Questions on the Atthakanagara Sutta (MN 52)

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retrofuturist
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Questions on the Atthakanagara Sutta (MN 52)

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:41 am

Greetings,

i was just reading Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the Atthakanagara Sutta (The Man From Atthakanagara) which talk about the eleven doors to the deathless... namely the four jhanas, the four brahma-viharas and the first three immaterial jhanas. Each of these doors provide an opportunity for insight meditation.

There is a bit of standard text repeated for each one, I'll read it for the first jhana and you can extrapolate from there... (Ananda speaks...)
Here, householder, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. He considers this and understands it thus: 'This first jhana is conditioned and volitionally produced' (abhisankhatam abhisancetayitam - apologies for lack of diacritics). But whatever is conditioned and volitionally produced is impermanent, subject to cessation.' If he is steady in that, he attains the destruction of the taints.
From Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html, here's the comparable section...
"There is the case, householder, where a monk, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He reflects on this and discerns, 'This first jhana is fabricated & intended. Now whatever is fabricated & intended is inconstant & subject to cessation.' Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations.
So, my questions are as follows...

1. How can one "consider this and understands it thus" or "reflects on this and discerns" in the higher jhanas where discursive thought has stopped? It seems as this would require some discursive thought unless it was done retrospectively.

2. Those 'considerations' and 'reflections' on face value seem a little different to any vipassana instruction I've received. Is there any conflict or compatibility to be noted between 'considerations' and 'reflections' and equanimous observation of bare phenomena.

3. Assuming that brahma-viharas in their context here constitute jhana-level (please correct me if I'm wrong), the mention of insight without jhana seems conspicuous in its absence. Is this sutta common in recommending at least first-jhana prior to insight meditation in order to attain the deathless?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

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gavesako
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Re: Questions on the Atthakanagara Sutta (MN 52)

Post by gavesako » Mon Jan 05, 2009 11:08 am

Another passage (AN 4.94) indicates that if samatha precedes vipassana — or vipassana, samatha — one's practice is in a state of imbalance and needs to be rectified. A meditator who has attained a measure of samatha, but no "vipassana into events based on heightened discernment (adhipañña-dhamma-vipassana)," should question a fellow meditator who has attained vipassana: "How should fabrications (sankhara) be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be viewed with insight?" and then develop vipassana in line with that person's instructions. The verbs in these questions — "regarding," "investigating," "seeing" — indicate that there's more to the process of developing vipassana than a simple mindfulness technique. In fact, as we will see below, these verbs apply instead to a process of skillful questioning called "appropriate attention."
From http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... etool.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
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Ben
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Re: Questions on the Atthakanagara Sutta (MN 52)

Post by Ben » Mon Jan 05, 2009 11:15 am

Hi Retro


1: Looks to me like vipassana. It appears that the jhana is being used as the basis from which vipassana is being practiced.
2: I interpret it as the same, a synonymous phrase to 'seeing things as they really are'
3: Not that I consider myself an expert by any means, but I have observed the same thing in the suttas I have perused. That is, the suttas seem to say that nibbana is achievable if insight is developed when taken from a base of jhana (sammasamadhi).
Of course I could be completely mistaken...
Kind regards

Ben
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Re: Questions on the Atthakanagara Sutta (MN 52)

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jan 05, 2009 11:25 am

Greetings venerable Gavesako and Ben,

Thank you for your thoughts.

I'll be sure to read that full article tomorrow when I'm not so much struggling with the hindrance of sloth and torpor. ;)

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Questions on the Atthakanagara Sutta (MN 52)

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:15 am

Greetings,

The article referenced by venerable Gavesako above is indeed a very good article.

One Tool Among Many - The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... etool.html

Not too long and very well written. Recommended for anyone doing meditation in accordance with the Theravada tradition.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Questions on the Atthakanagara Sutta (MN 52)

Post by robertk » Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:25 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,


1. How can one "consider this and understands it thus" or "reflects on this and discerns" in the higher jhanas where discursive thought has stopped? It seems as this would require some discursive thought unless it was done retrospectively.

Retro. :)
Of course no insight into phenomena can occur while in mundane jhana. It is after the yogi leaves jhana that the states present while in jhana are insighted. And this can only occur to the highly gifted.

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