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Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma - Dhamma Wheel

Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Ben
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Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:38 pm

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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BlackBird
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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby BlackBird » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:25 pm

Hi Ben

Here's an essay by Leigh Brasington called 'Interpretation of the Jhanas' which might provide some content to muse over:
http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm

You might already have read it, I don't know.

Metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." -

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:51 pm

Greetings,

The first thing that comes to mind is the difference between the four jhana classification of the suttas, and the five jhana classification of the commentaries. I forget, off the top of my head which sutta jhana is split into 2 in the commentaries. I suspect it's the 2nd.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby AdvaitaJ » Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:59 am

The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
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Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Sudarsha » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:22 am

Thanks, AdvaitaJ, for a more accessible link to Ajahn Sona's very useful essay.

I attended a teaching session with Leigh Brasington here in Toronto. I was surprised at how easy he made at least the first jhana seem. My own experience is that, yes, settling down, becoming content and tranquil is indeed a matter of no effort. I must research to see if Leigh has any audio guided meditations in this respect. However, I also feel very strongly that just settling down, just becoming content, just becoming tranquil is neither sufficient nor anything other than a potential trap: sort of like deciding to take a cruise ship to see the Mediterranean but getting off to sightsee at the first island and going no further.

As I read the Buddha's words, I see only one specific kind of "what to do" and that is let go. Otherwise, why would the Buddha have pointed us in the direction of understanding everything as only impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless? I wonder if when the commentaries were put together and the material of the Visuddhimagga was catalogued - perhaps by that time already just a faint, vague kind of ego had crept into the teachings of the most charismatic of the elders? :shrug:

I do not know. At some point the message seemed to shift from "let go" to "like this" ... and I am fully aware that I am completely out of my depth with respect to any of the scholarship I should probably take much more seriously ... in my university daze, we called it scholarshit and thought we were being ever so very clever. After all, in the Buddha's time there were only two baskets of the Teaching ... actually, no writing had been done, so there were really no baskets, but only two parts: Dhamma and vinaya. The whole idea of abhidhamma seems to have crept in later as if, perhaps, some of the elders failed to notice that no further explanations were necessary as the Buddha had already explained everything. I'm demonstrating my profound ignorance of the abhidhamma material, teased out of the Dhamma and vinaya, which I know is of extraordinary value to us today.

:thinking:
Sudarsha
parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:49 am


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Ben
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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Ben » Wed Oct 21, 2009 4:54 am

ok, so what I am hearing is that this thread is better placed elsewhere...
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Sudarsha » Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:49 pm

HI, Ben

Where to put it??? I think it is an "absolute" that experience and "writing" go hand in glove. Which is the hand and which the glove may not always be clear. But, at least in my experience, commentary and experience, sutta and experience, sutta and commentary - are inseparable; I cannot fathom one without the other (although I am less likely to fathom commentary than almost anything else).

I was contemplating, earlier, the "scholar" who knows everything about Michelangelo da Caravaggio, but has never bothered to look at one of the paintings. Upon seeing one it might be entirely probably that he would dismiss it as not something as good as he knows Caravaggio could do. I have known at least one ordained and active teacher who sort of dismissed meditation and another (who took ordination under Ajahn Chah) who outright said that we don't need to do jhana!

As experience from sitting grows, I increasingly find that I tend to want to rewrite (in the margin) how many authors explain things. I do not feel they are wrong; but I clearly feel they are not explaining my experiences, at least not the way I understand them ... but I also am aware that I cannot simply set out to have the experiences they describe - I can only strive to assure that I am following the directions laid down by the Buddha and then try to understand what happens as a result.

I do not know if this is at all meaningful or helpful with respect to where this thread should be located. I am convinced, however, that experience and explanation have to inform one another.
Sudarsha
parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Ben » Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:04 pm

Hi Sudarsha
I moved the thread from the Classical to the General Theravada to accomodate many different perspectives on jhana, including personal experience. I wrongly assumed that you were interested in a purely textual analysis of the ancient literature - which is what the Classical section is for. In this forum you will be able to engage in some textual analysis of the early texts, provide your own personal experience as well as provide your own insights and those of others.
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Sudarsha » Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:47 pm

Thanks, Ben

I want to apologize for being unclear and causing some disruption in the smooth flow of things.
Sudarsha
parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Ben » Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:55 pm

No problem, Sudarsha!
With that. let's return to the subject of jhana!
metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Sudarsha » Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:04 pm

Thanks, Ben

I am thinking of one of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's essays (One Tool among Many ). I remember very clearly the first time I read this and felt very surprised that the Buddha wasn't teaching two separate things or two different things. I read this soon after a very senior monastic said flat out that we didn't bother about jhana. I suppose there's nothing like being told not to do something or not to be curious about something! Because that now seems a turning point in my practise.

I'm trying to put together for my own reference an outline of what I have learnt and from whom and then shuffle that into what I consider a reasonable and pragmatic order ... which of course can only be the order most reasonable temporary working order for me. Going back to material I have already mentioned, it seems that one has to begin by intellectually understanding what "mindfulness" is all about without becoming like the expert on Caravaggio who never looked at a Caravaggio painting! Then, one should develop full mindfulness/awareness of breathing. Here Larry Rosenberg was very helpful in teaching me (Breath by Breath) about belly breathing. Up until that point, after many years of meditation, I was still meditating without actually fully relaxing, letting go physically.

Then, of course, the other factors of satipatthana need to be intellectually understood (and some of the standard definitions simply do not work for me and I have littered much marginal space in texts with micrographia explaining to myself why this or that word chosen by the author isn't the choice I would have made).

Here is where I was very surprised to find my thinking converting from thinking that vipassana and insight meditation were the key to penetrating the mystery of samsara! This was my detour through the paths of Mahamudra and Dzogchen until it dawned on me (and maybe that's a signal to get out'cher red flags???) that it wasn't about vipassana and insight at all, but about simply being aware of awareness, aware of mindfulness until there was just mindfulness.

I often wonder how many words of his own two teachers the Buddha was repeating when he defined samma samadhi. I have do doubt that he understood precisely what he was saying/teaching and his immediate followers did, as well. Yet, and here's a difficulty I am wrestling with, did the elders remember the words long after their direct association with direct experience was not so clearly understood?

I don't know how, in any way, to articulate my present experience. I only know that, as far as I think I am able at this time (yep, I have hedging down to a near science) to portray it, it is flowing from my understanding of the Buddha's words: master breathing awareness, apply that awareness to the four foundations of awareness, let go, always let go. Letting go is facilitated by the intellectual understanding that all things lack permanency, that all things are incapable of proving anything but transitory notions of satisfaction and no one and no thing possess anything that can be interpreted as an immutable essence.

I am, at this point, content that I am experience jhana/dhyana. I only know, at this time, that I should persist in letting go.

Does this make any useful sense at all?

corrections, a swat, smack up side the head, suggestions ... it's all good, all welcome
Sudarsha
parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:17 pm


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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby AdvaitaJ » Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:20 am

Sudarsha,

I don't know if your last post was specifically for Ben or not, but...oh well, here goes anyway.

I agree with what (I think :thumbsup: ) you said, especially the part about letting go. I've had similar thoughts lately, but along the lines of there being a predisposition among some of us to "over complicate" things or "over think" the situation. Though hard to do, it does seem that the basics are straightforward; clinging leads to suffering. With regards to the subject of this thread, jhana, the things I've read always reiterate its usefulness for furthering the practice and all caution against viewing jhana as an end unto itself.

Regards: AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby BlackBird » Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:29 am

Good postings :goodpost:
They make for good reading.
Thank you all.

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." -

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby pt1 » Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:22 am


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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Ben » Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:29 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby Sudarsha » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:31 am

Sudarsha
parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā

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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:36 am


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Re: Jhana: sutta v commentary v abhidhamma

Postby IanAnd » Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:53 am

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


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