Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:27 am

Greetings,

Further to the above comments, here is an indication of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's perspective on the matter...

When I first went to stay with Ajaan Fuang, one of the questions I asked him was, "What do you need to believe in order to meditate?" He answered that there was only one thing: the principle of kamma. Now when we hear the word "kamma," we usually think, "kamma-and-rebirth," but he meant specifically the principle of action: that what you do shapes your experience.

If you're convinced of this, you can do the meditation because, after all, the meditation is a doing. You're not just sitting here, biding your time, waiting for the accident of Awakening to happen. Even in very still states of meditation, there's an activity going on. Even the act of "being the knowing" is still a doing. It's a fabrication, a sankhara. In one of the suttas, the Buddha says that all the different khandhas, all the different aggregates that make up experience as a whole, have to get shaped into aggregates by the process of fabrication. In other words, there's a potential for a form, a potential for a feeling, potential for perception, fabrication, consciousness; and the act of fabricating is what turns these potentials into actual aggregates.

It sounds abstract, but it's a very important lesson for the meditation even from the very beginning. You sit here in the body — and of course, that's a fabrication right there: the idea that you're sitting in the body — but given all the many different things you could focus on right now, there's the possibility of choice. This possibility of choice is where kamma comes in. You can choose any of the sensations that are coming into your awareness. It's as if there were a buzz in all the different parts of the body. There's a potential for pain here, a potential for pleasure over there. All these different sensations are presenting themselves to you for you to do something about them, and you have the choice as to which ones you'll notice.

Doctors have done studies showing that pain isn't just a physical phenomenon. It isn't totally a given. There are so many different messages coming into your brain right now that you can't possibly process them all, so you choose to focus on just some of them. And the mind has a tendency to focus on pain because it's usually a warning signal. But we don't have to focus there. In other words, there can be a slight discomfort in a part of the body, and you can focus on it and make it more and more intense, more and more of an issue. That's one thing you can do right now, but — even if you may not realize it — you have the choice of whether or not to do that. You can choose not to make it more intense. You can choose even to ignore it entirely. Many times we have habitual ways of relating to sensations, and they're so habitual and so consistent that we think there's no choice at all. "This is the way things have to be," we think, but they don't.

That's the other implication of the principle of kamma: You can change your actions. If some parts of experience are dependent on choice and fabrication, you can choose to change. You see this really clearly when you focus on the breath. The breath is always there in the body, and if you look carefully you'll discover that it has many levels. It's like looking up in the sky: Sometimes you feel a breeze coming from the south, but you look up in the sky and see a layer of clouds moving east, and another higher layer of clouds moving west. There are lots of different layers of wind in the atmosphere and, in the same way, there are lots of different layers of breath in the body. You can choose which ones to focus on.

It's like having a radio receiver: You can choose to tune-in to different stations. The radio waves from all the nearby radio stations, all the different frequencies, are all in the air around us. There are radio waves from Los Angeles, radio waves from San Diego, even short wave radio waves from who-knows-where, all over the place. They're going through this room right now. They're going through your body right now. And when you turn on the radio you choose which frequency you want to focus on, which one you want to listen to. The same with the body. You sort out, of all the possible sensations, just one type of sensation to focus on: the breath-ness of the breath. Wherever you feel the sensation of the in-and-out breath most clearly, you focus right there. Now some of us have a radio we haven't taken very good care of, and as soon as we tune it in to one station it slips over to another. So you've got to keep tuning it back, tuning it back.

Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tml#tuning

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)


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


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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:31 am

What does Ven. Thanissaro and Ven. Lee say is the goal of Keeping The Breath In Mind?
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:33 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Further to the above comments, here is an indication of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's perspective on the matter...

When I first . . .
That is an okay description, but does seem to leave out a great deal.
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: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby carlosm » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:58 pm

phil wrote:He encourages people to breathe through their eyes, through their hands. It feels good to tap into the "breath energy" which is indeed coursing through the body, as ki, or chi, though T.B doesn't acknowledge it as such. The founder of the tradition (Ajahn Lee) developed it to heal his body after a heart attack during a rains retreat. Great, healing is great. This kind of breath yoga definitely brings heath benefits, wonderful. Very unfortunate that he promotes it as Dhamma, but most people who study Dhamma seriously are able to see past Thanissaro Bhikkhu pretty easily, and those who don't and get caught up in his cozy atta trap will at least get physical benefits from it. Well, at the cost of being deprived of a correct understanding of Dhamma, that's a steep price.


wow, that actually worries me a lot, I've been following Thanissaro instructions for quite a while. Another thing to worry about, how good is my practice!
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby marc108 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 5:15 pm

I would have to strongly disagree with phil, especially in saying "most people who study Dhamma seriously are able to see past Thanissaro Bhikkhu pretty easily". Feeling the subtle breath energy in the eyes is no different than feeling the physical breath energy raising the abdomen, imo... One is just a more gross, and one a more subtle movement of energy.

I'm unsure if the OP's question was about manipulating the breath itself, or manipulating the breath towards the goal of pleasure but I would like to comment on both:

First, I know many teachers teach passive observation of the breath as the sole means... but it seems clear from the Sutta's on Anapanasati that the Buddha taught both passive and active parts of the practice. You can see this clear difference in the descriptions of discerning vs training, re: "he discerns, I am breathing" vs "He trains himself, 'I will breathe". "trains himself, I will breath" is a clear reference to actively manipulating the breath.

Second, towards the goal of feeling pleasure... Ven. Thanissaro teaches Jhana, and accessing Jhana through Anapanasati requires using pleasure as a springboard or access point. Beyond the goal of Jhana, manipulating the breath to bring up relaxation and good feelings in the mind at the beginning of sitting is, imo, an extremely skillful way to assist in the process of letting go and greatly deepens concentration. Sensual pleasure and the pleasure that arises from sense withdrawl in meditation are completely different things... Meditation is supposedto be enjoyable and pleasurable, the Buddha was very clear about this imo.

"There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.

:smile:
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:37 pm

When we breath it isn't an activity that happens just at the nostrils, or just in the abdomen, the whole body breathes, the whole body vibrates subtely.

I think a lot of people who hear instructions to be aware of the breathing at just one point can end up clamping down on just that point and miss the fact that there is sensation and vibration happening throughout the body in time with the breathing.

I think Thanissaros instructions are designed to open us up to awareness of the whole body through noticing the affect the breath has on the whole body. Some people might end up imagining it when they are looking for sensation that they didn't know was there though, this would be a problem if they get cauught up in it.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby twelph » Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:45 pm

marc108 wrote:I would have to strongly disagree with phil, especially in saying "most people who study Dhamma seriously are able to see past Thanissaro Bhikkhu pretty easily". Feeling the subtle breath energy in the eyes is no different than feeling the physical breath energy raising the abdomen, imo... One is just a more gross, and one a more subtle movement of energy.

I'm unsure if the OP's question was about manipulating the breath itself, or manipulating the breath towards the goal of pleasure but I would like to comment on both:

First, I know many teachers teach passive observation of the breath as the sole means... but it seems clear from the Sutta's on Anapanasati that the Buddha taught both passive and active parts of the practice. You can see this clear difference in the descriptions of discerning vs training, re: "he discerns, I am breathing" vs "He trains himself, 'I will breathe". "trains himself, I will breath" is a clear reference to actively manipulating the breath.

Second, towards the goal of feeling pleasure... Ven. Thanissaro teaches Jhana, and accessing Jhana through Anapanasati requires using pleasure as a springboard or access point. Beyond the goal of Jhana, manipulating the breath to bring up relaxation and good feelings in the mind at the beginning of sitting is, imo, an extremely skillful way to assist in the process of letting go and greatly deepens concentration. Sensual pleasure and the pleasure that arises from sense withdrawl in meditation are completely different things... Meditation is supposedto be enjoyable and pleasurable, the Buddha was very clear about this imo.

"There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.

:smile:


I believe Phil has more of a problem with the channeling of the breath energies through various parts of the body to relieve tension and increase pleasure. Listening to Thanissaro's dhamma talks, this becomes the main theme whenever he talks about meditation. While he doesn't specifically come right out to say these are chakra points, he makes sure to mention that this is what his teacher thought of them as.

Reading the sutta, when it says:
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

... and then putting into context with the previous part:
"Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.'

Leads me to believe that when you make the decision to alter your breathing due to discomfort, you realize what you are doing and why you are doing it. It seems like the Buddha did not want the meditator to be in constant pain because of some strict guideline of non-interference with the breath. In practice, I notice that sometimes when I become lost in thought, my breathing becomes tights and restricted. At this point I recognize that I need to take a long breath to bring awareness to my breathing pattern and correct it. This would be a moderate alteration of the breath, not a main technique.

Let's take a closer look at the quote at the end of your post:
There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.

In my interpretation, the Buddha here is describing jhana, not a practice that leads to Jhana. He looks to be stating that a person has to be withdrawn from sensuality to enter this state. The way I have been taught, using pleasure to create a mental state is not the same thing as entering Jhana. Later when the quote mentions "He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal", it specifically mentions rapture born through withdrawal from sensuality, not rapture created through your own directed thoughts.

On a related note, I thought part of the purpose of meditation was to realize our perception of categorizing something as good or bad, but then not acting on it? It still seems to me that a constant emphasis on increasing pleasure would be rooted in greed.
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:53 pm

twelph wrote:On a related note, I thought part of the purpose of meditation was to realize our perception of categorizing something as good or bad, but then not acting on it? It still seems to me that a constant emphasis on increasing pleasure would be rooted in greed.


Can you post a Thanissaro quote that illustrates "a constant emphasis on increasing pleasure"?
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:57 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
twelph wrote:On a related note, I thought part of the purpose of meditation was to realize our perception of categorizing something as good or bad, but then not acting on it? It still seems to me that a constant emphasis on increasing pleasure would be rooted in greed.


Can you post a Thanissaro quote that illustrates "a constant emphasis on increasing pleasure"?

in one of Thanissaros talks he points these out, but my wording sorry. (edit = possibly in Jhana not by the numbers)
Jhana is pleasurable!
It takes wisdom to choose a greater pleasure for a lesser one!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby twelph » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:09 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
twelph wrote:On a related note, I thought part of the purpose of meditation was to realize our perception of categorizing something as good or bad, but then not acting on it? It still seems to me that a constant emphasis on increasing pleasure would be rooted in greed.


Can you post a Thanissaro quote that illustrates "a constant emphasis on increasing pleasure"?


Here is one from Meditations 5:
If you’re going to find any pleasure in the course of the day, you have to look
more intently at developing pleasure in the meditation to make up for the
restrictions you’ve placed on your foraging for pleasure outside.

&
You focus on the potentials for pleasure. Notice, when the breath comes in,
where it’s feeling good, which part of the breath cycle feels nicest. Is it the middle
of the breath, the beginning of the breath, the end of the breath? Can you notice
when the breath is getting too long? Can you catch yourself squeezing the breath
as it goes out? When you squeeze it, you’re weakening the potential for pleasure
that the breath can give.

&
As you’re sticking with this process of experimenting with the breath, getting
it more pleasurable and allowing that sense of pleasure to seep throughout the
body, it gives you a steadier base in the present moment. The interest you
develop in exploring the breath energy in the body helps you stay steadily in the
present as well.


Is there a place in the Suttas that say you need to focus on pleasure created outside of Jhana to enter into Jhana? Or do you focus on the pleasure that is there once you enter Jhana. This is subtle but important I think.
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby daverupa » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:27 pm

twelph wrote:Is there a place in the Suttas that say you need to focus on pleasure created outside of Jhana to enter into Jhana? Or do you focus on the pleasure that is there once you enter Jhana. This is subtle but important I think.


Neither. SN 48.10:

"And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind. Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters & remains in the first jhana..."

Furthermore, MN 52:

"There is the case, householder, where a monk, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He reflects on this and discerns, 'This first jhana is fabricated & intended. Now whatever is fabricated & intended is inconstant & subject to cessation.' Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then — through this very Dhamma-passion, this Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five Fetters — he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world."
    "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: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby marc108 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:42 pm

twelph wrote:I believe Phil has more of a problem with the channeling of the breath energies through various parts of the body to relieve tension and increase pleasure. Listening to Thanissaro's dhamma talks, this becomes the main theme whenever he talks about meditation. While he doesn't specifically come right out to say these are chakra points, he makes sure to mention that this is what his teacher thought of them as.


imo, the way Ven. Thanissaro describes using the breath to relieve tension is: He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'. Using the breath to calm the body. The Anapanasati instructions are vague as to specific technique (imo, on purpose) and I see no discrepancy between Ven. Thanissaro's techniques and the instructions in the Suttas.

I have heard Ven. Thanissaro mention chakra points specifically by name, but not as something special to be manipulated re: Yoga, just as natural settling point for the breath and mind.


twelph wrote:In my interpretation, the Buddha here is describing jhana, not a practice that leads to Jhana. He looks to be stating that a person has to be withdrawn from sensuality to enter this state. The way I have been taught, using pleasure to create a mental state is not the same thing as entering Jhana. Later when the quote mentions "He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal", it specifically mentions rapture born through withdrawal from sensuality, not rapture created through your own directed thoughts.


While I do believe that there is both a description and a technique in the Sutta, I was just using it as an example that pleasure in meditation does not = greed or aversion. "He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills" to me, seems very much like an action... something a Yogi does rather than experiences passively.

Maybe using the word pleasure here is really not the most skillful thing since many different things can fall under the English word pleasure. In my experience the pleasure (relaxation) that results from the initial manipulation of the breath is distinctly different than the piti and sukha that arise from Samadhi. The way I was instructed to achieve Jhana, the initial step is to use the breath to suffuse the piti and sukha through the body once they arise strongly in Samadhi... I have no doubt that there are MANY other ways to achieve Jhana, but this is all I know. In my experience the piti and sukha are not created, they arise on their own, long after the initial stage of manipulating the breath to relax is finished with.

:smile:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby farmer » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:57 pm

In my interpretation, the Buddha here is describing jhana, not a practice that leads to Jhana. He looks to be stating that a person has to be withdrawn from sensuality to enter this state. The way I have been taught, using pleasure to create a mental state is not the same thing as entering Jhana. Later when the quote mentions "He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal", it specifically mentions rapture born through withdrawal from sensuality, not rapture created through your own directed thoughts.


What is the difference between sensuality and the pleasure that arises with the first jhana? The answer is in the Niramisa Sutta:

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

"And what is pleasure of the flesh? There are these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Sounds cognizable via the ear... Aromas cognizable via the nose... Flavors cognizable via the tongue... Tactile sensations cognizable via the body — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Now whatever pleasure arises in dependence on these five strands of sensuality, that is called pleasure of the flesh.

"And what is pleasure not of the flesh? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensual pleasures, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. 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.' This is called pleasure not of the flesh.


As I read this, the only difference is that pleasure of the flesh arises dependent on external stimulus, while the pleasure of jhana arises from within. There is no difference in quality -- only in the source. Pleasant sensations that arise in the course of breath meditation are the first sparks of piti and sukha, aren't they?
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby twelph » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:17 pm

farmer wrote:As I read this, the only difference is that pleasure of the flesh arises dependent on external stimulus, while the pleasure of jhana arises from within. There is no difference in quality -- only in the source. Pleasant sensations that arise in the course of breath meditation are the first sparks of piti and sukha, aren't they?


If the goal of directed thought is pleasure, would that not be sensual pleasure? And therefore, wouldn't this pleasure be different than the pleasure that arises in jhana? In my experience they seem to have two distinct qualities. One is pleasure created through the act of will (Samskara) and one is created through a process of letting go.
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:33 pm

twelph wrote:Here is one from Meditations 5:


As I expected, the quotes support your argument when taken out of context but when you look at them within the dhamma talk as a whole you can see that what he is talking about is just a means to an end, that creating pleasurable meditation is not an end in itself.

After your first quote he goes on to say:

In addition, you learn important lessons about indulgence. If you tend to be indulgent in your daily life, you're going to be very self-indulgent when you meditate. If you can't say No to your daily desires, it's going to be hard to say No to them while you're sitting here meditating. The mind-states that want to go off and think about pleasant sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations are very easy to indulge in if you don't have the habit of saying No to your impulse to look for pleasure in those things throughout the day. As you develop this habit of saying No to sensual indulgence in the course of the day, it's a lot easier to say No to sensual thoughts in the course of the meditation.

You've also developed the habit of learning when to say "enough," which will hold you in good stead as you begin to develop the sense of non-sensual pleasure and rapture that come with concentration. You'll be more likely to realize when you've indulged enough in those kinds of pleasure so that you can turn to the further work you need to do in terms of insight and discernment. You can't just stay wallowing in the pleasure of concentration. You've got to learn how to understand what's going on in the mind, why it creates mental worlds to begin with — the worlds that pull you away from the present moment and lead to suffering and stress.


So pleasure in meditation is used as a basis for insight because you’ve abandoned seeking pleasures from the outside world.

The next one goes on to say the purpose of this practise is to feed mindfulness, the purpose is not pleasure for pleasures sake but to feed rather than starve mindfulness;

But that's a major misunderstanding. Mindfulness is something you do. It's a fabricated activity. Alertness is something you do. It's a fabricated activity as well. And there are potentials in the mind that can either foster the mindfulness or starve it. In other words, mindfulness is something you have to feed. It's not your simple awareness. It's the ability to keep something in mind. The reason we don't understand things, the reason we don't see the connection between cause and effect, is because we forget. It's because we forget that we can't stick with our resolves. Say you decide you're going to stay here for a whole hour with the breath — and five minutes later you find yourself planning tomorrow's meal, or thinking about events far away in Iceland. What happened? You forgot. And why did you forget? Well, there was a blanking out for a moment or two because you weren't paying proper attention to the causes for mindfulness.


The last one he goes on to say that the pleasure is about making yourself comfortable and having a basis from which you can explore pain,

We need the right attitude toward pain: not to feel threatened, not to run away. Our duty with regard to pain is to comprehend it, but you’re not going to comprehend it if you feel threatened by it. So it’s good to know that you have a safe, comfortable place to return to whenever you need it.

Say there’s a pain in your leg and you’re not really ready to deal with it yet:
You can focus on whatever sense of ease and fullness you can develop elsewhere in the body—say, in the chest, in the stomach, in your hands, in your feet—through the way you breathe. If things get bad with the pain, you can go back to the breath. Once the mind feels nourished and protected by the breath, it’ll be more willing to actually look into the pain, probe into the pain, trying to understand: What is this pain I have in my body? Why do I fear it so much? Is it really as fearsome as it seems?
[/quote]

So again not pleasure for pleasures sake but as an aid to the development of insight.

A lot of people come to insight practise with an idea that everything is dukkha and it’s all about just experiencing the rawness of dukkha, and an impoverished and aversive attitude results.

The Burmese approach can encourage this attitude, and I certainly felt this way for many years and was surprised to learn that meditation didn’t have to be a barren wasteland and that one could take measures to balance ones mind states when needed.

After all this is what Metta meditation is all about, what Thanissaro is proposing is fabrication sure but it’s less fabricated than Metta meditation and much closer to insight I think.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby marc108 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:48 pm

Goofaholix wrote:...


:anjali:
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby twelph » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:19 pm

Goofaholix wrote:A lot of people come to insight practise with an idea that everything is dukkha and it’s all about just experiencing the rawness of dukkha, and an impoverished and aversive attitude results.

The Burmese approach can encourage this attitude, and I certainly felt this way for many years and was surprised to learn that meditation didn’t have to be a barren wasteland and that one could take measures to balance ones mind states when needed.

After all this is what Metta meditation is all about, what Thanissaro is proposing is fabrication sure but it’s less fabricated than Metta meditation and much closer to insight I think.


I must have an aversion to how often he uses the word pleasure. You are correct about studying under only Burmese teachers before coming to Thanissaro. Is Burmese mostly black and white interpretations while Thai allows for shades of grey?
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:33 pm

twelph wrote:I must have an aversion to how often he uses the word pleasure. You are correct about studying under only Burmese teachers before coming to Thanissaro. Is Burmese mostly black and white interpretations while Thai allows for shades of grey?


That's one way of putting it. The Burmese tend to be more rigid technique and step by step and workist in approach, the trouble is we westerners are inclined to be this way already so when we hear instructions like that we interpret them in a black and white way and make it more extreme.

The Thai approach seems to more open, flexible, experimental, and playful, more willing to use different skilful means in different circumstances.

There are exceptions to this of course. Sayadaw U Teganiya is a good example of someone who has a grounding in the Burmese way but now applies it in more like a Thai way.

We are lucky to have the opportunity to learn from several approaches and hopefully select an approach that is most suitable for the circumstances.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:35 pm

Greetings twelph,

twelph wrote:I must have an aversion to how often he uses the word pleasure. You are correct about studying under only Burmese teachers before coming to Thanissaro. Is Burmese mostly black and white interpretations while Thai allows for shades of grey?

My perceptions here may be in error, but from my observation the meditation instructions of the Burmese traditions are more firmly rooted in the definitions, classifications, roadmap etc. depicted within Buddhaghosa's "Visuddhimagga" (Path Of Purification) than those of teachers from the Thai tradition. The descriptions of jhana (other than very early stage of jhana) found in the Visuddhimagga tend to put such jhanas opposed to (as compared to a support to) present-moment vipassana practice. My understanding of the Visuddhimagga approach is that deep jhanas may be entered, but it's only once you come out of the jhana that you can apply reviewing knowledge to retrospectively apply insight to what is remembered of the jhanic experience. I wouldn't say that the Burmese traditions regard "pleasure" with "aversion" (because that would be rather unwholesome, wouldn't it?), but that they prefer not to allow any experience to lull the practitioner away from the present-moment vipassana practice.

The Thai traditions seem to be a bit more diverse... ranging from that what is similar to the "Path of Purification", to minimalism (viewtopic.php?f=21&t=11492), to sutta-based instruction (e.g. Thanissaro, Sujato), to things that have leaked in from local cuture, to Brahmanic and Mahayana traditions.... and everything inbetween.

Apologies for any misrepresentations that may have been made in the above comment. I hope it adds to the clarity rather than confusion.

(EDIT: As I post this, I see Goof has posted something not dissimilar)

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: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breathe

Postby twelph » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:46 pm

Goofaholix wrote:There are exceptions to this of course. Sayadaw U Teganiya is a good example of someone who has a grounding in the Burmese way but now applies it in more like a Thai way.


One of his students gave me his book "Dhamma Everywhere" and I'm on my third way through it, great stuff.
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