frank k wrote:Hi Sylvester, "sutta jhana" and "vism. jhana" at least is clear on the point that with "vism.", one uses visual light nimitta to enter into a jhana, and that one has to emerge before one is able to think and do vipassana, something which you won't find in the suttas.
Re "insight" during the attainments, check out DN 9, but preferably a translation other than Ven T's. You can audit the translations against the Pali to see where the mistranslation by Ven T lies. The Chinese parallel says much the same thing about the incompatibility of thinking and intending with the attainments (sorry, I can't find my old post where I extracted the parallel passage from the Chinese DA 28). Not forgetting AN 3.101 which suggests that dhammavitakkā is a subtle defilement to be cleared out before one can attain the jhānas.
To get around this problem, some argue that vipassanā does not require thinking, that it is tied instead to perception. This brings in a gigantic subject for critical analysis of what vipassanā means in different strata of the texts and within specific contexts in the same stratum. What does vipassanā see - the states/experiences simpliciter or the dependency relationship of the states to one another in accordance with idappaccayatā? Leaving this gigantic issue aside, does the Pali actually say that one vipassati (does vipassana) during the duration of a jhāna?
If you survey the suttas' containing jhānas, you will find 2 broad categories. One is the narrative type, eg the account of Ven Moggallana's struggle to attain the jhānas (SN 40). The other would be the instructional sermons. Both types of suttas can be found framed with present tense verbs (eg MN 111 as a narrative and MN 66 as an instructional). The vipassati proxy verb pajānāti (knows/discerns/understands) then pops up in connection with the jhāna section as a following sentence, and pajānāti is also expressed in the present tense (eg MN 121). This, as most English readers would insist, must suggest that vipassanā is contemporaneous with jhāna. Does Pali grammar envisage such a function for the Pali present tense?
We can see that if contemporaneity were intended to be conveyed, the grammar suggests 2 other constructions, ie (i) the absolutive functioning as a gerund, or (ii) the genitive absolute formed from a present participle. However, these 2 types of construction are typically employed as the subordinate clause of relative clauses. I've not seen any of the jhāna and vipassanā passages structured in this kind of clause structure. I've not even seen any jhāna and vipassanā passages structured as distinct sentences (instead of clauses) where the jhāna verbs are expressed in either the absolutive or genitive absolute to the vipassanā verbs in present tense.
The reason for this is quite simple. The standard idiom for indicating contemporaneity of another activity with a jhāna is the relative clauses "Tassa ... iminā vihārena viharati, noun+another verb" idiom. Both the narrative and instructional suttas employ this idiom, and as far as I can see, the idiom is used only to speak of the "thorns" assailing the specific jhāna susceptible to that "thorn". Given that this idiom is available to both the narrative passages and the instructional passages, don't you find it contrived to press the present tense vipassanā verbs into service as functioning in the same way as the idiom? I've previously mentioned something about the periphrastic construction involving viharati in the jhāna pericopes (viewtopic.php?f=23&t=16516#p235389), and it seems that this idiomatic relative clause is the way to link the auxillary verb with the other verbs that follow as being contemporaneous.
Also how vitakka and vicara are defined in vism. is clearly different than the sutta passages that explicitly state the vitakka and vicara being nekkhamma, abyapada, avihimsa (or their opposites) when talking about the presence and absence of vitakka and vicara for the first and second jhanas.
I agree, but with the wee caveat that the Vsm definition could be justified on 2 grounds - (i) it discusses vitakka and vicāra in the bare mechanical sense, ie what the mind does, and this mechanical definition is also to be found in MN 19 and MN 117; and (ii) the qualitative sense of "how" the mechanics are performed would be found in the kusala descriptions such as MN 78, which you correctly identify with nekkhama, avyāpāda and ahiṃsā.
I agree that making better dictionary definitions for key pali terms alone is not going to solve communications problems, but surely there's something we can do as a community to facilitate better understanding of what these terms mean when talking about different interpretations of jhana.
That is KR Norman's plea, but he recognises that there's simply too much dogma entrenched in the exegetical traditions that they could not be expected to surrender to linguistic criticism. Nobody likes their memes to be scrutinised by grammarians and linguists...