the first jhana and thinking.

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
Sylvester
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Sylvester » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:12 am

Ñāṇa wrote: Buddhist meditation is far more diverse, dynamic, and multidimensional than you seems willing to admit. Not only is this diversity evident in the textual records of the Suttapiṭaka, the Abhidhammapiṭaka, and the commentaries, it's also evident in the methods taught by the teachers of the Thai forest tradition, the Burmese Vipassanā tradition, and every other Buddhist meditative tradition. Meditation is a tool to calm the mind so that dhammas can be seen clearly, leading to discernment and dispassion. It isn't an end in itself.

And the entire path is provisional from beginning to end. It's up to each individual to walk the path and figure out how to make the necessary adjustments to their personal situation as they go along. The path isn't going to develop in precisely the same way for any two people. Trying to pin down meditation in the most restrictive terms possible by interpreting the texts in the most extreme terms possible in order to attempt to somehow disprove or discredit other well tested modes of practice displays a fixation that's rooted in a fiction. The path is more inclusive than that.
The same could be said of you Geoff, when you cherry-picked one tiny section from the Peta, to make your point, when the context furnished by the preceding section goes against your case. This to me is not an issue of ecumenism, but of intellectual vigour and full disclosure. I think it speaks volumes that in your reliance on the Peta, you've consistently (until just above) not quoted the Peta's very simple definition of what vitakka means in the 1st Jhana formula.

Nyana
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Nyana » Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:33 am

Sylvester wrote:The same could be said of you Geoff, when you cherry-picked one tiny section from the Peta, to make your point, when the context furnished by the preceding section goes against your case. This to me is not an issue of ecumenism, but of intellectual vigour and full disclosure. I think it speaks volumes that in your reliance on the Peta, you've consistently (until just above) not quoted the Peta's very simple definition of what vitakka means in the 1st Jhana formula.
I quoted almost the entire passage here more than two years ago. In the previous reply in this thread I simply quoted that particular excerpt from the Peṭakopadesa as a comparison to how vitakka & vicāra are defined as two types of "mental discourse" (manojalpa) in non-Pāli sources.
Last edited by Nyana on Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

Sylvester
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Sylvester » Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:57 am

My apologies for missing that.

Sylvester
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Sylvester » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:59 pm

Ñāṇa wrote: In the previous reply in this thread I simply quoted that particular excerpt from the Peṭakopadesa as a comparison to how vitakka & vicāra are defined as two types of "mental discourse" (manojalpa) in non-Pāli sources.

While I note your intent in citing those bits from the Peta concerning vitakka-vicāra to tie in with the Kosa's definition of the 2 as manojalpa, I for one do not see the utility of juxtaposing a rather medieval definition onto a much earlier concept. If one were to look for a Sarvastivadin definition that is more contemporaneous with the Peta’s, perhaps a better candidate than the Abhidharmakosa would be the Sarva’s much earlier text in the Sangitiparyaya . Unsurprisingly, the Sarva’s early definition of vitarka mirrors the Peta’s for vitakka. This can be found in the Taisho from T26n1536_p0377a26(00) to T26n1536_p0378a27(00) here -

http://www.cbeta.org/result/normal/T26/1536_003.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

A 2-fold analysis of vitarka (尋) is given, starting with the analysis of bad vitarka into three (三不善尋)and then moving onto the exposition on the 3 good vitarka (三善尋). The 3 bad vitarka are 欲尋恚尋害尋 (of sensual desire, ill-will, cruelty). The text then goes on to describe the 3 good vitarka, namely 出離尋無恚尋無害尋 (of renunciation, non ill-will, non-cruelty). Both listings are preceded by the word 謂, the Chinese for yad idam, which functions to close the listing. Like the Peta, there is no definition offered of vicāra. You will doubtless recognise that this early Sarva treatment on vitarka is no different from another Pali work, ie DN 33, which has strong correspondences to the Sangiti Sutra.

At least, at this stage of Sarvastivadin and Theravadin scholasticism, the definition of vitarka/vitakka was less concerned with vitarka's connection with rumination, but more with its role as wholesome or unwholesome mental kamma and its effect on meditation. That seems to be the objective of suttas such as MN 19, MN 78, SN 14.12 etc. The much later treatment given by the Abhidharmakosa represents not merely a semantic shift, but a doctrinal evolution from the early ideas that managed to get preserved in the Peṭakopadesa and Sangitiparyaya. From the conceptions in suttas such as MN 19 and MN 78 that paint these "vitakka" or "thoughts/intentions" as antidotes to specific anusayā that hinder samatha, the Kosa marks the evolution of the term as part of vipaśyanā.

As such, I don't really feel comfy correlating the Kosa's manojalpa characterisation with the Peta's similes for and comparisons of vitakka and vicāra. Those merely serve as analogies.

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Nyana » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:48 pm

Sylvester wrote:From the conceptions in suttas such as MN 19 and MN 78 that paint these "vitakka" or "thoughts/intentions" as antidotes to specific anusayā that hinder samatha...
MN 19 seems to be one of the main canonical sources for much of the later commentarial explanations of this subject. And this is the case in both early and later commentary, which often explain vitakka in terms of the three thoughts of renunciation, of non-aversion, and of harmlessness and/or explain vitakka & vicāra as antidotes to sensual pleasures and unskillful phenomena as per the first jhāna formula. All of this is included in the Peṭakopadesa explanation.
Sylvester wrote:...the Kosa marks the evolution of the term as part of vipaśyanā.
In the Sarvāstivāda and Yogācāra systems samatha & vipassanā are both employed to overcome the hindrances for the attainment of mundane jhāna, and for abiding in jhāna, and for the attainment of supramundane path of seeing, etc.

The manojalpa definition isn't from the Kośa. Vasubandhu gives it in his Pañcaskandhaprakaraṇa. The same definition is given in the Abhidharmasamuccaya. And Yaśomitra gives a very similar definition which he attributes to "ancient teachers" in his commentary on the Kośa (Sphuṭārthā Abhidharmakośavyākhyā). There is also lengthy analysis of vitakka & vicāra along these lines in the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra. I thought I had an earlier Sarvāstivāda source as well, but looking through my notes I don't see one.

But at any rate, these sources either predate or are roughly contemporary with the Visuddhimagga. And they give a distinctly different analysis of vitakka & vicāra from what Buddhaghosa offers, as do the Peṭakopadesa and the Vimuttimagga.
Sylvester wrote:As such, I don't really feel comfy correlating the Kosa's manojalpa characterisation with the Peta's similes for and comparisons of vitakka and vicāra.
That's fine.

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reflection
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by reflection » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:32 pm

Hi Alan,

Instead of comparing various sources of text, you can also watch the mind. Compare a meditation where there are thoughts with a meditation where there are no thoughts for quite a while. Now which one was more peaceful? It'll be the one with no thoughts. It's this kind of peaceful meditation we want to develop, because the more peaceful, the happier. It doesn't really matter what name we give it. To call it jhana or not, to have a pali source for it or not, doesn't change a thing to the experience itself. Once you are in this kind of meditation, thoughts about how to call it, won't arise anyway.

With metta,
Reflection

Sylvester
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Sylvester » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:59 am

Thank you Geoff. I think the manojalpa definition is uniquely Yogacara (but see below). While it has its utility in the context of vipaśyanā as understood by the Yogacarins, I am hesitant to apply it to the early suttas to interpret vitakka, since the early canonical 3-vitakka model is clearly geared towards samatha. Perhaps there is something useful to be gleaned from the Yogacarins' understanding of vitakka and vipassana, since many of the Pali vipassati proxy verbs have to function in the presence of vitakka. That still needs to be studied.

If you have a copy of the Mahāyāna-saṃparigraha-śāstra, I note that the Chinese translation of this text's explanation of manojalpa (意言) does not seem restricted to only a vipaśyanā context. Tellingly, the word nimitta pops up here (相), wherein the respective function of vitarka (覺) and vicāra (觀) as manojalpa is reduced simply to 見識 (encountering/being introduced to) and 相識 (familiarising) respectively. These could be the 2 nimitta of manojalpa at their most "basic". Alternatively, the Chinese is saying that vitarka encounters the nimitta, while vicāra familiarises with the nimitta; based on the syntax, the 2nd reading seems more likely. Either way, it sounds rather like the Peṭakopadesa and the Vimuttimagga analogies. The Chinese is available here-

http://tripitaka.cbeta.org/ja/T31n1595_007" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Whether the translator correctly rendered the 2 Indic words into "encountering"and "familiarising" can be the matter for further study.

On a personal note, I just realised that my dad's personal name is Majestic Nimitta! :rofl:

Nyana
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Nyana » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:53 am

Sylvester wrote:I think the manojalpa definition is uniquely Yogacara (but see below).
The relationship between Yogācāra, Sautrāntika, and Sarvāstivāda is rather complex in terms of the historical development of ideas. For example, it's been suggested that the oldest strata of the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra predates what are commonly considered to be specifically "Yogācāra" doctrines. The same could be said of much of the Abhidharmasamuccaya. Also, many of Vasubandhu's references to Sautrāntika ideas in the Abhidharmakośabhāsya have close correspondences in various sections of the Yogācārabhūmi.
Sylvester wrote:Perhaps there is something useful to be gleaned from the Yogacarins' understanding of vitakka and vipassana, since many of the Pali vipassati proxy verbs have to function in the presence of vitakka. That still needs to be studied.
There's really no way of sidestepping the role of interpretation when explaining sutta source passages. The suttas themselves offer enough diversity and lack of specifics to be open to a few different interpretations on these subjects. And most commentators, both ancient and modern, don't restrict vipassanā to functioning only in the presence of vitakka.
Sylvester wrote:Whether the translator correctly rendered the 2 Indic words into "encountering"and "familiarising"can be the matter for further study.
The Chinese translations are a valuable resource, but there are still enough Sanskrit texts available which deal directly with this subject to offer a good starting point for investigating what these Indian commentators were saying.
Sylvester wrote:On a personal note, I just realised that my dad's personal name is Majestic Nimitta! :rofl:
:smile:

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Sylvester » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:58 am

Perhaps Geoff. There are enough knotty passages to warrant resort to exegetical material. But it should be obvious that my skepticism about certain Abhidharmic/Abhidhammic innovations which are inconsistent with the suttas leads me to think that these are best taken with a pinch of salt. As I've said before, I have the optimism of those into Early Buddhism studies that much of the suttas are clear enough not to be lensed thru later material, to the extent that they are inconsistent.

:anjali:

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manas
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by manas » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:08 pm

It occurred to me recently, that in the first jhana, 'restlessness' has been surmounted, but not 'thinking'. But could it be that many persons conflate the two (thinking and restlessness) when they are actually two different things? This might be a long-standing source of much confusion.
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

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

Post by alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:02 pm

manas wrote:It occurred to me recently, that in the first jhana, 'restlessness' has been surmounted, but not 'thinking'. But could it be that many persons conflate the two (thinking and restlessness) when they are actually two different things? This might be a long-standing source of much confusion.
interesting. sounds plausible.

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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Bakmoon » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:48 pm

alan... wrote: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.
It is important to note that it is one of the stylistic features of the Pali of the Tipitika to use language like 'He knows thus "..."' in ways that don't necessarily mean thinking, so you can't conclude that the Ven. Sariputta is engaged in thinking during Jhana. For one thing, as you rightly noted, understanding it that way would mean that the Ven. Sariputta was thinking all the way up to the dimension of nothingness, and that can't be because vitakka and vicara cease in the second jhana.

The part in quotes here refers to the Ven. Sariputta's understanding of these qualities and their relationships, not to a verbalization.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

lojong1
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by lojong1 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:13 am

SDC wrote: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.
I SO resonate with this. Searching for Punnaji...

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

Post by alan... » Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:12 am

Bakmoon wrote:
alan... wrote: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.
It is important to note that it is one of the stylistic features of the Pali of the Tipitika to use language like 'He knows thus "..."' in ways that don't necessarily mean thinking, so you can't conclude that the Ven. Sariputta is engaged in thinking during Jhana. For one thing, as you rightly noted, understanding it that way would mean that the Ven. Sariputta was thinking all the way up to the dimension of nothingness, and that can't be because vitakka and vicara cease in the second jhana.

The part in quotes here refers to the Ven. Sariputta's understanding of these qualities and their relationships, not to a verbalization.
oh okay. it still points to cognition though and not the utterly thoughtless absorption professed by some though, right?

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Dmytro
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Re: the first jhana and thinking.

Post by Dmytro » Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:57 am

lojong1 wrote:
SDC wrote: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.
I SO resonate with this. Searching for Punnaji...
Reminds me of Dvedhavitakka sutta:

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

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