Samatha v. vipassana?

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: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:34 pm

Hi Geoff,

Thank you for your kind reply.
Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:My inclination is to disregard such attempts at "proof" or "disproof" as pointless posturing that proves nothing and simply derails communication.

IMO it's more about contemplating the apparent similarities and differences found in the different historical strata of received tradition. This should always be approached with a sense of humility and respect. But I would suggest that at some point one has to begin to see through and let go of the layers of conceptual filtering and hone in on the actual soteriological message of the Pāḷi discourses. I think this is primarily what Ven. Ñāṇananda has been pointing to for the past 40 years.

Yes, I agree. We all have to rely on our experiences, and our own analysis. And our analysis is always going to be profoundly influenced by the instructions of our teachers (either in person or via writings and so on). We could waste a lot of time arguing over:
"Ven Ñāṇananda says this..."
"No, you're wrong, Mahasi Sayadaw says this..."
"No, you're mistaken, Ajahn Buddhadhassa says this..."
"No, you're mixed up, Achariya Buddhaghosa says this..."
"No, you're all wrong, I just read the Suttas because they are the word of the Buddha, and the Buddha says this..."

From the evidence of this board, such arguments almost never induce anyone to change his/her mind from his/her initial position. (I only say "almost" just in case there is such a case, not because I can think of one...).

Like Alex, and PT, I don't see the Commentaries as primarily philosophical works. I tend to read them in much the same way I would listen to a Dhamma talk or a retreat interview with a modern monk: "This is what you might have experienced, this is a suggestion of how to proceed...".

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Jun 26, 2010 6:38 pm

Hello Geoff,

Ñāṇa wrote:IMO it's more about contemplating the apparent similarities and differences found in the different historical strata of received tradition. This should always be approached with a sense of humility and respect. But I would suggest that at some point one has to begin to see through and let go of the layers of conceptual filtering and hone in on the actual soteriological message of the Pāḷi discourses. I think this is primarily what Ven. Ñāṇananda has been pointing to for the past 40 years.


If I understand you correctly, you reject commentaries because they are words of some other monks and aren't the words of historical Buddha. Right?

By agreeing with Ven. Ñāṇananda interpretation of the suttas, aren't you in a way, agreeing with ... a commentary and a very late one! His commentary is later than Mahayana, Vajrayana and so on. It is a commentary of a Ven. Ñāṇananda (who may be right). Suttas themselves as we know them were recited first by Ven. Ananda (a Thera) and then recited by hundreds and thousands of Elder Theras throught the ages until being written down.

Some criticise VsM by saying that it is a commentary written 1,000 years later then historical Buddha has lived. But Ven. Ñāṇananda, Ven. Thanissaro, and other Venerable modern monks, are living ~2,500 later than the Buddha!

BTW, VsM is a collection of much earlier commentaries. So only as a compilation it is 1,000 later than historical Buddha has lived.

So you seem to reject certain, but not ALL types of commentary.

This brings to a question of: why do you agree with one commentary over the other?


With metta,

Alex
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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby pt1 » Sun Jun 27, 2010 3:55 am

Thanks for your reply Geoff.
Ñāṇa wrote:
pt1 wrote:Or perhaps more fundamentally if you like - can I be aware of a sound and a sight at exactly the same time?

In the long history of early sectarian Buddhism, there were basically three general views posited regarding the process of cognition: (1) every mind and mental factor have to arise consecutively and none can arise concurrently; (2) every mind can arise with a number of concomitant mental factors (cetasika-s), but no two types of consciousness can arise concurrently; (3) any number of the six consciousnesses can arise concomitantly (i.e. simultaneously) along with various concomitant mental factors.

Yes, my understanding of this topic is similar. So, in fact, I was hoping we can discuss this issue from the practical side, which is why I asked in terms of what one is practically "aware of". I mean, I do like the abhidhamma explanation of the whole thing, but I understand you have different preferences, so I'm not really interested in convincing you that abhidhamma is right, but I'm more interested in understanding why you think what you think, and hopefully understand it by being able to relate to what you say from the practical side.

So, when you say
Ñāṇa wrote:By the time that pītisukha has arisen, the mental factors of both samatha and vipassanā should be developed enough that the meditator can remain simultaneously mindful and fully aware of both the apperception of pītisukha as well as the momentary flux of that very apperception of pītisukha. Thus samatha and vipassanā are developed to the degree that they can be conjoined. At this point one has developed the necessary and sufficient conditions of the first jhāna as sammāsamādhi. Here all the mental factors (the dhamma-s of vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, cittekaggatā, phassa, vedanā, saññā, cetanā, citta, chanda, adhimokkha, vīriya, sati, upekkhā, and manasikāra) are working together in complete harmony.

I can relate to that I think both practically and in theory. E.g. it particularly reminds me of how dry insight workers describe their experience of insight - when both vipassana and samatha of access level arise simultaneously. But, would I be correct in understanding that the main difference would be that in the dry insight case (though obviously not quite so dry), the object of focus is not selected, so whatever arises at the instance is an object good enough, while in your case, you in fact remain focused on pitisukha, right?

Another thing that seems interesting is the difference between what you say above - samatha and vipassana together, versus samatha only case below
Ñāṇa wrote:...by practicing ānāpānasati (for example), until the mind has settled and the body is at ease, the beginner can develop samatha without vipassanā, by mindfully attending to the felt-sense of pleasure (sukha) when it arises.

How exactly would you define the difference between the two cases - i.e. the difference between "mindfully attending" to pitisukha in case of samatha only, and "simultaneously mindful and fully aware of both the apperception of pītisukha as well as the momentary flux of that very apperception of pītisukha" in the case of samatha+vipassana? As I understand it, the main difference is that in the first case you are not aware of what you call "momentary flux", right? Would that flux be equivalent to the general characteristics maybe - like anicca or anatta?

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 27, 2010 5:48 am

Alex123 wrote: This brings to a question of: why do you agree with one commentary over the other?

Hi Alex,

It's quite simple. The criteria is explicitly stated in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta. The four great references (mahāpadesā) clearly explain that concerning issues regarding the clarification or authenticity of Dhammavinaya, the dhamma of the sutta-s and the rules of the vinaya are the sole authority. Any commentary or interpretation of dhamma needs to be verified by tracing it back to the sutta-s.

The Mahāvihāra claim that the dhamma referred to in the mahāpadesā includes the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, and that the Abhidhamma Piṭaka was spoken by the Buddha (excepting the Kathāvatthu), cannot be sustained because the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, as well as the abhiddhamika exegeses now found in the Khuddakanikāya, are all post-schismatic sectarian compositions which couldn't have existed at the time of the Buddha's parinibbāna.

If the compositions of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, etc., were extant at that time, and were considered to have been spoken by the Buddha, then (1) all of the early Nikāya sects would have very similar abhidhamma compositions (just as they have very similar sutta compositions); and (2) all of the early Nikāya sects would have unquestionably considered their own abhidhamma collections to have been spoken by the Buddha. Neither of these are the case. Therefore, it can safely be concluded that the Abhidhamma Piṭaka and the abhiddhamika exegeses now found in the Khuddakanikāya are all post-schismatic sectarian compositions.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 27, 2010 6:37 am

pt1 wrote:would I be correct in understanding that the main difference would be that in the dry insight case (though obviously not quite so dry), the object of focus is not selected, so whatever arises at the instance is an object good enough, while in your case, you in fact remain focused on pitisukha, right?

Hi pt1,

Right. But the preliminary mindful attention is directed towards the simple felt-sense of pleasantness/pleasure (sukha). Pītisukha of the first jhāna is far, far more pleasurable, expansive, etc.

pt1 wrote:How exactly would you define the difference between the two cases - i.e. the difference between "mindfully attending" to pitisukha in case of samatha only, and "simultaneously mindful and fully aware of both the apperception of pītisukha as well as the momentary flux of that very apperception of pītisukha" in the case of samatha+vipassana? As I understand it, the main difference is that in the first case you are not aware of what you call "momentary flux", right? Would that flux be equivalent to the general characteristics maybe - like anicca or anatta?

For a beginner practicing in order to develop samatha, it's usually better to start off with just mindfully attending to the simple felt-sense of pleasantness/pleasure (sukha) without attending to the characteristic of momentary flux. This specifically refers to the characteristic of alteration while persisting (ṭhitassa aññathatta), which is an aspect of the impermanence of all fabrications (saṅkhāra-s). BTW, in its sutta usage this should not be confused with the commentarial theory of radical momentariness (khaṇavāda).

Samatha at that preliminary stage of development is not yet sammāsamādhi.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby pt1 » Sun Jun 27, 2010 8:16 am

Hi Geoff, I'll reply to this separately as it's not so much about practice but more about our interpretation of the texts, so here I don't mind a bit of an argument.
Ñāṇa wrote:
pt1 wrote:E.g. if he is really saying what you think he’s saying, then to me that goes directly against that SN sutta where the Buddha quite clearly says that aggregates which are anicca, dukkha and anatta, are said to exist by the wise, which imo is the same thing that the commentaries are saying on their own terms.

The sutta is SN 22.94 (S iii 138) Puppha Sutta. And the term translated as "it exists" is atthi, which doesn't have any realist connotations whatsoever. It could well be translated as "it is."

Thanks, that's the sutta. Yes, I think it's open to interpretation what "it exists" means. To me, when it's contrasted with non-existence of aggregates that are permanent, self, etc, it means that an aggregate (which is anicca, dukkha and anatta) is something that can be practically experienced in insight. I mean, if such an aggregate was just a concepts equivalent to that unicorn that Alex recently mentioned, then I don't think the Buddha would have the need to say that it exist, or even that "it is", as you say, because the unicorn obviously "is not" even though we can think it.

Ñāṇa wrote:It is very far from the ontological and realist implications of the commentarial "sabhāva."

Of course, different things can be read into the commentaries by different people. I personally feel that ascribing to commentaries various "realist, atomisitic, etc" interpretations are not correct. One particular quote I remember in this regard is from the MN tika that I saved from one of robertk's posts:
the majjhimanikaya tika (mulapariyaya sutta) has the following
to say. I use bhikkhu bodhi's translation p39.
It comments on the atthakatha which says "they bear their own
characteristics, thus they are dhammas."
The tika(subcommentary ) notes. "although there are no dhammas
devoid of their own characteristics this is said fro the purpose
of showing that mere dhammas endowed with their specific natures
devoid of such attributes as being etc... whereas such entities
as self, permanence or nature, soul, body etc are mere
misconstructions due to craving and views...and cannot be
discovered as ultinately real actualities, these dhammas
(ie.those endowed with a specific sabhava) can. these dhammas
are discovered as actually real actualties. And although there
IS NO REAL DISTINCTION between these dhammas and their
characteristics, still, in order to facilitate understanding,
the exposition makes a distinction as a mere metaphorical
device.
Also they are borne, or they are discerned, known ,
acccording to their specific nature, thus they are dhammas"

To me this says at least two things:
1. sabhava is equivalent to the characteristics of a dhamma - individual and general characteristics.
2. practical experience of a dhamma is NO DIFFERENT to the experience of these characteristics.

So in my mind, this is absolutely identical to when the suttas say:
Form is impermanent, feeling is impermanent, etc for the rest of the aggregates, as well as anatta and dukha combinations.

which in commentarial speak equals to:
form = individual characteristic, impermanent = general characteristic, etc.

So, if considering both the suttas and commentaries in terms of describing a practical experience of insight, rather than engaging in some sort of philosophying, then imo they are speaking about the same practical experience.

Best wishes

edit: as I'm previewing this massage, I see you already replied to my previous one - thanks very much, I'll take some time to consider it
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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 27, 2010 9:45 am

pt1 wrote:Hi Geoff, I'll reply to this separately as it's not so much about practice but more about our interpretation of the texts, so here I don't mind a bit of an argument.

Hi pt1,

I've taken the liberty of starting a new thread: Reliability of Mahāvihāra Commentaries?... Right View. The issues now under discussion pertain directly to right view (sammādiṭṭhi). How this informs and qualifies right meditation (sammāsamādhi) is a related issue of course, but I think it's worth discussing the view first.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby pt1 » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:58 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
pt1 wrote:would I be correct in understanding that the main difference would be that in the dry insight case (though obviously not quite so dry), the object of focus is not selected, so whatever arises at the instance is an object good enough, while in your case, you in fact remain focused on pitisukha, right?

Right. But the preliminary mindful attention is directed towards the simple felt-sense of pleasantness/pleasure (sukha). Pītisukha of the first jhāna is far, far more pleasurable, expansive, etc.

Thanks Geoff. So, to go a bit further now - when you are attending to pitisukha:
- How do you know that you are in fact experiencing pitisukha, as opposed to craving for pleasant feeling, for example? I mix these two up very, very often.
- How do you know that you are in fact experiencing pitisukha, and not a very recent memory of it? E.g. often when I experience pitisukha, I then soon become aware that I'm still focusing on that recent experience, rather than on the actual pitisukha happening right now.
- How would you describe the difference between an experience of pitisukha, and an experience of remembering an experience of pitisukha?

Ñāṇa wrote:
pt1 wrote:How exactly would you define the difference between the two cases - i.e. the difference between "mindfully attending" to pitisukha in case of samatha only, and "simultaneously mindful and fully aware of both the apperception of pītisukha as well as the momentary flux of that very apperception of pītisukha" in the case of samatha+vipassana? As I understand it, the main difference is that in the first case you are not aware of what you call "momentary flux", right? Would that flux be equivalent to the general characteristics maybe - like anicca or anatta?

For a beginner practicing in order to develop samatha, it's usually better to start off with just mindfully attending to the simple felt-sense of pleasantness/pleasure (sukha) without attending to the characteristic of momentary flux. This specifically refers to the characteristic of alteration while persisting (ṭhitassa aññathatta), which is an aspect of the impermanence of all fabrications (saṅkhāra-s). BTW, in its sutta usage this should not be confused with the commentarial theory of radical momentariness (khaṇavāda).


So, what you're saying is that samatha without attending to the characteristic of momentary flux is not sammasamadhi, right?
Ñāṇa wrote:Samatha at that preliminary stage of development is not yet sammāsamādhi.

This is a bit confusing to me, I mean if something is not sammasamadhi, then it can only be micchasamadhi, no? Or is there a category in between, which is sort of neutral?

Also, could you please say a bit more about the experience of the "characteristic of momentary flux"? I think i know what experience you're trying to convey, but it would be good to be sure. Thanks.

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:19 am

pt1 wrote:So, to go a bit further now - when you are attending to pitisukha:
- How do you know that you are in fact experiencing pitisukha, as opposed to craving for pleasant feeling, for example? I mix these two up very, very often.
- How do you know that you are in fact experiencing pitisukha, and not a very recent memory of it? E.g. often when I experience pitisukha, I then soon become aware that I'm still focusing on that recent experience, rather than on the actual pitisukha happening right now.
- How would you describe the difference between an experience of pitisukha, and an experience of remembering an experience of pitisukha?

Hi pt1,

These are questions that we each have to answer for ourselves by refining our apperception. (Or with your teacher if you have one.)

pt1 wrote:This is a bit confusing to me, I mean if something is not sammasamadhi, then it can only be micchasamadhi, no? Or is there a category in between, which is sort of neutral?

Sammāsamādhi is samatha and vipassanā developed to the stage of the first jhāna. This doesn't mean that the development of samatha and/or vipassanā prior to the first jhāna is wrong samādhi. They are just stages of preliminary development. For example, if one takes the following excerpt from DN 2 to refer to the stages of samatha development after the hindrances have been abandoned, yet prior to entering the first jhāna where pītisukha is fully present, then it can be seen how samatha leads to jhāna:

    Seeing that [the hindrances] have been abandoned within him, he becomes glad. Glad, he becomes joyous. Joyful, his body grows tranquil (pītimanassa kāyo passambhati). His body tranquil, he is sensitive to pleasure (passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti). Feeling pleasure, his mind becomes concentrated (sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati).

pt1 wrote:Also, could you please say a bit more about the experience of the "characteristic of momentary flux"? I think i know what experience you're trying to convey, but it would be good to be sure. Thanks.

I'm always reticent to discuss these things too openly where anyone can read it. It one sense, this is a private and personal matter to be discussed with one's teacher and closest dhamma friends.... Anyway, the specifics can vary, but I'll try to offer a brief description.

Prior to the arising of pītisukha, the inner felt-sense of the entire body is experienced as a continual flux of subtle vibrational energy-sensations flowing throughout the whole body. It's important for awareness to be expansive enough so that it can experience the entire body without it collapsing into attending to any specific tactile sensations. The body is calm and the mind is wide open and at ease. By remaining aware in this way, pītisukha eventually arises spontaneously as waves of universal bliss coursing throughout the body. It feels like passing through an invisible 'membrane' wherein all sense of constriction is simply gone and the felt-sense of the body vastly expands along with waves of universal bliss.

But no part of this experience is static. There is a vast, expansive flowing of waves of pītisukha (it's really beyond what can be described in words to anyone who hasn't experienced it). Anyway, that's what I call the characteristic of momentary flux of pītisukha.

If this isn't helpful to you then disregard it.

Geoff
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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:23 am

Greetings Geoff,

Thank you for sharing that.

I find the perception of flux interesting, because it always pertains to an object or point of reference.

In other words, if we were talking of one of the channels of consciousness, we could say "X is changing", where X is sound, or sight, or mind etc.

If the bracketing of one's perception were relating to things of a smaller range, we would say "Y is arising, Y is passing away". What constitutes the X is a multiplicity of Y's.

For example, "sound is changing" (an example of X), could consist of many examples of Y... "person talking is arising and passing away", "car sound is arising and passing away", "fan sound is arising and falling with great rapidity".

Whether it is flux of X or flux of Y, it is still flux "of something". We could even bundle up experience of all the six-consciousnesses and know what "The combination of X1,X2,X3,X4,X5,X6 are changing" (i.e. loka is changing).

In a practical sense, which level of flux (e.g. sum of Xs, X, or Y.... or in other words loka, consciousness-channel, individual object of consciousness) is best to perceive if one wishes to uproot erroneous perceptions of self? At what level of zoom is perception best set - macro or micro?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:I find the perception of flux interesting, because it always pertains to an object or point of reference.

Hi Retro,

Indeed. Which is why it isn't the end of the path. One has to eventually see through all reference points.

retrofuturist wrote:In other words, if we were talking of one of the channels of consciousness, we could say "X is changing", where X is sound, or sight, or mind etc.

If the bracketing of one's perception were relating to things of a smaller range, we would say "Y is arising, Y is passing away". What constitutes the X is a multiplicity of Y's.

For example, "sound is changing" (an example of X), could consist of many examples of Y... "person talking is arising and passing away", "car sound is arising and passing away", "fan sound is arising and falling with great rapidity".

To me this seems unnecessarily reductionist (if I'm reading what you're saying accurately). The alteration while persisting (ṭhitassa aññathatta) of any saṅkhāra (X) is what can be empirically experienced. Any further reduction of that saṅkhāra into a multiplicity of Y's arising and passing away throughout the experiential contact (phassa) of X, can at best, only be designated based on inference. It can't be empirically discerned. (According to Karunadasa the commentaries also maintain that radical momentary arising (uppāda), duration (ṭhiti), and dissolution (bhaṅga) is only understood inferentially).

retrofuturist wrote:In a practical sense, which level of flux (e.g. sum of Xs, X, or Y.... or in other words loka, consciousness-channel, individual object of consciousness) is best to perceive if one wishes to uproot erroneous perceptions of self?

All of 'em!... :D With regard to saṅkhāra-s, the relative alteration while persisting (ṭhitassa aññathatta) during any sensory contact is the same for the momentary flux of the feeling, the apperception, and the sensory consciousness (even though this flux cannot be quantified, i.e. the immediate experiential present cannot be measured). If there is an abrupt change in feeling, for example, from pleasure to pain, even if we conventionally designate the sensory object as the same referent, something has occurred even at the level of sensory consciousness which would be most accurately designated as a passing away of one process of sensory cognition and the arising of another (which still doesn't entail radical momentariness).

This is why designation is such a slippery snake at any level of reference, no matter how reductionist we choose to be. What we designate as an object is just a phantom with no real referent that can ultimately be established. The same is true for all of the dhamma-s of each of the aggregates. And the same is true for any experiential measurement of duration. The closer we look, the more elusive the referent. Until eventually we see through the cruel game of tyrannical empiricism altogether....

If I've misunderstood what you were asking, we can try again.

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:02 am

Greetings Ñāṇa,

Ñāṇa wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:In a practical sense, which level of flux (e.g. sum of Xs, X, or Y.... or in other words loka, consciousness-channel, individual object of consciousness) is best to perceive if one wishes to uproot erroneous perceptions of self?

All of 'em!... :D With regard to saṅkhāra-s, the relative alteration while persisting (ṭhitassa aññathatta) during any sensory contact is the same for the momentary flux of the feeling, the apperception, and the sensory consciousness (even though this flux cannot be quantified, i.e. the immediate experiential present cannot be measured). If there is an abrupt change in feeling, for example, from pleasure to pain, even if we conventionally designate the sensory object as the same referent, something has occurred even at the level of sensory consciousness which would be most accurately designated as a passing away of one process of sensory cognition and the arising of another (which still doesn't entail radical momentariness).

This is why designation is such a slippery snake at any level of reference, no matter how reductionist we choose to be. What we designate as an object is just a phantom with no real referent that can ultimately be established. The same is true for all of the dhamma-s of each of the aggregates. And the same is true for any experiential measurement of duration. The closer we look, the more elusive the referent. Until eventually we see through the cruel game of tyrannical empiricism altogether....

If I've misunderstood what you were asking, we can try again.

Actually, I think you've hit it right on the head. Thanks. My perspective echoes yours here, and it's nice to see that someone else who gives primary importance to the suttas, understands it in a like fashion.

I agree the earlier aspect of the post was overly reductionist, but felt it was required in order to provide some "practical" context in which the "loka" vs "consciousness-channel" vs "individual object of consciousness" distinction could be established as being relevant, without it being written-off by others as an attempt to prove or disprove some obscure or irrelevant philosophical tangent.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 02, 2010 10:05 am

Hi Retro, Geoff,
retrofuturist wrote:I agree the earlier aspect of the post was overly reductionist, but felt it was required in order to provide some "practical" context in which the "loka" vs "consciousness-channel" vs "individual object of consciousness" distinction could be established as being relevant, without it being written-off by others as an attempt to prove or disprove some obscure or irrelevant philosophical tangent.

Yes, this looks like a useful conversation. It's interesting to have some practical descriptions, rather than philosophy...

I'd be interested in hearing how you would see the difference (if any) between this description:
Ñāṇa wrote:If there is an abrupt change in feeling, for example, from pleasure to pain, even if we conventionally designate the sensory object as the same referent, something has occurred even at the level of sensory consciousness which would be most accurately designated as a passing away of one process of sensory cognition and the arising of another (which still doesn't entail radical momentarines).

and the descriptions such as the following that we find the Visuddhimagga:
VISM XX,65
... He considers thus: The elements and the kinds of derived materiality during the lifting up [of the foot] all ceased there without reaching the shifting forward: therefore they are impermanent, painful, not-self. ... [other stages of walking] ....
Thus formations keep breaking up, like crackling sesanum seeds put into a hot pan; wherever they arise, there they cease stage by stage, section by section, term by term, each without reaching the next part: therefore they are impermanent, painful, not-self.

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:24 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
VISM XX,65
... He considers thus: The elements and the kinds of derived materiality during the lifting up [of the foot] all ceased there without reaching the shifting forward: therefore they are impermanent, painful, not-self. ... [other stages of walking] ....
Thus formations keep breaking up, like crackling sesanum seeds put into a hot pan; wherever they arise, there they cease stage by stage, section by section, term by term, each without reaching the next part: therefore they are impermanent, painful, not-self.

Hi Mike,

I would consider this to be nothing more than conceptual proliferation. How is one to directly cognize or even infer the cessation of the four internal elements based on the movements of the body? It isn't empirically possible, nor is it inferentially valid. It is purely a conceptual filter which has no practical application.

Ven. Buddhaghoṣa, Vism 8.39:

    As to the shortness of the moment: in the ultimate sense the life-moment of living beings is extremely short, being only as much as the occurrence of a single conscious moment. Just as a chariot wheel, when it is rolling, rolls [that is, touches the ground] only on one point of [the circumference of] its tyre, and, when it is at rest, rests only on one point, so too, the life of living beings lasts only for a single conscious moment. When that consciousness has ceased, the being is said to have ceased....
I would suggest that there is no "in the ultimate sense" with regard to cognition based on the individuation of particulars, and that "the occurrence of a single conscious moment" is mere designation, just as "being" is mere designation. Neither can be discerned when one applies vipassanā thoroughly.

All the best,

Geoff

[Edit: typo]
Last edited by Nyana on Fri Jul 02, 2010 7:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby yuttadhammo » Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:44 pm

porpoise wrote:Could you say in a nutshell how you see the essential difference between samatha and vipassana?
I've been thinking of it as the difference between samadhi and sati ( concentration v. mindfulness ), but after some reading around I'm not as clear as I thought I was. Thanks in anticipation. :smile:

P


samatha and vipassana are the results of meditation practice and have nothing to do with debates such as this. An essential difference is only apparent when dealing with traditional meditation techniques (such as are described in the Visuddhimagga, for example). Otherwise, in the practice of mindful contemplation of the five aggregates (= four satipatthana), both tranquility (samatha=samadhi) and insight (vipassana=pa~n~naa,wisdom) are required and go hand in hand. In traditional meditation techniques, one would focus on something imaginary, like the buddha, a colour, an element, etc., and calm the mind without gaining insight into reality (the object being a mental illusion). One would then use that focused state of mind to develop insight by switching the object from the mental illusion to the mental and physical states associated with the meditation itself. This would be equivalent to contemplating the five aggregates or four satipatthana.

It is telling that meditation threads always get the most debate - it should tell us that we are struggling in our meditation, which I think is okay and a part of the practice. It is surely even better, though, if we can overcome the need to confirm our point of view and get back to the struggle :)

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:56 pm

yuttadhammo wrote:It is telling that meditation threads always get the most debate - it should tell us that we are struggling in our meditation, which I think is okay and a part of the practice. It is surely even better, though, if we can overcome the need to confirm our point of view and get back to the struggle

Hi Ven. Yuttadhammo,

I'd suggest that it's telling of the confusion created by the Visuddhimagga's convoluted treatment of the issue.

It's surely better, instead of attempting to confirm any particular point of view, to clarify sammāsamādhi so that there is no need for any unnecessary "struggle."

Best wishes,

Geoff
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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 02, 2010 8:16 pm

HI Geoff,
Ñāṇa wrote:I would suggest that there is no "in the ultimate sense" with regard to cognition based on the individuation of particulars, and that "the occurrence of a single conscious moment" is mere designation, just as "being" is mere designation. Neither can be discerned when one applies vipassanā thoroughly.

OK, thanks for explaining the difference you see.

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby pt1 » Sat Jul 03, 2010 6:38 am

Thanks for your reply Geoff.
Ñāṇa wrote:
pt1 wrote:So, to go a bit further now - when you are attending to pitisukha:
- How do you know that you are in fact experiencing pitisukha, as opposed to craving for pleasant feeling, for example? I mix these two up very, very often.
- How do you know that you are in fact experiencing pitisukha, and not a very recent memory of it? E.g. often when I experience pitisukha, I then soon become aware that I'm still focusing on that recent experience, rather than on the actual pitisukha happening right now.
- How would you describe the difference between an experience of pitisukha, and an experience of remembering an experience of pitisukha?

These are questions that we each have to answer for ourselves by refining our apperception. (Or with your teacher if you have one.)

Ok, so I guess we agree that there is a difference between a direct experience and a memory of it. In that regard:

1. how fast would you say it happens that a direct experience is replaced by a memory of it? In my experience it's very, very fast. Quarter of a second, tenth of a second, can't tell, but it's very fast.
2. when you focus on pitisukha - does it matter to you whether you focus on direct experience or on a memory of it?
3. Is there a difference between samatha and sammasamadhi in that regard? E.g. for samatha, focusing on both direct experience and memory are okay, while for sammasamadhi only direct experience is a valid object of focus?

Ñāṇa wrote:Sammāsamādhi is samatha and vipassanā developed to the stage of the first jhāna. This doesn't mean that the development of samatha and/or vipassanā prior to the first jhāna is wrong samādhi. They are just stages of preliminary development.

Hm, okay, so following that definition, I'd assume that there still has to be some sort of panna in samatha prior to sammasamdhi, so that samatha wouldn't be micchasamadhi, right? So, what is panna understanding at the time of samatha (before sammasamadhi)?

Ñāṇa wrote:
pt1 wrote:Also, could you please say a bit more about the experience of the "characteristic of momentary flux"? I think i know what experience you're trying to convey, but it would be good to be sure. Thanks.

...
But no part of this experience is static. There is a vast, expansive flowing of waves of pītisukha (it's really beyond what can be described in words to anyone who hasn't experienced it). Anyway, that's what I call the characteristic of momentary flux of pītisukha.

Ok thanks. If I can ask a bit further - the way you describe momentary flux of pitisukha seems to include both the mental feeling, the bodily feeling, tactile (bodily) sensations, as well as various mental operations that recognise all this - perception, attention, etc (not to mention the possibility of this not being direct experiences, but memory replacing them), and then perceiving the whole thing as a flux. So, in what way would you say that such conglomerated experience of pitisukha flux is different from conceptual proliferation? Of course, I'm not saying it is necessarily so, or that proliferation is a bad thing, just wondering what's your reasoning behind it. Thanks.

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby dhamma follower » Sat Jul 03, 2010 4:50 pm

Ok, so I guess we agree that there is a difference between a direct experience and a memory of it. In that regard:

1. how fast would you say it happens that a direct experience is replaced by a memory of it? In my experience it's very, very fast. Quarter of a second, tenth of a second, can't tell, but it's very fast.
2. when you focus on pitisukha - does it matter to you whether you focus on direct experience or on a memory of it?
3. Is there a difference between samatha and sammasamadhi in that regard? E.g. for samatha, focusing on both direct experience and memory are okay, while for sammasamadhi only direct experience is a valid object of focus?


Pt1, I think here you hit the nail !

I am not very learned in either Suttas or Commentaries, but it seems quite obvious that direct experience of sabava should happen only with hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting and mind door. Since through these doors we make up our delusional world, it should be through them we are liberated, when they can be directly understood as anicca, dukkha, anatta.

When hearing, the "I" making happens at the moment it arises without clear comprehension that it's just hearing happening, the content of the hearing doesn't matter.

When seeing, the "I" making happen at the moment it arises without clear comprehension that it's just seeing happening, the content of the seeing doesn't matter.

and so on
....
In the case of feelings, which are objects of the mind-door, the content of the feelings (happy, unhappy, neutral…) doesn’t matter. The mind that perceives it does.

This is a matter of sharpness of mindfulness. When mindfulness is present right at the beginning of the cognition process i.e, at the arising of hearing, seeing, touching…., it can see through its true nature (dependently co- arising, selfless). When mindfulness is “slower” than the cognition process, what it retains is only the memory of what has happened – or the conceptualizing part of it, that means delusion has set in.

I agree with pt1 that most often, what we perceive is only the memory of the experience. That's how we live almost constantly in delusion.

In my understanding, ultimate reality refers to the beginning of the cognition process, and all what follows is the process of conceptualization. Example: when you hear a sound, hearing is ultimate reality, what is heard is concept. What is heard is not a problem, the problem is we fail to catch the arising of the hearing.

According to the above ,vipassana happens only when mindfulness is sharp enough to catch the beginning of the cognition process , or putting it another way,vipassana is the result of direct experience of ultimate reality .

And this “beginning” also has different degrees, corresponding to different levels of insight.

For me, from a practical POV, the distinction between “paramatha” and “pannati” perfectly makes sense.

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Re: Samatha v. vipassana?

Postby Nyana » Sat Jul 03, 2010 6:18 pm

pt1 wrote:1. how fast would you say it happens that a direct experience is replaced by a memory of it? In my experience it's very, very fast. Quarter of a second, tenth of a second, can't tell, but it's very fast.
2. when you focus on pitisukha - does it matter to you whether you focus on direct experience or on a memory of it?
3. Is there a difference between samatha and sammasamadhi in that regard? E.g. for samatha, focusing on both direct experience and memory are okay, while for sammasamadhi only direct experience is a valid object of focus?

Hi pt1,

When the mind has developed to the point of being fully present and silent there is no impediment of lapsing into memory -- but this doesn't mean that one has seen through all possible reference points. This is why samatha or samādhi isn't enough. One has to continually develop and refine vipassanā from within samādhi. Hence, sammāsamādhi.

pt1 wrote:Of course, I'm not saying it is necessarily so, or that proliferation is a bad thing, just wondering what's your reasoning behind it. Thanks.

To approach this by way of experience: taste it yourself and see. Afterward you can superimpose whatever conceptual filters that you wish. Or you might even be able to drop the cruel game of tyrannical empiricism altogether. BTW, according to the discourses, mental proliferation is a bad thing.

All the best,

Geoff
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