A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

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Sylvester
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by Sylvester » Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:07 am

Dmytro wrote:
I'm not sure it will be easy reconciling some of the apparent contradictions in the Canon regarding the attachment to Jhana. As a counter example to MN 106, MN 44 quite clearly states that one does not anuseti with raganusaya in first Jhana, despite the presence of sukha. Further, it goes on to assert that one does not anuseti with avijjanusaya when experiencing the equanimity of 4th Jhana.
IMHO, the sutta states it quite differently:

"No... There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With that he abandons passion. No passion-obsession gets obsessed there.[4] There is the case where a monk considers, 'O when will I enter & remain in the dimension that those who are noble now enter & remain in?' And as he thus nurses this yearning for the unexcelled liberations, there arises within him sorrow based on that yearning. With that he abandons resistance. No resistance-obsession gets obsessed there.[5] There is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. With that he abandons ignorance. No ignorance-obsession gets obsessed there."[6]

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Ven. Thanissaro explains the meaning in comments.

I think you would agree that the fourth jhana doesn't mean the absence of avijja-anusaya.

Hi Dmytro

Actually, Ven Thanissaro's rather eclectic translation of the subject of Anusayas conceals more than it illuminates. Especially the part in bold red above.

This is what the Pali simply says -
Idhāvuso visākha, bhikkhu sukhassa ca pahānā, dukkhassa ca pahānā, pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā, adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Avijjaṃ tena pajahati, na tattha avijjānusayo anusetī”ti.
It's a horrifying prospect trying to reconcile this categorical statement in MN 44 that is at odds with the Commentarial notion of the Jhanas being unsafe places.

:anjali:

PS - I've just noticed something. You refer to Ven Thanissaro with the "ayasma", but you refer to Ven Brahmavamso and Ven Analayo without the "ayasma". Is this perhaps a measure of your disdain for them, or perhaps over-rapid typing?

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Dmytro
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by Dmytro » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:47 am

Hi Sylvester,
Sylvester wrote:Actually, Ven Thanissaro's rather eclectic translation of the subject of Anusayas conceals more than it illuminates. Especially the part in bold red above.

This is what the Pali simply says -
Idhāvuso visākha, bhikkhu sukhassa ca pahānā, dukkhassa ca pahānā, pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā, adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Avijjaṃ tena pajahati, na tattha avijjānusayo anusetī”ti.
Well, here's a translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

"... With that he abandons ignorance, and the underlying tendency to ignorance does not underlie that."476

"476 MA: The bhikkhu suppresses the tendency to ignorance with the fourth jhana, makes it well suppressed, and then eradicates the tendency to ignorance by attaining the path of arahantship."
It's a horrifying prospect trying to reconcile this categorical statement in MN 44 that is at odds with the Commentarial notion of the Jhanas being unsafe places.
AFAIK, the Commentaries don't state that the Jhanas are unsafe places - evidently it's another part of the Western Buddhist mythology.
PS - I've just noticed something. You refer to Ven Thanissaro with the "ayasma", but you refer to Ven Brahmavamso and Ven Analayo without the "ayasma". Is this perhaps a measure of your disdain for them, or perhaps over-rapid typing?
I am trying to come to terms with this new type of Buddhism that they represent. The videos and statements like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOZtpCo3Vpk" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

make me wonder, what kind of Buddhist tradition is that.

So far I would call it "Australian Brahmic Buddhism".

It's typical features I observed are:

- Reliance on Sarvastivada Chinese Agamas, which are considered more reliable that Pali Nikayas;
- Usage of Dharmagupta Vinaya lineage for nuns ordination;
- The notion that the jhanas don't invlove any physical perception, lead by themselves to Nibbana, and there can't be attachment to jhanas;
- The notion that Nirodha-samapatti is essentially the same as Nibbana;
- Rejection of Pali Commentaries.

The origin of this kind of Buddhism can be traced to the works of Roderick Bucknell, former monk and scholar of Agama texts, but I would call it "Brahmic" since Brahmavamso gave it a defined form.

If the teachers of this "Australian Brahmic Buddhism" would define more clearly the type and name of their tradition, it would simplify things for me.

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by Sylvester » Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:08 am

Well, at least you're honest enough not to conceal your distaste for them, so much so that you elect not to treat them as monastics.
AFAIK, the Commentaries don't state that the Jhanas are unsafe places - evidently it's another part of the Western Buddhist mythology.
May I take it that the Commentaries do not consider the vipassanupakkilesa to ever afflict the Jhanas? May I take it that the Commentarial application of the Abhidhammic lokiya/lokuttara distinction to Jhanas never warn against lokiya Jhanas?

I much prefer BB's translation of that passage from MN 44, but how is that or the Pali different from what I asserted earlier -
Further, it goes on to assert that one does not anuseti with avijjanusaya when experiencing the equanimity of 4th Jhana.
You suggest that -
If the teachers of this "Australian Brahmic Buddhism" would define more clearly the type and name of their tradition, it would simplify things for me.
Respectfully, it appears to me that you are not asking for simplicity, but a monopoly and imprimatur on what constitutes "proper" Theravada. Sorry, but you're hardly in the position to claim a monopoly to the name "Theravada", no matter how entitled you feel to be so.

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Dmytro
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by Dmytro » Tue Mar 01, 2011 2:23 pm

Well, thank you, what a surprise it is to discover that I am deeply horrified by the threat to lose my monopoly on the term 'Theravada', and remain in a distateful state :clap:
Sylvester wrote:May I take it that the Commentaries do not consider the vipassanupakkilesa to ever afflict the Jhanas? May I take it that the Commentarial application of the Abhidhammic lokiya/lokuttara distinction to Jhanas never warn against lokiya Jhanas?
You may take any statements you want, but the connection of the statements above with your expression "Commentarial notion of the Jhanas being unsafe places" is tenuous. Commentaries do condsider Jhanas to be very helpful, and an essential part of the Path.
I much prefer BB's translation of that passage from MN 44, but how is that or the Pali different from what I asserted earlier -
Further, it goes on to assert that one does not anuseti with avijjanusaya when experiencing the equanimity of 4th Jhana.
The difference is that the 4th jhana is the tool to put an end "with that" to avijja-anusaya. Before this is done, there can be a plenty of avijja in the 4th jhana. Similarly, the first jhana is a tool to abandon raga-anusaya "with that". Otherwise there can be a plenty of passion (raga) in the first jhana. Buddha calls the passion for bodily jhanas "rupa-raga".
Respectfully, it appears to me that you are not asking for simplicity, but a monopoly and imprimatur on what constitutes "proper" Theravada. Sorry, but you're hardly in the position to claim a monopoly to the name "Theravada", no matter how entitled you feel to be so.
Well, as a psychologist I wonder if your projections of mine reflect your predispositions. May I express my own projection? Just a guess...
Your mentions of 'monopoly' suggest to me that probably you are one of the high-ranked figures in the Brahmavamso's group. This would also explain your concern about the 'ayasma' address.
If so, I must say that it's unfortunate that the BSWA.org forum has been shut down. IMHO, it would be better to restore it, so that your followers will have a proper place for discussions.
I wish you well on your difficult and strange path.

I reserve my right to not express respect to Brahmavamso, who doesn't respect Buddha Gotama, stating that he is not a Sammasambuddha, since he studied with previous Buddhas.

How fortunate I am not to have any title to worry about :)

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by Sylvester » Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:39 am

Oh dear, Dmytro.

Looks like your projection analysis has flopped miserably. I'm not even resident in Australia nor a member of BSWA nor someone who sees Ajahn Brahm more than the few occassions he stops over my part of the world. Respectfully, you've allowed your patigha to outrun your psychoanalytic skills, formidable as they may be.

I'll take it that your refusal to give a categorical "NO" to my 2 questions on the Commentaries is plain evasion.

You can trot out all the Commentarial qualifications to MN 44's categorical statements, and that's your cross to bear, not mine. And respectfully, if questionning the Commentaries is a strange path, then it looks like you are THE troll in this strange forum called DW. There are enough of your ilk to warrant a Mahavihara Buddhism forum of its own where you can keep out the heretics.

:anjali:

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by Dmytro » Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:36 pm

Thank you, Sylvester.

It's indeed an impressive conclusion to the thread called "A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”", which shows what qualities does this method cultivate in some of its followers.

I would appreciate if someone would let me know about the people who followed this method for a long time with decent results (though I doubt they exist).

Metta, Dmytro

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daverupa
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by daverupa » Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:03 pm

It's easy to see
the errors of others,
but hard to see
your own.
You winnow like chaff
the errors of others,
but conceal your own —
like a cheat, an unlucky throw.

If you focus on the errors of others,
constantly finding fault,
your effluents flourish.
You're far from their ending.

Dhp 252-3
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

Freawaru
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by Freawaru » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:12 am

nyanasuci wrote:http://yuttadhammo.sirimangalo.org/post ... he-jhanas/

A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

“Then, Aggivessana, I had this thought — ‘what if I were to meditate (jhāyeyya) on the non-breathing meditation (jhānaṃ)?’ At that, Aggivessana, I held back the in-and-out breathing of the mouth and nose. Then, Aggivessana, holding back the in-and-out breathing of the mouth and nose, there was a great amount of noise of pressure going out from my ears.”
There is a technique like this in yoga. It can lead to kaivalya (the experience of reality) and that is even beyond samadhi. If I recall correctly the breath stops naturally after the outbreath for quite some time. It has nothing to do with simply holding one's breath as when diving into the swimming pool.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Buddha knew this technique as he had been grown up in a time of yoga.

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by morning mist » Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:40 pm

daverupa wrote:The comments below the blog entry make for a more comprehensive read, and offer considerable challenges which the blog author meets with varying degrees of success. I encourage a thorough examination of the many points discussed.
The comments refuting Yuttadhamo's uninformed critique and his promotion of " dry insight" have been deleted by him after removing the discussion to this forum. Critique of his " A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas” is not welcomed . It appears that questioning his theory is not allowed . Any of that will get erased and people who question his theory will get remove. I hope censoring is not the case in this forum. The my way of the highway attitude should be examined.


Metta,
with metta,

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by tiltbillings » Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:50 pm

morning mist wrote:
daverupa wrote:The comments below the blog entry make for a more comprehensive read, and offer considerable challenges which the blog author meets with varying degrees of success. I encourage a thorough examination of the many points discussed.
The comments refuting Yuttadhamo's uninformed critique and his promotion of " dry insight" have been deleted by him after removing the discussion to this forum. Critique of his " A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas” is not welcomed . It appears that questioning his theory is not allowed . Any of that will get erased and people who question his theory will get remove. I hope censoring is not the case in this forum. The my way of the highway attitude should be examined.


Metta,
This an uncomfortable thread, but it is also an informative thread with some very carefully done criticisms. it will not be censored. When posting, do keep the TOS in mind: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=2" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

morning mist
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by morning mist » Fri Mar 04, 2011 4:20 pm

I am really glad that reasonable discussions will not be deleted as in " Truth is Within" blog or people who doesn't follow the same view be removed and told to go away. The way I see it we are on the same path, perhaps with different interpretation. There is no need to kick someone out when they don't share the same view. In fact , it can be beneficial to discuss with others with opposing views. Sometimes we only see things that support our own view, it is difficult to look into what doesn't support the view that we held. Others can bring up things that we fail to see to help us see blind spots that we missed. This gives a more complete picture about the topic at hand. In this way discussion can be helpful. It is also one of the supporting factors for right view.

"Assisted by five factors, right view has cetovimuttiphala as its fruit & reward, and pannavimuttiphala as its fruit & benefit. Right view is assisted by virtue ( sila) , assisted by learning , assisted by discussion, assisted by tranquility (samatha ), assisted by insight (vipassana). Assisted by these five factors, right view has cetovimuttiphala as its fruit & benefit, and pannavimuttiphala as its fruit & benefit.” -MN 143

Metta,
with metta,

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by morning mist » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:49 pm

Hi Nana,

Ñāṇa wrote: "the canon offers a much different understanding of singleness of mind (citta ekagga, cittekaggatā). Singleness of mind is possible in any state which has discarded the five hindrances"
There are varying degrees of singleness of mind or mental unification. In the context of jhana, the mental unification required is to a higher degree.

“When he has abandoned these, there still remain thoughts about the dhamma (dhamma vitakka). That samadhi is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity , nor has it achieved mental unification (ekodibhava) ; it is maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements . –Pamsudhovaka Sutta

Ñāṇa wrote: "Moreover, MN 111.. support developing vipassanā within jhāna. ... But according to Ven. Brahmavamso's jhāna, there can be no comprehension within jhāna. "
“When he has abandoned these, there still remain thoughts about the dhamma (dhamma vitakka). That samadhi is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity , nor has it achieved mental unification (ekodibhava) ; it is maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements .
But there comes a time when his mind becomes inwardly steadied , composed , unified (ekodi), and concentrated ( samadhiyati) . That samadhi is then calm and refined; it has attained to full tranquillity and achieved mental unification (ekodibhava); it is not maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements. Then to whatever dhamma realizable by supernormal knowledge he directs his mind, he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by supernormal knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain .” –Pamsudhovaka Sutta

Also according to the Yuganaddha Sutta ( AN 4.170) Four Ways to Arahantship


Ven. Ananda said: "Friends, whoever — bhikkhu or bhikkhuni — that declares they have attained the final knowledge of arahatship in my presence, they all do so in one of four paths. Which four?

1. Samatha followed by Vipassana
2. Vipassana followed by Samatha
3. "Then there is the case where a bhikkhu has developed tranquillity and insight joined in pairs ( samatha-vipassanam yuganaddham). As he develops tranquillity and insight together, the path arises in him. He now frequents that path, cultivates, and pursues it. While he is doing so his fetters are abandoned and the underlying tendencies destroyed.

( MA: Samatha-vipassanaṃ yuganaddhaṃ. In this mode of practice, one enters the first jhāna and then, after emerging from it, applies insight to that experience, i.e. one sees the five aggregates within the jhāna (form, feeling, perception, etc.) as impermanent, liable to suffering, and non-self. Then one enters the second jhāna and contemplates it with insight; and applies the same pairwise procedure to the other jhānas as well, until the path of stream-entry, etc., is realized.)

4. dhammuddhaccaviggahitam manasam)

"Friends, whoever — monk or nun — that declares they have attained the final knowledge of arahantship in my presence, they all do so in one of these four paths.
Ñāṇa wrote: " the canon describes the mind in jhāna as vast and expansive. MN 127 describes the expansive liberation of mind (mahaggatā cetovimutti), which is a synonym for the mastery of jhāna"
Although they are related but not the same thing. There are various jhanas. Each jhana can be described differently from the other. In the " Sphere of Infinity of Space" and " Sphere of Infinite Consciousness" , these states of jhanas can be described as expansive. The form jhanas are not described as such. Then in the Sphere of Nothingness, there is nothing ("and aware that there is ’ nothing' ). In this state, how can we say it is expansive when there is nothing. Also in the Cessation of Perceptions and Feelings, are not described as expansive. When describing the form jhana, it makes sense not to describe them as expansive because the text did not described it as expansive. But when it comes to the other states, then yes , he described it as expansive.

Metta, :namaste:
with metta,

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legolas
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by legolas » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:37 am

"1. Samatha followed by Vipassana
2. Vipassana followed by Samatha
3. "Then there is the case where a bhikkhu has developed tranquillity and insight joined in pairs ( samatha-vipassanam yuganaddham). As he develops tranquillity and insight together, the path arises in him. He now frequents that path, cultivates, and pursues it. While he is doing so his fetters are abandoned and the underlying tendencies destroyed".

None of the above implies that within the first two instances, that one comes out of jhana to practice vipassana, merely that sooner or later the two have to go together.

The point made by Nana, about jhana being vast & expansive is well made. In the suttas there are only four "jhana's" - the immaterial states are never called jhana. So when jhana is described as being vast & expansive it can only apply in that context to the first four jhana. Later commentary starts talking about 8 jhana's, this is a case of later commentary blurring what is jhana and what is not.

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by pegembara » Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:33 am

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

"Is passion-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all pleasant feeling? Is resistance-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all painful feeling? Is ignorance-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling?"

"No... There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With that he abandons passion. No passion-obsession gets obsessed there.[4] There is the case where a monk considers, 'O when will I enter & remain in the dimension that those who are noble now enter & remain in?' And as he thus nurses this yearning for the unexcelled liberations, there arises within him sorrow based on that yearning. With that he abandons resistance. No resistance-obsession gets obsessed there.[5] There is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. With that he abandons ignorance. No ignorance-obsession gets obsessed there."[6]
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Post by Nyana » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:36 am

morning mist wrote:There are varying degrees of singleness of mind or mental unification. In the context of jhana, the mental unification required is to a higher degree.
The suttas you're quoting don't support the premise you seem to be trying to establish.
morning mist wrote:Also according to the Yuganaddha Sutta ( AN 4.170) Four Ways to Arahantship
I'll stick with the canonical Dhammasaṅgaṇī and Paṭisambhidāmagga in order to further clarify this sutta. The Dhammasaṅgaṇī Cittuppādakaṇḍa Rūpāvacarakusala Catukkanaya lists the mental factors engaged in an optimally skillful rūpāvacarajjhānacitta on a specific occasion, specifically, at that time. This list includes sammādiṭṭhi, sammāsati, sampajañña, samatha, and vipassanā:
  • What at that time is samatha? That which at that time is stability of mind, steadfastness of mind, thorough steadfastness of mind, unshakableness, non-distraction, imperturbability, calmness of mind, faculty of concentration, strength of concentration, right concentration. This at that time is samatha.

    What at that time is vipassanā? That which at that time is discernment (paññā), thorough understanding, investigation, comprehensive investigation, investigation of phenomena, consideration, discrimination, direct discrimination, erudite intelligence, proficiency, refined intelligence, discriminative examination.... This at that time is vipassanā.
The same is said regarding supramundane jhāna in the Lokuttarakusala Suddhikapaṭipadā section, with the appropriate additions. Also, the Paṭisambhidāmagga Yuganaddhakathā is the canonical commentary on this sutta, where the coupling of samatha and vipassanā are again said to occur together upon attainment of the noble path. This is the same as what is presented in the Dhammasaṅgaṇī Cittuppādakaṇḍa Lokuttarakusala Suddhikapaṭipadā.
morning mist wrote:Although they are related but not the same thing.
They are the same thing.

All the best,

Geoff

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