signless concentration vs emptiness

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
chandrafabian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:26 am

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by chandrafabian » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:47 am

Kenshou wrote:I guess my point is that I am doubtful that the signless-concentration of the animitto sutta is referring to insight meditation proper, but rather a particular different sort of meditation attainment, a possible fruition of arahantship in fact, not merely general insight practice.
Dear Kenshou, of course nimitta might arises from time to time during practicing Vipassana as long insight not matured, a culmination of matured insight is Nibbana without nimitta.

Mettacittena,
fabian

Kenshou
Posts: 1030
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:03 am
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by Kenshou » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:00 am

Respectfully, I feel like you are missing the point that I am trying to make. That is, that the term "nimitta" has a wider and more general meaning than simply being a phenomenon, a perception of light or whatnot, linked with jhana practice.

Whenever we perceive an object, there are nimittas, in the general sense of the characteristics by which an object of the senses is recognizeable. There is nothing about this that is incompatible with vipassana as far as I know. Vipassana includes the perception of things, doesn't it? I could be wrong on that though.

I understand that vipassana meditation would not have anything to do with jhana nimittas because by the traditional theravadin, or at least visuddhimaggic scheme of meditation jhana and vipassana are completely separate practices. That is fine if that is the standard you go by, but I don't believe that even in the context of the visuddhimagga or theravada in general is the word "nimitta" pigeonholed into being something connected with jhana and that only. It is simply not that exclusive, and so though the sort of nimitta that is the characteristic sign of jhana has nothing to do with vipassana, nimittas in the general sense of characteristics of objects of perception are not incompatible with vipassana, they are in fact a natural part of the actions of the mind. Or so I think.

chandrafabian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:26 am

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by chandrafabian » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:23 am

Kenshou wrote:Respectfully, I feel like you are missing the point that I am trying to make. That is, that the term "nimitta" has a wider and more general meaning than simply being a phenomenon, a perception of light or whatnot, linked with jhana practice.

Whenever we perceive an object, there are nimittas, in the general sense of the characteristics by which an object of the senses is recognizeable. There is nothing about this that is incompatible with vipassana as far as I know. Vipassana includes the perception of things, doesn't it? I could be wrong on that though.
Dear Kenshou, The scripture only mention nimitta in relation to Samatha Bhavana, and animitta as no nimitta (Nibbana)
I'm not sure if there is reference in Tipitaka mention nimitta as everything cognizable.
I understand that vipassana meditation would not have anything to do with jhana nimittas because by the traditional theravadin, or at least visuddhimaggic scheme of meditation jhana and vipassana are completely separate practices. That is fine if that is the standard you go by, but I don't believe that even in the context of the visuddhimagga or theravada in general is the word "nimitta" pigeonholed into being something connected with jhana and that only. It is simply not that exclusive, and so though the sort of nimitta that is the characteristic sign of jhana has nothing to do with vipassana, nimittas in the general sense of characteristics of objects of perception are not incompatible with vipassana, they are in fact a natural part of the actions of the mind. Or so I think.
I just know nimitta as perception of light in mind. Is feeling that arises is nimitta?

Mettacittena,
fabian

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16956
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:43 am

Hi ChandraFabian
chandrafabian wrote: I just know nimitta as perception of light in mind. Is feeling that arises is nimitta?
Nimitta is used all over the Suttas, often translated as "sign". The samadhi nimittas ("sign of concentration") are seem to be only mentioned explicitly in teh commentaries. And they don't have to be visual, they can be tactile, etc.
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#nimitta" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Nimitta: mark, sign; image; target, object; cause, condition. These meanings are used in, and adapted to, many contexts of which only the doctrinal ones are mentioned here.

1. 'Mental reflex-image', obtained in meditation. In full clarity, it will appear in the mind by successful practice of certain concentration-exercises and will then appear as vividly as if seen by the eye. The object perceived at the very beginning of concentration is called the preparatory image parikamma-nimitta The still unsteady and unclear image, which arises when the mind has reached a weak degree of concentration, is called the acquired image uggaha-nimitta An entirely clear and immovable image arising at a higher degree of concentration is the counter-image patibhāga-nimitta As soon as this image arises, the stage of neighbourhood or access concentration upacāra-samādhi is reached. For further details, see: kasina, samādhi.

2. 'Sign of previous kamma' kamma-nimitta and 'sign of the future destiny' gati-nimitta these arise as mental objects of the last kammic consciousness before death maranāsanna-kamma see: kamma, III, 3.

Usages 1 and 2 are commentarial see: App.. In sutta usage, the term occurs, e.g. as:

3. 'Outward appearance': of one who has sense-control it is said that he does not seize upon the general appearance' of an object na nimittaggāhī M. 38, D. 2; expl. Vis I, 54f; see sīla.

4. 'Object': the six objects, i.e. visual, etc. rūpa-nimitta a href=dic2-abbrev.htm#S. S. XXII, 3. Also, when in explanation of animitta-ceto-vimutti signless deliverance of mind see: ceto-vimutti vimokkha it is said, sabba-nimittānam amanasikārā it refers to the 6 sense-objects Com. to M. 43, and has therefore to be rendered;by paying no attention to any object or object-ideas.; - A pleasant or beautiful object subha-nimitta is a condition to the arising of the hindrance of sense-desire; a 'repellent object' patigha-nimitta for the hindrance of ill-will; contemplation on the impurity of an object asubha-nimitta see: asubha is an antidote to sense-desire.

5. In Pts.M. II, in a repetitive series of terms, nimitta appears together with uppādo origin of existence, pavattam continuity of existence, and may then be rendered by 'condition of existence' see: path, 194f..
Mike

Shonin
Posts: 583
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:11 am

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by Shonin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:51 am

For anyone interested: I found this interesting article which casts some doubt on the idea or significance of 'light nimitta' in jhana practices.
On the subject of the sign (nimitta) and counter-part sign (patibhaganimitta), which arise during breath meditation, there are significant discrepancies between the descriptions found in the Visuddhimagga and Vimuttimagga. Diverse written works by modern teachers mention the characteristics of sign and counter-part sign appearing during breath meditation. Often these descriptions take the classic simile description found in the Visuddhimagga, perhaps as a cautious attempt at not straying from orthodoxy. However, as we show below, this description of the sign (learning or counter-part) may turn out to be quite misleading and, as often expressed by frustrated meditators, unclear....

...The Vimuttimagga (p.68), in referring to the "discerning of qualities" for the diverse meditation subjects, states that "...one subject of meditation seizes the sign through contact. Namely, mindfulness of respiration. And again, one subject of meditation seizes the sign through sight or contact. Namely, air kasina." This distinction is critical. It shows that breath meditation is different from other concentration objects in that it is exclusively tactile.

Visual objects may be perceived during breathing meditation as a side effect for some meditators, however, the meditator should remain focused exclusively on the tactile sensation of breath...

...The sentence "this does not depend on colour or form" makes it quite clear that the meditator should not expect the sign of respiration mindfulness as a visual image, since it is not possible to conceive of a visual perception lacking both colour and form. What may be inferred from the sentence is that the sign is a tactile percept. Incidentally, in the Patisambhidamagga, the earliest and most extensive source treatise on breathing, there is no mention in the whole section on breathing meditation of a visual or "light" nimitta.

A great mystery is solved when one realizes that most of the images ascribed to the counter-sign in the Visuddhimagga and to the "distractions" in the Vimuttimagga are found in the earlier Patisambhidamagga as part of a metaphorical description of the bhikkhu liberated from the defilements on account of his distinction in the practice of mindfulness of breathing...

...Here, what is given canonically as a simile for the mind, in the Vimuttimagga is taken literally as visual percepts, although appropriately, given as images to which one should not pay attention. The Visuddhimagga, however, both mistakenly takes the similes "smoke", "mist", "dust", "gleam", "glows", "shines", and "moon", as literal visual images, and also misapprehends them as the counter-sign, the mark of success!, in direct opposition to the Vimuttimagga.

One can only wonder how these metaphorical images, found at the end of the section describing breathing meditation in the Patisambhidamagga, eventually became literal visual events related to meditation practice in later commentarial works. From the evidence presented in this note, it may seem advisable to consider both the Vimuttimagga and the Patisambhidamagga as more reliable texts as far as breathing meditation is concerned.

Only in the Patisambhidamagga is the material handled appropriately. Similes for the quality of mind such as "clear", "illumined", or "free from clouds", are treated as similes, and furthermore the simile images of "clouds", "mist", etc., are properly understood as impediments to that clarity. The editors (traditionally Acariya Buddhaghosa) of the Visuddhimagga seem rather uncomfortable with the "diversity of perception" of the various nimittas for breath meditation and demonstrate their uneasiness by explaining that such diversity originates in the mere uniqueness of meditators' perceptions (see quote, next paragraph). Neither this explanation nor the need for it appears in the earlier commentaries...

...I am sure many a meditator has wondered why the Buddha had failed to mention the critical information of the "sign" and "counter-sign" in breath meditation, which the Visuddhimagga has deemed so critical to success in jhanic practice. I hope this essay has shown that the Buddha's description of the practise of breath meditation contains all necessary and sufficient information for success.
http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html

chandrafabian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:26 am

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by chandrafabian » Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:05 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi ChandraFabian
chandrafabian wrote: I just know nimitta as perception of light in mind. Is feeling that arises is nimitta?
Nimitta is used all over the Suttas, often translated as "sign". The samadhi nimittas ("sign of concentration") are seem to be only mentioned explicitly in teh commentaries. And they don't have to be visual, they can be tactile, etc.
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#nimitta" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Nimitta: mark, sign; image; target, object; cause, condition. These meanings are used in, and adapted to, many contexts of which only the doctrinal ones are mentioned here.

1. 'Mental reflex-image', obtained in meditation. In full clarity, it will appear in the mind by successful practice of certain concentration-exercises and will then appear as vividly as if seen by the eye. The object perceived at the very beginning of concentration is called the preparatory image parikamma-nimitta The still unsteady and unclear image, which arises when the mind has reached a weak degree of concentration, is called the acquired image uggaha-nimitta An entirely clear and immovable image arising at a higher degree of concentration is the counter-image patibhāga-nimitta As soon as this image arises, the stage of neighbourhood or access concentration upacāra-samādhi is reached. For further details, see: kasina, samādhi.

2. 'Sign of previous kamma' kamma-nimitta and 'sign of the future destiny' gati-nimitta these arise as mental objects of the last kammic consciousness before death maranāsanna-kamma see: kamma, III, 3.

Usages 1 and 2 are commentarial see: App.. In sutta usage, the term occurs, e.g. as:

3. 'Outward appearance': of one who has sense-control it is said that he does not seize upon the general appearance' of an object na nimittaggāhī M. 38, D. 2; expl. Vis I, 54f; see sīla.

4. 'Object': the six objects, i.e. visual, etc. rūpa-nimitta a href=dic2-abbrev.htm#S. S. XXII, 3. Also, when in explanation of animitta-ceto-vimutti signless deliverance of mind see: ceto-vimutti vimokkha it is said, sabba-nimittānam amanasikārā it refers to the 6 sense-objects Com. to M. 43, and has therefore to be rendered;by paying no attention to any object or object-ideas.; - A pleasant or beautiful object subha-nimitta is a condition to the arising of the hindrance of sense-desire; a 'repellent object' patigha-nimitta for the hindrance of ill-will; contemplation on the impurity of an object asubha-nimitta see: asubha is an antidote to sense-desire.

5. In Pts.M. II, in a repetitive series of terms, nimitta appears together with uppādo origin of existence, pavattam continuity of existence, and may then be rendered by 'condition of existence' see: path, 194f..
Mike
Dear Mike, I don't see in that article saying nimitta also including tactile sensations.

Mettacittena,
fabian

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16956
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:43 pm

Hi ChandrFabian,
chandrafabian wrote: Dear Mike, I don't see in that article saying nimitta also including tactile sensations.
Do you mean the "meditave sign" nimitta, or the "outward appearance" meaning? I've certainly heard people talk of "tactile nimittas", but I'm not sure if whether or not they are explicitly mentioned in in the commentaries.

Mike

User avatar
IanAnd
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:19 am
Location: the deserts of Arizona

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by IanAnd » Thu Aug 26, 2010 5:11 am

Do you mean the "meditative sign" nimitta, or the "outward appearance" meaning? I've certainly heard people talk of "tactile nimittas", but I'm not sure if whether or not they are explicitly mentioned in in the commentaries.
I talk about tactile nimittas all the time (in forums like this, that is). A sign is a sign, no matter how it manifests. For meditators, signs can definitely be subjective; that is, whatever works to give the intended signal. You certainly do not need some cranky third party "commentator" to validate that for you. Just pay attention to your experience and recognize whatever comes up and use it to make further progress. Signs serve one purpose: to signal you whether you are doing something right or whether you are doing something wrong. Once you know one way or the other, you can either do more of the something right and continue on, or stop and take corrective action to correct the something wrong. Either way, it's just a sign, nothing more nor nothing less.

:focus: Which is: what is the difference between the signless concentration and perception of emptiness?
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

chandrafabian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:26 am

Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Post by chandrafabian » Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:50 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi ChandrFabian,
chandrafabian wrote: Dear Mike, I don't see in that article saying nimitta also including tactile sensations.
Do you mean the "meditave sign" nimitta, or the "outward appearance" meaning? I've certainly heard people talk of "tactile nimittas", but I'm not sure if whether or not they are explicitly mentioned in in the commentaries.

Mike
Dear Mikenz,
Yes, I mean sign is mental image (nimitta), there were three kinds of nimitta, Parikamma, Uggaha and Patibhaga nimitta. So signs (nimitta) is related to seeing sensation.

Mettacittena,
fabian

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 35 guests