SuttaCentral

Meditation is important but not the main practice


#21

I thnk the Buddha used the word “bhavana” which means cultivation or training the mind. I believe the word “meditation” is no present in the Suttas; perhaps somebody knowing pali can clarify the point.


#22

The following is simply a definition of right concentration, it does not signify that RC is the culminating factor of the path. However what the sutta repeated states from the beginning is that right view is the forerunner of the path:

“The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.

"Of those, right view is the forerunner.”—-MN 117

Note that the transcendent or evolving wisdom factor of right view is comprised of the investigation factor of the seven factors of enlightenment and that generates the transcendent characteristic of right view. Just like a patient in an operation, some samadhi is necessary for the investigation resulting in insight to function, but the anaesthetic is not the main issue:

"And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.”—-MN 117


#23

Eating is the final stage in a process beginning with farming, then cleaning, cutting, cooking etc. Eating is not something that you “do” but something that happen to you when the prerequisites are met - food has been prepared, food is in your mouth, jaws are moving…

You say this with the apparent assumption that meditation is not ‘what really counts’. This is in direct contradiction to the Buddha’s teachings. He taught jhāna practice as the path to enlightenement, and continually taught his disciples to practice jhāna. If that doesn’t ‘count’, I wonder what does?!

I don’t know how you’ve come to the conclusion that meditation is “not doable”. Again this seems to directly contradict the entire canon.

It’s worth noting Japanese schools such as that of Shinan and Nichiren - they believed that successful meditation was no longer possible, because it’s a ‘dark age’ (mappō). So they said no point in doing it, and they made up ways that they said would work by getting them a good circumstance to practice next life in heaven, ways such as repeating the title of an old book. And they said that way works.

Of course it’s rather absurd for these people to have not merely failed in their Buddhist practice, but then concluded that because they failed, it’s actually impossible for anyone to not fail. A rather egocentric conclusion if there ever was one!


#24

This isn’t quite accurate. From DN33:

Four ways of developing immersion further. There is a way of developing immersion further that leads to blissful meditation in the present life. There is a way of developing immersion further that leads to gaining knowledge and vision. There is a way of developing immersion further that leads to mindfulness and awareness. There is a way of developing immersion further that leads to the ending of defilements.

Jhanas are for blissful meditation in the present life. Immersion to end defilements is different. I read this as “use jhana, but do not wallow in it”. Self-effacement is easier with the jhanas, but the jhanas themselves are not the goal.


#25

Your quote in now way refutes what I said.
If you want, you can read the 4 main Nikāyas and you’ll see how essential jhāna is. Or you can find the definition of right concentration in the Mahasatipatthāna sutta - defined as the 4 jhānas. Or you can find the Buddha’s first use of the term middle way, where he explicitely defines jhāna as the path to enlightenment, recounting when he actually discovered that path, and follow by him recounting how he became enlightened through jhāna practice.


#26

Please explain your interpretation of MN8 Self-Effacement. That would be very helpful to me. :pray:


MN8 Sallekha Sutta
#27

Samatha meditation removes the emotive roots of greed and hate; vipassana removes the intellectual root of ignorance:

"These two qualities have a share in clear knowing. Which two? Tranquillity (samatha) & insight (vipassana).

"When tranquillity is developed, what purpose does it serve? The mind is developed. And when the mind is developed, what purpose does it serve? Passion is abandoned.

"When insight is developed, what purpose does it serve? Discernment is developed. And when discernment is developed, what purpose does it serve? Ignorance is abandoned.

"Defiled by passion, the mind is not released. Defiled by ignorance, discernment does not develop. Thus from the fading of passion is there awareness-release. From the fading of ignorance is there discernment-release.”—-AN 2.20


The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta SN 56.11 Where the Buddha used the term ‘middle way’, doesn’t mention the word jhana, but it repeatedly refers to insight and the duties associated with the four noble truths as the source of enlightenment:

"Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose “—-SN 56.11


#28

I started meditating not knowing anything at all about Buddhism, just as a need to find a way to get relief from existential angst. To start, I didn’t have good instruction or training, just a 10 day Goenka retreat. It was really difficult and challenging, but I stuck with it because I knew that I was heading in the right direction.

After a year or so I was getting bored and wasn’t seeing the point of merely following the breath and body scanning. I discovered The Direct Path to Realization by Analayo and I got my first glimpse into an entire spectrum of what the Buddha was pointing to.

I’ve only been practicing for 8 years but take the the gradual training seriously, impossible to go back. But I must say, in the spirit of this discussion, that my method (if I can call it that) has been to take each teaching that I come across and try to understand it, read the suttas and meditate. I must be a little dim-witted, but I take weeks or months to meditate and watch carefully in my day-to-day life to see each teaching, watch things operate, see how each fits with all the other teachings, checking to make sure that I’m on track and not getting off into left field.

For me, meditation is where I can really let things carefully settle. It’s where all of my unexpected insights emerge and fall into place, creating a springboard into the next page. I have a history of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and other destructive behaviors. The Buddha’s teachings have saved my life and if I didn’t meditate I’m certain that I personally couldn’t have made much progress. I can guarantee you that without sustained seclusion in meditation I would never have been able to keep the 5 precepts, guard my sense doors or develop any semblance of confidence, effort, mindfulness, collectedness or wisdom.

I don’t expect my path to be exactly like every other follower of the Buddha and I wouldn’t expect anyone to practice like I do. I think that’s the beauty of what the Buddha taught in the suttas, that he pointed to where to go, how to get there, what to look out for and what to expect. But he was also compassionate and met people where they were and helped them in creative ways to enter through a door that worked for them, that led them to liberation.

At this stage of my path and practice I know, and others around me clearly see, that I have transformed radically over the last 8 years. Meditation has worked well for me and does right now, even if my path is different than others.


#30

I’m reminded of an allegory:

An astronomer spends all night looking into her telescope. Hoping to see what is so interesting, the king asks for a telescope, and though he spends all night staring into it all he sees is blackness. Confounded, he finally asks the astronomer: “why do you spend all night studying this telescope?” The astronomer replies, “I don’t study telescopes, sir. I study the stars.”

:pray:


#31

The king may have left the cap on?
Yet another metaphor I guess?

“Without stirring abroad, One can know the whole world; Without looking out of the window One can see the way of heaven. The further one goes The less one knows.” - Lao Tzu


#32

Some quotes for you:
AN 9.36

“Mendicants, I say that the first absorption is a basis for ending the defilements.
“Paṭhamampāhaṃ, bhikkhave, jhānaṃ nissāya āsavānaṃ khayaṃ vadāmi;
The second absorption is also a basis for ending the defilements.
dutiyampāhaṃ,
bhikkhave, jhānaṃ nissāya āsavānaṃ khayaṃ vadāmi;
The third absorption is also a basis for ending the defilements.
tatiyampāhaṃ,
bhikkhave, jhānaṃ nissāya āsavānaṃ khayaṃ vadāmi;
The fourth absorption is also a basis for ending the defilements.
catutthampāhaṃ, bhikkhave, jhānaṃ nissāya āsavānaṃ khayaṃ vadāmi

See also An 9.41 where the Buddha describes how he practiced the 4 jhāna and immaterial attainments, and then stated:

As long as I hadn’t entered into and withdrawn from these nine progressive meditative attainments in both forward and reverse order, I didn’t announce my supreme perfect awakening in this world with its gods, Māras, and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans.
Yāvakīvañcāhaṃ, ānanda, imā nava anupubbavihārasamāpattiyo na evaṃ anulomapaṭilomaṃ samāpajjimpi vuṭṭhahimpi, neva tāvāhaṃ, ānanda, sadevake loke samārake sabrahmake sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya ‘anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambuddho’ti paccaññāsiṃ.

DN 22, Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta (the more usual translatoin for ‘right emersion’ is ‘right concentration’:

And what is right immersion?
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhi?
It’s when a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.
As the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, they enter and remain in the second absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of immersion, with internal clarity and confidence, and unified mind, without placing the mind and keeping it connected.
Vitakkavicārānaṃ vūpasamā ajjhattaṃ sampasādanaṃ cetaso ekodibhāvaṃ avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhijaṃ pītisukhaṃ dutiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.
And with the fading away of rapture, they enter and remain in the third absorption, where they meditate with equanimity, mindful and aware, personally experiencing the bliss of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous and mindful, one meditates in bliss.’
Pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca viharati, sato ca sampajāno, sukhañca kāyena paṭisaṃvedeti, yaṃ taṃ ariyā ācikkhanti ‘upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī’ti tatiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.
Giving up pleasure and pain, and ending former happiness and sadness, they enter and remain in the fourth absorption, without pleasure or pain, with pure equanimity and mindfulness.
Sukhassa ca pahānā dukkhassa ca pahānā pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.
This is called right immersion.
Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhi.

The Buddha specifically calling jhāna the path to awakening, in MN 36:

‘I recall sitting in the cool shade of the rose-apple tree while my father the Sakyan was off working. Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, I entered and remained in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. ‘abhijānāmi kho panāhaṃ pitu sakkassa kammante sītāya jambucchāyāya nisinno vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharitā. Could that be the path to awakening?’ Siyā nu kho eso maggo bodhāyā’ti? Stemming from that memory came the realization: Tassa mayhaṃ, aggivessana, satānusāri viññāṇaṃ ahosi: ‘ That is the path to awakening!’ ‘eseva maggo bodhāyā’ti.

Right. But he does specifically define the middle way as the Noble Eightfold Path, and remember, the Noble Eightfold Path is the path of jhāna - it all leads up, sequentially, to the 8th step, which is defined as jhāna, as I quoted above. SN 56.11:

And what is that middle way?
Katamā ca sā, bhikkhave, majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati?
It is simply this noble eightfold path, that is:
Ayameva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, seyyathidaṃ—
right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.
sammādiṭṭhi sammāsaṅkappo sammāvācā sammākammanto sammāājīvo sammāvāyāmo sammāsati sammāsamādhi.

I can’t remember now the source which I refered to as the first use of the term middle way, and I may have been mistken but don’t have time to check more than I already have - but basically the two extremes discussion even from SN 56.11 show us that jhāna is the middle way:

Mendicants, these two extremes should not be cultivated by one who has gone forth.
“Dveme, bhikkhave, antā pabbajitena na sevitabbā.
What two?
Katame dve?
Indulgence in sensual pleasures, which is low, crude, ordinary, ignoble, and pointless. And indulgence in self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, and pointless.
Yo cāyaṃ kāmesu kāmasukhallikānuyogo hīno gammo pothujjaniko anariyo anatthasaṃhito, yo cāyaṃ attakilamathānuyogo dukkho anariyo anatthasaṃhito.
Avoiding these two extremes, the Realized One woke up by understanding the middle way, which gives vision and knowledge, and leads to peace, direct knowledge, awakening, and extinguishment.
Ete kho, bhikkhave, ubho ante anupagamma majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati.

And what is that middle way?
Katamā ca sā, bhikkhave, majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati?
It is simply this noble eightfold path, that is:
Ayameva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, seyyathidaṃ—

Check that against the MN 36 narrative and you’ll see that he rejected the first when he left his home, then rejected the second when rejecting Jain practice he ended up doing. Then he realised that jhāna is beyond those two extremes, or outside of them you could say. Then he defines the path of jhāna as the path to awakening. Then he makes a scheme for teaching jhāna training, which is the Noble Eightfold Path, which he therefore calls the middle path.

I’m not familiar with this sutta but I gave it a go. It talked about ‘effacement’, which is an English word I’m not familiar with. The dictionary doesn’t help me much - for ‘efface’ it says:

  • erase (a mark) from a surface
  • make oneself appear insignificant or inconspicuous

Not obvious to me how the sentences make sense with either of those meanings. But the PED gives this for the Pāli, ’ sallekha’:

  • austere penance, the higher life

Since I am not familiar with the usage of this term in the canon, my view is only speculative. But I find myself sondering if he is referring to the kind of practices non-Buddhists were doing in India. I’ve spent time in the forests and countryside of India with spiritual practitioners who have not spoken in many years, or help their hand in the air for years - there are others who will never sit, and so on. They believe that will get them closer to god, or get to moksha or whatever. I wonder if that is the type of ‘austere penance’ that sallekha is referring to here.

If so, it would appear that first, the Buddha is saying no, don’t misunderstand, jhāna is not some kind of penance, by which you get a reward because of doing something really hard (training for ages in concentration, sitting totally still for hours every day etc.).

But no, that is not why jhāna practice works. It’s a totaly different principle than the idea of getting benefit merely because somethign is hard to do, such as holding your hand in the air for years etc.

So he’s saying no, that’s not sallekha.

But then (if my interpretation of sallekha is correct), he redefines sallekha! He did this with many words. So if that’s what’s happening here, he’s basically saying no, if you really want to endure difficult things, then the real sallekha is to extinguish your cruelness, to not kill, not steal etc.

So whereas the non-Buddhist sallekha may be based around ritual, the power of specific actions, he’s ethicising it. He’s making the tasks directly related to ethical behaviour. Holding your hand in the air, or never sitting down etc., these are all difficult, but in the Buddha’s view I think those would be seen as useless. This austerity the Buddha is proposing is also difficult, but it’s totally based on inter-relation - how our actions affect others. And this morality is the necessary foundation for concentration training also, as it happens.

And please note that he concludes the sutta by instructing to pracrice jhāna:

Here are these roots of trees, and here are these empty huts. Practice absorption, Cunda! Don’t be negligent! Don’t regret it later! This is my instruction.”
Etāni,
cunda, rukkhamūlāni, etāni suññāgārāni, jhāyatha, cunda, mā pamādattha, mā pacchāvippaṭisārino ahuvattha—ayaṃ kho amhākaṃ anusāsanī”ti.

Bare in mind that that’s the first time I’ve read that last sutta you asked me about, so my interpretation might not be correct. That’s what comes off the top of my head when I read it though.


#33

I was thinking some more on our conversations and realized something else that might help. First, I’ll present what I think is your perspective, which is that the Noble Eight-Fold Path ends with Right Immersion. So yes. You are quite right that Right Immersion is the right goal. Absolutely right.

There is also a ten-fold path.

From DN33:

Ten qualities of an adept: an adept’s right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right immersion, right knowledge, and right freedom.

Beyond immersion lies right knowledge and right freedom. In Pali, these are:

asekkhaṃ sammāñāṇaṃ, asekkhā sammāvimutti

This is the Arahant path. Beyond the conceit “I am”. And this is what Self-Effacement means–shedding that conceit of self-existence.

Because of MN8 and DN33, I do not think we can stop at jhana. I do think we need jhana to help us shed those last pieces of self we cling to in our deepest unmindful corners.

Freedom is also critically important in SN12.23 Vital Conditions, which describes the full path into suffering as well as the escape. Immersion is definitely there, but it is on the way to freedom.


#34

The 8fold path is the path of training. The extra 2 are the 2 fruits of the training. This still means the 8fold path is the path of jhāna. It’s totally a jhāna training path if you examine it. And it produces those 2 fruits. They are not 2 extra trainings.

Whoever talked of stopping at jhāna? But you had better not stop before attaining and training in jhāna, if you want to consider yourself as following the 8fold path! The Buddha taught that jhāna is essential for enlightenment. And that’s why the 8fold path (= jhāna path) results in those 2 fruits.

No-one I know of is claiming otherwise. I didn;t think that was even questioned. But many many people use arguments related to this to actually reject jhāna practice. And diong that is quite literally rejecting the Buddha’s path to enlightenment.


#35

And don’t forget, what is the message that MN 8 leaves us with? Go practice jhāna! He said it so emphatically as the conclusion of that whole teaching! "Don’t be negligent! Don’t regret it later! This is my instruction."


#36

:rofl: I am chasing you all over!

Very well, I shall respond to this thread, not the other one you started.

I was not denying jhana. I was simply pointing out that MN8 indicates that there are different ways to engage in jhana. Blissing out in the present life is fine, but it is more effective to apply jhana to the self-effacement. If we take jhana itself as the goal, then we start climbing jhana ladders and feeling good about getting to a certain jhana level.

What the Buddha is saying in MN8 is “even if you can only get to first jhana, use that for self
-effacement”. He is also saying, “congratulations! you got to fourth jhana! now use it for self-effacement”. If the Buddha had to say all this in so much detail it means that monks were actually just happily abiding in jhana blissing out in the present life. MN8 is an encouragement to use jhana correctly and pick up the pace.


#37

Ha ha, sorry. I commented on the other thread because it might stimulate more discussion of that sutta there, and also be easier to locate in future. I’d love to see what results of good discussion on this. Interesting sutta!

Can you please quote the different ways to engage in jhāna from that sutta? I did not notice multiple ways there, though as I said I only just read it.


#38

Lol. I have to point you back over to the other thread! See you there! :smiley:


#39

Sure, let’s bring it all there, easier for others to follow and useful discussion of that sutta. I await your quotes - so far I don’t see them.


#40

Quote: “Then he defines the path of jhāna as the path to awakening.”

MN 36 concludes with the the standard reference to the threefold higher knowledge (te-vijja) (MN 60), that is remembrance of former rebirths, the vision of the fate of beings according to their kamma, extinction of all cankers. Both MN 36 and MN 60 clearly show that the four jhanas are completed before the attainment and are a foundation for them. However the first two knowledges are mundane, concerned with cyclic (conditioned) existence (and connected with mundane right view), and are not a necessary condition for sainthood, only the final supermundane power, extinction of all cankers attainable through penetrating insight being so.

Third knowledge:

"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. I discerned, as it was actually present, that ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress… These are fermentations… This is the origination of fermentations… This is the cessation of fermentations… This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.’ My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, ‘Released.’ I discerned that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’

"This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.”—MN 36

Wisdom is the opposite of ignorance, it is wisdom obtained through insight that eliminates ignorance and leads to experiential knowledge of the four noble truths.


#41

Do you have a citation for where he advocates this teaching approach?

It seems to work, as I’ve had many experiences of these (partially understood) seeds beginning to germinate on reflection, with repeated listening, and during meditation.