How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

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How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:52 pm

Greetings,

We learn in the Dhammapada, that the mind precedes all things...
Dhammapada wrote:1. Mind precedes all dhammas. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

2. Mind precedes all dhammas. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.
This causality is explained in more detail in the Buddha's teaching on paticcasamuppada...
SN 12.15 wrote:From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.
Within that, there is mention of nama-rupa, and as explored in the recent Nāmarūpa - Named Form? topic, form is known by way of "name". Ven. Nanananda explains the matter thusly...
Ven. Nanananda wrote:As far as the teachings in the suttas are concerned, nāma still has a great depth even when it is understood in the sense of `name'.
Nāmaṃ sabbaṃ anvabhavi, nāmā bhiyyo na vijjati, nāmassa ekadhammassa, sabbeva vasamanvagū.

"Name has conquered everything,
There is nothing greater than name,
All have gone under the sway,
Of this one thing called name."


Akkheyyasaññino sattā,
akkheyyasmiṃ patiṭṭhitā,
akkheyyaṃ apariññāya,
yogam āyanti maccuno.

"Beings are conscious of what can be named,
They are established on the nameable,
By not comprehending the nameable things,
They come under the yoke of death."


All this shows that the word nāma has a deep significance even when it is taken in the sense of `name'. But now let us see whether there is something wrong in rendering nāma by `name' in the case of the term nāma-rūpa. To begin with, let us turn to the definition of nāma-rūpa as given by the Venerable Sāriputta in the Sammādiṭṭhisutta of the Majjhima Nikāya.

Vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro - idaṃ vuccatāvuso, nāmaṃ; cattāri ca mahābhūtāni, catunnañca mahābhūtānaṃ
upādāyarūpaṃ - idaṃ vuccatāvuso, rūpaṃ. Iti idañca nāmaṃ idañca rūpaṃ - idam vuccatāvuso nāma-rūpaṃ.

"Feeling, perception, intention, contact, attention - this, friend, is called `name'. The four great primaries and form dependent
on the four great primaries - this, friend, is called `form'. So this is `name' and this is `form' - this, friend, is called `nameand-form'."

Well, this seems lucid enough as a definition but let us see, whether there is any justification for regarding feeling, perception,
intention, contact and attention as `name'. Suppose there is a little child, a toddler, who is still unable to speak or understand
language. Someone gives him a rubber ball and the child has seen it for the first time. If the child is told that it is a rubber ball, he might not understand it. How does he get to know that object? He smells it, feels it, and tries to eat it, and finally rolls it on the floor. At last he understands that it is a plaything. Now the child has recognised the rubber ball not by the name that the world has given it, but by those factors included under `name' in nāma-rūpa, namely feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention. This shows that the definition of nāma in nāma-rūpa takes us back to the most fundamental notion of `name', to something like its prototype. The world gives a name to an object for purposes of easy communication. When it gets the sanction of others, it becomes a convention.

As an illustration of the sweeping power of name, he points out that if any tree happens to have no name attached to it by the world, it would at least be known as the `nameless tree'. Now as for the child, even such a usage is not possible. So it gets to know an object by the aforesaid method. And the factors involved there, are the most elementary constituents of name.

Now it is this elementary name-and-form world that a meditator also has to understand, however much he may be conversant
with the conventional world. But if a meditator wants to understand this name-and-form world, he has to come back to
the state of a child, at least from one point of view. Of course in this case the equanimity should be accompanied by knowledge
and not by ignorance. And that is why a meditator makes use of mindfulness and full awareness, satisampajañña, in his attempt
to understand name-and-form. Even though he is able to recognize objects by their conventional names, for the purpose of comprehending name-and-form, a meditator makes use of those factors that are included under `name': feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention. All these have a specific value to each individual and that is why the Dhamma has to be understood each one by himself -
paccattaṃ veditabbo. This Dhamma has to be realized by oneself. One has to understand one's own world of name-and-form by oneself. No one else can do it for him. Nor can it be defined or denoted by technical terms.

Now it is in this world of name-and-form that suffering is found.
... all of which (eventually!) brings me here to the Theravada meditation forum.

There is often the view put forward that vipassana is "non-conceptual"... (this has been explored previously in Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?).

To the extent that is accepted as a "non-conceptual", could it be discerning what ven. Nanananda described above as "the most fundamental notion of `name', to something like its prototype" - namely, the qualities (dhammas, if you will) of feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention?

... or is the mode of observation and that which is observed something even less conceptual than that? And if so, how could such a practice be explained with recourse to the Buddha's teaching? Is there a belief that something pre-fabricated is being observed, or observing?

:shrug:

:meditate:

:buddha1:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"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: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by Saengnapha » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:45 am

Paul, all you can do is conceptualize an answer, an image, or whatever it is that we fabricate out of all of this. This world of ideas that you are putting out there, is only a world of ideas. Whether it is your fabrication, or Nanananda's, what is the difference? If all ideas are impermanent, why should anyone identify with them? Why should we spend our time thinking about all of this? It is only ideas and impermanent. What can you hope to get out of all of this? Grasping for understanding, knowledge, or some kind of assurance in oneself is an action that is part of this world of ideas. The grasper, the knower, the seeker of meaning is always creating something to acquire. Can you not see this?

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Re: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:50 am

Greetings Saengnapha,

Your Krishnamurti-esque ad-hominem argumentation is off-topic. I am not the topic - the topic is the topic. Please learn to differentiate between the two.

Please also be reminded that psychoanalysing other members is off-topic, doubly so when it's entirely irrelevant to the topic, and triply so when it's not even remotely accurate.

:focus:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"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: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:27 am

I think it's a great question. Ven Nananda has a lot of detail in his mediation booklet on this, which I've reproduced a number of times.

I think people make too much of a meal the "non-conceptual", "ultimate reality" translations. Nananada takes the regular progression one sees in Mahasi intructions of going beyond the grosser concepts (such as "sound") to more subtle ones (such as "hearing"), and argues that there are always some concepts behind any kind of perception. See, for example:
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=30812&p=450005#p450005

However, I don't think that affects the basic principle of focussing on the "less conceptual"...

:heart:
Mike

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Re: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:45 am

Greetings Mike,
However, I don't think that affects the basic principle of focussing on the "less conceptual"...
I agree, and thank you for expanding upon what ven. Nanananda's said by bringing attention to the possibility of a continuum of conceptualization.

This is a much better platform for discussion than a binary "conceptual" vs "non-conceptual" delineation, which could simply lead to one side claiming the other are trying to "think themselves to enlightenment", only to have them return that the others are propagating a "zombie-esque lack of awareness and comprehension"... arguments we've certainly seen proffered here and at other forums over the years.

Starting from the most conceptualized, to the least conceptualized, we might rank things thusly...

- Papañca (proliferation) and Papañca-sanna-sankha (perceptual concepts arisen from proliferation)
- Vitakka (applied thinking)
- Nāmarūpa (named form) (is this what in vipassana parlance is referred to as "the object"?)
- Feeling, Perception, Intention, Contact and Attention (i.e. the constituents of nāma, through which form is perceived)
- Dukkha/anicca/anatta characteristics of the constituents of nāma
- Does anything belong here? How far does the rabbit hole go?
- Suññata (emptiness)

If anyone has any thoughts on the scale above, and how far along the scale vipassana/satipatthana meditation can penetrate, please let us know!

Metta,
Paul. :)
"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: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by Saengnapha » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:43 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:50 am
Greetings Saengnapha,

Your Krishnamurti-esque ad-hominem argumentation is off-topic. I am not the topic - the topic is the topic. Please learn to differentiate between the two.

Please also be reminded that psychoanalysing other members is off-topic, doubly so when it's entirely irrelevant to the topic, and triply so when it's not even remotely accurate.

:focus:

Metta,
Paul. :)
No, it is not an ad hominem. Too bad you take it that way.

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Re: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by Dinsdale » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:24 am

I've read the thread a couple of times and I'm still not clear what the question is.

Is it something to do with the distinction between recognising what is arising and ceasing at the sense bases, as opposed to just noticing that there IS arising and ceasing?

A practical example would be helpful, as would a clear question for discussion.
Last edited by Dinsdale on Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by robertk » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:49 am

translation by nina van gorkom of a talk by Sujin Boriharnwanaket
Bgk 2008, K.K. April 8.(no 3)

Not words, but characteristics.

Acharn: In the beginning some people are learning names, naama and ruupa, and then they start looking for them. They do not realize that they do not have to do anything, that reality appears now, that it is there. But by thinking about the word they look for it, whether this is naama, this is ruupa and how many kinds of ruupa are there. Actually, we do not have to think like that at all, because it is not just the name but it represents the reality or the true nature of dhammas which are different from one another.

For example, we do not have to say that seeing is naama, visible object is ruupa. There is no need to say this because that is only remembrance of the terms one has heard many times and thought about. But what about this moment of seeing? It is so real, because whatever is seen, is seen now and that which is seen is not that which experiences or that which sees it. We do not have to say: "It is naama which sees and ruupa which is seen." This is not necessary. That is not the way to understand it. The way to understand it is knowing that when there is seeing right now that is seeing. What does it see, what is seen? The thing that is seen is not the seeing. So, there is the beginning of understanding the nature of a reality which can be seen as just that which can be seen, not: which can be heard.

Can it be anyone or anything? Or is it just that which can be seen? That is why we have to listen a lot, consider a lot, in order to come closer and closer to the nature of that which can be seen as just a reality

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Re: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by Dinsdale » Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:01 am

robertk wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:49 am
For example, we do not have to say that seeing is naama, visible object is ruupa. There is no need to say this because that is only remembrance of the terms one has heard many times and thought about. But what about this moment of seeing? It is so real, because whatever is seen, is seen now and that which is seen is not that which experiences or that which sees it. We do not have to say: "It is naama which sees and ruupa which is seen." This is not necessary. That is not the way to understand it. The way to understand it is knowing that when there is seeing right now that is seeing. What does it see, what is seen? The thing that is seen is not the seeing. So, there is the beginning of understanding the nature of a reality which can be seen as just that which can be seen, not: which can be heard.
I have noticed a practical difference between "seeing" ( an activity ) and "sights" ( visible objects ).
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Re: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:07 pm

Greetings Dinsdale,
Dinsdale wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:01 am
I have noticed a practical difference between "seeing" ( an activity ) and "sights" ( visible objects ).
Using the scale above, attention on the activity of seeing is one notch closer to emptiness than attention on objectified sights.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"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: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by Dinsdale » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:14 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:07 pm
Greetings Dinsdale,
Dinsdale wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:01 am
I have noticed a practical difference between "seeing" ( an activity ) and "sights" ( visible objects ).
Using the scale above, attention on the activity of seeing is one notch closer to emptiness than attention on objectified sights.
It does seem to be a progression, though I'm not sure I would frame it in the way that you have. I think this is an interesting perspective from Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

"The steps in the functioning of right view correspond to the three stages of
frames-of-reference meditation [II/B]. The first step, in which one focuses on events
in and of themselves—and not in reference to anything they might mean outside of
the range of immediate experience—corresponds to the first stage of frames-ofreference
meditation, in which one stays focused on the body, etc., in and of itself,
putting aside all greed and distress with reference to the world. The second step of
right view, in which one focuses on events in terms of their role in the causal
chain—fabricated, inconstant, stressful, and not-self—corresponds to the second
stage of frames-of-reference meditation, in which one remains focused on the
phenomenon of origination and passing away. The third step of right view, in which
one sees even right view simply as an event, corresponds to the third stage of
frames-of-reference meditation in which one moves to the perceptual mode of
“entry into emptiness,” noting simply, “There is this”—without being caught up in
the “this”—and from there on to non-fashioning and Awakening."


From page 238 here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... /wings.pdf
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Re: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by auto » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:25 pm

Rupa is sensation when you hit someone in the face
Nama is when someone says: Is that all you can do?

namarupa is the embarrassing feeling of not doing any hurt.

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Re: How non-conceptual is "non-conceptual" vipassana, really?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Jan 18, 2018 9:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:07 pm
Dinsdale wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:01 am
I have noticed a practical difference between "seeing" ( an activity ) and "sights" ( visible objects ).
Using the scale above, attention on the activity of seeing is one notch closer to emptiness than attention on objectified sights.
I find the first approach is better for noticing how stuff arises, while the second approach is better for noting anicca ( rise and fall etc ).

I'm not sure what you mean by "objectified sights" though. In the suttas it seems that objectification follows thinking rather than perception.

"Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies. Based on what a person objectifies, the perceptions & categories of objectification assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable via the intellect."
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
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