Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:42 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:
dhamma follower wrote:The rapid succession of rise and fall is part of these insights. Otherwise, it is only cinta panna.


But not all rise and fall is rapid. For example a mood or mind-state might persist for many hours. As might a toothache.

Spiny
But if you are able to really attend to these things with concentration and mindfulness, one sees that the mood/mind-state/toothache are a constant flow of change. In one sense a mood may appear to persist to some degree unchanging, but in another sense of careful attention, like a fire, it is always changing.


I agree, there is perpetual change. My point was that categorising this transience as rapid rise and fall is potentially misleading.

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:44 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote:I agree, there is perpetual change. My point was that categorising this transience as rapid rise and fall is potentially misleading.
Potentially misleading, how so?
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: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:47 am

mikenz66 wrote:As I understand it (as I've heard it explained by teachers from various Theravada schools), it' is important to be able to see that moods are unstable, otherwise it's very tempting to attach the "self" who is in a "calm meditator mind state".


I agree. Though I also think it's useful to recognise that change takes place over different time-scales, and at different levels.

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:49 am

tiltbillings wrote:For all of that, dhamma-follower still does not by necessity of any argument you have put forth need to buy that label of realism,

If a mind moment can't be objectively established, yet one still insists that there is indeed such a real entity then they are subscribing to a worldview that is based on the notion of truth as constituted by a correspondence between our concepts and statements, on the one hand, and the features of an independent, determinate reality, on the other hand.

tiltbillings wrote:rather than tearing it all down, you might want to try to find what in all of this actually works and build on that.

There is nothing esoteric, mysterious, or hidden about impermanence. Later accretions like the theory of momentariness only muddy the waters.

tiltbillings wrote:That would be far more skilful and interesting, and certainly infinitely less annoying.

It's your choice whether or not you find any of this annoying. The idea of clearing the path, which was initiated by Ñāṇavīra and carried on by Ñāṇananda, continues to be a relevant concern for many Theravāda lay practitioners, monastics, and scholars. This clearing inevitably involves the criticism of historical accretions. Maybe it's time to enlist the far less diplomatic and genteel words of Ven. Sujato. The Mystique of the Abhidhamma:

    In the later abhidhamma, the treatment of time is dominated by a radical new theory, totally unlike anything in the suttas or even the canonical abhidhamma, the theory of moments (khaṇavāda). This postulates that time is constituted of a series of discrete, indivisible units, rather like a series of billiard balls lined up on a table. Each unit, or ‘moment’, is infinitesimally small, such that billions pass by in a lightning-flash. So while the suttas emphasize the length of time, the abhidhamma emphasizes the shortness. This theory shapes the abhidhamma conception of a whole range of central doctrines. Thus impermanence becomes, not simply being subject to birth and death, rise and fall, but the momentary dissolution of phenomena – one dhamma rises and ceases in an instant, leaving no trace of residue in the next. Samadhi becomes, not an exalted, stable coalescence of mind, but a ‘momentary samadhi’ running after the fluctuations of phenomena. The path becomes, not a gradual program of spiritual development, but a ‘path-moment’, gone in a flash. And the mind itself becomes just a series of ‘mind-moments’.

    Now it is quite possible to take this theory, compare it with the suttas, and refute it point by point. But here I would simply like to point out what an implausible and useless idea it is. Quite obviously, time may be analyzed as finely as we wish, its divisibility determined only by the sharpness of our analytical razor. Any unit of time has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That beginning, too, has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and so on ad infinitum. There is simply no good reason to postulate an ultimate substratum of time to which other strata can be reduced. This idea seems to derive some of its impressiveness from its air of acrid, pessimistic, reductionist severity, which is often mistaken as a sign of really uncompromising wisdom.

    The guiding objective for the formulation of the mind-moment theory would seem to be for exactitude of definition. So while the Buddha spoke of the mind ‘changing while it stands’, the abhidhamma just speaks of ‘standing’. It is much easier to define a static entity than a process evolving over time. This is why a butterfly collector wants to have his butterflies dead, with a pin stuck through their heart and a little label underneath, not madly meandering about in the woods. The dead mind. But the Buddha was not a butterfly collector, he was an observer of nature. He wanted us to watch the flight and flitter of the butterfly, to understand how it behaves in its natural environment, and to follow it gently, delicately, quietly until it settles down to rest and be still according to its nature – which he called ‘samadhi’....

    Just what is going on here? Why postulate such an odd theory, raising so many pseudo-problems, and so contrary to the suttas, to common sense, and to experience? What is occurring, I suggest, is that the domain of discourse has been shifted from the empirical to the metaphysical. The suttas treat time in a straightforward, pragmatic, empirical terms – birth, ageing, and death, the changing states of the mind, the progressive development of spiritual qualities. The purpose, the sole purpose, is to empower the practitioner to get a handle on this stuff of life, directing attention to the seat of the problem – how our attachments cause suffering, and how to find peace by letting go. But the abhidhamma aims to describe, not just the spiritual problem and its solution, but the totality of existence. Inevitably, the subjective stance of the suttas becomes objectified, and as the focus moves from meditation to study, the concepts in the books become imposed on reality; in fact, they become reality itself. The quest for truth becomes a quest for definition, and reality becomes as neatly departmentalized as a mathematical table. ‘Ultimate reality’ becomes, not what you are experiencing now, but what you read about in abhidhamma books.

    Find this hard to swallow? You might be interested to know that in contemporary abhidhamma circles it is, apparently, the orthodox position that the series of ‘mind-moments’ can only be directly seen by Buddhas, and perhaps chief disciples. This is, admittedly, challenged by some, who claim it can be seen in meditation. In just the same way, a Christian meditator will claim to see God, or a Hindu to see the universal Self. Seek and ye shall find. The very fact that such a controversy could possibly arise is a sign how far we have drifted from the Buddha’s pragmatic empiricism. This is bad enough; but even worse when we realize that the theory in question made its appearance a millennium after the Buddha’s time. This, for me, is as good as an admission that the whole thing is mere metaphysical speculation. No wonder the abhidhammikas have been so keen to father the canonical abhidhamma (and sometimes even the commentaries!) on the Buddha himself, despite massive evidence to the contrary.
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:52 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:I agree, there is perpetual change. My point was that categorising this transience as rapid rise and fall is potentially misleading.
Potentially misleading, how so?


Just that change takes place over different time-scales and at different levels. A background mood or mind-state tends to change more slowly than say eye-consciousness.
An analogy would be comparing historical to geological time.

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:55 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:As I understand it (as I've heard it explained by teachers from various Theravada schools), it' is important to be able to see that moods are unstable, otherwise it's very tempting to attach the "self" who is in a "calm meditator mind state".


I agree. Though I also think it's useful to recognise that change takes place over different time-scales, and at different levels.

Spiny
If you look at something that is changing, and by looking I mean with the senses/mind process, so, if you are looking at something that is conditioned such as pain, one can say I am having pain and it is just constant, it has not changed at all. But when you look at it with ever more care, with an concentrated, mindful mind, one might see that the pain is constantly changing, not unlike a fire.

The time scales, it would seem, depend upon how what is looked at is looked at, which is what you might mean here by "levels."
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: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:00 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:I agree, there is perpetual change. My point was that categorising this transience as rapid rise and fall is potentially misleading.
Potentially misleading, how so?


Just that change takes place over different time-scales and at different levels. A background mood or mind-state tends to change more slowly than say eye-consciousness.
An analogy would be comparing historical to geological time.

Spiny
Of course, our life span in term of geologic time is but a mere snap of the fingers or less.

I think I understand what you are saying, but the perception of the pace of change changes as we get more aware of the change in terms of concentration and mindfulness -- at least that is what I am saying. Question: are we on the same page here? Or in even in the same chapter?
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: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:02 am

Ñāṇa wrote: . . .
Thank you for your response. Interesting, but I shan't pursue it further.
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: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:03 am

tiltbillings wrote:Is it just the notion of discreet, momentary dhammas, or is it that and the subtext of this thread of the Burmese vipassana traditions having no real legitimacy? So, it is all untenable?

FTR I have never said nor implied that the Burmese Vipassanā traditions have no legitimacy. I have said:

    [T]he most important factors for productive progress in meditation are the maintenance of appropriate ethical conduct, being committed to renunciation and a life of voluntary simplicity, engaging in either solitary or group retreats on a fairly regular basis, and being dedicated to sustaining a daily practice schedule. If these conditions are in place (and it can take time to develop these optimal conditions), then whatever method of instruction one relies on, and whatever primary meditation object one engages in, there will be significant progress.

    This whole "samatha vs. vipassanā" debate where some parties are intent upon either tacitly criticizing or overtly attacking the meditation instructions of the Mahāsi Sayādaw tradition and the U Ba Khin tradition as not being the sammāsamādhi of the early teachings, is completely without merit. In both of these traditions the meditation instructions are conjoined samatha & vipassanā methods. Following these instructions can certainly lead to the attainment of the four jhānas as these are described in the canon.

And:

    "Jhāna" as it occurs in the suttas can refer to either (i) jhāna which scrutinizes an object-support (ārammaṇūpanijjhāna) or (ii) jhāna which scrutinizes characteristics (lakkhaṇūpanijjhāna). The former is also called samatha jhāna and the latter is also called vipassanā jhāna. Mahāsi Sayādaw, The Wheel of Dhamma:

      Jhāna means closely observing an object with fixed attention. Concentrated attention given to a selected object of meditation, such as breathing for tranquility concentration, gives rise to samatha jhāna, whereas noting the characteristic nature of mind and body and contemplating on their impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality brings about vipassanā jhāna.

    Jhāna which scrutinizes characteristics (lakkhaṇūpanijjhāna) occurs during any moment of the development of vipassanā (vipassanābhāvanā), as well as during any path or fruition attainment. As Sayādaw U Pandita explains in In This Very Life: The Vipassanā Jhānas, vipassanā jhāna can occur with the jhāna factors of each of the four jhānas, and therefore fulfill the criteria of the standard jhāna formula.

And:

    Anyone who denies the efficacy of classical vipassanābhāvanā without rūpāvacarajjhāna and modern Burmese vipassanā jhāna is asserting that they -- and the select few that agree with them -- are right, and anyone who doesn't agree with them is necessarily wrong. This not only represents a dismissive, extreme agenda, the entire premise is nonsensical on the face of it.

And:

    All of the different common [meditation] instructions will work if applied. The most important point is to sit on your sitting mat or cushion -- regularly and repeatedly -- and apply the instruction that resonates with you.
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:13 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Is it just the notion of discreet, momentary dhammas, or is it that and the subtext of this thread of the Burmese vipassana traditions having no real legitimacy? So, it is all untenable?

FTR I have never said nor implied that the Burmese Vipassanā traditions have no legitimacy. I have said:. . . .
Thank you for the clarification. I find your position(s) in regard to Burmerse vipassana are a bit confusing, and maybe a bit too subtle for me, but thank you again for what you posted.
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: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby sublime » Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:42 pm

Kenshou wrote:What?


It is useless to engage in a discussion going no where. If you believe Buddha, any discussion about views is going no where. Objective truth? Ha! There's only one's personal interpretation of a text here, and how to apply it there. Will there be any measure of regularity of this following upon that? Nope. Not objectively. Purely personal. The illusion of objectivity has become a pernicious disease in Buddhist discourse. What is liberation anyway? It's not a something or a nothing as Wittgenstein said of feelings. You could really clean up Buddhism and do the world a great favor if we just talk about what the Pali words were supposed to mean and whether there's a Maghadi correlate that could clear it up. Then people can stop bitching each other out about what reality really is, like anyone will ever really know. Don't let skeptics bog you down with burdens of proof. Liberation is a know it when you see it affair.
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:18 pm

sublime wrote:I'm verklempt. It was not my intention to upset. I could just flog myself, mea culpa mea mulpa mea culpa. Experience. What are we talking about? Mind. It's nothing. It's no body's fault. Honestly, sheesh. We should have a pot luck.
A nechtiker tog!
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: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 14, 2011 6:37 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Thank you for the clarification.

You're welcome.

tiltbillings wrote:I find your position(s) in regard to Burmerse vipassana are a bit confusing

My concerns pertain to view, specifically (i) privileging the writings of Buddhaghosa, et al, over all earlier Pāli sources to such an extent that the latter can only be understood through the former; and (ii) placing so much emphasis on "attaining" an event called a "path moment" without sufficiently locating this experience within the larger soteriological context.
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Clarence » Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:41 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:My concerns pertain to view, specifically (i) privileging the writings of Buddhaghosa, et al, over all earlier Pāli sources to such an extent that the latter can only be understood through the former; and (ii) placing so much emphasis on "attaining" an event called a "path moment" without sufficiently locating this experience within the larger soteriological context.


If you could choose only one of any teachers, who would you recommend to study/practice under?
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby danieLion » Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:44 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
danieLion wrote:Re: (i) & (ii). Compare to the four laws of thermodynamics, particularly laws 1 & 3 (a.k.a. entropy) (the "first" law is The Zeroth).

What do the laws of thermodynamics have to do with the mind?

Do you believe the mind is completely independent of thermodynamics?
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby danieLion » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:06 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
danieLion wrote:Re: (i) & (ii). Compare to the four laws of thermodynamics, particularly laws 1 & 3 (a.k.a. entropy) (the "first" law is The Zeroth).

What do the laws of thermodynamics have to do with the mind?

The mind is a system (a process not a thing) and systems are the subject matter of thermodynamics.
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:31 am

Clarence wrote:If you could choose only one of any teachers, who would you recommend to study/practice under?

There are many decent and well-intentioned teachers. I don't know of any one who would stand out as better or more learned or more accomplished than all others.
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:43 am

danieLion wrote:The mind is a system (a process not a thing) and systems are the subject matter of thermodynamics.

AFAIK thermodynamics pertains exclusively to physical systems, does it not?

danieLion wrote:Do you believe the mind is completely independent of thermodynamics?

I believe that the laws of thermodynamics have little if any relevance with regard to the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path, and liberation.
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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby dhamma follower » Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:31 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
dhamma follower wrote:I don't buy into this classification of realism...I think it is a product of too much philosophies.

The idea of a determinate reality comprised of discrete momentary dhammas is a product of too much unchecked ideation.

dhamma follower wrote:In a world when everything depends upon each other, one element changes implies change on all the others. That's why I said DO implies in it momentariness.

The alteration of what persists (ṭhitassa aññathatta) doesn't entail a theory of discrete momentary dhammas. Neither does DO.

dhamma follower wrote:When you say consciousness undergoes change and alteration, what does that mean exactly?

It means that the alteration of what persists can be discerned (ṭhitassa aññathatta paññāyati). SN 22.37 Ānanda Sutta:

    With consciousness an arising is discerned, a falling away is discerned, and an alteration of what persists is discerned.

dhamma follower wrote:When you walk, your step might cover a distance of 30 cm, but 30 cm is made up from very small parts of the motion.

How small are these "very small parts of the motion"?

dhamma follower wrote:Similarly when consciousness is seemingly attentive to one object for a certain time, it is made up from minute moments of conditioning.

How minute are these "minute moments of conditioning"?


You seem to equate the view of momentary rising and falling of dhammas with the belief in the existence of an independent entity. It doesn't have to be and it is certainly not, especially so because momentary rising and falling of dhammas is perceived as a result of perceiving dependent origination.

This discussion gets stuck because we don't seem to talk from the same perspective...

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Re: Vipassanā: What Is Dissolution, Really?

Postby dhamma follower » Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:52 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:For all of that, dhamma-follower still does not by necessity of any argument you have put forth need to buy that label of realism,

If a mind moment can't be objectively established, yet one still insists that there is indeed such a real entity then they are subscribing to a worldview that is based on the notion of truth as constituted by a correspondence between our concepts and statements, on the one hand, and the features of an independent, determinate reality, on the other hand.

[/list]


Who says there is a real entity?

There is nothing esoteric, mysterious, or hidden about impermanence. Later accretions like the theory of momentariness only muddy the waters.


There is nothing esoteric, mysterious, hidden about impermanence, indeed. Yet there are different levels of understanding it: from listening or reading, from reflection and from direct experience. The direct experience of it can happen when we walk, sit, feel, think, listen if sati-sampajana is cultivated sufficiently.... I don't see how the explanation of momentariness makes it muddy, as on the contrary it makes it clearer to understand what is direct insight.

All of this, is of course a domain of personal understanding and is subject to change when our understanding changes. Even the reading of the same sutta is not the same for everyone. Some Venerable say this, others say the opposite, all seem to know so well what they talk about...So, again let the Kalama sutta be our guiding principle...

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