Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby reflection » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:48 am

Well, I didn't want to charge at others view, so I left it open to interpretation. But yeah, "desire of desire" sounds a bit strange. It's more reasonable to say the escape from the 5 senses is through letting go the desire for the five senses. This seems to me more a recipe for non-returning than it does for jhana (although it could both be inferred, subduing referring to jhana, abandoning to non-returning), but still the reasoning stays the same, "desire of desire" is obviously not what the Buddha was pointing to to here.

Thank you for SN35.13, I'll see if I can look at it later.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby daverupa » Fri Aug 24, 2012 11:15 am

reflection wrote:It's more reasonable to say the escape from the 5 senses is through letting go the desire for the five senses.


Quite so. MN 13: "And what, bhikkhus, is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures? It is the removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for sensual pleasures. This is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures."

Thanissaro: "And what, monks, is the escape from sensuality? The subduing of desire-passion for sensuality, the abandoning of desire-passion for sensuality: That is the escape from sensuality."

('Removal', 'abandonment' perhaps emphasize an energetic connotation as over against 'letting go'. It is important to evoke right effort.)

reflection wrote:This seems to me more a recipe for non-returning than it does for jhana (although it could both be inferred, subduing referring to jhana, abandoning to non-returning)


Since the four ariyan stages, as a unit, aren't really brought up in jhana contexts very often, it's probably useful to set them aside as unrelated markers while discussing this particular aspect of the gradual training, i.e. jhana. With respect to the recipe analogy, jhana is an (essential) ingredient, while the four ariyan stages are various baked goods.

:heart:
    "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: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Fri Aug 24, 2012 2:57 pm

daverupa wrote:
reflection wrote:It's more reasonable to say the escape from the 5 senses is through letting go the desire for the five senses.


Quite so. MN 13: "And what, bhikkhus, is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures? It is the removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for sensual pleasures. This is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures."

Thanissaro: "And what, monks, is the escape from sensuality? The subduing of desire-passion for sensuality, the abandoning of desire-passion for sensuality: That is the escape from sensuality."

('Removal', 'abandonment' perhaps emphasize an energetic connotation as over against 'letting go'. It is important to evoke right effort.)



Hee hee. If the Paṃsudhovaka Sutta, AN 3.100 is anything to go by, the samadhi with effort is termed sasaṅkhāraniggayhavāritagata (held at bay (niggayha) by the restraint and control (vāritavata) of the active will (sasaṅkhāra) - per Ajahn Brahmali's translation). The superior samadhi is said to be na sasaṅkhāraniggayhavāritagata (NOT held at bay (niggayha) by the restraint and control (vāritavata) of the active will (sasaṅkhāra)). This seems consistent with DN 9's description of the Jhanas as states bereft of volition.

This na sasaṅkhāraniggayhavāritagata business pops up again in AN 9.37

www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an0 ... .than.html

This sutta is a mainstay resort for the "conscious of body" Jhana interpretation, owing to Ven Ananda's answer to this query -

When not sensitive to that dimension, my friend, one is percipient of what?

Ananda - There is the case where, with the complete transcending of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] 'Infinite space,' one enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. This is one way of being percipient when not sensitive to that dimension.

etc etc for the next 2 formless attainments.


What's always overlooked is that Ven Ananda then gives a further example of how one may be percipient when not sensitive to that dimension -

Ekamidāhaṃ, āvuso, samayaṃ sākete viharāmi añjanavane migadāye. Atha kho, āvuso, jaṭilavāsikā bhikkhunī yenāhaṃ tenupasaṅkami; upasaṅkamitvā maṃ abhivādetvā ekamantaṃ aṭṭhāsi. Ekamantaṃ ṭhitā kho, āvuso, jaṭilavāsikā bhikkhunī maṃ etadavoca— ‘yāyaṃ, bhante ānanda, samādhi na cābhinato na cāpanato na ca sasaṅkhāraniggayhavāritagato, vimuttattā ṭhito, ṭhitattā santusito, santusitattā no paritassati. Ayaṃ, bhante ānanda, samādhi kiṃphalo vutto bhagavatā’ti?

308Evaṃ vutte, sohaṃ, āvuso, jaṭilavāsikaṃ bhikkhuniṃ etadavocaṃ— ‘yāyaṃ, bhagini, samādhi na cābhinato na cāpanato na ca sasaṅkhāraniggayhavāritagato, vimuttattā ṭhito, ṭhitattā santusito, santusitattā no paritassati. Ayaṃ, bhagini, samādhi aññāphalo vutto bhagavatā’ti. Evaṃsaññīpi kho, āvuso, tadāyatanaṃ no paṭisaṃvedetī”ti.

Ven T's translation -

Once, friend, when I was staying in Saketa at the Game Refuge in the Black Forest, the nun Jatila Bhagika went to where I was staying, and on arrival — having bowed to me — stood to one side. As she was standing there, she said to me: 'The concentration whereby — neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with fabrication kept blocked or suppressed — still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of what?'

"I said to her, 'Sister, the concentration whereby — neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with fabrication kept blocked or suppressed — still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of gnosis.'[1] This is another way of being percipient when not sensitive to that dimension."


:anjali:
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby daverupa » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:08 pm

I see satipatthana as a near-synonym of jhana, as one is to develop it with vitakka-vicara, then with vicara, and then without either. So, samadhi without effort perhaps correlates with "...born of samadhi/unification of mind" and not "...born of seclusion" in the pericopes for the first two jhanas. Indeed, we can see the anapanasati lines "...calming bodily fabrication/calming mental fabrication/releasing the mind" as instructions for enacting this transition.

In any event, I'm disinclined to see a lack of will in jhana, as I consider that one directs ones mind to the destruction of the taints from within (fourth) jhana; the calming of fabrications is one thing, but the presence of right effort within the Samadhi category of the Path means that the suggestion that right effort drops away in right samadhi is wholly mysterious to me.

Finally, AN 9.37 is an odd one, in that it talks of the formless attainments without mentioning jhana at all. I'm fairly suspicious of conclusions about jhana built up on that sort of thing, but mileage varies.
    "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: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby reflection » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:51 pm

For those interested, from time to time I keep editing the first post. Just now I added a bit of commentary (= personal interpretation) to MN 140. Feel free to comment.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Sat Aug 25, 2012 3:18 am

Hi dave

You do have some insightful observations.

daverupa wrote:I see satipatthana as a near-synonym of jhana, as one is to develop it with vitakka-vicara, then with vicara, and then without either. So, samadhi without effort perhaps correlates with "...born of samadhi/unification of mind" and not "...born of seclusion" in the pericopes for the first two jhanas. Indeed, we can see the anapanasati lines "...calming bodily fabrication/calming mental fabrication/releasing the mind" as instructions for enacting this transition.


If you are thinking of MN 125's transition from satipatthana directly to 2nd Jhana, it's been observed by BB and Ven Analayo that the Chinese parallel has 1st Jhana in the nexus. It looks likely that MN 125 may have suffered a transmission loss of the 1st Jhana, given that one Pali variant reading shows a transmission loss of even the 4th Jhana.

In any event, I'm disinclined to see a lack of will in jhana, as I consider that one directs ones mind to the destruction of the taints from within (fourth) jhana; the calming of fabrications is one thing, but the presence of right effort within the Samadhi category of the Path means that the suggestion that right effort drops away in right samadhi is wholly mysterious to me.


The "within" concept perhaps suggests itself from the English translation of the superknowledge pericopes ("with his mind thus concentrated, etc"). Yet, this is not evident in the Pali, which uses one of the 2 locative absolute constructions to indicate that the temporal disjunction of the samāhita (concentrated) and the abhininnāmeti (directs).

So evaṃ samāhite citte - parisuddhe, pariyodāte, anaṅgaṇe, vigatūpakkilese, mudubhūte, kammaniye, ṭhite, āneñjappatte, .... pubbenivāsānussatiñāṇāya cittaṃ abhininnāmesiṃ. .


In this form of the locative absolute (locatives of both noun and past participle), the event of the concentrated mind precedes the work on the superknowledges. If the reciters had intended contemporaneity of the samāhita citta and the verb abhininnāmeti, they would have used the genitive absolute construction for this.

It's very unfortunate that VT elected to re-write DN 9 to limit the absence of volition to the Sphere of Nothingness. I could not find a variant reading of DN 9 that supports his translation. Somehow, when he blatantly presses a distortion of the text to support his discursive Jhana model, it just makes one wonder what else has been distorted.

Finally, AN 9.37 is an odd one, in that it talks of the formless attainments without mentioning jhana at all. I'm fairly suspicious of conclusions about jhana built up on that sort of thing, but mileage varies.


Actually, it does mention the Jhanas, almost as an afterthought. Ven Ananda's account of his chat with Jatila Bhagika sets the stage for the Jhanas being included within "how one may be percipient when not sensitive to that dimension". Elsewhere, na sasaṅkhāraniggayhavāritagata samādhi is understood to be Jhana. This term crops up often enough (DN, SN, AN) to give a fairly consistent picture of it being a description of Jhana.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby danieLion » Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:55 am

Sylvester wrote:Now, if we can get back to the business at hand, ie the meaning of kāmā in the kāmā seclusion pericope, please share what you understand kāmā/sensuality/sensual pleasure to mean in this pericope within the Pali and in the translations.

So Rev. T shares a the meaning of a word with the Abhidhamma. So what?

Rev. Gunaratna's piece near the end of this Five Hindrances section of his The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation is a good practical description of the pericope's meaning. It doesn't mean secluding your body from your mind, if that's what you're driving at.

Sylvester wrote:PS - re the differences between BB's and VT's rendering of pañcakāmaguṇā, it' doesn't seem to be relevant to talk about plural or singular here, since the plurality is obviously with reference to the noun guṇā, rather than the noun kāma. The lemma kāma could have been inflected in either the singular or plural within the compound. Both have however translated the lemma to be in the singular. VT's translation harks back to an old explanation I recall him giving for the kāmaguṇā being akin to the strings of an instrument producing music; his analogy being that the kāmaguṇā when touched produces desire. BB's translation also has kāma in the singular, but referring to a pleasant feeling, rather than desire. The doctrinal impact of this difference is significant, depending on whether or not one accepts the suttas' tajja/correspondence model in describing the types of feelings that can arise with particular objects of cognition.

Thanks. I'll take it into consideration.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Sat Aug 25, 2012 12:42 pm

danieLion wrote:So Rev. T shares a the meaning of a word with the Abhidhamma. So what?


Let me count the ways it matters -

1. If I discount any praxis considerations and indulge purely in academic ruminations, textual criticism deems it of importance to know what words mean in different strata of texts. Confusing meanings have demonstrable problems - witness Ven Buddhaghosa's difficulties in explaining why the kāmā seclusion formula was predicated with "eva", while the other seclusion formula was not. Another difficulty that presents with the Vibhanga definition was the glaring absence of the adjective "other" in the akusala dhammā pericope, as if kāmā were not an akusala dhamma. Witness the ridiculous results that reflection and I have pointed out with VT's use of "sensuality" in the ubiquitous allure, drawback and escape analyses of kāmā. If the critical apparatus exists, as it does in the CPD, why not use them, instead of jumbling up sutta connotations with Abhidhammic ones, when they lead to unreadable passages such as VT's "sensuality" would necessitate with MN 13?

2. From a praxis perspective, I need to know what the texts actually mean, and I wasted many years of my study and practice believing VT's discursive Jhana model. I've seen more than enough of VT's attempts to (a) exploit the English reader's unfamiliarity with Pali grammar to change the connotation of Pali texts (especially in the temporal grammatical constructions), and (b) re-writing Pali texts to suit his Jhana model. It was extremely difficult for me to shake off my previous faith in his translations - there was something very powerful to cling on to, namely identification of my meditations with his "jhanas". It would be far easier for me to rest on my laurels, having fulfilled his Jhana criteria, but a critical reading of the texts simply does not allow me the luxury of such a lie any longer.

It is for this reason that "practical" descriptions are, IMO, a poor yardstick for the interpretation of texts. Whether it is Ajahn Thanissaro's or Bhante G's or Ajahn Brahm's or Ajahn Sujato's or Ven Buddhaghosa's, all claims to being the right interpretation must be measured against the suttas.

Now that it has become apparent that VT's "sensuality" carries no plural connotation (contrary to your belief), would you indulge me by telling me what you think kāmā in the 1st Jhana's vivic'eva kāmehi pericope means?
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby daverupa » Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:43 pm

Sylvester wrote:If you are thinking of MN 125...


Yes, although only in terms of housing satipatthana around a particular grade of the gradual training. I say "near-synonym" given satipatthana's transitional potential, exemplified by anapanasati.

Sylvester wrote:The "within" concept... temporal disjunction... the event of the concentrated mind precedes the work...


Hmm. Well, considering that we define jhana as the cessation of certain processes and the arising and/or continuation of other processes, I see "within" as referring to work done concomitant with a constellation of processes which conform thereby. I do not see any clear reason to suggest that there is a substantive change between the arising of jhana and the direction of attention as instructed.

The transition to second jhana can be seen as the habituation of satipatthana, but before this happens there is work to be done. AN 9.36 shows something of this with its metaphor (although here again there are some formless intrusions; nevertheless they do not detract from the point. "He regards" may not be a matter of will so much as a matter of wisdom, but it becomes a semantic argument when the effort to see clearly with wisdom is nowhere described as 'just happening', as though simply a fortuitous reward for wallowing in jhana).
    "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: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:31 am

Hi dave

daverupa wrote:
Hmm. Well, considering that we define jhana as the cessation of certain processes and the arising and/or continuation of other processes, I see "within" as referring to work done concomitant with a constellation of processes which conform thereby. I do not see any clear reason to suggest that there is a substantive change between the arising of jhana and the direction of attention as instructed.


It's simply a question of whether or not we -

1. pay heed to the grammatical construction of the locative absolute used in that pericope; and
2. accept DN 9 as a genuine record of the Buddha's teaching of the cessation of volition in the Jhanas.


The transition to second jhana can be seen as the habituation of satipatthana, but before this happens there is work to be done. AN 9.36 shows something of this with its metaphor (although here again there are some formless intrusions; nevertheless they do not detract from the point. "He regards" may not be a matter of will so much as a matter of wisdom, but it becomes a semantic argument when the effort to see clearly with wisdom is nowhere described as 'just happening', as though simply a fortuitous reward for wallowing in jhana).


This is more complex, and I will raise several points for your consideration -

A. Is the verb "he regards" (samanupassati) a discursive verb or a non-discursive verb?

A quick scan of the suttas shows this popping up not just in the Jhana passages, but in passages describing ordinary worldling formation of self-views, eg SN 22.100, MN 148. You also find this verb appear in the Hindrances formula which portray a monk regarding the Hindrances as a debt etc, eg in DN 11, MN 39. Unlike the anupassati encountered in satipaṭṭhāna (which admits of a bare awareness connotation), samanupassati suggests a much more analytical and discursive character.

B. This brings immediately 2 doctrinal problems. How does this discursive activity square with DN 9? Even if one rejects DN 9, there is also the problem that samanupassati occurs in the 2nd to 4th Jhanas in AN 9.36. I know you will probably argue that samanupassati is possible in 1st Jhana, owing to the presence to the vacīsaṅkhāra. However, this would disturb the standard way in which suttas employ sets or series which are defined by common denominators. Such an argument would mean that samanupassati means discursive contemplation in 1st Jhana, but the same verb would mean non-discursive contemplation in 2nd to 4th Jhanas.

C. The perennial present tense problem. If you take a look at the grammars, Pali present tenses just don't function in the way that English present tenses function, unlike what Ven T likes us to believe. Take a look at Warder, where the Pali present tense is described as -

- describing the indefinite present
- proxy for the past tense (which explains the gradual loss of the aorist from the Canon with formalisation)
- describing eternal truths
- an imperative
- compartmentalizing a verb's duration
- describing a future event.

Pali simply uses other grammatical devices to indicate contemporaneity of verbs, such as the genitive absolute. This really needs to be said, as Ven T's Jhana model extracts undue mileage from the unfamiliar range of Pali present tense verbs.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby danieLion » Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:14 pm

Sylvester wrote:
danieLion wrote:So Rev. T shares a the meaning of a word with the Abhidhamma. So what?


Let me count the ways it matters -

1. If I discount any praxis considerations and indulge purely in academic ruminations, textual criticism deems it of importance to know what words mean in different strata of texts. Confusing meanings have demonstrable problems - witness Ven Buddhaghosa's difficulties in explaining why the kāmā seclusion formula was predicated with "eva", while the other seclusion formula was not. Another difficulty that presents with the Vibhanga definition was the glaring absence of the adjective "other" in the akusala dhammā pericope, as if kāmā were not an akusala dhamma. Witness the ridiculous results that reflection and I have pointed out with VT's use of "sensuality" in the ubiquitous allure, drawback and escape analyses of kāmā. If the critical apparatus exists, as it does in the CPD, why not use them, instead of jumbling up sutta connotations with Abhidhammic ones, when they lead to unreadable passages such as VT's "sensuality" would necessitate with MN 13?

2. From a praxis perspective, I need to know what the texts actually mean, and I wasted many years of my study and practice believing VT's discursive Jhana model. I've seen more than enough of VT's attempts to (a) exploit the English reader's unfamiliarity with Pali grammar to change the connotation of Pali texts (especially in the temporal grammatical constructions), and (b) re-writing Pali texts to suit his Jhana model. It was extremely difficult for me to shake off my previous faith in his translations - there was something very powerful to cling on to, namely identification of my meditations with his "jhanas". It would be far easier for me to rest on my laurels, having fulfilled his Jhana criteria, but a critical reading of the texts simply does not allow me the luxury of such a lie any longer.

It is for this reason that "practical" descriptions are, IMO, a poor yardstick for the interpretation of texts. Whether it is Ajahn Thanissaro's or Bhante G's or Ajahn Brahm's or Ajahn Sujato's or Ven Buddhaghosa's, all claims to being the right interpretation must be measured against the suttas.

Now that it has become apparent that VT's "sensuality" carries no plural connotation (contrary to your belief), would you indulge me by telling me what you think kāmā in the 1st Jhana's vivic'eva kāmehi pericope means?

Wait. Are you one of those people who believes words and their meaning(s) always have a one-to-one correspondence? That's not very practical (when I say practical in this topic I'm referring to something similar to Reflection's practice emphases, not textual descriptions, per se).
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby danieLion » Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:27 pm

Sylvester wrote:...From a praxis perspective, I need to know what the texts actually mean....

Why? The practitioners who did it before the texts existed didn't, and plenty of meditators after that--up to contemporary times, e.g., Ajaan Chah--didn't.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby danieLion » Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:30 pm

Sylvester wrote:
danieLion wrote:So Rev. T shares a the meaning of a word with the Abhidhamma. So what?


Let me count the ways it matters -...

You only got up to 2. Is that it?
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:56 am

danieLion wrote:Wait. Are you one of those people who believes words and their meaning(s) always have a one-to-one correspondence? That's not very practical (when I say practical in this topic I'm referring to something similar to Reflection's practice emphases, not textual descriptions, per se).


I hope not. I've been a big fan of acknowledging polysemy in Pali words.

Why? The practitioners who did it before the texts existed didn't, and plenty of meditators after that--up to contemporary times, e.g., Ajaan Chah--didn't.


Because the Disciples had the verbal instructions of the Buddha, instead of written documents. As for modern practitioners, can you be certain that they did not resort to texts? Do you know them personally, or are you relying on some romantic hagiography? Even without written texts, they would still have received oral instructions. The Ajahn Chah example is not quite right - his disciple Peter recalls his elephantine ability to chant long suttas (substantive ones, and not blessings), and the narrative of his meeting with Ajahn Mun indicates that he had been actually working for a long time with the Visudhimagga. He seems also to have dipped into some Commentarial literature, eg the Tuccho Potthila story traceable to the Dhammapada Commentary.

More importantly, I am simply not as gifted as these meditators.

You only got up to 2. Is that it?


Yes.

Now that we've got that meta-discussion about ME out of the way, let's returns to the first level discussion about kāmā in the 1st Jhana's vivic'eva kāmehi pericope. You've hinted that VT's "sensuality" versus BB's "sensual pleasures" were not that different, since you thought "sensuality" was contextually plural. reflection has shown that VT uses it in a clear singular sense. That being so, what exactly do you understand by the abovesaid kāmā? Or you have no wish to ventillate your views?
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby danieLion » Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:22 pm

Sylvester wrote:You've hinted that VT's "sensuality" versus BB's "sensual pleasures" were not that different, since you thought "sensuality" was contextually plural. reflection has shown that VT uses it in a clear singular sense....
Reflection has not done this.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby danieLion » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:30 am

Sylvester wrote:2. From a praxis perspective, I need to know what the texts actually mean, and I wasted many years of my study and practice believing VT's discursive Jhana model. I've seen more than enough of VT's attempts to (a) exploit the English reader's unfamiliarity with Pali grammar to change the connotation of Pali texts (especially in the temporal grammatical constructions), and (b) re-writing Pali texts to suit his Jhana model. It was extremely difficult for me to shake off my previous faith in his translations - there was something very powerful to cling on to, namely identification of my meditations with his "jhanas". It would be far easier for me to rest on my laurels, having fulfilled his Jhana criteria, but a critical reading of the texts simply does not allow me the luxury of such a lie any longer.


Why are you blaming your misunderstandings of Thanissaro's teachings on the good Reverend? Where's the personal responsibility and accountability? You've concocted a conspiracy theory about Rev. T's ulterior motives that is actually a reflection of your own failures.

Did you overlook his teachings like this?
Sometimes you read about teachers who turn out to be major disappointments. They do really horrible things to their students, and the students complain that they've been victimized. But in nearly every case, when you read the whole story, you realize that the students should have seen this coming. There were blatant warning signals that they chose to ignore. You have to be responsible in choosing your teachers, choosing your path. Once you've chosen the path that looks likely, you have to be responsible in following it, in learning how to develop your own sensitivity in following it. Because after all, what is the path that the Buddha points out? There's virtue, there's concentration, and there's discernment. These are all qualities in your own mind. We all have them to some extent. Learning how to develop what's in your own mind is what's going to make all the difference. The Buddha's discernment isn't going to give you awakening; his virtue and concentration aren't going to give you awakening. You have to develop your own. Nobody else can develop these things for you. Other people can give you hints; they can help point you in the right direction. But the actual work and the actual seeing is something you have to do for yourself.

So the question is: Are you mature enough to want this path? Are you mature enough to follow it through? Nobody's forcing you. Just realize the dangers of not following this path and make your choice.URL

Or these?
If you go to a teacher, saying you've had a certain experience, and the teacher identifies it as a level of jhana or a level of insight, can you be sure? Do you really want to hand those judgments over to somebody else? Or do you want to learn how to judge things on your own, so that you can trust yourself? If you let the other people do the judging, there's always going to be an element of doubt: Do they know what they're saying? At the same time, you're absolving yourself of any responsibility. Discernment becomes their duty and not yours. That's not a good attitude for a meditator to take. You've got to learn to look, to try a few things.URL

Or these?
So as a teacher, he tried to instill in his students these qualities of self-reliance, ingenuity, and a willingness to take risks and test things for themselves. He did that not only by talking about these qualities, but also by forcing you into situations where you'd have to develop them. Had he always been there to confirm for you that, "Yes, you've reached the third jhana," or, "No, that's only the second jhana," he would have short-circuited the qualities he was trying to instill. He, rather than your own powers of observation, would have been the authority on what was going on in your mind; and you would have been absolved of any responsibility for correctly evaluating what you had experienced. At the same time, he would have been feeding your childish desire to please or impress him, and undermining your ability to deal with the task at hand, which was how to develop your own powers of sensitivity to put an end to suffering and stress. As he once told me, "If I have to explain everything, you'll get used to having things handed to you on a platter. And then what will you do when problems come up in your meditation and you don't have any experience in figuring things out on your own?"
URL

Or these?
It's like going out in the wilderness. You read the maps, you make your plans, but when you get out in the forest you realize that the forest doesn't look like the map. The map has splotches of solid pale green with red lines and little symbols on it. But when you look around yourself in the forest, you don't see those splotches, symbols, or lines. Now, the lines are relevant: They symbolize the paths through the forest. They give you a sketchy idea of what's out there. But you have to realize that there's a lot more out there than just the pale greens and reds of the map. There are actual trees, actual animals, actual changes in the lay of the land. So you make plans based on the map, but be prepared to throw your plans overboard as you meet up with new and unexpected things. This is an important part of the training: how to deal with the unexpected.URL

Or these?
Some people want to have all kinds of guarantees before they embark on this training, but you can't really guarantee anything. You can guarantee that when you reach the goal it's going to be good, but how much is that guarantee worth for someone who hasn't experienced it yet? Just one more thing to take into consideration. The Buddha, when he embarked on his quest, had no guarantee that all the sacrifice was going to be worth it, that he was going to find the deathless, or even that he was going to survive. But he had reached a point in his life where he realized that if he didn't at least try it, he would feel that his life had been wasted. And so for him it was a huge experiment. There was a lot of risk and a lot of uncertainty. And yet he was willing to take the risk and to face the uncertainty.

For us, it's not quite that drastic. We have people who've gone before. There's the question of whether we can trust them and believe them, but then look at the alternative: a life lived devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasures, trying to squeeze happiness out of things that are going to die and that we'll have to leave in the end — if not before the end. So at the very least you say, "Well, there's a possibility here. Let's give it a try." Try to have that sense of adventure. Be open to new things and learn how to deal with uncertainties.

Earlier today we were talking about the maps for the jhanas. When you try to apply the map to your actual experience, it's going to be uncertain for a while. You read the description of directed thought and evaluation, rapture and all, and the question is: What do those terms correspond to in your actual experience? You may have some ideas, but they may be wrong. Is that going to stop you from practicing? It shouldn't. It should simply alert you to the fact that you're going to be dealing in uncertainties for a while. When you place labels on your experiences, they have to be post-it notes, signposts to use in the meantime until you get a better sense of the terrain. The surest of the signposts is the one for the fourth jhana — when the in-and-out breath stops and stays stopped for the duration of that state of mind — but that's all the way in the fourth. So how are you going to know the signposts for one, two, and three? Well, you guess for the time being and you attach a few notes here, a few notes there. And have the confidence that when you find something more certain, you're going to be in a position to rearrange the notes if need be.URL


Now, to get back to the OP.

As Ñāṇa put it in this post
Ñāṇa wrote:But the heart of the matter is the assertion made by Ven. Brahmavamso and his associates that he is teaching the Buddha's sammāsamādhi, and that most everyone else isn't.

This is something which clearly cannot be said of Ven. T.

So, why are you trying to villainize the good Reverend? Do you really think he deserves the blame you've tried to attribute to him? I'm sorry you feel misled, but the fault is not Rev. T's.

It's yours.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby danieLion » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:35 am

Sylvester wrote:...would you indulge me by telling me what you think kāmā in the 1st Jhana's vivic'eva kāmehi pericope means?


No.

You tell me what you think first and we'll see how it goes.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby Sylvester » Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:17 am

danieLion wrote:
Why are you blaming your misunderstandings of Thanissaro's teachings on the good Reverend? Where's the personal responsibility and accountability? You've concocted a conspiracy theory about Rev. T's ulterior motives that is actually a reflection of your own failures.

...
So, why are you trying to villainize the good Reverend? Do you really think he deserves the blame you've tried to attribute to him? I'm sorry you feel misled, but the fault is not Rev. T's.

It's yours.



Actually, by all accounts, I've been a great success in his "Jhana" model. His position on meditation is very very clear and there's no mistaking what he says and means. Which is why it was so easy for me to identify with his road-maps and cling onto those landmarks he calls "Jhana". I merely point out that what Ven T says in his teachings is not necessarily what the suttas say in the original Pali . The disillusionment is realising that I had been short-selling myself by using his interpretations.

I do not need to concoct a conspiracy theory about Ven T. I let the Pali speak for itself, instead of relying on obvious mistranslations that clearly have a translation agenda. I let the Pali speak for itself, instead of being led by English grammar into interpretations which are not present in the Pali. If you reject the critical approach for a pious one, that's OK. Perhaps, with time, when you decide to invest in Pali studies, you would confront the cross-roads of faith in Ven T's translations versus the texts speaking directly to you. But, I do not consider it to be villainizing Ven T if I point out how his translations and interpretations are unwarranted and contradict the Canon on several scores.

Which is why I cannot understand you cite Geoff's complaint about Ajahn Brahm's belief in the "rightness" of his Jhana teachings. If someone is passionate enough about the Dhamma, he will speak up for what he believes to be right. As does Ven T in criticising competing Jhana models, as does Geoff in well argued papers. You seem to relish taking potshots at Ajahn Brahm, although I've only seen expressions of disagreement and dismissal, without any genuine attempt at argument.

Sylvester wrote:
...would you indulge me by telling me what you think kāmā in the 1st Jhana's vivic'eva kāmehi pericope means?



No.

You tell me what you think first and we'll see how it goes.


Why do you keep evading the issue? You may perhaps wish to examine if this passage has any relevance -

"Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin does not understand as it really is what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. He thinks: 'I do not understand as it really is what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. Now, there are recluses and brahmins who are wise, clever, experienced in controversy, who wander about demolishing the views of others with their wisdom. If, without understanding, I were to declare something to be wholesome or unwholesome, they might cross-examine me about my views, press me for reasons and refute my statements. If they should do so, I might not be able to reply. If I could not reply, that would distress me, and that distress would be an obstacle for me.' Therefore, out of fear and loathing of being cross-examined, he does not declare anything to be wholesome or unwholesome. But, when questioned about this or that point, he resorts to evasive statements and to endless equivocation: 'I do not take it thus, nor do I take it in that way, nor do I take it in some other way. I do not say that it is not, nor do I say that it is neither this nor that.'

DN 1


For the record, I take kāmā in the 1st Jhana's vivic'eva kāmehi pericope to mean the 5 bāhira āyatanā (external bases), namely rūpa, sadda, gandha, rasa and phoṭṭhabba. I do not take this to include "sensual desire", as that is addressed by the other seclusion formula "vivicca akusalehi dhammehi"
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby reflection » Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:44 am

Guys, this is not about Venerable Thanissaro, not about Venerable Brahmavamso. Neither is it about Sylvester or danieLion or reflection or whoever. So may I ask you to keep it a bit impersonal? I understand you defending your positions, but the last posts really represent nothing substantial, or nothing that's already been said. You got the freedom to say whatever you want of course, but this is just me asking as a dhamma friend to another dhamma friend to keep it a bit ontopic.
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Re: Purely mental absorption (jhana) in the suttas

Postby marc108 » Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:26 am

Sylvester wrote: I merely point out that what Ven T says in his teachings is not necessarily what the suttas say in the original Pali . The disillusionment is realising that I had been short-selling myself by using his interpretations.


could you expand on this please?
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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