Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Sylvester » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:16 am

Dear Geoff

That's only your inability to confront the evidence that I presented in the form of the few Majjhima suttas where mind-contact feelings were described to give rise to cetasika feelings couched in the same stock formula employed by the Salla Sutta. I don't intend to gloss that over as amnesia. Nor do I see any point in responding to yet another ex cathedra pronouncement on the perceived failings of my argument. I could just as easily pronounce that you've failed to rebut any of my arguments...

As for the accusation of my employing esoteric readings, well, pls produce the evidence using the Pali grammars to demonstrate that your reliance on plain English grammar to understand Pali is not the more bizarre.

Since you're so fond of citing the Vimuttimagga (in that other thread), perhaps you may like to explain why you cherry pick what works for your thesis, but conveniently not mention those bits in the Vimuttimagga that deal with Nimittas, Upacara, Appana, and the need to emerge from Appana to exercise the iddhis etc. That presumes that we are both looking at the same primary source which was translated.

Another example of more cherry-picking would be your insistence that we resort to the Dhammasangani. Well, why not import the entire Abhidhammic analysis of the rupajhanacitta and how that is totally bereft of the kamavacaracittas?

You also dismissed Piya's "appeal to personal experience". Fair enough but you do not hold yourself to the same high standard when you cite AJ Chah's and AJ Thanissaro/AJ Fuang's experiential accounts. What makes you feel privileged to be immune from the yardstick that you apply to others?

I'm only adopting your tactics in asking me and Piya to go back and re-consider. Since you seem to view that this kind of tactic is suitable in evading the substantive issues raised, well, what's sauce for the goose...

Seriously, instead of dismissing Piya's or my arguments with nothing more than a limp suggestion that we need to brush up on our suttanta and Abhidhamma, cite those references for the benefit of everyone else to see. If you felt that the suttas and the Abhidhamma support you, cite them. I'm not going to declare that I have demonstrated the errors of your interpretations (ex cathedra is not my forte and that thread is still available viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4597&start=60 for anyone interested). But if you wish to rehash our previous discussion, let's revive it.

Very simply put Geoff, it matters little to me how venerable you think your research is. Your self belief does not endow your pronouncements with any weight. You either take the trouble to demonstrate or run the risk that I would bluntly point out how meaningless your statements are to the issue.

With metta
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:32 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:The reality is....

The reality is that in our previous conversations you've repeatedly insisted that the discourses in question do not mean what they say. But there is nothing esoteric about these discourses. They aren't employing some sort of twilight language which relies on a hidden code to draw out some meaning obscured by the terminology being used. This is why the Buddha is recorded as stating that the discourses should be taught using the language of the people being addressed. They don’t require a highly specialized technical vocabulary. Nor do they require a priestly or scholarly elite to decode obscured meanings. Your entire argument throughout has amounted to nothing more than an attempt to draw out conclusions to support your preconceived thesis regarding feeling as it pertains to jhāna. Not only does your hermeneutic have little to recommend for it – I would suggest that you’re grasping the wrong end of the snake. And for what purpose? In support of an interpretation of jhāna which refuses to accept the explicit teachings of a vast number of discourses, as well as the majority of early ābhidhammika commentaries? An interpretation of mental factors in the context of jhāna which refuses to survey and acknowledge the full register of how these terms are designated, defined, and differentiated throughout the canon?

During our entire conversation you never once produced a single source from the discourses to support your interpretation of SN 36.6 Salla Sutta that bodily feeling as it is used in this sutta is meant to include feeling born of mind contact. In fact, your entire premise in this case is just one example of your stretching the meaning of two terms to the point where there is no meaningful differentiation between them. Moreover, in your zeal to sustain your thesis your interpretation fails to recognize the soteriological import of this discourse: the distinction between how a noble disciple (ariyasāvaka) experiences bodily pain in comparison to a common person.

Piya Tan would be well advised to study MN 111 more closely, as well as the Dhammasaṅgaṇī and the Paṭisambhidāmagga Ānāpānassatikathā in order to understand that the mental factors mentioned in MN 111 are fully accounted for as being present and known through the mental factor of vipassanā while one is correctly abiding in jhāna as the proper training of heightened mind (adhicittasikkhā).

There are basically three approaches to mental development in the context of meditation:

    (i) attention training where one absorbs into a single object and thereby stills all mental factors to the point where, as Ajahn Brahmavamso explains, “Consciousness is so focused on the one thing that the faculty of comprehension is suspended … there is no comprehension of what is going on.”

    (ii) attention training where one attends to a single object and thereby calms and unifies all mental factors to the point where, as Leigh Brasington explains, “It is possible to examine the experience because the state is so stable and self sustaining on its own.”

    (iii) attention training where one attends to whatever occurs in the present moment (either with the aid of a support object such as abdominal movement, or choiceless awareness without the aid of a support object).

It is only in the first of these three approaches that the five senses must necessarily be shut down and ceased for that resultant state to be entered and sustained. However, the lack of comprehension in this state makes it impossible for vipassanā to occur while abiding therein.

The resultant state of the second approach allows for the mind to be internally unified while still fully comprehending the mental factors present. Thus vipassanā can be fully present and functional while abiding therein. Ajahn Chah describes the resultant state of this second approach as follows:

    In appana samadhi the mind calms down and is stilled to a level where it is at its most subtle and skilful. Even if you experience sense impingement from the outside, such as sounds and physical sensations, it remains external and is unable to disturb the mind. You might hear a sound, but it won't distract your concentration. There is the hearing of the sound, but the experience is as if you don't hear anything. There is awareness of the impingement but it's as if you are not aware. This is because you let go. The mind lets go automatically. Concentration is so deep and firm that you let go of attachment to sense impingement quite naturally. The mind can absorb into this state for long periods. Having stayed inside for an appropriate amount of time, it then withdraws.

Ajahn Thanissaro describes what Ajahn Fuang considered to be wrong concentration as follows:

    The best state of concentration for the sake of developing all-around insight is one that encompasses a whole-body awareness. There were two exceptions to Ajaan Fuang's usual practice of not identifying the state you had attained in your practice, and both involved states of wrong concentration. The first was the state that comes when the breath gets so comfortable that your focus drifts from the breath to the sense of comfort itself, your mindfulness begins to blur, and your sense of the body and your surroundings gets lost in a pleasant haze. When you emerge, you find it hard to identify where exactly you were focused. Ajaan Fuang called this moha-samadhi, or delusion-concentration.

    The second state was one I happened to hit one night when my concentration was extremely one-pointed, and so refined that it refused settle on or label even the most fleeting mental objects. I dropped into a state in which I lost all sense of the body, of any internal/external sounds, or of any thoughts or perceptions at all — although there was just enough tiny awareness to let me know, when I emerged, that I hadn't been asleep. I found that I could stay there for many hours, and yet time would pass very quickly. Two hours would seem like two minutes. I could also "program" myself to come out at a particular time.

    After hitting this state several nights in a row, I told Ajaan Fuang about it, and his first question was, "Do you like it?" My answer was "No," because I felt a little groggy the first time I came out. "Good," he said. "As long as you don't like it, you're safe. Some people really like it and think it's nibbana or cessation. Actually, it's the state of non-perception (asaññi-bhava). It's not even right concentration, because there's no way you can investigate anything in there to gain any sort of discernment. But it does have other uses." He then told me of the time he had undergone kidney surgery and, not trusting the anesthesiologist, had put himself in that state for the duration of the operation.

    In both these states of wrong concentration, the limited range of awareness was what made them wrong. If whole areas of your awareness are blocked off, how can you gain all-around insight? And as I've noticed in years since, people adept at blotting out large areas of awareness through powerful one-pointedness also tend to be psychologically adept at dissociation and denial. This is why Ajaan Fuang, following Ajaan Lee, taught a form of breath meditation that aimed at an all-around awareness of the breath energy throughout the body, playing with it to gain a sense of ease, and then calming it so that it wouldn't interfere with a clear vision of the subtle movements of the mind. This all-around awareness helped to eliminate the blind spots where ignorance likes to lurk.

The third of the three approaches outlined above can eventually lead to the resultant state of the second approach, but it isn’t a direct pathway to that state of mental unification.

All the best,

Geoff

I think you failed to comprehend this post Sylvester.
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Sylvester » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:43 am

More pronouncements, Geoff. You do amuse me.

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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:54 am

Sylvester wrote:That's only your inability to confront the evidence that I presented in the form of the few Majjhima suttas where mind-contact feelings were described to give rise to cetasika feelings couched in the same stock formula employed by the Salla Sutta.

Your analysis of these suttas suffers from your same hermeneutic blunders as does your interpretation of the Salla Sutta. I previously addressed all of your fanciful interpretations in far more detail than should have been required. Your agenda is obvious.

Sylvester wrote:reliance on plain English grammar to understand Pali is not the more bizarre.

Seriously, go read MN 111 carefully as well as the Dhammasaṅgaṇī and the Paṭisambhidāmagga Ānāpānassatikathā.

Sylvester wrote:Since you're so fond of citing the Vimuttimagga (in that other thread), perhaps you may like to explain why you cherry pick what works for your thesis, but conveniently not mention those bits in the Vimuttimagga that deal with Nimittas, Upacara, Appana, and the need to emerge from Appana to exercise the iddhis etc. That presumes that we are both looking at the same primary source which was translated.... Well, why not import the entire Abhidhammic analysis of the rupajhanacitta and how that is totally bereft of the kamavacaracittas?

I can fully account for the ābhidhammika model of perception in terms of nimittas without ever falling into the trap of Ajahn Brahmavamso's ambulance jhāna.

Sylvester wrote:You also dismissed Piya's "appeal to personal experience". Fair enough but you do not hold yourself to the same high standard when you cite AJ Chah's and AJ Thanissaro/AJ Fuang's experiential accounts. What makes you feel privileged to be immune from the yardstick that you apply to others?

The citations presented from Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Thanissaro, and Ajahn Fuang can be accounted for with reference to the discourses. Piya Tan's analysis and Ajahn Brahmavamso's samadhi cannot.

Sylvester wrote:Seriously, instead of dismissing Piya's or my arguments with nothing more than a limp suggestion that we need to brush up on our suttanta and Abhidhamma, cite those references for the benefit of everyone else to see. If you felt that the suttas and the Abhidhamma support you, cite them.

Read page one of this thread.

Sylvester wrote:You either take the trouble to demonstrate or run the risk that I would bluntly point out how meaningless your statements are to the issue.

I've already addressed your feeble hermeneutic strategy ad nauseum. I don't play games -- word games or any other -- as a rule. And I've already given your interpretations more time than they warrant without even going into your interpretation of terms such as vitakka, etc..

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:57 am

Sylvester wrote:More pronouncements, Geoff. You do amuse me.

And I have already suggested that you, good man, are grasping the wrong end of the snake.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Sylvester » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:33 am

Yes, Geoff, you attempted to address my propositions, but whether you succeeded is not a matter of your fiat. Ad nauseum is not proof of success, but merely of persistent disagreement.

You're still evading the invitation to lay bare your Abhidhammic and Vimuttimagga materials while demonstrating how you are not guilty of cherry picking. Surely it would be an easy task to reconcile your interpretation of the above 2 with contrary propositions therein? You've sought to tantalise an audience by saying that A & V will justify your treatment of Jhana, so surely it's not too much to ask that you demonstrate it.

I think I did not bother to reiterate the arguments against yours, since it should be obvious that I am not persuaded by your persistence in denying the kayika treatment in the Majjhima and your predilection to proclaim and your application of English grammar to Pali texts (Obvious agenda to justify your experience. Oops! Where did I pick up that ad hominem tactic?)

If you wish to set standards and then change them later, perhaps your standards should all be accompanied by a caveat.

I'm sure it's not a snake I caught but an eel.
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:41 am

Ñāṇa wrote: I've already addressed your feeble hermeneutic strategy ad nauseum. I don't play games -- word games or any other -- as a rule.
Sylvester's is raising legitmate questions, but one thing I have noticed, Geoff, you do not know how to debate, you do not how engage the other person's argument. It is one thing to carpet bomb us with information, but it wholly another to actually engage the opposing argument and to answer in detail the points that question something you have said. That I have not seen you do well.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:53 am

tiltbillings wrote:Sylvester's is raising legitmate questions

No -- they are agenda driven and quite pointless as to the context of this thread.

tiltbillings wrote:Geoff, you do not know how to debate, you do not how engage the other person's argument.

This is the meditation forum not the debate forum. If I wanted to debate the issue I'd have posted this thread in the debate forum.

tiltbillings wrote:It is one thing to carpet bomb us with information, but it wholly another to actually engage the opposing argument and to answer in detail the points that question something you have said. That I have not seen you do well.

That's somewhat accurate. I'm here at DW to share information, not debate everyone who disagrees with me. As for Sylvester, I played quite nice for a number of weeks on that previous thread. And I didn't start that previous thread. In fact I had never posted or replied to anything on DW until that thread was posted and someone told me that it was here. And I never sought out Sylvester's 2 cents.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:01 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Sylvester's is raising legitmate questions

No -- they are agenda driven and quite pointless as to the context of this thread.
Not that you have shown.

tiltbillings wrote:Geoff, you do not know how to debate, you do not how engage the other person's argument.

This is the meditation forum not the debate forum. If I wanted to debate the issue I'd have posted this thread in the debate forum.
But your OP clearly is a debate from the very beginning.

tiltbillings wrote:It is one thing to carpet bomb us with information, but it wholly another to actually engage the opposing argument and to answer in detail the points that question something you have said. That I have not seen you do well.

That's somewhat accurate. I'm here at DW to share information, not debate everyone who disagrees with me. As for Sylvester, I played quite nice for a number of weeks on that previous thread. And I didn't start that previous thread. In fact I had never posted or replied to anything on DW until that thread was posted and someone told me that it was here. And I never sought out Sylvester's 2 cents.
It is an open forum. Sylverster's $0.02 goes with the terrotory.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:22 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:This is the meditation forum not the debate forum. If I wanted to debate the issue I'd have posted this thread in the debate forum.

But your OP clearly is a debate from the very beginning.

I tried to make it as explicit as language would allow in the OP that I was not starting this thread to argue with anybody:

    I’m well aware that this subject matter may not be of interest to some people. It’s posted here for those who are interested. For anyone who doesn’t find the contents of this thread informative or helpful, I respectfully and wholeheartedly agree that they would be better served to follow whatever interpretation of the dhammavinaya that they have faith in and find helpful. It runs counter to the intent of the dhamma for anyone who isn’t fully awakened to maintain definite conclusions that “Only this is true; anything else is worthless” (MN 95).

I read all sorts of threads and posts on DW that I don't necessarily agree with. But I try my best not to reply to threads unless I feel that I have something constructive to add to the discussion. It would be senseless for me or anyone else to chime in on a thread discussing the Burmese vipassanā method, for example, and derail the conversation by insisting that the Burmese vipassanā method is somehow wrong (which I don't believe to be the case BTW).

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:34 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:This is the meditation forum not the debate forum. If I wanted to debate the issue I'd have posted this thread in the debate forum.

But your OP clearly is a debate from the very beginning.

I tried to make it as explicit as language would allow in the OP that I was not starting this thread to argue with anybody:

    I’m well aware that this subject matter may not be of interest to some people. It’s posted here for those who are interested. For anyone who doesn’t find the contents of this thread informative or helpful, I respectfully and wholeheartedly agree that they would be better served to follow whatever interpretation of the dhammavinaya that they have faith in and find helpful. It runs counter to the intent of the dhamma for anyone who isn’t fully awakened to maintain definite conclusions that “Only this is true; anything else is worthless” (MN 95).

I read all sorts of threads and posts on DW that I don't necessarily agree with. But I try my best not to reply to threads unless I feel that I have something constructive to add to the discussion. It would be senseless for me or anyone else to chime in on a thread discussing the Burmese vipassanā method, for example, and derail the conversation by insisting that the Burmese vipassanā method is somehow wrong (which I don't believe to be the case BTW).

All the best,

Geoff
The problem is that jhana is a contenious subject. Firtst it was the jhana-wallah against the vipassana-noids, which it generally still is, but it has now gone to sutta jhana-wallah against the commentraial/VM jhana-wallahs. It is a contenious field.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:37 pm

tiltbillings wrote:It is an open forum. Sylverster's $0.02 goes with the terrotory.

Yep, it's an open forum. And Sylvester has given me his 2 cents on numerous occasions. I have already replied in detail to each of his opinions in turn, giving him far more time than should have ever been required. Especially since during the course of those conversations his agenda became quite obvious.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:43 pm

tiltbillings wrote:The problem is that jhana is a contenious subject.

It need not be.

tiltbillings wrote:Firtst it was the jhana-wallah against the vipassana-noids, which it generally still is, but it has now gone to sutta jhana-wallah against the commentraial/VM jhana-wallahs. It is a contenious field.

I'm more than happy to let every individual follow whatever meditation instructions they find helpful and have faith in. In fact, I think it's outstanding whenever anyone decides to take up any sitting practice.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:52 pm

Greetings Ñāṇa, all,

Ñāṇa wrote:I'm more than happy to let every individual follow whatever meditation instructions they find helpful and have faith in. In fact, I think it's outstanding whenever anyone decides to take up any sitting practice.

:thumbsup:

I do hope this topic can get back on track in the sense of addressing "Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas" as this is something that I find to be a very interesting topic.

:meditate:

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby cooran » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:48 pm

Hello all,

This may be of interest:

The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli Suttas - Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

For full article, please click on link at foot of post.

This extract is Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Conclusions and an Afterthought

EXTRACT:
Our study has led us to the following conclusions regarding the relationship between lay noble disciples and the jhānas.
(1) Several suttas describe the process by which a worldling enters "the fixed course of rightness" in a way that emphasizes either faith or wisdom as the chief means of attainment.
None of the texts, however, that deal with the two candidates for stream-entry -- the faith-follower and the Dhamma-follower -- show them as being proficient in the jhānas.
Though some suttas include the jhānas in the analysis of the faculty of concentration, this may be done simply out of compliance with the formulaic style of definition employed by the Nikāyas and need not be seen as having categorical implications. The Commentaries treat these definitions as referring to the supramundane jhāna arisen within the supramundane path. Moreover, the analysis of the concentration faculty mentions another type of concentration, which is gained "by making release the object," and this may be interpreted broadly enough as including degrees of concentration short of the jhānas.

(2) All noble disciples acquire the right concentration of the Noble Eightfold Path, which is defined as the four jhānas.
This need not be understood to mean that stream-enterers and once-returners already possess jhāna before they reach stream-entry. The formula for right concentration may imply only that they must eventually attain the jhānas in the course of developing the path to its culmination in arahantship.
If we go along with the Commentaries in recognizing the Abhidhammic distinction between the preparatory path and the supramundane path, then we can maintain that the jhānas included in right concentration as a path factor pertain to the supramundane path and are thus of supramundane stature.
This still leaves open the question whether aspirants for stream-entry must develop the mundane jhānas in the preliminary phase of their practice.

(3) A number of texts on stream-enterers and once-returners imply that they do not possess the jhānas as meditative attainments which they can enter at will. Though it is obvious that disciples at the lower two levels may have jhānic attainments, the latter are not declared to be an integral part of their spiritual equipment.

(4) Several non-returners in the Nikāyas claim to possess all four jhānas, and according to the Mahāmāluṅkya Sutta, attainment of at least the first jhāna is part of the practice leading to the eradication of the five lower fetters. It thus seems likely that stream-enterers and once-returners desirous of advancing to non-returnership in that very same life must attain at least the first jhāna as a basis for developing insight.
Those content with their status, prepared to let the "law of the Dhamma" take its course, generally will not strive to attain the jhānas. Instead, they settle for the assurance that they are bound to reach the final goal within a maximum of seven more lives passed in the human and celestial worlds.

(5) As non-returners have eliminated sensual lust and ill will, the main obstacles to jhānic attainment, they should face no major problems in entering the jhānas. The non-returner is similar to the ordinary jhāna-attainer in being bound for rebirth in the form realm. Unlike the latter, however, the non-returner is utterly free from sensual desire and ill will and thus can never fall back to the sensuous realm.

(6) Although in the Nikāyas the tie between the two attainments -- the jhānas and non-returnership -- is clear enough, it remains an open question whether the connection is absolutely binding.
Several suttas speak of the achievements of non-returners without mentioning the jhānas, and at least one sutta contrasts the non-returner who gains all four jhānas with one who practises more austere types of meditation that do not typically lead to the jhānas.
*
The Commentaries speak even of a sukkhavipassaka arahant, an arahant who has gained the goal entirely through "dry insight," without any attainment of form-sphere jhāna at all. Although such a type is not explicitly recognized in the Nikāyas, the question may be raised whether the Commentaries, in asserting the possibility of arahantship without attainment of jhāna in the mundane portion of the path, have deviated from the Canon or brought to light a viable possibility implict in the older texts.
The famous Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta declares, in its conclusion, that all those who earnestly dedicate themselves to uninterrupted practice of the four establishments of mindfulness are bound to reap one of two fruits: either arahantship in this very life or, if any residue of clinging remains, the stage of non-returning. While several exercises within the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta are certainly capable of inducing the jhānas, the system as a whole seems oriented towards direct insight rather than towards the jhānas.[40]
Thus this opens the question whether the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta might not be propounding a way of practice that leads all the way to non-returning, even to arahantship, without requiring attainment of the jhānas. This, however, is another question, one that lies beyond the scope of this paper.
-ooOoo-
http://www.viet.net/~anson/ebud/ebdha267.htm

with metta
Chris
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Vepacitta » Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:27 am

Thanks Cooran for the piece from Ven. Bodhi.

And many thanks to Nana for this interesting thread and the exposition on Jhana.

And thanks to Retro for his gentle suggestion to get this (very valuable) thread :focus: There is a gold mine here for discussion and explanation - not debate! Is this a forum to discuss Theravadin Buddhism or is it a debate forum?

Personally, I'd like to get into 'how does it work - that you can be concentrated - and yet still think - even though non-discoursive? Is it during the jhana - right after emergence - a bit of both?

What exactly is meant by bodily pleasure - is it the oddball buzzing you get in the head chakras sometimes? Is it truly a lack of pain?

What about what is known as access concentration - how does that relate?

I mean - there's a thousand and one picky (and maybe silly but they need to be cleared up) questions -and - from my view (yes - view) that would be great to discuss - "whadd'ya think, huh?" "reallly - you sure? but what about where it says ..." and not worry about getting flamed for Chrissakes.

(Where's my pet Naga Binky when I need him? :x )

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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Hoo » Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:15 am

Thanks Chris,

That info and link are exactly what I've been looking for.

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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Thu Sep 30, 2010 9:24 am

Hi all,

I would like to thank the DW members for the PMs and e-mails yesterday.

And thanks Chris, for posting the excerpt from Ven. Bodhi and the link.

Also thanks go out to Retro and Vepacitta for suggesting that it would be good to discuss some of the practical aspects of the teachings. There is a traditional standard of Buddhist etiquette -- common to all Buddhist traditions -- of not publicly discussing in detail what are considered to be personal matters regarding practice better kept between one's teacher and oneself. This traditional etiquette is actually grounded in quite pragmatic concerns. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to have a more open discussion about sitting practice. I look forward to reading all replies, and will try to share what I've found helpful (and also not so helpful) for my own practice over the years.

It might be worth mentioning again that there are basically three approaches to mental development in the context of meditation:

    (i) attention training where one absorbs into a single object and thereby stills all mental factors to the point where, as Ajahn Brahmavamso explains, “Consciousness is so focused on the one thing that the faculty of comprehension is suspended … there is no comprehension of what is going on.”

    (ii) attention training where one attends to a single object and thereby calms and unifies all mental factors to the point where, as Leigh Brasington explains, “It is possible to examine the experience because the state is so stable and self sustaining on its own.”

    (iii) attention training where one attends to whatever occurs in the present moment (either with the aid of a support object such as abdominal movement, or choiceless awareness without the aid of a support object).

With this in mind, it's really a matter of what each of us has tried and found helpful for our own practice. All three of these approaches can be developed to the point of attaining the resultant state of that approach if one has the time and commitment to follow their chosen path of practice in a sustained, dedicated way.

It is only with the first of these three approaches that the five senses must necessarily be shut down and ceased for that resultant state to be entered and sustained. However, the lack of comprehension in this state makes it impossible for vipassanā to occur while abiding therein.

The resultant state of the second approach allows for the mind to be internally unified while still fully comprehending the mental factors present. Thus vipassanā can be fully present and functional while abiding therein. I consider the resultant meditative state of this second approach to represent an accurate assessment of jhāna as it's presented in the suttas. Other people consider the resultant state of the first approach to be necessary. It's not my intention to debate this issue here. Obviously, everyone is free to make up their own mind regarding what they feel is necessary for their practice.

The third approach can eventually lead to the resultant state of the second approach, but it isn’t a direct pathway to that state of mental unification. The level of concentration employed in this third approach is often designated as "momentary concentration." This approach can be applied as somewhat of a conjoined calm (samatha) and vipassanā method. By using the instruction to follow the movement of the abdomen as one breathes and to come back to that as the support object after any distractions, this approach enables many practitioners to develop deep samatha in the course of their practice. Thus this approach can certainly lead to jhāna. This is entirely in keeping with what is outlined in the suttas.

I look forward to hearing what other members have to contribute to this discussion.

All the best,

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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Sep 30, 2010 11:35 am

Greetings Geoff,

My opportunities to meditate tend to be limited, and at best I manage to find maybe 45 minutes in a block to meditate. Of the 16 steps depicted in the Anapanasati Sutta...

"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' [7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

"[9] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.' [10] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in satisfying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out satisfying the mind.' [11] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in steadying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out steadying the mind.' [12] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.'[5]

"[13] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.' [14] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.' [15] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on cessation.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on cessation.' [16] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'


I endeavour to get up to Stage 4 or so, and then leap frog across to Stage 13. I'd like to go the full way through the other steps, but it usually takes me about 20-30 minutes of focusing of the breath, before I'm sufficiently attuned to being sensitive to the entire body. I should point out here that I take the sutta here literally in terms of referring to 'the body' and don't understand it as 'breath body', despite the recommendations of the commentarial literature. The reason I leap frog to Stage 13, is so that I allow the mind (which is as finely tuned as it's going to get in such a humble session) to at least go to work observing the characteristics of aniccata. Whilst samatha alone may be fun, I think vipassana as taught by the Buddha is the reason for practicing samatha in the Buddhadhamma... it's not simply samatha for samatha sake. If that's all it was, it wouldn't have taken the Buddha to work that out. I'd rather not waste what mental unity I have attained in such a session, as humble as it might be.

Alas, in the evenings I'm too tired to meditate effectively and I just get drowsy. I'm at my best late morning or lunchtime... and this is true both in a retreat environment and in daily life.

As for "publicly discussing in detail what are considered to be personal matters regarding practice better kept between one's teacher and oneself", that won't be a problem. My teacher attained parinibbana 2500 or so years ago.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Modus.Ponens » Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:44 pm

I'll post what my limited experience is with meditation. This reffers to the practice I used to do. Now I do metta bhavana.

I found helpfull to folow the first steps in the anapanasati sutta. I started with just being mindfull of the breath sensation in the nostrils to settle the mind (directed thought). Then I would move to breathing evaluating if the breath was long or short (evaluation). Then I would breathe sensitive to the entire body in order to prepare for the next step. Then I would calm the entire (and this is where the previous step becomes important) body producing rapture. I never got further than this. But I think this demonstrates an important principle: that the first 12 steps in the anapanasati sutta are meant to be a gradual progression through the jhanas (preparing, producing or strenghtning the apropriate jhana factor).

Has anyone here found this 12 steps interpretation to be true?
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