Pali Term: Nimitta

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

Moderator: Mahavihara moderator

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6440
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: California

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

User avatar
Kumara
Posts: 673
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:14 am

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.
I'm not just a monk. I'm a human being. — Sayadaw U Jotika

User avatar
acinteyyo
Posts: 1691
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:48 am
Location: Bavaria / Germany

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!
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

User avatar
Dmytro
Posts: 1577
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:24 pm
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Contact:

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

User avatar
cjmacie
Posts: 690
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:49 am

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.

User avatar
Dmytro
Posts: 1577
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:24 pm
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Contact:

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.

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

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.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

User avatar
cjmacie
Posts: 690
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:49 am

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:

Buddha Vacana
Posts: 607
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:16 am

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

User avatar
Dmytro
Posts: 1577
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:24 pm
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Contact:

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.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1805
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:12 am

cjmacie wrote:
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.
:goodpost:
I am an ethnomusicologist with a heavy interest in archaeomusicology (if only they would pay me to study it), so this is right up my alley, and I approve of this post, although "all 24 keys of the Western scale" doesn't really make sense to a musicologist. I think you have some enharmonics confusion going on. There are only 18-19 possible "keys" in the Western scalar system, but that is just me being persnickety and pedantic, thrilled to see musicology nonetheless represented here.

Although Ven Thanissaro presents a bit of a dated picture of Indic archaeomusicology (I can't blame him, its a fringy subject), we know leagues more about the music of Ancient India than we do of most other contemporaneous cultures of the time.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

User avatar
cjmacie
Posts: 690
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:49 am

Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by cjmacie » Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:51 am

Coëmgenu wrote: ...
"all 24 keys of the Western scale" doesn't really make sense to a musicologist. I think you have some enharmonics confusion going on. There are only 18-19 possible "keys" in the Western scalar system...
Maybe it wasn't clear I was referring to the "keys" as in : C-major, c-minor, C#-major,... (as, e.g. used in JS Bach's two volumes "Das Wohltemperierte Klavier") -- not the hardware keys, which you may be referring too? As in -- the Fisk-Nanny organ at Stanford has one manual with "split" keys ("black-keys) to enable playing otherwise non-standard semitones in some Renaissance music -- those total to 18-19?
Coëmgenu wrote:...we know leagues more about the music of Ancient India than we do of most other contemporaneous cultures of the time.
Probably a lot more these days. Back at Berkeley in the 1960's, musicology was strictly European. Later I believe they developed a rather substantial ethno-musicology department? Did you, Coëmgenu, study at Berkeley too?

But, Ravi Shankar was hot back then (e.g. for listening to stoned), and he teamed-up famously with one Ali Akbar Khan on the "oud" (Middle Eastern stringed instrument) performing "raga-s" together. Khan at that time was just establishing a school of Indian music nearby, and would give lecture-concerts. What was gleaned from those is the limit of my knowledge. (Curious, in doing cross-word puzzles, the word "oud" comes up, clued as "instrument for belly dancers". :tongue: )

Once, though, interviewing one of the tabla (drum) players -- I was also a music reviewer -- he invited me to lunch, and taught me something of how to eat that spicy Indian food: add a pile of yogurt on the plate, and mix a bit of hot spicy whatever with a dab of yogurt in every bite.

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1805
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:37 am

cjmacie wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote: ...
"all 24 keys of the Western scale" doesn't really make sense to a musicologist. I think you have some enharmonics confusion going on. There are only 18-19 possible "keys" in the Western scalar system...
Maybe it wasn't clear I was referring to the "keys" as in : C-major, c-minor, C#-major,... (as, e.g. used in JS Bach's two volumes "Das Wohltemperierte Klavier") -- not the hardware keys, which you may be referring too? As in -- the Fisk-Nanny organ at Stanford has one manual with "split" keys ("black-keys) to enable playing otherwise non-standard semitones in some Renaissance music -- those total to 18-19?
Aaaaaah yes. Its been a while since I've had to access my "traditional musicology" terminology. Its refreshing :jumping: . I was listing diatonic key centres, not modalities of key centres. By binary-modal reckoning there are about 32-34 "keys" (due to enharmonics, B-major and Cb-major being different "keys").
cjmacie wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:...we know leagues more about the music of Ancient India than we do of most other contemporaneous cultures of the time.
Probably a lot more these days. Back at Berkeley in the 1960's, musicology was strictly European. Later I believe they developed a rather substantial ethno-musicology department? Did you, Coëmgenu, study at Berkeley too?
York and McGill (Canadian universities), Chicago U also has a famous ethnomusicology department.
cjmacie wrote:performing "raga-s" together.
I believe rāg is singular and rāga is plural, but I'm not sure either.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

User avatar
Dmytro
Posts: 1577
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:24 pm
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Contact:

Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:09 am

Visuddhimagga instructions for jhana 'on the bloated' clarify the meaning of 'nimitta' in the context of samādhi.
sarīrato nātidūre nāccāsanne padese ṭhitena vā nisinnena vā cakkhuṃ ummīletvā oloketvā nimittaṃ gaṇhitabbaṃ.

Standing in a place not too far from and not too near to the body, he should open his eyes, look and apprehend the nimitta.

“uddhumātakapaṭikkūlaṃ uddhumātakapaṭikkūlan”ti satakkhattuṃ sahassakkhattuṃ ummīletvā oloketabbaṃ, nimmīletvā āvajjitabbaṃ.

He should open his eyes and look a hundred times, a thousand times, [thinking], 'Repulsiveness of the bloated, repulsiveness of the bloated', and he should close his eyes and advert to it.

evaṃ punappunaṃ karontassa uggahanimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti. kadā suggahitaṃ hoti? yadā ummīletvā olokentassa nimmīletvā āvajjentassa ca ekasadisaṃ hutvā āpāthamāgacchati, tadā suggahitaṃ nāma hoti.

51. As he does so again and again, the learning nimitta becomes properly apprehended by him. When it is properly apprehended? When it comes into focus alike whether he opens his eyes and looks or closes his eyes and adverts, then it called properly apprehended.

Visuddhimagga VI, 50-51
Here nimitta is an inner representation of the bloated corpse, which is properly apprehended (suggahita) so that it is seen well with closed eyes.

If one gets representation (nimitta) of the visual object through visual contact, one gets visual nimitta.
If one gets representation through touch (e.g. nimitta of air in Anapanasati), one gets tactile nimitta (however, visual components may also be present).

Being a representation of air, nimitta in Anapanasati has a quality of airiness, and when expanded, makes the body feel as if filled with air, as described in Vimuttimagga:
"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/
since in Anapanasati practice, 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

User avatar
cjmacie
Posts: 690
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:49 am

Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by cjmacie » Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:19 pm

Dmytro wrote:
If one gets representation (nimitta) of the visual object through visual contact, one gets visual nimitta.
If one gets representation through touch (e.g. nimitta of air in Anapanasati), one gets tactile nimitta (however, visual components may also be present).

Being a representation of air, nimitta in Anapanasati has a quality of airiness, and when expanded, makes the body feel as if filled with air, as described in Vimuttimagga: ... and from the ... Dhammasangani-Atthakatha 200 (that's the Atthasālinī?)
I recall also in the Vism that touch is considered s/w special among the sense-doors in that is has qualities of earth (pathavi), air (vayo) and fire (tejo). And as object in anapanasati samadhi, it is touch as very subtle (rupa - "fine"-material), hence suitable for forming an immobile nimitta for jhanic absorption. This in contrast to the use of abdominal breathing, as in Mahasi training, which is taught as more specifically "air" element, i.e. predominantly motion, and, being s/w grosser, does not lend to absorptive concentration (but rather to vipassana khanika samadhi).

The commentarial emphasis on "air" makes sense, in terms of systematization, but less so experientially in practicing anapanasati-samadhi. There can be a sense of fullness in the head, but decisively lacking the motion quality.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 18 guests