Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:32 pm

daverupa wrote:
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.
And you have read this massive body of literature, of which next to nothing is translated into English and the bulk remains untranslated in a very dense, difficult Pali?
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 4:53 pm

tiltbillings wrote:So, the teachings of these guys are determental?


I'm not familiar with them, so it's a good thing I never mentioned their names.

tiltbillings wrote:And you have read this massive body of literature, of which next to nothing is translated into English and the bulk remains untranslated in a very dense, difficult Pali?


As with most, my exposure to it is mostly via secondary sources analyzing those primary sources. In any event, a pass through Bhikkhu Bodhi's notes in the Nikaya translations are enough to showcase that they are not always in accord with the Suttas they are commenting on. So, hit and miss seems an accurate description. They also presuppose the abhidhamma, which is itself hit and miss (I've read the Dhammasangani and the Patthana - a hit, and a miss, imo of course).
    "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 mikenz66 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:16 pm

Hi Dave, This is classic straw man stuff. Sure you can interpret the Commentaries as some academic edifice. But I don't. I read it as I think it was intended, as a report of the experience of practitioners.

I have no evidence to suggest that some particular modern practitioner, teacher, or commentator (whether a famous forest monk or not) is necessarily more skilled at Dhamma practise than the many people who contributed their experiences to the Commentaries. Or the modern teachers who have made use of that experience, and the experience of guiding thousands of students, to develop their instruction techniques.

By all means ignore the aspects of Theravada that you don't find helpful. I certainly ignore a lot of stuff I see here...

How about returning to the actual topic of: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition?

:anjali:
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:39 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote: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?

Tilt and Bodom have already given some good quotations for momentary samādhi. Pīti and sukha are present in access samādhi, but there is more fluctuation with access samādhi than with fixed samādhi. See The Path of Freedom Chapter VIII, pages 79-80, and The Path of Purification Chapter IV, paragraphs 32 & 33, page 125.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:17 pm

Freawaru wrote: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.... 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.

As Dave already alluded to here, samatha and vipassanā in the Suttapiṭaka and Abhidhammapiṭaka refer to two qualities of mind, and bhāvanā refers to the development or cultivation of these two qualities of mind. It's only later, in the classical period of commentary, with the large systematic texts such as the Vimuttimagga, the Visuddhimagga, the Abhidharmakośa, and the Śrāvakabhūmi (which are all great systematic treatises branching off of the Indian Sthaviravāda), that we see the somewhat arbitrary separation of samathabhāvanā and vipassanābhāvanā according to different subjects of meditation.

Freawaru wrote: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?

Well, worded differently, yes. See, for example, Contemplation of the Mind: Practicing Cittānupassanā by Ven. Khemavamsa (esp. page 8 and then touched upon throughout the text).

What you are referring to was developed within Indian Sautrāntika and Yogācāra Pramāṇavāda (Epistemology). It was also developed in somewhat different terms in the Kagyu treatises on co-emergent mahāmudrā.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Nyana » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:39 pm

manjusri wrote:I would love a reference for these objects of observation that exist in the Tibetan system, i.e., 5 aggregates, 12 sensory spheres, etc.

For example, see:

Je Tsongkhapa. Thre Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Vol. 3, pages 36-37.
Dakpo Tashi Namgyal. Mahāmudrā: The Moonlight -- Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, page 41.
Lati Rinpoche. Meditative States In Tibetan Buddhism, pages 80-82.

All of these sections on śamatha are based on the Śrāvakabhūmi.

manjusri wrote: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 extant Buddhist traditions agree that the object of samatha is a mental object cognized via the sixth consciousness. However, schools such as the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya also develop śamatha by using a visible object, such as a small stone, a piece of wood, or a buddha statue. There is no contradiction here because the specific object of focus is still individuated and engaged in by the sixth mental consciousness (which occurs concomitantly with visual consciousness according to the Yogācāra model of eight consciousnesses).

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:41 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.
Okay, now in light of what you just said above, it is massively unclear as to what is your point here concerning khaṇikasamādhi Is it -- to use your words -- "determental" or is it a "hit?"
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 » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:19 am

tiltbillings wrote:
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.
Okay, now in light of what you just said above, it is massively unclear as to what is your point here concerning khaṇikasamādhi Is it -- to use your words -- "determental" or is it a "hit?"


I pass, and apologize for the disturbance. Another thread is a better fit. Sorry, all.
    "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 Freawaru » Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:06 pm

Hi Geoff,

thank you very much :smile:

Looks like I have a lot to research now :reading: :coffee:
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby Freawaru » Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:19 pm

Hi manjushri,

manjusri wrote:
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.


As far as I know this is not correct in Theravada. After all, in fourth jhana both sati and upppekha are perfected - wouldn't it be a shame to not use them for insight?

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?


It was a monthly session, each one and a half hour, and we leared several techniques (Green Tara, four foundations of mindfulness, etc). I would not recommend it as a dayly practice but it is quite useful to get to know your mind during emotions.

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.


Yes, but what surprised me was that a mental object stabilized while I did nothing else than observing mind and body. I didn't know this was possible but now it looks like this is quite common. :smile:
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Re: Shamatha In The Theravada Tradition

Postby manjusri » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:12 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
manjusri wrote:I would love a reference for these objects of observation that exist in the Tibetan system, i.e., 5 aggregates, 12 sensory spheres, etc.

For example, see:

Je Tsongkhapa. Thre Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Vol. 3, pages 36-37.
Dakpo Tashi Namgyal. Mahāmudrā: The Moonlight -- Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, page 41.
Lati Rinpoche. Meditative States In Tibetan Buddhism, pages 80-82.

All of these sections on śamatha are based on the Śrāvakabhūmi.

manjusri wrote: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 extant Buddhist traditions agree that the object of samatha is a mental object cognized via the sixth consciousness. However, schools such as the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya also develop śamatha by using a visible object, such as a small stone, a piece of wood, or a buddha statue. There is no contradiction here because the specific object of focus is still individuated and engaged in by the sixth mental consciousness (which occurs concomitantly with visual consciousness according to the Yogācāra model of eight consciousnesses).

All the best,

Geoff


Thanks for the references, Geoff. I've been out of town and am headed out again this morning. You mentioned the use of a visible object in the Tibetan tradition to develop shamatha. I presume this is in the initial stages only, and not something you stare at all the way up to the ninth stage? Some I know took the statue of a buddha as their object, but only as a support for their visualization which, when there was sufficient clarity and stability, then became their object.
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