Vipassana vs. Jhanas

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andyebarnes67
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Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby andyebarnes67 » Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:30 pm

I am currently studying the Visuddhimagga which is really my first foray into some more serious work with the Abhidamma so there is a good chance my question might be answered later in my reading, however, in the hope of expanding my grasp of the material, I wonder if any have thoughts on something I am a little confused with.
My regular practice is samatha-vipassana but I have been feeling that perhaps I might be missing something more, shall we say, 'under the surface' by not looking at other techniques.
It was this really that led me to the Visuddhimagga in the first place but I am now wondering if perhaps I might be in danger of getting off the more direct route to go the 'long way round'. (I apologise if my choice of expressions are lacking somewhat, but hopefully I'm getting my meaning across).
I am now on Chapter IV, dealing with working with the Earth Kasina and specifically, v.153-182 where the third Jhana is described. In particular, the explanation of the factors of equanimity.
I can't help thinking the descriptions are much like that applied to the equanimity sought through vipassana.
Am I not understanding the material properly or are the different approaches in fact aiming at the same state/s? If so, is there any benefit in working through the Jhanas if one is already, at least, making some slow progress with vipassana.
Also, if I were to begin following the guidance in the Visuddhimagga, if I later felt that I wanted to return to vipassana, would I have made a rod for my back?
Grateful for any guidance offered.
:namaste:
Metta

Andy Barnes
My comments are by nature, subjective interpretations from my mind. As such, they are never wrong, They are as they are. They are never right, They are as they are.

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby culaavuso » Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:39 pm

Anapanasati Sutta and Satipatthana Sutta each state that the practice they describe can lead all the way to the goal.

MN 118
MN 118: Anapanasati Sutta wrote:This is how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is developed & pursued so as to bring the four frames of reference to their culmination.
...
This is how the four frames of reference are developed & pursued so as to bring the seven factors for awakening to their culmination.
...
This is how the seven factors for awakening are developed & pursued so as to bring clear knowing & release to their culmination.


MN 10
MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta wrote:If anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for seven days, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging/sustenance — non-return.

'This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow & lamentation, for the disappearance of pain & distress, for the attainment of the right method, & for the realization of Unbinding — in other words, the four frames of reference.' Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.


A book titled A Swift Pair of Messengers by Bhikkhu Sujato discusses the importance of developing both samatha and vipassana.

Also, by Ajahn Chandako's Honed and Heavy Axe
Ajahn Chandako wrote:Imagine you needed to chop down a dead tree with an ax. To be successful the ax would have to be both sharp and reasonably heavy. But where does the sharpness end and the weight begin? It's clear that even with great effort neither using a razorblade nor a baseball bat is going to do the trick. The weight is samatha. The sharpness is vipassaná.


Another relevant quote can be found in The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation by Henepola Gunaratana
Henepola Gunaratana wrote:The ten kasinas and mindfulness of breathing, owing to their simplicity and freedom from thought construction, can lead to all four jhanas.
Last edited by culaavuso on Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby andyebarnes67 » Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:50 pm

culaavuso wrote:Also, by Ajahn Chandako's Honed and Heavy Axe
Ajahn Chandako wrote:Imagine you needed to chop down a dead tree with an ax. To be successful the ax would have to be both sharp and reasonably heavy. But where does the sharpness end and the weight begin? It's clear that even with great effort neither using a razorblade nor a baseball bat is going to do the trick. The weight is samatha. The sharpness is vipassaná.

This certainly resonates with the feeling I had, as described, that I wanted to get a somehow deeper under the surface of vipassana. Is there, then, a risk with the practice of vipassana without samatha that one might become...somehow flighty or ungrounded. Weightless...?
Metta

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby culaavuso » Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:54 pm

andyebarnes67 wrote:This certainly resonates with the feeling I had, as described, that I wanted to get a somehow deeper under the surface of vipassana. Is there, then, a risk with the practice of vipassana without samatha that one might become...somehow flighty or ungrounded. Weightless...?


Samatha quiets the mind to let it grow still and clear, which allows phenomena to be experienced which can lead to deeper insight. Without practice of samatha, mental activity tends to be "kicking up mud". Similarly, the beginning of a chain of insights might be too distracting to complete without practice in tranquility and equanimity to allow the process to continue.

AN 1.45-46
AN 1.46-46: Udakarahaka Suttas wrote:"Suppose there were a pool of water — sullied, turbid, and muddy. A man with good eyesight standing there on the bank would not see shells, gravel, and pebbles, or shoals of fish swimming about and resting. Why is that? Because of the sullied nature of the water. In the same way, that a monk with a sullied mind would know his own benefit, the benefit of others, the benefit of both; that he would realize a superior human state, a truly noble distinction of knowledge & vision: Such a thing is impossible. Why is that? Because of the sullied nature of his mind."

"Suppose there were a pool of water — clear, limpid, and unsullied. A man with good eyesight standing there on the bank would see shells, gravel, & pebbles, and also shoals of fish swimming about and resting. Why is that? Because of the unsullied nature of the water. In the same way, that a monk with an unsullied mind would know his own benefit, the benefit of others, the benefit of both; that he would realize a superior human state, a truly noble distinction of knowledge & vision: Such a thing is possible. Why is that? Because of the unsullied nature of his mind."

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby Mkoll » Fri Feb 21, 2014 5:19 pm

I really like Occam's Razor. It applies to many arenas in life. One could conceptualize the Buddhist Path as the ultimate Occam's Razor, cutting away everything extraneous that we add on to experience to arrive at thusness. I contrast the simplicity of the Satipatthana Sutta, the Anapanasati Sutta, and most of the teachings in the Canon against the enormous complexity of the Visuddhimagga and commentaries and I see two very different beasts.

Only now are we in a position accurately to define Theravāda. The term means 'doctrine of the elders', but this is not significant: all religious groups tend to claim that it is they who preserve the pristine doctrine. In doctrinal terms, Theravadins specified that they were vibhajja-vādin, which means 'analysts', and they delighted in classifying psychological states. A Theravādin monk, however, is one who adheres to the Pāli version of the pātimokkha with its 227 rules, and is thus a member of the Theravādin ordination tradition - the two conditions are interwoven.

-Prof. Richard Gombrich, Theravāda Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo, page 112


I think that says a lot.
Peace,
James

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:54 pm

andyebarnes67 wrote:
culaavuso wrote:Also, by Ajahn Chandako's Honed and Heavy Axe
Ajahn Chandako wrote:Imagine you needed to chop down a dead tree with an ax. To be successful the ax would have to be both sharp and reasonably heavy. But where does the sharpness end and the weight begin? It's clear that even with great effort neither using a razorblade nor a baseball bat is going to do the trick. The weight is samatha. The sharpness is vipassaná.

This certainly resonates with the feeling I had, as described, that I wanted to get a somehow deeper under the surface of vipassana. Is there, then, a risk with the practice of vipassana without samatha that one might become...somehow flighty or ungrounded. Weightless...?

If you keep reading the Visuddhimagga, or expositions by modern teachers such as Mahasi Sayadaw and his students, you'll find that the "dry insight" or "pure vipassana" approach does actually require quite a lot of concentration, which is built up by the satipathana-based exercises. Much the same as what the "sutta based" approaches advocate, since "sutta based" teachers don't generally teach the very concentrated "visuddhamagga jhanas". [Somewhat confusingly, some "sutta based" teachers, such as Ajahn Chandako and Ajahn Brahm, do teach highly-concentrated jhana, much like the visuddhimagga jhanas.]

There are a number of threads about this. See for example:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=4597
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=18975

:anjali:
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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby waterchan » Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:31 pm

mikenz66 wrote:[Somewhat confusingly, some "sutta based" teachers, such as Ajahn Chandako and Ajahn Brahm, do teach highly-concentrated jhana, much like the visuddhimagga jhanas.]


I've read a lot of Ajahn Brahm's works, including Simply This Moment which is an unpublished collection of talks targeted at his audience of monastics. I think it's safe to say that Ajahn Brahm isn't a huge fan of the Visuddhimagga or most of the commentaries. He teaches almost exclusively from the suttas, and it's largely a matter of coincidence that his interpretation of "sutta jhana" is in line with the interpretation in the Visuddhimagga.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:52 pm

waterchan wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:[Somewhat confusingly, some "sutta based" teachers, such as Ajahn Chandako and Ajahn Brahm, do teach highly-concentrated jhana, much like the visuddhimagga jhanas.]


I've read a lot of Ajahn Brahm's works, including Simply This Moment which is an unpublished collection of talks targeted at his audience of monastics. I think it's safe to say that Ajahn Brahm isn't a huge fan of the Visuddhimagga or most of the commentaries. He teaches almost exclusively from the suttas, and it's largely a matter of coincidence that his interpretation of "sutta jhana" is in line with the interpretation in the Visuddhimagga.

Why do you think it is a coincidence? The Visuddhimagga and other Commentaries record the experience of generations of practitioners, so it would not be surprising if their experience is congruent with Ajahn Brahm's if both are practising well.

Anyway, the point is that there are a variety of interpretations of what constitutes jhana, even amongst those who claim to be exclusively "sutta based". In my view, most apparent disagreements between various teachers, suttas, and commentaries, come down to a matter of terminology.

:anjali:
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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby suwapan » Mon Mar 10, 2014 6:42 pm

The understanding of Insight Meditation for student of Abhidhamma is not quite the same. Here is a summary from a Vipasana Bhavana Study Manual from Boonkanjanaram Meditation Center at a temple near Pattaya, Thailand.

Quote:

Samattha Bhavana
is Kusala and it's in Vatta-Dukkha (Samsara). It existed before the Lord Buddha.

The feeling when Jhana is reached is one of being happy paermanently, and with self, atta (Moha still exists).

1) The true nature is Samadhi to create peaceful mind.

2) The object of meditation is Pannatti (conventional reality), such as kasina (meditation disc).

3) The characteristic of Samattha is no restlessness.

4) The duty of Samattha is to suppress the 5 hindrances (Nivarana): sensuality, ill-will, restlessness, sloth and doubt.

5) The result of Samattha is one-pointedness (ekaggata).

6) The effect of Samattha is a mind that desires no kammaguna (sensuous pleasures), and is content and happy in Samadhi.

7) The benefit of Samattha is that in this life, Samapatti (the eight stages of Jhana) can be entered. The mind is without Abhijjha and Domanassa and is very peaceful. In the next life, the Brahma world (Brahmaloka) can be attained.

8) In Samattha, only one object and two senses are used at any one time, such as the eye and the mind (in this case of a kasina or visual object) or touch and the mind, in the case of Anapanasati (breath).

9) According to the Scriptures, a yogi who decides to practice Samattha, should determine which of these Carita (characteristics) is predominant in him:

1) Raga Carita (lustful nature)
2) Dohsa Carita (hating nature)
3) Moha Carita (deluded nature)
4) Satta Carita (faithful nature)
5) Buddhi Carita (intelligent nature)
6) Vitakka Carita (speculative nature)

Then the Visudhimagga should be consulted for the type of Samattha meditation for the Yogi's particular Carita. For example, for a lustful nature, Asubha or meditation on corpses is recommended.


Vipassana Bhavana
is Kusala but it is out of Samsara, and was discovered by the Lord Buddha.

The feeling when Vipassana yana is realized is that of impermanence, suffering and no-self (Annatta).

1) The true nature is Panna (wisdom).

2) The object of meditation is Paramatta (ultimate reality or rupa and nama) in the 4 foundations of Satipatthana, which leads to Vipassana wisdom.

3) The characteristic of Vipassana is wisdom, which reveals the true state of nature.

4) The duty of Vipassana is to destroy ignorance (avijja = ignorance of the 4 Noble Truths).

5) The result of Vipassana is to have the right view, (or the true state of the natures of nama and rupa).

6) The effect of Vipassana is Samadhi that has Satipatthana as an object (kanika samadhi) so Vipassana wisdom can occur.

7) The benefit of Vipassana is cessation of one's accumulations of defilements (asavakkhayanana).
With no defilements, no rebirth will occur (vivatta), which is Nibbana. Because of Nibbana, there is no rebirth and this is real happiness.

8) In Vipassana, 6 senses are used, and no special objects are needed. Simply observe rupa and nama, which are anicca, dukkha, annatta (True State of Nature). Even the hindrances (Nivarana) can be used as in Dhammanupassana (contemplation of mind objects).

9) The Lord Buddha said that one who would practice Vipassana should determine which of these Caritas resemble him. A station of Satipatthana is recommended for each of these 4 types (e.g. 1a, 1b). (For example, if the Carita is Tanha with strong wisdom (1a), the recommended station is Vedana.
1) Tanha Carita (craving nature)
a) strong wisdom
b) weak wisdom
2) Ditthi Carita (opinionated)
a) strong wisdom
b) weak wisdom

In these times, however, it has been determined that everyone has Tanha with weak wisdom, and so in this practice, Kaya meditation (major and minor positions) is used to with. According to the Lord Buddha, the Arahatta path in these time will only be attained through Kaya meditation ((major and minor positions).

Unquote: :anjali:

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby Weakfocus » Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:42 am

suwapan wrote:Here is a summary from a Vipasana Bhavana Study Manual from Boonkanjanaram Meditation Center at a temple near Pattaya, Thailand.


Terrific post, thanks for sharing. And welcome to Dhammawheel.

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby suwapan » Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:02 pm

Thank you Weakfocus. It's my utmost pleasure. :D

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Re: Vipassana vs. Jhanas

Postby Pondera » Mon Dec 22, 2014 3:36 am

Ajahn Chandako wrote:
Imagine you needed to chop down a dead tree with an ax. To be successful the ax would have to be both sharp and reasonably heavy. But where does the sharpness end and the weight begin? It's clear that even with great effort neither using a razorblade nor a baseball bat is going to do the trick. The weight is samatha. The sharpness is vipassaná.


The weight is like samatha, the sharpness like is vippassana. By knowing the weight of the axe, one must have the strength to pick it up. It would not be wise to swing an axe without evaluating the weight of the head. The power of the swing is as important as the sharpness and the weight. But one does not know how much power he must arouse to chop off the dead truck without knowing the weight of the axe head. This is the purpose also of going through the states of tranquility. Ie. it leads one to the basis from which power is collected.


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