arupa jhanas

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arupa jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:50 pm

okay so i've seen differing definitions.

the same is true for the first four jhanas but they are closer than the differences for arupa.

for the arupa some say they are one pointed, vast emptiness that involves nothing physical, and then on up the ladder. this sounds like it fits the suttas.

then i've seen some that say they are where you basically expand your awareness until it fills infinity and that imagining your awareness going further and further out of your room, then rivers and meadows and so on. this sounds like using your imagination which is the exact opposite of one pointed concentration.

what do you all think?
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby manas » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:08 am

Hi Alan,

I hope that someone who has actually attained and mastered the formless jhanas drops by here, because failing that, we will have to rely on what we have read and inferred, from the suttas and our own practice thus far. In my case, I have not even mastered the first rupa jhana yet; so if we are to discuss the formless jhanas - which rely on the mastery of the fourth rupa jhana to be entered upon, as I understand it - some might argue we are over reaching just a bit.

But I'll have a go at it, although the following will obviously be my opinion, and if any of what follows misrepresents the Dhamma, I hope someone knowledgeable will correct me.

* * *

Jhanas 1 - 4 all have the same primary object - in the case of someone doing anapanasati it would be the breath, but going by the rupa jhana similes, each jhana is experienced with the entire body, not just one isolated section of it. So when we reach the fourth jhana, we have this

"And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure and stress — as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress — he enters and remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither-pleasure nor stress. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.
(one word above has been bolded.)

So we are still with the body as primary object, but the mind has changed quite a bit. Mindfulness is now of a different quality: upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ. So I infer that, when we do the following

There is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] 'Infinite space,' enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space.


- it's not merely going to be something 'imagined'. Mindfulness would already have been gradually strengthened and purified through jhanas 1 -4. So one could feasibly expect that when it says the monk 'enters and remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space', that yeah basically our awareness will literally be able to encompass infinite space, just as in the first four jhanas it was able to fully encompass just this rupa (the physical body). Awareness finally transcends that limitation, and expands out unlimitedly.

That's how I see it, alan. But despite it all sounding rather appealing, we probably ought not to speculate or ponder about the arupa jhanas too much at this stage, because (in my case anyway) we have got our work cut out for us already, just to master the four rupa jhanas. And as I understand it, they could be the more important ones to be concerned about, because in many suttas, the insight knowledges follow straight after the fourth jhana has been mastered. With the fourth jhana alone, one could proceed to recollection of previous lives, perceiving the arising and disappearance of beings in accordance with their kamma, and then the ending of the mental fermentations. Which would be a rather nice potential outcome :smile:

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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby polarbuddha101 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:16 am

I don't think they're based on the imagination but rather, at least in the case of the perception of the infinitude of space, the loss of all sense of boundaries within the mind.

(Edited)

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"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: arupa jhanas

Postby daverupa » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:24 am

alan... wrote:what do you all think?


They're unrelated to sammasamadhi.

I think they're additions, splices if you will, which the reciters felt were good fits as time went on but which started life among the ocean of methodologies and meditational exegeses floating around the Gangetic plain in those days.

They were ...popular (?) enough to get added into the story of the Buddha's final meditation, and were probably strongly related to contemporary cosmological speculation (as DN 2 suggests). The salient presence of deities/realms and the salient presence of formless meditations in the Nikayas are two sides of the same cultural coin, I expect, but their absence from a majority of suttas where the jhanas are discussed is more telling than any positive statement about them, it seems to me.
    "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: arupa jhanas

Postby manas » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:34 am

daverupa wrote:
alan... wrote:what do you all think?


They're unrelated to sammasamadhi.

I think they're additions, splices if you will, which the reciters felt were good fits as time went on but which started life among the ocean of methodologies and meditational exegeses floating around the Gangetic plain in those days.

They were ...popular (?) enough to get added into the story of the Buddha's final meditation, and were probably strongly related to contemporary cosmological speculation (as DN 2 suggests). The salient presence of deities and the salient presence of formless meditations/realms in the Nikayas are two sides of the same cultural coin, I expect, but their lack from a majority of suttas is more telling than any positive statement about them, it seems to me.


Hi dave,

I agree that they are not essential for awakening, but to call them 'unrelated' to sammasamadhi' is going a bit too far, imho. Furthermore, the arupa jhanas are discussed, in quite a few different contexts, throughout the pali canon (to the best of my knowledge). So by calling them 'later additions' are you not implying that large amounts of the pali canon were corrupted with regards to this? If you wouldn't mind, could you kindly provide some evidence for that?

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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Apr 16, 2013 8:42 am

alan... wrote:then i've seen some that say they are where you basically expand your awareness until it fills infinity and that imagining your awareness going further and further out of your room, then rivers and meadows and so on. this sounds like using your imagination which is the exact opposite of one pointed concentration.


I think that approach is in line with the sutta descriptions - basically a leap of imagination into spaciousness.
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Apr 16, 2013 8:47 am

daverupa wrote:...but their absence from a majority of suttas where the jhanas are discussed...


Dave, have you done a "head count" of the relevant suttas to confirm that this is actually the case?
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby reflection » Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:09 am

I'm sure it is not this imaginative awareness you are speaking of, for numerous reason. One being, a lot of people can do this. Even people who don't have perfect virtue, or right view. Controversy about their validity aside, we are speaking about the last factor of the path here -or even beyond that. No way can it be something that easy.

Other than that, I don't know a lot about these states. But that knowledge is sufficient for me. Any intellectual knowledge would not help me. I'm confident enough in my training to know that if I continue this way, it'll take me there one day. Without knowing for sure what it will be like.
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby daverupa » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:19 am

manas wrote:Furthermore, the arupa jhanas are discussed, in quite a few different contexts, throughout the pali canon (to the best of my knowledge). So by calling them 'later additions' are you not implying that large amounts of the pali canon were corrupted with regards to this?


Corruption is too harsh; the rhythm would have been based on the technology of oral tradition. I'll mention the following:

Analayo, via Sylvester wrote:A difference between the Vedic and the early Buddhist oral traditions that has important ramifications for the Buddhist oral transmission is that, whereas .... Brahmin youths memorised texts without understanding their meaning, the Buddhist reciters memorised texts whose meanings they would for the most part have understood. ... This difference acquires considerable significance when considered in the light of the modern day academic research on textual memory. This research has shown that textual memory does not work in a way comparable to a tape recorder.... Memory, far from being merely reproductive, is rather of a constructive nature. At the time of trying to recall, the mind constructs the information anew. .... at the time when something is heard or read is to be memorised, information is not simply taken in. Rather, the information is stored in the mind together with inferences made by the reader or listener. ... In view of this, it would only be natural if with the early Buddhist reciters the process of drawing inferences were to leave its mark on the material transmitted. ... In terms of modern research on textual memory, it therefore seems that the early Buddhist reciters involved in the transmission of the discourses tended to "draw inferences". Because of this tendency to draw inferences, the material would have been stored together with those inferences and on retrieval was "re-constructed".


If, as I suspect, arupas and meditation methods and whatnot were thick on the ground, I think it makes perfect sense that we'd see stylized entries about them. As I said, it probably made very good sense to the early reciters.

porpoise wrote:
daverupa wrote:...but their absence from a majority of suttas where the jhanas are discussed...


Dave, have you done a "head count" of the relevant suttas to confirm that this is actually the case?


I have. The jhanas are discussed, their metaphors are introduced, & they are re-discussed as awakening factors sometimes alone, sometimes with arupas following. I mentioned this once before on the forum somewhere, and at that time noted that the arupas were far more prevalent than I'd prefer. Despite this, they are simply tacked on to these jhana discussions - but it isn't a complete job. In a few places they even form their own topic, without mentioning jhana.

It makes more sense to me to see this pattern as a result of additions than as a piecemeal forgetting, which forces the conclusion that the suttas were composed, at first, without them.

So, since the Buddha rejected two formless meditations and thought only of a childhood experience, not any meditation teachers, when discussing his first experience and use of jhana, I see no reason to bother with them.
    "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: arupa jhanas

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:47 pm

daverupa wrote:
manas wrote:Furthermore, the arupa jhanas are discussed, in quite a few different contexts, throughout the pali canon (to the best of my knowledge). So by calling them 'later additions' are you not implying that large amounts of the pali canon were corrupted with regards to this?


Corruption is too harsh; the rhythm would have been based on the technology of oral tradition. I'll mention the following:

Analayo, via Sylvester wrote:A difference between the Vedic and the early Buddhist oral traditions that has important ramifications for the Buddhist oral transmission is that, whereas .... Brahmin youths memorised texts without understanding their meaning, the Buddhist reciters memorised texts whose meanings they would for the most part have understood. ... This difference acquires considerable significance when considered in the light of the modern day academic research on textual memory. This research has shown that textual memory does not work in a way comparable to a tape recorder.... Memory, far from being merely reproductive, is rather of a constructive nature. At the time of trying to recall, the mind constructs the information anew. .... at the time when something is heard or read is to be memorised, information is not simply taken in. Rather, the information is stored in the mind together with inferences made by the reader or listener. ... In view of this, it would only be natural if with the early Buddhist reciters the process of drawing inferences were to leave its mark on the material transmitted. ... In terms of modern research on textual memory, it therefore seems that the early Buddhist reciters involved in the transmission of the discourses tended to "draw inferences". Because of this tendency to draw inferences, the material would have been stored together with those inferences and on retrieval was "re-constructed".


If, as I suspect, arupas and meditation methods and whatnot were thick on the ground, I think it makes perfect sense that we'd see stylized entries about them. As I said, it probably made very good sense to the early reciters.

porpoise wrote:
daverupa wrote:...but their absence from a majority of suttas where the jhanas are discussed...


Dave, have you done a "head count" of the relevant suttas to confirm that this is actually the case?


I have. The jhanas are discussed, their metaphors are introduced, & they are re-discussed as awakening factors sometimes alone, sometimes with arupas following. I mentioned this once before on the forum somewhere, and at that time noted that the arupas were far more prevalent than I'd prefer. Despite this, they are simply tacked on to these jhana discussions - but it isn't a complete job. In a few places they even form their own topic, without mentioning jhana.

It makes more sense to me to see this pattern as a result of additions than as a piecemeal forgetting, which forces the conclusion that the suttas were composed, at first, without them.

So, since the Buddha rejected two formless meditations and thought only of a childhood experience, not any meditation teachers, when discussing his first experience and use of jhana, I see no reason to bother with them.

I find your line of reasoning totally speculative, relying on logic in which the conclusion you reach is not "forced" in any way. It is simply one highly speculative expanation for why the formless jhanas are not always mentioned in every discussion of jhana. And not even the most plausible explanation, at that. For it amounts to the idea that the earliest reciters of the suttas, those closest to the teachings as they came from the Buddha himself, just added them in willy nilly. Doesn't make much sense.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby santa100 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:56 pm

One actually will need to master ArupaSamapatti to be called "Liberated in Both Ways"/UbhatoBhagaVimutta, one of the 7 types of noble individuals. ArupaSamapatti however is not required for every types. MN 70 describes all of those 7 ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ) and AN 9.45 gives further explanation ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:12 pm

alan... wrote:okay so i've seen differing definitions.

the same is true for the first four jhanas but they are closer than the differences for arupa.

for the arupa some say they are one pointed, vast emptiness that involves nothing physical, and then on up the ladder. this sounds like it fits the suttas.

then i've seen some that say they are where you basically expand your awareness until it fills infinity and that imagining your awareness going further and further out of your room, then rivers and meadows and so on. this sounds like using your imagination which is the exact opposite of one pointed concentration.

what do you all think?

I think it is not "imagination" - like a visualization exercise. They are "perception-attainments." (saññāsamāpatti)
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:33 pm

kirk5a wrote:I think it is not "imagination" - like a visualization exercise. They are "perception-attainments." (saññāsamāpatti)


Could you elaborate on this? Do you mean that there is an objective perception of space being infinite, of consciousness being infinite, and of nothingness?
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:45 pm

porpoise wrote:
kirk5a wrote:I think it is not "imagination" - like a visualization exercise. They are "perception-attainments." (saññāsamāpatti)


Could you elaborate on this? Do you mean that there is an objective perception of space being infinite, of consciousness being infinite, and of nothingness?

Well, what do you mean by "objective perception"? Perception is by nature "subjective." However, there is a difference between using the facility of visual imagination, and focusing on a mental perception unto the point of meditative absorption. Which is what I believe the formless jhanas are about. I think we can get a small sense of this by the simple fact that we can look around and notice space, in which various things occur. It is possible to concentrate on space.

I will readily qualify what I say by the fact that I have not attained the formless jhanas myself. Though I believe I have a small taste of what they're about. So of course take it with a grain of salt.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby manas » Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:54 pm

porpoise wrote:
kirk5a wrote:I think it is not "imagination" - like a visualization exercise. They are "perception-attainments." (saññāsamāpatti)


Could you elaborate on this? Do you mean that there is an objective perception of space being infinite, of consciousness being infinite, and of nothingness?


Not with the minds we have at their current level of training and purification, no. But look at it this way: have you noticed that, in a state of samadhi - whatever level you have been able to manage thus far - that the mind is able to do things that it cannot in ordinary situations? Such as have an all-around awareness of the entire body sitting there peacefully? Such as being able to perceive distinctions between the aggregates just that bit more clearly? Once again I cannot claim any mastery even of the first rupa jhana, but by inference I believe that the mind is capable of much more than we think, given the right training, and our own resolve and effort over time.

I think it is logical that physical space has no boundary (and if it does, it begs the question of 'but what lies beyond that? etc). While it is true that no physical instrument, telescope or human eye is ever going to be able to perceive this infinite nature (they won't be able to see far enough!) I am of the belief that a properly purified and trained mind could. The mind is immaterial. I think it can probably do quite a few interesting things that sound impossible to us at our current level of understanding. For example, "having been one, he becomes many. Having been many, he becomes one". If you ask me, that is much harder to come to grips with, than the notion of perceiving 'infinite space'! But according to the suttas, one with a suitably purified and trained mind can do it.

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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby daverupa » Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:34 pm

kirk5a wrote:I find your line of reasoning totally speculative


Oh, certainly. Any time one delves into the Nikayas with an eye to parsing its chronology, hard and fast conclusions are simply impossible.

relying on logic in which the conclusion you reach is not "forced" in any way.


Well, the conclusion piggybacks on the fact that the Nikayas took at least a century to form up in the shape we have them; but, as above, saying only this one idea is true would be a fools gambit. Nevertheless, to take the Nikayas in toto is a rather uncritical approach...

For it amounts to the idea that the earliest reciters of the suttas, those closest to the teachings as they came from the Buddha himself, just added them in willy nilly.


:strawman:
    "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: arupa jhanas

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 16, 2013 9:08 pm

daverupa wrote:
For it amounts to the idea that the earliest reciters of the suttas, those closest to the teachings as they came from the Buddha himself, just added them in willy nilly.


:strawman:


I think they're additions, splices if you will, which the reciters felt were good fits as time went on but which started life among the ocean of methodologies and meditational exegeses floating around the Gangetic plain in those days.

Sounds "willy nilly" to me. Worse than that. Some suttas would have had to be drastically altered from their original content, or be complete fabrications, in order to have the arupa jhanas be a later addition.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:13 am

kirk5a wrote: However, there is a difference between using the facility of visual imagination, and focusing on a mental perception unto the point of meditative absorption. Which is what I believe the formless jhanas are about.


I agree that there is a distinction. I think imagination is a way of accessing these perceptions, but also that they can arise spontaneously with the right conditions.
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Re: arupa jhanas

Postby daverupa » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:20 pm

kirk5a wrote:Some suttas would have had to be drastically altered from their original content, or be complete fabrications, in order to have the arupa jhanas be a later addition.


The garudhammas are that sort of fabrication, the mundane-supramundane distinction is late but also put in the Buddha's mouth, there's the addition of the attainment 'cessation of perception and feeling', there's the fifth factor of first jhana - and this is just to name a few examples - so there's nothing which makes it inherently impossible. The tradition seems to have been quite comfortable playing around with & adding to the texts, for a time.

But, it could also be as you say. :shrug:

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    "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: arupa jhanas

Postby kirk5a » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:37 pm

daverupa wrote:
kirk5a wrote:Some suttas would have had to be drastically altered from their original content, or be complete fabrications, in order to have the arupa jhanas be a later addition.


The garudhammas are that sort of fabrication, the mundane-supramundane distinction is late but also put in the Buddha's mouth, there's the addition of the attainment 'cessation of perception and feeling', there's the fifth factor of first jhana - and this is just to name a few examples - so there's nothing which makes it inherently impossible. The tradition seems to have been quite comfortable playing around with & adding to the texts, for a time.

So you say. But where do we find the evidence for all those conclusions?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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