Radiant Mind

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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daverupa
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Radiant Mind

Post by daverupa » Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:51 pm

http://sujato.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/ ... iant-mind/

A very nice discussion of AN 1.49-52, the Pabhassara Sutta.

I have to run, but will be back with some further reflections on this sutta.
  • "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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mikenz66
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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 6:42 pm

Here is Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation, and some of his comments (He quotes the same suttas as Ven Sujato, and reaches the same conclusion that luminous here is referring to a mind in jhana):
51 (1) “Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements. [46] The uninstructed worldling does not understand this as it really is; therefore I say that for the uninstructed worldling there is no development of the mind.” [47]

52 (2) “Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, and it is freed from adventitious defilements. The instructed noble disciple understands this as it really is; therefore I say that for the instructed noble disciple there is development of the mind.”[48]

[46] Pabhassaram idaṃ bhikkhave cittaṃ. The exact meaning of this statement has been a matter of contention that has spawned conflicting interpretations. Mp identifies the “luminous mind” with the bhavaṅgacitta, an Abhidhamma concept denoting the type of mental event that occurs in the absence of active cognition. ... [lengthy Abhidhamma discussion omitted] ...

Though I quote Mp in full here, I find this explanation problematic on at least two grounds. The first is that the very concept of the bhavaṅgacitta, and the corresponding notion of the cognitive process, are not found in the Nikāyas but first emerge in a later period when the Abhidhamma was taking shape. Even the term bhavaṅga, though crucial to the Theravāda Abhidhamma system, occurs only in the last book of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, the Paṭṭhāna. It is found much more often in the Abhidhamma commentaries.

The second reason I find Mp’s explanation problematic is that the text flatly states “this mind is luminous,” without qualification. This suggests that luminosity is intrinsic to the mind itself, and not to a particular type of mental event. Moreover, if the bhavaṅga is luminous, it should always remain so; it becomes incoherent to speak of it being defiled by the javanas. The simplest interpretation of this statement, so far as I can see, is that luminosity is an innate characteristic of mind, seen in its capacity to illuminate its objective field. This luminosity, though inherent, is functionally blocked because the mind is “defiled by adventitious defilements” (āgantukehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭhaṃ). The defilements are called “adventitious” because, unlike the luminosity, they are not intrinsic to the mind itself. Of course, as 10:61 and 10:62 assert, there is no “first point” to ignorance and craving (and other defilements). But these defilements can be removed by mental training. With their removal, the mind’s intrinsic luminosity emerges—or, more precisely, becomes manifest. The statement just below that the noble disciple understands the mind to be luminous implies that this insight into the intrinsic luminosity of the mind serves as the basis for further mental development, which liberates the mind from the defilements. With the complete removal of defilements, the mind’s intrinsic luminosity shines forth unobstructed.

At 3:102, I 257,7 the word pabhassara is used to describe the mind (citta) that has attained concentration (samādhi). It thus seems that it is in deep samādhi that the intrinsic luminosity of the mind emerges, at least temporarily. 5:23, III 16,29–17,2 says explicitly that the mind freed from the five hindrances is luminous (pabhassara) and properly concentrated for the destruction of the taints. See too MN III 243,11–12, where it is equanimity (upekkhā), presumably of the fourth jhāna, that is described as luminous.

[47] Cittabhāvanā natthi. Mp: “There is no stability of mind, no comprehension of mind” (cittaṭṭhiti cittapariggaho natthi). Mp-ṭ: “The development of mind [called] ‘stability of mind’ (cittaṭṭhiti) is the practice through which one can accurately understand defilement of the mind and liberation from it. The development of insight (vipassanābhāvanā), which occurs based on the stabilization [of the mind] by fully concentrating it on a single object, is what is known as comprehension of the mind (cittassa pariggaha); [this occurs] together with the associated [mental] factors based on that object. It is through this that one can accurately understand the meaning stated.”

The Nikāyas often set up a contrast between the “uninstructed worldling” (assutavā puthujjana), the common person of the world who lacks training in the Buddha’s teaching, and the instructed noble disciple (sutavā ariya sāvaka), who has learned the teaching and undertaken the training. More broadly, a puthujjana is anyone who has not yet reached the path of stream-entry (sotāpatti). An ariyasāvaka is not necessarily a “noble one” in the technical sense, but any disciple, monastic or layperson, who has learned the teaching and earnestly takes up the practice.

[48] Mp: “In this sutta powerful insight (balavavipassanā) is discussed; but some say tender insight (taruṇavipassanā).” Here, “tender insight” refers to the early stage of knowledge of rise and fall, while “powerful insight” to the mature stage of knowledge of rise and fall and the higher insight knowledges.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu's commentary at: 
also identifies the luminous mind with jhana.
A more reasonable approach to understanding the statement can be derived from taking it in context: the luminous mind is the mind that the meditator is trying to develop. To perceive its luminosity means understanding that defilements such as greed, aversion, or delusion are not intrinsic to its nature, are not a necessary part of awareness. Without this understanding, it would be impossible to practice. With this understanding, however, one can make an effort to cut away existing defilements, leaving the mind in the stage that MN 24 calls "purity in terms of mind." This would correspond to the luminous level of concentration described in the standard simile for the fourth jhana: "And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness."
:anjali:
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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by Mkoll » Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:06 pm

daverupa wrote:http://sujato.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/ ... iant-mind/

A very nice discussion of AN 1.49-52, the Pabhassara Sutta.

I have to run, but will be back with some further reflections on this sutta.
:thumbsup:

His reasoning here makes sense to me.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:29 pm

I can only make sense of the mind's "radiance" or "luminosity" in terms of what it does, expressed metaphorically. The mind illuminates its objects, as if irradiating them. Like light, it instantaneously reveals what it comes into contact with, but doesn't itself appear to be one of those objects.

If anyone has a different idea - for example that the mind is inherently radiant like the sun or a fire is, that it somehow appears bright and luminous - then they have different experiences from me. Something in their experience might well be luminous and radiant, but saying that it is the mind itself involves an infinite regression. Is the bit that perceives the brightness just as bright as what it perceives?

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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:43 pm

Hi Sam,

Vens Sujato, Bodhi, and Thanissaro have all concluded that these suttas are most probably talking about the radiance perceived in a mind on the development of high levels of concentration. As Ven Sujato notes: 
So pabhassara is used in an ordinary language sense of the “radiance” of a fire or gold; in a “religious” sense of the light of Brahma; and in a Dhamma sense of the radiance of the mind in samadhi.
See also the simile that Thanissaro Bhikkhu quotes above for the 4th jhana, and the discussion of the development of light nimittas by the ancient commentators and by modern teachers such as Ajahn Buddhadasa, Ajahn Brahm, Pa Auk Sayadaw, etc, etc. That sort of "radiance" seems to be commonly reported by meditators.

:anjali:
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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Oct 29, 2014 7:58 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Sam,

Vens Sujato, Bodhi, and Thanissaro have all concluded that these suttas are most probably talking about the radiance perceived in a mind on the development of high levels of concentration.
Yes, I get that. What I am interested in is the difference between "radiance perceived in a mind" and the mind being radiant. Perception of light seems to me to be of limited interest compared to how the mind behaves.

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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:54 pm

Hi Sam,

I don't see a distinction. My reading (of suttas and ancient and modern commentary) is that the mind tends to be "radiant" when samadhi is developed, and this is sometimes manifested in terms of a perception of light (but there are other possibilities), hence the description "radiant".

:anjali:
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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by Mkoll » Wed Oct 29, 2014 9:17 pm

I think we should keep in mind Ven. Sujato's suggestions here:
Ven. Sujato wrote:The syntax of the sutta is somewhat obscure, in Pali as in English: while there are no grammatical difficulties, it is not entirely clear what the sense of the text is. This is already a red flag: as a rule, one should never rely for crucial explanations on a text that appears only once, and which is unclear. Surely in a crucial matter the Buddha would have stated it many times and made it clear what he was talking about. As a rule, when faced with an obscure passage, we look to more clear examples to help us understand.

...

These passages, especially the recurring comparison of gold with samadhi, are clear and well-defined. They are proper teachings, not just cut-up slivers with no parallels, as in the more famous pabhassara citta passage. This is one of the most common tendencies we find in Buddhist history: that well-known, frequently repeated passages with clear meaning are ignored, while obscure, marginal passages, probably suffering severe editorial loss, are taken up precisely because their obscurity allows one to read anything into them.
In other words, I think he's saying that one shouldn't base any linchpins of one's understanding on such vague one-off passages anyway.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by Mr Man » Wed Oct 29, 2014 9:25 pm

How does Huang Po compare?

Pabhassara Sutta:
Radiant, monks, is this mind. And it is defiled by transient defilements. An unlearned ordinary person does not understand that in accord with reality. Therefore I say, “An unlearned ordinary person does not have mental development.

From "The Zen teachings of Huang Po" translated by John Blofield:
This Pure Mind, which is the Source of all things, shines forever with the radiance of its own perfection. But most people are not aware of it, and think that mind is just the faculty that sees, hears, feels, and knows. Blinded by their own sight, hearing, feeling, and knowing, they don't perceive the radiance of the Source.

Is this the same radiance?

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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Oct 29, 2014 9:28 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Sam,

I don't see a distinction. My reading (of suttas and ancient and modern commentary) is that the mind tends to be "radiant" when samadhi is developed, and this is sometimes manifested in terms of a perception of light (but there are other possibilities), hence the description "radiant".

:anjali:
Mike
The distinction is between perceiving a radiance or luminosity (which is then an object of or in the mind which experiences it) and the mind itself as sensibility or awareness. It seems that either can be said to be radiant or luminous, but in different ways. (The former literal, the latter metaphorical.) But it is possible that this distinction only has apparent meaning for one of my limited attainments, and the last thing I want to do here is to take this thread down a blind alley!

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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Oct 29, 2014 10:39 pm

Greetings,
Ven. Sujato wrote:This is the normal way the Buddha talked about the mind. It is not that it is “naturally” radiant or defiled: it is naturally conditioned. When the conditions for darkness are there, it is dark, when the conditions for light are there, it is light.
:anjali:

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: Radiant Mind

Post by SarathW » Wed Oct 29, 2014 11:35 pm

Very important point made by Ven. Sujato.

"Nowhere is there any suggestion that it has anything to do with Nibbana."

======
The way I understand a newly born Child has a radiant consciousness.
It is radiant but ignorant.
:thinking:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 5567&hilit
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by daverupa » Thu Oct 30, 2014 2:54 am

Sam Vara wrote:I can only make sense of the mind's "radiance" or "luminosity" in terms of what it does, expressed metaphorically. The mind illuminates its objects, as if irradiating them. Like light, it instantaneously reveals what it comes into contact with, but doesn't itself appear to be one of those objects.
So, I understood that the mind does illuminate as you suggest, a metaphor about the feeling of its operation, the sense of it.

But I also understand this radiative feature to be obscured by defilements, which means that a radiant mind is a mind that is operating free from defilements (shall we say, secluded from sensuality & unwholesome states..?). Mind may illuminate, but so very quickly the light of it can refract into papanca, lasers focused by greed & hate & delusion.

Not so much a teaching on practice, this short sutta is a teaching about a tool for assessment: mental development is a feature of one who understands this 'radiation' as it is, free of the further downstream events that it can underlie, as a function of having reduced/removed active sankhara. This is a state of sammasamadhi.
  • "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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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by boris » Mon Nov 17, 2014 3:20 pm

Ven Sujato says:
We should always prefer a simpler, more grounded explanation, not one that necessitates revising the whole of the Buddha’s teachings based on one dubious passage. Given that the text has obviously suffered editorial changes, I suspect that the problems arose due to these.
I am not going to take part in discussion about nature of this Radiant mind. However, perhaps is good to comment general approach, suggested by Ven Sujato. I even don't want to say that this approach is wrong one. For me it will be enough to point out, that there is alternative approach, based on saddha.

Suppose, I am a puthujjana :smile: I have some vision what is Dhamma and what is not Dhamma. Then I come to some passage which contradict all my understanding. I can explain this contradiction saying that it is because the text has suffered editorial changes. Or even to refuse accept that such Sutta comes from the Lord Buddha. By this means I can be glad and happy, that there is no contradiction in my understanding of Dhamma. And even it may be so. But unfortunately it is also quite possible, that this contradiction is due to my wrong understanding of Dhamma. With this approach, each contradiction should be interpreting as a signal that it something wrong with my understanding of Dhamma. As I said, I do not suggest that this is so exactly in this case with Ven Sujato, I only want to say, that there is different approach, where in the first place, we are looking for the cause of contradiction in our understanding.
It was, and is, my attitude towards the Suttas that, if I find anything in them that is against my own view, they are right, and I am wrong.
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Re: Radiant Mind

Post by vinasp » Mon Nov 17, 2014 6:34 pm

Hi everyone,

51 (1) “Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements. [46] The uninstructed worldling does not understand this as it really is; therefore I say that for the uninstructed worldling there is no development of the mind.” [47]

52 (2) “Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, and it is freed from adventitious defilements. The instructed noble disciple understands this as it really is; therefore I say that for the instructed noble disciple there is development of the mind.”[48]

These 'adventitious defilements' are formations (sankhara - passive = sankhata).
These are the same as views (ditthi). In some passages they are called acquisitions.

"By knowing the destruction of formations be thou O Brahmin, one who knows the unmade." [Dhp. 383. Nanananda C&R, page 71, last footnote.]

The unmade is nibbana, to reach it one must remove all that has been made.

This has nothing to do with jhana as a temporary state. Is there another jhana which is 'permanent'?

Regards, Vincent.

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