Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

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Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 3:49 am

I went to a talk at my local Insight group a couple of days ago, which was on the subject of "Meditation and Imagination". A couple of interesting questions came up in the discussion:
1. Would an awakened person still imagine?
2. Is it possible to have compassion (or have a desire to improve anything) without imagination?

Of course, this depends on what exactly what is meant by "imagination", but these questions did make me think a little about whether "imagination" is something we are trying to do away with, or an activity the serves a useful purpose. Clearly the instructions for cultivation of metta, for example, involves imagination/visualisation...

Any thoughts?

Mike
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:04 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Of course, this depends on what exactly what is meant by "imagination", but these questions did make me think a little about whether "imagination" is something we are trying to do away with, or an activity the serves a useful purpose.

It's hard to give a blanket answer to this question, and you're quite right that it depends on what exactly what is meant by "imagination".

I find analysis of what is and isn't papanca (i.e. conceptual proliferation rooted in delusion) to be useful in determining which aspects of "imagination" may be useful and which may be harmful.

Image

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:42 am

Hi Mike.
To which instructions do you refer?
I'm Abbhidamma-challenged, sorry. Is there a sutta that requires imaginative flights to achieve compassion?
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:I find analysis of what is and isn't papanca (i.e. conceptual proliferation rooted in delusion) to be useful in determining which aspects of "imagination" may be useful and which may be harmful.

Well, yes, but can how does one decide which things (if any) that one "thinks about" are not papanca?

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html (Ven Thanissaro translates papapanca as "objectification").
"Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies. Based on what a person objectifies, the perceptions & categories of objectification assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable via the intellect.


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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby Goedert » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:54 am

mikenz66 wrote:I went to a talk at my local Insight group a couple of days ago, which was on the subject of "Meditation and Imagination". A couple of interesting questions came up in the discussion:
1. Would an awakened person still imagine?
2. Is it possible to have compassion (or have a desire to improve anything) without imagination?

Of course, this depends on what exactly what is meant by "imagination", but these questions did make me think a little about whether "imagination" is something we are trying to do away with, or an activity the serves a useful purpose. Clearly the instructions for cultivation of metta, for example, involves imagination/visualisation...

Any thoughts?

Mike


Mike think the an awaked person know.

Imagination has to do with poderation and mental talkness and ponderations. (Except imaginary concentration methods)

Think the knowledge that comes from paticcasamupada, kamma, vipaka and deep levels of concentration, makes that awaked person feel the caracter of that person and know the proper help for it.

Awaked person have pãnna.

I think it is like the sensation of been thrist, you know that it the only solution is a form a liquid. Kind of that.

EDIT: Maybe this - As a person look imagine the most suitable way to get the liquid. The awaked one might imagine to most suitable way to imput the right help

But any way, to true know this answer is difficult. There is any awaked arround to ask?
Last edited by Goedert on Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:56 am

Greetings Mike,

Objectification sounds like a pretty odd translation to me. It's worth noting that the antonym to papanca is nippapanca, which is understood to be synonymous with nibbana. Therefore, whatever papanca is, it is not done by arahants, hence the definition I gave earlier, stipulating delusion as an inherent component.

The Buddha came up with some cracking similes though, presumably derived from his imagination, requiring some degree of conceptual objectification... yet, it was imagination that was embued with and characterised by nippapanca rather than papanca.

Image

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:58 am

Nanananda goes down like honey...so sweet, so tasty. Perhaps I'm under his hypnotic sway?
Don't see why imagination, or any other of the mind's elaborate creations, should be treated as something with it's own existence...or given a special place in our attempt at understanding the world...
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:05 am

Hi Alan,
alan wrote:Hi Mike.
To which instructions do you refer?

I mean instructions for the Brahmaviharas, such as:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html
(And let him think:) "In safety and in bliss May creatures all be of a blissful heart.
Whatever breathing beings there may be.
No matter whether they are frail or firm,
With none excepted,
be they long or big Or middle-sized,
or be they short or small Or thick,
as well as those seen or unseen,
Or whether they are dwelling far or near,
Existing or yet seeking to exist.
...

alan wrote:I'm Abbhidamma-challenged, sorry. Is there a sutta that requires imaginative flights to achieve compassion?

The above is talking about using imagination to develop loving kindness. Instructions for compassion are similar, involve imagining "all creatures", etc.

What I perhaps didn't state clearly is that feelings of compassion, etc, tend to involve imagining that the situation could be different. At least at a mundane, worldly level. For example: "This person is in pain, if they were not in pain they would be happier, so I will help them..."

I may well be confused about this whole issue, but these questions made me wonder whether putting too much emphasis on "just knowing the present moment" might actually be counter-productive to the development of parts of the path...

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:08 am

retrofuturist wrote:Objectification sounds like a pretty odd translation to me. )

Sure, but it's the easiest translation to cut and paste from, and I highlighted the occurrences so you can just read them as papanca...

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:12 am

Greetings Mike,

Indeed it is... and whilst the translation of papanca isn't too flash hot, the translator introduction is of interest.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:16 am

Goedert wrote:Mike think the an awaked person know.

Well, yes, but what I'm trying to raise has to do with practical questions about the use of imagination as part of the path.

Here's another example:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... call-devas
"There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones recollects the devas, thus: 'There are the Devas of the Four Great Kings, the Devas of the Thirty-three, the Yama Devas, the Contented Devas, the devas who delight in creation, the devas who have power over the creations of others, the devas of Brahma's retinue, the devas beyond them. Whatever conviction they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of conviction is present in me as well. Whatever virtue they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of virtue is present in me as well. Whatever learning they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of learning is present in me as well. Whatever generosity they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of generosity is present in me as well. Whatever discernment they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of discernment is present in me as well.' As he is recollecting the devas, his mind is calmed, and joy arises; the defilements of his mind are abandoned,...

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:22 am

retrofuturist wrote:Indeed it is... and whilst the translation of papanca isn't too flash hot, the translator introduction is of interest.

Yes. And it does give some clues about which thinking is papanca by pointing to:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Seeing in what way is a monk unbound, clinging to nothing in the world?"
"He should put an entire stop to the root of objectification[papanca]-classifications: 'I am the thinker.'

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:39 am

Greetings Mike,

Have you read Venerable Nanananda's "Concept And Reality in Early Buddhist Thought", available through BPS?

I've not mentioned it to date in this topic (because sometimes I feel I mention him at every turn) but I think Alan is on the mark with his association between this topic and Venerable Nanananda's work. It would be worth reading if you wanted to pursue the question in depth.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:02 am

One of the best Dhamma books ever. A treasure.
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:33 am

retrofuturist wrote:Have you read Venerable Nanananda's "Concept And Reality in Early Buddhist Thought", available through BPS?

No, but I've ordered it.

However, I was hoping to generate some actual discussion about practise... :meditate:

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby pt1 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:24 am

Hi Mike, my guess would be that an arahat must also think in order to communicate with others, the difference being that s/he will not conceive any sort of permanent, satisfactory self in what s/he thinks about. I think according to abhidhamma, object of citta which is accompanied by metta and karuna would be a concept of a person one is extending metta/karuna to. I don't think that citta, which has a concept (like a person) as the object, would necessarily also have to be accompanied by wrong view.

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby chownah » Fri Jul 23, 2010 3:03 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I went to a talk at my local Insight group a couple of days ago, which was on the subject of "Meditation and Imagination". A couple of interesting questions came up in the discussion:
1. Would an awakened person still imagine?
2. Is it possible to have compassion (or have a desire to improve anything) without imagination?

Of course, this depends on what exactly what is meant by "imagination", but these questions did make me think a little about whether "imagination" is something we are trying to do away with, or an activity the serves a useful purpose. Clearly the instructions for cultivation of metta, for example, involves imagination/visualisation...

Any thoughts?

Mike

Question #1 has some problems....persons don't get awakened....awakening happens when the person is no longer there I think. Also, wanting to know what an arahanat does or thinks is sort of like wanting to know what nibhanna is like and I think that the Buddha taught that nibhanna is undescribable and unknowable so this sort of indicates that the question can not be answered reliably....I guess.

Seems to me that all thoughts are imagination....they certainly aren't reality as most worldlings think of reality....so indeed, as you say, it really depends on exactly what is meant by imagination.....if we take imagination to mean all thoughts then I guess we need to see them as impermanent and therefore dukkha and something that we will be rid of at awakening.....and the same thing goes even if we think of imagination to be one kind of thought process too.....I guess.
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jul 23, 2010 3:28 pm

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:However, I was hoping to generate some actual discussion about practise... :meditate:

Be that at it may... be sure not to disassociate what venerable Nanananda says from this thing you call practise.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:30 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:However, I was hoping to generate some actual discussion about practise... :meditate:

Be that at it may... be sure not to disassociate what venerable Nanananda says from this thing you call practise.

Since I don't know what Ven Nanananda would say about this issue I have no opinion on whether it relates to practise or not.

What I meant was that I hoped that someone would post something on this thread relevant to practise.

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:58 pm

Hi Chownah,
chownah wrote:Question #1 has some problems....persons don't get awakened....awakening happens when the person is no longer there I think. Also, wanting to know what an arahanat does or thinks is sort of like wanting to know what nibhanna is like and I think that the Buddha taught that nibhanna is undescribable and unknowable so this sort of indicates that the question can not be answered reliably....I guess.

Well, yes, but I was paraphrasing what was stated at the meeting... Anyway, one can still use the conventional term "person"...
chownah wrote:Seems to me that all thoughts are imagination....they certainly aren't reality as most worldlings think of reality....so indeed, as you say, it really depends on exactly what is meant by imagination.....if we take imagination to mean all thoughts then I guess we need to see them as impermanent and therefore dukkha and something that we will be rid of at awakening.....and the same thing goes even if we think of imagination to be one kind of thought process too.....I guess.
chownah

The path to awakening is more relevant to most of us, though. I've given some examples of the Buddha recommending using imagination (e.g. recollections and metta practice). I thought it might be interesting to consider which imaginative activities are helpful, and which are less helpful...

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