more fundamental than that. In support of this we may add that papañca is frequently linked with maññanā, ‘conceving’ (for which see Mūlapariyāya Sutta, MN 1) which certainly represents the most fundamental ‘occurrence’ in a mind affected with ignorance. Thus, what papañca would imply is nothing less than this very intentionality of our experience and its tendency to grow and expand (my bold, author's italic). However this can happen only when that ‘with’ is present i.e. when the mind is not free from the bonds of ignorance and when it keeps following things in their appearance— “…his consciousness flows after the sign of form [sound, smell, tastes, touches, thoughts], is tied and shackled by gratification in the sign of form, if fettered by the fetter of gratification…” (Note 4). And surely enough it is said that the arahant is nippapañca—without diversifications, free from any attachments (upadhi), free from burden accumulated in the past.

Thus, one’s world (everything which appears—nāma-rūpa), expands. One’s views, desires etc. expand too, yet this should not be understood in a momentary sense, which would suggest that they will somehow ‘shrink’ afterwards (Note 5) by themselves. Their intensity or the intensity of their presence, once ‘accumulated’ i.e. came to being, is being ‘assumed’ or ‘held’ (upādāna) at that (new) face value. When this happens—and it happens through the repetition of [ignorant] actions as said above—consciousness “becomes established” upon that degree of presence, which then becomes the actual experience of that thing. Thus, the intensity of experience, that which appears as nāma-rūpa grows (for more details see Mahānidāna Sutta, DN 15 [ii,63]). This kind of pattern stretches from the most fundamental levels of our existence (as seen in Mūlapariyāya Sutta), up to the coarsest ones which we might say are, “resorting to rods and weapons, of quarrels, brawls, disputes, recrimination, malicious words and false speech (Note 6) …”, that is the directly painful actions resulting from one’s ignorance (Daniel's note: here you could easily subsitute Albert Ellis' Irrational Beliefs or David D. Burns' Cogntive Distortions for "ignoranc." See below). Thus, based on the above, papañca represents the ‘diffusion’ of this fundamental underlying principle with ignorance being necessarily present (my bold; author's italics), and consequently papañca-saññā-sankhā are all ‘calculations’ or ‘notions’, perceived and originated as a result of taking this principle of diffusion for granted i.e. not understanding it.

To conclude, it is worth mentioning that this whole situation would be much clearer if we can bear in mind Ven. Ñāṇavīra Thera’s description of the infinite hierarchy of consciousness, the different levels of generality of nāma-rūpa–viññāṇa. That is because papañca-saññā-sankhā is not something which appears on a voluntary level, as if one could stop it at any time; it stretches from the most general (reflexive) levels of existence (Note 7). What one is responsible for, in that whole structure, is “delighting in, welcoming and holding to…” the “source through which perceptions and notions [born of] mental proliferation beset a man…” (Note 8). Thus the hierarchy of signifying things continues to arise (cease and change-while-standing) but it no longer grows; it is “cut off at the root, made like a palm stump”. Its root was ignorance in itself and with its absence everything founded upon it comes to an end—one is free. In other words the respective experiences of the puthujjana and arahant alike, share the same fundamental nature of impermanence (arising and ceasing) but the respective intensities of those experiences are changed; for the arahant feeling none of it (Note 9) and for the puthujjana dependant on the amount of ignorance being present. More ignorance, more ‘intensity’, things appear as more ‘pressing’ and one is easily prone to giving in to desire-and-lust. The arising of things in the puthujjana‘s mind brings diffusion of perceptions and notions which, while not understood at its roots, will in return diffuse further and further and so on. This cannot happen in the arahant‘s mind any more. His consciousness has ‘ceased’ so there is nothing to follow and diversify upon this teleological (my bold) characteristic of the existential structure, which will remain only until his aggregates ‘break apart’.

NOTES:

1 Which, as I will attempt to show in this essay, is over-simplified.

2 Translated by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Third edition 2005.

3 Preferences and values being perhaps too coarse yet a good enough example of this.

4 Uddhesavibhanga Sutta, MN 138. [iii,225]

5 They would only do so in the arahant‘s case.

6 Madhupiṇḍika Sutta, MN 18; translation taken from The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Third edition 2005, p. 202 [i,109].

7 Compare also the nature of the five hindrances. It takes the first jhāna for one to be able to suppress them, which speaks for itself, since such strength of one’s concentration is enough for becoming an arahant (if there is wisdom, of course).

8 op. cit. p. 202.

9 Compare Ven. Sāriputta’s answer to Ven. Udāyi when the later asked him what is there that is pleasant when there is nothing felt [in nibbāna]—”Just this is pleasant, friend, that herein there is nothing felt”, AN iv,414.


FIVE:
Referring back to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s note 229 for MN 18, we find these comments on papañca-saññā-sankhā.
My decision to treat papañca-saññā-sankhā as a dvanda compound, ‘perceptions and notions,” may be questioned, but as the expression...occurs but rarely in the Canon and is never verbally analyzed, no rendering is utterly beyond doubt.... [T]he process of cognition is itself "the source through which perceptions and notions (born of) mental proliferation beset a man” (my emphases).
And in note 232 to MN 18.16, he states,
This passage shows how papanca, emerging from the process of cognition, gives rise to perceptions and notions that overwhelm and victimize their hapless creator (pp. 1204-5; my bolds).


Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy is a form of critical thinking, and if we look at a list of what Ellis calls Irrational Beliefs compared to above, a strong case emerges that at least this form of critical thinking is very compatible with the Buddha’s teachings on papanca, active vipassana, and dhamma practice in general:

Here are irrational beliefs that Ellis described:

-It is a dire necessity for adult humans to be loved or approved by virtually every significant other person in their community.
-One absolutely must be competent, adequate and achieving in all important respects or else one is an inadequate, worthless person.
-People absolutely must act considerately and fairly and they are damnable villains if they do not. They are their bad acts.
-It is awful and terrible when things are not the way one would very much like them to be.
-Emotional disturbance is mainly externally caused and people have little or no ability to increase or decrease their dysfunctional feelings and behaviors.
-If something is or may be dangerous or fearsome, then one should be constantly and excessively concerned about it and should keep dwelling on the possibility of it occurring.
-One cannot and must not face life's responsibilities and difficulties and it is easier to avoid them.
-One must be quite dependent on others and need them and you cannot mainly run one's own life.
-One's past history is an all-important determiner of one's present behavior and because something once strongly affected one's life, it should indefinitely have a similar effect.
-Other people's disturbances are horrible and one must feel upset about them.
-There is invariably a right, precise and perfect solution to human problems and it is awful if this perfect solution is not found.


Looking at this list and comparing it to the scholars I’ve cited it becomes quite apparent that, as Ellis would say, actively disputing your irrational beliefs, reduces and possibly eliminates papanca. I would argue that Ellis’ irrational beliefs are a product of papanca of not a version of papanca itself, which would be contrary to any claim that REBT as a form of critical thinking creates papanca. As a critical thinking tool, REBT diminishes and potentially eradicates papanca.

The same may be said of the CBT expert David D. Burns’s Ten Cognitive Distortions:

1. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING:
You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

2. OVERGENERALIZATION:
You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

3. MENTAL FILTER:
You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

4. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE:
You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or another. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS:
You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

-Mind Reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don't bother to check this out.

-The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.

6. MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION:
You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement) or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick."

7. EMOTIONAL REASONING:
You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

8. SHOULD STATEMENTS:
You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

9. LABELING AND MISLABELING:
This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: "He's a goddam louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

10. PERSONALIZATION:
You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.


SIX:
Finally, we may add even more tools to our papanca eliminating toolbox--but always keeping in mind, as the Thanissaro passages above explicates, that all these can be used either skillfully or unskillfully--if we gain a competent understanding of Informal Fallacies, Cognitve Biases and Attribution Theory, e.g., The Fundamental Attribution Error and The Ultimate Attribution Error.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:22 am

danieLion wrote:Making a definitive or final determination of what papanca is difficult.

Ven. Ñāṇananda's Concept & Reality in Early Buddhist Thought offers one of the most thorough studies of papañca so far undertaken. One would be hard pressed to find a positive use of papañca in the suttas. AN 8.30:

    This Dhamma is for one who delights in non-proliferation (nippapañca), who takes delight in non-proliferation, not for one who delights in proliferation (papañca), who takes delight in proliferation.

SN 43.12 gives the absence of papañca (nippapañca) as the goal of the noble path, an epithet defined as equivalent to nibbāna:

    And what, monks, is the unproliferated (nippapañca)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unproliferated.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:24 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
    And what, monks, is the unproliferated (nippapañca)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unproliferated.

HI Nana,
REBT and CBT are some of the best tools I've found for rooting out greed/passion, hate/agression, ignorance/delusion. Put differently, they are one of the best tools I've found to reduce papanca. When applied diligently and consistently, they steady, calm and still my mind. They also increase brahmavihara mental states. To me, they are very close to what critical thinking as defined in the OP looks like when combined with Buddhist teleology. Even the notion of learning to think better or improving thinking alone (again, from the OP) implies skillfulness over unskillfulness as it invokes the need for a teleological standard to assess one's progress by. The passage I quoted in my last post from Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought supports all of this.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Mr Man » Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:22 am

danieLion wrote:But it does have practical applications in terms of active vipassana and dhamma practice in general.

Is there such a thing as "active vipassana"? danieLion I'd be interested in hearing what your understanding of "vipassana" is?
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby kirk5a » Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:38 am

Thanks Daniel, there is a lot of great information there. However, given what is plain from that reading material, that papañca is something very deeply rooted in the mind, I think the argument that "actively disputing your irrational beliefs, reduces and possibly eliminates papañca" remains thin. Particularly, since the elimination of papañca is the domain of the arahant.

Recognizing and disputing one's own irrational beliefs surely is a beneficial practice. However, is it within the sphere of the "supramundane" (lokuttara) or "mundane" (lokiya)? Now unless the proponents of critical thinking are saying their methods result in the levels of awakening, not just enhanced psychological well-being, then, it is "mundane."

This is relevant here because "vipassana" is the seeing connected with the "supramundane."
One simile, for instance (SN 35.204), 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 nibbana — to the consciousness acting as the citadel's commander.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... etool.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:19 am

Mr Man wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:
Mr Man wrote:Maybe we need to clarify what is understood by "vipassana"?

I would say in a general manner used today "a techneque which promotes the arising of Pañña" or "the setting down of delusion"



I don't see vipassana as a "technique" but more as a function. The difference being that a technique is something that can be improved upon or refined (like critical thinking) where vipassana is what it is.

Are you looking for clarity for the purpose of discourse in this thread or to discus what vipassana is?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:37 am

please read the post right above the initial reply to you!

kirk5a wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:Although Venerable dealt with Vipasana here, he only gave a quick look and I did not see this part you quote relevant in my response other than to point out that the OP had been edited for clarity. but this quote can also be seen as describing the type I am suggesting.
Critical thinking is not about doubt but seeing flaws and/or perfections in views ... something already mentioned within the thread.

What about papañca, as I raised in my first post, and about which Ven. Pesala agreed? Why have you not addressed that point which I raised on page 1? Is it inconvenient for your view? Did you do some research on papañca before you replied to me? All you did was ask a question in response (what if it resulted in dispassion; being unfettered;...?) and didn't provide any explanation of how critcial thinking avoids papañca at all.

It's easy to say "it's not about doubting or speculation." But how does critical thinking escape the grip of papañca (mental proliferation/objectification)? As in the following:
"Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies. Based on what a person objectifies, the perceptions & categories of objectification assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable via the intellect.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:49 am

I am curious as to what you mean with the underlined (emphasis added) part?
although I would argue that part of the benefit critical thinking has is to know when to stop thinking about something.
daverupa wrote:I wonder about the intention behind the mental effort of critical thinking. Isn't that intention an important aspect of ascertaining the usefulness of the tool? Critical thinking can be bent to speculative philosophy or debate just as much as it can be bent to food production, or social governance, or parsing bhavana modalities.

In general it functions as a corrective for superstitions, logical fallacies, unexamined premises, and other lazy heuristics. This corrective is a wide-ranging benefit, and given our cultural and temporal remove from the days of the early Sangha it's quite useful when exploring these issues with the intention of better understanding the Dhamma and its context.

I think it's a heady game, however, and somewhat at a remove from the embodied practice we are enjoined to engage in. It isn't an unwholesome obstacle, but continual thinking is exhausting...
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby daverupa » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:54 am

Cittasanto wrote:I am curious as to what you mean with
daverupa wrote:parsing bhavana modalities


"Parse" means to analyze into component parts while describing the roles played by these parts; parsing a sentence yields nouns, verbs, clauses, etc., so parsing bhavana modalities means examining them with an eye to understanding their composition, what sorts of assertions they rely on, how various aspects work together to facilitate goals, and so forth.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Mr Man » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:14 pm

Cittasanto wrote:Are you looking for clarity for the purpose of discourse in this thread or to discus what vipassana is?


Given the title of the thread I would think that it would be esential to have an understanding of what vipassana is and what it isn't. What if the whole discussion was based on a incorrect understanding of a key term?

If we take the definition of vipassana from kirk5a above " "vipassana" is the seeing connected with the "supramundane." and critical thinking as " "analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improoving it" I'm struggling to see how the two could be confused.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby kirk5a » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:04 pm

Cittasanto wrote:please read the post right above the initial reply to you!

What post are you referring to?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:19 pm

Mr Man wrote:
danieLion wrote:But it does have practical applications in terms of active vipassana and dhamma practice in general.

Is there such a thing as "active vipassana"? danieLion I'd be interested in hearing what your understanding of "vipassana" is?

I mostly agree with what Thanissaro says in One Tool Among Many The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice and basically agree with what Cittasanto has said in this thread about active vipassana. I also feel that the modern Vipassana Meditation Movement has now convoluted the early Buddhist meaning of the term much in the same way the Mindfulness Practice Movement has co-opted the sati. For more on this (I don't agree with everything in it, but it's a good overview) see Gil Frondal's Insight Meditation in the United States: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:36 pm

Mr Man wrote:
danieLion wrote:But it does have practical applications in terms of active vipassana and dhamma practice in general.

Is there such a thing as "active vipassana"?

To quote Sayadaw U Tejaniya, "Vipassana is not sitting still." (it's in one of his Dharma Talks on Audio Dharma).
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Mr Man » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:55 pm

danieLion wrote:
Mr Man wrote:
danieLion wrote:But it does have practical applications in terms of active vipassana and dhamma practice in general.

Is there such a thing as "active vipassana"? danieLion I'd be interested in hearing what your understanding of "vipassana" is?

I mostly agree with what Thanissaro says in One Tool Among Many The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice


Hi danieLion
to quote from Ven. Thanissaos piece "So, to answer the question with which we began: Vipassana is not a meditation technique. It's a quality of mind — the ability to see events clearly in the present moment.". So would you agree that vipassana is not a technique?

Maybe the OP should be "Can critical thinking give rise to vipassana?"
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:06 pm

kirk5a wrote:Thanks Daniel, there is a lot of great information there. However, given what is plain from that reading material, that papañca is something very deeply rooted in the mind, I think the argument that "actively disputing your irrational beliefs, reduces and possibly eliminates papañca" remains thin. Particularly, since the elimination of papañca is the domain of the arahant.

Recognizing and disputing one's own irrational beliefs surely is a beneficial practice. However, is it within the sphere of the "supramundane" (lokuttara) or "mundane" (lokiya)? Now unless the proponents of critical thinking are saying their methods result in the levels of awakening, not just enhanced psychological well-being, then, it is "mundane."

This is relevant here because "vipassana" is the seeing connected with the "supramundane."
One simile, for instance (SN 35.204), 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 nibbana — to the consciousness acting as the citadel's commander.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... etool.html

It's difficult to make a case that the the mundane/suprmundane distinction is a hard one (I'm sure you're aware of the threads here on that very isssue). Re-read the last paragraph from the Bhikkhu Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli article I cited above, where he uses terminology indicative of a "gradual path" and implies that these processes occur more along the lines of a continuum than along the lines of a sharp dichotomy.

For instance, we find arhants and the Buddha in the suttas and vinaya making mistakes, and we find the Buddha changing his mind on several occasions after he realized nibbana. This suggests that critical thinking is still necessary for even arhants and Buddhas. This goes to what REBT and CBT calls "perfectionism." Nobody's perfect, not even arhants and Buddha's. If this were not the case, we would see only superhuman Buddhas and superhuman arrhants in the texts who have no need to ever change their minds or behaviors about anything. Of course, many Buddhists want to elevate the Buddha and arhants beyond his humanness and worship him as such. This, however, is neither warranted by the texts nor is it compatible with the experiences of my own practice.

I presume you and I are technically operating in the "mundane" realm, yet we are practicing all the while, including engaging in dhamma discussion and debate in this and other threads. Do we never leave the "mundane" realm and enter the "mundane"? Do we not, perhaps, have moments when we are "tasting" the "supramundane"? And are we at least not striving to approximate it? Is this not implied in phrases like "entering the stream" or even in descriptions of practitioners as "faith followesr" and "dhamma followers"?

Furthermore, you've not addressed the challenges I made that papanca is defined in a clear enough way to be as relevant to your perspective as you want it to be. I have admitted that papanca plays at least a minimal role in understanding the relationship of cognition, intellect, logic, and reason to Buddhist practice. However, I have also tried to show that it, like most if not all concepts, has limited usefulness. You claim it is plain from the reading material (I presume you mean the citations I made) that REBT and CBT as papanca reducers or eradicators is "thin." This makes me wonder how thoroughly you read my post. Furthermore, enhanced psychological well-being in not mutually exclusive from "mundane" or "supramundane" Buddhist practices. I have addressed this with my comments and references to how teleology relates to these matters. Was I not explict enough? Please let me know, and I'll do my best to clarify. I await your response.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:30 pm

danieLion wrote: . . .
You are not really answering Kirk's point as to the depth and irrationality of the greed, hatred, and delusion with which we are faced. No doubt the techniques you are advocating are effective to a certain level, but I have not seen anything in what you have said here that even remotely suggests that they are capable of addressing something as primal as what the Buddha said are having to deal with as unawakened beings.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:39 pm

Mr Man wrote:Hi danieLion
to quote from Ven. Thanissaos piece "So, to answer the question with which we began: Vipassana is not a meditation technique. It's a quality of mind — the ability to see events clearly in the present moment.". So would you agree that vipassana is not a technique?

Maybe the OP should be "Can critical thinking give rise to vipassana?"

I said I mostly agree with Thanissaro. One of my goals in participating in this thread is explore just how valid dichotomizing vipassana as a technique verus a quality of mind really is (I'm aware of the other threads here on that very topic). robertk (and another Abhidhamma fanatic I know personally) got me thinking about this. Unless I've misunderstood robertk, Abhidhamma is "active vipassana." But again, I'm exploring these things as a critical thinker--that is, not rushing to judgments and keeping an open mind when I encounter new information--not as someone dug in to a position.

I've also been influenced by Andrea Fella's Daily Life Practice teachings (she's a student of U Tejaniya). This is somewhat bitter-sweet for me, as I've also been influenced by Thanissaro's views on daily life practice. Andrea frequently refers to him as another of her teachers, but she also teaches Mindfulness in ways that fall under the criticisms Thanissaro has recently made in his book Right Mindfulness.

As far as what the OP should or should not be, I'll leave that to Cittasanto, as he started this thread.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:49 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote: . . .
You are not really answering Kirk's point as to the depth and irrationality of the greed, hatred, and delusion with which we are faced. No doubt the techniques you are advocating are effective to a certain level, but I have not seen anything in what you have said here that even remotely suggests that they are capable of addressing something as primal as what the Buddha said are having to deal with as unawakened beings.

Perhaps you should look over my posts here (especially my earlier ones where I cite a few Albert Ellis documents) again because I have done a very thorough job of answering Kirk's "point" (which isn't as clear as you make it out.) Second of all, I have specifically dealt with the depth and irrationalitty of the greed, hate and delusion we are faced with in my dialogue with Nana. For instance:

Ñāṇa wrote:
    And what, monks, is the unproliferated (nippapañca)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unproliferated.

danieLion wrote:HI Nana,
REBT and CBT are some of the best tools I've found for rooting out greed/passion, hate/agression, ignorance/delusion. Put differently, they are one of the best tools I've found to reduce papanca. When applied diligently and consistently, they steady, calm and still my mind. They also increase brahmavihara mental states. To me, they are very close to what critical thinking as defined in the OP looks like when combined with Buddhist teleology. Even the notion of learning to think better or improving thinking alone (again, from the OP) implies skillfulness over unskillfulness as it invokes the need for a teleological standard to assess one's progress by. The passage I quoted in my last post from Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought supports all of this.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Mr Man » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:01 pm

danieLion wrote:I said I mostly agree with Thanissaro. One of my goals in participating in this thread is explore just how valid dichotomizing vipassana as a technique verus a quality of mind really is (I'm aware of the other threads here on that very topic). robertk (and another Abhidhamma fanatic I know personally) got me thinking about this. Unless I've misunderstood robertk, Abhidhamma is "active vipassana." But again, I'm exploring these things as a critical thinker--that is, not rushing to judgments and keeping an open mind when I encounter new information--not as someone dug in to a position.

Hopefully we are all exploring together.
danieLion wrote:As far as what the OP should or should not be, I'll leave that to Cittasanto, as he started this thread.

That was not intended to be taken literally but more as to add to the exploration or to change the perspective slightly.
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