Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:22 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:What do you mean by samadhi?


As per this...

AN 4.41: Samadhi Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:40 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:What do you mean by samadhi?


As per this...

AN 4.41: Samadhi Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Metta,
Retro.
In other words:
Kenshou wrote:But the suttic/earlier jhana most likely is not a state of complete absorption, completely secluded from the senses and thrown into a trance. It's a practical method of calming and sharpening the mind in order to utilize it for the gaining of insight, as well as helping to wean the mind off of sensual pleasures and help dull the emotional aspect of dukkha, and with this calm clear mind, work on the wisdom that will get rid of the root causes of dukkha as well, which can be done while in the jhana (Look at the Anupada Sutta for an example of Sariputta doing just that). In other words, samatha and vipassana can be practiced in tandem, no need for the split.
Or what is called in the Mahasi Sayadaw/U Pandita tradition vipassana jhanas.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby BlackBird » Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:14 am

Few posts back there was some talk about two wings of a bird.

I'd like to point everyone who has 20 minutes up their sleeve to 'Wings of the Eagle' - Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro. Pretty good, relevant stuff.

metta
Jack
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 11, 2010 1:40 pm

BTW, this whole thing is why I theorized in my earlier thread that really what "technique" you do doesn't even matter that much. Just as long as you are doing something, and as long as, in the beginning, you are doing it consistently. And the more the better. Yeah, I know, if you have time to be mindful.... :tongue: Still - I have tried the "everything is meditation" attitude and it doesn't seem to be as effective as "just stop watching TV and do more meditation already."

Anyway, from reading so many suttas where the Buddha talked about a bhikkhu going out into the forest and attaining Jhana, it always seemed to follow from virtuous activity, not the technique he was doing.

-DaveK (Babbly from being snowed in at work for 3 days)
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby DorjePhurba » Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:34 pm

I have to say that I am glad that many of you have responded to my question. As far as how IFeel at the moment I think I'm leaning more towards trying to attain jhana since it does seem that gaining insigjt is best done through jhanic concentration. I think the main thing that has confused me is the tradition of the Vissudimagga. I just don't see that as something that conforms with the suttas. It seems that is the main reason why people do
not practice jhana more. People are told its basically out of reach for them, which seems to be untrue.

I'm curious though as to whether the vipassana jhanas could he considered the same as the suttic jhanas. Could anyone provide any insight? (no pun intended)

Meindzai, I would say that what medotation style you choose carries quite a bit of importance because it really determines which way your practice will go. If you are trying to attain jhana, then you need to keep your mind focused on an object and to be mindful of any hindrances. Should any arise, then the meditator applys the antidotes to get rid of them. If one were doing Vipassana alone, then a person might focus on the three marks of existence in each thought thay arises rather than focus on one thought. Both have their usefulness, but I think lead to different places.

I look forward to everyones continued input as I think this is a question that a lot of people are asking themselves too.

With metta,
Chris
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 11, 2010 3:05 pm

DorjePhurba wrote:
Meindzai, I would say that what medotation style you choose carries quite a bit of importance because it really determines which way your practice will go. If you are trying to attain jhana, then you need to keep your mind focused on an object and to be mindful of any hindrances. Should any arise, then the meditator applys the antidotes to get rid of them.



In theory, yes, and I'm not trying to be confusing or contradictory. I'm just going through a period right now where I'm noticing that antidotes/techniques etc. seem to be of secondary importance to the time spent meditating and ones actions (sila) outside of meditation. Granted, I'm not a great example of either lately. :thinking:

I certainly don't want to confuse somebody who is trying to figure out which technique to follow - but if I had realized earlier on the false distinction between "samatha practice" and "vipassana practice" I probably would have spent more time actually meditating and less time worrying about which technique to do.

-M
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Collective » Thu Feb 11, 2010 3:14 pm

What are the different techniques of Samhadi (or do I mean Shamatha?) and Vipassana?
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 11, 2010 4:26 pm

DorjePhurba wrote: I think the main thing that has confused me is the tradition of the Vissudimagga. I just don't see that as something that conforms with the suttas.
Depends upon what you mean by jhana. As this thread, itself shows, there is a wide variety of opinions as to what jhana means and as to how it used, as this link http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm shows. The question becomes whose model of the jhanas do you follow? If you question the Visuddhimagga, then you probably would not want to follow those who use that model.

It seems that is the main reason why people do not practice jhana more. People are told its basically out of reach for them, which seems to be untrue.
I have heard that from a number of people, including really old, traditionally educated Thai monks. Is it from the Visuddhimagga? Don't know, but don't think so. Interestingly it was a direct student and approved teacher of Mahasi Sayadaw that taught me jhana, and he stated that jhana meditation was not lost;' rather, the level of concentration necessary for insight does not require the full one-pointedness of concentration that increasingly blocks out thoughts and bodily sensations. Certainly that kind of practice is possible and can be useful.

I'm curious though as to whether the vipassana jhanas could he considered the same as the suttic jhanas. Could anyone provide any insight? (no pun intended)
I believe the idea of vipassana jhanas comes from Ven U Pandita, Mahasi Saydaw’s direct successor. Take a look at chapters 26 and 27 in this book by Ven U Pandita: http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/path-free.pdf

The point is that the Mahasi Sayadaw/Ven U Pandita methods are not as “dry” as they are sometimes characterized by both their detractors, or even their advocates. Samatha and vipassana go hand-in-hand from the vipassana side of things. One can develop concentration without developing insight practice, but one cannot develop insight practice without developing considerable samatha/concentration.

If one were doing Vipassana alone, then a person might focus on the three marks of existence in each thought thay arises rather than focus on one thought. Both have their usefulness, but I think lead to different places.
In the vipassana practice of the Mahasi Sayadaw traditions, one needs not “focus on the three marks of existence in each thought”; rather, one simply watches the rise and fall of whatever comes into awareness. As U Pandita shows in his book, this can develop a considerable level of concentration, but it is one that allows the nature of experience to be seen without the application conceptual structures.

If a hindrance arises: "Here, O bhikkhus, when sensuality is present, a bhikkhu knows with understanding: 'I have sensuality,' or when sensuality is not present, he knows with understanding: 'I have no sensuality.' He understands how the arising of the non-arisen sensuality comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen sensuality comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sensuality comes to be [Satipatthana Sutta].

This not an intellectual, “contemplative,” process. It is, rather, 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.' In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya. See these three suttas:

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

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

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

These three suttas give a good idea of the suttas that support the Mahasi Sayadaw/U Pandita type of vipassana.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Feb 11, 2010 7:13 pm

tilt, i always value your contributions, your erudition never ceases to amaze me.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 11, 2010 7:27 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:tilt, i always value your contributions, your erudition never ceases to amaze me.
Thank you, he said blushing.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Freawaru » Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:37 pm

DorjePhurba wrote: I think the main thing that has confused me is the tradition of the Vissudimagga. I just don't see that as something that conforms with the suttas. It seems that is the main reason why people do
not practice jhana more. People are told its basically out of reach for them, which seems to be untrue.


Can't be from the Visuddhimagga. If I recall correctly it states a probability of one in a hundred or one in a thousand for jhana and elements. That is pretty high chance if you ask me. I mean, it isn't as if most of the billions of humans currently on this planet are even interested in it. Thus, when one feels an interest in this kind of meditation the chance that this is due to kammic traits from a past life (from one in that jhana was already successfully achieved) are rather high.
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Dan74 » Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:44 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:tilt, i always value your contributions, your erudition never ceases to amaze me.
Thank you, he said blushing.


A blushing wolf? I am not familiar with this expression. Is this something like crocodile tears? :D

_/|\_
_/|\_
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:47 pm

Dan74 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:tilt, i always value your contributions, your erudition never ceases to amaze me.
Thank you, he said blushing.


A blushing wolf? I am not familiar with this expression. Is this something like crocodile tears? :D

_/|\_
Jackal, not a wolf, and no. Genuinely expressed, jackals being a very direct sort.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Dan74 » Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:02 pm

Good to know!

I wouldn't know a jackal from a wolf anymore than a weasel from a ferret... :embarassed:
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:36 pm

Dan74 wrote:Good to know!

I wouldn't know a ... a weasel from a ferret... :embarassed:

That's easy. Jackals look far more like coyotes than wolves. Here are five pup photos that should make it all very clear which is which:
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This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:42 pm

Please excuse the canine and mustelid excursus. Now back to our regularly scheduled programs: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question, brought to you by Sidebars R Us.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Dan74 » Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:53 pm

Hmmm.... thanks Tilt, but I think I'll sooner figure our vipassana vs shamatha... still the pics are gorgeous - I will show them to the kids tomorrow!

Sorry :focus:

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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Moggalana » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:30 pm

Freawaru wrote:
DorjePhurba wrote: I think the main thing that has confused me is the tradition of the Vissudimagga. I just don't see that as something that conforms with the suttas. It seems that is the main reason why people do
not practice jhana more. People are told its basically out of reach for them, which seems to be untrue.


Can't be from the Visuddhimagga. If I recall correctly it states a probability of one in a hundred or one in a thousand for jhana and elements. That is pretty high chance if you ask me. I mean, it isn't as if most of the billions of humans currently on this planet are even interested in it. Thus, when one feels an interest in this kind of meditation the chance that this is due to kammic traits from a past life (from one in that jhana was already successfully achieved) are rather high.


from leighb.com:
However, the Visuddhimagga states in section XII.8 that of those who undertake the meditation path, only one in 1,000,000 (at best) can reach absorption (1). We don't have to take this figure literally to begin to understand that the Jhanas as discussed in the Visuddhimagga are of a much deeper level of concentration than those described in the suttas. Basically, the Visuddhimagga Jhanas seem to be much more developed and systematized than those of the suttas.

(1)"[T]he kasina preliminary work is difficult for a beginner and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. The arousing of the sign is difficult for one who has done the preliminary work and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. To extend the sign when it has arisen and to reach absorption is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it." Vsm. XII.8
Thus only 1 in 100 x 100 x 100 = 1,000,000 can reach absorption (Jhana) - using the most optimistic figures.


Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Feb 12, 2010 5:30 pm

Moggalana wrote:from leighb.com:
However, the Visuddhimagga states in section XII.8 that of those who undertake the meditation path, only one in 1,000,000 (at best) can reach absorption (1). We don't have to take this figure literally to begin to understand that the Jhanas as discussed in the Visuddhimagga are of a much deeper level of concentration than those described in the suttas. Basically, the Visuddhimagga Jhanas seem to be much more developed and systematized than those of the suttas.

(1)"[T]he kasina preliminary work is difficult for a beginner and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. The arousing of the sign is difficult for one who has done the preliminary work and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. To extend the sign when it has arisen and to reach absorption is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it." Vsm. XII.8
Thus only 1 in 100 x 100 x 100 = 1,000,000 can reach absorption (Jhana) - using the most optimistic figures.


And this is considering those who begin meditating, not all the population! Obviously the Visuddhimagga is wrong.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Shamatha or Vipassana? That is the question

Postby IanAnd » Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:08 pm

Moggalana wrote:from leighb.com:
However, the Visuddhimagga states in section XII.8 that of those who undertake the meditation path, only one in 1,000,000 (at best) can reach absorption (1). We don't have to take this figure literally to begin to understand that the Jhanas as discussed in the Visuddhimagga are of a much deeper level of concentration than those described in the suttas. Basically, the Visuddhimagga Jhanas seem to be much more developed and systematized than those of the suttas.

(1)"[T]he kasina preliminary work is difficult for a beginner and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. The arousing of the sign is difficult for one who has done the preliminary work and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. To extend the sign when it has arisen and to reach absorption is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it." Vsm. XII.8
Thus only 1 in 100 x 100 x 100 = 1,000,000 can reach absorption (Jhana) - using the most optimistic figures.

Warning: possible off topic comment ahead

For those of a cynical or conspiratorial bent of mind toward religion (i.e. those who see all man-made religion as a way or means for a small group of people to control the hearts and minds of a much larger group of people — kind of like the Roman Catholic Crutch...err I mean Church — by way of controlling the way they think and view reality) this is a perfect example of the historical evidence presenting how that process can occur.

If you can get the majority of people who follow your religious path to "buy into the idea" that they basically cannot reach the "magical goal of perfection" that the religion puts up on a pedestal as being the pinnacle of achievement, but that without this religion's guidance and coddling you might end up in a worse place at the end of your life than you would have had you not been a follower, then you have the perfect psychological sedative for controlling a mass congregation of people who will basically do whatever you ask of them for the most part, behind a masked and secretive cult-like organization of an orthodox religion.

If you are so naive as to think that this kind of thing does not go on, then you are a poor student of human recorded history as you will find evidence of this kind of abuse of people's minds down through history. Just look at the history of the Dark Ages and of the Catholic Inquisition to find evidence of "PC" (political correctness, as it is called nowadays). This kind of political and ecumenical propaganda and warfare on people's minds continues today, and can easily be seen in countries like North Korea and the China of Mao Tse Tung's era. The only difference is that today, both government organizations and religious organizations are used as propaganda tools to "keep the masses docile and in line."

Just for the record, I contend that anyone who has the desire to learn about absorption and to do what is necessary in order to achieve it can, and will, achieve it given that they have the right instruction and practice habits. Once the student experiences an example of absorption and thus learns what it is about, it become fairly easy to teach them how to access that state at will in order to build up their level of concentration.

And I basically disagree with the idea that "...that the Jhanas as discussed in the Visuddhimagga are of a much deeper level of concentration than those described in the suttas." This is nothing more than a qualified opinion at best, and one whose implications which, a few years ago, I might have also bought into had I not experienced what I have experienced with regard to the maturing of my ability to enter into absorption and the strengthening of discernment that is possible from such maturation. While I will agree that there can be a difference in the level of depth of absorption in going between the first, second, and third levels to the fourth level; it remains that in order to carry out insight meditation one only needs the ability to remain in the second, third or fourth level for significant "things" (realizations) to occur. The levels implied as being necessary by the Visuddhimagga are at best a red herring. Samadhi = samadhi = samadhi. Once you're there, you are there. Period. From there, it is just a matter of increasing one's ability at discernment for the realization of phenomena that makes the difference between an uninstructed worldling and an arahant.

:focus:
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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