On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:50 am

oceanfloor wrote:
Direct, Intuitive Knowledge

The reason why the samatha jhānas can grant tranquillity, but do not lead directly to wisdom is that they have concepts as their objects, rather than objects which can be directly experienced without thinking. The vipassanā jhānas lead to wisdom, because they consists of direct, sustained contact with the ultimate realities.

Maybe Bhikkhu Pesala cares to explain the suttas support for the quoted text?

metta,
:anjali:

I doubt whether Sayādaw U Paṇḍita would care too either, though I am sure he could do so if asked. The point of direct intuitive knowledge is that it comes about through observation and not from reading texts and commentaries. Unless and until you get down to doing some practice, you will always plagued by doubts.

Doubt is a very thorny problem.

The Bodhisatta's teachers practised Samatha jhānas to the highest degree, but they did not realise the truth of suffering. The Bodhisatta was dissatisfied with the practice of tranquillity meditation, and went in pursuit of another method. After using his deep concentration to recollect his own previous lives and those of others he still did not find the origin of suffering. In the Third Watch of the night, he switched his attention from mindfulness of respiration to contemplating the five aggregates, he understood their three characteristics, and discovered the right path of insight meditation leading to the end of suffering, which is nibbāna.
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Re: On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:32 am

Hi oceanfloor,

Regarding concentration (samadhi) and insight (vipassana), see, for example:
"And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five clinging-aggregates: 'Such is form, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is feeling, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is perception, such its origination, such its passing away. Such are fabrications, such their origination, such their passing away. Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.' This is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

And:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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Re: On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Postby oceanfloor » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:42 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi oceanfloor,

Regarding concentration (samadhi) and insight (vipassana), see, for example:
"And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five clinging-aggregates: 'Such is form, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is feeling, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is perception, such its origination, such its passing away. Such are fabrications, such their origination, such their passing away. Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.' This is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

And:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Thanks for the response.
However, my question to Bikkhu Pesala was about jhana dichotomy, that is samatha jhana and vipassana jhana. Samatha and vipassana are adjectives, jhana is noun. Your sutta quote and the other sutta links do say something about the adjectives, but not the noun.
In suttas, the Buddha describes jhana consistently only one kind of jhana(s), as in the stock jhana description. There's no dichotomy mentioned in suttas.
I don't mean to spark another jhana debate here, 'cos I know it's not the right place. I just want to point out the difference between Mahasi teaching and what the suttas say about jhana. Since they are different, how can one say it's samma-samadhi. :shrug: If it's not samma-samadhi, how can I agree the technique supports the pursue the Noble Eightfold Path.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:and discovered the right path of insight meditation leading to the end of suffering, which is nibbāna.

Alright now go back to my OP, about the way to attain nibbana using Mahasi teaching or technique.
The technique instructs to be indifferent or equanimous in regards to any arisen feeling.
1. Feeling doesn't cease here, while nibbana technically is cessation of perception and feeling. So, it is impossible to attain nibbana.
2. Phassa paccaya vedana, vedana paccaya tanha, tanha paccaya upadana, and so on until jara-marrana. While phassa hasn't ceased, there will be vedana. There are three types of feeling: pleasant, unpleasant, not pleasant nor unpleasant (in other word, indifferent). It instructs to resort to indifferent feeling, by being equanimous. The tanha is tanha of the third feeling, and so is the upadana.

The right technique should be consistent with the suttas, cutting off the root instead of the middle. The root is (eye, ear, etc) consciousness (and of course after avijja). Vinnana, salayatana, object, the meeting of the three is called phassa. From phassa, there is vedana, and so on. So, in order to cut off vedana, cut off phassa by cutting off the consciousness. The suttas say to make consciousness ceased by abandoning passion pertaining to consciousness. This is where my practice at, discerning how to abandon that passion.
Yes there is a sutta which says cessation of suffering is cessation of craving (SN 56.11). But remember that the Buddha taught the Dhamma by means of exposition http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.059.than.html. So one needs to read more.

I don't remember in which thread, someone commented that Thai forest tradition people think there is no Arahant in Burma, from Burmese tradition. It does make sense. The main principle of Thai forest tradition is "letting go", it's another way to say "abandoning". See the consistency. By practicing letting go, eventually one will let go, abandon the passion towards consciousness. Vinnana ceases thus phassa and the rest also cease - ending of all fermentation, or formation, or whatever the term is - nibbana. Without being pro-Thai-tradition or contra-Burmese-tradition, I'm only pro-suttas, it makes more sense for me if there is Arahant from Thai forest tradition.

With metta.
:anjali:
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Re: On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:53 am

Dear OceanFloor,

There is a whole book of discussion from the 1960's regarding the issue of right samadhi.

See this topic: viewtopic.php?f=44&t=15323&start=20#p220875

And this link:Satipaṭṭhāna Vipassanā: Criticisms and Replies

However, the criticisms raised there related to comparisons between Mahasi Sayadaw's teachings and the Commentaries. See this topic: viewtopic.php?f=43&t=11742 for a discussion of "vipassana jhana", "sutta jhana", and "vissudhimagga jhana".

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Re: On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Postby oceanfloor » Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:23 am

mikenz66 wrote:Dear OceanFloor,

There is a whole book of discussion from the 1960's regarding the issue of right samadhi.

See this topic: viewtopic.php?f=44&t=15323&start=20#p220875

And this link:Satipaṭṭhāna Vipassanā: Criticisms and Replies

However, the criticisms raised there related to comparisons between Mahasi Sayadaw's teachings and the Commentaries. See this topic: viewtopic.php?f=43&t=11742 for a discussion of "vipassana jhana", "sutta jhana", and "vissudhimagga jhana".

:anjali:
Mike

Ok, I'll read the Criticisms and Replies. I'm curious what's the critics and the corresponding replies.
Regarding jhana debat threads, for me it's boring - nothing new, going nowhere in circle, while nothing is to debate since it's quite clear from sutta only.

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Re: On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Postby Sylvester » Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:37 am

I think some of the critiques of the Mahasi methods are misinformed at best. Relying on just the published material alone may not be appropriate, if the critique does not first ask - to whom was the instruction intended, the "whom" being "at what stage is the meditator at"? Likewise, the suttas show a great deal of variety, and some of the techniques recorded in the suttas, IMO, are suitable only for Non-Returners. One cannot cast aside Clinging, without having clawed through many years of tears, and then exuberant pleasure, and then equanimity and finally Non-Clinging. This much I have heard from one of my teachers who is one of those pesky types into Early Buddhism. Regardless of what the suttas say, he knows enough that the Dhamma is a graduated discipline and practice, and he acknowledges the Mahasi methods' accomodation of different people at different stages of development. After all, he did spend 4 months with the Mahasi Sayadaw getting daily instructions and interviews.

Some minor points in response to oceanfloor -

However, my question to Bikkhu Pesala was about jhana dichotomy, that is samatha jhana and vipassana jhana. Samatha and vipassana are adjectives, jhana is noun. Your sutta quote and the other sutta links do say something about the adjectives, but not the noun.
In suttas, the Buddha describes jhana consistently only one kind of jhana(s), as in the stock jhana description. There's no dichotomy mentioned in suttas.


I think that even in the Vsm, the word jhāna is occassionally used as a synonym for samādhi. The non-standard use of jhāna as referring to "meditation" in general (instead of the 4 jhānas) can be found in eg MN 36 -

tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, etadahosi — ‘yaṃnūnāhaṃ appāṇakaṃyeva jhānaṃ jhāyeyya’nti.

Then, Aggivessana, I had this thought — ‘what if I were to meditate the non-breathing meditation?’


Aside from the more usual Right Concentration definition = 4 jhānas, there is the alternative definition in MN 44, equating it with well-established Establishment of Mindfulness.

There is also AN 5.28 (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html), where one is supposed to do something other than enjoy the 4 jhānas, namely to have the paccavekkhaṇānimittaṃ suggahītaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ, suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya (the review nimitta well held, well attended to, well considered and well penetrated through wisdom). This review/paccavekkha business is clearly something that is done in relation to things that have past; see for example the Buddha's own review of His abandonment of papañca here - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I don't think there's anything peculiar about the Mahasi usage of jhāna in a lexical sense that is not on all fours with the more common sutta usage, given that the suttas themselves do show some more uncommon parsing of Right Concentration.
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Re: On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Postby oceanfloor » Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:07 am

Sylvester wrote:Some minor points in response to oceanfloor -

However, my question to Bikkhu Pesala was about jhana dichotomy, that is samatha jhana and vipassana jhana. Samatha and vipassana are adjectives, jhana is noun. Your sutta quote and the other sutta links do say something about the adjectives, but not the noun.
In suttas, the Buddha describes jhana consistently only one kind of jhana(s), as in the stock jhana description. There's no dichotomy mentioned in suttas.


I think that even in the Vsm, the word jhāna is occassionally used as a synonym for samādhi. The non-standard use of jhāna as referring to "meditation" in general (instead of the 4 jhānas) can be found in eg MN 36 -

tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, etadahosi — ‘yaṃnūnāhaṃ appāṇakaṃyeva jhānaṃ jhāyeyya’nti.

Then, Aggivessana, I had this thought — ‘what if I were to meditate the non-breathing meditation?’


On the link given by mikenz66, the usage of word jhāna in Vipassana Jhana section is not as a synonym for samadhi or meditation. Consider its usage in the passage from that section:
The whole purpose of concentrating one’s attention on the abdomen is to penetrate the actual quality and nature of what is happening there. When you are aware of movement, tension, tautness, heat or cold, you have begun to develop vipassanā jhāna.

If you say the word jhāna means meditation, then one has begun to develop vipassana meditation from the time one is concentrating one's attention on the abdomen, not when one is aware of movement, tension, tautness, heat or cold.
Furthermore, another passage from the same section:
According to the fourfold way of reckoning, which admits of four levels of jhāna, the first jhāna possesses five factors which we will describe below.

That is clearly the usage of word jhāna not as a synonym for samadhi or meditation.

Sylvester wrote:Aside from the more usual Right Concentration definition = 4 jhānas, there is the alternative definition in MN 44, equating it with well-established Establishment of Mindfulness.

1. I don't buy that sutta because it was not the Buddha who said so. It was someone else, a nun named Dhammadinna. If there is other sutta(s) where the Buddha or his well known direct disciple says similar thing, I would consider to buy it.
2. The sutta is kinda weird because of the inconsistent usage of phrase "lies on the other side of". In some sentences it conveys contras, in some others it conveys similarity, and in the others it conveys something else. I'm referring to Ven. Thanissaro translation at Access to Insight. Btw I don't understand why Ven. Thanissaro chose to translate that sutta while there are other more important suttas remain untranslated. He skipped a lot of suttas.

There is also AN 5.28 (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html), where one is supposed to do something other than enjoy the 4 jhānas, namely to have the paccavekkhaṇānimittaṃ suggahītaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ, suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya (the review nimitta well held, well attended to, well considered and well penetrated through wisdom).

It is too far to talk about that 'do something' while you still don't have accurate idea on jhānas. That nimitta stuff is for the awakening of the six abhinnas when one is in the fouth jhāna. And none in the suttas the Buddha instructs to 'enjoy' the fourth jhana. He instructs to transcend from jhana to jhana until the peak where there is no more to transcend - nibbana.

I don't think there's anything peculiar about the Mahasi usage of jhāna in a lexical sense that is not on all fours with the more common sutta usage, given that the suttas themselves do show some more uncommon parsing of Right Concentration.

Go ahead if you agree with Mahasi teaching. No one has the right to restrict anyone to follow what he believes.

With metta, and karuna,
:anjali:
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Re: On Mahasi Sayadaw's teaching

Postby oceanfloor » Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:53 am

mikenz66 wrote:Dear OceanFloor,

There is a whole book of discussion from the 1960's regarding the issue of right samadhi.

See this topic: viewtopic.php?f=44&t=15323&start=20#p220875

And this link:Satipaṭṭhāna Vipassanā: Criticisms and Replies

At first I thought the Satipaṭṭhāna Vipassanā: Criticisms and Replies is an interesting article. It is Srilankan (Ceylon) tradition vs Burmese tradition. For me it turned out more to entertaining than interesting. Entertaining in the sense of watching a blind arguing with another blind. Because both sides are mostly talking about commentaries. The rebutting side is the worst. He spoke with aversion, not likely a wise person, his words are quite offensive such as in this passage: "The Ven. Kheminda, clinging to his ill-conceived view and reiterating it in his writings, is defying the Buddha's authority."

Also consider what he said: "This middle way is sometimes the eightfold noble path, sometimes the sevenfold noble path." It is a clear evidence of inconsistency with suttas. If you have more source like this, bring it on. And thank you for an entertaining reading.

With metta, karuna, mudita,
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