Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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tiltbillings
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Jul 07, 2011 7:01 pm

daverupa wrote:
manjusri wrote:How do you et al refer to a meditation that is designed to produce shamatha?
Meditation designed to produce samatha is also designed to produce vipassana, or it's adhamma.
Would you say that is so of kasina practice?
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by manjusri » Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:32 pm

Meditation designed to produce samatha is also designed to produce vipassana, or it's adhamma.
Please forgive me (and not to put too fine a point on this) but how exactly are you referring to a meditation designed to produce shamatha? At least in the Tibetan tradition I'm most familiar with, the meditation designed to produce shamatha, which is primarily a meditation designed to hold our minds on the object of meditation with clarity and stability for as long as we wish, conjoined with mental and physical pliancy, is not the same meditation designed to produce vipassana which aims to develop insight into the nature of phenomena through focused attention. Or am I missing something here?

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by manjusri » Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:59 pm

Are these the nine stages of shamatha you refer to?
There are nine stages of settling the mind (sems-gnas dgu) into a state of shamatha:

1.
Setting the mind (sems ‘jog-pa) on the object of focus. At this stage, we are merely able to set or place our attention on the object of focus, but are unable to maintain it.
2.
Setting with some continuity (rgyun-du ‘jog-pa). Here, we are able to maintain our mental hold on the object with some continuity, but only for a short time before losing it. It takes some time before we recognize that we have lost the object and before we can reestablish our focus.
3.
Resetting (glan-du ‘jog-pa). Here, we are able to recognize as soon as we have lost our mental hold on the object, and we are able to reset or restore our focus immediately.
4.
Closely setting (nye-bar ‘jog-pa). Here, we do not lose our mental hold on the object, but because the subtle mental flightiness of an undercurrent of thought and middling dullness are strong dangers and can still occur, we need to maintain their opponents very strongly.
5.
Taming (dul-bar byed-pa). Here, we no longer experience gross flightiness, the subtle flightiness of an undercurrent of thought, or gross or middling dullness. However, because we have overstrained to concentrate and have sunk too deeply inwards, we have relaxed the appearance-producing factor giving rise to the appearance of the object of focus. Consequently, we experience subtle dullness. We need to refresh and uplift (gzengs-bstod) the mental hold by remembering the benefits of gaining shamatha.
6.
Stilling (zhi-bar byed-pa). Here, although there is no longer great danger of subtle mental dullness, nevertheless in uplifting the mind, we became too excited and the mental hold became too tight. Consequently, we experience the subtle flightiness of itchiness to leave the object of focus. We need to use strong alertness to detect this and to relax our mental hold slightly.
7.
Complete stilling (rnam-pa zhi-bar byed-pa). Here, although the danger of subtle flightiness or dullness is minimal, we still need to exert effort to rid ourselves of them completely.
8.
Single-pointedness (rtse-cig-tu byed-pa). Here, by just relying on a slight effort to apply mental glue at the beginning of the session, we are able to sustain our concentration uninterruptedly throughout the session, without experiencing any level of flightiness or dullness.
9.
Absorbed setting (mnyam-par ‘jog-pa). Here, we are able effortlessly to maintain concentration, free of any interruptions, throughout the entire session. This is the attainment of absorbed concentration (ting-nge-‘dzin, Skt. samadhi.)

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... matha.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Yes, these are the nine stages I have referred to.
If yes, I would say that one can practice mindfulness from stage 3 onwards as sati (mindfulness) is stable.
The third stage is achieved only when the mind remains focused on the object most of the time in virtually all your sessions. Nevertheless, coarse excitation is still the primary problem, but you accomplish this third stage with the power of mindfulness.
I am not sure but I think stage 4 might be identical to what is called access concentration in Theravada - this is the traditional state one starts with insight practice when one enters samatha first (different in pure insight practice).
There is a difference here. Access concentration is equivalent to the attainment of shamatha. The attainment of shamatha gives you access to the form realm. The initial achievement of shamatha is described as preliminary or as access to the full realization of the first meditative stabilization (dhyana).

BTW, again, any way to get email notifications to this or any other thread?

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daverupa
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by daverupa » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:18 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:Meditation designed to produce samatha is also designed to produce vipassana, or it's adhamma.
Would you say that is so of kasina practice?
Are you asking if I think kasina meditation develops both, or only one? Because I think kasina meditation is a brahmanical import such that a practitioner of it coming into the Sangha would have some samatha and would be advised to seek out someone with developed vipassana for further instruction.
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    "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.

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by Nyana » Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:53 pm

manjusri wrote:At least in the Tibetan tradition I'm most familiar with, the meditation designed to produce shamatha, which is primarily a meditation designed to hold our minds on the object of meditation with clarity and stability for as long as we wish, conjoined with mental and physical pliancy, is not the same meditation designed to produce vipassana which aims to develop insight into the nature of phenomena through focused attention. Or am I missing something here?
Well, you're missing about 1800 years of Indian commentarial development.

Firstly, for Buddhaghosa and all subsequent Theravāda commentators who follow his system, one cannot engage in vipassanā while abiding in form sphere jhāna, because the object-basis of a form sphere jhāna is not a paramattha dhamma. Therefore, a yogi must emerge from form sphere jhāna, then engage in vipassanā prior to entering the first noble path of stream-entry. Thus, form sphere jhāna is an optional pathway, and not essential for the attainment of the path of seeing.

And a number of Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, and Yogācāra treatises also maintain that a śrāvaka can attain the path of seeing via prepatory stage samādhi (anāgamya-samādhi, which is the equivalent of access samādhi), without first developing form dhyāna (although, contrary to Buddhaghosa, et al, they all maintain that vipaśyanā can be engaged while abiding in dhyāna, if one has developed śamatha to that level).

Secondly, contemporary Theravāda is primarily an ordination lineage these days, with a diversity of different practice traditions. Not everyone accepts Buddhaghosa or even the entirety of the Abhidhammapiṭaka as being authoritative. And teachers from different practice traditions don't always agree with each other. This is somewhat akin to Tibetan Buddhism, where there is the common Mūlasarvāstivāda ordination lineage, and a number of different commentarial and practice traditions (Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, etc.) which don't always agree.

All the best,

Geoff

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by manjusri » Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:22 am

Well, you're missing about 1800 years of Indian commentarial development.
I'm personally missing this development? Please clarify.
Firstly, for Buddhaghosa and all subsequent Theravāda commentators who follow his system, one cannot engage in vipassanā while abiding in form sphere jhāna, because the object-basis of a form sphere jhāna is not a paramattha dhamma. Therefore, a yogi must emerge from form sphere jhāna, then engage in vipassanā prior to entering the first noble path of stream-entry. Thus, form sphere jhāna is an optional pathway, and not essential for the attainment of the path of seeing.
Who said anything about abiding in "form sphere jhana?" The attainment of shamatha is not equivalent to the attainment of the first meditative stabilization, which is why it's described as preliminary or as access to the full realization of the first meditative stabilization. And we agree, one cannot engage in vipassana while abiding in the form sphere jhana. And yes, I also agree that the form sphere jhana is not essential to the path of seeing.
And a number of Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, and Yogācāra treatises also maintain that a śrāvaka can attain the path of seeing via prepatory stage samādhi (anāgamya-samādhi, which is the equivalent of access samādhi), without first developing form dhyāna (although, contrary to Buddhaghosa, et al, they all maintain that vipaśyanā can be engaged while abiding in dhyāna, if one has developed śamatha to that level).
What relevance does this have to my quote above?
Secondly, contemporary Theravāda is primarily an ordination lineage these days, with a diversity of different practice traditions. Not everyone accepts Buddhaghosa or even the entirety of the Abhidhammapiṭaka as being authoritative. And teachers from different practice traditions don't always agree with each other. This is somewhat akin to Tibetan Buddhism, where there is the common Mūlasarvāstivāda ordination lineage, and a number of different commentarial and practice traditions (Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, etc.) which don't always agree.
I am realizing, thanks to comments such as yours and others, that there is a diversity of practice traditions in Theravada just as there is in Tibetan Buddhism. I'm assuming, however that these different practice traditions in Theravada all eventually lead to the same end?

Metta,
Manjusri
Last edited by manjusri on Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Ben
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by Ben » Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:38 am

Greetings manjusri

You may wish to check out Ven Analayo's outstanding work "Satipatthana: the direct route to realization". In it, he does a good job at explaining why first jhana is not a pre-requisite for sotapatti-magga and sakadagamita-magga.
Within my own (sub) tradition, we practice the samatha-variant of ananapa-sati for one third of a retreat's duration. During that period, we are encouraged to develop moment to moment concentration and access concentration. When one is well established in insight practice, one is encouraged to develop jhana before returning to vipassana.
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by manjusri » Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:41 am

Kenshou wrote: It may be worth pointing out that in Theravada as I understand it, the development of insight is not an analytical matter, at it's deepest.
The approach in the sutras . . .is to develop a conceptual understanding of emptiness and gradually refine that understanding through meditation, which eventually produces a direct experience of emptiness . . . we are proceeding from a conceptual understanding produced by analysis and logical inference into a direct experience . . . this takes a great deal of time. . . we are essentially taking inferential reasoning as our method or as the path.
~ Thrangu Rinpoche

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by Kenshou » Fri Jul 08, 2011 2:34 am

Okie dokie, sounds reasonable enough.

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by Nyana » Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:41 am

manjusri wrote:I'm personally missing this development? Please clarify.
Well, this is a complex subject, requiring considerable understanding of various Indian texts and traditions spanning a period from approx. 500 BCE to 1200 CE. For example, the Tibetan traditions are generally rather selective in the Indian sources they rely on for their presentation of sūtrayāna lamrim meditation, and they don't reference sources prior to the Abhidharmakośabhāsya and the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra, which they consider to be early sources. But these texts, just like the Visuddhimagga, are not "early" in comparison to the Āgamas.
manjusri wrote:Who said anything about abiding in "form sphere jhana?" The attainment of shamatha is not equivalent to the attainment of the first meditative stabilization, which is why it's described as preliminary or as access to the full realization of the first meditative stabilization.
According to Je Tsongkhapa, actual vipaśyanā can only occur within the first meditative stabilization (dhyāna) at a minimum. Your reference to Gen Lamrimpa and Alan Wallace in the OP leads me to think that you are familiar with this Gelugpa interpretation.
manjusri wrote:I'm assuming, however that these different practice traditions in Theravada all eventually lead to the same end?
I think this is probably so. But there's only one sure way to know for sure....
manjusri wrote:
The approach in the sutras . . .is to develop a conceptual understanding of emptiness and gradually refine that understanding through meditation, which eventually produces a direct experience of emptiness . . . we are proceeding from a conceptual understanding produced by analysis and logical inference into a direct experience . . . this takes a great deal of time. . . we are essentially taking inferential reasoning as our method or as the path.
~ Thrangu Rinpoche
Rinpoche is referring to the gradualist sūtrayāna system of Kamalaśīla which employs mādhyamaka reasonings as vipaśyanā, which are inferrential. For Kamalaśīla, vipaśyanā is always conceptual (savilkalpa), and for him this conceptual reasoning is necessary in order to realize non-conceptual gnosis (nirvikalpajñāna). But analytical meditation employing mādhyamaka reasonings has no parallel in Theravāda, and Theravādins do not regard their type of vipassanā as being inferential or conceptual.

All the best,

Geoff

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Ben
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by Ben » Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:50 am

Thank you Geoff for your very informative post!
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by Freawaru » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:26 am

manjusri wrote:
If yes, I would say that one can practice mindfulness from stage 3 onwards as sati (mindfulness) is stable.
The third stage is achieved only when the mind remains focused on the object most of the time in virtually all your sessions. Nevertheless, coarse excitation is still the primary problem, but you accomplish this third stage with the power of mindfulness.
Yes, the power of mindfulness. This is all you need for dry insight, if I understand it correctly. So I think vipassana - as a state - should also be possible to experience via this route. Certainly, one needs just this stage to practice sati-patthana (four foundations of mindfulness).
I am not sure but I think stage 4 might be identical to what is called access concentration in Theravada - this is the traditional state one starts with insight practice when one enters samatha first (different in pure insight practice).
There is a difference here. Access concentration is equivalent to the attainment of shamatha. The attainment of shamatha gives you access to the form realm. The initial achievement of shamatha is described as preliminary or as access to the full realization of the first meditative stabilization (dhyana).
As I said I am not sure, maybe there are more than one definition of access concentration in Theravada. So far I have been using Leigh Brasington's :
You keep putting your attention on the meditation object until you are concentrated enough that you can effortlessly leave it on the meditation object. For example, if you have chosen Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) as the meditation method, you keep bringing your attention to the breath until you can keep your attention on the breath. How do you know access concentration has been established? The mind is fully with the object of meditation and, if there are any thoughts, they are wispy and in the background; they do not draw you away from the meditation object.
http://www.leighb.com/jhana2a.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
And this seems identical to 4. stage to me. Maybe someone more knowledgeable in the differences of the Theravada traditions can give a summary of the different definitions of access concentration.

Single-pointedness is, as far as I know, there from second jhana onwards. It is not there in the definition of first jhana. So second jhana should be identical to the 8. stage. For fourth jhana I am missing uppekha (equanimious looking on) in the list, though.

Could you explain what you mean by "The attainment of shamatha gives you access to the form realm." I think one can access the form realms with a concentration much below even Leigh Brasington's definition of access concentration - though one has not much control then.
BTW, again, any way to get email notifications to this or any other thread?
Sorry, I have no idea.

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by Freawaru » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:35 am

Ñāṇa wrote: Rinpoche is referring to the gradualist sūtrayāna system of Kamalaśīla which employs mādhyamaka reasonings as vipaśyanā, which are inferrential. For Kamalaśīla, vipaśyanā is always conceptual (savilkalpa), and for him this conceptual reasoning is necessary in order to realize non-conceptual gnosis (nirvikalpajñāna).
All the best,

Geoff
I have been wondering about this practice. It seems similar to some Zen versions of meditation in which one uses logic and reasoning until the mind locks itself into a corner by reaching a paradox. Then the Goedel's theorem does the rest and catapults one to realization. At least this is how I understand the technique.

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by Nyana » Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:30 pm

Freawaru wrote:I have been wondering about this practice. It seems similar to some Zen versions of meditation in which one uses logic and reasoning until the mind locks itself into a corner by reaching a paradox. Then the Goedel's theorem does the rest and catapults one to realization. At least this is how I understand the technique.
There continuities and discontinuities between Indian Mādhyamaka and East Asian Chan/Zen. But it would take this topic too far afield to bring this into the present discussion (there's already more than enough to try to discuss here!).

All the best,

Geoff

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Post by manjusri » Fri Jul 08, 2011 3:42 pm

There is a lot to respond to on this thread! Please be patient. I have a reading knowledge of Tibetan, and am pretty familiar with most Sanskrit equivalents to English and Tibetan, but am not at all familiar with Pali (aside from the most obvious Buddhist terms), so when some of you reply using Pali terms, I'm left grasping at straws until I can locate them online.

Geoff is obviously very knowledgeable and just his posts alone would keep me busy for quite awhile. :0) If I were a Lharampa Geshe I might have a cogent response to each point, but, alas, I'm just a grasshopper.

One thing I do want to take issue with: Geoff wrote:
According to Je Tsongkhapa, actual vipaśyanā can only occur within the first meditative stabilization (dhyāna) at a minimum. Your reference to Gen Lamrimpa and Alan Wallace in the OP leads me to think that you are familiar with this Gelugpa interpretation.
This is absolutely incorrect. What one attains with shamatha is what is referred to as the first proximate stabilization which is just "shy of" the first basic stabilization (dhyana). "Tsongkhapa insists that the first proximate stabilization provides sufficient attentional stability and freedom from the hindrances to proceed on to the successful cultivation of insight." B. Alan Wallace, The Bridge of Quiescence, p. 128. So, "at a minimum" actual vipassana can occur within the first proximate stabilization.

There is a very good reason why they don't emphasize achieving higher states of stabilization (or even the first stabilization). Most Tibetan Buddhists practitioners are oriented to achieving enlightenment by means of Tantric practice, specifically Anuttarayogatantra. As Geoff and some of you will know, I'm sure, a defining feature of Tantra is the sublimation of the mental afflictions, especially sensual desire, so that they empower one towards enlightenment. In other words, passion must manifest in one's consciousness. However, when one accomplishes the first basic stabilization, sensual desire is effectively inhibited, which obviously precludes the possibility of it's sublimation. Achieving the first proximate stabilization does yield a tenuous control over the five hindrances, but the passions may still be aroused and sublimated by the practitioner.
Your reference to Gen Lamrimpa and Alan Wallace in the OP leads me to think that you are familiar with this Gelugpa interpretation.
Yes, that's correct, I am familiar with the Gelugpa school and it's teachings.

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