Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Ben » Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:23 am

Hi Ian

IanAnd wrote:
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.


Sure.

I seem to have misread your response to me, I don't see any evidence that you took my comments as criticisms. My apologies for any discomfort caused. I am not above making spectacular mistakes.
However, I still stand by the bulk of my last post directed to you regarding the challenging of those who make claims of ariya status or jhana attainment, and those who suggest that perhaps part of the tradition can be dispensed with. Just as I am also very suspicious of those who believe that the ultimate arbiter is (one's perception of) one's meditative experiences. Discussion mainly here but also at DhO and Wandering Dharma have helped me to crystalize my thinking around this important subject. As I said earlier, I believe it is the sign of a very healthy discussion board community that members challenge those making claims. And people like myself and Tilt are not 'intoxicated on the medicine' nor clinging to tradition out of blind devotion as some people have attempted to say or allude to. The Theravada is a living 2,500+ year tradition, a tradition which has product-tested the teachings through the scholastic endeavours and the virtue and meditative training of thousands, if not millions of people. If there really was something a-miss, or if there was something that could be dispensed with - there would be plenty of evidence in the commentarial tradition.
My own observation has been that those people who I believe are advanced on the path cleave more and more precisely to both the discipline and the Dhamma. As they advance further along the path, the digression between their own pov and that of the Buddhadhamma seems, to me, to become increasingly infintessimal. Furthermore, they exhibit qualities which appear all but absent from the latter day claimants (I am not talking about you here).
I am sorry if you feel like its a bit of an inquisition. But I don't think the interest and the challenging of your claims is one that you wouldn't have expected, surely?
kind regards

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

Postby IanAnd » Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:55 am

Hi Ben,
Ben wrote:I seem to have misread your response to me, I don't see any evidence that you took my comments as criticisms. My apologies. . .

Well, now perhaps you can understand when I talk about others having misread or misrepresented what I wrote and intended to communicate. By the way, no apology necessary, just a simple acknowledgment is fine. I've been guilty of the very same thing myself (misreading people's responses) and kicked myself for having done so. So, forget-about-it. We're all susceptible to that.

Ben wrote:My own observation has been that those people who I believe are advanced on the path cleave more and more precisely to both the discipline and the Dhamma.

I find that description to be indicative of my own point of view also, and is why I am adamant on other forums (the DhO, for example) that people read the Pali suttas so that they can learn first hand what the Buddha taught (i.e. from the most reliable texts that we have available to us) and follow with diligence the noble eightfold path as it is outlined with regard to the development and cultivation of sila, samadhi, and panna. Now, if that sounds to you like someone who is slamming and redefining the Dhamma, then I guess I'm guilty of that.

This is why I view the assertions being made in this thread — accusing me of "redefining the Dhamma" and that I am "slamming those who take a more traditional point of view"— to be so ludicrous. This is a total misrepresentation and misreading of what I wrote. And I do not agree that any of those ideas represent anything that I hold to, and therefore reject them. Because of that, they are not worth addressing.

What I will do, though, is address the points in relation to what I wrote, hoping to clarify them for anyone who has misunderstood my words. The subject I wrote about has been written about before on both the e-sangha and websangha forums. I took a different approach to the material is all.

Four years ago, our friend Nana ("emptyuniverse" at the time) posted a piece (first on e-sangha, then on websangha) entitled "What is jhana?" In the opening two paragraphs, he outlined the background behind his posting. One of those paragraphs I will quote in whole below. It defines my viewpoint on this subject and forms the basis for what I wrote. I agreed with it then, and I agree with it today. If you want to say that I'm a heretic for that, then I suppose I stand guilty as accused.

Nana wrote:The Theravada Abhidhammika commentarial tradition maintains that the meditator in the first jhana cannot see visual forms, hear sounds, nor feel tactile sensations within the body -- one of the defining characteristics of jhana for them being the complete cessation of sensory awareness. Such cessation, they say, is a prerequisite for jhanic attainment. Apparently this is stated (in regard to hearing sounds) in the Kathavatthu (“Points of Controversy” attributed to Moggaliputta -- the head of the Third Council). Now I am aware that eminent meditation masters like Ajahn Brahms define jhana in this way also (at least this appeared to be his position in the text of his that I read a number of years ago), and of course, as this definition is the accepted one of mainstream Theravada, he is not “wrong” in doing so. Nevertheless, I just don’t see any tangible and definitive evidence in the Suttanta to support this definition (more on this later), and the Buddha is clear in the “four great references” explained in the Maha-parinibbana Sutta, that on issues regarding the clarification or authenticity of Dhamma, the suttas of the Sutta Pitaka (i.e. Dhamma) and Vinaya Pitaka are the sole authority (and not the Abhidhamika commentators nor even the beloved Ajahn Brahms). And seeing as the Suttanta doesn’t definitively define jhana in the commentarial manner, it is possible that there may be a “middle way” resolution to this debate: Jhana is necessary for release, but jhana does not necessitate the complete cessation of all sensory awareness (I believe that this is the basic position of Ajahn Thanissaro also).


What is interesting to me are the passages that tilt pulled from my piece in order to make his point. It is what he left out of those passages that concerns me. I qualified the statement reading, "Owing mostly to descriptions like those given by Ajahn Brahm..." with the rest of the paragraph following it (highlighted in blue below, but which were left out of the passages that tilt pulled to make his point) to show that I acknowledged that view (a traditional view) as having some validity in certain circumstances.

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. 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.


That view is, as Nana points out, "a mainstream Theravada view." Nothing wrong with that. It just doesn't happen to always be true in all cases. And there are more people than just myself who have reported this. So it's not just me deciding that my perception of experience alone is the "ultimate arbiter" of truth. In addition, I endeavored to further show this by quoting from the Anupada Sutta (MN 111).

Did I go into the detail that Nana did to show these things? No, I did not. What I was interested in pointing out were the reasons for this disparity of views. That being that, yes, sometimes when one is aiming at achieving the very subtle calming absorptions, that sound, tactile sensations and the like can seem to disappear. But not that this was a requirement for defining all jhanic experience. The Anupada Sutta gives sufficient suttanta evidence for that, for those interested in a traditional view as expressed in the discourses, of which I am an adherent. One would think from that, by quoting from the suttas, that the tradition and traditional views in toto were not being disparaged, only certain parts (and I emphasize the word "parts") of the commentarial tradition. If you don't like that (i.e. that I disparage this part of the commentaries), well, then, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on that. But to extend this assertion any further than that is completely unreasonable and fallacious.

Need I continue? Or is that sufficient.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:20 am

IanAnd wrote:This is why I view the assertions being made in this thread — accusing me of "redefining the Dhamma" and that I am "slamming those who take a more traditional point of view"— to be so ludicrous. This is a total misrepresentation and misreading of what I wrote. And I do not agree that any of those ideas represent anything that I hold to, and therefore reject them. Because of that, they are not worth addressing.
The problem is, obviously, that your arguments/criticisms come across as being as sharply defined as the points on a bowling ball. As for your not addressing the misunderstandings of your points, which you spin as "misrepresentations" as if it were a deliberate mis-presenting of what you were saying (it was not), you were asked for clarification, and this is what we get: rather than take any responsibility for what very well be, in good part, your fault in poorly expressing your points, you became churlish and accusitory instead of working to clarify your points.

Ian earlier 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.
You were asked to expand on this rather interesting statement, but you did not. Again, you lay blame on others for what very well could your fault for poorly expressing your point of view.

I qualified the statement reading, "Owing mostly to descriptions like those given by Ajahn Brahm..." with the rest of the paragraph following it (highlighted in blue below, but which were left out of the passages that tilt pulled to make his point) to show that I acknowledged that view (a traditional view) as having some validity in certain circumstances.
But that really does not change the point of my criticism of your criticism. Far too much of your criticism needed clarification, which was what was asked for but not given.

Did I go into the detail that Nana did to show these things? No, I did not.
You broached the criticism, and it not unreasonable for you to be asked to back up your criticism in detail. This whole thing you have written could have been done without criticizing the traditional point of view at all (or without assuming a lecturing stance, which itself presents a problem), likely avoiding much, if not all, of the negative response.

Maybe your starting over from scratch might not be a bad idea.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby legolas » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:42 am

If a traditional point of view is at variance with the suttas should it not be questioned?
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:06 am

legolas wrote:If a traditional point of view is at variance with the suttas should it not be questioned?
Sure, but Ian is stating that it is so and not giving us any real argument for his statements. This issue has been litigated on this forum and others, as this thread shows http://www.forum.websangha.org/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=217 If he is going to bring up again, then he should be prepared to talk about it. And then there is this statement by Ian which is a so problematic on any number of levels: "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." Ian was asked to explain and has refused.

If one wants discuss the differences between the suttas and the commentaries, then that is what one should focus on, but if one wants to talk about jhana and wants to talk about what work for him or her, then do that is what the person should do, keeping it focused, because the other stuff gets in the way and is not necessarily necessary. Also, while one may be convinced that oneself is ariya and that oneself has a certain mastery of jhana, that claim carries no objective weight, for the obvious reasons. If the reader wants to, for whatever reason, believe that of the writer, that is the reader's choice, but the writer's claim is just, the writer's claim. A little humility and perspective based upon it goes a long long way.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:25 am

In rereading the WebSangha thread referenced by Ian http://www.forum.websangha.org/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=217 i found it is worth reading all the way through in reference to this thread. The former Ven Santi, now known as Kester, makes an interesing statement on page four of the thread:

The interpretation that I presented there is basically* the usual, traditional interpretation - that alone doesn't automatically mean that it's right - but it's worth letting the noobies know what the usual interpretation is to compare with the unusual, modern interpretation that you and your teachers believe in.

As for LP Chah's statements about jhana, I agree that it's easier to simply leave out the labels and get people to actually meditate so that they experience samadhi - but the problem comes when people do not actually experience very deep samadhi and rather than really not put any label on that they actually decide to label it 'jhana' when it's not really. That degrades the meaning of 'jhana'.

I also remember Aj. Dton (a disciple of LP Tui in the LT Maha Boowa lineage) asking someone 'hoo dup my?' "Did your hearing cease?" in order to find out whether an experience was 'almost samadhi' or full samadhi (the answer was 'no' BTW). Hearing is always the last sense to go so when hearing has ceased it's obvious that the experience of the body must have already ceased.

Also remember the story in the Parinibbana Sutta about when the Buddha was meditating in a barn and didn't even notice when there was a massive thunderstorm with thunder and lightening which killed some cows. Regardless of whether the story is historical or not, it obviously means that he couldn't hear because he was in jhana. Also compare the Sutta about the 'thorn' to each level of jhana - 'sound' is the thorn to first jhana, because someone can be disturbed from 1st jhana by a loud sound, meaning that they come out of jhana as a result, but the thorn to second jhana is 'initial and sustained application' not sound, because sound is already far too far away by that point to be able to disturb the meditator.

As for finding it discouraging to not be 'one who attains jhana', and therefore re-defining jhana in order to 'be' a 'jhanalabhi', I find I would prefer to honestly and humbly admit 'no I have never attained jhana' than to drag down the ideal to my level in order to 'be' a 'jhanalabhi' according to my own redefinition. It's a bit like the five points of Mahadeva that aim to bring down the definition of what being an 'Arahant' means so that anyone can be an 'Arahant', they can redefine Arahantship and then claim to be Arahants but it doesn't they won't suffer or be reborn.

*'basically': As you mentioned, the Visuddhimagga says that metta can only lead to 3rd jhana because it is associated with sukha (pleasure/ bliss), whereas this Sutta and another one clearly says that metta can 'lead' beyond that, to the formless jhanas as far as I remember. This is why I said that according to what I have learnt the object of preparatory meditation is essentially irrelevant to the object of jhana; in this way metta can 'lead' beyond sukha because it does not necessarily remain the object all the way through the process.

Having made the usual interpretation clear for the sake of noobies I'm not going to get involved in any more arguments about redefining jhana.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Nyana » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:13 pm

tiltbillings wrote:The interpretation that I presented there is basically* the usual, traditional interpretation - that alone doesn't automatically mean that it's right - but it's worth letting the noobies know what the usual interpretation is to compare with the unusual, modern interpretation that you and your teachers believe in.

Hi Tilt, Ian, & all,

This rhetoric about an "unusual, modern interpretation" of jhāna really should be put to bed.

tiltbillings wrote:Hearing is always the last sense to go so when hearing has ceased it's obvious that the experience of the body must have already ceased.

Not according to Peṭakopadesa 7.72:

    The twofold bodily and mental pain does not arise in one steadied in directed thought and evaluation, and the twofold bodily and mental pleasure does arise. The mental pleasure thus produced from directed thought is joy, while the bodily pleasure is bodily feeling.

Also the Vimuttimagga (commenting on the bathman simile for the first jhāna, e.g. DN 2, MN 119, etc.):

    Just as the bath powder is moistened thoroughly and just as it, through adhering, does not scatter, so the yogin in the first jhāna is filled with joy from head to foot and from foot to skull, skin, and hair, and dwells without falling....

    [Q.] Joy and pleasure are called formless phenomena. How then can they fill the body?

    [A.] Name (nāma) depends on form (rūpa). Form depends on name. Therefore, if name is filled with joy, form is also filled with joy. If name is filled with pleasure, form is also filled with pleasure.

And regarding hearing in jhāna, the Vimuttimagga says:

    This is according to the teaching of the Buddha which says that owing to the non-removal of these (apperceptions of resistance) in that (concentration) sound is a thorn to one entering the first jhāna, Thus disliking form, he goes further. He eliminates them here (by attaining the sphere of infinite space). Therefore, he attains to the imperturbability of the formless attainment and the peacefulness of liberation. Aḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta when they entered the formless attainment, did not see nor hear those five hundred carts passing and repassing.

And later in the same text:

    When the yogin enters into concentration, he hears sounds, but he does not speak because the faculty of hearing and that of speech are not united. To a man who enters form concentration, sound is disturbing. Hence the Buddha taught: “To a man who enters jhāna, sound is a thorn.”

tiltbillings wrote:I find I would prefer to honestly and humbly admit 'no I have never attained jhana' than to drag down the ideal to my level in order to 'be' a 'jhanalabhi' according to my own redefinition.

For anyone who prefers Ajahn Brahm's "jhāna," here's one of his ideal examples of the first or second jhāna:

A lay disciple once told me how he had "fluked" a deep Jhana while meditating at home. His wife thought he had died and sent for an ambulance. He was rushed to hospital in a wail of loud sirens. In the emergency room, there was no heartbeat registered on the E.C.G., nor brain activity to be seen by the E.E.G. So the doctor on put defibrillators on his chest to reactivate his heart. Even though he was being bounced up and down on the hospital bed through the force of the electric shocks, he didn't feel a thing! When he emerged from the Jhana in the emergency room, perfectly all right, he had no knowledge of how he had got there, nor of ambulances and sirens, nor of body-jerking defibrillators. All that long time that he was in Jhana, he was fully aware, but only of bliss. This is an example of what is meant by the five senses shutting down within the experience of Jhana.

Within a Jhana, one cannot decide what to do next. One cannot even decide when to come out.... Thus in Jhana, not only is there no sense of time, but also there is no comprehension of what is going on! At the time, one will not even know what Jhana one is in.

However, this description of blissed-out "ambulance jhāna" doesn't find any support in the discourses. According to the discourses there is full mindfulness and clear comprehension in all four jhānas.

All the best,

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

Postby IanAnd » Mon Sep 27, 2010 3:52 pm

And then there is this statement by Ian which is a so problematic on any number of levels: "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." Ian was asked to explain and has refused.

I acknowledge that this can be a confusing statement, especially when it is conflated with the main presentation and therefore taken out of the context in which it originally appeared. I have my reasons for not responding to it. Yet, now that my views have been aired and made plain, the atmosphere is cleaner and not as muddied by innuendo and speculation.

This statement was meant to be understood within the context of the comments it was addressing at the time and not within the context of the main presentation. Since I was not certain how to adequately communicate what I meant, it seemed better to leave it unresponded to. Any attempt I might make to explain it would only add to the confusion already stirring at the time, and I was not about to add to that.

This is one example of what I was referring to when I mentioned statements of mine that were being taken out of context and mistakenly conflated with other ideas.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby legolas » Mon Sep 27, 2010 4:25 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The interpretation that I presented there is basically* the usual, traditional interpretation - that alone doesn't automatically mean that it's right - but it's worth letting the noobies know what the usual interpretation is to compare with the unusual, modern interpretation that you and your teachers believe in.

Hi Tilt, Ian, & all,

This rhetoric about an "unusual, modern interpretation" of jhāna really should be put to bed.

tiltbillings wrote:Hearing is always the last sense to go so when hearing has ceased it's obvious that the experience of the body must have already ceased.

Not according to Peṭakopadesa 7.72:

    The twofold bodily and mental pain does not arise in one steadied in directed thought and evaluation, and the twofold bodily and mental pleasure does arise. The mental pleasure thus produced from directed thought is joy, while the bodily pleasure is bodily feeling.

Also the Vimuttimagga (commenting on the bathman simile for the first jhāna, e.g. DN 2, MN 119, etc.):

    Just as the bath powder is moistened thoroughly and just as it, through adhering, does not scatter, so the yogin in the first jhāna is filled with joy from head to foot and from foot to skull, skin, and hair, and dwells without falling....

    [Q.] Joy and pleasure are called formless phenomena. How then can they fill the body?

    [A.] Name (nāma) depends on form (rūpa). Form depends on name. Therefore, if name is filled with joy, form is also filled with joy. If name is filled with pleasure, form is also filled with pleasure.

And regarding hearing in jhāna, the Vimuttimagga says:

    This is according to the teaching of the Buddha which says that owing to the non-removal of these (apperceptions of resistance) in that (concentration) sound is a thorn to one entering the first jhāna, Thus disliking form, he goes further. He eliminates them here (by attaining the sphere of infinite space). Therefore, he attains to the imperturbability of the formless attainment and the peacefulness of liberation. Aḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta when they entered the formless attainment, did not see nor hear those five hundred carts passing and repassing.

And later in the same text:

    When the yogin enters into concentration, he hears sounds, but he does not speak because the faculty of hearing and that of speech are not united. To a man who enters form concentration, sound is disturbing. Hence the Buddha taught: “To a man who enters jhāna, sound is a thorn.”

tiltbillings wrote:I find I would prefer to honestly and humbly admit 'no I have never attained jhana' than to drag down the ideal to my level in order to 'be' a 'jhanalabhi' according to my own redefinition.

For anyone who prefers Ajahn Brahm's "jhāna," here's one of his ideal examples of the first or second jhāna:

A lay disciple once told me how he had "fluked" a deep Jhana while meditating at home. His wife thought he had died and sent for an ambulance. He was rushed to hospital in a wail of loud sirens. In the emergency room, there was no heartbeat registered on the E.C.G., nor brain activity to be seen by the E.E.G. So the doctor on put defibrillators on his chest to reactivate his heart. Even though he was being bounced up and down on the hospital bed through the force of the electric shocks, he didn't feel a thing! When he emerged from the Jhana in the emergency room, perfectly all right, he had no knowledge of how he had got there, nor of ambulances and sirens, nor of body-jerking defibrillators. All that long time that he was in Jhana, he was fully aware, but only of bliss. This is an example of what is meant by the five senses shutting down within the experience of Jhana.

Within a Jhana, one cannot decide what to do next. One cannot even decide when to come out.... Thus in Jhana, not only is there no sense of time, but also there is no comprehension of what is going on! At the time, one will not even know what Jhana one is in.

However, this description of blissed-out "ambulance jhāna" doesn't find any support in the discourses. According to the discourses there is full mindfulness and clear comprehension in all four jhānas.

All the best,

Geoff


A really :goodpost:

Clear and lucid, with even commentarial support for the "new wave". I have personally experienced both types of jhana. One leaves you feeling that you've been possessed, the other leaves you feeling that the world is a wonderful place. How could it be anything else when one is able to be in contact with the Dhamma.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Shonin » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:03 pm

I'm currently reading Johannes Bronkhorst 'Buddhist Teaching in India' (a fascinating read that I recommend). He makes a good case for practices that apparently cultivate the suppression of the senses being a later Jain influenced addition.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Reductor » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:07 pm

Shonin wrote:I'm currently reading Johannes Bronkhorst 'Buddhist Teaching in India' (a fascinating read that I recommend). He makes a good case for practices that apparently cultivate the suppression of the senses being a later Jain influenced addition.


What page or section pertains to this? I have the book, but haven't yet read it.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:34 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:The interpretation that I presented there is basically* the usual, traditional interpretation - that alone doesn't automatically mean that it's right - but it's worth letting the noobies know what the usual interpretation is to compare with the unusual, modern interpretation that you and your teachers believe in.
Geoff, this is a quote from Kester/Ven Santi

tiltbillings wrote:Hearing is always the last sense to go so when hearing has ceased it's obvious that the experience of the body must have already ceased.
From Kester

tiltbillings wrote:I find I would prefer to honestly and humbly admit 'no I have never attained jhana' than to drag down the ideal to my level in order to 'be' a 'jhanalabhi' according to my own redefinition.
From Kester.

tiltbillings wrote:I find I would prefer to honestly and humbly admit 'no I have never attained jhana' than to drag down the ideal to my level in order to 'be' a 'jhanalabhi' according to my own redefinition.
And tiltbillings did not write, either.

And, Geoff, the whole response, by you, misses the point of what Kester was saying in msg.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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People live in one another’s shelter.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Shonin » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:40 pm

thereductor wrote:
Shonin wrote:I'm currently reading Johannes Bronkhorst 'Buddhist Teaching in India' (a fascinating read that I recommend). He makes a good case for practices that apparently cultivate the suppression of the senses being a later Jain influenced addition.


What page or section pertains to this? I have the book, but haven't yet read it.


Chapter 1.4 Asceticism and Meditation
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:47 pm

IanAnd wrote:
And then there is this statement by Ian which is a so problematic on any number of levels: "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." Ian was asked to explain and has refused.

I acknowledge that this can be a confusing statement, especially when it is conflated with the main presentation and therefore taken out of the context in which it originally appeared. I have my reasons for not responding to it. Yet, now that my views have been aired and made plain, the atmosphere is cleaner and not as muddied by innuendo and speculation.
Geez, Ian, still blaming others for what could be your less than clear writing. It is amazing the words you are using here: the atmosphere is cleaner and not as muddied by innuendo and speculation.

This statement was meant to be understood within the context of the comments it was addressing at the time and not within the context of the main presentation.
Did it ever occur to you that really longwinded expositions like what you have been giving us are not really the best way to try communicate in thread where there is incursion of other ideas and such -- that is, where there is not a flow of ideas as you would see on a printed page? You need to own some of this, Ian, and stop laying blame on others.
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: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Reductor » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:48 pm

Shonin wrote:
thereductor wrote:What page or section pertains to this? I have the book, but haven't yet read it.


Chapter 1.4 Asceticism and Meditation


Ah, thanks.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:03 pm

legolas wrote:A really :goodpost:
If only he had not misattributed the quotes.

Clear and lucid, with even commentarial support for the "new wave". I have personally experienced both types of jhana. One leaves you feeling that you've been possessed, the other leaves you feeling that the world is a wonderful place. How could it be anything else when one is able to be in contact with the Dhamma.
And this is an interesting and important point, which is going to continue to be litigated for quite sometime. The Kester quote makes a point that there is the traditional understanding jhana, and it is something that cam be experienced. And he is advising, correctly, that we need to be careful with our reinterpretation of jhana. The sort of thing Geoff is doing is good, because it ties it to the tradition rather than just saying "My experience is other than the tradition." It is part of an ongoing give and take, but kester is suggesting that when we talk to "noobies" we need to be very clear in what is being said, drawing the distinctions. Also, part of the question about the "new wave" of interest in jhana, is there a dumbing down of jhana?
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: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Nyana » Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:40 pm

tiltbillings wrote:And, Geoff, the whole response, by you, misses the point of what Kester was saying in msg.

Hi Tilt,

If his point was this:

Kester wrote:it's worth letting the noobies know what the usual interpretation is to compare with the unusual, modern interpretation that you and your teachers believe in.

Then it seems to me that my post addresses this point. There are ancient Thera texts much older than the Visuddhimagga that offer commentary on jhāna which is far more in keeping with the suttas than the classical model presented in the Vsm. Kester's notion of a "usual interpretation" is limited due to source bias. Therefore, his rhetoric about an "unusual, modern interpretation" of jhāna is both inaccurate and tired -- it really should be put to bed. There was and still is a whole vibrant world of Pāḷi dhamma beyond the supposed confines of the Mahāvihāra.

All the best,

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Sep 27, 2010 10:09 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:And, Geoff, the whole response, by you, misses the point of what Kester was saying in msg.

Hi Tilt,
Thank you for acknowledging your mistake.

If his point was this:

Kester wrote:it's worth letting the noobies know what the usual interpretation is to compare with the unusual, modern interpretation that you and your teachers believe in.

Then it seems to me that my post addresses this point. There are ancient Thera texts much older than the Visuddhimagga that offer commentary on jhāna which is far more in keeping with the suttas than the classical model presented in the Vsm. Kester's notion of a "usual interpretation" is limited due to source bias. Therefore, his rhetoric about an "unusual, modern interpretation" of jhāna is both inaccurate and tired -- it really should be put to bed. There was and still is a whole vibrant world of Pāḷi dhamma beyond the supposed confines of the Mahāvihāra.
Seems to, and maybe does, but Kester is correct and you are quite wrong. The "usual interpretation" of the Theravada is the Visuddhimagga. The earlier texts, little known (if at all) and certainly so compared to the VM, become an important part of the ongoing dialogue. The rhetorical language you are employing probably doesn't help.
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: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Sobeh » Mon Sep 27, 2010 10:29 pm

The possible experiences which can be undergone through a meditation practice are highly varied with many contrasting features. Meditation was developed in the Vedic period, which is prehistory, and I'm certain there are all sorts of things which arise, persist, and decline in that human history. Calling this or that state "jhana" is of course the problem; no one disagrees that jhana can be experienced, but of course the description defines a subtle variety among the multiple possible outcomes of meditation.

The Buddha wanted us to know that his commonest meditative abode was anapanasati, I suspect on account of there being numerous meditative techniques on hand. Further, anapanasati is wholly adequate to the attainment of jhana; other meditative techniques are a potentially distracting à la carte menu. (The exceptions seem to be the Brahmaviharas and kayagatasati - but the Brahmaviharas are the 'Way to heaven', not therefore necessarily capable of fulfilling all four aspects of sammasamadhi, and after the dozens of suiciding monks on the occasion of a discourse on the foulness of the body, anapanasati appears to predominate.)

Therefore, as a preliminary step I'm inclined to discard all meditative experiences which arise outside of anapanasati; such experiences are too loaded with the risk of not being Right Concentration for them to be pursued.

As for an appropriate definition of the jhanas (and therefore of sammasamadhi), I refer to the Maggavibhanga Sutta (SN 45.8):

And what, monks, is right concentration? (i) There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. (ii) With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluationinternal assurance. (iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This, monks, is called right concentration.


Four jhana states, and their description. At this point it seems some in-depth Pali studies are in order:

From Tipitaka (Roman)\suttapitaka\samyutta nikaya\mahavaggapali\8. Vibhaṅgasuttaṃ:

Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhi? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Vitakkavicārānaṃ vūpasamā ajjhattaṃ sampasādanaṃ cetaso ekodibhāvaṃ avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhijaṃ pītisukhaṃ dutiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca viharati sato ca sampajāno, sukhañca kāyena paṭisaṃvedeti, yaṃ taṃ ariyā ācikkhanti – ‘upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī’ti tatiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Sukhassa ca pahānā dukkhassa ca pahānā pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati – ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhī’’ti. Aṭṭhamaṃ.


Which words here are the ones of note in the English? In my opinion, this is the only solid place to begin.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Nyana » Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:29 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Seems to, and maybe does, but Kester is correct and you are quite wrong. The "usual interpretation" of the Theravada is the Visuddhimagga.

Prior to the 19th century colonial interest in Pāḷi Buddhism the Visuddimagga was little more than a historic artifact relegated to library shelves -- rarely, if ever used. What was used -- and was a living tradition in SE Asia right up until the Cambodian genocide -- was the practices of the Pāḷi Yogāvacara tradition, which has its own corpus of meditation manuals.

tiltbillings wrote:The earlier texts, little known (if at all) and certainly so compared to the VM, become an important part of the ongoing dialogue. The rhetorical language you are employing probably doesn't help.

Historically the Visuddhimagga occupies a rather marginal place in the history of Indian Buddhism. The Vimuttimagga on the other hand, was twice translated in part into Tibetan and fully translated into Chinese.

All the best,

Geoff
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