Pali Term: Nimitta

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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Mkoll
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Mkoll » Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:25 pm

This is a very informative thread. These posts have given Sutta support to the idea of "nimitta" as presented in the Vism. Thank you, Dmytro.

And thank you for bumping it, binocular.

:anjali:
Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi
Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi
Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi


Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; by non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is an eternal law.
-Dhp 5

sabbe sattā sukhi hontu :smile:

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Kumara » Tue Sep 01, 2015 3:24 am

Re-Bumping this.

I like it when a Pali word can translated perfectly into just one English word. Granted, this is not always possible, but certainly preferable. So, Dmytro, having researched into this, if you must choose only one word to cover all occasions of nimitta in the Suttas (only), what would be your choice?

If one is not possible, try two. The idea is to have the least number of words.
Last edited by Kumara on Tue Sep 01, 2015 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby acinteyyo » Tue Sep 01, 2015 8:28 am

Dmytro wrote:Regarding the translation of 'subhanimitta':

'subha-nimitta' is also 'that-which-when-attended-to-leads-to-change-of-mental qualities', as in Ahara sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
or Samvara sutta (AN 2.16 (4.14))
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... c-passages
where various contexts of 'nimitta' meet together.

The person with 'subhanimitta' is so much looking for sensual pleasure, that he is focused exclusively on the attractive features, ignoring anything else - unattractive features, causes and consequences of actions.

For example, modern cars fan looks at the latest car, being attuned to the attractiveness of its lines, and immediately wants to buy it and have it as a part of 'self'.

In such cases a person does not have a 'perception of attractiveness' - 'attractiveness' is not an external object which is perceived. It is more correct to say that the person has attunement to the representation of attractiveness, or 'perceptual attunement' to attractiveness.

Stephen Hodge wrote:

The reason why "subha-nimitta.m" cannot be translated properly as "pleasurable (sense) object" is quite simple: there are no pleasurable sense objects. They are just objects and it is we who make them pleasurable or otherwise. Thus the experience of pleasurable nimitta.m must be a mental event synthesized from the raw sense data, vedanaa, memories and conventions etc. If the sense object itself were pleasurable, then it would remain so for all people, which is clearly not the case. Take, for example, opera. I know of people who find opera a highly pleasurable experience, whereas to me it is little better than a caterwauling cacophany (ie rather unpleasant). But there is nothing in the combination of operatic sounds per se that is pleasurable or unpleasurable -- it is one's nimitta (image) of the bare sounds that make it one thing or another.


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5280

I've found this particularly enlightening, thanks Dmytro!
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:18 am

Dmytro wrote:The passage from Visuddhimagga (XIV 130) gives the clue:

"sabbāva sañjānanalakkhaṇā, tadevetanti puna sañjānanapaccayanimittakaraṇarasā dāruādīsu tacchakādayo viya, yathāgahitanimittavasena abhinivesakaraṇapaccupaṭṭhānā hatthidassakāndhā (udā. 54) viya, yathāupaṭṭhitavisayapadaṭṭhānā tiṇapurisakesu migapotakānaṃ purisāti uppannasaññā viyāti."

"All (saññā) has the characteristic of recognition (sañjānana); its property is the making of representation (nimitta) that is a condition of recognizing again, 'this is the very same thing' - as carpenters and so on do with the wood, etc.; its manifestation is the producing of conviction by virtue of a representation (nimitta) that has been accordingly learnt - like the blind perceiving the elephant ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ); its basis is whatever object that has come near - like the recognition (saññā) 'people' that arises for young animals in respect of scarecrows."


This subtle point helps to understand, how in Anapanasati practice, where jhana is a subtype of air kasina jhana:

Kiṃ pana pathavīkasiṇaṃ ādiṃ katvā aṭṭhikasaññāpariyosānāvesā rūpāvacarappanā, udāhu aññāpi atthīti? Atthi; ānāpānajjhānañhi kāyagatāsatibhāvanā ca idha na kathitā. Kiñcāpi na kathitā vāyokasiṇe pana gahite ānāpānajjhānaṃ gahitameva; vaṇṇakasiṇesu ca gahitesu kesādīsu catukkapañcakajjhānavasena uppannā kāyagatāsati, dasasu asubhesu gahitesu dvattiṃsākāre paṭikūlamanasikārajjhānavasena ceva navasivathikāvaṇṇajjhānavasena ca pavattā kāyagatāsati gahitāvāti. Sabbāpi rūpāvacarappanā idha kathitāva hotīti.

"But is this all the absorption belonging to the consciousness of the sphere of refined form, beginning with the earth kasiṇa and ending in the perception of the skeleton? Or is there anything else?"
"Yes, there is. There is ānāpāna jhāna and the development of kāyagatāsati, which have not been spoken of here."
"Why not?"
"Because ānāpāna jhāna is included in the air kasiṇa; the development of kāyagatāsati arisen by virtue of the fourfold and fivefold jhānas with reference to the hair etc., is included in the colour kasiṇas; the kāyagatāsati produced by virtue of the jhānas attending to the unattractiveness in the thirty-two parts of the body, and that of the jhāna attending to the colours of the nine kinds of corpses in the charnel grounds is included in the ten repulsive things. Thus all the absorptions of consciousness connected with the sphere of refined form have been included here."

Dhammasangani-Atthakatha 200


Ānāpānajjhānassāpi panettha vāyokasiṇe saṅgaho daṭṭhabboti.

Abhidhammatika Mya.40


nimitta, being a representation of air element, extends and colors all perception in its totality (kasiṇa), as described in:

"To the yogin who attends to the incoming breath with mind that is cleansed of the nine lesser defilements the image [nimitta] arises with a pleasant feeling similar to that which is produced in the action of spinning cotton or silk cotton. Also, it is likened to the pleasant feeling produced by a breeze. Thus in breathing in and out, air touches the nose or the lip and causes the setting-up of air perception mindfulness. This does not depend on colour or form. This is called the image. If the yogin develops the image [nimitta] and increases it at the nose-tip, between the eyebrows, on the forehead or establishes it in several places, he feels as if his head were filled with air. Through increasing in this way his whole body is charged with bliss. This is called perfection."

(Vimuttimagga, Mindfulness of Respiration. Procedure, pp.158-159)
https://archive.org/stream/ArahantUpato ... /mode/2up/


(4) Being mindful of the breath pervading the body, one is still mindful of the breaths going out and coming in. One thoroughly observes the exhalations and inhalations within one's body. One perceives the breath pervading the body and filling all pores, down to those on the toes, just like water soaking into sand. When the breath goes out, one perceives the breath pervading all pores, from those on the feet to those on the head, also like water soaking into sand. Just like the air that fills bellows, whether it is going out or coming in, the wind blowing in and out through the mouth and nose [fills the body]. One observes the whole body that the wind fills, like holes of a lotus root [filled with water] and a fishing net [soaked in water]. Further, it is not that the mind only observes the breath coming in and going out through the mouth and nose. [The mind] sees the breath coming in and going out through all pores and the nine apertures [of the body]. Thus one knows that the breath pervades the body.

Dhyanasamadhi sutra
http://philabuddhist.org/wp-content/upl ... df#page=16


The Mahavibhasa of the Sarvastivadins states:
Question: As one observes the wind of breath as entering by the nose and getting out by the nose, why it is said that 'I breathe in and out perceiving the whole body'?
Answer: When mindfulness of breathing is not yet accomplished, one observes in-and-out-breath as entering and getting out by the nose. When mindfulness of breathing is accomplished, one observes breath as entering and going out through all the pores of the body, which is like a lotus root." (T 27, 136a-b).

Tse-fu Kuan
Mindfulness in Early Buddhism


Think of the breath energy coming in and out of the body through every pore.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu, A Guided Meditation
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... uided.html

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby cjmacie » Sat Sep 03, 2016 1:03 pm

Dmytro wrote:Hi Sanghamitta,

Sanghamitta wrote:So I think I am grasping what Thannisaro Bhikku is saying..does that imply that we will by various means have our own " themes" to which we are likely to return ?


Thannisaro Bhikku wrote:Unfortunately, we do not have a full treatise on the theory of musical performance as practiced during the Buddha's time, but there are enough references to music scattered through the texts for us to sketch the outlines of that theory. The first step in performance was to tune one's instrument, "establishing" one's tonic note (literally, "base," thana) to make it on-pitch ("even," or sama), then to fine-tune or attune ("ferret out" or "penetrate") the remaining notes (again, "bases") of the scale in relation to the tonic. This required a great deal of skill, sensitivity, and some mathematical knowledge, as the well-tempered scale had not yet been developed, and many different ways of calculating the scale were in use, each appropriate to a different emotion. The musician then picked up the theme (nimitta) of the composition. The theme functioned in several ways, and thus the word "theme" carried several meanings. On the one hand it was the essential message of the piece, the image or impression that the performer wanted to leave in the listener's mind. On the other hand, it was the governing principle that determined what ornamentation or variations would be suitable to the piece.


"Theme" as used in Western ("classical") music can become confusing in the context of music likely to have been know in the Buddha's day. Theme, in the former, denotes a dynamic progression of notes -- like a melody, in briefer form perhaps a motif. In the latter context, music was more likely similar to what's considered "classsical" Indian music, e.g. as known in the West through Ravi Shankar, or, a bit more esoteric, Ali Akbar Khan. Basis, as I understand is know as "raga", that's not a theme like a melody, but more like a "mode" (in history of Western music), or a specific group of notes, and perhaps interval motifs to be the "vocabulary" of a composition. Modes are s/t represented as different scales: whereas today we are left with "major" and "minor" scales, earlier there were many, e.g. "Phrygian", "Dorian", "Ionian", etc. I think the raga is like those, but sparser -- the collection of notes as tones (relationships between) available as context or any particular composition (which, I believe, is essentially always improvised). "Tuning" is actually adjusting the instrument(s) to be able to play those pitches of the raga (or mode, in the other tradition), but not able to play other pitches; and it's likely to be a discontinuous series of tones, rather than continuous like modern scales (and particularly nowhere near any sense of "even-temperament" as is standard today in the West.

(Than-Geoff mentions "well-tempered" scale, probably as in J. S. Bach's "well-tempered clavier". But that was NOT "equal-temperament" as used universally in Western music today. "Equal" means exactly equal intervals throughout the scale, and, consequently, every interval is slightly out-of-tune -- in terms of pure Pythagorean harmonics. Well-tempered was a sort of compromise which allowed one to use all 24 keys of the Western scale, but each one was in- or out-of-tune in a different way; hence giving a certain distinctive "color" to each key. Even temperament didn't become standard until earily 19th-century. Curiously, Ven. Sujato, a former musician, voiced a similar confusion in a discussion once.)

So, theme has more a dynamic sense, especially musically, perhaps also in literature, and, as in "thesis", in academic writing. Nimitta can have that kind of sense? My sense is that it's less process, more like a "sign", a tag -- similar in ways to "lakkhaṇa". Yes, everything phenomenal is in flux, but nimitta / sign provides a way of attaching a handle to it, as also in neurological correlates, for reference back and forth across mental time. Then again, perhaps that quasi static quality is similar to the profound difference in Indian music (perhaps Asian music in general) in contrast to Western music.

Bottom-line: "theme" has overtones, so to speak, which make it a poor fit for nimitta. "Sign" has short-comings too, but fits better on a spatial-temporal axis -- if one had to settle on a single term.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Sat Sep 03, 2016 2:15 pm

cjmacie wrote:if one had to settle on a single term.


I'm strongly against settling on a single a term in case of 'nimitta'. This leads to Buddhist Hybrid English translations, with great loss of contextual meanings.

Even in the first century CE, writing in Pali, Arahant Upatissa took care to clarify the very different meanings of the term 'nimitta' in his Vimuttimagga.

https://archive.org/stream/ArahantUpato ... /mode/2up/

Reduction of all meanings to a single term immediately leads to misunderstanding. This is especially important in case of 'nimitta', since people who get all the knowledge of this term from overly simplified translations, can easily follow hallucinative visions and get nowhere.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby binocular » Sat Sep 03, 2016 4:19 pm

Dmytro wrote:Reduction of all meanings to a single term immediately leads to misunderstanding. This is especially important in case of 'nimitta', since people who get all the knowledge of this term from overly simplified translations, can easily follow hallucinative visions and get nowhere.

Parallel to efforts to find the optimal translations, it would also be beneficial to raise awareness of meta-translational issues (e.g.); to make it more commonplace that readers of translated texts are aware they are reading a translated text and that they are aware there are certain problems inherent to translation.

Another possibility are translations like this:

/.../
1 Učenci, telo (telesna oblika – rupa[13]) je nesebstvo (anattā). Če bi bilo to telo (rupa) sebstvo (attā), potem ne bi imelo nobenih težav in bolezni in človek bi lahko svojemu telesu rekel: »Moje telo naj bo takšno«, ali pa: »Moje telo naj ne bo takšno«. Ker pa je telo (rupa) nesebstvo (anattā), ima lahko težave in bolezni in nihče ne more reči svojemu telesu: »Moje telo naj bo takšno«, ali pa: »Moje telo naj ne bo takšno«[14].

2 Učenci, občutki (vedanā) so nesebstvo (anattā). Če bi bili ti občutki (vedanā) sebstvo (attā), potem ne bi imeli nobenih težav in bolezni in človek bi lahko svojim občutkom rekel: »Moji občutki naj bodo takšni«, ali pa: »Moji občutki naj ne bodo takšni«. Ker pa so občutki (vedanā) nesebstvo (anattā), imajo lahko težave in bolezni in nihče ne more reči svojim občutkom: »Moji občutki naj bodo takšni«, ali pa: »Moji občutki naj ne bodo takšni«.
/.../
http://www.slo-theravada.org/ucenja/sut ... bstva.html


By adding the key terms in the original language, it is made clear what term is being translated, and this also puts the translation into better perspective, opening the possibility for discussing the term as necessary.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby cjmacie » Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:40 am

Dmytro wrote:
cjmacie wrote:if one had to settle on a single term.

I'm strongly against settling on a single [a] term in case of 'nimitta'...


There IS a single term (linguistic construct), namely 'nimitta'; and English 'sign' is a good approximation for it. Then there are a range of meanings arising from the practical (literary) usage of the term, both ancient and modern (as referred to in this thread, and even explorations of "new" meanings as created in this thread).

Dmytro's argument begins opposing a single term, but goes on to list, with a tinge of polemic, areas of demonstrated variety of associated meanings:

Dmytro wrote:...This leads to Buddhist Hybrid English translations, with great loss of contextual meanings.

Even in the first century CE, writing in Pali, Arahant Upatissa took care to clarify the very different meanings of the term 'nimitta' in his Vimuttimagga. ...

Reduction of all meanings to a single term immediately leads to misunderstanding. This is especially important in case of 'nimitta', since people who get all the knowledge of this term from overly simplified translations, can easily follow hallucinative visions and get nowhere.


Use, for sake of common reference, of a single term does not necessarily imply reduction of meanings.

Pragmatically, does one then use a range of different terms to designate each these meanings? That easily leads to a "tower of Babel", and the complication of elaborate qualification whenever employing different terms (for nimitta); and likely confusion when passages quoted from an author using a favored alternative term are quoted without that author's full qualifying definition, relationship to "nimitta" (or whatever). For example, a passage using "theme", or "representation",... where it's not explained in that passage that the term approximated is "nimitta".

"Settling on" a single term – as itself "nimitta" or "sign" for the range of contextually distinct usages; the entire issue is oddly recursive – at least can simplify the reader's task. The the widely recognized term is used, for clarity of linguistic reference, but becomes explicitly qualified in each context, for clarity of meaning according to the author's intent.

I believe this perspective aligns with that in "postby binocular » Sat Sep 03, 2016 8:19 am", but this, also, might be open to interpretation. :shrug:

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Buddha Vacana » Sun Sep 04, 2016 2:41 pm

binocular wrote:Another possibility are translations like this:

http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/angu ... 6-073.html

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:03 am

Thank you, Binocular and "Buddha Vacana", this is indeed a solution - to provide a translation relevant to current context, and the original term.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Coëmgenu » Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:12 am

cjmacie wrote:
Dmytro wrote:Hi Sanghamitta,

Sanghamitta wrote:So I think I am grasping what Thannisaro Bhikku is saying..does that imply that we will by various means have our own " themes" to which we are likely to return ?


Thannisaro Bhikku wrote:Unfortunately, we do not have a full treatise on the theory of musical performance as practiced during the Buddha's time, but there are enough references to music scattered through the texts for us to sketch the outlines of that theory. The first step in performance was to tune one's instrument, "establishing" one's tonic note (literally, "base," thana) to make it on-pitch ("even," or sama), then to fine-tune or attune ("ferret out" or "penetrate") the remaining notes (again, "bases") of the scale in relation to the tonic. This required a great deal of skill, sensitivity, and some mathematical knowledge, as the well-tempered scale had not yet been developed, and many different ways of calculating the scale were in use, each appropriate to a different emotion. The musician then picked up the theme (nimitta) of the composition. The theme functioned in several ways, and thus the word "theme" carried several meanings. On the one hand it was the essential message of the piece, the image or impression that the performer wanted to leave in the listener's mind. On the other hand, it was the governing principle that determined what ornamentation or variations would be suitable to the piece.


"Theme" as used in Western ("classical") music can become confusing in the context of music likely to have been know in the Buddha's day. Theme, in the former, denotes a dynamic progression of notes -- like a melody, in briefer form perhaps a motif. In the latter context, music was more likely similar to what's considered "classsical" Indian music, e.g. as known in the West through Ravi Shankar, or, a bit more esoteric, Ali Akbar Khan. Basis, as I understand is know as "raga", that's not a theme like a melody, but more like a "mode" (in history of Western music), or a specific group of notes, and perhaps interval motifs to be the "vocabulary" of a composition. Modes are s/t represented as different scales: whereas today we are left with "major" and "minor" scales, earlier there were many, e.g. "Phrygian", "Dorian", "Ionian", etc. I think the raga is like those, but sparser -- the collection of notes as tones (relationships between) available as context or any particular composition (which, I believe, is essentially always improvised). "Tuning" is actually adjusting the instrument(s) to be able to play those pitches of the raga (or mode, in the other tradition), but not able to play other pitches; and it's likely to be a discontinuous series of tones, rather than continuous like modern scales (and particularly nowhere near any sense of "even-temperament" as is standard today in the West.

(Than-Geoff mentions "well-tempered" scale, probably as in J. S. Bach's "well-tempered clavier". But that was NOT "equal-temperament" as used universally in Western music today. "Equal" means exactly equal intervals throughout the scale, and, consequently, every interval is slightly out-of-tune -- in terms of pure Pythagorean harmonics. Well-tempered was a sort of compromise which allowed one to use all 24 keys of the Western scale, but each one was in- or out-of-tune in a different way; hence giving a certain distinctive "color" to each key. Even temperament didn't become standard until earily 19th-century. Curiously, Ven. Sujato, a former musician, voiced a similar confusion in a discussion once.)

So, theme has more a dynamic sense, especially musically, perhaps also in literature, and, as in "thesis", in academic writing. Nimitta can have that kind of sense? My sense is that it's less process, more like a "sign", a tag -- similar in ways to "lakkhaṇa". Yes, everything phenomenal is in flux, but nimitta / sign provides a way of attaching a handle to it, as also in neurological correlates, for reference back and forth across mental time. Then again, perhaps that quasi static quality is similar to the profound difference in Indian music (perhaps Asian music in general) in contrast to Western music.

Bottom-line: "theme" has overtones, so to speak, which make it a poor fit for nimitta. "Sign" has short-comings too, but fits better on a spatial-temporal axis -- if one had to settle on a single term.

:goodpost:
I am an ethnomusicologist with a heavy interest in archaeomusicology (if only they would pay me to study it), so this is right up my alley, and I approve of this post, although "all 24 keys of the Western scale" doesn't really make sense to a musicologist. I think you have some enharmonics confusion going on. There are only 18-19 possible "keys" in the Western scalar system, but that is just me being persnickety and pedantic, thrilled to see musicology nonetheless represented here.

Although Ven Thanissaro presents a bit of a dated picture of Indic archaeomusicology (I can't blame him, its a fringy subject), we know leagues more about the music of Ancient India than we do of most other contemporaneous cultures of the time.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
I watch the ripples change in size and never leave the stream of warm impermanence.
And so the days, they float through my eyes, but still the days, they seem the same.
And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations.
They're quite aware of what they're going through: changes.
(Bowie)

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby cjmacie » Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:51 am

Coëmgenu wrote:...
"all 24 keys of the Western scale" doesn't really make sense to a musicologist. I think you have some enharmonics confusion going on. There are only 18-19 possible "keys" in the Western scalar system...


Maybe it wasn't clear I was referring to the "keys" as in : C-major, c-minor, C#-major,... (as, e.g. used in JS Bach's two volumes "Das Wohltemperierte Klavier") -- not the hardware keys, which you may be referring too? As in -- the Fisk-Nanny organ at Stanford has one manual with "split" keys ("black-keys) to enable playing otherwise non-standard semitones in some Renaissance music -- those total to 18-19?

Coëmgenu wrote:...we know leagues more about the music of Ancient India than we do of most other contemporaneous cultures of the time.

Probably a lot more these days. Back at Berkeley in the 1960's, musicology was strictly European. Later I believe they developed a rather substantial ethno-musicology department? Did you, Coëmgenu, study at Berkeley too?

But, Ravi Shankar was hot back then (e.g. for listening to stoned), and he teamed-up famously with one Ali Akbar Khan on the "oud" (Middle Eastern stringed instrument) performing "raga-s" together. Khan at that time was just establishing a school of Indian music nearby, and would give lecture-concerts. What was gleaned from those is the limit of my knowledge. (Curious, in doing cross-word puzzles, the word "oud" comes up, clued as "instrument for belly dancers". :tongue: )

Once, though, interviewing one of the tabla (drum) players -- I was also a music reviewer -- he invited me to lunch, and taught me something of how to eat that spicy Indian food: add a pile of yogurt on the plate, and mix a bit of hot spicy whatever with a dab of yogurt in every bite.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Coëmgenu » Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:37 am

cjmacie wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:...
"all 24 keys of the Western scale" doesn't really make sense to a musicologist. I think you have some enharmonics confusion going on. There are only 18-19 possible "keys" in the Western scalar system...


Maybe it wasn't clear I was referring to the "keys" as in : C-major, c-minor, C#-major,... (as, e.g. used in JS Bach's two volumes "Das Wohltemperierte Klavier") -- not the hardware keys, which you may be referring too? As in -- the Fisk-Nanny organ at Stanford has one manual with "split" keys ("black-keys) to enable playing otherwise non-standard semitones in some Renaissance music -- those total to 18-19?


Aaaaaah yes. Its been a while since I've had to access my "traditional musicology" terminology. Its refreshing :jumping: . I was listing diatonic key centres, not modalities of key centres. By binary-modal reckoning there are about 32-34 "keys" (due to enharmonics, B-major and Cb-major being different "keys").

cjmacie wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:...we know leagues more about the music of Ancient India than we do of most other contemporaneous cultures of the time.

Probably a lot more these days. Back at Berkeley in the 1960's, musicology was strictly European. Later I believe they developed a rather substantial ethno-musicology department? Did you, Coëmgenu, study at Berkeley too?


York and McGill (Canadian universities), Chicago U also has a famous ethnomusicology department.

cjmacie wrote:performing "raga-s" together.


I believe rāg is singular and rāga is plural, but I'm not sure either.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
I watch the ripples change in size and never leave the stream of warm impermanence.
And so the days, they float through my eyes, but still the days, they seem the same.
And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations.
They're quite aware of what they're going through: changes.
(Bowie)

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:09 am

Visuddhimagga instructions for jhana 'on the bloated' clarify the meaning of 'nimitta' in the context of samādhi.

sarīrato nātidūre nāccāsanne padese ṭhitena vā nisinnena vā cakkhuṃ ummīletvā oloketvā nimittaṃ gaṇhitabbaṃ.

Standing in a place not too far from and not too near to the body, he should open his eyes, look and apprehend the nimitta.

“uddhumātakapaṭikkūlaṃ uddhumātakapaṭikkūlan”ti satakkhattuṃ sahassakkhattuṃ ummīletvā oloketabbaṃ, nimmīletvā āvajjitabbaṃ.

He should open his eyes and look a hundred times, a thousand times, [thinking], 'Repulsiveness of the bloated, repulsiveness of the bloated', and he should close his eyes and advert to it.

evaṃ punappunaṃ karontassa uggahanimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti. kadā suggahitaṃ hoti? yadā ummīletvā olokentassa nimmīletvā āvajjentassa ca ekasadisaṃ hutvā āpāthamāgacchati, tadā suggahitaṃ nāma hoti.

51. As he does so again and again, the learning nimitta becomes properly apprehended by him. When it is properly apprehended? When it comes into focus alike whether he opens his eyes and looks or closes his eyes and adverts, then it called properly apprehended.

Visuddhimagga VI, 50-51


Here nimitta is an inner representation of the bloated corpse, which is properly apprehended (suggahita) so that it is seen well with closed eyes.

If one gets representation (nimitta) of the visual object through visual contact, one gets visual nimitta.
If one gets representation through touch (e.g. nimitta of air in Anapanasati), one gets tactile nimitta (however, visual components may also be present).

Being a representation of air, nimitta in Anapanasati has a quality of airiness, and when expanded, makes the body feel as if filled with air, as described in Vimuttimagga:

"To the yogin who attends to the incoming breath with mind that is cleansed of the nine lesser defilements the image [nimitta] arises with a pleasant feeling similar to that which is produced in the action of spinning cotton or silk cotton. Also, it is likened to the pleasant feeling produced by a breeze. Thus in breathing in and out, air touches the nose or the lip and causes the setting-up of air perception mindfulness. This does not depend on colour or form. This is called the image. If the yogin develops the image [nimitta] and increases it at the nose-tip, between the eyebrows, on the forehead or establishes it in several places, he feels as if his head were filled with air. Through increasing in this way his whole body is charged with bliss. This is called perfection."

(Vimuttimagga, Mindfulness of Respiration. Procedure, pp.158-159)
https://archive.org/stream/ArahantUpato ... /mode/2up/


since in Anapanasati practice, jhana is a subtype of air kasina jhana:

Kiṃ pana pathavīkasiṇaṃ ādiṃ katvā aṭṭhikasaññāpariyosānāvesā rūpāvacarappanā, udāhu aññāpi atthīti? Atthi; ānāpānajjhānañhi kāyagatāsatibhāvanā ca idha na kathitā. Kiñcāpi na kathitā vāyokasiṇe pana gahite ānāpānajjhānaṃ gahitameva; vaṇṇakasiṇesu ca gahitesu kesādīsu catukkapañcakajjhānavasena uppannā kāyagatāsati, dasasu asubhesu gahitesu dvattiṃsākāre paṭikūlamanasikārajjhānavasena ceva navasivathikāvaṇṇajjhānavasena ca pavattā kāyagatāsati gahitāvāti. Sabbāpi rūpāvacarappanā idha kathitāva hotīti.

"But is this all the absorption belonging to the consciousness of the sphere of refined form, beginning with the earth kasiṇa and ending in the perception of the skeleton? Or is there anything else?"
"Yes, there is. There is ānāpāna jhāna and the development of kāyagatāsati, which have not been spoken of here."
"Why not?"
"Because ānāpāna jhāna is included in the air kasiṇa; the development of kāyagatāsati arisen by virtue of the fourfold and fivefold jhānas with reference to the hair etc., is included in the colour kasiṇas; the kāyagatāsati produced by virtue of the jhānas attending to the unattractiveness in the thirty-two parts of the body, and that of the jhāna attending to the colours of the nine kinds of corpses in the charnel grounds is included in the ten repulsive things. Thus all the absorptions of consciousness connected with the sphere of refined form have been included here."

Dhammasangani-Atthakatha 200

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby cjmacie » Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:19 pm

Dmytro wrote:
If one gets representation (nimitta) of the visual object through visual contact, one gets visual nimitta.
If one gets representation through touch (e.g. nimitta of air in Anapanasati), one gets tactile nimitta (however, visual components may also be present).

Being a representation of air, nimitta in Anapanasati has a quality of airiness, and when expanded, makes the body feel as if filled with air, as described in Vimuttimagga: ... and from the ... Dhammasangani-Atthakatha 200 (that's the Atthasālinī?)

I recall also in the Vism that touch is considered s/w special among the sense-doors in that is has qualities of earth (pathavi), air (vayo) and fire (tejo). And as object in anapanasati samadhi, it is touch as very subtle (rupa - "fine"-material), hence suitable for forming an immobile nimitta for jhanic absorption. This in contrast to the use of abdominal breathing, as in Mahasi training, which is taught as more specifically "air" element, i.e. predominantly motion, and, being s/w grosser, does not lend to absorptive concentration (but rather to vipassana khanika samadhi).

The commentarial emphasis on "air" makes sense, in terms of systematization, but less so experientially in practicing anapanasati-samadhi. There can be a sense of fullness in the head, but decisively lacking the motion quality.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Sat Sep 17, 2016 3:28 pm

cjmacie wrote:I recall also in the Vism that touch is considered s/w special among the sense-doors in that is has qualities of earth (pathavi), air (vayo) and fire (tejo). And as object in anapanasati samadhi, it is touch as very subtle (rupa - "fine"-material), hence suitable for forming an immobile nimitta for jhanic absorption.


That's rather about the development of wisdom.

Here I wrote about the meaning of nimitta in the context of composure (samādhi). Visuddhimagga explains the ways in which nimitta is apprehended:

tatra ṭhapetvā vāyokasiṇaṃ sesā nava kasiṇā, dasa asubhāti imāni ekūnavīsati diṭṭhena gahetabbāni. ... ānāpānassati phuṭṭhena, vāyokasiṇaṃ diṭṭhaphuṭṭhena, sesāni aṭṭhārasa sutena gahetabbāni.

"Herein, these nineteen, that is to say, nine kasinas omitting the air kasina and the ten kinds of foulness, must be apprehended by sight. ... Mindfulness of breathing must be apprehended by touch; the air kasina by sight and touch; ..."

Visuddhimagga III, 121


One can apprehend the nimitta of air kasiṇa by sight and touch. In Anapanasati one uses the touch method.

cjmacie wrote:The commentarial emphasis on "air" makes sense, in terms of systematization, but less so experientially in practicing anapanasati-samadhi. There can be a sense of fullness in the head, but decisively lacking the motion quality.


'Motion quality' is also rather about wisdom development, in line with Abhidhamma.

As for samādhi, air kasiṇa is described at:

[4] "There are these ten totality-dimensions. Which ten? One perceives the earth-totality [kasina] above, below, all-around: non-dual, unlimited. One perceives the water-totality [kasina]... the fire-totality... the wind-totality... the blue-totality... the yellow-totality... the red-totality... the white-totality... the space-totality... the consciousness-totality [kasina] above, below, all-around: non-dual, unlimited. These are the ten totalities.

Kosala sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


“Again, Udāyin, I have proclaimed to my disciples the way to develop the ten kasiṇa bases. One contemplates the earth kasiṇa above, below, and across, undivided and immeasurable. Another contemplates the water-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the fire-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the air-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the blue-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the yellow-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the red-kasiṇa…Another contemplates the white-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the space-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the consciousness-kasiṇa above, below, and across, undivided and immeasurable. And thereby many disciples of mine abide having reached the perfection and consummation of direct knowledge.

The Greater Discourse to Sakuludāyin
https://suttacentral.net/en/mn77


It's just when whole perception is coloured by the representation of object-support. In Anapanasati, due to the particular way of apprehending the representation (nimitta), it is tactile.

There are teachers who apply this in practice. Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo wrote:

Keep careful watch over the mind. Keep it one. Keep it intent on a single preoccupation, the refined breath, letting this refined breath suffuse the entire body.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html


Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it in different words:

Think of the breath energy coming in and out of the body through every pore.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu, A Guided Meditation
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... uided.html


however the principle of lettng the representation of object-support colour whole field of perception (in this case, whole tactile perception), stays the same.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Sat Sep 17, 2016 4:36 pm

Richard Shankman puts it in his own words in his book "The Art and Skill of Buddhist Meditation":

"... This dynamic can also shift so you feel the concentration and the breath merging until they become one blended experience. No longer feeling the physical sensations of breathing as being separate from the experience of concentration, you now find that the object of your attention is transformed into a new experience, breath and concentration unified into what we can call samadhi-breath. You might experience the samadhi-breath as the breath blended with light, energy, pleasure, stillness, sound, or any of the experiences we have been talking about. Or, rather than merging just with the breath, samadhi also can expand beyond the breath to fill your whole body.

If subtle breath energy, or any other samadhi experience, suffuses throughout your body, let the process happen. Perhaps you will still be able to individually discern the breath and the concentration, or the concentration suffused throughout the body, but the sense of them merged into one will be stronger."

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby cjmacie » Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:54 am

Dmytro wrote:
cjmacie wrote:I recall also in the Vism that touch is considered s/w special among the sense-doors in that is has qualities of earth (pathavi), air (vayo) and fire (tejo). And as object in anapanasati samadhi, it is touch as very subtle (rupa - "fine"-material), hence suitable for forming an immobile nimitta for jhanic absorption.


That's rather about the development of wisdom.

Here I wrote about the meaning of nimitta in the context of composure (samādhi)
...

'Motion quality' is also rather about wisdom development, in line with Abhidhamma.

As for samādhi, air kasiṇa is described at:...

Samadhi-directed nimitta in terms of depictions of a sense of filling with air – the head, the whole body, as often in Thanissaro's guided meditations – do make sense, experientially, though I would associate it more with access (upacarā) samādhi.

This might hinge of the interpretation of appanā (sorry, may be properly another "term" topic). Specifically, in terms of the connotation of "absorption". This is experientially quite distinct – from upacarā or khanika – in that the sense, the perception of "head" or "body" can't arise, short of exiting absorption. Rather than being "filled" with air (or whatever), there's the sense that the mind enters into the nimitta as an aspect of mind itself -- a mental construct refined from the sensory and perceptual aspects used in its development; the nimitta overflows, floods all around the submerged mind. The mind "falls into the nimitta"; the "nimitta "swallows" the mind" (in the words of one teacher -- with deep background in Mahasi and Pa Auk training). Therein is a sense of secluded, fixed, motionless awareness. As if inside a protective sphere: "secluded" in that sensory stimuli are still "out-there", but, so to speak, "bounce" off that sphere on its outside (at least through 3rd jhana); "fixed", "motionless" in that inside the mind doesn't move (to one degree or another depending on the strength of it), doesn't respond to, engage with what's outside. "Head", "body" do not pertain; the mind may well fall back out and perceive a sense of head or body, say with a some motion, pain, etc., but that's a shift out of absorption. (Not to say that shifting in & out of absorption is not a method, perhaps a crucial practice of alternating samadhi and vipassana as mental training.)

It appears, from at least PTS Dictionary definitions, that this sense is buried in the term "appanā" and the verb it's ostensibly derived from "appeti" – "… to insert or put together… to rush on, run into (of river) [like "submerge"?]… to fit in, fix,… insert,… to impale…"

(Some good discussion of "appanā-samādhi" buried away somewhere here in DhammaWheel, or elsewhere?)

postby Dmytro » Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:36 am
…Richard Shankman…
From knowing well his first book ("The Experience of Samadhi"), and a day of talks, demonstrations he led soon after its publication (where he autographed my copy), my sense is that he was referring to something more like access-concentration, which also is demonstrated in the quotations provided from his newer book:
"… merging … blended … Perhaps you will still be able to individually discern the breath and the concentration, or the concentration suffused throughout the body, but the sense of them merged into one will be stronger."
Perhaps elsewhere he gets more into interpreting in terms of "absorption"?

Btw, is "samadhi-breath" a canonical term?

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Sun Sep 18, 2016 4:07 pm

Thank you for experiential description.

cjmacie wrote:It appears, from at least PTS Dictionary definitions, that this sense is buried in the term "appanā" and the verb it's ostensibly derived from "appeti" – "… to insert or put together… to rush on, run into (of river) [like "submerge"?]… to fit in, fix,… insert,… to impale…"

(Some good discussion of "appanā-samādhi" buried away somewhere here in DhammaWheel, or elsewhere?)


People rarely discuss terms. You are welcome to start a new topic on appanā. I will contribute there at least several Pali definitions.

Perhaps elsewhere he gets more into interpreting in terms of "absorption"?


I doubt it. Though, on the pages that follow, he describes samādhi without bodily awareness.

cjmacie wrote:Btw, is "samadhi-breath" a canonical term?


Not at all. Seems like even teachers have a hard time finding a proper terminology for this colouring of perception by object-support.

Ven. Thanissaro gives a detailed experiential description of "de-perception", with recognition (saññā) precisely tuned to "breath energy":

Do you feel that your immediate experience of the body is of the solid parts, and that they have to manage the mechanics of breathing, which is secondary? What happens if you conceive your immediate experience of the body in a different way, as a field of primary breath energy, with the solidity simply a label attached to certain aspects of the breath? Whatever you experience as a primary body sensation, think of it as already breath, without your having to do anything more to it. How does that affect the level of stress and strain in the breathing?

...

Ultimately, when you reach a perception of the breath that allows the sensations of in-and-out breathing to grow still, you can start questioning more subtle perceptions of the body. It's like tuning into a radio station. If your receiver isn't precisely tuned to the frequency of the signal, the static interferes with the subtleties of whatever is being transmitted. But when you're precisely tuned, every nuance comes through. The same with your sensation of the body: when the movements of the breath grow still, the more subtle nuances of how perception interacts with physical sensation come to the fore. The body seems like a mist of atomic sensations, and you can begin to see how your perceptions interact with that mist. To what extent is the shape of the body inherent in the mist? To what extent is it intentional — something added? What happens when you drop the intention to create that shape? Can you focus on the space between the droplets in the mist? What happens then? Can you stay there? What happens when you drop the perception of space and focus on the knowing? Can you stay there? What happens when you drop the oneness of the knowing? Can you stay there? What happens when you try to stop labeling anything at all?

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ption.html


which reminds of Potthapada sutta, where Buddha describes how "with training one perception arises and with training another perception ceases" (Sikkhā ekā saññā uppajjanti, sikkhā ekā saññā nirujjhanti).

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby ToVincent » Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:28 pm

"oh that is what salt tastes like"
V. S. Ramachandran, neuroscientist & brahmin.

Above is a definition of qualia.
Is the mental state (quale,) related to the "something it is like to have that experience"; inside or outside my head is one question.
But is the "salty", the sensual sign (nimitta,) outside or inside my head; is another question. The taste is certaily inside, but where does the "salty" lies?

Can we then, agree with Stephen Hodges when he considers nimitta to be exclusively a percept ("in your head"); or is nimitta also external to satta?

Hodges wrote:a percept is in your head while a sense object is exterior to your senses, outside of your body, with the exception of dharmas as objects of mano-viññāna or its equivalent.

Nimittas are created inside the individual by saññā.
...
A nimitta is a result of synthesized raw sense data, combined with vedanā, and, usually, also involves a labelling process
...
Colours, sounds, and smells, by the time you identify them as such, are not sense objects, they are mental constructs.
...
I understand "nimitta" to be roughly equivalent to basic sense, perceptual data or just percepts, such as colours, shapes, sounds and so forth.
Perceptual data derived from the external world are mediated by consciousness (viññāṇa) and apprehended by saññā. In other words, I believe that "nimitta" are mental phenomena rather than external things per se.
...
I normally translate "nimitta" as "perceptual form".


What does the suttas (with parallel) say?
He does not grasp at any sign or details by which — if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities...
DN2

He does not grasp the "salty".

**Guard the doors** to his sense faculties
AN 4.37

(Restraint) - He does not let the signs in.
He does not let the "salty" in (the internal sphere of sense -tongue faculty).
This pleads in favor of an external nimitta.

And what, bhikkhus, is the nutriment for the arising of unarisen sensual desire and for the increase and expansion of arisen sensual desire? There is, bhikkhus, the sign of the beautiful: frequently giving careless attention to it is the nutriment...
...
And what, bhikkhus, is the denourishment that prevents unarisen sensual desire from arising and arisen sensual desire from increasing and expanding? There is, bhikkhus, the sign of foulness: frequently giving careful attention to it is the denourishment...
SN 47.51

Careless attention (to sign of beauty) => letting it in ( => consciousness).

Careful attention (to sign of foulness) => Not letting the sign of beauty in.

Sign of beauty (in) + sense faculty => consciousness > contact > sensual desire.

Careful attention is a voluntary, intended, repellant process.
The sign does not "come in"

Careless attention is an involuntary, unintended, absorbefacient process.
The sign "comes in".
And what, bhikkhus, is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of concentration and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of concentration? There are, bhikkhus, the sign of serenity, the sign of nondispersal.
SN 47.51

This time, the sign is internal. It is the sign of the "own (voluntary) mind".

While he is contemplating the body in the body, there arises in him, based on the body, either a fever in the body or sluggishness of mind, or the mind is distracted outwardly. That bhikkhu should then direct his mind towards some inspiring sign.
SN 47.10

The sign of "slugishness" is replaced by some "own mind's" sign.

So after that, Ven. Sona determined the right pitch for his persistence, attuned the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there picked up his sign.
AN 6.55

Again the sign is "his" sign (internal).

when a bhikkhu is giving attention to some sign, and owing to that sign there arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome.
MN 20

Here, "external/other", intended sign comes in - and should be replaced by "internal/own" intended chosen sign.

Venerable sir, how should one know, how should one see so that, in regard to this body with consciousness and in regard to all external signs, I-making, mine-making, and the underlying tendency to conceit no longer occur within?”

“Any kind of form whatsoever, bhikkhu, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near—one sees all form as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

Idem with feeling, perception, volitional formations, consciousness.

“When one knows and sees thus, bhikkhu, then in regard to this body with consciousness and in regard to all external signs, I-making, mine-making, and the underlying tendency to conceit no longer occur within.”
SN 22.82

The meditator must differentiate the external signs from himself - but also must differentiate between a body without consciousness (own signs, that do not mix with the faculties); and a body whose own mental signs are mixing with the sense faculties ("body with consciousness).


How is consciousness said to be scattered & diffused? There is the case where a form is seen with the eye, and consciousness follows the drift of (lit.: 'flows after') the sign of the form, is tied to the attraction of the sign of the form, is chained to the attraction of the sign of the form, is fettered & joined to the attraction of the sign of the form:
Consciousness is said to be externally scattered & diffused.
Idem for ear, nose,...
MN 138

The "external/other" sign, that is not intended, and that has an absorbefacient inclination, can induces a scattered & diffused consciousness.

Develop the sign-less.
SN 8.4

Eat salty, but don't taste (and enjoy) the "salty".
Eat "yucky", but don't taste (and loath) the "yucky".

Seeing a form — mindfulness lapsed — attending to the sign of 'endearing,' impassioned in mind, one feels and remains fastened there.
SN 35.95

The meditator is attached to the "external" signs.

And how, householder, does one roam about without abode? Diffusion and confinement in the abode consisting in the sign of forms: these have been abandoned by the Tathagata, cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that they are no more subject to future arising.
SN 22.3

The abode of the external spheres of senses (bases).

As he remains thus focused on body, feelings, mind & mental qualities in & of themselves, his mind becomes concentrated, his defilements are abandoned. He takes note of that fact. As a result, he is rewarded with a pleasant abiding here & now, together with mindfulness & alertness. Why is that?

Because the wise, experienced, skillful monk picks up on the sign of his own mind."
paṇḍito byatto kusalo bhikkhu sakassa cittassa nimittaṃ uggaṇhātī”ti
SN 47.8

Dwelling within the four establishments of mindfulness with voluntary signs (external & internal).

Meditate on the signless,
Throw out the underlying tendency to conceit,
And when you have a breakthrough in understanding conceit,
You will live at peace.”
Thag 21.1

Then forget about the "signs of your own mind"
Good recipes can only be appreciated by the finest palates; and succeeded by the greatest cooks.


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