Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 01, 2011 12:57 am

Greetings,

In contemporary Dhamma discourse, there is often a bifurcation established between "samatha-jhanas" and "vipassana-jhanas".

The purpose of this topic is to explore, with exclusive recourse to the Sutta Pitaka, whether this bifurcation has any establishment or grounding in the Buddha's own teaching.

Not being an exponent of the bifurcated jhana model, I open up the floor and invite those who may find benefit in this bifurcation to explain, with exclusive recourse to the Sutta Pitaka, the underlying basis for the delineation and the clarity or benefit that may be derivable from it in practical terms.

:meditate:

(Please note: This topic has been tightly framed to facilitate exploration with respect to the Sutta Pitaka. Any posts which do not relate to the tight framing of this topic may be removed without notice as being off-topic, and because they increase the risk of off-topic conflict between exponents/practitioners of one or other of the aforemention bifurcated jhanas. Thank you in advance for your co-operation.)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 01, 2011 1:49 am

Probably would best define the key terms here.

This interview may be of interest in pointing to how jhana have become more than originally conceived:

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=9016&p=140127#p140097

Somewhere in some thread on this form it has been discussed that the vipassana jhana are probably line with what the suttas taught more so than the later conceptions of the fully absorbed jhana notion of the commentaries and the Visuddhimagga.
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: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 01, 2011 2:09 am

Greetings Tilt,

Thanks for the link that helps to explain some of the modern context.

To you, and others... do you think the distinction between ceto,vimuttino and paññā,vimuttino is of relevance to the discussion?

MN 64 wrote:"Bhante, if this is the path, the way, to the abandoning of the five lower fetters, then how is it that some monks here are regarded as ‘liberated of mind’ (ceto,vimuttino) and as ‘liberated by wisdom’ (paññā,vimuttino)?” “Here, Ānanda, their difference is in their faculties, I say.”

Or...
MN 70 wrote:"And what is the individual [released] both ways? There is the case where a certain individual remains touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, and — having seen with discernment — his fermentations are ended. This is called an individual [released] both ways.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby Nyana » Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:10 am

retrofuturist wrote:In contemporary Dhamma discourse, there is often a bifurcation established between "samatha-jhanas" and "vipassana-jhanas".

The purpose of this topic is to explore, with exclusive recourse to the Sutta Pitaka, whether this bifurcation has any establishment or grounding in the Buddha's own teaching.

I think there's enough diversity of practice instruction offered in the suttas and also enough lack of specifics to account for this as well as other interpretations.

Here's Ven. Anālayo's informative entry on samatha & vipassanā from the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism: Samatha & Vipassanā.

The bottom line is that as mental qualities, both samatha & vipassanā are indispensable.
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Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 05, 2011 8:34 am

Here is a discussion of the vipassana jhanas by Ven U Pandita.

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... hanas.html

The desrciption he gives there is what I agree with.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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

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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:24 am

Greetings,

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:....But if you look directly at the Pali discourses — the earliest extant sources for our knowledge of the Buddha's teachings — you'll find that although they do use the word samatha to mean tranquillity, and vipassana to mean clear-seeing, they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms. Only rarely do they make use of the word vipassana — a sharp contrast to their frequent use of the word jhana. When they depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying "go do vipassana," but always "go do jhana." And they never equate the word vipassana with any mindfulness techniques. In the few instances where they do mention vipassana, they almost always pair it with samatha — not as two alternative methods, but as two qualities of mind that a person may "gain" or "be endowed with," and that should be developed together. One simile, for instance (SN 35.204), compares samatha and vipassana to a swift pair of messengers who enter the citadel of the body via the noble eightfold path and present their accurate report — Unbinding, or nibbana — to the consciousness acting as the citadel's commander. Another passage (AN 10.71) recommends that anyone who wishes to put an end to mental defilement should — in addition to perfecting the principles of moral behavior and cultivating seclusion — be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This last statement is unremarkable in itself, but the same discourse also gives the same advice to anyone who wants to master the jhanas: be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This suggests that, in the eyes of those who assembled the Pali discourses, samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path. Samatha and vipassana were used together to master jhana and then — based on jhana — were developed even further to give rise to the end of mental defilement and to bring release from suffering. This is a reading that finds support in other discourses as well.

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

So rather than return to the suttas after the jhanas were turned into (the so-called) "samatha jhanas" by the commentaries, there is now a separate set of jhanas bifurcated to offset and over-correct for the one-sidedness of the earlier interpretation.

Unlike the Blessed Ones words, I cannot rejoice in this.

:weep:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby Nyana » Tue Nov 08, 2011 2:38 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This suggests that, in the eyes of those who assembled the Pali discourses, samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path. Samatha and vipassana were used together to master jhana and then — based on jhana — were developed even further to give rise to the end of mental defilement and to bring release from suffering. This is a reading that finds support in other discourses as well.


Cf. Ven. Bodhi:

    The commentarial method of explanation stipulates that the meditator emerges from the jhāna attainment and practices insight contemplation with a mind made sharp and supple by the jhāna. However, the suttas themselves say nothing about emerging from the jhāna. If one reads the suttas alone, without the commentaries, it seems as if the meditator examines the factors within the jhāna itself.

And Ven. Gunaratana:

    The belief that one must come out of jhāna to gain supernormal knowledge (abhiññās) or to destroy defilements and attain enlightenment is based on an assumption that the concentrated mind becomes one with the object of meditation and is absorbed into that object. For this reason some people translate jhāna or samādhi as absorption concentration. If the mind is absorbed into the object then the mind is paralyzed and incapable of doing anything.

    This may be true when the jhāna is gained without mindfulness. This is what happened to the teachers of the Bodhisatta Gotama. They were stuck in jhāna but they thought that they had attained enlightenment. This cannot happen when you practice jhāna with mindfulness. When we attain right jhāna, our mindfulness is pure, our equanimity is strong, our concentration is strong and our attention is sharp. Right concentration consolidates all the mental factors that the Buddha has listed in the Anupada Sutta. Concentration is one of the factors present in right jhāna. You are fully aware, without words or concepts, of the subtlest impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness that takes place in this state of samādhi. These are your direct experience, not philosophical or logical thoughts.
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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby daverupa » Tue Nov 08, 2011 2:46 pm

Fascinating reading, friends.

: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: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby manas » Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:41 pm

Cf. Ven. Bodhi:
The commentarial method of explanation stipulates that the meditator emerges from the jhāna attainment and practices insight contemplation with a mind made sharp and supple by the jhāna. However, the suttas themselves say nothing about emerging from the jhāna. If one reads the suttas alone, without the commentaries, it seems as if the meditator examines the factors within the jhāna itself.


This excerpt from the jhana sutta seems to support this:

"'I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said? There is the case where a monk, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'


However, Retro, I do not see why you take issue with the quote from Ven. Thanissaro, which does not appear to contradict the above; could you kindly explain more?

metta.
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 30, 2011 10:05 pm

manasikara wrote:Retro, I do not see why you take issue with the quote from Ven. Thanissaro, which does not appear to contradict the above; could you kindly explain more?

metta.

Hi manasikara, Retro.
Thanissaro teaches "sutta jhana" (Richard Shankman's term) but also doesn't see jhana and vipassana as mutually exclusive. He personally seems to like a jhana-->insight order (but he's not an anapanasati sequentialist either).
Goodwill
Daniel
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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:04 am

Greetings,

:broke:

I thought it was quite clear from what I highlighted that Thanissaro Bhikkhu is not responsible for the modern bifurcation of jhanas, and if anything, is demonstrating that (in the realm of Mental Cultivation in the Sutta Pitaka) it seems to be an unnecessary and unfruitful separation.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:36 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

In contemporary Dhamma discourse, there is often a bifurcation established between "samatha-jhanas" and "vipassana-jhanas".

The purpose of this topic is to explore, with exclusive recourse to the Sutta Pitaka, whether this bifurcation has any establishment or grounding in the Buddha's own teaching.

Not being an exponent of the bifurcated jhana model, I open up the floor and invite those who may find benefit in this bifurcation to explain, with exclusive recourse to the Sutta Pitaka, the underlying basis for the delineation and the clarity or benefit that may be derivable from it in practical terms.

:meditate:

(Please note: This topic has been tightly framed to facilitate exploration with respect to the Sutta Pitaka. Any posts which do not relate to the tight framing of this topic may be removed without notice as being off-topic, and because they increase the risk of off-topic conflict between exponents/practitioners of one or other of the aforemention bifurcated jhanas. Thank you in advance for your co-operation.)

Metta,
Retro. :)
This issue has been discussed before and it is not a simple this or that issue. The vipassana jhanas are a response not to the sutta notion of jhana, but to the commentarial/Visuddhimagga notion of jhana:

    Partially, it's because there are three major sources of jhana material, all of which are incomplete. There are the suttas in which the descriptions of the jhanas are very simple. There is no-how-to in the suttas, thus leaving them open for quite a broad range of interpretation. Since Pali is not even a currently spoken language, many questions cannot be definitively answered. For example, what does "vitakka" really mean in the context of the jhanas? This leads to people interpreting this sparse material in different, yet internally consistent ways.

    A second source is the Abhidharnrna, which interprets the jhanas differently from what you find in the suttas. There you find a scheme of five Jhanas covering the same territory as covered by four jhanas in the suttas. Finally, you have the Visuddhimagga, which gives quite a different interpretation from what you find in the suttas; a much deeper level of concentration is being taught.

    So we have different schemes in the literature, and it depends to some extent on where someone is learning the jhanas, whom they're learning them from, and what literature is being used in that tradition. This material has been preserved for up to 2,500 years, with people making little tweaks along the way and not necessarily communicating with one another, and that has also led to different interpretations.

    . . .

    What's being talked about in the Visuddhimagga are very deep states of concentration. The definition of what constitutes a jhana has, in a thousand year period, progressed to a much deeper state.

    We might ask how this happened. Think about who was preserving the Buddha's teaching during these thousand years. It's a bunch of guys hanging out in the woods -- no TV, no women. They've got just their minds to work with. And so they start working on the jhanas, And if somebody can take it a little bit deeper, obviously he's doing it "better." The natural human tendency is, "Well, if! can do it better than you are doing it, I'm doing it the right way, and I'll teach you to do it my way."

    So I would guess that over time jhana evolved from pretty serious states of concentration to the extreme states that we find preserved in the Visuddhimagga. The Abhidhamma seems to be somewhere in between, but obviously getting very, very deep during that period, since people were able to see their mind-moments and so forth.

    viewtopic.php?f=17&t=9016&p=140097p140097#p140097

It has been pointed out by some here that the vipassana jhana notions looks quite a bit more like the sutta notions of jhana than the commentarial notion of jhana, but the point is that to discuss vipassana jhana, which is something that arose out of the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition, one needs to understand the context in which the notion arose. Simply an argument can be made that those who have taught and practiced Mahasi Sayadaw type vipassana have noted that the jhana factors are at play during meditation but not to the extent of highly absorbed jhana as described in the commentarial literature, and "vipassana jhanas" is a way of talking about it this experience.

For those who do not know what the vipassana jhanas are, here are two talks well worth spending with that look at vipassana jhana in terms of actual practice:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/talks/?search ... =-rec_date

I would venture that the vipassana jhanas are more in line with how some see the jhanas as described by the suttas. So this is really not a simple question of bifurcation between the the suttas and later formulations.
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: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby danieLion » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:56 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

:broke:

I thought it was quite clear from what I highlighted that Thanissaro Bhikkhu is not responsible for the modern bifurcation of jhanas, and if anything, is demonstrating that (in the realm of Mental Cultivation in the Sutta Pitaka) it seems to be an unnecessary and unfruitful separation.

Metta,
Retro. :)

:oops: You were clear. I muddled it up.
Apologies.
:anjali:
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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:26 am

tiltbillings wrote:I would venture that the vipassana jhanas are more in line with how some see the jhanas as described by the suttas. So this is really not a simple question of bifurcation between the the suttas and later formulations.

And there are certainly hints in the writings/talks of Mahasi Sayadaw and U Pandita (not to mention the criticisms leveled at Mahasi Sayadaw for not being true to the Commentaries) that they were hardly slaves to particular interpretations.

Speaking of Thanissaro Bhikkhu, I'm sure I read/heard him state explicitly that he thought that U Pandita's "Vipassana Jhanas" were what he (TB) thought the Suttas were describing. Does anyone recall where that was?

:anjali:
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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:40 am

Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:Speaking of Thanissaro Bhikkhu, I'm sure I read/heard him state explicitly that he thought that U Pandita's "Vipassana Jhanas" were what he (TB) thought the Suttas were describing. Does anyone recall where that was?

No, but since I think I've read most of his freebie written publications, chances are it's a Dhamma MP3 as I nearly never listen to those.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby danieLion » Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:04 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:Speaking of Thanissaro Bhikkhu, I'm sure I read/heard him state explicitly that he thought that U Pandita's "Vipassana Jhanas" were what he (TB) thought the Suttas were describing. Does anyone recall where that was?

No, but since I think I've read most of his freebie written publications, chances are it's a Dhamma MP3 as I nearly never listen to those.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Maybe look at audiodharma's TB collection as Gil Fronsdal studied with U Pandita and usually seems present at TB's talks?
I've read U Pandita and TB's works on jhana and I can see why he'd say that though I don't personally recall it.
D :heart:
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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby Zom » Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:59 am

"Jhana and Lokuttara-Jhana" essay by Ven. Brahmali:

http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebmed092.htm

:buddha1:
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Re: Two "truths"/"descriptions" and meditation in the suttas

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:47 am

manasikara wrote:
Cf. Ven. Bodhi:
The commentarial method of explanation stipulates that the meditator emerges from the jhāna attainment and practices insight contemplation with a mind made sharp and supple by the jhāna. However, the suttas themselves say nothing about emerging from the jhāna. If one reads the suttas alone, without the commentaries, it seems as if the meditator examines the factors within the jhāna itself.



Interesting point. I came across the Jhana Sutta ( below ) which seems to indicate that insight occurs while in jhana.

Spiny



AN 4.124 PTS: A ii 128 Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption (2) translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

"Monks, there are these four types of individuals to be found existing in the world. Which four?

"There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. At the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in conjunction with the devas of the Pure Abodes. This rebirth is not in common with run-of-the-mill people.

"Again, there is the case where an individual... enters the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana... He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. At the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in conjunction with the devas of the Pure Abodes. This rebirth is not in common with run-of-the-mill people.

"These are four types of individuals to be found existing in the world."
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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby Gena1480 » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:01 pm

if you look at sutta 111
one by one
there is line there there in the sutta
that says that this way of practice is the right way.
Sariputta, monks, takes the unexcelled wheel of Dhamma set rolling by the Tathagata, and keeps it rolling rightly.
this way of practicing is the right way
keeping the wheel of Dhamma rolling rightly
we should follow the advice of Buddha
we want to keep the wheel of Dhamma rolling rightly
for the benefit of beings
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Re: Is there sutta basis for the modern bifurcation of jhanas?

Postby manas » Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:40 am

Retro,

My apologies also; I guess I misunderstood what you wrote above; ok now I understand that you were not being critical of what Ven Thanissaro had said. My misunderstanding, I will put it down to lack of sleep...

metta

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