MN 128, light kasina, and proto-stages of insight in the Pali Canon

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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 3 Years ago.

MN 128, light kasina, and proto-stages of insight in the Pali Canon

Posts: 3181 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Read MN 128 towards the end where the Buddha discussed the eleven imperfections that impaired his concentration on light and on visions and notice the pattern: A&P, Dissolution, Fear, then it goes off a bit, but results in Equanimity. Notice the very close parallels with the sages of insight. People often say that these stages don’t appear in the “original” tests, meaning those parts of the Pali Canon they consider “most authentic”, typically removing the Abhidhamma from that consideration and definitely excluding the commentaries, but see here, not only do we have a pithy little bit of instruction on proper light kasina practice, but we find something that really looks like ñanas.

Enjoy!

Daniel
neko, modified 3 Years ago.

RE: MN 128, light kasina, and proto-stages of insight in the Pali Canon

Posts: 756 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Thanks for sharing, Daniel!

Those stages / impediments, summed up in 30., all seem to all come before the jhanas in 31., although the jhanas are not mentioned explicitly:
30. “When, Anuruddha, I understood that doubt is an imperfection of the mind and had abandoned doubt, an imperfection of the mind; when I understood that inattention is an imperfection of the mind and had abandoned inattention…abandoned sloth and torpor…abandoned fear…abandoned elation…abandoned inertia…abandoned excess of energy…abandoned deficiency of energy…abandoned longing…abandoned perception of diversity…abandoned excessive meditation upon forms, an imperfection of the mind; then I thought: ‘I have abandoned those imperfections of the mind. Let me now develop concentration in three ways.’

31. “Thereupon, Anuruddha, I developed concentration with applied thoughtandsustained thought [1st jhana]; I developed concentration without applied thought but with sustained thought only; I developed concentration without applied thought and without sustained thought; I developed concentration with rapture [2nd jhana]; I developed concentration without rapture; I developed concentration accompanied by enjoyment [3rd jhana]; I developed concentration accompanied by equanimity [4th jhana].

32. “When, Anuruddha, I had developed concentration with applied thought and sustained thought…when I had developed concentration accompanied by equanimity, the knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘My deliverance is unshakeable; this is my last birth; now there is no renewal of being.’”

So they seem to be talking about the impediments to access concentration and jhana here. Although I do agree that the list of impediments definitely seems to be a sequence of stages:

1) doubt,
2) inattention,
3) sloth and torpor,
4) fear,
5) elation,
6) inertia,
7) excess of energy,
8) deficiency of energy,
9) longing,
10) perception of diversity,
11) excessive meditation upon forms,

and not simply impediments that can happen in any possible order. With the exception perhaps of fear, they can be made to correspond rather well to the Yogacara stages (e.g. Culadasa's TMI) so I think you may be on to something.

It looks like a map of mixed concentration / insight without entering jhana (30) followed by entry into hard jhanas (31) followed by enlightenment (32).
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tom moylan, modified 3 Years ago.

RE: MN 128, light kasina, and proto-stages of insight in the Pali Canon

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
i too relate the "perception of light and forms" with equanimity.  the description of getting there, the impediments, corrections and successes does seem to be a description of that twisted vine of concentration / vipassana.

while it is good to understand the differences both are used and neither ignored.
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Noah D, modified 3 Years ago.

RE: MN 128, light kasina, and proto-stages of insight in the Pali Canon

Posts: 1143 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
AN 11. 2 also smells like the nanas to me.

https://suttacentral.net/en/an11.2
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: MN 128, light kasina, and proto-stages of insight in the Pali Canon

Posts: 1658 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
There's also a mixed jhana-nana progression in MN 44 (Culavedalla Sutta):

“The underlying tendency to greed should be given up when it comes to pleasant feeling. The underlying tendency to repulsion should be given up when it comes to painful feeling. The underlying tendency to ignorance should be given up when it comes to neutral feeling.”

“Should these underlying tendencies be given up regarding all instances of these feelings?”

“No, not in all instances. Take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. With this they give up greed, and the underlying tendency to greed does not lie within that.

And take a mendicant who reflects: ‘Oh, when will I enter and remain in the same dimension that the noble ones enter and remain in today?’ Nursing such a longing for the supreme liberations gives rise to sadness due to longing. With this they give up repulsion, and the underlying tendency to repulsion does not lie within that.

Take a mendicant who, giving up pleasure and pain, and ending former happiness and sadness, enters and remains in the fourth absorption, without pleasure or pain, with pure equanimity and mindfulness. With this they give up ignorance, and the underlying tendency to ignorance does not lie within that.”

The order is not perfect, but the resemblance is clear:

- First jhana (nanas 1-3)
- Longing for the supreme liberation (n9 - desire for deliverance)
- Sadness (n7 - misery)
- Repulsion (n8 - disgust)
- Fourth jhana (n11 - equanimity)

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