Commentaries, jhana, vipassana

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
MMK23
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Re: Commentaries, jhana, vipassana

Post by MMK23 » Tue May 26, 2009 8:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings MMK23,

I'd rather not attempt to twist your understanding to match mine. No two people see the Pali literature alike.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Hey Retro,

Obviously I have failed to communicate throughout this thread -- my op made reference to using other peoples' thoughts as a mirror (mirrors I guess), so it's precisely because two people will have two different understandings that I sought the opinions of others. In the hope that the reflections of others would help me to reflect on myself. I have no desire to assimilate your view points or otherwise, but merely wanted to broaden my thinking through the insights of others. I'm sorry that I didn't make this clear, I was just interested in different opinions and especially in how people feel about the issues I raised in the OP, it seemed to me like you had thoughts about this. My background is academic, and the spirit of the practitioner-scholar community is one of sharing of similarities and differences and charitable criticism, I may have just overshot that here. Thanks for trying with me though :-)

MMK23

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Jechbi
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Re: Commentaries, jhana, vipassana

Post by Jechbi » Tue May 26, 2009 10:03 am

Hi MMK,
MMK23 wrote:So, correct me if you're wrong, but you're saying that you regard jhana as something that should not necessarily be pursued, but instead ought to be allowed to occur or not occur as is natural and particular to the meditator?
It would be a neat trick if I could correct you if I'm wrong. ;)
I wouldn't say that jhana is something that should not be pursued. For some people, the conditions may be right to receive instruction that will help jhana occur. Or it might occur without instruction. But no, I don't think it will happen for anyone who has the right instruction. You might be in the right place at the right time with the right instructor, and that all occurs due to kamma. Doesn't mean it shouldn't be pursued. Who knows what will happen? (And none of this is intended in any way to convey that I personally think I've attained to jhana states.)

Jhana is a wholesome "activity" (or perhaps "inactivity"), so I don't see a problem with pursuing it. Just don't expect it to happen necessarily, even if you think you're "doing" everything right.
MMK23 wrote:And this I guess just makes that point further? So I guess then, my natural next question would be, how do you characterise jhana itself, what does it mean to you? I get the sense that you think of it as a state (perhaps?) or a feeling that might arise from meritorious behaviour?
I don't want to characterize jhana, because I think that's done well enough in the texts and teachings we're all familiar with. In general, however, I regard it as a state of mind that occurs in formal meditation. Interesting that it happened naturally for young Gotama when he was a boy, tho.
:smile:
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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kc2dpt
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Re: Commentaries, jhana, vipassana

Post by kc2dpt » Tue May 26, 2009 2:12 pm

retro wrote:
MMK23 wrote:I was wondering if I could prod you to share a specific thought?
I'd rather not...
It's so much easier to make vague, generalized criticisms that you don't have to back up. I bet if people were forced to back up their criticisms of Buddhism there'd be far less posts in these forms. ;)
retro wrote:No two people see the Pali literature alike.
Then perhaps you should have said something like "it seems to me they can obscure" or "to my mind they can obscure" rather than "they can obscure" as if it was an established truth.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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retrofuturist
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Re: Commentaries, jhana, vipassana

Post by retrofuturist » Tue May 26, 2009 10:42 pm

Greetings Peter,

Have no doubt, I could give examples.

However, I don't maintain a running log of "everything the commentaries have said that doesn't seem absolutely right". I don't have the kind of aversion towards them that would lead one to create such a list of perceived faults, simply for the purpose of discrediting them in discussion. Thus, I gave some general "rule of thumbs" principles by which people can investigate them for themselves... some potential frames of reference, if you will.

If anyone wants to present a passage or something specific then I'm happy to discuss. However, my reticence for speaking in specifics to date is out of respect towards the greater Pali tradition, an acknowledgement of my own limitations, and a disinclination against academic argument for academic sakes. Unless there is a practical basis or application for the discussion, it risks being idle chatter.

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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Nibbida
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Re: Commentaries, jhana, vipassana

Post by Nibbida » Wed May 27, 2009 2:57 am

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MMK23
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Re: Commentaries, jhana, vipassana

Post by MMK23 » Wed May 27, 2009 1:58 pm

Hello all,
retrofuturist wrote:If anyone wants to present a passage or something specific then I'm happy to discuss. However, my reticence for speaking in specifics to date is out of respect towards the greater Pali tradition, an acknowledgement of my own limitations, and a disinclination against academic argument for academic sakes. Unless there is a practical basis or application for the discussion, it risks being idle chatter.
Retro, your reticence is understandable and clearly sensitive. I am bemused by your reference to academic argument for academic sakes, it is disappointing. We are in the privileged positions that we are in now precisely because many generations of committed and often primarily scholastic Theravada monks went to enormous, almost mind-boggling efforts, to preserve and protect the precious Pali Canon - the living and breathing word of the Buddha, and her precious commentaries - the living and breathing exegeses of great Elders. Theravada is not a arbitrary denominational sectarianism, it is living tradition that among other things honours the efforts of two millenia of extraordinary scholarship - efforts (such as Buddhaghosa's) which are almost unfathomable without our modern complement of computers, libraries and dictionaries. Indeed, as Buddhaghosa and the Arahant Upatissa point out in the Visuddhimagga and the Vimuttimagga respectively, dedicated study of the scriptures, even in this mundane way we do so on Dhamma Wheel, is a means of cultivating wisdom and is afforded a special place throughout the Pali Canon. There is nothing insignificant or tilting at windmills about study of the Dhamma.

Additionally, with all due respect, if the issue is the soteriology of the Buddhadhamma, and the implications are most directly relevant to meditative theory (which seems to be a common insight), then I would posit that this argument is neither idle or chatter. Indeed, so far as it specifically relates to our liberation, these are matters of the gravest importance not only for what we do on the cushion, but indeed for our ability to heed the precious teachings of the Buddha and use this rare human life for exactly what it is good for - attaining to the end of suffering.

MMK23

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