Samadhi (best English translation?)

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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Sylvester » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:34 am

Hi Frank

frank k wrote:Hi Sylvester, "sutta jhana" and "vism. jhana" at least is clear on the point that with "vism.", one uses visual light nimitta to enter into a jhana, and that one has to emerge before one is able to think and do vipassana, something which you won't find in the suttas.


Re "insight" during the attainments, check out DN 9, but preferably a translation other than Ven T's. You can audit the translations against the Pali to see where the mistranslation by Ven T lies. The Chinese parallel says much the same thing about the incompatibility of thinking and intending with the attainments (sorry, I can't find my old post where I extracted the parallel passage from the Chinese DA 28). Not forgetting AN 3.101 which suggests that dhammavitakkā is a subtle defilement to be cleared out before one can attain the jhānas.

To get around this problem, some argue that vipassanā does not require thinking, that it is tied instead to perception. This brings in a gigantic subject for critical analysis of what vipassanā means in different strata of the texts and within specific contexts in the same stratum. What does vipassanā see - the states/experiences simpliciter or the dependency relationship of the states to one another in accordance with idappaccayatā? Leaving this gigantic issue aside, does the Pali actually say that one vipassati (does vipassana) during the duration of a jhāna?

If you survey the suttas' containing jhānas, you will find 2 broad categories. One is the narrative type, eg the account of Ven Moggallana's struggle to attain the jhānas (SN 40). The other would be the instructional sermons. Both types of suttas can be found framed with present tense verbs (eg MN 111 as a narrative and MN 66 as an instructional). The vipassati proxy verb pajānāti (knows/discerns/understands) then pops up in connection with the jhāna section as a following sentence, and pajānāti is also expressed in the present tense (eg MN 121). This, as most English readers would insist, must suggest that vipassanā is contemporaneous with jhāna. Does Pali grammar envisage such a function for the Pali present tense?

We can see that if contemporaneity were intended to be conveyed, the grammar suggests 2 other constructions, ie (i) the absolutive functioning as a gerund, or (ii) the genitive absolute formed from a present participle. However, these 2 types of construction are typically employed as the subordinate clause of relative clauses. I've not seen any of the jhāna and vipassanā passages structured in this kind of clause structure. I've not even seen any jhāna and vipassanā passages structured as distinct sentences (instead of clauses) where the jhāna verbs are expressed in either the absolutive or genitive absolute to the vipassanā verbs in present tense.

The reason for this is quite simple. The standard idiom for indicating contemporaneity of another activity with a jhāna is the relative clauses "Tassa ... iminā vihārena viharati, noun+another verb" idiom. Both the narrative and instructional suttas employ this idiom, and as far as I can see, the idiom is used only to speak of the "thorns" assailing the specific jhāna susceptible to that "thorn". Given that this idiom is available to both the narrative passages and the instructional passages, don't you find it contrived to press the present tense vipassanā verbs into service as functioning in the same way as the idiom? I've previously mentioned something about the periphrastic construction involving viharati in the jhāna pericopes (viewtopic.php?f=23&t=16516#p235389), and it seems that this idiomatic relative clause is the way to link the auxillary verb with the other verbs that follow as being contemporaneous.

Also how vitakka and vicara are defined in vism. is clearly different than the sutta passages that explicitly state the vitakka and vicara being nekkhamma, abyapada, avihimsa (or their opposites) when talking about the presence and absence of vitakka and vicara for the first and second jhanas.


I agree, but with the wee caveat that the Vsm definition could be justified on 2 grounds - (i) it discusses vitakka and vicāra in the bare mechanical sense, ie what the mind does, and this mechanical definition is also to be found in MN 19 and MN 117; and (ii) the qualitative sense of "how" the mechanics are performed would be found in the kusala descriptions such as MN 78, which you correctly identify with nekkhama, avyāpāda and ahiṃsā.

I agree that making better dictionary definitions for key pali terms alone is not going to solve communications problems, but surely there's something we can do as a community to facilitate better understanding of what these terms mean when talking about different interpretations of jhana.


That is KR Norman's plea, but he recognises that there's simply too much dogma entrenched in the exegetical traditions that they could not be expected to surrender to linguistic criticism. Nobody likes their memes to be scrutinised by grammarians and linguists...
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Nimitta -- Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Kumara » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:45 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Frank,
frank k wrote:Hi Sylvester, "sutta jhana" and "vism. jhana" at least is clear on the point that with "vism.", one uses visual light nimitta to enter into a jhana, ...

I'm not sure it's so straightforward. What about Ajahn Brahm, who definitely sees himself as a "sutta follower", but also teaches the light nimitta?
And signs of concentration are certainly in the suttas: viewtopic.php?f=43&t=15578


As you mentioned at the end of your post there listing the many suttas mentioning nimitta, "None of these cases refer specifically to "light" nimittas used by Vens Brahm, Pa Auk, and others." We can find "light" nimittas, besides other visual nimittas, mentioned (along with tactile ones) in VisM though.

As for the conflicting Ajahn Brahm's stand, what do you think?
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:09 am

Bhante,

I read the accounts of ancient and modern teachers as records based on their experience and/or their students. The Suttas, of course, are the key information that the ancient and modern teachers should be evaluated against. However, to me, they contain few practice details, so I value the reported experience of the ancient and modern practitioners.

Regarding the concentration signs: If I recall correctly, there are concentration signs other than lights mentioned in Visuddhimagga.

:anjali:
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Nyana » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:30 pm

Sylvester wrote:This, as most English readers would insist, must suggest that vipassanā is contemporaneous with jhāna.

Why do you continue to suggest that this is an error created by English language readers? Ven. Bodhi, Ven. Ṭhānissaro, Ven. Guṇaratana, and the entirety of the ancient Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, and Yogācāra commentarial traditions all either read Pāli or other ancient Indic languages.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Dmytro » Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:16 pm

Hello,

The narrow, objectified interpretation of 'nimitta' as 'visual image' is later than Visuddhimagga.

Visuddhimagga gives the clear definition of 'nimitta' as 'representation', which is quite in line with the Sutta.
In practice, this representation can have visual, tactile, or other sensory characteristics.

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2770
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:46 am

Nyana wrote:
Sylvester wrote:This, as most English readers would insist, must suggest that vipassanā is contemporaneous with jhāna.

Why do you continue to suggest that this is an error created by English language readers? Ven. Bodhi, Ven. Ṭhānissaro, Ven. Guṇaratana, and the entirety of the ancient Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, and Yogācāra commentarial traditions all either read Pāli or other ancient Indic languages.



AGAIN? I would have thought that after my reply here - viewtopic.php?f=13&t=7360&hilit=brahm&start=120#p121270
you would come up with something substantial rather than the same tired appeal to traditional exegesis. BTW. I'm still waiting for your essay on the meaning of "samprayukta" and why it connotes temporal conjunction instead of causal conjunction. I for one, despite my misgivings about some of the later commentators, cannot believe that they could not distinguish between samprayukta and sahagata.

Speaking of which, before you launch into the Vibhaṅga Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅga or the Dhammasaṅgaṇī Cittuppādakaṇḍa Lokuttarakusala Suddhikapaṭipadā again, I suggest you check out an often overlooked grammatical feature of the structure "...at whatever time, ...at that time" that you relied on in the previous posts. They are your well known "ya, ta" relative clauses inflected into the locative. See what Warder has to say about such relative pronoun-demonstrative pronoun clauses and why the "ta" pronoun is not necessarily a temporal locative, even if "ya" us a temporal locative. The Commentaries may interpret it as such, but the grammar (and at least one sutta that I've seen) allows otherwise. This is that future potentiality rather than contemporaneity interpretation advanced by Ven Nyanaponika and Potter.

In short, I am taking up Norman's call that a much more critical way of discussing texts is to consign the Theravāda, Sarvāstivāda and whatever other Vāda's interpretations to their specialist fields and not allow them contaminate a proper linguistic-textual-doctrinal study. If this method does not agree with you, that's fine by me. I just don't find the appeal to authority and commentarial memes very appealing. It's just too pious, and it introduces unjustifiable source bias to validate one's own inclination/understanding of a text.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Nyana » Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:07 am

Sylvester wrote:In short, I am taking up Norman's call that a much more critical way of discussing texts is to consign the Theravāda, Sarvāstivāda and whatever other Vāda's interpretations to their specialist fields and not allow them contaminate a proper linguistic-textual-doctrinal study. If this method does not agree with you, that's fine by me. I just don't find the appeal to authority and commentarial memes very appealing. It's just too pious, and it introduces unjustifiable source bias to validate one's own inclination/understanding of a text.

The suttas aren't systematic expositions Sylvester. They aren't meditation manuals or epistemology treatises either. If one wants to investigate authoritative Buddhist expositions on these issues one has to look to source texts beyond the sutta collections.

With regard to vipassanā, the Theravāda and the Sarvāstivāda traditions both maintain that samatha and vipassanā are united within jhāna on the noble path. If you don't agree, then it seems to me that that's your problem.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:18 am

Fair enough Geoff. I accept and agree with your proposition -

With regard to vipassanā, the Theravāda and the Sarvāstivāda traditions both maintain that samatha and vipassanā are united within jhāna on the noble path.


The operative qualifier being the perspectives of the Theravāda and the Sarvāstivāda, ie how these schools interpret their suttas and their abhidharmas. This is a doctrinal issue. If a more critical linguistic-textual dissection is not your cup of tea, that's fine with me too. As long as we acknowledge the differences in our approach, we can continue the discussion, even if we are talking at cross-purposes.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Nyana » Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:50 am

Sylvester wrote:Fair enough Geoff. I accept and agree with your proposition -

:smile:
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Dmytro » Sun Jun 23, 2013 10:56 am

Regarding the Leigh Brasington's term "Visuddhimagga jhana", - evidently it refers not to the Visuddhimagga itself, but rather to the later tradition. Similarly, much of the criticism directed at "commentaries" does not refer to the Commentaries themselves, but rather to the later scholastic interpretations.

Visuddhimagga itself is rather ambivalent on the subject of presence/absence of physical perception in rupa jhanas.

Chapter X:

"17. Of course, these [perceptions of visible objects, perceptions of sounds, perceptions of odours, perceptions of flavours, perceptions of tangible objects] are not to be found in one who has entered upon the first jhana, etc., either; for consciousness at that time does not occur by way of the five doors."

However:

"19. In fact it is because they [i.e. sensory phenomena] have not been abandoned already before this that it was said by the Blessed One that sound is a thorn to one who has the first jhana (A. v, 135). And it is precisely because they are abandoned here that the imperturbability (see Vbh. 135) of the immaterial attainments and their state of peaceful liberation are mentioned (M.i,33), and that Alara Kalama neither saw the five hundred carts that passed close by him nor heard the sound of them while he was in an immaterial attainment."

Chapter IV:

98. But when pervading (rapturous) happiness arises, the whole body is completely pervaded, like a filled bladder, like a rock cavern invaded by a huge inundation.
99. Now this fivefold happiness, when conceived and matured, perfects the twofold tranquillity, that is, bodily and mental tranquillity. When tranquillity is conceived and matured, it perfects the twofold bliss, that is, bodily and mental bliss. When bliss is conceived and matured, it perfects the threefold concentration, that is, momentary concentration, access concentration, and absorption concentration.
Of these, what is intended in this context by happiness is pervading happiness, which is the root of absorption and comes by growth into association with absorption.

However:

175. Now, as to the clause he feels bliss with his body: here, although in one actually possessed of the third jhana there is no concern about feeling bliss, nevertheless he would feel the bliss associated with his mental body, and after emerging from the jhana he would also feel bliss since his material body would have been affected by the exceedingly superior matter originated by that bliss associated with the mental body. It is in order to point to this meaning that the words 'he feels bliss with his body' are said.

So, evidently, Visuddhimagga as a text represents a transition stage between the descriptions of jhana in Vimuttimagga and in medieval scholastic texts.
Last edited by Dmytro on Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Sylvester » Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:41 am

Thanks Dmytro. You've raised good points.

I think the explanations presented in the Vsm at paras 98-99 and 175 are a struggle to accomodate one Abhidhammic analysis (Vbh 603) of paṭighasamphassa (being limited to the 5 sense bases), versus another Abhidhammic axiom that the attainments are absent the 5 sense consciousnesses (Kv). The former has interpreted the feeling that one experiences in the kāyena paṭisaṃvedeti pericope in the same way as the dichotomy between kāyikā and cetasikā feelings. Most translators have taken the -ena case form to refer to the vanilla instrumental; however see how Warder discusses the other case relations represented by -ena, specifically when he renders kāyena paṭisaṃvedeti. I think there's something to be said for reading kāyikā as referring to hedonic tone and cetasikā to the affective sequel, as seems to be the intent in SN 36.6.

It boils down to the issue of whether mind-contact is able to experience mind-pain (dukkha) and mental/emotional/affective distress (domanassa) seperately as an option, or if they are invariably bound. I think the "invariably bound" interpretation would mean that sense-restraint would have no value, and neither would yonisomanasikāra work in the face of a subhanimitta or paṭighanimitta. We'll be left with the dreadful conclusion that once an unpleasant dhamma establishes mind-contact and gives rise to mind-pain, nimittaggāhī (one grasps at the nimitta) is inexorable and leads to the activation of paṭighānusaya which is the cause for domanassa. This bifurcation of feelings into the hedonic and the affective is not only found in SN 36.6; in the DN 2 pericope on sense restraint, we get also the conditional statement of how if nimittaggāhī hoti, it gives rise to abhijjhā domanassā not just at the 5 senses, but at the mind-base as well. This nimittaggāhī model is found many times in each Nikāya (except perhaps the SN?).

I wonder how the Vsm might have been written if those passages from the Abhidhamma concerning the 5 sense bases and rūpa (which Hamilton identifies as unfounded in the suttas) were not copied from the Sarvas.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby frank k » Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:28 am

slightly off topic: is samāhita (saŋ+ādahati1) derived from the same word as samādhi [fr. saŋ+ā+dhā]? Also, is the samādahaṃ cittaṃ of anapana 16 steps derived from samādhi? How would I go about finding out the answer myself when I suspect words are related? I've been reading DPR's PED dictionary entries carefully and conjugation tables to no avail for these 3 words.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Kumara » Sun Jun 30, 2013 11:04 am

frank k wrote:slightly off topic: is samāhita (saŋ+ādahati1) derived from the same word as samādhi [fr. saŋ+ā+dhā]? Also, is the samādahaṃ cittaṃ of anapana 16 steps derived from samādhi? How would I go about finding out the answer myself when I suspect words are related? I've been reading DPR's PED dictionary entries carefully and conjugation tables to no avail for these 3 words.

Let me (part-)repost Dmytro's excellent reply. You can see the connections made in some dictionary entries:

Samāhita [pp. of samādahati] ...
http://dsalsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/p ... :3435.pali

Samādahati [saŋ+ādahati1] to put together S i.169. jotiŋ s. to kindle a fire Vin iv.115; cittaŋ s. to compose the mind, concentrate M i.116; pres. samādheti Th 2, 50; pr. part. samādahaŋ S v.312; ppr. med. samādahāna S i.169; aor 3rd pl. samādahaŋsu D ii.254. Pass. samādhiyati to be stayed, composed D i.73; M i.37; Miln 289; Caus. II. samādahāpeti Vin iv.115. -- pp. samāhita.
http://dsalsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/p ... :3391.pali

Here are 3 examples from the Suttas. Each comes with a set of four words. Each of the four in the 3 examples of the same root. You're interested with the last of the 4.
  • “internally the mind steadies (santiṭṭhati), settles (sannisīdati), is unified (ekodi hoti), and is composed (samādhiyati).” Kāya­gatā­sati Sutta (MN119)
  • "steadies the mind, settles it, unifies it, composes it (cittaṁ saṇṭhapeti sannisādeti ekodiṁ karoti samādahati)" Mahā·suññata Sutta (MN 122.1)
  • “How is the mind (citta) to be steadied (saṇṭhapetabbaṁ)… to be settled (sannisādetabbaṁ)… to be unified (ekodi kātabbaṁ)… to be composed (samādahātabbaṁ)?” ~ Tatiya·samādhi Sutta (AN4.94)
You can help yourself to more by looking up the references provided in the dictionary entry above. Hope that satisfies you.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby duckfiasco » Sun Jun 30, 2013 9:53 pm

Ajahn Pasanno referred to "continued attention" during a dhamma talk yesterday.
I think it helps remove some of the willful, strenuous quality that "concentration" has.
I think "concentration" also sounds more black and white: you're concentrated or you're not.
"Continued attention" reminds me of the build-up of momentum in attentiveness that has been more characteristic of my practice at least.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Kumara » Mon Jul 01, 2013 3:04 am

duckfiasco wrote:Ajahn Pasanno referred to "continued attention" during a dhamma talk yesterday.
I think it helps remove some of the willful, strenuous quality that "concentration" has.
I think "concentration" also sounds more black and white: you're concentrated or you're not.
"Continued attention" reminds me of the build-up of momentum in attentiveness that has been more characteristic of my practice at least.

That's what Sayadaw U Tejaniya (http://www.sayadawutejaniya.org) teaches too. I find much similarity between the teachings of
What they teach lead to samadhi (composure/collectednes), AND wisdom. The samadhi that is developed through continuous attentiveness is very stable, very resilient. The only way you can lose it is when you indulge in defilements again.
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby nibbuti » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:02 am

Kumara wrote:samadhi (composure/collectednes)

+1

'Sammlung' in German also means collection, composure or mental collectedness.

This translation avoids the two extremes of 'concentration' and 'tranquility'.

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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Kumara » Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:25 am

Dmytro wrote:Regarding the Leigh Brasington's term "Visuddhimagga jhana", - evidently it refers not to the Visuddhimagga itself, but rather to the later tradition. Similarly, much of the criticism directed at "commentaries" does not refer to the Commentaries themselves, but rather to the later scholastic interpretations.

Visuddhimagga itself is rather ambivalent on the subject of presence/absence of physical perception in rupa jhanas.

... ...

So, evidently, Visuddhimagga as a text represents a transition stage between the descriptions of jhana in Vimuttimagga and in medieval scholastic texts.


Allow me to add another:

80. Herein, quite secluded from sense desires means having secluded himself
from, having become without, having gone away from, sense desires....

83. But this term “sense desires” should be regarded as including all kinds,
that is to say, sense desires as object as given in the Niddesa in the passage
beginning, “What are sense desires as object? They are agreeable visible objects
…” (Nidd I 1)

From: PATH OF PURIFICATION Part 2: Concentration (Samádhi), CHAPTER IV The Earth Kasina
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Sylvester » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:35 am

Bhante

Don't forget the continuation of the Mahāniddesa definition of kāmā "as object" (vatthu) -

Api ca atītā kāmā anāgatā kāmā paccuppannā kāmā; ajjhattā kāmā bahiddhā kāmā ajjhattabahiddhā kāmā; hīnā kāmā majjhimā kāmā paṇītā kāmā; āpāyikā kāmā mānusikā kāmā dibbā kāmā paccupaṭṭhitā kāmā; nimmitā kāmā animmitā kāmā paranimmitā kāmā; pariggahitā kāmā, apariggahitā kāmā, mamāyitā kāmā, amamāyitā kāmā; sabbepi kāmāvacarā dhammā, sabbepi rūpāvacarā dhammā, sabbepi arūpāvacarā dhammā, taṇhāvatthukā taṇhārammaṇā kāmanīyaṭṭhena rajanīyaṭṭhena madanīyaṭṭhena kāmā – ime vuccanti vatthukāmā.


For the hellish (āpāyikā) kāmā, I wonder if there's any hope for anything agreeable down there, when hellish feelings are said to be exclusively painful (or is hell populated by masochists?). This extended definition goes beyond the "agreeable" and "enticing" (rajanīya) to whatever is amamāyitā = that which is disliked. Or is this definition presenting some guilt-conflicted emotions? Sabbepi kāmāvacarā dhammā would of course refer to all of the constituents of the sensual world (as understood by the Abhidhamma).

Do you seriously take the Mahāniddesa definitions of kāmā "as object" (vatthu)? Does it fit in with the MN 13 presentation of kāmā?
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Re: Samadhi (best English translation?)

Postby Kumara » Wed Jul 10, 2013 10:17 am

Sylvester wrote:Do you seriously take the Mahāniddesa definitions of kāmā "as object" (vatthu)? Does it fit in with the MN 13 presentation of kāmā?

You seem to be taking what I quoted as agreement. If you refer to what I was referring to, you'd probably see that I was just adding to what Dmytro's posting on the ambivalence on jhāna in the Visuddhimagga.
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