'Tayo samādhī' and 'aparepi tayo samādhī' (DN33/DN34)

To eject you from “my” thread would be…inhospitable. Post as you wish and see fit to do. :scream::rofl:
We create the world together.


The other reason to stick to topic is so that the archive and search functions work efficiently


many years ago, I was reading an article by Lance Cousins (famous buddhist scholar), highly critical of B. Bodhi’s english translations. At the time, it really made me angry. I thought, "how dare you insult B. Bodhi’s translations? Where’s Lance Cousin’s translation of middle length discourses? "

If I were to go back and read Lance’s article again, I’d probably see he wasn’t being harsh or insulting, it was just my own attachment and inability to separate people from ideas that caused me to have that emotional reaction. If read Lance’s article now, I wouldn’t be surprised if I agreed with at least 50% of his criticism, or at least understand and at least see how the criticism is justified.

The key is to understand our cognitive biases and cognitive dissonance. I still listen to Ajahn Brahm’s talks, and enjoy them. I still admire B. Sujato and his visionary work on suttacentral and some of his books.

But if they have a grave misunderstanding of how the 4 jhanas, kāya, vitakka &vicara work in the EBT, then we, who have clearly researched, understood those erors, have an obligation to point it out. Just like if there’s a flood coming, I will point it out. If there are pot holes and sink holes that people will gravely injure themselves if not made aware, I will point it out. It doesn’t mean I don’t like Ajahn Brahm and B. Sujato. They’re still wonderful humans beings, inspirational, skillful teachers.

The people are one thing, their ideas are another. If ideas are criticized, that does not automatically mean the person is.


What you have an obligation to do is voice your concerns, not point out errors, because you do not know if they are truly errors. Instead, you should engage in open dialogue without presuming to skip to the resolution of the conflict before the conflict has occurred and had time to work itself out. I would recommend epistemic humility on your part.


Harsh words and kind words can both be used to change behavior.
Yet only kind words can inspire gentle kindness.
In this way, one might choose kind words as more skillful.

If I scream and rant E=MC^2 to everyone, few will listen.
Yet it is surprising what happens when we kindly whisper, “your fly is open.”


I understand what you’re saying with “epistemic” and I don’t use the word “error” casually.
Maybe you should carefully read and understand the thorough pali + eng. text audit laid out before you decide whether it’s deemed worthy of being labeled “error” or not.

B. Sujato’s translation of V&V as “placing the mind & keeping it connected” is not only an error purely from a translation standpoint, it’s wronger than wrong in several aspects.

The evidence is there, you just need to read and confirm it. It’s almost identical to if we were to translate vāca (vocalized speech) as

“sound waves emitted from the mouth that hit the ear drums of the listener”.

That translation is not untrue, but it’s only a partial truth and it omits the most important part of vāca. If you were to plug that translation everywhere in the pali suttas, that would be coherent in isolated contexts, and not untrue, but holistically it would be incoherent in making the Dhamma pieces fit together and have coherent, consistent meaning.

I hope everyone can see that translating vāca in the pali suttas as “…sound waves … hitting ear drums” is A GRAVE ERROR. Do I really need to engage in open dialogue without presuming to skip to a resolution on that? I could do a detailed pali + english audit for that as well, but it should be obvious pretty quickly the problem with that translation is that it removes the aspect of communicable meaning in language ( of vāca).

In exactly the same way, B. sujato’s translation of V&V as “placing the mind and keeping it connected” removes the aspect of communicable meaning in language (of V&V)

There are many more problems besides that, but that alone is enough to justify it as being labeled an ERROR.

A quick, off-topic :blush:, note:

(at)moderators functions as a way to address mods as a group for private messages, but as far as I can tell doesn’t work as a tag in discussion. Is this accurate @Aminah?

@Gillian, your post can be moved to the other thread easily. Would you like to do that?

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I can guarantee people have been privately communicating their objection to B. Sujato’s translation of V&V for many years now, privately and publicly, and probably polite enough to satisfy all of you delicate flowers out there. And yet here we are.

This delicate flower thinks that this may be intended as an insult?


Rather than trying to guess my intentions, it would be better to just see “delicate flower” as a concise way of saying, it’s not easy to find words to be clear, direct, and honest without people trying to find a way of getting side tracked into taking things personally instead of focusing on the ideas and meaning.

Yes, I believe this is so, as least In every instance when people did use @moderators in a thread I never received any notification (where naturally, I did when it was used to address a PM). If you’d like I can have a poke around the meta forum and get back (elsewhere so as not to clutter up Karl’s thread) if I find anything useful.


2500 years ago, this happened:

"You don’t understand this teaching and training. I understand this teaching and training. What, you understand this teaching and training? You’re practicing wrong. I’m practicing right. I stay on topic, you don’t. You said last what you should have said first. You said first what you should have said last. What you’ve thought so much about has been disproved. Your doctrine is refuted. Go on, save your doctrine! You’re trapped; get yourself out of this—if you can!”


And this is why we all really need to learn Pali.

You should all recite this in concert, without disputing, so that this spiritual path may last for a long time.

All together now…


Thanks on both counts @Nadine . As usual ATM I’m testing my understanding on the technical and human levels together. I discover the @ mods tag, isn’t worth using. Re the other, I am not inclined ATM to contribute to the shifts in my practice biography thread, but I may use that question to start a new thread to discuss that question in more general terms. It arose out of my thoughts as I was reading this thread.


Did you have a better experience in jhana practice by following the meaning of VV that you find more accurate? (I’m not asking for you to reveal your attainments) Is that why you want us to figure out the “wronger than wrongness” of Ajahn Sujato’s translation? If that’s the case I am interested to look into your argument.

Ajahn Brahm has matched the VV experience to a “wobble” which means the subtle movement in and out of bliss. I think Ajahn Sujato means the same by his translation “placing the mind and keeping it connected” but we can play with words and interpret a totally different meaning here as well.

As for word by word pali translation the meaning of VV that you think is accurate would be good enough. (I could be wrong)

Thank you for trying to clarify it as best as you can. However, I wish it was kind especially considering the person you are aiming the blame. His conduct, advice, knowledge and compassion has given us this opportunity to discuss sutta translations and it’s accuracy and we should truly show our gratefulness and not just say we are grateful for the sake of it.

And if you are trying to inspire people out of compassion to look at suttas literally word by word and achieve liberation you have to use a better method than what you have used here. I would like to learn from other people too but my priority listening ears will be on the virtuous beings who have practised well.


It is obvious that Frank has experience in jhana that makes him say what he says about V&V.
In the same, Banthe S. and Ajahn B. haved their own experience with jhanas that make them say what they say. I can understand that it would be difficult to translate without taking one’s own experience into consideration.

It is clear to me that they are taking about different kind of jhanas and that’s the whole issue of the debate.
I follow Frank because the four similes of jhana (the ball of soap, etc.) are obviously describing, in a very powerful way (as the Buddha’s similes so often do) something that is happening in the flesh-and-blood-body. For example in jhana one pīti has to be spread out in the whole flesh-and-blood-body. So if the flesh-and-blood-body is fully functioning in jhanas then V&V have the usual meanings of thinking and pondering.
Another hint for me is that the four jhanas were later on called rupa-jhana (not in the EBTs). If they were pure-mind-activities with a dead-like-body they would not have been labeled rupa but arupa as it is in the arupa realms that being are pure consciousness.
Another hint is : why is sound a possible disturbance for the 1st jhana is one is not hearing?


Greetings all.

This is really getting a bit far from the OP, and indeed has already been discussed in a couple of other threads on the forum.
This is a highly debated topic in Buddhism.

Ajahn Sujato has an essay on his blog, that starts with the following paragraph.
Here’s one of the most often contested issues in Buddhist meditation: can you be thinking while in jhana? We normally think of jhana as a profound state of higher consciousness; yet the standard formula for first jhana says it is a state with ‘ vitakka and vicara’ . Normally these words mean ‘thinking’ and ‘exploring’, and that is how Bhikkhu Bodhi translates them in jhana, too. This has lead many meditators to believe that in the first jhana one can still be thinking. This is a mistake, and here’s why.

The link for it is in the link below.

I’d suggest that perhaps further discussion can be continued here

And please note


According to Ajahn Brahm it means that when on perceives the sound, one is no longer in jhana. First jhana is “the cessation of the world of the five senses together with the body and all doing”. If one finds this experience incorrect, has that person not had the first “jhana” yet? Who knows. The only way to double check about jhanas apart from asking kalyamamittas (who will only tell you to keep going) and suttas is by understanding the progress of your level of wisdom.

“There is no Jhana without wisdom, there is no wisdom without jhana, but for one with both jhana and wisdom, they are in the presence of nibbhana.”

Not me (obviously) Buddha


Viveka, thanks for posting this link. The material here is quite helpful and I was actually thinking about turning it into an MP3 for offline study. I also wonder why this valuable essay is not on SuttaCentral itself without all the wordpress ads?

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But what do you do when different virtuous beings who have practised well are saying contradictory things?

So you could start by asking why Ajahn Brahm contradicts his teacher. Many other virtuous, famous, widely followed teachers like B. Thanissaro, Ajahn Lee, B. Gunaratana, also interpret V&V, jhanas, consistently with a straightforward reading of the suttas.

You have the right idea that one should compare their meditative experience with what the suttas say, and not rely on suttas alone.

Ideally, one could do the VRJ (vism. redefinition of jhana) and the EBT jhana (straightforward reading of the sutta), and then see which matches the suttas better. Both methods work. It’s not an issue of whether either system works as advertised.
The difference is EBT jhana fits like the glass slipper on cinderella’s foot.
Ajahn Brahm (VRJ without abhidhamma baggage) requires a convoluted redefinition of important basic terms, much like cinderella’s stepsisters trying to jam the glass slipper on. The only way they would be able to get the EBT passages on jhana to support their position is to mutilate kāya, vitakka, vicāra, perhaps cut off a few toes to get the feet to fit in the slipper. If you could call a bloody stump of a foot fitting inside the glass slipper a good fit, then you could say Ajahn Brahm’s interpretation of jhana from the EBT passages is a reasonable fit too.

The pali+english audits I’ve provided are there for when people are ready to examine the evidence for themselves to sort out who has reasonable interpretations of the suttas and who does not.

Examine the evidence for yourself and come to your own conclusions. But you can start with asking why Ajahn Brahm contradicts his own teacher.


Something that strikes me as being perhaps relevant is that Ajahn Brahm in his book Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond, which focuses a lot of jhana, had Jack Kornfield write a foreword. Kornfield, while in some ways, sings the praises of the book, does also caution that this is not necessarily the one true way and that there are many other useful ways. One also has to presume that the inclusion by Ajahn Brahm of this foreword is perhaps indicating he is not that dogmatic about the issue. Here’s a relevant snippet from the foreword anyway:

While I acknowledge with pleasure the fruit of Ajahn Brahm’s rich experience as a guide for meditators, Ajahn Brahm presents this way of developing jhana and insight as the real true way the Buddha taught and therefore the best way. It is an excellent way. But the Buddha also taught many other equally good ways to meditate and employed many skillful means to help students awaken. The teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Ajahn Buddhadasa, and Sunlun Sayadaw are among a wide spectrum of masters who offer different and equally liberating perspectives. Together they comprise a rich mandala of living Dharma, of which Ajahn Brahm reveals one important facet.

So, those of you interested in the practice of jhana and the depths of the Buddhist path: read this book carefully. And try its practices. Much will be gained from its rich and wise words and even more from the experiences it points to. And as the Buddha and Ajahn Brahm both advise, test them out, use them, and learn from them, but do not cling to them.