the first jhana and thinking.

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
alan...
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the first jhana and thinking.

Post by alan... » Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:46 pm

"enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation."

many teachers teach that the first jhana is full absorption with one pointedness of mind and no thought. but this quote as well as specific talks by the buddha on someone thinking while in the first jhana make it seem otherwise.

anyone know about the original pali? is there a debate about translation here? because if not then the suttas directly say there is thinking in the first jhana and that further that thought is pointed to by the notation that there is no more thought in the second jhana:

"With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation "

-"Magga-vibhanga Sutta: An Analysis of the Path" (SN 45.8), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 1 July 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; . Retrieved on 2 February 2013.

so i understand the second jhana better than the first if you think in the first! non thought and just absorption in bliss and mind makes sense but how are we also thinking in this state? help?

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daverupa
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by daverupa » Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:49 pm

There is a difference of opinion about whether vitakka-vicara has a unique meaning in the context of first jhana, or a common meaning.
  • "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]

alan...
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by alan... » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:01 pm

daverupa wrote:There is a difference of opinion about whether vitakka-vicara has a unique meaning in the context of first jhana, or a common meaning.
could you elaborate please?

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Mr Man
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Mr Man » Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:11 pm

Alan this article "Why vitakka doesn’t mean ‘thinking’ in jhana" may be of interest http://sujato.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/ ... -in-jhana/
Last edited by Mr Man on Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Modus.Ponens » Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:32 pm

The jhana debate. Well this, to me, is the main division in theravada thought. It's important to have a correct understanding of this subject in order to not waste time pursuing what is hard to attain but, surprisingly, not as useful as the jhanas described in the suttas. You can check out these two debates which were the best ones done in this forum regarding this issue. To me, the article by Nana decides this question. You will have to decide for yourself. Anyway, believe me when I say that you will gain much by reading these (long) topics:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 761#p89675" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=4597" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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SDC
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by SDC » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:32 pm

According to Venerable Punnaji, the only difference between vitakka-vicāra in the first jhāna and vitakka-vicāra in a normal state, is that in the first jhāna, while one is still able to think analytically, there can only be good (wholesome) thoughts, as opposed to normal circumstances when both wholesome and unwholesome thoughts can arise.

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by IanAnd » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:40 am

Mr Man wrote:Alan this article "Why vitakka doesn’t mean ‘thinking’ in jhana" may be of interest http://sujato.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/ ... -in-jhana/
The referenced link gives a very cogent and thoughtful (not to mention accurate, from my personal experience and understanding) analysis of this question and would be well worth reading and understanding by anyone interested in delving into the subtle meaning of these terms. I'm not certain that anyone could present a better explanation. I know I certainly wouldn't make the attempt. I find nothing to disagree with Ven. Suhato's explanation and analysis. He is spot on.

My own shorthand for describing what these two Pali words translate as has been along the lines of "applied attention" and "sustained attention," or "directed thought or attention" and "examination" as these terms apply toward the process of entering absorption (or dhyana). The two definitions below from Sujato's piece point toward this very process:
Ven. Sujato wrote:In Pali it [vitakka] had a certain spectrum or flexibility of meaning, such that the Buddha could prod it out of its everyday meaning of ‘thought’ and tease it into a new meaning, ‘application of the mind on to its object in profound meditation’.

Vicara is the ‘exploring’ of something, and in ordinary language refers to wandering about a place on foot. Psychologically, it normally means a more sustained reflection or examination of a thought, a keeping in mind of the topic that vitakka has brought to mind.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

Sylvester
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Sylvester » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:09 am

alan... wrote:"enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation."

many teachers teach that the first jhana is full absorption with one pointedness of mind and no thought. but this quote as well as specific talks by the buddha on someone thinking while in the first jhana make it seem otherwise.

anyone know about the original pali? is there a debate about translation here? because if not then the suttas directly say there is thinking in the first jhana and that further that thought is pointed to by the notation that there is no more thought in the second jhana:

"With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation "

-"Magga-vibhanga Sutta: An Analysis of the Path" (SN 45.8), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 1 July 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; . Retrieved on 2 February 2013.

so i understand the second jhana better than the first if you think in the first! non thought and just absorption in bliss and mind makes sense but how are we also thinking in this state? help?
Hi alan

It's best to bear in mind that there is a broad spectrum of opinions on this issue, especially among modern commentators.

You have some who suggest that vitakka-vicāra in the first jhana pericope must refer to full blown thought/thinking. Others, would simply note that the suttas are full of polysemous words, ie words that carry a wide-range of meanings. Among these, you have Ajahn Brahm who interprets vitakka-vicāra in the jhana pericope to be the "wobble" in the mind in relation to the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. Likewise, Ven Analayo interprets this to refer to the "ripple" in the mind.

Why not refer to a sutta that answers this question unequivocally -
‘Yato kho, poṭṭhapāda, bhikkhu idha sakasaññī hoti, so tato amutra tato amutra anupubbena saññaggaṃ phusati. Tassa saññagge ṭhitassa evaṃ hoti – ‘cetayamānassa me pāpiyo, acetayamānassa me seyyo. Ahañceva kho pana ceteyyaṃ, abhisaṅkhareyyaṃ, imā ca me saññā nirujjheyyuṃ, aññā ca oḷārikā saññā uppajjeyyuṃ; yaṃnūnāhaṃ na ceva ceteyyaṃ na ca abhisaṅkhareyya’nti. So na ceva ceteti, na ca abhisaṅkharoti. Tassa acetayato anabhisaṅkharoto tā ceva saññā nirujjhanti, aññā ca oḷārikā saññā na uppajjanti. So nirodhaṃ phusati. Evaṃ kho, poṭṭhapāda, anupubbābhisaññānirodha-sampajāna-samāpatti hoti.

Now, when the monk is percipient of himself here, then from there to there, step by step, he touches the peak of perception. As he remains at the peak of perception, the thought occurs to him, 'Thinking is bad for me. Not thinking is better for me. If I were to think and will, these perceptions of mine would cease, and grosser perceptions would appear. What if I were neither to think nor to will?' So he neither thinks nor wills, and as he is neither thinking nor willing, that perception ceases [4] and another, grosser perception does not appear. He touches cessation. This, Potthapada, is how there is the alert step-by step attainment of the ultimate cessation of perception.
This is from DN 9, in the passage that follows from the listing of the jhanas and the first 3 formless attainments. I have used Ven T's translation, but correcting 2 critical mistranslations as highlighted. Ven T's rendition at -

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

incorrectly translated the highlighted pronoun and verbs into the singular, as if the incompatibility of thinking lies only with the Attainment of Nothingness. In fact, in the Pali, the pronoun and verbs are in the plural, clearly indicating that if one thinks in the jhanas and formless attainments, one drops out of the attainments into grosser perceptions. The grossest perception in DN 9's listing being of course kāmasaññā.

What do you think?

alan...
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by alan... » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:33 am

Sylvester wrote:
alan... wrote:"enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation."

many teachers teach that the first jhana is full absorption with one pointedness of mind and no thought. but this quote as well as specific talks by the buddha on someone thinking while in the first jhana make it seem otherwise.

anyone know about the original pali? is there a debate about translation here? because if not then the suttas directly say there is thinking in the first jhana and that further that thought is pointed to by the notation that there is no more thought in the second jhana:

"With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation "

-"Magga-vibhanga Sutta: An Analysis of the Path" (SN 45.8), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 1 July 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; . Retrieved on 2 February 2013.

so i understand the second jhana better than the first if you think in the first! non thought and just absorption in bliss and mind makes sense but how are we also thinking in this state? help?
Hi alan

It's best to bear in mind that there is a broad spectrum of opinions on this issue, especially among modern commentators.

You have some who suggest that vitakka-vicāra in the first jhana pericope must refer to full blown thought/thinking. Others, would simply note that the suttas are full of polysemous words, ie words that carry a wide-range of meanings. Among these, you have Ajahn Brahm who interprets vitakka-vicāra in the jhana pericope to be the "wobble" in the mind in relation to the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. Likewise, Ven Analayo interprets this to refer to the "ripple" in the mind.

Why not refer to a sutta that answers this question unequivocally -
‘Yato kho, poṭṭhapāda, bhikkhu idha sakasaññī hoti, so tato amutra tato amutra anupubbena saññaggaṃ phusati. Tassa saññagge ṭhitassa evaṃ hoti – ‘cetayamānassa me pāpiyo, acetayamānassa me seyyo. Ahañceva kho pana ceteyyaṃ, abhisaṅkhareyyaṃ, imā ca me saññā nirujjheyyuṃ, aññā ca oḷārikā saññā uppajjeyyuṃ; yaṃnūnāhaṃ na ceva ceteyyaṃ na ca abhisaṅkhareyya’nti. So na ceva ceteti, na ca abhisaṅkharoti. Tassa acetayato anabhisaṅkharoto tā ceva saññā nirujjhanti, aññā ca oḷārikā saññā na uppajjanti. So nirodhaṃ phusati. Evaṃ kho, poṭṭhapāda, anupubbābhisaññānirodha-sampajāna-samāpatti hoti.

Now, when the monk is percipient of himself here, then from there to there, step by step, he touches the peak of perception. As he remains at the peak of perception, the thought occurs to him, 'Thinking is bad for me. Not thinking is better for me. If I were to think and will, these perceptions of mine would cease, and grosser perceptions would appear. What if I were neither to think nor to will?' So he neither thinks nor wills, and as he is neither thinking nor willing, that perception ceases [4] and another, grosser perception does not appear. He touches cessation. This, Potthapada, is how there is the alert step-by step attainment of the ultimate cessation of perception.
This is from DN 9, in the passage that follows from the listing of the jhanas and the first 3 formless attainments. I have used Ven T's translation, but correcting 2 critical mistranslations as highlighted. Ven T's rendition at -

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

incorrectly translated the highlighted pronoun and verbs into the singular, as if the incompatibility of thinking lies only with the Attainment of Nothingness. In fact, in the Pali, the pronoun and verbs are in the plural, clearly indicating that if one thinks in the jhanas and formless attainments, one drops out of the attainments into grosser perceptions. The grossest perception in DN 9's listing being of course kāmasaññā.

What do you think?
thanks much. what do i think? i'm not qualified to answer that, i know very little pali but i'm learning. thanks much for all the quotes, time and effort, very helpful.

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by alan... » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:53 am

does anyone know of any suttas where the buddha talks about someone using the first jhana in ways that definitely involve thought that cannot be defined as just sustained and directed? i'm positive i've read one.

ah here it is:

"There was the case where Sariputta — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Whatever qualities there are in the first jhana — directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness,[2] desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention — he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they remained, known to him they subsided. He discerned, 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that 'There is a further escape,' and pursuing it there really was for him."

MN 111*.

here is venerable thanissaro's note for this section: "Notice that, with each of the previous levels of attainment, Sariputta was able to ferret out the various mental qualities arising there while he was still in the attainment. With this attainment and the following one, however, he was not able to analyze the mental qualities present and absent there until after he had left the attainment. "

it sounds like he was in jhana but definitely still thinking, not fully absorbed in his meditation object. the amount of activity going on in this sutta does not sound like full on absorption that one must leave in order to practice insight. i don't see any room for defining or interpreting this as such either. so is it possible that the teachers teaching full absorption with no thinking in the first jhana are leading students right on past the first and into the second without realizing it? heck according to this sutta you can think in jhana up til the dimension of nothingness!

*"Anupada Sutta: One After Another" (MN 111), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 1 December 2012, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; . Retrieved on 2 February 2013.

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Sylvester » Sun Feb 03, 2013 7:35 am

In time, alan, you will come to appreciate the idiosyncracies of Ven T's translations. His "ferreted" stands out in his pantheon of neologisms...

Anyway, MN 111 has been discussed here - http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 80&start=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Nyana » Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:28 am

alan... wrote:many teachers teach that the first jhana is full absorption with one pointedness of mind and no thought. but this quote as well as specific talks by the buddha on someone thinking while in the first jhana make it seem otherwise.

anyone know about the original pali? is there a debate about translation here? because if not then the suttas directly say there is thinking in the first jhana and that further that thought is pointed to by the notation that there is no more thought in the second jhana....
It's difficult to try to ascertain the definitions of terms entirely through reading the suttas alone. Firstly, there are many diverse meditation subjects offered in the suttas. And secondly, without recourse to the early strata of commentary, modern interpretations can be based on certain assumptions not present in the suttas themselves.

We see in the canonical and para-canonical commentaries that the analysis and defining of terms often give a spectrum of meanings, which illustrates a developmental path, not a rigid "one-size-fits-all" type of approach. For example, the canonical Dhammasaṅgaṇī gives the following two registers for vitakka and vicāra (the English equivalents here are those offered by Lance Cousins, who's done an exhaustive survey of all relevant Pāli sources):
  • vitakka:

    1. takka 2. vitakka 3. saṅkappa 4. appanā 5. byappanā 6. cetaso abhiniropanā 7. sammāsaṅkappa

    1. speculation 2. thought 3. thought formation 4. fixing 5. firm fixing 6. applying the mind 7. right thought formation.

    vicāra:

    1. cāra 2. vicāra 3. anuvicāra 4. upavicāra 5. cittassa anusandhānatā 6. anupekkhanatā

    1. wandering 2. wandering about 3. repeated wandering about 4. frequenting 5. explorativeness of mind 6. constant examination.
Additionally, Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, and Yogācāra ābhidharmikas consistently define vitakka & vicāra as two types of "mental discourse" (manojalpa, lit: "mind-talk"). For example, Vasubandhu defines vitakka as "mental discourse which investigates" (paryeṣako manojalpa) and vicāra as "mental discourse which reflects" (pratyavekṣako manojalpa). Vitakka is considered to be coarse (cittsyaudārikatā) and vicāra comparatively more subtle (cittsyasūkṣmatā). Compare with the Theravāda Peṭakopadesa, which gives a detailed word analysis of these terms in the context of the jhāna formula:
  • Vitakka is like a text-reciter who does his recitation silently. Vicāra is like him simply contemplating it (anupassati). Vitakka is like non-comprehension (apariññā). Vicāra is like full comprehension (pariññā). Vitakka is the analytical understanding of language and the analytical understanding of knowledge. Vicāra is the analytical understanding of dhamma and the analytical understanding of meaning. Vitakka is the mind's skill in pleasantness. Vicāra is the mind's skill in endeavor. Vitakka is about this being skillful, this unskillful, about this to be developed, this to be abandoned, this to be verified. Vicāra is like the abandoning, the development, the verification.
Some kinds of meditation, such as mindfulness of breathing, are primarily non-discursive from the outset. This is why mindfulness of breathing is suggested as an antidote for excessive discursive thinking. However, other meditation subjects (e.g. Buddhānussati, brahmavihārā, asubhasaññā, etc.) can incorporate the repetition of set textual formulas as a method for focusing the mind, at least in the initial stages. Once the mind begins to settle the repetition can be simplified and then suspended.

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Modus.Ponens » Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:45 pm

Sylvester wrote:
‘Yato kho, poṭṭhapāda, bhikkhu idha sakasaññī hoti, so tato amutra tato amutra anupubbena saññaggaṃ phusati. Tassa saññagge ṭhitassa evaṃ hoti – ‘cetayamānassa me pāpiyo, acetayamānassa me seyyo. Ahañceva kho pana ceteyyaṃ, abhisaṅkhareyyaṃ, imā ca me saññā nirujjheyyuṃ, aññā ca oḷārikā saññā uppajjeyyuṃ; yaṃnūnāhaṃ na ceva ceteyyaṃ na ca abhisaṅkhareyya’nti. So na ceva ceteti, na ca abhisaṅkharoti. Tassa acetayato anabhisaṅkharoto tā ceva saññā nirujjhanti, aññā ca oḷārikā saññā na uppajjanti. So nirodhaṃ phusati. Evaṃ kho, poṭṭhapāda, anupubbābhisaññānirodha-sampajāna-samāpatti hoti.

Now, when the monk is percipient of himself here, then from there to there, step by step, he touches the peak of perception. As he remains at the peak of perception, the thought occurs to him, 'Thinking is bad for me. Not thinking is better for me. If I were to think and will, these perceptions of mine would cease, and grosser perceptions would appear. What if I were neither to think nor to will?' So he neither thinks nor wills, and as he is neither thinking nor willing, that perception ceases [4] and another, grosser perception does not appear. He touches cessation. This, Potthapada, is how there is the alert step-by step attainment of the ultimate cessation of perception.

This is from DN 9, in the passage that follows from the listing of the jhanas and the first 3 formless attainments. I have used Ven T's translation, but correcting 2 critical mistranslations as highlighted. Ven T's rendition at -

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

incorrectly translated the highlighted pronoun and verbs into the singular, as if the incompatibility of thinking lies only with the Attainment of Nothingness. In fact, in the Pali, the pronoun and verbs are in the plural, clearly indicating that if one thinks in the jhanas and formless attainments, one drops out of the attainments into grosser perceptions. The grossest perception in DN 9's listing being of course kāmasaññā.

What do you think?
Can you explain how your conclusion folows from the text? It seems like the exact oposite to me. It says "As he remains at the peak of perception, the thought occurs to him"
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Sylvester » Sun Feb 03, 2013 3:21 pm

And what happens when he thinks? The grosser perceptions flood in....

Are those grosser perceptions compatible with jhana, especially in light of the preceding passages about how they need to disappear for the refined perception of each attainment to arise?

The trick here is to ask the right grammatical question. Does the locative case in saññagge refer to the locative of reference, or as Ven T translates, the temporal locative? Any particular reason why the temporal locative is the only right sense carried, especially if it leads to an internal inconsistency? Secondly, while the ṭhitassa can certainly be translated as implying an event supplying the temporal duration, that is not the only sense carried. You have the same construction of a phrase with a ṭhitassa standing next to a noun in locative case in MN 87 -
na kho te gahapati, sake citte ṭhitassa indriyāni

Householder, your faculties are not those of one in control of his own mind
It seems pretty clear to me that Ven T's translation of that phrase which you highlighted can easily be translated into the locative of reference, as was done in MN 87. Then, the phrase would quite literally translate into "Of that persistence with reference to the peak of perception, it occurs [to him]". No contemporaneity involved here between thinking and the saññagga, since the main focus here is not the peak of perception, but the inquiry on how to persist in the peak of perception.

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Modus.Ponens » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:59 pm

I didn't understand a word of the argument of locative/temporal. If you want to make a convincing argument you have to explain yourself to the majority of us, including the OP, who don't know pali. Arguing the way you do, which is your strategy in all these jhana debates, puts you in a position that no one can challenge you unless they realy know pali. And even then the pali ignorants, such as myself, will not be able to make an informed choice. In other words, with this strategy you never lose. So I'll consider your argument null, for now.

Regarding the thought during that state (neither perception nor non-perception), I think we have to distinguish the coarseness of thoughts involved in different levels of jhana. Of course that during access concentration thoughts arise, but they are subtler than the thoughts in normal mind. And what to say of the "thoughts" that venerable Sariputa had, described in MN111? Certainly they are a form of thinking, but not on the same level as the normal everyday thoughts. The same can be extrapolated to the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Thinking in terms of black and white is a sure way to miss some of the message of the Buddha. For example: can metta be felt in 4th jhana? If you think in black and white, it can't, but in the suttas the Buddha advises to pursue metta to the 4th jhana. Meditation is a nuanced set of experiences, so you can only put a label on it to a certain point.

To sum it up, yes, the sutta seems to be pointing that a thought can occur during 8th jhana and the meditator can still mantain that state. It says that the thought occurs to him as he was in 8th jhana and then it says that if he were to think then he would get out of that atainment. So how can he think, remain in the atainment and then, only if he thinks he would get out of the atainment? Wouldn't he automaticaly get out of the atainment once the thought arose in him? Surely it must be due to differences in subtleness of thoughts.
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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