Pali Term: Nimitta

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Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:27 pm

(I'll start with posts recovered from http://web.archive.org/web/200603231033 ... opic=17871 , publishing them with minor updates one by one)

Inspired by the article by Bhikkhu Sona
http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html
I investigated the meaning of this term.

The term 'nimitta' is mentioned in AN 2.16 = DN 3.225:

14. “Cattaarimaani, bhikkhave, padhaanaani. Katamaani cattaari? Sa.mvarappadhaana.m, pahaanappadhaana.m, bhaavanaappadhaana.m, anurakkha.naappadhaana.m. Katama~nca, bhikkhave, sa.mvarappadhaana.m? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu cakkhunaa ruupa.m disvaa na nimittaggaahii hoti naanubya~njanaggaahii…

“Katama~nca, bhikkhave, anurakkha.naappadhaana.m? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu uppanna.m bhaddaka.m samaadhinimitta.m anurakkhati a.t.thikasa~n~na.m pu.lavakasa~n~na.m viniilakasa~n~na.m vicchiddakasa~n~na.m uddhumaatakasa~n~na.m. Ida.m vuccati, bhikkhave, anurakkha.naappadhaana.m. Imaani kho, bhikkhave, cattaari padhaanaanii”ti.

Here we see that 'nimitta' is closely related to perception, and the monk, seeing a form, hearing a sound, etc., does not cling to it. Note that nimitta is not limited to visual perception. Next, we see, that in the context of samadhi nimitta is the selective recognition (sa~n~naa) of the basis of samadhi.

How can we reconcile these aspects of meaning?

The passage from Visuddhimagga (XIV 130) gives the clue:

"sabbaa va sa~njaanana-lakkha.naa, tad ev’etan ti puna sa~njaanana-paccaya-nimitta-kara.na-rasaa daaru-aadiisu tacchakaadayo viya, yathaa-gahita-nimitta-vasena abhinivesakara.na-paccupa.t.thaanaa hatthi-dassaka-andhaa (udaa. 54) viya, yathaa-upa.t.thita-visaya-pada-.t.thaanaa ti.na-purisakesu miga-potakaana.m purisaa ti uppanna-sa~n~naa viyaati."

"All (sa~n~naa) has the characteristic of recognition (sa~njaanana); its property is the making of representation (nimitta) that is a condition of recognizing again, 'this is the very same thing' - as carpenters and so on do with the wood, etc.; its manifestation is the producing of conviction by virtue of a representation (nimitta) that has been accordingly learnt - like the blind perceiving the elephant ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ); its basis is whatever object that has come near - like the recognition (sa~n~naa) 'people' that arises for young animals in respect of scarecrows."

Hence, 'nimitta' is the image one forms in the process of recognition (sa~n~naa), used to recognize the object in the future. In psychological terms it is a 'perceptual image' or 'representation'.

Sometimes in the suttas 'nimitta' means not just 'represenation', but some predisposition of selective recognition (sa~n~naa), attunement of selective recognition to some representations, as in Suda sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

There's a colorful story in Visuddhimagga about Mahatissa Thera
http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism/sakka2.htm#story
who was so well attuned to the selective recognition of bones that he perceived a beautiful woman as a moving heap of them.

The term 'representation' is meant here in a multi-modal sense - for example, at the time when you are musing about your favourite song, you can notice the sound of it even on the busy street. 'Nimitta', as Buddhaghosa writes, helps to recognize something. It is a collection of sensory data peculiar to some class of objects or inner states.

What it has to do with samadhi? In Mohavicchedani (Mya: .161) we read:

"Samathova ta.m aakaara.m gahetvaa puna pavattetabbassa samathassa nimittanti samathanimitta.m."

"The representation of calm (samatha) is a representation used to produce calm again when one has already learnt the appearance of calm."

Such attunement to representation of samadhi is described in Upakkilesa and Gavi suttas:
http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... esa-e.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

This is corroborated by the passage from Visuddhimagga IV.31 (126)

"But it has neither colour nor shape; for if it had, it would be cognizable by the eye, gross, susceptible of comprehension and stamped with the three characteristics. But it is not like that. For it is born only of preception. in one who has obtained concentration, being a mere mode of appearance."

Ta~nca kho neva va.n.navanta.m, na sa.n.thaanavanta.m. Yadi hi ta.m iidisa.m bhaveyya, cakkhuvi~n~neyya.m siyaa o.laarika.m sammasanupaga.m tilakkha.nabbhaahata.m, na paneta.m taadisa.m. Kevala~nhi samaadhilaabhino upa.t.thaanaakaaramatta.m sa~n~najametanti.

The principle of recognition is applied in the practice of samadhi, when practitioner reaches the jhana again with the help of learnt representation of it.

The overall role of 'nimitta' in practice can be described in such a way:

( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5257 )

The practitioner develops mindfulness (sati) of what happens, naming (apilapana) it in the certain frame of reference (satipatthana).

Next, he develops sampajana, fishing out the causal relations

Satisutta.m (уо 5.180)

“Sato, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vihareyya sampajaano. Aya.m vo amhaaka.m anusaasanii”.

“Katha~nca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sato hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu kaaye kaayaanupassii viharati aataapii sampajaano satimaa, vineyya loke abhijjhaadomanassa.m; vedanaasu …pe… citte …pe… dhammesu dhammaanupassii viharati aataapii sampajaano satimaa, vineyya loke abhijjhaadomanassa.m. Eva.m kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sato hoti.

“Katha~nca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sampajaano hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno viditaa vedanaa uppajjanti, viditaa upa.t.thahanti, viditaa abbhattha.m gacchanti. Viditaa vitakkaa uppajjanti, viditaa upa.t.thahanti, viditaa abbhattha.m gacchanti. Viditaa sa~n~naa uppajjanti, viditaa upa.t.thahanti, viditaa abbhattha.m gacchanti.
Eva.m kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sampajaano hoti. Sato, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vihareyya sampajaano. Aya.m vo amhaaka.m anusaasanii”ti.

That is, practitioner tracks not only the phenomena per se, but cause-and-effect relations of their origination and disappearance.

For example, feelings (vedana) are analysed in regard of specific impressions (phassa) due to which they arise.

Samudayasutta.m (SN 5.184)

"Catunna.m, bhikkhave, satipa.t.thaanaana.m samudaya~nca
attha'ngama~nca desessaami. Ta.m su.naatha. Ko ca, bhikkhave, kaayassa
samudayo?
Aahaarasamudayaa kaayassa samudayo; aahaaranirodhaa kaayassa attha'ngamo.
Phassasamudayaa vedanaana.m samudayo; phassanirodhaa vedanaana.m
attha'ngamo.
Naamaruupasamudayaa cittassa samudayo; naamaruupanirodhaa cittassa
attha'ngamo.
Manasikaarasamudayaa dhammaana.m samudayo; manasikaaranirodhaa dhammaana.m
attha'ngamo"ti

As can be seen from Pathamarahogata sutta, the practice of satipatthana is closely linked to the control of selective recognition (sa~n~naa):

§ 45. Now when Ven. Anuruddha was meditating in solitude, this train of thought appeared in his awareness: 'Whoever neglects the four frames of reference neglects the noble path going to the right ending of stress. Whoever undertakes the four frames of reference undertakes the noble path going to the right ending of stress.'

Then Ven. Maha Moggallana, as soon as he perceived with his awareness the train of thought in Ven. Anuruddha's awareness -- as a strong man might extend his flexed arm or flex his extended arm -- appeared in front of Ven. Anuruddha and said to him, 'To what extent are the four frames of reference undertaken?'

Anuruddha: 'There is the case, my friend, of a monk who internally remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, remains focused on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, remains focused on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to the body -- ardent, alert, & mindful -- putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.

'Externally he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body...

'Internally & externally he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, remains focused on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, remains focused on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to the body -- ardent, alert, & mindful -- putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.

'If he wants, he remains percipient of loathsomeness in the presence of what is not loathsome. If he wants, he remains percipient of unloathsomeness in the presence of what is loathsome. If he wants, he remains percipient of loathsomeness in the presence of what is not loathsome & what is. If he wants, he remains percipient of unloathsomeness in the presence of what is loathsome & what is not. If he wants -- in the presence of what is loathsome & what is not -- cutting himself off from both, he remains equanimous, alert, & mindful.

(Similarly with regard to feelings, mind & mental qualities.)

'It is to this extent, my friend, that the four frames of reference are undertaken...'

-- SN LII.1

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... b-passages

Hence the practice of Satipatthana includes the development of faculties, fully described in Indriya-bhavana sutta (MN 152)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The next factor to develop is dhamma-vicaya, i.e. discrimination of dhammas (mental qualities). Practitioner generalizes cause-and-effect relations into certain mental qualities, and discriminates skilful and unskilful among them:

S v 102 (Ahara sutta):

"Ko ca, bhikkhave, aahaaro anuppannassa vaa dhammavicayasambojjha'ngassa uppaadaaya, uppannassa vaa dhammavicayasambojjha'ngassa bhaavanaaya paaripuuriyaa? Atthi, bhikkhave, kusalaakusalaa dhammaa saavajjaanavajjaa dhammaa hiinapa.niitaa dhammaa ka.nhasukkasappa.tibhaagaa dhammaa. Tattha yonisomanasikaarabahuliikaaro- ayamaahaaro anuppannassa vaa dhammavicayasambojjha'ngassa uppaadaaya, uppannassa vaa dhammavicayasambojjha'ngassa bhaavanaaya paaripuuriyaa.

"And what is the food for the arising of unarisen analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of analysis of qualities... once it has arisen? There are mental qualities that are skillful & unskillful, blameworthy & blameless, gross & refined, siding with darkness & with light. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is the food for the arising of unarisen analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of analysis of qualities... once it has arisen.

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

Next factor to develop is virya. Practitioner, with four right endeavours, aroses and develops skilful qualities, abandons and weakens unskilful ones.

How exactly does he do it? With the help of fundamental attention:

"[7] And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by developing? There is the case where a monk, reflecting appropriately, develops mindfulness as a factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion... dispassion... cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening...persistence as a factor for Awakening...rapture as a factor for Awakening...serenity as a factor for Awakening...concentration as a factor for Awakening...equanimity as a factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion... dispassion... cessation, resulting in letting go. The fermentations, vexation, or fever that would arise if he were not to develop these qualities do not arise for him when he develops them. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by developing.

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

Samudayasutta.m (SN 5.184)

Manasikaarasamudayaa dhammaana.m samudayo; manasikaaranirodhaa dhammaana.m attha'ngamo"ti

As described in Ahara sutta, he directs his attention to those nimittas (representations) that encourage skilful qualities, and does not pay attention to those nimittas that encourage unskilful qualities. Samadhi-nimitta, conducive to jhana, is but one of those representations. The development of skilful qualities does not come 'naturally', but with fundamental attention.

The rendering of 'nimitta' as psychological term 'representation', and 'sa~njaanana' as 'recognition' is evident from the Visuddhimagga passage (XIV 130).

sabbaa va sa~njaanana-lakkha.naa, tad ev’etan ti puna sa~njaanana-paccaya-nimitta-kara.na-rasaa daaru-aadiisu tacchakaadayo viya, yathaa-gahita-nimitta-vasena abhinivesakara.na-paccupa.t.thaanaa hatthi-dassaka-andhaa (udaa. 54) viya, yathaa-upa.t.thita-visaya-pada-.t.thaanaa ti.na-purisakesu miga-potakaana.m purisaa ti uppanna-sa~n~naa viyaati.

Nimitta is the image one forms in the process of recognition (sa~n~naa), used to recognize the object in the future.

The same principle is applied in the practice of samadhi, when practitioner reaches the jhana again with the help of picked up representation:

Samathova ta.m aakaara.m gahetvaa puna pavattetabbassa samathassa nimittanti samathanimitta.m.

(Mohavicchedani Mya: .161)

The practitioner applies the four endeavours by directing his attention to some representations and away from others:

AN 2.16 = DN 3.225:

14. “Cattaarimaani, bhikkhave, padhaanaani. Katamaani cattaari? Sa.mvarappadhaana.m, pahaanappadhaana.m, bhaavanaappadhaana.m, anurakkha.naappadhaana.m. Katama~nca, bhikkhave, sa.mvarappadhaana.m? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu cakkhunaa ruupa.m disvaa na nimittaggaahii hoti naanubya~njanaggaahii…

“Katama~nca, bhikkhave, anurakkha.naappadhaana.m? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu uppanna.m bhaddaka.m samaadhinimitta.m anurakkhati a.t.thikasa~n~na.m pu.lavakasa~n~na.m viniilakasa~n~na.m vicchiddakasa~n~na.m uddhumaatakasa~n~na.m. Ida.m vuccati, bhikkhave, anurakkha.naappadhaana.m. Imaani kho, bhikkhave, cattaari padhaanaanii”ti.

The examples of directing the mind by attending to certain representations are given in Vitakka-santhana sutta (MN 1.119).
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

In the case of developing samadhi on the basis of colour, the practitioner fishes out the representation (nimitta) of the given colour, and gradually learns to control the process of selective recognition (sa~n~na), perceiving at will everything in that colour. He sees that colour everywhere. In general case, the meditator, keeping in mind the representation of jhana, can notice even the subtle signs of it approaching - be it tactile sensations or pecularities of visual perception.

In this way, with fundamental attention, practitioner develops all seven factors of Awakening, including samadhi, and thus reaches Awakening.
Last edited by Dmytro on Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:27 pm

Greetings Dmytro,

Thanks for sharing. It was nice to see this broad analysis of the term.

I find it's particularly useful in the context of teachings such as this extract from...

Ud 1.10 - Bahiya Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:51 am

Greetings Retro,

Thank you for the quote!

I'll move further on with Pali Terms Rescue Range : )

Stephen Hodge wrote:

I understand "nimitta" to be roughly equivalent to basic sense, perceptual data or just percepts, such as colours, shapes, sounds and so forth. Perceptual data derived from the external world are mediated by consciousness (vij~naana / vi~n~naa.a) and apprehended by sa.mj~naa / sa~n~naa. In other words, I believe that "nimitta" are mental phenomena rather than external things per se, if that is what you mean here by "objects". External objects in themselves are neither pleasurable or otherwise -- is not that element introduced by the person perceiving and labelling the bare object ? Though, of course, from the viewpoint of the untrained person, it is the external itself which seems to be pleasurable etc, so ultimately your translation is not wrong in that sense. I normally translate "nimitta" as "perceptual form" -- I would prefer "perceptual image" but I use that for "aakaara". The popular translation of "nimitta" as "sign" seems laughably crude to me in the context of Buddhist accounts of perceptual processes.


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5245

Nimittas are created inside the individual by sa.mj~naa / sa~n~naa. Thus, Buddhaghosa defines sa~n~naa as "nimitta-kara.na", which corresponds exactly to the understanding of other Indian Buddhist schools. A nimitta is a result of synthesized raw sense data, combined with vedanaa, and, usually, also involves a labelling process -- which is why sa.mj~naa / sa~n~naa also means "name" etc. Indeed, sa.mj~naa / sa~n~naa can describe, according to the context, either the process and the product. Hence, the Chinese version of the Anguttara text in question does not actually translate nimitta as such but instead has the standard equivalent for sa.mj~naa / sa~n~naa.


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5265

Stephen Hodge also commented Atthakatha definitions of the term 'nimitta':

"subhanimittanti raaga.t.thaaniya.m aaramma.na.m. ``sanimittaa,
bhikkhave, uppajjanti paapakaa akusalaa dhammaa, no animittaa''ti
ettha nimittanti paccayassa naama.m. ``adhicittamanuyuttena,
bhikkhave, bhikkhunaa pa~nca nimittaani kaalena kaala.m
manasikaatabbaanii''ti (ma. ni. 1.216) ettha kaara.nassa. ``so ta.m
nimitta.m aasevati bhaavetii''ti (a. ni. 3.9.35) ettha samaadhissa.
``ya.m nimitta.m aagamma ya.m nimitta.m manasikaroto anantaraa
aasavaana.m khayo hotii''ti (a. ni. 2.6.27) ettha vipassanaaya. idha
pana raaga.t.thaaniyo i.t.thaaramma.nadhammo ``subhanimitta''nti
adhippeto." -- Mp I 32

************
> Paccaya, Condition:
> ****************
> > subhanimittanti raaga.t.thaaniya.m aaramma.na.m.
> The feature of beauty is the object causing desire.
"A pleasurable perceptual image" is the referential object conducive to
attachment.

> ``sanimittaa, bhikkhave, uppajjanti paapakaa akusalaa dhammaa, no
animittaa''ti ettha
> nimittanti paccayassa naama.m.
> <By a condition, monks, arise evil, unwholesome dhammas, not without
> condition. Here, nimitta is a name for condition.
"Evil, unwholesome dharmas arise with peceptual images and not without
perceptual images": here "perceptual image" denotes the condition [for the
arising of evil dharmas].


> Kaara.na, Cause.
> **************
> ``adhicittamanuyuttena, bhikkhave, bhikkhunaa pa~nca nimittaani kaalena
> kaala.m manasikaatabbaanii''ti (ma. ni. 1.216) ettha kaara.nassa.
> <With reference to the application of the higher thought, monks, five
causes
> must be taken into consideration by the monk from time to time. Here it
> means cause.
"When applying himself to superior concentration, there are five kinds of
perceptual images upon which a monk should focus from time to time": here
denotes the cause [of successful application to superior concentration].

> Samaadhi.
> ********
> ``so ta.m nimitta.m aasevati bhaavetii''ti (a. ni. 3.9.35) ettha
samaadhissa.
> <He pursues and develops this meditation subject of samatha>. Here it
means
> samaadhi.
"He pursues and cultivates that perceptual image": here it denotes the
samaadhi [which is cultivated].

> Vipassanaa.
> **********
> ``ya.m nimitta.m aagamma ya.m nimitta.m manasikaroto anantaraa
> aasavaana.m khayo hotii''ti (a0 ni0 2.6.27) ettha vipassanaaya.
> <When he is depending on insight, by applying insight, there is
immediately
> after that the destruction of the cankers> Here it means insight.
"When, having attained some such perceptual image, he attends to that
perceptual image, the aasavas are eliminated": here it denotes the insight
[which he has attained and attends to].

> *****
> idha pana raaga.t.thaaniyo i.t.thaaramma.nadhammo ``subhanimitta''nti
adhippeto.
> Here however, the feature of beauty means a desirable object that is the
> condition for desire.
Here, however, the referential object conducive to attachment.is what
"pleasurable perceptual image" denotes.


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5291

> I just checked the Pali commentary (reproduced below) on what it has
> to say about the word 'nimitta' in the AN I.11 passage. I think the
> explanatory word 'aaramma.na.m' supports Connie's choice of 'object'.

Not necessarily. It now depends on how you define or translate aaramma.na / aala.mbana. This in turn depends upon what model of perception you adhere to. I know that the Sarvaastivadins (Vaibhasika version) were realists, so perhaps the Theravadin position is the same. However, the realist position is easy to demolish as was done many times by various Indian Buddhist masters. Part of the reason why the Vabhasika faded away so quickly was because its theories concerning perception and related matters did not survive the onslaught of such critiques. Theravadin doctrines are rarely mentioned per se, I suppose because of the geographical separation and because they may have been viewed as a provincial sub-set of the Vaibhasika position.

Anyway, I base my understanding of this kind of terminology upon a representational model of perception as espoused by the Sautrantikas, the Yogacarins and the Madhyamikas (some of them, at least). Thus, I consider aaramma.na / aala.mbana to also be a mental construct -- it is the objective pole of consciousness within the mind or the cognition of an object. Note that Asanga glosses aala.mbana in perception as pratibimba = reflection, image.

Four vippallasa / viparyaasa have also been mentioned in connection with nimitta. Serendiptously, Asanga mentions a fifth vippallasa / viparyaasa which is extremely relevent here, namely viewing the nimitta as the vastu, which I would translate as mistaking the "perceptual image for the bare object" !


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5272

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Thu Nov 19, 2009 6:41 pm

Hi Retro,

In connection with your quote from Bahiya sutta -

Mahavedalla sutta

"Passion is a making of themes [nimitta]. Aversion is a making of themes. Delusion is a making of themes. In a monk whose fermentations are ended, these have been abandoned, their root destroyed, like an uprooted palm tree, deprived of the conditions of existence, not destined for future arising. Now, to the extent that there is theme-less [animitta] awareness-release, the unprovoked awareness-release is declared the foremost. And this unprovoked awareness-release is empty of passion, empty of aversion, empty of delusion.

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

In Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation:

MN 43. "Lust is a maker (karana) of signs (nimitta), hate is a maker of signs, delusion is a maker of signs."

Bhikkhu Bodhi's note: "Majjhima-Nikaya-Atthakatha interprets the phrase 'maker of signs' (nimitta-karana) to mean that lust, hate and delusion brand a person as a worldling or a noble one, as lustful, hating or deluded. But it may also mean that these defilements cause the mind to ascribe a false significance to things as being permanent, pleasurable, self, or beautiful."

Tattha vipassanā niccanimittaṃ sukhanimittaṃ attanimittaṃ ugghāṭetīti animittā nāma. Cattāro āruppā rūpanimittassa abhāvena animittā nāma. Maggaphalāni nimittakaraṇānaṃ kilesānaṃ abhāvena animittāni.

Pathikavagga-atthakattha 2.355
Salayatanavagga-Atthakatha 3.99

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Nov 19, 2009 6:47 pm

I dont follow the translation of nimitta as "themes" how are we to understand that ? " Signs" of course makes perfect sense.
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Nov 19, 2009 6:51 pm

This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:57 pm

Greetings Dmytro,

Thanks for the follow up.

Deep, connected with emptiness. :thumbsup:

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Retro. :)
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:53 am

Hi Sanghamitta,

Sanghamitta wrote:I dont follow the translation of nimitta as "themes" how are we to understand that ?


As I understand such translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, by 'themes' he implies that nimitta is a kind of attunement, like musical theme to which one may tune.

Indeed the perception is tuned to the nimittas one pays attention to.

"Signs" of course makes perfect sense.


IMHO, "sign" reflects some of the secondary meanings of the word "nimitta", and makes it hard to understand in the context of perception.

In the context of perception, I prefer the translation "representation". Please refer to the posts above and below.

Metta, Dmytro
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Fri Nov 20, 2009 6:04 am

Regarding the translation of 'subhanimitta':

'subha-nimitta' is also 'that-which-when-attended-to-leads-to-change-of-mental qualities', as in Ahara sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
or Samvara sutta (AN 2.16 (4.14))
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... c-passages
where various contexts of 'nimitta' meet together.

The person with 'subhanimitta' is so much looking for sensual pleasure, that he is focused exclusively on the attractive features, ignoring anything else - unattractive features, causes and consequences of actions.

For example, modern cars fan looks at the latest car, being attuned to the attractiveness of its lines, and immediately wants to buy it and have it as a part of 'self'.

In such cases a person does not have a 'perception of attractiveness' - 'attractiveness' is not an external object which is perceived. It is more correct to say that the person has attunement to the representation of attractiveness, or 'perceptual attunement' to attractiveness.

Stephen Hodge wrote:

The reason why "subha-nimitta.m" cannot be translated properly as "pleasurable (sense) object" is quite simple: there are no pleasurable sense objects. They are just objects and it is we who make them pleasurable or otherwise. Thus the experience of pleasurable nimitta.m must be a mental event synthesized from the raw sense data, vedanaa, memories and conventions etc. If the sense object itself were pleasurable, then it would remain so for all people, which is clearly not the case. Take, for example, opera. I know of people who find opera a highly pleasurable experience, whereas to me it is little better than a caterwauling cacophany (ie rather unpleasant). But there is nothing in the combination of operatic sounds per se that is pleasurable or unpleasurable -- it is one's nimitta (image) of the bare sounds that make it one thing or another.


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/5280
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Nov 20, 2009 8:35 am

Dmytro wrote:Hi Sanghamitta,

Sanghamitta wrote:I dont follow the translation of nimitta as "themes" how are we to understand that ?


As I understand such translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, by 'themes' he implies that nimitta is a kind of attunement, like musical theme to which one may tune.

Indeed the perception is tuned to the nimittas one pays attention to.

"Signs" of course makes perfect sense.


IMHO, "sign" reflects some of the secondary meanings of the word "nimitta", and makes it hard to understand in the context of perception.

In the context of perception, I prefer the translation "perceptual image". Please refer to the posts above and below.

Thank you

Metta, Dmytro

Thank you Dmytro, by makes sense I simply meant that I understand the concept of "signs" rather than it being neccessarily a suitable translation.
So I think I am grasping what Thannisaro Bhikku is saying..does that imply that we will by various means have our own " themes" to which we are likely to return ?
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Fri Nov 20, 2009 11:51 am

Hi Sanghamitta,

Sanghamitta wrote:So I think I am grasping what Thannisaro Bhikku is saying..does that imply that we will by various means have our own " themes" to which we are likely to return ?


I'll quote him (though I don't subscribe to his point of view):

"Thus we can say that the Dhamma — in terms of doctrine, practice, and attainment — derives from the fully explored implications of one observation: that it is possible to master a skill. This point is reflected not only in the content of the Buddha's teachings, but also in the way they are expressed. The Buddha used many metaphors, explicit and implicit, citing the skills of craftsmen, artists, and athletes to illustrate his points. The texts abound with explicit similes referring to acrobats, archers, bathmen, butchers, carpenters, farmers, fletchers, herdsmen, musicians, painters, etc., pointing out how their skills correspond either to the way the mind fashions stress and suffering for itself, or to the skills a meditator needs to develop in order to master the path to release. On the implicit level, the passages dealing with meditation are filled with terms derived from music theory. In his younger days as a prince, the Bodhisatta — like other young aristocrats of his time — was undoubtedly a connoisseur of the musical arts, and so was naturally familiar with the theory that lay behind them. Because the terminology of this theory is so pervasive in the teachings he formulated as a Buddha, it will be useful to discuss it here briefly.

Unfortunately, we do not have a full treatise on the theory of musical performance as practiced during the Buddha's time, but there are enough references to music scattered through the texts for us to sketch the outlines of that theory. The first step in performance was to tune one's instrument, "establishing" one's tonic note (literally, "base," thana) to make it on-pitch ("even," or sama), then to fine-tune or attune ("ferret out" or "penetrate") the remaining notes (again, "bases") of the scale in relation to the tonic. This required a great deal of skill, sensitivity, and some mathematical knowledge, as the well-tempered scale had not yet been developed, and many different ways of calculating the scale were in use, each appropriate to a different emotion. The musician then picked up the theme (nimitta) of the composition. The theme functioned in several ways, and thus the word "theme" carried several meanings. On the one hand it was the essential message of the piece, the image or impression that the performer wanted to leave in the listener's mind. On the other hand, it was the governing principle that determined what ornamentation or variations would be suitable to the piece.

These musical terms recur throughout the Buddha's discussion of meditation [§§66, 74, 86, 150, 161, etc.]. For instance, in one context the Buddha says that one should establish one's persistence to the right pitch, attune the remaining faculties to that pitch, and then pick up one's theme. In other contexts, he says that one should become attuned to a particular theme, or that one should develop meditation in tune with a particular object. Impossibilities are said to be "non-base," analogous to tones that cannot function as musical notes. There are enough passages to show that the Buddha used this terminology conscious of its musical connotations, and that he wanted to make the point that the practice of meditation was similar to the art of musical performance. We should thus try to be sensitive to these terms and their implications, for the comparison between music and meditation is a useful one."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... part1.html

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:17 pm

OK, I see . its a very graphic use of the analogy. Thank you Dmytro, lots to unpack..
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Mon Nov 23, 2009 6:08 pm

Hello Pali friends,

Here are some excerpts from the book:

Tse-fu Kuan

Mindfulness in Early Buddhism: New Approaches through Psychology and Textual Analysis of Pali, Chinese and Sanskrit Sources

http://books.google.com/books?id=ZEk2rp ... frontcover

Likewise, “paying attention to (manasikaroto) the agreeable sign (nimitta)” in the first six verses in sutta 95 of the Salayatana Samyutta is probably meant to criticize sanna operating in an unwholesome way when one per­ceives through the six senses. In contrast, the last six verses recommend being mindful with regard to incoming sensory data. This is parallel to some verses in the Vangisathera Samyutta: “Your mind is on fire due to the perversion of sanna. You should avoid the beautiful sign (subham nimittam) which is provocative of lust…You should have kayagata sati …”Skilling (1997: 480) points out that samjna (sanna in Pali) is connected with nimitta in most definitions. Here subham nimittam is related to the perversion of sanna, and kayagata sati is apparently prescribed as a remedy for the perversion of sanna.

http://dharmadana.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/ch-1/

How does sati relate to the restraint of the senses? The answer lies in its function of steering sanna in the cognitive process. Our daily activities involve contact between the six senses and their corresponding objects. To put it in a figurative way, sati as the gatekeeper prevents unwholesome cog­nition of objects and any ensuing troubles from entering the individual through the sense-doors, and only admits proper cognition of the objects. Such un­wholesome cognition of objects is implied in the formula on the restraint of the senses quoted above: “grasping at its signs and details” (nimittaggahi hoti anubyanjanaggahi), which is the function of sanna, and sati can rectify the unwholesome functioning of sanna. As discussed in Chapter 1, in the Vangisathera Samyutta, the beautiful sign (subham nimittam) is related to perversion of sanna, and kayagata sati is apparently prescribed here as a re­medy for the perversion of sanna. This function of sati is to avoid forming any sanna that may lead to evil unwholesome states of covetousness and dejection. This is how the senses are restrained.

http://dharmadana.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/ch-2/

2.2.1 Sati and nimitta of the jhanas

As mentioned above, the four satipatthanas are called “the nimittas of con­centration (samadhi)” in the Culavedalla Sutta. In the Sangiti Sutta (DN III 226), samadhi-nimitta is illustrated by a list of terms: atthika-sanna (contemplation38 of a skeleton), pulavaka-sanna (contemplation of a worm[-infested corpse]), vinClaka-sanna (contemplation of a livid [corpse]), vicchiddaka-sanna (contemplation of [a corpse] full of holes), and uddhumataka-sanna (contemplation of a bloated [corpse]). Contemplation of a corpse in different stages of decomposition is included in the Satipatthana Sutta, a text devoted to mindfulness. Even some of the above terms, namely atthika, vinClaka and uddhumataka, occur in this text. As discussed in Chapter 2, such contemplation belongs to a function of mindfulness, that is, deliberately forming conceptions (sanna). Therefore the foregoing sannas refer to the practice of sati, and thus this passage in the SangCti Sutta implies that mindfulness is the nimitta of concentration.

Here nimitta can be interpreted as “sign” or “object” since the object of mindfulness is also the object of concentration. Alternatively, it can be interpreted as “cause.” As the commentary glosses, through these sannas one can achieve samadhi.39 This means that these contemplations serve as the causes or basis of concentration. A verse in the Visuddhimagga says that the ten asubhas, which refer to contemplations on a corpse in different stages of decom­position, are called “causes of this and that jhana” by the Buddha.40 It should be noted that the Visuddhimagga holds that this practice can only lead to the attainment of the first jhana, not the second and the rest.41 This idea might be based on the Abhidhamma as the Dhammasangani (§§ 263-264) only men­tions the first jhana in its exposition of asubhajhana, which refers to the ten asubhas.

Sutta 8 of the Satipatthana Samyutta states that while a foolish monk is contemplating the body as a body (feelings, mind, dhammas), his mind does not become concentrated, his defilements (upakkilesa) are not abandoned, he does not grasp that sign (nimitta), and thus he gains neither pleasant dwellings in this very life nor mindfulness and full awareness because he does not grasp the sign of his own mind. A wise monk is the opposite and gains pleasant dwellings in this very life and mindfulness and full awareness because he grasps the sign of his own mind.42 Since “pleasant dwellings in this very life” refer to the four jhanas,43 the foregoing implies that the prac­tice of the four satipatthanas may lead to the attainment of the jhanas. Thus “mindfulness and full awareness” here must also refer to the mindful state present in the jhanas rather than mindfulness and full awareness as a pre­liminary to the jhanas. The key to the attainment of the jhanas is to grasp the sign of one’s own mind. What does “grasping the sign of one’s own mind” mean? This seems to be puzzling, and the sutta itself gives no explanation. An account in the Upakkilesa Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya may shed some light on this problem.

In this text the Buddha asks Anuruddha whether he and his fellow monks have attained a comfortable dwelling which is a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones and beyond human states. In the Culagosinga Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya, also in the context of a dialogue between the Buddha and Anuruddha, the term “comfortable dwelling which is a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones and bey­ond human states” (uttarim manussadhamma alamariyananadassanaviseso phasuviharo) refers to any of the nine meditative attainments from the first jhana to the cessation of apperception and feeling.44 In the Upakkilesa Sutta, however, the comfortable dwelling characterized by conceiving the radiance and the vision of forms (rupa) can only apply to the four jhanas since the meditative attainments higher than the jhanas surmount conceptions of forms (rupasanna) according to the Nikayas.

In reply to the Buddha’s foregoing question, Anuruddha says, “We con­ceive (sanjanama) radiance and a vision of forms. But soon afterwards the radiance and the vision of forms disappear, and we do not master that nimitta.”45 The word nimitta can mean either cause or sign. Choosing the former meaning, Ven. Nanamoli and Ven. Bodhi (1995: 1012) translate: “Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappear, but we have not discovered the cause for that (tan ca nimittam na pativijjhama).” However, the Chinese translation of this text in the Madhyama Fgama renders nimitta as “sign.” No words equivalent to tan ca nimittam na pativijjhama are found in the Chinese counterpart, but a similar expression is attributed to the Buddha: “You (plural) do not master this sign.”46 Moreover, in the later part of this text recur these two terms: rupa-nimitta (”the sign of forms”) and obhasa-nimitta (”the sign of radiance”).47 Accordingly, nimitta here must mean the “sign,” which refers to the radiance and the vision of forms as objects of concentration.

Following Anuruddha’s reply, the Buddha says that before he was enlightened, he also had the same experience. He realized that when mental defilements (cittassa upakkilesa) such as doubt, etc. arose in him, his con­centration fell away, and when concentration fell away, the radiance and the vision of forms disappeared.48 This description is strikingly analogous to the foregoing statement in sutta 8 of the Satipatthana Samyutta: His mind does not become concentrated, his defilements (upakkilesa) are not abandoned, he does not grasp that sign. Both cases imply that concentration, the abandoning of defilements, and grasping the sign (or conceiving the radi­ance and the vision of forms) are synchronic or interdependent in some way.

Mastering the sign, or the radiance and the vision of forms, is crucial to attaining a “comfortable dwelling,” which refers to the four jhanas in the Upakkilesa Sutta. This amounts to the foregoing that grasping the sign of one’s own mind is essential for gaining “pleasant dwellings in this very life,” i.e. the four jhanas.

In sutta 8 the method employed to achieve the four jhanas is the four satipatthanas. As Takei (1983: 162) indicates, in the four Nikayas and the four Agamas, as far as the prose is concerned, there are more than forty suttas in which Anuruddha preaches or carries on a dialogue; in over eighty per cent of them he either practices the four satipatthanas himself or encour­ages others to practice them.49 Since Anuruddha is so devoted to the prac­tice of the four satipatthanas, it can be inferred that in the Upakkilesa Sutta it is also by means of the four satipatthanas that he reaches the meditative attainments called “comfortable dwellings.” In addition, in suttas 12, 13, 14, 22, 23 and 24 of the Anuruddha Samyutta (SN V 303-306), Anuruddha claims that it is through the cultivation of the four satipatthanas that he acquires the three gnoses (vijja) and three other achievements, which constitute the well-known six supernormal knowledges (abhinna) as found in the Nikayas.50 Since the acquisition of these special faculties is based on the attainment of the fourth jhana according to the Nikayas,51 it is very likely that Anuruddha’s cultivation of the four satipatthanas conduces to the jhanas.

The “sign” (nimitta) in the above two texts could be what later Buddhist literature calls “counterpart sign.” According to the Visuddhimagga, in the course of meditation leading to jhana, two “signs”52 successively arise as the object of meditation: the “acquired sign” (uggaha-nimitta) and the “counterpart sign” (patibhaga-nimitta). They are described with reference to the earth kasina, meditation on a disc made of earth, in the Visuddhimagga (pp. 125 -126). Gethin (1998: 183) interprets the text: “Whereas the acquired sign is a mental visualization of the physical object exactly as it appears- an eidetic image-the counterpart sign is a purified conceptual image free of any marks or blemishes.”

Although the term “counterpart sign” is not found in early Buddhist texts, the concept might have existed in very early times and seems to fit in quite well with the contexts of the Upakkilesa Sutta and of sutta 8 in the Satipatthana Samyutta discussed above. Cousins (1973: 119) says that the most striking evidence for the antiquity of this concept is to be found in the Upakkilesa Sutta. I shall elucidate this point. In this text the “sign,” which refers to the radiance and the vision of forms, could be a precursor of the counterpart sign. We can find some analogy between the passage in sutta 8 and the following passage in the Visuddhimagga:

When he is doing so, gradually the hindrances withdraw, the defilements subside, the mind becomes concentrated with access concentration, and the counterpart sign arises.53

In this passage, “the defilements subside, the mind becomes concentrated with access concentration, and the counterpart sign arises” corresponds to “his mind becomes concentrated, his defilements are abandoned, he grasps that sign” in the case of a wise monk stated in sutta 8. Therefore “grasping that sign” may mean grasping the counterpart sign. The arising of the counter­part sign is crucial to the attainment of the jhanas because it characterizes access concentration and also absorption (appana),54 i.e. the jhana proper. According to the Visuddhimagga the counterpart sign is born of sanna, and is not to be cognized by the eye.55 Anuruddha’s reply that “We conceive (sanjanama) radiance and a vision of forms” cited above also implies that this sign is born of sanna (derived from samjna as sanjanama). This sug­gests that such an object is purely created in one’s own mind without being connected to the external object that was originally taken as a meditation subject. In other words, it cannot be an “acquired sign.” This state of con­sciousness is freed from its normal preoccupation with the objects of the five senses.56 Accordingly we may interpret the passage in question thus: When a wise monk is contemplating the body as a body (or feelings, etc.), if he grasps a meditation object that is formed by conception (sanna) in his own mind and transcending the original object outside his mind, he breaks the bondage to the objects of the five senses, and thereby escapes from “the sphere of sensual desire” (kamadhatu) to “the sphere of form” (rupadhatu), i.e. the jhanas.

...

This statement asserts that “calming the bodily formation” means “stopping in-breaths and out-breaths,” and that one can still practice mindfulness of breathing even when breathing has stopped since one can still contemplate the sign of breathing taken from one’s past experience. In the paragraph of clarification, the expression “the sign…is well attended to” (… nimittam sumanasikatatta) is reminiscent of sanna as discussed in Chapter 1 (Section 2.2). In this context, the functioning of sati consists in forming sanna of breath­ing, which is an accurate and subtle identification of the experience. At first sanna functions in the sense of apperception, which is dependent on the co-temporal input of sensory data of tangible objects, the in-breaths and out-breaths. Afterwards, even when breathing has ceased in the fourth jhana, this sanna of breathing can be recalled and serves as a meditation object. This is recollection, which is also a definition of sati as discussed in Chapter 1 (Section 1). Put differently, in this case the practitioner forms sanna of breathing, which is in the sense of conception as it has nothing to do with co-temporal sen­sory data.

http://dharmadana.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/ch-3/

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:40 am

Añña-titthiya sutta ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.068.than.html ) shows the key role of nimittas in the arising of unskilful mental qualities:

“‘Ko panāvuso, hetu ko paccayo yena anuppanno vā rāgo uppajjati uppanno vā rāgo bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattatī’ti? ‘Subhanimittantissa vacanīyaṃ. Tassa subhanimittaṃ ayoniso manasi karoto anuppanno vā rāgo uppajjati uppanno vā rāgo bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattati. Ayaṃ kho, āvuso, hetu ayaṃ paccayo yena anuppanno vā rāgo uppajjati uppanno vā rāgo bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattatī’”ti.

“‘Ko panāvuso, hetu ko paccayo yena anuppanno vā doso uppajjati uppanno vā doso bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattatī’ti? ‘Paṭighanimittaṃ tissa vacanīyaṃ. Tassa paṭighanimittaṃ ayoniso manasi karoto anuppanno vā doso uppajjati uppanno vā doso bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattati. Ayaṃ kho, āvuso, hetu ayaṃ paccayo yena anuppanno vā doso uppajjati uppanno vā doso bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattatī’”ti.

“‘Ko panāvuso, hetu ko paccayo yena anuppanno vā moho uppajjati uppanno vā moho bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattatī’ti? ‘Ayoniso manasikāro tissa vacanīyaṃ. Tassa ayoniso manasi karoto anuppanno vā moho uppajjati uppanno vā moho bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattati. Ayaṃ kho, āvuso, hetu ayaṃ paccayo yena anuppanno vā moho uppajjati uppanno vā moho bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattatī’”ti.

“‘Ko panāvuso, hetu ko paccayo yena anuppanno ceva rāgo nuppajjati uppanno ca rāgo pahīyatī’ti? ‘Asubhanimittantissa vacanīyaṃ. Tassa asubhanimittaṃ yoniso manasi karoto anuppanno ceva rāgo nuppajjati uppanno ca rāgo pahīyati. Ayaṃ kho, āvuso, hetu ayaṃ paccayo yena anuppanno ceva rāgo nuppajjati uppanno ca rāgo pahīyatī’”ti.

“‘Ko panāvuso, hetu ko paccayo yena anuppanno ceva doso nuppajjati uppanno ca doso pahīyatī’ti? ‘Mettā cetovimuttī tissa vacanīyaṃ. Tassa mettaṃ cetovimuttiṃ yoniso manasi karoto anuppanno ceva doso nuppajjati uppanno ca doso pahīyati. Ayaṃ kho, āvuso, hetu ayaṃ paccayo yena anuppanno ceva doso nuppajjati uppanno ca doso pahīyatī’”ti.

“‘Ko panāvuso, hetu ko paccayo yena anuppanno ceva moho nuppajjati uppanno ca moho pahīyatī’ti? ‘Yonisomanasikāro tissa vacanīyaṃ. Tassa yoniso manasi karoto anuppanno ceva moho nuppajjati uppanno ca moho pahīyati. Ayaṃ kho, āvuso, hetu ayaṃ paccayo yena anuppanno vā moho nuppajjati uppanno ca moho pahīyatī’”ti.
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:45 am

Samadhanga sutta describes 'nimitta' as a certain attunement of attention in meditational practice:

“Puna caparaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno paccavekkhaṇānimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya. Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, aññova aññaṃ paccavekkheyya, ṭhito vā nisinnaṃ paccavekkheyya, nisinno vā nipannaṃ paccavekkheyya. Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno paccavekkhaṇānimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya. Ariyassa, bhikkhave, pañcaṅgikassa sammāsamādhissa ayaṃ pañcamā bhāvanā.

This is similar to description in Mahaniddesa 2.359:

Jānāti bhagavā– “ayaṃ puggalo rāgacarito, ayaṃ dosacarito, ayaṃ mohacarito, ayaṃ vitakkacarito, ayaṃ saddhācarito, ayaṃ ñāṇacarito”ti. Rāgacaritassa bhagavā puggalassa asubhakathaṃ katheti; dosacaritassa bhagavā puggalassa mettābhāvanaṃ ācikkhati; mohacaritassa bhagavā puggalassa uddese paripucchāya kālena dhammassavane kālena dhammasākacchāya garusaṃvāse niveseti; vitakkacaritassa bhagavā puggalassa ānāpānassatiṃ ācikkhati; saddhācaritassa bhagavā puggalassa pasādanīyaṃ nimittaṃ ācikkhati buddhasubodhiṃ dhammasudhammataṃ saṅghasuppaṭipattiṃ sīlāni ca attano; ñāṇacaritassa bhagavā puggalassa ācikkhati vipassanānimittaṃ aniccākāraṃ dukkhākāraṃ anattākāraṃ.

where 'nimitta' is given as 'ākāra' (appearance).
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:54 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:OK, I see . its a very graphic use of the analogy. Thank you Dmytro, lots to unpack..

The unpacking continues and has proven very useful...thank you again Dmytro. A very fruitful topic.
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Sun Sep 05, 2010 6:35 am

The Pali term 'nimitta' can be better understood through it's Sanskrit counterpart 'pratibimba'.

There are interesting parallels in Sravaka-bhumi by Asanga:

The cultivation of Calm (`samatha-bhaavanaa) aims at perfect steadiness of the reflected image (pratibimba) in thought (citta) of the meditative object (aalambana). Success is constituted by the ninth (and last) thought-fixation (citta-sthiti) which is the only mental orientation driving without effort (anaabhogavaahana-manaskaara), due to previous, but no longer required, eliminative activation (prahaa.na-sa^mskaara), i.e., activations eliminative of meditative faults in the first eight thought-fixations. Thus, the ninth thought-fixation is carried by habituation (svarasavaahita) accomplished in the eighth thought-fixation, which still had effort. This is equivalent to the svarasika ("purely passive") of Stcherbatsky in this passage:

It [the unexpressible reality] is the pure object, the object cognized by the senses in a pure sensation, that is to say, in a sensation which is purely passive, which is different in kind from the spontaneity of the intellect.

The meditative object of Calm alone is called Reflected image devoid of discernment (nirvikalpa-pratibimba); that of Higher Vision alone is called Reflected image attended with discernment (savikalpa-pratibimba). The meditative object of combined Calm and Higher Vision (`samatha-vipa`syanaayuganaddha) is called Fulfillment of the requirement (kaarya-parini.spatti).


http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/alex6.htm


"Pratibimba" is interpreted as "reflected image", "cognitive projection", "imaged-cognitive content"

http://www.acmuller.net/yogacara/articles/intro-uni.htm

which is close to "representation".

Kamalashila in "Bhavanakrama" cites the Sandhinirmocana sutra of Asanga:

The phenomenon that has been contemplated as the object of inner single-pointed concentration should be analyzed and regarded as like a reflection. This reflection or image, which is the object of single-pointed concentration, should be thoroughly discerned as an object of knowledge. It should be completely investigated and thoroughly examined. Practice patience and take delight in it. With proper analysis, observe and understand it. This is what is known as special insight.


http://www.empty-universe.com/yogacara/ ... ma_two.htm

In "Yoga-sutra-Vyasa-bhasya" (Vyasa's commentary on the Patanjali Yoga-sutra) chapter 4, verse 23, 'pratibimba' is an image, reflection, which serves as a basis ('aalambana', Pali 'aaramma.na') of samaadhi.

YB (B4.23,198) manas+ hi mantavya3 artha3 uparaktam, tatsvayam ca viSayatvaad viSayin3 puruSa3 aatmiiyaa3 vRtti3 abhisambaddham, tad etac cittam eva draSTRdRzya-uparaktam viSayaviSayinirbhaasam cetanaacetanasv aruupaapannam viSayaatmakam apy aviSayaatmakam ivaacetanam cetanam iva sphaTikamaNikalpam sa rvaartham ity ucyate.
YB (B4.23,198) tad anena cittasaaruupya3 bh raantaah kecit tad eva cetanam ity aahuh a pare cittamaatram eva + idam sarvam naasti khalv ayam gavaadir ghaTaadhiz ca sakaaraNa1 loka iti.
YB (B4.23,198) anupampaniiyaas te kasmaat, asti hi teSaam bhraantibiijam sarvaruupaakaar anirbhaasam cittam iti.
YB (B4.23,198) samaadhiprajnaayaam prajneya1 arthah pratibimbiibhuutas [pratibimba] tasyaalambaniibhuutatvaad [aalambana] anyah.
YB (B4.23,199) sa ced arthaz cittamaatram syaat katham prajnaa3 eva prajnaaruupam avadh aaryeta tasmaat pratibimbiibhuuta1 [pratibimba] arthah prajnaayaam yenaavadhaaryate sa puruS a iti.
YB (B4.23,199) evam grahiitRgrahaNagraahyasva ruupacittabhedaat trayam apy etaj jaatitah pr avibhajante te samyagdarzinas tair adhigatah puruSah.
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:10 pm

It's interesting that the mention of 'nimitta' in connection with four satipatthanas in Culavedalla sutta:

"Now what is concentration, lady, what qualities are its themes, what qualities are its requisites, and what is its development?"

"Singleness of mind is concentration, friend Visakha; the four frames of reference are its themes [nimitta]; the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these qualities is its development."

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


is coherent with the repeated mention of 'nimitta' in the Vibhanga:

7. Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅgo

1. Suttantabhājanīyaṃ

1. Kāyānupassanāniddeso

356. Kathañca bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ kāye kāyānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ kāyaṃ uddhaṃ pādatalā adho kesamatthakā tacapariyantaṃ pūraṃ nānappakārassa asucino paccavekkhati – ‘‘atthi imasmiṃ kāye kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco maṃsaṃ nhāru [nahāru (sī.)] aṭṭhi aṭṭhimiñjaṃ [aṭṭhimiñjā (sī.)] vakkaṃ hadayaṃ yakanaṃ kilomakaṃ pihakaṃ papphāsaṃ antaṃ antaguṇaṃ udariyaṃ karīsaṃ pittaṃ semhaṃ pubbo lohitaṃ sedo medo assu vasā kheḷo siṅghāṇikā lasikā mutta’’nti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā bahiddhā kāye cittaṃ upasaṃharati.

Kathañca bhikkhu bahiddhā kāye kāyānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu bahiddhā kāyaṃ uddhaṃ pādatalā adho kesamatthakā tacapariyantaṃ pūraṃ nānappakārassa asucino paccavekkhati – ‘‘atthissa kāye kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco maṃsaṃ nhāru aṭṭhi aṭṭhimiñjaṃ vakkaṃ hadayaṃ yakanaṃ kilomakaṃ pihakaṃ papphāsaṃ antaṃ antaguṇaṃ udariyaṃ karīsaṃ pittaṃ semhaṃ pubbo lohitaṃ sedo medo assu vasā kheḷo siṅghāṇikā lasikā mutta’’nti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā ajjhattabahiddhā kāye cittaṃ upasaṃharati.


2. Vedanānupassanāniddeso

363. Kathañca bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘sāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘nirāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘sāmisaṃ dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘nirāmisaṃ dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘sāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘‘nirāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’’ti pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā bahiddhā vedanāsu cittaṃ upasaṃharati.

Kathañca bhikkhu bahiddhā vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘sāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘nirāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘sāmisaṃ dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘nirāmisaṃ dukkhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, sāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘sāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti, nirāmisaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamānaṃ ‘‘nirāmisaṃ adukkhamasukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayatī’’ti pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā ajjhattabahiddhā vedanāsu cittaṃ upasaṃharati.


3. Cittānupassanāniddeso

365. Kathañca bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ citte cittānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu sarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘sarāgaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vītarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vītarāgaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, sadosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘sadosaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vītadosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vītadosaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, samohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘samohaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vītamohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vītamohaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, saṃkhittaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘saṃkhittaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vikkhittaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vikkhittaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, mahaggataṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘mahaggataṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, amahaggataṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘amahaggataṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, sauttaraṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘sauttaraṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, anuttaraṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘anuttaraṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, samāhitaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘samāhitaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, asamāhitaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘asamāhitaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, vimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘vimuttaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti, avimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘‘avimuttaṃ me citta’’nti pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā bahiddhā citte cittaṃ upasaṃharati.

Kathañca bhikkhu bahiddhā citte cittānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu sarāgaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘sarāgamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vītarāgaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vītarāgamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, sadosaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘sadosamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vītadosaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vītadosamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, samohaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘samohamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vītamohaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vītamohamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, saṃkhittaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘saṃkhittamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vikkhittaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vikkhittamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, mahaggataṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘mahaggatamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, amahaggataṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘amahaggatamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, sauttaraṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘sauttaramassa citta’’nti pajānāti, anuttaraṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘anuttaramassa citta’’nti pajānāti, samāhitaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘samāhitamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, asamāhitaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘asamāhitamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, vimuttaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘vimuttamassa citta’’nti pajānāti, avimuttaṃ vāssa cittaṃ ‘‘avimuttamassa citta’’nti pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā ajjhattabahiddhā citte cittaṃ upasaṃharati.


4. Dhammānupassanāniddeso

367. Kathañca bhikkhu ajjhattaṃ dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ ‘‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ kāmacchandaṃ ‘‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ kāmacchando’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa kāmacchandassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa kāmacchandassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa kāmacchandassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti. Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ byāpādaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ thinamiddhaṃ [thīnamiddhaṃ (sī. syā.)] …pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ uddhaccakukkuccaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ vicikicchaṃ ‘‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ vicikicchā’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ vicikicchaṃ ‘‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ vicikicchā’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannāya vicikicchāya uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannāya vicikicchāya pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnāya vicikicchāya āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti.

Santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ satisambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti, santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ vīriyasambojjhaṅgaṃ [viriyasambojjhaṅgaṃ (sī. syā.)] …pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ pītisambojjhaṅgaṃ …pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ passaddhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ samādhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vā ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā bahiddhā dhammesu cittaṃ upasaṃharati.

Kathañca bhikkhu bahiddhā dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati? Idha bhikkhu santaṃ vāssa kāmacchandaṃ ‘‘atthissa kāmacchando’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vāssa kāmacchandaṃ ‘‘natthissa kāmacchando’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa kāmacchandassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa kāmacchandassa pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnassa kāmacchandassa āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti. Santaṃ vāssa byāpādaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa thinamiddhaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa uddhaccakukkuccaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa vicikicchaṃ ‘‘atthissa vicikicchā’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vāssa vicikicchaṃ ‘‘natthissa vicikicchā’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannāya vicikicchāya uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannāya vicikicchāya pahānaṃ hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca pahīnāya vicikicchāya āyatiṃ anuppādo hoti tañca pajānāti.

Santaṃ vāssa satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘atthissa satisambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vāssa satisambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘natthissa satisambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa satisambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti. Santaṃ vāssa dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa vīriyasambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa pītisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa passaddhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa samādhisambojjhaṅgaṃ…pe… santaṃ vāssa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘atthissa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, asantaṃ vāssa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṃ ‘‘natthissa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgo’’ti pajānāti, yathā ca anuppannassa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgassa uppādo hoti tañca pajānāti, yathā ca uppannassa upekkhāsambojjhaṅgassa bhāvanāya pāripūrī hoti tañca pajānāti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapeti. So taṃ nimittaṃ āsevitvā bhāvetvā bahulīkaritvā svāvatthitaṃ vavatthapetvā ajjhattabahiddhā dhammesu cittaṃ upasaṃharati.


This suggests that each of the ways of establishing remembrance (satipatthana) requires a certain tuning of attention, so that the relevant phenomena would be perceived.
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby Dmytro » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:34 pm

Hi Sylvester,

Sylvester wrote:I think the suttas have a very broad range of meanings assigned to the word nimitta.


A broad but quite manageable range.

The perceptual image seems, to me, to fit into the rupanimitta and obhasanimitta of MN 128 as specific meditation objects, despite Ven Soma's protests to the contrary that the Comy nimittas are innovations introduced by Ven Buddhaghosa..


Yes.

On the other hand, nimitta as "signs" would simply be the perceptible or conceivable qualities of a thing. We get one of the best examples of this in the series of synonyms from DN 15 - ākāra liṅga nimitta uddesa, all of which carry the same sense of something that identifies the object.


Indeed, this is one of the meanings.

I think that would be a fair understanding of MN 44's characterisation of 4 satipaṭṭhānas as being the nimitta of samādhi.


See the post just above: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2770&p=206182#p93843

'Nimitta' in the context of samadhi would be also explained by the Gavi sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html , etc.

The description of the fourth right effort in the Samvarappadhana sutta also gives good examples of samadhi-nimitta:

katamañca bhikkhave anurakkhaṇappadhānaṃ? Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu uppannaṃ bhaddakaṃ samādhinimittaṃ anurakkhati aṭṭhikasaññaṃ pulavakasaññaṃ vinīlakasaññaṃ vipubbakasaññaṃ vicchiddakasaññaṃ uddhumātakasaññaṃ. Idaṃ vuccati bhikkhave anurakkhaṇappadhānaṃ.

http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ggo-p.html
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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

Postby binocular » Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:53 pm

Dmytro wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:So I think I am grasping what Thannisaro Bhikku is saying..does that imply that we will by various means have our own " themes" to which we are likely to return ?


I'll quote him (though I don't subscribe to his point of view):

Just to be clear: Could you summarize what you think is lacking about Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation?

Theme is a term both in literary theory and music theory and in both refers to what is a crucial factor of narration (music is a form of narration too).



Sanghamitta wrote:I dont follow the translation of nimitta as "themes" how are we to understand that ? " Signs" of course makes perfect sense.

Actually, I find "theme" easier to understand than "sign" in the above contexts.
"Sign" makes sense in terms of semiotics, along with the various theories about what a sign is and how it works.
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