Pleasant Abiding Here & Now

I personally always connected the above epithet used for describing jhanas with the Buddha’s general distaste for any form of existence. That is, I interpreted him as saying, “Well, as long as one must exist, this is an acceptable form of existence.” There is a bit of a conflation here of vihara and bhava left over from when I didn’t know any Pali. But, since meditative states are viewed as cosmic existences to some extent, perhaps this is not so far-fetched? Anyway, I’m just not so sure now.

(Sutta-based) thoughts, anyone?

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You could look at it in two ways:

  1. attaining a jhana state leads to physical rebirth in that plane of existence after one dies, this is not verifiable here and now, and is mundane view as it deals with rebirth of a being (a convention)

  2. attaining a jhana state is a mental experiential “rebirth” in that moment, this is verifiable here and now, as piti, sukha, uppekha, etc… are all phenomenological signs (nimitta) arising in experience. This is a Supermundane view as one can see here and now the arising and ceasing of the 3 poisons, 5 hindrances, 5 aggregates, and jhana factors, and does not need to rely on a convention (something which is inherently unknowable).

The former means bhava refers to physical rebirth, the latter means bhava refers to mental/ego rebirth.

As to whether this is an “acceptable” form of existence, it’s definitely better than a sensual form of existence, but it will always be unsatisfactory due to the nature of anicca. Thus, unless it’s nibbana, it’s not good enough.

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Thank you @Thito. This is exactly my view–in particular, the second view you mentioned. (Perhaps the only difference being that I probably blur the line between the future dwelling and the current one a little more than you did. But let’s leave that aside.)

Please do not be offended, but how much scriptural authority would one have for this second view you expressed? I ask because it sounds very Buddhadasa Bhikkhu-y. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, his concept of “ego-birth” is far from universally accepted.

(Please, let me state that all my forest experience was at Suan Mokkh, and my teachers are all his personal students: so I have no problem with it. I just know his ideas were not always strictly sutta-based.)

Also, if anyone else should choose to respond, perhaps someone might say such a view is completely off the mark from a sutta perspective. I’m ready for that, too. Just please explain why.

It’s a blend of Nanavira, Punnaji, Buddhadasa, and my own interpretation. However Buddhadasa doesn’t deny rebirth he just says it’s not relevant to the core dhamma, which is about stopping suffering here and now.

It’s in the great forty sutta:

And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? ‘There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.’ This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

"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[1] 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.

  • Mundane Right view = non-ariyan = non-path = assuming the 5 aggregates to be self
  • Supermundane Right View = ariyan (noble) = a factor of the path = analysis of qualities (5 hindrances) = knowing a being is the 3 poisons

That’s the difference between an ariya and a puthujanna, a pathujanna assumes a being/self to be the 5 aggregates, an ariya knows a being is the 3 poisons.

As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: “‘A being,’ lord. ‘A being,’ it’s said. To what extent is one said to be ‘a being’?”

"Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for form, Radha: when one is caught up[1] there, tied up[2] there, one is said to be ‘a being.’[3]

Seeing the dhamma here and now doesn’t mean seeing rebirth, it means seeing the 3 poisons present in your experience.

As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, “‘The Dhamma is visible here-&-now, the Dhamma is visible here-&-now,’ it is said. To what extent is the Dhamma visible here-&-now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves?”

“Very well, then, Sivaka, I will ask you a question in return. Answer as you see fit. What do you think: When greed is present within you, do you discern that ‘Greed is present within me’? And when greed is not present within you, do you discern that ‘Greed is not present within me’?”

“Yes, lord.”

“The fact that when greed is present within you, you discern that greed is present within you; and when greed is not present within you, you discern that greed is not present within you: that is one way in which the Dhamma is visible in the here-&-now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.

To say something is a being or god is to say it causes things, but that is mundane view, beings do not cause things no more than cars cause things, a car doesn’t cause anything, it’s the heat mixed with oil that combusts and moves the car forward.

Then Mara the Evil One, desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror in the bhikkhuni Vajira, desiring to make her fall away from concentration, approached her and addressed her in verse:

“By whom has this being been created?
Where is the maker of the being?
Where has the being arisen?
Where does the being cease?”

Then the bhikkhuni Vajira, having understood, “This is Mara the Evil One,” replied to him in verses:

“Why now do you assume ‘a being’?
Mara, is that your speculative view?
This is a heap of sheer formations:
Here no being is found.

“Just as, with an assemblage of parts,
The word ‘chariot’ is used,
So, when the aggregates exist,
There is the convention ‘a being.’

“It’s only suffering that comes to be,
Suffering that stands and falls away.
Nothing but suffering comes to be,
Nothing but suffering ceases.”

A being = 3 poisons = suffering, so Ariyas don’t see beings, they see 3 poisons, which is suffering. Only suffering arises and only suffering ceases.

The Buddha doesn’t have the 3 poisons so he is not a being

“When asked, ‘Are you a deva?’ you answer, ‘No, brahman, I am not a deva.’ When asked, ‘Are you a gandhabba?’ you answer, ‘No, brahman, I am not a gandhabba.’ When asked, ‘Are you a yakkha?’ you answer, ‘No, brahman, I am not a yakkha.’ When asked, ‘Are you a human being?’ you answer, ‘No, brahman, I am not a human being.’ Then what sort of being are you?”

"Brahman, the fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a deva: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. The fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a gandhabba… a yakkha… a human being: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising.

Therefore birth in Dependent Origination is the birth of a being, a convention, mundane view, delusion, suffering.

So someone with mundane view will believe in beings that are reborn, someone with Supermundane view only sees suffering (3 poisons) arising and ceasing.

There’s a lot more suttas that support this, like Samma Ditthi sutta, it says right view is the unwholesome and the root of the unwholesome (3 poisons)

3 "When, friends, a noble disciple understands the unwholesome, the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome, and the root of the wholesome, in that way he is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true Dhamma.

4 "And what, friends, is the unwholesome, what is the root of the unwholesome, what is the wholesome, what is the root of the wholesome? Killing living beings is unwholesome; taking what is not given is unwholesome; misconduct in sensual pleasures is unwholesome; false speech is unwholesome; malicious speech is unwholesome; harsh speech is unwholesome; gossip is unwholesome; covetousness is unwholesome; ill will is unwholesome; wrong view is unwholesome. This is called the unwholesome.

"And what is the root of the unwholesome? Greed is a root of the unwholesome; hate is a root of the unwholesome; delusion is a root of the unwholesome. This is called the root of the unwholesome.

That’s Mundane and Supermundane view right there, the root is Supermundane. Anything to do with “beings” is mundane, anything to do with 3 poisons is Supermundane.

And in the same sutta, the poison of delusion is conceit (i am)

When a noble disciple has thus understood the taints, the origin of the taints, the cessation of the taints, and the way leading to the cessation of the taints, he entirely abandons the underlying tendency to lust, he abolishes the underlying tendency to aversion, he extirpates the underlying tendency to the view and conceit ‘I am,’ and by abandoning ignorance and arousing true knowledge he here and now makes an end of suffering. In that way too a noble disciple is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma and has arrived at this true Dhamma."

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I think i asked you before, but are you sure there is no moha/avijja during jhana? For example, is there really no ego-conceit (asmi mana)?

There is still the latent tendencies and fetters but not the 5 hindrances. Removing the asavas requires the only Supermundane (ariyan) abhinna which is Maha-abhinnata (āsavakkhaya), the other 5 abhinnas are not Supermundane. That means seeing past abodes has nothing to do with being an ariya as puthujannas can attain that power as well. Hence Sariputta only has the Supermundane abhinna, and not the other 5, that would mean he doesn’t directly know for himself that rebirth exists and would have to go by faith. There’s a sutta where a yakkha hits him on the head and he has no idea what caused that pain, and I believe it was Anuruddha who tells him it was a yakkha, and Sariputta just shrugs it off.

Maha-moggallana talks about it here

Mahaa-abhiññataa. Moggallaana has attained to the sixth abhiññaa, the only one that is supramundane: the extinction of the cankers (aasavakkhaya) (cf. SN 12.23, n. 2).

Thank you, @Thito. That was far more profound than I expected. And it chimes in well with other issues I’m investigating currently. I’ll be gleaning from this heap of grain for a long time yet, I can already see.

Just to confirm that I am understanding you properly: the supermundane view would automatically render the distinction I was making between vihara (whilst immersed in jhana) and bhava (potentially after the breakup of the body) superfluous?

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Yes, it doesn’t really matter what happens after the body dies from a phenomological (i.e. first person) perspective, only what happens during the process of dying. You want to learn to die well, and that is what jhana is in a way, it’s learning to die well, as jhana is the stilling of activities, which is the same thing as dying. Someone who has never stilled activities might panic when they’re forced into it via death, but someone who has done it multiple times might find it joyful and peaceful. So Jhana is death training in a way, the letting go of aggregates, and someone who enjoys the deeper levels of jhanas is enjoying non-activity and the giving up of experience, so death and life for them starts to become one.

You see this in the suttas as well, where the Buddha reassures people that their death won’t be a bad one.

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I think we can better learn not to force mind in any state, and not become accustomed to that forced state. Also not to peace, rest, stilling. If it is forced then it is anicca, dukkha and anatta.

If one sees peace or stilness as some Ideal, living or dying, then one probably starts to develop a problematic relation to unrest, activity, defilements, formations which arise.

Probably dying will come with a lot of unrest, discomfort, pain, emotions, anxiety etc. I think we better practice in a way we can deal with that during our lives in stead of surpressing.

It is like the Buddha who was heavily attacked by Mara. He found a way to deal with all this without surpressing it. He just looked at it with wisdom and loving kindness. That’s why i think it is very important not to become judgemental and think bad about unrest, defilement, obsessions etc. We have to work our way trough it. The Lotus grows from the mud.

oke, but is there moha/avijja in jhana?

Yes, there can be for one with wrong view who assumes the 5 aggregates are the self.

Wow! This idea about jhana as a mini “run-through” really speaks to me. Besides connections I have heard about between the word samadhi in modern Indian languages and death or burial, I have a theory about cessation attainment as a death before dying (actually, more accurately, a transcendence of all existences before dying).

This is a side note, but imagine practicing the jhana you say in the forest at night, where death is just at hand.

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i belief in jhana non-arahants will (see for yourself) still have the idea, the experimental taste at least, of a subject who experences things. There is still a duality of subject and object, perceiver and perceived. There is still a personal-self notion. The one who experiences or is wittness of that progressive stilling of the mind. The sense of self only shifts from the known to the knowing, it becomes focussed there completely. But it is still there. But the peace, stillness, emptiness, brightness experiences can come with the idea that avijja must be gone at that stage while avijja is still there.

What happens during the proces of dying is, if one beliefs in it, described in the Tiibetan book of the Death. When the elements dissolve. It is certainly not only a progressive stilling. One can have experiences of being crushed or weighing very heavy, being flooded, sink suddenly like sometimes experienced in dreams. I do not know the details anymore.

Yes and in the future dangers sutta series, which explain situations where you can die at any moment (bandits, disease, enemy army, no food, etc…) the Buddha says you should attain liberation so that when these things come you’re unaffected. He also says in another sutta that if you attain jhana then sitting on a hard rock is like sitting on a luxurious couch, and eating bland food is like eating tasty food, wearing rags is like wearing expensive clothes, etc… in other words your mind becomes imperturbable.

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i think only for that moment @Thito