Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

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Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 06, 2011 4:38 am

Hi Retro,
In another thread, you said:
retrofuturist wrote:Much of what is admissable in the first jhana gets unfairly dismissed at times as "mere thinking", "just thinking", "an intellectual exercise", "philosophy" etc.


And I wish to explore that. This is how i understand it in theory and practice:
Cpd. 17 expls it "vitakka is the directing of concomitant properties towards the object; vicāra is the continued exercise of the mind on that object." See also above defn at Vism 142).


If you do not, can you explain how you understand vitakka and vicāra and why?
Thanks

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Nov 06, 2011 4:49 am

Greetings Ben,

I think the following definitions are useful, and also help to explain the evolution of the use of these terms over time...

Vitakka
Vitakka [vi+takka] reflection, thought, thinking; "initial application" (Cpd. 282). -- Defd as "vitakkanaŋ vitakko, ūhanan ti vuttaŋ hoti" at Vism 142 (with simile on p. 143, comparing vitakka with vicāra: kumbhakārassa daṇḍa -- ppahārena cakkaŋ bhamayitvā, bhājanaŋ karontassa uppīḷana -- hattho viya vitakko (like the hand holding the wheel tight), ito c' ito sañcaraṇahattho viya vicāro: giving vitakka the characteristic of fixity & steadiness, vicāra that of movement & display). -- D ii.277 ("pre -- occupation" trsln: see note Dial. ii.311); iii.104, 222, 287 (eight Mahāpurisa˚); M i.114 (dvidhā -- kato v.), 377; S i.39, 126, 186, 203; ii.153; iv.69, 216; A ii.36; iii.87 (dhamma˚); iv.229 (Mahāpurisa˚), 353 (˚upaccheda); Sn 7, 270 sq., 970, 1109; J i.407 (Buddha˚, Sangha˚, Nibbāna˚); Nd1 386, 493, 501 (nine); Nd2 s. v. takka; Ps i.36, 136, 178; Pv iii.58; Pug 59, 68; Vbh 86, 104 (rūpa˚, sadda˚ etc.), 228 (sa˚), 362 (akusala˚); Dhs 7, 160, 1268; Tikp 61, 333, 353; Vism 291 (˚upaccheda); Miln 82, 309; DhsA 142; DhA iv.68; VbhA 490; PvA 226, 230. -- kāma˚, vihiŋsā˚, vyāpāda˚ (sensual, malign, cruel thought): D iii.226; S ii.151 sq.; iii.93; A i.148, 274 sq.; ii.16, 117, 252; iii.390, 428. Opp. nekkhamma˚, avyāpāda˚, avihiŋsā˚ A i.275; ii.76; iii.429. -- vitakka is often combd with vicāra or "initial & sustained application" Mrs. Rh. D.; Cpd. 282; "reflection & investigation" Rh. D.; to denote the whole of the mental process of thinking (viz. fixing one's attention and reasoning out, or as Cpd. 17 expls it "vitakka is the directing of concomitant properties towards the object; vicāra is the continued exercise of the mind on that object." See also above defn at Vism 142). Both are properties of the first jhāna (called sa -- vitakka sa -- vicāra) but are discarded in the second jhāna (called a˚). See e. g. D. i.37; S iv.360 sq.; A iv.300; Vin iii.4; Vism 85; and formula of jhāna. The same of pīti & samādhi at Vbh 228, of paññā at Vbh 323. The same combn (vitakka+vicāra) at foll. passages: D iii.219 (of samādhi which is either sa˚, or a˚, or avitakka vicāra -- matta); S iv.193; v.111; A iv.409 sq., 450; Nett 16; Miln 60, 62; Vism 453. Cp. rūpa -- (sadda -- etc.) vitakka+rūpa<-> (sadda -- etc.) vicāra A iv.147; v.360; Vbh 103. -- On term (also with vicāra) see further: Cpd. 40, 56, 98, 238 sq., 282 (on difference between v. & manasikāra); Expos. i.188n; Kvu trsln 2381. -- Cp. pa˚, pari˚.
Note. Looking at the combn vitakka+vicāra in earlier and later works one comes to the conclusion that they were once used to denote one & the same thing: just thought, thinking, only in an emphatic way (as they are also semantically synonymous), and that one has to take them as one expression, like jānāti passati, without being able to state their difference. With the advance in the Sangha of intensive study of terminology they became distinguished mutually. Vitakka became the inception of mind, or attending, and was no longer applied, as in the Suttas, to thinking in general. The explns of Commentators are mostly of an edifying nature and based more on popular etymology than on natural psychological grounds.

Source: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :1489.pali

Vicāra
Vicāra [vi+cāra] investigation, examination, consideration, deliberation. -- Defd as "vicaraṇaŋ vicāro, anusañcaraṇan ti vuttaŋ hoti" Vism 142 (see in def. under vitakka). -- Hardly ever by itself (as at Th 1, 1117 mano˚), usually in close connection or direct combn with vitakka (q. v.).

Source: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :1399.pali

As per my preference, my inclination is towards the earlier definitions/applications.

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


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 06, 2011 4:59 am

Hi Retro,

Were they "earlier" definitions and applications?
And how does one apply vittaka and vicara (as per your prefered definitions) without indulging in one's own mental proliferations?
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:17 am

Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:Were they "earlier" definitions and applications?

Sorry, I don't understand the question. The quotes above give an indication of the evolution of the use of the term vitakka over time.

Ben wrote:And how does one apply vittaka and vicara (as per your prefered definitions) without indulging in one's own mental proliferations?

The term vittaka is skilfully contrasted against papanca (which is what I'm assuming your expression "indulging in one's own mental proliferations" refers to) by venerable Nanananda in the early sections of his text, "Concept And Reality" on pages 3-5 & 27. I know you have a copy of this text arriving shortly, so hopefully you can wait until it arrives, which would save me typing a significant tract of text, with footnotes, and diacritics etc.

:reading:

Whilst the first jhana is accompanied by vittaka and vicara, I doubt (but cannot confirm by way of sutta) that it is accompanied by papanca.

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


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:40 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:Were they "earlier" definitions and applications?

Sorry, I don't understand the question. The quotes above give an indication of the evolution of the use of the term vitakka over time.

Thanks, but I didn't take the definitions given as evolutionary in nature. Perhaps I am missing something??

retro wrote:
Ben wrote:And how does one apply vittaka and vicara (as per your prefered definitions) without indulging in one's own mental proliferations?

The term vittaka is skilfully contrasted against papanca (which is what I'm assuming your expression "indulging in one's own mental proliferations" refers to) by venerable Nanananda in the early sections of his text, "Concept And Reality" on pages 3-5 & 27. I know you have a copy of this text arriving shortly, so hopefully you can wait until it arrives, which would save me typing a significant tract of text, with footnotes, and diacritics etc.

:reading:

Whilst the first jhana is accompanied by vittaka and vicara, I doubt (but cannot confirm by way of sutta) that it is accompanied by papanca.

Metta,
Retro. :)

I am indeed looking forward to "concept and reality".
What I am trying to do is ascertain how vitakka and vicara are applied as per your preferred definition and application. It seems it might be very different to how I understand and apply vitakka and vicara but...I am not sure.
I ask because it appears from what I quoted from you in my first post that this is something you have experience in.
Am I inferring something that is not there? If so, i apologize.
I'm happy to wait and consult Ven N if you think that is the best course of action.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:29 am

Greetings Ben,

Thanks, but I didn't take the definitions given as evolutionary in nature. Perhaps I am missing something??

As I read the above definitions, the original sutta meaning was "thinking" or "reflection", whereas the later texts adhere to a far more nuanced/technical/narrow definition.

In MN 18, we read the following...

‘‘Cakkhuñcāvuso, paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṃ, tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso, phassapaccayā vedanā, yaṃ vedeti taṃ sañjānāti, yaṃ sañjānāti taṃ vitakketi, yaṃ vitakketi taṃ papañceti, yaṃ papañceti tatonidānaṃ purisaṃ papañcasaññāsaṅkhā " ( http://www.palikanon.com/pali/majjhima/maj018.htm )

... which explains the sequence of events leading to "the perceptions & categories of papañca" (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā) as follows...

phassa > vedana > sañña > vitakka > papañcasaññāsaṅkhā

In this context, "thinking" serves as a more satisfactory definition for vitakka than "the directing of concomitant properties towards the object", because it is "thinking" that gives rise to "the perceptions & categories of papañca". I wouldn't have envisaged that "the directing of concomitant properties towards the object" gives rise to "the perceptions & categories of papañca" and I doubt that you are inclined to suggest this relationship either.

Furthermore, consider the following sutta extract in which "thinking" and "thought" is the only sensible definition for vitakka.

MN 20: Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Relaxation of Thoughts
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The Blessed One said: "When a monk is intent on the heightened mind, there are five themes he should attend to at the appropriate times. Which five?

"There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice would use a small peg to knock out, drive out, and pull out a large one; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme, he should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to this other theme, connected with what is skillful, he should scrutinize the drawbacks of those thoughts: 'Truly, these thoughts of mine are unskillful, these thoughts of mine are blameworthy, these thoughts of mine result in stress.' As he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a young woman — or man — fond of adornment, would be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted if the carcass of a snake or a dog or a human being were hung from her neck; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to this other theme, connected with what is skillful, he should scrutinize the drawbacks of those thoughts: 'Truly, these thoughts of mine are unskillful, these thoughts of mine are blameworthy, these thoughts of mine result in stress.' As he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, he should pay no mind and pay no attention to those thoughts. As he is paying no mind and paying no attention to them, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a man with good eyes, not wanting to see forms that had come into range, would close his eyes or look away; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, he should pay no mind and pay no attention to those thoughts. As he is paying no mind and paying no attention to them, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts. As he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as the thought would occur to a man walking quickly, 'Why am I walking quickly? Why don't I walk slowly?' So he walks slowly. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I walking slowly? Why don't I stand?' So he stands. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I standing? Why don't I sit down?' So he sits down. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I sitting? Why don't I lie down?' So he lies down. In this way, giving up the grosser posture, he takes up the more refined one. In the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts. As he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness. As — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a strong man, seizing a weaker man by the head or the throat or the shoulders, would beat him down, constrain, and crush him; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness. As — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"Now when a monk... attending to another theme... scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts... paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts... attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts... beating down, constraining and crushing his mind with his awareness... steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it and concentrates it: He is then called a monk with mastery over the ways of thought sequences. He thinks whatever thought he wants to, and doesn't think whatever thought he doesn't. He has severed craving, thrown off the fetters, and — through the right penetration of conceit — has made an end of suffering and stress."

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One's words.


Ben wrote:What I am trying to do is ascertain how vitakka and vicara are applied as per your preferred definition and application.

Do you mean how are they used? Well, by the 2nd jhana they are abandoned because they are comparatively gross factors, so if the intention is to advance through the jhanas then they shouldn't be used - absorption into an object would be preferable in that instance.

That said, until attaining the second jhana, or if one is not aiming for higher jhanas, they may be applied as per the following classic example.

SN 22.59 wrote:"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever form, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that form must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever feeling, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that feeling must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever perception, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that perception must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever mental formations, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those mental formations must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever consciousness, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that consciousness must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .mend.html

This example is of course one amongst many, but it was selected as one which I assume would be of interest to you.

Ben wrote:I ask because it appears from what I quoted from you in my first post that this is something you have experience in. Am I inferring something that is not there? If so, i apologize.

I perform the instructions in SN 22.59 (amongst others) but if your question relates to whether I specifically apply vitakka and vicara "in jhana practice", my preference is not to provide an answer on the basis that understandings on what "jhana is" are so wildly divergent across the Theravada tradition that any comment made in this regard would be liable to lead to confusion and speculation, than to edification and benefit. I hope you understand, and allow me to defer to my teacher's teaching accordingly. If that disqualifies my comments of having merit from your perspective then you are welcome to disregard them as you see fit - no apologies required.

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


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:10 am

Greetings,

In the interests of discussion (regardless of whether one owns "Concept And Reality" or not), here is what ven. Nanananda writes on page 3 after quoting MN 18, as I did above.

This passage indicates that papanca signifies the final stage in the process of sense-cognition. The term definitely concerns the grosser conceptual aspect of the process, since it is a consequent to 'vitakka' (reasoning) which presupposes language.

We then have the following footnote to justify this statement that vitakka presupposes language (I won't include the original Pali unless there's a request, just the translation)...
Culla Vedalla S., MN,I301. "Having first had the initial thought and discursive thought, one subsequently utters a speech, therefore initial and discursive thought is an activity of speech". M.L.S. I. 363.

And back to the main text...
Hence we should determine how papanca differs from - nay, marks a development on - vitakka. The etymology of the word would help us at this point. Being derived from "pra + panc" it conveys meanings such as 'spreading out', 'expansion', 'diffuseness' and 'manifoldness'. The tendency towards proliferation in the realm of concepts may be described in any one of those terms, and this is probably the primary meaning of papanca.

Thus, while vitakka denotes the onset or initial application of though, papanca may refer to the consequent prolificity in ideation. One might object, however, that the word vicara, so often found in the suttas, would have amply conveyed this meaning. It is therefore necessary to distinguish between vicara and papanca as well. Vicara, though it denotes the discursive aspect of the intellect, has the finer sense of investigation and deliberation. It follows faithfully in the wake of vitakka and seeks to sustain it. Hence it is that vicara hardly occurs by itself and is often found juxtaposed with vitakka as vitakka-vicara. Papanca on the other hand, is a more comprehensive term hinting at the tendency of the worldling's imagination to break loose and run riot. If vicara, at least relatively denotes cosmos in the mental realm, papanca seens to signify chaos. This of course does not preclude the possibility that what often passes for vicara might turn out to be papanca when viewed from a higher standpoint. In any case, the expansion or diffusion of thought as envisaged by papanca is one that tends to obscure the true state of affairs in as much as it is an unwarranted deviation giving rise to obsession.

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


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:30 am

Thanks Retro

A few preliminary thoughts as I am in the process of organising the evening meal for my children...

With regards to the PED - my thinking is that it is less about providing the etymological sequence of how terms evolved and instead is providing a number of alternative definitions. The definition of Pali terms, it appears, is dependent on the context of usage. Hence, so many alternative variations in meaning for different words. So depending on context vitakka and vicara mean different things.


The material by Ven N is certainly very interesting. My original comment regarding papanca was in fact to contrast it against vicara if discursive thought was the preferred definition. How they are different and what the actual application of vitakka and vicara "look like" in actual practice and what strategies one employs to arrest the mind from the habit of indulging in Papanca. But from the material provided from "reality and concept" its looking like the Venerable's definition of Vicara and Vitakka looks like it is approaching that to which I engage in in anapana.

I'll come back to this later after I've got a few more brain cells to devote to your post.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Sylvester » Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:50 am

I wonder if Ven Nanananda would have dared to question MN 117's definition of sammasankappa (Right Intention/Right Thought) as being tainted by the Abhidhamma -

And what is the right resolve that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The thinking, directed thinking, resolve, (mental) fixity, transfixion, focused awareness, & verbal fabrications of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right resolve that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāsaṅkappo ariyo anāsavo lokuttaro maggaṅgo? Yo kho, bhikkhave, ariyacittassa anāsavacittassa ariyamaggasamaṅgino ariyamaggaṃ bhāvayato takko vitakko saṅkappo appanā byappanā cetaso abhiniropanā vacīsaṅkhāro— ayaṃ, bhikkhave, sammāsaṅkappo ariyo anāsavo lokuttaro maggaṅgo.


Some notes by Ven Analayo about the "Abhidhammic" feel of MN 117, when compared against its Madhyama Agama parallel. And yet, not quite unusual when compared against its Samyukta Agama parallels -

http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... risaka.pdf

Retro posted this citation from MN 44 -

Culla Vedalla S., MN,I301. "Having first had the initial thought and discursive thought, one subsequently utters a speech, therefore initial and discursive thought is an activity of speech". M.L.S. I. 363.


It is certainly possible to translate the Pali in such a free manner, but the Pali does not discuss the nouns, but the denominative verbs vitakketi and vicareti instead. Should it make a difference?

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Sylvester » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:24 am

A worthwhile query - were the "proto-abhidhammic" reciters of MN 117 justified in introducing those "absorption" qualities side-by-side with vitakka and vicara?

Let's consider SN 47.10 which discusses satipatthana and some of its obstacles -

It may be expected of anyone, Ananda—whether bhikkhu or bhikkhuni—who dwells with a mind well established in the four establishments of mindfulness, that such a one will perceive successively loftier stages of distinction.

What four? Here, Ananda, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. While he is contemplating the body in the body, there arises in him, based on the body, either a fever in the body or sluggishness of mind, or the mind is distracted outwardly.

That bhikkhu should then direct his mind towards some inspiring sign. When he directs his mind towards some inspiring sign, gladness is born. When he is gladdened, rapture is born.

When the mind is uplifted by rapture, the body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body experiences happiness. The mind of one who is happy becomes concentrated. He reflects thus: 'The purpose for the sake of which I directed my mind has been achieved. Let me now withdraw it.' So he withdraws the mind and does not think or examine (na ca vitakketi na ca vicāreti). He understands: 'Without thought and examination, internally mindful, I am happy.'


So, here we have a clear statement that even the satipatthanas are supposed to be void of vitakka and vicara (or if one were nit-picking, one would say that one does not vitakketi nor vicareti in the Satipatthanas).

Is this state unique to the satipatthanas? Consider this pericope in AN 9.1, AN 9.3 and Ud 4.1-

Tena ca pana, meghiya, bhikkhunā imesu pañcasu dhammesu patiṭṭhāya cattāro dhammā uttari bhāvetabbā— asubhā bhāvetabbā rāgassa pahānāya, mettā bhāvetabbā byāpādassa pahānāya, ānāpānassati bhāvetabbā vitakkupacchedāya, aniccasaññā bhāvetabbā asmimānasamugghātāya


It seems that mindfulness of breathing is developed to cut off "vitakka".

It would look odd that having cultivated either the Satipatthanas or Anapanasati which aim for absence of vitakka and vicara, that one slips into 1st Jhana that is a-flutter with the very states abandoned in the preceding bhavana. What exactly is happening? Is 1st Jhana a state that is coarser than Sammasati?

I think the words vitakka and vicara admit of degrees, and it is this difference of degrees that prompted the proto-abhidhammikas to explain sammasankappa as they have done in MN 117. But, this is not simply a feature of late redaction. The Sutta Nipata itself seems to have captured these ambiguous borders of vitakka. This is to be found in Sn 1105 -

pahānaṃ kāmacchandānaṁ
domanassāna c’ūbhayaṁ
thīnassa ca panudanaṁ
kukkuccānaṁ nivāraṇaṁ
upekhāsatisaṁsuddhaṁ
dhammatakkapurejavaṁ
aññavimokkhaṁ pabrumī
avijjāya pabhedanaṁ.

Giving up both the perceptions of sensual pleasure
and of displeasure, too,
and the pushing away of sloth,
and the hindrance of remorse,
mindfulness fully purified by equanimity,
preceded by (dhammatakka),
is liberation by true knowledge, I say,
the breaking up of ignorance.


Dhammatakka is dhamma-vitakka, where the "vi-" was dropped in service of metri causa to preserve the 8-syllable metre. Does this "vitakka" mean "thoughts" about dhamma/mental states? The section preceding mentions the abandonment of the hindrances, and is used to contrast with the vitakka that leads to the Jhanas. I think the imagery here suggests something in the sense of the mind moving towards dhammas, in contrast to the movement away from the hindrances.

It does seem that vitakka in the 1st Jhana does not have any relationship to thoughts or thinking.

The trick now is to figure out what "pajanati" (the proxy for vipassati) means, and how it functions, and when it functions.

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:23 pm

Hi Sylvester,
Sylvester wrote:So, here we have a clear statement that even the satipatthanas are supposed to be void of vitakka and vicara (or if one were nit-picking, one would say that one does not vitakketi nor vicareti in the Satipatthanas).

That's interesting. And of course that's how it seems to be interpreted in later texts, an is consistent with common meditation instructions to give attention to the bare sense impressions (hearing, seeing, etc), not thoughts about those things...

:anjali:
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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Kenshou » Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:14 pm

It looks more like it's that through the practice of the satipatthanas one eventually comes to the point where vitakka and vicara are withdrawn, not that the satipatthanas must always be absent of those two to be proper, though it is a desired result.

It looks to me that the satipatthanas come into play starting with where it says "What four? Here, Ananda, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body..." and so on, then continuing to go over several stages of development. As it says, one "who dwells with a mind well established in the four establishments of mindfulness, that such a one will perceive successively loftier stages of distinction", which is shown to eventually lead to the abandonment of vitakka and vicara.

The practice of the satipatthanas and anapanasati do certainly aim for the abandonment of vitakka and vicara, but I would question whether this means that these practices are only really being practiced when those factors aren't present, or if it's that their abandonment is a result of that practice, with that abandonment specifically occurring with entrance to the 2nd jhana where it is explicitly stated that they cease. Which I believe removes some of the difficulty in determining whether vitakka and vicara in the context of the 1st jhana must refer to something a little different.
Last edited by Kenshou on Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:53 pm

Kenshou wrote:It looks more like it's that through the practice of the satipatthanas one eventually comes to the point where vitakka and vicara are withdrawn, not that the satipatthanas must always be absent of those two to be proper, though it is a desired result.

It looks to me that the satipatthanas come into play starting with where it says "What four? Here, Ananda, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body..." and so on, then continuing to go over several stages of development. As it says, one "who dwells with a mind well established in the four establishments of mindfulness, that such a one will perceive successively loftier stages of distinction", which is show to eventually lead to the abandonment of vitakka and vicara.
The question is: What do these two things look like in actual practice? How do they function? What is one actually doing when these two things are in play? How would that be described?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Kenshou » Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:59 pm

You could ask that in response to the bulk of the posts on this website, couldn't you? And it is an important question, but I was only commenting on the theory, here.

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 06, 2011 9:20 pm

Kenshou wrote:You could ask that in response to the bulk of the posts on this website, couldn't you?
Of course.

And it is an important question, but I was only commenting on the theory, here.
It is not a question directed solely at you. I am curious as to how others see and use these concepts in the real world.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:06 pm

Greetings Sylvester,

Sylvester wrote:Let's consider SN 47.10 which discusses satipatthana and some of its obstacles

What you quoted here appears to relate to the transition between first to second jhana. This is based on the selections of your quote that I have bolded below.

It may be expected of anyone, Ananda—whether bhikkhu or bhikkhuni—who dwells with a mind well established in the four establishments of mindfulness, that such a one will perceive successively loftier stages of distinction.

What four? Here, Ananda, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. While he is contemplating the body in the body, there arises in him, based on the body, either a fever in the body or sluggishness of mind, or the mind is distracted outwardly.

That bhikkhu should then direct his mind towards some inspiring sign. When he directs his mind towards some inspiring sign, gladness is born. When he is gladdened, rapture is born.

When the mind is uplifted by rapture, the body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body experiences happiness. The mind of one who is happy becomes concentrated. He reflects thus: 'The purpose for the sake of which I directed my mind has been achieved. Let me now withdraw it.' So he withdraws the mind and does not think or examine (na ca vitakketi na ca vicāreti). He understands: 'Without thought and examination, internally mindful, I am happy.'



Sylvester wrote:So, here we have a clear statement that even the satipatthanas are supposed to be void of vitakka and vicara

It only shows that the "loftier" states (i.e. second jhana onwards) are devoid of vipaka and vicara. If it shows anything (and I don't claim it to be so, or otherwise, though welcome the perspectives of members on this matter) it might be that satipatthana practice cannot be done from the 2nd jhana onwards. (In saying that I of course relate to jhanas as described in the sutta - not "vipassana-jhanas"). Why do I say that? Because it shows a switch in emphasis in cultivation from satipatthana to samatha.

Having disagreed with your initial assertions, I therefore do not accept the subsequent conclusions that follow.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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


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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:32 pm

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:
Sylvester wrote:So, here we have a clear statement that even the satipatthanas are supposed to be void of vitakka and vicara

It only shows that the "loftier" states (i.e. second jhana onwards) are devoid of vipaka and vicara. If it shows anything (and I don't claim it to be so, or otherwise, though welcome the perspectives of members on this matter) (In saying that I of course relate to jhanas as described in the sutta - it might be that satipatthana practice cannot be done from the 2nd jhana onwards.not "vipassana-jhanas"). Why do I say that? Because it shows a switch in emphasis in cultivation from satipatthana to samatha.


I have not heard of that (your comment in bold), but i could be wrong.
kind regards,

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but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:46 pm

Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:I have not heard of that (your comment in bold)

Neither have I.

From memory, the "jhana boilerplate" text is typically given without direct correlation to a specific practice, which may make it difficult to discern conclusively from the texts, but the above quotation is certainly suggestive of a redirection of focus being required to move to the 2nd jhana if one had entered the 1st jhana through satipatthana activity.

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


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:17 pm

Its interesting, Retro.
My understanding is that it is optimal to practice satipatthana from jhana. Optimal but not necessary. And what I've read indicates its more optimal to practice satipatthana from the base of first jhana as opposed to moment-to-moment concentration (or access). As to whether it is more optimal to practice jhana from first jhana rather than subsequent jhanas - I don't know. Unfortunately I don't have the majority of my library with me.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Vitakka and Vicara in Jhana practice

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:29 pm

Greetings Ben,

I concur that it is "more optimal to practice satipatthana from the base of first jhana".

As for the "moment-to-moment concentration (or access)", I don't tend to think in those terms (I think you can guess why , without elaboration on my part 8-) ). I suspect the need to establish the notion of access-concentration as some kind of sub/pseudo-jhana may arise from the later tendency to make the first jhana more esteemed and exalted than it was originally designated to be in the suttas. That perception may however be completely wrong, as I haven't re-familiarised myself with the commentaries lately, so feel free to reject that statement out of hand if you know it to be otherwise.

Either way, it will be of interest to me as well if anyone has any Pali texts specifically pertaining to satipatthana beyond the first jhana (either as defined in the sutta or commentaries).

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


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)


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