A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Sylvester » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:50 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:I think the only thing that has been demonstrated is that Ajahn Brahm's teachings differ from your interpretations of the Tipitaka, and it's been demonstrated that your understanding of the Tipitaka is quite odd.

Really? Just my understanding? How about the understanding of countless meditators, scholars, translators, and commentators who contradict what you are trying to establish?

All the best,

Geoff



Hyperbolic appeals to emotion and appeals to tradition don't cut it in critical textual studies.

And if they were truly "countless", you'd have to demonstrate that you've surveyed the universe of Theravada and your "pan-Buddhist" animal to arrive at this finding.

I don't need to resort to your hyperbole, since the only evidence you've proffered is YOUR reading of the Psm, the Dhammasangani and a scattering of Sarva texts. Smoke and mirrors.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:51 am

Sylvester wrote:So much distortions to the Pali

Hardly. None of what you said is supported by the sutta. It's clear that you will go to any length to attempt to muddy the waters just to defend the Brahmavamso thesis.

Sylvester wrote:just to eke out some support for the discursive jhana model.

Your misunderstanding of the difference between thought and apperception has already been noted and addressed.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Sylvester » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:57 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:So much distortions to the Pali

Hardly. None of what you said is supported by the sutta. It's clear that you will go to any length to attempt to muddy the waters just to defend the Brahmavamso thesis.

Sylvester wrote:just to eke out some support for the discursive jhana model.

Your misunderstanding of the difference between thought and apperception has already been noted and addressed.

All the best,

Geoff



Your misunderstanding of vipassana and vipassati are the real problem here. Not that I could do anything about your misunderstanding, save to point out to the readers that there is no vipassati without dhamma-vicaya. An avitakka avicara dhamma-vicaya is fool's gold.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby imagemarie » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:05 am

nathan wrote:I expect that what I can post about this subject will be discounted from the discussion because I'm not going to quote from the Tipitaka at all but I am optimistic that I can at least post this here because this is the modern Theravada sub-forum.

When I develop first Jhana, I develop it based on contact between consciousness and the entire body through attending to the breath until the mind is calm and unified and then by directing attention to the body form as a whole. So first Jhana is very pleasant for me because it is simply attending to the single perception of contact noted by consciousness in touch with the whole body form and the corresponding absence of all attention to any diversity of thought objects or sense objects. The point being that there is not much left to think about and that thinking about any of the remaining simplicity of attention discursively ends that single pointed quality of simple attention to contact with the body form.

Similarly with the attention in second jhana, the attending is comparatively effortless to establishing the simple attention of the first jhana and so even simpler. With the third jhana attention shifts ever so slightly from the pleasantness that arises on the basis of the one simple type of attention on the pleasant quality of attention to the body form to the pleasant quality that arises in the mind on the basis of the singular attention to conscious contact with the body and the pleasantness of the body contact fades. In shifting slightly to the fourth jhana both of these two previously noted pleasant qualities, the bodily and the mental qualities, fade out as attention shifts to the singleness of attention that is steady and peaceful.
These are very simple and very subtle shifts of attention and not complicated, difficult or unnatural to progress through within the jhanas from one to the next without emerging from jhana completely in passing from one jhana to the next. The insights into the conditions that are present and the conditions that are not present or into what is occurring and what is not occurring during jhana are very simple and obvious and so there is no need for discursive thought or any sort of complicated analysis or reflection.
This becomes even simpler in progressing further to the formless realms as only mental qualities remain when the body form is let go of and drops from attention as well. In the realm of neither perception nor non perception it is not possible to discern qualities at all as there is only one quality, that of consciousness without any contacts, not even with the simplest type of contact or the perception of nothing to serve as a quality for reflection. Because of this extreme simplicity one can only note or discern the difference between discernment of the formless perception of nothing and of neither perception nor non-perception when one again returns to the previous perception of nothing or one of the other jhanas. Similarly with the cessation of perception and feeling altogether, whereupon the last faint trace of consciousness is abandoned, one can not discern in that state as there are no qualities supportive of discernment remaining. Within the nirodha samapatti it is not possible to discern any qualities at all because the quality of consciousness has ceased entirely in a similar matter to how all of the other form and mental qualities in contact with consciousness have also previously ceased through a discerning and concentrated direction of attention successively away from these various qualities towards those which are more subtle and underlying to those which previously have been directly and correctly known and directly and correctly discerned.
What is clear and obvious during jhana and which requires no discursive thought throughout attending within all of the four jhanas and the four formless attainments is that these dependently compounded forms of attention are all composed of much simpler, steadier and more refined kinds of mental qualities and forms of attention than are any more ordinary perceptions of sensations or thought objects or other mental qualities and that owing to these forms of attention still being fabricated (with the exception of nirodha samapatti wherein fabrication ends together with all aspects or qualities composing fabrication) that these also carry all three marks of dependently conditional phenomena.
So there is no need for discursive thought or thought objects or anything of the sort to clearly cognize and comprehend what is and is not occurring in a given jhana or in the transition from one jhana to the next or from one formless realm to the next. One is discerning, one has insights but these insights need not be complex or disruptive of the calm and concentration of the jhanas as these insights are largely obvious and self evident. What is made clear by the emergence from nirodha samapatti is that not only has consciousness ceased altogether at that point but that this cessation is markedly more pleasant and peaceful than any of the previous jhanas and realms. After emerging from nirodha samapatti it is unquestionably clear, in a manner made similarly, directly and immediately clear in no other way, that there is no lasting core or essence or soul or spirit or atman or brahma or anything else which is central or consistent to the arising and passing of consciousness and the contact between consciousness and other dependent and compounded mental qualities and bodily forms and the rest.
Before the nirodha samapatti one might still hope or imagine or believe in notions like the atman or the soul or buddhanature or brahman or some eternal thing or condition but after emerging from nirodha samapatti it is entirely impossible to maintain such misconceptions because one can reflect on having directly observed the complete ending of consciousness through a progressive process of simplifications which is largely what the four jhanas and the four formless realms are. These eight simplifications of attention progressively culminate in the abandonment of all conditions and complete release. Having known the indescribable nature of that release one need no longer speculate on how one arrives at it or what it is like or if it is actually preferable to ongoing being and becoming.
A great deal of vipassana and discernment of the characteristics of conditions in all modes and at all times in more ordinary and complex states of mind necessarily precedes the refined conditions present during the modes of attention which are characteristic of jhana. Jhana is also capable of maintaining discernment, very simply and straightforwardly, but it is no less very clearly the quality of discernment which is functioning during the acknowledgment of what is occurring and in the subtle shifting of attention while passing through the four jhana and the four formless realms leading to nirodha samapatti and discernment into the absolutely undeniable truth of anatta which occurs on emergence from the NS.
That is how it is and how it works, as such, I like the Tipitaka because it describes all of this very well in a variety of ways and no other set of texts describes any of this at all. Arguing about the minutia of the texts or holding one view point or another preferentially won't cause this to occur for the individual. Practicing calm and alert attention at all times leads eventually to these concentrated and easily discernible states occurring, one after the next, exactly and precisely as described. Arguing for one interpretation of the texts vs. another is only that, practicing calm and mindful attention to the body, sensations, mental objects and mental qualities when these are in flux and then when these are relatively entirely calm and composed leads to direct understanding and the ending of any further need for debate, one can see the truth of the composure, refinement and discernment present within these modes of attending very clearly and for oneself in ones own experience and one can then confirm the wisdom as variously presented in the texts.


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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:26 am

Sylvester wrote:appeals to tradition don't cut it in critical textual studies.

Reference to the canon and to specialists in the fields of Buddhist meditation, translation, and scholarship are completely valid. Let's see what some specialists in these fields have to say on the subject, and see if you agree or disagree with them. I won't list their credentials, as I'm sure you're well aware of them. Ajahn Chah:

    In appanā samādhi the mind calms down and is stilled to a level where it is at its most subtle and skilful. Even if you experience sense impingement from the outside, such as sounds and physical sensations, it remains external and is unable to disturb the mind. You might hear a sound, but it won't distract your concentration. There is the hearing of the sound, but the experience is as if you don't hear anything.

Do you agree or disagree with this? How about Ven. Ṭhānissaro reporting what Ajahn Fuang considered to be wrong concentration:

    The second state [of wrong concentration] was one I happened to hit one night when my concentration was extremely one-pointed, and so refined that it refused settle on or label even the most fleeting mental objects. I dropped into a state in which I lost all sense of the body, of any internal/external sounds, or of any thoughts or perceptions at all — although there was just enough tiny awareness to let me know, when I emerged, that I hadn't been asleep. I found that I could stay there for many hours, and yet time would pass very quickly. Two hours would seem like two minutes. I could also "program" myself to come out at a particular time.

    After hitting this state several nights in a row, I told Ajaan Fuang about it, and his first question was, "Do you like it?" My answer was "No," because I felt a little groggy the first time I came out. "Good," he said. "As long as you don't like it, you're safe. Some people really like it and think it's nibbana or cessation. Actually, it's the state of non-perception (asaññi-bhava). It's not even right concentration, because there's no way you can investigate anything in there to gain any sort of discernment....

    In both these states of wrong concentration, the limited range of awareness was what made them wrong. If whole areas of your awareness are blocked off, how can you gain all-around insight? And as I've noticed in years since, people adept at blotting out large areas of awareness through powerful one-pointedness also tend to be psychologically adept at dissociation and denial.

Do you agree with this or not? How about Ven. Bodhi:

    The commentarial method of explanation stipulates that the meditator emerges from the jhāna attainment and practices insight contemplation with a mind made sharp and supple by the jhāna. However, the suttas themselves say nothing about emerging from the jhāna. If one reads the suttas alone, without the commentaries, it seems as if the meditator examines the factors within the jhāna itself.

Do you agree with this or not? How about Ven. Gunaratana:

    The belief that one must come out of jhāna to gain supernormal knowledge (abhiññās) or to destroy defilements and attain enlightenment is based on an assumption that the concentrated mind becomes one with the object of meditation and is absorbed into that object. For this reason some people translate jhāna or samādhi as absorption concentration. If the mind is absorbed into the object then the mind is paralyzed and incapable of doing anything.

    This may be true when the jhāna is gained without mindfulness. This is what happened to the teachers of the Bodhisatta Gotama. They were stuck in jhāna but they thought that they had attained enlightenment. This cannot happen when you practice jhāna with mindfulness. When we attain right jhāna, our mindfulness is pure, our equanimity is strong, our concentration is strong and our attention is sharp. Right concentration consolidates all the mental factors that the Buddha has listed in the Anupada Sutta. Concentration is one of the factors present in right jhāna. You are fully aware, without words or concepts, of the subtlest impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness that takes place in this state of samādhi. These are your direct experience, not philosophical or logical thoughts.

Do you agree with this or not? And a few ancient Indian sources. The Vibhaṅga Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅga:

    And how does a monk dwell contemplating the body in the body?

    Here a monk, at whatever time, develops supramundane jhāna, which leads on, which goes to decrease (of rebirth), to abandonment of wrong views, to the attainment of the first ground, (where) quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome things, having thinking, reflection, and the happiness and rapture born of seclusion, he dwells, having attained the first jhāna, and with painful practice and slow deepening of knowledge, and at that time: there is contact, there is feeling, there is perception, there is intention, there is thought, there is thinking, there is reflection, there is joyful interest, there is happiness, there is one-pointedness, there is the faculty of faith, there is the faculty of energy, there is the faculty of mindfulness, there is the faculty of concentration, there is the faculty of wisdom, there is the mind-faculty, there is the joy-faculty, there is the life-faculty, there is right view, there is right intention, there is right endeavour, there is right mindfulness, there is right concentration, there is the strength of faith, there is the strength of energy, there is the strength of mindfulness, there is the strength of concentration, there is the strength of wisdom, there is the strength of conscience, there is the strength of shame, there is no greed, there is no hate, there is no delusion, there is no avarice, there is no ill-will, there is right view, there is conscience, there is shame, there is bodily calm, there is mental calm, there is bodily lightness, there is mental lightness, there is bodily plasticity, there is mental plasticity, there is bodily workableness, there is mental workableness, there is bodily proficiency, there is mental proficiency, there is bodily uprightness, there is mental uprightness, there is mindfulness, there is full awareness, there is samatha, there is vipassanā, there is support, there is balance: these are wholesome things.

Do you agree with this or not? How about the Dhammasaṅgaṇī Cittuppādakaṇḍa Lokuttarakusala Suddhikapaṭipadā:

    When at a certain time one develops supramundane jhāna, which leads out, which goes to decrease (of rebirth), to abandonment of wrong views, to the attainment of the first stage (i.e. sotāpattimagga), quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful phenomena, he enters and remains in the first jhāna, which includes directed thought and evaluation, as well as joy and pleasure born of seclusion, and with difficult practice and slow acquisition of gnosis, then at that time there is contact, there is feeling, there is apperception, there is volitional intention, there is directed thought, there is evaluation, there is joy, there is pleasure, there is singleness of mind, there is the faculty of faith, there is the faculty of energy, there is the faculty of mindfulness, there is the faculty of concentration, there is the faculty of discernment, there is the mind-faculty, there is the happiness-faculty, there is the life-faculty, there is the 'I-shall-come-to-know-the-unknown' faculty, there is right view, there is right resolve, there is right effort, there is right mindfulness, there is right concentration, there is the strength of faith, there is the strength of energy, there is the strength of mindfulness, there is the strength of concentration, there is the strength of discernment, there is the strength of conscience, there is the strength of shame, there is no greed, there is no hate, there is no delusion, there is no avarice, there is no aversion, there is right view, there is conscience, there is shame, there is bodily calm, there is mental calm, there is bodily lightness, there is mental lightness, there is bodily pliability, there is mental pliability, there is bodily workableness, there is mental workableness, there is bodily proficiency, there is mental proficiency, there is bodily uprightness, there is mental uprightness, there is mindfulness, there is full awareness, there is samatha, there is vipassanā, there is exertion, there is non-distraction.

    What at that time is the faculty of discernment? That which at that time is discernment, thorough understanding, investigation, comprehensive investigation, dhamma-investigation, consideration, discrimination, direct discrimination, erudite intelligence, proficiency, refined intelligence, discriminative examination, reflection, comparative examination, breadth of knowledge, wisdom that destroys defilements, penetrative wisdom, vipassanā, full awareness, discernment like a guiding goad, faculty of discernment, strength of discernment, discernment like a sword, discernment like a tower, discernment like light, discernment like radiance, discernment like a torch, discernment like a jewel, non-delusion, dhamma-investigation, right view, awakening factor of dhamma-investigation, a path factor, knowledge included in the path – this at that time is the faculty of discernment.

    What at that time is vipassanā? That which at that time is discernment, thorough understanding, investigation, comprehensive investigation, dhamma-investigation, consideration, discrimination, direct discrimination, erudite intelligence, proficiency, refined intelligence, discriminative examination, reflection, comparative examination, breadth of knowledge, wisdom that destroys defilements, penetrative wisdom, vipassanā, full awareness, discernment like a guiding goad, faculty of discernment, strength of discernment, discernment like a sword, discernment like a tower, discernment like light, discernment like radiance, discernment like a torch, discernment like a jewel, non-delusion, dhamma-investigation, right view, awakening factor of dhamma-investigation, a path factor, knowledge included in the path – this at that time is vipassanā.

Do you agree with this or not? And since Ven. Sujato is using Sarvāstivāda texts to try to legitimize his and Ven. Brahmavamso's theories, it's appropriate to include two authoritative Indian Sarvāstivāda sources. How about the Mahāvibhāṣā:

    In the four dhyānas, śamatha and vipaśyanā are equal in strength, and thus they are named a pleasant dwelling.

Do you agree with this or not? How about the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya:

    Samādhi is in fact excellent: it is a dhyāna filled with "parts," which goes by the means of the yoke of śamatha and vipaśyanā [that is to say, in which śamatha and vipaśyanā are in equilibrium], that is termed in the Sūtra "happiness in this world" and "the easy path," the path by which one knows better and easily.

Do you agree with this or not? It would be good to hear your thoughts on these specific quotations.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:54 am

Sylvester wrote:An avitakka avicara dhamma-vicaya is fool's gold.

You continue to either misunderstand or intentionally misrepresent the Abhidhammapiṭaka. If it's intentional then it's merely an attempt at misdirection.

All the best,

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby morning mist » Wed Mar 09, 2011 4:34 am

Hi Nana,

Ñāṇa wrote: A comparison between the Tipiṭaka and Ven. Brahmavamso's teaching has already been done

That is another topic. So far on this thread, I haven't seen that he teaches anything that is not found in the sutta.


morning mist wrote: the Paṭisambhidāmagga Yuganaddhakathā is the canonical commentary on this sutta.


Personally, I am not interested in relying on the commentaries too heavily.

With metta,
with metta,
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Dmytro » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:20 am

Hi Morning Mist,

morning mist wrote:According to the Honey Ball Sutta:

"Dependent on mind & ideas, mind-consciousness arises ( manovinnanam). The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling (Vedana) . What one feels, one perceives (sanjanati: labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about ( VITAKKETI: reflecs, reason,considers) . What one thinks about ( VITAKKETI) , one mentally proliferates ( papanceti: explains, delays on, to be obsessed, to be profuse) . Based on what a person has mentally proliferated as the source, the perceptions ( SANNA) & notions (sankha) assail ( papanca: obstacle, impediment, delay hindrance to spiritual progress) him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable through the mind….


Thank you for the quote. These casual connections are pointed out in numerous suttas, and here's a summary of them:

http://dhamma.ru/lib/paticcas.htm

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby robertk » Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:18 am

Ñāṇa wrote: if you agree or disagree with them. I won't list their credentials, as I'm sure you're well aware of them. Ajahn Chah:

In appanā samādhi the mind calms down and is stilled to a level where it is at its most subtle and skilful. Even if you experience sense impingement from the outside, such as sounds and physical sensations, it remains external and is unable to disturb the mind. You might hear a sound, but it won't distract your concentration. There is the hearing of the sound, but the experience is as if you don't hear anything.

Chah is wrong here according to Tipitka and Commentary.
Ñāṇa wrote:Do you agree with this or not? How about Ven. Bodhi:

The commentarial method of explanation stipulates that the meditator emerges from the jhāna attainment and practices insight contemplation with a mind made sharp and supple by the jhāna. However, the suttas themselves say nothing about emerging from the jhāna. If one reads the suttas alone, without the commentaries, it seems as if the meditator examines the factors within the jhāna itself.



So bodhi agrees with the ancients or he does think the Atthakatha got it incredibly wrong, or just he is making an observation?
Clearly it is impossible for vipassana to occur in jhana as the cittas are merely contacting the object of jhana at that time, Perhaps that why the Theravada say that first there is emerging from the jhana.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Sylvester » Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:13 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Reference to the canon and to specialists in the fields of Buddhist meditation, translation, and scholarship are completely valid. Let's see what some specialists in these fields have to say on the subject, and see if you agree or disagree with them. I won't list their credentials, as I'm sure you're well aware of them.


Well there, not quite an uncountable list now, is it.

I'm sure you must realise that this name-dropping is not going to achieve very much, beyond the rather shallow comparisons already done by Brasington and Shankman. For every "authority" you cite, we can just as easily find many more Classical Theravadins who would disagree with them. So, I won't approach this by citing counter-authorities but will try to address each authority by using the 4 Great References, where possible, and if the emic approach does not work, by etic approaches..

1. Ajahn Chah

If Ajahn Chah had made that statement as a scholastic one, then the statement clearly conflicts with AN 10.72, and must be rejected.

But given his "Good Enough" teaching style, I would expect Ajahn Chah to have been motivated by compassion for a particularly poor meditator who could not get the vivicc'eva kamehi apanna-s.


2. Bhikkhu Bodhi

That is footnote No 4 to Chap 10 of his "In the Buddha's Words", published in 2005. The Venerable had since changed his stance in Sep 2008, in his lecture on Jhanas at Chuang Yen Monastery. He now asserts that review of the jhana factors is done after arising from the jhana. I don't know why he's now reverted to this position, or if he has since changed his mind yet again.

3. Bhante G

Addressed to death in this thread - viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4990

4. The Vibhaṅga Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅga

In case you have not noticed, it's practically the same giant iddapaccayata set as the Dhammasaṅgaṇī Cittuppādakaṇḍa Lokuttarakusala Suddhikapaṭipadā earlier discussed. It's certainly your prerogative to interpret the locative absolute as entailing only concomitance, but until your New Pali Grammar is peer-reviewed and taken to have abrogated Warder's, I'll take my chances with Warder.

5. Dhammasaṅgaṇī Cittuppādakaṇḍa Lokuttarakusala Suddhikapaṭipadā

As above.

6. The Mahāvibhāṣā

And how do the Sarvas interpret vipaśyanā? Do they use the same doctrinal set of definitions as the Dhammasangani? Let's see if you are comparing apples to apples.

Secondly, let's not forget that part of the zeroth premise underlying the Sarvas' Tri-Temporal Materialism was their rejection of vipaśyanā review through memory, thereby entailing vipaśyanā directly into svabhava past dharmas that continue to exist after the event. Are you sure there is a legitimate basis to compare Theravadin vipassana with Sarvastivadin vipaśyanā?

7. Abhidharmakośabhāṣya

As above. Secondly, what is the Sanskrit for "yoked"? Unless it was "samprayukta" and its technical meaning assigned by Vasubandhu is equivalent to the Dammasangani's "sampayutta", I don't see this as being of any worth for Comparative Buddhism. Just because the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya is interpreted by modern commentators as intending a temporal dimension to "yoked", that does not mean that the Pali's sampayutta should share the same flavour. No reason to backread a modern reading of a Sarva text into the Theravadin text, when the Theravadin text has itself explicity excluded any temporal value to nana in its kusala dhamma discussion.

8. And finally Ajahn Thanissaro's nasty experience. That sure is not Jhana. I've not heard of anyone emerging from a Jhana all stoned and spaced out. But that bad trip in itself does not excuse Ajahn Thanissaro's dismissal of seclusion from sound as a hallmark of a Jhana, since it directly conflicts with the Thorns Sutta above cited. Methinks he launched himself too fast into a stupor, without having gone through the successive cessations outlined in DN 9. What's important from DN 9 is that each successive nirodha achieved by training is anchored in a new perception that arises through training. Given his antagonism to "nimittas" (used loosely here), he may have missed the obhasa and rupa dassana stage and just blacked out without an anchor.

And since Ven. Sujato is using Sarvāstivāda texts to try to legitimize his and Ven. Brahmavamso's theories, it's appropriate to include two authoritative Indian Sarvāstivāda sources.


This has got to be the worst category mistake, popular with old school Mahayanists and Vajrayanists who have not got a clue about the Agamas or the Nikayas. What makes for a Sarva is not its Agama, but its Abhidharma theories. You've asserted elsewhere that there's no such thing as Early Theravada, but you conveniently overlook this point in alleging that the texts used are "Sarva". It's just an early Buddhist parallel to the Pali preserved in the Sarva Canon. And I don't see either Ajahn relying on svabhava or the "three-times" in their explanation of Jhana, unlike your resort to the Sarva notion of vipaśyanā that only makes sense in the context of reviewing real time "ghost" dharma-s of the past.

At your leisure...

PS - I'm still waiting for your suttanta citation of vipassana/vipassati proceeding without Dhamma-Vicaya, or that one can vipassati using an avitakka-avicara Dhamma-Vicaya. Pls track down this Enlightenment Factor for my benefit.
Last edited by Sylvester on Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby legolas » Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:27 am

robertk wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote: if you agree or disagree with them. I won't list their credentials, as I'm sure you're well aware of them. Ajahn Chah:

In appanā samādhi the mind calms down and is stilled to a level where it is at its most subtle and skilful. Even if you experience sense impingement from the outside, such as sounds and physical sensations, it remains external and is unable to disturb the mind. You might hear a sound, but it won't distract your concentration. There is the hearing of the sound, but the experience is as if you don't hear anything.

Chah is wrong here according to Tipitka and Commentary.
Ñāṇa wrote:Do you agree with this or not? How about Ven. Bodhi:

The commentarial method of explanation stipulates that the meditator emerges from the jhāna attainment and practices insight contemplation with a mind made sharp and supple by the jhāna. However, the suttas themselves say nothing about emerging from the jhāna. If one reads the suttas alone, without the commentaries, it seems as if the meditator examines the factors within the jhāna itself.



So bodhi agrees with the ancients or he does think the Atthakatha got it incredibly wrong, or just he is making an observation?
Clearly it is impossible for vipassana to occur in jhana as the cittas are merely contacting the object of jhana at that time, Perhaps that why the Theravada say that first there is emerging from the jhana.


This is not a cogent argument. You are using commentarial ideas to refute sutta's - sutta's that never mention arising from jhana to practice vipassana and at times state implicitly that vipassana occurs within jhana. A clearer understanding of jhana as set out in the sutta's would show that the sutta jhana is not a fixed point event but a streamlining and unification of mind that is broad, expansive and capable of discernment/sati and knowledge. "Cittas are merely contacting the object of jhana at that time" does not ring a bell, which sutta is that from?
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:56 pm

Sylvester wrote:At your leisure...

I think Ven. Yuttadhammo said it quite accurately in his critique of Ven. Brahmavamso's The Jhānas:

    What I have a problem with is what seems clearly to be a distortion of the Buddha’s teaching in order to support his own way of teaching.

I would extend this to Ven. Sujato's methodology of beginning with a preconceived thesis and then attempting to force the suttas into agreement.

All the best,

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:02 pm

Sylvester wrote:Pls track down this Enlightenment Factor for my benefit.

Already done in the quotation from the Dhammasaṅgaṇī:

    What at that time is the faculty of discernment? That which at that time is discernment, thorough understanding, investigation, comprehensive investigation, dhamma-investigation, consideration, discrimination, direct discrimination, erudite intelligence, proficiency, refined intelligence, discriminative examination, reflection, comparative examination, breadth of knowledge, wisdom that destroys defilements, penetrative wisdom, vipassanā, full awareness, discernment like a guiding goad, faculty of discernment, strength of discernment, discernment like a sword, discernment like a tower, discernment like light, discernment like radiance, discernment like a torch, discernment like a jewel, non-delusion, dhamma-investigation, right view, awakening factor of dhamma-investigation, a path factor, knowledge included in the path – this at that time is the faculty of discernment.

    What at that time is vipassanā? That which at that time is discernment, thorough understanding, investigation, comprehensive investigation, dhamma-investigation, consideration, discrimination, direct discrimination, erudite intelligence, proficiency, refined intelligence, discriminative examination, reflection, comparative examination, breadth of knowledge, wisdom that destroys defilements, penetrative wisdom, vipassanā, full awareness, discernment like a guiding goad, faculty of discernment, strength of discernment, discernment like a sword, discernment like a tower, discernment like light, discernment like radiance, discernment like a torch, discernment like a jewel, non-delusion, dhamma-investigation, right view, awakening factor of dhamma-investigation, a path factor, knowledge included in the path – this at that time is vipassanā.

All the best,

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby morning mist » Wed Mar 09, 2011 4:12 pm

Hi legolas,
legolas wrote: at times state implicitly that vipassana occurs within jhana.


Would you mind sharing which sutta would that be. And without thought and examination in second jhana and beyond, how does a person contemplate various difficult concept of the dhamma within jhana when he/she can't even decide to emerge from jhana while in jhana but set a predetermined time before jhana.

Also if the mind is not beyond thoughts and one is just simply sitting there as usual then where is the need for being "Skilled in Emergence" as mentioned in the Samadhimulaka Vutthana Sutta. But here we see Citta told the Nigantha in the Nigantha Nataputta Sutta that he directly experienced samadhi without thoughts and examination by entering Samma Samadhi. The sutta below speaks about the need for being skilled in Emerging from samadhi. It shows that in samadhi the mind is very still. It is different then just being mindful.

At Savatthi. " Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of meditators. What four?

" Here, bhikkhus, a meditator is skilled in concentration (samadhi kusalo) regarding concentration but not skilled in emerging from it (vutthana kusalo) in relation to concentration ( samadhi) .

" Here a mediator is skilled in emerging from it (vutthana kusalo) in relation to concentration but not skilled in concentration regarding concentration.

" Here a meditator is skilled neither in concentration nor in emerging from it (vutthana kusalo) in relation to concentration.

" Here a meditator is skilled both in concentration and in emerging from it (vutthana kusalo) in relation to concentration.

" Therein, bhikkhus, the mediator who is skilled both in concentration and emerging from it in (vutthana kusalo) relation to concentration is the chief, the best, the foremost, the supreme, the most excellent of these four kinds of mediators.

" Just as the cow gives milk, from milk is curd, from curd butter, from butter ghee, and from ghee the cream of ghee, in the same manner, a person clever in bringing the mind to one point and clever in attainments is the foremost, the chief, the released, the noble, and the excellent." - Samadhimulaka Vutthana Sutta ( Jhana Samyutta)


Spk: Na vutthanakusalo - Unable to emerge from the jhana at the predetermined time.



legolas wrote: the sutta jhana is not a fixed point event but a streamlining and unification of mind that is broad, expansive and capable of discernment/sati and knowledge.


I believe we are mixing up sati & sampajana with samadhi. Sati ( full awareness or mindfulness) is the one that is " broad" and "capable of discernment". It is simply being fully aware of whatever that is in this moment. For example while sitting or walking, you can be fully aware of of everything around you. You are alert with the five senses , etc..

In samadhi ( samma samadhi), it has more to do with onepointedness of mind, unification of mind, stillness of mind. You are aware and awake. But here it is not recommended that our awareness expands to include a multitude of things. Instead it should be more focused or centered on one thing. And thoughts should be allowed to settle into stillness.

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 09, 2011 4:45 pm

morning mist wrote:Also if the mind is not beyond thoughts and one is just simply sitting there as usual then where is the need for being "Skilled in Emergence" as mentioned in the Samadhimulaka Vutthana Sutta. But here we see Citta told the Nigantha in the Nigantha Nataputta Sutta that he directly experienced samadhi without thoughts and examination by entering Samma Samadhi. The sutta below speaks about the need for being skilled in Emerging from samadhi. It shows that in samadhi the mind is very still. It is different then just being mindful.

This doesn't entail accepting Ven. Brahmavamso's jhāna which impedes the jhāna factors of mindfulness and full awareness.

morning mist wrote:how does a person contemplate various difficult concept of the dhamma within jhana when he/she can't even decide to emerge from jhana while in jhana but set a predetermined time before jhana.

This is another inaccurate characterization of jhāna.

morning mist wrote:I believe we are mixing up sati & sampajana with samadhi.

Mindfulness (sati) and full awareness (sampajañña) are fully developed in the third and fourth jhāna.

All the best,

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby morning mist » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:18 pm

Hi Nana,

Nana wrote: " impedes the jhāna factors of mindfulness and full awareness."


Perhaps there is a misconception regarding the jhana taught by Ajahn Brahmavamso, From step one all the way through jhana, there is no point where the person is not consciously aware . Awareness doesn't have to be towards the distractions of the 5 senses in the external world to be called aware and mindful.

Ajahn Brahm does not suggest that one is not conscious at any point in jhana. Often what we are used to seeing is that when someone is not aware of 5 sense world the person is unconscious. What we are not familiar with is a state where one is being conscious , mindful , and aware even when be don't hear things in the outside world. One is aware , mindful , and conscious , but not the outside world . That is something we don't often see or hear about.

In jhana you don't even notice the sounds of thunder or feel the water on your skin if there is a thunderstorm . Still in meditative absorption, you are fully alert and mindful , such as experiencing the happiness that is non-sensual. And you are not unconscious .

Is it possible to be conscious and awake and not perceive the world of the 5 senses ? The Buddha saids that it is:

"one CONSCIOUS AND AWAKE , in the midst of a heavy rain, with thunder rolling, lightning flashing, and thunderbolts crashing, SHOULD NEITHER SEE IT NOR HEAR THE NOISE…."

But where, Lord, were you?'
"'I was here, brother.' 'Yet, Lord, did you not see it?' 'I did not see it, brother.' 'BUT THE NOISE , Lord, you surely heard?' 'I DID NOT HEAR IT, brother.' Then that man asked me: 'Then, Lord, perhaps you slept?' 'No, brother, I was not sleeping.' 'Then, LORD, YOU WERE CONSCIOUS?' 'I WAS, brother.' Then that man said: 'Then, Lord, WHILE CONSCIOUS AND AWAKE, IN THE MIDST OF A HEAVY RAIN, WITH THUNDER ROLLING, LIGHTNING FLASHING, and THUNDERBOLTS CRASHING, YOU NEITHER SAW IT NOR HEARD THE NOISE?' And I answered him, saying: 'I DID NOT, brother.'= Mahaparinibbana Sutta


Nana wrote: This is another inaccurate characterization of jhāna.


Then please describe exactly how someone contemplate the dhamma inside jhana. Do you suggest that we use vitakka and vicara , or sanna ?


Mindfulness is brought to onepointedness in jhana ( samma samadhi). Where did it say samadhi is expansive.

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Dmytro » Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:15 pm

Hi Morning Mist,

morning mist wrote:Perhaps there is a misconception regarding the jhana taught by Ajahn Brahmavamso.


I don't think there's any misconception. Here's what Brahmavamso writes:

If you want to know the way to develop that nimitta, then this fourth stage of developing the four jhanas is to pay attention to that aspect of the nimitta which is beautiful, which is attractive, which is joyful, the pleasant part of it. And again, it is at this stage where you have to be comfortable with pleasure and not be afraid of it, not fear that it is going to lead to some sort of attachment, because the pleasure of these stages can be very intense at times, literally overpowering: overpowering your sense of self, overpowering your control, overpowering your sensitivity to your physical body. So you have to look for that pleasure and happiness which is in the nimitta, and this becomes the fourth stage because once the mind has noticed the pleasure and happiness in the nimitta, that will act like what I call the magnet or the glue. It is that which will draw one's attention onto it, and it's not the will or the choice or the decision which takes the attention and puts it onto the samadhi nimitta. In fact once the choice, the intention, the orders inside yourself arise, they'll actually push you away. You have to let the whole process work because the samadhi nimitta at this stage is very pleasurable; it literally pulls the mind into it. Many meditators when the possibly experience their first taste of a jhana, experience the mind falling into a beautiful hole. And that's exactly what's happening. It's the joy, the bliss, the beauty of that nimitta which is before the mind that actually pulls the mind into it. So you don't need to do the pushing, you don't need to do the work. At this stage it becomes a natural process of the mind. Your job is just to get to that second stage, calm that breath down, allow the samadhi nimitta to arise. Once the samadhi nimitta arises strongly, then the jhana happens in and of itself.

Again, because the quality of knowing is very strong but very narrow in these states, while you are in these states, there is no way that you can truly assess where you are and what's happening to you. The ability to know through thinking, through analysing, is taken away from you in these states. You usually have to wait until you emerge from these states, until your ordinary thinking returns again, so you can really look back upon and analyse what has happened.

http://www.viet.net/anson/ebud/ebmed042.htm


IMO, this deliberate attention to the beautiful and attractive aspect of the mental object leads to the development of "rupa-raga"and "arupa-raga" - passions for jhana. And it is this passion which acts like "a magnet or a glue" in this case. Consequently, the jhana which occurs is devoid of sati and sampajanna, though there may be some residential awareness left.

Is it possible to be conscious and awake and not perceive the world of the 5 senses ? The Buddha saids that it is:

"one CONSCIOUS AND AWAKE , in the midst of a heavy rain, with thunder rolling, lightning flashing, and thunderbolts crashing, SHOULD NEITHER SEE IT NOR HEAR THE NOISE…."


Thank you for the quote. In the disembodied attainments (arupa-samapatti) one indeed does not have physical perception. This is explained in more detail in Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga.

With metta, Dmytro
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:23 pm

morning mist wrote:Then please describe exactly how someone contemplate the dhamma inside jhana. Do you suggest that we use vitakka and vicara , or sanna ?

Saññā. Saññā is necessary for discernment obtained through meditative development (bhāvanāmayā paññā).

morning mist wrote:Mindfulness is brought to onepointedness in jhana ( samma samadhi). Where did it say samadhi is expansive.

The Dhammasaṅgaṇī details a number of different jhānas, including the kasiṇa jhānas, the brahmavihāra jhānas, the asubha jhānas, and so on. All of these jhānas are capable of expansive development. Terms such as totality (kasiṇa), immeasurable (appamāṇa), and expansive (mahaggatā) which are used in the descriptions of these samādhis indicate the expansiveness of jhāna. MN 127 explains the meaning of expansive mind-liberation and indicates the way of development:

    And what, householder, is the expansive liberation of mind (mahaggatā cetovimutti)? Here a monk abides resolved upon an area the size of the root of one tree, pervading it as expansive: this is called the expansive liberation of mind. Here a monk abides resolved upon an area the size of the roots of two or three trees, pervading it as expansive: this too is called the expansive liberation of mind. Here a monk abides resolved upon an area the size of one village, pervading it as expansive ... an area the size of two or three villages... an area the size of one major kingdom... an area the size of two or three major kingdoms... an area the size of the earth bounded by the ocean, pervading it as expansive: this too is called the expansive liberation of mind.

The Dhammasaṅgaṇī (1027) states that this expansiveness is distinctive of the mind engaged in jhāna:

    What phenomena are expansive (mahaggatā)? There are skillful and neither-skillful-nor-unskillful phenomena of the form sphere (rūpāvacarā) and the formless sphere (arūpāvacarā), the feeling aggregate, recognition aggregate, fabrications aggregate, and consciousness aggregate; these phenomena are expansive.

MN 77 lists the ten kasiṇa jhānas, the first of which is earth-perception kasiṇa jhāna:

    Again, Udāyin, I have proclaimed to my disciples the way to develop the ten totality spheres. One perceives the earth totality above, below, and across, undivided and immeasurable... And thereby many disciples of mine abide having reached the perfection and consummation of direct gnosis.

MN 121 explains the way of developing earth-perception kasiṇa jhāna:

    Now, as well as before, I remain fully in a dwelling of emptiness. Just as this palace of Migara's mother is empty of elephants, cattle, & mares, empty of gold & silver, empty of assemblies of women & men, and there is only this non-emptiness — the singleness based on the community of monks; even so, Ananda, a monk — not attending to the perception of village, not attending to the perception of human being — attends to the singleness based on the perception of wilderness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of wilderness.

    He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of village are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of village. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

    Further, Ananda, the monk — not attending to the perception of human being, not attending to the perception of wilderness — attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth. Just as a bull's hide is stretched free from wrinkles with a hundred stakes, even so — without attending to all the ridges & hollows, the river ravines, the tracts of stumps & thorns, the craggy irregularities of this earth — he attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth.

    He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of wilderness are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of earth.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of wilderness. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of earth.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

Sigālapita Theragāthā 1.18 describes skeleton-perception asubha jhāna:

    There was an heir to the Buddha, a monk in the Bhesakala forest,
    Who suffused this whole earth with skeleton-perception,
    Quickly, I say, he abandoned passion for sensual pleasure.

The brahmavihāra jhānas are described in many places, such as AN 11.17:

    Then again, a monk keeps pervading the first direction with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth. Thus above, below, and all around, everywhere, in its entirety, he keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with a mind imbued with loving-kindness — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without ill will.

The other types of jhāna are listed in many suttas and detailed in the Dhammasaṅgaṇī, the Vibhaṅga, and the Paṭisambhidāmagga.

All the best,

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:38 am

Sylvester wrote:why did you omit the tail marked by XXXXXXXX in that section? It is very important to note that the sentence does not end with "...non-distraction" followed by a footstop as you have presented it. It ends with a semi-colon ";" followed by which reads -

...avikkhepo hoti; ye vā pana tasmiṃ samaye aññepi atthi paṭiccasamuppannā arūpino dhammā— ime dhammā kusalā.

Why do you persist in re-writing the Abhidhamma?

Just to add to my previous reply to your mistaken assumptions and fallacious accusations: Reading the Introduction to U Kyaw Khine's translation of the Dhammasaṅgaṇī may help you to understand the text. It states:

    [ B]esides those fifty-six dhamma factors, there are also nine dhamma factors which may occur, wherever appropriate on the occasion of the arising of those fifty-six dhamma factors, thereby making up a total of sixty-five dhamma factors. These nine are denoted, by 'yevapana...dhamma in Pali. They are: 1. Chanda - Desire, 2. Adhimokkha - Decision, Choice, 3. Manasikara - Attention, 4. Tatramajjhattata - Balance of mind, Equanimity, 5. Karuna - Compassion, 6. Mudita - Sympathetic joy, 7. Sammavaca - Abstinence from evil speech, 8. Sammakammanta - Abstinence from evil action, 9. Samma-ajiva - Abstinence from evil livelihood.

Sylvester wrote:11 iddapaccayata relations which are possible (but not always present with each lokiya citta)

From the same Introduction:

    The actual fact is that there are thirty dhamma factors occurring as fifty-six items in the complete list and these arise simultaneously.... The same fifty-six dhamma factors that constitute the Meritorious Thought pertaining to the Sensuous Sphere can be found in the Meritorious Thought pertaining to the Fine Material Sphere.

Sylvester wrote:If you're going to insist on reading this locative absolute formulation as importing the concomitance of all dhammas, that's your problem. The problem is not with the Dhammasangani, but your bizarre insistence on reading the Dhammasangani in the way that you do.

From the same Introduction:

    It has been said above that fifty-six dhamma factor constitute the First Category of Meritorious Thought. There are two points to be made here. The first is that in the seventeen groups of dhamma factors mentioned above, the first group of dhamma factors, namely, the group of five dhamma factors headed by contact, is the most proximate cause for the arising of the meritorious thought; the second group which consists of the five factors of the first jhana is the most proximate cause for arising of the first group headed by contact. and so it goes on step by step till the seventeenth group. However, this is only an analytical view. The actual fact is that there are thirty dhamma factors occurring as fifty-six items in the complete list and these arise simultaneously.

Your qualms, as per usual, are completely unfounded.

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby morning mist » Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:54 am

Hi Dmytro,

Dmytro wrote: IMO, this deliberate attention to the beautiful and attractive aspect of the mental object leads to the development of "rupa-raga"and "arupa-raga" - passions for jhana.
And it is this passion which acts like "a magnet or a glue" in this case.


Initially , but there are instructions to let go of it and develop insight after you attained jhana. The Buddha did not say not to attend to nimitta or not to practice jhana because it is pleasant. In the Pasakika Sutta, the Buddha distinguished what is wholesome pleasure ( Four stages of Jhanas that is Samma Samadhi ) and what is unwholesome pleasure ( worldly sense pleasure ).

'' These are the four modes of being attached and devoted to pleasure, Cunda, which conduce absolutely to unworldliness, to passionlessness, to cessation, to peace, to higher knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. What are the four ? " The four jhanas. - Pasakika Sutta


Dmytro wrote: Consequently, the jhana which occurs is devoid of sati and sampajanna, though there may be some residential awareness left.


One is always awake and aware just not of the outside world.

Also , there is no support for the claim that one goes beyond the 5 senses only in the arupa states. In the Therigatha there are examples of a lay woman entering the form jhana and when someone tried to pour hot oil over her in order to kill her and take her husband, it did not hurt her.

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