Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:15 am

Freawaru wrote:Does, in this tradition, "included within a form realm" mean that one looses perception of the physical body and the external senses?

Yes. The Tibetan traditions rely on the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra and the Abhidharmakośa, which were composed during the same classical period of Indian Buddhist commentary as the Visuddhimagga, when abhidhamma terms and models had already become fairly standardized. Thus, the phenomenological descriptions of jhāna are similar. According to the Tibetan schools, one still experiences the physical and mental pliancy and bliss of the form realm in jhāna. Geshe Gedun Lodro, Calm Abiding and Special Insight:

    The yogic practitioner's body, to begin with, is an obstructive body, produced from past contaminated actions and afflictive emotions. Through the power of having cultivated meditative stabilization, the practitioner has made a form that is equal to the space of, and occupies the same area as, her or his obstructive body. Not only does the shadow-like pliancy pervade the entire body; it becomes of an undifferentiable entity with that body. Whatever potencies physical pliancy has arise for the body.

In Theravāda commentarial terms, the form portion of the "whole body" (sabbakāya) experienced in jhāna is mind-produced form which pervades the physical body. The Dīghanikāyaṭīkā:

    Mind-produced form (cittajarūpa) suffuses every area where there is kamma-produced form (kammajarūpa).

The Vimuttimagga:

    Just as the bath-powder when inside and outside saturated with moisture, adheres and does not scatter, so the body of the meditator in the first jhāna is permeated with joy and pleasure from top to bottom, from the skullcap to the feet and from the feet to the skullcap, skin and hair, inside and outside. And he dwells without falling back. Thus he dwells like a Brahma god.

    [Q.] Joy (pīti) and pleasure (sukha) are said to be formless phenomena (arūpa-dhamma). How then can they stay permeating the body?

    [A.] Name (nāma) depends on form (rūpa). Form depends on name. Therefore, if name has joy, form also has joy. If name has pleasure, form also has pleasure.

    Again, form born from joy causes tranquility of body, and when the entire body is tranquillized there is pleasure due to the tranquility of form. Therefore there is no contradiction.

Freawaru wrote:I am just trying to understand this in the light of the endless "jhana debate" (is one or is one not perceptive of the physical body and the external senses when in jhana ?).

It's a very ancient debate. One version of it is recorded right in the Abhidharmakośabhāsya. There were, and still are, sautrāntikas who maintain that the internal felt-sense of pleasure (sukha) experienced in jhāna is produced by internal winds within the body. The Abhidharmakośabhāsya:

    In the state of absorption, the body is penetrated by a wind born of excellent mental samādhi; this wind is tangible which is agreeably felt (sukhavedanīya) and is called well-being. Hence there is produced a tactile consciousness.

IMO this is just another way of trying to describe the same experience as described in the above quotations.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Sun Jul 10, 2011 2:18 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
manjusri wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:Yes, I should have been more precise. However, my point was that the first proximate meditative stabilization is not a desire plane mind.

Yes, this is correct and thanks to my exchange with you, I've been disabused of the mistaken notion I've carried with me for years now that the proximate meditative stabilization must still be in the desire realm because one can still arouse passion for tantric practice.

Yes, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche is very explicit on this point regarding nyer bsdogs mi lcogs med. Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism p. 70:

    It is called calm abiding because the meditator has calmed the distraction of the mind to external objects and the mind abides stably on an internal object of observation. At the same time, the meditator attains the preparation (nyer bsdogs, sāmantaka) called the not-unable (mi lcog med, anāgamya), which is a mind not of the desire realm, but of the form realm.

It's worth noting that according to this understanding where the proximate meditative stabilization is a form realm mind, the proximate meditative stabilization cannot be equivalent to the Theravāda access samādhi (upacārasamādhi) as Alan Wallace has asserted. According to Ledi Sayādaw's Ānāpāna Dīpani, access samādhi is still a sense-sphere meditation (kāmāvacarabhāvanā), i.e. included within the desire realm plane. This means that a better equivalent for access samādhi is the ninth mental abiding, setting in equipoise (samādhāna, mnyam par 'jog pa), which is also a desire realm mind.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Freawaru » Sun Jul 10, 2011 6:46 pm

Hi Geoff,

thank you for all the information :smile:

Could you please answer Manjushri's question, too:

Manjushri wrote:I can't imagine, personally, how one would be capable of advancing up through the nine stages of shamatha while, at the same time, engaging in insight practice? I would imagine that anything that takes your mind off your object (mine was the breath) would be considered a distraction?


If I understand it correctly now sati (mindfulness) is present from stage 3 onwards, which is way before access concentration of the Visuddhimagga mode (that is identical to stage 9). This means one can refrain from entering stronger concentration at any time and analyse the stage present. To move to a next stage one has to stop the analysis and reinforce concentration which is a matter of strength. Sati stays present at all times but one cannot "lean back" and simply observe if one wants to increase the concentration.

The question about insight remains, though. What exactly is the difference between sati (mindfulness), uppekha (looking on), and vipassana (insight)? They all refer to some kind of "sight". Also, it seems to me that when Theravadans speak of vipassana they often mean sati, coupled with analysis, so I am not really sure what vipassana is in contrast to sati and also how it relates to uppekha.
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:16 pm

Freawaru wrote:
Manjushri wrote:I can't imagine, personally, how one would be capable of advancing up through the nine stages of shamatha while, at the same time, engaging in insight practice? I would imagine that anything that takes your mind off your object (mine was the breath) would be considered a distraction?

If I understand it correctly now sati (mindfulness) is present from stage 3 onwards, which is way before access concentration of the Visuddhimagga mode (that is identical to stage 9). This means one can refrain from entering stronger concentration at any time and analyse the stage present. To move to a next stage one has to stop the analysis and reinforce concentration which is a matter of strength. Sati stays present at all times but one cannot "lean back" and simply observe if one wants to increase the concentration.

Well, this is where the comparisons between traditions can create confusion. (And why one should learn one tradition!) In brief, mindfulness and full awareness are to be employed during all nine stages in the Indo-Tibetan system. But in the Indo-Tibetan system there are subjects listed under samatha meditation, such as observation of the five aggregates, twelve sensory spheres, and eighteen elements, which are considered as subjects for developing vipassanā in the Theravāda system. (For example, I know of one Tibetan lama who's lived in the West for many years, who considers Theravāda vipassanā meditation to be samatha meditation according to his tradition.)

In the Theravāda system, instead of the progression of nine mental abidings leading to dhyāna, there is the progression of momentary samādhi (khaṇikasamādhi), access samādhi (upacārasamādhi), and fixed samādhi (appaṇāsamādhi) which is jhāna. If one is practicing vipassanā, then one is developing momentary samādhi. And when momentary samādhi is fully developed it has the same strength as access samādhi -- meaning that the hindrances will be abandoned and won't impede one's practice as long as this level of samādhi is maintained.

Freawaru wrote:The question about insight remains, though. What exactly is the difference between sati (mindfulness), uppekha (looking on), and vipassana (insight)?

Sati includes the quality of remembrance ("bringing to mind"). Upekkhā includes the affective quality of equanimity ("mental evenness"). Vipassanā includes the cognitive qualities of recognition and discernment ("understanding"). With vipassanā one begins by primarily recognizing the impermanent characteristic -- the change or "becoming otherwise" -- of observed phenomena. This recognition becomes more subtle and pervasive as practice deepens.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:52 am

[/quote]
Yes, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche is very explicit on this point regarding nyer bsdogs mi lcogs med. Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism p. 70:

    It is called calm abiding because the meditator has calmed the distraction of the mind to external objects and the mind abides stably on an internal object of observation. At the same time, the meditator attains the preparation (nyer bsdogs, sāmantaka) called the not-unable (mi lcog med, anāgamya), which is a mind not of the desire realm, but of the form realm.

Thanks for this reference. I'm impressed with your understanding of both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions!

[/quote]
It's worth noting that according to this understanding where the proximate meditative stabilization is a form realm mind, the proximate meditative stabilization cannot be equivalent to the Theravāda access samādhi (upacārasamādhi) as Alan Wallace has asserted. According to Ledi Sayādaw's Ānāpāna Dīpani, access samādhi is still a sense-sphere meditation (kāmāvacarabhāvanā), i.e. included within the desire realm plane. This means that a better equivalent for access samādhi is the ninth mental abiding, setting in equipoise (samādhāna, mnyam par 'jog pa), which is also a desire realm mind.[/quote]

I'll have to get back to you on this. I sent Alan off an email with this quote of yours. He admitted he could be wrong, but wasn't willing quite yet to concede just because someone named Ledi Sayadaw says so, as he put it. :0) Perhaps I'll get more of a reply later. He's usually pretty good at following through.

All the best,

Bill
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:41 am

manjusri wrote:I'll have to get back to you on this. I sent Alan off an email with this quote of yours. He admitted he could be wrong, but wasn't willing quite yet to concede just because someone named Ledi Sayadaw says so, as he put it. :0) Perhaps I'll get more of a reply later. He's usually pretty good at following through.

Thanks Bill. I'd be interested in what he has to say.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:56 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
manjusri wrote:I'll have to get back to you on this. I sent Alan off an email with this quote of yours. He admitted he could be wrong, but wasn't willing quite yet to concede just because someone named Ledi Sayadaw says so, as he put it. :0) Perhaps I'll get more of a reply later. He's usually pretty good at following through.

Thanks Bill. I'd be interested in what he has to say.

All the best,

Geoff
We have seen how well Wallace has done with Ven Bodhi.

Someone named Ledi Sayadaw. I'll take Ledi Sayadaw scholarship on things Theravada over Wallace's sectarianism anyday.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:13 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:
manjusri wrote:I'll have to get back to you on this. I sent Alan off an email with this quote of yours. He admitted he could be wrong, but wasn't willing quite yet to concede just because someone named Ledi Sayadaw says so, as he put it. :0) Perhaps I'll get more of a reply later. He's usually pretty good at following through.

Thanks Bill. I'd be interested in what he has to say.

All the best,

Geoff
We have seen how well Wallace has done with Ven Bodhi.

Someone named Ledi Sayadaw. I'll take Ledi Sayadaw scholarship on things Theravada over Wallace's sectarianism anyday.


I'm obviously not familiar with this thread you provided a link to and will not have an opportunity to wade through it this week as I'll be out of town and off the grid so to speak. There is obviously some bad blood here from your side and I'm sincerely sorry about that. I've known Alan Wallace for over thirty years and to accuse him of sectarianism just doesn't ring true. Is he passionate and intense? Yes. But I honestly don't see him that way. Maybe I'll get a better sense of what this is about once I have time to read through the thread?
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:39 am

Ñāṇa wrote:In the Theravāda system, instead of the progression of nine mental abidings leading to dhyāna, there is the progression of momentary samādhi (khaṇikasamādhi), access samādhi (upacārasamādhi), and fixed samādhi (appaṇāsamādhi) which is jhāna.


That's interesting. Could you say a bit more about these three types of samadhi? Presumably momentary samadhi comes and goes, whereas access samadhi is consistent but without pitti and sukha?

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Freawaru » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:16 am

Hi Geoff,

thank you again for all the information. They are a real help :smile:

Ñāṇa wrote:Well, this is where the comparisons between traditions can create confusion. (And why one should learn one tradition!)


Yes, this would be optimal. But I can't seem to make up my mind :tongue: I like the Theravada system very much but I also miss some aspects of the Tibetan tradition I think are important for me, such as dream yoga and the exact phenomenological model of the winds in the body (chakra-nadi system, kundalini, etc).

In brief, mindfulness and full awareness are to be employed during all nine stages in the Indo-Tibetan system. But in the Indo-Tibetan system there are subjects listed under samatha meditation, such as observation of the five aggregates, twelve sensory spheres, and eighteen elements, which are considered as subjects for developing vipassanā in the Theravāda system. (For example, I know of one Tibetan lama who's lived in the West for many years, who considers Theravāda vipassanā meditation to be samatha meditation according to his tradition.)


Yes, this seems to be a part of my confusion. For in practice they don't seem to be as easily discernable as in theory. An example, years ago I was practicing in the Tibetan system (Tarab Tulku Rinpoche) a technique called "dealing with emotions". It is a simple technique and I have read about something similar in the Theravada system some time ago so it should be possible to compare the systems terminology regarding the phenomenoloy of the experience.

Basically, after a short time of relaxation and concentration, one purposefully arises a specific emotion (I choose fear), let it influence mind and body and observes and analyses the processes. Now, is this vipassana or samatha? There are certainly aspects of vipassana, such as discernment and recognition. During the whole session fear and it's mental and physical patterns were running through the system. I think if one had done a blood test the corresponding hormons would have been there. But there was also an increase of concentration and calm due to the increase of distance to the processes. The concentration was not on one object such as breath, but on observation itself. The more this concentration deepend on the observation the more I noticed effects I usually get when concentrating on an object: spaciousness, temporal dissolution, equanimity, amusement, then objects I am only aware of when concentration has increased to a certain level (I am not sure but they might be some kind of nimitta) that stabilized and a part of the concentration was holding one for some time until a new one appeared and I moved the concentration to the new one. There was calm, but not the calm and equanimity of a calm ocean but the calm and equanimity of a plane above a tzunami, monitoring and analysing it.

If I understand you correctly, in the Theravada system this observation of the five aggregates is vipassana and in the Tibetan system samatha. But, frankly, I recognized aspects of both - such as stability of concentration on an (nimitta?) object and increase of discernment and recognition. Is it possible to develop stability of concentration on one object (samatha) simultaniously with momentary concentration that observes the five aggregates? So that there are two different kinds of concentration simultaneously there? Like two hands?
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:24 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:In the Theravāda system, instead of the progression of nine mental abidings leading to dhyāna, there is the progression of momentary samādhi (khaṇikasamādhi), access samādhi (upacārasamādhi), and fixed samādhi (appaṇāsamādhi) which is jhāna.


That's interesting. Could you say a bit more about these three types of samadhi? Presumably momentary samadhi comes and goes,
Not quite right. It is "momentary" in that it occurs with the moment of the awareness of the object, but:

Gil Fronsdal wrote:This kind of concentration is cultivated not by bringing attention to one thing over and over again, but by maintaining a continuity of awareness within a changing field of experience. So the mindfulness continues to connect with a sight, a sound, a body sensation, a breath, an emotion, a thought, another body sensation, the breath again. There’s just this flow, this river of experience, and the awareness stays continuous, even as the experience continues to change. *
This can be a very profound, stable concentration/awareness.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:28 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Gil Fronsdal wrote:This kind of concentration is cultivated not by bringing attention to one thing over and over again, but by maintaining a continuity of awareness within a changing field of experience. So the mindfulness continues to connect with a sight, a sound, a body sensation, a breath, an emotion, a thought, another body sensation, the breath again. There’s just this flow, this river of experience, and the awareness stays continuous, even as the experience continues to change. *
This can be a very profound, stable concentration/awareness.


It's very Zen, actually. Where are these three types of concentration first explicated?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:42 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Gil Fronsdal wrote:This kind of concentration is cultivated not by bringing attention to one thing over and over again, but by maintaining a continuity of awareness within a changing field of experience. So the mindfulness continues to connect with a sight, a sound, a body sensation, a breath, an emotion, a thought, another body sensation, the breath again. There’s just this flow, this river of experience, and the awareness stays continuous, even as the experience continues to change. *
This can be a very profound, stable concentration/awareness.


It's very Zen, actually. Where are these three types of concentration first explicated?
It is in the commentarial literature, which is not as gawdawful as some would have us believe.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby bodom » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:44 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Gil Fronsdal wrote:This kind of concentration is cultivated not by bringing attention to one thing over and over again, but by maintaining a continuity of awareness within a changing field of experience. So the mindfulness continues to connect with a sight, a sound, a body sensation, a breath, an emotion, a thought, another body sensation, the breath again. There’s just this flow, this river of experience, and the awareness stays continuous, even as the experience continues to change. *
This can be a very profound, stable concentration/awareness.


It's very Zen, actually. Where are these three types of concentration first explicated?


Many modern day vipassana teachers refer to this practice of momentary concentration as "choiceless awareness", it is very similar to the Zen practice of Shikintaza, or 'just sitting".

REMAINING PRESENT WITH CHOICELESS AWARENESS

From the beginning of our practice of insight meditation, we have been using the breath (or another object from one of the four foundations of mindfulness) as the primary focus of our awareness. Whenever the mind strayed from this primary object , we noticed the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless nature of the new object, and then gently but firmly returned to the breath. We used the primary object as an anchor that kept our awareness centered on what was occurring during each present moment. At this stage in our spiritual development, however, this practice technique has a significant drawback.

The purpose of insight meditation is to see things as they really are. In order for this to happen, we need to be choicelessly aware of whatever arises, without grasping or resisting any of our experiences. Whenever we have an intention to move our attention in a particular direction (back to the breath, for example), we are subtly manipulating the mind by creating an intention, and we are no longer choicelessly aware of what is occurring.

Many meditators have learned to mentally note or label what they are experiencing as an aid to recognizing whatever is arising to consciousness. Although the noting may be heard as a very gentle voice in the mind, at this stage of the practice the intention to note also becomes an impediment. It prevents us from being choicelessly aware of whatever is unfolding in each present moment. However, if the mind notes what it sees without any conscious intention on our part, noting is just treated as another object to watch rise and fall.

At this point in our practice, we no longer attend to any primary object. We just remain choicelessly aware of whatever arises to consciousness. Our prior work with the four foundations of mindfulness will now bear its greatest fruit. By intentionally having investigated the various aspects of the five aggregates, our mind will be less inclined to find interest in any of the phenomena it experiences. Since we are not grasping or resisting our sensory experiences, they will appear to arise and disolve with remarkable speed. This recognition will enable us to gain deeper insights into the impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless nature of all conditioned phenomena.

In order for us to meditate in this manner, our momentary concentration needs to be well developed. It requires that we stay present with the waves of sensory experience as they incessantly break on the shore of our consciousness. If during this practice our mind loses its balance and gets swept away with what is being experienced, we return to using the breath as an anchor until our momentary concentration has regained its stability. Once that occurs, we let go of the breath, once again remaining choiclessly present with whatever is occurring.


CHOICELESS AWARENESS

Meditation can also proceed without a meditation object, in a state of pure contemplation, or 'choiceless awareness'.

After calming the mind by one of the methods described above, consciously put aside the meditation object. Observe the flow of mental images and sensations just as they arise, without engaging in criticism or praise. Notice any aversion and fascination; contemplate any uncertainty, happiness, restlessness or tranquillity as it arises. You can return to a meditation object (such as the breath) whenever the sense of clarity diminishes, or if you begin to feel overwhelmed by impressions. When a sense of steadiness returns, you can relinquish the object again.

This practice of 'bare attention' is well-suited for contemplating the mental process. Along with observing the mind's particular 'ingredients', we can turn our attention to the nature of the container. As for the contents of the mind, Buddhist teaching points especially to three simple, fundamental characteristics. First, there is changeability (anicca) -- the ceaseless beginning and ending all things go through, the constant movement of the content of the mind. This mind-stuff may be pleasant or unpleasant, but it is never at rest.

There is also a persistent, often subtle, sense of dissatisfaction (dukkha). Unpleasant sensations easily evoke that sense, but even a lovely experience creates a tug in the heart when it ends. So at the best of moments there is still an inconclusive quality in what the mind experiences, a somewhat unsatisfied feeling. As the constant arising and passing of experiences and moods become familiar, it also becomes clear that -- since there is no permanence in them -- none of them really belong to you. And, when this mind-stuff is silent -- revealing a bright spaciousness of mind -- there are no purely personal characteristics to be found! This can be difficult to comprehend, but in reality there is no 'me' and no 'mine' -- the characteristic of 'no-self', or impersonality (anatta).

Investigate fully and notice how these qualities pertain to all things, physical and mental. No matter if your experiences are joyful or barely endurable, this contemplation will lead to a calm and balanced perspective on your life.


Choiceless Awareness
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4605#p70201

Also from Bodhi:

The kinds of concentration discussed so far arise by fixing the mind upon a single object to the exclusion of other objects. But apart from these there is another kind of concentration which does not depend upon restricting the range of awareness. This is called "momentary concentration" (khanika-samadhi). To develop momentary concentration the meditator does not deliberately attempt to exclude the multiplicity of phenomena from his field of attention. Instead, he simply directs mindfulness to the changing states of mind and body, noting any phenomenon that presents itself; the task is to maintain a continuous awareness of whatever enters the range of perception, clinging to nothing. As he goes on with his noting, concentration becomes stronger moment after moment until it becomes established one-pointedly on the constantly changing stream of events. Despite the change in the object, the mental unification remains steady, and in time acquires a force capable of suppressing the hindrances to a degree equal to that of access concentration. This fluid, mobile concentration is developed by the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness, taken up along the path of insight; when sufficiently strong it issues in the breakthrough to the last stage of the path, the arising of wisdom.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... d.html#ch7

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:03 pm

Freawaru wrote:
Yes, this would be optimal. But I can't seem to make up my mind :tongue: I like the Theravada system very much but I also miss some aspects of the Tibetan tradition I think are important for me, such as dream yoga and the exact phenomenological model of the winds in the body (chakra-nadi system, kundalini, etc).


In brief, mindfulness and full awareness are to be employed during all nine stages in the Indo-Tibetan system. But in the Indo-Tibetan system there are subjects listed under samatha meditation, such as observation of the five aggregates, twelve sensory spheres, and eighteen elements, which are considered as subjects for developing vipassanā in the Theravāda system. (For example, I know of one Tibetan lama who's lived in the West for many years, who considers Theravāda vipassanā meditation to be samatha meditation according to his tradition.

Yes, this seems to be a part of my confusion. For in practice they don't seem to be as easily discernable as in theory. An example, years ago I was practicing in the Tibetan system (Tarab Tulku Rinpoche) a technique called "dealing with emotions". It is a simple technique and I have read about something similar in the Theravada system some time ago so it should be possible to compare the systems terminology regarding the phenomenoloy of the experience.

Basically, after a short time of relaxation and concentration, one purposefully arises a specific emotion (I choose fear), let it influence mind and body and observes and analyses the processes. Now, is this vipassana or samatha? There are certainly aspects of vipassana, such as discernment and recognition. During the whole session fear and it's mental and physical patterns were running through the system. I think if one had done a blood test the corresponding hormons would have been there. But there was also an increase of concentration and calm due to the increase of distance to the processes. The concentration was not on one object such as breath, but on observation itself. The more this concentration deepend on the observation the more I noticed effects I usually get when concentrating on an object: spaciousness, temporal dissolution, equanimity, amusement, then objects I am only aware of when concentration has increased to a certain level (I am not sure but they might be some kind of nimitta) that stabilized and a part of the concentration was holding one for some time until a new one appeared and I moved the concentration to the new one. There was calm, but not the calm and equanimity of a calm ocean but the calm and equanimity of a plane above a tzunami, monitoring and analysing it.

If I understand you correctly, in the Theravada system this observation of the five aggregates is vipassana and in the Tibetan system samatha. But, frankly, I recognized aspects of both - such as stability of concentration on an (nimitta?) object and increase of discernment and recognition. Is it possible to develop stability of concentration on one object (samatha) simultaniously with momentary concentration that observes the five aggregates? So that there are two different kinds of concentration simultaneously there? Like two hands?


I would love a reference for these objects of observation that exist in the Tibetan system, i.e., 5 aggregates, 12 sensory spheres, etc. The shamatha teachings I received prior to the one year retreat, did not mention them?

This strikes me much more as an analytical meditation on fear and not shamatha per se. If you are analyzing, this alone, it seems, would disqualify it as shamatha. I can't imagine doing a three month retreat, for example, on fear where you would be called upon in each of your sessions to bring it to mind and keep it running through your system session after session?

Moreover, the Indo-Tibetan tradition emphasizes that advanced stages of shamatha can be achieved only by focusing on a mental object, not a sensory impression. The reason is that shamatha entails cultivating an exceptionally high degree of attentional vividness. You can develop stability by focusing on an object of the physical senses, but you can not develop the necessary vividness. A mental object is needed to accomplish this. Shamatha is achieved with mental awareness, not sensory awareness.

All of us preparing for this one year retreat had to decide what our object would be. In the end, a few picked the image of the Buddha (working off a small Buddha statue initially), at least one picked the mind as her object, and the rest of us picked the breath. For me personally, the breath was an obvious choice, not only given my initial immersion in Zen as well as a number of Vipassana retreats with people like Jack Kornfield, etc., but for those prone to excessive conceptualizing (that would be me), the Buddha himself declares such people should practice shamatha by cultivating mindfulness of breathing.
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:15 pm

manjusri wrote: I'm obviously not familiar with this thread you provided a link to and will not have an opportunity to wade through it this week as I'll be out of town and off the grid so to speak. There is obviously some bad blood here from your side and I'm sincerely sorry about that. I've known Alan Wallace for over thirty years and to accuse him of sectarianism just doesn't ring true. Is he passionate and intense? Yes. But I honestly don't see him that way. Maybe I'll get a better sense of what this is about once I have time to read through the thread?
I am sure Wallace is a good guy and that he means well, and in terms of writing about Tibetan stuff from a Tibetan Gelugpa point of view, I am sure he is on solid ground. It is, however, when he starts writing about things Theravada that I find his filtering it through his Gelug prespective a bit problematic.

When you do have the time read through the linked exchange between Ven Bodhi and Wallace in their discussion about "bare attention."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:09 pm

tiltbillings wrote:It is in the commentarial literature, which is not as gawdawful as some would have us believe.


Well, they were written after the shift from the process epistemology of the early abhidhamma (Dhammasangani) to the event metaphysics of the later abhidhamma (Patthana), which has a significant effect on how meditation, including samatha, comes to be described - a detrimental effect, imo.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:19 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:It is in the commentarial literature, which is not as gawdawful as some would have us believe.


Well, they were written after the shift from the process epistemology of the early abhidhamma (Dhammasangani) to the event metaphysics of the later abhidhamma (Patthana), which has a significant effect on how meditation, including samatha, comes to be described - a detrimental effect, imo.
So, you would have us believe that the commentarial literature is gawdawful, and you would dismiss Mahasi Sayadaw and U Ba Khin as being determental to the Dhamma?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:22 pm

tiltbillings wrote:So, you would have us believe that the commentarial literature is gawdawful,


Hit and miss when it comes to being in accord with, or contradicting, or going beyond the proper range of, the Dhamma.

tiltbillings wrote:and you would dismiss Mahasi Sayadaw and U Ba Khin as being determental to the Dhamma?


Nope. Those are people, I was critiquing the textual edifice as pertains, in this instance, to samatha.
Last edited by daverupa on Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:23 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:So, you would have us believe that the commentarial literature is gawdawful,


Hit and miss.

tiltbillings wrote:and you would dismiss Mahasi Sayadaw and U Ba Khin as being determental to the Dhamma?


Nope. Those are people, I was critiquing the textual edifice.
Of course, what is being refered to here are their teachings, which i think is fairly obvious. So, the teachings of these guys are determental?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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