Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:03 am

Bhikkhu Analyo's Encyclopaedia entry on nimitta
http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... ations.htm
123) "Nimitta", in EB, 2003, vol. 7 no. 1 pp. 177–179 download

discusses it's meaning as
'sign', in the sense of being a characteristic mark of things

In that sense it appears often in the suttas. Thanissaro Bhikkhu translates it as "theme".

Various teachers, such as Ajahn Brahm, and Pa Auk Sayadaw (and Ven Analayo himself according to some of his talks: http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/208/, http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/439/) stress the importance of nimittas for entry into jhana.

In his Encyclopaedia entry Ven Analayo notes:
The relation of the nimitta to the development of concentration is also reflected in the expressions sign of tranquilty (samathaanimitta), sign of concentration (samadhinimitta), and sign of the mind (cittanimitta), which occur in serveral instances in the discourses. the development of beneficial types of nimitta is particularly relevant to the beginning stages of samatha meditation.

He goes on to describe the commentarial discussion in the Visuddhimagga http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/index.html.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the passages in the Suttas that refer to the nimittas associated with tranquilly and concentration. These are from Ven Analayo's footnotes to the Encyclopaedia article. The quotations and page numbers are from the Wisdom Publications translations by Walshe/Nanamoli/Bodhi.

Sign of tranquilty (samathaanimitta)

DN iii 213. DN 33, page 481
1.9. ‘There are [sets of] two things that were perfectly proclaimed by the Lord... Which are they?
...
(23) ‘Calm and insight (samatho ca vipassanā ca).

(24) ‘The sign of calm and grasping the sign (samatha-nimittañ ca paggaha-nimittañ ca).
...


SN v 66. SN 46.2, p1570
“And what, bhikkhus, is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of concentration and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of concentration? There are, bhikkhus, the sign of serenity, the sign of nondispersal[62] frequently giving careful attention to them is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of concentration and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of concentration.
    [62] Spk: The sign of serenity (samathanimitta) is serenity itself as well as its object (Spk-pṭ: the paṭibhāganimitta or counterpart sign); the sign of nondispersal (abyagganimitta) is synonymous with it.


SN v 105. SN 46.51, p1599
“And what, bhikkhus, is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of concentration and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of concentration? There are, bhikkhus, the sign of serenity, the sign of nondispersal: frequently giving careful attention to them is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of concentration and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of concentration.

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

Sign of concentration (samadhinimitta)

DN iii 226. DN 33, p490
What is (d) the effort of preservation? Here, a monk keeps firmly in his mind a favourable object of concentration which has arisen, such as a skeleton, or a corpse that is full of worms, blue-black, full of holes, bloated.


DN iii 242. DN 33, p498
(25) ‘Five bases of deliverance (vimuttāyatanāni): Here, (a) the Teacher or a respected fellow-disciple teaches a monk Dhamma. And as he receives the teaching, he gains a grasp of both the spirit and the letter of the teaching. At this, joy arises in him, and from this joy, delight (pīti); and by this delight his senses are calmed, he feels happiness (sukhaṁ) as a result, and with this happiness his mind is established; (b) he has not heard it thus, but in the course of teaching Dhamma to others he has learnt it by heart as he has heard it; or (c) as he is chanting the Dhamma ... ; or (d) ... when he applies his mind to the Dhamma, thinks and ponders over it and concentrates his attention on it (anupekkhati); or (e) when he has properly grasped some concentration-sign (samādhi-nimittam ), has well considered it, applied his mind to it (supadhāritaṁ), and has well penetrated it with wisdom (suppaṭividdhaṁ paññāya). At this, joy arises in him, and from this joy, delight; and by this delight his senses are calmed, he feels happiness as a result, and with this happiness his mind is established.


DN iii 279. DN 34, p 515. [As in DN iii 242]

MN i 249. MN 36, p342.
45. “Aggivessana, I recall teaching the Dhamma to an assembly of many hundreds, and even then each person thinks of me: ‘The recluse Gotama is teaching the Dhamma especially for me.’ But it should not be so regarded; the Tathāgata teaches the Dhamma to others only to give them knowledge. When the talk is finished, Aggivessana, then I steady my mind internally, quieten it, bring it to singleness, and concentrate it on that same sign of concentration as before, in which I constantly abide.”
    MA explains the “sign of concentration” (sam̄dhinimitta) here as the fruition attainment of emptiness (suññataphalasamāpatti ). See also MN 122.6.

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

MN i 301. MN 44, p398-399
12. “Lady, what is concentration? What is the basis of concentration? What is the equipment of concentration? What is the development of concentration?”

“Unification of mind, friend Visākha, is concentration; the four foundations of mindfulness are the basis of concentration; the four right kinds of striving are the equipment of concentration; the repetition, development, and cultivation of these same states is the development of concentration therein.”
    BB: The four foundations of mindfulness are the basis of concentration (samādhinimitta) in the sense of being its condition (MA). Here it would seem incorrect to translate nimitta as “sign,” in the sense of either distinctive mark or object. The four right kinds of striving are explained at MN 77.16.

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

MN iii 112. MN 122, p 973.
10. “Then that bhikkhu should steady his mind internally, quiet it, bring it to singleness, and concentrate it on that same sign of concentration as before. [1154] Then he gives attention to voidness internally. While he is giving attention to voidness internally, his mind enters into voidness internally and acquires confidence, steadiness, and decision. When that is so, he understands thus: ‘While I am giving attention to voidness internally, my mind enters into voidness internally and acquires confidence, steadiness, and decision.’ In this way he has full awareness of that.
    [1154] MA: This refers to the jhāna that was used as the basis for insight. If, after emerging from the basic jhāna, his mind does not enter into voidness through insight contemplation on his own aggregates or those of others, and he also cannot attain the imperturbable immaterial attainment, he should return to the same basic jhāna that he originally developed and attend to it again and again.

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

AN i 115. AN 3.19, p213-214
“So too, possessing three factors, a bhikkhu is capable of achieving a wholesome state not yet attained and of increasing a wholesome state already attained. What three? Here, a bhikkhu diligently applies himself to an object of concentration in the morning, in the middle of the day, and in the evening. Possessing these three factors, a bhikkhu is capable of achieving a wholesome state not yet attained and of increasing a wholesome state already attained.


AN i 256. AN 3.102, p338.
Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is devoted to the higher mind, from time to time he should give attention to three marks.[566] (1) From time to time he should give attention to the mark of concentration, (2) from time to time to the mark of exertion, and (3) from time to time to the mark of equanimity.
    [566] nimittāni. Mp glosses as “three causes” (tīṇi kāraṇāni). The three nimittas are samādhinimitta, paggahanimitta, and upekkhānimitta.

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

AN ii 17. AN 4.14, p403.
(4) “And what is striving by protection? Here, a bhikkhu protects an arisen excellent object of concentration:[642] the perception of a skeleton, the perception of a worm-infested corpse, the perception of a livid corpse, the perception of a festering corpse, the perception of a fissured corpse, the perception of a bloated corpse. This is called striving by
    [642] samādhinimittaṃ. The six mentioned here are included among the ten asubha meditation subjects in Vism chap. 6.

Alternative translation: http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ggo-e.html
4. Samvarasutta: Restraint.

AN iii 23. AN 5.26, p646
(5) “Again, neither the Teacher nor a fellow monk in the position of a
teaches the Dhamma to a bhikkhu, nor does he teach the Dhamma to others in detail as he has heard it and learned it, nor does he recite the Dhamma in detail as he has heard it and learned it, nor does he ponder, examine, and mentally inspect the Dhamma as he has heard it and learned it, but he has grasped well a certain object of concentration, attended to it well, sustained it well, and penetrated it well with wisdom. In whatever way the bhikkhu has grasped well a certain object of concentration, attended to it well, sustained it well, and penetrated it well with wisdom, in just that way, in relation to that Dhamma, he experiences inspiration in the meaning and inspiration in the Dhamma.


AN iii 321. AN 6.28, p888-889
When he had spoken, another bhikkhu told him: “Friend, that isn’t the proper occasion for going to see an esteemed bhikkhu. [321] In the evening, when an esteemed bhikkhu has emerged from seclusion and is sitting in the shade of his dwelling with his legs crossed, holding his body straight, having established mindfulness before him, the object of concentration that he attended to during the day is still present to him.
    Mp: “On that occasion when he is sitting in his daytime dwelling it occurs in his mind door.


Sign of the mind (cittanimitta).

SN v 151. SN 47.8, p1635
“So too, bhikkhus, here some wise, competent, skilful bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. While he dwells contemplating the body in the body, his mind becomes concentrated, his corruptions are abandoned, he picks up that sign. He dwells contemplating feelings in feelings … mind in mind … phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. While he dwells contemplating phenomena in phenomena, his mind becomes concentrated, his corruptions are abandoned, he picks up that sign.

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

AN iii 423. AN 6.68, p969
“Bhikkhus, (1) it is possible that a bhikkhu who does not delight in company, who is not delighted with company, who is not devoted to delight in company; who does not delight in a group, who is not delighted with a group, who is not devoted to delight in a group, will find delight in solitude when he is alone. (2) It is possible that one who finds delight in solitude when he is alone will acquire the object of the mind. (3) It is possible that one who acquires the object of the mind will fulfill right view. (4) It is possible that one who fulfills right view will fulfill right concentration. (5) It is possible that one who fulfills right concentration will abandon the fetters. (6) Having abandoned the fetters, it is possible that one will realize nibbāna.


Thag. 85
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... passage-85
Adept in a theme for the mind,
sensing the savor of solitude,
practicing jhana,
masterful, mindful,
you'd attain a pleasure
not of the flesh.


None of these cases refer specifically to "light" nimittas used by Vens Brahm, Pa Auk, and others. I am aware that there are some references to "light" in the suttas, but I'm afraid I've run out of steam here. Perhaps someone has something to add?

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
marc108
Posts: 464
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:10 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby marc108 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:01 pm

mikenz66 wrote: I am aware that there are some references to "light" in the suttas, but I'm afraid I've run out of steam here. Perhaps someone has something to add?


great thread, thanks for all that work. i would be interested to see you repost this in Dhammaloka's 'ask a monastic' section and see what they have to say.

http://www.palicanon.org/en/sutta-pitak ... tions.html
“Venerable sir, as we abide here diligent, ardent, and resolute, we perceive both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappear, but we have not discovered the cause for that.”

16. “You should discover the cause for that, Anuruddha. Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too perceived both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappeared. I thought: ‘What is the cause and condition why the light and the vision of forms have disappeared?’ Then I considered thus: ‘Doubt arose in me, and because of the doubt my concentration fell away; when my concentration fell away, the light and the vision of forms disappeared. I shall so act that doubt will not arise in me again.’



good read:
http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... a-piya.pdf
"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."

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:02 pm

Thanks for the quotes and links, Marc,

I can't keep up with multiple forums, but if you (or anyone else) would like to repost/rework the post as a question elsewhere, please feel free.

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
marc108
Posts: 464
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:10 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby marc108 » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:49 am

mikenz66 wrote:...


i actually will put this topic out on that forum and post back the responses here. this is a topic of interest for me. Ajahn Brahmali usually responds and he has a really high level Sutta understanding imo.
"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."

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:36 am

Thanks Marc!

I was hoping that Sylvester would post something by now...

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
Dmytro
Posts: 1161
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:24 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Contact:

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby Dmytro » Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:33 pm

Hi Mike,

Thank you for the passages.

The word 'nimitta' has several meanings. The meaning 'sign' does not make any sense in the context of tranquility and concentration.

In this context, 'nimitta' means 'representation' (or 'perceptual image'), or the predominance of certain mental representation in the mind.

For Pali passages, see the thread: Pali Term: Nimitta.

User avatar
Dmytro
Posts: 1161
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:24 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Contact:

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby Dmytro » Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:50 pm

mikenz66 wrote:None of these cases refer specifically to "light" nimittas


The Pali term 'nimitta', as well as many other Pali terms, has undergone a semantic shift from 'mental representation' to 'mental visual image'.
The interpretation as the visual image is still workable for the practice, but skips the important tactile part.

Further narrowing to 'light' is workable for some people, for whom the basis of concentration will be represented in such a way.
Yet for other people the mental representaion would be different, as described in Vimittimagga and Visuddhimagga.

So the suttas never describe 'nimitta' of tranquility or concentration as a particular kind of image, since this is an individual thing.

:namaste:

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:47 pm

Thanks Dmytro,

Certainly 'representation' or 'perceptual image', might be a useful alternative translation. As you say, there can be tactile experiences. I guess you mean passages like this one in the Mindfulness of Breathing section:
Visuddhimagga VIII.214 When he does so in this way, the sign[59] soon appears to him. But it is not
the same for all; on the contrary, some say that when it appears it does so to
certain people producing a light touch like cotton or silk-cotton or a draught.
[59] “‘The sign’ is the learning sign and the counterpart sign, for both are stated here
together. Herein, the three similes beginning with cotton are properly the learning
sign, the rest are both. ‘Some’ are certain teachers. The similes begin

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
Kamran
Posts: 196
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:14 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby Kamran » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:42 am

I read somewhere that the nada/sound of silence described by Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Amaro is also a type of nimitta. It provides a useful feedback loop on your meditation, since it becomes louder as your concentration increases.

I would be interested in specific descriptions of the light nimitta and if it is something I could develop the ability to see similar to the way I developed the ability to hear the nada sound. The nada sound I experience is identical to that described by Ajahn Sumedho and in the below book, and I wonder if the light nimitta experienced by some is the same, too.

The Law of Attention: Nada Yoga and the Way of Inner Vigilance
http://www.amazon.com/The-Law-Attention ... 1594773041

Thanks.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.

Sylvester
Posts: 1664
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby Sylvester » Mon Jan 07, 2013 1:11 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Thanks Marc!

I was hoping that Sylvester would post something by now...

:anjali:
Mike


Alas. Sylvester was nursing a bout of food poisoning over the holidays...

User avatar
Dmytro
Posts: 1161
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:24 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Kyiv, Ukraine
Contact:

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby Dmytro » Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:29 pm

Sylvester wrote:Alas. Sylvester was nursing a bout of food poisoning over the holidays...


Have a good health!

Sylvester
Posts: 1664
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby Sylvester » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:30 am

Thanks for the kind wishes Dmytro.

Mike - if you're looking for a sutta reference to the pyrotechnic nimittas, Ven Analayo's entry on the Upakkilesa Sutta, MN 128 can be found here - http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... asutta.pdf

While the obhāsanimitta (sign of light, per BB) could be referring to a pyrotechnic nimitta, the rūpanimitta could be somewhat broader than something that is interpreted as merely "visual". Given that the bulk of our experience of rūpa stems from physical contact, the limitations of language could hamper discussion of those rūpa stemming from mental contact (alluded to in MN 28). How does one describe the experience of liquidity born of mental contact? Perhaps the rūpa stemming from mental contact is not of the primaries but of derived rūpa, probably "space" per MN 28 as well.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 14815
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:57 am

Greetings,

Dmytro wrote:
Sylvester wrote:Alas. Sylvester was nursing a bout of food poisoning over the holidays...


Have a good health!

+1

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)

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:34 am

Hi Sylvester, I hope you're feeling better... :console:
Sylvester wrote:Mike - if you're looking for a sutta reference to the pyrotechnic nimittas, Ven Analayo's entry on the Upakkilesa Sutta, MN 128 can be found here - http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... asutta.pdf

While the obhāsanimitta (sign of light, per BB) could be referring to a pyrotechnic nimitta, the rūpanimitta could be somewhat broader than something that is interpreted as merely "visual". Given that the bulk of our experience of rūpa stems from physical contact, the limitations of language could hamper discussion of those rūpa stemming from mental contact (alluded to in MN 28). How does one describe the experience of liquidity born of mental contact? Perhaps the rūpa stemming from mental contact is not of the primaries but of derived rūpa, probably "space" per MN 28 as well.


Thanks. Here's a translation of the relevant part:
http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... esa-e.html
Venerable sir, when abiding diligent to dispel we perceived effulgence and beautiful forms. The effulgence and beautiful forms disappeared in no time and we did not understand that sign

Anuruddha, that sign should be understood. Earlier when I was a seeker of enlightenment, I too perceived effulgence and beautiful forms, and they disappeared in no time. Then it occurred to me. Why did my effulgence and beautiful forms disappear? I knew, that doubts arose to me. On account of doubts my concentration faded. When the concentration faded, the effulgence and beautiful forms disappeared. I attended to it in such a manner, so that doubts do not arise again. When abiding diligent to dispel I perceived effulgence and beautiful forms.
[and so on with other hindrances...]


:anjali:
Mike

Sylvester
Posts: 1664
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby Sylvester » Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:01 am

Thanks Mike.

The tricky bit in that sutta seems to be the different meanings carried by nimitta at different parts of the text.

Firstly, you have this -

“Good, good, Anuruddha. But while you abide thus diligent, ardent, and resolute, have you attained any superhuman states, a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones, a comfortable abiding?”

“Venerable sir, as we abide here diligent, ardent, and resolute, we perceive both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappear, but we have not discovered the cause for that.”

16. “You should discover the cause for that, Anuruddha. Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too perceived both light and a vision of forms.

‘‘Sādhu, sādhu, anuruddhā! Atthi pana vo, anuruddhā, evaṃ appamattānaṃ ātāpīnaṃ pahitattānaṃ viharataṃ uttarimanussadhammā alamariyañāṇadassanaviseso adhigato phāsuvihāro’’ti? ‘‘Idha mayaṃ, bhante, appamattā ātāpino pahitattā viharantā obhāsañceva sañjānāma dassanañca rūpānaṃ. So kho pana no obhāso nacirasseva antaradhāyati dassanañca rūpānaṃ; tañca nimittaṃ nappaṭivijjhāmā’’ti.

‘‘Taṃ kho pana vo, anuruddhā, nimittaṃ paṭivijjhitabbaṃ. Ahampi sudaṃ, anuruddhā, pubbeva sambodhā anabhisambuddho bodhisattova samāno obhāsañceva sañjānāmi dassanañca rūpānaṃ.



Further down, we have another sense being carried by nimitta -

“As, Anuruddha, I was abiding diligent, ardent, and resolute, I perceived light but I did not see forms; I saw forms but I did not perceive light, even for a whole night or a whole day or a whole day and night. I thought: ‘What is the cause and condition for this?’ Then I considered thus: ‘On the occasion when I do not attend to the sign of forms but attend to the sign of light, I then perceive light but do not see forms. On the occasion when I do not attend to the sign of light but attend to the sign of forms, I then see forms but do not perceive light, even for a whole night or a whole day or a whole day and night.’

‘‘So kho ahaṃ, anuruddhā, appamatto ātāpī pahitatto viharanto obhāsañhi kho sañjānāmi, na ca rūpāni passāmi; rūpāni hi kho passāmi, na ca obhāsaṃ sañjānāmi – ‘kevalampi rattiṃ, kevalampi divaṃ , kevalampi rattindivaṃ’ . Tassa mayhaṃ, anuruddhā, etadahosi – ‘ko nu kho hetu ko paccayo yvāhaṃ obhāsañhi kho sañjānāmi na ca rūpāni passāmi; rūpāni hi kho passāmi na ca obhāsaṃ sañjānāmi – kevalampi rattiṃ, kevalampi divaṃ, kevalampi rattindiva’nti. Tassa mayhaṃ, anuruddhā, etadahosi – ‘yasmiñhi kho ahaṃ samaye rūpanimittaṃ amanasikaritvā obhāsanimittaṃ manasi karomi, obhāsañhi kho tasmiṃ samaye sañjānāmi, na ca rūpāni passāmi. Yasmiṃ panāhaṃ samaye obhāsanimittaṃ amanasikaritvā rūpanimittaṃ manasi karomi, rūpāni hi kho tasmiṃ samaye passāmi na ca obhāsaṃ sañjānāmi – kevalampi rattiṃ, kevalampi divaṃ, kevalampi rattindiva’’’nti.


In the first passage, the phrase "nimittaṃ paṭivijjhitabbaṃ" is typically understood to mean that nimitta = cause, and paṭivijjhitabbaṃ = potential participle of paṭivijjhati (comprehend). It seems like a fair explanation, but another way of translating this is to note the presence of another "cause" word just 3 sentences away -

“You should discover the cause for that, Anuruddha. Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too perceived both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappeared. I thought: ‘What is the cause and condition why the light and the vision of forms have disappeared?’

Taṃ kho pana vo, anuruddhā, nimittaṃ paṭivijjhitabbaṃ. Ahampi sudaṃ, anuruddhā, pubbeva sambodhā anabhisambuddho bodhisattova samāno obhāsañceva sañjānāmi dassanañca rūpānaṃ. So kho pana me obhāso nacirasseva antaradhāyati dassanañca rūpānaṃ. Tassa mayhaṃ, anuruddhā, etadahosi – ‘ko nu kho hetu ko paccayo yena me obhāso antaradhāyati dassanañca rūpāna’nti?


Instead of nimitta, we have the more standard synonyms hetu-paccaya being used. So, instead of translating "nimittaṃ paṭivijjhitabbaṃ" as "you should comprehend the cause", another very literal rendition could be "you should penetrate the sign". This keeps the sense of nimitta consistent in both sections of the sutta.

:anjali:

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:18 pm

Thanks, Sylvester, that's very helpful.

:anjali:
Mike

alan...
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:46 pm

thanks for this thread mike!

so visuddhimagga people go for deep absorption by maintaining a mental image. setting aside intensity of absorption and looking only at the idea of using a mental image or not, this seems to have support in the suttas based on the above, right?

what does this say of teachings that do not use any mental imagery or at any rate, people who pay them no mind? for example leigh brasington? is there support in the suttas for this as well? as far as i can tell his method involves a feeling instead of an image.

in my experience both work, but i don't know if they are actually working in the pure dhamma sense or just in a broad concentration sense. there are plenty of meditations that will create peace of mind but only one samma samadhi, or so it seems.

with the leigh method i get concentration and amazing blissful feelings, during there seem to be more thoughts than with the other method and after i come out of it my mind is very focused and clear.

with the nimitta method i get deep concentration with little bliss, instead i get a deep tranquility. during i have zero or next to zero thoughts and after my mind is amazingly calm and i see things very clear.

or perhaps they both should coexist?

i'm quite confused.

thoughts?
Last edited by alan... on Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:55 pm

alan... wrote:so visuddhimagga people go for deep absorption by maintaining a mental image. setting aside intensity of absorption and looking only at the idea of using a mental image or not, this seems to have support in the suttas based on the above, right?

It seems to have some support. Certainly Ajahn Brahm seems to think so, since he teaches this method.
alan... wrote:what does this say of teachings that do not use any mental imagery or at any rate, people who pay them no mind? for example leigh brasington? is there support in the suttas for this as well? as far as i can tell his method involves a feeling instead of an image.

I think that's still a "sign of concentration". Just not visual.
alan... wrote:in my experience both work, but i don't know if they are actually working in the pure dhamma sense or just in a broad concentration sense. there are plenty of meditations that will create peace of mind but only one samma samadhi, or so it seems.

with the leigh method i get concentration and amazing blissful feelings, during there seem to be more thoughts than with the other method and after i come out of it my mind is very focused and clear.

with the nimitta method i get deep concentration with little bliss, instead i get a deep tranquility. during i have zero or next to zero thoughts and after my mind is amazingly calm and i see things very clear.

or perhaps they both should coexist?

i'm quite confused.

thoughts?

It seems to me that different methods do give different "flavours" to the experience. But in the end, it seems to me that (speaking very generally) the point is not really the particular experience, but the insights that can arise from observing the experience. That's the real "Dhamma" part.


:anjali:
Mike

alan...
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:03 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
alan... wrote:so visuddhimagga people go for deep absorption by maintaining a mental image. setting aside intensity of absorption and looking only at the idea of using a mental image or not, this seems to have support in the suttas based on the above, right?

It seems to have some support. Certainly Ajahn Brahm seems to think so, since he teaches this method.
alan... wrote:what does this say of teachings that do not use any mental imagery or at any rate, people who pay them no mind? for example leigh brasington? is there support in the suttas for this as well? as far as i can tell his method involves a feeling instead of an image.

I think that's still a "sign of concentration". Just not visual.
alan... wrote:in my experience both work, but i don't know if they are actually working in the pure dhamma sense or just in a broad concentration sense. there are plenty of meditations that will create peace of mind but only one samma samadhi, or so it seems.

with the leigh method i get concentration and amazing blissful feelings, during there seem to be more thoughts than with the other method and after i come out of it my mind is very focused and clear.

with the nimitta method i get deep concentration with little bliss, instead i get a deep tranquility. during i have zero or next to zero thoughts and after my mind is amazingly calm and i see things very clear.

or perhaps they both should coexist?

i'm quite confused.

thoughts?

It seems to me that different methods do give different "flavours" to the experience. But in the end, it seems to me that (speaking very generally) the point is not really the particular experience, but the insights that can arise from observing the experience. That's the real "Dhamma" part.


:anjali:
Mike


i like that attitude. considering how great each method has worked for me, to right one or another off as "wrong" seems like a bad idea. although some who teach these methods would certainly call theirs the only right ones...

you also make a good point about the "real "Dhamma" part." mastering all the jhanas is useless in a dhamma sense if you don't understand insight. i say "in a dhamma sense" because in a real world sense they will still make one more calm and happy regardless of whether or not the practitioner understands them in a dhamma sense, which is extremely useful!

so what to do with my confusion then? perhaps i will read the suttas.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10835
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: Suttas mentioning tranquility and concentration nimittas

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:30 am

alan... wrote:i like that attitude. considering how great each method has worked for me, to right one or another off as "wrong" seems like a bad idea. although some who teach these methods would certainly call theirs the only right ones...

My solution is to simply ignore anyone who claims to have the one true method or the one true interpretation of the Buddha-Vacana.

However, I would advise following the suggestions of one particular teacher. Different teachers can sound contradictory because they are trying to give what they think is the most effective way of approaching the path, based on their experience, and the experience of their students.

:anjali:
Mike


Return to “Samatha Meditation and Jhana”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine