Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

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Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:29 am

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

I happened to come across this sutta, in which there are a few points about the nature of thought in jhana which caught my attention. I've gotten the impression that there isn't exactly agreement about the cutoff point of certain types of thought while in jhana, and this sutta seems to address this issue. Though of course there is always room for interpretation, and my interpretation may not be correct. And of course the seeming disagreement might be a product of my lack of knowledge, but I suppose if that's the case, it will be pointed out to me. Anyhow, the bits in question, in bold:

"In him who has attained the first meditative absorption, [2] speech has ceased. Having attained the second absorption, thought-conception and discursive thinking has ceased. Having attained the third absorption, joy has ceased. Having attained the fourth absorption, inhalation and exhalation have ceased."


First off, on the cessation of "speech" in the 1st jhana. I put "speech" in quotes, because this strikes me a point where a number of interpretations could come up. I would interpret this as meaning that verbal thinking has stopped, since clearly one wouldn't be talking while in meditation. Thing is, I've read suggestions that though thinking is certainly less coarse in jhana, verbal thinking may not necessarily have completely stopped in the 1st jhana. Would my interpretation of this referring to verbalized thinking be correct? This might be an ambiguity that would be taken care of by knowing the original Pali, but that isn't anything I've got a clue about.

Secondly, the cessation of "thought-conception and discursive thinking" in the second jhana. I think it would be safe to say that at the point of the second jhana verbal thought will have stopped. But, having stopped thought-conception, how exactly can thinking function? Might this refer to only to the further refinement of thought, but not the banishment of it altogether? In the Anupada Sutta [ http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ] , in which Sariputta supposedly "ferrets out" the various aspects of the jhana whilst in it, this seems to be translated as "the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations", though weather this is referring to quite the same thing, I cannot be entirely sure.

Would it be safe to say that this simply refers to the further refinement of thought, though not an actual cessation? It seems that would be a reasonable interpretation, since if thought had stopped altogether, I don't know how exactly Sariputta would be able to ferret-out the aspects of the jhana while in it. I had taken the phrase "thought conception" to mean the birth of thoughts, but would this actually be referring to the stilling of gross conceptual thought, but with a more refined thinking which sees things as-they-are remaining? It seems that sort of thought would be quite useful for insight practice while in jhana, and then quite possible for Sariputta to be doing as in the Anupada sutta.

My third point of question, though partially unrelated to the above: "Having attained the fourth absorption, inhalation and exhalation have ceased." I'm assuming that the stopping of breathing refers to the awareness of the breathing, since if one was to actually stop breathing, they'd be dead. However, I've heard many times that the awareness of the breath tapers off as one goes deeper into samatha and becomes very refined in upacara-samadhi, (which my experience would agree with) and at the point of transition to full jhana, (and here's the pickle) the point of concentration is shifted from the breath to the various jhanic sensations, which become the new "object". Have I been in error for assuming that breath awareness is lost, while in fact it is simply shifted into the background? This quote that breath awareness stops in the 4th jhana implies that it is in fact there in all preceding jhanas, which as far as I knew was not the case. But as I said, this might be my error of assuming further than I should.

Thanks for reading, that's all I've got.
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Re: Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:33 am

Greetings Kenshou,

I'm not sure if you've got it, but chapter 4 (The relevance of concentration) in Analayo's "Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realisation" covers the first two of your three questions.

Metta,
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Re: Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:45 am

I haven't, but it's on my to-get list. I've ordered Ajahn Brahm's Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond and Focused and Fearless just recently, though when I get the chance, I think I'll make Satipatthana next one. I'm hoping those first 2 will help do some clearing in the meantime though. (Well, the second book moreso, Brahm's method seems a little out there relatively, though he's still full of useful information).

Would you be willing to summarize the relevant points in Analayo's book? Just a few sentences would be fine if it's possible, I'll fill in the rest on my own when I can.
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Re: Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:49 am

Greetings Kenshou,

The gist of it was that there's no "inner speech" in jhana, but there may be some degree of subtle mentation whilst in the first jhana. Rather than "thinking" per se, it's about the directing of attention. Well that's how I remember what I read, anyway. Language is always such an imprecise mechanism by which to talk about meditation.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

Postby IanAnd » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:54 am

Kenshou wrote:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn36/sn36.011.nypo.html

I happened to come across this sutta, in which there are a few points about the nature of thought in jhana which caught my attention. I've gotten the impression that there isn't exactly agreement about the cutoff point of certain types of thought while in jhana, and this sutta seems to address this issue. Though of course there is always room for interpretation, and my interpretation may not be correct. And of course the seeming disagreement might be a product of my lack of knowledge, but I suppose if that's the case, it will be pointed out to me. Anyhow, the bits in question, in bold:

"In him who has attained the first meditative absorption, [2] speech has ceased. Having attained the second absorption, thought-conception and discursive thinking has ceased. Having attained the third absorption, joy has ceased. Having attained the fourth absorption, inhalation and exhalation have ceased."

This translation by Nyanaponika can be a bit misleading. In Bk. Bodhi's translation of this section of the Samyutta Nikaya, he uses the words "thought and examination" to describe the second absorption by which he means to refer to "directed thought" and examination or vitakka and vicara, the Pali terms used in the sutta. Describing vicara as "discursive thinking" in today's idiom would be somewhat misleading, although not necessarily so during the time period that Ven. Nyanaponika was using this translation. The subtle differences in the use of these terms, in translation, had been discarded in favor of expressing the conceptions being pointed toward in Nyanaponika's translation. This is why it is helpful to have someone of experience nearby to sort out these subtle differences in understanding.

Kenshou wrote:First off, on the cessation of "speech" in the 1st jhana. I put "speech" in quotes, because this strikes me a point where a number of interpretations could come up. I would interpret this as meaning that verbal thinking has stopped, since clearly one wouldn't be talking while in meditation.

That would depend upon the type of absorption one is aiming at. In samatha jhana, yes, it may very well be that verbal thinking has subsided since calming thought formations is uppermost a part of this level of absorption. If one is aiming at vipassana jhana, then the subject of the meditation may contain elements of thought formations, in which case there might be verbal thought within one's awareness.

Kenshou wrote:Thing is, I've read suggestions that though thinking is certainly less coarse in jhana, verbal thinking may not necessarily have completely stopped in the 1st jhana. Would my interpretation of this referring to verbalized thinking be correct?

Yes. Your interpretation would be correct here.

Kenshou wrote:Secondly, the cessation of "thought-conception and discursive thinking" in the second jhana. I think it would be safe to say that at the point of the second jhana verbal thought will have stopped. But, having stopped thought-conception, how exactly can thinking function? Might this refer to only to the further refinement of thought, but not the banishment of it altogether? In the Anupada Sutta [ http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ] , in which Sariputta supposedly "ferrets out" the various aspects of the jhana whilst in it, this seems to be translated as "the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations", though whether this is referring to quite the same thing, I cannot be entirely sure.

Your intuition is spot on in this regard. Refinement of thought although not banishment of thought altogether.

Kenshou wrote:Would it be safe to say that this simply refers to the further refinement of thought, though not an actual cessation? It seems that would be a reasonable interpretation, since if thought had stopped altogether, I don't know how exactly Sariputta would be able to ferret-out the aspects of the jhana while in it. I had taken the phrase "thought conception" to mean the birth of thoughts, but would this actually be referring to the stilling of gross conceptual thought, but with a more refined thinking which sees things as-they-are remaining? It seems that sort of thought would be quite useful for insight practice while in jhana, and then quite possible for Sariputta to be doing as in the Anupada sutta.

Once again, your intuition is spot on. Good job.

Kenshou wrote:My third point of question, though partially unrelated to the above: "Having attained the fourth absorption, inhalation and exhalation have ceased." I'm assuming that the stopping of breathing refers to the awareness of the breathing, since if one was to actually stop breathing, they'd be dead. Eventually be dead, yes.

Quite right, here. Awareness of the breath can subside at this point in the development of absorption.

Kenshou wrote:However, I've heard many times that the awareness of the breath tapers off as one goes deeper into samatha and becomes very refined in upacara-samadhi, (which my experience would agree with) and at the point of transition to full jhana, (and here's the pickle) the point of concentration is shifted from the breath to the various jhanic sensations, which become the new "object". Have I been in error for assuming that breath awareness is lost, while in fact it is simply shifted into the background?

Yes. You have been in error. In fact, the breath awareness is as you stated: simply shifted into the background. As the jhanic sensations take over and become established in a kind of feedback effect, this is where the inducement of the absorption state ends and the feedback mechanism takes over in the second level of absorption. Therefore, "directed thought and evaluation" (vitakka and vicara) are no longer needed to induce the first jhana, becoming dropped as factors of the second jhana.

With regard to so-called upacara-samadhi, or "access concentration," such refinement of the breath is not yet very deep. It's only slightly more refined than during normal consciousness. Yet, this slight refinement is enough to propel the mind into what has been described as "access concentration." Only at the fourth level of absorption does the breath become palpably very fine, almost undetectable, and defined more as a stillness of the breath.

Kenshou wrote:This quote that breath awareness stops in the 4th jhana implies that it is in fact there in all preceding jhanas, which as far as I knew was not the case. But as I said, this might be my error of assuming further than I should.

One can be aware of the breath all the way through each of the first four material absorptions. When practicing for samatha (calmness) absorption (as opposed to vipassana or insight absorption) the breath can become so calmed that it is barely noticeable and can momentarily slip from one's awareness. As concentration becomes sharpened, though, one can maintain awareness of the breath all the way through the fourth absorption if one wants to. It just depends upon how calm one wishes to become. Even while at the deepest point in the fourth samatha jhana, I can still be aware of whether or not there is an inhaling or an exhaling of the breath. Yet, everything else has become calmed and quiet.
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Re: Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:15 am

Retrofuturist - Thank you for that point of gist. And thank you for the thorough feedback, IanAnd, I've noticed your posts around the Buddhist-leaning corners of the internet, and you seem to know what you're talking about, or at least, I've found your posts particularly helpful. I have indeed been talking about samatha absorption, but I figure you've gathered that. I feel like I've gotten my picture of the situation reasonably straightened out. I've been reading through every bit of information I can get my hands on, and it can all muddle together a bit. Now I suppose I ought to quit reading and go sit down and continue the (non?)work. I don't figure I'll be messing around with the higher jhanas for some time, but it's good to have an idea of the territory, just in case.

I feel like my questions of the moment have been pretty much taken care of, so I'd like to nudge forth another inquiry if I may: In the article The Mystery of the Breath Nimitta [ http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebmed058.htm ], in addition to the main points about the title subject, there are a decent number of practical points on anapanasati. I've never seen them discussed anywhere else, so I want to ask if people see these as legitimate general guidelines for practicing samatha? Particularly the final bullet-point summary at the end of the article.

I make no claims of attainment, but I humbly ask about this specifically, because I've found that the passages of the Patisambhidamagga and Vimuttimagga quoted in this article as well as Bhikkhu Sona's related points on meditation to be uncannily similar to what I've experienced as my practice has progressed over these past months. More than similar, in fact. I realize that learning this sort of thing primarily through impersonal resources is slow and unreliable going, and veering in the wrong direction is probably easy if not paying attention. I've done my best to simply attend to the breath and simply let go, and as I do this, things seem to progress in the aforementioned direction, and judging by the jhana factors as mentioned dozens of times in the suttas, it -feels- like the right direction. But I don't want to be stepping into quicksand.

Thanks again for the feedback, guys.
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Re: Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

Postby IanAnd » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:27 pm

Kenshou wrote:
I feel like my questions of the moment have been pretty much taken care of, so I'd like to nudge forth another inquiry if I may: In the article The Mystery of the Breath Nimitta [ http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebmed058.htm ], in addition to the main points about the title subject, there are a decent number of practical points on anapanasati. I've never seen them discussed anywhere else, so I want to ask if people see these as legitimate general guidelines for practicing samatha? Particularly the final bullet-point summary at the end of the article.

Kenshou,

I want to first assure you that your intuition in this endeavor is right on target and serving you well.

This particular essay was one that I too resonated with when I was first learning to enter absorption. For a person who is making their first strides toward achieving absorption, the description in the final bullet-point summary is pretty much exactly what one can experience happening as the meditation goes deeper. Until one experiences these phenomena, these descriptions remain just conceptualizations to help guide the person during their own attempts at reaching a samatha absorption, kind of like sign posts which indicate that, "Yes, I am on the right track." This description is particularly helpful in that after the meditation itself, in reviewing what just occurred, one can verify the occurrence of each point. And once the practitioner understands that he can induce the absorption experience simply by paying the right kind of attention to the breath and becoming absorbed in the pleasant sensation of the breath, he realizes that he can enter absorption at will, any time he pleases and any time that his concentration is well established.

I always like to emphasize with practitioners the importance of "establishing mindfulness" (sati) before attempting to meditate, just as the instruction in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta implores one to do ("having established mindfulness in front of him"). Since I didn't have the advantage of having an experienced meditation guide to help me through this delicate procedure, I had to figure all this out for myself by reading very carefully the specific discourses which referred to meditation instruction and attempting to figure out what exactly they were referring to. For many years I had often attempted to meditate without having "established mindfulness" first, and often I would experience poor (meaning "less stable" with regard to the level of concentration) meditation sessions. Once I discovered this secret, which in reality was right out there in the open, it changed the quality of my meditation sessions overnight. Never since then have I experienced what I would term a "poor meditation session."

Ideally, what the person eventually learns (after the elation of realizing an attainment of the experience of jhana begins to wear off) is that his ability to hold the mind on one subject or object is greatly enhanced and increased, meaning that concentration stability is becoming well-developed. As concentration becomes more developed, the ability to perform insight meditation (vipassana) becomes increased. And this is where things can begin to really become exciting. The important point to be aware of here is that the practitioner "get over" whatever emotional reaction they have regarding their ability to enter absorption so that they do not become too "caught up in" the jhana experience itself. One does not want to become known for being a "jhana bunny" or "jhana junkie." Treat every attainment with equanimity and you will be okay.
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Re: Rahogata Sutta: Cessation of "speech" in the 1st Jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:42 pm

Wow, well thank you for the reassurance, IanAnd, it's good to know that I've been probing in the right direction. Lately I've gotten to the point where I can induce those various signposts in not much time at all. It gets to the point, in a good sit, where eventually where it almost feels as if my awareness has merged with the breath itself, at least in the upper-body area. I suppose perhaps this feeling of "merging awareness" might be a peek into actual absorption. But when I am able to do this, it feels rather unbalanced. I suppose now its simply a matter of making it stronger (well, letting go more and better) until I can actually have a jhana that can stand on it's own legs, or at least, the foundation for one.

These feelings are indeed strange, and nice, so I've been unsure of them in the face of all the different information and opinions out there. I suppose now I can pursue them with a little more trust, and that might be the straw on the camel's back. Well, even if it isn't, I'll keep at it. Despite so many words, it really does just seem to be a matter of letting go. It's fascinatingly simple. I would never believe simply "letting go" would lead to anything besides sleep if I hadn't seen a little of it for myself.

I will read that sutta and take some notes, I can imagine that that sort of thing could be useful in any meditation. Until this point I've been using Ajahn Brahm's pre-meditation advice on "letting go of past and future issues" and "loving the present moment" and all that, which I find helps set the groove well. The addition of some more serious mindfulness/recollection could do nothing but help, I'd think.

I do hope to be able to do jhana for the sake of vipassana, that was the original motivation, though I've rather got caught up in the forest of information lately. Of course jhana is no end in-of-itself, but I figure knowing how to cultivate tranquility is useful for the living of life, as well as for sharpening the mind for better insight.

This thread has been really helpful, thanks, a lot. Time to stop reading and get to work.

Ohoho, I've just gotten Shaila Catherine's book in the mail while writing this. Maybe a little more reading, then. I think I'm going to have a dhamma-drenched day, lets hope you all will too. This little section of the path appears clear, for the moment.
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