Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
rowyourboat
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by rowyourboat » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:02 am

Hi,

I felt it was important to add this as well (this is an understanding based only on suttas and experience, subtracting the visuddhimagga input):

Association with people of integrity is a factor for stream-entry.
Listening to the true Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
Appropriate attention is a factor for stream-entry. (yonisomanasikara)
Practice in accordance with the Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
— SN 55.5

Now appropriate attention is conceptual. If you consider the contemplations below such as 'arrow','cancer' we can see that these are conceptual and not arising due to mindfulness leading to insight. ie there are no such spontaneously arisen insights.

"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Which five? Form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate. A virtuous monk should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. For it is possible that a virtuous monk, attending in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant... not-self, would realize the fruit of stream-entry."

I have found that some people need this step before starting mindfulness practices as per the previous sutta in my post above. Otherwise what they are being mindful of doesnt seem to make much sense to them. (This is not to deny that some people maybe able to do only the mindfulness practice or even only the contemplation practice and reach the fruit of stream entry depending on the prior development of their faculties).

See below where the Buddha asks the monk to develop right view before doing mindfulness practice. Appropriate attention leads to Right view.

Uttiya, you should purify what is most
basic with regard to skillful mental qualities. And what is the basis
of skillful mental qualities? Well-purified virtue & views made
straight. Then, when your virtue is well-purified and your views made
straight, in dependence on virtue, established in virtue, you should
develop the four frames of reference... Then, when in dependence on
virtue, relying on virtue, you develop the four frames of reference,
you will go beyond the realm of Death.
— SN 47.16

"Bikkhus, these four establishments of mindfulness, when developed and cultivated, lead to utter revulsion (nibbida), to dispassion (viraga), to cessation (nirodha) , to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.
Mahavagga, satipatthana samyutta, SN

In Accordance with the dhamma
At Savatti. “ Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu us practicing in accordance with the dhamma, this is what accords with the dhamma: he should dwell engrossed with revulsion towards form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness. One who dwells engrossed with revulsion towards form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness, fully understands form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness. One who fully understands form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness is freed from form…consciousness. He is freed from birth, aging and death; freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure,, and despair; freed from suffering, I say.”
-39(7) In Accordance with the dhamma, Khandavagga, Khandasamyutta, SN
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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mikenz66
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:19 am

Thanks RYB. That is very helpful input.

Metta
Mike

5heaps
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by 5heaps » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:01 pm

The followers of reason within Sautrantika say that only the first moment of contact between a mental consciousness and an object is nonconceptual. This is because the object that makes contact with the physical sense consciousness only carries through to the first moment of a mental consciousness freshly (ie. newly).

After the first moment the mind mixes with a category and the cognition becomes conceptual. This would be the difference between the color and shape of a chair appearing to you and 'chair' appearing to you.. 'chair' is the category (metaphysical entity) imputed through which you know you are looking at a specific chair in front of you.

The followers of scripture within Sautrantika assert the same as Vaibhashika, namely that in that first moment of a fresh mental consciousness, there is no creation of a mental representation of the outer object, but rather, the eye sense power and the eye sense consciousness know the object directly. This has massive implications about what is asserted that the mental consciousness is doing when it cognizes and knows. One of the most amazing distinctions between the schools is that Vaibhashika says categories are produced, momentary things, whereas Sautrantika (following reason) onward say that categories are unproduced, unchanging things. Also, asserting that space is substantial (ie. able to perform a function) whereas others say is not. All agree that it is a negation phenomena.
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:40 pm

Hi 5 Heaps,
5heaps wrote:The followers of reason within Sautrantika say that only the first moment of contact between a mental consciousness and an object is nonconceptual. ...
And presumably this different from the Theravada POV?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sautr%C4%81ntika" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
The Sautrāntika were an early school of Buddhist philosophy, generally believed to be descended from the Sthaviravada by way of their immediate parent school, the Sarvāstivādins. Their name means literally "those who rely upon the sutras", and indicated their rejection of the Abhidharma texts of other early Buddhist schools.
Metta
Mike

5heaps
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by 5heaps » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:16 am

mikenz66 wrote:And presumably this different from the Theravada POV?
I'm not sure, what do you think? Is it generally taught that your eye sense power cannot cognize objects, because the only method of direct cognition [of seeing an external object] is through a mental representation of colours and shapes in the eye sense consciousness? (Sautrantika)

Or is it generally taught that an eye sense power makes direct contact with an object, and that along with an instance of consciousness, without the need of a mental representation, there is direct cognition? (Vaibhashika)
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:27 am

Hi 5Heaps,

Sorry, I'm not well enough versed in Abhidhamma and Sautrantika to disentangle such details.

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Mike

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 3:35 am

Getting back to my original discussion topic of when it is useful to be more or less "conceptual" (or "detailed"), depending on whether one is developing concentration or insight, here's Ven Nyanaponika's discussion in "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation".
[Page 123] It is also at this point of Calming the Breath where the two main strands of Buddhist meditation (Samatha and Vipassana) temporarily part.

If the meditator aspires to the attainment of the Absorptions (Jhana) through the deepening of Tranquility (samatha), he should continue the process of Calming and make the breath still more fine and subtle and its flow smoother. Though he should make sure that his mindfulness covers all three phases of the breath [beginning-middle-end], he should not pay to them any particular attention. Any discriminating observation or examination will only be an obstruction here. When aiming at Absorption one should, as it were, float along with the undulating flow of the breath. Continuing diligently with that practice, concentration of mind will grow and in due time there may appear a simple mental image (nimitta), like a star, etc, heralding full absorption. But complicated and varying images or visions are not a sign of progress; they shoud be soberly noticed and dismissed.

In full- or half-day practice aiming at Absorption, mindfulness should be present throughout, but this only in a very general way, without attention to details. Walking, for instance, should be done mindfully, but without dissection into phases as done in the practice of Insight. Through a close scrutiny of details the mind will become too much engaged and interested in a multiplicity of objects while here the aim should be the unification and tranquillity of the mind.

But if, after having come to the stage of Calming, the meditator wishes to go the direct road to Insight, he should give marked attention to the single phases of the breath, in particular to the beginning and end; and all these secondary and general objects of mindfulness should be carefully attended to, as explained earlier. It is thus only a slight shift in the focussing of attention which will make all the difference between the methods of Jhanic development and that of Insight.
Metta
Mike

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by rowyourboat » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:43 pm

while it is generally true that vipassana is non conceptual,the point of vipassana is to give rise to insight and subsequently letting go. However there are some people who may be able to attain (read letting go) high stages just by listening to conceptual dhamma talks. So if there is a method to reach a further stage of progress but fall into the same common pathway at the end, then it is also a valid method be it conceptual.
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

Freawaru
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by Freawaru » Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:50 am

5heaps wrote:The followers of reason within Sautrantika say that only the first moment of contact between a mental consciousness and an object is nonconceptual. This is because the object that makes contact with the physical sense consciousness only carries through to the first moment of a mental consciousness freshly (ie. newly).

After the first moment the mind mixes with a category and the cognition becomes conceptual. This would be the difference between the color and shape of a chair appearing to you and 'chair' appearing to you.. 'chair' is the category (metaphysical entity) imputed through which you know you are looking at a specific chair in front of you.

The followers of scripture within Sautrantika assert the same as Vaibhashika, namely that in that first moment of a fresh mental consciousness, there is no creation of a mental representation of the outer object, but rather, the eye sense power and the eye sense consciousness know the object directly. This has massive implications about what is asserted that the mental consciousness is doing when it cognizes and knows. One of the most amazing distinctions between the schools is that Vaibhashika says categories are produced, momentary things, whereas Sautrantika (following reason) onward say that categories are unproduced, unchanging things. Also, asserting that space is substantial (ie. able to perform a function) whereas others say is not. All agree that it is a negation phenomena.
One can test the theory. By looking at something new. For example these kind of pictures (magic pictures 3d, magic eye):
http://regnow.img.digitalriver.com/vend ... _large.jpg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

They were popular in 1990-1994 or so. I have several books. One has to "Put your face close to the stereogram. Allow your eyes to relax, and stare right through the stereogram as if your eyes were focused at a point behind the surface of the stereogram. Slowly move away from the stereogram without changing the position of your eyes."

The moment of shift is very interesting. How suddenly the 3d image is seen and recognised. Though it is very fast, too, it seems to me more slowly than the usual mechanism so one can observe and discern it better.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by Freawaru » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:04 am

Hi Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:Getting back to my original discussion topic of when it is useful to be more or less "conceptual" (or "detailed"), depending on whether one is developing concentration or insight, here's Ven Nyanaponika's discussion in "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation".
[Page 123] It is also at this point of Calming the Breath where the two main strands of Buddhist meditation (Samatha and Vipassana) temporarily part.

If the meditator aspires to the attainment of the Absorptions (Jhana) through the deepening of Tranquility (samatha), he should continue the process of Calming and make the breath still more fine and subtle and its flow smoother. Though he should make sure that his mindfulness covers all three phases of the breath [beginning-middle-end], he should not pay to them any particular attention. Any discriminating observation or examination will only be an obstruction here. When aiming at Absorption one should, as it were, float along with the undulating flow of the breath. Continuing diligently with that practice, concentration of mind will grow and in due time there may appear a simple mental image (nimitta), like a star, etc, heralding full absorption. But complicated and varying images or visions are not a sign of progress; they shoud be soberly noticed and dismissed.

In full- or half-day practice aiming at Absorption, mindfulness should be present throughout, but this only in a very general way, without attention to details. Walking, for instance, should be done mindfully, but without dissection into phases as done in the practice of Insight. Through a close scrutiny of details the mind will become too much engaged and interested in a multiplicity of objects while here the aim should be the unification and tranquillity of the mind.

But if, after having come to the stage of Calming, the meditator wishes to go the direct road to Insight, he should give marked attention to the single phases of the breath, in particular to the beginning and end; and all these secondary and general objects of mindfulness should be carefully attended to, as explained earlier. It is thus only a slight shift in the focussing of attention which will make all the difference between the methods of Jhanic development and that of Insight.
Metta
Mike
Good points :D

In addition I would say that if one wants to develop concentration it is also useful to practice it during every-day tasks or hobbies. For example, learning and playing an instrument such as flute or piano (etc) requires to concentrate on a single "object" for a prolonged time, too. Or doing math calculations, or learning stuff by heart. Developing concentration works better when learning something and/or having fun. It is more difficult to develop it when doing the dishes. The mind tends to be bored and when it is bored it becomes scattered, drifting, fluctuating. On the other hand when learning mindfulness being bored is the best starting point, namely habitual and easy tasks that don't require concentration or learning (such as breathing).

rowyourboat
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by rowyourboat » Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:20 am

eye+visual object (both rupa)--> eye consciousness--> phassa/contact (nama/mental)-->vedana/feeling (nama)-->sanna/labels-->sankhara/mental fabrications

I think concepts start with and after that sanna/lables stage.

with vipassana we peel away from the sankhara backwards along this process so that we get to the phassa/contact level when there is 'bare awareness' (sight, sound, colour) perhaps even without the accompanying label (cat, car, flower).

(Vipassana) samadhi must grow for this to happen as it dampens the process of perception and stops proliferation and dispersion of the mind into sankhara/mental fabrication.

with metta
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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orangemod
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by orangemod » Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:11 pm

Mike:
Thanks so much for the access to the book. I just started reading it and it is the perfect place for a beginner to start !!!
I have found it very easy to read & understand....because reading some of the posts here seems like reading a foreign language.
Meaning that the members here are so far more advanced than myself, I have to start somewhere to get familiar enough to comprehend well enough to try to follow.
Thank you and thanks to all here.
Cheers, Dave

rowyourboat
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by rowyourboat » Fri Jan 08, 2010 2:30 pm

Hi Dave

Sorry if my above post put you off! That was not my intention but simply adding something that might be of use to someone. I did not have the time to explain it all in detail, and besides it was not of great consequence. Best wishes on your path!

with metta

RYB
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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orangemod
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by orangemod » Sat Jan 09, 2010 3:35 am

rowyourboat wrote:Hi Dave

Sorry if my above post put you off! That was not my intention but simply adding something that might be of use to someone. I did not have the time to explain it all in detail, and besides it was not of great consequence. Best wishes on your path!

with metta

RYB

Oh no RYB, I am not put off in any way at all.
Actually, the advanced members words' like yourself just give me something to study towards. Meaning that when I read something I cant follow...I know if I study eventually I will.
Keep it comin' y'all.
I'm impressed by what y'all have attained. I am humbled by all the things I never knew in my life thus far.
But, I'll keep studying and I'm sure it will become more clear.
Have a great week-end.
Cheers, Dave

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Post by orangemod » Sat Jan 09, 2010 4:21 am

BTW, I just researched the salutation "Metta"
I was pleased to learn that it meant so many friendly things.
Best wishes or warmest regards are nice salutations....but "Metta" is like a dozen of these in one simple word.
Is that KOOL, or what !!!?

Metta

Dave

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