Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
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Sacha G
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Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Sacha G »

Hi everyone!
I was wondering whether vipassana is supposed to be purely non-conceptual, as generaly thought. For example, reviewing the 32 parts of the body is part of vipassana (as recollection of the body), but there is no direct perception of those 32 parts, only a thought construct. Another example is examining feelings internally and externally. While the internal feelings are directly perceived, those which are external and belong to other beings are infered.
So...what do you think?
Thanks
Sacha
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

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Do the practice.
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ground
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by ground »

Sacha G wrote:So...what do you think?
That right thinking is conducive.

Kind regards
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

In the Visuddhimagga, the 32 parts of the body and the ten types of corpses (asubha) Tranquillity Meditation (Samatha), and so too is mindfulness of respiration (ānāpānassati).

These methods are all included in the Satipatthāna Suttas, and are methods for the Samatha-Vipassanā Yānika — one who practises tranquillity, then insight.

I have no experience of these asubha practices, but I assume that the method is similar to that described for using mindfulness of respiration as the basis for insight, as described by Venerable Ledi Sayādaw in his Manual of Respiration.

That is, one gains either access concentration or absorption using these meditation objects to free the mind from the five hindrances, then contemplates this mental state as arisen dependent on conditions, impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self.
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zavk
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by zavk »

Hi Sacha

As you will see in the other thread about the IMS, what the word 'vipassana' entails is contested. By with regards to your question about conceptual or non-conceptual, this is a common question that has been asked about the nature of pañña, which I suppose you could say is what the cultivation of vipassana or insight or clear seeing aims at. There's this bit from Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words that incisively addresses the misunderstanding surrounding this issue. Hang on, it's too long for me to type it... let me pop it into the scanner and click a few buttons.....

Here you go, from page 302:
Contemporary Buddhist literature commonly conveys two ideas about pañña that have become almost axioms in the popular understanding of Buddhism, The first is that pañña is exclusively nonconceptual and nondiscursive, a type of cognition that defies all the laws of logical thought; the second, that pañña arises spontaneously, through an act of pure intuition as sudden and instantaneous as a brilliant flash of lightning. These two ideas about pañña are closely connected. If pañña defies all the laws of thought, it cannot be approached by any type of conceptual activity but can arise only when the rational, discriminative, conceptual activity of the mind has been stultified. And this stopping of conceptualization, somewhat like the demolition of a building, must be a rapid one, an undermining of thought not previously prepared for by any gradual maturation of understanding. Thus, in the popular understanding of Buddhism, pañña defies rationality and easily slides off into "crazy wisdom," an incomprehensible, mindboggling way of relating to the world that dances at the thin edge between super-rationality and madness.

Such ideas about pañña receive no support at all from the teachings of the Nikayas, which, are consistently sane, lucid, and sober, To take the two points in reverse order: First, far from arising spontaneously, pañña in the Nikayas is emphatically conditioned, arisen from an underlying matrix of causes and conditions. And second, pañña is not bare intuition, but a careful, discriminative understanding that at certain stages involves precise conceptual operations. Pañña is directed to specific domains of understanding. These domains, known in the Pali commentaries as "the soil of wisdom" (paññabhumi), must be thoroughIy investigated and mastered through conceptual understanding before direct, nonconceptual insight can effectively accomplish its work. To master them requires analysis, discrimination, and discernment. One must be able to abstract from the overwhelming mass of facts certain basic patterns fundamental to all experience and use these patterns as templates for close contemplation of one's own experience.
Hope this is relevant.
With metta,
zavk
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legolas
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by legolas »

zavk wrote:Hi Sacha

As you will see in the other thread about the IMS, what the word 'vipassana' entails is contested. By with regards to your question about conceptual or non-conceptual, this is a common question that has been asked about the nature of pañña, which I suppose you could say is what the cultivation of vipassana or insight or clear seeing aims at. There's this bit from Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words that incisively addresses the misunderstanding surrounding this issue. Hang on, it's too long for me to type it... let me pop it into the scanner and click a few buttons.....

Here you go, from page 302:
Contemporary Buddhist literature commonly conveys two ideas about pañña that have become almost axioms in the popular understanding of Buddhism, The first is that pañña is exclusively nonconceptual and nondiscursive, a type of cognition that defies all the laws of logical thought; the second, that pañña arises spontaneously, through an act of pure intuition as sudden and instantaneous as a brilliant flash of lightning. These two ideas about pañña are closely connected. If pañña defies all the laws of thought, it cannot be approached by any type of conceptual activity but can arise only when the rational, discriminative, conceptual activity of the mind has been stultified. And this stopping of conceptualization, somewhat like the demolition of a building, must be a rapid one, an undermining of thought not previously prepared for by any gradual maturation of understanding. Thus, in the popular understanding of Buddhism, pañña defies rationality and easily slides off into "crazy wisdom," an incomprehensible, mindboggling way of relating to the world that dances at the thin edge between super-rationality and madness.

Such ideas about pañña receive no support at all from the teachings of the Nikayas, which, are consistently sane, lucid, and sober, To take the two points in reverse order: First, far from arising spontaneously, pañña in the Nikayas is emphatically conditioned, arisen from an underlying matrix of causes and conditions. And second, pañña is not bare intuition, but a careful, discriminative understanding that at certain stages involves precise conceptual operations. Pañña is directed to specific domains of understanding. These domains, known in the Pali commentaries as "the soil of wisdom" (paññabhumi), must be thoroughIy investigated and mastered through conceptual understanding before direct, nonconceptual insight can effectively accomplish its work. To master them requires analysis, discrimination, and discernment. One must be able to abstract from the overwhelming mass of facts certain basic patterns fundamental to all experience and use these patterns as templates for close contemplation of one's own experience.
Hope this is relevant.
:twothumbsup:
My understanding is similar. A "mere knowing" can arise but only after vipassana i.e. investigation/meditation/living/questioning etc; bringing one to a stage of seeing or knowing. I believe problems occur when people sit down with a "technique", generate a "non-conceptual mind" :shrug: call it vipassana and expect the mysteries of life to unfold. The idea that a non-conceptual mind or mind of equanimity can be generated at the beginning with no underlying causes is laughable. Your posting has shamed me because I missed or skipped this passage in my copy of Bhikkhu Bodhi's work, so I will have to find it and re-read.
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Goofaholix »

Sacha G wrote:Hi everyone!
I was wondering whether vipassana is supposed to be purely non-conceptual, as generaly thought. For example, reviewing the 32 parts of the body is part of vipassana (as recollection of the body), but there is no direct perception of those 32 parts, only a thought construct. Another example is examining feelings internally and externally. While the internal feelings are directly perceived, those which are external and belong to other beings are infered.
So...what do you think?
Thanks
Sacha
I don't think the 32 parts can be considered a vipassana technique, vipassana techniques are always non-conceptual, that doesn't mean that some insight can't arise from conceptual techniques though.

Which techique involves perceiving the feelings of others? This is the first I've heard.
“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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legolas
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by legolas »

Goofaholix wrote:
Sacha G wrote:Hi everyone!
I was wondering whether vipassana is supposed to be purely non-conceptual, as generaly thought. For example, reviewing the 32 parts of the body is part of vipassana (as recollection of the body), but there is no direct perception of those 32 parts, only a thought construct. Another example is examining feelings internally and externally. While the internal feelings are directly perceived, those which are external and belong to other beings are infered.
So...what do you think?
Thanks
Sacha
I don't think the 32 parts can be considered a vipassana technique, vipassana techniques are always non-conceptual, that doesn't mean that some insight can't arise though from conceptual techniques though.

Which techique involves perceiving the feelings of others? This is the first I've heard.
Its in the suttas. One does not perceive the feelings of others - one infers them, as external. Of the many subjects worthy of investigation, surely the 32 parts are one of the most vipassanic of all. Insight cannot arise in some sort of vacuum of "non conceptual" magically arisen resting place for the mind.
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

Goofaholix wrote:Which techique involves perceiving the feelings of others? This is the first I've heard.
The relevant section is in the Satipatthāna Sutta
iti ajjhattaṃ vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati, bahiddhā vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati, ajjhattabahiddhā vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati.

"Thus he lives contemplating feelings in feelings internally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings externally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings internally and externally.
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Goofaholix
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Goofaholix »

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:Which techique involves perceiving the feelings of others? This is the first I've heard.
The relevant section is in the Satipatthāna Sutta
iti ajjhattaṃ vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati, bahiddhā vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati, ajjhattabahiddhā vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati.

"Thus he lives contemplating feelings in feelings internally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings externally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings internally and externally.
You'll notice that the previous paragraph that this refers to is all about feelings that "I experience", there's nothing about contemplating feelings that others experience.
“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: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by bodom »

Satipatthana: Internal and external contemplation
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With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

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legolas
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by legolas »

Goofaholix wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:Which techique involves perceiving the feelings of others? This is the first I've heard.
The relevant section is in the Satipatthāna Sutta
iti ajjhattaṃ vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati, bahiddhā vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati, ajjhattabahiddhā vā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati.

"Thus he lives contemplating feelings in feelings internally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings externally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings internally and externally.
You'll notice that the previous paragraph that this refers to is all about feelings that "I experience", there's nothing about contemplating feelings that others experience.
A related sutta to Rahula talks of body internally and externally which quite clearly refers to ones own body and externally to the world of matter. The Buddha frequently commends people to apply truths that one may investigate and understand about oneself, should then be applied (inferred) to others. An example would be the five recollections, where true insight matures only when applying the truths one understands about oneself to the rest of the world. The whole process is vipassana.
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Goofaholix »

legolas wrote: A related sutta to Rahula talks of body internally and externally which quite clearly refers to ones own body and externally to the world of matter. The Buddha frequently commends people to apply truths that one may investigate and understand about oneself, should then be applied (inferred) to others. An example would be the five recollections, where true insight matures only when applying the truths one understands about oneself to the rest of the world. The whole process is vipassana.
Yes, thats the way I understand it, one contemplates the experience of ones own body mind and feelings etc and as a result also begins to realises that we all have a similar experience body mind and feelings etc. I wouldn't call this conceptual but rather intuitive, it's insight at work.

I got the impression the OP was talking about sitting down and imagining on the conceptual level what others may be feeling and then contemplating that, but I may have misunderstood.
“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: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by rowyourboat »

I think when we think of the development of panna we must consider this paradigm:

sutamaya panna - wisdom arrived at by reading or listening .. is the first step.
This then leads to ...
cintamaya panna - wisdom arrived at by contemplating what has been listened to or read.
This then leads to
bhavanamaya panna - wisdom arrived at by being mindful and investigating phenomena, (almost as if to see if the previous conclusions were correct..)

I dont think there are short cuts. This is then the work of developing mundane right view and from that point, developing supramundane right view. The eightfold path becomes the noble eightfold path at the point the practitioner decides that samsara is not worthwhile and wants release, and practices with that aim in mind.

with metta

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by rowyourboat »

Sorry -just realized that I didnt answer the OP. As can be seen from my above post - the answer is vipassana incorporates both conceptual and non-conceptual modes of generating insight. An example of the former would be sammassana nana- ('knowledge by comprehension') where one understands abstractly/in absence of direct experience that in the past as well as the future, near and far, gross or subtle all formations are impermanent, unsatisfactory and non-self. An example of the latter would be nama-rupa paricceda nana ('delineation of mental and material phenomena') where the mental and material contributions to a single act of perception are dissected out through direct experience.

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