Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Pål 11/10/14 12:23 PM
RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Richard Zen 11/10/14 1:23 PM
RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Pål 11/10/14 2:12 PM
RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Not Tao 11/10/14 2:31 PM
RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Richard Zen 11/10/14 4:26 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Richard Zen 11/11/14 12:45 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Not Tao 11/11/14 10:24 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Chuck Kasmire 11/18/14 3:01 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Simon T. 11/10/14 4:08 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta paul griffin 11/11/14 9:45 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked? Pål 11/18/14 3:00 AM
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 12:23 PM
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Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
The Vitakkasanthana sutta seems to be about how to handle distracting, unwanted thoughts in meditation. However, most meditation teachers seem to teach something like: when distracted, ( note what distracted you then) go back to the meditation object. Some teachers add that it's important too relaxe while doing this. In other words, in my experience, teachers go directly to the third and sometimes also the fourth of the methods thaught in the suttas but do not seem to care about the other methods one, according to the sutta, should try out first of all. Why is this?
here is a good, short translation imo:

http://www.dharmapunxnyc.com/blog/2014/2/3/my-adaptation-of-the-buddhas-vitakkasanthana-sutta-how-to-remove-unwanted-and-obsessive-thoughts

and thanissaro's of course: 
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.020.than.html

Also the sutta seems to imply that you can get enlightened through concentration practice!! What do you think about that?
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 1:23 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Concentration can help with enlightenment but that's because one learns that absorbed states are impermanent and loses attachment to them. Concentration is good for refined enjoyment and clear seeing of phenomenon during insight practice but is unreliable as permanent happiness.

The other part of your post sounds like Right Effort and that is something that should be taught more.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 2:12 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Sorry, what sounds like right effort?
and what do you mean by insight practice? I'm not a big fan of dividing the practice into concentration and insight practice. The Buddha seems to have thaught a lot of different methods in the suttas, but there is never any dividing them into two categories. Insight and tranquility are talked about more like results than methods. Or that's the way I (mis-)understand it. 
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 2:31 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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I remember reading this sutta.  It's one of the reasons I feel Actual Freedom is close to the more traditional Buddhist teachings.

The order the Buddha puts these things is interesting.  I've found the first two ideas to be very effective.  If a distraction is easily seen as unnecessary, then simply moving the attention to something "skillful" is equivalent to letting it go. If it's persistent and keeps coming back, then examining the cause is very important, otherwise it is impossible to uproot it. If it's still persistent, then finding a distraction and moving away from the thought pattern completely is the best solution. You should really never have to crush your mind with awareness, though. If something is that persistent, then a good psychiatrist is probably a more modern solution. emoticon
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Simon T, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 4:08 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Those are very interesting instructions. I never read it before but I think it make a lot of sense. You are right that many teachers, and I believe the Mahasi tradition to be guilty of that, dismiss to various approach and offer a somewhat "when all got is a hammer, everything is a nail" approach. I had a teacher on a Mahasi retreat tell me "This is investigation, we don't do investigation here" (I think I had spent some time investigating some concentration state but the point remains). Their instructions would be in line with the #3:

"Third, if obsessive thoughts continue to grab one's attention, one should learn to acknowledge such thoughts while disregarding their content."


It's not clear to me what skillful thoughts in step 1 refer to. I assume they are either Jhanas or Meta? Perhaps we can add to this a slight absorbtion into the breath, if someone is doing hybrid concentration/insight like it is usually taught in the Mahasi tradition?  

I have difficulties making a distinction between step 2 and 4. They both seems to be about investigating the thought and releasing the stress associated with it. I found this really useful. Sometimes, I would specifically bring in mind stressful ideas to deconstruct them and release the stress associated with them (notably, bringing in my specific people).

I use step 5 when I'm in a stage where I can stop thoughts entirely, combined with moving tension in the body and way to relax those tension that we have forced in some corner.
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 4:26 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål:
Sorry, what sounds like right effort?
and what do you mean by insight practice? I'm not a big fan of dividing the practice into concentration and insight practice. The Buddha seems to have thaught a lot of different methods in the suttas, but there is never any dividing them into two categories. Insight and tranquility are talked about more like results than methods. Or that's the way I (mis-)understand it. 

Replacing unskillful thinking with skillful thinking is Right Effort.

I like dividing concentration and insight because insight is about developing disenchantment so I don't think concentration can lead to enlightenment by itself. Concentration is a good support for insight so the mind doesn't wander while you investigate.

Richard
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 5:31 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Simon T.:
It's not clear to me what skillful thoughts in step 1 refer to. I assume they are either Jhanas or Meta?


There's a sutta where the Buddha describes cures for each of the hindrances. I can't remember what it is, but Metta was for ill-will, impure (cemetery) meditations was for sensual desire, mindfulness/energy for sloth, jhana for restlessness-worry, and faith/wisdom in the buddha/dhamma/sanga for doubt.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html


This has a good overview.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 11:43 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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You mean Ahara Sutta?
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn46/sn46.051.than.html#fnt-1
it doesn't really put it the way you did there.
I heard AF is not meditation. AF makes me confused, how do you practice it really? Without knowing much about it I've thougt it might be closer to the original teachings of the The Buddha than the vipassana movement.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 11:47 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Well, from my exoteric point of view, that's just wrong.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.044.than.html

And they say there's a sutta where it says there's no discernment w/o jhana and no jhana w/o discernment, I can't find that one though.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/10/14 11:51 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Yes, I knew it, the vipassana movement has scaled away many important parts of the Dhamma! Or so it seems. If the first method could be the same as putting one's attention at the breath, then maybe they're only skipping the second step. But that might be bad too.
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago at 11/11/14 12:45 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål
Also the sutta seems to imply that you can get enlightened through concentration practice!! What do you think about that?

You are supposed to get disenchanted with jhanas. The concentration can be used as a support for investigation of the 3 characteristics but cocooning yourself in jhanas is not how concentration is used in vipassana. Vipassana is like a cold bath compared to hanging out in the 3rd jhana. You're not absorbing with the breath. You are looking at more detail with the concentration (including as many objects in the 4 foundations as you can) but it's to develop disenchantment with addictiveness/chasing/samsara. As Daniel points out there are people stuck in formless jhanas thinking they are enlightened when they are just enjoying jhanas.

If concentration is enough for enlightenment (unless I'm misunderstanding what you posted) I would like to see some explanations from people who have done it. The sense of self (In Buddhism) is supposed to be intact in all jhanas.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/11/14 2:10 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Richard Zen:
Pål
Also the sutta seems to imply that you can get enlightened through concentration practice!! What do you think about that?

The sense of self (In Buddhism) is supposed to be intact in all jhanas.
Who says this?
 
I think it is quite clear in the suttas that the four jhanas are needed to attain nibbana. Without their clarity and equanimity one really can't investigate paticcasamuppada efficiently. 
You might have another definition of jhana than the Buddha taught. I'm not very sure about this but I haven't seen a sutta where jhana is described as absorbtion in the breath. The body is absorbed in happiness though. Piti is btw a factor of enlightenment. 
"You are supposed to get disenchante with jhanas", as you should with everything else yes (including "insight practice" ;) ). However, I doubt that's possible w/o clear insight and I doubt clear insight is possible without proper jhana.
Concentration enough for nibbana? Depends on wether we're talking the attainment concentration or practice of concentration. I'm not sure in any case, but this sutta seems to put it like that if you with concentration practice - done right - root up the defilements then yes concentration is enough.

From Thanissaro's translation:

"Now when a monk... attending to another theme... scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts... paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts... attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts... beating down, constraining and crushing his mind with his awareness... steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it and concentrates it: He is then called a monk with mastery over the ways of thought sequences. He thinks whatever thought he wants to, and doesn't think whatever thought he doesn't. He has severed craving, thrown off the fetters, and — through the right penetration of conceit — has made an end of suffering and stress."That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One's words.
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 11/11/14 10:24 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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I think the main problem with the way people talk about jhana isn't that their advice is bad (as in, becoming disenchanted with jhana is part of the process) but rather the way it's phrased.  Jhana IS insight.  You must let go to enter jhana, and then you must let go of that jhana to enter the next jhana.  As long as you're conscious, you can examine whatever your experience is and ask, "is this stressful?" (Maybe non-verbally in the higher jhanas. emoticon)  So it isn't that you develop the jhanas seperately from the path of insight, and then attempt to rip them apart to gain insight.  The jhanas are themselves the path of insight, and they arise because you are letting go of everything stressful in your experience.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/11/14 11:59 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Not Tao:
I think the main problem with the way people talk about jhana isn't that their advice is bad (as in, becoming disenchanted with jhana is part of the process) but rather the way it's phrased.  Jhana IS insight.  You must let go to enter jhana, and then you must let go of that jhana to enter the next jhana.  As long as you're conscious, you can examine whatever your experience is and ask, "is this stressful?" (Maybe non-verbally in the higher jhanas. emoticon)  So it isn't that you develop the jhanas seperately from the path of insight, and then attempt to rip them apart to gain insight.  The jhanas are themselves the path of insight, and they arise because you are letting go of everything stressful in your experience.
(Without having much more experience than some months of daily concentration practice and reading the suttas, I sayemoticon This.
It really sounds like you two have different ideas of what jhana is. So let's go back to the wonderful suttas. First jhana=piti+sukha+vitakka+vicara
And I am pretty convinced that vitakka and vicara means actual thinking, since Dhammadina is said to have said they are what constitutes "verbal fabrication".
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/11/14 9:45 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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It's right to recognize and avoid  the trend by modern lay teachers away from the Thai forest tradition remedial approch to practice and the ignoring of the role of Right Effort, the factor which the Buddha likened to the ox that pulls the plow. Not only this sutta, but Right Effort itself with its four tactics to avoid and overcome the unwholesome and develop and maintain the wholesome make it perfectly clear that work, not passivity is involved. The Path cannot work in eliminating the defilements unless all the components ( Morality, Concentration, Understanding) are present and interacting. Not only do these teachers preach 'passive' mindfulness, they also deny the very existence of the defilements- no progress can be made their way because no vehicle exists.
One Western monk who has spoken out about this is Thanissaro:   
                     
                          http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/CrossIndexed/Uncollected/MiscEssays/OnDenyingDefilement.pdf

In his book 'right mindfulness', he also makes a good point (p. 151) about the incorrectness of 'passive' practice in that it not only fails to address reducing the hindrances, it also fails to develop the seven factors of enlightenment;
" As for the topic of mental qualities, the categories of the five hindrances and the six sense media make clear reference to the abandoning of unskilful mental qualities; the category of the seven factors of enlightenment makes reference to the act of bringing these skilful mental qualities to the culmination of their development, an achievement that can't  be accomplished simply through passive observation."

Regarding Jhana, I agree with what Richard Zen says. Sukkha- vipassaka is the commentarial term for one who, without having obtained any of the meditative absorptions, has realised only by the support of bare insight (vipassana) one or several of the supermundane paths. In Vism. XVIII, he is called suddha-vipassana-yanika, as distinguished from 'one who has tranquillity as vehicle'. The literal meaning of sukkha is 'dry'. "His insight is dry, rough, unmoistened by the moisture of tranquillity meditation." This should not, however lead to misconceptions about the nature of insight meditation as being purely intellectual, for in fact the development of insight will produce rapture and a sense of urgency in the meditator.

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CJMacie, modified 7 Years ago at 11/12/14 5:26 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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re: Pål(11/11/14 11:59 AM as a reply to Not Tao. )
"… So let's go back to the wonderful suttas. First jhana=piti+sukha+vitakka+vicara
And I am pretty convinced that
vitakka and vicara means actual thinking, since Dhammadina is said to have said they are what constitutes "verbal fabrication."

For an alternative interpretations,see:

1) Vitakka & Vicara – What dothey mean.pdf
http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2008/03/23/vitakka-vicara-what-do-they-mean/

2) Why vitakka doesn’t mean‘thinking’ in jhana - Sujato’s Blog.html
http://sujato.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/why-vitakka-doesnt-mean-thinking-in-jhana/


3) Vitarka - Wikipedia,the free encyclopedia.pdfhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitarka
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/12/14 8:05 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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If it doesn't mean thinking, then how can it be verbal fabrication?

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.044.than.html



"In-&-out breaths are bodily; these are things tied up with the body. That's why in-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Having first directed one's thoughts and made an evaluation, one then breaks out into speech. That's why directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental; these are things tied up with the mind. That's why perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications."
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/12/14 8:11 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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So you and the commentaries mean one can attain paths w/o following the noble eightfold path? The four jhanas is the definition of samma samadhi.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn45/sn45.008.than.html

"And what, monks, is right concentration? (i) There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. (ii) With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. (iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This, monks, is called right concentration."
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 11/12/14 10:24 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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I just wanted to say I'm enjoying these jhana discussions.  Pal, your commitment to the suttas makes for some good debate and I'm actually learning a lot here. emoticon
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/12/14 11:08 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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Yes me too! I love how experienced people actually want to discuss meditation here instead of meaningless philosophical speculations. Also, in other meditation forums experienced people seem to react like "just go practice what the well-known teachers tell you" when someone comes up with these things. I get the impression that there are a lot of buddhist meditation teachers, and have been since, like, the middle ages, who, consiously or not, just pick and choose what they like to teach from the dhamma and overlook important stuff. Some two thousand years of this have probably distorted the dhamma somewhat. Thus not going back to the earliest documents on what the historicak Buddha thaught can be pretty "dangerous" to practice, I believe.
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/12/14 11:38 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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During his enlightenment period, the Buddha realised that the 'Hindu" method he had been following, where jhana at various levels is the only goal, did not address purification of the mind. In Jhana, the hindrances are only suppressed for the duration of meditation. The Buddha therefore developed a path that would eradicate the defilements completely. That path is vipassana, comprised of the Path factors divided into their three components, Morality, Concentration and Insight which are interdependent. Of these, it is insight (panna) comprised of Right View and Right Thought that is responsible for the penetration of impermanence in all forms of existence. The development of insight proceeds in stages, the first being Purification of View, which deals with the way the practitioner should contemplate impermanence and conventional and ultimate realities.
 Up until about 1990, there was no question about those fundamentals, then two things happened; firstly the decline of the Thai Forest tradition due to the closure of the forests and centralisation of the sangha and secondly the rise of the internet. Those Western Buddhists who received their training from monks returning from Thailand about that time, had the benefit of understanding vipassana as the Buddha taught it. In the present period, there are more possibilities due to the internet and the path not so clear for those starting out so caution is needed to avoid wrong teachings such as passive mindfulness , denial of the defilements and the ignoring of Right Effort.

Extract from "Right Mindfulness", Thanissaro.
One of the most striking features of mindfulness as taught in the modern 
world is how far it differs from the Canon’s teachings on right mindfulness. 
Instead of being a function of memory, it’s depicted primarily—in some cases, 
purely—as a function of attention to the present moment. Instead of being 
purposeful, it is without agenda. Instead of making choices, it is choiceless and 
without preferences

Tranquillity (concentration) and insight.
The role of tranquillity in vipassana is purely to enable the observation of the fabrications of the mind so they can be untangled. Jhana in its widest sense denotes any, even momentary or weak absorption of the mind , when directed on a single object. 

The Four Ways to Arhantship sutta (A.N. 4/170) lists four approaches. ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.170.than.html )
                   
                    1. They develop serenity then insight.
                    2. They develop insight then serenity.
                        (A fruitful vipassana practice must still be based on the achievement of stabilizing 'access concentration'.)
                    3. They develop serenity and insight in tandem.
                    And another fourth approach.


It's not necessary to attain the first jhana to practice insight, but concentration is necessary. Some beings have a facility with jhana, they can attain it easily. Others, particularly Westerners are more temperamentally inclined toward insight practice and investigation.
It's warned in the suttas that attaining the pleasure, rapture and equinimity of jhana can cause the practitioner to become complacent and to stop short of the goal.
 
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 12:16 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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Could you please show me in which sutta the Buddha talks about tranquility and insight as two different practices rather than two different attainments? 
In the suttas I've read sutta were the Buddha realizes that jhana isn't enough, he goes back to attain fourth jhana before directing his attention tp the three knowledges of past lives of himself, of others and of the origination and ending of mental fermentations. Fourth jhana is his starting point for "insight practice". Now I'm talking about mahasaccaka sutta and dvedhavitakka sutta.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 3:24 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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Btw, I've never seen a sutta where the Buddha warns about jhana, but quite a few were it is praised.

like these:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.108.than.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.036.than.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.036.than.html

where is it warned for?
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CJMacie, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 6:21 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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re: Pål (11/12/14 8:05 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)
"If it [vitakka-vicara] doesn't mean thinking, then how can it be verbal fabrication?

Vitakka-vicara have different uses, different meanings in different contexts. And different people even interpret them differently in the same context.

Reviewing that blog of Sujato's ("Why vitakka doesn’t mean ‘thinking’ in jhana"), he, and several other linguistic and Buddhistic scholars who participate in the dialog, come up with these points:

The sanskrit and PIE (proto-indo-european) roots of vitakka reflect the idea of 'turn', or 'spindle'. As in to "turn attention to…".

The English word “thought” has a range of meaning, covering not only verbal mental activity but also non-verbal mental activity and the selective training and focussing of attention on particular topics or objects.

“Thought” in English, while potentially having a similar range to vitakka, tends to be interpreted as exclusively verbal.

The ‘thought’ in some sense is there, apart from the verbalizations. It’s a subverbal thought, a placing or hovering of the mind in a certain way.”

Chinese translations of the Sutta-s (in the Chinese Canons, comparable to the Pali Canon) used two different terms for vitakka in and out of jhana.

There is a difference between the “movement of the mind that is at the root of thinking” and thinking, i.e. inner verbalizations.

Some movement of mind and some degree of subtle investigation in all of the jhanas.

Already in the Pali Text Society dictionary (early 1900's) we find the combination vitakka & vicara rendered as ‘initial & sustained application’. This was taken up by Ven Nyanamoli in his translations, but was later removed by Bhikkhu Bodhi as he strove to complete Nyanamoli’s project of effectively finding one English word to translate each significant Pali word.

At the end of the introduction to the Connected Discourses of the Buddha, Bhikkhu Bodhi himself, in the passage “Other Changes” when Bhikkhu Bodhi talks about the change from ‘Initial and Sustained Application’ he himself stresses:

“When vitakka is translated as ‘thought,’ however, a word of caution is necessary. In common usage, vitakka corresponds so closely to our ‘thought’ that no other rendering seems feasible; for example in kamavitakka, sensual thought, or it’s opposite, nekkhammavitakka, thought of renunciation. When, however, vitakka and vicara occur as constitutes of the first jhana, they do not exercise the function of discursive thinking characteristic of ordinary consciousness. Here, rather, vitakka is the mental factor with the function of applying the mind to the object, and vicara the factor with the function of examining the object nondiscursively in order to anchor the mind in the object”.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 8:51 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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It would be great to see if the agamas use the "jhana vitakka" or normal word for vitakka in the Dvedhavitakka sutta. That could tell a lot about which interpretation is closer to what the Buddha meant. 
In the Vitakkasanthana sutta at least, I think they mean actual thinking.

is there anybody here (who knows someone) who's using the order of steps when handling distracting thoughts as laid out in the Vitakkasanthana sutta? How does that work in practice?
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Psi, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 9:44 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål:

is there anybody here (who knows someone) who's using the order of steps when handling distracting thoughts as laid out in the Vitakkasanthana sutta? How does that work in practice?

Maybe a better question is this?  Who doesn't practice in this manner in formal meditation and in daily living activities?  And if not, why not?  How else does one remove and abandon unwholesome thoughts and negative habitual tendencies?  The methods seem pretty straightforward and , if practiced, incline the mind and the mind contents in the right direction.  It seems that futrure intentions arise from the seeds of mental content, so one indeed needs to remove hindrances and unwholesome mental states as they occur , in the present moment.  And it has to be done in the present moment, (that's all we can work with).

It also seems these methods are the same methods throughout the suttas, only different wordings.  Perhaps, the various methods are just various descriptions of the same path.  Perhaps, different minds see the path from different vantage points, so its not really different methods and paths, but different views of the path.  This is probably also true of the various religions, metaphors, mythologies, sciences, etc.  Same mind, different terminology, some more or less accurate, some more or less complete, some deluded, and some vacuous.

Also, here is Soma Thera's Translation, (if not already linked)

Psi

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.020.soma.html
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 11:44 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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I agree with Psi, particularly in that practice must take place in daily life. My practice is completely based on Right Effort and its strategies. Unless Right Effort is employed, there cannot be any progress, just like the ox (Right Effort) pulling the plow (S. Nipata, v. 77). The temperaments of beings are more or less inclined to either anger or desire and the first task is to assess the predominant hindrances in one's own temperament and from there to choose one's subject of contemplation accordingly.  

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html

Of the two vehicles, tranquillity and insight, the tranquillity practitioner must still emerge from jhana in order to practise liberating vipassana. If it is practised at all, jhana is just a tool to aid insight. In other words of the three training components of the Path, Morality, Concentration and Understanding, it is Understanding (insight) that penetrates impermanence in all conditioned things. Concentration alone is not insight. If the Buddha repeatedly said anything, it was, "all conditioned things are impermanent". His final words were, " All conditioned things are impermanent: strive on with heedfulness". While the Buddha may have often referred to jhana, it probably just indicated that concentration was necessary. There are degrees of attainment and bare insight (sukkha-vipassaka), which is what I am talking about here, is only one vehicle, but is probably the most accessible to Westerners. In this sutta AN 4/170, there are discussed some who develop insight before tranquillity and others who develop tranquillity before insight, but there are no examples where tranquillity is developed alone.

Practice of the jhanas by adepts can lead to the development of 5 mundane supernormal powers (the sixth supermundane power is vipassana) which present the danger that beings tend to become sidetracked by those powers and do not proceed with the sixth, vipassana. So this is a problem for advanced practitioners. Discerning these dangers constitutes one of the stages of insight, Purification by Knowledge and Vision of What Is and What Is Not Path.
 SN 12/70 concerns a group of monks who are arahants released through insight (discernment). Another monk questions them to see if they have attained any of the supernormal powers that sometimes result from jhana practice, but they have not. This could indicate that they have attained arahantship without practising jhana, although they would have needed a degree of concentration (such as access concentration).
 
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 1:47 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta

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I'd also be curious to see where the buddha warns against jhana.  There are plenty of modern teachers who do (with the idea that you can become a "jhana junkie"), but I think that's a major deviation from the buddha's teachings.  He tends to wax poetic about jhana in the suttas and tells his monks to practice them as much as possible.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 1:56 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Now I'm not sure about how you interpret the instructions, but I find it pretty hard to do in practice compared to the commonly heard "when distracted, just go back to the object directly". 
Could focusing on the breath be an example of the first step of "reflecting on an object connected with skill" like b. Soma puts it? 
I feel like my understanding of this suttas instructions is incomplete since whem I try  hjen out in practice I kind of get even more distracted since whenever I get distracted by a thought I go "which step was I at and how am I going to perform it? Should I reflect om the disadvantage of the thought or relax or distract my self from it or what?" And so I get even more distracted :/
so I find asking who doesn't practice in line with this sutta strange since I thought most meditators just try to go back to their standard object w/o doing any reflection and stuff like that, or do one of the steps only when distracted.
Actually I first found the Vitakkasanthana sutta when I was searching suttas after I realized that I have never ever seem the standard instruction "when distracted just go back to your object (while relaxing)". Then I found this sutta that seems to have it more complicated and where the Buddha gives instructions that sounds like nothing I've ever heard/read from any other meditation teacher. 
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Psi, modified 7 Years ago at 11/13/14 8:34 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål:
Now I'm not sure about how you interpret the instructions, but I find it pretty hard to do in practice compared to the commonly heard "when distracted, just go back to the object directly". 
Could focusing on the breath be an example of the first step of "reflecting on an object connected with skill" like b. Soma puts it? 
I feel like my understanding of this suttas instructions is incomplete since whem I try  hjen out in practice I kind of get even more distracted since whenever I get distracted by a thought I go "which step was I at and how am I going to perform it? Should I reflect om the disadvantage of the thought or relax or distract my self from it or what?" And so I get even more distracted :/
so I find asking who doesn't practice in line with this sutta strange since I thought most meditators just try to go back to their standard object w/o doing any reflection and stuff like that, or do one of the steps only when distracted.
Actually I first found the Vitakkasanthana sutta when I was searching suttas after I realized that I have never ever seem the standard instruction "when distracted just go back to your object (while relaxing)". Then I found this sutta that seems to have it more complicated and where the Buddha gives instructions that sounds like nothing I've ever heard/read from any other meditation teacher. 

Hmmm, I see your point, about the actual practice.  So, if I may paraphrase you to understand, "When a distracting thought, memory , daydream, wish, itch or wahtever pulls your attention away from your object of meditation (let's use the breath, easy example), then you start thinking which antidote do I apply to which kind of distraction, then thinking/analyzing ensues.

If the above is correct, what I do/did was basically what Shinzen Young described as Equanimity.  Whatever came up, I didn't discriminate, it was all just distractions, I would return to being aware of the breath, BUT with Equanimity.  

http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=703

So, also I would practice this every day, multiple sessions, and still do,  and during daily activities.  My reasoning was that this must be a purification process for the mind.  Why? What reasoning for this?  Well, each sensation , thought, emotion , memory, instinct or phenomenon that arises, usually causes some sort of habitual instinctual reaction, or combines with previous memories or associated thoughts and leads the mind to who knows where, kinda randomly. So, there was a fix to this, I reasoned, By practicing Equanimity towards all phenomenon, one could possibly re-train and re-wire the mind to be equanimous, so each phenomenon that arises to the mind is "met up" or "connected to" equanimity, (through actual physical neural connections)  And, over time, this process purifies the mind, eventually becoming a newly formed automatic response system, the mind "inclined" towards Equanimity due to the numerous and multiple re-trainings of the mind to return to Equanimity each and every possible moment one was able to direct the mind in this fashion, no matter the phenomenon.  Some deeply ingrained fears/reactions/subconscious and unconscious mental formations can and do take a long time.  I still find the mind becoming unbalanced, from time to time, kinda funny and absurd in a way how much of what our minds are goes back millions and millions of years, (evolutionary speaking), so, no wonder re-training the mind is such a task that requires so much, but that's Dukkha for ya....

So that's kinda why I would go back to the breath, (silently and gently, NO reprimanding the Mind, just like one wouldn't kick a baby for falling down walking, don't be mean to your mind for falling down and daydreaming, just gently and kindly help it up and return to the breath, love the mind as you would a baby, or a puppy, it's trying, just needs help and training), the "silent mind" skill becomes available with practice.  Eventually, the breath as an "anchor" object can be dropped and one can take Equanimity itself as an object, the object of meditation doesn't have to be thought of as so physical all the time.

Still working on all this myself....  And alot of times I just start over and go back to the simple, and start from scratch, paying attention to the breath, if thoughts arise, connect them to Equanimity, return back to the breath or stay with Equanimity, whatever is available.  And if the mind is too rowdy, usually the next session in the day won't be as bad, and if that one is rowdy, if it's still rowdy, it's time to lift weights or run, work whatever, sometimes we gotta move the blood!

I have more comments pertaining to the Sutta you brought up to explore with us all, but no more time.


Be well everyone!

Psi

P.S.  The word Equanimity in the above post might be defined in other ways in other traditions and/or practices
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/14/14 12:25 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Thanks, but those are the basic instructions taught by modern teachers which are using only the third antidote (great word you found) it seems.
I mean the sutta gices us these 5 different antidotes which should be used in place of one another in a certain order... And there's no meditation teacher I've ever heard of except the Buddha himself who is teaching/thaught this. 
One interesting thing is that in the Dvedhavitakka sutta, the Buddha tells the story of his own awakening and there he describes himself using the second antidote only and that's enough for him, the distracting thoughts do not come up again. If these suttas do not contradict each other, then if the thought's had not subsides he would have used the third antidote, if that didn't wor then the fourth etc.
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/14/14 11:58 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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There is also a version with commentary and notes. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wheel021.html
This version, which is available as a book gives concrete examples of the tactics. 'Antidote' is the right word because the practitioner should become a doctor to themselves by diagnosing from which hindrance the distracting thoughts are arising and then apply the antidote .

Antidotes
I. Reflect on the opposite i.e. desire- impermanence of the body.
2. Reflect on the disadvantages of the hindrance
3 Non-attention to the hindrance
4 Removal of the source- understanding how the hindrance arises.
5 Suppression- as a last resort.

Teachers are teaching this, for example these five antidotes are up front on the Insight Meditation Toronto website.

An even clearer explanation of the antidotes to each hindrance can be found in this book:              http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html#sutta

"The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest".

You've got the idea. Notice what hindrances are arising regularly and read the appropriate section in "The Five Mental Hindrances and their Conquest". I focus on the 32 parts of the body, particularly the skeleton as there is a tactile sensation of it protruding out of the flesh at certain points. The antidotes aren't confineded to meditation, they also extend into daily life. For example for sensual thoughts, take every opportunity to experience impermanence of the body. I visited the police morgue in Bankok with some monks on a Monday and saw all the bodies from motorcycle accidents and fires that had happened over the weekend. Pay attention to old people and reflect how everybody is heading that way. This is the way the mind gradually changes its way of thinking to penetrate impermanence, which is a scientific fact. Otherwise it just becomes a victim of the inherent tendencies, which have a primal source called the 'monkey mind'. The practitioner has to work against that and it can be overcome. An arahant is one whose inherent tendencies are brought to an end.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/14/14 2:37 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Thanks!
So say I'm practicing anapanasati and suddenly I'm distracted by sensuallity, should I then completely change object to asubha? Then when the sensual thoughts have diminished, should I go back to anapana or continue doing asubha bhavana? Actually I'm not sure if I agree with exactly what object takes way which hindrance, see the Ahara sutta
Also if the commentary is right I'll have to learn lots of different meditation methods for different hindrances...
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Psi, modified 7 Years ago at 11/14/14 9:14 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål:
Thanks, but those are the basic instructions taught by modern teachers which are using only the third antidote (great word you found) it seems.
I mean the sutta gices us these 5 different antidotes which should be used in place of one another in a certain order... And there's no meditation teacher I've ever heard of except the Buddha himself who is teaching/thaught this. 
One interesting thing is that in the Dvedhavitakka sutta, the Buddha tells the story of his own awakening and there he describes himself using the second antidote only and that's enough for him, the distracting thoughts do not come up again. If these suttas do not contradict each other, then if the thought's had not subsides he would have used the third antidote, if that didn't wor then the fourth etc.
True enough, My comments are oversimplified, there are word restraints and time restraints.  Not sure if what I am about to write pertains exactly to the sutta we are talking about but, here goes.

Basically, one can substiture with opposites, to "re-balance" or bring back Equanimity.  For example, if sexual lust arises, think rationally about how the object of lust is in reality a pile of skin and organs, full of bacteria, and hairy, (all true, it's just perspective)  If greed arises for something, contemplate how an object is really just another shape or form of plastic or mineral (that's reality, again, it's true) If hatred arises contemplate that hatred is just a release of chemicals in the body, and remember that the "hatred" is a poison of chemicals that when released within the body can only harm yourself physically and in reality, best to abandon immediately.  If one is craving something, remember to be grateful for what one already has, or reflect on the troubles taking care of stuff requires.

These are just examples, one can and should make up their own antidotes.  The reality of phenomenon is just as it is, it is the mind that is the "storyteller" or "fabricator" , the culprit of craving, once caught red-handed, in the act of creating craving, one can apply method to release and/or abandon "let go" of craving.  It really is the Ego/Self mental formation that causes alot of needless suffering.

Of course this is all after the fact, after the unwholesome has already arisen, and useful to return to the wholesome mind states.  This sutta is covering that aspect of Dependent Origination, the point just after feeling/sensation when craving arises, and useful methods to counteract craving that has already arisen.

To reply directly to the idea that these methods are not taught by modern teachers....Hmmm, maybe...  But, the Buddha taught it , and it works, to great effect, so....   We can only but practice and move forward, and be grateful to have access to the Suttas directly in a language we can read for ourselves.  

In the end, we really only learn what we have taught and understand in our own minds.

Psi

Thanks again for bring up this subject, good study material /  good discussion, wholesome....

P.S.  Here is another respected teacher and his commentary on This Sutta:

http://talks.dhammasukha.org/uploads/1/2/8/6/12865490/mn-020-jt1-060219-l.pdf
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PP, modified 7 Years ago at 11/14/14 12:14 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål:
Actually I first found the Vitakkasanthana sutta when I was searching suttas after I realized that I have never ever seem the standard instruction "when distracted just go back to your object (while relaxing)". Then I found this sutta that seems to have it more complicated and where the Buddha gives instructions that sounds like nothing I've ever heard/read from any other meditation teacher. 

Vitakkasanthana sutta is very interesting. Not because of the instructions for being in Equanimity, as many teachers teach them (as well as in Taoism: see the yin inside the yang, see the yang inside the yin). But because of the last few paragraphs, where he actually addresses Vipassana (for all the vipassana deniers out there).

In short, the Buddha said that he attained enlightenment by climbing up the first four jhanas, and the investigating each of the Three Characteristics through the lens of one or two of the others Characteristics. It's easy to follow that he talks about Dukkha, Anicca & Anatta when he speaks of "the knowledge of recollecting (his) past lives",  "the knowledge of passing away and reappearance of beings" and "the knowledge of the ending of mental fermentations". Then see that he tells about "(observed) such my experience of pleasure & pain"..."discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma"..."this is stress, this is the origination of stress, this is the cessation of stress, this is the way leading to the cessation of stress". 

Probably the thing the diverges most from contemporary teachings (and the most interesting!!) is that instead focusing on centerlessness and agencylessness of experience, he actually was centered in the human being, in each of his past lives, with all his/their sufferings. It brings to my mind his saying: "I have taught one thing and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha". 


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.019.than.html
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/14/14 5:09 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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I guess you mean the Dvedhavitakka sutta. Yes it does mention the Buddha using the state of the fourth jhana to gain insight through paranormal seeing. Who practices vipassana like that really except the Buddha, his early disciples and maybe a handfull of thai forest nowadays monks? It does not "justify" mahasi noting or any other "dry" meditation as being a teaching from the Buddha. Sorry for my lacking english.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/14/14 5:21 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Hm... Aren't you kind of mixing the firat and second steps now? 

Thanks for the link, I've wondered what B.V. Thinks about that sutta since his 6:rs method really seems to contradict the vitakkasanthana 5-step method. Of course he totally changes the subject directly with his brain sack theory haha 
haven't read all of it yet though. I really wish meditation is as easy as this guy says. 
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Psi, modified 7 Years ago at 11/14/14 7:02 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål:
Hm... Aren't you kind of mixing the firat and second steps now? 

Thanks for the link, I've wondered what B.V. Thinks about that sutta since his 6:rs method really seems to contradict the vitakkasanthana 5-step method. Of course he totally changes the subject directly with his brain sack theory haha 
haven't read all of it yet though. I really wish meditation is as easy as this guy says. 


Yeah , mixing it might seem to be, and might be appropriate, this would be occurring in real-time mind moments, one is training the mind quickly, no screwing around, one would not want to dally with unwholesome and evil thoughts, same as if your hair is on fire, Put it out!

Or, better as stated in the Sutta, "If you found a dead snake around your neck, you would cast it away quickly"  Same with unwholesome thoughts, cast away!  Which, to me is absurdly funny, as we (some of us) cling to the self idea, yet thoughts arise that we don't create or ask for, it's impersonal in nature, yet we still think these thoughts are "ours".

Who thinks the thoughts if they come to awareness already completed, eh?

6r method does agree with the first steps, and disagree with the last step(s), Bhante has speculated that the last step or steps are "add-ons" to the original words of the Buddha...  Don't quote me , I have to re-read/listen again myself

From my experience the crushing of the unwholesome has led to soem headaches and synchonicities that were not so cool, definitely last resort methods.  But, perhaps the point is that even a headache is better than clinging to unwholesome mind states.... 

And, actually, to make it easier, when meditating formally, I just treat all thoughts as garbage, they are just bothersome while meditating, I can go back to thinking later, or during contemplation or whatever, but usually during meditation I throw them all out, I mean who cares, you can always get more anywho.... and usually they are just nonsense wishes or replays of previous phenomenon, junk.  

P.S.I. Bhante has this on video also... just FYI

http://talks.dhammasukha.org/mn-020-sea1-070324-v.html
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/15/14 12:46 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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I often have to use suppression as a tactic with distracting thoughts, pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth. I find though that these situations eventually dissipate, and don't arise any more, while at the time there was a compulsion to become involved with them, thus setting a wrong pattern. It's like walking past a vicious dog- eventually you can walk past and it doesn't bother you. Modern teachers tend to avoid the fact that the Buddha had a battle with Mara for six years preceding enlightenment and one afterwards.


www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/guruge/wheel419.html
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/15/14 3:04 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Yes actually he says that the sutta is an add on... He just throws it out with no other arguments for it than it doesn't fit with the rest and it's rediculous... I find this far fetched.
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Do you do that after having tried the four other methods as instructed in the sutta? I find it hard imagining anybody does...
Meditation would be so much more easy if the five methods (antidoting, contemplating drawbacks, ignoring, relaxing and surpressing) was five choises of how to handle distractions. But the Buddha seems to be very clear about that they should be tried in this order. Do you know if these instructions can be found in any other sutta? The second one is obviously in the Dvedhavitakka sutta.
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/15/14 5:41 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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I don't use them in order. I use non-attention (3) and suppression (5) as short term tactics mainly in daily life in dealing with what other people do  and cultivating opposites (1) and investigating the source (4)  and reflecting on the disadvantages (2) as long term contemplations in developing states of mind.
As you said, the Ahara sutta is also on this theme, thanks for that.
This theme is connected to the sixth stage of thr Eightfold Path, the 4 Right Efforts, the effort to avoid, to overcome, to develop, to maintain.

Description of 4 Right Efforts from Buddhist Dictionary:


1) "What now, o monks, is the effort to avoid? Perceiving a form, or a sound, or an odour, or a taste, or a bodily or mental impression, the monk neither adheres to the whole nor to its parts. And he strives to ward off that through which evil and unwholesome things might arise, such as greed and sorrow, if he remained with unguarded senses; and he watches over his senses, restrains his senses. This is called the effort to avoid.(2) "What now is the effort to overcome? The monk does not retain any thought of sensual lust, or any other evil, unwholesome states that may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys them, causes them to disappear. This is called the effort to overcome.(3) "What now is the effort to develop? The monk develops the factors of enlightenment, bent on solitude, on detachment, on extinction, and ending in deliverance, namely: mindfulness (sati), investigation of the law (dhamma-vicaya), energy(viriya), rapture (píti), tranquillity (passaddhi), concentraton (samádhi), equanimity (upekkhá). This is called the effort to develop.(4) "What now is the effort to maintain? The monk keeps firmly in his mind a favourable object of concentration, such as the mental image of a skeleton, a corpse infested by worms, a corpse blueblack in colour, a festering corpse, a corpse riddled with holes, a corpse swollen up. This is called the effort to maintain" (A. IV, 14).

I'm not proficient in Pali, what I know I have learned from living in momasteries in Sri lanka and Thailand where monks mainly use the Visuddhimagga as a guide.


The Visuddhimagga (Pali; English The Path of Purification), is the 'great treatise' on Theravada Buddhist doctrine written byBuddhaghosa approximately in 430 CE in Sri Lanka. It is a comprehensive manual condensing and systematizing the theoretical and practical teachings of the Buddha as they were understood by the elders of the Mahavihara Monastery in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is described as "the hub of a complete and coherent method of exegesis of the Tipitaka, using the ‘Abhidhamma method' as it is called. And it sets out detailed practical instructions for developing purification of mind." (Bhikkhu Nyanamoli 2011 p. xxvii.) It is considered the most important Theravada text outside of the Tipitaka canon of scriptures.[1]

T
he Visuddhimagga describes the benefits of developing Understanding as (a) The removal of the various defilements.

In the final stage of insight, Purification by Knowledge and Vision, it describes Full-understanding as abandoning. 

108. (iii) Full-understanding as abandoning is summarized thus: “Understanding
that is abandoning is knowledge in the sense of giving up” (Ps I 87). It is
stated in detail thus: Whatever states are abandoned are given up” (Ps I 87). It
occurs in the way beginning: “Through the contemplation of impermanence he
abandons the perception of permanence …” (cf. Ps I 58). Its plane extends
from the contemplation of dissolution up to path knowledge. This is what is
intended here.
109. Or alternatively, full-understanding as the known and full-understanding
as investigating have that [third kind] as their aim, too, and whatever states a
man abandons are certainly known and investigated, and so all three kinds of
full-understanding can be understood in this way as the function of path
knowledge.
110. (b) So too abandoning: abandoning is threefold too, like full-understanding,
that is, (i) abandoning by suppressing, (ii) abandoning by substitution of
opposites, and (iii) abandoning by cutting off.

111. (i) Herein, when any of the mundane kinds of concentration suppresses
opposing states such as the hindrances, that act of suppressing, which is like
the pressing down of water-weed by placing a porous pot on weed-filled water,
is called abandoning by suppressing. But the suppression of only the hindrances
is given in the text thus: “And there is abandoning of the hindrances by
suppression in one who develops the first jhána” (Ps I 27). However, that
should be understood as so stated because of the obviousness [of the suppression
then]. For even before and after the jhána as well hindrances do not invade
consciousness suddenly; but applied thought, etc., [are suppressed] only at the
moment of actual absorption [in the second jhána, etc.,] and so the suppression
of the hindrances then is obvious.
112. (ii) But what is called abandoning by substitution of opposites is the
abandoning of any given state that ought to be abandoned through the means
of a particular factor of knowledge, which as a constituent of insight is opposed
to it, like the abandoning of darkness at night through the means of a light.
[694] It is in fact the abandoning firstly of the view of individuality through......

Vism. XXII, 108 ff.



Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/15/14 7:13 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Ok, why do you think the Buddha instructed us to do it in a certain order, 1-5? Or, if you're good at pali, do you think he did?
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/15/14 5:28 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Tactic 1 substitution of opposites (tadanga) , is a well-known principle in the Visuddhimagga and the suttas. (see my edited post above) Tactic 2 is connected to moral shame and moral dread (hiri, otappa), also well-known.Tactic 3 Non-attention.  No comment. Antidote 4 , Investigation of the source, is considered the most important of the five, the real antidote. The Vism. is divided into 3 sections, Morality, Concentration and Understanding and in the Benefits of Understanding it is said that understanding removes (not just suppresses) the various defilements. This is a major statement. Tactic 5 suppression, seems to be similar to the effect of the jhanas, which are repeatedly said to suppress the hindrances.
So although the 5 methods are not connected in a series the way they are in the sutta, most of them are principles which are found throughout the Vism. and the suttas. 
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/16/14 6:56 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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http://www.leighb.com/jhana_4factors.htmThis article, and like everything Bhante Vimalaramsi says, makes me a little suspicious-minded towards the Visudhimagga and wonder wether it really is explaining the Dhamma that Gotama thaught or not. In that article, even if Leigh Brasington is possibly wrong about the vitakka and vicara stuff the claim in the Visudhimagga that only one meditator in a million can reach the jhana seems to be contradicting the suttas. And also the instructions to be mindfull of breath sensations at the nose and that's it... Thanissaro Bhikkhu, his talks and his sutta translations, has kind pf convinced me that's wrong and contradicting the suttas.

Anyway, are all thoughts that appear during meditation supposed to be handled with the five steps (or five whatever they are), or only those that distracts you from the object? I recall that in the Dvedhavitakka sutta, the Buddha antidotes the unskillfull thoughts but not the skillfull ones. The skillfull ones, however, he does not let them linger either but I'm not sure what he does to make them disappear or if he just let's them fade while being aware of his main object (which probably was the breath if we look at the Dipa sutta). 
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/16/14 7:30 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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I wouldn't have anything to do with Bhante V, he's been influenced by some of the lay teachers from Dhamma Seed and they are largely from where the wrong teachings are arising, passive mindfulness and denial of the hindrances, which Thannissaro is speaking out about (although he doesn't mention the avoidance of Right Effort, which is illogical). Thannissaro has the same views as you on jhana, as expressed in his book "Right Mindfulness" (free on application to his monastery) although it's a little 'dense' to read. Sounds like you should be following him.
Using the Vism. is something that comes after the practitioner has an overview of the suttas. When I was at your stage I was following Bikkhu Bodhi and a group of German monks like Nyanatiloka were writing and presenting the 'bare insight' approach. Now the pendulum has swung back toward jhana and we're just in the middle of that now, so it's impossible to say whether it will be just a fad or a real 'school'. It would be great to see jhana develop in the West, because it would be a further stage in the maturing of Buddhism here and with the high rates of mental illness, jhana is needed.
Back to the removal of distracting thoughts, even physical activity opposes the hindrances of sloth and desire and it's good to recognize the point where the hindrances are challenged, the practitioner shouldn't stop until that point is reached i.e. learn to recognize the hindrances.
Even breath meditation is the antidote to agitation, every meditation subject has an application in the sense it opposes one or other of the hindrances.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/17/14 6:53 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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I'm not sure if I agree that B.V. teaches passive mindfullness, but his technique is centered at relaxing away the hindrances rather than surpressing them it seems. 
'Bare insight'... I can't figure out how a reader of suttas possibly could see that as something taught by the Buddha. That would maybe be possible if one read the satipatthana sutta only and nothing else. 
Edit:
I've thought about one thing about removal of distracting thoughts: Anapanasati done right surpresses the hindrances, right? So directing ones attention at the breath could be one way of practicing the first step? That would be nice since otherwise I would have to change the object if I want to follow the order instructed in the suttas which feels like a distraction itself.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 7 Years ago at 11/17/14 11:26 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål:
'Bare insight'... I can't figure out how a reader of suttas possibly could see that as something taught by the Buddha. That would maybe be possible if one read the satipatthana sutta only and nothing else.

Not even then my friend! Anyone practicing from the satipatthana sutta still has to allow the seven factors of awakening to develop and come to their culmination in order for release to come about. It says so right there: He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen samadhi as a factor for Awakening. And he discerns how there is the culmination of the development of samadhi as a factor for Awakening once it has arisen. (same with rapture, etc)

Other suttas that cover the satipatthana do flesh this out more though. SN 54 describes how the four frames of reference (satipatana) are developed & pursued:
"And how are the four frames of reference developed & pursued so as to bring the seven factors for Awakening to their culmination?..

In one whose persistence is aroused, a rapture not-of-the-flesh arises. When a rapture not-of-the-flesh arises in one whose persistence is aroused, then rapture as a factor for Awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

Now four of these seven factors are qualities of jhana and the instructions in supporting suttas are that in order for these factors to come to culmination they need good food. MN 46.51 describes the kinds of food needed for them to develop:

Feeding the Factors for Awakening
...
"And what is the food for the arising of unarisen rapture as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of rapture... once it has arisen? There are mental qualities that act as a foothold for rapture as a factor for Awakening. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is the food for the arising of unarisen rapture as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of rapture... once it has arisen.


Further, culmination is said to require a level of at least the first jhana. SN 46.52: Any concentration accompanied by directed thought & evaluation is concentration as a factor for Awakening. And any concentration unaccompanied by directed thought & evaluation is also concentration as a factor for Awakening. Thus this forms the definition of 'concentration as a factor for Awakening,'

Consider what happens when vipassana practioners encounter these jhanic factors arising in their meditation (they call them vipassana jhanas) - the instructions given to students are to note them or take them apart or pay no attention to them where as the Buddha says you need to feed them good food and allow them to come to culmination for release to come about. Food for thought - so to speak.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/17/14 11:41 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Another rare case of someone agreeing with me: If it turns out we're wrong, as unlike as it seems, then at least we're wrong together emoticon
Which tradition/type of meditation/teacher do you practice/follow?
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 3:00 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Do you think the practice outlined in the Vitakkasanthana sutta and the Anapanasati sutta are different practices done at different times, or practices done in the same session assisting each other?

Edit:
"There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful."
Does the "particular theme" mean ones standard meditation object, the breath for example, so that when I get distracted I should just take another object, other than the breath, connected with what is skillfull? How long should I stay with the newobject before going back to the breath, should I even go back to it? 
Or maybe the "particular theme" means an unskillfull object that distracts us, could then focusing on the breath be the first step of taking up a skillfull theme of attention? 
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 3:09 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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'Passive' mindfulness is not a technique of true vipassana as practised in the Forest Tradition.There mindfulness is a watchman linked to  the activities of Right Effort; to avoid, to overcome, to develop and to maintain.
The debate about tranquillity and insight has been going on since the Buddha's time, for example AN 4/170 lists examples of monks who develop insight before tranquillity and others who develop tranquillity first. It's a matter of individual temperament.
SN 12/70 is about a group of monks released through insight only.
Beyond the Buddha's time, 'bare insight' is referred to in the Commentaries and the Vism.
Insight is the decisive liberating factor in Buddhism, though it has to be developed along with the two other trainings in morality and concentration. Only access concentration is necessary for insight. The aim is insight into the impermanent nature of all conditioned things.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 3:48 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Yes the aim is insight, I agree. But insight is an attainment not a practice. The Susima sutta does not at all say insight w/o jhana is possible.

From the Susima sutta:

"Then, having known thus, having seen thus, do you dwell touching with your body the peaceful emancipations, the formless states beyond form [the formless jhanas]?"
"No, friend."
"So just now, friends, didn't you make that declaration without having attained any of these Dhammas?"
"We're released through discernment, friend Susima."

Now take a look at this: 
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.044.than.html

This means that the four "rupa" jhanas are needed to attain insight.
Yes, you can attain insight before tranquility and the other way around according to the suttas, but that doesn't mean it's two different kinds of practice. Dependent on ones individual temperament one or the other comes first.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 12:14 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Pål:
Another rare case of someone agreeing with me: If it turns out we're wrong, as unlike as it seems, then at least we're wrong together emoticon
Which tradition/type of meditation/teacher do you practice/follow?

My first teacher was a Taoist gentleman from China. I practiced with him for a couple of years. This was ‘94-’96 or so.

Following that I spent several years doing a vipassana practice (not Mahasi) but I never cared for it much. The Chi Gong practice was much more pleasant, insightful, and happier for me. Maybe around 2003 I came upon Thanissaro and his teachings and then a couple of years later spent about a week with Vimalaramsi when he came and visited the town I live in. I’ve learned much from both of them. Thanissaro’s practice is very similar to the sorts of Taoist meditation practices that I had learned early on so from him I learned that I had been on the right track already and picked-up many good tips. Vimalaramsi reminded me to approach meditation with a smile and to keep attending to body relaxation - something I had learned from my first teacher but I think I lost that during my vipassana years. He is a very skilled jhana teacher.

I mostly identify now with the Thai Forest Tradition. I practice using Thanissaro’s techniques. I still practice Chi Gong - I think it is a great support for Thanissaro’s methods. I like Sujato’s blog and writings. I like Ajahn Brahms focus on bringing happiness back in to the practice as a core teaching.

Thanisarro has a short teaching on the 5 ways to work with thoughts:
 http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/y2007/070731%20Distractive%20Thoughts.mp3

I found a reference to the Vitakkasanthana sutta in the Chinese Agamas. The good news is it’s available on line over at sutta central - the bad news is that it hasn’t been translated from the Chinese yet. It would be interesting to see how close it is to the Theravadin version. The details on the text reads:
This Madhyamāgama of the Sarvāstivāda school was translated in the Eastern Jin dynasty in 397–398 CE by Gautama Saṃghadeva and a team including Saṅgharakṣa as reciter and Daoci, Libao, and Kanghua as scribes.

Here is the link just in case anyone wants to translate it:
http://suttacentral.net/zh/ma101
Chuck Kasmire, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 3:01 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Where in SN 12.70 are you seeing this? Pal is correct - it does not seem to say anything about them not having attained jhana as far as I can tell. It just says they haven’t acquired the psychic powers and such. I have also encountered these jhanas and I don’t have those powers either. Discernment release as defined in the suttas does have one going through all the jhanas. But what do we all mean by jhana? Maybe this is the source of confusion?

If dry insight (without jhana - specifically, without the factors of rapture, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity ) is indeed possible then it would be interesting to know how four of the seven factors of awakening can be discarded and still have the magic work. Have you come upon any discussion of this? Maybe access concentration covers it but as that term is not used in the suttas - it's hard to say.

My own sense of this term is that it initially meant that there was no need for separate concentration practices - the kind that do not lead to awakening - and that the vipassana practice itself could develop suitable levels of concentration. I agree with this and so does the Buddha and maybe you do also. We can call it vipassana but Buddha called it a type of jhana that develops both tranquility and insight together, developed the four frames of reference, and allowed all seven factors of awakening to go to their culmination - release.

But I think over time the role of jhana in the vipassana practice (rapture, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity) became confused with hard concentration practices and so some teachers started telling students to avoid these qualities when they arose. The decision may have also been political - I think Sujato has made this point.

I think the vipassana practice (outside the Mahasi tradition) does in fact develop the needed concentration - I have seen clear evidence of this. But the Mahasi system does not seem to allow these factors to really develop fully and I think this may account for the blips instead of the deathless as a description of stream entry. At least it’s what I think today.

Yet another area of confusion in all this is that some suttas seem to imply that one has to actively work their way down through each jhana step by step. In practice - once all the factors come together - and this can happen even in the first jhana - the process can just take off by itself and run to completion - that is deeper and deeper into the jhanas, then into cessation and then inclines to the deathless. It is something like working your way down an ever steepening slippery slope - some may get further than others but at some point everybody hits the bottom - one way or another.

Another source of confusion is that the Satipatanna has been understood to be a specific practice - not sure if this shows up in the commentaries or if this is just a view of the Mahasi tradition - but essentially standing alone by itself - when in the suttas it is seen more as kind of a crib sheet - a listing of wholesome ways of developing the mind regardless of what practice one is doing. It was not meant as a practice to move you along the path but rather to describe what the path was made of. If one practices only from this sutta then one misses out on all the details of the various practices that are sketched out there (SN 47.1-50).

With regard to the commentaries - I am glad they help you. Years ago I tried reading them and I found that they did not at all relate to my experience where as the suttas fit perfectly and still do. I can’t really comment on them as it has been so long since I even looked at them.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 3:05 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Thanks for sharing and for the links! Thanissaros talk on the subject is great. The his explanation of the meaning of the instructions in the sutta is how I want them ti be. However, I'm still not sure about if that's really what the Buddha taught, at least not at the first step. Thanissaro says the first step means simply bringing the mind back to the object directly.
but look at his translation of the sutta:

"There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to [!] another [!] theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it." ... 

It seems to me like the example the Buddha is making here is: A monk is meditating on something, for example the breath. Then he gets distracted by thoughts of aversion, for example. He should then change his meditation object to something else, metta, for example. When metta has taken away the aversion the monk goes back to the breath.  If the aversion is not taken out of the way by the metta, then he should go on to the next method, etc.

I hope this interpretation is wrong since there doesn't seem ti be any tradition or teacher teaching this!

Maybe it could be the case that what the Buddha means with "a particular theme" is something that distracts one from a skillfull theme, like tomorrows meal. Then Thanissaros own interpretation makes more sense. It makes even more sense with Some Theras translation of the same paragraph I quoted above: 
When evil unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion arise in a bhikkhu through reflection on an adventitious object, he should, (in order to get rid of that), reflect on a different object which is connected with skill. Then the evil unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

Here, the object the monk is reflecting on in the beginning is said to be "adventitious" which implies that he has drifted of from something and that the "skillfull object" could be something he comes back to.








 
Small Steps, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 4:00 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Would it stand to reason that the Buddha is not simply speaking about the run-of-the-mill type of distracting thought here? If so, perhaps this sutta is less targetted towards the normal hindrances uncovered during the process.

I read, "evil, unskillful" to be a pretty severe type of thought. Dunno about you all, but I generally don't have (m)any thoughts I'd classify as being evil...

Edit: Just to add, perhaps that's why this sutta is not so much "overlooked," per the title of this post, as it is not directly applicable to the common situation.
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 11:05 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Nowehere is it said that jhana is the aim of the Path and everywhere it is said that insight into impermanence is the goal. The understanding of impermanence begins with simple thinking. Impermanence is a scientific fact; it is known that all  animate and inanimate objects are engaged in a cycle of birth, maturity, death. But beings normally are not aware of this, they cling to a small slice of that reality coloured by their own desires and ego. Then one day something dies and they are grief stricken, shocked, when the process had been going on all the time. Perception into impermanence is perception into reality as it is. But beings don't see reality as it is, they see things in terms of their ego. So changing that is the task of Right Effort.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html

Extract:
"One who has chosen the conquest of the 5 hindrances as a 'working ground' should examine which of the 5 are strongest in one's personal case. Then one should carefully observe how and on which occasions they usually appear. One should further know the positive forces within one's own mind by which each of these hindrances can be countered and finally conquered: and one should also examine one's life for any opportunity of developing these qualities which, in the following pages have been indicated under the headings of the spiritual faculties, the factors of absorption and the factors of enlightenment".

                                                                -----------------------------------------------------------

The Path is composed of three trainings (sikkha), morality, concentration and wisdom. In D.16 and A. IV, 1, it is said:

"This then is morality, this concentration, this wisdom, this deliverance. Being endowed with morality, concentration brings high fruit and blessing. Being endowed with concentration, wisdom brings high fruit and blessing. Being endowed with wisdom (insight, understanding), the mind becomes freed from all cankers....."                                                                                      This makes clear that the three trainings are mutually reinforcing and that insight (understanding) has the role of completely removing the defilements (hindrances). So concentration cannot be conflated with insight, they have different functions,

Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/18/14 11:54 PM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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Who said anything about jhana being the goal? It's as if I would read your last post and say "nowhere it is said that thinking is the goal".
Great explanation of how it probably works there.
But think about this:
The training in wisdom is right view and right intention, not right noting, right scanning or right open awareness or however "dry vipassan meditation" is carried out in your tradition.

and this is is great stuff too:



There's     no jhana
for one with    no discernment,
       no discernment
for one with    no jhana.
But one with    both jhana
       & discernment:
he's on the verge
       of Unbinding.
— Dhp 372
paul griffin, modified 7 Years ago at 11/19/14 1:43 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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The hindrances are based in 'inherent tendencies' (anusaya). They are progressively abandoned by the attainment of the four supermundane paths, stream-winner to arahant.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/19/14 2:59 AM
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RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

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I don't think they translate it to evil in the other translations, rather unwholesome.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 7 Years ago at 11/20/14 2:08 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 11/20/14 2:05 PM

RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Pål:
Thanks for sharing and for the links! Thanissaros talk on the subject is great. The his explanation of the meaning of the instructions in the sutta is how I want them ti be. However, I'm still not sure about if that's really what the Buddha taught, at least not at the first step. Thanissaro says the first step means simply bringing the mind back to the object directly.
but look at his translation of the sutta:

"There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to [!] another [!] theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it." ... 


Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation is similar to Thanissaro’s: “Here, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is giving attention to some sign, and owing to that sign there arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome. When he gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside.”
 
It could be that the source pali for “owing to” might also mean something like “and then” - that would then be something like “If a monk is paying attention to some skillful object (the breath for example) and then they get caught in a thought of an unskillful nature then they should drop that and return to something skillful “ - which I think is the meaning you would like to have.

In the part that reads “then he should give attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome” the section ‘give attention to some other sign’ does not I think refer to the first theme - the breath say - but rather to the fact that when you are lost in a thought then that is your current theme so drop it - as in - if you are having an angry thought then anger is your theme.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 7 Years ago at 11/21/14 1:14 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 11/21/14 12:43 AM

RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Woah there. Great discussion going on here. I see you've also recently created threads of a similar nature, Pål.

Wow, where to start... I can already tell this is gonna be stream-of-consciousness.

God dammit the Dhamma is so vast.

Let's start with the end:

Practice, practice, practice. All the Dhamma will converge in your mind if only you practice.

With that out of the way...

The Dhamma handed down to us in the suttas is both general and specific, and is extremely rigorous.

There are general principles and guidelines meant to bootstrap any project of Awakening. With that in mind, please feel free to forge your own path confidently, using these high level frameworks as an arbitrator of the validity of your particular path.  

When in doubt, and you feel you do not understand how a certain piece of the path is to be implemented practically, there are vast amounts of examples given in the suttas.

This also leaves the door open for unenumerated specific methods based on the general principles, which of course is proven by the great proliferation of Dhamma. And the suttas—of course—provides us with both implicit and explicit guidelines on how to judge the validity of unenumerated methods.

Go nuts, go bananas, and when in doubt, practice (and read the suttas).

As for the topic of "how to meditate"... I'd hope that by now it is becoming clear in this thread that self-reliance and ingenuity, conviction and perseverance, are foundational to the whole project. Jhana is not a rite, it is not a ritual. It does not have a recipe, but the Dhamma comes with all the basic nuts and bolts one needs as well as examples of their implementation.

Think for youself—what makes sense? (This is scary—and exciting!) The Buddha not only said as much, he even delineated methods for working out how to think for oneself! And—of course—provided examples of the kinds of criteria which are appropriate for determining the usefulness of what one thinks for oneself.

As I said, the Dhamma is extremely rigorous; So much so, that it can sometimes be confusing and bewildering, because it seems like we are given recipes when in fact we are given tools—tools for working out the recipie for our own unique karmic circumstance.

The Noble 8-fold Path is not "a path", it is "the path". Do you think everyone can thread the same path? That doesn't even make sense! (Think about it.) There is no specific Noble 8-fold Path, yet it is the only path leading to Awakening. Do you see? The "content" of the path centers squarely on your particular circumstance—it is relative to your unique karmas, so it must necessarily be highly individual. The Buddha discovered the rules—the lawfulness of the Dhamma— and worked out the basic categories and tools; The rest is up to us.

Thank you Buddha for providing us with the Dhamma and for creating the foundation for it's maintenance and proof of it's validity with the Sangha.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 7 Years ago at 11/21/14 1:25 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 11/21/14 12:52 AM

RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
With that grandiose post out of the way, I'd like to comment on some of the specifics in this thread. Unfortunately it is quite late here so I'm not really rested enough at the moment to look through the thread again and pick out quotes and reply to them, and I will be away for a week. One thing I still would like to comment briefly on is this thing about switching tasks in formal sitting. This is quite dear to me as I've had to work through the same issues as mentioned here.

It's about skilfulness, not technique. Technique will follow, skill will develop, and mastery ensues. Thanissaro's got this down in his 37 Wings of Awakening. To make this easy on myself, I will simply paste a little note I wrote to someone some time ago:

I once learned to play pool. In the beginning, I would just ram the cue into the white ball and watch it bounce around the pool table occasionally hitting the other balls, and sometimes sending them into the pockets. For the longest time I could not discern the workings and mechanics of playing pool, and it puzzled me deeply that some people actually master this game and could intentionally cause almost whatever they wish to happen on the pool table. I witnessed some of these people perform what seemed to me to be fantastic feats.

The “secrets” of pool seemed impenetrable to me, but I kept at it. Gradually, slowly, imperceptibly, there grew in me an active interest in observing the effects of various things I did when I played pool:

I learned to take a measured and long-term approach by trying to place the balls in intentional, advantageous positions instead of hitting hard and randomly. I learned to smooth out the thrusting movement of the cue instead of using brute force. I learned to simulate my intended thrust a couple of times before hitting the white ball, to ensure correct movement of the muscles. I learned to involve the breath in the final thrust to maximise concentration and precision.

The nuances in different angles and the gross and subtle effects of different amounts of force gradually became clearer to me. With these skills and this understanding came a penetration into the secrets of pool and I could now see what and how the professionals were doing their tricks, which opened them up for me to practice as well.

The linchpin of this penetration into the secrets is the active interest in developing the skill by meticulous and patient observation. It is the intrinsic motivation to do ones best and master the intricacies of the countless challenges one meets in the endeavour that is the basic fuel for skilfulness and mastery.
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/21/14 10:40 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 11/21/14 10:40 AM

RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
"Practice, practice, practice. All the Dhamma will converge in your mind if only you practice."
yes, but... Practice what? People practice so differently. And the biggest difference seems to be between how meditators in general practice and what the suttas say, not to mention how differently the suttas can be interpretted. It seems like people just overlook the complicated parts of the dhamma and turn to stuff like open awereness instead...
Right now I practice something that feels kind of right for me, has brought me to spontaneous movements a while ago and does not contradict the suttas too much. But I've no idea where it's going to tale me.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 7 Years ago at 11/21/14 5:37 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 11/21/14 5:36 PM

RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Chuck Kasmire:
Pål:
Thanks for sharing and for the links! Thanissaros talk on the subject is great. The his explanation of the meaning of the instructions in the sutta is how I want them ti be. However, I'm still not sure about if that's really what the Buddha taught, at least not at the first step. Thanissaro says the first step means simply bringing the mind back to the object directly.
but look at his translation of the sutta:

"There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to [!] another [!] theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it." ... 
Here is another possibility:

"Now what is concentration, lady, what qualities are its themes, what qualities are its requisites, and what is its development?"

"Singleness of mind is concentration, friend Visakha; the four frames of reference (satipatana) are its themes; the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these qualities is its development."


The four themes are: the body in and of itself, feelings in and of themselves, mind in and of itself, and mental qualities in & of themselves.

So if you are practicing anapanasati and attending to breathing in and out sensitive to the entire body and an unskillful thought arises then you should change to say feelings in and of themselves (change the theme). - I think this is what it means - it makes sense.

The Anapanasati sutta gives examples of what this would mean within that context:

On whatever occasion a monk breathing in long discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, discerns, 'I am breathing out long'; or breathing in short, discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, discerns, 'I am breathing out short'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&... out sensitive to the entire body'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out calming bodily fabrication': On that occasion the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself ...

On whatever occasion a monk trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out sensitive to rapture'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out sensitive to pleasure'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out sensitive to mental fabrication'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out calming mental fabrication': On that occasion the monk remains focused on feelings in & of themselves...

On whatever occasion a monk trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out sensitive to the mind'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out satisfying the mind'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out steadying the mind'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out releasing the mind': On that occasion the monk remains focused on the mind in & of itself...

On whatever occasion a monk trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out focusing on inconstancy'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out focusing on dispassion'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out focusing on cessation'; trains himself, 'I will breathe in...&...out focusing on relinquishment': On that occasion the monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 11/22/14 6:56 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 11/22/14 6:56 AM

RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
I don't think that makes sense. Since being sensitive to rapture, pleasure and bodily sankhara is what focusing on feelings in and of themselves means in the context of anapanasati, I think the sutta pretty clearly says: be aware that you're entering the jhanas, thats being aware of vedanas. If one is distracted while trying to focus on breathing, then how could one possibly direct one's attention to the experience of jhana?
Pål, modified 7 Years ago at 12/3/14 4:25 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 12/3/14 4:25 AM

RE: Vitakkasanthana sutta - why is it overlooked?

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
A thought occured to me this morning: if mantra jap could be a kind of "skillfull thinking" then maybe combining mantra with the main object could be one way of doing the first step. Like in thailand where you are thaught to think "buddho" in the same pace as you breath. I think that applies well to the first simile. I replace all disturbing thoughts with the mantra or affirmation. But then, mantras are not part of the satipatthana i guess so they have to be dropped at some point. Thanissaro, however, says mantra using is the fifth step of vitakkasanthana. I usually start by using affirmations, like repeating in my head what kind of practice i want to do and why, one word per out-breath, as a kind of "buddho-mantra usage" at the start of a session.

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