Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

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daverupa
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Post by daverupa » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:27 pm

twelph wrote:Is there a place in the Suttas that say you need to focus on pleasure created outside of Jhana to enter into Jhana? Or do you focus on the pleasure that is there once you enter Jhana. This is subtle but important I think.
Neither. SN 48.10:

"And what is the faculty of concentration? 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. Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters & remains in the first jhana..."

Furthermore, MN 52:

"There is the case, householder, where a monk, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He reflects on this and discerns, 'This first jhana is fabricated & intended. Now whatever is fabricated & intended is inconstant & subject to cessation.' Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then — through this very Dhamma-passion, this Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five Fetters — he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world."
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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marc108
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Post by marc108 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:42 pm

twelph wrote: I believe Phil has more of a problem with the channeling of the breath energies through various parts of the body to relieve tension and increase pleasure. Listening to Thanissaro's dhamma talks, this becomes the main theme whenever he talks about meditation. While he doesn't specifically come right out to say these are chakra points, he makes sure to mention that this is what his teacher thought of them as.
imo, the way Ven. Thanissaro describes using the breath to relieve tension is: He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'. Using the breath to calm the body. The Anapanasati instructions are vague as to specific technique (imo, on purpose) and I see no discrepancy between Ven. Thanissaro's techniques and the instructions in the Suttas.

I have heard Ven. Thanissaro mention chakra points specifically by name, but not as something special to be manipulated re: Yoga, just as natural settling point for the breath and mind.

twelph wrote: In my interpretation, the Buddha here is describing jhana, not a practice that leads to Jhana. He looks to be stating that a person has to be withdrawn from sensuality to enter this state. The way I have been taught, using pleasure to create a mental state is not the same thing as entering Jhana. Later when the quote mentions "He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal", it specifically mentions rapture born through withdrawal from sensuality, not rapture created through your own directed thoughts.
While I do believe that there is both a description and a technique in the Sutta, I was just using it as an example that pleasure in meditation does not = greed or aversion. "He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills" to me, seems very much like an action... something a Yogi does rather than experiences passively.

Maybe using the word pleasure here is really not the most skillful thing since many different things can fall under the English word pleasure. In my experience the pleasure (relaxation) that results from the initial manipulation of the breath is distinctly different than the piti and sukha that arise from Samadhi. The way I was instructed to achieve Jhana, the initial step is to use the breath to suffuse the piti and sukha through the body once they arise strongly in Samadhi... I have no doubt that there are MANY other ways to achieve Jhana, but this is all I know. In my experience the piti and sukha are not created, they arise on their own, long after the initial stage of manipulating the breath to relax is finished with.

:smile:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Post by farmer » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:57 pm

In my interpretation, the Buddha here is describing jhana, not a practice that leads to Jhana. He looks to be stating that a person has to be withdrawn from sensuality to enter this state. The way I have been taught, using pleasure to create a mental state is not the same thing as entering Jhana. Later when the quote mentions "He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal", it specifically mentions rapture born through withdrawal from sensuality, not rapture created through your own directed thoughts.
What is the difference between sensuality and the pleasure that arises with the first jhana? The answer is in the Niramisa Sutta:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"And what is pleasure of the flesh? There are these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Sounds cognizable via the ear... Aromas cognizable via the nose... Flavors cognizable via the tongue... Tactile sensations cognizable via the body — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Now whatever pleasure arises in dependence on these five strands of sensuality, that is called pleasure of the flesh.

"And what is pleasure not of the flesh? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensual pleasures, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' This is called pleasure not of the flesh.
As I read this, the only difference is that pleasure of the flesh arises dependent on external stimulus, while the pleasure of jhana arises from within. There is no difference in quality -- only in the source. Pleasant sensations that arise in the course of breath meditation are the first sparks of piti and sukha, aren't they?

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Post by twelph » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:17 pm

farmer wrote:As I read this, the only difference is that pleasure of the flesh arises dependent on external stimulus, while the pleasure of jhana arises from within. There is no difference in quality -- only in the source. Pleasant sensations that arise in the course of breath meditation are the first sparks of piti and sukha, aren't they?
If the goal of directed thought is pleasure, would that not be sensual pleasure? And therefore, wouldn't this pleasure be different than the pleasure that arises in jhana? In my experience they seem to have two distinct qualities. One is pleasure created through the act of will (Samskara) and one is created through a process of letting go.

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Post by Goofaholix » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:33 pm

twelph wrote:Here is one from Meditations 5:
As I expected, the quotes support your argument when taken out of context but when you look at them within the dhamma talk as a whole you can see that what he is talking about is just a means to an end, that creating pleasurable meditation is not an end in itself.

After your first quote he goes on to say:
In addition, you learn important lessons about indulgence. If you tend to be indulgent in your daily life, you're going to be very self-indulgent when you meditate. If you can't say No to your daily desires, it's going to be hard to say No to them while you're sitting here meditating. The mind-states that want to go off and think about pleasant sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations are very easy to indulge in if you don't have the habit of saying No to your impulse to look for pleasure in those things throughout the day. As you develop this habit of saying No to sensual indulgence in the course of the day, it's a lot easier to say No to sensual thoughts in the course of the meditation.

You've also developed the habit of learning when to say "enough," which will hold you in good stead as you begin to develop the sense of non-sensual pleasure and rapture that come with concentration. You'll be more likely to realize when you've indulged enough in those kinds of pleasure so that you can turn to the further work you need to do in terms of insight and discernment. You can't just stay wallowing in the pleasure of concentration. You've got to learn how to understand what's going on in the mind, why it creates mental worlds to begin with — the worlds that pull you away from the present moment and lead to suffering and stress.
So pleasure in meditation is used as a basis for insight because you’ve abandoned seeking pleasures from the outside world.

The next one goes on to say the purpose of this practise is to feed mindfulness, the purpose is not pleasure for pleasures sake but to feed rather than starve mindfulness;
But that's a major misunderstanding. Mindfulness is something you do. It's a fabricated activity. Alertness is something you do. It's a fabricated activity as well. And there are potentials in the mind that can either foster the mindfulness or starve it. In other words, mindfulness is something you have to feed. It's not your simple awareness. It's the ability to keep something in mind. The reason we don't understand things, the reason we don't see the connection between cause and effect, is because we forget. It's because we forget that we can't stick with our resolves. Say you decide you're going to stay here for a whole hour with the breath — and five minutes later you find yourself planning tomorrow's meal, or thinking about events far away in Iceland. What happened? You forgot. And why did you forget? Well, there was a blanking out for a moment or two because you weren't paying proper attention to the causes for mindfulness.
The last one he goes on to say that the pleasure is about making yourself comfortable and having a basis from which you can explore pain,
We need the right attitude toward pain: not to feel threatened, not to run away. Our duty with regard to pain is to comprehend it, but you’re not going to comprehend it if you feel threatened by it. So it’s good to know that you have a safe, comfortable place to return to whenever you need it.

Say there’s a pain in your leg and you’re not really ready to deal with it yet:
You can focus on whatever sense of ease and fullness you can develop elsewhere in the body—say, in the chest, in the stomach, in your hands, in your feet—through the way you breathe. If things get bad with the pain, you can go back to the breath. Once the mind feels nourished and protected by the breath, it’ll be more willing to actually look into the pain, probe into the pain, trying to understand: What is this pain I have in my body? Why do I fear it so much? Is it really as fearsome as it seems?
[/quote]

So again not pleasure for pleasures sake but as an aid to the development of insight.

A lot of people come to insight practise with an idea that everything is dukkha and it’s all about just experiencing the rawness of dukkha, and an impoverished and aversive attitude results.

The Burmese approach can encourage this attitude, and I certainly felt this way for many years and was surprised to learn that meditation didn’t have to be a barren wasteland and that one could take measures to balance ones mind states when needed.

After all this is what Metta meditation is all about, what Thanissaro is proposing is fabrication sure but it’s less fabricated than Metta meditation and much closer to insight I think.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Post by marc108 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:48 pm

Goofaholix wrote:...
:anjali:
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Post by twelph » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:19 pm

Goofaholix wrote: A lot of people come to insight practise with an idea that everything is dukkha and it’s all about just experiencing the rawness of dukkha, and an impoverished and aversive attitude results.

The Burmese approach can encourage this attitude, and I certainly felt this way for many years and was surprised to learn that meditation didn’t have to be a barren wasteland and that one could take measures to balance ones mind states when needed.

After all this is what Metta meditation is all about, what Thanissaro is proposing is fabrication sure but it’s less fabricated than Metta meditation and much closer to insight I think.
I must have an aversion to how often he uses the word pleasure. You are correct about studying under only Burmese teachers before coming to Thanissaro. Is Burmese mostly black and white interpretations while Thai allows for shades of grey?

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Post by Goofaholix » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:33 pm

twelph wrote:I must have an aversion to how often he uses the word pleasure. You are correct about studying under only Burmese teachers before coming to Thanissaro. Is Burmese mostly black and white interpretations while Thai allows for shades of grey?
That's one way of putting it. The Burmese tend to be more rigid technique and step by step and workist in approach, the trouble is we westerners are inclined to be this way already so when we hear instructions like that we interpret them in a black and white way and make it more extreme.

The Thai approach seems to more open, flexible, experimental, and playful, more willing to use different skilful means in different circumstances.

There are exceptions to this of course. Sayadaw U Teganiya is a good example of someone who has a grounding in the Burmese way but now applies it in more like a Thai way.

We are lucky to have the opportunity to learn from several approaches and hopefully select an approach that is most suitable for the circumstances.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:35 pm

Greetings twelph,
twelph wrote:I must have an aversion to how often he uses the word pleasure. You are correct about studying under only Burmese teachers before coming to Thanissaro. Is Burmese mostly black and white interpretations while Thai allows for shades of grey?
My perceptions here may be in error, but from my observation the meditation instructions of the Burmese traditions are more firmly rooted in the definitions, classifications, roadmap etc. depicted within Buddhaghosa's "Visuddhimagga" (Path Of Purification) than those of teachers from the Thai tradition. The descriptions of jhana (other than very early stage of jhana) found in the Visuddhimagga tend to put such jhanas opposed to (as compared to a support to) present-moment vipassana practice. My understanding of the Visuddhimagga approach is that deep jhanas may be entered, but it's only once you come out of the jhana that you can apply reviewing knowledge to retrospectively apply insight to what is remembered of the jhanic experience. I wouldn't say that the Burmese traditions regard "pleasure" with "aversion" (because that would be rather unwholesome, wouldn't it?), but that they prefer not to allow any experience to lull the practitioner away from the present-moment vipassana practice.

The Thai traditions seem to be a bit more diverse... ranging from that what is similar to the "Path of Purification", to minimalism (http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=11492" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;), to sutta-based instruction (e.g. Thanissaro, Sujato), to things that have leaked in from local cuture, to Brahmanic and Mahayana traditions.... and everything inbetween.

Apologies for any misrepresentations that may have been made in the above comment. I hope it adds to the clarity rather than confusion.

(EDIT: As I post this, I see Goof has posted something not dissimilar)

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Post by twelph » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:46 pm

Goofaholix wrote: There are exceptions to this of course. Sayadaw U Teganiya is a good example of someone who has a grounding in the Burmese way but now applies it in more like a Thai way.
One of his students gave me his book "Dhamma Everywhere" and I'm on my third way through it, great stuff.

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Post by danieLion » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:55 pm

What does Thanissaro consistently teach is the purpose of pleasure on The Path?

In order to answer this, and my other post's question, correctly, you have to:

ONE: stop postulating your misunderstanding of Thanissaro as Thanissaro's teachings

and

TWO: start understanding him (and his teachers) in the context of ALL their teachings.

You can find the correct answer not only in Thanissaro's teachings, but in several other Ajaan's teachings: Mun, Boowa, Suwat, Fuang, Lee, etc....

YOU CAN ALSO FIND THE CORRECT ANSWER IN THE TEACHINGS OF THE BUDDHA, which Thanissaro is entirely consistent with.

I suspect some Trolls or otherwise maligning influences are afoot in this (and the other Thanissaro) topics....

Where does this fear of pleasure come from? Where does this fear of notions like "breath energy" or techniques like "breathing through your eyes" come from?

Are we ascetics, or are we Buddhists?
Daniel
good-will

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Post by danieLion » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:00 pm

If you think mindfulness of breathing doesn't require manipulating the breath, you need to read the Anapanasati Sutta again (if you haven't yet.)
Last edited by danieLion on Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Post by kirk5a » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:02 pm

I think it's positively absurd to start hunting around for something to be wrong with learning to breathe in a way that is beneficial. There's no special merit in grinding away with whatever messed up/stressed out state we find ourselves in at the moment.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:06 pm

Greetings Kirk,

I agree.
SN 45.8 wrote:"And what, monks, is right effort?

"There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[ii] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.

[iii] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[iv] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort."

That is the Buddha's teaching. This is one's Right Effort (samma vayamo) and it is an integral component of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Post by danieLion » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:10 pm

twelph wrote:If the goal of directed thought is pleasure, would that not be sensual pleasure? And therefore, wouldn't this pleasure be different than the pleasure that arises in jhana? In my experience they seem to have two distinct qualities. One is pleasure created through the act of will (Samskara) and one is created through a process of letting go.
This is not coherent.

It is not accurate to say pleasure is the goal of directed thought.

The Buddha clearly taught that the pleasures that arise from jhana are: piti and sukha.

Anapanasati and it's corollary pleasures require skillful willing (also involving sankhara and cetana, et al).

Are you trying to establish a dichotomy between willing and letting go? Could you really let go without the intention to let go?

Daniel
good-will

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