Jhana and the early Mahayana

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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pitithefool
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Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by pitithefool »

To my knowledge, I cannot find anything in any of the Mahayana texts that support a "hard jhana" VSM type view of meditation.

Why is this? If the "hard-jhana" were authoritative, we should expect it to be present in at least some of the Mahayana schools, and yet we only find this sort of rigid definition in southern Theravadin Buddhism.

Also, it would appear that the Mahasamghika school, one of the earliest schools, were noted to practice something similar to "jhana lite" in which sounds could be heard in jhana.

Why does it look like modern Theravada is the only meditation-centered school to practice "hard jana"?
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by Inedible »

It used to be that at least first jhana was required to produce Bodhichitta and enter the Mahayana.
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by Pondera »

pitithefool wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:19 am To my knowledge, I cannot find anything in any of the Mahayana texts that support a "hard jhana" VSM type view of meditation.

Why is this? If the "hard-jhana" were authoritative, we should expect it to be present in at least some of the Mahayana schools, and yet we only find this sort of rigid definition in southern Theravadin Buddhism.

Also, it would appear that the Mahasamghika school, one of the earliest schools, were noted to practice something similar to "jhana lite" in which sounds could be heard in jhana.

Why does it look like modern Theravada is the only meditation-centered school to practice "hard jana"?

In first jhana, speech stops. Not sound.

Please provide a link to a sutta or commentary where “sound” is not heard in jhana.

Who espouses this view? I know it’s out there. I would like to see the original, if you don’t mind?

The only jhana where perception and feeling are not perceived or felt is “the cessation of perception and feeling”.
“Monk, the property of light, the property of beauty, the property of the dimension of the infinitude of space, the property of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, the property of the dimension of nothingness: These properties are to be reached as perception attainments.[2] The property of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception is to be reached as a remnant-of-fabrications attainment. The property of the cessation of feeling & perception is to be reached as a cessation attainment."[3]

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by Ceisiwr »

Pondera wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:03 am In first jhana, speech stops. Not sound.

Please provide a link to a sutta or commentary where “sound” is not heard in jhana.

Who espouses this view? I know it’s out there. I would like to see the original, if you don’t mind?

The only jhana where perception and feeling are not perceived or felt is “the cessation of perception and feeling”.
Here:
Mendicants, there are these ten thorns. What ten? Relishing company is a thorn for someone who loves seclusion. Focusing on the beautiful feature of things is a thorn for someone pursuing the meditation on ugliness. Seeing shows is a thorn to someone restraining the senses. Lingering in the neighborhood of females is a thorn to celibacy. Sound is a thorn to the first absorption. Placing the mind and keeping it connected are a thorn to the second absorption. Rapture is a thorn to the third absorption. Breathing is a thorn to the fourth absorption. Perception and feeling are a thorn to the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling. Greed, hate, and delusion are thorns.
https://suttacentral.net/an10.72/en/sujato

If you can hear a sound then you are not in jhāna, unless you are a sub-sect of the Mahāsāṃghika.
Mendicants, a mendicant who has five things will soon penetrate the unshakable. What five? It’s when a mendicant has attained the analytical knowledge of meaning, the analytical knowledge of Dhamma, the analytical knowledge of language, the analytical knowledge of discernment and they review the extent of their mind’s freedom. A mendicant who has these five things will soon penetrate the unshakable.”

AN 5.95
48vows
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by 48vows »

what was the sutra where someone (was it subhuti?) was sitting in trance when a bunch of carts went by ?
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by sphairos »

pitithefool wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:19 am To my knowledge, I cannot find anything in any of the Mahayana texts that support a "hard jhana" VSM type view of meditation.

Why is this? If the "hard-jhana" were authoritative, we should expect it to be present in at least some of the Mahayana schools, and yet we only find this sort of rigid definition in southern Theravadin Buddhism.

Also, it would appear that the Mahasamghika school, one of the earliest schools, were noted to practice something similar to "jhana lite" in which sounds could be heard in jhana.

Why does it look like modern Theravada is the only meditation-centered school to practice "hard jana"?
I think, for instance, in Chan/Zen/Son one is also supposed to reach a very deep absorption, like a trance. The deeper, the better...

The Visuddhimagga teaching on jhānas is explainable from the historical context of Northern Indian Buddhism of the 400-500 years CE. In that period the practice of dhyānas was considered inferior and the preferred path was that of pure prajñā/vipaśyanā:
II The Path of Spiritual Cultivation
The path of spiritual cultivation depicted in the Śrāvakabhūmi consists of a
preparatory phase and two lines of progression called ʻmundane pathʼ
(laukikamārga) and ʻsupramundane pathʼ (lokottaramārga) respectively.
These paths can be practised either separately or combined, and as we
shall see below, the decision on how to deal with them has much to do with
the contemplativeʼs mental constitution, background, and objectives. The
yogi practising the mundane path attains a series of ever deeper levels of
serenity and increasingly rarefied states of consciousness expansion,
reduction, and eventually cessation. These altered states of consciousness,
traditionally subsumed under the category of tranquillity meditation
(śamatha), are, however, temporary and cannot lead to the final Liberation
from the cycle of rebirths and suffering.19 It is only the supramundane path,
which basically consists in reflective meditation (vipaśyanā) directed at the
Four Noble Truths, that is conducive to Nirvana. This actually represents a
spiritual paradigm typical of the Northern Śrāvakayāna strand of
Buddhism, mainly of the Sarvāstivāda and Sautrāntika schools.20 Like in the
famous Abhidharmakośabhāsya, for instance, the reflective meditation characteristic
of the supramundane path is given the central role while the mundane path is
relegated to an ancillary or soteriologically inferior alternative course.21
Florin Deleanu

Far From the Madding Strife for Hollow Pleasures:
Meditation and Liberation in the Śrāvakabhūmi

Journal of the International College
for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies
Vol. XVI, 2012

pp. 11-12.

https://www.academia.edu/42041853/Far_F ... bh%C5%ABmi

(A very similar picture of practice one gets from Harivarman's Tattvasiddhi, also a Northern Indian Buddhist treatise)

Buddhaghosa, who was a renowned Buddhist scholar from Northern India, became interested in old Sri Lankan
versions of some texts, received an invitation and "grant" from the king and sanghas to systematize the commentaries
of Sri Lanka, and came there to do the job. He interpreted the Buddhist teaching and practice from the perspective of the above
described Northern Indian Buddhism teachings of the time, and I bet he had held the latter as self-evidently true.
Last edited by sphairos on Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by sphairos »

Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:36 am
Pondera wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:03 am In first jhana, speech stops. Not sound.

Please provide a link to a sutta or commentary where “sound” is not heard in jhana.

Who espouses this view? I know it’s out there. I would like to see the original, if you don’t mind?

The only jhana where perception and feeling are not perceived or felt is “the cessation of perception and feeling”.
Here:
Mendicants, there are these ten thorns. What ten? Relishing company is a thorn for someone who loves seclusion. Focusing on the beautiful feature of things is a thorn for someone pursuing the meditation on ugliness. Seeing shows is a thorn to someone restraining the senses. Lingering in the neighborhood of females is a thorn to celibacy. Sound is a thorn to the first absorption. Placing the mind and keeping it connected are a thorn to the second absorption. Rapture is a thorn to the third absorption. Breathing is a thorn to the fourth absorption. Perception and feeling are a thorn to the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling. Greed, hate, and delusion are thorns.
https://suttacentral.net/an10.72/en/sujato

If you can hear a sound then you are not in jhāna, unless you are a sub-sect of the Mahāsāṃghika.
It is suspicious that it is found only in one small AN sutta.

We know that already in the earliest Buddhist community there was a conflict between absorption-meditators and pure prajñā practioners:
So you should train like this: ‘As mendicants who practice discernment of principles (dhammayogā samānā), we will praise mendicants who practice absorption meditation (jhāyīnaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ).’ That’s how you should train. Why is that? Because it’s incredibly rare to find individuals in the world who have direct meditative experience of the deathless.
So you should train like this: ‘As mendicants who practice absorption meditation (jhāyī samānā), we will praise mendicants who practice discernment of principles (dhammayogānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ).’ That’s how you should train. Why is that? Because it’s incredibly rare to find individuals in the world who see the meaning of a deep saying with penetrating wisdom.”

AN 6.46. Tr. ven. Sujato.
I wonder if that one small sutta was transmitted through the (rare) lineages of such jhāyīno, absorption-practitioners.
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by Ratnakar »

sphairos wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:07 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:36 am
Pondera wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:03 am In first jhana, speech stops. Not sound.

Please provide a link to a sutta or commentary where “sound” is not heard in jhana.

Who espouses this view? I know it’s out there. I would like to see the original, if you don’t mind?

The only jhana where perception and feeling are not perceived or felt is “the cessation of perception and feeling”.
Here:
Mendicants, there are these ten thorns. What ten? Relishing company is a thorn for someone who loves seclusion. Focusing on the beautiful feature of things is a thorn for someone pursuing the meditation on ugliness. Seeing shows is a thorn to someone restraining the senses. Lingering in the neighborhood of females is a thorn to celibacy. Sound is a thorn to the first absorption. Placing the mind and keeping it connected are a thorn to the second absorption. Rapture is a thorn to the third absorption. Breathing is a thorn to the fourth absorption. Perception and feeling are a thorn to the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling. Greed, hate, and delusion are thorns.
https://suttacentral.net/an10.72/en/sujato

If you can hear a sound then you are not in jhāna, unless you are a sub-sect of the Mahāsāṃghika.
It is suspicious that it is found only in one small AN sutta.

We know that already in the earliest Buddhist community there was a conflict between absorption-meditators and pure prajñā practioners:
So you should train like this: ‘As mendicants who practice discernment of principles (dhammayogā samānā), we will praise mendicants who practice absorption meditation (jhāyīnaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ).’ That’s how you should train. Why is that? Because it’s incredibly rare to find individuals in the world who have direct meditative experience of the deathless.
So you should train like this: ‘As mendicants who practice absorption meditation (jhāyī samānā), we will praise mendicants who practice discernment of principles (dhammayogānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ).’ That’s how you should train. Why is that? Because it’s incredibly rare to find individuals in the world who see the meaning of a deep saying with penetrating wisdom.”

AN 6.46. Tr. ven. Sujato.
I wonder if that one small sutta was transmitted through the (rare) lineages of such jhāyīno, absorption-practitioners.
Sound is thorn in first jhana that should mean they can hear it, it thorns first jhana meditator but it won't expell them from their attainment just like lingering in female neighbourhoods don't destroy your celibacy

Actually sound is a thorn prove that jhana meditator can hear it if they can't hear it I don't think it would be a thorn in the first place
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by Ratnakar »

Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:36 am
Pondera wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:03 am In first jhana, speech stops. Not sound.

Please provide a link to a sutta or commentary where “sound” is not heard in jhana.

Who espouses this view? I know it’s out there. I would like to see the original, if you don’t mind?

The only jhana where perception and feeling are not perceived or felt is “the cessation of perception and feeling”.
Here:
Mendicants, there are these ten thorns. What ten? Relishing company is a thorn for someone who loves seclusion. Focusing on the beautiful feature of things is a thorn for someone pursuing the meditation on ugliness. Seeing shows is a thorn to someone restraining the senses. Lingering in the neighborhood of females is a thorn to celibacy. Sound is a thorn to the first absorption. Placing the mind and keeping it connected are a thorn to the second absorption. Rapture is a thorn to the third absorption. Breathing is a thorn to the fourth absorption. Perception and feeling are a thorn to the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling. Greed, hate, and delusion are thorns.
https://suttacentral.net/an10.72/en/sujato

If you can hear a sound then you are not in jhāna, unless you are a sub-sect of the Mahāsāṃghika.
Why is sound a thorn to first jhana meditator master ?
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by sphairos »

Ratnakar wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:18 pm
sphairos wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:07 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:36 am
Here:

https://suttacentral.net/an10.72/en/sujato

If you can hear a sound then you are not in jhāna, unless you are a sub-sect of the Mahāsāṃghika.
It is suspicious that it is found only in one small AN sutta.

We know that already in the earliest Buddhist community there was a conflict between absorption-meditators and pure prajñā practioners:
I wonder if that one small sutta was transmitted through the (rare) lineages of such jhāyīno, absorption-practitioners.
Sound is thorn in first jhana that should mean they can hear it, it thorns first jhana meditator but it won't expell them from their attainment just like lingering in female neighbourhoods don't destroy your celibacy

Actually sound is a thorn prove that jhana meditator can hear it if they can't hear it I don't think it would be a thorn in the first place
Yes, it makes sense, I also thought about that, and the commentary explains "thorn" as something that "pierces" (kaṇṭakoti vijjhanaṭṭhena kaṇṭako), but the sutta text may be interpreted also as "if there is a sound heard it's not the first jhāna", because it mentions that in the second jhāna "thorn" is vitakkavicārā etc. (so if there is vitakkavicārā it's not the second jhāna etc.).
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by Coëmgenu »

pitithefool wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:19 amTo my knowledge, I cannot find anything in any of the Mahayana texts that support a "hard jhana" VSM type view of meditation.
AFAIK all dhyānas save the first are "hard" in Mahāyāna. Many Mahāyānikas also have anāgamya practices. There are practices that use what Theravādins call "access concentration" and are not done in any dhyāna at all. These are often confused with "dhyāna." I can find some quotes in a bit.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Tue Mar 30, 2021 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.

(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by Ratnakar »

sphairos wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:36 pm
Ratnakar wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:18 pm
sphairos wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:07 pm

It is suspicious that it is found only in one small AN sutta.

We know that already in the earliest Buddhist community there was a conflict between absorption-meditators and pure prajñā practioners:



I wonder if that one small sutta was transmitted through the (rare) lineages of such jhāyīno, absorption-practitioners.
Sound is thorn in first jhana that should mean they can hear it, it thorns first jhana meditator but it won't expell them from their attainment just like lingering in female neighbourhoods don't destroy your celibacy

Actually sound is a thorn prove that jhana meditator can hear it if they can't hear it I don't think it would be a thorn in the first place
Yes, it makes sense, I also thought about that, and the commentary explains "thorn" as something that "pierces" (kaṇṭakoti vijjhanaṭṭhena kaṇṭako), but the sutta text may be interpreted also as "if there is a sound heard it's not the first jhāna", because it mentions that in the second jhāna "thorn" is vitakkavicārā etc. (so if there is vitakkavicārā it's not the second jhāna etc.).
Vitakka can still exist in second jhana but it's a pain for second jhana meditator who see it

Note sujato translate vitakka as subverbal activities like placing the mind to object and keeping the mind connected to its object

There are 6 objects of vitakka including sight,sound,taste,smell, tactile and Thought/dhamma
An9.34 Furthermore, take a mendicant who, as the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, enters and remains in the second absorption. While a mendicant is in such a meditation, should perceptions and attentions accompanied by placing of the mind and keeping it connected beset them, that’s an affliction for them. Suppose a happy person were to experience pain; that would be an affliction for them. In the same way, should perceptions and attentions accompanied by placing of the mind and keeping it connected beset them, that’s an affliction for them
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by sphairos »

Ratnakar wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:50 pm
Vitakka can still exist in second jhana but it's a pain for second jhana meditator who see it

Note sujato translate vitakka as subverbal activities like placing the mind to object and keeping the mind connected to its object
But it contradicts the rest of the AN sutta, because it is said:
saññāvedayitanirodhasamāpattiyā saññā ca vedanā ca kaṇṭako
Perception and feeling are a thorn to the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling.
Can you feel perception and feeling in the state of the stoppage of them? Probably not...


There are 6 objects of vitakka including sight,sound,taste,smell, tactile and Thought/dhamma

An9.34 Furthermore, take a mendicant who, as the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, enters and remains in the second absorption. While a mendicant is in such a meditation, should perceptions and attentions accompanied by placing of the mind and keeping it connected beset them, that’s an affliction for them. Suppose a happy person were to experience pain; that would be an affliction for them. In the same way, should perceptions and attentions accompanied by placing of the mind and keeping it connected beset them, that’s an affliction for them
A happy person that experiences pain is not happy in that very moment...

But I agree that we should rather understand the first jhāna and the above AN passage along the lines your provide, not as the "hard jhāna".
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

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Avoiding desires and bad dharmas
A person enters into the first dhyāna,
Furnished with examination and judgment,
Coming from detachment, which is joy and happiness.

Avoiding the flames of lust,
He is endowed with clear cool absorption.
Happy like a person who, tormented by the heat,
Enters into a cold pool.

As in the poor man who has found a treasure,
Vitarka of a great joyfulness moves his mind.
He analyzes it: this is vicāra.
This is how he enters the first dhyāna.

He knows that vitarka and vicāra disturb his mind,
Although good, he must separate himself from them,
For it is only on a calm sea
That the movement of the waves is not seen.

When a very weary man
Lies down to sleep in peace,
Any call to him
Strongly disturbs his mind.

In the same way, for the absorbed man in dhyāna,
Vitarka and vicāra are a torment.

That is why, avoiding vitarka and vicāra,
He succeeds in entering the sphere of unified consciousness

As a result of his inner purity,
He finds joy and happiness in absorption.
Penetrating into the second dhyāna,
His joy is lively and his mind is very happy.

An absorption where concentration is very strong
Is calm and free of smṛti.
Annoyed by prīti, the ascetic wants to get rid of it
In the same way that he has already eliminated vitarka and vicāra.

It is because of feeling that there is joy.
If joy is lost, sadness is experienced.
Renouncing pleasant bodily feeling,
The ascetic abandons memory and methods.

The saint is able to reach this renunciation;
For other people, this renunciation is difficult.
When one knows the torments of happiness,
One sees the grand immobile peace.

When daurmanasya and prīti are eliminated,
Duhkha and sukha still remain to be cut,
Purified by equanimity and reflection,
The mind penetrates into the fourth dhyāna.

The sukha present in the third dhyāna,
Transitory and changing, is suffering.
In kāmadhātu, the ascetic has cut the daurmanasya;
In the second dhyāna he has eliminated the prīti.

This is why the Buddha Bhagavat
Said, in the fourth dhyāna,
Having cut the daurmanasya and the prīti,
It is necessary now to cut duḥkha and sukha.

[Omitting section on the anāgamya.]

There are four types of dhyāna: i) dhyāna associated with rapture; ii) pure dhyāna; iii) stainless dhyāna; iv) the five skandhas obtained by retribution and constituting the first dhyāna. Here the ascetic enters into the pure and the stainless dhyāna; it is the same for the second, third and fourth dhyānas. According to the Buddha’s definition: “Having avoided desires and the bad dharmas, the bhikṣu enters into the first, furnished with examination, furnished with judgment, coming from detachment, which is joy and happiness.” (Dhyānasūtra, l.c.: Viviktaṃ kāmair viviktaṃ pāpakair akuśalair dharmaiḥ savitarkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ prītisukhaṃ prathamaṃ dhymanam upasaṃpadya viharati). ‘Desires’ are the five sense objects, colors, etc., to which one becomes attached. By means of reflection and analysis, these desires are condemned, as has been said above. The ‘wicked bad dharmas’ are the five obstructions, greed, etc. By becoming detached from these two categories, of which the one is external and the other internal, the first dhyāna is acquired.

The five characteristics of the first dhyāna are: examination, judgment, joy, happiness, and one-pointedness of the mind.

It is ‘savitarka’ and ‘savicāra’: by acquiring the good dharmas and the qualities not previously acquired, near the first dhyāna the mind experiences great fear. When a person who has ceaselessly been burned by the fires of desire attains the first dhyāna, it is as if he were entering a pool of cold water. Or else he is like a poor man who suddenly finds a treasure: the ascetic, who has meditated and analyzed the disadvantages of kāmadhātu and who sees the importance of the benefits and qualities of the first dhyāna, feels great joy: this is why it is called savitarka and savicāra.

Question. – Are vitarka and vicāra one and the same thing or are they two different things?

Answer. – They are two different things. Vitarka is the first moment of a coarse mind, vicāra is a more subtle (sūkṣma) analysis. Thus, when a bell is struck, the first sound is strong, the subsequent sound is weaker; this is vicāra.

Question. – In the Abhidharma it is said that, from kāmadhātu until the first dhyāna, a single mind is associated with vitarka and vicāra; why do you say that vitarka is the first moment of a coarse mind whereas vicāra is a more subtle analysis?

Answer. – Although the two things reside in the same mind, their characteristics are not simultaneous: at the moment of vitarka, the vicāra is blurred; at the moment of vicāra, the vitarka is blurred. Thus, when the sun rises, the shadows disappear. All the minds and all the mental events receive their name prorata with time: vitarka and vicāra are distinct names of one single mind. Thus the Buddha said: “If you cut one single thing, I claim that you will become an anāgamin; this single thing is avarice.” Really, it should be said that the five fetters of lower rank must disappear in order that one may become anāgāmin. Why did he say that it is necessary to cut just one single thing? Because avarice abounded in his questioner and the other fetters came from that; therefore it sufficed for that person to destroy avarice in order to cut through the other fetters at the same time. Similarly here, vitarka and vicāra take their name prorata from time.

The ascetic knows that, although they are good, vitarka and vicāra disturb the mind that is in absorption; by mental renunciation, he condemns vitarka and vicāra and has this thought: “Vitarka and vicāra disturb the mind of dhyāna; as when pure water is disturbed by waves, nothing can be seen any more.” When a tired and weary man regains his breath and wants to sleep, when his neighbor calls him, that makes him very annoyed. It is for all these reasons that he condemns vitarka and vicāra. "[The dhyānin,] by suppressing examination and judgment, enters into the second dhyāna, one-pointedness of mind, without examination, without judgment, arisen from concentration, which is joy and happiness" (Dhyānasūtra, l.c.: Vitarkavicārāṇāṃ vyupaśamād adhyātmaṃ saṃprasādac cetasa ekotībhāvam avitarkam avicāraṃ samādhijaṃ prītisukhaṃ dvitīyaṃ dhyānam upasaṃpadya viharati).

In possession of the second dhyāna, he obtains the prīti and sukha of the second dhyāna, incomparable joy and happiness not previously acquired until that moment. By the suppression of examination and judgment, they have disappeared because the ascetic knows their defects. This dhyāna is ‘inner peace” for, by entering into this profound absorption, the ascetic has given up the vitarka and vicāra of the first dhyāna by means of faith: the benefit is important, the loss minimal and the gain considerable. This dhyāna is called ‘inner peace’ as a result of “fixing the mind on one object.”
(Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa Ch XXVIII Part 3: "On the various dhyānas and samāpattis")

The bell shows up with regards to vitarkavicara. If we are familiar with the writings of Venerable Zhiyi (not likely here but anything is possible), we will also recognize this bell. The strike of the bell is vitarka and the lingering and the transformation of the tone as well as its fading away are vicara. In Ven Zhiyi's version, the five constituents themselves are the tone of the bell, and vitarkavicara as a whole is the initial striking of the chime:
When the body comes in contact with a first tactile sensation, such as movement, and becomes a condition, this is vitarka ["examination"]. When the mind makes finer distinctions concerning the eight tactile sensations and its ten associated qualities, this is called vicāra ["reflection"]. Rejoicing now at attaining that which had not yet been attained in the past is called prīti ["joy"]. Calm pleasure in these attainments is called sukha ["bliss"]. Such quiescence is called ekāgratā ["one-pointedness"]. The five constituents are all the essence of samādhi. The five constituents arise together. It is like a mallet hitting a temple bell; there are differences, in that at first the sound is rough, but gradually it becomes finer. The five constituents are also like this. At first, there is abundant contact with the aspect of examination, but this does not hinder the others, such as reflection. If examination is strong, then reflection is not yet complete; when examination ceases, reflection becomes clear. Joy is already present from the beginning, and when reflection ceases, the constituent of joy is perfected. Bliss is already present from the beginning, though that bliss may not yet be full; when joy ceases, then bliss is perfected. One-pointedness is already present from the beginning in the movement of the other four constituents, but now when bliss ends, one-pointedness is perfected.
(Ven Zhiyi, Mahāśamathavipaśyanā T1911.118b20 abridged, translated by Paul Swanson)

So already we see two subtly different explanations referencing a common metaphor/simile, namely that of the sound of a struck bell (a "bell" is the same as a "gong" in this usage) and the ringing and the fading of the ringing, coterminous here with sense, the sensing, and the ending of the sensing. In the Tendai tradition of meditation (which is not "early Mahayana" itself), vitarkavicara of the first dhyana is specifically observing internal-external perceptions. In the first dhyana, vitarkavicara is in response to the internal and the external. From the second dhyana onward, perception of the external has been cut off, and vitarkavicara no longer applies. More quotes to come when I have some more time.
Coëmgenu wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:41 pmThere are practices that use what Theravādins call "access concentration" and are not done in any dhyāna at all. These are often confused with "dhyāna." I can find some quotes in a bit.
I'm having some trouble with this, but I know I have a PDF on an old hard-drive that explains nembutsu as done in the anagamya.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Tue Mar 30, 2021 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.

(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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Re: Jhana and the early Mahayana

Post by Coëmgenu »

Lastly, something that might interest, footnote 3 from the section on the first dhyana that I omitted, from the translator of the Prajna Treatise, Venerable Migme Chodron:
3: On the difference between vitarka and vicāra, cf. Vasubandhu’s Pañcaskandhaka, cited in Kośavyākhyā, p. 64: Vitarkaḥ katamaḥ? Paryeṣako manojalpaḥ cetanāprajñāviṣeṣaḥ yā citasyauddārikatā. Vicarāḥ katamaḥ? Pratyavekṣaka manojalpaḥ, tathaiva yā cittauddrikatā. – Here the Mppś is accepting a specific difference (jātibheda) between vitarka and vicāra; this is the thesis of the Vaibhāṣikas; the Sautrāntikas are of the opposite opinion, cf. Kośa, II, p. 174 seq.; Kośavyākhyā, p. 139. The Pāli sources themselves have attempted definitions: cf. Dhammasaṅgani, p. 10; Atthasālinī, p. 114–115; Milinda, p. 62–63; Visuddhimagga, I, p. 142–143; S. Z. Aung, Compendium, p. 17, 40.
East Asian Buddhism, if it takes from the Sarvastivadins, takes from the Vaibhasikas, while in Tibetan Buddhism, the Sautrantika positions (such as here that vicara and vitarka are two aspects of one same thing) are prestiged. This is not to be taken as hard-and-fast. We can find plenty of examples of East Asian Mahayanikas who believed in the vein of the Sautrantikas and non-Vaibhasikas that vitarka and vicara were fundamentally "the same" in some way and vice-versa. That both vitarka and vicara are initial strike of the clapper on the mortar in Ven Zhiyi's example is soft evidence that he may be following a non-Sarvastivadin and/or Sautrantika reading of vitarkavicara.
Coëmgenu wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 2:01 pm
There are four types of dhyāna: i) dhyāna associated with rapture; ii) pure dhyāna; iii) stainless dhyāna; iv) the five skandhas obtained by retribution and constituting the first dhyāna. Here the ascetic enters into the pure and the stainless dhyāna; it is the same for the second, third and fourth dhyānas.
(Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa [...])
Also from Ven Migme Chodron's footnotes contextualizing the above:
1: Cf. Kośa, VIII, p. 144. – The dhyāna of rapture is soiled by desire (tṛṣṇā); the pure dhyāna is of mundane order and practiced by ordinary people; the anāsrava dhyāna is supramundane and practiced by the āryas; the dhyāna ‘of the five skandhas’ means the spheres of rūpadhātu inhabited by the seventeen classes of gods, from the Brahmakāyikas to the Akaniṣṭhas (see Kośa, III, p. 2): the gods of rūpadhātu are still constitued by five skandhas; those of Ārūpyadhātu have only four because rūpa is absent there.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Tue Mar 30, 2021 3:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.

(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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