The Great Jhana Debate

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

Post by daverupa » Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:51 am

I hypothesize that jhana debates are, in sum, debates about (a) the authority of various parts of the Theravada Canon, due to (b) the differing cognitive - though preferably phenomenological - interpretations of the factors (including whether or not factor A is part of Jhana X).
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "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.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

ignobleone
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by ignobleone » Tue May 01, 2012 3:36 am

daverupa wrote:I hypothesize that jhana debates are, in sum, debates about (a) the authority of various parts of the Theravada Canon, due to (b) the differing cognitive - though preferably phenomenological - interpretations of the factors (including whether or not factor A is part of Jhana X).
Before going into more detail on higher topic (such as jhana), isn't it good to keep in mind a few important fundamentals? I'd like to address a few fundamentals which are forgotten by many. I'll explain one by one in other comments below.
tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:It's endless since there's no clear measure has been established to decide the end. After a measure has been established, maturity to accept losing in the debate is required, no exception. Only then this jhana debate can be put to an end.
I am not worried about losing a debate, but I have not seen anything here that unequivocally would bring the debate to an end, which is not say that this issue should not be discussed.
I found the main suttas unequivocally definitive, the only problem is, important points are scattered all over the places in many (more than 1000) suttas. We need to put them together by paying attention to relations and consistencies, then things can make more sense.
That is one fundamental. It's related to saddha, to be more precise, confidence in the Dhamma, which means in this case we want to arrive at the certainty of the Teaching. Because you don't want to be "an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person who hasn't arrived at the certainty of the True Dhamma." The best we can get certainty is from the main suttas.
tiltbillings wrote:Quite frankly, having worked with jhana practice, having been taught by an experienced teacher, I'd rather do the practice than waste time on endless opinionating.
Practice and practice, a very common view. Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice? What jhana practice, what kind of teacher - are the questions you need to investigate first. I suppose your teacher was from Theravada tradition. Do you know that Theravada these days can be equalized to commentaries? And commentaries are unreliable.
Bhante Gunaratana said in a youtube video (someone posted in a thread above) that many people forget to see the text(sutta), that's why there's war among meditation teachers. (fyi, I'm not a fan of Bhante G, nor he's my teacher)
reflection wrote:
ignobleone wrote: If the debate can be ended, things will be clearer than before, it'll be of great fruit for everyone in this forum since it promotes right view.
Well, a debate on Buddhist ideas is in my view usually not done to end it, to prove a point, or to come to a final conclusion. Especially in the case of this jhana debate, this'll never happen anyway; the only way to come to some sort of a conclusion about jhana is by own experience. But still I think these debates can be useful to show others our point of view, maybe inspire them, or get them at least an idea of what we think is the "right track".
by own experience, this is what makes people went wrong. The same thing I found in "pragmatic Dhamma forums" out there. As the result, they're deluded, their jhana standards have become very low. It's about another fundamental many people have forgotten: phases of Dhamma learning, i.e. 1)Pariyatti 2)Patipatti 3)Pativeda.
Your comment shows us that you go to #2 with insufficient #1. You use your practice to validate the instructions, not the way it should be - the otherwise. Thus you are eligible to be called "an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person", CMIIW.

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reflection
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by reflection » Tue May 01, 2012 5:45 am

ignobleone wrote:...
The problem is, it is also very easy to misinterpret written words. Probably more so in a language like pali which has certain meanings for words or certain constructs that aren't common in other languages. And so this is what happens. People read the suttas -or their translations- and they go and shape their experience to fit the words, an example may be the topic that brought you here.

So yes, suttas can tell us something, but they are not the holy book of all answers. We should also look at them in the light of our experiences, instead of only the other way around. Than it'll become clearer what they are saying, and what our teachers are saying. That's my opinion, at least. And one experience may be that one simply isn't that sure yet what jhana is. So this approach doesn't necessarily mean 'lowering the standards'. Of course it can happen, but it can just as well happen with an approach based on only the suttas.

If you read careful here, you'll see that I'm not arguing for an approach solely based on our own experience, but to use is as a feedback for our interpretation of the instructions. Than hopefully someday we will be able to make a conclusion about what jhana is. But that'll be only our conclusion; you can't prove it to others and that's why this debate will never end. Which as I said - doesn't have to be a problem because it has the possibility to show people where their current interpretation may potentially be incorrect.

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tiltbillings
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by tiltbillings » Tue May 01, 2012 6:34 am

ignobleone wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:It's endless since there's no clear measure has been established to decide the end. After a measure has been established, maturity to accept losing in the debate is required, no exception. Only then this jhana debate can be put to an end.
I am not worried about losing a debate, but I have not seen anything here that unequivocally definitive that would bring the debate to an end, which is not say that this issue should not be discussed.
I found the main suttas unequivocally definitive, the only problem is, important points are scattered all over the places in many (more than 1000) suttas. We need to put them together by paying attention to relations and consistencies, then things can make more sense.
That is one fundamental. It's related to saddha, to be more precise, confidence in the Dhamma, which means in this case we want to arrive at the certainty of the Teaching. Because you don't want to be "an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person who hasn't arrived at the certainty of the True Dhamma." The best we can get certainty is from the main suttas.
And that is your opinion.
tiltbillings wrote:Quite frankly, having worked with jhana practice, having been taught by an experienced teacher, I'd rather do the practice than waste time on endless opinionating.
Practice and practice, a very common view. Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice? What jhana practice, what kind of teacher - are the questions you need to investigate first. I suppose your teacher was from Theravada tradition. Do you know that Theravada these days can be equalized to commentaries? And commentaries are unreliable.
You are being arrogant and presumptive here. Why should I take your reading of the suttas as being any more reliable than the commentators or any Theravadin teacher?

As I said to you once before:

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 80#p174179" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
>> 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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Alex123
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by Alex123 » Thu May 03, 2012 5:33 pm

space_wrangler wrote:trying to argue for two distinct types of meditation being taught by the buddha is not skillfull means....how can u practice vipassana without developing samatha? or if you devalop samatha as taught by the buddha, vipassana will arise. instead of trying to prove a point of view, just practice, practice, practice. just my humble opinion. metta to all
In the AN4.94 suttas it says that one can have great insight wisdom (adhipaññādhammavipassanā) without internal tranquility (cetosamatha).

Puggalapaññattipāḷi pg 61 explains this to mean that one can have Paths and fruits (maggaphala) without rūpa or arūpa attainments.

Of course ideally it is good to have both insight and blissful states. But how often is the situation ideal?
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

ignobleone
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by ignobleone » Sat May 05, 2012 4:15 pm

According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth. Conventional truth is relative truth, anyone can argue. No one can argue with absolute truth, and no matter how ignorant one in denying it, absolute truth will always be true.
And the Buddha taught two ways to validate truth, i.e. logical inference and factual reasoning. No one can argue with any claim which is backed by these two. Why don't we use them for the measure to end jhana debate? By using it, we can agree with something which is unequivocally definitive that would bring the debate to an end.
tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:That is one fundamental. It's related to saddha, to be more precise, confidence in the Dhamma, which means in this case we want to arrive at the certainty of the Teaching. Because you don't want to be "an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person who hasn't arrived at the certainty of the True Dhamma." The best we can get certainty is from the main suttas.
And that is your opinion.
- You didn't solve anything by saying so.
- I can say the exactly same sentence to your previous comment, but it won't do any good.
- Btw what's the matter with opinion? How about if the opinion is backed by logical inference and factual reasoning? I haven't explained the basis of my opinion. I'll write it below.
tiltbillings wrote:
Practice and practice, a very common view. Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice? What jhana practice, what kind of teacher - are the questions you need to investigate first. I suppose your teacher was from Theravada tradition. Do you know that Theravada these days can be equalized to commentaries? And commentaries are unreliable.
You are being arrogant and presumptive here.
Isn't it too early to say who's being arrogant and presumptive? I haven't written my explanation. I expected your question (below) because my explanation will also be my answer. We shall see who's been arrogant.
Why should I take your reading of the suttas as being any more reliable than the commentators or any Theravadin teacher?

As I said to you once before:

dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=5761&start=180#p174179
Tracking back the source of the Teaching from the origin, we have the following order:
1. The Buddha, the origin of the Teaching
2. Direct disciples of the Buddha (Ananda, Sariputa, etc)
3.a) Main Suttas (from the 1st Buddhist council)
b) direct disciples of #2
4.a) generations below #3.b
b) Sutta Commentaries
5. Monks/teachers these days

By using logical inference:
- The closer to the origin, the more reliable. Commentary = sutta commentary, which means it exists after the sutta.
- Regarding your concern on the language problem/barrier (from the link you gave), commentators can also easily mislead because of the language problem. Why should I believe commentators translated/interpreted better? (you get a similar question here)
By using factual reasoning:
- Most of the Pali words already have clear meaning. They're much larger in number compared to the number of ambiguous Pali words. Otherwise, Thanissaro Bhikkhu or Bhikkhu Bodhi couldn't have translated a lot of suttas. Regarding any unclear/ambiguous Pali words, it's a limitation we cannot solve totally unless there's a native Pali speaker who's also fluent in English(or any other modern language) alive and can be asked to be a living dictionary. But there's a possible workaround for the limitation, i.e. like I've said before, by finding consistency of usage in more than one sutta, so that we can deduce the meaning from the context where it's used.
- Jhana bifurcation is an enough fact that commentators didn't translate/interpret quite well, compared with reading from suttas (Pali version or someone's translation).
- In a job interview, interviewer will skip any candidate which only have even one single mistake, because companies want least risk from choosing candidates. In the same way, it's reasonable to disqualify commentary.

Let's see what's the basis of your claims.

ignobleone
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by ignobleone » Sat May 05, 2012 4:18 pm

reflection wrote:The problem is, it is also very easy to misinterpret written words. Probably more so in a language like pali which has certain meanings for words or certain constructs that aren't common in other languages.
I have given my opinion regarding the language barrier in my comment to Tilt above.
So yes, suttas can tell us something, but they are not the holy book of all answers.
It seems that you still don't understand the importance of proper instructions.
We should also look at them in the light of our experiences, instead of only the other way around.
......
but to use is as a feedback for our interpretation of the instructions.
Both of your sentences still mean the same thing as your previous comment: "the only way to come to some sort of a conclusion about jhana is by own experience."
Rather than repeating what you have said over and over again, why don't you give (at least) an actual example to make what you mean becomes clearer?
Because what I got from what you said is something like this, I can only explain in analogy:
Suppose you want to cook a special food (for someone who knows the food), but you don't know the recipe completely nor you have it with you. Instead of finding the recipe, you go to the kitchen to prepare the food. You know some of the instructions and ingredients in the recipe. You try to fill the missing link with your experience in the kitchen (such as by adding an ingredient and/or applying another cooking method, etc) where at some point after you taste it, it tastes "good". You don't realize that it's good relative to you. For example, it tastes rather sour since you added some vinegar and you think it's good, then you think it must be the same food from the recipe. There's a probability you made it exactly the same as in the recipe, but the probability is very small. Then it turns out that the food shouldn't have any sour taste, and the recipe doesn't have anything which can make any sour taste. In other words, it's not the expected food.
Does what you mean match that analogy?

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tiltbillings
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by tiltbillings » Sat May 05, 2012 4:30 pm

ignobleone wrote:Isn't it too early to say who's being arrogant and presumptive? .
Nope.
>> 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

ignobleone
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by ignobleone » Sat May 05, 2012 4:39 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:Isn't it too early to say who's being arrogant and presumptive? .
Nope.
It seems as if you don't have anything more to say. If that's the case, I'd say you cannot defend your opinion anymore. Insisting on something without strong basis can also means being arrogant.

Good luck in your practice.

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reflection
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by reflection » Sat May 05, 2012 4:57 pm

ignobleone wrote:
reflection wrote:The problem is, it is also very easy to misinterpret written words. Probably more so in a language like pali which has certain meanings for words or certain constructs that aren't common in other languages.
I have given my opinion regarding the language barrier in my comment to Tilt above.
Rather than repeating what you have said over and over again, why don't you give (at least) an actual example to make what you mean becomes clearer?
To use your analogy: There are a lot of people who read a cookbook, don't make the recipe, but think they know what it will taste like anyway. There are even some people who try to eat the book and think that will get rid of their urge for chocolate cake.. Other people read it, give the actual cooking a try, but where the book says "add a bit of salt and pepper", they throw in two hands full instead of a pinch. Once they taste it, some may think it tastes good enough and settle with it. But there are also those who think it can be better and can retry until they find out what is meant with "add a bit of salt and pepper".

Trying not to eat the recipe is even more important for meditation experiences, of which the ingredients are impossible to accurately describe in words. And there will never be agreement on what is jhana, because some people will insist on eating the book, or insist on adding 2 hands of salt. Which is fine if it works for them, but that's at least something we can debate about. But it's not like a chocolate cake you can let others taste to convince them eating the book wasn't as good as this. The only thing you can do is tell them how you think it should be made.

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tiltbillings
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by tiltbillings » Sat May 05, 2012 5:25 pm

ignobleone wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:Isn't it too early to say who's being arrogant and presumptive? .
Nope.
It seems as if you don't have anything more to say. If that's the case, I'd say you cannot defend your opinion anymore. Insisting on something without strong basis can also means being arrogant.

Good luck in your practice.
I don't need to defend my opinions. But what I do not need to do here is waste time plowing over already turned up soil. I have seen nothing in what you have written to date that would place you here as the sole arbiter of all things jhana and sutta and how these things are to be understood.
Practice and practice, a very common view. Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice? What jhana practice, what kind of teacher - are the questions you need to investigate first. I suppose your teacher was from Theravada tradition. Do you know that Theravada these days can be equalized to commentaries? And commentaries are unreliable.
An arrogant statement. The commentaries are unreliable in your opinion. Of the massive amount of commentarial material that there is, very, very little of it has been translated into English. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good, but without really knowing the full extent of the commentarial literature, without having carefully studied it, to claim that it is unreliable is to argue from ignorance, which is arrogant. As for my teachers, you have not a clue as to what their opinion are about jhana, the commentaries and the suttas. And I have not seen that you really know enough about the Theravadin tradition to be as dismissive as you are coming across.
Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice?
And you are the one who is going to tell me that I am wasting my time? Based upon what?

Life is way too short to get into these sorts of absolutist arguments about what is the supposed truly true way to understand things. Pity all those earlier Buddhists who just did not have a clue and thank gawd for those new guys who all by themselves figured it out and are here to tell us.
>> 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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daverupa
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by daverupa » Sat May 05, 2012 6:23 pm

ignobleone wrote:According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth.
False premise.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "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.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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tiltbillings
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by tiltbillings » Sat May 05, 2012 6:29 pm

daverupa wrote:
ignobleone wrote:According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth.
False premise.
It should be: "According to the commentaries that I, ignobleone, reject: there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth."
According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth. Conventional truth is relative truth, anyone can argue. No one can argue with absolute truth, and no matter how ignorant one in denying it, absolute truth will always be true.
And the Buddha taught two ways to validate truth, i.e. logical inference and factual reasoning. No one can argue with any claim which is backed by these two. Why don't we use them for the measure to end jhana debate? By using it, we can agree with something which is unequivocally definitive that would bring the debate to an end.
This a rather big point to have messed up.
>> 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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daverupa
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by daverupa » Sat May 05, 2012 8:02 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:
ignobleone wrote:According to Buddha, there are two kinds of truth: conventional truth and absolute truth.
False premise.
It should be: "According to the commentaries...
Correct, although you seem to miss the fact that no concurrent claim respecting commentarial accuracy need be made. They are simply not likely to be the historical Buddha's words, which makes "Buddha said" a factual inaccuracy.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "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.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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tiltbillings
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Post by tiltbillings » Sat May 05, 2012 8:44 pm

daverupa wrote:Correct, although you seem to miss the fact that no concurrent claim respecting commentarial accuracy need be made. They are simply not likely to be the historical Buddha's words, which makes "Buddha said" a factual inaccuracy.
No fact missed. No need to state.
>> 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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