Right. It’s a classic case of a scriptural passage that doesn’t really make sense, so various commentators get creative with how to read the words to mean different things. Because scripture can’t be changed and must be an expression of truth. The whole thing is a big mystery today because the sutras are silent about how the formula should be read, and then we see all these competing ideas in Abhidharma and commentary.
There is. Dhammajoti discusses it a bit in his book Sarvastivada Abhidharma, on p.300-301. Vitarka is the step of a sense perception being noticed, then vicara activates further discrimination of it. It’s not that the senses stop functioning, but they wouldn’t be noticed and thought about without vitarka and vicara in the model that they created, at least. It’s like when a person daydreams while looking out a window. Their eyes and ears are working, but another person can walk up and startle them because they aren’t paying any attention to their surroundings. That’s the way I understand it, at least.
Thanks for your good grace @cdpatton ! It has slowly dawned on me that I have been all unawares plonking myself right in the middle of the “jhana controversy” which I must confess I was pretty much totally unaware of! Everyone on here, and especially you, have been very patient with me
I think I must have been a sautrantika in a previous life as I have, under the influence of this site it must be said, come to the conclusion that the Nikayas are basically payed out in order of age, that is DN is older than MN which is older than SN which is older than AN, and that SN, for example already shows plenty of what I take to be “abidharmic tendancies” of applying basically any formula to any other formula in a systematic way which I think leads to reification and problems.
I think that the gradual training sequence is therefor older than the four noble truths, eight fold path and four foundations of mindfulness and that therefore the jhana formula within that is also very old.
It therefore makes sense to me to attempt to read the formula “on its own” without worrying to much about “compatibility” with other formulas and to give it as simple, straightforward, even “rustic” interpretation as possible.
It helps that to my way of thinking it lines up perfectly with conditionality and satipatthana on my sensuality - cognitive - affective - hedonic reading.
Anyway thanks again for your taking the time to educate an old sautrantika!
This is a great point and one that I’ve found worth investigating.
We startle when we are lost in thought.
But we do not startle when meditating.
This is a very very peculiar thing to experience. Yet it may very well be a part of mindfulness. The unmindful being startles easily.
And just now, much to my own surprise, I have found this:
AN2.57:1.1: “These two, mendicants, are not startled by a crack of thunder.
AN2.57:1.2: What two?
AN2.57:1.3: A mendicant who has ended defilements; and a thoroughbred elephant.
AN2.57:1.4: These are the two who are not startled by a crack of thunder.”
Ayya @Sabbamitta, I have added “startled” to Voice examples. From the suttas found, I infer that the vitakka-vicara transition is to be aligned with mindfulness.
This also leads to a new test for arahants.
Yeah, that wasn’t the word I was meaning to be the central idea. Just attempting to use a real world example to explain over-intellectualized Abhidharma theories …
Not exactly new.
I heard that one time, a monk decided to try this out on Ajahn Mahabua. He snuck up behind Luangta and made a loud noise. Luangta whipped around and, they say, a light flashed out of his eyes and briefly stunned his auditor. Being satisfied that the prankster was no threat, Laungta gave a derisive snort and walked away. That’s the story at least as I heard it.