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Pali Term: Nimitta - Dhamma Wheel

Pali Term: Nimitta

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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Pali Term: Nimitta

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

Last edited by Dmytro on Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:28 am, edited 4 times 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."

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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



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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



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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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:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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

The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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



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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/

Metta, Dmytro


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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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

Añña-titthiya sutta ( ) 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

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

The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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

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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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



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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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



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Re: Pali Term: Nimitta

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



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