An insight into the teachings of the Buddha's teachers

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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An insight into the teachings of the Buddha's teachers

Post by Zom » Sat Dec 16, 2017 7:09 am

After so many years of studiying suttas it seems I've got another piece of puzzle, an interesting one. Let me share. It is about the earliest buddhist period - that is - the period of Bodhisatta Gotama's study under the guidance of Alara Kalama and/or Uddaka Ramaputta, whom, according to Vinaya text, a newly awakened Buddha decided to teach first (unfortunately they both died by that time). I'd rather infer that "teach" is not a good word here. Better to say "to give them a hint", so they could reach true liberation in no time.

The story of Gotama's study under these two teachers can be found in MN26. A short passage, unfortunately. However, still, we get some interesting information from there: they taught how to reach such meditative stages as "sphere of nothingness" and "sphere of neither perception nor non perception". These are stages №7 and 8 in Buddha's own system of meditation. Some said that we know nothing else about these teachers, or even that they taught wrong meditation and those stages were not true meditative attainments at all. But this is not the case.

In some other suttas one can stumble on strange terms Buddha rarely uses when speaking about meditation. These are the words: "light", "beauty", "imperturbability". I think these archaisms were used by Kalama/Ramaputta themselves and Buddha rarely uses them too, maybe in those lectures given to Kalama/Ramaputta students or those ascetics who knew them well.

The first term "light" (obhasa) is connected with 1st and 2nd jhanas (the very end of MN 128). The second term "beauty" (subha) also connected with four jhanas (for example the very end of MN 137). The third term "imperturbability" (anenja) is connected with 4th jhana and 1st/2nd arupa meditations (MN 106).

Very interesting sutta is AN 4.123. There Buddha says that one, who practises 2nd jhana is born among "devas of light". Who practises 3rd jhana is born among "devas of beauty". SN 11.14 speaks about 7 meditation elements, where "light" is the first, "beauty" is the second, and then come arupa-spheres.

If we bring all this together, we can see an alternative version of meditation structure, which, I guess, is that structure Buddha's teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta used:

Buddha's system --- Kalama/Ramaputta system:

1. First Jhana --- Stage of Light
2. Second Jhana --- Stage of Light
3. Third Jhana --- Stage of Beauty
4. Fourth Jhana --- Stage of Imperturbability
5. Infinite Space --- Stage of Imperturbability
6. Infinite Counsiousness --- Stage of Imperturbability
7. Nothingness --- Nothingness
8. Neither/nor perception --- Neither/nor perception
9. Cessation of feeling and perception --- [N/A]

It seems like Buddha changed a bit their system by shifting a meditator's attention not to visual perception, but to perception of feelings, as we see from standard jhanic formulas. Thus he droped old terms and introduced new ones - 1st/2nd/3rd/4th jhanas. But sometimes, he still uses old teaching. For example, take a look at this passage from MN 137: “Possessed of material form, he sees forms: this is the first direction. Not perceiving forms internally, he sees forms externally: this is the second direction. He is resolved only upon the beautiful: this is the third direction". Or this from MN 128: "As, Anuruddha, I was abiding diligent, ardent, and resolute, I perceived light but I did not see forms; I saw forms but I did not perceive light, even for a whole night or a whole day or a whole day and night.... Thereupon, Anuruddha, I developed concentration with applied thought and sustained thought; I developed concentration without applied thought but with sustained thought only; I developed concentration without applied thought and without sustained thought".

Another obvious reason why Buddha changed that - he simply didn't want his teaching to be so similar to Kalama/Ramaputta's. Actually, they didn't differ much, and the only reason why Buddha left his teachers (and their students) is because they didn't know how to transcend the last meditative attainment, which means attaining true Nibbana, true liberation from samsara, from repeated rounds of rebirth. But still, his teachers were highly advanced spitirual practitioners and, probably, could be one of the best arahants in history.

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Re: An insight into the teachings of the Buddha's teachers

Post by Pondera » Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:08 am

[When this was said, the Blessed One responded:] "I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear. But at the same time, I tell you that there is no making an end of suffering & stress without reaching the end of the cosmos. Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos."
Rohitassa Sutta

The question is asked: where do the four great elements cease? And the Buddha declares that when consciousness is let go of they have no foot hold.

The whole endeavor of reaching Nibanna consists of realizing the cosmos within and letting it go. That in includes the rupa Jhanas and the arupa Jhanas - where no. 8 and 9 have no mental object to dwell on but are rather "mental masteries" (as it says in the Kosala sutta).

I believe kalama and ramaputta were masters of the mind, but not the totalities - the four elements, four colors, space and consciousness.

Nibanna can only be attained when all the knots are loosened and that is why he went in search of his own enlightenment.

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Re: An insight into the teachings of the Buddha's teachers

Post by DooDoot » Sat Dec 16, 2017 11:16 am

Zom wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 7:09 am
It seems like Buddha changed a bit their system by shifting a meditator's attention not to visual perception, but to perception of feelings...

Another obvious reason why Buddha changed that - he simply didn't want his teaching to be so similar to Kalama/Ramaputta's.
The impression is Kalama & Ramaputta were attached to specific types of equanimous feelings. Where as it appears the Buddha discovered the various feelings can never be completely controlled therefore liberation occurs from abandoning craving & attachment towards feelings. Thus having mindfulness & wisdom in relation to feelings is the essence of the Buddha's dhamma. Nibbana is not a feeling but non-craving & non-attachment towards feelings; which includes non-craving & non-attachment towards arupa jhana.
vedanā­ samo­saraṇā sabbe dhammā: all dhammas converge on feelings. AN 10.58
Now it is for one who feels that I proclaim: ‘This is suffering,’ and ‘This is the origin of suffering,’ and ‘This is the cessation of suffering,’ and ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ AN 3.61
Here a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, the holy life fulfilled, who has done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained the goal, destroyed the fetters of being, completely released through final knowledge. However, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and pain. It is the extinction of attachment, hate, and delusion in him that is called the Nibbāna-element. Iti 44
Here, ruler of gods, a bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth adhering to. When a bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth adhering to, he directly knows everything; having directly known everything, he fully understands everything; having directly known everything, he fully understood everything, whatever feeling he feels, whether pleasant or painful or neither pleasant or painful, he abides contemplating (observing) impermanence in those feelings, contemplating (observing) fading away, contemplating (observing) cessation, contemplating (observing) relinquishment (letting go). Contemplating (observing) thus, he does not cling to anything in the world. When he does not cling, he is not agitated, he personally attains Nibbana. He understands: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, there is no more coming to any state of being.’ Briefly, it is in this way, ruler of gods, that a bhikkhu is liberated in the destruction of craving, one who has reached the ultimate end, the ultimate security from bondage, the ultimate holy life, the ultimate goal, one who is foremost among gods and humans. MN 37
Bhikkhus, dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises; the meeting of the three is contact; with contact as condition there arises a feeling felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant. When one is touched by a pleasant feeling, if one does not delight in it, welcome it, and remain holding to it, then the underlying tendency to lust does not lie within one. When one is touched by a painful feeling, if one does not sorrow, grieve and lament, does not weep beating one’s breast and become distraught, then the underlying tendency to aversion does not lie within one. When one is touched by a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, if one understands as it actually is the origination, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to that feeling, then the underlying tendency to ignorance does not lie within one. Bhikkhus, that one shall here and now make an end of suffering by abandoning the underlying tendency to lust for pleasant feeling, by abolishing the underlying tendency to aversion towards painful feeling, by extirpating the underlying tendency to ignorance in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, by abandoning ignorance and arousing true knowledge—this is possible. MN 148

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Re: An insight into the teachings of the Buddha's teachers

Post by Zom » Sun Dec 17, 2017 1:58 pm

The impression is Kalama & Ramaputta were attached to specific types of equanimous feelings.
Yes, this was the case for sure, and Buddha directly says so in MN 106 (end). However, more than that, they also should have had wrong "self" view. And I even think Buddha also hints what self view did they have - that one of annihilationist's camp: "I might not have been and it might not have been mine".

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