I take up an element that was also part of this topic. To put it very simply: Is the path fulfilled, nibbana realized with bringing about sammā-samādhi?
If there is a path to the end of dukkha, then with reaching the final point of that path the end of dukkha should be there. After all this is the promise of the Fourth Truth. And yet we don’t really get the impression that with sammā-samādhi nibbāna has been realized. Something is odd then with our formula of the Noble Eightful Path. Either we have a wrong understanding of it (and elsewhere I tried to harmonize samādhi, upekkha and vipassana into the umbrella of sammā-samādhi, not very convincingly). Or it’s simply ‘not over’ with the eighth limb. We find the perspective that indeed it’s not a Noble Eightful Path, but more, namely a Noble Tenfold Path – in the pali suttas:
DN 18: From right view arises right thought, from right thought arises right speech, … right action, … right livelihood, … right effort, … right mindfulness, … right concentration, from right concentration arises right knowledge [sammā-ñāṇa], from right knowledge arises right liberation/deliverance [sammā-vimutti].
Now that sounds like the happy ending for a path supposedly ending dukkha: vimutti! I’m surely not discovering anything new here (the tenfold path is usually taken as the ‘supramundane path’), just wonder why the normal path formula is branded as eightfold and not tenfold. “The Noble Eightfold Path” is for us such a synonym for the Buddhas teaching and yet I wonder if this phrase was competing against a ten-limbs formula and ended up victorious. Maybe in the beginning it was just ariyamagga and after the establishment of the brand the editions filled in ‘the proper’ ariya atthangika magga? The two additional steps might belong to the supramundane path, ok, but still, if ñāṇa and vimutti are the real end of the path they should be in the standard formula, right? We find this 10-fold sequence at many places in the main nikayas, mostly in the Anguttara:
DN 18, DN 33, DN 34
MN 8, MN 65, MN 78, MN 117
AN 4.89, AN 4.206, AN 10.103 – AN 10.115, AN 10.117, AN 10.119 – AN 10.134, AN 10.144 – AN 10.166, AN 10.239
SN 14.29, SN 45.26, SN 55.26
As always I’m glad about hints from your knowledge, the Agamas and references to articles - thanks!
i share the perplexity, the Buddha himself under Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta managed to attain samadhi but didn’t become awakened and got disillusioned, because their teaching wouldn’t bring about cessation of dukkha so evidently samadhi alone is insufficient
the end of the Path must be awakening, rise of personal knowledge and vision of what the Buddha himself came to know and see at the moment of sambodhi
so the 8-fold path could rather fit well with the teachings of the Buddha’s mentors
Do you think the same wording could be applied for knowledge (nyana) and even liberation (vimutti) or, because they are beyond the threshold of jhanas, wrong view actually gets the individual “stuck” or “capped” by / at his/her wrong samadhi?
Certainly. It applies to all the factors. “Wrong view” is not no view, and so on.
Stepping away from the bare doctrines for a moment, think about what it all means. Let’s take the most common real world case, someone who starts spiritual practice believing in an eternal soul. This is their wrong view. This informs the various path factors, all of which are technically “wrong”.
Here, wrong doesn’t mean “bad”. They may have very good speech, great livelihood and so on. But it’s wrong in the sense that it doesn’t lead to liberation, to release from samsara.
So, they get into jhanas, see great lights, a state of eternal bliss and peace, and, naturally enough, take this to be their “soul”. After the experience, they believe that their view has been confirmed. After all, now they don’t just believe in an eternal soul, they’ve actually seen it. This is their “wrong knowledge”.
As a result of this, they’re “free” from doubts and so on, which is “wrong freedom”.
Again, it’s not that these things are bad per se: they may well be very wise, peaceful, happy people. It’s simply wrong in the sense that it’s not true liberation. Ultimately it will betray them.
Since the experience of meditation has removed hindrances, it may be that they can readily shed their wrong view. Hence the Buddha’s first teachers had “little dust in their eyes”.
But this can’t be automatically assumed. I think it ultimately depends on the ego (ahamkara). If someone has narcissistic tendencies, they’re very unlikely to admit that they’re wrong, especially if they have already started a new religion …
Are you saying the samadhi experienced by Alara Kalama & Uddaka ramaputta is different from the samadhi taught by the Buddha himself? Namely the 5 mundane samadhis & the 4 supramundane samadhis taught as part of the Samatha bhavana?
Are you a monk or do you just have a cool haircut?
The samādhi of Ālāra Kālāma and Rāma (that is, Uddaka Rāmaputta’s teacher; this sutta needs to be read carefully) would have been wrong to the extent that it was based on wrong view, not necessarily because the samādhi itself was inauthentic. Ālāra Kālāma and Rāma were probably ascetics in the Brahmanical tradition and as such they would have had a view of self. This would have stopped them from gaining the full insight into non-self.
Whether they had the real immaterial attainments or not is another interesting discussion. But I will leave that for now.
My point was that, whether we have right view or not, what does it matter with regards to attainment of jhanas? I have studied jhanas from both Yogic (Brahmanical) point of view & Buddhist point of view, and my idea is that jhana is jhana, whether we r practicing from either point of view. Alara Kalama & Uddaka ramaputta would have the same jhanas as the Buddha, except that they couldnt penetrate the truth as deep as the Buddha did, because of their wrong view. But my take is that the jhanas don’t differ. The hindu yogins, upon achieving the highest jhanas report it as oneness with Brahman, while The Buddha clearly saw that it is just an insight into the highest Brahma world but he clearly saw that there is suffering even in the highest Brahma world, as well as ignorance. He did not deny the existence of Brahman, here merely states that this Brahman is ignorant and he thinks he is the creator even though he’s not (reference required). So from there on the actual, unique teachings of the Buddha started to depart from the brahmanical/yogic point of view, but they retained in common all the elements of Sila & samadhi & differed only on the concept of self/non-self, creator/no creator.
Sorry, but this discussion is superficially buddhocentric. ‘They had wrong view’, ‘misused their samadhi’ etc. First of all we know almost nothing about these maybe mythical figures. Then, if we really believe the accounts, after his enlightenment when the Buddha was scanning the world for beings with little dust on the eyes, he didn’t spot Kassapa, Sariputta, Mogallana or some deities, he sought out his former teachers. So whatever they did (again, we don’t know much), they were the most ready beings in the universe to get his teachings. Exactly how wrong could their views and samadhi have been?!
It’s easy to sit around with other buddhists and claim that everyone else has wrong view. Don’t worry, all other religions and sects do exactly the same. I hope we can do better than this, can refer to detailed doctrinal points, and can admit where we’re not really sure. Luckily we have contemporary teachers who taught in a coherent way, and we might get some light from them. Until we’re clear let’s not be too sure of ourselves…
Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi were deluded beings with wrong samadhi? Who are we to judge?
Do you know if either Ramakrishna or Ramana Maharshi have taught anything close to the serial path pointed by the Buddha? Or maybe, if they taught a different approach/path of practice and fruition?
The only knowledge I have of who these people were is what I find in the Wikipedia and few other links shared at the bottom of the Wikipedia articles. And in any of them could I find a clear summary of what these guys thought and even less at least how his disciples practice and attain under their dhamma…
not sure why this defensiveness and why in response to my comment
you seem to ignore the fact that it’s the Buddha who deemed their attainment limited, so we either believe the Buddha’s words as they’re recorded in the Canon and the results of his own path which led him beyond the attainment of his teachers or we go ecumenic and all embracing out of fear to be accused of exclusivism, snobbery and disdain to all non-Buddhists (in the vein of corny diversity is our strength)
however recognition of a path as wrong doesn’t imply disdain to it and its adherents, even though to some they may go hand in hand, especially it doesn’t for a Buddhist since aversion in all its permutations isn’t compliant with a dhammic attitude towards reality
as far as i’m concerned Ramana Maharshi was probably an arahant of our age or at least a noble person in dhammic terms
Thanks for raising these points. I agree completely that it’s ridiculous for us to put ourselves in a position of judging people and whether they have awakened or not, or what their level of samadhi is or isn’t. There’s so much ignorance in the world, shouldn’t we support and celebrate anyone who’s interested in clearing their mind and transcending suffering?
On the other hand, this is a discussion forum for the early Buddhist texts, so our field of interest here is understanding these texts and what they mean. Now, how that applies outside the texts themselves is a large and important topic, which will be different for everyone. But at least we can clarify some things about what the texts say and what they don’t.
Indeed, and I have made this point myself. In this, and more subtly in a number of places, I infer that the Buddha regarded the Upanishadic yogis as the most advanced of the contemporary practitioners.
Exactly because they believed in an ātman. Specifically, that the atman was identical with the cosmic brahmin. Again, this is an inference, but I think it’s probably correct. Even if they weren’t Upanishadic yogis, they surely must have ascribed to some kind of self theory, as this was the critical point that the Buddha said differentiates his teaching from all others. Moreover, we know from studies of the texts of other Indian spiritualities that this description is, in fact, correct: they do believe in some kind of “self” and place it at the heart of their philosophies.
From a Buddhist point of view, such beliefs and such attainments of samadhi are literally the bhavagga, the high point of existence (or next door to it!) They result in rebirth in a state of incredible peace and infinite awareness that lasts for tens of thousands of universes. So it’s not like they’re evil or anything. They’re only “wrong” in the specific sense that they aren’t the end of suffering.
Consider the “wrongness” of this like the calculations an astronomer has to do when, say, sending a rocket to Mars. They have to get so many things right to such an incredible degree of precision. You might get everything right, be incredibly good at what you do; but one measurement is off just a little, and voom! it shoots off uselessly into space. But if you get everything right, then
Surely we can do better than this! The suttas themselves teach us that our understanding of the Buddha’s teaching should be seen as provisional until we can confirm it with our own experience. Our job should be to test, to inquire, to sort out what is true and false. There’s a difference between discussing something as it is in the texts and believing it to be true.
Taking such an analytic approach, we can take a critical and meaningful approach to discussing other religions and spiritualities. But we can only do this with integrity if we are equally prepared to criticize our own religion.
It matters because only if you have right view will jhanas lead to freedom from suffering.
I’m not sure that this point has been conveyed clearly enough, so let me give an example.
Imagine a country where the constitution and rule of law has been suspended and replaced by a new constitution, written by those who took power in an armed coup. They will, of course, write the new constitution to enforce their own point of view.
Now, it might happen that such a country is, nevertheless, on the whole peaceful and prosperous, at least for a time. Maybe the people are simply relieved that the turmoil is over, or whatever, but anyway, they get on with their lives, and the state of the nation is, or appears, settled.
Of course, the problem is that states change. While there may be no armed insurgency or other visible signs of unrest, the underlying causes of unrest have not been addressed. There’s nothing wrong with the state of peace per se, but we can predict with a high degree of confidence that it won’t last. Trouble will come, it’s just a matter of when.
On the other hand, take a country where there is a decent constitution and rule of law. Nevertheless, even though equal rights for all are guaranteed in the constitution, these are in practice not applied to all. As a result, there is turmoil, dissatisfaction, and unrest. The state of the nation is bad, and indeed, it appears to be worse than that of the peaceful autocratic regime I described above.
But this state, too, is impermanent. If the nation is genuinely guided by a set of humane and decent principles, it is likely that conflict can be resolved, or at least eased, and it will move in a generally positive direction. With time and effort, it may become a nation that is both at peace and also guided by good principles.
So in these examples, the state of samādhi is like the state of a nation, which might be peaceful or troubled. One’s view, whether right or wrong, is like the possession of a decent constitution. These two things are not directly related to each other; they are, to use a phrase of Ken Wilber’s, “relatively independent”.
Nevertheless, to be truly at peace, a nation needs both. They support each other. And to truly develop in the eightfold path, we need both right view and right samadhi. If we only have one or other of these, or if they are partially present but imperfect, this is simply called “living in the real world”. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or evil, it just means they’re incomplete.
My point is slightly different here. What you’re saying is that, for example, if we eat a meal with right view, the effects on the body will be different than if we eat it with wrong view In my opinion, whether we have right view or not, the fact that we can attain jhanas without right view means a lot for me. Imo, I think right view starts after, and through, the attainment of Jhanas. I speak from a practitioners point of view and not an intellectual. We can talk about these things as long as you like, but if the experience of Jhanas doesn’t dawn on us in this life, again imo, right view will never arise. We have to go to the top of the mountain so we can see the valley, we have to go to the Himalayas so we can see the whole world. We have to go to the Arupajhanas so we can see, just like the Buddha saw, that suffering doesn’t end there (it’s only a matter of time before our lifespan in Brahma loka is over and there’s no guarantee we won’t fall to the lowest hells right after). So from there on right view is established in us, and we start walking The Buddha’s path, particularly the path of Panna & we start practicing vipassana. I remain convinced that the jhana attainment of a Buddha is equal to that of his teachers, the only difference is that they had a blind faith in a creator of all things and did not have the inquisitiveness & introspection that made the Buddha carry on until he attained the end of ALL suffering, Nirvana, which was known to those yogis only through cintanmayapanna but never through bhavanamayapanna which only the Buddha possessed. This and only this is the difference between the height of what Yoga had achieved in its’ golden days and Buddha’s teachings, but to put things into their perspective, Just like it was mentioned about the rocket going to Mars, we have to be absolutely precise beyond any speculation, and that is why no one before the Buddha was able to attain this Nirvana, this vimutti, even though they thought they did, and that’s why after the Buddha got his enlightenment, the first ones he surveyed with his divine eye were his teachers, because verily they were the nearest to Nibbana, all they needed was a discourse from the enlightened one for them to be awaken to the truth.
To adopt your metaphor, I’m saying that if you eat a meal it doesn’t matter what your views are about food for that meal.
But if you have no idea what makes healthy food, you’re just as likely to follow a healthy meal with an unhealthy one. And if you eat unhealthy food all the time, the fact that you have an occasional apple isn’t going to do much good.
Someone with a good understanding of nutrition may, to be sure, eat bad food. But it’s more likely that, in the long term, they’ll tend to eat healthy food and as a result, be healthy.
But these are just metaphors, we shouldn’t push them too far.
Our views about behavior and the behavior are, to repeat, relatively independent. We can’t eliminate one or other, or treat them separately; but neither can we draw simplistic assumptions from one to the other. Both matter, and both have to be considered in their own right, as well as in the relation they have with each other, without succumbing to reductionist temptations.
@sujato Speaking about pushing the metaphors too far, I was just giving an example when i mentioned about eating a meal with right view. My point was clearly that Jhanas are not affected with right view, and again I say it is only my own opinion that Right view will dawn only with the attainment of jhanas, not before. But I haven’t experienced those jhanas, that’s why I say it’s just my opinion, but if bhante sujato has experienced jhanas, perhaps he can explain to us further about them from his own experience. I think the Buddha’s right view dawned only upon attaining the highest jhana, and that’s the model that I take for myself in my own practice, jhanas first, then right view, and I stand on that point.
Another point I’d like to make is those ‘reductionist temptations’ you mentioned are exactly what makes us Buddhists think only we have the right view, without properly examining each & every other religion (specially other dharmic religions) and putting everything in perspective. Saying that Brahmanical samadhi/jhanas is different from Buddhist jhanas is like saying a muslim anger is different than Buddhist anger. We as buddhists should never forget that we inherited the practice of sila & samadhi from the brahmanical religion, through the medium of the Buddha, which only later built his own doctrine of non-self upon the very strong foundation provided by the advanced Brahmanical thought of the time. Just like we can’t study Jesus without studying the jewish milieu, we can’t study the Buddha without learning even the basics about Brahmanism and it’s profound similarities to Buddha dhamma. I will stop here for now.
I generally agree with you on this, and I agree with you that one’s view does not necessarily affect one’s ability to attain samādhi. But I think it can do, depending on the nature of the view. Deep samādhi requires the abandoning of significant parts of the five personality groups (khandhas), and if you truly believe that any of those is who you are, you will not be able to abandon them. Take the will. It has to be abandoned at the deepest levels of samādhi. If you take the will to be who you truly are, it will be impossible to reach that level of samādhi.
We are just trying to understand the difference between right and wrong samādhi from a Buddhist point of view. That right view is an important factor in right samādhi is clear from such suttas as MN 117.
I would understand this in a much more limited sense. It is just too striking that the Buddha first thought of his two teachers and then his five fellow ascetics. I would assume that he specifically looked at these people because he knew them. I doubt it is possible to survey all beings and know all their spiritual faculties just like that. It sounds too much like the sort of omniscience the Buddha specifically said he did not possess.
It’s probably impossible to make an absolute judgement, but you can start by reading their teachings, which should give you some idea. Take a Vedantic teacher like Nisargadatta Maharaj. One of his books is titled “I Am That”, which is specifically said to be wrong view in the suttas. Even from this you may not be able to judge absolutely, but you should at least have some doubts about whether his teachings are compatible with Buddhism.
In this case, we should be clear that there are 2 kinds of right view as mentioned in MN 117 and the brahmanical yogis had the 1st kind which has to do mostly with belief in kamma and its’ results which is what allowed them to attain the highest possible jhana/samadhi. We can further say they did not have the 2nd type of right view, that pertaining to the path, because they have not attained magga & phala and non of them were even sotapannas. That 2nd type of right view (right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path; MN 117) is what leads us to attainments of the 4 magga & 4 phalas which are the unique characteristic of Buddha dhamma, and imo, that’s where the Buddha dhamma goes away from its’ Brahmanical predecessor, but anything before that is completely in harmony with the teachings of the Brahmanical yogis. So their samadhi attainment is in accordance with right view, otherwise they could not have attained it, and Buddha himself certified them as Jhani, people who have attained jhanas, so how can we refute even the Buddha’s certification?