Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:32 am

Hi all,

Here is some of the Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas paper. The focus is on what the Pāḷi suttas have to tell us regarding the role of jhāna in the noble eightfold path. I also examine passages which define and detail the phenomena experienced in each of the four jhānas. Emphasis is placed on the investigation of the first jhāna, as well as the noble eightfold path resulting in liberation through discernment (paññāvimutti). Liberation through discernment is considered the complete liberation of an arahant, which doesn’t require the attainment of any other five higher gnoses (abhiññā), formless attainments, or the attainment of the cessation of apperception and feeling.

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).

All the best,

Geoff



The Importance of Jhāna in the Development of the Noble Eightfold Path

According to the discourses the four jhānas play an essential role in the development of the noble eightfold path. All four main Nikāyas define right concentration (sammāsamādhi) as jhāna. The four jhānas are also given as the training of heightened mind (adhicittasikkhā), as well as the faculty of concentration (samādhindriya) and the strength of concentration (samādhibala) as practiced by a noble disciple (ariya sāvaka). According to the suttas and the earliest strata of canonical commentary and para-canonical commentary, all of these factors have to be engaged and developed for full awakening to occur.

This means that liberation through discernment (paññā-vimutti) cannot happen without mastery of at least the first jhāna. This integral relationship between jhāna and discernment (paññā) is explicit in the description of the noble eightfold path, where jhāna is given as the definition of right concentration, and is also explicitly stated in other discourses as well. An unequivocal example of this integral relationship is clearly expressed in Dhammapada 371-372:

    Practice jhāna monk; do not be heedless.
    Do not let your mind roam in strands of sensual pleasure.
    Do not swallow a red-hot iron ball, heedless.
    Do not burn and cry, “This is pain.”

    There is no jhāna for one without discernment,
    No discernment for one without jhāna.
    But for one with both jhāna and discernment,
    He is close to nibbāna.

And also AN 9.36 Jhāna Sutta:

    I say, monks, the elimination of the mental outflows depends on the first jhāna.

DN 2 Sāmaññaphala Sutta tells us that the elimination of the mental outflows (āsavas) can occur while remaining in the fourth jhāna:

    With his mind thus concentrated, purified and cleansed, unblemished, free from impurities, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the elimination of the mental outflows. He understands as it really is that, ‘This is unsatisfactoriness... This is the origination of unsatisfactoriness... This is the cessation of unsatisfactoriness... This is the way leading to the cessation of unsatisfactoriness....’

    Thus knowing, thus seeing, his mind is liberated from the mental outflow of sensuality, the mental outflow of becoming, the mental outflow of ignorance. With liberation there is the gnosis, ‘liberated.’ He understands that, ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, done is what had to be done, there is nothing further here.’

Now if the elimination of the mental outflows requires the development of concentration regarding the rise and fall of the five aggregates of clinging — and AN 4.41 Samādhi Sutta tells us that it does — then one is necessarily developing concentration regarding the rise and fall of the aggregates of clinging here, specifically in the context of the four noble truths, by engaging the mind thus concentrated, purified and cleansed, unblemished, free from impurities, pliant, malleable, and steady in the fourth jhāna.

Again, AN 9.36 states that the elimination of the mental outflows depends on attaining at least the first jhāna. If one can end the āsavas through the fourth jhāna as stated in DN 2, then there is no reason to maintain that one must emerge from the first jhāna to do the same.

This understanding of liberation through discernment requiring mastery of at least the first jhāna is also implied in discourses which state that one liberated through discernment doesn’t abide in any of the formless attainments (MN 70) or have any of the five mundane higher gnoses (SN 12.70). It is also implicit in the description of the “white lotus ascetic” (samaṇapuṇḍarīka) offered in AN 4.87 Samaṇamacala Putta Sutta, where it is said that this type of arahant doesn’t abide personally experiencing the eight deliverances (aṭṭha vimokkha), yet has both liberation of mind (cetovimutti) and liberation through discernment. Liberation of mind requires mastery of at least the first jhāna.
Nyana
 
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:33 am

The Pāḷi Jhāna Formula

The standard jhāna formula is as follows:

    Idha bhikkhave vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja vihārati. (DN 22 Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta)

    Here monks, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful phenomena, a monk enters and remains in the first jhāna, which includes directed thought and evaluation, as well as joy and pleasure born of seclusion.

We can examine the jhāna formula by comparing the various terms mentioned in it with other occurrences of those and related terms found throughout the suttas.

Quite secluded from sensual pleasures (vivicceva kāmehi)

The first relevant sutta passage is one that occurs in various suttas. For example, AN 6.63 Nibbedhika Sutta states:

    Monks, there are these five strands of sensual pleasure (kāmagunā). Forms cognizable by the eye: desirable, lovely, agreeable, endearing, sensually enticing, tantalizing. Sounds cognizable by the ear... odors cognizable by the nose... flavors cognizable by the tongue... tactual objects cognizable by the body: desirable, lovely, agreeable, endearing, sensually enticing, tantalizing.

It is clear that the sensual pleasures referred to in the jhāna formula that are to be withdrawn from prior to entering jhāna, include these five types of external objects referred to as strands of sensual pleasure which are desirable, lovely, agreeable, endearing, sensually enticing, and tantalizing.

There are a couple of points worth mentioning here. Firstly, these five strands of sensual pleasure are all external sensory objects. As such, they correspond to objects within the five external sensory spheres (bāhirāyatanā). Thus, these five sensory objects do not include in-and-out breathing, which is considered internal, nor the internal felt-sense of the body. The strands of sensual pleasure also do not include the apperception of foulness with regard to the thirty-one parts of the body and the nine stages of corpse decomposition. Apperception of foulness is a mental phenomenon.

Secondly, these five strands of sensual pleasure are those external sensory objects that are considered to be desirable, lovely, agreeable, endearing, sensually enticing, and tantalizing. And so it isn’t all sensory objects whatsoever that the meditator need to withdraw from. The meditator needs to withdraw from those external sensory objects which are sensually enticing and tantalizing, as stated here. This withdrawal is facilitated by removing oneself from inappropriate environments for meditation and by abandoning the hindrance of desire for sensual pleasure (kāmacchanda). Both are necessary prerequisites for entering the first jhāna.

As for the relationship between the withdrawal from inappropriate environments and external sensory objects MN 150 Nagaravindeyya Sutta informs us that one practicing for the removal of passion resorts to a remote location:

    [T]hose venerable ones resort to remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest. For there are no forms cognizable by the eye there of a kind that they could look at and delight in. There are no sounds cognizable by the ear there of a kind that they could listen to and delight in. There are no odors cognizable by the nose there of a kind that they could smell and delight in. There are no flavors cognizable by the tongue there of a kind that they could taste and delight in. There are no tactual objects cognizable by the body there of a kind that they could touch and delight in.

Continuing with AN 6.63, we can see that a clear distinction is made between sensual pleasures (kāmā) and the five strands of sensual pleasure (kāmagunā). After defining the five strands of sensual pleasure in the previous passage, the Buddha states:

    But monks, these are not sensual pleasures (kāmā). They are called strands of sensual pleasure (kāmagunā) in the discipline of the noble ones.

    The resolve of passion is a man’s sensual pleasure.
    The world’s beautiful things are not sensual pleasures.
    The resolve of passion is a man’s sensual pleasure.
    The beauties remain as they are in the world,
    While the wise remove desire for them.

Here the Buddha is differentiating sensual pleasures (kāmā) which are the resolve of passion (saṅkapparāga), from the beautiful external sensory objects of that passion, pertaining to which the wise remove desire. The removal of this passionate desire is a major theme of the dhammavinaya. This removal begins with practicing sense restraint (indriya saṃvara), developing the thought of renunciation (nekkhamma vitakka), and is progressively accomplished through the integration of the three path aggregations of ethical conduct (sīla), meditation (samādhi), and discernment (paññā). This eventually culminates in the fruition of the path which includes the complete elimination of the mental outflow of sensuality (kāmāsava).

What these discourses imply is that sensory objects are not inherently “kāma” in and of themselves. MN 13 Mahādukkhakhandha Sutta tells us that the strands of sensual pleasure are the allure of kāma. SN 3.12 Pañcarāja Sutta confirms that the very forms, sounds, odors, flavors, and tactual objects which are agreeable to one person, are disagreeable to another.

Thus external sensory objects are only strands of sensual pleasure if they are agreeable, sensually enticing and tantalizing. And Itivuttaka 72 informs us that renunciation is the escape from sensual pleasures.

In SN 36.19 Pañcakaṅga Sutta the Buddha tells Ven. Ānanda that whatever pleasure or happiness arises in dependence on the five strands of sensual pleasure is called sensual pleasure. And MN 66 Laṭukikopama Sutta states that this sensual pleasure is:

    [A] filthy pleasure, a worldly pleasure, an ignoble pleasure. And I say that this pleasure is not to be cultivated, not to be developed, not to be pursued, that it is to be feared.

Based on these statements it follows that any visible objects of the nine stages of corpse decomposition (DN 22, MN 10) associated with the apperception of foulness, or the visible sphere consisting of “the ridges and hollows, the rivers and ravines, the tracts of stumps and thorns, the mountains and irregular places” associated with the apperception of forest (MN 121), which are engaged for developing calm (samatha) in the course of attaining jhāna, cannot be strands of sensual pleasure. If they were, any concomitant pleasure and happiness which would arise in dependence upon these sensory objects would be inappropriate and not worth development (bhāvanā).

This distinction between the five strands of sensual pleasure and the appropriate objects to be employed for mental development is indicated in SN 47.6 Sakuṇagghi Sutta, which clearly differentiates between the five strands of sensual pleasure and the four applications of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhānā). In this discourse one is instructed to avoid wandering into the range of the five strands of sensual pleasure and instead remain in one’s own proper range of the four satipaṭṭhānas:

    Do not stray, monks, into what is not your own range and is the domain of others. Māra will gain access to those who stray into what is not their own range and is the domain of others. Māra will get a hold on them.

    And what, for a monk, is not his own range and is the domain of others? The five strands of sensual pleasure.... These, for a monk, are not his own range and are the domain of others.

    Move, monks, in what is your own range, your own ancestral domain. Māra will not gain access to those who move in their own range, their own ancestral domain. Māra will not get a hold on them.

    And what, for a monk, is his own range, his own ancestral domain? The four applications of mindfulness. Which four? Here monks, a monk remains contemplating the body in the body, ardent, fully aware, mindful, having removed covetousness and unhappiness with regard to the world. He remains contemplating feelings in feelings ... mind in mind ... phenomena in phenomena, ardent, fully aware, mindful, having removed covetousness and unhappiness with regard to the world. This, for a monk, is his own range, his own ancestral domain.

With the four applications of mindfulness as the cause for entering and remaining in jhāna, one doesn’t attend to, or partake in any of the five external strands of sensual pleasure. MN 26 Pāsarāsi Sutta states that this allegorically blinds Māra. And as SN 35.115 Dutiyamārapāsa Sutta tells us, if one doesn’t seek delight or grasp onto any sensually enticing phenomenon, then one is said to have escaped from Māra’s snare.

Secluded from unskillful phenomena (vivicca akusalehi dhammehi)

Returning to the jhāna formula, we can next investigate the withdrawal from unskillful phenomena (akusala dhammas). MN 13 Mahādukkhakkhandha Sutta states that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, and mental misconduct (kāyena duccarita, vācāya duccarita, manasā duccarita) have sensuality as their cause and source. MN 9 Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta elaborates on these three types of misconduct by giving the standard tenfold list of misconduct:

    Taking life is unskillful, taking what is not given is unskillful, sexual misconduct is unskillful, lying is unskillful, abusive speech is unskillful, harsh speech is unskillful, gossip is unskillful, covetousness is unskillful, aversion is unskillful, wrong view is unskillful.

AN 3.102 Paṃsudhovaka Sutta tells us that this level of bodily, verbal, and mental misconduct are coarse defilements. This sutta goes on to state that thoughts of sensual pleasure, thoughts of aversion, and thoughts of harmfulness are considered middling defilements. And thoughts of one’s friends and relatives, thoughts of one’s homeland, and thoughts of not wanting to be disliked are considered subtle defilements. With the abandoning of all of these types of defilement there remain only thoughts related to the dhamma. But one still has to develop one’s mind so that it grows steady inwardly, settles down, and grows unified and concentrated.

And in SN 45.22 Akusaladhamma Sutta, we read that wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, and wrong concentration are unskillful phenomena. Conversely, the same discourse states that skillful phenomena are right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. And as we have already seen, right concentration (sammāsamādhi) is defined as jhāna.

And so it’s evident that the unskillful phenomena that are to be withdrawn from prior to entering jhāna and while remaining in jhāna are all coarse, middling, and subtle defilements which are unskillful dhammas of body, speech, and mind. And this is accomplished by developing the noble eightfold path.
Nyana
 
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:34 am

The Hindrances: Five Things Abandoned in the First Jhāna

Before we investigate the jhāna formula any further, we can take a look at what specifically is abandoned in order to enter and remain in the first jhāna, namely, the five hindrances (pañcanīvaraṇā). MN 43 Mahāvedalla Sutta, tells us:

    Five factors are abandoned in the first jhāna.... Here, when a monk has entered the first jhāna, desire for sensual pleasure (kāmacchanda) is abandoned, aversion (byāpāda) is abandoned, lethargy and drowsiness (thīnamiddha) is abandoned, restlessness and anxiety (uddhaccakukkucca) is abandoned, doubt (vicikicchā) is abandoned.
MN 39 Mahāssapura Sutta elaborates:

    Here monks, a monk resorts to a secluded dwelling: a forest, the shade of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a jungle grove, an open space, a heap of straw. After his meal, returning from his alms round, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body upright, and brings mindfulness to the fore.

    Abandoning covetousness with regard to the world [a synonym for the first hindrance], he dwells with a mind devoid of covetousness. He cleanses his mind of covetousness. Abandoning aversion and anger, he dwells with a mind devoid of aversion, sympathetic to the welfare of all living beings. He cleanses his mind of aversion and anger. Abandoning lethargy and drowsiness, he dwells with a mind devoid of lethargy and drowsiness, mindful, fully aware, clearly percipient. He cleanses his mind of lethargy and drowsiness. Abandoning restlessness and anxiety, he dwells undisturbed, his mind inwardly stilled. He cleanses his mind of restlessness and anxiety. Abandoning doubt, he dwells having crossed over doubt, with no perplexity with regard to skillful phenomena. He cleanses his mind of doubt.

The abandoning of the five hindrances are a necessary but not sufficient condition for the attainment of the first jhāna. The arising of the five factors of the first jhāna are also necessary. With both of these conditions satisfied — the abandoning of the five hindrances and the arising of the five jhāna factors — the meditator has fulfilled the necessary and sufficient conditions of the first jhāna.

The Jhāna Factors: Five Phenomena the First Jhāna Is Endowed With

Returning to the jhāna formula, we can take a look at the phenomena which are present in the first jhāna. MN 43 Mahāvedalla Sutta tells us that the first jhāna is endowed with five factors:

    The first jhāna has five factors. Here, when a monk has entered the first jhāna, there occurs directed thought (vitakka), evaluation (vicāra), joy (pīti), pleasure (sukha), and singleness of mind (cittekaggatā). That is how the first jhāna has five factors.

With directed thought and evaluation (savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ)

In the thought-world of the Pāḷi discourses, directed thought (vitakka) is closely related to resolve (saṅkappa). MN 78 Samaṇamuṇḍika Sutta tells us that unskillful resolves cease in the first jhāna and that skillful resolves (kusalā saṅkappā) consisting of the resolve of renunciation (nekkhamma- saṅkappa), the resolve of non-aversion (abyāpādasaṅkappa), and the resolve of harmlessness (avihiṃsāsaṅkappa) don’t cease until the second jhāna. This provides some context as to the meaning and significance of directed thought and evaluation (vicāra) in the standard jhāna formula. The Samaṇamuṇḍika Sutta states:

    And what are skillful resolves? Being resolved on renunciation, on non-aversion, on harmlessness. These are called skillful resolves. What is the cause of skillful resolves? Their cause, too, has been stated, and they are said to be apperception-caused. Which apperception? — for apperception has many modes and permutations. Any renunciation-apperception, non-aversion-apperception or harmlessness-apperception: That is the cause of skillful resolves.

    Now where do skillful resolves cease without trace? Their stopping, too, has been stated: There is the case where a monk, with the stilling of directed thought and evaluation, enters and remains in the second jhāna, which has internal serene-clarity and unification of mind free from thought and evaluation, and has joy and pleasure born of concentration. This is where skillful resolves cease without trace.

Of course, any experienced meditator with proficiency in attention training knows that adventitious discursive thinking inhibits the calming of the mind. And so the directed thought and evaluation of the first jhāna is more refined than adventitious discursiveness. It’s the skillful application of the cognitive faculty to a particular theme of focus, without lapsing from that focus. To be effective, directed thought and evaluation must necessarily work in concert with the concomitant application of mindfulness and sustained attention. In this way, directed thought and evaluation help to serve as causal factors for the abandoning of the hindrances, the arising of the other jhāna factors, as well as aiding in the maintenance of the jhāna factors once the first jhāna has been successfully entered.

This understanding of directed thought and evaluation finds support in the early para-canonical Peṭakopadesa, which in it’s analysis of the jhāna factors is closer to the suttas than are the definitions given in the Abhidhammapiṭaka. Regarding directed thought and evaluation in the first jhāna formula, Peṭakopadesa 7.72 offers the following word-commentary:

    Here, for fulfilling non-passion he thinks the thought of renunciation. Here, for fulfilling non-aggression he thinks the thought of non-aversion. Here, for fulfilling non-delusion he thinks the thought of harmlessness.

    Here, for fulfilling non-passion he is secluded from sensual pleasures. Here, for fulfilling non-aggression and fulfilling non-delusion he is secluded from unskillful phenomena. And so he enters and remains in the first jhāna, which includes directed thought and evaluation, as well as joy and pleasure born of seclusion.

    Directed thought: There are three kinds of directed thought, namely the thought of renunciation, the thought of non-aversion, and the thought of harmlessness.

    Here, directed thought is the first instance while evaluation is the evaluation of what is thereby received.
    Just as when a man sees someone approaching in the distance he does not yet know whether it is a woman or a man, but when he has received [the apperception] that “it is a woman” or “it is a man” or that “it is of such color” or that “it is one of such shape,” then when he has thought this he further scrutinizes, “How then, is he ethical or unethical, rich or poor?” This is examination. With directed thought he fixes. With examination he moves about and turns over [what has been thought].

    And just as a winged bird first accumulates [speed] and then accumulates no more [speed when gliding], so too, directed thought is like the accumulation, and evaluation is like the outstretched wings which keeps preserving the directed thought and evaluation....

    Directed thought is like a text-reciter who does his recitation silently. Evaluation is like him simply contemplating it.

And so, in light of the above sutta and early commentarial passages we can see that narrowly interpreting vitakka and vicāra as “initial and sustained attention” or “initial and sustained intention” represents a later semantic shift in the meaning of these terms in the context of jhāna which isn’t supported by their occurrence in the suttas and early commentarial sources such as the Peṭakopadesa. Moreover, in the list of mental factors given in MN 111, which the meditator can discern individually as they occur by employing clear seeing (anupadadhammavipassanā) while abiding in jhāna, we find vitakka as well as attention (manasikāra) and intention (cetanā) listed. If any of these three terms were synonyms for the same mental referent then there would be no way to differentiate between them, and it would have been pointless for this discourse to mention all three phenomena.
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:35 am

Joy and pleasure born of seclusion (vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ)

The discourses differentiate between carnal joy and pleasure (sāmisā pīti and sukha) and non-carnal joy and pleasure (nirāmisā pīti and sukha). SN 36.31 Nirāmisa Sutta tells us that carnal joy and pleasure arise in dependence on the five strands of sensual pleasure, while non-carnal joy arises in the first two jhānas and non-carnal pleasure arises in the first three jhānas.

SN 48.40 Uppaṭipāṭika Sutta states that the pain faculty (dukkhindriya) ceases completely in the first jhāna, the unhappiness faculty (domanassindriya) ceases completely in the second jhāna, the pleasure faculty (sukhindriya) ceases completely in the third jhāna, and the happiness faculty (somanassindriya) ceases completely in the fourth jhāna.

SN 48.37 Dutiyavibhaṅga Sutta informs us that the pleasure and pain faculties are born of body contact (kāyasamphassaja), whereas the happiness and unhappiness faculties are born of mind contact (manosamphassaja).

Taking all of the above passages into consideration we can deduce that the non-carnal joy of the first jhāna is mental pleasure (cetasika sukha, i.e. somanassa) born of mind contact, and the non-carnal pleasure of the first jhāna is bodily pleasure (kāyika sukha) born of body contact.

This reading of these sutta sources accords with Peṭakopadesa 7.72:

    The twofold bodily and mental pain does not arise in one steadied in directed thought and evaluation, and the twofold bodily and mental pleasure does arise. The mental pleasure thus produced from directed thought is joy, while the bodily pleasure is bodily feeling.

This understanding is also supported by the Vimuttimagga. The author of the Vimuttimagga was knowledgeable of and quotes from the Uppaṭipāṭika Sutta, the Paṭisambhidāmagga, the Vibhaṅga, and the Peṭakopadesa. And when commenting on the bathman simile for the first jhāna (e.g. DN 2, MN 119, etc.) he explains:

    Just as the bath powder is moistened thoroughly and just as it, through adhering, does not scatter, so the yogin in the first jhāna is filled with joy from head to foot and from foot to skull, skin, and hair, and dwells without falling....

    [Q.] Joy and pleasure are called formless phenomena. How then can they fill the body?

    [A.] Name (nāma) depends on form (rūpa). Form depends on name. Therefore, if name is filled with joy, form is also filled with joy. If name is filled with pleasure, form is also filled with pleasure.

To this we can add a couple of more points. First, due to the presence of directed thought and evaluation in the first jhāna, intermittent occurrences of mental unhappiness can still arise, as indicated in SN 48.40. Thus the singleness of mind of the first jhāna isn’t necessarily as unified as in the higher jhānas. Secondly, when the meditator is steadied in the first jhāna, all of the jhāna factors work together to maintain what DN 9 calls an actual refined apperception of joy and pleasure born of seclusion (vivekajapītisukhasukhumasaccasaññā). Thus, while the singleness of mind of the first jhāna may not be as unified as in the higher jhānas, it is still a very refined samādhi. It takes considerable mental development in order to be able to successfully induce and maintain this level of heightened mind (adhicitta).

Singleness of mind (cittekaggatā)

Although singleness of mind isn’t mentioned in the standard formula of the first jhāna, likely because it isn’t as prominent here as in the second jhāna, nevertheless, MN 43 lists it as one of the five jhāna factors. Moreover, MN 44 Culavedalla Sutta, defines concentration (samādhi) as singleness of mind:

    Singleness of mind (cittassa ekaggatā) is concentration, friend Visakha; the four applications of mindfulness are its causes (nimitta); the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, and pursuit of these qualities is its development.

It’s also worth noting that the nimittas of concentration are given as the four applications of mindfulness.

Similarly, the faculty of concentration (samādhindriya) is defined as the attainment of singleness of mind by a noble disciple (ariyasāvaka) who has attained the path. SN 48.10 Indriyavibhaṅga Sutta:

    And what is the faculty of concentration? Here monks, a noble disciple, making letting go his object, gains concentration, gains singleness of mind. Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful phenomena, he enters and remains in the first jhāna....

And this definition of the faculty of concentration naturally includes jhāna as the eighth component of the noble eightfold path.
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:36 am

The Second Jhāna

DN 22 Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta gives the standard formula for the second jhāna as follows:

    With the stilling of directed thought and evaluation he enters and remains in the second jhāna, which has internal serene-clarity and unification of mind free from thought and evaluation, and has joy and pleasure born of concentration.

With the elimination of directed thought and evaluation in the second jhāna, the two factors of serene-clarity (sampasādana) and mental unification (cetaso ekodibhāva) become prominent enough to be experientially distinguished. Just as the joy and pleasure born of seclusion and the concomitant expansive mind (mahaggatā citta) of the first jhāna opens up a whole new vista of experience not previously available, and display the limitations of any previously held conceptual views based on conventional rationality or normative empiricism, now the serene-clarity and mental unification experienced by the silent mind in the second jhāna reveal another completely new level of samādhi.

Here the experience of the silent mind can be likened to the surface of a completely tranquil lake. This is serene-clarity and mental unification. With this experience there is a definite sense of confidence in the quality of this internally composed level of samādhi, along with the subtle joy and pleasure thereby experienced, which DN 9 designates as an actual refined apperception of joy and pleasure born of concentration (samādhijapītisukhasukhumasaccasaññā).

SN 48.40 states that any adventitious occurrence of unhappiness which may arise in the first jhāna due to the presence of directed thought and evaluation, ceases completely here in the second jhāna. What remains is the pleasure faculty (sukhindriya) and the happiness faculty (somanassindriya), which in light of SN 48.37, in the second jhāna refers to bodily pleasure (kāyika sukha) and mental happiness (cetasika sukha, i.e. somanassa).

This reading of the relevant sutta passages is also supported by the word-commentary for the second jhāna given in Peṭakopadesa 7.72:

    With the constant cultivation of this same directed thought and evaluation his mind becomes inclined there. Then the directed thought and evaluation seem gross to him, as well as the joy and pleasure born of renunciation, and so joy and delight born of concentration arise instead.

    His mind, [which] had evaluation as an object-support, becomes internally serenely-clarified with the stilling of these [two factors of the first jhāna]. The two phenomena, directed thought and evaluation, no longer need to be recollected, and what now can be served due to their stilling is the presently arisen unification which is singleness of mind. It is through unification that joy comes to fulfillment. The joy is the happiness faculty, while the pleasure is the pleasure faculty. The singleness of mind is concentration. So the second jhāna possesses four factors.

The Third Jhāna

DN 22 Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta gives the standard formula for the third jhāna as follows:

    With the fading away of joy he remains equanimous, mindful and fully aware, and experiences pleasure with the body; he enters and remains in the third jhāna of which the noble ones say, ‘Equanimous and mindful, he abides pleasantly.’

AN 9.42 tells us that the pleasure commonly referred to in the descriptions of the third jhāna is actually the pleasure of equanimity (upekkhāsukha). This accords well with SN 48.40, when it states that the pleasure faculty (sukhindriya) ceases in the third jhāna. What remains is the equanimity faculty (upekkhindriya) and the happiness faculty (somanassindriya), which in light of SN 48.37, in the third jhāna refers to bodily equanimity (kāyika upekkhā) and mental pleasure (cetasika sukha). DN 9 refers to the apperception of this experience as an actual refined apperception of equanimity (upekkhāsukhasukhumasaccasaññā).

Again, this conforms to the word-commentary offered in Peṭakopadesa 7.72:

    With the fading away of joy he has abandoned what is comprised of wetness (i.e. joy). But happiness of mind still arises there, and when he investigates that, he gives attention only to equanimity. With the fading away of joy he remains equanimous, and as he still feels with the body the pleasure [of equanimity] induced by joy, he remains fully aware. Mindful and fully aware, equanimity comes to fulfillment.

It is also worth noting that mindfulness and full awareness are given as dominant jhāna facors here in the third jhāna. This reveals the integral progression from the four applications of mindfulness as right mindfulness continuing through to the third and fourth jhānas as right concentration.

The Fourth Jhāna

DN 22 Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta gives the standard formula for the fourth jhāna as follows:

    With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the earlier passing away of happiness and unhappiness, he enters and remains in the fourth jhāna, which is without pleasure or pain, and includes the purity of equanimity and mindfulness.

SN 48.40 states that the happiness faculty (somanassindriya) ceases in the fourth jhāna. What remains is both bodily and mental equanimity (kāyika and cetasika upekkhā) as stated in SN 48.37, which DN 9 calls an actual refined apperception of neither pleasure nor pain (adukkhamasukhasukhumasacca saññā).

Again, this agrees with Peṭakopadesa 7.72:

    In the first jhāna the pain faculty ceases and in the second jhāna the unhappiness faculty ceases, so with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the earlier passing away of happiness and unhappiness, he enters and remains in the fourth jhāna, which is without pleasure or pain, and includes the purity of equanimity and mindfulness.

    Here [previously] equanimity was still not clarified due to the presence of the four faculties, namely the pain faculty, the unhappiness faculty, the pleasure faculty, and the happiness faculty. With the cessation of these there is equanimity and full awareness.

    Here, it was due to the pleasure faculty and the happiness faculty that there was a lack of mindfulness, and with their cessation he becomes possessed of mindfulness. And it was due to the pain faculty and the unhappiness faculty that there was a lack of full awareness, and with their cessation he becomes fully aware. So with the clarification of equanimity, [which is accompanied by neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling,] he becomes mindful and fully aware, and there is singleness of mind. This is called the fourth jhāna.

The Nimitta of Jhāna

Depending upon the context in which the term is used, nimitta can refer to either (i) a cause, or (ii) a cognitive sign which is a mental representation, closely related to apperception. MN 44 tells us that one of the four applications of mindfulness is the nimitta which serves as the cause for the eventual elimination of the five hindrances and, beyond that, the arising of the five concomitant mental factors of the first jhāna. And according to AN 9.35, the nimitta as the cognitive sign of the first jhāna is the presence of these same five concomitant jhāna factors. AN 9.35 states that this nimitta is to be developed, pursued, and established. And when properly engaged, these five factors work in consort to refine and maintain what DN 9 calls an actual refined apperception of joy and pleasure born of seclusion (vivekajapītisukhasukhumasaccasaññā).

Therefore, according to the earliest strata of the Pāḷi dhamma there is no need to establish a jhāna nimitta (or samathanimitta or cittanimitta) apart from the jhāna factors. The various practices categorized under the four applications of mindfulness are the samādhinimittas which serve as the cause of jhāna. The concomitant jhāna factors themselves are the nimitta which is the cognitive sign of having attained the first jhāna.

That said, some contemporary teachers and commentators have suggested that the sign of light (obhāsanimitta) and/or the sign of form (rūpanimitta) mentioned in MN 128 Upakkilesa Sutta are canonical references to what later came to be designated as the counterpart sign (paṭibhāganimitta) in the commentaries, and thus establishes that these nimittas were considered an essential aspect of the development of jhāna even in the early tradition.

There are a couple of points worth mentioning in this regard. Firstly, MN 128 is the only discourse where the term nimitta is used in this context. None of the other canonical occurrences of nimitta as either samādhinimitta, samatha nimitta, or cittanimitta refer to any of these nimittas being an obhāsanimitta or rūpanimitta as explained in the Upakkilesa Sutta.

Secondly, nowhere in the Upakkilesa Sutta does it state that either the obhāsanimitta or the rūpanimitta are essential prerequisites for attaining the first jhāna. Nor does this sutta maintain that the complete elimination of any experience of the five sensory spheres is essential for the arising of either of these two cognitive signs. Therefore, while these apperceptions of light and visions of form can occur during the course of meditational development, there is no explicit statement here, or elsewhere in the suttas, that such apperceptions must arise for one to enter jhāna. Indeed, even the commentarial tradition doesn’t maintain that either of these types of nimittas are essential for the first jhāna.

For example, the Vimuttimagga takes the instructions offered in the Upakkilesa Sutta to refer to the development of the divine eye. This is understandable, as Anuruddhā, the main interlocutor in this discourse with the Buddha, was later designated as the foremost disciple endowed with the divine eye.

And not even the Visuddhimagga limits counterpart signs to apperceptions of light or forms. According to the Visuddhimagga analysis, of the thirty meditations which lead to jhāna, twenty-two have counterpart signs as object. And of these, only nineteen require any sort of counterpart sign which is apprehended based solely on sight, and can therefore give rise to a mental image resulting from that nimitta (the ten stages of corpse decomposition and nine kasiṇas, excluding the air kasiṇa which can be apprehended by way of either sight or tactile sensation).

And so taking all of the above into consideration, according to the early Pāḷi dhamma there is no need to establish a jhāna nimitta (or samathanimitta or cittanimitta) apart from the jhāna factors. And even according to the Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga — where the presentation of the method using a counterpart sign is explicitly developed — there is no suggestion that a counterpart sign necessarily must be a sign of light (obhāsanimitta) and/or a sign of form (rūpanimitta). Indeed, according to the Vimuttimagga, when employing mindfulness of breathing in order to attain jhāna, the counterpart sign should be concomitant with the pleasant feeling which arises as one attends to the breath at the nostril area or the area of the upper lip, which is likened to the pleasant feeling produced by a breeze. The text says that this counterpart sign doesn’t depend on color or form, and any adventitious mental images which arise in the course of practice should not be attended to.
Last edited by Nyana on Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:37 am

The Formless Attainments: Not Experiencing the Five Sensory Spheres (Āyatanas)

MN 43 Mahāvedalla Sutta and AN 9.37 Ānanda Sutta state that it is only when abiding in the fully purified formless attainments that the mind is isolated from the five sense faculties and doesn’t experience any of the five external sensory spheres.

Both discourses speak directly in terms of the faculties (indriyas) and sense spheres (āyatanas). AN 9.37 is very explicit. Here Venerable Ānanda states that when not experiencing the form, sound, odor, flavor, and tactual object āyatanas, one can be percipient of one of the three formless apperception attainments, or aññāphala samādhi.

If it were the case that one cannot experience any of these āyatanas while abiding in the four jhānas, then this discourse — which specifically lists meditative states in this regard — would have included the four jhānas along with the three formless apperception attainments and aññāphala samādhi.

Add to this that AN 5.113 Sammāsamādhi Sutta states that one has to be able to tolerate sensory phenomena in order to both enter and remain in right concentration. There is no right concentration without this tolerance:

    A monk endowed with these five qualities is not capable of entering and remaining in right concentration. Which five? He cannot tolerate visible forms, he cannot tolerate sounds... odors... flavors... tactual objects. A monk endowed with these five qualities is not capable of entering and remaining in right concentration.

    A monk endowed with these five qualities is capable of entering and remaining in right concentration. Which five? He can tolerate visible forms, he can tolerate sounds... odors... flavors... tactual objects. A monk endowed with these five qualities is capable of entering and remaining in right concentration.

And again, the suttas define right concentration and the faculty of concentration as jhāna. If the meditator were in a state of fixed absorption where s/he wasn’t able to experience the external sensory spheres in jhāna then there would be no reason to maintain that one needs to be able to tolerate them while abiding in jhāna.

In fact, in MN 152 Indriyabhāvanā Sutta, the Buddha criticizes the methods of contemplative development (bhāvanā) of the faculties (indriyani) taught by the brahmin Parāsariya whereby “one does not see forms with the eye, nor hear sounds with the ear.” Regarding such methods the Buddha replies:

    If that were the case, Uttara, then a blind man would have developed faculties and a deaf man would have developed faculties, according to the words of the brahmin Parāsariya. For a blind man does not see forms with the eye, and a deaf man does not hear sounds with the ear.

Later in this same discourse the Buddha exhorts Ven. Ānanda and the other monks to go practice meditation (jhāyatha):

    Over there are the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Meditate Ānanda. Do not be heedless. Do not later fall into regret. This is our instruction to you.

In no explicit version of the jhāna formula, nor in any of the descriptions of jhāna factors found in the suttas, nor in any similes or graphic illustrations used to describe jhāna in the suttas is there any reference to the cessation of the experience of the five sensory spheres. If such cessation were a necessary and defining characteristic of the experience of jhāna, then the discourses would say so.

This understanding that the five external sensory spheres are only eliminated in the formless attainments also accords with the Vimuttimagga:

    This is according to the teaching of the Buddha which says that owing to the non-removal of these (apperceptions of resistance) in that (concentration) sound is a thorn to one entering the first jhāna, Thus disliking form, he goes further. He eliminates them here (by attaining the sphere of infinite space). Therefore, he attains to the imperturbability of the formless attainment and the peacefulness of liberation. Aḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta when they entered the formless attainment, did not see nor hear those five hundred carts passing and repassing.

And later in the same text:

    When the yogin enters into concentration, he hears sounds, but he does not speak because the faculty of hearing and that of speech are not united. To a man who enters form concentration, sound is disturbing. Hence the Buddha taught: “To a man who enters jhāna, sound is a thorn.”

Jhāna and Clear Seeing (Vipassanā)

According to the discourses clear seeing should be conjoined with calm (samatha) while abiding in jhāna. MN 111 Anupada Sutta informs us that the clear seeing of phenomena one by one as they occur (anupadadhammavipassanā) is to be engaged in while remaining in jhāna:

    Whatever phenomena there are in the first jhāna: directed thought, evaluation, joy, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, apperception, intention, mind, desire, decision, energy, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention; he defined them one by one as they occurred. Known to him they arose, known to him they remained, known to him they subsided. He understood, ‘So this is how these phenomena, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.’

    Regarding those phenomena, he remained unattracted, unrepelled, independent, detached, free, dissociated, with a mind rid of barriers.

And AN 9.36 Jhāna Sutta instructs the meditator to see (samanupassati) the three characteristics of the five aggregates:

    He sees whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, apperception, fabrications, and consciousness, as impermanent, as unsatisfactory, as a disease, as a cancer, as a dart, as painful, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as emptiness, as not-self.

In both of these discourses the same instruction is given for each of the remaining three jhānas as well. Therefore, according to the discourses one is to engage in clear seeing while abiding in jhāna.

An Integrated Eightfold Path

The noble eightfold path presented in the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka and early para-canonical sources such as the Peṭakopadesa and the Nettippakaraṇa always include the coupling of calm (samatha) and clear seeing (vipassanā) at some stage of the noble path. These two mental factors are mutually conditioning, each serving to strengthen the other when skillfully employed within jhāna.

Nowhere in the Pāḷi Nikāyas is there any suggestion of an alternate path of gradual training which doesn’t include the mastery of jhāna as a requisite for full liberation. The Buddha, through trial and error, realized for himself that the noble eightfold path must fully integrate ethical conduct (sīla), meditation (samādhi), and discernment (paññā) for it to be optimally efficacious.
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:10 am

Greetings Geoff,

I look forward to reviewing this when I have some more time. In the meantime, can you just tell me a little about the "Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas" paper. Is it something you wrote, or someone else? Is it available online, in book form etc.?

I ask because I've always wanted a comprehensive text on the subject of meditation that looked at the subject exclusively from the perspective of the suttas, devoid of the original insertions of commentators (either modern or ancient, Theravadin or other). Alas to date I've found nothing that satisfied this requirement.

In a Buddhist world with so many differing interpretations and understandings, "going to the source" is my preferred modus operandi. It's not too difficult to do in a doctrinal context, but I've found it unfortunate that "going to the source" in the context of instruction on mental cultivation is a far more elusive proposition. Yes, I've read suttas here and there on the subject, but it would be nice to have something more consolidated.

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 tiltbillings » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:04 am

retrofuturist wrote:
I ask because I've always wanted a comprehensive text on the subject of meditation that looked at the subject exclusively from the perspective of the suttas, devoid of the original insertions of commentators (either modern or ancient, Theravadin or other). Alas to date I've found nothing that satisfied this requirement.
Commentaries by the ancients or commentaries by Geoff.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Ben » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:07 am

Hi Retro

I am curious with regard to an issue you alluded to in your response to Geoff.
Can you please explain to me what the difference is between what Geoff has done with his paper and what the ancient commentarians did with their nidessas?
I'm also interested to know what these "insertions" are that you mention.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:18 am

Greetings Tilt & Ben,

tiltbillings wrote:Commentaries by the ancients or commentaries by Geoff.

Without any commentary ideally, but I understand there might need to be some linking text, to tie together sections of sutta, but this linking text should be devoid of any 'content' not itself found in the sutta, and should certainly not be putting forward any interpretations. Such would be my preference.

That said, I don't know of such a source, so in the meantime will have to settle for texts which contain "the original insertions of commentators (either modern or ancient, Theravadin or other)".

Ben wrote:Can you please explain to me what the difference is between what Geoff has done with his paper and what the ancient commentarians did with their nidessas?
I'm also interested to know what these "insertions" are that you mention.

I haven't read Geoff's paper (assuming it is his, that's one thing I was asking him to clarify). By "insertions" I mean any construct/idea/classification (e.g. different jhana scales with different definitions), technique (e.g. body scanning, primary/secondary objects of attention) or instruction (e.g. counting of breaths, detailed kasina instruction) which is not to be found in the suttas.

In other words, it would be interesting to filter out the additions and see the what the Buddha himself taught... and if we think there are "gaps", think twice about whether we need to fill them. Whether there really are essential "gaps" in what was transmitted via the suttas. At least, the ability to have the choice... the ability to use our discretion in whether we accept post-Buddha additions as being complementary with, or detrimental to, the application of Buddhavacana.

Again, nothing against commentators (modern/ancient, Theravada/other)... just that it would be nice to see a more coherent picture of our Teacher's teaching in-and-of-itself... and distinguish what the Buddha taught, from what the Buddha didn't teach.

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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:20 am

retrofuturist wrote:In the meantime, can you just tell me a little about the "Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas" paper. Is it something you wrote, or someone else? Is it available online, in book form etc.?

Hi Retro,

Yeah, I wrote it. It's part of an ongoing project that I've been engaged in for a number of years.

retrofuturist wrote:I ask because I've always wanted a comprehensive text on the subject of meditation that looked at the subject exclusively from the perspective of the suttas, devoid of the original insertions of commentators (either modern or ancient, Theravadin or other). Alas to date I've found nothing that satisfied this requirement.

Well, we are fortunate enough to have the suttas themselves. Here are some other resources which I've found useful (some practical, a few regarding textual analysis):

The Experience of Samādhi: An In-depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation by Richard Shankman. He contrasts the teaching methods of a diverse number of contemporary teachers with what is presented in the suttas.

Instruction for Entering Jhana by Leigh Brasington.

The Jhanas in Theravadan Buddhist Meditation by Leigh Brasington.

Jhanas at the Forest Refuge by Leigh Brasington.

Lists of things to do that are helpful for entering the Jhanas by Leigh Brasington.

The Path of Concentration & Mindfulness by Ajahn Ṭhānissaro.

Jhana Not by the Numbers by Ajahn Ṭhānissaro.

Clarification On Feelings In Buddhist Dhyāna/Jhāna Meditation by Tse-fu Kuan.

The Two Traditions of Meditation In Ancient India by Johannes Bronkhorst.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:24 am

Ñāṇa wrote:The Experience of Samādhi: An In-depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation by Richard Shankman. He contrasts the teaching methods of a diverse number of contemporary teachers with what is presented in the suttas.
It is a good book, but it is disappointing that he does not talk about U Pandita's notion of the vipassana jhanas.
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Sylvester » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:27 am

Dear Geoff

How timely. I was looking for an opportunity to post a link to Piya Tan's latest essay on Jhana that discusses the debate between the Absorption camp and the Discursive camp. It is found here -

http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... .-piya.pdf

I think it is a fairly even treatment of the subject, even if the technical analysis of the Pali grammar which English readers typically overlook may be a bit distressing for those accustomed to reading the English translations.

A brief summary of Piya's essay for the Absorption model of Jhana -

1. pre-Buddha meditation;
2. the problem of Alara's and Rama's attainments (why they did not lead to enlightenment);
3. the meanings of the word "Jhana" (and its verbs) in the suttas;
4. a survey of the 2 models;
5. the present tense in Pali and how it is misapplied in reading the "insight" passages;
6. an alternative rendering of the Anupada Sutta, MN 111;
7. the post-Jhana upacara samadhi in the suttas.

With metta
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 3:59 am

Sylvester wrote:I think it is a fairly even treatment of the subject, even if the technical analysis of the Pali grammar which English readers typically overlook may be a bit distressing for those accustomed to reading the English translations.

Hi Sylvester,

Piya Tan is a fan of Ajahn Brahm's "ambulance jhāna." As such, his presentation doesn't take into consideration a sufficient survey of Pāḷi source materials which comment upon and clarify the meanings of terms. The so-called "technical analysis" in his survey is quite unconvincing -- amounting to nothing more than wordplay. His appeal to personal experience is also without merit. Numerous meditators have experienced the absorptive states Ajahn Brahm teaches as "jhāna," complete with light nimittas etc., etc. Moreover, if I remember correctly Ajahn Brahm has a few other idiosyncratic interpretations of the dhamma, for example, that nibbāna is equivalent to the attainment of the cessation of apperception and feeling.

That said, anyone who has confidence in Ajahn Brahm's teaching style should certainly follow his instructions and find out for themselves if it's helpful.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Modus.Ponens » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:04 am

Thank you Geoff :smile:
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby elcfa » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:40 am

retrofuturist wrote:
I ask because I've always wanted a comprehensive text on the subject of meditation that looked at the subject exclusively from the perspective of the suttas, devoid of the original insertions of commentators (either modern or ancient, Theravadin or other). Alas to date I've found nothing that satisfied this requirement.


Not sure whether this is what you are looking for but here is one scholarly alternative
Buddhist Meditation An Anthology of Texts from the Pali Canon By Sarah Shaw,Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism - Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies

May be too basic or expensive for most, but if you can borrow from a library...
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Sylvester » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:07 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Hi Sylvester,

Piya Tan is a fan of Ajahn Brahm's "ambulance jhāna." As such, his presentation doesn't take into consideration a sufficient survey of Pāḷi source materials which comment upon and clarify the meanings of terms. The so-called "technical analysis" in his survey is quite unconvincing -- amounting to nothing more than wordplay. His appeal to personal experience is also without merit. Numerous meditators have experienced the absorptive states Ajahn Brahm teaches as "jhāna," complete with light nimittas etc., etc. Moreover, if I remember correctly Ajahn Brahm has a few other idiosyncratic interpretations of the dhamma, for example, that nibbāna is equivalent to the attainment of the cessation of apperception and feeling.

That said, anyone who has confidence in Ajahn Brahm's teaching style should certainly follow his instructions and find out for themselves if it's helpful.

All the best,

Geoff


Well, Geoff, as we have seen from our previous discussion, your insistence on your unjustifiably restrictive reading of kayika/cetasika vedanas and your discounting MN 43's disallowance for the external ayatanas feeling dhammas has little to recommend for it. You've repeated even the fallacy of denying the antecedent in relying again on MN 43's and AN 9.37's examples of the dimensions in which one is not sensitive to that dimension. I don't propose to rehash those, unless you wish to offer fresh arguments.

If Piya's treatment were nothing more than wordplay, surely it would be fairly easy to dismantle. Another ex cathedra proclamation is not going to make an elephant disappear from the room. And since when does an argumentum ad hominem (ie Piya's affiliation and AJ Brahm's "idiosyncracies") address the issue of Jhana? I should have thought name-calling would be beneath you.

The reality is, unless some serious attempt is made to address the "present tense" problem in our reliance on English translations, I would suggest you're simply glossing over a genuine issue because it happens to be inconvenient to the English way you read the suttas and encourage others to apply. Can we be certain that you are not taking liberties with the intended Pali meanings of the translations? Why should the commonly applied English sense be preferred over the other senses provided by the Pali grammars? I hope you're not going to suggest that the Kaccayana Vyakarana was guided by Mahavihara dogma in stretching the grammatical rules to be applied to the suttas?

I think your insistence for a direct and explicit declaration in the suttas that Jhana entails cessation of experience of the 5 material ayatanas is not something that the Canon itself posits as healthy. If your insistence were sound, this must mean that the Neyyattha Nitattha Sutta (AN 2.25) should be consigned to the rubbish heap.

It's OK if you reject wholesale what I had previously pointed out about your limiting kayika to only vedanas arising from body-contact. But that's not going to make those suttas go away wherein kayika have been clearly extended to vedana arising from mind-contact as well.

With metta
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:46 am

Sylvester wrote:It's OK if you reject wholesale what I had previously pointed out about your limiting kayika to only vedanas arising from body-contact.

Yes it is okay. Glad we can agree on that. Now you can continue with your trivial wordplay....

All the best with that,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 28, 2010 11:21 am

Greetings Geoff,

Thank you for sharing this. As far as I am able to understand and relate to it, I concur with what has been said above.

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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:29 am

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
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