nimitta for jhana

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby Nyana » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:03 pm

Given that MN 128 is the only sutta that mentions an obhāsanimitta and rūpanimitta in that context, and given that the commentaries and the Vimuttimagga consider that MN 128 is primarily about the development of the divine eye, and not jhāna per se, there's no reason to tie MN 128 to other uses of the term "nimitta" in the suttas or to the development of jhāna, unless one thinks that a mental image as a counterpart representation (paṭibhāganimitta) is a necessary prerequisite for developing jhāna. And not even the Visuddhimagga makes that claim.
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:59 am

How odd. What are we supposed to do with the Chinese parallel in MA 72? That sutra has even more effulgence that MN 128, going just by the word count of its discussion. It has the exact same analysis of the Pali sequence of vitakka-vicara, beginning with the Pali's "Let me now develop concentration in three ways." being paralleled by the Chinese "我當修學三定".

According to Wille's catalogue of the Turfan Collection, a Sanskrit text of MA 72 is collected in Vol VI, No 1384.

By Critical Textual standards, that's an awful lot of suttas/sutras to ignore as peripheral to the context of jhana, given the 3 different languages underlying each text (the Chinese being a translation of a Prakrit, not Sanskrit).

That being said, I would not disagree that MN 128's nimitta does not quite resemble the Commentarial paṭibhāganimitta
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby Nyana » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:26 am

Sylvester wrote:What are we supposed to do with the Chinese parallel in MA 72?

If other versions have additional material not present in MN 128 then MN 128 can be considered an earlier witness.

Sylvester wrote:That being said, I would not disagree that MN 128's nimitta does not quite resemble the Commentarial paṭibhāganimitta

Using a prepared kasiṇa maṇḍala is an effective method for developing samatha. And it seems that light nimittas, etc., are important for developing the divine eye. However, although light nimittas, etc., can and often do occur when developing samatha, such phenomena aren't necessary for attaining jhāna, and I'm not aware of any Buddhist tradition that says otherwise.
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby Sylvester » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:03 pm

Looks like I overestimated the difference in the effulgence frequency in MA 72 and MN 128. I overlooked the fact that the Taisho copy did not use elisions!

For a listing of the pyrotechnic vocab used in the Sanskrit edition of MA 72 in the Turfan Collection, see Ven Analayo's Comparative Study, footnote 227, Vol 2.

I think it remains open if the effulgent nimitta is a landmark to entering every jhana. However, the point I was hoping to make is that effulgent nimittas are not as incompatible with jhana as Ven T seems to have suggested by his insinuation that the Vsm model is built primarily on kasinas.
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby Nyana » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:17 am

BTW, AN 8.64 explicitly connects the perception of light and the seeing of forms to seeing devas, i.e. the development of the divine eye.
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby Sylvester » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:54 am

Indeed it does. Ven Analayo therefore surmises that the Commentarial explanation for MN 128 stems from the Gayasisa Sutta aforementioned. That explanation, in Ven Analayo's view, is difficult to reconcile with the standard model of the development of the iddhis based on the 4th jhana. In MN 128, the nimittas are mentioned as a prelude to the jhanas, rather than things done after the 4th jhana.

I'm also not entirely convinced that divine vision is needed to see and hear devas. Witness Ven Sariputta's mom, who saw and heard a train of devas when her son was dying.

To the above, I would add something about the Gayasisa Sutta. Along with the effulgence and forms, there is also conversation with the devas. Not really possible within a jhana (SN 36.11). The entire Gayasisa sequence of trainings appear to have been undertaken so that "knowledge and vision would thus be better purified" (ñāṇadassanaṃ parisuddhataraṃ ). I thought that divine vision, as an iddhi, would be pursued after such purification, instead of being a prelude to the purification. At least this much seems clear from the standard DN 2 account, where the iddhis are developed after the vipassana section initiated in terms of ñāṇadassanāya cittaṃ abhinīharati abhininnāmeti (he directs and inclines the mind to knowledge and vision).

All in, the Gayasisa account gels quite well with the Eastern Bamboo Park account in MN 128, where the effulgence and forms were in the lead-up to jhana, rather than pursuits of iddhi post-jhana.
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby Nyana » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:37 am

Sylvester wrote:Indeed it does. Ven Analayo therefore surmises that the Commentarial explanation for MN 128 stems from the Gayasisa Sutta aforementioned. That explanation, in Ven Analayo's view, is difficult to reconcile with the standard model of the development of the iddhis based on the 4th jhana.

I don't see any reason to think that the bodhisatta wasn't able to attain jhānas during the period of time described in AN 8.64. Moreover, the commentarial interpretation of MN 128 isn't unique to the Pāli Aṭṭhakathā. But at any rate, speculating about this particular issue of iddhi and abhiññā without recourse to the commentaries or direct knowledge is akin to blind men speculating about what it's like to look through a kaleidoscope.

Sylvester wrote:All in, the Gayasisa account gels quite well with the Eastern Bamboo Park account in MN 128, where the effulgence and forms were in the lead-up to jhana, rather than pursuits of iddhi post-jhana.

It seems that it likely connects with the second of the four types of samādhibhāvanā described in AN 4.41.
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby Sylvester » Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:27 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:But at any rate, speculating about this particular issue of iddhi and abhiññā without recourse to the commentaries or direct knowledge is akin to blind men speculating about what it's like to look through a kaleidoscope.


Well, that's one view out of many. I have the optimism of those in Early Buddhism studies that the early texts are clear enough on their own not to be lensed thru exegetical material that are inconsistent.
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Postby steve19800 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:57 am

Since nimitta means a 'sign'. Can we ask if this is real?
How if you experienced not just light but 'see' another being? Is the being is real or not real? Thanks
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