The Great Jhana Debate

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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samseva
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by samseva » Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:31 am

Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:23 am
Again, where does it say a non-Buddhist reached all four jhanas?
The stock passage (not only MN 26) of the formless attainments is described as first passing through the first jhāna to the fourth jhāna. The fourth jhāna is considered the foundation for the formless attainments (hence, why they are sometimes considered part of the fourth rather than individual jhānas in and of themselves). Āḷāra KālāmaI based his understanding on the base on nothingness. The Buddha hadn't yet discovered the Four Noble Truths and "Buddhism" didn't even exist.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Mkoll » Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:37 am

samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:18 am
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:16 am
I'm not denying that jhana is a mental process. I'm saying it's brought about via a specific set of conditions, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is only taught by a Buddha. Therefore, it is distinctly Buddhist.
I think you are confusing sammā-samādhi and jhānas. Yes, sammā-samādhi is Buddhist and is conjoined to the other factors of the path. Sammā-samādhi is also defined as the jhānas.

However, in no way does that mean that jhānas and samādhi are in and of themselves "Buddhist." They both are simply functions/mental processes of the mind. The Buddha didn't invent jhānas or samādhi. Jhānas were practiced by many Jains and ascetics even before the Buddha.
You say sammasamadhi is equivalent to jhana. And then you say Jains and ascetics practice jhana. So that means you think Jains and ascetics have sammasamadhi then?

:rolleye:
samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:22 am
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:16 am
I'm not denying that jhana is a mental process. I'm saying it's brought about via a specific set of conditions, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is only taught by a Buddha. Therefore, it is distinctly Buddhist.
The Eightfold Path is not a prerequisite for jhāna. You made that up.
Sorry, I meant to say "the preceding limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path." Sammasamadhi depends upon them.
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Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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samseva
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by samseva » Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:40 am

Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:37 am
samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:18 am
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:16 am
I'm not denying that jhana is a mental process. I'm saying it's brought about via a specific set of conditions, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is only taught by a Buddha. Therefore, it is distinctly Buddhist.
I think you are confusing sammā-samādhi and jhānas. Yes, sammā-samādhi is Buddhist and is conjoined to the other factors of the path. Sammā-samādhi is also defined as the jhānas.

However, in no way does that mean that jhānas and samādhi are in and of themselves "Buddhist." They both are simply functions/mental processes of the mind. The Buddha didn't invent jhānas or samādhi. Jhānas were practiced by many Jains and ascetics even before the Buddha.
You say sammasamadhi is equivalent to jhana. And then you say Jains and ascetics practice jhana. So that means you think Jains and ascetics have sammasamadhi then?

:rolleye:
Yes. Why is this difficult to understand?

Jhānas were there before Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi).
The Buddha created/defined Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi).
The Buddha defined Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi) as being the four jhānas.

And :rolleye: yourself.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:51 am

samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:17 am
Sutta jhāna is what is described in the Suttas (obviously). This is still deep concentration where sounds and other external perceptions aren't present—but it isn't 1 in one million meditators who can reach jhāna, like described by Buddhaghosa regarding Visudhimagga jhānas. From this, I consider Sutta jhānas being like how you have been describing jhānas with Ven. Anālayo, Ajahn Brahm and Sujato, Zom, Sylvester and so on. I have no idea why Leigh Brasington classed the Sutta-style jhāna of Ajahn Brahm in Visuddhimagga-style jhānas—which is in itself contradictory.
Oh, OK. But the "sutta jhanas" in Leigh's list sound much lighter than the jhanas described by Ven. Anālayo, Ajahn Brahm and Sujato, Zom, Sylvester and so on. And I've heard recordings of Thanissaro Bhikkhu where he makes jokes like: "Some people accuse me of teaching jhana lite." He certainly doesn't subscribe to the definition where external perceptions are not present.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu describes the absorption in the Jhanas as not so total that one loses awareness of the body: "To be in Jhana is to be absorbed, very pleasurably, in the sense of the whole body altogether." He instructs his students to practice insight meditation while still in the jhanic state - again as described in MN 111 - One by One as They Occurred. See his article The Path of Concentration and Mindfulness.
Contrast with:
Ajahn Brahmavamso is a Theravadan Buddhist monk who lives in Western Australia. He studied extensively with Ajahn Chah in Thailand as well as in other places before settling in Australia. His definition of exactly what constituted a Jhana seems close to the depths indicated in the Visuddhimagga, but he says he teaches from the suttas and from his experience. His essays The Basic Method of Meditation and Travelogue to the four Jhanas outline his Jhana teaching. The primary access method he teaches is Anapanasati, which he refers to as "experiencing the 'beautiful breath'." His main emphasis is about the attitude of not getting the 'doer' or 'craving' or 'will' involved. He emphasizes finding happiness and joy in stillness. His main teachings are now to 'make peace, be kind & be gentle' which are the right intentions of the Noble Eightfold Path. So no matter what method or object of meditation one uses, one has to make sure to have the 'right intentions' of it. His dharma talks here explain this in more detail.
Since I'm not an expert on jhana, I don't know what the "correct" definition is. I really have no vested interest in this, beyond pointing out that different teachers have very different definitions, and that, therefore, the term "sutta jhana" is essentially meaningless (or, to be charitable, the meaning is dependent on the particular teacher).

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:00 am

aflatun wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:43 am
mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:09 am

You seem to have missed my observation that a number of EBT enthusiasts (Analayo, Sujato, Brahm, etc) have a definition of jhana, derived from the suttas, that is similar in depth to the VM definition (not being able to hear when in jhana, and so on).
I'm not nit picking you Mike, just sharing my current thoughts on this. Perhaps the notion that depth = intensity of cognitive black out at the five "external" senses is itself a problematic measuring stick to use.

What I find hard to swallow (I'll be honest, unbelievable actually) is the notion that the pinnacle of the path is a trance that is attainable with sufficient proficiency at manipulation of one's mental continuum, e.g. a technique devoid of insight. In the suttas we see, I think, different things leading to jhana, including faith, reflection on the dhamma, brahmaviharas, and some insight-type contemplations, the latter seemingly taking one as far as the 7th.
...
Well, again, speaking as a non-expert, the "deep jhana" teachers say that it is impossible to do insight in jhana, and that those that interpret, for example, MN111, as saying that have a poor understanding of Pali tenses. [Again, I'm no expert, but I will say that the same tense issue applies in some arguments about nibbana.]

I don't think those that subscribe to a deep-jhana model (the teachers mentioned above, and the Theravada commentaries such as the Visudhimagga) would say that jhana is "the pinnacle of the path. They would, instead, say that the purpose of attaining the jhanas is to purify the mind (from hindrances such as lust). After emerging from jhana the mind is in a suitable state for the insights that lead to final liberation.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Mkoll » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:09 am

samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:40 am
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:37 am
samseva wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:18 am

I think you are confusing sammā-samādhi and jhānas. Yes, sammā-samādhi is Buddhist and is conjoined to the other factors of the path. Sammā-samādhi is also defined as the jhānas.

However, in no way does that mean that jhānas and samādhi are in and of themselves "Buddhist." They both are simply functions/mental processes of the mind. The Buddha didn't invent jhānas or samādhi. Jhānas were practiced by many Jains and ascetics even before the Buddha.
You say sammasamadhi is equivalent to jhana. And then you say Jains and ascetics practice jhana. So that means you think Jains and ascetics have sammasamadhi then?

:rolleye:
Yes. Why is this difficult to understand?

Jhānas were there before Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi).
The Buddha created/defined Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi).
The Buddha defined Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi) as being the four jhānas.

And :rolleye: yourself.
Sammasamadhi depends upon the preceding limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path, itself being the eighth limb. So unless a Buddha teaches the Noble Eightfold Path and others practice in accordance with it (or a paccekabuddha figures it out themselves), no one is practicing jhana. They may be practicing some kind of samadhi, but it's not sammasamadhi.

We are going in circles here so I suggest we leave it at that.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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samseva
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by samseva » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:19 am

Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:09 am
They may be practicing some kind of samadhi, but it's not sammasamadhi.
I agree not sammā-samādhi (sammā-samādhi being in and of itself Buddhist), but jhāna very possibly.

There are many accounts in the Suttas of ascetics from other traditions who never came into contact with the teachings who were practicing jhānas—Āḷāra KālāmaI being only one example.
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:09 am
We are going in circles here so I suggest we leave it at that.
I agree.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by samseva » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:30 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:51 am
Oh, OK. But the "sutta jhanas" in Leigh's list sound much lighter than the jhanas described by Ven. Anālayo, Ajahn Brahm and Sujato, Zom, Sylvester and so on. And I've heard recordings of Thanissaro Bhikkhu where he makes jokes like: "Some people accuse me of teaching jhana lite." He certainly doesn't subscribe to the definition where external perceptions are not present.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu describes the absorption in the Jhanas as not so total that one loses awareness of the body: "To be in Jhana is to be absorbed, very pleasurably, in the sense of the whole body altogether." He instructs his students to practice insight meditation while still in the jhanic state - again as described in MN 111 - One by One as They Occurred. See his article The Path of Concentration and Mindfulness.
Contrast with:
Ajahn Brahmavamso is a Theravadan Buddhist monk who lives in Western Australia. He studied extensively with Ajahn Chah in Thailand as well as in other places before settling in Australia. His definition of exactly what constituted a Jhana seems close to the depths indicated in the Visuddhimagga, but he says he teaches from the suttas and from his experience. His essays The Basic Method of Meditation and Travelogue to the four Jhanas outline his Jhana teaching. The primary access method he teaches is Anapanasati, which he refers to as "experiencing the 'beautiful breath'." His main emphasis is about the attitude of not getting the 'doer' or 'craving' or 'will' involved. He emphasizes finding happiness and joy in stillness. His main teachings are now to 'make peace, be kind & be gentle' which are the right intentions of the Noble Eightfold Path. So no matter what method or object of meditation one uses, one has to make sure to have the 'right intentions' of it. His dharma talks here explain this in more detail.
Since I'm not an expert on jhana, I don't know what the "correct" definition is. I really have no vested interest in this, beyond pointing out that different teachers have very different definitions, and that, therefore, the term "sutta jhana" is essentially meaningless (or, to be charitable, the meaning is dependent on the particular teacher).
In the paragraph from Leigh's webpage, it says Ṭhānissaro's definition of jhāna is that there are still sensations of the body. I don't know if that includes sounds or perception of what is happening around you. A subtle sensation of the body with no other perceptions would still fall under a very deep level of concentration (if Ṭhānissaro jokes that his teaching style is jhāna-lite, than it might not be though).

With the Ajahn Brahm paragraph, the part where the Visuddhimagga is mentioned is Leigh Brasington's own interpretation of Ajahn Brahm. From the sentence after, it seems Ajahn Brahm considers the jhānas he teaches as Sutta jhānas.

Still, trying to interpret the interpretation of teachers, like with Leigh's webpage, is a task that would be prone to end up misrepresenting the teachers themselves. Leigh's division of styles of jhāna is his interpretation as well; one which I don't really agree with—I don't understand his interpretation of Visuddhimagga jhāna, or how jhāna where you are conscious of everything around you would be considered Sutta-style jhāna. However, I agree with what you said earlier that the latter type of jhāna ressembles much more access concentration than jhāna.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:46 am

Hmm, I think we are talking at cross purposes. Quite apart from the summary given above, Ven Thanissaro (among others) certainly talks about being about hear and so on in jhana. Ven Brahm and others claim that that would not be real jhana. I'm not sure why you're not getting my point that different teachers (and posters on this Forum) have different interpretations of what constitutes jhana according to the suttas..

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:56 am

Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:16 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:51 am
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:44 am
Just replace "mental process" in what I said earlier with "mechanism of the mind" and you have my answer:

How can jhana be anything other than a mental process? It is still in the subject object realm and is not the cause of cessation.
I'm not denying that jhana is a mental process. I'm saying it's brought about via a specific set of conditions, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is only taught by a Buddha. Therefore, it is distinctly Buddhist.
Everything is brought about through conditions. This is what dependent origination is about. Buddha did not invent DO. He did not invent the 8 fold path. He rediscovered something that was lost to the culture at that time. You are thinking about all this in a very narrow way. DO is conditioned in our present state. Anything that is conditioned is not a cause for cessation or whatever you want to call what you think you're after. The ideas of samadhi or jhana being a way to attain the unattainable is for beginners, people that don't understand their own conditioned state. For me, this is a central theme in the Buddhist dialectic, not grasping, non attachment, not becoming.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Mkoll » Sat Oct 21, 2017 8:24 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:56 am
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:16 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:51 am
How can jhana be anything other than a mental process? It is still in the subject object realm and is not the cause of cessation.
I'm not denying that jhana is a mental process. I'm saying it's brought about via a specific set of conditions, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is only taught by a Buddha. Therefore, it is distinctly Buddhist.
Everything is brought about through conditions. This is what dependent origination is about. Buddha did not invent DO. He did not invent the 8 fold path. He rediscovered something that was lost to the culture at that time. You are thinking about all this in a very narrow way. DO is conditioned in our present state. Anything that is conditioned is not a cause for cessation or whatever you want to call what you think you're after. The ideas of samadhi or jhana being a way to attain the unattainable is for beginners, people that don't understand their own conditioned state. For me, this is a central theme in the Buddhist dialectic, not grasping, non attachment, not becoming.
Judging from your other thread and your posts so far, it seems you're a follower of, or at least very partial to, UG Krishnamurti's teachings who is seeking to fit what you like from the Buddha's teachings into that mold. I've seen enough of UG Krishnamurti's teachings to see that he teaches wrong views that are incompatible with the Buddha's teachings as a whole.

So really there is little room for constructive dialogue here, made doubly so given that you continue to insult my intelligence.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Oct 21, 2017 10:00 am

Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 8:24 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:56 am
Mkoll wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:16 am

I'm not denying that jhana is a mental process. I'm saying it's brought about via a specific set of conditions, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is only taught by a Buddha. Therefore, it is distinctly Buddhist.
Everything is brought about through conditions. This is what dependent origination is about. Buddha did not invent DO. He did not invent the 8 fold path. He rediscovered something that was lost to the culture at that time. You are thinking about all this in a very narrow way. DO is conditioned in our present state. Anything that is conditioned is not a cause for cessation or whatever you want to call what you think you're after. The ideas of samadhi or jhana being a way to attain the unattainable is for beginners, people that don't understand their own conditioned state. For me, this is a central theme in the Buddhist dialectic, not grasping, non attachment, not becoming.
Judging from your other thread and your posts so far, it seems you're a follower of, or at least very partial to, UG Krishnamurti's teachings who is seeking to fit what you like from the Buddha's teachings into that mold. I've seen enough of UG Krishnamurti's teachings to see that he teaches wrong views that are incompatible with the Buddha's teachings as a whole.

So really there is little room for constructive dialogue here, made doubly so given that you continue to insult my intelligence.
Perhaps you should thicken your skin if you post publicly. This is not a personal attack on your character. I speak from my own experience with jhana and samadhi. What I'm writing has nothing to do with UG.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Mkoll » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:57 am

And you continue. How astounding! No constructive dialogue, indeed.

Please don't bother wasting your time replying further to me here or anywhere else on this forum because you are now on my (still very small) ignore list so I won't see your posts henceforth.

Best of luck.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by DooDoot » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:02 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:56 am
Everything is brought about through conditions. This is what dependent origination is about.
The Pali suttas describe DO as the conditions leading to the arising of suffering (SN 12.2). For example, if the mind clings to jhana, this is material becoming (rūpabhavo; SN 12.2; AN 4.123). DO is not about the pure cultivation of jhana. For example, SN 48.10 says the noble practitioner develops jhana by making "letting go" ("vossagga") the meditation object. "Letting go" is not DO because it does not lead to suffering. Jhana is not conditioned by DO. In the Pali suttas, DO is called "the wrong path" (SN 12.3), where as jhana is a component of the right path (SN 45.8). The idea that "DO is everything" is not Pali but one of the errors of Madhyamaka.
Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:56 am
DO is conditioned in our present state.
DO is only conditioned when the present state of mind is 'dukkha', which includes clinging to jhana as "I speak from my own experience with jhana".
Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:56 am
Anything that is conditioned is not a cause for cessation
The Pali suttas say the noble path is "conditioned", yet this conditioned path leads to the final unconditioned. This has already been discussed before. Pretend/imagine the soil is unconditioned. This unconditioned soil cannot be seen because it is covered by grass. A lawn mower is used to cut the grass. The lawn mowing is conditioned. Using a conditioned process, the unconditioned is uncovered & seen. Nibbana is like this. The element of Nibbana is covered by mental defilements. When the conditioned path cuts the mental defilements, Nibbana is known, always there but previously unknown.
Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:56 am
The ideas of samadhi or jhana being a way to attain the unattainable is for beginners, people that don't understand their own conditioned state.
The Pali suttas explain correctly jhana is necessary to reach the unconditioned. This is not for beginners. Since jhanas are indicators of mental purity, if the 4th jhana has not been reached, the mind remains conditioned. Jhana is a supernormal state according to Theravada Buddhism. Many people claim they have experienced jhana when they probably have not. I think calling "jhana" something for "beginners" cannot come from the real & genuine experience of jhana.
Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:56 am
For me, this is a central theme in the Buddhist dialectic, not grasping, non attachment, not becoming.
Mmmm... not grasping, non attachment & not becoming sounds conditioned because these things sound like mental processes or nama dhamma, which, if true, is not the meaning of "unconditioned" because the "unconditioned" is "asankhata dhatu" where as mental processes are 'nama dhatu". Something "unconditioned" probably should exist without any mental input. Nibbana is the unconditioned. Where as non-grasping sounds conditioned. Non-grasping occurs in at least two ways: (i) via an act of will or (ii) clearly discerning the suffering of something; similar to the automatic neurological recoil when touching fire. Not-grasping a burning object, due to the knowledge the burning object will burn, sounds conditioned. Where as the hand remaining unburned due to non-grasping sounds "unconditioned". Although non-grasping allows for the unconditioned to be experienced, non-grasping itself is probably not the unconditioned.

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Re: Monks Average Meditation Routine

Post by aflatun » Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:21 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:00 am
Well, again, speaking as a non-expert, the "deep jhana" teachers say that it is impossible to do insight in jhana, and that those that interpret, for example, MN111, as saying that have a poor understanding of Pali tenses. [Again, I'm no expert, but I will say that the same tense issue applies in some arguments about nibbana.]
Understood, and I have read and contemplated these arguments. Admittedly I wasn't really being clear, but I wasn't quite arguing for "doing insight" within Jhana in the sense that they mean. What I find myself questioning are the very terms of the debate.
I don't think those that subscribe to a deep-jhana model (the teachers mentioned above, and the Theravada commentaries such as the Visudhimagga) would say that jhana is "the pinnacle of the path. They would, instead, say that the purpose of attaining the jhanas is to purify the mind (from hindrances such as lust). After emerging from jhana the mind is in a suitable state for the insights that lead to final liberation.
Yes that is how they frame it, and that was a poor choice of words on my part! Sorry about that.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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