signless concentration vs emptiness

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signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby convivium » Mon Jun 14, 2010 5:27 am

what is the difference between the signless concentration and perception of emptiness?
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby Kenshou » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:22 am

I believe the perception of emptiness simply deals with the direct knowing of all phenomena as anicca, dependently originated, anatta, and all of that. Well actually just anatta, but those other things are so tightly linked with it that they aren't irrelevant to mention.

The signless concentration or animitto cetosamadhi (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html) is a concentration where the mind does not give any special attention to any phenomena in particular, does not grab onto the distinguishing signs (the nimitta in animitto) by which something is recognized. My understanding is that this non-abiding concentration is a possible kind of occurrence of arahantship, and is a result of the non-fashioning attitude or atammayata, which itself is a result of the perception of emptiness/impermanence. I think that the singless concentration is also a synonym for viññanam anidassam or non-manifestive consciousness. Same thing described from another angle. (Though on second thought, the mind of the arahant is always "non-manifestive" I think, but not always in the signless concentration necessarily)

So these two things are closely related but not identical.

Edit: Oh hey, there was a thread that was similar not long ago. http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4508
Last edited by Kenshou on Thu Jul 22, 2010 1:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby convivium » Thu Jul 22, 2010 1:35 am

Thank you.

"According to the Middle Way, mind and matter exist in the same manner as rainbows: they appear to consciousness (and therefore exist ) but are empty of absolute existence. Everything exists in that way.
So the black box of mind and matter contains, figuratively speaking, only rainbows. "

Chapter - A Rainbow State of Existence - Illuminating Mind and Matter - From Embracing the Mind - B Alan Wallace

is this the same as in the suttas?
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby convivium » Thu Jul 22, 2010 1:44 am

Thank you.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby chandrafabian » Sun Aug 08, 2010 1:53 pm

Kenshou wrote:I believe the perception of emptiness simply deals with the direct knowing of all phenomena as anicca, dependently originated, anatta, and all of that. Well actually just anatta, but those other things are so tightly linked with it that they aren't irrelevant to mention.

The signless concentration or animitto cetosamadhi (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html) is a concentration where the mind does not give any special attention to any phenomena in particular, does not grab onto the distinguishing signs (the nimitta in animitto) by which something is recognized. My understanding is that this non-abiding concentration is a possible kind of occurrence of arahantship, and is a result of the non-fashioning attitude or atammayata, which itself is a result of the perception of emptiness/impermanence. I think that the singless concentration is also a synonym for viññanam anidassam or non-manifestive consciousness. Same thing described from another angle. (Though on second thought, the mind of the arahant is always "non-manifestive" I think, but not always in the signless concentration necessarily)

So these two things are closely related but not identical.

Edit: Oh hey, there was a thread that was similar not long ago. viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4508


IMHO animitta samadhi refer to direct Vipassana.
Vipassana is different compared to Samatha. In Samatha, nimitta arises afer meditating for a period of time, and nimitta replacing in & out breathing as the object of concentration, after the nimitta is strong enough (patibhaga stage)
In direct Vipassana if nimitta arises the meditator should simply mindful of, without getting involved, and in some cases nimitta's are ignored entirely.
The object of concentration is on ti-lakkhana. Therefore the concentration in direct Vipassana is known as khanika samadhi. The object of Khanika samadhi is the arising and passing away of mind and body phenomena, no nimitta.

Mettacittena,
fabian

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby dhamma_spoon » Sun Aug 08, 2010 3:08 pm

Hi, kenshou & fabian -

Please accept a contribution from another book-worm !

Patisambhidamagga, Treatise on Coupling,
286. How does he develop(bhavana) serenity(samatha) and insight coupled together in the sense of the signless(animitta)?
When he abandons(pahana) agitation, then his unification of cognizance(citta) and non-distraction are concentration free from all signs with cessation as its domain. When he abandons ignorance, then his insight in the sense of contemplation is free from all signs, having cessation as its domain.
Thus serenity and insight in the sense of the signless ... .

Attention. There are other terms that are worth studying: signless abiding(animitta vihara), signless attainment(animitta samapatti).

Any thoughts?

Dhamma_spoon :stirthepot:
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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby Kenshou » Sun Aug 08, 2010 8:12 pm

Chandrafabian-

Pardon me but, to my knowledge the term "nimitta" as used in the suttas is not the same as the "(patinhaga)nimitta" of the orthodox Theravadin description of samatha and jhana, and so it wouldn't be right to conflate the two. I believe that the meaning of nimitta, in general, is the attributes or characteristics by which something is recognizable to the mind. The footnote of the Animitto Sutta quoted above says the same: "3. Nimitta. The characteristic features of anything."

The patibhaganimitta of jhana is simply the characteristic attribute by which jhana is recognized, in the samatha scheme of the visuddhimagga. But the nimitta referred to when talking about animitto samadhi doesn't necessarily refer only to jhana-related nimittas, but rather refers to all characteristic attributes of objects of perception, jhana or not.

Since I am no arahant this is speculation to a degree. But what it it sounds like to me is going on with this signless concentration thingie is that in understanding the stresfullness of all impermanent phenomena, the individual simply stops paying attention to them, absolutely all of them. I think that the act of turning attention away from all phenomena has similar results as what is called non-fashioning, described in the Dhatu-vibhanga sutta: "One neither fabricates nor mentally fashions for the sake of becoming or un-becoming. This being the case, one is not sustained by anything in the world (does not cling to anything in the world). Unsustained, one is not agitated. Unagitated, one is totally unbound right within. One discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

Or, it might be said to be similar to the instruction to Bahiya; "in the seen etc. see only the seen, etc., then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

In the first example, through understanding that all phenomena are not fit to be clung to, the mind does not "fashion for the sake of becoming or un-becoming", that is, seeing how craving and aversion result in stress due to the nature of phenomena, craving and aversion (and volitions born of them, self-identification included) are ended, resulting in nibbana. In the Bahiya sutta, by only "seeing what is in the seen" self-identification, not being inherent in any phenomena, is cut off, the result being nibbana.

So, back to our animitto samadhi: I think that the act of stopping paying attention to all phenomena whatsoever has something in common with the previous two examples. First of all, by not paying mind to any phenomena, releasing the mind's hold on them, one is fulfilling non-fashioning in a slightly different way but with similar results. The mind simply stops bothering to get involved with any of those samkharas, to the extent that it even doesn't bother perceive anything about them. By not bothering to have anything to do with all samkharas of experience, the qualifications for non-fashioning are realized, and similarly since nothing is being turned into anything more than it is by the mind, a la the Bahiya sutta, anatta is also fully realized, and in these ways nibbana is reached.

I think that this sutta shows the animitto samadhi from a slightly different angle:

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

"But how, friend Sariputta, could a monk have an attainment of concentration such he would neither be percipient of earth with regard to earth... nor of the next world with regard to the next world, and yet he would still be percipient?"

"Once, friend Ananda, when I was staying right here in Savatthi in the Blind Man's Grove, I reached concentration in such a way that I was neither percipient of earth with regard to earth... nor of the next world with regard to the next world, and yet I was still percipient."

"But what, friend Sariputta, were you percipient of at that time?"

"'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding — the cessation of becoming — Unbinding': One perception arose in me, friend Ananda, as another perception ceased. Just as in a blazing woodchip fire, one flame arises as another flame ceases, even so, 'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding — the cessation of becoming — Unbinding': One perception arose in me as another one ceased. I was percipient at that time of 'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding.'"


By not being pecipient of any phenomena, there is one perception that remains, that being the knowledge of unbinding.

It all paints a fairly coherent picture in my mind, but I might not have done a good job of putting it into words. There are probably people more qualified than myself on this subject, hopefully they will come by and correct me if I'm missing something.

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby chandrafabian » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:26 am

Dear Dhamma_spoon and Kenshou,
As far as I know, pure samatha develop nimitta (very strong nimitta is known as patibhaga nimitta). Eventually the mind is absorbed into the nimitta and Jhana is reached.
Whereas animitta is refer to insight meditation. In insight meditation the object is three characteristic (tilakkhana). Nibbana as an object also without nimitta/signs. As mention in Sariputta Sutta by Kenshou:

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

Mettacittena
fabian

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby dhamma_spoon » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:37 am

chandrafabian wrote:Dear Dhamma_spoon and Kenshou,
As far as I know, pure samatha develop nimitta (very strong nimitta is known as patibhaga nimitta). Eventually the mind is absorbed into the nimitta and Jhana is reached.
Whereas animitta is refer to insight meditation. In insight meditation the object is three characteristic (tilakkhana). Nibbana as an object also without nimitta/signs. As mention in Sariputta Sutta by Kenshou:

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

Mettacittena
fabian


Many thanks to you both. It is an excellent discussion.

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby chandrafabian » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:46 am

dhamma_spoon wrote:
chandrafabian wrote:Dear Dhamma_spoon and Kenshou,
As far as I know, pure samatha develop nimitta (very strong nimitta is known as patibhaga nimitta). Eventually the mind is absorbed into the nimitta and Jhana is reached.
Whereas animitta is refer to insight meditation. In insight meditation the object is three characteristic (tilakkhana). Nibbana as an object also without nimitta/signs. As mention in Sariputta Sutta by Kenshou:

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

Mettacittena
fabian


Many thanks to you both. It is an excellent discussion.

:stirthepot:


Many thanks to you too... :anjali:

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby Kenshou » Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:15 pm

chandrafabian wrote:Dear Dhamma_spoon and Kenshou,
As far as I know, pure samatha develop nimitta (very strong nimitta is known as patibhaga nimitta). Eventually the mind is absorbed into the nimitta and Jhana is reached.
Whereas animitta is refer to insight meditation. In insight meditation the object is three characteristic (tilakkhana). Nibbana as an object also without nimitta/signs. As mention in Sariputta Sutta by Kenshou:



Well as I tried to show, I don't believe that in the context of the animitto sutta it is only the absence of jhana-nimittas that is being talked about, but rather all nimittas or signs by which perception would cognize an object. As the sutta says, "paying no attention to any distinguishing signs..."

I believe that it is too narrow to consider all instances of the word nimitta to refer to nimittas developed in the practice of jhana. In fact I would argue that the notion of a specific (patibhaga)nimitta being necessary for jhana is an idea absent from the suttas and therefore not something that could justifiably be read into the animitto sutta, either.

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby chandrafabian » Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:48 am

Kenshou wrote:
chandrafabian wrote:Dear Dhamma_spoon and Kenshou,
As far as I know, pure samatha develop nimitta (very strong nimitta is known as patibhaga nimitta). Eventually the mind is absorbed into the nimitta and Jhana is reached.
Whereas animitta is refer to insight meditation. In insight meditation the object is three characteristic (tilakkhana). Nibbana as an object also without nimitta/signs. As mention in Sariputta Sutta by Kenshou:



Well as I tried to show, I don't believe that in the context of the animitto sutta it is only the absence of jhana-nimittas that is being talked about, but rather all nimittas or signs by which perception would cognize an object. As the sutta says, "paying no attention to any distinguishing signs..."

I believe that it is too narrow to consider all instances of the word nimitta to refer to nimittas developed in the practice of jhana. In fact I would argue that the notion of a specific (patibhaga)nimitta being necessary for jhana is an idea absent from the suttas and therefore not something that could justifiably be read into the animitto sutta, either.

Dear Kenshou, that is exactly what I want to say, only in insight meditation we should not attached to nimitta/should not paying attention to nimitta. But in pure samatha, nimitta is central theme, nimitta should be develop till it strong enough.

The sutta you refer to in Sariputta Sutta (absence of all kinds of nimitta), is explaining Nibbana experience.

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby Kenshou » Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:56 am

only in insight meditation we should not attached to nimitta/should not paying attention to nimitta


To clarify, are you referring to "nimitta" in the general sense or in the context of jhana?

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby chandrafabian » Tue Aug 10, 2010 4:42 am

Kenshou wrote:
only in insight meditation we should not attached to nimitta/should not paying attention to nimitta


To clarify, are you referring to "nimitta" in the general sense or in the context of jhana?


Dear kenshou, in the context of Jhana, nimitta has special meaning (light perception)
But in insight meditation or Nibbana, should be absence of any kind of nimitta.

Mettacittena,
fabian

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby Kenshou » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:06 am

I guess my point is that I am doubtful that the signless-concentration of the animitto sutta is referring to insight meditation proper, but rather a particular different sort of meditation attainment, a possible fruition of arahantship in fact, not merely general insight practice.

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby chandrafabian » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:47 am

Kenshou wrote:I guess my point is that I am doubtful that the signless-concentration of the animitto sutta is referring to insight meditation proper, but rather a particular different sort of meditation attainment, a possible fruition of arahantship in fact, not merely general insight practice.


Dear Kenshou, of course nimitta might arises from time to time during practicing Vipassana as long insight not matured, a culmination of matured insight is Nibbana without nimitta.

Mettacittena,
fabian

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby Kenshou » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:00 am

Respectfully, I feel like you are missing the point that I am trying to make. That is, that the term "nimitta" has a wider and more general meaning than simply being a phenomenon, a perception of light or whatnot, linked with jhana practice.

Whenever we perceive an object, there are nimittas, in the general sense of the characteristics by which an object of the senses is recognizeable. There is nothing about this that is incompatible with vipassana as far as I know. Vipassana includes the perception of things, doesn't it? I could be wrong on that though.

I understand that vipassana meditation would not have anything to do with jhana nimittas because by the traditional theravadin, or at least visuddhimaggic scheme of meditation jhana and vipassana are completely separate practices. That is fine if that is the standard you go by, but I don't believe that even in the context of the visuddhimagga or theravada in general is the word "nimitta" pigeonholed into being something connected with jhana and that only. It is simply not that exclusive, and so though the sort of nimitta that is the characteristic sign of jhana has nothing to do with vipassana, nimittas in the general sense of characteristics of objects of perception are not incompatible with vipassana, they are in fact a natural part of the actions of the mind. Or so I think.

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby chandrafabian » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:23 am

Kenshou wrote:Respectfully, I feel like you are missing the point that I am trying to make. That is, that the term "nimitta" has a wider and more general meaning than simply being a phenomenon, a perception of light or whatnot, linked with jhana practice.

Whenever we perceive an object, there are nimittas, in the general sense of the characteristics by which an object of the senses is recognizeable. There is nothing about this that is incompatible with vipassana as far as I know. Vipassana includes the perception of things, doesn't it? I could be wrong on that though.


Dear Kenshou, The scripture only mention nimitta in relation to Samatha Bhavana, and animitta as no nimitta (Nibbana)
I'm not sure if there is reference in Tipitaka mention nimitta as everything cognizable.

I understand that vipassana meditation would not have anything to do with jhana nimittas because by the traditional theravadin, or at least visuddhimaggic scheme of meditation jhana and vipassana are completely separate practices. That is fine if that is the standard you go by, but I don't believe that even in the context of the visuddhimagga or theravada in general is the word "nimitta" pigeonholed into being something connected with jhana and that only. It is simply not that exclusive, and so though the sort of nimitta that is the characteristic sign of jhana has nothing to do with vipassana, nimittas in the general sense of characteristics of objects of perception are not incompatible with vipassana, they are in fact a natural part of the actions of the mind. Or so I think.


I just know nimitta as perception of light in mind. Is feeling that arises is nimitta?

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fabian

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:43 am

Hi ChandraFabian
chandrafabian wrote:I just know nimitta as perception of light in mind. Is feeling that arises is nimitta?

Nimitta is used all over the Suttas, often translated as "sign". The samadhi nimittas ("sign of concentration") are seem to be only mentioned explicitly in teh commentaries. And they don't have to be visual, they can be tactile, etc.
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... tm#nimitta
Nimitta: mark, sign; image; target, object; cause, condition. These meanings are used in, and adapted to, many contexts of which only the doctrinal ones are mentioned here.

1. 'Mental reflex-image', obtained in meditation. In full clarity, it will appear in the mind by successful practice of certain concentration-exercises and will then appear as vividly as if seen by the eye. The object perceived at the very beginning of concentration is called the preparatory image parikamma-nimitta The still unsteady and unclear image, which arises when the mind has reached a weak degree of concentration, is called the acquired image uggaha-nimitta An entirely clear and immovable image arising at a higher degree of concentration is the counter-image patibhāga-nimitta As soon as this image arises, the stage of neighbourhood or access concentration upacāra-samādhi is reached. For further details, see: kasina, samādhi.

2. 'Sign of previous kamma' kamma-nimitta and 'sign of the future destiny' gati-nimitta these arise as mental objects of the last kammic consciousness before death maranāsanna-kamma see: kamma, III, 3.

Usages 1 and 2 are commentarial see: App.. In sutta usage, the term occurs, e.g. as:

3. 'Outward appearance': of one who has sense-control it is said that he does not seize upon the general appearance' of an object na nimittaggāhī M. 38, D. 2; expl. Vis I, 54f; see sīla.

4. 'Object': the six objects, i.e. visual, etc. rūpa-nimitta a href=dic2-abbrev.htm#S. S. XXII, 3. Also, when in explanation of animitta-ceto-vimutti signless deliverance of mind see: ceto-vimutti vimokkha it is said, sabba-nimittānam amanasikārā it refers to the 6 sense-objects Com. to M. 43, and has therefore to be rendered;by paying no attention to any object or object-ideas.; - A pleasant or beautiful object subha-nimitta is a condition to the arising of the hindrance of sense-desire; a 'repellent object' patigha-nimitta for the hindrance of ill-will; contemplation on the impurity of an object asubha-nimitta see: asubha is an antidote to sense-desire.

5. In Pts.M. II, in a repetitive series of terms, nimitta appears together with uppādo origin of existence, pavattam continuity of existence, and may then be rendered by 'condition of existence' see: path, 194f..

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Re: signless concentration vs emptiness

Postby Shonin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:51 am

For anyone interested: I found this interesting article which casts some doubt on the idea or significance of 'light nimitta' in jhana practices.

On the subject of the sign (nimitta) and counter-part sign (patibhaganimitta), which arise during breath meditation, there are significant discrepancies between the descriptions found in the Visuddhimagga and Vimuttimagga. Diverse written works by modern teachers mention the characteristics of sign and counter-part sign appearing during breath meditation. Often these descriptions take the classic simile description found in the Visuddhimagga, perhaps as a cautious attempt at not straying from orthodoxy. However, as we show below, this description of the sign (learning or counter-part) may turn out to be quite misleading and, as often expressed by frustrated meditators, unclear....

...The Vimuttimagga (p.68), in referring to the "discerning of qualities" for the diverse meditation subjects, states that "...one subject of meditation seizes the sign through contact. Namely, mindfulness of respiration. And again, one subject of meditation seizes the sign through sight or contact. Namely, air kasina." This distinction is critical. It shows that breath meditation is different from other concentration objects in that it is exclusively tactile.

Visual objects may be perceived during breathing meditation as a side effect for some meditators, however, the meditator should remain focused exclusively on the tactile sensation of breath...

...The sentence "this does not depend on colour or form" makes it quite clear that the meditator should not expect the sign of respiration mindfulness as a visual image, since it is not possible to conceive of a visual perception lacking both colour and form. What may be inferred from the sentence is that the sign is a tactile percept. Incidentally, in the Patisambhidamagga, the earliest and most extensive source treatise on breathing, there is no mention in the whole section on breathing meditation of a visual or "light" nimitta.

A great mystery is solved when one realizes that most of the images ascribed to the counter-sign in the Visuddhimagga and to the "distractions" in the Vimuttimagga are found in the earlier Patisambhidamagga as part of a metaphorical description of the bhikkhu liberated from the defilements on account of his distinction in the practice of mindfulness of breathing...

...Here, what is given canonically as a simile for the mind, in the Vimuttimagga is taken literally as visual percepts, although appropriately, given as images to which one should not pay attention. The Visuddhimagga, however, both mistakenly takes the similes "smoke", "mist", "dust", "gleam", "glows", "shines", and "moon", as literal visual images, and also misapprehends them as the counter-sign, the mark of success!, in direct opposition to the Vimuttimagga.

One can only wonder how these metaphorical images, found at the end of the section describing breathing meditation in the Patisambhidamagga, eventually became literal visual events related to meditation practice in later commentarial works. From the evidence presented in this note, it may seem advisable to consider both the Vimuttimagga and the Patisambhidamagga as more reliable texts as far as breathing meditation is concerned.

Only in the Patisambhidamagga is the material handled appropriately. Similes for the quality of mind such as "clear", "illumined", or "free from clouds", are treated as similes, and furthermore the simile images of "clouds", "mist", etc., are properly understood as impediments to that clarity. The editors (traditionally Acariya Buddhaghosa) of the Visuddhimagga seem rather uncomfortable with the "diversity of perception" of the various nimittas for breath meditation and demonstrate their uneasiness by explaining that such diversity originates in the mere uniqueness of meditators' perceptions (see quote, next paragraph). Neither this explanation nor the need for it appears in the earlier commentaries...

...I am sure many a meditator has wondered why the Buddha had failed to mention the critical information of the "sign" and "counter-sign" in breath meditation, which the Visuddhimagga has deemed so critical to success in jhanic practice. I hope this essay has shown that the Buddha's description of the practise of breath meditation contains all necessary and sufficient information for success.

http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html


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