Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby IanAnd » Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:58 pm

Hello Freawaru,

Good to see you posting again.
Freawaru wrote:Concentration is like a muscle, the more one trains it the stronger it becomes. But when one [decreases] the training the muscles will become weaker, too.

Yes, indeed. This is one of the very simple things I've wanted to make clear. It is the development and cultivation of concentration, rather than the exotic sounding and seemingly intoxicating "jhanas," that is the important side benefit of absorption practice. People are "wowed" by reports of the pleasure ("bliss") factor of the jhanas, and it is not wrong to be impress by that factor; but what is truly important about their achievement is the ability to more easily cultivate a mind that can concentrate on an object or subject like a steel trap, and thus be able to, through sati-sampajanna (mindfulness and clear comprehension), "see things as they actually are." Seeing things as they truly are ends ignorance, one of the main three poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion or ignorance.

Freawaru wrote:So at that time I spend much time on workout of this muscle - the pleasant side effect of increase of general concentration during every day life was only stimulating. However, after some time my mind spontaneously entered states of concentration I didn't know what to make of. I don't know for sure if one of them was, [e.g.] the infinite space jhana but some descriptions I find on jhana are close.

This is one of those instances where Tilt's assertion (with which I concur) of having a trustworthy teacher available can help correct the practitioner's perception of what is happening, keeping us on the path. Of course, in real life, such advantages aren't always available to us. Which is where forum communities like this can come in handy, if one can locate a trustworthy person to listen to.

Freawaru wrote:In my experience (and it looks like we differ here) during this state of concentration there were no body sensations (no sounds, no tactile impressions, no smells, etc) nor thoughts, images and so on. The impression of, say, infinite space dominated the mind completely, suppressing everything else.

No, I wouldn't necessarily say that we differ. It is possible, when practicing what has been described in some circles as an immaterial "samatha jhana" to experience the cessation of the five senses in the context that you've outlined. I've done so myself. What I was talking about was what might be called (for lack of a better term) a material "vipassana jhana," where the senses are still in play and attention to insight is the key factor of one's intent. There's a subtle difference, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've played heck trying to figure this out myself. What I was reading about this subject was telling me one thing, but my experience was telling me another. This is why I say that some of the instruction we receive is "not written in stone." It just depends on the context and the intent of the use.

Freawaru wrote:But then again there was something else, something new. For the first time I knew what was going on in my mind the moment it did. When the state broke and I was "Freawaru" again (and not infinite space) I could only see it in retrospect. And I realised that in general I could only see my mind and body in retrospect, too. I didn't like that. So, while I felt a bit scared of the states of concentration because I had never heard about them and didn't know what they were, I liked that Knowing.

It is that "knowing" that is what we are after. That knowing helps us end delusion and ignorance.

Freawaru wrote:Sometimes on this forum the question arises "what is the difference between mindfulness and Insight?" - maybe it is more difficult to see for a suddha-vipassana-yanika but for me it is obvious: during these kind of states mindfulness was present. There was the ability to see the mind in the present, like an eye that was open or a light that shone. But that itself is not identical to Insight. Mindfulness is like a kind of tool and one has to use that tool to gain Insight. Insight requires not only mindfulness but also will, investigation, analysis, memory and a number of other faculties. And I couldn't access them during the states of concentration as they were suppressed. At least at first. Later there was something new and strange: there was will, investigation, analysis, memory and so on, but they were quite different than those of the Freawaru personality. I still don't know what to make of this.

Insight can be accessed from any of the first four levels of absorption, if you've been taught how to correctly discern and access these levels. You have to kind of be able to maintain attention and mindfulness when pursuing a vipassana subject as opposed to a samatha subject (as with the immaterial attainments, where deeper and deeper states of calm are, in general, the goal). It's a matter of training and self-discipline when accessing absorption states. One can learn how to do this on one's own, but it's often better to have an experienced teacher to help assist.

Freawaru wrote:And luckily I didn't have to. One day I returned from such a state of concentration and mindfulness didn't cease. I still knew what was going on in my mind (and also body, a new idea for me at that time) the moment it was going on. I stopped my practice of these states then: you might say I got what I wanted from them: mindfulness. For some years the states would still happen on their own now and then but without practice it became [fewer and fewer].

Aaahhh. Wasn't that a delightful realization to make. You didn't have to focus or concentrate on being mindful. It just happened! How marvelous. This is another of the simple benefits of absorption that I have been endeavoring to point out. It can help us to cultivate constant (or relatively constant) mindfulness. It helps to recondition the mind (or re-incline the mind) toward mindfulness.

Freawaru wrote:Presently, I don't practice states of absorption. I limit myself to Insight (the reason why I investigated the Pure Insight Path). My main practice is to investigate the mind during every day activity like Bhate G suggests here:
You can be mindful while solving problems in intensive calculus. You can be mindful in the middle of a football scrimmage. You can even be mindful in the midst of a raging fury.
http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/min ... ish_16.php

That's a good approach. One which, at one point, I took up also. If one can work it out (their living situation, that is) such that they have the time and the condition to watch the mind daily without too many distracting events intervening and thus distracting us from the realization of these insights, the self-knowledge and wisdom that amounts from this can be truly astounding and life changing.

Freawaru wrote:I know there are several definitions of jhana and maybe my experiences of complete absence of the senses was not jhana but I think in the end this does not really matter. What matters - in my opinion - is that through them I gained that tool called mindfulness. Like you. :smile:

Yes, indeed. That tool, as you describe it, is one of the main keys in achieving the cessation of dukkha. Because it helps us to put an end to ignorance (meaning, ignorance of our mind and body and how they work).

Be well and prosper.

Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby IanAnd » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:24 am

Kenshou wrote: My point being that in a long-term practice, all sorts of "stuff" is liable to happen, and so there are many little side paths to go down and funny things to get caught up with. There is a lot of "territory" and without a guide or at least a few pointers and warnings things could get strange.

I agree completely.

Kenshou wrote:But I don't disagree, per say, with what you've said, I myself am fond of keeping things simple and natural and seeing what happens without too much expectation. I believe you have expressed in the past that the suttic literature has acted as your primary "guide", right?

So then you are by no means divorced from tradition entirely, but don't get me wrong, as far as texts go that's source #1, imo, a pretty reliable source to weigh experiences against.

We're on the same page here. (That means keep this in mind when you read the rest...)

Kenshou wrote:Perhaps there is a specific tradition(s) that you are criticizing here, it might make what you are saying a little clearer if it were put in context more directly.

I'm not necessarily criticizing any tradition per se. Perhaps some here have read too much into what I've written. I know Tilt certainly has.

I'm talking about instruction or ideas (coming from a traditional standpoint in many cases) that can tend hold people back from making progress if they take it to heart and begin to believe it; that just because its coming from established tradition (or some proponent of that tradition) that it must be true. I've already given a couple of examples of this (if people have been paying attention). Read the response I gave Freawaru where she made the statement: "In my experience (and it looks like we differ here) during this state of concentration there were no body sensations..."

One of the things that is playing havoc with comprehending what I'm saying is that you all are coming from a background of Buddhist involvement, working from within that context, and some of my statements have a context that was outside that tradition. And from your Buddhist perspective, people are reading what I'm saying and naturally tying it to their understanding coming from that perspective. I've been told things from people who I respected at the time which later turned out to be untrue. And because of that, I ended up wasting a lot of time going around in circles.

What I learned from those experiences was to trust only my own perception of whatever I experienced and to keep sharpening my discernment. I may listen to what someone has to say, but then I try it out to verify what they are saying. When I could prove my perception wrong, I changed it. Always seeking the truth in all cases.

It was an intense and difficult experience to undergo, not having anyone in particular with whom to corroborate what I was undergoing. It meant that I was literally forced to ramp up mindfulness and heedfulness to a level that was almost physically and mentally unhealthy in order to be able to, as quickly as I could, find out the truth. The good news is that I made it through that intense period and was able to find a way to be more relaxed and at ease with mindfulness. I don't recommend learning the Dhamma in this way. Although it did teach me a lot of lessons.

Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way (principally because there is nothing to be done to take it back, at this point). Although, as I said, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. It just happens to be the route I took. That's all. We've all got a unique path to tread. All I'm saying is: Let's focus on making it as smooth as possible. Because it is rough enough as it is without adding additional unnecessary hurdles.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Ben » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:22 am

Hi Ian,
IanAnd wrote:One of the things that is playing havoc with comprehending what I'm saying is that you all are coming from a background of Buddhist involvement, working from within that context, and some of my statements have a context that was outside that tradition. And from your Buddhist perspective, people are reading what I'm saying and naturally tying it to their understanding coming from that perspective. I've been told things from people who I respected at the time which later turned out to be untrue. And because of that, I ended up wasting a lot of time going around in circles.

As you point out, we all come different perspectives. Whether its a Buddhist perspective or non-Buddhist perspective, its ultimately just something we shed as the result of engaging in practice and we move along the path. Developing sammadhitthi I think tends to be an iterative process.

IanAnd wrote:What I learned from those experiences was to trust only my own perception of whatever I experienced and to keep sharpening my discernment. I may listen to what someone has to say, but then I try it out to verify what they are saying. When I could prove my perception wrong, I changed it. Always seeking the truth in all cases.
One of the things that I have learned is that my perception of reality is conditioned by ignorance, and I am acutely aware of that especially when it comes to meditative experiences. I tend to use the texts, the instructions of my teachers and the wisdom of kalayanamittas and scholarly authors with my perception. Examining all under the prism of objective analysis. Yet again, I mention the corruptions of insight only manifest to those who are diligently practicing Dhamma.


IanAnd wrote:It was an intense and difficult experience to undergo, not having anyone in particular with whom to corroborate what I was undergoing. It meant that I was literally forced to ramp up mindfulness and heedfulness to a level that was almost physically and mentally unhealthy in order to be able to, as quickly as I could, find out the truth. The good news is that I made it through that intense period and was able to find a way to be more relaxed and at ease with mindfulness. I don't recommend learning the Dhamma in this way. Although it did teach me a lot of lessons.

I think its important to acknowledge that practicing Dhamma and the development of insight is not easy and rarely pleasant.

IanAnd wrote:Because it is rough enough as it is without adding additional unnecessary hurdles.
Sure, but I think maybe the nature of practicing Dhamma is that it is hard, difficult and deeply confronting. Not for the feint of heart.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:39 am

IanAnd wrote:I'm not necessarily criticizing any tradition per se. Perhaps some here have read too much into what I've written. I know Tilt certainly has.
Rather than a snide side comment, if you have have a problem with what I say about your lecture series here, address me directly. I am taking what you write as it is written. There is no point in doing anything else. If you feel I am misunderstanding what you are saying, address me directly.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:00 am

IanAnd wrote:
I'm talking about instruction or ideas (coming from a traditional standpoint in many cases) that can tend hold people back from making progress if they take it to heart and begin to believe it; that just because its coming from established tradition (or some proponent of that tradition) that it must be true.
How about addressing this directly in more detail, since this seems to be a focus for you.

One of the things that is playing havoc with comprehending what I'm saying is that you all are coming from a background of Buddhist involvement, working from within that context, and some of my statements have a context that was outside that tradition.
Let us see this spelled out in detail, especially since you are claiming what you are saying is in part outside the Buddhist context.

It was an intense and difficult experience to undergo, not having anyone in particular with whom to corroborate what I was undergoing. It meant that I was literally forced to ramp up mindfulness and heedfulness to a level that was almost physically and mentally unhealthy in order to be able to, as quickly as I could, find out the truth. The good news is that I made it through that intense period and was able to find a way to be more relaxed and at ease with mindfulness. I don't recommend learning the Dhamma in this way. Although it did teach me a lot of lessons.
According to you, you made it, but it is not unreasonable in face of that very claim, and the claim that you are somewhat outside the Buddhist perspective, that we should not take what you say without question, without a great deal more explanation. Because you claim a state of awakening, why should we believe it?

All I'm saying is: Let's focus on making it as smooth as possible. Because it is rough enough as it is without adding additional unnecessary hurdles.
And you are claiming, it seems, that "traditional " beliefs are are "additional unnecessary hurdles." And you wonder why I am skeptical? You really need to unpack this for us; spell it out so that we can see what it is exactly that you are claiming.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby IanAnd » Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:43 pm

. . . Moderator note: Personal comments edited out.. . . . .

tiltbillings wrote:
IanAnd wrote:
All I'm saying is: Let's focus on making it as smooth as possible. Because it is rough enough as it is without adding additional unnecessary hurdles.
And you are claiming, it seems, that "traditional " beliefs are are "additional unnecessary hurdles." And you wonder why I am skeptical? You really need to unpack this for us; spell it out so that we can see what it is exactly that you are claiming.

The first statement is painting with a rather broad brush stroke what I have endeavored to communicate in this thread, and it seems clear to me that I have failed in that effort, at least as far as you are concerned. Your use of the word "claims" in reference to my statements makes it seem as though what the statements are is being characterized as something more than what they were intended to be, which is "observations" based upon my experience with the training. I've stated on more than one occasion that it is up to the reader and practitioner to hone their discernment and to correctly evaluate and determine the truth for themselves. In other words, don't just blindly believe what I'm telling you, test it and see for yourself. I'm just bringing up some points from my own journey on the path for others to consider. Plain and simple. It is up to the reader as to whether or not he wants to pay any heed to the observations I've made. I am not making any claims about anything. You are mischaracterizing these statements. Giving them more importance than was originally intended.

As for your second statement, if you haven't figured out by now what I'm saying, just let it go and ignore it. There's no need to torture yourself.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby IanAnd » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:44 pm

Hi Ben,
Ben wrote:Developing sammadhitthi I think tends to be an iterative process. . . .

I tend to use the texts, the instructions of my teachers and the wisdom of kalayanamittas and scholarly authors with my perception. Examining all under the prism of objective analysis. . . .

I don't disagree with anything you have stated in your response.

Ben wrote:
IanAnd wrote:It was an intense and difficult experience to undergo, not having anyone in particular with whom to corroborate what I was undergoing. It meant that I was literally forced to ramp up mindfulness and heedfulness to a level that was almost physically and mentally unhealthy in order to be able to, as quickly as I could, find out the truth. The good news is that I made it through that intense period and was able to find a way to be more relaxed and at ease with mindfulness. I don't recommend learning the Dhamma in this way. Although it did teach me a lot of lessons.

I think its important to acknowledge that practicing Dhamma and the development of insight is not easy and rarely pleasant.

The statement I made above was made in reference to a specific time period during which I was undergoing integration of what I had learned and endeavoring to figure out the intensity level of mindfulness I needed to employ in my everyday living situation. From the wording I used, you wouldn't have necessarily been able to have discerned that fact.

That said, though, I agree with the comment you made.

Best regards,
Ian
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:42 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
IanAnd wrote:
All I'm saying is: Let's focus on making it as smooth as possible. Because it is rough enough as it is without adding additional unnecessary hurdles.
And you are claiming, it seems, that "traditional " beliefs are are "additional unnecessary hurdles." And you wonder why I am skeptical? You really need to unpack this for us; spell it out so that we can see what it is exactly that you are claiming.

Ian wrote:The first statement is painting with a rather broad brush stroke what I have endeavored to communicate in this thread, and it seems clear to me that I have failed in that effort, at least as far as you are concerned. Your use of the word "claims" in reference to my statements makes it seem as though what the statements are is being characterized as something more than what they were intended to be, which is "observations" based upon my experience with the training. I've stated on more than one occasion that it is up to the reader and practitioner to hone their discernment and to correctly evaluate and determine the truth for themselves. In other words, don't just blindly believe what I'm telling you, test it and see for yourself. I'm just bringing up some points from my own journey on the path for others to consider. Plain and simple. It is up to the reader as to whether or not he wants to pay any heed to the observations I've made. I am not making any claims about anything. You are mischaracterizing these statements. Giving them more importance than was originally intended.

As for your second statement, if you haven't figured out by now what I'm saying, just let it go and ignore it. There's no need to torture yourself.
By your own admission in msgs above, you have been less than clear in some of what you have stated. All I am asking here is that you expand, detail, your statements about traditional beliefs getting in the way of realization. You have made a lot of statements and claims in this thread. It is disingenuous to state otherwise. Of course, you are not asking anyone to blindly accept what you say, but you are the one who has appealed to your experience in this, and when asked to expand on this, it kind of sort of in a way looks like you are dodging the issue. I think you can do better than that.

It would also be of interest to hear what you see in your realization that is outside the traditional Buddhist teaching, and if that is a mis-characterization, please clarify how so. i am not asking you to do anything other than what you have already done here, except to be more specific, more detailed rather than the vague, general statements I am asking you to clarify.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Freawaru » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:49 am

Hello IanAnd

IanAnd wrote:This is one of those instances where Tilt's assertion (with which I concur) of having a trustworthy teacher available can help correct the practitioner's perception of what is happening, keeping us on the path. Of course, in real life, such advantages aren't always available to us. Which is where forum communities like this can come in handy, if one can locate a trustworthy person to listen to.


No doubt about that :smile:

No, I wouldn't necessarily say that we differ. It is possible, when practicing what has been described in some circles as an immaterial "samatha jhana" to experience the cessation of the five senses in the context that you've outlined. I've done so myself. What I was talking about was what might be called (for lack of a better term) a material "vipassana jhana," where the senses are still in play and attention to insight is the key factor of one's intent. There's a subtle difference, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've played heck trying to figure this out myself.


I have been thinking about what you might call "vipassana jhanas". And I have come up with two possible kinds of experience. Can you please tell me if you mean one of them or something else again.

In my experience jhana is a state (or rather several). Like dream, or trance or wake or deep sleep, etc. Unlike those others during jhana there is always mindfulness present due to the concentration. For the others it is optional. Mindfulness however does not necessarily mean Insight, because Insight arises by using mindfulness - not just by it being simply there. But as mindfulness can also be present during all the other states such as wake, dream, trance, deep sleep etc, it is also possible to have Insight during these non-jhanic states.

Now, Insight also has levels in my experience. Levels that are more stable than in between them, and once reached one can better investigate and deepen it because they keep on on their own - at least for a certain duration. During these levels of vipassana the temporal resolution becomes stronger and one can observe faster processes. Simultaneously, there is a certain growing distance to the processes, a bit like seeing them from afar that is very different from jhana.

The calm of vipassana and how it differs from the calm of jhana can be seen when observing the mind during emotional states. For example when experiencing vipassana levels during states such as Bhante G's example of being in the "midst of a raging fury". To illustrate the difference I compare jhana to experiencing sunny weather or the emptiness in-between galaxies. There is calm. Vipassana levels also have calm but they ćan be like the calm in the center of a hurricane or the calm of being in a spaceship with it's shields on, anti-gravitation working and protected in a warp-bubble while the sensors monitor a supernova explosion and the ships AI evaluates the data.

There is no jhanic calm when the mind is angry, it is a different state, but the level of vipassana can be equally high during both states: angry mind and jhana. Vipassana is something like a different direction as the states. And there is a growing calm in that different direction, too.

Now my question is: do you name the different levels of vipassana (and thus growing calm) "vipassana jhanas" regardless of what state the mind is in (angry mind, dream, calculus, deep sleep, jhana, etc)? Or do you refer to vipassana being present during jhana as "vipassana jhana" - the metaphor would then be something like being in that spaceship, shields on, anti-gravitation, warp-bubble, and sensors picking up vacuum fluctuations and stuff like that, in the empty space between galaxies. Or do you mean something else entirely?

Aaahhh. Wasn't that a delightful realization to make. You didn't have to focus or concentrate on being mindful. It just happened! How marvelous. This is another of the simple benefits of absorption that I have been endeavoring to point out. It can help us to cultivate constant (or relatively constant) mindfulness. It helps to recondition the mind (or re-incline the mind) toward mindfulness.


Yes, it can work this way. But only if one is a samatha-yanika. I think if one has tried the samatha instructions and does not get some results after a few months it is better to practice according to the Pure-Insight Instructions (most of those work for a samatha-yanika, too). Of course, the better one's Insight on the Pure-Insight Path, the better one can achieve access concentration or jhana on the samatha-yanika Path, too, if one happens to be a samatha-yanika after all and it just didn't work at first try due to reasons such as tiredness, emotional stress, etc.

Freawaru wrote:Presently, I don't practice states of absorption. I limit myself to Insight (the reason why I investigated the Pure Insight Path). My main practice is to investigate the mind during every day activity like Bhate G suggests here:
You can be mindful while solving problems in intensive calculus. You can be mindful in the middle of a football scrimmage. You can even be mindful in the midst of a raging fury.
http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/min ... ish_16.php

That's a good approach. One which, at one point, I took up also. If one can work it out (their living situation, that is) such that they have the time and the condition to watch the mind daily without too many distracting events intervening and thus distracting us from the realization of these insights, the self-knowledge and wisdom that amounts from this can be truly astounding and life changing.


I am not sure I understand what you mean here by "distracting events". For me, mindfulness is perpetual during wake so the option to practice Insight is always there and my mind even enters higher levels of vipassana on it's own during new or unusual experiences. I simply practice vipassana without changing any daily routine or preventing my mind to go into emotional states or states of non-jhanic concentration (such as calculus). So I am a bit confused as to what you mean by "distracting events".

Be well and prosper.


Kapla! :smile:
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby IanAnd » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:55 pm

Freawaru wrote:
IanAnd wrote:No, I wouldn't necessarily say that we differ. It is possible, when practicing what has been described in some circles as an immaterial "samatha jhana" to experience the cessation of the five senses in the context that you've outlined. I've done so myself. What I was talking about was what might be called (for lack of a better term) a material "vipassana jhana," where the senses are still in play and attention to insight is the key factor of one's intent. There's a subtle difference, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've played heck trying to figure this out myself.

I have been thinking about what you might call "vipassana jhanas". And I have come up with two possible kinds of experience. Can you please tell me if you mean one of them or something else again. . . .

Now my question is: do you name the different levels of vipassana (and thus growing calm) "vipassana jhanas" regardless of what state the mind is in (angry mind, dream, calculus, deep sleep, jhana, etc)? Or do you refer to vipassana being present during jhana as "vipassana jhana" - the metaphor would then be something like being in that spaceship, shields on, anti-gravitation, warp-bubble, and sensors picking up vacuum fluctuations and stuff like that, in the empty space between galaxies. Or do you mean something else entirely?

You have a different mind map (conception) of these states than that to which I was referring. It's an interesting description you have going there, and as long as it works for you, stick with it.

I wasn't talking about anything quite as complicated as your descriptions. I was referring to something quite a bit more simple. In the quotation of mine above, when I was differentiating between a samatha jhana and a vipassana jhana, I was differentiating between the two intentions of those two levels of absorption. The first is intended to explore calm more deeply, while the second is intended to explore insight. During insight absorption, it is possible to be aware of sounds, smells, and tactile touch was the only point I was endeavoring to make. What one does inside that absorption is their business.

Conversely, when I've attempted to go deeper into calming (samatha) meditation, I'm generally aiming at quieting the mind down which means also calming its activity. In these types of states, it is quite possible to become unaware of sound, smells, touch etcetera. So, what I was referring to was an inclination of the mind toward either calming or toward insight practice. From that standpoint, the terms samatha or vipassana might be applied to describe the intention of the absorption. See? Quite simple.

So, no, I don't name the different levels of vipassana as you have suggested. Yet, as I mentioned above, if that works for you, go with it.

Freawaru wrote:
IanAnd wrote:
Freawaru wrote:Presently, I don't practice states of absorption. I limit myself to Insight (the reason why I investigated the Pure Insight Path). My main practice is to investigate the mind during every day activity like Bhate G suggests here: "You can be mindful while solving problems in intensive calculus. You can be mindful in the middle of a football scrimmage. You can even be mindful in the midst of a raging fury."
http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/min ... ish_16.php

That's a good approach. One which, at one point, I took up also. If one can work it out (their living situation, that is) such that they have the time and the condition to watch the mind daily without too many distracting events intervening and thus distracting us from the realization of these insights, the self-knowledge and wisdom that amounts from this can be truly astounding and life changing.

I am not sure I understand what you mean here by "distracting events". For me, mindfulness is perpetual during wake so the option to practice Insight is always there and my mind even enters higher levels of vipassana on it's own during new or unusual experiences. I simply practice vipassana without changing any daily routine or preventing my mind to go into emotional states or states of non-jhanic concentration (such as calculus). So I am a bit confused as to what you mean by "distracting events".

Before I was able to muster much mindfulness, there would be occasions where distracting events might get in the way of my observation of the mind, thus distracting my attention from an insight that I might be on the verge of having. I would end up becoming involved with the distraction to the detriment of achieving the insight. The only way I could think of in order to alleviate this circumstance was to set myself up in a condition where there were no distractions (that is, in seclusion where silence would allow me to watch the movements of the mind more thoroughly so I could discover the defilements and build on mindfulness). As mindfulness became stronger, though, I was more able to endure distractions and still maintain my awareness of the insight I gained into the movements of the mind.

It's just a matter of different strokes for different folks, that's all. My mindfulness eventually got to the point that you described, wherein "the option to practice Insight is always there." It just took me some time to develop that. I hope that clarifies my statement for you.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby IanAnd » Fri Sep 24, 2010 10:59 pm

After reading back through this thread, it becomes obvious (to me at least) that probably more than one person is under a mistaken view of the focus of the original premise for the thread and therefore has jumped the tracks into misunderstanding the governing context. By misunderstanding the general context, these readers have fabricated a mistaken view about the responses I've given to their questions and comments.

Take a few statements out of their intended context, mix in conflation of ideas that were never meant to be associated with each other, begin drawing some conclusions based upon this mixture of mischaracterization and mistakenly perceived implication, and what you end up with is confusion about the original message being communicated, not to mention false assertions. Trying to unravel mess this has only lead to further mischaracterization because the original context was never properly understood so that the mischaracterizations could be cleared up.

(Though it is not stated directly in the piece, the original presentation was written as an observation with the inexperienced practitioner in mind, and especially those who do not have access to a meditation teacher or a traditional sangha in order to obtain clarification about the practice and therefore depend upon books and other media from which to obtain clarification about points of confusion.)

The only way I know how to correct these mistaken views is to return to the original presentation and to get that understood within its proper context. The point at which misperception and mischaracterization began to set in came shortly after the initial presentation was made. So, eliminating and leaving all that drama out, let those who have questions focus instead on the four initial posts.

If anyone can find passages in those posts that reflect in any way the following two asserted misunderstandings, then please bring them to my attention, quoted in toto, so they may be reexamined.

1. that "traditional " beliefs are "additional unnecessary hurdles."
2. that the Dhamma is being redefined to fit one's needs

Contrary to the impression that some have conceived, neither the initial presentation nor what has resulted thereafter in this thread is in any way being presented as a diatribe against any Buddhist tradition. The accusations of such are fallacious, misleading, and mistaken. If one reads the initial four posts and correctly understands what they are reading, they will notice that the only subject being brought up for consideration is the subject of meditation and some specific descriptions thereof.

Because these descriptions often become imbued with the authority of a tradition (having been asserted in such books as the Visuddhimagga for example), they can often be taken to be established truth, therefore influencing the way the practitioner may view the efficacy his practice. Yet when one's own experience to some extent contradicts the veracity of the description being asserted by resources revered by a tradition (as in the specific examples given), it can present a problem to the inexperienced practitioner who has no one to ask about the nature of such contradictory experience. In an effort to address at least this one assertion (and only this one: that absorption is only characterized by the shutting down of all the senses), this presentation was offered as an observation for the reader's further consideration and contemplation.

In order to help with the reexamination of the first four posts, I've extracted several of the more illustrative paragraphs which characterize and address my point. The reader is invited, however, to reread each post in its entirety. These extracts are taken from the first, third, and fourth posts where the main heart of the presentation is made (the second post being personal background material and therefore dispensable in this exercise).

Post One
Whenever anyone takes up the study of a subject, they endeavor to obtain the clearest, most inclusive explanations of that subject that they are able to obtain in order to get an accurate and truthful conception of the material at hand. In the case of general subjects like meditation (and Buddhist meditation in particular) it can be somewhat confusing and frustrating to have to sift through differing accounts describing meditation instruction. Especially when one comes across instruction from different sources that are either dissimilar or that contradict one another. For how is someone who is new to the practice able to weed out the truth from the misperceived with regard to what is being stated?

The only answer to this question is: through one's own direct experience. Yet, even that, at times, can become confusing, as things are liable to change (or at least our perception of them is) as their development matures.
This is no different with meditation than it is with other subjects which are liable to subjective opinion. For the most part, the path (the Noble Eightfold Path) that the Buddha laid out for others to practice in order to arrive at the same realizations as he had is rather straightforward and unambiguous. At least as far as it goes when dealing with the larger issues of right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness. It's when we get to the area of right concentration, the area dealing with meditation, that things can become a bit confusing if we are not given the correct conceptual maps with which to deal or are unable properly to discern the ones we are given.

One of the most difficult subjects to teach in Buddhist meditation is the practice of absorption (also known as jhana).
Not because absorption itself is necessarily difficult to achieve. But because it can be difficult to get a conceptual handle on if one has not been able to connect the experience to something that they have experienced in their past. I contend that virtually everyone has, at one time or another in their life, experienced absorption (at least the first level) whether they were aware of it or not. From this point, as an instructor, it's just a matter finding an experience that the person can relate to in order to communicate to them what absorption "feels like" when they experience it. Once they get the idea, then you have something to work with.

Now, this isn't meant to be an essay about the nuts and bolts of practicing absorption. It is meant to address an issue regarding the perception of instruction and how that perception can be manipulated by the language used in description. The English language can tend to be rather harsh and unforgiving in its written form. Ideas can seem to be set in stone just in the course of composing a description of a phenomenon that is constantly in flux and therefore subject to change, such as the present subject matter of the mind and its relationship to the practice of meditation.

When these descriptions become cauterized by tradition,
they can seem to be almost impossible to break through in order to rediscover the actual truth of the matter. In other words, the mind accepts one description as being unalterable truth, and then shuts down to the possibility of any change or alteration of that description which might occur in actuality. What this presentation will endeavor to accomplish is to explore some aspects of the experience of absorption in order to arrive at a more fair (and hopefully more fact-based) conceptual template of this experience.

This isn't meant to be combative or to offer up for debate any of the ideas express here. It's meant to allow others, who might perhaps have had similar experiences to the ones being described, a place to voice the discernment of their experiences and to confirm, correct, or add to the possibilities being explored here.

Post Three
Traditional descriptions of jhana that one can find in ancient works like the Visuddhimagga or the Vimuttimagga tend to be invested in carrying forth an established line of doctrinal or orthodox practice. Originally designed to preserve the highlights of meditative practice and instruction, they tend to be a little more rigid in their presentation. Whereas more contemporary works like Ajahn Brahmavamso's Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond or Bhante Gunaratana's Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English may take more liberties in their descriptions, they also may become so invested in not offending a traditional outlook of the practice that they seem to end up parroting a lot of what has gone before. (In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't read Bhante G's latest work and so cannot really comment on it per se; although I have read other works by him on this subject, which is what I am relying on as indicative of his outlook on this issue.)

Owing mostly to descriptions like those given by Ajahn Brahm, many practitioners have been lead to think that "true" absorption involves the inability to think, to hear sound, or to be aware of the fleeting nature of the breath itself.
Perhaps this impression is so when one is first learning to dive down into absorption from the standpoint of calming the mind into a profound stillness. I don't deny the validity of the perception of any of these experiences at all. Yet, when one's practice becomes more mature, there seem to be two modes of absorption practice which can be seen to contradict one another in how they are described and experienced. The first relates to the initial effort to calm the mind to stillness during the practice of samatha with all that that stillness implies, and the second relates to the contemplation of phenomena in insight (vipassana) practice, with all the activity of the arising of insight that concentration implies.

In understanding this second mode, it might be illustrative to look at an analogous example of how this can be so. When we consider the example of becoming absorbed in reading a book, it seems quite natural to observe, for instance, that the mind can become absorbed in an activity, totally unified on the subject at hand, while still being active itself. The process of reading is itself an active mental event. And yet the mind, when absorbed in a particularly engrossing read, can become quite oblivious to the outer world such that sound may not be noticed even though it is there on the periphery, to take but one example. If you've ever experienced being absorbed in a book then you know what I'm speaking about.

Throughout these processes, I am able to experience inner verbalization while also being able to focus (on the periphery) on the breath itself as it carries the mind into the absorption. The absorption is able to adapt to wherever I wish to avert the mind, be that the object of the breath or a subject like the five aggregates. This has led me to view this process in quite a different manner than the way I did when I initially began to experiment with the jhanas. I understand now why samadhi is often translated as "concentration."

My insistence on there being two modes of absorption practice receives backing from none other than Sayadaw U Pandita, who has described this very same observation in his own words in his book In This Very Life.

Post Four
What happens when someone reads the discourses about jhana and then compares that with what is described by ancient commentators? Because of the way the language is structured, it can make it seem as though the instruction is either this way or that way, but that it cannot be both. The inflexibility of language itself can get in the way of being able to express the true fluidity of an impermanent experience in flux that is liable to change at any moment. In an effort to define and describe an experience with any accuracy, language and the way it is used can make it seem as though the experience is written in stone, that there are no exceptions.

Yet, when one experiences the continuity of concentration (samadhi) within the context of absorption attainment and makes a slight averting of the mind from an object to a subject, then how is one to describe such an event? Does the absorption break down the moment the mind changes from object to subject? This might depend upon how the event is perceived by the eye of the beholder. If the mind moves from unification on an object to unification on a subject and concentration remains strong, does that signal something that can be called less absorbed? And if so, by what criteria is it being judged?

All I know is that when I meditate anymore, what I'm more likely to pursue than anything else usually involves contemplation on a subject for purposes of obtaining insight. I may start out paying attention to the breath in order to develop jhana, but once I sense concentration having become established and absorbed, my attention switches to a subject for contemplation. My mind still feels unified on the subject of contemplation, and with strong concentration, it becomes easier for insight to arise during this contemplation.

Among the faculties that I notice during these contemplations are a mind that is incredibly clear, unblemished, malleable, workable, and established in mindfulness. It is able to be directed toward any object or subject whatsoever with relative ease. This sets up the condition for insight to arise. While in this state, I can hear sounds (although I may not avert the mind toward them) and not be bothered by them. Thoughts can surface, but be quickly banished if need be. The mind is extremely obedient to whatever direction it is given to execute. This reflects a mind that has let go of "hankering and fretting for the world." Nothing is disturbing this mind from accomplishing its intended tasks, and it is fully in the present moment, ready to be directed this way or that.

Also, it seems fairly obvious from the above quoted passage that insight can indeed be cultivated and developed from within a given level [of] jhana. Is the jhana practitioner able to mentally verbalize such insight? I really don't see why not (although perhaps in many instances, the verbalization may be superfluous, and therefore dispensed with, given the quickness of the mind's ability to pick up on non-verbal realizations as they occur). It is therefore not beyond the realm of reason to contemplate that skilled meditators may be able to accomplish quite a bit more than what seems possible judging by what is written in certain quarters, such as the following excerpt from Ajahn Brahm's book. . .

What I hope readers have come away with from this brief exposition is that the experience of absorption should be approached with an open mind
(i.e. a mind that has not been preconditioned by conceptions that may or may not be an accurate description of the state).
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:28 pm

IanAnd wrote:After reading back through this thread, it becomes obvious (to me at least) that probably more than one person is under a mistaken view of the focus of the original premise for the thread and therefore has jumped the tracks into misunderstanding the governing context. By misunderstanding the general context, these readers have fabricated a mistaken view about the responses I've given to their questions and comments.
What is interesting here, Ian, is you are really not taking any responsibility for this misunderstanding. It could be that your long winded pontificating style is not conducive to clarity. Maybe if you tried for simple, concise clarity in your writing we'd better understand what you are trying to say.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Sep 25, 2010 2:39 am

Tilt,

Can't you conceive that Ian is doing this in order to benefict other people? People at websangha talked about their experiences openly and you weren't hostile. What is different now from then?
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Sep 25, 2010 4:02 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:Tilt,

Can't you conceive that Ian is doing this in order to benefict other people?
Then why blame others for what he perceives as a gross misreading of what he is writing. If there is a gross misreading of what he is writing, then the likely source is in how it is written, if not also in what is said, as well. He has, however, plainly claimed it is unquestioning adherence to traditional beliefs that is blocking the truth from being seen as he sees it. That is an eyebrow raiser.

The problem is that there is simply better written stuff out there than what he is offering us. If he wants to share his experiences, then keep it simple and concise. There is no need for the hifalutin and wordy tone that he has taken, but that is a minor problem. Simply, we have had a surplus here over the past several months of people making self assured claims about themselves and just ever so eager to tell us what is what and why we, in our misguided manner, are not quite getting what they know to be the truth, and Ian is no different in that. I get a wee bit suspicious of someone essentially claiming so much experience and then, in all but directly claimning doing so, setting themselves up, unbidden, as a teacher. Though Ian would deny that is what he is doing, that is very much what he is doing. It deserves some scepticism.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Hoo » Sat Sep 25, 2010 1:21 pm

Edit - I found the Sutta reference I wanted, on effacement. Part way down the page is the Effacement section. There are 44 instructions from the Buddha. I try to remember when reading it, the instructions are for me - not the other persons. Someday maybe I'll get good at it :)

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.008.nypo.html

With Metta,

Hoo
Last edited by Hoo on Sat Sep 25, 2010 2:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Sep 25, 2010 1:26 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Then why blame others for what he perceives as a gross misreading of what he is writing. If there is a gross misreading of what he is writing, then the likely source is in how it is written, if not also in what is said, as well. He has, however, plainly claimed it is unquestioning adherence to traditional beliefs that is blocking the truth from being seen as he sees it. That is an eyebrow raiser.

The problem is that there is simply better written stuff out there than what he is offering us. If he wants to share his experiences, then keep it simple and concise. There is no need for the hifalutin and wordy tone that he has taken, but that is a minor problem. Simply, we have had a surplus here over the past several months of people making self assured claims about themselves and just ever so eager to tell us what is what and why we, in our misguided manner, are not quite getting what they know to be the truth, and Ian is no different in that. I get a wee bit suspicious of someone essentially claiming so much experience and then, in all but directly claimning doing so, setting themselves up, unbidden, as a teacher. Though Ian would deny that is what he is doing, that is very much what he is doing. It deserves some scepticism.


He's talking about jhana here. It's not new that there are different interpretations of what jhana is and he stated what his interpretation/experience was.

I think you expect too much from people, specialy from people with experience on the path. If he has experience on the path I see nothing wrong in putting himself in the position of teacher as long as it's not done with arrogance and I've not seen arrogance yet. One of the advantages of not being a monk is that one can share his experiences without restraint and I from my part am glad he shared.

Furthermore you're reading way too much into his words. Acusations of hifalutiness (if that is a word) and long winded pontification seem to me not only untrue but also ad hominem atacks.

Please don't lock this thread as meta discussion. Respond to this message and we can carry on with the topic.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Hoo » Sat Sep 25, 2010 9:39 pm

How about we cut Tilt some slack? Maybe it's a bad day. Maybe he got hooked on a subject - happens to me all the time, so maybe it happens to him. I'm glad he has been able to contain it as much as he has. I remember some discussions over a year ago where everyone was slashing each other. This discussion has not gone there.

Discussion about the style of discussion isn't meta-discussion until it goes bad. The style can certainly distract from points under consideration. But sometimes that is the issue of the moment, that the style has left the track, so to speak, and advancement of discussin of the points is getting difficult. If it is to advance discussion of the points, it is issue. If it is to distract from the points, it can be meta-discussion, ill-will, false argument, etc.

At that point it up to the players to surface the style issues and their impact. Looks like that has happened. Hopefully they can get it back on track.

I'd like to see what more is said on Ian's thread. Discussion style issues have been aired, players may or may not modify their style, etc. The issues appear to be legitimate ones, not falsehoods designed to derail the discussions.

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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Sep 26, 2010 6:57 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Then why blame others for what he perceives as a gross misreading of what he is writing. If there is a gross misreading of what he is writing, then the likely source is in how it is written, if not also in what is said, as well. He has, however, plainly claimed it is unquestioning adherence to traditional beliefs that is blocking the truth from being seen as he sees it. That is an eyebrow raiser.
Ian's own highlighted statements: ". . . the area dealing with meditation, that things can become a bit confusing if we are not given the correct conceptual maps with which to deal or are unable properly to discern the ones we are given. One of the most difficult subjects to teach in Buddhist meditation is the practice of absorption (also known as jhana). . . . When these descriptions become cauterized by tradition, they can seem to be almost impossible to break through in order to rediscover the actual truth of the matter. . . . Whereas more contemporary works like Ajahn Brahmavamso's Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond or Bhante Gunaratana's Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English may take more liberties in their descriptions, they also may become so invested in not offending a traditional outlook of the practice that they seem to end up parroting a lot of what has gone before. . . . Owing mostly to descriptions like those given by Ajahn Brahm, many practitioners have been lead to think that "true" absorption involves the inability to think, to hear sound, or to be aware of the fleeting nature of the breath itself.

He's talking about jhana here. It's not new that there are different interpretations of what jhana is and he stated what his interpretation/experience was.
The differing understandings of jhana has been discussed in detail more than once: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4597 The problem, however, is, in his stating his interpretation, is that he is really slamming those who take a more traditional point of view, for which there is no real justification, as if he knows better than they, for which I see absolutely no justification.

I think you expect too much from people, specialy from people with experience on the path.
The bigger the claim, the bigger the expectation.

If he has experience on the path I see nothing wrong in putting himself in the position of teacher as long as it's not done with arrogance and I've not seen arrogance yet.
Assuming onto oneself the role of a teacher solely on the basis of one's presumed experience raises serious questions.

One of the advantages of not being a monk is that one can share his experiences without restraint and I from my part am glad he shared.
Sharing one's experiences is not a problem, but it is just that, one's experience. The criticism of others that Ian is providing, supposedly based upon his experience without any real argument for his criticism of those who differ from his point of view, is also a problem. Basically, it is his experience vs their experience with no real argument why we should take his point of view over any other. The thing with jhana is that experiences are going to vary based upon the approach. In most cases, it would seem, it is not this vs that, though there are those experiences and descriptions that have been called jhana that fall way outside the range of experiences that can be found in the various mainstream Buddhist teachings.

Furthermore you're reading way too much into his words.
Trying not to.
Acusations of hifalutiness (if that is a word) and long winded pontification seem to me not only untrue but also ad hominem atacks.
The "accusations" are a critique of an over-written writing style, which gives us a, maybe, unintentional pontifical attitude. An ad hominem attack would be along the line that what he says cannot be true because he eats guinea pigs. Also, "hifalutin" is a time-honored American adjective.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Ben » Sun Sep 26, 2010 8:07 am

Hi Ian,
IanAnd wrote:After reading back through this thread, it becomes obvious (to me at least) that probably more than one person is under a mistaken view of the focus of the original premise for the thread and therefore has jumped the tracks into misunderstanding the governing context. By misunderstanding the general context, these readers have fabricated a mistaken view about the responses I've given to their questions and comments.

I was very interested in what you had to say and disappointed that my observations you seem to have taken on as a criticism and some of the questions put to you by Tilt remained unanswered. The fact is, anyone who is claiming an ariya attainment or have attained to this or that jhana is going to attract a lot of attention, and some of that attention may not be to one's liking. I also think it is a sign of a very healthy Buddhist discussion board that members will challenge claimants of ariya and jhana attainment. A claimant has everything to gain and nothing to loose. Practitioners here have every right to challenge the ideas of a claimant and weigh that against the wisdom recorded in the Tipitaka, the commentarial tradition and what they have learned through reading works of scholarly authors, their teachers and lastly, against their own experience and good sense.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby IanAnd » Sun Sep 26, 2010 5:05 pm

Hi Ben,
Ben wrote:I was very interested in what you had to say and disappointed that my observations you seem to have taken on as a criticism. . .

Before I address the heart of your comments, could you please clarify what you meant regarding "observations" of yours which "seem to have [been] taken on as a criticism" by my responses? I have no idea what you are referring to, and I would prefer not to speculate. I'm sure you can understand that.

Thank you.
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