On the signless

From AN 6.13:

Furthermore, there is the case where a monk might say, ‘Although the signless has been developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken by me as my awareness-release, still my consciousness follows the drift of signs.’ He should be told, ‘Don’t say that. You shouldn’t speak in that way. Don’t misrepresent the Blessed One, for it’s not right to misrepresent the Blessed One, and the Blessed One wouldn’t say that. It’s impossible, there is no way that—when the signless has been developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken as an awareness-release—consciousness would follow the drift of signs. That possibility doesn’t exist, for this is the escape from all signs: the signless as an awareness-release.’

(Trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

What is meant by ‘signless’, animittā as given in the Pali, and ‘the drift of signs’, nimittānusāri, here?

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Ven. Bodhi’s rendered it as the “markless” liberation of mind, and cited Cmy.'s 2 explanations:

Animitta cetovimutti. Mp: The markless liberation of mind: strong insight (balavavipassana). But the reciters of the Digha Nikaya say it is the meditative attainment of the fruit of arahantship (arahattaphalasamapatti); for that is said to be markless because it lacks the marks of lust, etc., the marks of form, etc., and the marks of permanence, etc. (sa hi raganimittadinañceva rupanimittadinañca niccanimittadinañca abhava animitta ti vutta).

Mp: “Follows after marks”: follows along with the aforesaid marks.

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Here’s a previous thread on the topic: https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/understanding-animitta-signlessness-as-in-an6-13/

with metta

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Gosh, what I lack in both originality and ability to use the search function! :blush:

Much thanks santa100 & Mat.

That’s guarding the sense doors, brought to perfection.

For example, as described in Titthiya sutta, passion and aversion arise and grow due to attention being paid to representations (nimitta) of attractive or irritative:

"[Then if they ask,] ‘But what, friends, is the reason, what the cause, why unarisen passion arises, or arisen passion tends to growth & abundance?’ ‘The theme (representation, nimitta) of the attractive,’ it should be said. ‘For one who attends inappropriately to the theme (nimitta) of the attractive, unarisen passion arises and arisen passion tends to growth & abundance…’

"[Then if they ask,] ‘But what, friends, is the reason, what the cause, why unarisen aversion arises, or arisen aversion tends to growth & abundance?’ ‘The theme (representation, nimitta) of irritation,’ it should be said. ‘For one who attends inappropriately to the theme (nimitta) of irritation, unarisen aversion arises and arisen aversion tends to growth & abundance…’

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.068.than.html

For example, untrained man sees a plastic womanlike mannequin, and his conscousness automatically drifts to some representation (nimitta) of attractive woman.

This function of representations was also known to Ancient Greeks, and Epictetus mentioned it in his works. People are confused not by the things themselves, but rather by their representations of them.

These popping up “advertisements” can be stopped by “AdBlocker”, allowing one to see things as they are, without irrelevant representations (animitta).

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Very helpful, accessible framing, Nibbanka, much thanks to you also.

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I think considering that is often placed right near the top of the jhana sequence the lack of nimittas (animitta) requires having no perception at all, rather than lack of sensual perceptions. It doesn’t seem animitta is another name for sense restraint.

With metta

For a bunch of reasons, I myself tend to prefer to stay out of most jhana/meditative attainment discussion that delve into the technical, so will leave the main strand of your comment for others to address.

However, one thing that does strike me is that the referenced sutta (AN 3.68) seems to pair off with the originally mentioned sutta (AN 6.13) very well. Enough for me to think it highly reasonable to look into relating their use of nimitta to each other.

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You might also take a look at the nimitta source collection, at 3.b)

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Hi Mat,

Surely it differs very much from sense restraint, - and it can’t be described as lack of sensual perceptions. Seems like my post has been too succinct to be fully understood, - there’s a detailed discussion at https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=16303

It many suttas “animitta” is not related to jhana sequence, it’s rather a practice:

‘‘Tayome, bhikkhave, akusalavitakkā – kāmavitakko, byāpādavitakko, vihiṃsāvitakko. Ime ca bhikkhave, tayo akusalavitakkā kva aparisesā nirujjhanti? Catūsu vā satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacittassa viharato animittaṃ vā samādhiṃ bhāvayato. Yāvañcidaṃ, bhikkhave, alameva animitto samādhi bhāvetuṃ. Animitto, bhikkhave, samādhi bhāvito bahulīkato mahapphalo hoti mahānisaṃso.

"Monks, there are these three types of unskillful thinking: thinking of sensuality, thinking of ill will, thinking of harm. These three types of unskillful thinking cease without remainder in one who dwells with his mind well established in the four frames of reference or who develops the themeless concentration. This is reason enough, monks, to develop the themeless concentration. The themeless concentration, when developed & pursued, is of great fruit, great benefit.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.080.than.html

‘‘Animittañca bhāvehi, mānānusayamujjaha;
Tato mānābhisamayā, upasanto carissasī’’ti.

Develop the theme-less (animitta).
Cast out conceit.
Then, from breaking through conceit,
you will go on your way at peace.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn08/sn08.004.than.html

Moreover, animitta is of quite different nature that _jhana_s and _samapatti_s, being an insight knowledge:

Eighteen chief kinds of insight-knowledge (or principal insights, mahā-vipassanā) are listed and described in Vis.M. XXII, 113:

  (11) of the unconditioned (or signless, animittānupassanā),

http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/u_v/vipassanaa.htm

With metta

Hi Aminah,

There’s also a detailed description in Malunkyaputta sutta:

Ettha ca te māluṅkyaputta diṭṭhasutamutaviññātabbesu dhammesu diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati, viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissati. Yato kho te māluṅkyaputta diṭṭhasutamutaviññātabbesu dhammesu diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati, viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissati. Tato tvaṃ māluṅkyaputta na tena, yato tvaṃ māluṅkaputta na tena, tato tvaṃ māluṅkyaputta na tattha, yato tvaṃ māluṅkyaputta na tattha, tato tvaṃ māluṅakyaputta nevidha na huraṃ na ubhayamantarena esevanto dukkhassāti.

“Then, Malunkyaputta, with regard to phenomena to be seen, heard, sensed, or cognized: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Malunkyaputta, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress.”

Imassa khvāhaṃ bhante bhagavatā saṅkhittena bhāsitassa evaṃ vitthārena atthaṃ ājānāmi.

"I understand in detail, lord, the meaning of what the Blessed One has said in brief:

Rūpaṃ disvā sati muṭṭhā piyanimittaṃ manasi karoto
Sārattacitto vedeti tañca ajjhesāya tiṭṭhati.
Tassa vaḍḍhanti vedanā anekā rūpasambhavā
Abhijjhā ca vihesā ca cittamassūpahaññati
Evaṃ ācinato dukkhaṃ ārā nibbāṇaṃ vuccati.

Seeing a form — mindfulness lapsed — attending to the theme [nimitta] of 'endearing,'
impassioned in mind, one feels and remains fastened there.
One’s feelings, born of the form, grow numerous,
Greed & annoyance injure one’s mind.
Thus amassing stress, one is said to be far from Unbinding.

Saddaṃ sutvā… gandhaṃ ghātvā… Rasaṃ bhotvā… Phassaṃ phussa…

Hearing a sound… Smelling an aroma… Tasting a flavor… Touching a tactile sensation…

Dhammaṃ ñatvā sati muṭṭhā piyaṃ nimittaṃ manasi karoto
Sārattacitto vedeti tañca ajjhesāya tiṭṭhati.
Tassa vaḍḍhanti vedanā anekā dhammasambhavā
Abhijjhā ca vihesā ca cittamassūpahaññati
Evaṃ ācinato dukkhaṃ ārā nibbāṇaṃ vuccati.

Knowing an idea — mindfulness lapsed — attending to the theme [nimitta] of 'endearing,'
impassioned in mind, one feels and remains fastened there.
One’s feelings, born of the idea, grow numerous,
Greed & annoyance injure one’s mind.
Thus amassing stress, one is said to be far from Unbinding.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.095.than.html

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Here’s an interesting bit of the answer: Animitta sutta SN40.9

[1] [The Ven. Moggallaana has described how, with the aid of the Buddha, he has passed through all the jhaanas[2] right up to the “sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.”]

"Then, friends, I thought: ‘The signless concentration of the heart, the signless concentration of the heart, they say — now what is that?’

"Then I thought: ‘In this a monk, paying no attention to any distinguishing signs,[3] enters on and dwells in that concentration of the heart which is without signs. This is called “The signless concentration of heart.”’

"Then, friends, paying no attention to any distinguishing signs, I entered on and dwelt in that concentration of the heart which is without signs. But as I dwelt thus,[4] the consciousness-conforming-to-signs arose.[5]

"And then, friends, the Blessed One came to me by his powers[6] and said: ‘Moggallaana, Moggallaana, Brahman,[7] do not slacken off in the signless concentration, make your mind steady, make the mind one-pointed, concentrate your mind in the signless concentration!’

"And after that, friends, paying no attention to any distinguishing signs, I entered on and dwelt in the signless concentration of the heart.

“Now, friends, if anyone were to truly declare: ‘Through the Teacher’s compassion the disciple gained great super-knowledge,’[8] he could rightly declare this of me.”

With metta

ajahn dtun thiracitto, who ordained under Ajahn Chah, talks about his stream entry experience here (approx. 20min dhamma talk)

There’s a portion that sounds like it might be animitta

ajahn dtun thiracitto

2016 talk near the top
http://www.wbd.org.au/audio/ajahn-dtun/
First break through in Ajahn Dtun (English) (~21.4 MB, ~24 min)

I recommend listening to the whole talk. It’s awe inspiring and bone chilling. There’s a part where after his awakening, he writes a letter to Ajahn Chah and asks him two questions. Ajahn Chah’s response made my body hairs stand up.

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