Another voice in the jhana debates

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Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:26 am

Another voice in the jhana debates: http://www.amazon.com/Absorption-Human- ... absorption
Recommended by Shi Huifeng/Ven Paññāsikhara.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:58 am

From my understanding, the main issue in the jhana debates is whether one is totally unaware of the 5 senses or whether jhana is very much connected to having a deep awareness of the whole physical body. Do you by chance know if Bronkhorst takes a position on this issue and if so what his opinion is regarding this matter?

:anjali:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:23 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:From my understanding, the main issue in the jhana debates is whether one is totally unaware of the 5 senses or whether jhana is very much connected to having a deep awareness of the whole physical body. Do you by chance know if Bronkhorst takes a position on this issue and if so what his opinion is regarding this matter?

:anjali:
I have not a clue; I have not seen this book, but if Shi Huifeng/Ven Paññāsikhara says this book is of interest and worth reading, that is a very good recommedation, indeed.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Ben » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:38 am

Thanks Tilt!
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:23 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:From my understanding, the main issue in the jhana debates is whether one is totally unaware of the 5 senses or whether jhana is very much connected to having a deep awareness of the whole physical body. Do you by chance know if Bronkhorst takes a position on this issue and if so what his opinion is regarding this matter?

:anjali:
I have not a clue; I have not seen this book, but if Shi Huifeng/Ven Paññāsikhara says this book is of interest and worth reading, that is a very good recommedation, indeed.



:thanks: for the info!
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby IanAnd » Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:44 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:From my understanding, the main issue in the jhana debates is whether one is totally unaware of the 5 senses or whether jhana is very much connected to having a deep awareness of the whole physical body. Do you by chance know if Bronkhorst takes a position on this issue and if so what his opinion is regarding this matter?
I have not a clue; I have not seen this book, but if Shi Huifeng/Ven Paññāsikhara says this book is of interest and worth reading, that is a very good recommedation,(sic) indeed.

Hi polarbuddha and tilt,

Although I'm far past caring anything about this whole concocted debate about "dhyana" and its practice, it is interesting to see what others have to say about it, if only to see if there is any territory for agreement. Especially if those others have any actual experience in its practice and are able to speak from direct personal experience.

Following is an excerpt from the amazon site describing the book:
amazon wrote:This book argues for the central role played by absorption in the functioning of the human mind. The importance of absorption makes itself felt in different ways; the two studies combined in this book concentrate on two of them. The first study, The Symbolic Mind, argues that, largely as a result of language acquisition, humans have two levels of cognition, which in normal circumstances are simultaneously active. Absorption is a (or the) means to circumvent some, perhaps all, of the associations that characterize one of these two levels of cognition, resulting in what is sometimes referred to as mystical experience, but which is not confined to mysticism and plays a role in various "religious" phenomena, and elsewhere. In the second study, The Psychology of the Buddha, Prof. Bronkhorst provides a theoretical context for the observation that absorption is a source of pleasure, grapples with Freud, and illustrates his observations through translations of ancient Buddhist texts from the Pali and Sanskrit languages along with his psychological commentary.

It appears from this excerpt that the book's content is focused on two different studies which the author then attempts to draw conclusions from based upon his skill as a scholar and deductive reasoning. So, it appears from this brief excerpt that polarbuddha's question regarding the five senses is not addressed within the text. Yet if it turns out that this issue is addressed, it would need to be addressed by someone who has actually practiced dhyana with whom the author had an opportunity to interview (presuming that the author himself had no such experience) before it might be deemed credible.

As far as what the book does address (if this excerpt can be trusted, which I see no reason why it shouldn't), I would, on the basis of personal experience, agree with the book's basic premise that absorption plays a central role in the functioning of the human mind. Which is likely one of the reasons Gotama recommended its practice so often in the discourses. (Although, as we are able to surmise in some of the passages where this term is found, the Buddha sometimes seems to use the term "dhyana" to indicate meditation in general rather than absorption specifically.)

As for the second study (The Psychology of the Buddha, which describes "a theoretical context for the observation that absorption is a source of pleasure"), that goes without saying for anyone who has ever experienced a moment of absorption (if not several moments back to back). Bronkhorst is on safe ground here, and I see no controversy.

Yet, as regards the first study, The Symbolic Mind (which posits that "humans have two levels of cognition, which in normal circumstances are simultaneously active"), I would need to see the text first in order to evaluate this premise, as the description in the excerpt does not provide any detailed explanation about these "two levels of cognition," what they are, how they come about, and how they can be identified.

Regarding the statement that: "Absorption is a (or the) means to circumvent some, perhaps all, of the associations that characterize one of these two levels of cognition, resulting in what is sometimes referred to as mystical experience..." I can make out some cause for the validity of this statement if indeed I am assuming observation of the same phenomena that the author is referring to. But I would need to read the text in order to verify that parallel observation.

Perhaps, if Shi Huifeng/Ven. Paññāsikhara might grace us with his presences and if he has indeed read the text, he could fill in some of these blanks for us.

As far as my own experience with dhyana is concerned, it has been sort of a "one step forward, two steps back; two steps forward, one step back" affair. Depending upon one's ability to trust one's discernment of perception in such matters, it might easily be said that there is room for two views about the five sense issue. Yet, on further investigation (which has been ongoing now for me for the past five years or more), the thought has occurred to me that what I, on certain occasions in the beginning, was accepting as the practice of dhyana, was actually the practice of samadhi (or appana samadhi) as opposed to dhyana absorption itself. When I recall those instances where I definitely (without a shadow of a doubt) entered absorption, it truly can be said that "it can appear" that the five senses shut down (or at least are greatly attenuated) and that, in addition, the breath becomes extremely shallow as to almost (and sometimes for brief moments to actually) disappear. Once this disappearance is noticed by the mind, though, it generally reappears, although still very shallow.

This all has to do, in my experience, with the profound level of tranquility that one accesses during samatha dhyana meditation. When the mind is engaged in an activity, such as examination and evaluation of an object, it is not directing its focus upon the act of becoming absorbed in an object, which is a passive activity. When the mind is seeking clarification of an object (i.e. insight) through examination and evaluation which is an active activity, it has been my experience that one is generally aware of the five senses (as well as the breath).

Does any of this make any sense to anyone else?
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Sat Feb 23, 2013 4:59 am

Thanks Tilt.

The book is probably the long over-due sequel to his "The Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India". He ended that book with this note -

We have come as far as philology could take us, it seems. For a further understanding of Buddhist meditation, philology will probably not be of much help. An altogether different approach may be required to proceed further. Such a different approach does not fall within the scope of the present book. I may return to it in another study.


Assuming he's not changed his mind completely since then, it's most likely that he will take up again the non-absorbed model on 2 scores -

- non-seclusion from the 5 sense objects, on the basis of MN 152;
- rejection of thinking, on the basis of the contempt poured on the Jain practice of attempting to crush thinking.

I've asked someone who has the book for a review.
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:03 am

The book didn't really speak about the stuff concerning the regular jhana debates but it was a fantastic read in my opinion. Although I will say that his book didn't go quite far enough in explaining the whole of the 'cure' that the path is supposed to culminate in I felt that it had enough elements in it that he could have easily written a third part of the book relying only on the parts already written and a couple of suttas and his theory would have been for the most part clear and coherent.

Suffice it to say he should read the sutta on all the fermentations and specifically about the fermentations to be abandoned by tolerating and he should have used his section on the symbolic/associative mind and its deconstruction through meditation to show how peering past the great 'web' of associations could lead one to give up even attachment to absorption. This comment will only make sense to someone who has read the book of course. But yeah, everyone should read it.

:namaste:
Last edited by polarbuddha101 on Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:17 am

Having taken a very quick peek at the book, my tentative impression is that Prof Bronkhorst has perhaps changed his mind (at least he's no longer doubting the provenance of some of the suttas). I think I need a PhD in Psychology and Psychiatry to fully appreciate the book, given the amount of time the professor spends addressing these issues.

He spends a lot of time on the role of "attention" and why memory draws attention towards sense cognition, ie to repeat the pleasure recorded by memory. Not sure if he was trying to fit in MN 28's "corresponding engagement" (ie attention) with Western psychological models of attention. But a bare-bones summary from the book -

How does absorption fit into the model of the human mind constructed above?
Absorption is intense concentration. This, in its turn, is a form of attention. Attention can be
directed at, or away from sensory input and memory traces. It is important to note that for
attention to be directed at some things it will be withdrawn from others.163 Attention
withdrawn from memory traces ensures that these will not be activated (or will be less
activated). When attention is withdrawn from sensory input, it prevents this input from
activating memory traces. Either way no urges will be excited.
This leaves the question: What is the absorption referred to in the Buddhist textsHow does absorption fit into the model of the human mind constructed above?
Absorption is intense concentration. This, in its turn, is a form of attention. Attention can be
directed at, or away from sensory input and memory traces. It is important to note that for
attention to be directed at some things it will be withdrawn from others.163 Attention
withdrawn from memory traces ensures that these will not be activated (or will be less
activated). When attention is withdrawn from sensory input, it prevents this input from
activating memory traces. Either way no urges will be excited.
This leaves the question: What is the absorption referred to in the Buddhist texts directed at? The answer is that absorption can, but is not obliged to have an object. Like
attention, of which it is a more intense variant, absorption can occur without being directed at
anything in particular. The concentration of a fearful person who finds him- or herself in a
dark and isolated place is not initially directed at anything in particular.164 A suspect sound or
a moving shadow may give it a focus. This shows that it did not have one before. It appears
indeed that the faculty of attention in humans can be used without being wholly directed at
any specific object. Some of the neurological literature reviewed above supports this.165
How does absorption overcome repression? Imagine that our patient has successfully
entered into a state of absorption. As long as it lasts, no memory traces will be activated and
no urges will be excited. (An exception may have to be made for the memory traces and
associated urges to which our patient decides to direct his attention (or part of it).)166
Assuming that our patient has reduced the standby level of his bodily tension to an absolute
minimum, he now finds himself in an ideal situation to explore his urges and the memories to
which they are attached. Urges will announce themselves as feelings if and when the mind, in
this concentrated state, imagines an object or event related to them and thus activates the
relevant trace unit. The urges will announce themselves in the usual manner (though weakly)
by bringing about the appropriate bodily states (the emotions). These in their turn will be
perceived as feelings in the mind. The low degree of excitation of the urge, resulting from the
low degree of activation of the corresponding memory trace, deprives it of all danger. It
cannot manifest itself, for example in bodily activity. The minimal level of standby bodily
tension ensures that the conditions for repression are not fulfilled. As a result, the trace unit
can be integrated into the main unit, and the associated urge diffused.


BTW, "absorption" is simply the Prof's code for samādhi. His thesis places the 4th Jhana as the "absoprtion" that facilitates a thoroughly liberative psychotherapeutic session.
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby alan... » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:19 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:From my understanding, the main issue in the jhana debates is whether one is totally unaware of the 5 senses or whether jhana is very much connected to having a deep awareness of the whole physical body. Do you by chance know if Bronkhorst takes a position on this issue and if so what his opinion is regarding this matter?

:anjali:


i recently read a book that posits the idea that the first four jhanas are concerned with the body and the senses still operate and only the arupa jhanas are total, senseless absorption. i think that's a valid interpretation.
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby polarbuddha101 » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:16 pm

alan... wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:From my understanding, the main issue in the jhana debates is whether one is totally unaware of the 5 senses or whether jhana is very much connected to having a deep awareness of the whole physical body. Do you by chance know if Bronkhorst takes a position on this issue and if so what his opinion is regarding this matter?

:anjali:


i recently read a book that posits the idea that the first four jhanas are concerned with the body and the senses still operate and only the arupa jhanas are total, senseless absorption. i think that's a valid interpretation.


It is certainly not a bad or unsupported interpretation and it is the one I myself lean to, but others such as Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato would disagree and believe that in jhana there is only awareness of mental phenomena and not any awareness of the body or other sensory data. On here at DW, Sylvester often argues for the Sujato interpretation and Nana (Geoff) argues for the body awareness interpretation for example in viewtopic.php?f=43&t=5761 . This difference between body awareness and only mental awareness is also the major difference between the supposed 'visuddhimagga jhanas' and the supposed 'sutta jhanas.' I have never heard of a philologist or any other academic who is not a practitioner take a stance on this issue so I just thought it would be interesting to see what a non-practitioner would think about this issue because they would not have any biases from having been taught a certain way or by holding the commentaries as authoritative or for any other reason that a practitioner might have. But anyway, it was still a good book to read.

:namaste:
Last edited by polarbuddha101 on Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:44 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:
alan... wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:From my understanding, the main issue in the jhana debates is whether one is totally unaware of the 5 senses or whether jhana is very much connected to having a deep awareness of the whole physical body. Do you by chance know if Bronkhorst takes a position on this issue and if so what his opinion is regarding this matter?

:anjali:


i recently read a book that posits the idea that the first four jhanas are concerned with the body and the senses still operate and only the arupa jhanas are total, senseless absorption. i think that's a valid interpretation.


It is certainly not a bad or unsupported interpretation and it is the one I myself lean to, but others such as Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato would disagree and believe that in jhana there is only awareness of mental phenomena and not any awareness of the body or other sensory data. On here at DW, Sylvester often argues for the Sujato interpretation and Nana (Geoff) argues for the body awareness interpretation for example in viewtopic.php?f=43&t=5761 . This difference between body awareness and only mental awareness is also the major difference between the supposed 'visuddhimagga jhanas' and the supposed 'sutta jhanas.' I have never heard of a philologist of any other academic who is not a practitioner take a stance on this issue so I just thought it would be interesting to see what a non-practitioner would think about this issue because they would not have any biases from having been taught a certain way or by holding the commentaries as authoritative or for any other reason that a practitioner might have. But anyway, it was still a good book to read.

:namaste:


interesting. MN 70 referenced in that thread definitely seems to suggest there are jhanas which involve the body and others which don't and that one can be liberated in multiple ways, different types of liberation, and in each of the different mental states (either with or without the body). plus the many times where the buddha speaks of making the bliss drench the entire body, if one is no longer conscious of the body, how could one do this?

further, this quote from AN 4.124 seems to fairly clearly point to there being thought involved in the first jhana as well as bodily consideration, making the idea of the first jhana being an utterly absorbed, one pointed experience questionable.

"There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. At the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in conjunction with the devas of the Pure Abodes. This rebirth is not in common with run-of-the-mill people."

"Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption (2)" (AN 4.124), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 3 July 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html . Retrieved on 25 February 2013.
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:44 am

Sigh, it looks like we're still stuck on the Pali present tense issue, in this case samanupassati, versus the English present tense...
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:18 am

Sylvester wrote:Sigh, it looks like we're still stuck on the Pali present tense issue, in this case samanupassati, versus the English present tense...


i don't get it. could you explain?
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:35 am

Check out this helpful enumeration of the functions of the Pali present tense outlined by Warder, courtesy of daverupa -

viewtopic.php?f=44&t=15480&start=20#p223661

That discussion pertained to AN 4.124's usage of the present tense samanupassati (regards) and whether it actually means contemporaneity with the standard periphrastic construction upasampajja viharati (dwells having entered) of the 1st jhana formula. The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?

Now, technically speaking, it might be possible for the samanupassati to be contemporaneous with jhana, if one argues that upasampajja (having entered) is an absolutive of contemporaneity. However, that is only truly possible if both verbs samanupassati and upasampajja are in the same sentence, each occupying its own clause (main and subordinate) therein. That's not the case here in AN 4.124. One also needs to surmount the same problem of samanupassati occuring in an environment that does not have vitakka nor vicāra .

The most typical way of indicating contemporaneity of action verbs in Pali would be to use the missakiriyā construction, where the sutta would have read something to the effect "having entered and dwelling in the 1st jhana, he contemplates...." (paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharanto, ... samanupassati). As far as I can tell in my survey of the suttas, the missakiriyā construction is never used in any of the jhana formulae.

As dave notes in that post, the most likely meaning of the present tense "regards" would be an activity that takes place in the future. We just need to be alive to Pali grammar and take these texts on their own terms, rather than lens them through English translations, no matter how literal the translation is. Most translators usually do not interpret the Pali present tense when they translate, since there are so many temporal and functional uses of the present tense. The only exception would be where the context makes it clear that the present tense is functioning as a past tense in a narrative.

:anjali:
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby alan... » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:50 am

Sylvester wrote:Check out this helpful enumeration of the functions of the Pali present tense outlined by Warder, courtesy of daverupa -

viewtopic.php?f=44&t=15480&start=20#p223661

That discussion pertained to AN 4.124's usage of the present tense samanupassati (regards) and whether it actually means contemporaneity with the standard periphrastic construction upasampajja viharati (dwells having entered) of the 1st jhana formula. The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?

Now, technically speaking, it might be possible for the samanupassati to be contemporaneous with jhana, if one argues that upasampajja (having entered) is an absolutive of contemporaneity. However, that is only truly possible if both verbs samanupassati and upasampajja are in the same sentence, each occupying its own clause (main and subordinate) therein. That's not the case here in AN 4.124. One also needs to surmount the same problem of samanupassati occuring in an environment that does not have vitakka nor vicāra .

The most typical way of indicating contemporaneity of action verbs in Pali would be to use the missakiriyā construction, where the sutta would have read something to the effect "having entered and dwelling in the 1st jhana, he contemplates...." (paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharanto, ... samanupassati). As far as I can tell in my survey of the suttas, the missakiriyā construction is never used in any of the jhana formulae.

As dave notes in that post, the most likely meaning of the present tense "regards" would be an activity that takes place in the future. We just need to be alive to Pali grammar and take these texts on their own terms, rather than lens them through English translations, no matter how literal the translation is. Most translators usually do not interpret the Pali present tense when they translate, since there are so many temporal and functional uses of the present tense. The only exception would be where the context makes it clear that the present tense is functioning as a past tense in a narrative.

:anjali:


interesting. so you are basically just saying that this is a future tense word and that this action would take place after exiting the jhana again, correct? why is it that most of the professional translators out there use it in this way then? for example bhikkhu bodhi in the same sutta, instead of "regards" uses "contemplates". i can't see it being such a thing to slip through the cracks considering it's a standard pericope that appears throughout the canon, not without at least a note. especially from bodhi, he notates so many similar things in his translations and this pericope is found in all four of the nikayas he translated and other compilations as well. that doesn't prove anything one way or the other, if nothing else it may just show his neutrality in the debate on that particular note, i'm just giving food for thought at this point.

i suppose without knowing the exact implication of the original speaker of what tense it is, it is up for interpretation. considering this:

"The present tense is used to express [1] present time, the limits of which are somewhat vague, or [2] indefinite time (timeless statements such as "eternal truths"), [3] sometimes the immediate future (which may include a shade of "imperative" sense; cf. English "I'm going") and [4] sometimes the past ("historic present"). It is used to express [5] the duration of an action "until", [6] a fixed future time (a vivid future visualized as present) "when", and [7] in certain other constructions."

-Warder (copied from daverupa's post)

it's definition is all over the place from the past to the future. so it could mean "regards after jhana", or "regards during jhana" or even "regards before jhana" considering the amazing ambiguity of the present tense in pali according to the above explanation.
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Nyana » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:54 am

Sylvester wrote:The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?

Vitakka & vicāra aren't necessary, saññā is.

Sylvester wrote:We just need to be alive to Pali grammar and take these texts on their own terms, rather than lens them through English translations, no matter how literal the translation is. Most translators usually do not interpret the Pali present tense when they translate, since there are so many temporal and functional uses of the present tense. The only exception would be where the context makes it clear that the present tense is functioning as a past tense in a narrative.

The Mahāvibhāṣa Śāstra, the Abhidharmakośabhāsya, the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra, etc., all explicitly state that samatha & vipassanā are optimally balanced in the four jhānas and that penetration of the four noble truths optimally occurs within the four jhānas. The first three formless attainments and access concentration are not considered optimal because of limited vipassanā in the former and limited samatha in the latter. The authors of these texts were relying on source materials that parallel the Pāli suttas. They understood the Indic languages that they were using, and they most certainly weren't relying on English translations.
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Sylvester » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:47 am

I think while it is legitimate to acknowledge that the Sarvas and Sautrantikas understood their Indic languages well enough, it should be apparent from one of our previous posts that doctrinal evolution plays a very significant role in interpretation, eg the vitakka definitions taken up by the Yogacarins. When meanings change, older material are lensed through the new doctrine and definitions. I'm going to give one example of how an Abhidharma has radically altered the theory of Aggregates, a reading that persists even today, even if that school is now dead.

Most of the modernist insistence on the jhanalabhi being percipient of the 5 sense data stems from how rūpakkhandha (Form Aggregate) is interpreted and translated. This is typically understood to be include only the 5 sense data and the 5 senses. I'm sure you're familiar with the Abhidhammic bifurcation of reality into the rūpa and arūpa categories. The latter is constituted by nāma. In the Abhidhamma, consciousness is included in nāma, which departs from the suttas. All things falling under rūpa would be for the 5 senses and their corresponding data.

However, as Sue Hamilton points out, nowhere in the suttas is this equation made of rūpa and the 5 senses. Why does the Abhidhamma classify consciousness under nāma? What then is the source of these equations? Apparently, the Abhidhamma owes these 2 innovations to the Sarvastivadins, or a common ancestor, who made the explicit and closed linkage between rūpa, pratigha and the 5 senses. Why did this happen? Was it because the Sarvas -

1. were trying to give a totally Buddhist spin to nāmarūpa as 2 predicative categories, instead of the inseparable unity of nāmarūpa borrowed from the Upanishads, and made use of by the Buddha to provide as the pivot of phassa/contact? Nāmarūpa in the early texts was only discussed in the context of consciousness and contact, but nāma and rūpa in the Abhidharma/Abhidhamma became 2 organisational principles for EVERYTHING.

or

2. relied on a textually corrupt sutra?

The 2nd possibility is quite real, as I've seen a few Chinese sutra parallels (from the (Mula)-S canon) where consciousness was lumped into nāma (although these sutras are in the minority in the Agamas). This Sarva method of organisation marks a clear departure from the suttas, and allowed the Sarvas to modify rūpa and pratigha as pertaining solely to the domain of the 5 senses, and nāma everything else. It is unlikely that the Pali abhidhammikas could have innovated this model, given the absence of such an error in the Pali suttas; most likely, the Pali abhidhammikas simply borrowed this model from the Sarvastivadins.

It appears that in the most unwitting of circumstances, translators are actually imposing an Abhidharmic structure on the 5 Aggregates, a Sarvastivadin structure that has no such basis in the suttas. You see this in Ven T's insertion of "physical" in parenthesis against "form" (rūpa). Not only do we find such a model ahistorical from the sutta perspective, it directly contradicts MN 28 which allows the Form Aggregate to arise from purely mind-contact. (Sadly, the Agama parallel to MN 28, despite allowing for mind-based rūpa did not deter the Sarvas from departing from it.)

This is my concern in appealing to medieval Buddhism to interpret Early Buddhism. Small and unnoticeable changes in doctrine can change the colour and complexion of the suttas/sutras.

:anjali:
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Re: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby daverupa » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:45 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:The action denoted by the present tense samanupassati looks to me to be a very ruminative activity. How is that supposed to happen in the 2nd jhana onwards, as presented in AN 4.124, when vitakka and vicāra have disappeared?

Vitakka & vicāra aren't necessary, saññā is.


This is a useful point to bear in mind. Satipatthana functions similarly, with or without the ruminative aspect but alongside saññā throughout.
    "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: Another voice in the jhana debates

Postby Nyana » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:52 pm

Sylvester wrote:I think while it is legitimate to acknowledge that the Sarvas and Sautrantikas understood their Indic languages well enough, it should be apparent from one of our previous posts that doctrinal evolution plays a very significant role in interpretation, eg the vitakka definitions taken up by the Yogacarins.

That may be your conclusion, but I've seen no reason to conclude that the Yogācāra definition of vitakka is the result of doctrinal evolution. But at any rate, vitakka isn't sufficiently defined in the suttas to give a precise understanding of exactly what it was originally intended to mean in each context that it's used.

Sylvester wrote:This is my concern in appealing to medieval Buddhism to interpret Early Buddhism.

The notion of the presence of vipassanā in the jhānas isn't the result of grammatical confusion. It has ancient roots in mainstream Indian Buddhism.
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