A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

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A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby nyanasuci » Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:53 pm

http://yuttadhammo.sirimangalo.org/post ... he-jhanas/

A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

During the 60th anniversary conference of the WFB in Colombo, I happened to meet and spend part of a day with Venerable Brahmavamso, the British monk who has caused such a stir in Thailand and around the world with his Bhikkhuni ordination. This was the second time we met, and my thoughts remain unchanged; he seems like a nice guy, unassuming and polite, clearly knowledgeable and experienced enough to offer advice and direction.

The problem I’ve always had with him, as is often the case in such matters, is with his teachings. Now, clearly we have different ideas on how to practice meditation, I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is what seems clearly to be a distortion of the Buddha’s teaching in order to support his own way of teaching.
Immediately upon meeting him this time, one of his disciples handed me a book of his, titled “The Jhanas”. I sat down and began to skim through it, not expecting much that I could relate to, but interested nonetheless in learning more about his ideas.
The reason I didn’t expect to find much I could relate to going into the small booklet is because I don’t agree with this notion that the word “jhāna” implies some special, exclusive entity. To me, it clearly means, simply, “meditation”. The Mahāsaccaka Sutta, the very sutta Brahmavamso cites as proof that “the only time in his life that [the Buddha] had experienced any Jhāna was as a young boy,” (pg. 6) actually describes even some of the Bodhisatta’s tortuous austerities as jhāna:
“tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, etadahosi — ‘yaṃnūnāhaṃ appāṇakaṃyeva jhānaṃ jhāyeyya’nti. so kho ahaṃ, aggivessana, mukhato ca nāsato ca assāsapassāse uparundhiṃ. tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, mukhato ca nāsato ca assāsapassāsesu uparuddhesu kaṇṇasotehi vātānaṃ nikkhamantānaṃ adhimatto saddo hoti.”
“Then, Aggivessana, I had this thought — ‘what if I were to meditate (jhāyeyya) on the non-breathing meditation (jhānaṃ)?’ At that, Aggivessana, I held back the in-and-out breathing of the mouth and nose. Then, Aggivessana, holding back the in-and-out breathing of the mouth and nose, there was a great amount of noise of pressure going out from my ears.”
Now, it might seem odd that the Buddha would state that “the only time” he had experienced jhāna before the night of his enlightenment was as a child and then go on to say that holding his breath was a practice of jhāna. Fortunately for us, the words “the only time” are not used by the Buddha, and were added by Brahmavamso himself. The passage in question goes:
“tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, etadahosi — ‘abhijānāmi kho panāhaṃ pitu sakkassa kammante sītāya jambucchāyāya nisinno vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharitā. siyā nu kho eso maggo bodhāyā’ti?”
“Then, Aggivessana, I had this thought — ‘I can clearly recall how I, sitting in the shade of the rose-apple tree while my Sakyan father was working, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unwholesome dhammas, entered the first jhāna, accompanied by investigation and contemplation, born of seclusion, with rapture and happiness. What if that is the path to enlightenment?’”
There is no mention of it being the only time the Bodhisatta had entered this particular meditative state. Indeed, in the next paragraph, the Buddha seems to be quite familiar with it, stating as he does:
“tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, etadahosi — ‘na kho taṃ sukaraṃ sukhaṃ adhigantuṃ evaṃ adhimattakasimānaṃ pattakāyena, yaṃnūnāhaṃ oḷārikaṃ āhāraṃ āhāreyyaṃ odanakummāsa’nti.”
“Then, Aggivessana, I had this though — ‘That refined happiness is not easily reached by a body so extremely emaciated; what if I were to eat the gross food of rice and curries?”
Besides showing that Brahmavamso is incorrect in his statement about the Bodhisatta having had a single prior experience of jhāna, these passages offer clear insight into what sort of definition the Buddha himself gave to the word Jhana. Such was the understanding I went into this booklet with, but it was nonetheless quite disappointing to read such errors as I’ve pointed out above.
The error mentioned above is important. It shows that one cannot take the word jhāna as referring to an exclusive entity with a specific meaning. It means “meditation”, or perhaps “trance” or “absorbtion”. This becomes even more important when we look at the context of Brahmavamso’s statement about the first jhāna experience. He is using the fact (now proven to be fiction) of the Bodhisatta’s only jhāna experience having occurred in his youth as proof that the meditations taught by Alara and Udaka and perfected by the Bodhisatta “could not have been connected with jhāna” (p. 6). As I have shown, however, even holding one’s breath can be a sort of jhāna; it is clearly plain-and-simple dogmatism to say that because they weren’t Buddhist, Alara and Udaka weren’t practicing Jhāna.
It seems, though I am not so bold as to make a statement either way, that the Bodhisatta, in considering his childhood experience of the first jhāna, was simply reflecting on the indulgence in meditative bliss at that time, and how that indulgence was not dangerous. This realization led him to decide that there was no need to avoid happiness by torturing himself.
This, at least, is more in line with the rest of the Buddha’s teachings on the rūpa and arūpa jhānas, wherein it is quite clear that the states taught by Alara and Udaka come only after attainment of the rest of the jhānas. And, seriously, does anyone really believe that one could enter into “the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception” without some sort of seclusion from sensuality?
The point of the Buddha’s words on not being afraid of the bliss that comes from jhāna, of course, is that he had missed something important. Previously, he had dismissed such meditative states as merely leading to transcendental attainments (i.e. arūpa jhānas). Now, he thought, what if I were to use them for the purpose of developing focused contemplation of reality and enlightenment? When we step back from our preconceived notions of what jhāna might be, I think we can clearly see that, rather than being some exclusively Buddhist attainment, jhāna simply refers to meditative focus or samādhi, and so it is unwarranted to claim that what Alara and Udaka taught “could not have been connected with Jhāna”, not to mention going against the whole Theravadin commentatorial tradition and Abhidhamma.
This may seem like nit-picking to those who are not familiar with the disagreement in question here. Again, the disagreement is one thing, and no cause for writing such a post as this; distorting the facts to mislead people into thinking your argument superior, however, is another. You see, one of the arguments I would use against placing too much importance on “The Jhānas” is the fact that they are not particularly Buddhist. Which is simply to say that Hindu meditators have been realizing states like the young Bodhisatta, Alara, and Rāma (Udaka’s teacher) for as long as anyone can remember, and are still to this day practicing them, ostensibly without any proper Buddhist attainment of enlightenment following therefrom. An explanation of why and how that is would do much to shed light on this subject.
According to Brahmavamso, the Buddha “rediscovered” jhāna, as the “culminating” point of the the eightfold noble path (p. 7). If this were so, then the Bodhisatta attained the culmination of the eightfold noble path at the age of five, which of course he didn’t.
The next section was entitled “Can One be Attached to Jhāna?” This was interesting, as I vaguely recalled a sutta which stated precisely that the danger of jhāna was that one could become attached to it.
Brahmavamso starts by reminding us that we should not be afraid of jhāna. He quotes MN 66 – “it is not to be feared.” But if you read on in this sutta, you will come to the following for each of the jhānas, including, incidentally, the ones taught by Alara and Udaka, which, incidentally, come after the other jhānas:
“idampi kho ahaṃ, udāyi, ‘anala’nti vadāmi, ‘pajahathā’ti vadāmi, ‘samatikkamathā’ti vadāmi.”
“Even this, Udayi, is not enough, I say. Abandon it, I say. Go beyond it, I say.”
Even the jhānas must be abandoned. In that case, how can they be the culmination of the eightfold noble path? There are answers to such questions, but I don’t think you will find them in this booklet.
He then warns against any teacher who “in spite of this clear advice from the Buddha Himself, … discourage[s] Jhāna on the grounds that one can become attached to Jhāna and so never become Enlightened” (p. 7). I can’t personally imagine anyone arguing that the Buddhist jhānas are a hindrance to Enlightenment, but I can see how attachment to them might be, given the Buddha’s “clear advice” that the jhānas should be abandoned. If it weren’t possible to cling to them, why would the Buddha encourage us to abandon them? Brahmavamso says:
“Simply put, Jhāna states are stages of letting go. One cannot be attached to letting go. Just as one cannot be imprisoned by freedom” (p. 8).
That passage was the last I read, as it really seemed over the top. Nowhere that I know of does the Buddha say that jhāna states are stages of letting go. As far as I can see, they are a form of suppression (vikkhambhanappahāna, cp PsM 1.1.1.24), useful in focusing one’s attention on a specific object that will either allow for deeper absorption and temporary suppression of defilements or for lasting insight and understanding, depending on whether the object of attention is conceptual or ultimately real. This distinction is made quite clear throughout the Buddha’s teaching, as in the Sallekha Sutta, where the Buddha says:
“ṭhānaṃ kho panetaṃ, cunda, vijjati yaṃ idhekacco bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja vihareyya. tassa evamassa — ‘sallekhena viharāmī’ti. na kho panete, cunda, ariyassa vinaye sallekhā vuccanti. diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārā ete ariyassa vinaye vuccanti.”
“It may be found to occur, Cunda, that a certain bhikkhu in this religion, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unwholesome dhammas, should enter and settle in the first jhāna, accompanied by investigation and contemplation, born of seclusion, with rapture and happiness. Then, he might think thus — ‘I am dwelling in the cutting-off’. But in this discipline of the noble ones, Cunda, that is not called cutting-off. That is called ‘dwelling in happiness in the present moment’ in this discipline of the noble ones.”
And nowhere does Brahmavamso give backing to his statement that jhānas are stages of letting go. This was the main impetus in deciding to critique his book, and so I made plan to research the sutta I remembered as explaining the danger of attaching to jhāna and write a response to this, the first part of Brahmavamso’s work.
But I’ve been busy finding a place to live, so for the next three months, I kept the book with me, waiting for a suitable time. Finally, today I sat down and looked the sutta up in the DPR. I knew it had something to do with the relationship between jhāna and vedanā. A search for “vedana” and “jhāna” in the Majjhima Nikāya brought up the sutta I was thinking of, a famous one, the Mahādukkhakkhandha Sutta (MN 13). It is not as explicit as I remember it, but here’s how it goes. First, the Buddha asks “ko ca, bhikkhave, vedanānaṃ assādo?” “And what, o bhikkhus, is the enjoyment that comes from sensations?” Then he replies that it is the four rūpa-jhānas, since they lead to “abyābajjha” or “freedom from affliction”, which he says is the highest sensation.
Then he immediately states:
“ko ca, bhikkhave, vedanānaṃ ādīnavo? yaṃ, bhikkhave, vedanā aniccā dukkhā vipariṇāmadhammā — ayaṃ vedanānaṃ ādīnavo.
“kiñca, bhikkhave, vedanānaṃ nissaraṇaṃ? yo, bhikkhave, vedanāsu chandarāgavinayo, chandarāgappahānaṃ — idaṃ vedanānaṃ nissaraṇaṃ.
“And what, o bhikkhus, is the danger of sensations? That sensations are, o bhikkhus, impermanent, suffering and of a nature to change — this is the danger of sensations.”
“And what, o bhikkhus, is the escape from feelings? The leaving behind of desire and passion, the abandoning of desire and passion — this is the escape from feelings.”
It doesn’t really matter to me whether this says, as I think it does, that even the jhānas, associated as they are with sensations, can be a cause for desire and passion; Brahmavamso himself seems to me to be a good example, along with all of those meditating yogis in India, of someone who has let his attachment to jhāna color his perception. Again, I don’t mind that he has a different method of practice for realizing enlightenment, I just can’t let such things be printed unchallenged.
I didn’t read the rest of the book, it looks like it gets into practical details from there on in. He should have just started there, and maybe I would have read it, even though the next chapter is entitled “The Beautiful Breath”.
On the last page (p. 65), he quotes the Buddha from Dhp. 372, as his group of teachers are wont to do in support of their views, translating all the words except jhāna, which he not only doesn’t translate, but capitalizes as throughout the book:
natthi jhānaṃ apaññassa
There is no Jhāna without wisdom
paññā natthi ajhāyato
There is no wisdom without Jhāna
yamhi jhānañca paññā ca
But for one with both Jhāna and wisdom
sa ve nibbānasantike..
They are in the presence of Nibbāna.
He doesn’t translate Nibbāna either, but I think that’s to be excused, given the difficulty therein. No such difficulty exists, however, with the word jhāna. Indeed, this stanza shows the problem with his argument; jhāna, like paññā, should be taken as a quality, not an entity, and translated as such. “There is no absorption without wisdom” might be suited to the context, in a literal translation. The problem, of course, is this is a Dhammapada verse and, like all Dhammapada verses, it should not be taken as literal statement of doctrine like the suttas. The Dhammapada is poetry. The last two lines make it quite clear, as far as I can see, that all the Buddha is saying here is that if you meditate without wisdom, it is not true meditation, and if you have wisdom but don’t meditate, it is not true wisdom. But if you meditate with wisdom, you are close to freedom (Nibbāna).
And in the words of Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”
Bhikkhu Hiriko - Ñāṇasuci

The experts do not say that one is a sage in this world because of view, or learning, or knowledge, Nanda.
I call them sages who wander without association, without affliction, without desire.

The Buddha, Sn.V.8.2 (1078)


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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby daverupa » Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:46 pm

The comments below the blog entry make for a more comprehensive read, and offer considerable challenges which the blog author meets with varying degrees of success. I encourage a thorough examination of the many points discussed.
    "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: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:18 pm

daverupa wrote:The comments below the blog entry make for a more comprehensive read, and offer considerable challenges which the blog author meets with varying degrees of success. I encourage a thorough examination of the many points discussed.
Which makes for an informative, useful exchange. It is quite interesting.
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: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Sat Feb 19, 2011 2:00 am

daverupa wrote:The comments below the blog entry make for a more comprehensive read, and offer considerable challenges which the blog author meets with varying degrees of success. I encourage a thorough examination of the many points discussed.

Anyone who relies on the jhāna theory of Ven. Brahmavamso (as well as many people who rely on the Visuddhimagga jhāna descriptions without a careful study of all relevant older material) is going to have a very different understanding of what jhāna is, than someone who relies on the Tipiṭaka as canonical authority and has also studied other early para-canonical Pāḷi and other Sthaviravāda treatises.

For example, in The Jhānas Ven. Brahmavamso describes singleness of mind as follows:

    One-pointedness describes the mindfulness that is so sharply focused on a minute area of existence. It is one-pointed in space because it only sees the point source of bliss, together with a small area surrounding the bliss caused by the first jhāna wobble.

But the canon offers a much different understanding of singleness of mind (citta ekagga, cittekaggatā). Singleness of mind is possible in any state which has discarded the five hindrances and therefore has nothing to do with being "sharply focused on a minute area of existence." For example, AN 4.12 Sīla Sutta:

    If while he is walking, standing, sitting, or reclining, a monk is free from greed and ill will, from sloth and torpor, from restlessness and worry, and has discarded doubt, then his will has become strong and impregnable; his mindfulness is alert and unclouded; his body is calm and unexcited; his mind is concentrated and collected (samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ).

And also, differing from Ven. Brahmavamso's jhāna, the canon describes the mind in jhāna as vast and expansive. MN 127 describes the expansive liberation of mind (mahaggatā cetovimutti), which is a synonym for the mastery of jhāna, as follows:

    And what, householder, is the expansive liberation of mind? Here a monk abides resolved upon an area the size of the root of one tree, pervading it as expansive: this is called the expansive liberation of mind. Here a monk abides resolved upon an area the size of the roots of two or three trees, pervading it as expansive: this too is called the expansive liberation of mind. Here a monk abides resolved upon an area the size of one village, pervading it as expansive ... an area the size of two or three villages... an area the size of one major kingdom... an area the size of two or three major kingdoms... an area the size of the earth bounded by the ocean, pervading it as expansive: this too is called the expansive liberation of mind.

Moreover, MN 111, the Paṭisambhidāmagga, and the Dhammasaṅgaṇī are all canonical authorities which support developing vipassanā within jhāna. MN 111 informs us that in the first seven attainments phenomena are differentiated and known as they occur. It's not vipassanā of phenomena that had passed, ceased, and changed, it's vipassanā of phenomena one by one as they occurred:

    tyāssa dhammā anupadavavatthitā honti; tyāssa dhammā viditā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti.

    these phenomena were defined by him one by one as they occurred; known to him these phenomena arose, known they were present, known they disappeared.

This is a description of vipassanā of phenomena one by one as they occurred (anupadadhammavipassanā). But according to Ven. Brahmavamso's jhāna, there can be no comprehension within jhāna. In The Jhānas Ven. Brahmavamso states:

    When perspective is removed, so is comprehension. Thus in jhāna, not only is there no sense of time, but also there is no comprehension of what is going on.

This lack of comprehension precludes any differentiation and knowing of phenomena one by one as they occur in jhāna. For Ven. Brahmavamso this differentiation and knowing of mental factors is impossible within jhāna. He continues:

    Furthermore, the ultra-stillness of mindfulness in jhāna freezes the activity of mind called comprehension to the extent that, while in jhāna, one can hardly make sense of one's experience. The landmarks of jhāna are only recognized later, after emerging and reviewing.

Therefore, according to Ven. Brahmavamso, the MN 111 statement that "these phenomena were defined by him one by one as they occurred," would be impossible. This passage would have to be discarded for all of the first seven attainments and replaced by the passage describing the final two attainments:

    so tāya samāpattiyā sato vuṭṭhahati. so tāya samāpattiyā sato vuṭṭhahitvā ye dhammā atītā niruddhā vipariṇatā te dhamme samanupassati 'evaṃ kirame dhammā ahutvā sambhonti, hutvā paṭiventī'ti

    He emerged mindful from that attainment. Having done so, he contemplated the phenomena that had passed, ceased and changed, thus: 'So indeed, these phenomena, not having been, come into being; having been they vanished.'

But in the sutta this passage only pertains to the final two attainments. In the final two attainments phenomena cannot be differentiated and known as they occur because apperception isn't sufficiently engaged.

And not only is this the case for MN 111, but also the Paṭisambhidāmagga, the Dhammasaṅgaṇī, the Mahāvibhāṣā, and the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya (i.e. all major Indian Theravāda/Sthaviravāda texts), as well as the detailed Sautrāntika and Yogācāra texts all maintain that vipassanā can and should optimally be developed within jhāna. For example, the Dhammasaṅgaṇī section on Rūpāvacarakusala lists the mental factors engaged in an optimally skillful rūpāvacarajjhānacitta on that specific occasion, specifically, at that time. This list includes sammādiṭṭhi, sammāsati, sampajañña, samatha, and vipassanā:

    What at that time is samatha? That which at that time is stability of mind, steadfastness of mind, thorough steadfastness of mind, unshakableness, non-distraction, imperturbability, calmness of mind, faculty of concentration, strength of concentration, right concentration. This at that time is samatha.

    What at that time is vipassanā? That which at that time is discernment (paññā), thorough understanding, investigation, comprehensive investigation, investigation of phenomena, consideration, discrimination, direct discrimination, erudite intelligence, proficiency, refined intelligence, discriminative examination.... This at that time is vipassanā.

Taking the canonical Pāḷi treatises into consideration, as well as the numerous major non-Pāḷi Abhidharma treatises, there is nothing whatsoever unusual about the inclusion of vipassanā here. The Sarvāstivāda *Mahāvibhāṣā (Apidamo dapiposha lun) states:

    In the four dhyānas, śamatha and vipaśyanā are equal in strength, and thus they are named a pleasant dwelling.

The Abhidharmakośabhāṣya:

    Samādhi is in fact excellent: it is a dhyāna filled with "parts," which goes by the means of the yoke of śamatha and vipaśyanā [that is to say, in which śamatha and vipaśyanā are in equilibrium], that is termed in the Sūtra "happiness in this world" and "the easy path," the path by which one knows better and easily.

The Yogācārabhūmiśāstra:

    Furthermore, only by depending on the dhyānas and the access concentration preceding the first dhyāna, the incompletely attained concentration, can one make the [initial] breakthrough to the noble truths. The formless attainments are inadequate. What is the reason? In the state of the formless attainments, the path of śamatha is superior, whereas the path of vipaśyanā is inferior. The inferior path of vipaśyanā is incapable of attaining the [initial] breakthrough to the noble truths.

The *Tattvasiddhiśāstra (Chengshih lun), the *Prakaraṇāryavācaśāstra (Xianyang shengjiao lun), and the *Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa (Dazhi du lun) all make similar statements to these.

As happens in every case, all of these references are completely incompatible with Ven. Brahmavamso's jhāna theory.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:20 am

Ñāṇa wrote: As happens in every case, all of these references are completely incompatible with Ven. Brahmavamso's jhāna theory.
But the real question is: Can one gain insight and freedom from that sort of practice or the sort of practice outlined in the Visuddhimagga?
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: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:26 am

tiltbillings wrote:But the real question is: Can one gain insight and freedom from that sort of practice or the sort of practice outlined in the Visuddhimagga?

The real question is the optimal development of the noble eightfold path. The noble eightfold path presented in the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka and early para-canonical sources such as the Peṭakopadesa and the Nettippakaraṇa always include the coupling of calm (samatha) and clear seeing (vipassanā) at some stage of the noble path. These two mental factors are mutually conditioning, each serving to strengthen the other when skillfully employed within jhāna.

Ven. Ṭhānissaro describes what Ajahn Fuang considered to be wrong concentration as follows:

    There were two exceptions to Ajaan Fuang's usual practice of not identifying the state you had attained in your practice, and both involved states of wrong concentration. The first was the state that comes when the breath gets so comfortable that your focus drifts from the breath to the sense of comfort itself, your mindfulness begins to blur, and your sense of the body and your surroundings gets lost in a pleasant haze. When you emerge, you find it hard to identify where exactly you were focused. Ajaan Fuang called this moha-samadhi, or delusion-concentration.

    The second state was one I happened to hit one night when my concentration was extremely one-pointed, and so refined that it refused settle on or label even the most fleeting mental objects. I dropped into a state in which I lost all sense of the body, of any internal/external sounds, or of any thoughts or perceptions at all — although there was just enough tiny awareness to let me know, when I emerged, that I hadn't been asleep. I found that I could stay there for many hours, and yet time would pass very quickly. Two hours would seem like two minutes. I could also "program" myself to come out at a particular time.

    After hitting this state several nights in a row, I told Ajaan Fuang about it, and his first question was, "Do you like it?" My answer was "No," because I felt a little groggy the first time I came out. "Good," he said. "As long as you don't like it, you're safe. Some people really like it and think it's nibbana or cessation. Actually, it's the state of non-perception (asaññi-bhava). It's not even right concentration, because there's no way you can investigate anything in there to gain any sort of discernment. But it does have other uses." He then told me of the time he had undergone kidney surgery and, not trusting the anesthesiologist, had put himself in that state for the duration of the operation.

    In both these states of wrong concentration, the limited range of awareness was what made them wrong. If whole areas of your awareness are blocked off, how can you gain all-around insight? And as I've noticed in years since, people adept at blotting out large areas of awareness through powerful one-pointedness also tend to be psychologically adept at dissociation and denial. This is why Ajaan Fuang, following Ajaan Lee, taught a form of breath meditation that aimed at an all-around awareness of the breath energy throughout the body, playing with it to gain a sense of ease, and then calming it so that it wouldn't interfere with a clear vision of the subtle movements of the mind. This all-around awareness helped to eliminate the blind spots where ignorance likes to lurk.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Nyana » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:55 am

tiltbillings wrote:Can one gain insight and freedom from ... the sort of practice outlined in the Visuddhimagga?

Ven. Ṭhānissaro, Wings to Awakening Part III F: Concentration & Discernment:

    The role of jhana as a condition for transcendent discernment is one of the most controversial issues in the Theravada tradition. Three basic positions have been advanced in modern writings. One, following the commentarial tradition, asserts that jhana is not necessary for any of the four levels of Awakening and that there is a class of individuals — called "dry insight" meditators — who are "released through discernment" based on a level of concentration lower than that of jhana. A second position, citing a passage in the Canon [AN 3.88] stating that concentration is mastered only on the level of non-returning, holds that jhana is necessary for the attainment of non-returning and arahantship, but not for the lower levels of Awakening. The third position states that the attainment of at least the first level of jhana is essential for all four levels of Awakening.

    Evidence from the Canon supports the third position, but not the other two. As MN 117 points out, the attainment of stream-entry has eight factors, one of which is right concentration, defined as jhana. In fact, according to this particular discourse, jhana is the heart of the streamwinner's path. Second, there is no passage in the Canon describing the development of transcendent discernment without at least some skill in jhana. The statement that concentration is mastered only on the level of non-returning must be interpreted in the light of the distinction between mastery and attainment. A streamwinner may have attained jhana without mastering it; the discernment developed in the process of gaining full mastery over the practice of jhana will then lead him/her to the level of non-returning. As for the term "released through discernment," MN 70 shows that it denotes people who have become arahants without experiencing the four formless jhanas. It does not indicate a person who has not experienced jhana.

    Part of the controversy over this question may be explained by the fact that the commentarial literature defines jhana in terms that bear little resemblance to the canonical description. The Path of Purification — the cornerstone of the commentarial system — takes as its paradigm for meditation practice a method called kasina, in which one stares at an external object until the image of the object is imprinted in one's mind. The image then gives rise to a countersign that is said to indicate the attainment of threshold concentration, a necessary prelude to jhana. The text then tries to fit all other meditation methods into the mold of kasina practice, so that they too give rise to countersigns, but even by its own admission, breath meditation does not fit well into the mold: with other methods, the stronger one's focus, the more vivid the object and the closer it is to producing a sign and countersign; but with the breath, the stronger one's focus, the harder the object is to detect. As a result, the text states that only Buddhas and Buddhas' sons find the breath a congenial focal point for attaining jhana.

    None of these assertions have any support in the Canon. Although a practice called kasina is mentioned tangentially in some of the discourses, the only point where it is described in any detail [MN 121] makes no mention of staring at an object or gaining a countersign. If breath meditation were congenial only to Buddhas and their sons, there seems little reason for the Buddha to have taught it so frequently and to such a wide variety of people. If the arising of a countersign were essential to the attainment of jhana, one would expect it to be included in the steps of breath meditation and in the graphic analogies used to describe jhana, but it isn't. Some Theravadins insist that questioning the commentaries is a sign of disrespect for the tradition, but it seems to be a sign of greater disrespect for the Buddha — or the compilers of the Canon — to assume that he or they would have left out something absolutely essential to the practice.

    All of these points seem to indicate that what jhana means in the commentaries is something quite different from what it means in the Canon. Because of this difference we can say that the commentaries are right in viewing their type of jhana as unnecessary for Awakening, but Awakening cannot occur without the attainment of jhana in the canonical sense.

All the best,

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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Vossaga (Element) » Sat Feb 19, 2011 6:30 am

Greetings jhana sky travellers :alien:

SN 48.9 describes right concentration as having one sole object, namely, relinquishment (vossaga). MN 118 instructs he develops samadhi-sambojjhanga that depends on viveka, on viraga, on nirodha and leads to vossagga. MN 117 advises the noble right concentration is supported by the first seven factors of the eightfold path, which includes the right intention to let go of or abandon craving, per the instruction in the right view of the 2nd Noble Truth. MN 148 states samatha & vipassana are developed in tandem. The Dhammapada states there is no jhana without wisdom. Wisdom, naturally, is understanding the Noble Truths, which instruct to abandon craving, to give up attachment.

However, that jhanas are the fruition of the path is naturally refuted by MN 117, which states the arahant path has ten factors, that is, ending with right insight knowledge (samma nana) & right liberation (samma vimutti).

With metta

V

As for samadhi, an empty mind is the supreme samadhi, the supremely focused firmness of mind. The straining and striving sort of samadhi isn't the real thing and the samadhi which aims at anything other than non-clinging to the five khandas is micchasamadhi (wrong or perverted samadhi). You should be aware that there is both micchasamadhi and sammasamadhi (right or correct samadhi). Only the mind that is empty of grasping at and clinging to 'I' and 'mine' can have the true and perfect stability of sammasamadhi. One who has an empty mind has correct samadhi.

Ajahn Buddhadasa

:meditate:
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Vossaga (Element) » Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:02 pm

SN 48.9: “Here, bhikkhus, the noble disciple gains concentration, gains one-pointedness of mind, have made release the objection” (vossaggarammanam karitva).

Bhikkhu Bodhi translation


MN 117: Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions. Of those, right view is the forerunner. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view.

MN 141: And what is right view? Knowledge with reference to stress, knowledge with reference to the origination of stress, knowledge with reference to the cessation of stress, knowledge with reference to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: This is called right view.

SN 56.11: This noble truth of the origination of stress [of craving] is to be abandoned.


MN 118: And how are the seven factors for awakening developed & pursued so as to bring clear knowing & release to their culmination? There is the case where a monk develops mindfulness as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening… persistence as a factor for awakening… rapture as a factor for awakening… serenity as a factor for awakening… concentration as a factor for awakening… equanimity as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment.

NOTE: The development of concentration is DEPENDENT ON three dhammas that result in relinquishment or letting go, namely, solitude, dispassion & the extinguishing (of defilement). It is not the concentration that results in relinquishment. It is the solitude, viraga (lit: fading away, letting go) & nirodha that result in relinquishment.


MN 38: On returning from his almsround, after his meal he sits down, folding his legs crosswise, setting his body erect, and establishing mindfulness before him. Abandoning covetousness for the world he abides with a mind free from covetousness; he purifies his mind from covetousness. Abandoning ill-will and hatred, he abides with a mind free from ill-will, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings; he purifies his mind from ill-will and hatred. Abandoning sloth and torpor, he abides free from sloth and torpor, percipient of light, mindful and fully aware; he purifies his mind from sloth and torpor. Abandoning restlessness and remorse, he abides unagitated with a mind inwardly peaceful; he purifies his mind from restlessness and remorse. Abandoning doubt, he abides having gone beyond doubt, unperplexed about wholesome states; he purifies his mind of doubt.

Having thus abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, he enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by thinking and examining thought, with joy and happiness born of seclusion. With the stilling of thinking and examining thought, he enters and abides in the second jhāna which has self-confidence and stillness of mind without thinking and examining thought, with joy and happiness born of collectedness. With the fading away as well of joy a bhikkhu abides in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware, still feeling pleasure with the body, he enters and abides in the third jhāna, on account of which noble ones announce: ‘He has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters and abides in the fourth jhāna, which has neither -pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.

MN 7:“He knows: ‘I have given up, renounced, let go, abandoned and relinquished [the defilements] in part’; and he gains enthusiasm for the goal, gains enthusiasm for the Dhamma, gains gladness connected with the Dhamma. When he is gladdened, joy is born in him; being joyous in mind, his body becomes tranquil; when his body is tranquil, he feels happiness; and the mind of him who is happy becomes concentrated.


:meditate:
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby legolas » Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:11 pm

Vossaga wrote:Greetings jhana sky travellers :alien:

SN 48.9 describes right concentration as having one sole object, namely, relinquishment (vossaga). MN 118 instructs he develops samadhi-sambojjhanga that depends on viveka, on viraga, on nirodha and leads to vossagga. MN 117 advises the noble right concentration is supported by the first seven factors of the eightfold path, which includes the right intention to let go of or abandon craving, per the instruction in the right view of the 2nd Noble Truth. MN 148 states samatha & vipassana are developed in tandem. The Dhammapada states there is no jhana without wisdom. Wisdom, naturally, is understanding the Noble Truths, which instruct to abandon craving, to give up attachment.

However, that jhanas are the fruition of the path is naturally refuted by MN 117, which states the arahant path has ten factors, that is, ending with right insight knowledge (samma nana) & right liberation (samma vimutti).

With metta

V

As for samadhi, an empty mind is the supreme samadhi, the supremely focused firmness of mind. The straining and striving sort of samadhi isn't the real thing and the samadhi which aims at anything other than non-clinging to the five khandas is micchasamadhi (wrong or perverted samadhi). You should be aware that there is both micchasamadhi and sammasamadhi (right or correct samadhi). Only the mind that is empty of grasping at and clinging to 'I' and 'mine' can have the true and perfect stability of sammasamadhi. One who has an empty mind has correct samadhi.

Ajahn Buddhadasa

:meditate:


Hi

I don't think anybody is saying jhana is the fruition of the path, only that jhana may be needed prior to fruition. Even if that jhana lasts a short time, given the right conditions - a path moment or path/fruition may occur. This would seem to be the case where the Buddha teaches lay people with progressive instruction and a description follows which for all intents and purpose sounds like jhana, followed by the Dhamma eye arising within them..........

Then the Blessed One, having encompassed the awareness of the entire assembly with his awareness, asked himself, "Now who here is capable of understanding the Dhamma?" He saw Suppabuddha the leper sitting in the assembly, and on seeing him the thought occurred to him, "This person here is capable of understanding the Dhamma." So, aiming at Suppabuddha the leper, he gave a step-by-step talk, i.e., a talk on giving, a talk on virtue, a talk on heaven; he declared the drawbacks, degradation, & corruption of sensual passions, and the rewards of renunciation. Then when he saw that Suppabuddha the leper's mind was ready, malleable, free from hindrances, elated, & bright, he then gave the Dhamma-talk peculiar to Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation, & path. And just as a clean cloth, free of stains, would properly absorb a dye, in the same way, as Suppabuddha the leper was sitting in that very seat, the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye arose within him, "Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.5.03.than.html

One point that appears to me to be often overlooked is that if we take the Visuddhimagga jhāna approach then we have a very strange state of affairs. Firstly the Buddha taught that mindfulness is at the heart of practice,mindfulness of the body is paramount, then according to the Visuddhimagga approach he taught a meditation that totally disassociates one from the body and all mindfulness is lost. This really makes no sense on any level especially when the 4th jhana is described as purity of mindfulness in the stock jhana descriptions.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Dmytro » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:02 pm

Hello,

First steps of Brahmavamso's method remind, on one hand, Bhaddekkaratta sutta:

Let one not trace back the pasta
Or yearn for the future-yet-to-come.b
That which is past is left behind
Unattained is the "yet-to-come."
But that which is present he discerns —
With insight as and when it comes.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el188.html

and on another hand, Anapanasati instructions in Patisambhidamagga:

(i) By avoiding consciousness which runs after the past (breaths) and is attacked by distraction, (consciousness) is concentrated in one place.

(ii) By avoiding consciousness which looks forward to the future (breaths) and is attacked by wavering, (consciousness) is fixed (there).

http://bps.lk/bp_library/bp502s/bp502_p ... c166300488

In the insructions to the fifth and sixth steps Brahmavamso writes:

the breath calms down. It changes from a coarse, ordinary breath, to a very smooth and peaceful “beautiful breath.” The mind recognizes this beautiful breath and delights in it. The mind experiences a deepening of contentment. It is happy just to be there watching this beautiful breath.

...

You do not need to do anything here, because the intense beauty of the nimitta is more than capable of holding the attention without your assistance. Be careful not to go assessing. Questions such as, “What is this?” “Is this jhana?” “What should I do next?” and so on are all the work of the “doer” trying to get involved again. This is disturbing the process. You may assess everything once the journey is over. A good scientist assesses the experiment only at the end, when all the data is in. So do not assess or try to work it all out.


http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issu ... brahm.html

Many meditators, experiencing for the first time the happiness of jhana, unintentionally develop a passion for this happiness. If, in addition to this, the meditator places an emphasis on the beauty (subha-nimitta), then he can get a serious addiction to the subtle states (rupa-raga, arupa-raga).

http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/s_ ... imitta.htm
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/s_t/samyojana.htm

However Brahmavamso states that there's no craving for jhanas, and such craving is impossible:

http://www.viet.net/anson/ebud/ebmed075.htm

"And how is the mind said to be internally positioned? There is the case where a monk, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. His consciousness follows the drift of the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal, is tied to... chained... fettered, & joined to the attraction of the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal. Or further, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. His consciousness follows the drift of the rapture & pleasure born of composure, is tied to... chained... fettered, & joined to the attraction of the rapture & pleasure born of composure. Or further, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' His consciousness follows the drift of the equanimity & pleasure, is tied to... chained... fettered, & joined to the attraction of the equanimity & pleasure. Or further, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. His consciousness follows the drift of the neither pleasure nor pain, is tied to... chained to... fettered, & joined to the attraction of the neither pleasure nor pain: The mind is said to be internally positioned.

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

"There is the case, Ananda, where a monk, having practiced in this way — (thinking) 'It should not be, it should not occur to me; it will not be, it will not occur to me. What is, what has come to be, that I abandon' — obtains equanimity. He relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it. As he relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it, his consciousness is dependent on it, is sustained by it (clings to it). With clinging/sustenance, Ananda, a monk is not totally unbound."

"Being sustained, where is that monk sustained?"

"The dimension of neither perception nor non-perception."

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

As for the perception in jhana, the Brahmavamso's teacher, Ven. Acharn Chah, has an excellent description:

On one occasion I was walking cankama sometime after eleven o'clock at night. There was a festival going on in the village, which was about half a mile from the forest, monastery where I was staying. I was feeling strange, and had been feeling like that since the middle of the day. I was feeling unusually calm and wasn't thinking very much about anything. I was tired from walking meditation, so I went to sit in my small grass-roofed hut. Then just as I was sitting down, I found I had barely enough time to tuck my legs in before my mind went into this deep place of calm. It happened just by itself. By the time I got myself into the sitting posture the mind was already deeply calm and I felt completely firm and stable in the meditation. It wasn't that I couldn't hear the sounds of people singing and dancing in the village; I could still hear them. But at the same time, I could turn my attention inwards so that I couldn't hear the sounds as well. It was strange. When I paid no attention to the sounds there was silence, I couldn't hear anything. But if I wanted to I could hear them and without feeling disturbed. It was as if inside my mind there were two different objects placed side by side, but not connected to one another. I could see that the mind and the object were separate and distinct, just like the water kettle and the spittoon here. As a result I understood that when the mind is calm in samadhi, if you direct your attention towards sounds, you can hear them, but if you remain with the mind, in its emptiness, it remains quiet. If a sound arises into consciousness and you watch what happens, you see that the knowing and the mind-object are quite separate.

http://www.viet.net/anson/ebud/ajchah_lib/01_key.htm

Metta, Dmytro
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Sylvester » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:29 am

Dmytro wrote:However Brahmavamso states that there's no craving for jhanas, and such craving is impossible:

http://www.viet.net/anson/ebud/ebmed075.htm

"And how is the mind said to be internally positioned? There is the case where a monk, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. His consciousness follows the drift of the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal, is tied to... chained... fettered, & joined to the attraction of the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal. Or further, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. His consciousness follows the drift of the rapture & pleasure born of composure, is tied to... chained... fettered, & joined to the attraction of the rapture & pleasure born of composure. Or further, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' His consciousness follows the drift of the equanimity & pleasure, is tied to... chained... fettered, & joined to the attraction of the equanimity & pleasure. Or further, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. His consciousness follows the drift of the neither pleasure nor pain, is tied to... chained to... fettered, & joined to the attraction of the neither pleasure nor pain: The mind is said to be internally positioned.

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



Hi Dmytro

Let's suspend faith for a moment on what MN 138 says about getting "internally stuck" (ajjhattaṃ saṇṭhitanti) in jhana. Ven Analayo will be publishing his Majjhima-Madhyama comparative study soon, with some rather interesting results on MN 138's discussion on being "ajjhattaṃ saṇṭhitanti" in jhana.

The term "saṇṭhitanti" occurs only in MN 138, and the explanation for it meaning "stuck" is, I believe, Commentarial. I've not seen Ven Analayo's argument, but I suspect he will argue that the Pali version of MN 138 might have suffered a transmission error, after comparison to the Chinese parallel. This is Ven Brahmali's summary -

According to Ven. Anālayo’s still unpublished “Comparative Study of the Majjhima Nikāya”, the Chinese version of this sutta does not call this problem of craving “stuck internally”, as the Pali does, but rather “not settled internally”. “Not settled internally” seems to be related to the Pali word santiṭṭhati, which is one of the standard words for the mind “settling” in samādhi. Thus the Chinese, quite literally, is saying that if one craves for the happiness of jhāna then the mind will not settle internally, that is, one will not attain samādhi or jhāna. This makes it quite clear, to my mind, that what we are seeing in this sutta is a warning against a specific obstacle to jhāna.


The Pali has "ajjhattaṃ saṇṭhitanti", whereas the Chinese passage would have expressed it as "ajjhattaṃ asantiṭṭhati".

It won't the first time where Ven Analayo has identified a transmission error in the Pali Canon; see his paper on the problematic reading of the Sancetanika Sutta, AN 10.206 and Brahmavihara Sutta, AN 10.208, which can be easily accounted for as a "wrong negation" on comparison to the Chinese parallel. In the case of MN 138, it looks as if it is a case of a "lost negation" or the negations being swapped, plus the corruption of a common word (santiṭṭhati) into a hapax legomenon (saṇṭhitanti).
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Dmytro » Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:49 am

Hi Sylvester,

Sylvester wrote:The term "saṇṭhitanti" occurs only in MN 138, and the explanation for it meaning "stuck" is, I believe, Commentarial.


Does 'Commentarial' mean 'wrong'?

The Commentaries are very useful in may respect, and often much more reliable than modern Western Buddhist mythology.
It's a pity that very few people actully read them.

According to Ven. Anālayo’s still unpublished “Comparative Study of the Majjhima Nikāya”, the Chinese version of this sutta does not call this problem of craving “stuck internally”, as the Pali does, but rather “not settled internally”. “Not settled internally” seems to be related to the Pali word santiṭṭhati, which is one of the standard words for the mind “settling” in samādhi. Thus the Chinese, quite literally, is saying that if one craves for the happiness of jhāna then the mind will not settle internally, that is, one will not attain samādhi or jhāna. This makes it quite clear, to my mind, that what we are seeing in this sutta is a warning against a specific obstacle to jhāna.


It would be interesting to read the Anālayo's work.

It won't the first time where Ven Analayo has identified a transmission error in the Pali Canon


I don't understand how an analysis of a Chinese Agama text may lead to the identification of transmission error in the Pali Canon.
At best it is an educated guess, an informed hypothesis, especially since the Agama texts lost a lot during Chinese translation.

As for the attachment to jhanas, there are many other passages in the Pali Canon which clearly express the Buddha's attitude to this matter:

"I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain."

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

"There was the case where Sariputta — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — entered & remained in the first jhana. Whatever qualities there are in the first jhana — directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention — he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they remained, known to him they subsided. He discerned, 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers.

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

"There is the case, Ananda, where a monk, having practiced in this way — (thinking) 'It should not be, it should not occur to me; it will not be, it will not occur to me. What is, what has come to be, that I abandon' — obtains equanimity. He relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it. As he relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it, his consciousness is dependent on it, is sustained by it (clings to it). With clinging/sustenance, Ananda, a monk is not totally unbound."

"Being sustained, where is that monk sustained?"

"The dimension of neither perception nor non-perception."

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

As for the MN 138, the description of non-attachment to jhanas is quite extensive and is not in any way limited to a single word:

"And how is the mind said not to be internally positioned? There is the case where a monk, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. His consciousness does not follow the drift of the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal, is not tied to... chained to... fettered, or joined to the attraction of the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Sylvester » Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:19 am

Indeed, Dmytro. It's become inordinately fashionable to criticise the Commentaries - lock, stock & barrel - in Western circles. But this does not justify an ad hominem that it's just "modern Western Buddhist mythology". Claims, in my opinion, ought to be considered on their own merits, rather than being tarred with the same brush.

As for MN 138, one cannot fault the Commentary on this point, since it was dealing with a hapax legomenon.

It's a pity that the Commentaries are not more accessible to English readers. It's difficult enough reading the Pali of the suttas, but the complexity of the compounds in the Commentaries are just too formidable for me to even countenance.

I'm not sure it will be easy reconciling some of the apparent contradictions in the Canon regarding the attachment to Jhana. As a counter example to MN 106, MN 44 quite clearly states that one does not anuseti with raganusaya in first Jhana, despite the presence of sukha. Further, it goes on to assert that one does not anuseti with avijjanusaya when experiencing the equanimity of 4th Jhana.

Coming back to MN 138, it will be interesting to see how Ven Analayo explains his findings and proposed re-reading of the text. But, my own reading, with the negations swapped and the "stuck" changed to "settled", gives a very consistent reading.

Of course, this will not be a happy reading for those bought up on the Commentarial admonitions against lokiya jhanas.

I don't understand how an analysis of a Chinese Agama text may lead to the identification of transmission error in the Pali Canon.
At best it is an educated guess, an informed hypothesis, especially since the Agama texts lost a lot during Chinese translation.


I don't think it is right to generalise such an objection to cover every instance of Comparative Buddhist reading. In the Sancetanika Sutta case, the Pali's "wrong negation" led to the sutta portraying the Buddha as advancing one of Nigantha Nattaputta's doctrines, which are denied elsewhere. The Chinese parallel, on the other hand, portrays the Buddha as denying that very same Nigantha doctrine.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Dmytro » Mon Feb 28, 2011 5:45 pm

Sylvester wrote:Indeed, Dmytro. It's become inordinately fashionable to criticise the Commentaries - lock, stock & barrel - in Western circles. But this does not justify an ad hominem that it's just "modern Western Buddhist mythology". Claims, in my opinion, ought to be considered on their own merits, rather than being tarred with the same brush.


Indeed, Sylvester.

I'm not sure it will be easy reconciling some of the apparent contradictions in the Canon regarding the attachment to Jhana. As a counter example to MN 106, MN 44 quite clearly states that one does not anuseti with raganusaya in first Jhana, despite the presence of sukha. Further, it goes on to assert that one does not anuseti with avijjanusaya when experiencing the equanimity of 4th Jhana.


IMHO, the sutta states it quite differently:

"No... There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With that he abandons passion. No passion-obsession gets obsessed there.[4] There is the case where a monk considers, 'O when will I enter & remain in the dimension that those who are noble now enter & remain in?' And as he thus nurses this yearning for the unexcelled liberations, there arises within him sorrow based on that yearning. With that he abandons resistance. No resistance-obsession gets obsessed there.[5] There is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. With that he abandons ignorance. No ignorance-obsession gets obsessed there."[6]

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

Ven. Thanissaro explains the meaning in comments.

I think you would agree that the fourth jhana doesn't mean the absence of avijja-anusaya.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Sylvester » Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:07 am

Dmytro wrote:
I'm not sure it will be easy reconciling some of the apparent contradictions in the Canon regarding the attachment to Jhana. As a counter example to MN 106, MN 44 quite clearly states that one does not anuseti with raganusaya in first Jhana, despite the presence of sukha. Further, it goes on to assert that one does not anuseti with avijjanusaya when experiencing the equanimity of 4th Jhana.


IMHO, the sutta states it quite differently:

"No... There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With that he abandons passion. No passion-obsession gets obsessed there.[4] There is the case where a monk considers, 'O when will I enter & remain in the dimension that those who are noble now enter & remain in?' And as he thus nurses this yearning for the unexcelled liberations, there arises within him sorrow based on that yearning. With that he abandons resistance. No resistance-obsession gets obsessed there.[5] There is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. With that he abandons ignorance. No ignorance-obsession gets obsessed there."[6]

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

Ven. Thanissaro explains the meaning in comments.

I think you would agree that the fourth jhana doesn't mean the absence of avijja-anusaya.



Hi Dmytro

Actually, Ven Thanissaro's rather eclectic translation of the subject of Anusayas conceals more than it illuminates. Especially the part in bold red above.

This is what the Pali simply says -

Idhāvuso visākha, bhikkhu sukhassa ca pahānā, dukkhassa ca pahānā, pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā, adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Avijjaṃ tena pajahati, na tattha avijjānusayo anusetī”ti.


It's a horrifying prospect trying to reconcile this categorical statement in MN 44 that is at odds with the Commentarial notion of the Jhanas being unsafe places.

:anjali:

PS - I've just noticed something. You refer to Ven Thanissaro with the "ayasma", but you refer to Ven Brahmavamso and Ven Analayo without the "ayasma". Is this perhaps a measure of your disdain for them, or perhaps over-rapid typing?
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Dmytro » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:47 am

Hi Sylvester,

Sylvester wrote:Actually, Ven Thanissaro's rather eclectic translation of the subject of Anusayas conceals more than it illuminates. Especially the part in bold red above.

This is what the Pali simply says -

Idhāvuso visākha, bhikkhu sukhassa ca pahānā, dukkhassa ca pahānā, pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā, adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Avijjaṃ tena pajahati, na tattha avijjānusayo anusetī”ti.


Well, here's a translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

"... With that he abandons ignorance, and the underlying tendency to ignorance does not underlie that."476

"476 MA: The bhikkhu suppresses the tendency to ignorance with the fourth jhana, makes it well suppressed, and then eradicates the tendency to ignorance by attaining the path of arahantship."

It's a horrifying prospect trying to reconcile this categorical statement in MN 44 that is at odds with the Commentarial notion of the Jhanas being unsafe places.


AFAIK, the Commentaries don't state that the Jhanas are unsafe places - evidently it's another part of the Western Buddhist mythology.

PS - I've just noticed something. You refer to Ven Thanissaro with the "ayasma", but you refer to Ven Brahmavamso and Ven Analayo without the "ayasma". Is this perhaps a measure of your disdain for them, or perhaps over-rapid typing?


I am trying to come to terms with this new type of Buddhism that they represent. The videos and statements like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOZtpCo3Vpk

make me wonder, what kind of Buddhist tradition is that.

So far I would call it "Australian Brahmic Buddhism".

It's typical features I observed are:

- Reliance on Sarvastivada Chinese Agamas, which are considered more reliable that Pali Nikayas;
- Usage of Dharmagupta Vinaya lineage for nuns ordination;
- The notion that the jhanas don't invlove any physical perception, lead by themselves to Nibbana, and there can't be attachment to jhanas;
- The notion that Nirodha-samapatti is essentially the same as Nibbana;
- Rejection of Pali Commentaries.

The origin of this kind of Buddhism can be traced to the works of Roderick Bucknell, former monk and scholar of Agama texts, but I would call it "Brahmic" since Brahmavamso gave it a defined form.

If the teachers of this "Australian Brahmic Buddhism" would define more clearly the type and name of their tradition, it would simplify things for me.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Sylvester » Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:08 am

Well, at least you're honest enough not to conceal your distaste for them, so much so that you elect not to treat them as monastics.

AFAIK, the Commentaries don't state that the Jhanas are unsafe places - evidently it's another part of the Western Buddhist mythology.


May I take it that the Commentaries do not consider the vipassanupakkilesa to ever afflict the Jhanas? May I take it that the Commentarial application of the Abhidhammic lokiya/lokuttara distinction to Jhanas never warn against lokiya Jhanas?

I much prefer BB's translation of that passage from MN 44, but how is that or the Pali different from what I asserted earlier -

Further, it goes on to assert that one does not anuseti with avijjanusaya when experiencing the equanimity of 4th Jhana.


You suggest that -

If the teachers of this "Australian Brahmic Buddhism" would define more clearly the type and name of their tradition, it would simplify things for me.


Respectfully, it appears to me that you are not asking for simplicity, but a monopoly and imprimatur on what constitutes "proper" Theravada. Sorry, but you're hardly in the position to claim a monopoly to the name "Theravada", no matter how entitled you feel to be so.
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Dmytro » Tue Mar 01, 2011 2:23 pm

Well, thank you, what a surprise it is to discover that I am deeply horrified by the threat to lose my monopoly on the term 'Theravada', and remain in a distateful state :clap:

Sylvester wrote:May I take it that the Commentaries do not consider the vipassanupakkilesa to ever afflict the Jhanas? May I take it that the Commentarial application of the Abhidhammic lokiya/lokuttara distinction to Jhanas never warn against lokiya Jhanas?


You may take any statements you want, but the connection of the statements above with your expression "Commentarial notion of the Jhanas being unsafe places" is tenuous. Commentaries do condsider Jhanas to be very helpful, and an essential part of the Path.

I much prefer BB's translation of that passage from MN 44, but how is that or the Pali different from what I asserted earlier -
Further, it goes on to assert that one does not anuseti with avijjanusaya when experiencing the equanimity of 4th Jhana.


The difference is that the 4th jhana is the tool to put an end "with that" to avijja-anusaya. Before this is done, there can be a plenty of avijja in the 4th jhana. Similarly, the first jhana is a tool to abandon raga-anusaya "with that". Otherwise there can be a plenty of passion (raga) in the first jhana. Buddha calls the passion for bodily jhanas "rupa-raga".

Respectfully, it appears to me that you are not asking for simplicity, but a monopoly and imprimatur on what constitutes "proper" Theravada. Sorry, but you're hardly in the position to claim a monopoly to the name "Theravada", no matter how entitled you feel to be so.


Well, as a psychologist I wonder if your projections of mine reflect your predispositions. May I express my own projection? Just a guess...
Your mentions of 'monopoly' suggest to me that probably you are one of the high-ranked figures in the Brahmavamso's group. This would also explain your concern about the 'ayasma' address.
If so, I must say that it's unfortunate that the BSWA.org forum has been shut down. IMHO, it would be better to restore it, so that your followers will have a proper place for discussions.
I wish you well on your difficult and strange path.

I reserve my right to not express respect to Brahmavamso, who doesn't respect Buddha Gotama, stating that he is not a Sammasambuddha, since he studied with previous Buddhas.

How fortunate I am not to have any title to worry about :)
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Re: A Critique of Brahmavamso’s “The Jhanas”

Postby Sylvester » Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:39 am

Oh dear, Dmytro.

Looks like your projection analysis has flopped miserably. I'm not even resident in Australia nor a member of BSWA nor someone who sees Ajahn Brahm more than the few occassions he stops over my part of the world. Respectfully, you've allowed your patigha to outrun your psychoanalytic skills, formidable as they may be.

I'll take it that your refusal to give a categorical "NO" to my 2 questions on the Commentaries is plain evasion.

You can trot out all the Commentarial qualifications to MN 44's categorical statements, and that's your cross to bear, not mine. And respectfully, if questionning the Commentaries is a strange path, then it looks like you are THE troll in this strange forum called DW. There are enough of your ilk to warrant a Mahavihara Buddhism forum of its own where you can keep out the heretics.

:anjali:
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