Another voice in the jhana debates

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alan...
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:50 am

Sylvester wrote:Check out this helpful enumeration of the functions of the Pali present tense outlined by Warder, courtesy of daverupa -

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p223661" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

That discussion pertained to AN 4.124's usage of the present tense samanupassati (regards) and whether it actually means contemporaneity with the standard periphrastic construction upasampajja viharati (dwells having entered) of the 1st jhana formula. The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?

Now, technically speaking, it might be possible for the samanupassati to be contemporaneous with jhana, if one argues that upasampajja (having entered) is an absolutive of contemporaneity. However, that is only truly possible if both verbs samanupassati and upasampajja are in the same sentence, each occupying its own clause (main and subordinate) therein. That's not the case here in AN 4.124. One also needs to surmount the same problem of samanupassati occuring in an environment that does not have vitakka nor vicāra .

The most typical way of indicating contemporaneity of action verbs in Pali would be to use the missakiriyā construction, where the sutta would have read something to the effect "having entered and dwelling in the 1st jhana, he contemplates...." (paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharanto, ... samanupassati). As far as I can tell in my survey of the suttas, the missakiriyā construction is never used in any of the jhana formulae.

As dave notes in that post, the most likely meaning of the present tense "regards" would be an activity that takes place in the future. We just need to be alive to Pali grammar and take these texts on their own terms, rather than lens them through English translations, no matter how literal the translation is. Most translators usually do not interpret the Pali present tense when they translate, since there are so many temporal and functional uses of the present tense. The only exception would be where the context makes it clear that the present tense is functioning as a past tense in a narrative.

:anjali:
interesting. so you are basically just saying that this is a future tense word and that this action would take place after exiting the jhana again, correct? why is it that most of the professional translators out there use it in this way then? for example bhikkhu bodhi in the same sutta, instead of "regards" uses "contemplates". i can't see it being such a thing to slip through the cracks considering it's a standard pericope that appears throughout the canon, not without at least a note. especially from bodhi, he notates so many similar things in his translations and this pericope is found in all four of the nikayas he translated and other compilations as well. that doesn't prove anything one way or the other, if nothing else it may just show his neutrality in the debate on that particular note, i'm just giving food for thought at this point.

i suppose without knowing the exact implication of the original speaker of what tense it is, it is up for interpretation. considering this:

"The present tense is used to express [1] present time, the limits of which are somewhat vague, or [2] indefinite time (timeless statements such as "eternal truths"), [3] sometimes the immediate future (which may include a shade of "imperative" sense; cf. English "I'm going") and [4] sometimes the past ("historic present"). It is used to express [5] the duration of an action "until", [6] a fixed future time (a vivid future visualized as present) "when", and [7] in certain other constructions."

-Warder (copied from daverupa's post)

it's definition is all over the place from the past to the future. so it could mean "regards after jhana", or "regards during jhana" or even "regards before jhana" considering the amazing ambiguity of the present tense in pali according to the above explanation.

Nyana
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by Nyana » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:54 am

Sylvester wrote:The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?
Vitakka & vicāra aren't necessary, saññā is.
Sylvester wrote:We just need to be alive to Pali grammar and take these texts on their own terms, rather than lens them through English translations, no matter how literal the translation is. Most translators usually do not interpret the Pali present tense when they translate, since there are so many temporal and functional uses of the present tense. The only exception would be where the context makes it clear that the present tense is functioning as a past tense in a narrative.
The Mahāvibhāṣa Śāstra, the Abhidharmakośabhāsya, the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra, etc., all explicitly state that samatha & vipassanā are optimally balanced in the four jhānas and that penetration of the four noble truths optimally occurs within the four jhānas. The first three formless attainments and access concentration are not considered optimal because of limited vipassanā in the former and limited samatha in the latter. The authors of these texts were relying on source materials that parallel the Pāli suttas. They understood the Indic languages that they were using, and they most certainly weren't relying on English translations.

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:47 am

I think while it is legitimate to acknowledge that the Sarvas and Sautrantikas understood their Indic languages well enough, it should be apparent from one of our previous posts that doctrinal evolution plays a very significant role in interpretation, eg the vitakka definitions taken up by the Yogacarins. When meanings change, older material are lensed through the new doctrine and definitions. I'm going to give one example of how an Abhidharma has radically altered the theory of Aggregates, a reading that persists even today, even if that school is now dead.

Most of the modernist insistence on the jhanalabhi being percipient of the 5 sense data stems from how rūpakkhandha (Form Aggregate) is interpreted and translated. This is typically understood to be include only the 5 sense data and the 5 senses. I'm sure you're familiar with the Abhidhammic bifurcation of reality into the rūpa and arūpa categories. The latter is constituted by nāma. In the Abhidhamma, consciousness is included in nāma, which departs from the suttas. All things falling under rūpa would be for the 5 senses and their corresponding data.

However, as Sue Hamilton points out, nowhere in the suttas is this equation made of rūpa and the 5 senses. Why does the Abhidhamma classify consciousness under nāma? What then is the source of these equations? Apparently, the Abhidhamma owes these 2 innovations to the Sarvastivadins, or a common ancestor, who made the explicit and closed linkage between rūpa, pratigha and the 5 senses. Why did this happen? Was it because the Sarvas -

1. were trying to give a totally Buddhist spin to nāmarūpa as 2 predicative categories, instead of the inseparable unity of nāmarūpa borrowed from the Upanishads, and made use of by the Buddha to provide as the pivot of phassa/contact? Nāmarūpa in the early texts was only discussed in the context of consciousness and contact, but nāma and rūpa in the Abhidharma/Abhidhamma became 2 organisational principles for EVERYTHING.

or

2. relied on a textually corrupt sutra?

The 2nd possibility is quite real, as I've seen a few Chinese sutra parallels (from the (Mula)-S canon) where consciousness was lumped into nāma (although these sutras are in the minority in the Agamas). This Sarva method of organisation marks a clear departure from the suttas, and allowed the Sarvas to modify rūpa and pratigha as pertaining solely to the domain of the 5 senses, and nāma everything else. It is unlikely that the Pali abhidhammikas could have innovated this model, given the absence of such an error in the Pali suttas; most likely, the Pali abhidhammikas simply borrowed this model from the Sarvastivadins.

It appears that in the most unwitting of circumstances, translators are actually imposing an Abhidharmic structure on the 5 Aggregates, a Sarvastivadin structure that has no such basis in the suttas. You see this in Ven T's insertion of "physical" in parenthesis against "form" (rūpa). Not only do we find such a model ahistorical from the sutta perspective, it directly contradicts MN 28 which allows the Form Aggregate to arise from purely mind-contact. (Sadly, the Agama parallel to MN 28, despite allowing for mind-based rūpa did not deter the Sarvas from departing from it.)

This is my concern in appealing to medieval Buddhism to interpret Early Buddhism. Small and unnoticeable changes in doctrine can change the colour and complexion of the suttas/sutras.

:anjali:

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daverupa
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by daverupa » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:45 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?
Vitakka & vicāra aren't necessary, saññā is.
This is a useful point to bear in mind. Satipatthana functions similarly, with or without the ruminative aspect but alongside saññā throughout.
  • "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: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by Nyana » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:52 pm

Sylvester wrote:I think while it is legitimate to acknowledge that the Sarvas and Sautrantikas understood their Indic languages well enough, it should be apparent from one of our previous posts that doctrinal evolution plays a very significant role in interpretation, eg the vitakka definitions taken up by the Yogacarins.
That may be your conclusion, but I've seen no reason to conclude that the Yogācāra definition of vitakka is the result of doctrinal evolution. But at any rate, vitakka isn't sufficiently defined in the suttas to give a precise understanding of exactly what it was originally intended to mean in each context that it's used.
Sylvester wrote:This is my concern in appealing to medieval Buddhism to interpret Early Buddhism.
The notion of the presence of vipassanā in the jhānas isn't the result of grammatical confusion. It has ancient roots in mainstream Indian Buddhism.

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:20 pm

daverupa wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?
Vitakka & vicāra aren't necessary, saññā is.
This is a useful point to bear in mind. Satipatthana functions similarly, with or without the ruminative aspect but alongside saññā throughout.
Hi ya.

In fact, I seriously doubt the ruminative theory of mindfulness. Suttas such as MN 19 and MN 78 at the borders of jhana seem clear that vitakka and vicara are affective inclinations of the mind towards renunciation, non illwill and harmlessness. That seems to be the focus of such sankappa/intentions as antidotes towards unwholesome thoughts, which are invariably couched in affective terms of sensuality, illwill and harmfulness. See Dmytro's thread on vineyya.

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:34 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:I think while it is legitimate to acknowledge that the Sarvas and Sautrantikas understood their Indic languages well enough, it should be apparent from one of our previous posts that doctrinal evolution plays a very significant role in interpretation, eg the vitakka definitions taken up by the Yogacarins.
That may be your conclusion, but I've seen no reason to conclude that the Yogācāra definition of vitakka is the result of doctrinal evolution. But at any rate, vitakka isn't sufficiently defined in the suttas to give a precise understanding of exactly what it was originally intended to mean in each context that it's used.
Well if you wish to discount the competing definition which I quoted from the Taisho, that won't change the fact that that school was either uncertain about its vocabulary or using 2 sets of definition for different contexts.

I don't see any imprecision in the suttas about what vitakka means, especially in the fringes around the borders of
mindfulness and jhana. It's invariably renunciation, non illwill and harmlessness in the Pali suttas and Sarva sutras.

Sylvester wrote:This isn't my concern in appealing to medieval Buddhism to interpret Early Buddhism.
The notion of the presence of vipassanā in the jhānas isn't the result of grammatical confusion. It has ancient roots in mainstream Indian Buddhism.
The meaning of vipassana can itself be the subject of its own tome.

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by Polar Bear » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:47 pm

Just thought I'd add another voice to the jhana debates:

http://bodhimonastery.org/a-systematic- ... ikaya.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

On this page if you go to the first talk on MN 118 the Anapanasati sutta and skip 47 minutes into the talk Bhikkhu Bodhi explains how he used to think that the commentaries were correct in their description of the 3rd stage of anapanasati but that now he thinks that it means that one experiences the whole physical body but with the main point of reference from which the experience of the whole body emanates still being the nostrils and he goes on to say that he thinks this relates to the jhana similes and the experience of jhana. Anyway, I just thought some people might want to know.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

alan...
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:50 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:Just thought I'd add another voice to the jhana debates:

http://bodhimonastery.org/a-systematic- ... ikaya.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

On this page if you go to the first talk on MN 118 the Anapanasati sutta and skip 47 minutes into the talk Bhikkhu Bodhi explains how he used to think that the commentaries were correct in their description of the 3rd stage of anapanasati but that now he thinks that it means that one experiences the whole physical body but with the main point of reference from which the experience of the whole body emanates still being the nostrils and he goes on to say that he thinks this relates to the jhana similes and the experience of jhana. Anyway, I just thought some people might want to know.
interesting. in his translation of MN 118 he notated it with a simple suggestion that the reader see the section on anapanasati in the visuddhimagga (if i remember correctly). perhaps he wrote that before he came to this conclusion?

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by Polar Bear » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:06 am

Yes, I believe that is the case. If you listen to the talk (and skip 47 minutes in if you want) he says that he used to follow the commentary but that now he thinks it may be mistaken. If you haven't listened to it I would recommend doing so when you have the time.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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daverupa
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by daverupa » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:18 pm

Sylvester wrote:In fact, I seriously doubt the ruminative theory of mindfulness... vitakka and vicara are affective inclinations of the mind
Interesting phrasing, which I grok. I also doubt the ruminative models I've seen, but was simply using your terms from an earlier post with a misunderstanding of your point. As you had said,
The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?
The answer seems to be that vitakka and vicara are affective inclinations, not ruminative activity. Are you on both sides here?
  • "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]

Sylvester
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Post by Sylvester » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:20 pm

That's true dave. I did say that in the context of the border of mindfulness and jhana, the vitakka vicara are affective. But does that exclude this formation from being ruminative elsewhere? Eg in the sequel to jhana when one regains the ability to reflect. What hope can there be for rumination such as reflection in 2nd jhana upwards even if one grants that this formation functions ruminatively in jhana? One of the pitfalls, I suppose, of arguing by showing the internal inconsistency of the position I disagree with.

So, yes, I'm for the affective inclination interpretation but I won'tbe able to resist the temptation to mount the ruminative counter-argument against the chatty jhana theories.
:tongue:

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