If I may, for the moment, return to thereductor's initial inquiry, I wonder if some of the problematic area is down to the Visuddhimagga itself. The doubt expressed by yes, no, neither, could be, maybe
and so forth might be arising from too much dependence upon the cataloging done by Buddhaghosa himself. OK, I'm being confusing here and I'm not at all sufficiently scholarly to know if I am able to lay out my mentation with clarity. So, here goes: I don't see Buddhaghosa making an effort to clarify the Doctrine so much as just straightforwardly documenting what was going on in whatever community or communities he visited. To me, he seems more like an anthropologist listing his encounters and nothing more.
Out of this tends, then, to arise the thought that this must be the way it is
or this is how it must be
when in point of fact, some of the ideas in the Visuddhimagga are not exactly coherent with the Buddha's teaching as expressed in the Pali Canon. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can give an example, but I seem to remember Ajahn Sona discussion a point of discrepancy in this regard. Buddhaghosa was document what was, as it was, nearly a millennium after the Buddha spoke the words that became the Doctrine and Discipline.
I'm making a muddle of this.
Take, for example the idea that as one progresses towards jhana one experiences "joy" ... but when I read the descriptions of the Buddha and the Visuddhimagga, what I seem to be hearing is that as one progresses, one notices a contrast between what was
and what is now
and this contrast is characterizes as "joy"; but to me, it is "relief". BUT if I try to limit my thinking to the words of the Visuddhimagga, then I end up looking for someone else's experience and miss my own. My sense of "relief" is probably in no way of any significance when compared to (if that were possible) someone else's!
I don't know if that makes any sense whatsoever. For some reason, I think it does.
For me, at least as I think I understand the words of the Buddha, one sits and sets up mindfulness. This means "sets up a particular goal", one sets up an objective, makes a resolution and keeps that "in front". That is, in front of everything else, foremost. Then, aware of what is going on with body, attitude, emotions and discursive thought, one simply remains mindful of remaining mindful.
Mindfully, one just lets go - recognizing that it is all impermanent, unsatisfactory and devoid of essence. For me, and this is where I suspect I failed to be clear before, keeping the goal of mindfulness right in front (where, for example, I'd hold my hand if I were examining the palm of my hand), I sit. Here, some things I learnt from the practises of Mahamudra and Dzogchen trekcho have been helpful. Remaining mindful of mindfulness, one effortlessly cuts through everything that arises and eventually it all falls away and there is just mindfulness. With continued dedication or practise or just plain infrontness
, even this falls away.
What I am trying to understand, and I hope you will forgive my clumsy efforts, is this: is the "fixation" about the pros and cons of is it or isn't it
concerning jhana what is itself actually in the way of awakening?
OK, newbie here.
I don't know how to set up a new thread or rename this one, but I think thereductor's initial question deserves much more attention. Can we work out clarity of understanding about "jhana" in different terms only relying upon the words of the oldest parts of the Pali Canon? Can we talk about jhana as if it were as "real" and ordinary as any other part of our practise, liberating it as a concept from conceptual limitations or the Visuddhimagga's limitations??????
Oh, dear. I seem to have muddled down to an exact science.
I think there is something here, obviously I have failed to clarify my less than useful thoughts.