nimitta for jhana

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
Sylvester
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sylvester » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:53 am

daverupa wrote: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.
A very good catch! It ties in really nicely with MN 44's characterisation of the 4 establishments being the nimitta of concentration. I think this is why I favour Ajahn Brahm's explanation that the nimitta in meditation is the "sign" of the mind (rather than the more traditional explanation of it being the image of an object). In the Suda Sutta above, you actually get the Pali saying -
cittassa nimittaṃ uggaṇhātī

he picks up the mind's nimitta
For me, this is in fact crucial to the entry into jhana, as satipaṭṭhāna leads to very equanimous states of mind that are free of the hindrances. How does one make that leap from equanimity to the perception of rapture and pleasure born of seclusion? Through recognition of the fact that the hindrances are gone and that one is free of the kāmā. That is mental data that are pleasant to cognise and should give rise to joyous mental feeling (but only if one has been taught as such). The nimitta here, IMO, is the data that the hindrances are zapped and one sees the mind as having abandoned its defilements. Something indeed to celebrate.

This still leaves some unsatisfied - why should such a nimitta have such an effulgent character? Are the effulgent descriptions of the meditation nimitta in MN 128 and AN 8s to be taken literally or metaphorically? I'm for the literal reading.

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daverupa
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by daverupa » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:22 am

Sylvester wrote:the effulgent descriptions of the meditation nimitta
Phosphenes, in my opinion. Quite literal.
  • "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: nimitta for jhana

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:27 am

Moderator note: This thread was moved here, allowing for a more broad based discussion, in that it did not quite fit the more limiting guidelines for the classical section.
>> 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

Sylvester
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sylvester » Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:56 am

I think Dmytro's post here is to the point -

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 78#p224283" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

If "sign" is too mysterious a translation, but "representation" or "perceptual image" is too much of a mouthful, perhaps nimitta could be better translated in a way to denote that its function in perception. It is that "something" that enables recognition of a state. How about "characteristic" or "quality" or even "condition" (in the colloquial English sense)?

In DN 15, we have a serendipitiously useful set of synonyms involving nimitta. The synonyms are embedded here -
tesu ākāresu tesu liṅgesu tesu nimittesu tesu uddesesu (ākāra liṅga nimitta uddesa)
ākāra = aspect, appearance
liṅga = mark, attribute, feature, emblem, characteristic
uddesa = mark

I think this is why the Suda Sutta cited by dave applies nimitta in the sense of the recognisable condition of the mind developed through satipaṭṭhāna -
As he remains thus focused on mental qualities in & of themselves, his mind becomes concentrated, his defilements are abandoned. He takes note of that fact (picks up that nimitta). As a result, he is rewarded with a pleasant abiding here & now, together with mindfulness & alertness. Why is that? Because the wise, experienced, skillful monk picks up on the theme of his own mind (picks up the mind's nimitta).

Tassa dhammesu dhammānupassino viharato cittaṃ samādhiyati, upakkilesā pahīyanti, so taṃ nimittaṃ uggaṇhāti. Sakho so bhikkhave, paṇḍito viyatto kusalo bhikkhu lābhī ceva hoti diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārānaṃ, lābhī hoti satisampajaññassa. Taṃ kissa hetu: tathā hi so bhikkhave, paṇḍito vyatto kusalo bhikkhu sakassa cittassa nimittaṃ uggaṇhātīti.
From Mike's post in the other thread on nimittas -
DN iii 242. DN 33, p498
(25) ‘Five bases of deliverance (vimuttāyatanāni): Here, (a) the Teacher or a respected fellow-disciple teaches a monk Dhamma. And as he receives the teaching, he gains a grasp of both the spirit and the letter of the teaching. At this, joy arises in him, and from this joy, delight (pīti); and by this delight his senses are calmed, he feels happiness (sukhaṁ) as a result, and with this happiness his mind is established; (b) he has not heard it thus, but in the course of teaching Dhamma to others he has learnt it by heart as he has heard it; or (c) as he is chanting the Dhamma ... ; or (d) ... when he applies his mind to the Dhamma, thinks and ponders over it and concentrates his attention on it (anupekkhati); or (e) when he has properly grasped some concentration-sign (samādhi-nimittam ), has well considered it, applied his mind to it (supadhāritaṁ), and has well penetrated it with wisdom (suppaṭividdhaṁ paññāya). At this, joy arises in him, and from this joy, delight; and by this delight his senses are calmed, he feels happiness as a result, and with this happiness his mind is established.
The aforesaid concentration-sign conveniently pops up in MN 128, where the Buddha also instructs the monks to nimittaṃ paṭivijjhitabbaṃ (you should penetrate the nimitta). "Suppaṭividdha" = su + paṭividdha, where paṭividdha is the past participle of paṭivijjhati, which also gave us paṭivijjhitabba in MN 128.

I'm convinced that the Suda Sutta makes a clear linkage between satipaṭṭhāna and jhana. When the hindrances have truly been discarded, the mind will have a recognisable quality of purity, malleability, radiance etc etc, that should be recognised as something to be joyful about. Can one launch into a jhana without any such nimitta?

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daverupa
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by daverupa » Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:55 pm

Sylvester wrote: When the hindrances have truly been discarded, the mind will have a recognisable quality of purity, malleability, radiance etc etc, that should be recognised as something to be joyful about. Can one launch into a jhana without any such nimitta?
It seems clear: secluded from kamaguna & akusala-dhamma, ...with piti-sukha born of seclusion. The piti-sukha is the joy, as you say; the seclusions, then, the something to be that way about.

I'm having some trouble locating a sutta which describes the brahmaviharas as also secluded from kamaguna; I paraphrase, but the gist was that the brahmaviharas are an important source for wholesome pleasant feeling, with respect to that sort of pleasure one ought to pursue and develop. The practice of pervading the brahamviharas gives an experiential tint to the jhana metaphors, it seems to me.
  • "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]

Nyana
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Nyana » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:03 pm

Given that MN 128 is the only sutta that mentions an obhāsanimitta and rūpanimitta in that context, and given that the commentaries and the Vimuttimagga consider that MN 128 is primarily about the development of the divine eye, and not jhāna per se, there's no reason to tie MN 128 to other uses of the term "nimitta" in the suttas or to the development of jhāna, unless one thinks that a mental image as a counterpart representation (paṭibhāganimitta) is a necessary prerequisite for developing jhāna. And not even the Visuddhimagga makes that claim.

Sylvester
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sylvester » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:59 am

How odd. What are we supposed to do with the Chinese parallel in MA 72? That sutra has even more effulgence that MN 128, going just by the word count of its discussion. It has the exact same analysis of the Pali sequence of vitakka-vicara, beginning with the Pali's "Let me now develop concentration in three ways." being paralleled by the Chinese "我當修學三定".

According to Wille's catalogue of the Turfan Collection, a Sanskrit text of MA 72 is collected in Vol VI, No 1384.

By Critical Textual standards, that's an awful lot of suttas/sutras to ignore as peripheral to the context of jhana, given the 3 different languages underlying each text (the Chinese being a translation of a Prakrit, not Sanskrit).

That being said, I would not disagree that MN 128's nimitta does not quite resemble the Commentarial paṭibhāganimitta

Nyana
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Nyana » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:26 am

Sylvester wrote:What are we supposed to do with the Chinese parallel in MA 72?
If other versions have additional material not present in MN 128 then MN 128 can be considered an earlier witness.
Sylvester wrote:That being said, I would not disagree that MN 128's nimitta does not quite resemble the Commentarial paṭibhāganimitta
Using a prepared kasiṇa maṇḍala is an effective method for developing samatha. And it seems that light nimittas, etc., are important for developing the divine eye. However, although light nimittas, etc., can and often do occur when developing samatha, such phenomena aren't necessary for attaining jhāna, and I'm not aware of any Buddhist tradition that says otherwise.

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sylvester » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:03 pm

Looks like I overestimated the difference in the effulgence frequency in MA 72 and MN 128. I overlooked the fact that the Taisho copy did not use elisions!

For a listing of the pyrotechnic vocab used in the Sanskrit edition of MA 72 in the Turfan Collection, see Ven Analayo's Comparative Study, footnote 227, Vol 2.

I think it remains open if the effulgent nimitta is a landmark to entering every jhana. However, the point I was hoping to make is that effulgent nimittas are not as incompatible with jhana as Ven T seems to have suggested by his insinuation that the Vsm model is built primarily on kasinas.

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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Nyana » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:17 am

BTW, AN 8.64 explicitly connects the perception of light and the seeing of forms to seeing devas, i.e. the development of the divine eye.

Sylvester
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sylvester » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:54 am

Indeed it does. Ven Analayo therefore surmises that the Commentarial explanation for MN 128 stems from the Gayasisa Sutta aforementioned. That explanation, in Ven Analayo's view, is difficult to reconcile with the standard model of the development of the iddhis based on the 4th jhana. In MN 128, the nimittas are mentioned as a prelude to the jhanas, rather than things done after the 4th jhana.

I'm also not entirely convinced that divine vision is needed to see and hear devas. Witness Ven Sariputta's mom, who saw and heard a train of devas when her son was dying.

To the above, I would add something about the Gayasisa Sutta. Along with the effulgence and forms, there is also conversation with the devas. Not really possible within a jhana (SN 36.11). The entire Gayasisa sequence of trainings appear to have been undertaken so that "knowledge and vision would thus be better purified" (ñāṇadassanaṃ parisuddhataraṃ ). I thought that divine vision, as an iddhi, would be pursued after such purification, instead of being a prelude to the purification. At least this much seems clear from the standard DN 2 account, where the iddhis are developed after the vipassana section initiated in terms of ñāṇadassanāya cittaṃ abhinīharati abhininnāmeti (he directs and inclines the mind to knowledge and vision).

All in, the Gayasisa account gels quite well with the Eastern Bamboo Park account in MN 128, where the effulgence and forms were in the lead-up to jhana, rather than pursuits of iddhi post-jhana.

Nyana
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Nyana » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:37 am

Sylvester wrote:Indeed it does. Ven Analayo therefore surmises that the Commentarial explanation for MN 128 stems from the Gayasisa Sutta aforementioned. That explanation, in Ven Analayo's view, is difficult to reconcile with the standard model of the development of the iddhis based on the 4th jhana.
I don't see any reason to think that the bodhisatta wasn't able to attain jhānas during the period of time described in AN 8.64. Moreover, the commentarial interpretation of MN 128 isn't unique to the Pāli Aṭṭhakathā. But at any rate, speculating about this particular issue of iddhi and abhiññā without recourse to the commentaries or direct knowledge is akin to blind men speculating about what it's like to look through a kaleidoscope.
Sylvester wrote:All in, the Gayasisa account gels quite well with the Eastern Bamboo Park account in MN 128, where the effulgence and forms were in the lead-up to jhana, rather than pursuits of iddhi post-jhana.
It seems that it likely connects with the second of the four types of samādhibhāvanā described in AN 4.41.

Sylvester
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by Sylvester » Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:27 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote: But at any rate, speculating about this particular issue of iddhi and abhiññā without recourse to the commentaries or direct knowledge is akin to blind men speculating about what it's like to look through a kaleidoscope.
Well, that's one view out of many. I have the optimism of those in Early Buddhism studies that the early texts are clear enough on their own not to be lensed thru exegetical material that are inconsistent.

steve19800
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Re: nimitta for jhana

Post by steve19800 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:57 am

Since nimitta means a 'sign'. Can we ask if this is real?
How if you experienced not just light but 'see' another being? Is the being is real or not real? Thanks

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