AN 3.60 vitakka & vicāra (B. Sujato) doesn't make sense here

(direct link above to B. Sujato’s translation, line 12.1)

below is excerpt from B.Bodhi and B.thanissaro for comparison.

at line 12.1 (Sujato), the meditator is in a-vitakka a-vicara samadhi, exercising the psychic power of reading another person’s mind.

  1. Now the fact that it says the mind reader “hears”/sutva the person’s V&V (vitakka and vicara) makes it clear vaci-sankhara, speech fabrications, are “thoughts and consideration” of a complexity very close to spoken language.
  2. The mind reader, presumably in 4th jhana, with “avitakka avicara” samadhi, which B.Sujato translates as “a person who has attained the immersion that’s free of placing the mind and keeping it connected.” How does that make sense? If the mind-reader has to track a dynamic victim (whose mind he’s reading), that speaker can be doing many things, walking, interacting with their environment, spastically jumping around with his monkey mind if he’s like most people, would the mind reader exercising samadhi need to constantly “place his (own) mind and keep it connected” in order to exercise this psychic power in tracking the speaker? But if we understand it as the psychic in avitakka-avicara samadhi is in a samadhi of “not thinking and considering”, then it’s coherent and makes sense. Just as a good normal listener (no psychic power), is said to be a good listener because he’s not thinking his own thoughts, he’s in samadhi carefully paying attention to the speaker. But the samadhi of the ordinary listener, is constantly “placing the mind and keeping it connected” to track body language, facial tics, etc.

AN 3.60 has interesting details

(2) “And what, brahmin, is the wonder of mind-reading? There is one who, by means of some clue,Nimittena ādisati. Mp explains it as if it means an unrelated clue in the environment, but it may be a gesture or facial expression—what we now call “body language”—that reveals to a skilled observer the other person’s state of mind. declares: ‘Your thought is thus, such is what you are thinking, your mind is in such and such a state.’ And even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise.

(other beings do the reading, then tell the yogi)

“Again, someone does not declare [the state of mind] on the basis of a clue, [171] but he hears the sound of people, spirits, or deities [speaking] and then declares: ‘Your thought is thus, such is what you are thinking, your mind is in such and such a state.’ And even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise.

(hear sound of diffusion of thought)

“Again, someone does not declare [the state of mind] on the basis of a mark, or by hearing the sound of people, spirits, or deities [speaking], but he hears the sound of the diffusion of thought425Vitakkavipphārasaddaṃ sutvā. Mp: “Having heard the sound of those muttering while asleep or oblivious, which [sound] arises by the diffusion of thought.” I suspect that Mp misses the point. Since the examples in the sutta proceed from the coarser to the subtler, this one should be subtler than its predecessor. I think that what is intended is a subtle sound supposedly emanated by thought but not expressed verbally. as one is thinking and examining [some matter] and then declares: ‘Your thought is thus, such is what you are thinking, your mind is in such and such a state.’ And even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise.

(mind reading of a mind with no V&V)

“Again, someone does not declare [the state of mind] on the basis of a mark, or by hearing the sound of people, spirits, or deities [speaking], or by hearing the sound of the diffusion of thought as one is thinking and examining [some matter], but with his own mind he encompasses the mind of one who has attained concentration without thought and examination and he understands: ‘This person’s mental activities are so disposed that immediately afterward he will think this thought.’426This must be referring to one in the second or higher jhānas. And even if he makes many declarations, they are exactly so and not otherwise. This is called the wonder of mind-reading.

(far exceeding 500 monks during the Buddha’s time could do this)

...
“But, Master Gotama, is there even one other bhikkhu apart from Master Gotama who can perform these three wonders?” (miracle of iddhi, mind reading, and instruction)
385“There is not just one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, or five hundred bhikkhus, but even more who can perform these three wonders.”
386“But where are those bhikkhus presently dwelling?” [173]
387“Right here, brahmin, in this Saṅgha of bhikkhus.”

AN 3.60 thanissaro trans.

(2a. Miracle of telepathy, by sign or vision)

♦ “katamañca, brāhmaṇa, ādesanāpāṭihāriyaṃ?
"And what is the miracle of telepathy?
idha, brāhmaṇa, ekacco nimittena ādisati —
There is the case where a certain person reads [another person' thoughts] by means of a sign (vision), [saying,]
‘evampi te mano,
'Such is your thinking,
itthampi te mano,
here is where your thinking is,
itipi te cittan’ti.
thus is your mind.'
so bahuṃ cepi ādisati
And however much he may read,
tatheva taṃ hoti,
that's exactly how it is,
no aññathā.
and not otherwise.

(2b. Telepathy by talking to external beings)

♦ “idha pana, brāhmaṇa, ekacco
"Then there is the case where a certain person reads [another person's thoughts],
na heva kho nimittena ādisati,
not by means of a sign or vision,
api ca kho manussānaṃ vā amanussānaṃ vā devatānaṃ vā saddaṃ sutvā ādisati —
but by hearing the voice of human beings, non-human beings, or devas, [saying,]
‘evampi te mano,
'Such is your thinking,
itthampi te mano,
here is where your thinking is,
itipi te cittan’ti.
thus is your mind.'
so bahuṃ cepi ādisati
And however much he may read,
tatheva taṃ hoti,
that's exactly how it is,
no aññathā.
and not otherwise.

(2c. telepathy by directly “hearing” vitakka and vicara)

♦ “idha pana, brāhmaṇa, ekacco
"Then there is the case where a certain person reads [another person's thoughts],
na heva kho nimittena ādisati
not by means of a sign or vision;
napi manussānaṃ vā amanussānaṃ vā devatānaṃ vā saddaṃ sutvā ādisati,
not by hearing the voice of human beings, non-human beings, or devas;
api ca kho vitakkayato vicārayato
but by hearing the sound of the directed thought & evaluation
vitakkavipphārasaddaṃ sutvā ādisati —
of a person thinking directed thoughts and evaluating, [saying,]
‘evampi te mano,
'Such is your thinking,
itthampi te mano,
here is where your thinking is,
itipi te cittan’ti.
thus is your mind.'
so bahuṃ cepi ādisati
And however much he may read,
tatheva taṃ hoti,
that's exactly how it is,
no aññathā.
and not otherwise.

(2d. Telepathy by 6ab #3, abhiñña #3, mind encompass mind)

♦ “idha pana, brāhmaṇa, ekacco
"Then there is the case where a certain person reads [another person's thoughts],
na heva kho nimittena ādisati,
not by means of a sign or vision;
napi manussānaṃ vā amanussānaṃ vā devatānaṃ vā saddaṃ sutvā ādisati,
not by hearing the voice of human beings, non-human beings, or devas;
napi vitakkayato vicārayato
not by hearing the sound of the directed thought & evaluation
vitakkavipphārasaddaṃ sutvā ādisati,
of a person thinking directed thoughts and evaluating;
api ca kho avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhiṃ samāpannassa
but by having attained a concentration devoid of directed thought & evaluation,
cetasā ceto paricca pajānāti —
and encompassing the awareness [of the other] with his own awareness, he discerns,
‘yathā imassa bhoto mano-saṅkhārā paṇihitā
'Given the way the mental fabrications of this venerable person are inclined,
imassa cittassa anantarā amuṃ nāma vitakkaṃ vitakkessatī’ti.
the directed thoughts of his mind will immediately think about this.'
so bahuṃ cepi ādisati
And however much he may read,
tatheva taṃ hoti,
that's exactly how it is,
no aññathā.
and not otherwise.
idaṃ vuccati, brāhmaṇa, ādesanāpāṭihāriyaṃ.
"This, brahman, is the miracle of telepathy.

(3. Miracle of instruction)

♦ “katamañca, brāhmaṇa, anusāsanīpāṭihāriyaṃ? idha, brāhmaṇa, ekacco evamanusāsati — ‘evaṃ vitakketha, mā evaṃ vitakkayittha; evaṃ manasi karotha, mā evaṃ manasākattha; idaṃ pajahatha, idaṃ upasampajja viharathā’ti. idaṃ vuccati, brāhmaṇa, anusāsanīpāṭihāriyaṃ.
"And what is the miracle of instruction? There is the case where a certain person gives instruction in this way: 'Direct your thought in this way, don't direct it in that. Attend to things in this way, don't attend to them in that. Let go of this, enter and remain in that.' This is called the miracle of instruction.
imāni kho, brāhmaṇa, tīṇi pāṭihāriyāni.
"And these are the three miracles.
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No, the person who’s mind is being read is in such a state. (avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhiṃ samāpannassa; the genitive samāpannassa means “of a person who has attained”). Ven Thanissaro’s translation is wrong.

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perhaps subvocalization.

Modern-day mentalists are capable of mind-reading tricks that would have absolutely blown away ancient people — and yet claim no supernatural attainment.

That’s a very good point. Thank you for the research. I think Bhante Sujato would agree with this since his translation was:

In another case, someone reveals by hearing the sound of thought spreading as someone thinks and considers:

Idha pana, brāhmaṇa, ekacco (na heva kho nimittena ādisati napi manussānaṃ vā amanussānaṃ vā devatānaṃ vā saddaṃ sutvā ādisati), api ca kho vitakkayato vicārayato vitakkavipphārasaddaṃ sutvā ādisati:

ps: in TB’s translation, you wrote:

api ca kho vitakkayato vicārayato
but by hearing the sound of the directed thought & evaluation

vitakkavipphārasaddaṃ sutvā ādisati —
of a person thinking directed thoughts and evaluating, [saying,]

But it should be the other way around. Also in the first part, there is no mention of evaluation (vicara), that is only in the second part (error by TB).

Do you plan to link to all these topics in one of your wiki first posts?

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This seems to be a very unpopular opinion around here, but I think it is worth discussing, because there are so many pointers that go directly against the modern day orthodox interpretation and the traditional nature of Theravada makes it very difficult to question any authority.

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I’ve been doing pali+english audits of V&V passages for years now, it’s quite a large collection, and I need to organize it better before I share it on here. But yes, I should have a table of contents that highlights the cases where it’s particularly obvious V&V must be “thinking and evaluation”.

Can you give an example of a mentalist where it’s an amazing trick that looks like mind reading, that anyone can do?

I watched several of lior suchard’s videos, read his book as well,
http://www.liorsuchard.com/

and as far as I can tell, it’s no mentalist trick, but the power of samadhi. For entertainment purposes, he says he’s a mentalist, and I’m sure he has carefully studied and practiced the mentalist techniques (body cues, sublimnal influencing, etc), but the things he does on the videos, predicting the future winner of a professional team sports outcome, mind reading people’s ATM card numbers, having 100% accuracy rate in “guess which hand is holding the ball”, and ability to manipulate multiple members audience “free will”, it’s samadhi power.

I would be surprised if other mentalists can do the things lior is doing.

When you have samadhi power, it’s not going to be clear exactly how it works to the exerciser of that power. It’s just something that just follows your will and you wonder why everyone else can’t do it.

Ok, I believe you (and Bodhi’s translation agrees) that Ven. T’s translation has that mistake. Although the passage in question doesn’t specify exactly what the mind reader’s samadhi state is, can you really say, while he’s exercising the mind reading power, he is not in avitakka-avicara samadhi for much if not that entire time?

To read someone else’s mind, or one’s own mind, vitakka & vicara (as “thinking & considering”) is not required. Only S&S is needed (sati and sampajano), which is explicitly present in 3rd jhana, while 4th jhana is purified sati and upekkha (which can perform the same function as vicara, upa+ikkhati).

the 4 Satipatthana’s citta anupassana, is the exact same instructions as the psychical power of mind reading:

STED 6ab #3: cetasā cetoparicca pajānāti.

para-sattānaṃ para-puggalānaṃ
other-beings, other-people,
cetasā ceto
their-minds, with-his-mind,
paricca pajānāti.
(he) distinguishes (and) understands.
Sa-rāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘sa-rāgaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
with-passion ** (in their) mind, 'with-passion (in their) mind' (he) understands.
vīta-rāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vīta-rāgaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
without-passion ** (in their) mind, 'without-passion (in their) mind' (he) understands.
sa-dosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘sa-dosaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
with-aversion ** (in their) mind, 'with-aversion (in their) mind' (he) understands.
vīta-dosaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vīta-dosaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
without-aversion ** (in their) mind, 'without-aversion (in their) mind' (he) understands.
sa-mohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘sa-mohaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
with-delusion ** (in their) mind, 'with-delusion (in their) mind' (he) understands.
vīta-mohaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vīta-mohaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
without-delusion ** (in their) mind, 'without-delusion (in their) mind' (he) understands.
saṃkhittaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘saṃkhittaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
restricted ** mind, 'restricted mind' (he) understands.
vikkhittaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vikkhittaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
scattered ** mind, 'scattered mind' (he) understands.
mahaggataṃ vā cittaṃ ‘mahaggataṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
enlarged ** mind, 'enlarged mind' (he) understands.
a-mahaggataṃ vā cittaṃ ‘a-mahaggataṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
un-enlarged ** mind, 'un-enlarged mind' (he) understands.
sa-uttaraṃ vā cittaṃ ‘sa-uttaraṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
with-superior [but surpassable] ** mind, 'with-superior mind' (he) understands.
an-uttaraṃ vā cittaṃ ‘an-uttaraṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
un-surpassable [nothing-higher] ** mind, 'un-surpassable mind' (he) understands.
samāhitaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘samāhitaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
concentrated ** mind, 'concentrated mind' (he) understands.
a-samāhitaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘a-samāhitaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
un-concentrated ** mind, 'un-concentrated mind' (he) understands.
vimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘vimuttaṃ citta’nti pajānāti;
released ** mind, 'released mind' (he) understands.
a-vimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘a-vimuttaṃ citta’nti pajānāti’’.
un-released ** mind, 'un-released mind' (he) understands.

The big problem of V&V as "placing and connecting mind" in relation to S&S (sati and sampajano)

So as you can see, when one is doing citta anupassana, while in 3rd jhana, on themself, or as a psychic power reading someone’s else’s mind, the person’s mind they’re reading, as it switches through various mental states, would require the mind reader’s own mind to “place his own mind and keep it connected” through the various changes. But if the mind reader is in 4th jhana, and the ability to place and connect the mind has been abandoned after first jhana, this doesn’t make sense.

Imagine 50 to 100 years from now

Is the EBT as transmitted by B. Sujato's English translation, going to be easier to survive as something coherent and comprehensible with V&V as it is now, with the discontinuous change in 1st jhana with no explanation in MN 19, etc? We want the same thing, the genuine Buddha Dhamma to last as long as possible. The more complicated something is, the harder it is for it to survive.
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There’s ample evidence, across two millennia of texts as well as many modern analyses, that the two interpretations of V&V that you insist upon characterizing as inadmissible “contradiction” are on a continuum of gradations of meaning, and have experientially reconcilable justification.

Your voluminous “proofs” of your interpretation, with its incessant redundancy, more demonstrates an over-sized confidence in your own views, and largely amount to conformation bias.

And in particular your evangelical impetus to virtually eradicate divergent views could be said to belie the tinge of insecurity that invariably lurks behind such dogmatism.

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If the evidence was there, you would be able to show it, Vism. would be able to show it, Ajahm Brahm and his supporters would be able to show it. Mahayana is on the continuum of gradations as well, and if you see it having “reconciliable justification” with EBT, that’s your opinion and few (edit: few people following a reasonable standard) share it. There is a standard of reasonable logic that people can try to adhere to.

I’m all for divergence of views, I believe it contributes to a healthy ecosystem. But it ain’t what you do, it’s how you do it. You want to say Mahayana, or Late Theravada, or Modern Theravada is the best way to go, or Christianity is the best way to go, fine. But if you say they’re all on the same continuum, all meditative paths lead to the same mountain top, then you would find few rational people that could agree with that. They have similarities and points in common, but they have important differences where it counts the most. Disagree? Then show some evidence. You say it’s there, and it’s ample. Then show it.

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It’s strictly about interpretation of V&V. Not about Mahayana or Christianity etc. Evidence is abundantly available in Sujato’s blog coverage, L.S.Cousins’ article, in Richard Shankman’s survey “The Experience of Samadhi” (and the interviews therein), etc. Your views contribute to the discussion, but do not define it.

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I have read all 3. Cousin’s translation of V&V as “think OF something and thinking ABOUT same something” (my paraphrase) is an excellent translation. Shankman’s survey is really good. As far as I recall, he clearly showed where early and late Theravada contradict or differ in Jhana. I don’t think any of the points I’ve brought up on V&V are contradicted by Shankman or Cousins. If you think it does, then please show it.

Message 11 in this thread contains a link to an excellent blog post by @silence (I believe he’s the author of the blog post he links to), with scriptural evidence, where B. Sujato’s views on V&V don’t make sense.

If your issue is simply that I appear arrogant and dismissive of other views, then I apologize and I’ll try to do better in that department. In my defense, I do try to be fair in discussion, plain speaking and direct, which may come across as rude and abrupt. And maybe my tone is not so patient when people make claims for which they don’t supply a clear line of reason and evidence.

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Indeed my experience is that the number one argument for the Vsm interpretation is the argument of authority (as exemplified by your interlocutor in post #9).

When other arguments are provided, they are flimsy, mere attempts to justify one’s beliefs, and when cross-checked extensively for consistency the interlocutor has to either back down or resort to all sorts of tricks and improbable assumptions.

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Hi Frank,

I don’t have any really strong views on this matter, but I don’t think it is nearly as clear-cut as you imply.

A variety of people who characterise themselves as EBT enthusiasts have argued for jhana-heavy, including SVens Sujato and Bramali, Sylvester, and Ven Analayo in his talks and writings.

Allow me to add some further comments:

I am inclined to make a distinction between the theory and the practical instructions in the Commentaries. If one takes the view that the practical instructions are summaries of experiences of adept ancient practitioners, then I think they should be taken seriously. One might, however, argue with some of the theory and also argue that, therefore, the jhana-heavy that is described in the Visuddhimagga is not necessary for awakening and that the jhana-light version may actually be more effective. I don’t know, of course… :sunglasses:

It’s probably a little out of date, but there is quite a variation of interpretation across the jhana-light spectrum in Leigh Brasington’s page here: Jhana Interpretations with Bhante Vimalaramsi being at the lightest end of the spectrum.

Finally, there is Bhikkhu Cintita’s analysis here: Buddha’s Meditation and its Variants | Buddha-Sāsana
He agrees with your interpretation of EBTs (jhana-light), and that the VM jhana-heavy is a later development. Ironically, perhaps, he notes that the “vipassana” approaches of Mahasi Sayadaw (based on the VM “dry-insight” approach, which “only” requires what there is called “access concentration”) are actually quite consistent with your interpretation of the EBTs in terms of the type of awareness being cultivated. In brief, he argues that your/his jhana-light interpretation is access concentration.

As I said, I don’t have a strong stake in all this. I happened to learn from Bhikku’s practicing a Mahasi-style approach, and I’ve stuck with that, so if the analysis of Bhikkhu Cintita is correct, I’m practicing in roughly the right way… :sunglasses:

On the other hand, if Vens Brahm, Sujato, etc, are correct, I have a bit more work to do on the jhana factors to prepare for awakening…

Keep up the interesting conversation.

:heart:
Mike

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And when asked to justify with passage quotes, IMO have not provided any compelling evidence in the EBT that can reasonably justify redefining very important terms like kāya/body in the 4 jhanas, or support the idea of a frozen state where the “will” is suspended. The most fundamental and basic ability to do vipassana in EBT is S&S (sato and sampajano), explicitly present in the 3rd jhana.

Ultimately nothing is “clear-cut” as you point out, when interpreting any text, but relative reasonable-ness and likelihood can be compared.

Ven. Anālayo, does not belong in the group of EBT people cited above when it comes to interpretation of “body” in jhāna. He sides with the straightforward reading of EBT in both pali and agamas, that “body” is physical body of flesh and blood experienced in 4 jhānas.

The meditation method itself, VRJ and Ajahn Brahm’s jhāna, works as advertised, and I have no problem with the meditation techniques as meditation techniques. There are plenty of ways those techniques can be incorporated into Buddhism without contradicting EBT.

The problem is when you have to start redefining important fundamental terms in the EBT such as kāya, vedana, the distinction between rūpa and a-rūpa in such a way that future generations, and even people right now will become very confused, lose confidence in the integrity and coherence of the EBT itself. If you need highly trained experts like Ven. Sujato and Ven. Brahmali to be the religious elite intermediary with the general public to explain why the Buddha confoundingly redefined important terms, it does not bode well for the survival of EBT, IMO.

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I may be mistaken, since I am relying on memory, but my recollection from some of his talks was that Ven Analayo had an interpretation of jhana that was at the jhana-heavy end and that expressions such as “body-witness” in MN70 SuttaCentral cannot refer to a physical body. Unfortunately, I don’t have references, but the latter was a comment in the context of a recent Nibbana Sermon, 15 or 16. https://analayo2018.buddhistinquiry.org

When it comes to 16 APS (anapanasati), I’m 100% positive in both pali and agamas, in suttas and vinaya, he treats body as anatomical body, not mental body or “body of breath”.

In standard 3rd jhana of agamas from MA 2, he has:

“experiencing pleasure with the body,”

and here from tibetan parallel, in his satipatthana comparative studies, for third jhana, he writes:

j3: note body is physical

With the fading away of joy, dwelling equanimous with mindfulness and comprehension, experiencing just happiness with the body, what the noble ones reckon an equanimous and mindful dwelling in happiness, [a noble disciple] dwells having fully attained the third absorption. Such pleasant feelings do not increase desire, but [instead lead to] abandoning it.

The Majjhima-nikāya and Madhyama-āgama parallels differ in so far as they illustrate the type of pleasant feeling that is not related to desire with the example of the first absorption alone,21 without bringing in the second and the third absorption.

Here is the description of painful and neutral feelings that do not lead to unwholesome repercussions in the Tibetan version:

Here a noble disciple generates an aspiration for supreme liberation: “When shall I dwell fully realizing that sphere, which the noble ones dwell having fully realized?” The mental displeasure and painful feeling [due to] that aspiration, that pursuit, and that longing do not increase aversion, but [instead] abandon it …

It’s V&V (vitakka and vicara) where Ven. Analayo seems to share the same view as B. Sujato, according to his translations of jhana formulas in pali and agamas.

For the tibetan parallel V&V though, this is VERY interesting:

j1

Here a noble disciple, being free from sensual desire and free from bad and unwholesome states, with [directed] comprehension and [sustained] discernment, and with joy and happiness arisen from seclusion, dwells having fully attained the first absorption.

j2

With the stilling of [directed] comprehension and [sustained] discernment, with complete inner confidence and unification of the mind, free from [directed] comprehension and [sustained] discernment, with joy and happiness arisen from concentration, [a noble disciple] dwells having fully attained the second absorption.

Here’s relevant excerpt from V. Anandajoti’s 3rd jhana formula from Sanskrit work Arthaviniścayasūtram

experiencing happiness through the body,

Other than Ajahn Brahm (and his supporters), I don’t think anyone else in the EBT world in pali or agamas, or any other EBT school that I’m aware of, treat kaya as mental body. They all view the body as physical flesh and blood body in the 4 jhanas.

Even Ajahn Brahm’s beloved teacher, who he trained under for 9 years, the great Ajahn Chah, said body is physical.

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Ajahn Brahm and those who have trained under him are experiencing very specific types of absorptions. These are real experiences for them and as Buddhists they would like to relate them to the Buddha’s teaching. This leads them to define V&V, body, etc. differently than what seems logical but in the end, for me, theses issues are not as important as:

  • what are these types of absorptions bringing to the practitioners?
  • do they make him/her closer to being free from dukkha?
  • if so how do this work?

I would really like to read about the practical role of any form of absorptions (Jhanas and the others) on the path to liberation from dukkha. This would help re-installing the jhanas as the eight component of the 8FP that cannot be bypassed (in contrast to vipassana dry-insight).

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