A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Dmytro » Mon Jan 02, 2017 6:58 pm

And now with Yogasutra:

vitarka-vicharanandasmitanugamat sanprajnatah

Cognitive contemplation is accompanied by reasoning, deliberation, bliss and the awareness of pure being (asmita). (17)

...

tatra shabdartha-jnana-vikalpaih sankirna savitarka

Whenever the construction of words and meanings is confused and uncertain, the mind wavers in a polemical and chaotic state (sankirna savitarka). (42)

smriti-parishuddhau svarupa-shunyevartha-matra-nirbhasa nirvitarka

When the memory is purified, when the mind is void of its own form, it is luminous with true knowledge of its sole object, attaining to an unclouded state (nirvitarka). (43)

etayaiva savichara nirvichara cha sukshma-vishaya vyakhyata

Also, by this process, the deliberative and non-deliberative states concerning subtle elements (sukshma-vishaya) are explained. (44)

sukshma-vishayatvam chalinga-paryavasanam

And the subtle elements extend up to the noumenal, primordial and undifferentiated (alinga). (45)

ta eva sabijah samadhih

They are only the basis of meditation with its seed. (46)

vichara-vaisharadye ‘dhyatma-prasadah

On attaining the utmost purity of the non-deliberative state, there is the dawning of spiritual light, the gracious peace and luminosity of the supreme Self. (47)

...

vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam

When the mind is oppressed by perverse thoughts, it must summon and sustain their opposites. (84)

vitarka himsadayah krita-karitanumodita lobha-krodha-moha-purvaka mridu-madhyadhimatra duhkhajnananantaphala iti pratipaksha-bhavanam

Perverse thoughts of a violent and destructive nature, whether enacted, abetted or endorsed, whether induced by avarice, anger or delusion, whether mild, moderately present or intensely indulged, result in endless misery and folly; consequently, their opposites must be nurtured and nourished. (85)

http://www.primordialsalt.com/2016/11/12/yoga-sutras/

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Dmytro » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:07 pm

These independent sources have deep parallels, which help to comprehend the early meaning of 'vitakka'.
CecilN wrote:It is 'yogic' meditation & will not lead far.
It does lead far, when well applied.
Thinking of (craving for) the breath will not reach jhana or even supramundane neighbourhood concentration.
Surely craving won't lead anywhere. On the contrary, proper vitakka and vicara allow to remove hindrances. This is the super-secret highly advanced method described by the Buddha.

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Buddha Vacana » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:21 pm

Thanks for this very wide ranging research!

It becomes rapidly mind boggling though as each tradition has its very idiosyncratic view on meditation experience.
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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by CecilN » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:22 pm

Dmytro wrote:Geoff Shatz writes:
With directed thought and evaluation (savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ)

In the thought-world of the Pāḷi discourses, directed thought (vitakka) is closely related to resolve (saṅkappa). MN 78 Samaṇamuṇḍika Sutta tells us that unskillful resolves cease in the first jhāna and that skillful resolves (kusalā saṅkappā) consisting of the resolve of renunciation (nekkhammasaṅkappa), the resolve of non-aversion (abyāpādasaṅkappa), and the resolve of harmlessness (avihiṃsāsaṅkappa) don’t cease until the second jhāna. This provides some context as to the meaning and significance of directed thought and evaluation (vicāra) in the standard jhāna formula. The Samaṇamuṇḍika Sutta states:

And what are skillful resolves? Being resolved on renunciation, on non-aversion, on harmlessness. These are called skillful resolves. What is the cause of skillful resolves? Their cause, too, has been stated, and they are said to be recognition-caused. Which recognition? — for recognition has many modes and permutations. Any renunciation-recognition, non-aversion-recognition, or harmlessness-recognition: That is the cause of skillful resolves.

Now where do skillful resolves cease without trace? Their stopping, too, has been stated: There is the case where a monk, with the stilling of directed thought and evaluation, enters and remains in the second jhāna, which has internal serene-clarity and unification of mind free from thought and evaluation, and has joy and pleasure born of composure. This is where skillful resolves cease without trace.


Of course, any experienced meditator with proficiency in attention training knows that adventitious discursive thinking inhibits the calming of the mind. And so the directed thought and evaluation of the first jhāna is more refined than adventitious discursiveness. It’s the skillful application of the cognitive faculty to a particular theme of focus, without lapsing from that focus. To be effective, directed thought and evaluation must necessarily work in concert with the concomitant application of mindfulness and sustained attention. In this way, directed thought and evaluation help to serve as causal factors for the abandoning of the hindrances, the arising of the other jhāna factors, as well as aiding in the maintenance of the jhāna factors once the first jhāna has been successfully entered.
MN 78 is certainly an interesting sutta (I have not read it before) but it does not refute Brahmavamso's stance about the 'jhana wobble' because MN 78 is referring to 'intention' rather than to 'active verbal thought'.

Brahmavamso's stance about the 'jhana wobble' is when the citta (mind) is attracted to the rapture, mindfulness, in seeing the attraction, abandons (vossagga) the tendency to cling to the bliss. Thus the citta moves towards and away from the bliss, which is what Brahmavamso refers to as vitakka & vicara. In other words, this movement away from clinging to the bliss is the intention of renunciation & the intention of non-harming, particularly the not harming of the jhana factors & the not harming of the developed liberation through non-clinging (vossagga). But it is not active verbal thought. It is a movement & intention of the citta based in the previous development of mindfulness & wisdom. It does not manifest as verbal thought. It is pure intuition.

I have not read Sujato's article (although browsed it once many months ago) but I assume his viewpoint is similar.

So far, Sujato remains undefeated on this thread.
Last edited by CecilN on Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:35 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by CecilN » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:24 pm

Dmytro wrote: On the contrary, proper vitakka and vicara allow to remove hindrances. This is the super-secret highly advanced method described by the Buddha.
Please quote. Thanks.
Buddha Vacana wrote:Thanks for this very wide ranging research! It becomes rapidly mind boggling though as each tradition has its very idiosyncratic view on meditation experience.
Non-Buddhist ideas are really not relevant to the discussion since Buddhism often uses older non-Buddhist words but redefines them (such as 'nama-rupa').

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Buddha Vacana » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:32 pm

Sankappa and vitakka are often interchangeable. For example when they are both broken down into kama-vitakka/sankappa, nekkhamma-vitakka/sankappa, (a)byapada-vitakka/sankappa, (a)vihimsa-vitakka/sankappa, which is the case at MN 78.

When one makes an assumption that sankappa has a completely different meaning, it needs to be duly supported by independent observations, otherwise Occam's razor takes a toll.
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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by CecilN » Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:36 pm

Buddha Vacana wrote:Sankappa and vitakka are often interchangeable. For example when they are both broken down into kama-vitakka/sankappa, nekkhamma-vitakka/sankappa, (a)byapada-vitakka/sankappa, (a)vihimsa-vitakka/sankappa, which is the case at MN 78.

When one makes an assumption that sankappa has a completely different meaning, it needs to be duly supported by independent observations, otherwise Occam's razor takes a toll.
Wrong. So far, Sujato remains undefeated on this thread.
Of course, any experienced meditator with proficiency in attention training knows that adventitious discursive thinking inhibits the calming of the mind. And so the directed thought and evaluation of the first jhāna is more refined than adventitious discursiveness.

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Buddha Vacana » Mon Jan 02, 2017 8:12 pm

CecilN wrote:
Buddha Vacana wrote:Sankappa and vitakka are often interchangeable. For example when they are both broken down into kama-vitakka/sankappa, nekkhamma-vitakka/sankappa, (a)byapada-vitakka/sankappa, (a)vihimsa-vitakka/sankappa, which is the case at MN 78.

When one makes an assumption that sankappa has a completely different meaning, it needs to be duly supported by independent observations, otherwise Occam's razor takes a toll.
Wrong. So far, Sujato remains undefeated on this thread.
:popcorn:
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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Dmytro » Tue Jan 03, 2017 7:29 am

Hi CecilN,

Australian Brahmic Buddhism and Brahmavamso's approach have already been discussed in detail in the threads:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=7521
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=7360

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Dmytro » Tue Jan 03, 2017 7:38 am

Hi,
CecilN wrote:
Dmytro wrote: On the contrary, proper vitakka and vicara allow to remove hindrances. This is the super-secret highly advanced method described by the Buddha.
Please quote. Thanks.
Dvadhavitakka (MN 19) and similar suttas have already been quoted here. One removes kama-vitakka/sankappa, byapada-vitakka/sankappa, vihimsa-vitakka/sankappa, by cultivating nekkhamma-vitakka/sankappa, abyapada-vitakka/sankappa, avihimsa-vitakka/sankappa.

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by CecilN » Tue Jan 03, 2017 8:27 am

Dmytro wrote:Australian Brahmic Buddhism and Brahmavamso's approach have already been discussed in detail in the threads:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=7521
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=7360
Did the Buddha himself post on these links?
Dmytro wrote:Dvadhavitakka (MN 19) and similar suttas have already been quoted here. One removes kama-vitakka/sankappa, byapada-vitakka/sankappa, vihimsa-vitakka/sankappa, by cultivating nekkhamma-vitakka/sankappa, abyapada-vitakka/sankappa, avihimsa-vitakka/sankappa.
This is for hindrances. The stage from subduing/ending hindrances to jhana remains a long road & still requires a different practice, as the Buddha taught in SN 48.10 and MN 118 about "vossagga". Brahmavamso is not teaching "Australian dhamma" since the "vossagga" Brahmavamso is instructing is Pali rather than Australian.
Idha, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako vos­saggā­rammaṇaṃ karitvā labhati samādhiṃ, labhati cittassa ekaggataṃ

There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sati­sam­boj­jhaṅ­gaṃ bhāveti vivekanissitaṃ virāganissitaṃ nirodha­nissitaṃ vos­sagga­pari­ṇāmiṃ

Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the mindfulness enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment.

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Zom » Tue Jan 03, 2017 12:38 pm

Twice now a declaration from you of attaining jhana.
I didn't say I attain jhana. I said I can generate metta feeling which you can take as an object of concentration, and, according to Ajahn Brahm, such concentration can lead you into a jhana.

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Buddha Vacana » Fri Jul 28, 2017 3:58 pm

I have updated a part of the article:

The little ‘thought’ experiment

Bhante next seeks to prove his point with a little experiment:
« Let me give you a test. Sit quietly, now, for five minutes. Watch your mind, and notice what happens when you think and when you don’t think.

Okay, done now? What happened? Well, let me guess: most of the time you were thinking of this or that, but occasionally there were spaces of silence. And those spaces of silence were more peaceful. Even this much, even just a few minutes of sitting quietly, and you can experience the peace of a quiet mind. And yet in jhana you’re still thinking? Impossible! »
Since we jump here from premise to conclusion without detailing much of the underlying logic, I will try to elucidate what has been implied in this argumentation. The statement reads as if it meant « anyone can experience occasional spaces of silence within five minutes of sitting for meditation, therefore having a silent mind is a state that is easily attainable by anyone, so if the definition of the first jhana entails that you’re still thinking once you have reached it, then a state more advanced than the first jhana is trivially attained in a few minutes by any beginner. Impossible! »

In other words, the idea here is to compare the experience of having « occasional spaces of silence » with the experience of the first jhana, and then conclude that the former cannot be more refined than the latter. But is it really appropriate to compare « occasional spaces of silence » with a jhana state?

Well, each of the jhanas is described in the suttas with the formula « he enters and remains in the xxx jhana » (xxx jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati). This means that in order to be considered as having attained any jhana, one has to « enter and remain » in that state, which implies that the experience must be stable and stretch for a certain period of time. This type of experience is, temporally speaking, of such different nature from « occasionally experiencing spaces of silence » that it doesn’t make sense to compare the two, let alone rank them.

It’s a bit like comparing a toddler playing on a trampoline with an airplane pilot preparing to take off on the landing strip and saying, while the latter has just begun his run, before he has even started pulling on the stick, that the toddler takes off and flies higher than him. This is why this argument looks very much like a non sequitur.
« Not to mention jhana, anyone who has been on a meditation retreat will have experienced those blessed moments, sometimes several minutes or longer, when the mind is clear, still, and silent. Not all the hindrances are gone, and not all the jhana factors may be present, yet there is a degree of stillness. »
Here Bhante suggests that anyone who has been on a meditation retreat has experienced moments when the mind is clear, still and silent, while not all hindrances are gone. Well, then, let’s see which hindrance might have been present in a « silent » mind:

- not craving, because it always arises with a distracting object
- not aversion, because the mind cannot be clear, still and silent with aversion
- not doubt, because again it arises with thoughts
- obviously not agitation and worry
- that leaves us with lethargy and sleepiness. But then again, the mind would not be « clear ».

Therefore I have some doubt that the experience Bhante is referring to here is even possible.

What is possible, on the other hand, is that the mind would be still, the hindrances would be largely reduced, but the first jhana would still not kick in, because one is not skilled in inducing pāmojja (serene joy), which is an essential trigger for the first jhana, as described in many suttas.
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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by frank k » Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:03 pm

Dmytro wrote:And now with Yogasutra:

vitarka-vicharanandasmitanugamat sanprajnatah

Cognitive contemplation is accompanied by reasoning, deliberation, bliss and the awareness of pure being (asmita). (17)

...
http://www.primordialsalt.com/2016/11/12/yoga-sutras/
Is yogasutra patanjali's? circa 400 CE?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_Sutras_of_Patanjali
http://www.audtip.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Audio Sutta Recordings

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Dmytro » Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:10 pm

frank k wrote:Is yogasutra patanjali's? circa 400 CE?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_Sutras_of_Patanjali
Yes, these Yoga Sutras. However, Wikipedia isn't to be trusted about the dates of such texts, since there's a strong Indian religious lobby behind their dating to time immemorial.

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by frank k » Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:20 pm

Buddha Vacana wrote:I have updated a part of the article:
...

What is possible, on the other hand, is that the mind would be still, the hindrances would be largely reduced, but the first jhana would still not kick in, because one is not skilled in inducing pāmojja (serene joy), which is an essential trigger for the first jhana, as described in many suttas.
Not just pamojja is a mental trigger. Pīti, which appears in the first two jhanas and prior to first jhana in the 7 awakening factors as the piti-sambjjhanga, has the same function as pamojja. I.e. being a mental trigger, something we develop to help cause first jhana to happen. See SN 46.2 and SN 46.3 for very explicit and obvious use of vitakka and vicara in the verbal type of thinking sense in a causal chain leading to jhana.

SN 47.10 then shows, by differentiating between "directed" and "undirected" development how the mental trigger of piti+pamojja happens with V&V (vitakka & vicara) and without V&V.

The main problem with Ajahn Brahm's camp on their understanding of V&V is they're not looking at the relevant EBT sutta passages relating to V&V objectively to see what the possible range of meaning is. They're already starting off with an assumption of Jhāna being of the Visuddhimagga type, and then cherry picking EBT passages to support that understanding, and ignoring the many passages where it's very clear V&V in fist jhāna is a verbal type of thinking. Their defense and counter argument against the verbal thinking of EBT first jhāna is also based on that unproven assumption. They don't offer any evidence, textual or experiential, to show why very profound states of samādhi experienced and taught by Ajahn Lee, Bhante Gunaratana, Thanissaro, Arahant Upatissa (Vimuttimagga) are not genuine EBT jhāna.

Bhante G, Ven. T (thanissaro) on the other hand, have written very clearly and show EBT textual evidence why their interpretation is correct, and clearly show the evidence why the Vism. interpretation of V&V in first jhāna is a redefinition of the term jhāna, vitakka, and vicara.
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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by frank k » Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:22 pm

Dmytro wrote:
frank k wrote:Is yogasutra patanjali's? circa 400 CE?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_Sutras_of_Patanjali
Yes, these Yoga Sutras. However, Wikipedia isn't to be trusted about the dates of such texts, since there's a strong Indian religious lobby behind their dating to time immemorial.
What approximate time range historically would you see it in? Vimuttimagga is around 1 CE, Vism. is around 500 CE.
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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by frank k » Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:33 pm

Someone on the thread posted a few times, hilariously, that "Sujato's article on vitakka and vicara is still undefeated!"

This reminds me of what Michael Jordan said about himself. Jordan is considered by many basketball experts/historians to be the greatest basketball player of all time, because he had no weakness in his complete game. I'm paraphrasing from memory, but this is what Jordan said on why he thinks he's the greatest: "Because I can score on my guy any time I want, he can't stop me from scoring. And I can shut him down and keep him from scoring."

Similarly, if you're going to be the MIchael Jordan of the V&V argument, you need to show EBT passage evidence of why your interpretation is correct, and you need to show EBT evidence on why the other guy's interpretation is incorrect. If you just cherry pick and score a few empty points, but can't stop the onslaught of points from the opponent, you won't be "undefeated" for long.
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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Dmytro » Sun Jul 30, 2017 4:31 am

frank k wrote:What approximate time range historically would you see it in? Vimuttimagga is around 1 CE, Vism. is around 500 CE.
Between Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga.

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Re: A. Sujato's Why Vitakka Doesn't Mean 'Thinking' in Jhana

Post by Buddha Vacana » Sun Jul 30, 2017 9:03 am

frank k wrote: Not just pamojja is a mental trigger. Pīti, which appears in the first two jhanas and prior to first jhana in the 7 awakening factors as the piti-sambjjhanga, has the same function as pamojja. I.e. being a mental trigger, something we develop to help cause first jhana to happen. See SN 46.2 and SN 46.3 for very explicit and obvious use of vitakka and vicara in the verbal type of thinking sense in a causal chain leading to jhana.

SN 47.10 then shows, by differentiating between "directed" and "undirected" development how the mental trigger of piti+pamojja happens with V&V (vitakka & vicara) and without V&V.

The main problem with Ajahn Brahm's camp on their understanding of V&V is they're not looking at the relevant EBT sutta passages relating to V&V objectively to see what the possible range of meaning is. They're already starting off with an assumption of Jhāna being of the Visuddhimagga type, and then cherry picking EBT passages to support that understanding, and ignoring the many passages where it's very clear V&V in fist jhāna is a verbal type of thinking. Their defense and counter argument against the verbal thinking of EBT first jhāna is also based on that unproven assumption. They don't offer any evidence, textual or experiential, to show why very profound states of samādhi experienced and taught by Ajahn Lee, Bhante Gunaratana, Thanissaro, Arahant Upatissa (Vimuttimagga) are not genuine EBT jhāna.

Bhante G, Ven. T (thanissaro) on the other hand, have written very clearly and show EBT textual evidence why their interpretation is correct, and clearly show the evidence why the Vism. interpretation of V&V in first jhāna is a redefinition of the term jhāna, vitakka, and vicara.
I mentioned only pamojja because in many suttas it is described as the trigger for piti.
Thanks for the references, they seem indeed to be noteworthy.
http://www.buddha-vacana.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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