Buddha's Skillful Means

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Mojo » Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:29 am

I was reading and thinking about the Anapanasati Sutta today and was getting a very strong vibe that the Buddha was actually using his teaching of Anapanasati as a skillful means to reframe the breath absorption techniques that were both prominent during his time and for which he tried and ultimately decided were not able to bring ultimate liberation into the Satipatthana techniques that were able to bring complete liberation. When I look at the Anapanasati Sutta, I see four tetrads to be developed simultaneously not sequentially into an uber state of concentration. I see Vipassana with a capital V.
Last edited by Mojo on Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:48 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:44 am

Greetings,

I concur.

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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:13 am

I see satipatthana as a daily regimen, with anapanasati as the seated practice which enables jhana. The Buddha practiced a form of anapanasati current in the samana culture, it would seem, as he did this when he was still a bodhisatta as well as after. I definitely think he re-purposed it, however; in one sutta he gives the sixteen steps to a meditator who had been doing a shorter form by saying "that's anapanasati, I'm not saying it isn't, but here's a way to really make it 'pop'" (I paraphrase).

In this respect, the ability to tune into one or another anapanasati tetrad is a function of familiarity with that frame; anapanasati adds nothing new per se to what should be ones constant satipatthana practice, but is instead geared towards "letting go" in terms of any & all frames while replacing the hindrances with the awakening factors.

Now, accomplishing that may indeed require differing satipatthana emphases throughout varying occasions, but I'm not certain what you mean by the term simultaneous. In my experience, daily satipatthana can be all over the map, while anapanasati is a progressive calming of more and more refined involvements, and it seems natural to me that it proceed sequentially.
    "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: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Mojo » Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:32 pm

Dave, my gut is telling me that Anapanasati, if practiced to the letter of how the Buddha intended, would at most lead to the vipassana jhanas.
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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:44 pm

Mojo wrote:Dave, my gut is telling me that Anapanasati, if practiced to the letter of how the Buddha intended, would at most lead to the vipassana jhanas.


The Blessed One, in many ways, praised anapanasati. This is just one example:

SN 54.13 wrote:"This is how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is developed & pursued so as to bring the four frames of reference to their culmination...

"This is how the four frames of reference are developed & pursued so as to bring the seven factors for Awakening to their culmination...

"This is how the seven factors for Awakening, when developed & pursued, bring clear knowing & release to their culmination..."


It is part of the direct path to awakening, and leads all the way. The Buddha continued to practice anapanasati, as well, due to it being a pleasant abiding and as an example to others.

Talk of "at most" therefore seems mistaken in terms of any inherent limitation with respect to anapanasati, and talk of "vipassana jhanas" is chronologically later than the strata of materials with which I am concerned, so I will not be able to comment there.
    "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: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:16 pm

Mojo wrote: When I look at the Anapanasati Sutta, I see four tetrads to be developed simultaneously not sequentially into an uber state of concentration. I see Vipassana with a capital V.


Could you describe how simultaneous development of the 4 tetrads works in practice? And how does this differ from general mindfulness off the cushion?
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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Mojo » Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:44 pm

Dave, I think I'm with you on the fact that Buddha practiced, praised, and taught Anapanasati.

My feeling is that he developed Anapanasati as a formal Satipatthana meditation system while in a seated picture that was grounded in breathing.

I believe after his enlightenment, he did not support the absorption jhanas as a means or aide to enlightenment.

I don't believe the absorption jhanas fit into his view of the middle way and therefore would not be considered right concentration.

If a special state is experienced while practicing right concentration during Anapanasati the way I believe he intended, then I believe that experience would likely be referred to now as vipassana jhana.
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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Mojo » Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:10 pm

porpoise wrote:Could you describe how simultaneous development of the 4 tetrads works in practice? And how does this differ from general mindfulness off the cushion?


Perhaps a poor word choice on my part. Think of it as seated satipatthana with breathing as the foundation where each tetrad is comprised of concrete and abstract examples of each foundation of mindfulness with instructions to be aware of the nature of object mindfulness that arises and to then let go of the grip that we have on that object. An object might arise from any of the four foundations at any time.

So you aren't developing the tetrads. You are working in them - any one of them at any given time. If no other object of mindfulness is present, then go back to your foundation - the breath.
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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:55 pm

Mojo wrote:I believe after his enlightenment, he did not support the absorption jhanas as a means or aide to enlightenment.

I don't believe the absorption jhanas fit into his view of the middle way and therefore would not be considered right concentration.


I'd like to know what you understand an absorption jhana to be, as opposed to other sorts. I'm confused to see what appears to be a sevenfold path in your words... I suppose vipassana jhanas and absorption jhanas form a pair? Anapanasati leads only to one of those? I'm only guessing at your meaning...
    "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: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Mojo » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:40 pm

I suppose I would consider an absorption jhana to be such a high level of concentration that one is not affected by the five hindrances during that period of intense concentration and this may temporarily and falsely be liberated from dukkha because while in that intense concentration they weren't able to loosen the bonds of the five hindrances.

I suppose a vipassana jhana would be a level of concentration where one was able to move with and examine and let go of each object as it arose without greeting caught up in a ten minute session of planning a vacation or daydreaming or similar so they can realistically work towards a full and lasting emancipation from the hindrances.

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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:20 pm

Mojo wrote:an absorption jhana... such a high level of concentration that one is not affected by the five hindrances during that period... while in that intense concentration they weren't able to loosen the bonds of the five hindrances.


I don't understand, I'm sorry.

How can there be a temporary removal of the hindrances if they aren't also loosened? I think you might be suggesting that this sort of jhana isn't helpful with respect to addressing the hindrances, but satipatthana is for removing the hindrances and developing the awakening factors; it's only when the hindrances are removed that jhana is possible.

To my understanding, jhana isn't supposed to deal with the hindrances - they've already been dealt with if jhana is attained.

I suppose a vipassana jhana would be a level of concentration where one was able to move with and examine and let go of each object as it arose without greeting caught up in a ten minute session of planning a vacation or daydreaming or similar so they can realistically work towards a full and lasting emancipation from the hindrances.


Without opening the debate over whether contemplation occurs within jhana or afterwards, it seems to me that jhana renders a pliable, malleable mind suitable for Dhamma work. So, if there is a jhana that isn't suitable in this respect, it isn't samma samadhi (which I would say meant it wasn't the jhana of the suttas).
    "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: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Mojo » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:35 am

daverupa wrote:I don't understand, I'm sorry.

How can there be a temporary removal of the hindrances if they aren't also loosened?


In the same way a little kid shoves his fingers in his ears, shuts his eyes real tight, and yells "la la la la la I can't hear you la la la la!" My gut is telling me that Buddha felt this way and therefore developed, used, and taught anapanasati as a skillful means to help people move from breath concentration meditation which could not achieve full liberation to a breath based satipatthana meditation which could.

I think you might be suggesting that this sort of jhana isn't helpful with respect to addressing the hindrances, but satipatthana is for removing the hindrances and developing the awakening factors;


Correct. This is my assertion.
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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Samma » Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:40 am

the breath absorption techniques that were both prominent during his time


Would you say more about this? What indications do you have? There is the mention of the buddhas two teachers, but that only really mentions jhana 7-8, and that they don't lead to "disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding". There is some mystery around why Buddha had practiced 7-8 jhana, but then seems to remember 1st jhana as a child.

Might be of interest to note that Buddha stated 4 developments of concentration:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
How might these developments relate to one another, or different forms of concentration?

Here is Sujato in A History of Mindfulness. Some more good stuff in there about pre-buddhist practices, reframing:
Three discourses in the Bojjhanga-samyutta present the claims of non-Buddhist wanderers to develop Buddhist-style meditation. They say they exhort their disciples to abandon the five hindrances and to develop, in two cases, the seven enlightenment-factors,[ 216] and in a third case, the four divine abidings. [217] Elsewhere too the divine abidings are attributed to great sages of the past, notably the Buddha in past lives.[218] However, although these were indeed later appropriated by the Brahmanical tradition, they are not attested in any pre-Buddhist texts. The enlightenment-factors include mindfulness and investigation of dhammas, which is equivalent to vipassana, as well as samadhi. The wanderers ask, then,what is the difference between their teaching and the Buddha's? Interestingly enough, the Buddha responds, not by referring to, say, the four noble truths, not-self, or dependent origination, but by claiming that the wanderers do not fully understand samadhi practice in all details. This is probably what the Buddha was referring to when he claimed elsewhere to have 'awakened to jhana' (jhanam abujjhi);[219] not that he was the first to practice jhana, but that he was the first to fully comprehend both the benefits and the limitations of such experiences. (p. 98)


Might also interest you, this recent thread on Rrichard Shankman talks see videos 9-10 where he talks about inclusive/exclusive concentration, dividing along the same/similar lines as U Pandita's samatha/vipassana jhana distinction. While this explanation seems plausible to help with discrepancies between suttas and visuddhimagga, I'd like to see more evidence from the Buddhas time, or any thoughts, as to my questions above.
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Re: Buddha's Skillful Means

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:29 am

Mojo wrote:
porpoise wrote:Could you describe how simultaneous development of the 4 tetrads works in practice? And how does this differ from general mindfulness off the cushion?


Perhaps a poor word choice on my part. Think of it as seated satipatthana with breathing as the foundation where each tetrad is comprised of concrete and abstract examples of each foundation of mindfulness with instructions to be aware of the nature of object mindfulness that arises and to then let go of the grip that we have on that object. An object might arise from any of the four foundations at any time.

So you aren't developing the tetrads. You are working in them - any one of them at any given time. If no other object of mindfulness is present, then go back to your foundation - the breath.


It sounds like you're basically practicing the 4 frames of satipatthana. There doesn't seem to be a concensus about how the 4 frames relate to the 4 tetrads.
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