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Phenomenology of meditation objects - how to describe pre-nimitta meditative experiences?


#8

Thanks for the answers. Surely “extinguishment by not grasping” is my lead also, but I found that if you haven’t developed meditation object and awareness deeply, when people try to “not grasp anything” they just get distracted, sloth & torpor arise and eventually they even fall asleep in meditation.
But I find such way of meditation actually best of all.

Anyway for my students path needs to be developed step by step, and I find awareness of energetic objects to be very good for that.

@Mat: What I hope to achieve is nibbana and along the way to learn as much as possible, so I can share this path with others, knowing possible troubles and help with them. I keep Four Noble Truths deeply in my heart and Mara is not going to fool me, I am very dedicated to the path. I am not craving towards these objects or experiences in themselves, I just find them as very good tools to practice meditation and I believe they are vehicles to deeper states.

My intention was to 1. get some encouragment from people more experienced than me that I am on right track. And if someone has gone similar path and had bad results then I hope for a warning.

And I wanted to discuss how to label experiences I described in terms that are used in Pali canon. Since they are clearly meditative experiences, perhaps there are right names for them. I study Buddhism for years and I find it a little confusing that suttas tell little about pre-nimitta, pre-jhanic stages of meditation, while they are actually very rich in possible experiences and have a lot of stages.

For example what Thanissaro describes as four material jhanas (light jhanas) are actually 4 stages of pre-nimitta stage according to Ajahn Brahm standards (deep/heavy jhanas).

Still, Thanissaro mentions only tactile sensations and perhaps seeing. He doesn’t mention hearing. Only Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Sumedho refer to that, but they don’t say if it is piti, or what… just new terminology taken from outside traditions (nada yoga).


#9

Your problem arises because you have followed Ajahn Brahm exclusively, who is not a doctrinal specialist, and have not studied the Anapanasati and Satipatthana suttas independently, allowing you to understand progress in doctrinal terms. You are at the stage of the second tetrad in experiencing piti, at a fork in the road where samatha and vipassana diverge. If the practitioner keeps focus on piti, it will lead to the gate of jhana, as described in the seven factors of awakening. If they begin to explore the specific features of experience, it will go in the vipassana direction. The breath and piti are actually different aspects of one unified entity, which begins to be experienced in the first tetrad with sensitivity to the entire body. The name " meditation on the breath" is misleading, because the Anapanasati sutta develops into an exploration of bodily energies from the first tetrad onwards. Relating piti to the path in general, it is a pivotal factor as it is a not of the flesh alternative to sensual feelings:

“Even though a disciple of the noble ones has clearly seen as it actually is with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, still — if he has not attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that[4] — he can be tempted by sensuality. But when he has clearly seen as it actually is with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, and he has attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, he cannot be tempted by sensuality.” MN 14


#10

Thank you for your reply Paul, it is very interesting and fascinating! :slight_smile: :pray:

Could you please elaborate or send some link to these tetrad/tetrads you’re describing? It is first time I came across this term and it got me interested, especially since it refers to my practice. Does this come from suttas or some other source? :slight_smile:

You are at the stage of the second tetrad in experiencing piti, at a fork in the road where samatha and vipassana diverge. If the practitioner keeps focus on piti, it will lead to the gate of jhana, as described in the seven factors of awakening. If they begin to explore the specific features of experience, it will go in the vipassana direction.

Wow, seems like you know a lot about these things, thanks for sharing!
So you believe there is actually different technique for vipassana and samatha path, it is very interesting and something importaint for both my academic work and my meditation practice. :slight_smile: I’m actually wondering, purely theoretical: if you follow this vipassana path at this “second tetrad”, wouldn’t you just get into jhanas eventually? Doesn’t vipassana lead to letting go - and letting go to jhanas by nature (at least Ajahn Brahm sees it that way I think)?
Or does vipassana in your opinion bypass jhanas and go straight to nibbana experience eventually?
Or does vipassana practitioner just erase sankharas (no jhana, no nibbana during life) and expect nibbana at the moment of death of physical body?
I was on 3 vipassana retreats. Goenka never mentions jhanas, but he mentions experience of great bliss if you follow meditative path, he calls it liberation, which probably means Nibbana. But I was wondering if perhaps he eventually gets into jhana and thinks it is enlightenment. I thought that, because according to Ajahn Brahm description, jhana can be mistaken for enlightenment and many traditions, not just Buddhist but Christian and others too did that. And he gives very detailed descriptions of all 8 or 9 jhanas (counting nirodha samapatti), which made me believe that he probably knows what he talks about, and Goenka went straight from this flow of energy and bhanga to Liberation, which seems to me less plausible and somehow “too easy/too good to be true”. But of course my intuitions could be wrong.

The breath and piti are actually different aspects of one unified entity, which begins to be experienced in the first tetrad with sensitivity to the entire body.

Great, thats very interesting. And what is this entity? I call it “prana” or “mind energy” personally. It seems that Thanissaro calls this “Breath energy” and Ajahn Brahm “Beautiful breath”, am I correct? What would suttas call this, someone knows?

“The name " meditation on the breath” is misleading, because the Anapanasati sutta develops into an exploration of bodily energies from the first tetrad onwards."

You mean that anapanasati sutta is relating to energy body experiences? I have that intuition too and indeed calling it all breath was misleading, at least on my path, because I was sticking to the breath instead of following these energetic sensations.

“Relating piti to the path in general, it is a pivotal factor as it is a not of the flesh alternative to sensual feelings:”

could you please explain this sentence? Probably due to my english skills I don’t understand what do you mean by “not of the flesh alternative to sensual feelings”.


#11

All your question show how deficient in basic knowledge of MN 118 and MN 10 you are. You have to answer these questions yourself by studying the suttas. One answer I will give to start you off is that the tetrads relate to the Anapanasati sutta. Read the two suttas in the appendices to Thanissaro’s book, “Right Mindfulness”, which despite the title, is mostly focused on the Anapanasati sutta. You will find the answers to all your questions in this book, and it is particularly important that you research the second foundation of mindfulness, to ascertain the difference between worldly feelings and feelings not of the flesh. A warning that Thanissaro is biased towards jhana, so for information about vipassana which is harder to describe, guidance about the insight knowledges has to be sought from individuals such as Ledi Sayadaw or the Visuddhimagga.


#12

Greetings,

While this is a legitimate and thoughtful discussion, this forum is unfortunately not resourced for personal practice issues. General points can be discussed when related to Sutta study, but in-depth practice discussions should take place via Personal Messaging or on another discussion platform.

Recently there have been several PM groups set up to discuss personal practice, and the moderation team encourage that :slight_smile:

If desired, I can turn this thread into a Personal message stream, with all participants included. Otherwise, you can continue here, as long as discussion is kept in general terms.

with Metta


#13

Greetings Invo and welcome to the Forum

It would be a good idea to try to do a meditation retreat, so that you can really get down to specifics. For your information Ahajn Sujato is planning a retreat in Poland later this year :slight_smile:

with metta


#14

? :thinking:

I am not aware of any change of dates. The link you provided goes to the past retreat Bhante Sujato gave in Poland in 2015. Maybe there is more to find about upcoming events in the Polish version of the website, but in the English I didn’t see anything.


#15

Oh Thank-you very much @sabbamitta. I didn’t pay attention to the dates. I used your link to start with and then clicked on visiting teachers and didn’t pay attention to the date.

Thanks for pointing that out :slight_smile: . I’ll delete the separate link I posted to avoid confusion.


#16

@viveka what can be done to make this thread more oriented to the current goals!


#17

what do you mean by ‘current goals’ @Mat ? :slight_smile:


#18

Current objective of the forum, considering that the translation project is now nearly finished!


#19

Ah ha… an easy question then :wink:

The short answer is that there has not been any formal discussion of substantial changes. So for the time being things will remain as they are. The Moderation team is quite small, voluntary and spread across time zones, so an increase in duties is not feasible at this point in time, IMO. However, you raise a very good point and I will slate it for discussion at our next Moderator meeting with Bhante.

Added, in the mean-time, the discussion can continue here on this subject, as long as members are aware of trying to maintain a balanced perspective, without going ‘too far’ into personalised practice discussions.


#20

I was hoping we could help in making sense of these experiences in terms of EBTs, but there’s a place for educating and looking at EBT based practice.


#21

Yes there is certainly a need/desire for this, but it does have a significant impact on how a forum is run. I’m sure that when the time is right, there will be opportunity to discuss these kinds of matters and have input. Just from my own perspective, I would suggest that we wait until Vassa is over before starting this ball rolling :slight_smile:

There is still a great deal that can be learned and shared without being a ’ completely personal case study’, and it is very useful to keep a focus on what the Buddha advised, rather than just hearing personal views and opinions (which can be endless) :slight_smile:


#22

It sounds like you are more than ready to move on from reading books about what the Buddha taught to reading the Buddha’s actual teachings. Sutta Central is the place for this! For how to practice you can make a start with MN118 Anapanassati Sutta, with it’s four tetrads (tetrad = ‘4-part structure’) and MN10 Satipatthana Sutta. And could someone please remind us of the title of the sutta that best presents the Gradual Approach? This sutta, which I can’t find at the moment, puts it all into the context of sīla (ethics), samādhi (stillness/meditation) and pañña (wisdom).

That’s a very small beginning and, while we don’t (as a policy) discuss our personal practice in this forum, there are heaps more suttas to find, and, as @viveka suggested, we can turn this whole thread into an ongoing personal message thread that would be private to the participants and a suitable place to be more personal.


#23

Hello Viveka and others! :slight_smile:
Yes I have already booked retreat with Bhante Sujato in Slovakia, very happy for that! :smiley:
All places on Polish retreat were already taken the first day, but me and my friends are going to Slovakia :slight_smile: Can’t wait for that, but I thought I really could use some help right now.

I really need guideance in meditation from really experienced teacher (I have trouble and fear of opening to some powerful dissolution experiences which happen in my meditations sometimes and scares me a lot), so I’ll just write a PM to Ajahns and hope that they will find a while to reply to my personal concerns. It is very difficult sometimes, because we don’t have a single monastic in Poland and generally no one who is very deep into practice, so I feel very lonely in my practice when going deeper into it to the point when things get really serious. It is hard for us when we get deeper into mind and get scared of profundity and power and peculiarity of these experiences and we have no people to look over us. And no all these experieces are so pleasant as Ajahn Brahm says “dissapearing is so fun”. For me sometimes it is hellish experience of absolute fear. So please understand that I wanted to share here and find someone who might help a little or just get some encouragment from someone who “been there, done that”, or understand a little more whats happening to me and what to expect next, how to deal with etc…

But lets keep this topic from now on only related to more objective dhamma, and I’ll try to get support via PM. I believe this discussion can go into very constuctive direction.
I also believe some description of our experiences can really deepen our objective understanding of the dhamma, because our personal experience is everything we’ve got after all. So without them we would never understand what suttas are really about. So I think we can use this descriptions as objective case study if needed, not for personal stuff. But thats just my opinion. Anyway, more than enough was described already, so we can get into more theoretical stuff.

Back to the subject: I think it would nice to find a pali canon word for this “entity” that “piti” and “breath” are expressions of. What are these experiences of energetic body?
I think they are partly piti, partly “citta” and partly “elements” that I’ve described when writing about kasinas. But I’m not sure whether elements are EBT or some later work.
I’ve actually read carefully MN 118 and MN10 more than once, and I didn’t found there much about things I was talking about. I wasn’t asking from point of ignorance of never reading the suttas… I’ve read the suttas but still can’t find there many answers on my own, thats one of the reasons why I started this discussion. I wouldn’t dare to ask questions without reading the suttas or search the Internet first.

For example there is no single mention of “tetrads” in the suttas, it seems like a classification/interpretation of text. How oral text can be coded into tetras after all? It is just for our convinience it seems. Someone had at some point of codyfying the text put it into tetras, since Buddha didn’t say “there you have these 4 stages making first tetrad”, but just 16 stages of anapanasati… Am I not correct?

@paul1 A lot of teachers have different opinions on samatha vs vipassana. For example Ajahn Brahmali says they are parts of the same practice and not distinct methods that can be divided at some point. Thats why I asked about your opinion and to elaborate on this division at the second stage. Anyway I’ll seek answers in the suttas as you’ve pointed out, when I have the time, thanks.


#24

Perhaps you can share a couple of suttas that you find help people with their practice, that apply to some of the issues @Invo has raised. :relieved:


#25

This is true, though in the Anapanasati sutta stages 1-12 is samatha and 13-16 is insight. The ‘liberation of mind’ is likely to be the first or one of the jhana. Vipassana is practiced after that. This insight practice (impermanence of the in and out breath) focuses on the sign of impermanence -of each breath. This is how the fourth foundation of mindfulness is fulfilled, here as the mindfulness of breath fulfils the four foundations of mindfulness.

For ‘light’ see MN128 SuttaCentral

There’s a lot to explain, but also see Samadhi Sutta: Concentration (Tranquillity and Insight).


#26

MN108.

The whole path

SN12.23.

Hope this helps. :pray:


#27

Hi,

The elements (Pali dhātu) are definitely referred to in the EBTs. See, e.g. SN 14:30 SuttaCentral

The number of elements enumerated varies according to context: sometimes 4 (air, water, fire, earth), sometimes more (e.g. SuttaCentral)

If you do a key word search ‘element’ on the main SuttaCentral website, you should find plenty of lovely discourses to read.