Another voice in the jhana debates

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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tiltbillings
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Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:26 am

Another voice in the jhana debates: http://www.amazon.com/Absorption-Human- ... absorption
Recommended by Shi Huifeng/Ven Paññāsikhara.

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polarbear101
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby polarbear101 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:58 am

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?

:anjali:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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tiltbillings
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:23 am


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Ben
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Ben » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:38 am

Thanks Tilt!
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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polarbear101
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby polarbear101 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:23 pm

"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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IanAnd
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby IanAnd » Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:44 pm

"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Sat Feb 23, 2013 4:59 am


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polarbear101
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby polarbear101 » Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:03 am

The book didn't really speak about the stuff concerning the regular jhana debates but it was a fantastic read in my opinion. Although I will say that his book didn't go quite far enough in explaining the whole of the 'cure' that the path is supposed to culminate in I felt that it had enough elements in it that he could have easily written a third part of the book relying only on the parts already written and a couple of suttas and his theory would have been for the most part clear and coherent.

Suffice it to say he should read the sutta on all the fermentations and specifically about the fermentations to be abandoned by tolerating and he should have used his section on the symbolic/associative mind and its deconstruction through meditation to show how peering past the great 'web' of associations could lead one to give up even attachment to absorption. This comment will only make sense to someone who has read the book of course. But yeah, everyone should read it.

:namaste:
Last edited by polarbear101 on Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

Sylvester
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:17 am


alan...
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby alan... » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:19 pm


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polarbear101
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby polarbear101 » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:16 pm

Last edited by polarbear101 on Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

alan...
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:44 am


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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:44 am

Sigh, it looks like we're still stuck on the Pali present tense issue, in this case samanupassati, versus the English present tense...

alan...
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:18 am


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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:35 am

Check out this helpful enumeration of the functions of the Pali present tense outlined by Warder, courtesy of daverupa -

viewtopic.php?f=44&t=15480&start=20#p223661

That discussion pertained to AN 4.124's usage of the present tense samanupassati (regards) and whether it actually means contemporaneity with the standard periphrastic construction upasampajja viharati (dwells having entered) of the 1st jhana formula. The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?

Now, technically speaking, it might be possible for the samanupassati to be contemporaneous with jhana, if one argues that upasampajja (having entered) is an absolutive of contemporaneity. However, that is only truly possible if both verbs samanupassati and upasampajja are in the same sentence, each occupying its own clause (main and subordinate) therein. That's not the case here in AN 4.124. One also needs to surmount the same problem of samanupassati occuring in an environment that does not have vitakka nor vicāra .

The most typical way of indicating contemporaneity of action verbs in Pali would be to use the missakiriyā construction, where the sutta would have read something to the effect "having entered and dwelling in the 1st jhana, he contemplates...." (paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharanto, ... samanupassati). As far as I can tell in my survey of the suttas, the missakiriyā construction is never used in any of the jhana formulae.

As dave notes in that post, the most likely meaning of the present tense "regards" would be an activity that takes place in the future. We just need to be alive to Pali grammar and take these texts on their own terms, rather than lens them through English translations, no matter how literal the translation is. Most translators usually do not interpret the Pali present tense when they translate, since there are so many temporal and functional uses of the present tense. The only exception would be where the context makes it clear that the present tense is functioning as a past tense in a narrative.

:anjali:

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:50 am


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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Nyana » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:54 am


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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:47 am

I think while it is legitimate to acknowledge that the Sarvas and Sautrantikas understood their Indic languages well enough, it should be apparent from one of our previous posts that doctrinal evolution plays a very significant role in interpretation, eg the vitakka definitions taken up by the Yogacarins. When meanings change, older material are lensed through the new doctrine and definitions. I'm going to give one example of how an Abhidharma has radically altered the theory of Aggregates, a reading that persists even today, even if that school is now dead.

Most of the modernist insistence on the jhanalabhi being percipient of the 5 sense data stems from how rūpakkhandha (Form Aggregate) is interpreted and translated. This is typically understood to be include only the 5 sense data and the 5 senses. I'm sure you're familiar with the Abhidhammic bifurcation of reality into the rūpa and arūpa categories. The latter is constituted by nāma. In the Abhidhamma, consciousness is included in nāma, which departs from the suttas. All things falling under rūpa would be for the 5 senses and their corresponding data.

However, as Sue Hamilton points out, nowhere in the suttas is this equation made of rūpa and the 5 senses. Why does the Abhidhamma classify consciousness under nāma? What then is the source of these equations? Apparently, the Abhidhamma owes these 2 innovations to the Sarvastivadins, or a common ancestor, who made the explicit and closed linkage between rūpa, pratigha and the 5 senses. Why did this happen? Was it because the Sarvas -

1. were trying to give a totally Buddhist spin to nāmarūpa as 2 predicative categories, instead of the inseparable unity of nāmarūpa borrowed from the Upanishads, and made use of by the Buddha to provide as the pivot of phassa/contact? Nāmarūpa in the early texts was only discussed in the context of consciousness and contact, but nāma and rūpa in the Abhidharma/Abhidhamma became 2 organisational principles for EVERYTHING.

or

2. relied on a textually corrupt sutra?

The 2nd possibility is quite real, as I've seen a few Chinese sutra parallels (from the (Mula)-S canon) where consciousness was lumped into nāma (although these sutras are in the minority in the Agamas). This Sarva method of organisation marks a clear departure from the suttas, and allowed the Sarvas to modify rūpa and pratigha as pertaining solely to the domain of the 5 senses, and nāma everything else. It is unlikely that the Pali abhidhammikas could have innovated this model, given the absence of such an error in the Pali suttas; most likely, the Pali abhidhammikas simply borrowed this model from the Sarvastivadins.

It appears that in the most unwitting of circumstances, translators are actually imposing an Abhidharmic structure on the 5 Aggregates, a Sarvastivadin structure that has no such basis in the suttas. You see this in Ven T's insertion of "physical" in parenthesis against "form" (rūpa). Not only do we find such a model ahistorical from the sutta perspective, it directly contradicts MN 28 which allows the Form Aggregate to arise from purely mind-contact. (Sadly, the Agama parallel to MN 28, despite allowing for mind-based rūpa did not deter the Sarvas from departing from it.)

This is my concern in appealing to medieval Buddhism to interpret Early Buddhism. Small and unnoticeable changes in doctrine can change the colour and complexion of the suttas/sutras.

:anjali:

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby daverupa » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:45 pm


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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Nyana » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:52 pm



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