nimitta for jhana

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
alan...
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nimitta for jhana

Post by alan... » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:11 am

is it possible that the commentators used this method because one of the popular methods for them was kasina practice which immediately involves a nimitta and it is integral for the entire process, so perhaps they just kept using it with anapanasati and everything else even though it's not in the suttas? and further that today since kasina practice is not common, some may never see a nimitta, even if they could otherwise master jhana meditation, they simply will not see a nimitta or at least not on any consistent basis. however that same person could see one if they had practiced kasina meditation first.

how much is visualization and how much is naturally occuring? how much is lack of visual stimulation causing visual "noise" (related to the ganzfeld effect) and how much is only in the mind (in the case of non-kasina practice). would a blind person who did not know of or practice kasina be able to see nimitta?


any thoughts and ideas are welcome.

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Sekha
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sekha » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:59 am

is it possible that the commentators used this method because one of the popular methods for them was kasina practice which immediately involves a nimitta and it is integral for the entire process, so perhaps they just kept using it with anapanasati and everything else even though it's not in the suttas?
that sounds possible to me
how much is visualization and how much is naturally occuring? how much is lack of visual stimulation causing visual "noise" (related to the ganzfeld effect) and how much is only in the mind (in the case of non-kasina practice). would a blind person who did not know of or practice kasina be able to see nimitta?
the nimitta is not "visual". It is seen by the mind. The mind perceives its own inner brightness. Nothing to do with the organ of sight, so a blind man who see it all the same.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

alan...
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by alan... » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:03 am

Sekha wrote:
is it possible that the commentators used this method because one of the popular methods for them was kasina practice which immediately involves a nimitta and it is integral for the entire process, so perhaps they just kept using it with anapanasati and everything else even though it's not in the suttas?
that sounds possible to me
how much is visualization and how much is naturally occuring? how much is lack of visual stimulation causing visual "noise" (related to the ganzfeld effect) and how much is only in the mind (in the case of non-kasina practice). would a blind person who did not know of or practice kasina be able to see nimitta?
the nimitta is not "visual". It is seen by the mind. The mind perceives its own inner brightness. Nothing to do with the organ of sight, so a blind man who see it all the same.
i wonder... based on the idea that some may not see them ever if they do not first use kasina practice i think there is some validity to them being partially visual noise at least before they learn to visualize the kasina internally.

basically i think it's possible nimitta are not always going to manifest naturally without kasina practice and that a large percentage of the time when they do it has something to do with visual noise. the other part it's visualization within the mind that is not related to physical vision.

further, the description of nimitta in the commentaries frequently is a ball shape and kasina are usually round so perhaps many turn initial visual noise into a ball and then later mentally develop it into a non physical, purely mental image.

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sekha » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:15 am

visual noise or not, round or not, bowl or not it doesn't matter. The more you think about those things imho the more you are hindering your practice. The nimitta appears when the mind becomes concentrated. If you are working with the breath, it appears faster if you breathe naturally, and for that it is better not to focus on in-and-out breaths, only on the breath as a whole. That's right: it means you are actually not practicing aana-apaanaa-ssati (mindfulness of in-and-out-breaths), but imo you are preparing yourself for the light kasina.
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by alan... » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:23 am

Sekha wrote:visual noise or not, round or not, bowl or not it doesn't matter. The more you think about those things imho the more you are hindering your practice. The nimitta appears when the mind becomes concentrated. If you are working with the breath, it appears faster if you breathe naturally, and for that it is better not to focus on in-and-out breaths, only on the breath as a whole. That's right: it means you are actually not practicing aana-apaanaa-ssati (mindfulness of in-and-out-breaths), but imo you are preparing yourself for the light kasina.
hey i agree with you. i don't find nimitta in the suttas so i don't really work with them much. i used to after reading some brahm but not anymore. incidentally, i'm a little confused as to where to go without nimitta. what do you do? keep the breath the whole time and ignore the mental images?

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:35 am

alan... wrote: hey i agree with you. i don't find nimitta in the suttas so i don't really work with them much. ?
See this discussion, especially towards the bottom:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=15578" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by alan... » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:40 am

mikenz66 wrote:
alan... wrote: hey i agree with you. i don't find nimitta in the suttas so i don't really work with them much. ?
See this discussion, especially towards the bottom:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=15578" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
Mike
indeed i have read these texts before. as far as i can tell they do not create an image of the buddha clearly stating that nimitta images are necessary or even suggesting their practice. seems like they're mentioned as a side effect whereas many teachers make them a HUGE part of meditation. however i'm not positive on this. what do you think?

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sylvester » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:46 am

alan... wrote:is it possible that the commentators used this method because one of the popular methods for them was kasina practice which immediately involves a nimitta and it is integral for the entire process, so perhaps they just kept using it with anapanasati and everything else even though it's not in the suttas?
Doesn't MN 128 count as a sutta?

That being said, some would doubt that MN 128's obhāsanimitta is an essential landmark of every approach to jhana... Others, citing the Vsm, believe that the nimitta might be interpreted as something "like" a tactile experience. Pop into the Anguttara 8s in the Earthquake section. There's a sutta there that suggests that the nimittas were pivotal to the Buddha's Awakening, but perhaps that pertains only a Buddha?

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sekha » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:51 am

alan... wrote:i don't find nimitta in the suttas so i don't really work with them much. i used to after reading some brahm but not anymore. incidentally, i'm a little confused as to where to go without nimitta. what do you do? keep the breath the whole time and ignore the mental images?
It is not that the word nimitta does not appear in the suttas. It is rather that a nimitta consisting of light is NEVER mentioned with anapanassati. I think Webu Sayadaw had understood everything. He is believed by many respectable meditation teachers to have been an arahant:
U Kumara went to Mandalay to study at the famous Masoyein monastery, the leading monastic university of the time. In the seventh year after his full ordination, he left the monastery to put into practice what he had learned about meditation. After leaving the Masoyein monastery, U Kumara spent four years in solitude. Then he went to his native village of Ingyinbin for a brief visit, where he taught the technique of meditation he had adopted. "This is a shortcut to Nibbana," he said, "anyone can use it. It stands up to investigation and is in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha as conserved in the scriptures. It is the straight path to Nibbana."
Whenever we breathe in or out, the incoming and the outgoing air touches somewhere in or near the nostrils. The sensitive matter registers the touch of air. In this process, the entities touching are matter and the entity knowing the touch is mind. So do not go around asking others about mind and matter; observe your breathing and you will find out about them for yourselves.

When the air comes in, it will touch. When the air goes out, it will touch. If you know this touch continuously, then greed (lobha), aversion (dosa), and delusion (moha) do not have the opportunity to arise, and the fires of these defilements will subside.

You cannot know the touch of air before it actually occurs. After it has gone, you cannot know it anymore. Only while the air moves in or out can you feel the sensation of touch. This we call the present moment.

While we feel the touch of air, we know that there is only mind and matter. We know for ourselves that there is no "I," no other people, no man and woman, and we realize for ourselves that what the Buddha said is true indeed. We do not need to ask others. While we know the in-breath and out-breath, there is no "I" or self.

When we know this, our view is pure; it is right view. We know in that moment that there is nothing but nama and rupa, mind and matter. We also know that mind and matter are two different entities. If we thus know how to distinguish between mind and matter, we have attained to the analytical knowledge of mind and matter (nama-rupapariccheda-ññ).

If we know the touch of air as and when it occurs, our mind is pure and we get the benefits thereof. Do not think that the benefits you get thus, even in a split-second, are few. Do not think that those who meditate do not get any advantages from their practice. Now that you have been born in a happy plane and have met the teachings of a Buddha, you can obtain great benefits. Do not worry about eating and drinking, but make all the effort you can.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#intro" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by alan... » Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:32 am

Sekha wrote:
alan... wrote:i don't find nimitta in the suttas so i don't really work with them much. i used to after reading some brahm but not anymore. incidentally, i'm a little confused as to where to go without nimitta. what do you do? keep the breath the whole time and ignore the mental images?
It is not that the word nimitta does not appear in the suttas. It is rather that a nimitta consisting of light is NEVER mentioned with anapanassati. I think Webu Sayadaw had understood everything. He is believed by many respectable meditation teachers to have been an arahant:
U Kumara went to Mandalay to study at the famous Masoyein monastery, the leading monastic university of the time. In the seventh year after his full ordination, he left the monastery to put into practice what he had learned about meditation. After leaving the Masoyein monastery, U Kumara spent four years in solitude. Then he went to his native village of Ingyinbin for a brief visit, where he taught the technique of meditation he had adopted. "This is a shortcut to Nibbana," he said, "anyone can use it. It stands up to investigation and is in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha as conserved in the scriptures. It is the straight path to Nibbana."
Whenever we breathe in or out, the incoming and the outgoing air touches somewhere in or near the nostrils. The sensitive matter registers the touch of air. In this process, the entities touching are matter and the entity knowing the touch is mind. So do not go around asking others about mind and matter; observe your breathing and you will find out about them for yourselves.

When the air comes in, it will touch. When the air goes out, it will touch. If you know this touch continuously, then greed (lobha), aversion (dosa), and delusion (moha) do not have the opportunity to arise, and the fires of these defilements will subside.

You cannot know the touch of air before it actually occurs. After it has gone, you cannot know it anymore. Only while the air moves in or out can you feel the sensation of touch. This we call the present moment.

While we feel the touch of air, we know that there is only mind and matter. We know for ourselves that there is no "I," no other people, no man and woman, and we realize for ourselves that what the Buddha said is true indeed. We do not need to ask others. While we know the in-breath and out-breath, there is no "I" or self.

When we know this, our view is pure; it is right view. We know in that moment that there is nothing but nama and rupa, mind and matter. We also know that mind and matter are two different entities. If we thus know how to distinguish between mind and matter, we have attained to the analytical knowledge of mind and matter (nama-rupapariccheda-ññ).

If we know the touch of air as and when it occurs, our mind is pure and we get the benefits thereof. Do not think that the benefits you get thus, even in a split-second, are few. Do not think that those who meditate do not get any advantages from their practice. Now that you have been born in a happy plane and have met the teachings of a Buddha, you can obtain great benefits. Do not worry about eating and drinking, but make all the effort you can.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#intro" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
oh i get it, it's an anapanasati thing, not an overall meditation thing! thanks. i was confused apparently.

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by alan... » Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:41 am

Sylvester wrote:
alan... wrote:is it possible that the commentators used this method because one of the popular methods for them was kasina practice which immediately involves a nimitta and it is integral for the entire process, so perhaps they just kept using it with anapanasati and everything else even though it's not in the suttas?
Doesn't MN 128 count as a sutta?

That being said, some would doubt that MN 128's obhāsanimitta is an essential landmark of every approach to jhana... Others, citing the Vsm, believe that the nimitta might be interpreted as something "like" a tactile experience. Pop into the Anguttara 8s in the Earthquake section. There's a sutta there that suggests that the nimittas were pivotal to the Buddha's Awakening, but perhaps that pertains only a Buddha?
so in MN 128 is it saying that one should watch and maintain the nimitta the whole time while meditating throughout? it says "light and forms", light is nimitta but what is forms?

clearly i was misinformed about nimitta in the suttas! i think i mistook articles about the non existence of nimitta in anapanasati suttas to mean that it wasn't in any suttas.

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Zom » Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:34 am

Forms here mean devas. There's a sutta in AN confirming this.
As far as I remember Ven. Bodhi explained this light-and-forms as the development of the Divine Eye (but still as we know there are arahants with no divine eye).

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by daverupa » Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:40 am

The Simile of the Cook exemplifies nimitta in terms of the "nimitta of ones mind" with respect to the "nimitta of ones master" and his preference for this or that foodstuff on any given day, which a skilled cook will then incorporate.

So daily one cooks satipatthana for ones mind, carefully noting the mind's preferences and picking up that nimitta. "As a result, he is rewarded with a pleasant abiding here & now, together with mindfulness & alertness.".

Pleasant abidings here and now are jhana.
  • "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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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by gendun » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:50 pm

If it seems likely that I am about to put a brake on the debate please feel free to take appropriate action moderators :anjali:
In the tradition in which I attempt to practise , nimitta (plural ? ) are seen as just another phenomenon to be noted and pretty much ignored.
Sorry to ask something so basic , but how does that differ in practise from the Theravada ?
Imagine that you are addressing someone reasonably bright but very green in these specific matters.

:anjali:
Gendun P. Brownlow.
Karma Kagyu student.

alan...
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by alan... » Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:22 pm

gendun wrote:If it seems likely that I am about to put a brake on the debate please feel free to take appropriate action moderators :anjali:
In the tradition in which I attempt to practise , nimitta (plural ? ) are seen as just another phenomenon to be noted and pretty much ignored.
Sorry to ask something so basic , but how does that differ in practise from the Theravada ?
Imagine that you are addressing someone reasonably bright but very green in these specific matters.

:anjali:
some teachers teach what you're saying. others teach that they should be focused on and expanded, used throughout meditation, utterly indispensable. others teach in between. depends on who you're talking to.

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