YOU CANNOT POST. OUR WEB HOSTING COMPANY DECIDED TO MOVE THE SERVER TO ANOTHER LOCATION. IN THE MEANTIME, YOU CAN VIEW THIS VERSION WHICH DOES NOT ALLOW POSTING AND WILL NOT SAVE ANYTHING YOU DO ONCE THE OTHER SERVER GOES ONLINE.

Conceptual and Non-Conceptual - Dhamma Wheel

Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 14947
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:08 pm


User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 14947
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:19 pm

Hmm, no response...

Since I see lack of clarity in what is or isn't conceptual, and where in the Path concepts do and don't apply, as an enormous source of confusion, I am particularly interested in some feedback (in case I'm just creating more confusion in my mind...).

So, to reiterate my understanding about the three aspects of the Path in very simplistic terms:
1. The development of sila is about concepts and content (good, bad, etc...).
2. The development of concentration is about concepts and content (focussing on metta, breath, kasinas, etc).
3. The development of insight is not about concepts and content. It's about clearly seeing sensations, feelings, thoughts, etc, rising and falling, and so on.

Of course, where it gets confusing is that a lot of mediation practise is a mixture of concentration and insight. In typical "insight" practise one is using the breath, abdominal motion, walking, etc, to build up concentration to be calm enough to support the insight part.

Time and time again I see discussions about "how should I be watching the breath?" where, to me, there is clearly confusion about whether the instructions are more in category 2 or category 3. Mixing up instructions from different teachers that have different aims will obviously lead to confusion...

Finally (perhaps this will provoke some response...), many annoying arguments involving abhidhamma (or zen, etc) zealots revolve around just such confusion - insisting on a non-conceptual approach ("it's just citta rising and falling...") where it really doesn't apply to deny the possibility or usefulness of certain actions or meditative approaches.

Metta
Mike

User avatar
Khalil Bodhi
Posts: 2206
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:32 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:30 pm

Mike,

Interesting post and the issue(s) you raise are certainly worth consideration. Sorry if my reply is kind of lateral in that it side steps the thrust of your post but I was wondering about the pedigree of Mr. Ingram. I quickly checked out the link you provided and found this under his About Me page:

"I am an arahat with mastery of the formed jhanas, formless realms, Nirodha Samapatti, and a few other traditional attainments. "

What do you make of this?

Metta,

Mike
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

Uposatha Observance Club:
My Practice Blog:

User avatar
LauraJ
Posts: 151
Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 8:38 pm

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby LauraJ » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:03 pm




Conquer the angry man by love. Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness. Conquer the miser with generosity. Conquer the liar with truth. -The Dhammapada

User avatar
poto
Posts: 369
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 3:21 am

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby poto » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:18 pm

Thanks for the link, just downloaded it. I will attempt to post a more lengthy informed comment after I finish reading the book.

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 14947
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 8:44 pm


User avatar
Khalil Bodhi
Posts: 2206
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:32 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:04 pm

Thanks for the link to the previous thread. Sorry about side-tracking your post. Be well.

Mike
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

Uposatha Observance Club:
My Practice Blog:

pt1
Posts: 416
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:30 am

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby pt1 » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:13 am


Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:58 am

My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: .

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 14947
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:48 am


User avatar
smokey
Posts: 115
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 6:01 pm
Location: Budaševo, Croatia

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby smokey » Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:17 pm

I will put an excerpt from a book "Essentials of Insight Meditation Practice" which is free and can be found here: http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/essentials.pdf

"WHAT IS A CONCEPT?
As I have said, a concept is what is thought out, imagined or created
by the mind. One form which is very obvious is when we think and
plan things which has not yet happened, or when we imagine and
“build castles in the air.” All these are mere concepts, they are not
real, and they are created with our minds. There are other types of
concepts, which are subtler, and we have to recognise them. These
come not actively but passively. They come with the processes of the
mind. One type is what we call sound concepts, eg, words and
melodies. These are not real because they are created by the mind.
For instance, the word “selfish” does not really exist in the ultimate
sense. It is made up of consonants and vowels, which are only sounds.
The word has two syllables, “self” and “fish.” At one moment of time,
you cannot hear the whole word “selfish.” What you hear are different
sounds passing away. It is only the sequence of sounds, which gives
the mind the idea. Actually, there is only vibration of sounds following
each other. Another type of sound concept is the melody, “do-re-me…
do, a deer, a female deer…” At no one moment does the melody exist.
There are only musical notes arising one after another. The mind gets
a mental imprint and so a melody arises. These are sound concepts.
Another form of concept is that which involves form. A form
involves distance, direction, and size. All this is ultimately not real.
For example, if I say that this is my right and this is my left, from
your perspective, which is really my right and which is really my left?
Right and left are concepts dependent on the relationship of one
object and another, which way you are facing and so on. Similarly,
things like distance and time. Even the idea of form and shape are
concepts. We seem to see whole things at once but in the thought
processes, we know it does not occur like that. Pictures on television
are an example. They occur rapidly one after another but we see the
forms and shapes created as simultaneous. Form and shapes are
concepts. In the case of form, we experience only the colour and the
light, which comes and goes very rapidly. Time is also a concept—
dependent on the functions of many things—which come and go."

"It is important that the meditator understands the difference between
“concept” and “ultimate realities,” because it is the direction which
he will have to lead his mind—from concepts to realities.
Concepts are those things or ideas thought out and conceived
by the mind. They are built upon the ultimate realities. Concepts are
only conventionally and subjectively true.
Ultimate realities, on the other hand, are those phenomena which
can be directly perceived (thus ultimate) without going through the
process of conceptual thinking, reasoning or imagination. These are
truths not depending on conventional definitions. Ultimate realities,
however, do not necessarily only mean the Absolute Reality which
refers only to the unchanging, unconditioned state—“Nibbana.”
Though conventional or conceptual realities are still a reality and
we cannot really do away with them altogether, we will have to put
them aside for periods of time during our meditation to allow us to
really see and realise things as they really are.
Conceptualisation can occur in two ways:
i Active Thinking
Active thinking can occur as philosophising, scheming,
planning or fantasising. It is obvious that when one does it
with lots of assumptions, preconceptions, ideas or hallucinations,
then one cannot be, at the same time, experiencing
nature directly. One has to put away all these before any
insight can arise.
ii ‘Unconscious’ Thinking
The second type of conceptualising is more subtle in that one is
not actively “thinking” or at least one is not conscious of it.
These concepts are formed so habitually and are deeply
embedded in the mind. These can also be part and parcel of
the mental processes influenced by kamma and the results
of kamma. Although one cannot abandon these altogether,
it is still necessary to transcend these for periods of time (by
means of highly concentrated bare mindfulness) to allow
insight to arise.
Examples of concepts relevant to the meditator are:
1 Word Concepts (Sadda Paññatti)
Words are made up of many syllables or sounds that arise
and pass away consecutively.
At one instant of time, the word does not exist, only the
arising and passing away of sound, a vibrating form;
materiality in nature.
Similarly a musical piece is made up of many “notes” of
sound. These are words based upon the play of sound when
we try to communicate our ideas and experiences with
another. Now it is also visual as it has been put into writing.
Sound concepts (words) may be real if they refer directly
to real phenomena that can be directly experienced. Unreal
concepts are those that cannot refer directly to realities. They
refer to other concepts and ideas which by themselves do not
really exist.
As words combine with words, further concepts build up
and can be the combination of real and unreal concepts.
Example: The word “mind” is a real concept as it refers to
mental phenomena that can be directly experienced without
conceptualisation.
The word “man” is an unreal concept because it refers to
something that cannot be directly experienced without
conceptualisation. Some words may have both—eg patient who
may refer to a sick person (unreal) or a tolerant mental state
(real).
In meditation we use them (real concepts) as labels to help
us recognise realities. Words and labels should not be grasped
at in meditation. One should instead try to understand what
is meant to be experienced.
2 Form, shape and distance
These concepts make up the two-dimensional and threedimensional
world.
If you study the television screen, the picture is made up
of electron lights shooting at a great speed from the tube within.
They arise and pass too fast for one to really know what is
actually happening. What the mind grasps (too slowly) is a
general play of colours which form shapes and so give us ideas.
They occur so fast that they seem to occur at the same time.
3 Directional Concepts (Disa Paññatti)
These are concepts corresponding to directions, relationship
of one thing to another eg east, west, right, left, above, below,
inwards, outwards, sideways, upwards, and downwards.
4 Time Concepts (Kala Paññatti)
The Time concept is built upon ideas concerning the recurrent
and consecutive occurrence of material and mental phenomena.
Materially, they involve light and darkness (as in day or
night), physical state of body (as in old and young) and so on.
Mentally, they involve mental activities and functions such
as sleeping time, working time, and so on.
Although we should have a general timetable or routine
to guide our practice, we need not follow it blindly.
Adjustments can be made if it is unsuitable. In groups,
sometimes one’s own welfare has to be sacrificed if benefit is
meant for the welfare of the group.
Collective Concepts (Samuha Paññatti)
These correspond to groups or collections of things, eg a
class, a race, a car, a city, group interviews, group meditation
etc.
6 Space Concepts (Akasa Paññatti)
Space concepts are those that refer to open spaces—such as
well, cave, hole and window.
7 Sight Concepts (Nimitta Paññatti)
These are visualised images such as the learner’s sign and
mirror image of tranquillity meditation. Many hallucinations
and imageries also come under this category.
8 Beings, Ego (Satta Paññatti)
What people normally regard as “I,” “you,” “he,” “she,”
“person,” “dog” or “deva” are actually sets of ever-changing
mental and material processes. These concepts of being,
should be used as convenience in communication but when
grasped upon as real, ultimate and absolute, one cannot help
but fall into conflict and sooner or later fall to ruin.
The abandoning of this concept is of utmost importance
to Vipassana meditation but upon the realisation that “All
dhammas are not-self,” one ought not to think “I” am walking
but just be mindful eg the process of walking. Some may
philosophise as they watch. This will, on the other hand, fall
into another set of concepts.
There are still many more concepts such as of happiness, suffering,
life and so on but we will not be dealing with them at the present.
In order to have a better picture of the process of conceptualisation,
it would be helpful to explain the thought processes.
A thought process can be defined as a series of consciousness
arising in an order that makes up what we “see,” “hear” and “think.”
These thought processes arise from the life continuum, a flow of
consciousness in a deep sleep state following stimuli from an internal
or external object.

User avatar
IanAnd
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:19 am
Location: the deserts of Arizona

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby IanAnd » Sun Dec 20, 2009 7:41 am

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

Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:04 am

Not in direct response to any of the above posts, but as the OP which was a break off from another thread (I think), I think that those articles that I referenced there are worthwhile bringing into the discussion here.

One of the key questions discussed by de la Vallee Poussin, Schmithausen (with Walser as his fanboy), Gombrich and Bodhi, is whether or not the apparent "two paths" (of very deep concentration on one hand, and lesser concentration but insight on the other) are an "either / or" approach, or whether that one subsumes the other (usually the latter into the former, the notion that the deep concentration also contains precisely the same insight).

The "deep concentration" approach, when taken to the state of neither perception nor non-perception, and of course nirodha-samapatti, indicates that the far end point is non-conceptual. Whereas the lesser concentration (which remains in with-perception meditative states) with insight, indicates that concepts are maintained throughout.

Of course, before all this, I personally feel that a clear outlay of what is meant by "concept" and "conceptual" should be indicated. (Likewise too for "percept" and "perceptual" as well, and also related issues.) And in particular, for so-called "insight". Etymological approaches will work for a start, but one needs to go beyond just this, however.

These terms in the Indic languages are not exactly the same as the common English terms for them, though I feel that the Buddhist definitions are more across the board internally consistent than their philosophical and psychological counterparts in English language. I personally think that Smithausen and Walser for instance, are taking the definitions of Prajna / Panna from a limited approach, mainly Abhidharmika and mid-late Mahayana (which borrows from the former). But Gombrich and Bodhi are only looking at the Pali, and do not see some really interesting stuff going on in parallel texts in the Sanskrit and Chinese.

This latter point indicates that the suttas that mention the states of "the signless", "cessation attainment" and "neither perception nor non-perception" are very inconsistent between the Theravadins, Sarvastivadins and Dharmaguptas at least, and definitely to the Mahasamghikas. This has some quite profound connotations, quite frankly, for both textual and doctrinal / praxis studies, and should definitely not be overlooked.
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: .

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 14947
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:44 am

Thanks Smokey, Ian and Paññāsikhara,

I have found Ven Sujiva's book very useful, and I used it a lo what little understanding I do have.
ot when I was away from my regular teachers for much of 2007. So it is one of the sources that has contributed to what little understanding I do have.

Paññāsikhara brings up some interesting points which now make me feel a little bit confused. My understanding of the jhanas and the formless attainments is that they are basically "mind created" and therefore what I was referring to as "conceptual" (or "solidified" as Ingram also puts it). As opposed to seeing the rapid rise and fall of khandas, etc which is the aim of the "insight" practises such as Mahasi, Goenka, etc, and is supposed to be (ultimately) non-conceptual. Of course, when one begins such practises (and presumably for a long time after...) one has concepts ("foot rising", "pain" etc), not direct experience of wind element or heat element, etc.

By the way, I deliberately created this thread separate from the other one because I was interested in the application of these ideas to practise, whereas the other thread seemed to be more about "theory".

Metta
Mike

Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Dec 20, 2009 9:13 am

My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: .

User avatar
poto
Posts: 369
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 3:21 am

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby poto » Sun Dec 20, 2009 7:35 pm


User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 14947
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:00 pm


Paññāsikhara
Posts: 980
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 5:27 am
Contact:

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Dec 21, 2009 3:59 am

In investigating some of the Abhidhamma models on these sorts of things, including the Visuddhimagga, although it may often be portrayed as "experiential" (a rather rather problematic idea, due to it's inherent subjectivity), if one looks carefully, many of its definitions of subjects of meditation and what they can achieve, are simply the results of doctrinal models, particularly that of paramattha-dhammas vs pannattis. When one goes back to the suttas, and also the experience of many practitioners, sometimes these models don't seem to be as clear cut as they are portrayed.
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: .

User avatar
IanAnd
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:19 am
Location: the deserts of Arizona

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby IanAnd » Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:50 am

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

Freawaru
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Re: Conceptual and Non-Conceptual

Postby Freawaru » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:52 pm



Return to “General Theravāda Meditation”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine