Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:54 pm

Hi pt1,

pt1 wrote:Thanks for describing your understanding of the terms. I see several problems with the above description, based on how I currently understand theravada (which might not be entirely correct either, of course). Firstly, insight has to do with ultimate realities (dhammas), not concepts. So, if you call being aware of the above "languageless thoughts" as insight (or conceptual insight or whatever), then you might not have a correct conceptual understanding of dhamma, and so the practice (patipatti) you are doing might end up being wrong practice (of course, I might be just misunderstanding what you are trying to say again, or my practice might be wrong, etc, etc).


Yes, technically you are right. It was not insight (vipassana) I described. It was sati-sampajanna (usually translated as: Clear comprehension). But sati-sampajanna leads to vipassana.

Anyway, my understanding is like this - the first stage of (direct) insight is called nama-rupa stage - meaning you are able to detect how a sense-door process turns into a mind-door process and know the difference between them clearly. So here you see ultimate realities, processes of cittas, though not yet clearly individual cittas, cetasikas, etc. Everything that might be called "insight" before that stage is necessarily just thinking and operating with concepts (even if it is without words).


But what does it mean? What is a sense-door process and what a mind-door process. Some consider it to be sense-door when they see or hear something in contrast to when they imagine or remember it or recognize it on a personal level (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu for example). I don't. There is a lot of processing going on way before the sense signal contacts the personality-level, the level of wake. So in normal wake it is, IMO, impossible to be aware of the sense-doors. One needs an awareness that discerns on a very high time scale for that.

So what would be the difference between such thinking (mistaken for some sort of insight and practice) and the correct conceptual understanding of dhamma? Correct understanding is supposed to direct me as soon as possible towards direct insight rather than allowing mistaken views to arise about my practice (e.g. "aha, so I can see how thought arise, and therefore that's is insight, or conceptual analysis or whatever") which often ends up in wrong practice.


Yes, but it is, IMO, not correct understanding. Correct understanding arises from the vipassana experience not other way round. Vipassana, the experience, includes a shift of perspective, a shift of view. This shift of view (namely into supramundane right view) is the fundament of vipassana - can't do nothing without it. The shift is into an impersonal perspective. Consider being absorbed into a fictional character, say in TV or a book or a dream, and then you wake up or the bell rings or the advertisement breaks the absorption. Immediately, we re-absorbed into our normal wake personality. But in-between those two absorptions there is a very short moment of impersonality because we transfer from one personality to another there has to be an Impersonal perspective in between.

Vipassana, the experience, is always impersonal. As long as people retain their personality it might be sati-sampajanna but not vipassana. Vipassana, right view, it is just... different. Has nothing to do with conceptual understanding of dhamma. I don't think one can understand vipassana conceptually. It is one of those things one has to experience, it cannot be imagined, try as hard as one can.

But it is also possible that you are mistaking a concept for dhammas and think that there is insight happening, and this is a common mistake to make (what I know from experience).


Don't underestimate your experience. To develop and prolong and deepen sati-sampajanna is the A and O of the practice. Until vipassana that is. I consider sati-sampajanna as a hybrid state, it has already some aspects of vipassana but not the full shift or depth.

So, since I'm in the same boat and have the same problem, it seems important to keep investigating what's meant by "insight", "dhammas", etc in the tipitaka, to make sure I'm on the right track (i.e. that I'm undertaking a practice which is in line with the dhamma and leads to liberation).


When you know that whatever you observe is not you, is not your kamma, is not relevant to you, won't keep you with it, does not invade or stay, when you know that it does not really matter to you whether that personality (being) you observe will be reborn in hell or heaven, when you see the being as if it was a computer program written in zeroes and ones but you still understand that - then it is vipassana, the Impersonal Witness. This kind of knowing is a shift of view, like waking up from a dream or realising one is just reading a book, it is not something one can prepare for by imagining it, discussing it, reading about it. It is too different. Fortunately, it is also not something one needs to prepare for - when it happens it is a "been there - done that", completely normal, no surprise.
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby pt1 » Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:29 am

Hi Freawaru,

Freawaru wrote:Yes, technically you are right. It was not insight (vipassana) I described. It was sati-sampajanna (usually translated as: Clear comprehension). But sati-sampajanna leads to vipassana.

Hmm, I think here again we have trouble with terms. I think in classical Theravada, sati-sampajanna is again a synonym for panna, or rather, panna arising together with sati (in abhidhamma sati can only arise when there's panna, otherwise, no panna - no sati). So, sati-sampajana is vipassana so to speak, not "leads to it". So, I'm not sure what experience you are descrbing as "sati-sampajanna"? Perhaps it's the experience (of a somewhat gray area for me) between conceptual understanding and direct insight - so at moments when there's understanding that current state is kusala/akusla, but not yet direct insight into its nature in accordance with different stages of insight?

Freawaru wrote:
pt1 wrote:Anyway, my understanding is like this - the first stage of (direct) insight is called nama-rupa stage - meaning you are able to detect how a sense-door process turns into a mind-door process and know the difference between them clearly. So here you see ultimate realities, processes of cittas, though not yet clearly individual cittas, cetasikas, etc. Everything that might be called "insight" before that stage is necessarily just thinking and operating with concepts (even if it is without words).


But what does it mean? What is a sense-door process and what a mind-door process. Some consider it to be sense-door when they see or hear something in contrast to when they imagine or remember it or recognize it on a personal level (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu for example). I don't.

Well, these are described in abhidhamma in detail, so rather than speculating about them, it might be useful to discuss how they are explained in abhidhamma (thus gaining better conceptual understanding at least :) ). I'll copy here a summary I wrote for another thread:

pt1 wrote:I’ll try to summarise the cognition sequence in an example of cognising a visual object:

0. Bhanvaga cittas.

1. A sense-door (eye-door) process of cittas, which lasts for 17 cittas – the object of cittas during the sense-door process is a visual object (rupa), which is a dhamma, not a concept.

2. Bhavanga cittas

3. First mind-door process, consisting of 10 cittas, which have as the object the visual rupa that has just fallen away when the sense-door process of cittas ended. Afaik, this visual rupa that has just fallen away, but is now the object of cittas in the mind-door process, is still considered to be a dhamma, not a concept (in abhidhamma it’s termed something like “not so classifiable object”).

4. Bhavanga cittas.

5. Several mind-door processes in succession, each having a different concept as the object of cittas:
- the first has the color of the visual rupa as the object of cittas in that mind-door process,
- the second has the shape of the visual rupa as the object,
- the third has the name of the visual rupa as the object, etc.
(This sequence of “color-shape-name…” differs slightly according to different teachers in the order of steps and the number of mind-door processes involved.) Each of those mind-door processes is followed by bhavanga cittas before another mind-door process begins.

6. Many consecutive mind-door processes involved in actual thinking about that object, all having a different concept as the object of cittas.

So, my understanding is that in abhidhamma, a concept (pannatti) is the object of citta from step 5 onwards, so only steps 1 and 3 would have a dhamma as the objects of citta. Afaik, most of the time, one is not aware of anything that happens before step 6, while the first stage of insight happens when there’s awareness of steps 1 and 3 and the difference between them (nama rupa pariccheda nana).


Freawaru wrote:There is a lot of processing going on way before the sense signal contacts the personality-level, the level of wake.

Could you perhaps define where do "personality-level" and "level of wake " fit in the above sequence I described? Would it be at step 6? Or before?

Freawaru wrote:So in normal wake it is, IMO, impossible to be aware of the sense-doors. One needs an awareness that discerns on a very high time scale for that.

Well, according to classical theravada, that happens on the first stage of (tender) insight. Afaik, once it happens, it's not going to keep happening all the time from then on, but only on occasions when the conditions are right.

Freawaru wrote:
pt1 wrote:So what would be the difference between such thinking (mistaken for some sort of insight and practice) and the correct conceptual understanding of dhamma? Correct understanding is supposed to direct me as soon as possible towards direct insight rather than allowing mistaken views to arise about my practice (e.g. "aha, so I can see how thought arise, and therefore that's is insight, or conceptual analysis or whatever") which often ends up in wrong practice.


Yes, but it is, IMO, not correct understanding. Correct understanding arises from the vipassana experience not other way round. Vipassana, the experience, includes a shift of perspective, a shift of view.

Hmm, I think we are still talking past each other - I agree with what you say about vipassana experience being the correct understandning, or basically, right view. I agree to all that. However, I still don't see why the need to put correct conceptual understanding and correct (non-conceptual) understanding (vipassana) against eachother? They are different stages, sure, but I don't think anyone's saying that conceptual understanding is supposed to replace vipassana - it is only supposed to guide people towards vipassana (those of us who are not a silent buddha or a sammasambuddha), whereas wrong conceptual understanding would guide people towards wrong practice - like believing that liberation is found through unification with god, that happiness is found in sense-pleasures, or more subtle stuff, that liberation is found through iddhis, etc.

Freawaru wrote:This shift of view (namely into supramundane right view) is the fundament of vipassana - can't do nothing without it.

Hmm, afaik, supramundane right view happens with stream-entry. Before that, it's mundane right view - so all the 14 (or so) stages of insight that happen before stream-entry, they are still right view, i.e. they are not conceptual understanding, but direct insight. But you seem to disagree?

Freawaru wrote:The shift is into an impersonal perspective. Consider being absorbed into a fictional character, say in TV or a book or a dream, and then you wake up or the bell rings or the advertisement breaks the absorption. Immediately, we re-absorbed into our normal wake personality. But in-between those two absorptions there is a very short moment of impersonality because we transfer from one personality to another there has to be an Impersonal perspective in between.

It would be great if you could translate this paragraph into theravada terminology, i.e. it's very hard to tell what do you mean by such terms as "wake personality", "impersonal perspective", etc.

Freawaru wrote:Vipassana, the experience, is always impersonal. As long as people retain their personality it might be sati-sampajanna but not vipassana. Vipassana, right view, it is just... different. Has nothing to do with conceptual understanding of dhamma. I don't think one can understand vipassana conceptually. It is one of those things one has to experience, it cannot be imagined, try as hard as one can.

I agree, but again I'd stress that the purpose of conceptual understanding isn't to replace direct vipassana, but simply guide a person to it, making sure that s/he doesn't take what's not vipassana for vipassana (like believing that unification with god leads to liberation for example). :soap:

Freawaru wrote:Don't underestimate your experience. To develop and prolong and deepen sati-sampajanna is the A and O of the practice. Until vipassana that is. I consider sati-sampajanna as a hybrid state, it has already some aspects of vipassana but not the full shift or depth.

I'll wait until you define "sati-sampajanna" a little better before making any comments.

Freawaru wrote:When you know that whatever you observe is not you, is not your kamma, is not relevant to you, won't keep you with it, does not invade or stay, when you know that it does not really matter to you whether that personality (being) you observe will be reborn in hell or heaven, when you see the being as if it was a computer program written in zeroes and ones but you still understand that - then it is vipassana, the Impersonal Witness. This kind of knowing is a shift of view, like waking up from a dream or realising one is just reading a book, it is not something one can prepare for by imagining it, discussing it, reading about it.

Vipassana is great, but how to get to it in the first place? If the whole world is saying that true happiness is found in sense-pleasures and that liberation is possible only through unification with god, then how will you ever get to liberative vipassana or know that it is even possible? I'd say that could happen only if there's someone to tell you about it and discuss with you (conceptually, because talking presupposes use of concepts) how is vipassana different from unification with god. Otherwise, I don't see any chance that you will find it on your own (unless you are a silent buddha or a sammasambuddha). Or do you disagree?

Best wishes
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby pt1 » Sun Dec 27, 2009 1:01 am

Hi Freawaru,

Ok, I read Vis XII.

pt1 wrote:
Freawaru wrote:I mean Visuddhimagga XII. How to develop the iddhis. One juggles simultanious samadhis with the kasinas and the jhanas, jumping from one combination to the next.

Not sure what you mean here, will check that Vis. chapter. I mean, not sure how you can juggle kasinas and jhanas, since jhana is beased on kasina (nimitta of it), so there can't be any going between kasina and jhana, what you seem to be saying.

I think I understand now what you were saying - to achieve mastery of jhanas one practices with different kasinas in different jhanas, and my understandning is that at no time is jhana independent of kasina (or rather, nimita of kasina).

pt1 wrote:
Freawaru wrote:As I said other samadhis are usefull, too. To know that the earthkasina is the earthkasina is a specific insight just as seeing and knowing the specific factors that identify a specific jhana. (see again Visuddhimagga 12)

Earth-kasina in jhana is a concept. Thus, I don't think it can be an object of insight as it isn't real. But the mental factors which accompany the citta while the concept is the object, are real and they can be object of inisght (outside of absorption). Will check Vis XII to make sure.

Here I still don't understand what you were trying to say.

Also, I'd note that right at the beginning of the chapter it's said that mastery of jhanas/iddhis might make the development of insight easier (doesn't say "faster" though), however, very soon afterwards, it lists how very hard it is to achieve mastery of different stages of jhanas/iddhis in the first place.

Best wishes
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Mon Dec 28, 2009 8:47 pm

Hi pt1,

pt1 wrote:
Freawaru wrote:Yes, technically you are right. It was not insight (vipassana) I described. It was sati-sampajanna (usually translated as: Clear comprehension). But sati-sampajanna leads to vipassana.

Hmm, I think here again we have trouble with terms. I think in classical Theravada, sati-sampajanna is again a synonym for panna, or rather, panna arising together with sati (in abhidhamma sati can only arise when there's panna, otherwise, no panna - no sati). So, sati-sampajana is vipassana so to speak, not "leads to it". So, I'm not sure what experience you are descrbing as "sati-sampajanna"?


Okay, let's define sati-sampajanna. I do not know if it is panna or not because I am still clueless as to what exactly panna refers to. There are still several possibilities in my experience - not to mention that it might be something I have not experienced so I would not be able to know it in the first place.

sati-sampajanna:

As far as I know it is also translated as "awareness" in Theravada. A very specific awareness, namely the awareness to know what happens at any moment.

cittanupassana wrote:or, when his mind has hate he knows his mind has hate,
or, when his mind is without hate he knows his mind is without hate;
http://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/T ... assana.htm


I do not agree with everything Ven. Nanavira Thera wrote but I think this he explains nicely:

Nanavira Thera wrote:And how does one practise this awareness for the purpose of release? It is really very simple. Since (as I have said) all action is conscious, we do not have to undertake any elaborate investigation (such as asking other people) to find out what it is that we are doing so that we can become aware of it. All that is necessary is a slight change of attitude, a slight effort of attention. Instead of being fully absorbed by, or identified with, our action, we must continue, without ceasing to act, to observe ourselves in action. This is done quite simply by asking ourselves the question 'What am I doing?' It will be found that, since the action was always conscious anyway, we already, in a certain sense, know the answer without having to think about it; and simply by asking ourselves the question we become aware of the answer, i.e. of what we are doing. Thus, if I now ask myself 'What am I doing?' I can immediately answer that I am 'writing to Mr. Dias', that I am 'sitting in my bed', that I am 'scratching my leg', that I am 'wondering whether I shall have a motion', that I am 'living in Bundala', and so on almost endlessly.

If I wish to practise awareness I must go on asking myself this question and answering it, until such time as I find that I am automatically (or habitually) answering the question without having to ask it. When this happens, the practice of awareness is being successful, and it only remains to develop this state and not to fall away from it through neglect. (Similar considerations will of course apply to awareness of feelings, perceptions, and thoughts -- see passage (b). Here I have to ask myself 'What am I feeling, or perceiving, or thinking?', and the answer, once again, will immediately present itself.)
http://www.nanavira.110mb.com/lett1.htm


It means, basically, that one is always aware of what one does, thinks, feels, etc. One should think that this would be obvious but usually people don't seem to have a clue about what they are doing or saying or thinking, especially when it is habitual or emotional. Sati-sampajanna is reflecting all kaya, citta, vedana and dhamma that arises back so that one know, while it happens, what happens. With a bit of practice It becomes automatically, habitually. Considering his writings Ven. Nanavira had develloped it during what I call "normal wake", aka the state we are in during normal everyday issues. But in contrast to what he wrote in that letter it IS possible to have sati-sampajanna in dream and I expect it to be possible in deep sleep and death, too.

Here is a detailed description of someone who practiced with the end result of sati-sampajanna (he calls it insight):

I was therefore observing thought continuously, as it happened. Images arose one after the other, sometimes in very rapid succession, sometimes slowly. In themselves, and in the manner of their linking together, they were as I had come to know them in the earlier practices. But now, instead of looking at re-plays of artificially isolated segments, I was observing the original, undisturbed process itself. The inner voice was also clearly heard. I listened as it made its intermittent comments, or at times took over as the dominant component of thought. I was now listening in on, and watching, the processes of thought while they were going on, and without interfering with them. This, I was certain, was the ultimate in insight, the ideal technique in insight meditation. To refer to it I later adopted the term used by some of its best-known practitioners and advocates: awareness.

The only defect in awareness, as I was practising it, was that I usually could not maintain it for more than half a minute at a time. The collapse of awareness coincided with, and indeed was identical with, losing sight of the process and becoming involved again in the content. Whenever awareness broke down in this way, I was able to re-establish it by again going through the lead-up stages of retracing and link-watching. However, as I became more familiar with the practice, I found I could dispense with those preliminaries, and establish awareness directly. I therefore lived in a continual alternation between two different conditions: awareness and unawareness.
http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/bucknell.htm


As far as I can see it is exactly as described in the Mahasi school. One practices by observing what happens in the mind and body, the four foundations of mindfulness. One thinks and simultaneously to thinking one observes/knows the thoughts. Not only their content but the thinking process itself. Same with feelings, etc. There are some aspects to this awareness he does not mention, such as the impression of "spaciousness" that comes with it or the control or the growing discernment. He mentions it but I want to emphasise that the time-scale changes with it, too, so I see no reason why this should not lead to the Abhidhammic level.

As far as I know every Theravadan school calls this awareness "sati-sampajanna". Even Nina van Gorkhom. But as you can see it is not necessary to have learned by heart how many cittas dance on an angels wings. No theory necessary at all, not even teachers. What one really needs is a certain interest and curiosity regarding one's own mind and the inner processes in contrast to the mere content.

I usually use the analogy of driving a car but the Buddha used the analogy of a cowherd:

"Just as in the last month of the hot season, when all the crops have been gathered into the village, a cowherd would look after his cows: While resting under the shade of a tree or out in the open, he simply keeps himself mindful of 'those cows.' In the same way, I simply kept myself mindful of 'those mental qualities.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


The point is that noone is just able to automatically drive a car or keep mindful of cows - it requires effort, will and intention at first. But after some practice staying mindful of "those cows" while resting or driving a car while listening to the radio becomes effortless, automatic. Also, one cannot learn it by memorising the instruction manual or by hearing another cowherd telling stories. One needs to do it oneself.
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby pt1 » Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:01 am

Freawaru wrote:Okay, let's define sati-sampajanna. I do not know if it is panna or not because I am still clueless as to what exactly panna refers to. There are still several possibilities in my experience - not to mention that it might be something I have not experienced so I would not be able to know it in the first place.

Yeah, I think sati-sampajanna, panna, sati, awareness, etc, are all terms that will keep changing in meaning as our practice and our understanding of it progresses. That will be further complicated by the fact that different teachers use the same terms but put different meanings in them. So, one of the reasons I like abhidhamma is that it introduces a high degree of precision what hopefully makes it all a little less confusing.

So, according to abhidhamma, panna is a mental factor (cetasika), just like sati (mindfulness), concentration (ekaggata), perception (sanna), feeling (vedana), etc. In particular, afaik, panna is the mental factor responsible for understanding, regardless whether it is understanding of maths or of dhammas, so, there are obviously different kinds of understanding. But still it is panna that understands, just like it is concentration (ekaggata) that concentrates, feeling (vedana) that feels, etc. So each mental factor has a certain function that it performs while it is accompanying a citta in experiencing a certain object. Objects of citta can be of six kinds - gross and subtle matter, citta, cetasika, nibbana and concepts.

So for example, when considering maths, the object of cittas will be concepts, but in vipassana, the object of cittas will be dhammas - matter, citta, cetasika or nibbana. Ideally speaking that is! In most cases though it seems we are confusing concepts about dhammas and dhammas themselves... The trouble begins when akusala mental factors are mistaken for kusala. For example, mental factor concentration (ekaggata) can be both kusala and akusala. The same with effort mental factor (viriya)...

Anyway, here's my understanding of this subject. Of course, I might be wrong.

Freawaru wrote:sati-sampajanna:
As far as I know it is also translated as "awareness" in Theravada.

Yes, and so is panna, even sati sometimes, or combinations of panna and sati, or combination of sati, panna, sanna and ekagatta, etc. Hard to know what exactly is meant.

Freawaru wrote:A very specific awareness, namely the awareness to know what happens at any moment.
This seems a bit vague so perhaps we can define it a bit more precisely - I mean, it can mean many things, depending on how developed panna is:
-one can know on a conceptual level what is happening at this moment,
-on the level of distinguishing if the current mental state is akusala/kusala,
-and on vipassana level when there's awareness of presently arisen dhammas (so not concepts or concepts about dhammas and mental states). I'd say the same applies to the quote below:
cittanupassana wrote:or, when his mind has hate he knows his mind has hate,
or, when his mind is without hate he knows his mind is without hate;
http://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/T ... assana.htm


Regarding the quotes from Nanavira thera and the person from buddhanet article. Of course, I cannot know exactly what they are desrcibing, but it seems very similar to what I have experienced and mistaken it for some sort of insight at the time. At best, I'd define what they are describing as being aware (or basically, panna being developed) on the conceptual level. For example, when I know that "I'm scratching my leg" or "writing a letter to Mr.Dias" - all these are concepts - I, leg, scratching, writing, etc - all concepts, not dhammas. It makes no difference if this knowing is non-verbal, so thoughtless, it is still conceptual, simply because it is concepts that are understood at that time, not dhammas.

Further, if one is also practicing some sort of concentrative meditation, it can easily lead to a sort of an "aware" state that has very little verbal thoughts, and is quite peaceful, still, and alert even. But still, from experience, this stillness is happening due to developed concentration, but not due to developed panna, which remains on a conceptual level. At this point, it can often lead to a wrong conceptual understanding because the person doesn't understand that hindrances are being suppressed through concentration, not eliminated through understanding. So, the person starts subtly grasping at the concepts of "stillness", "awareness", etc, as being real (and they are very subtly pleasant), and this is basically greed which is very hard to detect if panna doesn't go further into distinguishing what's kusala and what's akusala (again, someone usually has to explain why this is so before panna can go deeper, otherwise the person won't even know he's in trouble, as I think it was in my case). With greed, the development of concentration becomes akusala as well, and so does the effort. And so this "awareness" might and up leading into wrong view and wrong practice.

Freawaru wrote:As far as I can see it is exactly as described in the Mahasi school. One practices by observing what happens in the mind and body, the four foundations of mindfulness. One thinks and simultaneously to thinking one observes/knows the thoughts. Not only their content but the thinking process itself. Same with feelings, etc.

I don't know about Mahasi school, but I thought they'd be more interested in discerning dhammas than concepts about dhammas.

Freawaru wrote:As far as I know every Theravadan school calls this awareness "sati-sampajanna". Even Nina van Gorkhom.

I guess it's clear by now that this is not so. Different people/teachers mean different things, and I'm pretty sure Nina's definition would be different than yours (but best ask her about it). As for classical Theravada, if I'm not mistaken, it would be about sati and panna arising together, where panna discerns dhammas, not concepts or concepts about dhammas.

Freawaru wrote:But as you can see it is not necessary to have learned by heart how many cittas dance on an angels wings. No theory necessary at all, not even teachers.
I guess it's also clear by now that I find it very hard to agree with that. I mean if you're not a silent buddha or a sammasambuddha, it is so horribly easy to start confusing akusala with kusala and the only way to get out of it is if someone points out my mistakes.

Freawaru wrote:What one really needs is a certain interest and curiosity regarding one's own mind and the inner processes in contrast to the mere content.
Agreed, though it's again an issue if that's enough.
Freawaru wrote:The point is that noone is just able to automatically drive a car or keep mindful of cows - it requires effort, will and intention at first. But after some practice staying mindful of "those cows" while resting or driving a car while listening to the radio becomes effortless, automatic. Also, one cannot learn it by memorising the instruction manual or by hearing another cowherd telling stories. One needs to do it oneself.
I agree, but there's kusala and akusala effort, kusala and akusala intention, etc. How will I know what's the difference? All things, both kusala and akusala, become automatic with practice, so that doesn't seem like the best criteria that would help me distinguish between kusala and akusala.

Best wishes
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:51 pm

Hi pt1,

That will be further complicated by the fact that different teachers use the same terms but put different meanings in them.


Agreed. But in the case of this specific awareness afaik most (maybe all) Buddhist schools and traditions agree. I found it mentioned not only in Theravada but also in Tibetan Buddhism and Zen. So to develop it - while not being the full vipassana - has to be useful.

So, one of the reasons I like abhidhamma is that it introduces a high degree of precision what hopefully makes it all a little less confusing.


Sure, looks like a complex theory. But unfortionately it all bases on a specific skill, namely to discern cittas on that high temporal dissolution. And as we know that is something only devas (being that have a knack for the jhanas, i.e. high concentration level) and arhats might have access to. So it can hardly be considered a beginner's teachings. The assumed precision is useless as long as I don't have that skill. And the fact that Abhidhamma has altered some terms such as samadhi from the original meaning in the suttas is no help either.

So, according to abhidhamma, panna is a mental factor (cetasika), just like sati (mindfulness), concentration (ekaggata), perception (sanna), feeling (vedana), etc.


Yes, but what do they refer to. If we have not even ONE term to be able to point to and say (this is it) by own experience it is just a complex formal theory.

In particular, afaik, panna is the mental factor responsible for understanding, regardless whether it is understanding of maths or of dhammas, so, there are obviously different kinds of understanding.


I find this hard to agree to. First because just as sati-sampajanna is a completely different awareness or mindfulness than herding cows (even on a completely different level) and second because the german language clearly discerns between wisdom (Weisheit) and understanding (Verstand). I do not think it is just a redirection of the same cetasika wether we understand math or cows or dhammas. They are not variations of the same theme.

But still it is panna that understands, just like it is concentration (ekaggata) that concentrates, feeling (vedana) that feels, etc. So each mental factor has a certain function that it performs while it is accompanying a citta in experiencing a certain object. Objects of citta can be of six kinds - gross and subtle matter, citta, cetasika, nibbana and concepts.


But what are concepts? I would translate concepts as "nama" (name). Not necessarily verbal names. Recognition can be conceptual (i.e. with a name) and without. This becomes obvious when we learn something new, just observe your mind during learning, how concepts are manifested. On the same level as concepts are forms. Discern the difference of how we conceptualize something new and what the mind does to process new forms. New forms is pronounced when learning symmetries or puzzles. If you can't, say, read upside down already, try learning it, watch how the mind rotates the form of the letters - these forms are not concept.

This is why I thought nama/rupa in DO would refer to this level when I learned about DO at first. Only later I found out that different Theravadan teachers interpreted it differently and Abhidhamma even translates nama as mentality and rupa as materiality. What should that be? Matter (quantum fields, superstrings, etc)?

Regarding the quotes from Nanavira thera and the person from buddhanet article. Of course, I cannot know exactly what they are desrcibing, but it seems very similar to what I have experienced and mistaken it for some sort of insight at the time. At best, I'd define what they are describing as being aware (or basically, panna being developed) on the conceptual level. For example, when I know that "I'm scratching my leg" or "writing a letter to Mr.Dias" - all these are concepts - I, leg, scratching, writing, etc - all concepts, not dhammas. It makes no difference if this knowing is non-verbal, so thoughtless, it is still conceptual, simply because it is concepts that are understood at that time, not dhammas.


Sure, but dhammanupassana is just one of the four foundations of mindfulness.

Further, if one is also practicing some sort of concentrative meditation, it can easily lead to a sort of an "aware" state that has very little verbal thoughts, and is quite peaceful, still, and alert even. But still, from experience, this stillness is happening due to developed concentration, but not due to developed panna, which remains on a conceptual level. At this point, it can often lead to a wrong conceptual understanding because the person doesn't understand that hindrances are being suppressed through concentration, not eliminated through understanding. So, the person starts subtly grasping at the concepts of "stillness", "awareness", etc, as being real (and they are very subtly pleasant), and this is basically greed which is very hard to detect if panna doesn't go further into distinguishing what's kusala and what's akusala (again, someone usually has to explain why this is so before panna can go deeper, otherwise the person won't even know he's in trouble, as I think it was in my case). With greed, the development of concentration becomes akusala as well, and so does the effort. And so this "awareness" might and up leading into wrong view and wrong practice.


I think I know what you mean. But it still makes no difference. The subtle grasping will be overcome in due time when sati-sampajanna has grown, too. For example, people grasp - as you say - at that still, peaceful state and then claim that emotions hinder it. But with growing stability they find out that emotions don't hinder it, balance is kept. Then they find out that concentration is not required, either, one can let go of everything, go to sleep, and it still stays. When an emotion does not hinder any more the hinderance is elimitated, not suppressed.

Of course, I agree that a teacher is useful to point out the typical mistakes. But sooner or later I am sure you would have found out yourself what is kusala and what is akusala.

I don't know about Mahasi school, but I thought they'd be more interested in discerning dhammas than concepts about dhammas.


If I recall correctly, one starts with the first and proceeds to the second.

I guess it's clear by now that this is not so. Different people/teachers mean different things, and I'm pretty sure Nina's definition would be different than yours (but best ask her about it).


I already did and we agreed on this. In fact I agree to many of her points - just the complete aversion to meditation and other teachers I do not accept at all.

As for classical Theravada, if I'm not mistaken, it would be about sati and panna arising together, where panna discerns dhammas, not concepts or concepts about dhammas.


No, it is four foundations of mindfulness not just one foundation of mindfulness. So if you equate panna and sati to keep out the concepts would be wrong practice.

I guess it's also clear by now that I find it very hard to agree with that. I mean if you're not a silent buddha or a sammasambuddha, it is so horribly easy to start confusing akusala with kusala and the only way to get out of it is if someone points out my mistakes.


If you hadn't been already almost there you would not have been able to understand a teacher. So as you have been able to understand you would have found it out yourself - just a bit later.

Seriously, do you really feel that you are at this point the first time? No lingering impression of been there, done that? You have lived so many lives before, how are the chances that you never reached this point of development in one of those already? How are the chances that you never have been a jhana master in at least one of them? And now just need to remember? Karma can work both ways, hindering or helping.

I agree, but there's kusala and akusala effort, kusala and akusala intention, etc. How will I know what's the difference? All things, both kusala and akusala, become automatic with practice, so that doesn't seem like the best criteria that would help me distinguish between kusala and akusala.


By keeping the goal in mind you can distinguish between kusala and akusala.
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby pt1 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:14 am

Hi Freawaru,

Freawaru wrote:But in the case of this specific awareness afaik most (maybe all) Buddhist schools and traditions agree. I found it mentioned not only in Theravada but also in Tibetan Buddhism and Zen. So to develop it - while not being the full vipassana - has to be useful.
Hmm, my conclusion was almost the opposite - that many schools disagree on what this specific awareness is and whether it is right or wrong practice in the first place. But since now we're just debating our own opinions, perhaps there's no use going further with this.

Freawaru wrote:
So, one of the reasons I like abhidhamma is that it introduces a high degree of precision what hopefully makes it all a little less confusing.


Sure, looks like a complex theory. But unfortionately it all bases on a specific skill, namely to discern cittas on that high temporal dissolution. And as we know that is something only devas (being that have a knack for the jhanas, i.e. high concentration level) and arhats might have access to.

Not sure where you are getting this from. Afaik, from first tender insight stage, there should already be "high temporal dissolution" (when conditions are right), and there are many more insight stages to go before stream-entry, and arahantship further ahead.

Freawaru wrote:So it can hardly be considered a beginner's teachings. The assumed precision is useless as long as I don't have that skill.
It looks like it depends in what school/system you are thought. I've heard on occasions that in some classical Theravada traditions, one would first learn abhidhamma, and only afterwards go on to sutta, because otherwise one just won't be able to understand the suttas in proper depth and there would be much room for misunderstanding.

Freawaru wrote:And the fact that Abhidhamma has altered some terms such as samadhi from the original meaning in the suttas is no help either.
Well, that's debatable depending on the tradition/school one ascribes to.


Freawaru wrote:
So, according to abhidhamma, panna is a mental factor (cetasika), just like sati (mindfulness), concentration (ekaggata), perception (sanna), feeling (vedana), etc.


Yes, but what do they refer to. If we have not even ONE term to be able to point to and say (this is it) by own experience it is just a complex formal theory.

Well, what they refer to should be verifying in practice and discussion of what was heard. The point, however, is that I find it easier to understand if a teacher explains what panna, sati, concentration and perception are, than if he explains what awareness is but in fact he means panna, sati and sanna without concentration, while another teacher by awareness means sati and concentration, etc. Simply said, "awareness" is usually used as a concept that is supposed to describe a certain experience, and that experience will be in reality made out of paramattha dhammas, so, why not use paramattha dhammas to explain things in the first place? Less room for assumptions and misunderstanding imo, that's all.

Freawaru wrote:
In particular, afaik, panna is the mental factor responsible for understanding, regardless whether it is understanding of maths or of dhammas, so, there are obviously different kinds of understanding.


I find this hard to agree to. First because just as sati-sampajanna is a completely different awareness or mindfulness than herding cows (even on a completely different level) and second because the german language clearly discerns between wisdom (Weisheit) and understanding (Verstand). I do not think it is just a redirection of the same cetasika wether we understand math or cows or dhammas. They are not variations of the same theme.

Okay. I'm just giving my understanding of classical Theravada position on this. I might be wrong as mentioned, and it's fine not to agree when we're discussing our own opinions.

Freawaru wrote:But what are concepts? I would translate concepts as "nama" (name). Not necessarily verbal names. Recognition can be conceptual (i.e. with a name) and without. This becomes obvious when we learn something new, just observe your mind during learning, how concepts are manifested. On the same level as concepts are forms. Discern the difference of how we conceptualize something new and what the mind does to process new forms. New forms is pronounced when learning symmetries or puzzles. If you can't, say, read upside down already, try learning it, watch how the mind rotates the form of the letters - these forms are not concept.

I believe that according to abhidhamma this would still be concepts - please check step 5 in cognition summary I gave - mind-door processes that distinguish color, shape (form of a letters in your example) and name would all have concepts (color, shape, name) as objects of cittas (all this is long before verbalised thinking and labeling of colors, shapes, names, etc). Again, this is just my understanding of abhidhamma. The main idea is that concepts are not paramattha dhammas. As for how to tell the difference between the two, that's what practice and study (hearing) are for.

Freawaru wrote:This is why I thought nama/rupa in DO would refer to this level when I learned about DO at first. Only later I found out that different Theravadan teachers interpreted it differently and Abhidhamma even translates nama as mentality and rupa as materiality. What should that be? Matter (quantum fields, superstrings, etc)?

Not sure what you are asking/saying here.

Freawaru wrote:
...It makes no difference if this knowing is non-verbal, so thoughtless, it is still conceptual, simply because it is concepts that are understood at that time, not dhammas.


Sure, but dhammanupassana is just one of the four foundations of mindfulness.

My mistake, I should have said - paramattha dhammas. Afaik, vipassana/satipatthana is about paramattha dhammas regardless what foundation of mindfulness is taken up.

Freawaru wrote:I think I know what you mean. But it still makes no difference. The subtle grasping will be overcome in due time when sati-sampajanna has grown, too. For example, people grasp - as you say - at that still, peaceful state and then claim that emotions hinder it. But with growing stability they find out that emotions don't hinder it, balance is kept. Then they find out that concentration is not required, either, one can let go of everything, go to sleep, and it still stays. When an emotion does not hinder any more the hinderance is elimitated, not suppressed.

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough - my understanding currently is that the state we agreed to call "sati-sampajanna" is (in most cases) a form of wrong practice where there's mistaking a conceptualised state of awareness ("sati-sampajanna") for a reality (paramattha dhamma), which it isn't, thus furthering the wrong view that such practice leads to liberation, which it doesn't. Of course, this is just my understanding and you're welcome not to agree with it.

Freawaru wrote:
I guess it's clear by now that this is not so. Different people/teachers mean different things, and I'm pretty sure Nina's definition would be different than yours (but best ask her about it).


I already did and we agreed on this.

That's surprising. Perhaps you can direct me to your discussion about this on dsg? Thanks.

Freawaru wrote:
As for classical Theravada, if I'm not mistaken, it would be about sati and panna arising together, where panna discerns dhammas, not concepts or concepts about dhammas.


No, it is four foundations of mindfulness not just one foundation of mindfulness.

Again, dhammas in the sense of paramattha dhammas (ultimate realities) and not concepts, which are not ultimate realities according to abhidhamma. So afaik sati-sampajanna in vipassana/satipatthana is about paramattha dhammas.

Freawaru wrote:So if you equate panna and sati to keep out the concepts would be wrong practice.
Agreed, except that this has nothing to do with I was trying to say - panna and sati take up paramttha dhammas as objects of citta, not concepts, so it has nothing to do with trying to keep out concepts or anything else for that matter.

Freawaru wrote:By keeping the goal in mind you can distinguish between kusala and akusala.

Please elaborate. Thanks.

Best wishes
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:19 am

Help me clue in.

Is there a relationship between the term 'mahamudra' as used in this thread and 'mudra', those nifty little hand postures people us in meditation?
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:30 pm

Hi pt1

pt1 wrote:
Freawaru wrote:Sure, looks like a complex theory. But unfortionately it all bases on a specific skill, namely to discern cittas on that high temporal dissolution. And as we know that is something only devas (being that have a knack for the jhanas, i.e. high concentration level) and arhats might have access to.

Not sure where you are getting this from.


Historically, Abhidhamma was taught at a later point than the suttas. To say that Abhidhamma is necessary to understand the suttas would imply that the Buddha at his time was a lousy teacher. And according to the legend Abhidhamma was taught to the devas (in the deva realm) by the Buddha and only a summary was given to an arhat (who wrote it down for us). I do not see any reason to assume that Abhidhamma is either necessary at all (suttas should be enough) or a teaching for human beginners.

I believe that according to abhidhamma this would still be concepts


Then what is "form" (rupa)? Form, shape, both are possible translations for one and the same.

- please check step 5 in cognition summary I gave - mind-door processes that distinguish color, shape (form of a letters in your example) and name would all have concepts (color, shape, name) as objects of cittas (all this is long before verbalised thinking and labeling of colors, shapes, names, etc). Again, this is just my understanding of abhidhamma.


Hmm, I think if we consider one letter for example it is both nama and rupa. A letter is both a shape (form) and thus rupa as well as a concept (such as the concept A). That is why nama and rupa arise on the same level of DO.

The main idea is that concepts are not paramattha dhammas. As for how to tell the difference between the two, that's what practice and study (hearing) are for.


I don't think that this can work. It is only by directly seeing non-concepts that one can discern. Hearing (except if we assume some Mahayanic transmission) only works with concepts. To reach beyond the concepts one has to use tricks, such as koans or mystical writings.

Not sure what you are asking/saying here.


In Abhidhamma nama is translated as mentality and rupa as materiality. I would like to know what they mean by materiality?

...It makes no difference if this knowing is non-verbal, so thoughtless, it is still conceptual, simply because it is concepts that are understood at that time, not dhammas.


I agree that understanding dhamma (in the sense of nature of things) is a step deeper than understanding concepts.

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough - my understanding currently is that the state we agreed to call "sati-sampajanna" is (in most cases) a form of wrong practice where there's mistaking a conceptualised state of awareness ("sati-sampajanna") for a reality (paramattha dhamma), which it isn't, thus furthering the wrong view that such practice leads to liberation, which it doesn't. Of course, this is just my understanding and you're welcome not to agree with it.


Hmm, maybe you are right. Might work different for different people. After all, both Ven. Nanavira Thera as well as the letter at Buddhanet didn't conclude that this was just the top of the ice-mountain. The surface. Personally, I would have thought it obvious but maybe it is not that obvious after all.

That's surprising. Perhaps you can direct me to your discussion about this on dsg? Thanks.


She wrote about Abhidhamma in daily life several times and I agree to that. Her agreement to my interpretation can be seen here:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... age/102277

NvG wrote:N: It seems that we are different personalities when crying or
laughing, but in fact there are only different cittas arising each
arising because of their own conditions and then completely gone. You
made your daughter look as it were into a mirror. This is Abhidhamma
in Daily Life. The Abhidhamma is not some text in a book.


For a moment my remark caused an arising of sati-sampajanna in my daughter. She saw the mind processes as if in a mirror. This mirror or reflection is sati-sampajanna. Ven. Nanavira Thera even calls it "reflective awareness" and the term "mirror-like wisdom" is used in Tibetan Buddhism.


Again, dhammas in the sense of paramattha dhammas (ultimate realities) and not concepts, which are not ultimate realities according to abhidhamma. So afaik sati-sampajanna in vipassana/satipatthana is about paramattha dhammas.


It is - I agree - about the nature of things. Not concepts in the sense of content. But concept in the sense of dhamma is a nature of things. Thus to see the concept arising, the conceptualization of something that was unconceptualized before is sati-sampajanna. The problem is that this is hard to describe and talk about - thus the problem regarding "hearing".

Paramattha dhammas, as non-concepts, have neither name (verbal or not) nor form. So when we talk about them we have to conceptualize them. This means there arises a danger of confusing the conceptualized version with the real one - as you said. A useful verification is to look at several different conceptualizations and see that they do indeed refer to the same paramattha dhamma.

Another detailed description of the paramattha dhammas can be found in Tibetan Buddhism, namely the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thödol). When someone can see that this, too, describes the ultimate reality as in Abhidhamma, then I think someone can truly see and know the paramattha dhammas. But I still think that this will develop from seeing and knowing the samutti dhammas in an unbroken fashion. The reason is deep sleep. When one grows sati-sampajanna on a conceptual level into deep sleep the mind has no choice but to switch to the parmattha dhammas as deep sleep does not contain concepts. And into death of course, too. So I would say that when one has established sati-sampajanna at the level of the samutti dhammas (leg moves, thoughts, images, emotions, etc appear and disappear, and so on) the advice is to keep this awareness at all costs, during all circumstances, experiences, levels of concentration and states, whatever happens.

Here is a different describtion of the parmattha dhamma:

0 nobly-born [so-and-so], listen. Now thou art experiencing the Radiance of the Clear Light of Pure Reality. Recognize it. 0 nobly-born, thy present intellect, in real nature void, not formed into anything as regards characteristics or colour, naturally void, is the very Reality, the All-Good.

Thine own intellect, which is now voidness, yet not to be regarded as of the voidness of nothingness, but as being the intellect itself, unobstructed, shining, thrilling, and blissful, is the very consciousness, the All-good Buddha.

Thine own consciousness, not formed into anything, in reality void, and the intellect, shining and blissful,-these two,-are inseparable. The union of them is the Dharma-Kaya state of Perfect Enlightenment.6

Thine own consciousness, shining, void, and inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth, nor death, and is the Immutable Light-Buddha Amitabha.

Knowing this is sufficient. Recognizing the voidness of thine own intellect to be Buddhahood, and looking upon it as being thine own consciousness, is to keep thyself in the [state of the] divine mind of the Buddha.
http://reluctant-messenger.com/Tibetan- ... -Wentz.htm


This Clear Light of Reality describes the "machine code" level. To see and know it is Buddhahood. It is not Abhidhammic (which I would label as "Assembler") as it only arises during death. When we are not beings. But there is a second Reality described: the "Bardo [during the experiencing] of Reality", this is, I think, Abhidhamma level. But it is not conceptualised and classified as in Abdhidhamma theory (citta, cetasika, etc) but in a different way as "lights, sounds, peaceful and wrathful deities". (As a side note: The Wentz translation isn't considered authorative by modern Tibetan Buddhism but I checked with the authorised version and it really isn't that different regarding the description of the bardos of ultimate reality).

Freawaru wrote:By keeping the goal in mind you can distinguish between kusala and akusala.

Please elaborate. Thanks.


Elaborate :lol:

I think I rather make it short: it is not called "Liberation" for no reason. So when one gets the impression of limitations, borders, shrinking, less freedom, uncontrolability, it is the wrong direction.
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:36 pm

catmoon wrote:Help me clue in.

Is there a relationship between the term 'mahamudra' as used in this thread and 'mudra', those nifty little hand postures people us in meditation?


Hi catmoon,

Mudra means seal or sign, maha means great. Mahamudra is the "great seal".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudra

So, yes, the relationship is the term "seal". Mahamudra refers to sunnata, emptiness/voidness, the Clear Light. It is the "ultimate seal" so to speak.
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby pt1 » Thu Dec 31, 2009 1:52 am

Hi Freawaru,

Freawaru wrote:Historically, Abhidhamma was taught at a later point than the suttas. To say that Abhidhamma is necessary to understand the suttas would imply that the Buddha at his time was a lousy teacher. And according to the legend Abhidhamma was taught to the devas (in the deva realm) by the Buddha and only a summary was given to an arhat (who wrote it down for us). I do not see any reason to assume that Abhidhamma is either necessary at all (suttas should be enough) or a teaching for human beginners.

Yeah, that's one of the modern interpretations. Of course, it doesn't sit well with the classical theravada (as I understand it), but there's already a really long thread on that so let's not go any further with this.

Freawaru wrote:
Then what is "form" (rupa)? Form, shape, both are possible translations for one and the same.

Ah, now I understand, thanks. Rupa (which is sometimes translated as "form") stands for materiality or material phenomenon- a paramattha dhamma that can be experienced - like hardness/softness (earth rupa), or heat/cold (temperature rupa), or motion/pressure (wind rupa), etc, altogether there being 28 rupas. A rupa is the object of cittas during a sense-door process.

The terms form/shape on the other hand stand for a concept that is an object of a mind-door process when there's conceptualisation of the rupa that was experienced previously through the sense-door process of cittas. This is still before there's any verbalised thinking about what was experienced - i.e. this is still part of the automatic process of cognition that goes on all the time.

Anyway, I don't know if I'm explaining this clearly, so maybe you can check out Nina's book on rupas (it's not very long):
http://www.scribd.com/doc/3917805/The-B ... -Phenomena
Or for more detail you can check out ACMA (chapter VI is on materiality).
This might also be helpful in distinguishing concepts and realities:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/7548812/Reali ... d-Concepts

Freawaru wrote:Hmm, I think if we consider one letter for example it is both nama and rupa. A letter is both a shape (form) and thus rupa as well as a concept (such as the concept A).
I hope that this is cleared up with what I said above - so shape/form would be concepts while rupa is the visible data (light) taken up by the eye, so before there's conceptual processing by the mind. There's a paragraph in ACMA on this that might be hlepful (I can't locate the paragraph at the moment, but here is a summary of it I made once):
Ledi Sayadaw lists the following mind-door processes that follow the sense-door process:
1. Conformational process
2. Grasping the object as a whole
3. Recognising the colour
4. Grasping the entity
5. Recognising the entity -
6. Grasping the name
7. Recognising the name

I believe steps 4 and 5 for entity are the recognition of "form/shape". It's interesting that Mahasi Saydaw only seems to describe steps 1, 4 and 6, so for him recognition of shape happens immediately after step 1 (step 1 is the not-so classifiable object which is still not considered a concept as I understand).

Freawaru wrote:That is why nama and rupa arise on the same level of DO.
I believe this is also one of the modern interpretations that doesn't sit too well with the classical one, but I don't really know much about this to be able to discuss properly.

Freawaru wrote:
The main idea is that concepts are not paramattha dhammas. As for how to tell the difference between the two, that's what practice and study (hearing) are for.


I don't think that this can work. It is only by directly seeing non-concepts that one can discern. Hearing (except if we assume some Mahayanic transmission) only works with concepts.
Agreed.
Freawaru wrote:To reach beyond the concepts one has to use tricks, such as koans or mystical writings.
Well, it seems this is where the traditions differ. I mean, in therevada it seems pretty straightforward - you learn something conceptually, then you go see how it applies in real-life. But if you prefer tricks, etc, then go for it, I don't really know what else to say.

Freawaru wrote:In Abhidhamma nama is translated as mentality and rupa as materiality. I would like to know what they mean by materiality?

I hope I answered this above.

Freawaru wrote:
That's surprising. Perhaps you can direct me to your discussion about this on dsg? Thanks.


She wrote about Abhidhamma in daily life several times and I agree to that. Her agreement to my interpretation can be seen here:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... age/102277

NvG wrote:N: It seems that we are different personalities when crying or
laughing, but in fact there are only different cittas arising each
arising because of their own conditions and then completely gone. You
made your daughter look as it were into a mirror. This is Abhidhamma
in Daily Life. The Abhidhamma is not some text in a book.

For a moment my remark caused an arising of sati-sampajanna in my daughter. She saw the mind processes as if in a mirror. This mirror or reflection is sati-sampajanna.

Yep, I remember that thread, my interpretation was somewhat different, but as mentioned, it's okay not to agree.

Freawaru wrote:
Again, dhammas in the sense of paramattha dhammas (ultimate realities) and not concepts, which are not ultimate realities according to abhidhamma. So afaik sati-sampajanna in vipassana/satipatthana is about paramattha dhammas.


It is - I agree - about the nature of things. Not concepts in the sense of content. But concept in the sense of dhamma is a nature of things. Thus to see the concept arising, the conceptualization of something that was unconceptualized before is sati-sampajanna.

Afaik, concepts are not real, they are an illusion, hence, they cannot arise. So to say that sati-sampajana is seeing concepts arise - it seems weird. What does arise are cittas and cetasikas that have a concept as the object, and to see these arising would indeed be sati-sampajana imo.

Freawaru wrote:Another detailed description of the paramattha dhammas can be found in Tibetan Buddhism...

Thanks for the Tibetan quotes. The trouble is that afaik Tibetan Buddhism is founded on a bit different version of abhidharma. I think one fundamental difference is that they do not consider paramattha dhammas to be real, but also an illusion, just like concepts. So, I'm not sure how useful it is to cross-quote, nor whether the parallels you draw are really there.

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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:36 pm

Hi pt1,

thank you for this discussion. I want to emphasise that the opinions I state are my present opinions, meaning they might change due to new information tomorrow or next year.

pt1 wrote:
Freawaru wrote:
Then what is "form" (rupa)? Form, shape, both are possible translations for one and the same.

Ah, now I understand, thanks. Rupa (which is sometimes translated as "form") stands for materiality or material phenomenon- a paramattha dhamma that can be experienced - like hardness/softness (earth rupa), or heat/cold (temperature rupa), or motion/pressure (wind rupa), etc, altogether there being 28 rupas. A rupa is the object of cittas during a sense-door process.

The terms form/shape on the other hand stand for a concept that is an object of a mind-door process when there's conceptualisation of the rupa that was experienced previously through the sense-door process of cittas. This is still before there's any verbalised thinking about what was experienced - i.e. this is still part of the automatic process of cognition that goes on all the time.

Anyway, I don't know if I'm explaining this clearly, so maybe you can check out Nina's book on rupas (it's not very long):
http://www.scribd.com/doc/3917805/The-B ... -Phenomena
Or for more detail you can check out ACMA (chapter VI is on materiality).
This might also be helpful in distinguishing concepts and realities:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/7548812/Reali ... d-Concepts


Thank you for the links. I will read them and probably be back to discuss aspects I do not understand or disagree with. :P

Skipping a bit through them I can only say that I still don't see how Abhidhamma supposedly can describe even just one mechanism correctly. Take the sight sense for example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retina

Does Abhidhamma discern between the three kinds of of cones for example?

The response of cones to various wavelengths of light is called their "spectral sensitivity". In normal human vision, the spectral sensitivity of a cone falls into one of three subgroups. These are often called "red, green, and blue" cones but more accurately are short, medium, and long wavelength sensitive cone subgroups. It is a lack of one or more of the cone subtypes that causes individuals to have deficiencies in colour vision or various kinds of colour blindness. These individuals are not "blind" to objects of a particular colour but experience the inability to distinguish between two groups of colours that can be distinguished by people with normal vision. Humans have three different types of cones (trichromatic vision) while most other mammals lack cones with red sensitive pigment and therefore have poorer (dichromatic) colour vision. However, some animals have four spectral subgroups, e.g., the trout adds an ultraviolet subgroup to short, medium and long subgroups that are similar to humans. Some fish are sensitive to the polarization of light as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retina


Colour is not materiality but a concept. A name. Even fish have concepts, they can discern colours, some even better than humans. Sight on it's first step (photons hitting on the retina) is hardly just colours. There is also the black/white and shades of gray vision, no colors at all. A theory that can discern on the scale of the retina (that is - after all - part of the brain) I would expect to be able to discern between information pre and after ganglion level.

Although there are more than 130 million retinal receptors, there are only approximately 1.2 million fibres (axons) in the optic nerve; a large amount of pre-processing is performed within the retina. The fovea produces the most accurate information. Despite occupying about 0.01% of the visual field (less than 2° of visual angle), about 10% of axons in the optic nerve are devoted to the fovea. The resolution limit of the fovea has been determined at around 10,000 points. The information capacity is estimated at 500,000 bits per second (for more information on bits, see information theory) without colour or around 600,000 bits per second including colour.
...
The retina, unlike a camera, does not simply send a picture to the brain. The retina spatially encodes (compresses) the image to fit the limited capacity of the optic nerve. Compression is necessary because there are 100 times more Photoreceptor cells than ganglion cells as mentioned above. The retina does so by "decorrelating" the incoming images in a manner to be described below. These operations are carried out by the center surround structures as implemented by the bipolar and ganglion cells.


How does this agree with colour being a rupa that is the object of a sense door process? Also, in what way are colours ultimate realities? Each retina is slightly different and will process the signals differently (not to mention that some animals can see other colors and even polarisations, a purely physical difference, what would happen if by mutation or mechanical device our eyes could discern them, too? We are Borg, :lol: ). Anyway, real physical objects have no colour themselves. The scattered or emitted photons have to folllow the Relativity Laws. So colour is hardly a reality. Colour is a concept that our mind creates to discern between incoming ganglion signals. It can even be varied, for example by looking at a coloured object for a prolonged time. It uses up the receptive stuff in the cones and one just sees other colours afterwards. So if Abhidhamma states that colors are ultimate realities it cannot mean what we usually call colours. Cause they are not ultimate realities.


I hope that this is cleared up with what I said above - so shape/form would be concepts while rupa is the visible data (light) taken up by the eye, so before there's conceptual processing by the mind. There's a paragraph in ACMA on this that might be hlepful (I can't locate the paragraph at the moment, but here is a summary of it I made once):
Ledi Sayadaw lists the following mind-door processes that follow the sense-door process:
1. Conformational process
2. Grasping the object as a whole
3. Recognising the colour
4. Grasping the entity
5. Recognising the entity -
6. Grasping the name
7. Recognising the name

I believe steps 4 and 5 for entity are the recognition of "form/shape". It's interesting that Mahasi Saydaw only seems to describe steps 1, 4 and 6, so for him recognition of shape happens immediately after step 1 (step 1 is the not-so classifiable object which is still not considered a concept as I understand).


Thank you for the information. What I still don't understand is how is the difference between impersonal and personality processing described?




Afaik, concepts are not real, they are an illusion, hence, they cannot arise.


Everything arises, stays and dissolves again.

So to say that sati-sampajana is seeing concepts arise - it seems weird. What does arise are cittas and cetasikas that have a concept as the object, and to see these arising would indeed be sati-sampajana imo.


Citta is that what experiences, right. The experiencer. Another of those strange Abhidhammic concepts that I do not understand. Citta experiences an object (like colour), they are clearly and ultimately different from each other: this is subject-object duality pure. How does this agree with "only the seen in the seen" and all that - no experiencer, no duality between subject and object as described in the suttas?

Thanks for the Tibetan quotes. The trouble is that afaik Tibetan Buddhism is founded on a bit different version of abhidharma. I think one fundamental difference is that they do not consider paramattha dhammas to be real, but also an illusion, just like concepts. So, I'm not sure how useful it is to cross-quote, nor whether the parallels you draw are really there.


I agree. I am not sure myself. All I know is that in both the time discernment is very high and it is about colours :P
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:42 pm

Freawaru wrote:Does Abhidhamma discern between the three kinds of of cones for example?
It does not have to. Had you not read that article, never studied an anatomy text, you would never know about those things and you certainly would not need to know about those rods and cones to awaken, but what you can know directly about is your very experience as it comes and goes, as it rises and falls. That is all you need.
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: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby pt1 » Wed Jan 06, 2010 2:36 am

Hi Freawaru,

Freawaru wrote:I want to emphasise that the opinions I state are my present opinions, meaning they might change due to new information tomorrow or next year.

Sure, same here. My ulterior motive for the discussion is just to help you get a hang of abhidhamma terminology so that you can then ask questions from more knowledgeable abhidhamma people than me without getting bogged down by strange terms.

Freawaru wrote:Skipping a bit through them I can only say that I still don't see how Abhidhamma supposedly can describe even just one mechanism correctly. Take the sight sense for example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retina

Does Abhidhamma discern between the three kinds of of cones for example?
...
Colour is not materiality but a concept. A name. Even fish have concepts, they can discern colours, some even better than humans. Sight on it's first step (photons hitting on the retina) is hardly just colours. There is also the black/white and shades of gray vision, no colors at all. A theory that can discern on the scale of the retina (that is - after all - part of the brain) I would expect to be able to discern between information pre and after ganglion level.
...
How does this agree with colour being a rupa that is the object of a sense door process? Also, in what way are colours ultimate realities? Each retina is slightly different and will process the signals differently (not to mention that some animals can see other colors and even polarisations, a purely physical difference, what would happen if by mutation or mechanical device our eyes could discern them, too? We are Borg, :lol: ). Anyway, real physical objects have no colour themselves. The scattered or emitted photons have to folllow the Relativity Laws. So colour is hardly a reality. Colour is a concept that our mind creates to discern between incoming ganglion signals. It can even be varied, for example by looking at a coloured object for a prolonged time. It uses up the receptive stuff in the cones and one just sees other colours afterwards. So if Abhidhamma states that colors are ultimate realities it cannot mean what we usually call colours. Cause they are not ultimate realities.


I understand your confusion, in fact I was asking Nina this same question on dsg recently. The problem is simply in the translation - "color" as a visual rupa basically stands for what's present at the eye. In Vsdm, it's translated as "visible datum" for example, which I think is a little better term. So, basically it's all the information that's present at the eye at a certain moment. For example, in case of your example with reading a letter on a page - visual rupa (or "color", or "visible datum") would be equivalent to everything that the eye registers at that moment - which would probably include all the letters on the page, the page itself, the table, the lamp, the room, etc (of course, not as individual object, but as different shades of light).

So in scientific terms, it probably could be said that all the light that bounces of the surrounding objects, collects at the retina and gets processed by the eye at that particular moment - that would be equivalent to a visual rupa, or "visible datum" at that instant.

Color as green, red, etc, on the other hand is a concept as you say and it gets recalled by sanna further along in the cognition process in one of the consequent mind-door processes. So, in my understanding, visual rupa stands for all the information processing that is done by physical organ(s) for seeing - it happens automatically simply because that's how the organs function.

Freawaru wrote:
pt1 wrote:I hope that this is cleared up with what I said above - so shape/form would be concepts while rupa is the visible data (light) taken up by the eye, so before there's conceptual processing by the mind. There's a paragraph in ACMA on this that might be hlepful (I can't locate the paragraph at the moment, but here is a summary of it I made once):
Ledi Sayadaw lists the following mind-door processes that follow the sense-door process:
1. Conformational process
2. Grasping the object as a whole
3. Recognising the colour
4. Grasping the entity
5. Recognising the entity -
6. Grasping the name
7. Recognising the name

I believe steps 4 and 5 for entity are the recognition of "form/shape". It's interesting that Mahasi Saydaw only seems to describe steps 1, 4 and 6, so for him recognition of shape happens immediately after step 1 (step 1 is the not-so classifiable object which is still not considered a concept as I understand).


Thank you for the information. What I still don't understand is how is the difference between impersonal and personality processing described?

Er, what was the difference between "impersonal and personal" again? :reading: Why not use buddhist terms though? "Impersonal and personal" can be (mis)interpreted in so many ways.

Afaik, step 1 (conformational process) in Ledi Saydaw's list has what's also called a "navattaba" object - an object of citta which is not yet a concept, but a representation of rupa that has just fallen away. Steps 2-7 have concepts for objects, however, they also happen very automatically and very fast because that's just how the mind works when it cognises a thing. In fact, most of the time, we're not even aware that these happen, until only afterwards when various mind-door processes arise that are in fact thinking and reasoning about the thing that was experienced. So I guess it's with reasoning and thinking that the "personality" comes in. But I could be wrong (both in understanding abhidhamma, as well as you definitions of terms).

Freawaru wrote:
pt1 wrote:
Afaik, concepts are not real, they are an illusion, hence, they cannot arise.


Everything arises, stays and dissolves again.

Well, in abhidhamma terminology afaik, only paramattha dhammas are said to arise and cease dependent on conditions. But for concepts, it is stressed that their arising and ceasing is an illusion because they in fact aren't real. However, what is real are the cittas and cetasikas (paramattha dhammas) which arise and cease having a certain concept as the object.

Freawaru wrote:
pt1 wrote:So to say that sati-sampajana is seeing concepts arise - it seems weird. What does arise are cittas and cetasikas that have a concept as the object, and to see these arising would indeed be sati-sampajana imo.


Citta is that what experiences, right. The experiencer.

"Experiencer" implies an entity, a self, so not a very good analogy in buddhism. "Citta is what experieneces" implies a process (a conditioned one at that), so this is a much better analogy to adopt.

Freawaru wrote:Another of those strange Abhidhammic concepts that I do not understand. Citta experiences an object (like colour), they are clearly and ultimately different from each other: this is subject-object duality pure.

Well it's a (speculative) duality insofar as there is a difference between nama and rupa. Citta is a nama that arises and can have a rupa as the object and then falls away forever. It seems as simple as that, not sure what's confusing you here. I mean, citta can also have another citta or cetasika for an object, so would that be "subject-subject" duality in your terms? Not sure what's the purpose of such conceptual speculations?

Freawaru wrote:How does this agree with "only the seen in the seen" and all that - no experiencer, no duality between subject and object as described in the suttas?

I'm not so sure that "no duality" is the meaning of "only the seen in the seen". I'd say it means that during the process of experiencing a certain nama or rupa (as in seeing) - there is no arising of ignorance of anatta being a characteristic of the process of seeing, and that there is no arising of craving for the seen or the experience of seeing. Since the process of seeing is fully conditioned, no "experiencer" is required, but it is ignorance and craving which convince us that the illusion of an "experiencer" is real.

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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:05 am

Hi tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:
Freawaru wrote:Does Abhidhamma discern between the three kinds of of cones for example?
It does not have to. Had you not read that article, never studied an anatomy text, you would never know about those things and you certainly would not need to know about those rods and cones to awaken, but what you can know directly about is your very experience as it comes and goes, as it rises and falls. That is all you need.


Yes, I agree. But my experience does not seem to agree with how it is described in the Abhidhamma and I try to find out why. It could be the translation for example. Pt1's translation of visible rupa as "visible datum" instead of as "colour" makes much more sense as colour is clearly a concept in my observation. The mind compares with memory (non-verbal memory) to decide if the visible information is a colour (and what colour at that) or a shape. Shape is a very interesting mechanism, too. My daughter (8 years) just had symmetries in school, I could watch how her mind learned shapes. One can observe this in oneself, too, when doing puzzles for example. Don't focus on how the colours fit - just the shapes of the puzzle pieces themselves.

It could also be that the Abhidhammic level of discernment is too fast and thus my observation does not agree to it. But in that case ALL the terms refer to something we can know normally, all Abhidhammic terms, both ultimate and not, don't refer to what we think they do. And in that case I consider it useless to learn Abhidhamma until I have reached that time-level of discernment as I wouldn't be able to understand what the terminology refers to.

I noticed that Abhidhamma, due to it's structured, formalistic ways, tends to be approached and understood in that way by practitioners. Formalistic understanding is not the direct understanding I seek. People do not discuss direct insights, aka dissect an experience into the exact mechanisms of what rupa and what nama and citta and cetasika, but stay in generalities. Generalities (so many cetasikas, such and such rupas, etc) activate and develop the formalistic processing in the mind. This is a very interesting mechanism/process as it is activated relatively late in one's life. The mind has mechanisms that need to activate (such as walking, sex, logical thinking, etc). There is a genetic preposition that activates them during a certain age (that varies from human to human). Formalistic thinking is - for most of us - activated during the twens or even later. Only a small percentage get an activation during the teens - they are usually those who like math at school and might study it. So when I talk with people about Abhidhamma and try to understand them I feel that specific "formalistic thinking" mechanism used in me and them. This is not direct understanding nor is it useful to reach direct understanding. I think if we want to understand Abdhidhamma we need to talk about specifics, discern and dissect specific experiences into their respective namas and rupas to avoid the formalistic thinking trap. Say, what happens when one does a puzzle? What namas, what rupas, what cittas, what cetasikas, etc, play a role during the process of finding one piece fitting to another? Please describe this process in Abhidhammic terms so that I can compare with the process I see in my mind and learn the Abhidhammic terminology.
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 06, 2010 7:56 pm

Hi Freawaru,
Freawaru wrote:Please describe this process in Abhidhammic terms so that I can compare with the process I see in my mind and learn the Abhidhammic terminology.

Though I have not listened to them myself, I think you'll get some of that from the talks referred to here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 171#p46260
mikenz66 wrote:In addition, the link that Bodom posted in this thread about the Visuddhimagga: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=3174 is relevant.

At http://www.sirimangalo.org/ you'll find Mahasi-derived meditation teachings http://www.sirimangalo.org/vipassana and talks on the Visuddhimagga and Abdhidhamma http://www.sirimangalo.org/audio_index by Ven Silandanda.

I suspect that there are many Abhidhamma experts who do give the practical information that you are seeking. Just not a lot obvious teachings in English, unfortunately...

Metta
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 06, 2010 9:45 pm

Hi Freawaru,
mikenz66 wrote:I suspect that there are many Abhidhamma experts who do give the practical information that you are seeking. Just not a lot obvious teachings in English, unfortunately...

I added a comment regarding this on the thread
What role does Abhidhamma play in your practice?
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 561#p46561

Metta
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Fri Jan 08, 2010 7:36 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Freawaru,
mikenz66 wrote:I suspect that there are many Abhidhamma experts who do give the practical information that you are seeking. Just not a lot obvious teachings in English, unfortunately...

I added a comment regarding this on the thread
What role does Abhidhamma play in your practice?
viewtopic.php?f=18&t=3171&p=46561#p46561

Metta
Mike


Hi Mike,

thank you very much for the links :D
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby Freawaru » Fri Jan 08, 2010 8:36 pm

Hi pt1,

I am still busy reading your links :D

pt1 wrote:Sure, same here. My ulterior motive for the discussion is just to help you get a hang of abhidhamma terminology so that you can then ask questions from more knowledgeable abhidhamma people than me without getting bogged down by strange terms.


Thank you very much. It is much appreciated :D

I understand your confusion, in fact I was asking Nina this same question on dsg recently. The problem is simply in the translation - "color" as a visual rupa basically stands for what's present at the eye. In Vsdm, it's translated as "visible datum" for example, which I think is a little better term. So, basically it's all the information that's present at the eye at a certain moment. For example, in case of your example with reading a letter on a page - visual rupa (or "color", or "visible datum") would be equivalent to everything that the eye registers at that moment - which would probably include all the letters on the page, the page itself, the table, the lamp, the room, etc (of course, not as individual object, but as different shades of light).

So in scientific terms, it probably could be said that all the light that bounces of the surrounding objects, collects at the retina and gets processed by the eye at that particular moment - that would be equivalent to a visual rupa, or "visible datum" at that instant.


Thank you. This makes sense to me :D

Color as green, red, etc, on the other hand is a concept as you say and it gets recalled by sanna further along in the cognition process in one of the consequent mind-door processes. So, in my understanding, visual rupa stands for all the information processing that is done by physical organ(s) for seeing - it happens automatically simply because that's how the organs function.


Yeah, some kind of pre-processor ;)

Thank you for the information. What I still don't understand is how is the difference between impersonal and personality processing described?

Er, what was the difference between "impersonal and personal" again? :reading: Why not use buddhist terms though? "Impersonal and personal" can be (mis)interpreted in so many ways.


Because I don't know the Buddhist terms. They have not shown up in a definite way. I mean, not in a way everybody seems to agree upon.

For example, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu discerns strongly between personal and not-personal. Doing a math calculation is not-personal for example, the mind is free from hinderances, busy without all the personal, emotional gabbage getting inbetween. For him it is sense contact when one sees something in a not-personal way (something that does not activate personal patterns such as "mine", relating the "I" to the sense-data). I don't discern so much here, both personal and not-personal reactions and processes are part of the same personality, IMO.

The impersonal can best be discerned when switching between personalities. Usually, we are identified with a specific personalitiy, believing that this personality is us. It is the personality that distinguishes you from me - if I could absorb into your personality I would be you, with your karma and all that. Well, I am not Sylar and can't do it (TV series "Heroes", anyone?) but I can absorb into fictional characters or dream characters with different personalities. Personalities are interesting, it is part of the personality patterns how we walk, talk, think, feel, react, all those habits and preferences and quirks are governed and processed by the same "program". Say, how we react to a specific sense contact, some feel happy watching a football game, some feel bored and turn to another channel immediately. Some prefer noodles, others rice. Some (no most, I guess) shy away from physical pain but some seek it, experiencing pleasure. Some write poems during sleepless nights others enjoy buing new shoes. They are all variations of the same theme: a personality. The personality is changeable and indeed changing the whole time. So when one switches from one personality to another (even fictional or dream ones) one can see there is something that is not part of the process. This is the Impersonal. It is not affected by that process, some kind of meta-state.

I would have thought what I call "personality program" is basically DO in Buddhism. The Impersonal would be that what observes it: the state vipassana. But I am not so sure any more. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu uses it differently, Buddhaghosa uses the terms differently than him again and Abhidhamma seems to exclude that what I call "Impersonal" completely. Abhdhamma seems to focus so much on the process that construes the personality that it does not allow for anything else. Sure, personalities are interesting but even more interesting are the Impersonal processes if you ask me. So where are they described in Abdhidamma? What are the terms for personality and impersonal?


Afaik, step 1 (conformational process) in Ledi Saydaw's list has what's also called a "navattaba" object - an object of citta which is not yet a concept, but a representation of rupa that has just fallen away. Steps 2-7 have concepts for objects, however, they also happen very automatically and very fast because that's just how the mind works when it cognises a thing. In fact, most of the time, we're not even aware that these happen, until only afterwards when various mind-door processes arise that are in fact thinking and reasoning about the thing that was experienced. So I guess it's with reasoning and thinking that the "personality" comes in. But I could be wrong (both in understanding abhidhamma, as well as you definitions of terms).


Most of the personality's processes are sub- or unconscious. How we walk for example. The way we move our body is a part of the personality. They are very fast, too, those processes that construe the personality. And also automatically. Instincts are part of the personality as well.

It is not really difficult. If you would want to be a being, to play a character in samsara, think about what processes you would need to construe it. Take all that away and you end up at the Impersonal.

Well, in abhidhamma terminology afaik, only paramattha dhammas are said to arise and cease dependent on conditions. But for concepts, it is stressed that their arising and ceasing is an illusion because they in fact aren't real. However, what is real are the cittas and cetasikas (paramattha dhammas) which arise and cease having a certain concept as the object.


What is the definition of "real" in Abhidhamma?

Freawaru wrote:Citta is that what experiences, right. The experiencer.

"Experiencer" implies an entity, a self, so not a very good analogy in buddhism.


I thought entity is a synonym for being???

"Citta is what experieneces" implies a process (a conditioned one at that), so this is a much better analogy to adopt.


Entities, beings, personalities, they are all processes if you ask me. The experiencer is a process, too.

How is "experience" defined in Abhidhamma?
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Re: Hearing. was Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Postby pt1 » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:59 am

Hi Freawaru,

Freawaru wrote:Because I don't know the Buddhist terms. They have not shown up in a definite way. I mean, not in a way everybody seems to agree upon.

I know what you mean and thanks for explaining personal/impersonal further. The only solution I found so far is to try and learn the terminology of the group of people I approach as best as possible. It's time-consuming because there are many different groups, but there doesn't seem to be any better way. It's almost like learning a new language every time...

Anyway, if we want to stick to abhidhamma, then perhaps try and apply your personal/impersonal split to the steps I outlined - though in all honesty, perhaps it's best to completely forget about "personal/impersonal" classification when approaching abhidhamma because abhidhamma is all about anatta. In other words, it's pointing towards an understanding that every single moment in life (or basically dhammas that have just arisen) is entirely impersonal (anatta) because it is fully conditioned. To understand this in real-time means that citta arises with panna. So there's no temporal split at which point an impersonal process becomes a personal one. It's impersonal from beginning to end! On the other hand, if a citta arises with ignorance as one of the mental factors, that means there is no understanding of anatta at the moment, so then we can say that this becomes a "personal" process, though it is still in essence just an illusion due to ignorance, and remains impersonal (anatta) in the first place.

Freawaru wrote:So where are they described in Abdhidamma? What are the terms for personality and impersonal?

"Personality" is a little different thing from "personal". If that's what interests you, one of the seven books of the abhidhamma pitaka is called "Puggalapannatti" (description of individuals) and it descibes different personality-types. It's not a big book - around 100 pages. It's not available online in English, but it was published by Pali Text society as "A Designation of Human Types" translated by B.C. Law. Usually, a big library in a major city would have some PTS books, if you don't feel like ordering from PTS.

Also, considering that German is your native language, here's a good abhidhamma site in German:
http://www.abhidhamma.de/
I don't know German, so can't really tell how it's different from the English version, but, they might have some very interesting stuff considering that some of the greatest translators in the XX century were actually German (people like Nyanatiloka Thera and Nyanaponika Thera - teacher of Bhikkhu Bodhi).

Freawaru wrote:What is the definition of "real" in Abhidhamma?

This is a complex subject. In my understanding, paramattha dhammas are real in the sense that they can be directly experienced to occur (conditioned arise and fall) through insight - as opposed to concepts, which will be revealed to be illusions by the same insight.

Freawaru wrote:I thought entity is a synonym for being???

I think so. So the problem is that terms like being, entity, self, etc, usually come in a bundle with such terms as existence and non-existence - and these two are dangerous as they very easily lead to the views of eternalism/anihilationism as they don't take into account conditioned nature of arising and falling of paramattha dhammas.

Freawaru wrote:
"Citta is what experieneces" implies a process (a conditioned one at that), so this is a much better analogy to adopt.


Entities, beings, personalities, they are all processes if you ask me. The experiencer is a process, too.

How is "experience" defined in Abhidhamma?

In my understanding, citta has the function of experiencing an object, and it is helped in that by the cetasikas, each of which also has a specific function to perform in that process of experiencing. So there's no need, or room, for an experiencer or self in this process in the first place. Of course, it's also important not to conceive the citta and cetasikas as little entities/selves, as they arise fully conditioned, and then in the very next instant fall away forever, which is just as fully conditioned.

Best wishes
pt1
 
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