Use of the imagination/fabrication

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

Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby Coyote » Sat May 05, 2012 2:54 pm

I have been listening to Dhamma talks by Ajahn Thanissaro and reading the written work of his teachers teacher Ajahn Lee ( the book keeping the breath in mind) , and I notice that they seem to use what seems to me to be the "imagination" in their meditations. For example, using the breath and "breathing it through" certain parts of the body as a way of dealing with pain, or spreading the breath sensations throughout the body. Breathing through the forehead or heart, or breathing through pores.
Even certain experiences, such as experience of the body as light or malleable would seem to have no basis in reality unless one has developed mental powers to that extent. So why is this used so much? My only guess is that it can break down out perceptions of things, or allows us to see things from a different angle.
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby alan » Sat May 05, 2012 4:15 pm

I think it has to do with the fact that rote ideas, relentlessly repeated, rarely result in real understanding. You have to use your own skills. Developing them requires imagination.
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby befriend » Sat May 05, 2012 4:30 pm

in my experience when i have insights, i can sense them. before i get a little knot in my back and then i crack it, my minds eye involuntarily visualizes energy coming up the spine, or there is spiraling energy around my shoulder, and after i get that visualzation i can feel new energy coming into my shoulder. so what im saying is a lot of insights in my experience come from like sensing things or getting visualizations in the minds eye. this is just my experience.
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby manas » Sat May 05, 2012 8:43 pm

Hi Coyote,

it just occurred to me that for most of us, asubha is just a visualization, rather than direct seeing, at this stage - thus it is a fabrication / volitional formation. But it works in overcoming arisen lust in the mind. So maybe, while working at cleansing the other hindrances from the mind, we could also skilfully fabricate things, so long as we don't attach to any of them as 'self' or as 'belonging to self', and let go of them once their purpose has been fulfilled? (Just my idea, but maybe ask Ven. Thanissaro himself for clarification!)

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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 05, 2012 9:02 pm

Well, yes, all those techniques have to do with concepts created in the mind.

As does any Jhana practice. See, for example:
See: viewtopic.php?f=33&t=5761&p=186489#p186489
Ñāṇa wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Does this suggest that 5 sense consciousness still function in Jhāna, but that they do not disturb the person in Jhāna?

Well, the five sense faculties still function, but since the object-support of jhāna is a mental representation, it's accurate to say that the functioning consciousness is mental consciousness. As MN 38 Mahātaṇhāsankhaya Sutta informs us, "Consciousness is reckoned by the particular condition dependent upon which it arises."
...


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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby daverupa » Sat May 05, 2012 9:25 pm

MN 101 wrote:"And how is striving fruitful, how is exertion fruitful? There is the case where a monk, when not loaded down, does not load himself down with pain, nor does he reject pleasure that accords with the Dhamma, although he is not fixated on that pleasure. He discerns that 'When I exert a [physical, verbal, or mental] fabrication against this cause of stress, then from the fabrication of exertion there is dispassion. When I look on with equanimity at that cause of stress, then from the development of equanimity there is dispassion.' So he exerts a fabrication against the cause of stress where there comes dispassion from the fabrication of exertion, and develops equanimity with regard to the cause of stress where there comes dispassion from the development of equanimity. Thus the stress where there comes dispassion from the fabrication of exertion is exhausted & the stress where there comes dispassion from the development of equanimity is exhausted.
    "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: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 05, 2012 9:40 pm

Nice quote, Dave.

I think that there is sometimes a confusion that arises from instructions from teachers such as "just be with the object", "accept what is arising", and so on. Those are good advice, because if one is not able to see what is arising clearly, pushes it away, or grasps at it, one is simply continuing with delusion, aversion, or craving.

However, that's just part of the process. One also has to exert effort, build concentration and mindfulness, and so on. The eight-fold path is fabricated... (I'm sure there is a nice quote on that somewhere... In the MN I think...).

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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby Goofaholix » Sat May 05, 2012 9:43 pm

I don't beleive they are asking you to use imagination at all.

They are asking you to feel(not imagine) the vibrations and rhythems throughout the body. The problem is when we are given an instruction like observe the breath our habit is to isolate the breath in one part of the body and ignore the rest of the body, sometimes you need to do this to establish concentration. However the next step is to feel the whole body breathing, the whole body vibrates and changes with each breath you just have to feel it, and to do this we have to un-blank out the rest of the body so conciously looking at each part can help you do this.
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby reflection » Sun May 06, 2012 1:19 am

I don't know those specific teachings, but I do know that imagination is a sharp tool in the mind. In my experience it can be useful when dealing with coarse hindrances, for example to imagine breathing out the worries, breathing in peace. I can guess what the teachers are pointing to is somehow the same.
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby Coyote » Sun May 06, 2012 11:09 am

manas wrote:it just occurred to me that for most of us, asubha is just a visualization, rather than direct seeing, at this stage - thus it is a fabrication / volitional formation. But it works in overcoming arisen lust in the mind. So maybe, while working at cleansing the other hindrances from the mind, we could also skilfully fabricate things, so long as we don't attach to any of them as 'self' or as 'belonging to self', and let go of them once their purpose has been fulfilled? (Just my idea, but maybe ask Ven. Thanissaro himself for clarification!)


This seem to make a lot of sense. Actually, in my own meditation, I have found these types of fabrications helpful in calming down the mind and the breath, and getting the mind more concentrated.

Goofaholix wrote:I don't beleive they are asking you to use imagination at all.

They are asking you to feel(not imagine) the vibrations and rhythems throughout the body. The problem is when we are given an instruction like observe the breath our habit is to isolate the breath in one part of the body and ignore the rest of the body, sometimes you need to do this to establish concentration. However the next step is to feel the whole body breathing, the whole body vibrates and changes with each breath you just have to feel it, and to do this we have to un-blank out the rest of the body so conciously looking at each part can help you do this.


I don't doubt that there is more to the experience of breathing than most of us usually allow ourselves to experience, but that doesn't change the fact we don't breathe through our pores, forhead or any other part of the body aside from our nose and mouth, do we?

From Keeping the Breath in mind: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... ml#method1

Then slowly bring your attention inward, focusing it on the various aspects of the breath... These elements come from the bases of the breath. The First Base: Center the mind on the tip of the nose and then slowly move it to the middle of the forehead, The Second Base. Keep your awareness broad. Let the mind rest for a moment at the forehead and then bring it back to the nose. Keep moving it back and forth between the nose and the forehead — like a person climbing up and down a mountain — seven times. Then let it settle at the forehead. Don't let it go back to the nose.

From here, let it move to The Third Base, the middle of the top of the head, and let it settle there for a moment. Keep your awareness broad. Inhale the breath at that spot, let it spread throughout the head for a moment, and then return the mind to the middle of the forehead. Move the mind back and forth between the forehead and the top of the head seven times, finally letting it rest on the top of the head.

Then bring it into The Fourth Base, the middle of the brain. Let it be still for a moment and then bring it back out to the top of the head. Keep moving it back and forth between these two spots, finally letting it settle in the middle of the brain. Keep your awareness broad. Let the refined breath in the brain spread to the lower parts of the body.


I guess I don't understand why we are focusing concentration on a fabricated object in the mind, rather than a "real" one, e.g the feeling of the breath. These kinds of meditations are found all over the Visiddhimagga though, the Kasinas are all fabricated objects in the mind. It seems confusing to use concentration on a fabricated object in a path which has the aim of seeing reality as it truly is, without fabrications.
Is there any place in the Suttas where the Buddha talks in any length about this skillful use of fabrications, or any of the canonical kasinas?
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby befriend » Sun May 06, 2012 12:27 pm

actually breathing through the pores of the skin happens, when the mind is very tranquil and the respitory breathing stops.
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby Coyote » Mon May 07, 2012 8:19 am

befriend wrote:actually breathing through the pores of the skin happens, when the mind is very tranquil and the respitory breathing stops.


I have heard this before, and while I haven't experienced this and think it is probably phsyiologically impossible, I give it the benifit of the doubt. Have you experienced such a phenomena?
Nevertheless, the understanding is that we can't just breathe like this at will.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby Uilium » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:23 pm

The meditation described sounds like samatha meditation. Samatha uses concepts so it's not based on ultimate reality and imagination is used in samatha like loving kindness meditation, meditating on the Buddha and breathing out your pores for example. You don't get to be very creative or use imagination with vipassana meditation...If imagination or creativity is used with Vipassana, I'd like to know how :)
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Re: Use of the imagination/fabrication

Postby DAWN » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:42 pm

I think that this similies about breathing trough ona part of body, or body of light is just similies to discribe fenomena.

I dont know if it's the same fenomena, but body of light is not some mental fabrication, or imagination, it's true that your body not shine, but when you feel it, you cant discribe it by other way that "body of light". With breathing i'am sure is the same.
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