polarbuddha101 wrote:From my understanding, the main issue in the jhana debates is whether one is totally unaware of the 5 senses or whether jhana is very much connected to having a deep awareness of the whole physical body. Do you by chance know if Bronkhorst takes a position on this issue and if so what his opinion is regarding this matter?
I have not a clue; I have not seen this book, but if Shi Huifeng/Ven Paññāsikhara says this book is of interest and worth reading, that is a very good recommedation,(sic) indeed.
Hi polarbuddha and tilt,
Although I'm far past caring anything about this whole concocted debate about "dhyana
" and its practice, it is interesting to see what others have to say about it, if only to see if there is any territory for agreement. Especially if those others have any actual experience
in its practice and are able to speak from direct personal experience.
Following is an excerpt from the amazon site describing the book:
amazon wrote:This book argues for the central role played by absorption in the functioning of the human mind. The importance of absorption makes itself felt in different ways; the two studies combined in this book concentrate on two of them. The first study, The Symbolic Mind, argues that, largely as a result of language acquisition, humans have two levels of cognition, which in normal circumstances are simultaneously active. Absorption is a (or the) means to circumvent some, perhaps all, of the associations that characterize one of these two levels of cognition, resulting in what is sometimes referred to as mystical experience, but which is not confined to mysticism and plays a role in various "religious" phenomena, and elsewhere. In the second study, The Psychology of the Buddha, Prof. Bronkhorst provides a theoretical context for the observation that absorption is a source of pleasure, grapples with Freud, and illustrates his observations through translations of ancient Buddhist texts from the Pali and Sanskrit languages along with his psychological commentary.
It appears from this excerpt that the book's content is focused on two different studies which the author then attempts to draw conclusions from based upon his skill as a scholar and deductive reasoning. So, it appears
from this brief excerpt that polarbuddha's question regarding the five senses is not addressed within the text. Yet if it turns out that this issue is
addressed, it would need to be addressed by someone who has actually practiced dhyana
with whom the author had an opportunity to interview (presuming that the author himself had no such experience) before it might be deemed credible.
As far as what the book does
address (if this excerpt can be trusted, which I see no reason why it shouldn't), I would, on the basis of personal experience, agree with the book's basic premise that absorption plays a central role in the functioning of the human mind. Which is likely one of the reasons Gotama recommended its practice so often in the discourses. (Although, as we are able to surmise in some of the passages where this term is found, the Buddha sometimes seems to use the term "dhyana
" to indicate meditation in general
rather than absorption specifically
As for the second study (The Psychology of the Buddha, which describes "a theoretical context for the observation that absorption is a source of pleasure"), that goes without saying for anyone who has ever experienced a moment of absorption (if not several moments back to back). Bronkhorst is on safe ground here, and I see no controversy.
Yet, as regards the first study, The Symbolic Mind (which posits that "humans have two levels of cognition, which in normal circumstances are simultaneously active"), I would need to see the text first in order to evaluate this premise, as the description in the excerpt does not provide any detailed explanation about these "two levels of cognition," what they are, how they come about, and how they can be identified.
Regarding the statement that: "Absorption is a (or the) means to circumvent some, perhaps all, of the associations that characterize one of these two levels of cognition, resulting in what is sometimes referred to as mystical experience..." I can make out some cause for the validity of this statement if indeed I am assuming observation of the same phenomena that the author is referring to. But I would need to read the text in order to verify that parallel observation.
Perhaps, if Shi Huifeng/Ven. Paññāsikhara might grace us with his presences and if he has indeed read the text, he could fill in some of these blanks for us.
As far as my own experience with dhyana
is concerned, it has been sort of a "one step forward, two steps back; two steps forward, one step back" affair. Depending upon one's ability to trust one's discernment of perception in such matters, it might easily be said that there is room for two views about the five sense issue. Yet, on further investigation (which has been ongoing now for me for the past five years or more), the thought has occurred to me that what I, on certain occasions in the beginning, was accepting as the practice of dhyana
, was actually the practice of samadhi
(or appana samadhi
) as opposed to dhyana
absorption itself. When I recall those instances where I definitely (without a shadow of a doubt) entered absorption, it truly can be said that "it can appear" that the five senses shut down (or at least are greatly attenuated) and that, in addition, the breath becomes extremely shallow as to almost (and sometimes for brief moments to actually) disappear. Once this disappearance is noticed by the mind, though, it generally reappears, although still very shallow.
This all has to do, in my experience, with the profound level of tranquility that one accesses during samatha dhyana
meditation. When the mind is engaged in an activity, such as examination and evaluation of an object, it is not directing its focus upon the act of becoming absorbed
in an object, which is a passive
activity. When the mind is seeking clarification of an object (i.e. insight) through examination and evaluation which is an active
activity, it has been my experience that one is generally aware of the five senses (as well as the breath).
Does any of this make any sense to anyone else?
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV