SN 47.10: Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta

Each week we study and discuss a different sutta or Dhamma text

Moderator: mikenz66

SN 47.10: Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:20 am

SN 47.10 PTS: S v 154 CDB ii 1638
Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta: Directed and Undirected Meditation
translated from the Pali by Andrew Olendzki


How to respond skillfully to distracted states of mind that interfere with concentration.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .olen.html



The venerable Ananda arose early one morning, and taking up his robe and bowl approached a certain settlement of nuns, where he sat down on a seat that had been prepared. A number of nuns approached the venerable Ananda, and after greeting him, sat down to one side. So seated, these nuns said this to the venerable Ananda: "There are here, Ananda sir, a number of nuns who abide with minds well established in the four foundations of mindfulness. Their understanding is becoming ever greater and more excellent."

"So it is, Sisters, so it is!" replied Ananda. "Indeed for anybody, Sisters, whether monk or nun, who abides with a mind well established in the four foundations of mindfulness — it is to be expected that their understanding becomes ever greater and more excellent."

[Ananda later relates this exchange to the Buddha, who approves of his response and then elaborates:]

Here, Ananda, a monk abides contemplating body as body[*] — ardent, fully aware, mindful — leading away the unhappiness that comes from wanting the things of the world. And for one who is abiding contemplating body as body,[*] a bodily object arises, or bodily distress, or mental sluggishness, that scatters his mind outward. Then the monk should direct his mind to some satisfactory image. When the mind is directed to some satisfactory image, happiness is born. From this happiness, joy is then born. With a joyful mind, the body relaxes. A relaxed body feels content, and the mind of one content becomes concentrated. He then reflects: "The purpose for which I directed my my mind has been accomplished. So now I shall withdraw [directed attention from the image]." He withdraws, and no longer thinks upon or thinks about [the image]. He understands: "I am not thinking upon or thinking about [anything]. Inwardly mindful, I am content." This is directed meditation.

And what is undirected meditation? Not directing his mind outward, a monk understands: "My mind is not directed outward." He understands: "Not focused on before or after; free; undirected." And he understands: "I abide observing body as body — ardent, fully aware, mindful — I am content." This is undirected meditation.

And so, Ananda, I have taught directed meditation; and I have taught undirected meditation. Whatever is to be done by a teacher with compassion for the welfare of students, that has been done by me out of compassion for you. Here are the roots of trees. Here are empty places. Get down and meditate. Don't be lazy. Don't become one who is later remorseful. This is my instruction to you.


Note

* These passages are repeated for the other three foundations of mindfulness: feelings as feelings; mind as mind; mental states as mental states.

Translator's note

This text is interesting for a number of reasons, though it seems not to be particularly well known or often referred to.

The framing story shows clearly that women were diligent and successful practitioners of insight meditation in the Buddha's time, and that they were well-supported in this pursuit. Ananda, the Buddha's cousin and life-long assistant, was a great champion of the nuns' cause and would often visit communities of nuns to encourage their dhamma practice. The Buddha seems to take the opportunity of Ananda's report to expound on some of the details of mindfulness technique.

What he says here about directed and undirected meditation is particularly interesting in light of the modern integration of metta practice with vipassana practice. The Buddha seems to acknowledge that mindful awareness is sometimes difficult to come by, and that there are times when one's "mind becomes scattered" by the arising of challenging mind states (has this ever happened to you?).

His response here is not the warrior's tone sometimes found elsewhere in the texts, whereby the practitioner should just overcome the unwholesome thoughts and rouse up sufficient heroic energy to re-establish mindfulness. Nor is it the gentler response we often hear in the dhamma hall, to just be aware of what is arising, without judgment of any kind, gently returning our attention to the breath or other primary object of meditation. Rather the Buddha's suggestion is a deliberate re-direction of our attention to a "satisfactory image."

The pali words here are pasadaniya nimitta. A nimitta is an image or manifestation that appears in the mind — something akin to a sign, a vision or an appearance of an object in the "mind's eye." It is the term used in visualization meditations, and even has a slight connotation of "conjuring up" something in the mind.

The adjective pasadaniya is translated by Woodward in the PTS edition as "pleasurable," but this sort of term is too easily misconstrued in Buddhist contexts. I don't think the Buddha is suggesting here that we seek something pleasant in order to avoid the arising discomfort, but is rather suggesting a short term strategy for the practical disarming of the mind's defense mechanisms.

The commentator Buddhaghosa suggest that the image of the Buddha might be an example of a satisfactory image, but probably anything wholesome and not productive of strong craving (of attachment or aversion) will do. The idea is just to re-direct the mind to flow around the obstacle that has appeared, but not to use something that will itself become another obstacle.

The practical effect of this re-direction of attention is the natural calming of the mind and relaxation of the body. Only from tranquillity can true alertness arise — otherwise the mind's attentiveness is just busy or restless.

But as the ensuing passage confirms, this excursion into the deliberate cultivation of a specific image can be abandoned as soon as its mission (the restoration of concentration) has been fulfilled. Insight meditation has never been about cultivating blissful states of mind or body for their own sake.

But as a skillful means for helping our understanding "become ever greater and more excellent," it seems to be a useful technique. I think we need to rely upon the guidance of experienced meditation teachers, however, to help us discern when it is appropriate to apply this strategy. The mind is so capricious: it may turn to a more pleasurable object of awareness just to escape the growing pains of evolving insight; or it may mislead itself into thinking it is practicing undirected meditation when it is actually just "spacing out."

One important thing to notice about this passage is that the undirected meditation is occurring squarely in the context of the foundations of mindfulness. This is not "object-less awareness" (which is not even possible in the early Buddhist models of mind), or the "awareness of awareness itself" that is mentioned in some traditions.

The meditator understands his awareness to be free and undirected, while contemplating body as body, feeling as feeling, mind as mind and mental states as mental states. What distinguishes undirected meditation from directed meditation is simply the role of intention in the process.
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10270
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 47.10: Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:22 am

SN 47.10 PTS: S v 154 CDB ii 1638
Bhikkhunivasako Sutta: Mindfulness (from The Nuns' Lodging)
(excerpt)

Translated from the Pali by Maurice O'Connell Walshe
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
...

"In this, Aananda, a monk dwells contemplating the body,[1] ardent, clearly aware[2] and mindful, putting aside worldly desire and dejection.[3] As he thus dwells contemplating the body, some bodily object arises, or physical discomfort or mental drowsiness causes his mind to wander to external things. Then, Aananda, that bhikkhu's attention should be directed to some inspiring[4] object of thought. As he thus directs it to some inspiring object of thought, delight springs up in him. When he is thus delighted, rapture arises. When he experiences rapture, his body is calmed down. With body so calmed down, he experiences joy. Being joyful, his mind is concentrated. He reflects thus: 'The aim on which I set my mind has been achieved. Let me now withdraw my mind [from the inspiring object].' So he does so, without starting or continuing the thought-process.[5] And he is aware of being free from initial or sustained thought, inwardly mindful and joyful. [Similarly with feelings, state of mind and mind-objects.[6]]

"Such, Aananda, is the practice for the direction[7] of mind. And what, Aananda, is the practice for the non-direction of mind?

"A monk who does not direct his mind to external things[8] is aware: 'My mind is not directed to external things.' Then he is aware: 'My mind is not concentrated on before or after,[9] it is set free and undirected.' And then he is aware: 'I dwell in contemplation of the body, ardent, clearly aware and mindful. I am joyful.' [Similarly with feelings, state of mind and mind-objects.]

"This, Aananda, is the practice for the non-direction of mind."

...

Notes

1. Kaaye kaayaanupassii. Woodward translates: "dwells in body contemplating body (as transient)" (the bracketed words are Woodward's own-unnecessary addition) and similarly, e.g., I. B. Horner in her rendering of the Satipa.t.thaana Sutta (Middle Length Sayings [1954, PTS], sutta 10) has: "contemplating the body in the body." These and other similar renderings are perhaps unnecessarily literal versions of the Pali-idiom. But cf. Commentary on the Satipa.t.thaana Sutta: "Why is the word body used twice? For the sake of an unmixed determination (of the object of meditation). He (the meditator) does not contemplate the feelings, etc., in (regard to) the body, but just the body."

2. Sampajaano. Cf. SN 46.54, n. 3. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#fn-3

3. Abhijjhaadomanassa. Woodward's "the dejection in the world which arises from coveting" is another possible rendering (but see SN 35.203, n. 6). http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#fn-6

4. Pasaadaniye. Woodward has "pleasurable" which is dangerously ambiguous, even though in a note he quotes SA [SN Commentary] as saying "such as the Buddha." The meaning is "that which inspires (faith, etc.)."

5. Vitakka-vicaara "initial and sustained thought," as rendered in the next sentence.

6. These are the four standard objects of mindfulness.

7. Pa.nidhaaya. The difference between the two kinds of meditation is that between concentration on an object (samaadhi) and "choiceless awareness," which is sati. See SN 35.204, n. 9. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#fn-9 For a full account of this practice, see Nyanaponika Thera, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, London 1962.

8. Such as the object previously envisaged. SA says kamma.t.thaanaa "the meditation object."

9. Woodward considers that "before" means the practice, and "after" means its goal, i.e., Nibbaana. More probably it means keeping his mind in the present moment, dwelling neither on the past nor on the future.
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10270
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 47.10: Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta

Postby Sam Vara » Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:32 pm

Andrew Olendzki is right to point out that this Sutta is not particularly well known; and this is all the more strange in view of how intensely practical it is. I'm not so sure, however, about the caution behind his point that

I think we need to rely upon the guidance of experienced meditation teachers, however, to help us discern when it is appropriate to apply this strategy. The mind is so capricious: it may turn to a more pleasurable object of awareness just to escape the growing pains of evolving insight; or it may mislead itself into thinking it is practicing undirected meditation when it is actually just "spacing out."


There is no such warning in the Sutta itself. Indeed, the technique is presented by the Buddha as if it were a factor responsible for the success experienced by the nuns, and he is recommending it to others who wish for similar success. In many other Suttas, wholesome subjects are treated as being unproblematic for the practising meditator rather than as requiring validation from a more experienced teacher.

To me, this looks more like those instructions to think of a dear friend (or a puppy or kitten!) as an aid to generating Metta. Ajahn Sucitto on this:

When I begin a meditation sitting, I often imagine
or visualise sitting within a pool of light,
something that is gently pleasant and holding.
Or I might imagine sitting in sunshine, because I
enjoy doing that. So I bring that image, that
mood into the mind and spread it into the body.
In walking meditation, I might walk along as if I
were wading a step at a time through that warm
light so that the body feels relaxed. Or I might
imagine sitting with the Buddha as a father,
mother, or friend— to be right there in the presence
of someone who’s saying, ‘You’re all right
with me. Whatever you are, I accept it.’ Other
approaches might work for you; I’m just suggesting
ways of evoking a mood.


http://www.cittaviveka.org/files/articles/Cultivating%20Empathy%20-%20Ajahn%20Sucitto.pdf

A lot of Sucitto's meditation instruction is like this. Don't worry about getting it exactly right according to the book; use whatever is wholesome to get you to a place where you have some ease and spaciousness to experience the body and mind without getting caught up in them. I think that a little practice on this would allow one to check out whether Andrew Olendzki's misgivings are well-founded. If the right mood is evoked, then it is a suitable nimitta. If not, then try another one.
User avatar
Sam Vara
 
Posts: 964
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: SN 47.10: Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta

Postby gavesako » Thu Dec 13, 2012 7:05 pm

This is another relevant talk on this same subject:

... That's the next step: patiently and persistently sticking with the desire to do the skillful thing in all situations. This isn't a matter of sheer effort. As any good sports coach will tell you, hours of practice don't necessarily guarantee results. You have to combine your persistence with intent: sensitivity, discernment, ingenuity. Keep an eye out for how to do things more efficiently. Try to see patterns in what you do. At the same time, introduce play and variety into your practice so that the plateaus don't get boring, and the downs don't get you down.

The Buddha makes similar points in his meditation instructions. Once you've mastered a state of concentration, see where it still contains elements of stress. Then look for patterns to that stress: what are you doing to cause it? Find ways to gladden the mind when it's down, to liberate it from its confinements, to steady it when it gets restless. In this way, as you learn to enjoy rising to the challenges of meditation, you also gain familiarity with subtle patterns of cause and effect in the mind.

The fourth step, once you've mastered those patterns, is to push their limits. Again, this isn't simply a matter of increased effort. It's more a rekindling of your imagination to explore the unexpected side-alleys of cause and effect. A famous cellist once said that his most exhilarating concert was one in which he broke a string on his cello and decided to finish the piece he was playing on the remaining strings, refingering it on the spot. The most obvious strings in meditation are the specific techniques for fostering stillness and insight, but the more interesting ones are the assumptions that underlie the quest for skill: lack, strategy, dialogue, your sense of self. Can you learn to do without them? There comes a point in your meditation when the only way for greater happiness is to begin questioning these assumptions. And this leads to some intriguing paradoxes: If desire springs from a sense of lack or limitation, what happens to desire when it produces a happiness with no lack or limitation at all? What's it like not to need desire? What would happen to your inner dialogue, your sense of self? And if desire is how you take your place in space and time, what happens to space and time when desire is absent? ...

Pushing the Limits
Desire & Imagination in the Buddhist Path
by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... imits.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
User avatar
gavesako
 
Posts: 1381
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:16 pm
Location: England

Re: SN 47.10: Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:59 am

Some comments from Bhikkhu Bodhi:

“Here, Venerable Ānanda, a number of bhikkhunīs, dwelling with their minds well established in the four establishments of mindfulness, perceive successively loftier stages of distinction.”

    BB: Spk explains “successively loftier stages of distinction” by way of the successive stages of wisdom, from the comprehension of the four primary elements through the ascription of the three characteristics to all formations.

“What four [establishments of mindfulness]? Here, Ānanda, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. 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.

    Spk: A fever of defilement (kilesapariḷāha) arises having made the body its basis (ārammaṇa). When this happens, one should not let oneself become excited by the defilement but “should then direct the mind to some inspiring sign” (kismiñcideva pasādaniye nimitte cittaṃ paṇidahitabbaṃ), that is, one should place the meditating mind on some object that inspires confidence, such as the Buddha, etc.

When he directs his mind towards some inspiring sign, gladness is born. When he is gladdened, rapture is born. When the mind is uplifted by rapture, the body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body experiences happiness. The mind of one who is happy becomes concentrated. He reflects thus: ‘The purpose for the sake of which I directed my mind has been achieved. Let me now withdraw it.’

    Spk: “Let me withdraw it from the inspiring object and redirect it towards the original meditation object.”

So he withdraws the mind and does not think or examine. He understands: ‘Without thought and examination, internally mindful, I am happy.’

    BB: Spk explains this to mean that he is “without defiled thought, without defiled examination,” but the absence of vitakka and vicāra seems to imply he has reached the second jhāna. See too MN III 136,20-29, MN 125, where the four satipaṭṭhānas do service for the first jhāna, and the Buddha also enjoins the practice of the four without thought and examination, hence in the mode of the second jhāna.
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10270
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: SN 47.10: Bhikkhunupassaya Sutta

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Dec 15, 2012 8:32 pm

“Again, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating feelings in feelings … mind in mind … phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. While he is contemplating phenomena in phenomena, there arises in him, based on phenomena, 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. When he directs his mind towards some inspiring sign … He understands: ‘Without thought and examination, internally mindful, I am happy.’

“It is in such a way, Ānanda, that there is development by direction.


    BB: Paṇidhāya bhāvanā. Spk glosses ṭhapetvā bhāvanā, “development having put aside.” Development by this method comes about by directing the mind away from its main object towards some other object. Spk compares this to a man carrying a load of sugar to a refinery who pauses from time to time, puts down the load, eats a sugar cane, and then continues on his way.

“And how, Ānanda, is there development without direction? Not directing his mind outwardly, a bhikkhu understands: ‘My mind is not directed outwardly.’ Then he understands: ‘It is unconstricted after and before, liberated, undirected.’ [*] Then he further understands: ‘I dwell contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful; I am happy.’

    * BB: Spk gives various explanations of “unconstricted after and before” (pacchā pure asaṅkhittaṃ). See SN 51.20 (V 277,29-278,4) and n. 272 below.

    SN 51.20
      “And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu dwell perceiving after and before: ‘As before, so after; as after, so before’? Here, bhikkhus, the perception of after and before is well grasped by a bhikkhu, well attended to, well considered, well penetrated by wisdom. It is in this way, bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu dwells perceiving after and before: ‘As before, so after; as after, so before.’

        BB: Yathā pure tathā pacchā, yathā pacchā tathā pure. Spk: This should be understood: (i) by way of the meditation subject; and (ii) by way of the teaching. (i) The interpretation (abhinivesa, or “introduction”) of the meditation subject is “before” and arahantship is “after.” A bhikkhu who, after interpreting the root meditation subject, does not allow the mind to fall into the four undesirable conditions (overly lax, etc.) goes on to attain arahantship; he is called one who dwells “as before, so after.” (ii) By way of teaching, the head-hairs are “before” and the brain is “after” (among the solid parts in the contemplation of the body). A bhikkhu who develops his meditation from beginning to end without sliding into the four undesirable conditions is called one who dwells “as before, so after.”
    Thanissaro Bhikkhu translates the passage with "front & behind" rather than "after and before".
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
      "And how does a monk dwell perceiving what is in front & behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, and what is behind is the same as what is in front? There is the case where a monk's perception of what is in front & behind is well in hand, well-attended to, well-considered, well-tuned[or "penetrated"] by means of discernment. This is how a monk keeps perceiving what is in front and behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, and what is behind is the same as what is in front.
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10270
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand


Return to Study Group

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests