Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.
manjusri
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Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:00 pm

I attended a weekend teaching recently from a Nyingma teacher on Ju Mipham's Profound Instruction on the View of the Middle Way. The shamatha that was taught was shamatha on a non-referential object, i.e., the mind. I have had shamatha teachings before from a number of Tibetan teachers in which nine stages are enumerated. This teacher mentioned an enumeration in five stages (a grouping of nine stages into five), but could not give me a specific scriptural reference for this. I thought, perhaps, this might be a good place to ask those here if anyone has ever encountered such a grouping, and in what text? Any feedback would be very much appreciated.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby bodom » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:12 pm

Hi manjusri

As this is a Theravadin forum you might want to try posting your question on our Mahayana sister site:

Dharma Wheel
http://www.dharmawheel.net/

They will be able to help you further. :smile:

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:41 pm

bodom wrote:Hi manjusri

As this is a Theravadin forum you might want to try posting your question on our Mahayana sister site:

Dharma Wheel
http://www.dharmawheel.net/

They will be able to help you further. :smile:

:anjali:


Thank you for the advice, bodom; I'll certainly post my question there. I realized afterwards that this formulation into nine mental abidings is said to have originated with Asanga (4th c.).

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby vitellius » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:58 am

manjusri wrote:I realized afterwards that this formulation into nine mental abidings is said to have originated with Asanga (4th c.).


Exactly. As far as I understand, this was his way of training that should bring to the first jhana.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:37 am

Oleksandr wrote:
manjusri wrote:I realized afterwards that this formulation into nine mental abidings is said to have originated with Asanga (4th c.).


Exactly. As far as I understand, this was his way of training that should bring to the first jhana.


Yes, right up to the first jhana, but not fully in it, i.e., access concentration (upacara samadhi).

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby vitellius » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:47 pm

manjusri wrote:Yes, right up to the first jhana, but not fully in it, i.e., access concentration (upacara samadhi).


Isn't access concentration a strictly Theravadin concept?

If yes, why would you think that it is equal to the 9th stage of Asanga?

It can equal to another stage in Asanga's system or it can be different in its characteristics from any of them, don't you think so?

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:30 am

Oleksandr wrote:
manjusri wrote:Yes, right up to the first jhana, but not fully in it, i.e., access concentration (upacara samadhi).


Isn't access concentration a strictly Theravadin concept?

If yes, why would you think that it is equal to the 9th stage of Asanga?

It can equal to another stage in Asanga's system or it can be different in its characteristics from any of them, don't you think so?


I direct you to an older post on shamatha that many here posted to. Hopefully, this will help clarify your question:

viewtopic.php?t=8957

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:39 am

According to the Nyingma teacher whose teaching I attended recently, the nine and the five stages of shamatha are found, as he says, in the "source texts of the Buddha's canon." He adds, "The 9 stages are specifically in the shamatha instructions for the Shravaka." Can anyone corroborate this, given my lack of knowledge of the Shravakayana?

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:34 am

In the Pali canon there is no direct equivalent of Tibetan Buddhism's 9 stages that I have seen or heard of.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Thu Mar 08, 2012 5:12 pm

Kenshou wrote:In the Pali canon there is no direct equivalent of Tibetan Buddhism's 9 stages that I have seen or heard of.


Ok, I'll take your word for it. However, in the Nyingma tradition, you have the nine yanas or vehicles, the first of which is the shravakayana, and I have seen the nine stages of shamatha enumerated there.

http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Shravaka_yana

What do you (and others) make of this?

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby daverupa » Thu Mar 08, 2012 5:19 pm

manjusri wrote:What do you (and others) make of this?


dharma =/= dhamma

:spy:
    "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 Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Mar 08, 2012 7:20 pm

Well, this isn't Nyingma.

Similar to what Dave has said, Theravada =/= the idea of a Shravakayana that exists in the context of Mahayana.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:52 pm

Kenshou wrote:Well, this isn't Nyingma.

Similar to what Dave has said, Theravada =/= the idea of a Shravakayana that exists in the context of Mahayana.


I'm probably wading into a mine field here, but could you please clarify? Are you (and Dave) suggesting that the Nyingma tradition (and I assume this may be true of the other Tibetan Buddhist schools as well?), having only an "idea" of what tenets shravakas hold to, are completely off the mark ( =/= )? So what does the Theravada tradition have to say about the tenets Hearers hold to? Is there any reference to how shamatha and vipashyana were practiced by them? I actually recall that they were not practiced separately from one another back then, but I am trying to fit that in with what the Tibetan Buddhist tradition has to say about them. I also thought it wise to tap into the resource of practitioners here who know far more than I. So any clarity you have and/or misconceptions you can eradicate is appreciated.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby daverupa » Thu Mar 08, 2012 10:11 pm

manjusri wrote:Is there any reference to how shamatha and vipashyana were practiced by them?


This is question which has spawned many threads; this .pdf offers a few citations of the phrase "samatha & vipassana" in the Suttas, which is helpful for starting out. I also recommend the .pdf of A Swift Pair of Messengers by Bhante Sujato, which covers this fairly well. Other resources abound.

manjusri wrote:I actually recall that they were not practiced separately from one another back then, but I am trying to fit that in with what the Tibetan Buddhist tradition has to say about them.


Hmm. Well, if you insist, then good luck!

:heart:
    "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 Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Mar 08, 2012 10:14 pm

I don't mean to make it a minefield. There are probably people who might be able to describe this better.

The idea of the yana of a sravaka that exists in the Mahayana thought-world exists in contrast with various other yanas and in a context with a number of implications and assumptions that are not necessarily overlapping with the Theravada. And so even though it might be safe to say, in general terms, that Theravada is a "discipe's vehicle", the methods under the same name that exist in the Mahayana context do not necessarily align with what Theravadins actually think and do.

Not to say that it is necessarily "completely off the mark", but differing in various details. And the devil is in the details, they say. If you want to know what the Theravada tradition actually does do in more detail, there's plenty of introductory resources around here.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby Nyana » Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:10 am

manjusri wrote:I'm probably wading into a mine field here, but could you please clarify? Are you (and Dave) suggesting that the Nyingma tradition (and I assume this may be true of the other Tibetan Buddhist schools as well?), having only an "idea" of what tenets shravakas hold to, are completely off the mark ( =/= )? So what does the Theravada tradition have to say about the tenets Hearers hold to? Is there any reference to how shamatha and vipashyana were practiced by them? I actually recall that they were not practiced separately from one another back then, but I am trying to fit that in with what the Tibetan Buddhist tradition has to say about them.

The Tibetans prefer Indian commentaries to sūtras. Also, the Tibetan canon doesn't have a complete Śrāvaka Sūtrapiṭaka or Abhidharmapiṭaka. Therefore, they have relied almost entirely on the Abhidharmakośa and the Śrāvakabhūmi for Śrāvaka teachings.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby Bakmoon » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:45 am

manjusri wrote:
Kenshou wrote: Are you (and Dave) suggesting that the Nyingma tradition (and I assume this may be true of the other Tibetan Buddhist schools as well?), having only an "idea" of what tenets shravakas hold to, are completely off the mark ( =/= )? So what does the Theravada tradition have to say about the tenets Hearers hold to? Is there any reference to how shamatha and vipashyana were practiced by them? I actually recall that they were not practiced separately from one another back then, but I am trying to fit that in with what the Tibetan Buddhist tradition has to say about them. I also thought it wise to tap into the resource of practitioners here who know far more than I. So any clarity you have and/or misconceptions you can eradicate is appreciated.


I don't think they are saying that the Tibetean sects have it wrong. Rather, I think they are saying that you won't find an exact equivalent to the term Shravakayana in Theravada Buddhism because some interpretations don't make a hard and fast distinction between the path leading to becoming an Arahat from becoming a fully-fledged Samasambuddha (Samyaksambuddha in sanskrit)

It is actually a little confusing from our perspective because the term Shravakayana isn't used at all (at least to my knowlege) in Theravada Buddhism, so it's really hard for us to understand what you area asking. Are you asking about how Samatha and Vipassana are talked about in the scriptures used by Theravadins?
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby Bakmoon » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:00 am

manjusri wrote:
Kenshou wrote:So what does the Theravada tradition have to say about the tenets Hearers hold to? Is there any reference to how shamatha and vipashyana were practiced by them? I actually recall that they were not practiced separately from one another back then, but I am trying to fit that in with what the Tibetan Buddhist tradition has to say about them. I also thought it wise to tap into the resource of practitioners here who know far more than I. So any clarity you have and/or misconceptions you can eradicate is appreciated.


Are you asking about how (according to the Theravada) the early disciples practiced samatha and vipassana? Are you asking about specific techniques or just generalities?

If you are looking for specific techniques, here you go. These are the classic meditation instructions for Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) in the Pali Canon.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

It is important to note here that the Theravada scriptures usually portray Samatha and Vipassana as being qualities that are developed through meditation rather than as forms of meditation themselves. For more info on how they relate to each other, I can only re-reccoment the already mentionned "A swift pair of messengers" by Ajahn Sujato.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby fig tree » Sun Mar 11, 2012 6:32 am

manjusri wrote:According to the Nyingma teacher whose teaching I attended recently, the nine and the five stages of shamatha are found, as he says, in the "source texts of the Buddha's canon." He adds, "The 9 stages are specifically in the shamatha instructions for the Shravaka." Can anyone corroborate this, given my lack of knowledge of the Shravakayana?

It would be interesting to know specifically what this teacher was referring to. I'm not sure whether any of us are familiar enough with the Pali canon to be able to say confidently that one or the other of these is not described somewhere in it, but I somewhat suspect not, since usually it's said that the meditation instructions in the Pali canon are reasonably terse and just a few suttas are considered our main source in the canon for meditation "instructions", and none of the familiar suttas that we know describe it in these terms.

In some Mahayana schools there is this organization of teachings by yana, and my impression is that "calm" meditation is counted as part of one of the lower yanas. This leaves open the possibility that the teacher had in mind some instructions for hearers that is in the Mahayana canon, but I don't know. I read an explanation of the yanas by Tsong Kha Pa which described the lower yanas as being practice "shared" with those motivated by a desire either just to have a better life in this life or later lives, or for personal liberation. This isn't the same as Theravada; in Theravada we have a teaching about practicing either just for others, just for yourself, or for both yourself and others, which is best. The conceptual framework is just not the same, overall, but of course this is a very well-worn topic. Presumably someone practicing for their own liberation would practice samatha, so it makes some logical sense to describe that as a practice "shared" with people who practice just for themselves, but it's not a categorization that we use in that way.

Rupert Gethin in The Foundations of Buddhism says that Upatissa and Buddhaghosa have a scheme of 5 stages of joy (piti): slight joy, momentary joy, descending joy, transporting joy, suffusing joy, while Asanga and Vasubandhu have the 9 stages of calm, without mentioning any prior sources for either one. For the latter he has a footnote referring to the Sravakabhumi ("Levels of Hearers") and some other texts with titles unfamiliar to me. He seems happy to identify both schemes as culminating in "access" concentration. I can't see where Buddhaghosa mentions this scheme of 5 types of joy. The Visuddhimagga by Buddhaghosa seems to describe the stages leading up to the first jhana mainly in terms of the three kinds of nimitta ("sign").

Fig Tree

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Re: Shamatha in Five (not nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Sun Mar 11, 2012 7:11 am

I very much appreciate the posts on this topic to date and will try and carve out time tomorrow to address some of the questions that have arisen since my last post. I think I can get much more specific about what it is I am asking about. I realize this much: finding equivalents between Theravada and Mahayana is apparently not easy as easy as I imagined it to be.


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