Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
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tiltbillings
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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by tiltbillings » Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:46 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
parth wrote:Nibbana is defined as a cessation becuause in that state suddenly all sensations and six senses stop functioning, the concept of 'I' also is supposed to vanish.
Firstly, nibbāna isn't a "state." Secondly, nibbāna is the cessation of passion, aggression, and delusion. For a learner it is the cessation of the fetters extinguished on each path. The waking states where "suddenly all sensations and six senses stop functioning" are (1) mundane perceptionless samādhis, and (2) cessation of apperception and feeling. Neither of these are supramundane and neither of these are synonymous with experiencing nibbāna.

All the best,

Geoff
Damn. And I was beginning to think I attained the state of awakening years ago.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:03 pm

This whole thread seems very strange to me, since it appears to be starting from statements purportedly about Mahasi Sayadaw's teachings, which simply sound confused to me. What is described in the OP would be diagnosed by the teachers I know as a pointless, "stuck", state (as Alexi rightly comments). I've not experienced such a "pitch black" state, but I've certainly experienced states where everything seems to be grinding to a halt, and have discussed with my teachers how to get past that. So I can certainly imagine how such a "pitch black emptiness" state could arise.

The following description From Mahasi Sayadaw's "Progress of Insight" don't read to me like "pitch black emptiness":
http://aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progres ... l#Maturity" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Immediately afterwards, a type of knowledge manifests itself that, as it were, falls for the first time into Nibbāna, which is void of formations (conditioned phenomena) since it is the cessation of them.
:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by rowyourboat » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:05 am

mikenz66 wrote:This whole thread seems very strange to me, since it appears to be starting from statements purportedly about Mahasi Sayadaw's teachings, which simply sound confused to me. What is described in the OP would be diagnosed by the teachers I know as a pointless, "stuck", state (as Alexi rightly comments). I've not experienced such a "pitch black" state, but I've certainly experienced states where everything seems to be grinding to a halt, and have discussed with my teachers how to get past that. So I can certainly imagine how such a "pitch black emptiness" state could arise.

The following description From Mahasi Sayadaw's "Progress of Insight" don't read to me like "pitch black emptiness":
http://aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progres ... l#Maturity" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Immediately afterwards, a type of knowledge manifests itself that, as it were, falls for the first time into Nibbāna, which is void of formations (conditioned phenomena) since it is the cessation of them.
:anjali:
Mike
Hi Mike

All of experience is conditioned phenomena. So what is this place that is devoid of conditioned phenomena? It is an experience not reached before at any point in the development of vipassana. It is not simply arising and passing away (which is suffering) but the end of arising and passing away -the ending of suffering.
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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by rowyourboat » Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:14 am

kirk5a wrote:
parth wrote: The cessation is the experience of nibbana !
Ok. Well, it seems, apparently, from my perspective (what do I know) there is some kind of disagreement between teachers. When I read, for example, Ajahn Sumedho's recent article "Nirvana Now" http://www.abhayagiri.org/main/article/2147/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; it would seem to be a different understanding of "cessation." Thoughts on this?
Ajhan Sumedo writes:
As one begins to realize or to recognize nongrasping as the Way, then emotionally one can feel quite frightened by it. It can seem like a kind of annihilation is taking place: all that I think I am in the world, all that I regard as stable and real, starts falling apart and that can be frightening. But if we have the faith to continue bearing these emotional reactions and allow things that arise to cease, to appear and disappear according to their nature, then we find our stability, not in achievement or attaining, but in being—being awake, being aware.
This is a description of bhanga nana (knowledge of dissolution) leading to bhaya nana (knoweldge of the fearfulness of fabrications) and aadinava nana (knowledge of drawbacks of existence). The final bit seems to be about sankhara upekkha (equanimity of formations) where stability is reached. But the process is not complete...
In English, “nothingness” can sound like annihilation, like nihilism. But you can also emphasize the “thingness” so that it becomes “no-thingness.” So nibbana is not a thing that you can find. It is the place of “no-thingness,’” a place of nonpossession, a place of nonattachment. It is a place, as Ajahn Chah said, where you experience “the reality of nongrasping.” Nibbana is a reality that each one of us can know for ourselves—once we recognize nonattachment and realize the reality of nongrasping.
Ajhan Sumedo is talking to an English/Western audience- I don't think he would talk of nothingness on a whim at the end of his sermon. This is about nibbana (following on from his extract from the suttas), and it is hard to appreciate/digest. Non-grasping is one of the most powerfully developed qualities which can be discerned immediately before entering this state.

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by Parth » Sat Jan 29, 2011 11:48 am

Nana wrote :
parth wrote:
Nibbana is defined as a cessation becuause in that state suddenly all sensations and six senses stop functioning, the concept of 'I' also is supposed to vanish.

Firstly, nibbāna isn't a "state." Secondly, nibbāna is the cessation of passion, aggression, and delusion. For a learner it is the cessation of the fetters extinguished on each path. The waking states where "suddenly all sensations and six senses stop functioning" are (1) mundane perceptionless samādhis, and (2) cessation of apperception and feeling. Neither of these are supramundane and neither of these are synonymous with experiencing nibbāna.

All the best,

Geoff
Dear Geoff,

When I said 'state' I meant from the meditators point of view when he is experiencing 'nibbana' and how it may be experienced while one is practising vipassana otherwise theoretically speaking
it is the cessation of the fetters extinguished on each path
may be correct.

On the 2nd part dont agree that these are not synonymous with experiencing nibbana, dont think that any samadhi includes cessation of all six senses (incl mind since even in arupa jhanas mind continues) but would not want to get into a debate on this since, the discussion itself is useless.

Metta

Parth

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by kirk5a » Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:49 pm

http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issu ... amaro.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"The concept of cessation is very familiar in the Theravada tradition. Even though it's supposed to be synonymous with nibbana, it's sometimes put forth as some event that we're all seeking, where all experience will vanish and then we'll be fine: "A great god will come from the sky, take away everything and make everybody feel high." I don't want to get obsessed about words, but we suffer a lot or get confused because of misunderstandings like this. When we talk about stopping consciousness, do you think that means "Let's all get unconscious?” It can't be that, can it? The Buddha was not extolling the virtues of unconsciousness. Otherwise thorazine or barbiturates would be the way: "Give me the anesthetic and we're on our way to nibbana." But obviously that's not it. Understanding what is meant by stopping or cessation is thus pretty crucial here."

My question exactly. I was wondering how, if cessation is regarded as simply the cessation of all experience, how it was different from general anesthesia, where just such a cessation takes place. There is no thinking, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. There is no experience whatsoever, not even of pitch black emptiness or of the passing of any time. No suffering of course, that being the point of the procedure. And is of no value beyond allowing an operation to be undergone.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by Parth » Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:26 pm

kirk5a wrote:
"The concept of cessation is very familiar in the Theravada tradition. Even though it's supposed to be synonymous with nibbana, it's sometimes put forth as some event that we're all seeking, where all experience will vanish and then we'll be fine: "A great god will come from the sky, take away everything and make everybody feel high."
Nibbana may not be what we all are seeking, what u seek depends on you and it is certainly not a great God from the sky, infect this phrase makes me feel that you are not even familier with buddhist beliefs.
When we talk about stopping consciousness, do you think that means "Let's all get unconscious?” It can't be that, can it? The Buddha was not extolling the virtues of unconsciousness. Otherwise thorazine or barbiturates would be the way: "Give me the anesthetic and we're on our way to nibbana." But obviously that's not it. Understanding what is meant by stopping or cessation is thus pretty crucial here."

My question exactly. I was wondering how, if cessation is regarded as simply the cessation of all experience, how it was different from general anesthesia, where just such a cessation takes place. There is no thinking, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. There is no experience whatsoever, not even of pitch black emptiness or of the passing of any time. No suffering of course, that being the point of the procedure. And is of no value beyond allowing an operation to be undergone.
By becoming uncounscious u do not really loose unconsciousness at a sub conscious level everything continues or death should have been the end. Nibbana is not something which can be defined in words much less written.

By reading what you have written, you seem to be absolutely new to dhamma and would request you to practise meditation first and ask these questions later.

Regards

Parth

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by kirk5a » Sat Jan 29, 2011 6:03 pm

Hi Parth

Just to clarify, the first paragraph above is Ajahn Amaro's, from the link at the top. The second paragraph is mine.

As for definition, you did offer this definition

"Nibbana is defined as a cessation becuause in that state suddenly all sensations and six senses stop functioning, the concept of 'I' also is supposed to vanish."
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by Nyana » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:35 pm

parth wrote:Nibbana may not be what we all are seeking, what u seek depends on you and it is certainly not a great God from the sky, infect this phrase makes me feel that you are not even familier with buddhist beliefs.
Ajahn Amaro is "not even familiar with Buddhist beliefs"? :shock:

All the best,

Geoff

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by Nyana » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:53 pm

parth wrote:When I said 'state' I meant from the meditators point of view when he is experiencing 'nibbana' and how it may be experienced while one is practising vipassana
Well, to be precise, the state wherein one experiences the extinguishment (nibbāna) of fetters appropriate to each path and fruition, is supramundane jhāna (lokuttarajjhāna). And this state must necessarily arise with the concomitant jhāna factors and other mental factors such as attention (manasikāra) and apperception (saññā), as well as gnosis (ñāṇa). Without the presence of these mental factors there can be no gnosis and therefore no path attainment or fruition attainment.
parth wrote:otherwise theoretically speaking "it is the cessation of the fetters extinguished on each path" may be correct.
The Paṭisambhidāmagga explicitly states that this is correct.
parth wrote:On the 2nd part dont agree that these are not synonymous with experiencing nibbana
The Kathāvatthu and the Visuddhimagga both maintain that the cessation of apperception and feeling is not not-conditioned (asaṅkhata) and is not supramundane (lokuttara).

All the best,

Geoff

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by farmer » Sat Jan 29, 2011 10:25 pm

I generally try to focus on the part of the path that is right in front of me, and not speculate about things beyond my ken, but this discussion raises questions about the way I understand the suttas. RYB wrote:
It can be discussed with someone who has an initial understanding of dukkha (that is that every moment which arises is dukkha)- a discussion on how that dukkha comes to a cessation.
Is it really the case that every moment which arises is dukkha? Do arahats experience the arising of the aggregates? Do they suffer when they do?

From the Kotthita Sutta:
"And through this line of reasoning one may know how the eye is not the fetter of forms, nor are forms the fetter of the eye, but whatever desire & passion arises in dependence on the two of them: That is the fetter there....

That line of reasoning is:
There is an eye in the Blessed One. The Blessed One sees forms with the eye. There is no desire or passion in the Blessed One. The Blessed One is well-released in mind.
The Blessed One sees form with the eye, but he is well-released because there is no desire or passion in the Blessed One. That doesn't sound like pitch-black cessation. It sounds to me like the arahat is unbound by the elimination of the mind's reactiveness -- in other words, the defilements. The arahat sees forms with the eye, but because he has, through insight, eliminated the craving and clinging that would lead to further becoming, he is does not suffer from what he sees. Is that, rather than a black vacuum, nibbana?

If suffering only ends with cessation of experience, was the Buddha suffering when he was aware of his surroundings?

From the Sakalika Sutta
Now at that time his foot had been pierced by a stone sliver. Excruciating were the bodily feelings that developed within him — painful, fierce, sharp, wracking, repellent, disagreeable — but he endured them mindful, alert, & unperturbed.
Again, it sounds like the Buddha was fully aware of unpleasant feelings, but unperturbed because he had severed the bonds of craving and clinging which would allow those feelings to disturb his mind.

I guess this is how I understand nibbana: an elimination not of experience, but of the defilements which cause us to concoct suffering out of experience. Suffering is optional, a second, unnecessary arrow with which we shoot ourselves. We are trying to uproot those defilements, not experience itself. Am I wrong about this?

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by Parth » Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:12 am

Dear Geoff,

Actually trying to describe / discuss / nibbana in words is something which I would avoid since it cant be done and is not condusive to practise.

Metta :namaste:

Parth

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by Kenshou » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:30 am

That seems like a bit of a cop-out. Discussion has it's limitations but it's not useless. Furthermore, looking at the suttas, it doesn't seem like the Buddha was hesitant to speak about nibbana.

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by Parth » Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:35 am

:anjali:

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Re: Pitch-black emptiness and Mahasi Sayadaw technique

Post by rowyourboat » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:14 am

Hmm.. It would seem people are confusing cessation with annihilation. Rather than speculate how the five aggregates cease and how this is not annihilation, it is best to get to that place and see yourselves. But without a doubt it is the cessation of all suffering- just that moment - the point where the fish jumps out of the water and finds for the first time in it's long samsaric life, that there is a place without water. We are swimming in attachment, ignorance and aggregates- release to be understood, must be experienced. This is truly a middle path between annihilation and existence - but even though I say that, that is also prone to misapprehension as some limbo state. The sooner we understand that this thing called nibbana cannot be comprehensively conceptualised, all the wrong views we are now generating in those reading this will hopefully be lessened.

With metta

Matheesha
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