Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby starter » Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:47 am

Hello Teachers/Friends,

I happened to read the following paragraph in Living Buddhist Masters (by Jack Kornfield):

"It’s difficult for a person who is well developed in samatha to advance in vipassana. The only way to help such a person is to teach him to lean on his leg of mindfulness as well." -- comment made by one of the chief teaching disciples of Sunlun Sayadaw [but I don't believe this is Sunlun Sayadaw's opinion since he practiced samadhi earnestly to my understanding of his biography].

In addition, Adjahn Naeb commented that it's wrong practice to develop samadhi instead of insight; Buddhadasa Bikkhu also mentioned it's not necessary to gain samadhi for vipassana -- the normal concentration is sufficient (as I understood from this book).

It seems to me that quite some vipassana masters are kind of against samatha practice, which is different from the Buddha's teaching in general. I wonder if what they stated above is true or not.

Metta to all,

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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:55 am

Greetings Starter

If you take any comment out of context then it is very easy to come to the impression that this or that teacher has a distorted teaching. The important thing is to choose a teacher or method that you find agreeable and to stick to it for a year at least to see if it gives benefit.
I heard my own teacher say that some people who advance through the jhanas are difficult to teach vipassana to. That is because the experience of the high jhanas are so sublime and pleasurable that it would appear there is no incentive to practice vipassana. So instead, he teaches samatha and vipassana together. At the beginning there is a little more emphasis on vipassana but as one matures a little, there is a little more focus on developing jhana.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby bodom » Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:57 am

It seems to me that quite some vipassana masters are kind of against samatha practice


Samadhi produces very blissful feelings and most teachers warn against getting stuck on these states:

From Ajahn Chah:

On Dangers of Samadhi

Samadhi is capable of bringing much harm or much bene­fit to the meditator, you can't say it brings only one or the other. For one who has no wisdom it is harmful, but for one who has wisdom it can bring real benefit, it can lead him to Insight.

That which can be most harmful to the meditator is Absorption Samadhi (JHANA), the samadhi with deep, sus­tained calm. This samadhi brings great peace. Where there is peace, there is happiness. When there is happiness, at­tachment and clinging to that happiness arise. The medi­tator doesn't want to contemplate anything else, he just wants to indulge in that pleasant feeling. When we have been practicing for a long time we may become adept at entering this samadhi very quickly. As soon as we start to note our meditation object, the mind enters calm, and we don't want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness. This is a danger to one who is practicing meditation.

We must use Upacara Samadhi. Here, we enter calm and then, when the mind is sufficiently calm, we come out and look at outer activity. Looking at the outside with a calm mind gives rise to wisdom. This is hard to understand, because it's almost like ordinary thinking and imagining. When thinking is there, we may think the mind isn't peace­ful, but actually that thinking is taking place within the calm. There is contemplation but it doesn't disturb the calm. We may bring thinking up in order to contemplate it.

Here we take up the thinking to investigate it, it's not that we are aimlessly thinking to investigate it, it's not that we are aim­lessly thinking or guessing away; it's something that arises from a peaceful mind. This is called "awareness within calm and calm within awareness." If it's simply ordinary thinking and imagining, the mind won't be peaceful, it will be dis­turbed. But I am not talking about ordinary thinking, this is a feeling that arises from the peaceful mind. It's called "con­templation." Wisdom is born right here.

So, there can be right samadhi and wrong samadhi.

Wrong samadhi is where the mind enters calm and there's no awareness at all. One could sit for two hours or even all day but the mind doesn't know where it's been or what's happened. It doesn't know anything. There is calm, but that's all. It's like a well-sharpened knife which we don't bother to put to any use. This is a deluded type of calm, be­cause there is not much self-awareness. The meditator may think he has reached the ultimate already, so he doesn't bother to look for anything else. Samadhi can be an enemy at this level. Wisdom cannot arise because there is no awareness of right and wrong.

With right samadhi, no matter what level of calm is reached, there is awareness. There is full mindfulness and clear comprehension. This is the samadhi which can give rise to wisdom, one cannot get lost in it. Practitioners should understand this well. You can't do without this awareness, it must be present from beginning to end. This kind of samadhi has no danger.

You may wonder where does the benefit arise, how does the wisdom arise, from samadhi? When right samadhi has been developed, wisdom has the chance to arise at all times.

When the eye sees form, the ear hears sound, the nose smells odor, the tongue experiences taste, the body experiences touch or the mind experiences mental impressions in all postures -- the mind stays with full know­ledge of the true nature of those sense impressions, it doesn't "pick and choose." In any posture we are fully aware of the birth of happiness and unhappiness. We let go of both of these things, we don't cling. This is called Right Practice, which is present in all postures. These words "all postures" do not refer only to bodily postures, they refer to the mind, which has mindfulness and clear comprehension of the truth at all times. When samadhi has been rightly developed, wisdom arises like this. This is called "insight," knowledge of the truth.

There are two kinds of peace - the coarse and the re­fined. The peace which comes from samadhi is the coarse type. When the mind is peaceful there is happiness. The mind then takes this happiness to be peace. But happiness and unhappiness are becoming and birth. There is no escape from samsara 2 here because we still cling to them. So happiness is not peace, peace is not happiness.

The other type of peace is that which comes from wis­dom. Here we don't confuse peace with happiness; we know the mind which contemplates and knows happiness and unhappiness as peace. The peace which arises from wisdom is not happiness, but is that which sees the truth of both happiness and unhappiness. Clinging to those states does not arise, the mind rises above them. This is the true goal of all Buddhist practice.


: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: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby fabianfred » Sat Apr 09, 2011 1:31 am

In the story of the life of LP Jaran, abbot of Wat Amphawan, Singhburi he says that when he was studying Vipassana at Wat Mahachart his old teacher LP Sodt, the Abbot of Wat PakNam, who developed the Dhammakaya system, also came to study Vipassana there. He was troubled at first by constant 'Nimitr' (visions) because the Dhammakaya system teaches one to visualise and attain Nimitr. His teacher at Wat Mahachart, LP Chadock, told him to note 'seeing....seeing' whenever the nimitr appeared so as not to get caught up in them, just acknowledging them and going back to mindfulness of the breathing. They went away and he was able to then make rapid progress.
Dhammakaya is a concentration technique, not Vipassana, and thus cannot lead one to Nibbana without changing to Vipassana. LP Sodt was aware that he only had a few years left, time to progress himself to Arahant, but not enough to gain the experience to start teaching Vipassana at his temple. He also knew that his followers would destroy evidence of his having studied Vipassana and carry on teaching Dhammakaya.
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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby pegembara » Sat Apr 09, 2011 3:55 am

One year — when Ajaan Fuang was seeing a Chinese doctor in Bangkok for his skin disease and staying at Wat Asokaram — a group of nuns and laypeople came to practice meditation with him every night. Some members of the group would report having this or that vision in the course of their meditation, and finally one of the nuns complained: "I know that my mind isn't slipping off anywhere; it's staying right with the breath all the time, so why aren't I having any visions like everyone else?"

Ajaan Fuang answered her, "Do you know how lucky you are? With people who have visions, this, that, and the other thing is always coming in to interfere. But you don't have any old karma to get in the way of your meditation, so you can focus directly on the mind without having to get involved with any outside things at all."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... tml#vision
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby starter » Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:11 pm

Hello Teachers/Friends,

Many thanks for your very helpful advice and info. I understand now why it could be difficult for one well developed in samatha to advance in vipassana. Probably it's better to develop up to Upacara Samadhi with piti and sukha (about equivalent to suttana's 1st jhana to my understanding), the process of which is a training of mind to establish mindfulness and clear comprehension while abandoning the hindrances which interrupt the mindfulness.

Metta to all!

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:anjali:
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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:17 pm

It is impossible, O monks, and it cannot be that a person possessed of right view should regard any formation as permanent. [9] But it is possible for an uninstructed worldling to regard a formation as permanent.
It is impossible,
O monks, and it cannot be that a person possessed of right view should regard any formation as a source of happiness. But it is possible for an uninstructed worldling to regard a formation as a source of happiness.
It is impossible,
O monks, and it cannot be that a person possessed of right view should regard anything as a self. [10] But it is possible for an uninstructed worldling to regard something as a self.
(1:15.1–3)


You are on the right track. Apart from the plethora of quotes re dangers of samdhi and jhana (vipassana not being without it's own dangers) I might add that the jhanas stabilise the mind for vipasssana and make the whole process that much more smoother. A hindrance free samdhi is the minimum.

Anyone with a view like what is mentioned in the quote above it is unlikely that they would consider the jhanas as the be all and end all of Buddhist practice.

With metta

Matheesha
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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby starter » Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:11 pm

rowyourboat wrote:
It is impossible, O monks, and it cannot be that a person possessed of right view should regard any formation as permanent. [9] But it is possible for an uninstructed worldling to regard a formation as permanent.
It is impossible,
O monks, and it cannot be that a person possessed of right view should regard any formation as a source of happiness. But it is possible for an uninstructed worldling to regard a formation as a source of happiness.
It is impossible,
O monks, and it cannot be that a person possessed of right view should regard anything as a self. [10] But it is possible for an uninstructed worldling to regard something as a self.
(1:15.1–3)


You are on the right track. Apart from the plethora of quotes re dangers of samdhi and jhana (vipassana not being without it's own dangers) I might add that the jhanas stabilise the mind for vipasssana and make the whole process that much more smoother. A hindrance free samdhi is the minimum.

Anyone with a view like what is mentioned in the quote above it is unlikely that they would consider the jhanas as the be all and end all of Buddhist practice.

With metta

Matheesha


Hello Martheesha,

Many thanks for your kind advice. Would you mind giving the link for the above quote, and if possible please also give/explain the pali word for "anything" used in the phrase "it cannot be that a person possessed of right view should regard anything as a self". It's interesting that the Buddha used "any formation" instead of "anything" for anicca and dukkha, but "anything" instead of "any formation" for anatta.

Metta to all,

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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby kirk5a » Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:00 pm

starter wrote:Many thanks for your kind advice. Would you mind giving the link for the above quote, and if possible please also give/explain the pali word for "anything" used in the phrase "it cannot be that a person possessed of right view should regard anything as a self". It's interesting that the Buddha used "any formation" instead of "anything" for anicca and dukkha, but "anything" instead of "any formation" for anatta.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/40291025/Angu ... ter_page_9

The footnote there says

10 In this passage saṅkhārā is replaced by dhammā, which includes all phenomena whatever, whether conditioned or unconditioned. This passage is commonly held to be applicable to the unconditioned element (asaṅkhata-dhātu), Nibbāna. Thus, even though Nibbāna, being imperishable and the highest bliss, is not impermanent or suffering, it still cannot be identified as a self. See Dhp 277–79.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby starter » Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:30 pm

Hello Kirk5a,

Your kind help is very appreciated. I guessed "anything" would include both the conditioned and unconditioned. As to the sentence "Thus, even though Nibbāna, being imperishable and the highest bliss, is not impermanent or suffering, it still cannot be identified as a self", I tend to think that it's not a matter of individuality, but a matter of conceit -- we should not conceive nibbana as "self".

Metta to all,

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Re: Difficult for one developed in samatha to advance in vipass?

Postby kirk5a » Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:57 pm

starter wrote:Hello Kirk5a,

Your kind help is very appreciated. I guessed "anything" would include both the conditioned and unconditioned. As to the sentence "Thus, even though Nibbāna, being imperishable and the highest bliss, is not impermanent or suffering, it still cannot be identified as a self", I tend to think that it's not a matter of individuality or individual existence/identity, but a matter of conceit -- we should not conceive nibbana as "self".

Metta to all,

Starter

MN 1 is particularly interesting and relevant to the development of taking something (even nibbana) to be self. I was just studying that myself actually - the Bhikkhu Bodhi & Bhikkhu Nanamoli print edition which includes many helpful footnotes. Ven. Bodhi regarded this sutta important enough to write a separate book about, which I just ordered - "Discourse on the Root of Existence: Mulapariyaya Sutta and Its Commentaries"

It's also particularly interesting to me because of the section on "the seen, the heard, the sensed, and the cognized" which expands on what is in the very compressed Bahiya Sutta.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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