Do Arahants have Vitakka and Vicara?

Do Arahants have Vitakka and Vicar?

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Then the Blessed One entered the first jhana.
Atha kho bhagavā paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ samāpajji

Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (DN 16)

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I think vitakka and vicara are present in day to day minds, and also in the minds of arahanths in any state below (and not including) the second jhana. By vitakka and vicara I assume you mean thoughts.

with metta

No, I mean Vitakka and Vicara.

Good point!
Then what sort of Vitakka and Vicara the Blessed One possessed?

This is the question I have always had with Ajahn Brahm’s description of vitakka & vicara as the “jhana wobble”, where AB states on page 155 of his book:

“the bliss is so delicious that it can generate a small residue of attachment… the mind instinctively grasps at the bliss… the mind grasps again, then lets go again… such subtle involuntary movement gives rise to the wobble of the first jhana…called vitakka & vicara”…

While I do not doubt AB’s description of a “wobble” in the 1st jhana of a trainee (sekkha), once-returner or non-returner is entirely valid, that the EBTs describe the Buddha entering the 1st jhana seems to contradict AB’s description, since the “wobble” is obviously caused by ignorance, delight & grasping and, in response, mindfulness rectifying this grasping. This would not happen to an arahant.

@sujato @Brahmali :seedling:

In my opinion, Arahants do not have Vitakka and Vicara.
Arahants have Kiriya Citta which are not Vitakka and Vicara.
I may be wrong.

[quote=“Mat, post:3, topic:5619, full:true”]
I think vitakka and vicara are present in day to day minds, and also in the minds of arahanths in any state below (and not including) the second jhana…[/quote]

That seems accurate. From previous extensive discussion (e.g. V. Sujato’s multifaceted blog “Why vitakka doesn’t mean ‘thinking’ in jhana”), vitakka & vicara
(v&v) has varied meanings in different contexts, i.e. both within the EBT as well as across other parts of the Pali Canon, as also the meanings of “thought” across it’s various usages in the English language. It is said that arahants experience purely “functional” mental processes (kiriya citta-s, as SarathW1 notes), that is, simply ad hoc, here and now, presence in relationship to arising phenomena, rather than kamma-generating reactions. (This being an abhidhamma understanding, perhaps not explicit in EBT texts, but which doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s “wrong”.)

Another perspective would be that there are, experientially, two different phases of v&v at play here. First is the use of directing and holding attention (v&v) to the object in approaching jhana from upacara (“neighborhood”) concentration. Second is within 1st jhana the possible flagging of v&v attention (for instance, due to flagging energy or distraction by strongly intruding stimuli), where the mind can drift in and out of absorption. It seems logical that A. Brahm’s description (“wobble”) refers to the latter but not the former. In the former, a degree of chandra is at work as possibly a form of skillful desire, whereas in the later it can be more a matter of a lesser degree of mastery.

The Buddha’s, or anyone’s, process of approaching and entering 1st jhana involves directing and sustaining attention (v&v), although with greater mastery this can become a virtually instantaneous event – one can simply incline to a deeply embedded memory of absorption and immediately re-call, re-enter it, which was most likely the way the Buddha could do it.

As is well-known and often cited as a draw-back of jhanic-absorption, the pleasantness (sukha) of the experience can fall into tanha and upadana but not necessarily so. That is also not necessarily the case in general – not necessarily so for all persons in stages 1 to 3 of attainment or non-attainment, and certainly not for an arahant.

(This analysis, I believe, does not contradict Deeele’s assessment, but rather enumerates more subtle variations of the situation, the conditions.)

This is not AB’s explanation. The wobble occurs due to a minor tendency of delight or attachment towards the bliss and then the operation of mindfulness to abandon that delight & attachment. In this process, the one-pointedness or ekkaggata does not change.

In real jhana, the mind does not drift in & out of absorption because the mind has ekkaggata. Not every state of rapture arising due to concentration is jhana. Often suppression based wrong concentration results in rapture, which is mistaken or overestimated as jhana.

In my experience on internet chat sites, every declaration or claim of jhana I have ever read I believe is an enormous over-estimation. I cannot image any mind that has truly experienced jhana would make a public declaration. This sounds impossible since it is the mind rather than a ‘self’ that reaches & experiences jhana. To say: “I have experienced jhana” is illogical & non-sequitur.

SN 48.10 states the Buddha’s jhana occurs by making letting go (vossagga) the meditation object.

AB’s explanation & also Bhante Sujato’s (somewhere on his old blog) appear to possibly be consistent with SN 48.10 but appear contrary to the usual Vissuddhimagga approach of hitting a nail with a hammer or hitting a bell or whatever it is.

I like to picture jhana as like pulling the plug out of a bath tub & the water whirlpooling out. The only effort & intention required is to pull out the plug. Once the plug has been ‘let go’ of, the water itself merges or whirlpools towards absorption (drawn by the stream of gravity/Nibbana).

I believe not. What are called “variations” are certainly not “subtle”. To the contrary, they sound like coarse mental sankharas that hinder jhana.

Regards :seedling:

Some context: In a readily available talk (youtube – “A Life of Pleasure (Jhana) Bhante Sujato” ), V. Sujato notes that the Buddha (EBT) doesn’t specify a lot of detail of method for jhana, but taught more about the subjective side the meditation experience, emotional response to the object; typically in terms of a “gradual cessation”, from the more stimulating (piti rapture, uplift, thrill) to the more settling (passadi, sukha). And the emotional process of responding can vary according to the object, e.g. with metta as object more towards joy, with recollections as object more towards rapture, with breath as object more towards deeper tranquility.

He further mentions that experiential descriptions vary coming from different individuals (with their differing temperaments and other conditioned factors). A. Brahm’s description being one among many (e.g. in his book/essay “The Jhanas”, Singapore). Some depictions focus on the piti-type rapture at the initial entry into jhana (e.g. Leigh Brasington and his tutor Ayya Khema). Others find the entry more marked by stillness, tranquility. A. Brahm, s/w uniquely, also uses the term “bliss” in a rather involved manner: to represent pitisukha in the 1st two jhanas, and later redefines “bliss” (as the more tranquil sukha) in the 3rd jhana. His association of the “wobble” (in the 1st) with the subtle mental motion of attachment to then letting go of “bliss” appears to be more along the lines of that more rapturous interpretation of the state: (on p.32 in “The Jhanas”: “Vitakka – Vicára: experienced as the “wobble,” being the fine, subtle movement in and out of the bliss")

As V. Sujato notes, others may experience more dominantly the quality of tranquility. They then might describe that subtle motion (Brahm’s “wobble”) in other terms, such as those I suggested – flagging energy losing the steady attention then reactivating it, or momentary intrusion of strong external (or even internal) stimuli. Keep in mind, the 1st jhana is still precariously close to sensory disruption, as in the Buddha’s “thorn” metaphor. On the other hand, true absorption (appana-jhana), having a distinct neurological / physiological correlate basis, has a certain quality of momentum or inertia. Well-qualified teachers have pointed out that one can momentarily suspend full absorption to performs tasks such as adjusting the legs, or changing from sitting to standing position, while holding the mind very close to absorption, and can then easily slip (let-go) back into appana (without having to start over again from scratch, so to speak). Also, entering and leaving absorption, even very quickly, is later an advanced skill, when seriously applying insight to experience, including the experience of jhana it self (cf, MN-111).

[quote=“Deeele, post:9, topic:5619, full:true”]Not every state of rapture arising due to concentration is jhana. Often suppression based wrong concentration results in rapture, which is mistaken or overestimated as jhana.

In my experience on internet chat sites, every declaration or claim of jhana I have ever read I believe is an enormous over-estimation. I cannot image any mind that has truly experienced jhana would make a public declaration. This sounds impossible since it is the mind rather than a ‘self’ that reaches & experiences jhana. To say: “I have experienced jhana” is illogical & non-sequitur. [/quote]

This is all well-known, as can witnessed in many on-line discussion groups – where a typical OP goes something like “I think I may have got jhana”. With luck, some else in the discussion may point out that with entry into true appana-jhana, there’s no doubt about. And there’s a clear difference between (1) what some people imagine after reading some “easier” method (for instance, from Leigh Brasington, Bhante Vimalaramsi, Bodhipaksa, etc.) and experimenting on their own a bit, and (2) the experience of others who undertake multiple in-depth retreats with unquestionably
qualified teachers – usually monastics, but also some lay teachers – and have their experiences confirmed by the teachers.

“Experience on internet chat sites” is hardly a credible basis for authority in this area.

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