POI and phenomenology origins and references

Daniel M Ingram, modified 8 Months ago at 1/2/22 10:52 AM
Created 8 Months ago at 1/2/22 10:52 AM

POI and phenomenology origins and references

Posts: 3232 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I got a email with some questions about some of the origins and proper attributions of the phenomenology in MCTB2, and I thought the reply might be useful to a broader audience, as well as a few other topics as will become obvious by my replies, so here it is:

I talked with Kenneth Folk and looked extensively through my library.

Meticulously documenting insight stage phenomena and being willing to add additional phenomenology onto what is found in the Visuddhimagga, which traditional purists declare is the final, authoritative guide, but to which Mahasi felt additional detail was valuable, goes back at least as far as Mahasi, who trained U Pandita, as you can find in books such as his Manual of Insight. I don’t know if U Narada, aka the Mingun Jetawun Sayadaw, his teacher, also had an interest in this sort of practical phenomenology or if the willingness to expand beyond orthodox sources was Mahasi’s own innovation. Mahasi is definitely the farthest I can trace it back in terms of meticulous documentation, and Kenneth Folk concurs.

U Pandita documented his phenomenology, correlations between jhanas and insight stages (Vipassana jhanas, which is not emphasized by Mahasi and may originate with U Pandita), and the like in his books On the Path to Freedom and In this Very Life, and there are recorded tapes, and you can check Dharma Seed and the like to see if they have them. Many tapes of his would almost certainly be available somewhere in Myanmar. Kenneth Folk says that Bill Hamilton said that U Pandita’s tapes went into great additional detail on insight stages: is that publication? You will have to decide for yourself.

Reading suttas such as One by One as they Occurred in the light of insight stages is clearly controversial, as would be, say, the story of the Buddha’s waking up and being tempted by Mara as related to insight stages.

To say that the correlations between insight stages and jhanas is commentarial requires being able to look at them through a certain lens that is already favorable to such an interpretation. So far as I can tell, the close, specifically named correlations between insight stages and jhanas originate, at least in traceable form, and as more than oblique hints, with the proteges of Mahasi Sayadaw, particularly U Pandita.

Texts such as the Patisambhidhammaga, a very late text found in the Kudaka Nikaya, which details a sort of photo-insight stage map, is already well on its way to having that Abhidhamma/commentarial flavor, but it doesn’t directly tie together jhanas and ñanas. For that to be done explicitly by name, one has to look to U Pandita, so far as I can tell.

Going farther towards the jhanic side of things, we have Sayadaw U Kundalabhivamsa, another protege of Mahasi Sayadaw, who emphasizes going through insight stages using jhanas, as can be found in his book Dhamma Ratana. He was a contemporary of U Pandita, so something of this movement was clearly emerging in a peer group.

I gained additional phenomenology from the writings of Sayadaw U Janakabhivamsa, who also trained with Mahasi Sayadaw and was in that same cohort, whose book I can’t seem to find at the moment, and can’t remember its title. It ties in the 7 stages of purification with insight stages, as does this book: https://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/bm7insight.pdf

Additional phenomenology came from books such as A Path with Heart, though I rearrange his classification out of his chakra system and back into the stages of insight based on the experience of others and myself, much to Jack’s annoyance.

Subjhanas, subñanas, subsubjhanas, etc. and fractals and subfractals, go back at least to Bill Hamilton, as stated in MCTB2. Kenneth Folk also didn’t know if it was done by U Pandita also, but he sat with him for about 7 months in total, and heard him talk daily and never heard him mention them, so this is probably a Bill Hamilton original, as best the two of us can tell. This was inspired by Arthur C. Clark’s documentary on fractals, says Kenneth Folk, who watched it with him and heard him say that fractals were a metaphor for what you see in practice. That was in the mid 1990’s.

The notation system that uses dots, numbers and letters (e.g. ñ11.j3.ñ5) is mine, but it really is just a shorthand way of denoting the system I was taught and explored. Kenneth Folk agrees.

My own descriptions, as stated clearly in MCTB and MCTB2, draw on a wide range of referenced influences, as well as verification by personal practice. See the beginning of Chapter 30.

I think that High Equanimity may be of variable duration, but tends to not be that noticeable or something people are excited to comment on, and Kenneth Folk concurs. 

As Kenneth Folk added: were we to truly attribute everything that came from someone else in our own works, every letter, every word, every bit of grammar, every concept would itself require countless footnotes and references.

Regarding attributing original phenomenology, one must realize that, regarding dharma phenomena of any value to anyone else (meaning it is reproducible and verifiable by some other person), it is a bit like attributing the gallbladder to someone, or biotech companies that patent DNA sequences or molecules already found in nature.
shargrol, modified 8 Months ago at 1/2/22 12:38 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 1/2/22 12:38 PM

RE: POI and phenomenology origins and references

Posts: 1829 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
I don't know linage at all... any idea how this fits?

cached version of "Sixteen Stages of Insight" since the direct link  (http://www.vipassanadhura.com/sixteen.html) never works: 


"Venerable Phra Dhamma Theerarach Mahamuni, one of the most renowned vipassana teachers of his time. The original booklet was produced in 1961 by the Division of Vipassana Dhura at Mahadhatu Monastery, Bangkok, and translated by Helen and Vorasak Jandamit. A revised English version was reprinted in 1988. It is also presented, with commentary, in the book, Insight Meditation: Practical Steps to Ultimate Truth, by Achan Sobin S. Namto (Sopako Bodhi Bhikkhu). In a few places the text has been edited and augmented by the Vipassana Dhura"

and this:


Daniel M Ingram, modified 8 Months ago at 1/2/22 3:01 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 1/2/22 3:01 PM

RE: POI and phenomenology origins and references

Posts: 3232 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Yes, I have that book and very much apprecaite it. The book cover says he trained with many teachers, including Mahasi Sayadaw.
shargrol, modified 8 Months ago at 1/2/22 5:37 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 1/2/22 5:37 PM

RE: POI and phenomenology origins and references

Posts: 1829 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Ah, I see it's in the intro of the book. I have yet to read the book...