ajahn brahm meditation methods

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Re: ajahn brahm meditation methods

Post by Sylvester » Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:52 am

daverupa wrote: There is overlap as well, of course, such that the two sources agree with respect to inclusion or exclusion in some cases, but on balance the formless attainments are much more strongly represented on the Indian side of things, and I am more inclined to think that formless talk is developmentally additional, on the one hand, rather than lost, on the other.

Hmm, this smacks of Schopen's levelling hypothesis.

It's theoretically possible that after the 4 main Agamas left India and were closed into Chinese translations during the 4th to 5th centuries, the Indians merrily levelised all their Agama/Nikaya literature. However, I agree with Wynne that that theory is way out there in "cloud cuckooland". I don't know if Schopen reads Chinese or the Chinese Agamas, but I don't see him producing any evidence that this has occurred, other than as a conjecture.

Speaking of Ven Analayo as a source, do you have a reference to page number of his Comparative Study I could refer to? Just skimming over those MN suttas with their Chinese parallels in his essay, I see the formless bits popping up much too frequently to be dismissed. One of the things we have to careful with the MA is that, for whatever reason, the editors worked with slightly different translation conventions. You won't find 非想非非想 (neither perception nor-non-perception, eg used in the SA) used inevitably in the MA (based on a word search on CBeta) but another term is used 無 想 (wuxiang) as a proxy, which is unfortunately often confused with 無相 (animitta) (because 想 and 相 sound alike). Even in the DA, the term used is 有想無想 for NPNNP, an obvious typo, if compared against MN 1 (see below). Some of the differences could also be accounted for in the transcription process (ie the transcriber misheard the translator, or the translator misheard the reciter of the Prakrit) or even in the type-setting process.

Just doing a quick survey of the MN and its Chinese parallels, we find the formless bits from these suttas paralleled in the Chinese -

MN 1 (where another variant translation is used 非有想非無想, somewhat similar to the DA's)
MN 8,
MN 25
MN 26, (none for MA 30, given Ven A's explanation that the Pali probably suffered a textual error, where the attainments were described as superior to awakening),
MN 31,
MN 59,
MN 66
MN 105 (no Chinese parallel),
MN 106 (using 無想, instead of the more standard 非有想非無想)
MN 121
MN 140
MN 143 (formless bits missing from the 2 Chinese parallels)

I did this quick survey, using BB's index for NPNNP in his MLBD to locate all the NPNNPs in the MN, and comparing it against Ven Analayo's comparisons, and double-checking against the Taisho.

It would be good if we actually have a more complete qualitative analysis of term frequency in the Nikayas versus the Chinese Agamas, to see just how populated each collection is with the formless bits. For now, I don't think the levelling hypothesis works for the MN and MA on the out-of-India scenario, given how there's only a 16.7% variance (2 out of 12 MN suttas). If you remove MN 26 from the equation, that gives 90% agreement between the 2 collections. By Textual Criticism standards, won't you say that's too much of a coincidence?

This is where one now needs to tackle Wynne's argument that these convergences were very, very early, ie pre-Asokan.

Edit - my bad. Miscalculated. Should have been 25% variance against the MN (3 out of 12). Leaving out MN 26 gives an 82% correspondence.

Plus, perhaps I should not have just relied on the MLDB index for the NPNNP. I think there's at least one sutta that does not employ the 8 attainments model, but uses the saññāsamāpatti model which has only 7 attainments, culminating in Nothingness.

Dear Mods - this thread has gone off on a textual criticism tangent, when we began discussing the canonicity of the attainment of cessation and formless attainments. Not particularly helpful to the OP. Could those bits be excised and transferred to the Early Buddhism section? Perhaps titled "Doubts about the authenticity of the suttas concerning the Formless Attainments and Attainment of Cessation". Thanks

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Re: ajahn brahm meditation methods

Post by Nyana » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:02 pm

There's no need for herrings of any color. There are a number of suttas which give a complete explanation of the path and awakening without ever mentioning the formless attainments or the attainment of the cessation of perception & feeling. Moreover, even when the nine meditative attainments are given, such as the the sequence from AN 9.47 to AN 9.51, the cessation of perception & feeling isn't equated with nibbāna. The relevant phrase in this case being "and having seen with wisdom, his taints are utterly destroyed." This seeing with wisdom and elimination of āsavas occurs after one has emerged from the attainment of the cessation of perception & feeling.

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Re: ajahn brahm meditation methods

Post by Sylvester » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:35 am

Ñāṇa wrote:The relevant phrase in this case being "and having seen with wisdom, his taints are utterly destroyed." This seeing with wisdom and elimination of āsavas occurs after one has emerged from the attainment of the cessation of perception & feeling.
I agree that the phrase certainly indicates that the seeing happens after the emergence from that attainment of cessation of perception and feeling. I would just make an observation that when an absolutive is used as part of 2 correlative clauses, the focus is on the temporal connection between the verbs in the 2 clauses, rather than the absolutive and the verb in the preceding clause. In this case, the connection is focused on the seeing and the elimination in these clauses -
paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti
The above set of clauses is a very standard occurence in the suttas, and it pops up also in AN 9.43 concerning the Body Witness -
Puna caparaṃ, āvuso, bhikkhu sabbaso nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṃ samatikkamma saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ upasampajja viharati, paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti. Yathā yathā ca tadāyatanaṃ tathā tathā naṃ kāyena phusitvā viharati. Ettāvatāpi kho, āvuso, kāyasakkhī vutto bhagavatā nippariyāyenā’’ti.

Furthermore, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, he enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling. And as he sees with discernment, the mental fermentations go to their total end. He remains touching with his body in whatever way there is an opening there. It is to this extent that one is described by the Blessed One as a bodily witness without a sequel.
(Ven T's translation above renders the absolutive into its gerundive sense of contemporaneity, also permissible, per Geiger). Note that in the sections dealing with the "provisional" body-witness designation, the formulaic paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti does not appear.

For the Body Witness, we have something else from MN 70 -
Katamo ca bhikkhave puggalo kāyasakkhī: idha bhikkhave ekacco puggalo ye te santā vimokkhā atikkamma rūpe āruppā te kāyena phassitvā1 viharati, paññāya cassa disvā ekacce āsavā parikkhīṇā honti. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave puggalo kāyasakkhi. Imassa kho ahaṃ bhikkhave bhikkhuno appamādena karaṇīyanti vadāmi

And what is the individual who is a bodily witness? There is the case where a certain individual remains touching with his body those peaceful liberations that transcend form, that are formless, and — having seen with discernment — some of his fermentations are ended. This is called an individual who is a bodily witness. Regarding this monk, I say that he has a task to do with heedfulness.
Is there therefore a contradiction between MN 70 and AN 9.43? The trouble with translating the formulaic paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti lies in the reading that it is only after seeing and eliminating the outflows, does one deserve the non-provisional designation. But this does not seem consistent with MN 70, where only some of the outflows are eliminated, and one still gets to be designated a body witness.

The thing that really needs to be accounted for here is the word cassa, the optative of ca. Of its several senses, the optative will denote the predictive. None of the translations I've seen deal with the optative here. If I am correct about the function of the optative ca in this formula, it would suggest that the non-provisional designations are valid for those destined for full awakening, even if they have not achieved it.
Last edited by Sylvester on Sat Feb 23, 2013 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: ajahn brahm meditation methods

Post by alan... » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:55 am

this is the second of my threads that was not about whether or not the formless attainments fit in the suttas but was turned into that for no reason. they become post after post after post of this tiring debate that does little in the way of attempting to talk about or answer my OP.

see also: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 03#p229957

perhaps someone should create a thread about this formless attainment debate so this can be put to bed somewhere other than my unrelated threads? and yes my threads are about jhana but are not asking about the authenticity of the formless attainments.

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