Pali Term: Nimitta

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:54 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:OK, I see . its a very graphic use of the analogy. Thank you Dmytro, lots to unpack..
The unpacking continues and has proven very useful...thank you again Dmytro. A very fruitful topic.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Sun Sep 05, 2010 6:35 am

The Pali term 'nimitta' can be better understood through it's Sanskrit counterpart 'pratibimba'.

There are interesting parallels in Sravaka-bhumi by Asanga:
The cultivation of Calm (`samatha-bhaavanaa) aims at perfect steadiness of the reflected image (pratibimba) in thought (citta) of the meditative object (aalambana). Success is constituted by the ninth (and last) thought-fixation (citta-sthiti) which is the only mental orientation driving without effort (anaabhogavaahana-manaskaara), due to previous, but no longer required, eliminative activation (prahaa.na-sa^mskaara), i.e., activations eliminative of meditative faults in the first eight thought-fixations. Thus, the ninth thought-fixation is carried by habituation (svarasavaahita) accomplished in the eighth thought-fixation, which still had effort. This is equivalent to the svarasika ("purely passive") of Stcherbatsky in this passage:

It [the unexpressible reality] is the pure object, the object cognized by the senses in a pure sensation, that is to say, in a sensation which is purely passive, which is different in kind from the spontaneity of the intellect.

The meditative object of Calm alone is called Reflected image devoid of discernment (nirvikalpa-pratibimba); that of Higher Vision alone is called Reflected image attended with discernment (savikalpa-pratibimba). The meditative object of combined Calm and Higher Vision (`samatha-vipa`syanaayuganaddha) is called Fulfillment of the requirement (kaarya-parini.spatti).
http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/alex6.htm


"Pratibimba" is interpreted as "reflected image", "cognitive projection", "imaged-cognitive content"

http://www.acmuller.net/yogacara/articles/intro-uni.htm

which is close to "representation".

Kamalashila in "Bhavanakrama" cites the Sandhinirmocana sutra of Asanga:
The phenomenon that has been contemplated as the object of inner single-pointed concentration should be analyzed and regarded as like a reflection. This reflection or image, which is the object of single-pointed concentration, should be thoroughly discerned as an object of knowledge. It should be completely investigated and thoroughly examined. Practice patience and take delight in it. With proper analysis, observe and understand it. This is what is known as special insight.
http://www.empty-universe.com/yogacara/ ... ma_two.htm

In "Yoga-sutra-Vyasa-bhasya" (Vyasa's commentary on the Patanjali Yoga-sutra) chapter 4, verse 23, 'pratibimba' is an image, reflection, which serves as a basis ('aalambana', Pali 'aaramma.na') of samaadhi.

YB (B4.23,198) manas+ hi mantavya3 artha3 uparaktam, tatsvayam ca viSayatvaad viSayin3 puruSa3 aatmiiyaa3 vRtti3 abhisambaddham, tad etac cittam eva draSTRdRzya-uparaktam viSayaviSayinirbhaasam cetanaacetanasv aruupaapannam viSayaatmakam apy aviSayaatmakam ivaacetanam cetanam iva sphaTikamaNikalpam sa rvaartham ity ucyate.
YB (B4.23,198) tad anena cittasaaruupya3 bh raantaah kecit tad eva cetanam ity aahuh a pare cittamaatram eva + idam sarvam naasti khalv ayam gavaadir ghaTaadhiz ca sakaaraNa1 loka iti.
YB (B4.23,198) anupampaniiyaas te kasmaat, asti hi teSaam bhraantibiijam sarvaruupaakaar anirbhaasam cittam iti.
YB (B4.23,198) samaadhiprajnaayaam prajneya1 arthah pratibimbiibhuutas [pratibimba] tasyaalambaniibhuutatvaad [aalambana] anyah.
YB (B4.23,199) sa ced arthaz cittamaatram syaat katham prajnaa3 eva prajnaaruupam avadh aaryeta tasmaat pratibimbiibhuuta1 [pratibimba] arthah prajnaayaam yenaavadhaaryate sa puruS a iti.
YB (B4.23,199) evam grahiitRgrahaNagraahyasva ruupacittabhedaat trayam apy etaj jaatitah pr avibhajante te samyagdarzinas tair adhigatah puruSah.
Last edited by Dmytro on Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:10 pm

It's interesting that the mention of 'nimitta' in connection with four satipatthanas in Culavedalla sutta:
"Now what is concentration, lady, what qualities are its themes, what qualities are its requisites, and what is its development?"

"Singleness of mind is concentration, friend Visakha; the four frames of reference are its themes [nimitta]; the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these qualities is its development."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
is coherent with the repeated mention of 'nimitta' in the Vibhanga:
7. Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅgo

1. Suttantabhājanīyaṃ

1. Kāyānupassanāniddeso

356. Kathañca bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ kāye kāyānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ kāyaṃ uddhaṃ pādatalā adho kesamatthakā tacapariyantaṃ pūraṃ nānappakārassa asucino paccavekkhati – ‘‘atthi imasmiṃ kāye kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco maṃsaṃ nhāru [nahāru (sī.)] aṭṭhi aṭṭhimiñjaṃ [aṭṭhimiñjā (sī.)] vakkaṃ hadayaṃ yakanaṃ kilomakaṃ pihakaṃ papphāsaṃ antaṃ antaguṇaṃ udariyaṃ karīsaṃ pittaṃ semhaṃ pubbo lohitaṃ sedo medo assu vasā kheḷo siṅghāṇikā lasikā mutta’’nti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā bahiddhā kāye cittaṃ upasaṃharati.

Kathañca bhikkhu bahiddhā kāye kāyānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu bahiddhā kāyaṃ uddhaṃ pādatalā adho kesamatthakā tacapariyantaṃ pūraṃ nānappakārassa asucino paccavekkhati – ‘‘atthissa kāye kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco maṃsaṃ nhāru aṭṭhi aṭṭhimiñjaṃ vakkaṃ hadayaṃ yakanaṃ kilomakaṃ pihakaṃ papphāsaṃ antaṃ antaguṇaṃ udariyaṃ karīsaṃ pittaṃ semhaṃ pubbo lohitaṃ sedo medo assu vasā kheḷo siṅghāṇikā lasikā mutta’’nti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā ajjhattabahiddhā kāye cittaṃ upasaṃharati.


2. Vedanānupassanāniddeso

363. Kathañca bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘sāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘nirāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘sāmisaṃ dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘nirāmisaṃ dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘sāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘nirāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā bahiddhā vedanāsu cittaṃ upasaṃharati.

Kathañca bhikkhu bahiddhā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘sāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘nirāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘sāmisaṃ dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘nirāmisaṃ dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘sāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘nirāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā ajjhattabahiddhā vedanāsu cittaṃ upasaṃharati.


3. Cittānupassanāniddeso

365. Kathañca bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ citte cittānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu sarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘sarāgaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vītarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vītarāgaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, sadosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘sadosaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vītadosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vītadosaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, samohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘samohaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vītamohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vītamohaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, saṃkhittaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘saṃkhittaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vikkhittaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vikkhittaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, mahaggataṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘mahaggataṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, amahaggataṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘amahaggataṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, sauttaraṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘sauttaraṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, anuttaraṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘anuttaraṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, samāhitaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘samāhitaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, asamāhitaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘asamāhitaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vimuttaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, avimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘avimuttaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā bahiddhā citte cittaṃ upasaṃharati.

Kathañca bhikkhu bahiddhā citte cittānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu sarāgaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘sarāgamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vītarāgaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vītarāgamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, sadosaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘sadosamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vītadosaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vītadosamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, samohaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘samohamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vītamohaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vītamohamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, saṃkhittaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘saṃkhittamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vikkhittaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vikkhittamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, mahaggataṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘mahaggatamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, amahaggataṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘amahaggatamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, sauttaraṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘sauttaramassa citta’’nti pajānāti, anuttaraṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘anuttaramassa citta’’nti pajānāti, samāhitaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘samāhitamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, asamāhitaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘asamāhitamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vimuttaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vimuttamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, avimuttaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘avimuttamassa citta’’nti pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā ajjhattabahiddhā citte cittaṃ upasaṃharati.


4. Dhammānupassanāniddeso

367. Kathañca bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ ‘‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ ‘‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa kāmacchandassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa kāmacchandassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa kāmacchandassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti. Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ byāpādaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ thinamiddhaṃ [thīnamiddhaṃ (sī. syā.)] …pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ uddhaccakukkuccaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ vicikicchaṃ ‘‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ vicikicchā’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ vicikicchaṃ ‘‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ vicikicchā’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannāya vicikicchāya uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannāya vicikicchāya pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnāya vicikicchāya āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti.

Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti, santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ vīriyasambojjhaṅgaṃ [viriyasambojjhaṅgaṃ (sī. syā.)] …pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ pītisambojjhaṅgaṃ …pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ passaddhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ samādhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā bahiddhā dhammesu cittaṃ upasaṃharati.

Kathañca bhikkhu bahiddhā dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu santaṃ vāssa kāmacchandaṃ ‘‘atthissa kāmacchando’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vāssa kāmacchandaṃ ‘‘natthissa kāmacchando’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa kāmacchandassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa kāmacchandassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa kāmacchandassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti. Santaṃ vāssa byāpādaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa thinamiddhaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa uddhaccakukkuccaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa vicikicchaṃ ‘‘atthissa vicikicchā’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vāssa vicikicchaṃ ‘‘natthissa vicikicchā’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannāya vicikicchāya uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannāya vicikicchāya pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnāya vicikicchāya āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti.

Santaṃ vāssa satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘atthissa satisambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vāssa satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘natthissa satisambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti. Santaṃ vāssa dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa vīriyasambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa pītisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa passaddhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa samādhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘atthissa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vāssa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘natthissa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā ajjhattabahiddhā dhammesu cittaṃ upasaṃharati.
This suggests that each of the ways of establishing remembrance (satipatthana) requires a certain tuning of attention, so that the relevant phenomena would be perceived.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:34 pm

Hi Sylvester,
Sylvester wrote:I think the suttas have a very broad range of meanings assigned to the word nimitta.
A broad but quite manageable range.
The perceptual image seems, to me, to fit into the rupanimitta and obhasanimitta of MN 128 as specific meditation objects, despite Ven Soma's protests to the contrary that the Comy nimittas are innovations introduced by Ven Buddhaghosa..


Yes.
On the other hand, nimitta as "signs" would simply be the perceptible or conceivable qualities of a thing. We get one of the best examples of this in the series of synonyms from DN 15 - ākāra liṅga nimitta uddesa, all of which carry the same sense of something that identifies the object.
Indeed, this is one of the meanings.
I think that would be a fair understanding of MN 44's characterisation of 4 satipaṭṭhānas as being the nimitta of samādhi.
See the post just above: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 182#p93843" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

'Nimitta' in the context of samadhi would be also explained by the Gavi sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; , etc.

The description of the fourth right effort in the Samvarappadhana sutta also gives good examples of samadhi-nimitta:
katamañca bhikkhave anurakkhaṇappadhānaṃ? Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu uppannaṃ bhaddakaṃ samādhinimittaṃ anurakkhati aṭṭhikasaññaṃ pulavakasaññaṃ vinīlakasaññaṃ vipubbakasaññaṃ vicchiddakasaññaṃ uddhumātakasaññaṃ. Idaṃ vuccati bhikkhave anurakkhaṇappadhānaṃ.

http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ggo-p.html

(4) “And what is striving by protection? Here, a bhikkhu protects an arisen excellent object of concentration: the perception of a skeleton, the perception of a worm-infested corpse, the perception of a livid corpse, the perception of a festering corpse, the perception of a fissured corpse, the perception of a bloated corpse. This is called striving by protection.

https://suttacentral.net/an4.14/en/bodhi
Last edited by Dmytro on Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by binocular » Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:53 pm

Dmytro wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:So I think I am grasping what Thannisaro Bhikku is saying..does that imply that we will by various means have our own " themes" to which we are likely to return ?
I'll quote him (though I don't subscribe to his point of view):
Just to be clear: Could you summarize what you think is lacking about Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation?

Theme is a term both in literary theory and music theory and in both refers to what is a crucial factor of narration (music is a form of narration too).


Sanghamitta wrote:I dont follow the translation of nimitta as "themes" how are we to understand that ? " Signs" of course makes perfect sense.
Actually, I find "theme" easier to understand than "sign" in the above contexts.
"Sign" makes sense in terms of semiotics, along with the various theories about what a sign is and how it works.

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Mkoll
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Mkoll » Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:25 pm

This is a very informative thread. These posts have given Sutta support to the idea of "nimitta" as presented in the Vism. Thank you, Dmytro.

And thank you for bumping it, binocular.

:anjali:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Kumara
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Kumara » Tue Sep 01, 2015 3:24 am

Re-Bumping this.

I like it when a Pali word can translated perfectly into just one English word. Granted, this is not always possible, but certainly preferable. So, Dmytro, having researched into this, if you must choose only one word to cover all occasions of nimitta in the Suttas (only), what would be your choice?

If one is not possible, try two. The idea is to have the least number of words.
Last edited by Kumara on Tue Sep 01, 2015 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by acinteyyo » Tue Sep 01, 2015 8:28 am

Dmytro wrote:Regarding the translation of 'subhanimitta':

'subha-nimitta' is also 'that-which-when-attended-to-leads-to-change-of-mental qualities', as in Ahara sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
or Samvara sutta (AN 2.16 (4.14))
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... c-passages" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
where various contexts of 'nimitta' meet together.

The person with 'subhanimitta' is so much looking for sensual pleasure, that he is focused exclusively on the attractive features, ignoring anything else - unattractive features, causes and consequences of actions.

For example, modern cars fan looks at the latest car, being attuned to the attractiveness of its lines, and immediately wants to buy it and have it as a part of 'self'.

In such cases a person does not have a 'perception of attractiveness' - 'attractiveness' is not an external object which is perceived. It is more correct to say that the person has attunement to the representation of attractiveness, or 'perceptual attunement' to attractiveness.

Stephen Hodge wrote:
The reason why "subha-nimitta.m" cannot be translated properly as "pleasurable (sense) object" is quite simple: there are no pleasurable sense objects. They are just objects and it is we who make them pleasurable or otherwise. Thus the experience of pleasurable nimitta.m must be a mental event synthesized from the raw sense data, vedanaa, memories and conventions etc. If the sense object itself were pleasurable, then it would remain so for all people, which is clearly not the case. Take, for example, opera. I know of people who find opera a highly pleasurable experience, whereas to me it is little better than a caterwauling cacophany (ie rather unpleasant). But there is nothing in the combination of operatic sounds per se that is pleasurable or unpleasurable -- it is one's nimitta (image) of the bare sounds that make it one thing or another.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5280" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I've found this particularly enlightening, thanks Dmytro!
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:18 am

Dmytro wrote:The passage from Visuddhimagga (XIV 130) gives the clue:

"sabbāva sañjānanalakkhaṇā, tadevetanti puna sañjānanapaccayanimittakaraṇarasā dāruādīsu tacchakādayo viya, yathāgahitanimittavasena abhinivesakaraṇapaccupaṭṭhānā hatthidassakāndhā (udā. 54) viya, yathāupaṭṭhitavisayapadaṭṭhānā tiṇapurisakesu migapotakānaṃ purisāti uppannasaññā viyāti."

"All (saññā) has the characteristic of recognition (sañjānana); its property is the making of representation (nimitta) that is a condition of recognizing again, 'this is the very same thing' - as carpenters and so on do with the wood, etc.; its manifestation is the producing of conviction by virtue of a representation (nimitta) that has been accordingly learnt - like the blind perceiving the elephant ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ); its basis is whatever object that has come near - like the recognition (saññā) 'people' that arises for young animals in respect of scarecrows."
This subtle point helps to understand, how in Anapanasati practice, where jhana is a subtype of air kasina jhana:
Kiṃ pana pathavīkasiṇaṃ ādiṃ katvā aṭṭhikasaññāpariyosānāvesā rūpāvacarappanā, udāhu aññāpi atthīti? Atthi; ānāpānajjhānañhi kāyagatāsatibhāvanā ca idha na kathitā. Kiñcāpi na kathitā vāyokasiṇe pana gahite ānāpānajjhānaṃ gahitameva; vaṇṇakasiṇesu ca gahitesu kesādīsu catukkapañcakajjhānavasena uppannā kāyagatāsati, dasasu asubhesu gahitesu dvattiṃsākāre paṭikūlamanasikārajjhānavasena ceva navasivathikāvaṇṇajjhānavasena ca pavattā kāyagatāsati gahitāvāti. Sabbāpi rūpāvacarappanā idha kathitāva hotīti.

"But is this all the absorption belonging to the consciousness of the sphere of refined form, beginning with the earth kasiṇa and ending in the perception of the skeleton? Or is there anything else?"
"Yes, there is. There is ānāpāna jhāna and the development of kāyagatāsati, which have not been spoken of here."
"Why not?"
"Because ānāpāna jhāna is included in the air kasiṇa; the development of kāyagatāsati arisen by virtue of the fourfold and fivefold jhānas with reference to the hair etc., is included in the colour kasiṇas; the kāyagatāsati produced by virtue of the jhānas attending to the unattractiveness in the thirty-two parts of the body, and that of the jhāna attending to the colours of the nine kinds of corpses in the charnel grounds is included in the ten repulsive things. Thus all the absorptions of consciousness connected with the sphere of refined form have been included here."

Dhammasangani-Atthakatha 200
Ānāpānajjhānassāpi panettha vāyokasiṇe saṅgaho daṭṭhabboti.

Abhidhammatika Mya.40
nimitta, being a representation of air element, extends and colors all perception in its totality (kasiṇa), as described in:
"To the yogin who attends to the incoming breath with mind that is cleansed of the nine lesser defilements the image [nimitta] arises with a pleasant feeling similar to that which is produced in the action of spinning cotton or silk cotton. Also, it is likened to the pleasant feeling produced by a breeze. Thus in breathing in and out, air touches the nose or the lip and causes the setting-up of air perception mindfulness. This does not depend on colour or form. This is called the image. If the yogin develops the image [nimitta] and increases it at the nose-tip, between the eyebrows, on the forehead or establishes it in several places, he feels as if his head were filled with air. Through increasing in this way his whole body is charged with bliss. This is called perfection."

(Vimuttimagga, Mindfulness of Respiration. Procedure, pp.158-159)
https://archive.org/stream/ArahantUpato ... /mode/2up/
(4) Being mindful of the breath pervading the body, one is still mindful of the breaths going out and coming in. One thoroughly observes the exhalations and inhalations within one's body. One perceives the breath pervading the body and filling all pores, down to those on the toes, just like water soaking into sand. When the breath goes out, one perceives the breath pervading all pores, from those on the feet to those on the head, also like water soaking into sand. Just like the air that fills bellows, whether it is going out or coming in, the wind blowing in and out through the mouth and nose [fills the body]. One observes the whole body that the wind fills, like holes of a lotus root [filled with water] and a fishing net [soaked in water]. Further, it is not that the mind only observes the breath coming in and going out through the mouth and nose. [The mind] sees the breath coming in and going out through all pores and the nine apertures [of the body]. Thus one knows that the breath pervades the body.

Dhyanasamadhi sutra
http://philabuddhist.org/wp-content/upl ... df#page=16
The Mahavibhasa of the Sarvastivadins states:
Question: As one observes the wind of breath as entering by the nose and getting out by the nose, why it is said that 'I breathe in and out perceiving the whole body'?
Answer: When mindfulness of breathing is not yet accomplished, one observes in-and-out-breath as entering and getting out by the nose. When mindfulness of breathing is accomplished, one observes breath as entering and going out through all the pores of the body, which is like a lotus root." (T 27, 136a-b).

Tse-fu Kuan
Mindfulness in Early Buddhism
Think of the breath energy coming in and out of the body through every pore.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu, A Guided Meditation
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... uided.html

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by cjmacie » Sat Sep 03, 2016 1:03 pm

Dmytro wrote:Hi Sanghamitta,
Sanghamitta wrote:So I think I am grasping what Thannisaro Bhikku is saying..does that imply that we will by various means have our own " themes" to which we are likely to return ?
Thannisaro Bhikku wrote:Unfortunately, we do not have a full treatise on the theory of musical performance as practiced during the Buddha's time, but there are enough references to music scattered through the texts for us to sketch the outlines of that theory. The first step in performance was to tune one's instrument, "establishing" one's tonic note (literally, "base," thana) to make it on-pitch ("even," or sama), then to fine-tune or attune ("ferret out" or "penetrate") the remaining notes (again, "bases") of the scale in relation to the tonic. This required a great deal of skill, sensitivity, and some mathematical knowledge, as the well-tempered scale had not yet been developed, and many different ways of calculating the scale were in use, each appropriate to a different emotion. The musician then picked up the theme (nimitta) of the composition. The theme functioned in several ways, and thus the word "theme" carried several meanings. On the one hand it was the essential message of the piece, the image or impression that the performer wanted to leave in the listener's mind. On the other hand, it was the governing principle that determined what ornamentation or variations would be suitable to the piece.
"Theme" as used in Western ("classical") music can become confusing in the context of music likely to have been know in the Buddha's day. Theme, in the former, denotes a dynamic progression of notes -- like a melody, in briefer form perhaps a motif. In the latter context, music was more likely similar to what's considered "classsical" Indian music, e.g. as known in the West through Ravi Shankar, or, a bit more esoteric, Ali Akbar Khan. Basis, as I understand is know as "raga", that's not a theme like a melody, but more like a "mode" (in history of Western music), or a specific group of notes, and perhaps interval motifs to be the "vocabulary" of a composition. Modes are s/t represented as different scales: whereas today we are left with "major" and "minor" scales, earlier there were many, e.g. "Phrygian", "Dorian", "Ionian", etc. I think the raga is like those, but sparser -- the collection of notes as tones (relationships between) available as context or any particular composition (which, I believe, is essentially always improvised). "Tuning" is actually adjusting the instrument(s) to be able to play those pitches of the raga (or mode, in the other tradition), but not able to play other pitches; and it's likely to be a discontinuous series of tones, rather than continuous like modern scales (and particularly nowhere near any sense of "even-temperament" as is standard today in the West.

(Than-Geoff mentions "well-tempered" scale, probably as in J. S. Bach's "well-tempered clavier". But that was NOT "equal-temperament" as used universally in Western music today. "Equal" means exactly equal intervals throughout the scale, and, consequently, every interval is slightly out-of-tune -- in terms of pure Pythagorean harmonics. Well-tempered was a sort of compromise which allowed one to use all 24 keys of the Western scale, but each one was in- or out-of-tune in a different way; hence giving a certain distinctive "color" to each key. Even temperament didn't become standard until earily 19th-century. Curiously, Ven. Sujato, a former musician, voiced a similar confusion in a discussion once.)

So, theme has more a dynamic sense, especially musically, perhaps also in literature, and, as in "thesis", in academic writing. Nimitta can have that kind of sense? My sense is that it's less process, more like a "sign", a tag -- similar in ways to "lakkhaṇa". Yes, everything phenomenal is in flux, but nimitta / sign provides a way of attaching a handle to it, as also in neurological correlates, for reference back and forth across mental time. Then again, perhaps that quasi static quality is similar to the profound difference in Indian music (perhaps Asian music in general) in contrast to Western music.

Bottom-line: "theme" has overtones, so to speak, which make it a poor fit for nimitta. "Sign" has short-comings too, but fits better on a spatial-temporal axis -- if one had to settle on a single term.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Sat Sep 03, 2016 2:15 pm

cjmacie wrote:if one had to settle on a single term.
I'm strongly against settling on a single a term in case of 'nimitta'. This leads to Buddhist Hybrid English translations, with great loss of contextual meanings.

Even in the first century CE, writing in Pali, Arahant Upatissa took care to clarify the very different meanings of the term 'nimitta' in his Vimuttimagga.

https://archive.org/stream/ArahantUpato ... /mode/2up/

Reduction of all meanings to a single term immediately leads to misunderstanding. This is especially important in case of 'nimitta', since people who get all the knowledge of this term from overly simplified translations, can easily follow hallucinative visions and get nowhere.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by binocular » Sat Sep 03, 2016 4:19 pm

Dmytro wrote:Reduction of all meanings to a single term immediately leads to misunderstanding. This is especially important in case of 'nimitta', since people who get all the knowledge of this term from overly simplified translations, can easily follow hallucinative visions and get nowhere.
Parallel to efforts to find the optimal translations, it would also be beneficial to raise awareness of meta-translational issues (e.g.); to make it more commonplace that readers of translated texts are aware they are reading a translated text and that they are aware there are certain problems inherent to translation.

Another possibility are translations like this:
/.../
1 Učenci, telo (telesna oblika – rupa[13]) je nesebstvo (anattā). Če bi bilo to telo (rupa) sebstvo (attā), potem ne bi imelo nobenih težav in bolezni in človek bi lahko svojemu telesu rekel: »Moje telo naj bo takšno«, ali pa: »Moje telo naj ne bo takšno«. Ker pa je telo (rupa) nesebstvo (anattā), ima lahko težave in bolezni in nihče ne more reči svojemu telesu: »Moje telo naj bo takšno«, ali pa: »Moje telo naj ne bo takšno«[14].

2 Učenci, občutki (vedanā) so nesebstvo (anattā). Če bi bili ti občutki (vedanā) sebstvo (attā), potem ne bi imeli nobenih težav in bolezni in človek bi lahko svojim občutkom rekel: »Moji občutki naj bodo takšni«, ali pa: »Moji občutki naj ne bodo takšni«. Ker pa so občutki (vedanā) nesebstvo (anattā), imajo lahko težave in bolezni in nihče ne more reči svojim občutkom: »Moji občutki naj bodo takšni«, ali pa: »Moji občutki naj ne bodo takšni«.
/.../
http://www.slo-theravada.org/ucenja/sut ... bstva.html
By adding the key terms in the original language, it is made clear what term is being translated, and this also puts the translation into better perspective, opening the possibility for discussing the term as necessary.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by cjmacie » Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:40 am

Dmytro wrote:
cjmacie wrote:if one had to settle on a single term.
I'm strongly against settling on a single [a] term in case of 'nimitta'...
There IS a single term (linguistic construct), namely 'nimitta'; and English 'sign' is a good approximation for it. Then there are a range of meanings arising from the practical (literary) usage of the term, both ancient and modern (as referred to in this thread, and even explorations of "new" meanings as created in this thread).

Dmytro's argument begins opposing a single term, but goes on to list, with a tinge of polemic, areas of demonstrated variety of associated meanings:
Dmytro wrote:...This leads to Buddhist Hybrid English translations, with great loss of contextual meanings.

Even in the first century CE, writing in Pali, Arahant Upatissa took care to clarify the very different meanings of the term 'nimitta' in his Vimuttimagga. ...

Reduction of all meanings to a single term immediately leads to misunderstanding. This is especially important in case of 'nimitta', since people who get all the knowledge of this term from overly simplified translations, can easily follow hallucinative visions and get nowhere.
Use, for sake of common reference, of a single term does not necessarily imply reduction of meanings.

Pragmatically, does one then use a range of different terms to designate each these meanings? That easily leads to a "tower of Babel", and the complication of elaborate qualification whenever employing different terms (for nimitta); and likely confusion when passages quoted from an author using a favored alternative term are quoted without that author's full qualifying definition, relationship to "nimitta" (or whatever). For example, a passage using "theme", or "representation",... where it's not explained in that passage that the term approximated is "nimitta".

"Settling on" a single term – as itself "nimitta" or "sign" for the range of contextually distinct usages; the entire issue is oddly recursive – at least can simplify the reader's task. The the widely recognized term is used, for clarity of linguistic reference, but becomes explicitly qualified in each context, for clarity of meaning according to the author's intent.

I believe this perspective aligns with that in "postby binocular » Sat Sep 03, 2016 8:19 am", but this, also, might be open to interpretation. :shrug:

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Buddha Vacana » Sun Sep 04, 2016 2:41 pm

binocular wrote:Another possibility are translations like this:
http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/angu ... 6-073.html

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:03 am

Thank you, Binocular and "Buddha Vacana", this is indeed a solution - to provide a translation relevant to current context, and the original term.

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