Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
chownah
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Re: Knowledge of Anatta

Post by chownah » Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:58 am

SteRo wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 2:36 pm
you are dealing with expressions of speech very carefully, chownah.
chownah wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:44 pm
So..summary time. Note that I've added something in red at the end which we have not discussed but I think that you will agree with so please give it special attention to see if you agree or not. Here's the summary for what we've got so far:
So...our description of the structure now might be that in concentration meditation one typically starts by choosing a sign (object of meditation) and then making the sign the object of awareness by focusing the mind so that it attends as nearly as possible to just that sign and nothing else. It happens that thoughts arise which are distracting and the distraction manifests when the sign is no longer the object of awareness (the distraction has distracted one from the sign)...in other words the mind has stopped attending to the sign and is now attending to some distraction which has now become the object of awareness. It should be noted that the distraction which has now become the object of awareness has NOT become the object of meditation usually but rather typically the mind has changed modes from concentrated awareness to some sort of internal dialogue. (This is the usual and typical scenario and I'm not wanting to rule out other possibilities.)
Ok.
Having this simple and loosely defined model of the structure of concentration meditation I went to mn121 to see how the model could help in understanding it.....surprisingly I found that I really couldn't see that mn121 fit the model. First there is no explicit statement of choosing an object of meditation...I would have thought that it was "emptiness" but it seems more like the object of meditation keeps changing as if this sutta actually represents multiple presentations of the model....but this seems strange because there is no mention of how these "multiple" objects of meditation arose.....also, there is no talk about distracting thoughts except perhaps the thoughts associated with the previous modes of perception which are said to be not attended to.
So, I'm sort of thinking that the model does not really work for mn121 unless perhaps we break it into several connected scenarios and even then the model seems be lacking in essential features and so it really falls way short of being useful as it stands I guess.
I'll do some research to see if I can come up with something to clarify this...I've got some ideas to check out and will post when I check them out.
If you have some ideas about how to proceed or what any of this means please bring it.
chownah

SteRo
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Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:27 am

Re: Knowledge of Anatta

Post by SteRo » Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:33 pm

chownah wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:58 am
SteRo wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 2:36 pm
you are dealing with expressions of speech very carefully, chownah.
chownah wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:44 pm
So..summary time. Note that I've added something in red at the end which we have not discussed but I think that you will agree with so please give it special attention to see if you agree or not. Here's the summary for what we've got so far:
Ok.
Having this simple and loosely defined model of the structure of concentration meditation I went to mn121 to see how the model could help in understanding it.....surprisingly I found that I really couldn't see that mn121 fit the model. First there is no explicit statement of choosing an object of meditation...I would have thought that it was "emptiness" but it seems more like the object of meditation keeps changing as if this sutta actually represents multiple presentations of the model....but this seems strange because there is no mention of how these "multiple" objects of meditation arose.....also, there is no talk about distracting thoughts except perhaps the thoughts associated with the previous modes of perception which are said to be not attended to.y
So, I'm sort of thinking that the model does not really work for mn121 unless perhaps we break it into several connected scenarios and even then the model seems be lacking in essential features and so it really falls way short of being useful as it stands I guess.
I'll do some research to see if I can come up with something to clarify this...I've got some ideas to check out and will post when I check them out.
If you have some ideas about how to proceed or what any of this means please bring it.
chownah
'emptiness' isn't an object one meditates on but an object one meditates in,see the diffferentiation I've tried here.
Therefore MN121 describes a way to empty one's mind of all contents in order to be able to meditate in emptiness. The way MN121 describes is one of narrowing the scope of attention and dropping objects, from multiplicity to single object of perception to mere non-perceptible but conceptual theme to emptiness:

multiplicity:
vast: village -> "elephants, cattle, & mares, gold & silver, assemblies of women & men"
smaller: palace of Migara's mother -> "community of monks"

single object of perception:
undifferentiated wilderness
Earth (kasina?) / rupa jhana

mere non-perceptible but conceptual themes / arupa jhanas:
Infinitude of Space
Infinitude of Consciousness
Nothingness

Neither Perception nor Non-Perception as highest arupa jhana which has still singleness of mind

emptiness:
Theme-Less Concentration

your model does not match because the goal of MN121 is other than that your model is based on.

chownah
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Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Knowledge of Anatta

Post by chownah » Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:13 pm

SteRo wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:33 pm

'emptiness' isn't an object one meditates on but an object one meditates in,see the diffferentiation I've tried here.
Therefore MN121 describes a way to empty one's mind of all contents in order to be able to meditate in emptiness. The way MN121 describes is one of narrowing the scope of attention and dropping objects, from multiplicity to single object of perception to mere non-perceptible but conceptual theme to emptiness:

multiplicity:
vast: village -> "elephants, cattle, & mares, gold & silver, assemblies of women & men"
smaller: palace of Migara's mother -> "community of monks"

single object of perception:
undifferentiated wilderness
Earth (kasina?) / rupa jhana

mere non-perceptible but conceptual themes / arupa jhanas:
Infinitude of Space
Infinitude of Consciousness
Nothingness

Neither Perception nor Non-Perception as highest arupa jhana which has still singleness of mind

emptiness:
Theme-Less Concentration

your model does not match because the goal of MN121 is other than that your model is based on.
I agree that the model does not match....I guess it has to do with the goal but I think the mismatch is much wider than that.

I see you are using the word "theme" here.....I was surprised to see this because you said before it didn't resonate with you. Somehow does "theme" seem more appropriate to you now or is it just a matter of chance that you used it here?

I've found something at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... html#fnt-3 it calls the imperturbable, the dimension of nothingness, and the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception as being ATTAINMENTS and it shows methods for attaining them. This seems to be showing that they are not objects of meditation but rather they are outcomes attained by appropriate means.....I think attainment is somewhat consistent with your idea of "objects one meditates in" but I'm not sure if they are identical. Also, in all of the methods given to attain these states there is the phrase "Practicing & frequently abiding in this way".......so this might be indicating that in mn121 the meditator does not start at the beginning and in one sitting complete the entire list.
chownah

SteRo
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandaries

Post by SteRo » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:15 pm

chownah wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:13 pm
I agree that the model does not match....I guess it has to do with the goal but I think the mismatch is much wider than that.

I see you are using the word "theme" here.....I was surprised to see this because you said before it didn't resonate with you. Somehow does "theme" seem more appropriate to you now or is it just a matter of chance that you used it here?
From my perspective the arupa jhanas have more to do with the sense of "narrative" you have been using earlier since a "narrative" or line of reasoning is required to get at 'Infinitude of Space' and the like.
It's been a reference to a remark I've meade earlier:
SteRo wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:00 pm
I think Thanissaro' should have better used "signlessness" instead of "themelessness". Maybe his reason to use "themelessness" was to stress the difference from the arupa jhanas.
chownah wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:13 pm
I've found something at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... html#fnt-3 it calls the imperturbable, the dimension of nothingness, and the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception as being ATTAINMENTS and it shows methods for attaining them. This seems to be showing that they are not objects of meditation but rather they are outcomes attained by appropriate means.....I think attainment is somewhat consistent with your idea of "objects one meditates in" but I'm not sure if they are identical. Also, in all of the methods given to attain these states there is the phrase "Practicing & frequently abiding in this way".......so this might be indicating that in mn121 the meditator does not start at the beginning and in one sitting complete the entire list.
chownah
I do understand this sutta a bit differently:
Practicing rejection of the sensuality of the desire realm entails the impertubable as 4th jhana (also see note 1) and might also entail rebirth in form realm. But if further analysis is applied ("or else is committed to discernment") then practicing rejection of form of the form realm entails the impertubable as arupa jhanas (also see note 1) and might also entail rebirth in formless realm corresp. to limitless space or consciousness. But if further analysis is applied ("or else is committed to discernment") then practicing rejection of perceptions entails the dimension of nothingless and might also entail rebirth in that dimension of the formless realm. The latter may also be attained via considering 'This is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self.'
etc
etc
What you call "attainents" are merely attainments of worldly concentration practices and depending on how far "committment to discernment" is carried on 'the higher on the worldly scale one may get.

Only if one attains equanimity towards the highest worldly attainment this equanimity actually is a non-worldly attainment because 'neither perception nor non-perception' is inexpressibly attractive for worldly practitioners.

This is comparable with the equanimity towards Themeless concentration in MN121 although that doesn't count as a typical worldly attainment anymore as far as I know:
"He discerns that 'This theme-less concentration of awareness is fabricated & mentally fashioned.' And he discerns that 'Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to cessation.' For him — thus knowing, thus seeing — the mind is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

chownah
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandaries

Post by chownah » Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:41 am

SteRo wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:15 pm
chownah wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:13 pm
I agree that the model does not match....I guess it has to do with the goal but I think the mismatch is much wider than that.

I see you are using the word "theme" here.....I was surprised to see this because you said before it didn't resonate with you. Somehow does "theme" seem more appropriate to you now or is it just a matter of chance that you used it here?
From my perspective the arupa jhanas have more to do with the sense of "narrative" you have been using earlier since a "narrative" or line of reasoning is required to get at 'Infinitude of Space' and the like.
It's been a reference to a remark I've meade earlier:
SteRo wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:00 pm
I think Thanissaro' should have better used "signlessness" instead of "themelessness". Maybe his reason to use "themelessness" was to stress the difference from the arupa jhanas.
I'll respond to the rest of your post later.
Can you please explain how and where in the process "to get at 'Infinitude of Space'" that the "narrative" or "line of reasoning" comes into play?.....does it come into play as the object of meditation?....or does it come into play before the chosing of the object of meditation?....or something else?

Also, I did a search for "sign" on thanissaro's Wings to Awakening which seems to be his major work on meditation and it only came up in one reference (twice in that reference)......it really seems that thanissaro doesn't use "sign" in his descriptions of meditation....so....I think that thanissaro did not use signless because he doesn't seem to use "sign"....of course this is just conjecture on my part.

And something about themes and narratives. Generally my idea about theme and narrative is:
The theme is the central meaning of a narrative. It tells the reader what the work is about. The theme is expressed through what the characters say, do and think and through the actions that take place within the story.
What Is a Theme in a Narrative? | Pen and the Pad
https://penandthepad.com › theme-narrative-1732
I started using the term "narrative" to describe what bundokji's ideas about things like stories with heros.....he asserted that these stories with heros were themes in the sense that thanissaro used the term "theme".
Some definitions of "theme":
theme

1.
the subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person's thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic.
"the theme of the sermon was reverence"
2.
an idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.
verb
give a particular setting or ambience to (a venue or activity).
"the amusement park will be themed as a Caribbean pirate stronghold"
Doesn't all of this point to the word "theme" being a good representation of "object of meditation" with respect to concentration meditation?

chownah

SteRo
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandaries

Post by SteRo » Wed Nov 13, 2019 6:39 am

chownah wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:41 am
SteRo wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:15 pm
chownah wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:13 pm
I agree that the model does not match....I guess it has to do with the goal but I think the mismatch is much wider than that.

I see you are using the word "theme" here.....I was surprised to see this because you said before it didn't resonate with you. Somehow does "theme" seem more appropriate to you now or is it just a matter of chance that you used it here?
From my perspective the arupa jhanas have more to do with the sense of "narrative" you have been using earlier since a "narrative" or line of reasoning is required to get at 'Infinitude of Space' and the like.
It's been a reference to a remark I've meade earlier:
SteRo wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:00 pm
I think Thanissaro' should have better used "signlessness" instead of "themelessness". Maybe his reason to use "themelessness" was to stress the difference from the arupa jhanas.
I'll respond to the rest of your post later.
Can you please explain how and where in the process "to get at 'Infinitude of Space'" that the "narrative" or "line of reasoning" comes into play?.....does it come into play as the object of meditation?....or does it come into play before the chosing of the object of meditation?....or something else?
Sorry but I won't 'explain how and where', chownah. I won't keep on following distracting issues from now on. My fault has been to comment on the new sutta you brought up. Remember, we started with 'theme-less', 'narrative-less', 'object-less' and 'sign-less' as alternative expressions and their interpretations in the context of Thanissaro's 'themeless concentration'. There is no end of distractions if you keep on bringing up new suttas and issues and me elaborating on these.
chownah wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:41 am
Also, I did a search for "sign" on thanissaro's Wings to Awakening which seems to be his major work on meditation and it only came up in one reference (twice in that reference)......it really seems that thanissaro doesn't use "sign" in his descriptions of meditation....so....I think that thanissaro did not use signless because he doesn't seem to use "sign"....of course this is just conjecture on my part.
I never asserted that Thanissaro did use 'signless'. What I said is that from my perspective Thanissaro's 'themeless' is misleading and thus might distract from the meaning of the meditation he calls 'Themeless concentration'.
chownah wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:41 am
And something about themes and narratives. Generally my idea about theme and narrative is:
The theme is the central meaning of a narrative. It tells the reader what the work is about. The theme is expressed through what the characters say, do and think and through the actions that take place within the story.
What Is a Theme in a Narrative? | Pen and the Pad
https://penandthepad.com › theme-narrative-1732
I started using the term "narrative" to describe what bundokji's ideas about things like stories with heros.....he asserted that these stories with heros were themes in the sense that thanissaro used the term "theme".
Some definitions of "theme":
theme

1.
the subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person's thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic.
"the theme of the sermon was reverence"
2.
an idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.
verb
give a particular setting or ambience to (a venue or activity).
"the amusement park will be themed as a Caribbean pirate stronghold"
Doesn't all of this point to the word "theme" being a good representation of "object of meditation" with respect to concentration meditation?
It's totally up to you to use the terms and expressions you find suitable, chownah. I don't feel that the intention of our conversation has been to persuade each other to use certain terms and expressions and ignore others.
I feel that the intention of our conversation has been to compare our different views on how to interpret what Thanissaro calls 'Themeless concentration'.
When Thanissaro uses 'themeless' you may have your reasons to follow him. When other translators use 'signless' I have my reasons to follow them.
How shall we go on now?

chownah
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by chownah » Wed Nov 13, 2019 12:15 pm

I can see that I have not been clear enough in explain the relevance I see in the things I have been posting.

I'll start with the relevance I see in bringing https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... html#fnt-3. I brought this because it talks about many of the same meditations as found in mn121 (where thanissaro explicated the themeless) and specifically the point which I think is relevant is that it describes the imperturbable, the dimension of nothingness, and the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception as being ATTAINMENTS and it shows methods for attaining them. This is highly relevant to me because I have been thinking of these things as being objects of meditation....but evidently they are not.....this is why when I tried to overlay my process model for concentration meditation onto them it just didn't seem to work.....it seems to be showing that they are not objects of meditation but rather they are outcomes attained by appropriate means. It seems to me that perhaps what mn121 is all about is insight meditation (vipassana?) and not concentration meditation....but I'm not sure and I'm still looking for other suttas where comments are made about the process of meditation since I think those comments may be helpful (and the meaning of the sutta will not be my focus at all unless in some way it seems relevant).
.....I think that if it is insight meditation then it is somewhat consistent with your idea of "objects one meditates in" but I'm not sure because I don't know much about the process of insight meditation nor do I know much about the process of your "objects one meditates in".

Another point which seemed relevant to me is that I had originally viewed mn121 as being one ongoing meditation "event"....that is to say that someone would get secluded and then go through the entire list at one sitting....but because in the sutta I reference, in all of the methods given to attain these states, there is the phrase "Practicing & frequently abiding in this way".......so this might be indicating that in mn121 the meditator does not start at the beginning and in one sitting complete the entire list..

For me the overarching relevance is that I need to find more evidence about the different meditative dimensions and what the process(es) is/are for attaining them and how they are inter-related so that I can either upgrade my model (doubtful that any upgrade would work) or else start on a new model (probably what I need to do).....all of this will hopefully bring me to a better understanding of many things not the least of which is thanissaro's "themeless" presentation.
chownah

SteRo
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by SteRo » Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:13 pm

chownah wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 12:15 pm
Another point which seemed relevant to me is that I had originally viewed mn121 as being one ongoing meditation "event"....that is to say that someone would get secluded and then go through the entire list at one sitting....but because in the sutta I reference, in all of the methods given to attain these states, there is the phrase "Practicing & frequently abiding in this way".......so this might be indicating that in mn121 the meditator does not start at the beginning and in one sitting complete the entire list..
MN121 does not necessarily describe one sitting. usually when it comes to jhanas, rupa or arupa jhanas, one first has to gain mastery in one jhana before aspiring to the next one. MN121 describes a process of ridding the mind of 'disturbances' and it goes from coarse 'disturbances' to subtle 'disturbances'.
The insight it contains is liberating insight and is insight that even the most sublime meditative state - what Thanissaro call's 'themeless concentration" is ...
... fabricated & mentally fashioned.' And he discerns that 'Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to cessation.' For him — thus knowing, thus seeing — the mind is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'
I for my part am mainly interested in Thanissaro "themeless concentration" that I would call "signless absorption". I think that MN121 certainly describes a valid way to attain this "signless absorption" which is consistent with all the other suttas dealing with the diverse concentrations.
However I do not think that the process that MN121 describes is the only way to attain that "signless absorption" which from my perspective is nothing other than a complete but temporary emptiness of mind (empty of self and empty of anything other than self) or - to put it differently - a complete but temporary cessation of the aggregates. But this might be my private view only.

Maybe we can leave it at that.

SteRo
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by SteRo » Wed Nov 13, 2019 5:12 pm

Let me add this one because it's so nice and poetic: signless immersion of the heart :smile:

chownah
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by chownah » Fri Nov 15, 2019 3:45 am

INdeed sujato is quite the poet. I have failed to find the pali term for "heart" anywhere in his interpretation of that sutta....but never mind....."heart" is often brought into play when one wants to create a poetic illusion. Here is different example:
Captain Beefheart :smile:

chownah

chownah
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by chownah » Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:03 pm

...so indeed "heart" has been involved in many nice poetic expressions. Perhaps Captain Beefheart is seen by some as being confusing, chaotic, and/or maybe a bit alienating and/or frightening......one should remember that nice poetic expressions can be of almost any flavor.

But I'm not just wanting to shock or puzzle people with an obscure reference like the good Captain....there are other more soothing nice peotic expressions relying on "heart". Here's one which while being nicely poetic it also gives some emotional slack allowing for a bit of intellectual discernment just like the suttas give some emotional slack allowing for a bit of discernment.....the song (You Gotta Have) Heart written by Richard Adler who some may recognize as a major song writer for musicals in the fifties. I won't bring a link to a specific recording but here is a link where you could try one (or several) your self:https://www.youtube.com/results?search_ ... ave+heart+.

The verse which I think is most amenable to an intellectual interest goes like this:
You gotta have heart
Miles and miles and miles of heart
Oh it's fine to be a genius of course
But keep that old horse before the cart
First you've gotta have heart
So, from a poetic viewpoint this is certainly different from Captain Beefheart....and this one even looks like it might be poetically linked with sujato's poetic vision of themeless awareness in this way: Themeless awareness comes before enlightnement and enlightenment is where ignorance is completely dismissed....so first themeless awareness and second comes falling away of ignorance....this is just like first having heart and second then genius arising!......so I could paraphrase the verse like this:
You gotta have signless immersion of the heart
Miles and miles and miles of signless immersion of the heart
Oh it's fine to dispel ignorance of course
But keep that old horse before the cart
First you've gotta have signless immersion of the heart
chownah

SteRo
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by SteRo » Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:08 pm

:clap:

SteRo
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by SteRo » Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:22 pm

As an alternative to MN121 here another instruction of how to attain the signless immersion of the heart.
“How many conditions are necessary to attain the signless release of the heart?”

“Two conditions are necessary to attain the signless release of the heart: not focusing on any signs, and focusing on the signless. These two conditions are necessary to attain the signless release of the heart.”

“How many conditions are necessary to remain in the signless release of the heart?”

“Three conditions are necessary to remain in the signless release of the heart: not focusing on any signs, focusing on the signless, and a previous determination. These three conditions are necessary to remain in the signless release of the heart.”

...
And what is the signless heart’s release? It’s when a mendicant, not focusing on any signs, enters and remains in the signless immersion of the heart. This is called the signless heart’s release.
MN43

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Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta » Sat Nov 16, 2019 2:31 pm

.
"Objectless Awareness"

Yeah, Cool!

Umm, Of what?
:tantrum:

.
.


🅢🅐🅑🅑🅔 🅓🅗🅐🅜🅜🅐 🅐🅝🅐🅣🅣🅐

Self ...
  • "an entirely and perfectly foolish idea" :D ~ MN22

chownah
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Re: Objectless Awareness and Other Quandries

Post by chownah » Sun Nov 17, 2019 2:38 am

Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta wrote:
Sat Nov 16, 2019 2:31 pm
.
"Objectless Awareness"

Yeah, Cool!

Umm, Of what?
:tantrum:

.
This is what has prompted me to take a closer look at mn121 in that "objectless awareness" seems to be what thanissaro is talking about in that one part near the end.....so the question was just that....awareness of what? So, to try to come to grips with the overall process which is described in the sutta I have been looking at other suttas which talk about the various dimensions, modes of perception, or attainments which are found in mn121. I started by making making a model of the process (process here is meant to be a description of exactly what is going on with the meditator etc.) of concentration meditation....that model being briefly stated as: get secluded; choose an object of meditation; focus on the object of meditation so that it becomes the object of awareness; possibly the mind will lose focus on the object of meditation and become distracted in which case the object of awareness is no longer the object of meditation but it is now some aspect of the distraction.

I then discovered that my model did not fit what was presented in mn121 so I am looking for whatever I can find in the suttas which gives light on what is happening in mn121 so that I can see what the process is that is happening there since my first attempt hasn't worked.

I have some things in mind and will probably post them if/when I feel that I have something pertinent to say about them.
chownah

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