gabrielbranbury wrote:[This book] leaves good questions to explore in practice and it clarifies at the same time. I found that Analyos definition of Satipattana as attending with mindfulness rather than making your experience an "Object of mindfulness" a subtly helpful distinction. (emphasis added)
Yes. You are quite right. The amount of subtle differences that Analayo points out in the book is extremely gratifying and illuminating to practitioners who know
what he is talking about. Yet, it does
take some experience with the subtleties of practice to fully appreciate the insight provided by the book.
But sometimes, even Analayo doesn't go far enough. This is not said to fault him, but to point out that when something like this is written down and published when the practitioner is still himself developing the practice, that often it can be a sign of where the writer himself is at within the parameters of his own practice. I have experienced this phenomenon myself on occasion, often wishing I could take back some of the things I expressed. Sometimes, established doctrinal points can get in the way of really understanding the full scope of what is possible using the mental practices of meditation and contemplation in one's practice of arriving at an awakening experience of the Dhamma. One example of this can be seen on page 78 of the English version of the book:
Analayo wrote:These passages support an understanding of the first absorption as a deeply absorbed state of mind, beyond mere reflection and conceptual thought. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that, as absorption-factors, initial mental application (vitakka) and sustained mental application (vicara) do not imply full-fledged thinking activity. Rather, they refer to the initial and sustained application of attention. Such application of attention can also take place in the domain of thought or verbal communication, when initial mental application directs the mind toward what is to be thought or said, while sustained mental application maintains the coherence of a particular sequence of thoughts or words. In the context of absorption, however, this same activity is nothing more than an intentional deployment of attention, directed towards the object of concentration....
This way of understanding can also be applied to the passages mentioned above, which at first sight seemed to suggest that conceptual thought continues in the first stage of absorption, since they spoke of the "cessation of wholesome intentions" on attaining the second absorption, a state of "noble silence". Although initial mental application as a factor of the first absorption is different from discursive thought, initial mental application is nonetheless in this context a kind of "intention" and thereby involves a very subtle degree of deliberate mental activity. Only on entering the second absorption, when this last vestige of mental activity is abandoned and concentration has become fully stable, does the mind reach a state of complete inner stillness ("noble silence"), leaving behind even these subtle "wholesome intentions".
While this explanation is correct within the context that Analayo is outlining for someone in the beginning stages of absorption practice, wherein the inexperienced practitioner is still learning about how properly to enter the absorption state, it can leave a misguided impression in the mind that all such attempts at entering absorption must be accomplished in this same manner. For instance, I have learned, through surprising experience, that one can enter absorption and maintain it while simultaneously contemplating on a subject in order to gain insight. Some have called this ability a "vipassana jhana," meaning to imply that insight contemplation can indeed
take place within the parameters of jhana
practice. But this is an advanced concept for most beginning practitioners in absorption, and is best covered after
the practitioner has gained some proficiency in his practice of being able to enter, "at will," absorption.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV