Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby Anicca » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:31 pm

Howdy all!

My take is that imagination is a tool to be used in aid of the awakening process. It is recommended by the Buddha (when you get older, losing your hair...) and meditation teachers (imagine the breath moving down the spine ...). Check out "Pushing the Limits - Desire & Imagination in the Buddhist Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu"

The Buddha used his imagination to find his way to the goal - i doubt if there has been an arahant since that hasn't.

But as Goedert differentiates, the awakened person "knows". I like to think that the Buddha would wake up and go, "Ah, what will today be like? What should I do?" and know the truth of the matter, while i rub the cobwebs from eyeballs each morning and imagine what the day will be like.

There is, i would imagine, the flip side to "right imagination" that is detrimental to the path - the realm of Mara for example.

Hadn't really thought that much about the "power" of "what if" - good postings.

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby Ben » Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:45 am

Hi Mike

Thanks for starting this interesting topic. Its actually on a very similar theme to an ongoing conversation I have been having with a co-practitioner, academic and poet friend of mine for the last four or five years.
Another 'Mike' (not an imaginary one) has been writing a critique of a collection of poems by Judith Beverage titled 'From the Palace to the Bodhi Tree'. Its a collection of poems based on an imaginary Siddhartha on his quest for enlightenment. What Mike is doing is highlighting the two very different modes of knowledge: 'knowledge' that is infact an imaginary construct of the fiction writer/poet to the Buddhist 'knowledge' which is derived from penetrating the nature of reality by direct observation.
And so where does the imagination fit into the Buddhist map of the mind? I think the answer is going to be in the Abhidhamma as to what the imagination actually is. I remember starting a thread, perhaps in the Abhidhamma forum, sometime ago. And I think Cooran might have provided some very interesting links that might be worth checking out.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Sat Jul 24, 2010 5:35 am

Difficult to respond to that without an idea of how to define these two different modes of knowledge you presume.
Knowledge as an imaginary construct? I don't get it.
Knowledge as direct understanding--isn't there a better word for this? Is direct understanding even within the purview of knowledge?
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jul 24, 2010 7:38 am

Hi Ben,
Ben wrote:Another 'Mike' (not an imaginary one) has been writing a critique of a collection of poems...

So am I the "imaginary Mike"? :cry:
Ben wrote: I remember starting a thread, perhaps in the Abhidhamma forum, sometime ago. And I think Cooran might have provided some very interesting links that might be worth checking out.

Thanks, that, and another thread, are:
viewtopic.php?f=18&t=3997&start=0
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=3404

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby Ben » Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:43 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Ben,
Ben wrote:Another 'Mike' (not an imaginary one) has been writing a critique of a collection of poems...

So am I the "imaginary Mike"? :cry:

Not by a long shot!

alan wrote:Difficult to respond to that without an idea of how to define these two different modes of knowledge you presume.

There is no presumption about it.

alan wrote:Knowledge as an imaginary construct? I don't get it.

I don't have access to my email at the moment or my hard-drive where I've got a copy of Mike's article for publication which I could quote to you from. But to paraphrase the Australian poet, Les Murray, 'to imagine is to know'.

alan wrote:Knowledge as direct understanding--isn't there a better word for this?

Like what?

alan wrote:Is direct understanding even within the purview of knowledge?


Ñāṇa

Ñāṇa (nt.) [from jānāti. See also jānana. *genē, as in Gr. gnw_ -- sis (cp. gnostic), gnw/mh; Lat. (co)gnitio; Goth. kunpi; Ogh. kunst; E. knowledge] knowledge, intelligence, insight, conviction, recognition, opp. añāṇa & avijjā, lack of k. or ignorance. -- 1. Ñāṇa in the theory of cognition: it occurs in intensive couple -- compounds with terms of sight as cakkhu (eye) & dassana (sight, view), e. g. in cakkhu -- karaṇa ñāṇa -- karaṇa "opening our eyes & thus producing knowledge" i. e. giving us the eye of knowledge (a mental eye) (see cakkhu, jānāti passati, & cpd. ˚karaṇa): Bhagavā jānaŋ jānāti passaŋ passati cakkhu -- bhūto ñāṇa -- bhūto (=he is one perfected in knowledge) M i.111=Nd2 2353h; natthi hetu natthi paccayo ñāṇāya dassanāya ahetu apaccayo ñāṇaŋ dassanaŋ hoti "through seeing & knowing," i. e. on grounds of definite knowledge arises the sure conviction that where there is no cause there is no consequence S v.126. Cp. also the relation of diṭṭhi to ñāṇa. This implies that all things visible are knowable as well as that all our knowledge is based on empirical grounds; yāvatakaŋ ñeyyaŋ tāvatakaŋ ñāṇaŋ Nd2 2353m; yaŋ ñāṇaŋ taŋ dassanaŋ, yaŋ dassanaŋ taŋ ñāṇaŋ Vin iii.91; ñāṇa+dassana (i. e. full vision) as one of the characteristics of Arahantship: see arahant ii.D. Cp. BSk. jñānadarśana, e. g. AvŚ i.210. -- 2. Scope and
character of ñāṇa: ñ. as faculty of understanding is included in paññā (cp. wisdom=perfected knowledge). The latter signifies the spiritual wisdom which embraces the fundamental truths of morality & conviction (such as aniccaŋ anattā dukkhaŋ: Miln 42); whereas ñ. is relative to common experience (see Nd2 2353 under cakkhumā, & on rel. of p. & ñ. Ps i.59 sq.; 118 sq.; ii.189 sq.). -- Perception (saññā) is necessary to the forming of ñāṇa, it precedes it (D i.185); as sure knowledge ñ. is preferable to saddhā (S iv.298); at Vin iii.91 the definition of ñ. is given with tisso vijjā (3 kinds of knowledge); they are specified at Nd2 266 as aṭṭhasamāpatti -- ñāṇa (consisting in the 8 attainments, viz. jhāna & its 4 succeeding developments), pañc' abhiññā˚ (the 5 higher knowledges, see paññā & abhi˚), micchā˚ (false k. or heresy). Three degrees of k. are distinguished at DA i.100, viz. sāvaka -- pāramī -- ñāṇa, paccekabuddha˚, sabbaññuta˚ (highest k. of a relig. student, k. of a wise man, & omniscience). Four objects of k. (as objects of truth or sammādiṭṭhi) are enumd as dhamme ñāṇaŋ, anvaye ñ., paricchede ñ., sammuti ñ. at D iii.226, 277; other four as dukkhe ñ. (dukkha -- ) samudaye ñ., nirodhe ñ., magge ñ. (i. e. the knowledge of the paṭicca -- samuppāda) at D iii.227; Ps i.118; Vbh 235 (=sammādiṭṭhi). Right knowledge (or truth) is contrasted with false k. (micchā -- ñāṇa=micchādiṭṭhi): S v.384; M ii.29; A ii.222; v.327; Vbh 392. <-> 3. Ñāṇa in application: (a) Vin i.35; D ii.155 (opp. pasāda); S i.129 (cittamhi susamāhite ñāṇamhi vuttamānamhi); ii.60 (jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇan ti ñ.: see ñ -- vatthu); A i.219 (on precedence of either samādhi or ñ.); Sn 378, 789, 987 (muddhani ñāṇaŋ tassa na vijjati), 1078 (diṭṭhi, suti, ñ.: doctrine, revelation, personal knowledge, i. e. intelligence; differently expl. at Nd2 266), 1113; Pv iii.51 (Sugatassa ñ. is asādhāraṇaŋ) Ps i.194 sq.; ii.244; Vbh 306 sq. (ñ -- vibhanga), 328 sq. (kammassakataŋ ñ.); Nett 15 sq.; 161 (+ñeyya), 191 (id.). -- (b) ñāṇaŋ hoti or uppajjati knowledge comes to (him) i. e. to reason, to arrive at a conclusion (with iti=that . . .) S ii.124=iii.28 (uppajjati); D iii.278 (id.); A ii.211≈; iv.75; v.195; S iii.154. See also arahant ii.D. -- (c) Var. attributes of ñ.: anuttariya A v.37; aparapaccayā (k. of the non -- effect of causation through lack of cause) S ii.17, 78; iii.135; v.179, 422 sq. (=sammādiṭṭhi), same as ahetu -- ñāṇa S v.126; asādhāraṇa (incomparable, uncommon k.) A iii.441; PvA 197; akuppa D iii.273; ariya A iii.451;

-- http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... li.1353985


kind regards

Ben
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- Hereclitus


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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Sun Jul 25, 2010 3:59 am

Panna was the word I was thinking of as reflecting direct understanding. I take it to refer to a level of insight that surpasses the conventional definition of knowledge as accumulated information. Is that a wrong way of understanding the word? Perhaps there is a Pali person who can set me straight.

I'm not up on the concept of knowledge as an imaginary construct. Is this an Abhidhamma idea? I'm sorrily lacking in that area. But lucky for me, Mr. Gethin and I have an appointment for some reading on that very subject tomorrow.
Best of luck on your project!
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 25, 2010 4:22 am

Hi Alan,
alan wrote:Panna was the word I was thinking of as reflecting direct understanding. I take it to refer to a level of insight that surpasses the conventional definition of knowledge as accumulated information. Is that a wrong way of understanding the word? Perhaps there is a Pali person who can set me straight.

Yes, I think that's true. Panna is direct understanding, which is different from being good at, say, mathematics.
alan wrote:I'm not up on the concept of knowledge as an imaginary construct. Is this an Abhidhamma idea? I'm sorrily lacking in that area. But lucky for me, Mr. Gethin and I have an appointment for some reading on that very subject tomorrow.
Best of luck on your project!

What project? You seem determined to read some complex philosophy into the observation that one can make use of things that one imagines. If I think: "Perhaps if I did such-and-such such-and-such would happen" it's clear I'm using imagination, isn't it?

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby Ben » Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:15 am

alan wrote:Panna was the word I was thinking of as reflecting direct understanding. I take it to refer to a level of insight that surpasses the conventional definition of knowledge as accumulated information. Is that a wrong way of understanding the word? Perhaps there is a Pali person who can set me straight.

Panna is "knowledge perfected"

alan wrote:I'm not up on the concept of knowledge as an imaginary construct. Is this an Abhidhamma idea?

Its an idea that I have floated on this thread in an attempt to describe the position of some writers who have said that a valid way of knowing about something,and thus being able to write about it, is to imagine it. Personally, I think this is at odds with the Buddhist notion of knowledge which comes about from observation of phenomena. I have also said that resolving the issue of imagination and its place in the mental matrix may be found in the Abhidhamma.

alan wrote:I'm sorrily lacking in that area.

Many of us are. The Abhidhamma is vast and complex.
alan wrote:But lucky for me, Mr. Gethin and I have an appointment for some reading on that very subject tomorrow.
Glad to hear it!
kind regards

Ben
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- Hereclitus


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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:20 am

Ben wrote:
alan wrote:Knowledge as direct understanding--isn't there a better word for this?

Like what?
yathā-bhūta-ñāna-dassana: 'the knowledge and vision according to reality'
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:25 am

Hi, Not-imaginary Mike!
The project to which I refer was Ben's other Mike friend, the one he has been in touch with for 4-5 years, who is working on a critique of poems. I'm sure they will be interesting.

I'm determined and surely bull-headed in many regards, but "determined to read complex philosophy into" is not an accurate description of my attitude.
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby Ben » Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:35 am

Hi alan,
alan wrote:The project to which I refer was Ben's other Mike friend, the one he has been in touch with for 4-5 years, who is working on a critique of poems. I'm sure they will be interesting.

It is very interesting. I got roped into editing his article for him and tracking down suitable quotes from the Tipitaka. Mike is also a poet with two volumes to his name and is producing a third volume to be titled 'the witness master' sometime,I hope, this year. It contains many of his 'Dhamma' poems. I would give you a sneak peek, but he is a bit reluctant for me to reproduce on DW some of his work that hasn;t been and is intended for publication.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:55 am

Hi Alan,
alan wrote:I'm determined and surely bull-headed in many regards, but "determined to read complex philosophy into" is not an accurate description of my attitude.

Yes, sorry, I mis-read your post as a reply to my original post and discussion. I can see now that you were quoting Ben's discussion of the other Mike (there's a lot of us about, some imaginary, some not...).

I'm coming to the conclusion that I must have worded my posts very poorly, since I seem to have been unable to generate much activity around the idea (perhaps imagined) that some forms of imagination appear to be required in order to follow (some of) the Buddha's instructions.

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:02 am

mikenz66 wrote: that some forms of imagination appear to be required in order to follow (some of) the Buddha's instructions.
Unless you gut yourself, the contemplation of the 31(2) parts of the body requires imagination, taking the word to its root.

(I looked for an image to go along with this comment, but they were all too gut-wrenching, so best I leave to your imagination.)
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:23 am

That's Ok Mike. I do have a burning question from this thread, however, which I'll direct to Tiltbillings, who may be just the person for this.
"Knowledge and vision according to reality"--I won't try to do the Pali--isn't that fundamentally different from what we normally recognize as knowledge in the conventional sense?
If it isn't, then aren't we left alone to endlessly theorize?

I don't see a separate, philosophically pure arena in which we play out this discussion.
I'm going to argue that if there is no "knowledge and vision according to reality" then there is no Dhamma we can ever use.
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:36 am

alan wrote:That's Ok Mike. I do have a burning question from this thread, however, which I'll direct to Tiltbillings, who may be just the person for this.
"Knowledge and vision according to reality"--I won't try to do the Pali--isn't that fundamentally different from what we normally recognize as knowledge in the conventional sense?
Yes; however, no. It depends. The content is certainly no different, but it is the cultivation of the ability of "stepping back" to look at these things without getting lost in them or investing in them. The ability to do this is part of our "normal" consciousness process, but it needs to be cultivated. What is radical about the Buddha's teaching is that - from start to finish - there is no supernatural thingie or stuff outside or supposedly inside ourselves that we must appeal to, or identify ourselves with or some such business, all of which is a projection and product of our imagination driven by the insecurity of a self that wants to pretend it is something different from what it really is. It is in the ordinary mind/body process that all what we need for awakening is found.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby christopher::: » Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:12 am

Not sure if this will be helpful, but coming at this from the perspective of modern psychology we can think of "imagination" as visually based language while linguistics refers to sound based language. Both are tools of the mind that allow sentient beings to represent the world symbolically. Neither is good or bad, both verbal and visual symbols can be used in helpful and unhelpful ways.

If you imagine the Taliban as your enemy a delusion is being set in place and you may find yourself supporting efforts to bomb and kill them. If you imagine the Taliban as our sisters and brothers your mind fills with images of the suffering of people there, and compassion is more likely to arise. Neither is an exact picture of reality but the one which focuses on our connectedness and similarities leads to compassion, while the more dualistic conception highlights differences, leading to greater pain and suffering.

Both language systems, words and images, work together when we think and communicate. What the Buddha advised, imo was to be as mindful as possible- speak mindfully, imagine mindfully, act mindfully. Buddha and many great teachers employ metaphors frequently, they encourage visualizing as Mike described.

These are all wholesome and helpful ways to use our imaginative capabilities.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:57 am

My imagination is not up to understanding what you are saying.
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby PeterB » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:57 am

Imagining the Taliban as your friend or imagining them as your enemy are both dualistic Chris.
The Taliban are in reality neither your enemy nor your friend. The Taliban have come into being collectively and individually because the conditions for their arising are present, and when those conditions change they will cease to arise.
In any case the Buddha did not involve himself in discussion about duality/non duality.
The spiritual milieu in which he was raised was replete with Upanishads discussions which gave rise to the later more simplistic duality/non duality debate. But he carefully avoided that debate presumably because he did not see it as important.
It is common for those coming to Buddhism via some forms of the Mahayana to assume that Non Duality must be a goal in the Theravada and on learning that it isnt, to assume that the Theravada must have somehow overlooked it or misplaced it.
It actually doesn't feature per se at all.
I would be interested if someone could indicate where in the Kandhas "imagination" is described.
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby PeterB » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:00 am

tiltbillings wrote:
alan wrote:That's Ok Mike. I do have a burning question from this thread, however, which I'll direct to Tiltbillings, who may be just the person for this.
"Knowledge and vision according to reality"--I won't try to do the Pali--isn't that fundamentally different from what we normally recognize as knowledge in the conventional sense?
Yes; however, no. It depends. The content is certainly no different, but it is the cultivation of the ability of "stepping back" to look at these things without getting lost in them or investing in them. The ability to do this is part of our "normal" consciousness process, but it needs to be cultivated. What is radical about the Buddha's teaching is that - from start to finish - there is no supernatural thingie or stuff outside or supposedly inside ourselves that we must appeal to, or identify ourselves with or some such business, all of which is a projection and product of our imagination driven by the insecurity of a self that wants to pretend it is something different from what it really is. It is in the ordinary mind/body process that all what we need for awakening is found.

:goodpost:
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Re: Imagination, Compassion, Awakening

Postby alan » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:23 am

I'm sorry, that answer doesn't work for me. Guess I'll just have to study it again later. If anyone can elaborate and elucidate, that would be helpful. For now it is bedtime.
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