Pali Term: Nimitta

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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santa100
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by santa100 » Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:02 pm

A broad term with different meanings depending on the context. See Ven. Nyanatiloka's dictionary's definition here

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Kumara
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Kumara » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:31 am

santa100 wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:02 pm
A broad term with different meanings depending on the context. See Ven. Nyanatiloka's dictionary's definition here
A broad term, no doubt, but perhaps it's actually not as broad as we think, if we limit the context within the Suttas.

If we're to translate it with just one word, within the context of the Suttas, what would be best? (I think "sign" is out.)
I'm not just a monk. I'm a human being. — Sayadaw U Jotika

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Dmytro
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:20 am

Kumara wrote:Or is did this meaning arise only in later texts?
In the course of time, Pali terms underwent semantic shift, - but this process has some laws, e.g. the shift from abstract to tangible, as described above. So we can sometimes reverse this sematic shift. Thus later texts are quite useful.
Kumara wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:31 am
A broad term, no doubt, but perhaps it's actually not as broad as we think, if we limit the context within the Suttas.
For better or worse, it's just impossible to understand the terms clearly just on the basis of Sutta. Without later texts, the Tipitaka would be quite vague.
Kumara wrote:If we're to translate it with just one word, within the context of the Suttas, what would be best?
That's what I often observe in "Early Buddhism" - trying to limit themselves to the Suttas, people, seeking certainty in the fog, attempt to find all-business interpretations.

We can go back in time only as far as our sources allow, and no further. If the earliest clear explanation is found only in Visuddhimagga, that's the best we can find.

Samvarappadhana sutta helps to reverse the semantic shift and clarify the meaning of 'nimitta' in the context of samadhi:
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 concentration-representation: 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.

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Kumara
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Kumara » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:55 am

Dmytro wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:20 am
Kumara wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:31 am
A broad term, no doubt, but perhaps it's actually not as broad as we think, if we limit the context within the Suttas.
For better or worse, it's just impossible to understand the terms clearly just on the basis of Sutta. Without later texts, the Tipitaka would be quite vague.
I get your point, but it's not how I see it. To me, the commentaries has distorted much of the Buddha's teaching.

FYI, I started with Orthodox Theravada and stayed with it for at least 8 years. After that, it took much time and effort for me to distinguish between the earlier and the later. It's been rewarding though, especially in terms of practice. Much that didn't make sense earlier (because of commentarial explanations) began to make sense to me.
That's what I often observe in "Early Buddhism" - trying to limit themselves to the Suttas, people, seeking certainty in the fog, attempt to find all-business interpretations.
In my opinion, the fog is created by the commentaries. The earlier texts are fine, so long as there are practitioners who understand the Path.
Samvarappadhana sutta helps to reverse the semantic shift and clarify the meaning of 'nimitta' in the context of samadhi:
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 concentration-representation: 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.
For me, as a practitioner, the translation here for samādhinimitta is simply "basis of composure/collectedness". The perception of these objects is a basis for composure/collectedness for one with much lust.

At this point, I find using 2 English words to be adequate to cover all usages of nimitta in the Suttas: "basis" and ”object“. I invite others to try it out.
I'm not just a monk. I'm a human being. — Sayadaw U Jotika

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Dmytro
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Post by Dmytro » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:23 am

Kumara wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:55 am
Much that didn't make sense earlier (because of commentarial explanations) began to make sense to me.
For me, it took a lot of time and effort to delve through accretions and semantic shift, but eventually I managed to decipher and apply the instructions on 'nimitta' in Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga. When one knows how to do it, it's quite doable and enjoyable.
Kumara wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:55 am
At this point, I find using 2 English words to be adequate to cover all usages of nimitta in the Suttas: "basis" and ”object“. I invite others to try it out.
For me, this certainly doesn't fit this passage and other numerous usages (referred to above).

I have also referred to usages in other traditions, which escape the popular "sutta-commentary" simplified dichotomy.

One more case - an excellent early Sanskrit source on the meaning of “nimitta” in the context of perception, Saundaranandakavya by Ashvaghosha:
2.The Restraint of the Senses

tataḥ smṛtim adhiṣṭhāya capalāni svabhāvataḥ /
indriyāṇīndriyārthebhyo nivārayitum arhasi // Saund_13.30 //


By taking your stand on mindfulness you must hold back from the sense-objects
your senses, unsteady by nature.

bhetavyaṃ na tathā śatror nāgner nāher na cāśaneḥ /
indriyebhyo yathā svebhyas tair ajasraṃ hi hanyate // Saund_13.31 //


Fire, snakes, and lightning are less inimical to us than our own senses,
so much more dangerous. For they assail us all the time.

dviṣabdhiḥ śatrubhiḥ kaś cit kadā cit pīḍyate na vā /
indriyair bādhyate sarvaḥ sarvatra ca sadaiva ca // Saund_13.32 //


Even the most vicious enemies can attack only some people at some times, and not at others,
but everybody is always and everywhere weighed down by his senses.

na ca prayāti narakaṃ śatruprabhṛthibhir hataḥ /
kṛṣyate tatra nighnas tu capalair indriyair hataḥ // Saund_13.33 //


And people do not go to hell because some enemy has knocked them down and cast them into it;
it is because they have been knocked down by their unsteady senses that they are helplessly dragged there.

hanyamānasya tair duḥkhaṃ hārdaṃ bhavati vā na vā /
indriyair bādhyamānasya hārdaṃ śārīram eva ca // Saund_13.34 //


Those attacked by external enemies may, or may not, suffer injury to their souls;
but those who are weighed down by the senses suffer in body and soul alike.

saṃkalpaviṣadigdhā hi pañcendriyamayāḥ śarāḥ /
cintāpuṅkhā raiphalā viṣayākāśagocarāḥ // Saund_13.35 //


For the five senses are rather like arrows which have been smeared with the poison of fancies,
have cares for their feathers, and happiness for their points, and fly about in the space provided by the range of the sense-objects;

manuṣyahariṇān ghnanti kāmavyādheritā hṛdi /
vihanyante yadi na te tataḥ patanti taiḥ kṣatāḥ // Saund_13.36 //


shot off by Kama, the God of Love, they hit men in their very hearts as a hunter hits a deer,
and if men do not know how to ward off these arrows, they will be their undoing;

niyamājirasaṃsthena dhairyakārmukadhāriṇā /
nipatanto nivāryās te mahatā smṛtivarmaṇā // Saund_13.37 //


when they come near us we should stand firm in self-control, be agile and steadfast,
and ward them off with the great armor of mindfulness.

indriyāṇām upaśamād arīṇāṃ nigrahād iva /
sukhaṃ svapiti vāste vā yatra tatra gatoddhavaḥ // Saund_13.38 //


As a man who has subdued his enemies can everywhere live and sleep at ease and free from care,
so can he who has pacified his senses.

teṣāṃ hi satataṃ loke viṣayāṇ abhikāṅkṣatām /
saṃvin naivāsti kārpaṇyāc chunām āśāvatām iva // Saund_13.39 //


For the senses constantly ask for more by way of worldly objects,
and normally behave like voracious dogs who can never have enough.

viṣayair indriyagrāmo na tṛptim adhigacchati /
ajasraṃ pūryamāṇo 'pi samudraḥ salilair iva // Saund_13.40 //


This disorderly mob of the senses can never reach satiety, not by any amount of sense-objects;
they are rather like the sea, which one can go on indefinitely replenishing with water.

avaśyaṃ gocare sve sve vartitavyam ihendriyaiḥ /
nimittaṃ tatra na grāhyam anuvyañjanam eva ca // Saund_13.41 //


In this world the senses cannot be prevented from being active, each in its own sphere.
But they should not be allowed to grasp either the general features of an object, or its particularities.

ālokya cakṣuṣā rūpaṃ dhātumātre vyavasthitaḥ /
strī veti puruṣo veti na kalpayitum arhasi // Saund_13.42 //


When you have beheld a sight-object with your eyes, you must merely determine the basic element (which it represents, e.g., it is a sight-object),
and should not under any circumstances fancy it as, say, a “woman” or a “man.”

sacet strīpuruṣagrāhaḥ kva cid vidyeta kās cana /
śubhataḥ keśadantādīn nānuprasthātum arhasi // Saund_13.43 //


But if now and then you have inadvertently grasped something as a “woman” or a "man,"
you should not follow that up by determining the hairs, teeth, etc., as lovely.

nāpaneyaṃ bhūtato bhūtaṃ śaśvad indiyagocare /
draṣṭavyaṃ bhūtato bhūtaṃ yādṛṣaṃ ca yathā ca yat // Saund_13.44 //


Nothing should be subtracted from the datum, nothing added to it;
it should be seen as it really is, as what it is like in real truth.

evaṃ te paśyatas tattvaṃ śaśvad indriyagocare /
bhaviṣyati padasthānaṃ nābhiyādaurmanasyayoḥ // Saund_13.45 //


If you thus try to look continually for the true reality in that which the senses present to you,
covetousness and aversion will soon be left without a foothold.

abhidhyā priyarūpeṇa hanti kāmātmakaṃ jagat /
arir mitramukheneva priyavākkaluṣāśayaḥ // Saund_13.46 //


Coveting ruins those living beings who are bent on sensuous enjoyment by means of pleasing forms,
like an enemy with a friendly face who speaks loving words, but plans dark deeds.

daurmanasyābhidhānas tu pratigho viṣayāśritaḥ /
mohād yenānuvṛttena paratreha ca hanyate // Saund_13.47 //


But what is called “aversion” is a kind of anger directed towards certain objects,
and anyone who is deluded enough to pursue it is bound to suffer for it either in this or a future life.

anurodhavirodhābhyāṃ śitoṣṇābhyām ivārditaḥ /
śarma nāpnoti na śreyaś calendricam ato jagat // Saund_13.48 //


Afflicted by their likes and dislikes, as by excessive heat or cold,
men will never find either happiness or the highest good as long as they put their trust in the unsteady senses.
Saundaranandakavya, xiii, 30-56; translated by Edward Conze

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#ch2.2
http://gretil.sub.uni-goettingen.de/gre ... vsaunu.htm
http://gretil.sub.uni-goettingen.de/gre ... vsau2u.htm

Note that here the English translation “grāhya” and “grāhaḥ” as “grasping” is an established error, - as well as such translation of Pāli “gaṇhati”.

In the context of perception, this verb means:

“receives into the mind, apprehends, learns”

as explained in Margaret Cone’s dictionary.

So this text talks about apprehending of representation (nimitta) of somebody as “man” or “woman”.

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