Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:25 am

tiltbillings wrote:Looks that way.

My opinions on the Vism. are quite irrelevant to the topic at hand. But for the record, one of my first introductions to Theravāda was the Vism. IMO every serious practitioner should read it.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:09 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Looks that way.

My opinions on the Vism. are quite irrelevant to the topic at hand.
The VM was mentioned passing in the quote by Kester. You are the one that ran with it.
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 Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:40 am

tiltbillings wrote:The VM was mentioned passing in the quote by Kester. You are the one that ran with it.

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

Postby Freawaru » Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:42 am

Hi IanAnd,

thank you for the clarification :smile:
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Modus.Ponens » Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:57 pm

Why has this thread gone off topic?
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Nyana » Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:30 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote: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.
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.

I can see nothing in Ian's posts which would disagree with the presentation of jhāna in the Vimuttimagga. The Vimuttimagga is older than the Visuddhimagga. By all accounts the Vimuttimagga was well known both in Sri Lanka and India. The interpretation of jhāna presented in the Vimuttimagga is neither "unusual" nor "modern." Therefore yours and Kester's rhetoric about an "unusual, modern interpretation" of jhāna is historically inaccurate and quite tired -- it really should be put to bed.

All the best,

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

Postby manas » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:45 am

I just want to jump in here for a moment...what do (some) people mean when they claim that one can become 'addicted' to jhana? As I understand it, Jhanas are ever-increasing levels of letting go, of renunciation. Just to attain the first, one had to let go of ill-will, sensual desire, agitation / remorse, sloth / torpor, and sceptical doubt. In my limited experience (I have only had momentary states of concentration thus far) it is: In full awareness, letting go of wanting anything at all, a willingness to simply be present with one object, to the exclusion of all else, even thought. It is a conscious turning away from wanting, which totally opposes addiction, does it not? The Buddha himself advises us to 'be yoked' to the pleasure of Jhana, and that it is 'not to be feared'.

Anyway all this talk of Jhana is encouraging me to go back to meditating with more diligence again...thank you to all.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Vepacitta » Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:06 am

The jhanic states can be highly pleasurable (esp. the first Jhana - concentration with thought, rapture ...). They are intense, concentrated states - and they aren't necessarily the hallmark of renunciation per se -- e.g. on a permanent basis. O sure - you've got no problems whilst you're in a jhanic state - but it's temporary - and when you're out - there's still work to be done - it's tempting to 'get back in' and just 'groove' in that state.

Keep in mind, if one can attain the jhanas, the grasping is indeed very subtle - but it can be there. There have been people who enter jhana and think "yippe! that's it - nibbana!" :woohoo: but it ain't. In fact the Buddha's first two teachers (someone fill in the names) had each reached different jhanic states and had 'stopped there'. It took the Buddha to realise that such states weren't "it". I recall discussing with my teacher that it seemed that the Buddha may have been the first one to describe such subtle states as jhana and the immaterial or formless states - people may have entered them before - but it took the Buddha to really analyse them - codify them in a way that could be described and followed and taught in a systematic way and analysed after one emerged from jhana - there's the whole 'looking at dhammas' which is the crux of the practise and which is described in the suttas - especially with Sariputta - there are various suttas wherein Ven. Sariputta describes his entry in the various jhanas - and his analysis of what went on after he emerged from each ... but I digress ... :thinking:

Minds functioning out of ignorance - even very 'light' ignorance - grasp onto things - so there are many texts (not just suttas but texts by various teachers - Aj. Chah, Aj. Sumedho, Ven. Bodhi come to mind) that warn about the tendency to grasp even in these highly subtle and concentrated states.

To put a cap on it - jhanas are great - but they aren't ultimately "it" - they're part of the vehicle that can take one to "it".

I'm sure others who are more articulate than I can flesh this out more fully for you.

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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby IanAnd » Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:11 am

manasikara wrote:The Buddha himself advises us to 'be yoked' to the pleasure of Jhana, and that it is 'not to be feared'.

Well, I wouldn't quite state it using those terms. The quotation from Mahasaccaka Sutta (MN 36) goes like this:

"I considered: 'I recall that when my father the Sakyan was occupied, while I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered upon and abided in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.[389] Could that be the path to enlightenment?' Then, following on that memory, came the realization: 'That is the path to enlightenment.'

"I thought: 'Why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensual pleasures and unwholesome states?' I thought: 'I am not afraid of that pleasure since it has nothing to do with sensual pleasures and unwholesome states.' "

Vepacitta wrote:The jhanic states can be highly pleasurable (esp. the first Jhana - concentration with thought, rapture [and pleasure or joy]...). They are intense, concentrated states . . .

That's basically correct. It takes the development of mindfulness (sati) and equanimity (upekkha) with regard to this attainment to offset the possibly addicting "bliss factor" of the jhanas.

Vepacitta wrote:In fact the Buddha's first two teachers (someone fill in the names) had each reached different jhanic states and had 'stopped there'. It took the Buddha to realise that such states weren't "it".

A more thorough rendering of this idea can be found in Ven. Analayo's book Satipatthana, The Direct Path to Realization, where he shows the Buddha emphasizing that the attainment of absorption alone will not take one to the liberation he attained. It must be combined with the other path factors:

Analayo wrote:Interestingly, in the Mahacattarisaka Sutta and several other discourses another definition of right concentration can be found that does not mention the absorptions at all. The importance of the Mahacattarisaka Sutta to the present discussion is further highlighted in the preamble to this discourse, which states the topic to be a teaching on right concentration. The definition of right concentration given here speaks of unification of the mind (cittassekaggata) in interdependence with the other seven path factors. That is, in order for unification of the mind to become “right” concentration it needs to be contextualized within the noble eighfold path scheme. . . .

Thus the decisive factor that qualifies concentration as “right” is not just a question of the depth of concentration achieved, but is concerned with the purpose for which concentration is employed. In particular, the presence of the path factor right view is indispensable. By way of contrast, the Buddha’s former teachers, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, despite their deep concentration attainments, were not endowed with “right” concentration because of the absence of right view. This goes to show that the ability to attain absorption in itself does not yet constitute the fulfilment of the path factor of right concentration.

A similar nuance underlies the qualification samma, “right”, which literally means “togetherness”, or “to be connected in one”. Thus to speak of the four absorptions or of unification of the mind as “right” concentration does not simply mean that these are “right” and all else is “wrong”, but points to the need to incorporate the development of concentration into the noble eightfold path.


And Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu fleshes this same thing out in his suttric definition of Right Concentration:

"These are the four developments of concentration. Which four? There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to a pleasant abiding in the here & now. There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the attainment of knowledge & vision. There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to mindfulness & alertness. There is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents." — AN 4.41
"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 tiltbillings » Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:31 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote: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.
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.

I can see nothing in Ian's posts which would disagree with the presentation of jhāna in the Vimuttimagga. The Vimuttimagga is older than the Visuddhimagga. By all accounts the Vimuttimagga was well known both in Sri Lanka and India. The interpretation of jhāna presented in the Vimuttimagga is neither "unusual" nor "modern." Therefore yours and Kester's rhetoric about an "unusual, modern interpretation" of jhāna is historically inaccurate and quite tired -- it really should be put to bed.

All the best,

Geoff

it really should be put to bed. Jayzuz, then why do you keep stirring it up? Interestingly enough I have addressed this, and you never really responded. There a few questions, however, you can answer maybe in a new thread. The first question is how good is the present translation that we have and how does this version of the Vimutti compare to the others? And do we even know what version of the Vimutti that Buddhaghosa has access to. And the one thing we do know is that whatever version of the Vimutti Buddhaghosa used, it was not highly regarded enough to be preserved in Pali. I would recommend that you drop it or start a new thread and let poor Ian get on with his teaching.
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.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Nyana » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:20 am

tiltbillings wrote:Jayzuz, then why do you keep stirring it up?

There is a difference between bringing something up and stirring something up. It's been brought up because it goes to the heart of the matter: Anyone who insists that a description of jhāna which fully accords with the suttas as well as a thorough commentarial text like the Vimuttimagga is somehow presenting "an unusual modern interpretation" is completely off base and mistaken. Such characterizations are empty rhetoric. They have no place whatsoever in any informed contemporary discussion of this subject. Period.

tiltbillings wrote:how good is the present translation that we have?...

I have access to a new translation of the relevant passages. These translated passages are more precise than the old BPS translation but the meaning and context is the same.

tiltbillings wrote:I would recommend that you drop it or start a new thread and let poor Ian get on with his teaching.

This isn't 19th century SE Asia. There is no excuse for failing to acknowledge all of the relevant source materials that we presently have available.

All the best,

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

Postby legolas » Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:53 am

The jhanas as described in the suttas are wonderful stages of letting go. As already stated by the Buddha they are not to be feared but embraced on the path. The peace, serenity, joy, bliss and pure pleasure (non sensual) that they provide on the path should shine as a beacon for seekers of Dhamma. However we seem to live in a "no pain, no gain" culture and to actually enjoy the path is a sin.
My point is, why of the two interpretations of jhana such credence is given to the "ambulance" variety when they are so obviously not the ones taught in the suttas? I realise that other people will argue they are, but the eel-wriggling and mental and verbal gymnastics that are churned out to support this argument verge on the childish. Has any one read Ajahn Brahmavamso account of the "body" as regards jhana? Thanissaro Bhikkhu gives this view very short shrift in the book "The experience of samadhi" by Shankman. The idea of what constitutes a "body" in the "ambulance tradition" would be laughable if it was not so serious.
Even more worrying is the tradition that thinks jhana is not neccessary. If you practice meditation it should be jhana, no other meditation is given as the means to enlightenment, check it out its all in the suttas. That is not to say that you actually need to formally meditate to achieve stream entry. However when the Buddha finally realised the path it was when he remembered the jhana from his youth, "this is the way to enlightenment".
There are a few negative ninnies out there who seem to thrive on being glum and closed to changes in their own views. I would have thought the ability to make adjustments in our understanding is a requisite for advancement on the path. I have made many such adjustments and expect to make many more because this is an adventure and a joy.
I have purposely given no links. If I did they would either not be read or would be treated to a semi mystical re orientation, where they would "not actually mean what they are saying" :shrug: If people really want to get a grasp on the Dhamma then with an open mind and an inquisitive nature, not being tied to tradition or a teacher...

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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Kenshou » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:16 am

If you practice meditation it should be jhana, no other meditation is given as the means to enlightenment,

Well I wouldn't go quite that far.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby legolas » Wed Sep 29, 2010 10:57 am

Kenshou wrote:
If you practice meditation it should be jhana, no other meditation is given as the means to enlightenment,

Well I wouldn't go quite that far.


Whatever piece of Dhamma is used for reflection will ignite the jhana factors. "Go do jhana" is the advice which comes after extremely diverse teachings on the Dhamma not go and fix on an abstract hallucinatory light or become mindful of every step or every bodily sensation. Which begs the question....what is jhana? My belief is that jhana is the result of contemplation and acceptance of part of the Buddha's Dhamma and is the way the mind goes when these teachings begin to be assimilated.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby Ben » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:03 am

Kenshou wrote:
If you practice meditation it should be jhana, no other meditation is given as the means to enlightenment,

Well I wouldn't go quite that far.


No Kenshou, neither would I.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:20 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Jayzuz, then why do you keep stirring it up?

There is a difference between bringing something up and stirring something up. It's been brought up because it goes to the heart of the matter: Anyone who insists that a description of jhāna which fully accords with the suttas as well as a thorough commentarial text like the Vimuttimagga is somehow presenting "an unusual modern interpretation" is completely off base and mistaken. Such characterizations are empty rhetoric. They have no place whatsoever in any informed contemporary discussion of this subject. Period.
No, it is not empty rhetoric. You can claim it is such, but have not shown it to be so. You have already brought this up above, and I respnded, but you did not really deal with what I said, and you are bringing it up again. Looks like pot stirring.

tiltbillings wrote:how good is the present translation that we have?...

I have access to a new translation of the relevant passages. These translated passages are more precise than the old BPS translation but the meaning and context is the same.
That's nice.

tiltbillings wrote:I would recommend that you drop it or start a new thread and let poor Ian get on with his teaching.

This isn't 19th century SE Asia. There is no excuse for failing to acknowledge all of the relevant source materials that we presently have available.
He said ignoring the other questions I raised. We have no idea if the Chinese Vimutti is exactly the same or is significantly different from the one Buddhaghosa had access to. As I said, this is an ongoing dialogue, but you seem to think that it is already settled. You nastily brushed aside Sylvester's relevant comments. You dismissed Piya Tan with an ad hominem. What is it with you jhana-wallahs/anti-commentarial types that you think you know what is what and no one else does, and then you guys fight among each other.

As for 19 century SE Asia, it goes back a lot further than that, as has been shown and as can be shown with more detail. The Vimutti was at best a legend among the scholarly monks.

You really need to let Ian get back to his teaching. If you want to discuss this further, start a new thread. (This the second time you have been told this.)
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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People live in one another’s shelter.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:51 am

legolas wrote:Even more worrying is the tradition that thinks jhana is not neccessary.
And what tradition would that be?


There are a few negative ninnies out there who seem to thrive on being glum and closed to changes in their own views. I would have thought the ability to make adjustments in our understanding is a requisite for advancement on the path. I have made many such adjustments and expect to make many more because this is an adventure and a joy.
They are ninnies because they do not agree with youir point of view?

We will see what your answer is here and likely start a new thread.
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 legolas » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:09 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
legolas wrote:Even more worrying is the tradition that thinks jhana is not neccessary.
And what tradition would that be?


Certain vipassana traditions seem averse.

There are a few negative ninnies out there who seem to thrive on being glum and closed to changes in their own views. I would have thought the ability to make adjustments in our understanding is a requisite for advancement on the path. I have made many such adjustments and expect to make many more because this is an adventure and a joy.
They are ninnies because they do not agree with youir point of view?

Yes :tongue:

We will see what your answer is here and likely start a new thread.


I dont have an answer, open up tilt enjoy life enjoy the Dhamma. you to ben.
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Re: Not Everything Is Written In Stone. . .

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:10 pm

A note to Ian: Obviously your thread has gotten away from you and what you wanted to do, which is why it ended up in the debate section. If you want to discuss jhana meditation, then do so in the mediation forum without the comments about others and other methods that invite debate. And I would strongly recommend keeping your comments concise and clear.
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 tiltbillings » Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:13 pm

legolas wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
legolas wrote:Even more worrying is the tradition that thinks jhana is not neccessary.
And what tradition would that be?


Certain vipassana traditions seem averse.
And what tradition might those be.

There are a few negative ninnies out there who seem to thrive on being glum and closed to changes in their own views. I would have thought the ability to make adjustments in our understanding is a requisite for advancement on the path. I have made many such adjustments and expect to make many more because this is an adventure and a joy.
They are ninnies because they do not agree with youir point of view?


Yes
That speaks more of you than anything else.


I dont have an answer, open up tilt enjoy life enjoy the Dhamma. you to ben.
You feel qualified to make this judgement about me? You know nothing about me and my practice. Shame on you.
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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