Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Jechbi » Thu Dec 24, 2009 7:51 am

Hi Mike,

Just catching up. Interesting discussion. With regard to this:
mikenz66 wrote:Page 106
This goes to the heart of conceptual/nonconceptual in meditation:
... Insight practice is about ultimate reality, the ultimate nature of
reality, and thus the specifics don’t matter. Morality and concentration
are about relative reality, and thus the specifics are everything.

Yet right view is the forerunner. And these practices all seem to blend together and support one another. I'm not sure how far it gets us to try to nail down, conceptually, where concepts end. Or to concern ourselves too much with whether we have arrived at some non-conceptuality in the course of some practice.

The notion of "conceptual and non-conceptual" strikes me as being similar to the notion of "constructed and not-constructed." We're basically talking about all the stuff we layer onto this present moment. We can get farther away from it by building up more layers of theory and interpretation and experiential inference, thus concepts. And in fact these concepts themselves can just bubble along in their own not-self way, independent of whether we're tangled up in them. They might just keep rolling along, coming and going.

Conversely, we can get closer to this "here and now." I'm not so sure that the dichotomy of concepts versus non-concepts matters a great deal in practice.

And this bit:
Learning to be a master of both the ultimate and the relative is what this is all about.

I think it's more about kamma.

I recognize the value that you see in the passages quoted in the OP, and I agree that fruitless discussions can occur when people talk past each other from different perspectives with regard to ultimate versus relative terms. I'm just not persuaded that it's as clear-cut as Daniel Ingram seems to say it is. For what it's worth.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 24, 2009 8:24 am

Hi Jechbi,
Thank you for your thoughts.
Jechbi wrote:Conversely, we can get closer to this "here and now." I'm not so sure that the dichotomy of concepts versus non-concepts matters a great deal in practice.

To me it is useful in order to undersatnd what a particular practise is trying to achieve. So, for example, being more "conceptual" or "solidified" with objects tends to emphasise samatha, which is useful to know if that's what you are trying to achieve at that time...
Jechbi wrote:I recognize the value that you see in the passages quoted in the OP, and I agree that fruitless discussions can occur when people talk past each other from different perspectives with regard to ultimate versus relative terms.

Yes, that's one of the key points. And it spills over into comparisons between different meditative approaches, which are different because they have a different (short term) aim.

But of course, I agree that the issues are more complex than can be expressed in a couple of sentences.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Jechbi » Thu Dec 24, 2009 4:00 pm

Thanks, Mike. I appreciate your exploration of this subject here. For collaborative discussion purposes:
mikenz66 wrote:To me it is useful in order to understand what a particular practise is trying to achieve ...

I'm struck by the notion of "achievement." And I'm mindful of the fact that it has come up in past related discussions, as well.

In approaching practice, and in dividing it into the categories of concentration practice and insight practice, I wonder whether the process of identifying an achievement goal affects the practice itself.

The question reminds me of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics (calling Mawk!), which reminds us that we can't know position and momentum at the same time. That's just the strange way the universe works. I wonder whether it can be similar in practice, with regard to the "concept" of an achievement goal and the "non-concept" of seeing things as they truly are. The question that pops into my mind: Can we have both at the same time?

At this moment, I'd venture that the answer is, probably so. But that the latter subsumes the former, not the other way around. Which puts a different spin on the notion of a sharp division between these two categories of practice.

Just some thoughts that bubbled up. ;)

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby pt1 » Sat Dec 26, 2009 12:47 am

Hi Mike and all,

In delineating between what’s a concept and what’s not, I find it useful to consider how the process of cognition develops according to abhidhamma - the roles that concepts and dhammas paly in cognition. 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).

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby dhamma follower » Sat Dec 26, 2009 6:34 am

pt1 wrote:Hi Mike and all,

In delineating between what’s a concept and what’s not, I find it useful to consider how the process of cognition develops according to abhidhamma - the roles that concepts and dhammas paly in cognition. 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).

Best wishes


Thanhks for the description !

How ever, I would say the ultimate reality (i.e non conceptual) is truly revealed only from the insight into arising and passing away. In ultimate reality, consciousness (vinana) co-arises with the object, or in other word, each object that arises is self-aware in nature, and pass away as soon as it comes into being. When wisdom becomes stronger, this becomes clear and one understands impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, non-self all in one. May be for the first nana, one has a brief glimpse at this "not-me, impermanent" nature of nama and rupa, but the whole process is not yet clear to him.The intuition should already be quite strong, though. That means there are different degrees of awareness (or wisdom) of step 1 and 3.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby pt1 » Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:31 am

dhamma follower wrote:How ever, I would say the ultimate reality (i.e non conceptual) is truly revealed only from the insight into arising and passing away.

I believe you are right. Afaik, nama-rupa pariccheda nana (discerning between mind-door and sense-door processes) is also called the first "tender" stage of insight, which is followed by another two tender stages (discerning conditionality and knowledge by comprehension). Only after these comes the first stage of insight proper - knowledge of arising and passing away.
dhamma follower wrote:May be for the first nana, one has a brief glimpse at this "not-me, impermanent" nature of nama and rupa, but the whole process is not yet clear to him.The intuition should already be quite strong, though. That means there are different degrees of awareness (or wisdom) of step 1 and 3.

Quite possible. Perhaps it could be said that discerning between sense-door and mind-door precesses still doesn't mean that one discerns individual nama dhammas, but, with knowledge of arising and passing away - discerning individual nama dhammas becomes possible.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:06 pm

Hi Pt1

Nama and rupa by definition are non-conceptual. These refer to the specific components of each
rupa= patavi/earth, tejo/fire, vayo/wind, apo/liquid elements and those things made up of them (sense organs for example)
nama= phasssa/contact, vedana/feeling, sanna/labelling, sankhara/mental fabrications

The next stage of insight is paccaya pariggaha nana- the insight into causes of effects. This cause and effect linkage is linked to just those 'ultimately real' components. phassa giving rise to vedana for example.

On another point right view arises from hearing and contemplating (parato goso; yonisomanasikaro) and is therefore conceptual. The experience maybe non-conceptual (hence cannot be commmunicated) but the right view which arises from it is conceptual.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby pt1 » Mon Dec 28, 2009 12:24 am

Hi RYB,
rowyourboat wrote:Nama and rupa by definition are non-conceptual. These refer to the specific components of each
rupa= patavi/earth, tejo/fire, vayo/wind, apo/liquid elements and those things made up of them (sense organs for example)
nama= phasssa/contact, vedana/feeling, sanna/labelling, sankhara/mental fabrications

Agreed.
[Edit: On a second thought, perhaps above you are not just giving a definition of nama and rupa, but are saying that "nama and rupa" in "nama rupa pariccheda nana" stand for the ability to discern individual rupas and dhammas? Might be. I was under the impression so far that these refer to being able to distinguish between sense-door and mind-door processes, what would definitely mean that one can discern individual (gross) rupas, but I wasn't so sure about discerning individual namas as they are 17 (or was it 51) times faster than rupa, in theory.]
rowyourboat wrote:The next stage of insight is paccaya pariggaha nana- the insight into causes of effects. This cause and effect linkage is linked to just those 'ultimately real' components. phassa giving rise to vedana for example.

So, you are basically saying that one can already discern individual nama dhammas on the second stage of tender insight, right? I was under the impression that this stage is still border-line conceptual when it comes to nama dhammas. I.e. although one can discern rupa directly, and thus observe conditionality when it comes to meeting of a sense object and sense base producing sense-door process, there's not yet enough clarity in discerning nama dhammas, so the conditionality on the level of nama dhammas (like between contact and feeling) is still inferred conceptually.

rowyourboat wrote:On another point right view arises from hearing and contemplating (parato goso; yonisomanasikaro) and is therefore conceptual. The experience maybe non-conceptual (hence cannot be commmunicated) but the right view which arises from it is conceptual.

Are you referring here only to pariyatti level right view, or in more general terms? So far, I got from abhidhamma that right view is synonymous with panna, what would mean that initially it is conceptual, but then with direct insight, it is non-conceptual (of different depths).

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:16 pm

Hi Pt1

Just to be clear I am representing a synthesis of sutta, commentary (as far as the visuddhimagga goes) and experience in my replies, and not the abhidhamma (because it doesn't sit well with the other 3 in my experience)

Being able to discern gross mental events and physical events is something most people can do. It is not something which requires citta visuddhi, the preceeding step. A mind free from hindrances is required to see paramatta dhammas. If paramatta dhammas are not seen in the first two insight knowledges there is no place further down then where causality will be discerned. To discern the paticcasamuppada for example paramatta dhammas will need to be seen (phassa --> vedana)

relative speeds
Eg: sound+ear gives rise to ear consciousness; these three gives rise phassa/contact and so on. To say that this means the mind door processes are faster is not meaningful at the level of experience- all nama or rupa events seem to happen at the same speed. It does however mean that more mental events follow fewer material events- or that the world is mostly mind produced. A speed cannot be determined by it. Then again the Buddha does speak of the mind changing faster than the body in the suttas. This can be understood at a mundane level where things are seen to change quicker and last less longer. Actual numbers (ie speeds) were never mentioned in the suttas and are not conducive to those who wish to experience the teachings for oneself.

See below: the Buddha guides a monk to insight. Note that he is using the five aggregates- elements of ultimate reality, nama and rupa. I believe this type of conversation reflects a summary of what the monk has already experienced through vipassana, needing that final summary and 'push' to form all the links clearly in his mind, leading to insight.

"What do you think, monks — Is form constant or inconstant?"

"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?"

"Stressful, lord."

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"...Is feeling constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"...Is perception constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"...Are fabrications constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."...

"What do you think, monks — Is consciousness constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."

"Thus, monks, any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.'

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

--when he says ANY form, he is confirming the third insight knowledge sammassana nana - that ALL things follow in this pattern.



Right view
"Friend, how many conditions are there for the arising of right view?"

"Friend, there are two conditions for the arising of right view: the voice of another and appropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of right view."

"And assisted by how many factors does right view have awareness-release as its fruit & reward, and discernment-release as its fruit & reward?"

"Assisted by five factors, right view has awareness-release as its fruit & reward, and discernment-release as its fruit & reward. There is the case where right view is assisted by virtue, assisted by learning, assisted by discussion, assisted by tranquility, assisted by insight. Assisted by these five factors, right view has awareness-release as its fruit & reward, and discernment-release as its fruit & reward."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Right speech, right action, & right livelihood come under the aggregate of virtue. Right effort, right mindfulness, & right concentration come under the aggregate of concentration. Right view & right resolve come under the aggregate of discernment."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
--As can be seen right view does come under panna, but is at a more verbal level. I would hesitate to call it superficial as there is supramundane right view as well- the view of the stream entrants and those higher in the path.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby pt1 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:40 am

Hi RYB, thanks for explaining your understanding of this.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:02 am

Hi,

I felt it was important to add this as well (this is an understanding based only on suttas and experience, subtracting the visuddhimagga input):

Association with people of integrity is a factor for stream-entry.
Listening to the true Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
Appropriate attention is a factor for stream-entry. (yonisomanasikara)
Practice in accordance with the Dhamma is a factor for stream-entry.
— SN 55.5

Now appropriate attention is conceptual. If you consider the contemplations below such as 'arrow','cancer' we can see that these are conceptual and not arising due to mindfulness leading to insight. ie there are no such spontaneously arisen insights.

"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Which five? Form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate. A virtuous monk should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. For it is possible that a virtuous monk, attending in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant... not-self, would realize the fruit of stream-entry."

I have found that some people need this step before starting mindfulness practices as per the previous sutta in my post above. Otherwise what they are being mindful of doesnt seem to make much sense to them. (This is not to deny that some people maybe able to do only the mindfulness practice or even only the contemplation practice and reach the fruit of stream entry depending on the prior development of their faculties).

See below where the Buddha asks the monk to develop right view before doing mindfulness practice. Appropriate attention leads to Right view.

Uttiya, you should purify what is most
basic with regard to skillful mental qualities. And what is the basis
of skillful mental qualities? Well-purified virtue & views made
straight. Then, when your virtue is well-purified and your views made
straight, in dependence on virtue, established in virtue, you should
develop the four frames of reference... Then, when in dependence on
virtue, relying on virtue, you develop the four frames of reference,
you will go beyond the realm of Death.
— SN 47.16

"Bikkhus, these four establishments of mindfulness, when developed and cultivated, lead to utter revulsion (nibbida), to dispassion (viraga), to cessation (nirodha) , to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.
Mahavagga, satipatthana samyutta, SN

In Accordance with the dhamma
At Savatti. “ Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu us practicing in accordance with the dhamma, this is what accords with the dhamma: he should dwell engrossed with revulsion towards form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness. One who dwells engrossed with revulsion towards form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness, fully understands form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness. One who fully understands form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness is freed from form…consciousness. He is freed from birth, aging and death; freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure,, and despair; freed from suffering, I say.”
-39(7) In Accordance with the dhamma, Khandavagga, Khandasamyutta, SN
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:19 am

Thanks RYB. That is very helpful input.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby 5heaps » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:01 pm

The followers of reason within Sautrantika say that only the first moment of contact between a mental consciousness and an object is nonconceptual. This is because the object that makes contact with the physical sense consciousness only carries through to the first moment of a mental consciousness freshly (ie. newly).

After the first moment the mind mixes with a category and the cognition becomes conceptual. This would be the difference between the color and shape of a chair appearing to you and 'chair' appearing to you.. 'chair' is the category (metaphysical entity) imputed through which you know you are looking at a specific chair in front of you.

The followers of scripture within Sautrantika assert the same as Vaibhashika, namely that in that first moment of a fresh mental consciousness, there is no creation of a mental representation of the outer object, but rather, the eye sense power and the eye sense consciousness know the object directly. This has massive implications about what is asserted that the mental consciousness is doing when it cognizes and knows. One of the most amazing distinctions between the schools is that Vaibhashika says categories are produced, momentary things, whereas Sautrantika (following reason) onward say that categories are unproduced, unchanging things. Also, asserting that space is substantial (ie. able to perform a function) whereas others say is not. All agree that it is a negation phenomena.
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:40 pm

Hi 5 Heaps,
5heaps wrote:The followers of reason within Sautrantika say that only the first moment of contact between a mental consciousness and an object is nonconceptual. ...

And presumably this different from the Theravada POV?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sautr%C4%81ntika
The Sautrāntika were an early school of Buddhist philosophy, generally believed to be descended from the Sthaviravada by way of their immediate parent school, the Sarvāstivādins. Their name means literally "those who rely upon the sutras", and indicated their rejection of the Abhidharma texts of other early Buddhist schools.


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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby 5heaps » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:16 am

mikenz66 wrote:And presumably this different from the Theravada POV?

I'm not sure, what do you think? Is it generally taught that your eye sense power cannot cognize objects, because the only method of direct cognition [of seeing an external object] is through a mental representation of colours and shapes in the eye sense consciousness? (Sautrantika)

Or is it generally taught that an eye sense power makes direct contact with an object, and that along with an instance of consciousness, without the need of a mental representation, there is direct cognition? (Vaibhashika)
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:27 am

Hi 5Heaps,

Sorry, I'm not well enough versed in Abhidhamma and Sautrantika to disentangle such details.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 3:35 am

Getting back to my original discussion topic of when it is useful to be more or less "conceptual" (or "detailed"), depending on whether one is developing concentration or insight, here's Ven Nyanaponika's discussion in "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation".
[Page 123] It is also at this point of Calming the Breath where the two main strands of Buddhist meditation (Samatha and Vipassana) temporarily part.

If the meditator aspires to the attainment of the Absorptions (Jhana) through the deepening of Tranquility (samatha), he should continue the process of Calming and make the breath still more fine and subtle and its flow smoother. Though he should make sure that his mindfulness covers all three phases of the breath [beginning-middle-end], he should not pay to them any particular attention. Any discriminating observation or examination will only be an obstruction here. When aiming at Absorption one should, as it were, float along with the undulating flow of the breath. Continuing diligently with that practice, concentration of mind will grow and in due time there may appear a simple mental image (nimitta), like a star, etc, heralding full absorption. But complicated and varying images or visions are not a sign of progress; they shoud be soberly noticed and dismissed.

In full- or half-day practice aiming at Absorption, mindfulness should be present throughout, but this only in a very general way, without attention to details. Walking, for instance, should be done mindfully, but without dissection into phases as done in the practice of Insight. Through a close scrutiny of details the mind will become too much engaged and interested in a multiplicity of objects while here the aim should be the unification and tranquillity of the mind.

But if, after having come to the stage of Calming, the meditator wishes to go the direct road to Insight, he should give marked attention to the single phases of the breath, in particular to the beginning and end; and all these secondary and general objects of mindfulness should be carefully attended to, as explained earlier. It is thus only a slight shift in the focussing of attention which will make all the difference between the methods of Jhanic development and that of Insight.

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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:43 pm

while it is generally true that vipassana is non conceptual,the point of vipassana is to give rise to insight and subsequently letting go. However there are some people who may be able to attain (read letting go) high stages just by listening to conceptual dhamma talks. So if there is a method to reach a further stage of progress but fall into the same common pathway at the end, then it is also a valid method be it conceptual.
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Freawaru » Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:50 am

5heaps wrote:The followers of reason within Sautrantika say that only the first moment of contact between a mental consciousness and an object is nonconceptual. This is because the object that makes contact with the physical sense consciousness only carries through to the first moment of a mental consciousness freshly (ie. newly).

After the first moment the mind mixes with a category and the cognition becomes conceptual. This would be the difference between the color and shape of a chair appearing to you and 'chair' appearing to you.. 'chair' is the category (metaphysical entity) imputed through which you know you are looking at a specific chair in front of you.

The followers of scripture within Sautrantika assert the same as Vaibhashika, namely that in that first moment of a fresh mental consciousness, there is no creation of a mental representation of the outer object, but rather, the eye sense power and the eye sense consciousness know the object directly. This has massive implications about what is asserted that the mental consciousness is doing when it cognizes and knows. One of the most amazing distinctions between the schools is that Vaibhashika says categories are produced, momentary things, whereas Sautrantika (following reason) onward say that categories are unproduced, unchanging things. Also, asserting that space is substantial (ie. able to perform a function) whereas others say is not. All agree that it is a negation phenomena.


One can test the theory. By looking at something new. For example these kind of pictures (magic pictures 3d, magic eye):
http://regnow.img.digitalriver.com/vend ... _large.jpg

They were popular in 1990-1994 or so. I have several books. One has to "Put your face close to the stereogram. Allow your eyes to relax, and stare right through the stereogram as if your eyes were focused at a point behind the surface of the stereogram. Slowly move away from the stereogram without changing the position of your eyes."

The moment of shift is very interesting. How suddenly the 3d image is seen and recognised. Though it is very fast, too, it seems to me more slowly than the usual mechanism so one can observe and discern it better.
Freawaru
 
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Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Freawaru » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:04 am

Hi Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Getting back to my original discussion topic of when it is useful to be more or less "conceptual" (or "detailed"), depending on whether one is developing concentration or insight, here's Ven Nyanaponika's discussion in "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation".
[Page 123] It is also at this point of Calming the Breath where the two main strands of Buddhist meditation (Samatha and Vipassana) temporarily part.

If the meditator aspires to the attainment of the Absorptions (Jhana) through the deepening of Tranquility (samatha), he should continue the process of Calming and make the breath still more fine and subtle and its flow smoother. Though he should make sure that his mindfulness covers all three phases of the breath [beginning-middle-end], he should not pay to them any particular attention. Any discriminating observation or examination will only be an obstruction here. When aiming at Absorption one should, as it were, float along with the undulating flow of the breath. Continuing diligently with that practice, concentration of mind will grow and in due time there may appear a simple mental image (nimitta), like a star, etc, heralding full absorption. But complicated and varying images or visions are not a sign of progress; they shoud be soberly noticed and dismissed.

In full- or half-day practice aiming at Absorption, mindfulness should be present throughout, but this only in a very general way, without attention to details. Walking, for instance, should be done mindfully, but without dissection into phases as done in the practice of Insight. Through a close scrutiny of details the mind will become too much engaged and interested in a multiplicity of objects while here the aim should be the unification and tranquillity of the mind.

But if, after having come to the stage of Calming, the meditator wishes to go the direct road to Insight, he should give marked attention to the single phases of the breath, in particular to the beginning and end; and all these secondary and general objects of mindfulness should be carefully attended to, as explained earlier. It is thus only a slight shift in the focussing of attention which will make all the difference between the methods of Jhanic development and that of Insight.

Metta
Mike


Good points :D

In addition I would say that if one wants to develop concentration it is also useful to practice it during every-day tasks or hobbies. For example, learning and playing an instrument such as flute or piano (etc) requires to concentrate on a single "object" for a prolonged time, too. Or doing math calculations, or learning stuff by heart. Developing concentration works better when learning something and/or having fun. It is more difficult to develop it when doing the dishes. The mind tends to be bored and when it is bored it becomes scattered, drifting, fluctuating. On the other hand when learning mindfulness being bored is the best starting point, namely habitual and easy tasks that don't require concentration or learning (such as breathing).
Freawaru
 
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