Sunday, February 17, 2019

So why are references to MN 117 missing in Bhikkhu Anālayo's EBMS?

Bhikkhu Anālayo's (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra enclopedia entry:

The solution to this conundrum can be found with the help of the (MN 117) Mahācattārīsaka, which in a list of near synonyms for right intention includes "application of the mind", cetaso abhiniropanā, alongside vitakka. This indicates that the range of meaning of vitakka goes beyond conceptual thought as such, covering also the sense of an inclination of the mind. Both nuances of vitakka are in fact closely related to each other, since to reflect or think on something requires an inclination of the mind towards the topic or issue at hand.

B. Anālayo (Madhyama-āgama Studies) on MN 117

    “Closer scrutiny of the discourse itself shows that some of the pāḷi terms used in the Mahacattarasaka-sutta’s definition of supra-mundane right intention , such as “fixing” (appanā) of the mind and “mental inclination” (cetaso abhiniropanā), are not found in other discourses and belong to the type of language used only in the Abhidharma and historically later pāḷi texts.”
    (presumably this was written after the encyclopedia entry which I don't have a date for)

So why are references to MN 117 missing in Bhikkhu Anālayo's EBMS?

EBMS: searching for 'MN 117', 'mn 117', 'Mahācattārīsak' in the PDF file for this book returns no results. I didn't read the entire book and all the footnotes, but I did read the section on jhāna, and vitakka carefully.

We can see at the time he wrote the encyclopedia entry, Bhikkhu Anālayo was relying on MN 117 to justify his mistranslation of (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, directed-thought & evaluation to mean something nearly identical to VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna).

Then at the time he did the MA Studies, he realized the MN 117 passage he relied on was Abhidhamma.

So we can deduce he probably figured out it was a bad idea for someone who claims to champion EBT to rely on late Abhdhamma text, even indirectly. But why does he not mention this in EBMS? Probably because he doesn't want to draw attention to the fact that there is no EBT text that supports his redefinition of (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra,  and he doesn't want people to ask the obvious questions, like:

1) why do you have to use invalid circular reasoning (MN 111)?
2) narrative fallacy (MN 128, "first jhāna is so hard even Anuruddha needed the Buddha's help") to explain the need to redefine (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, directed-thought & evaluation.
3) and why this funny coincidence that your redefinition of (V&V💭)  resembles VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna)?
4) and since VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna) had to resort to brute force tactics, writing new scripture to override and redefine the key jhāna terms to suit their agenda (see separate dedicated article auditing exactly how they corrupt the text and change things from early Abhidhamma through Vimutti-magga, and Visuddhi-magga).

In other words, if Vism.'s author, Buddhaghosa, such a highly regarded scholar monk, with a large team of scholar monk experts, did not find evidence in the EBT to support his VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna), and had to amend Buddhist doctrine by creating an access concentration, redefine kāya(body), redefine sukha vedana, redefine (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra,  how is that a single person, Bhikkhu Anālayo, was able to find evidence that a large team of specialized experts could not?

Combine that information with how fatally flawed Bhikkhu Anālayo's  reasoning process is in MN 111, even a reader who doesn't understand all of these technical details should be able to see Bhikkhu Anālayo's arguments in an attempt to redefine (V&V💭) are not convincing.

This is why Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Anālayo are very quiet and try not to bring up MN 117 when they discuss (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, directed-thought & evaluation.  They're also both very quiet on MN 78. At least Bhikkhu Sujato is in his published comments on (V&V💭) . It's too late for Bhikkhu Anālayo, he's already published too much on MN 78 and it's MA parallel that leave an audit trail that one can safely and confidently deduce he is being intellectually dishonest in not talking about MN 78 in EBMS. Like MN 111, and MN 125, MN 78 is one of the strongest pieces of evidence in favor of (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, defined as the common sense straightforward thinking & evaluation.

But even if they try to use MN 117

But even if Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Anālayo tried to use MN 117 to justify their redefinition of (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra,  disregarding the Abhidhamma origin and lateness of that passage, there is another problem they can not overcome. It's the same fatal flaw as with Vism.

What MN 117, and the Abhidhamma definition says about (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, directed-thought & evaluation in jhāna, is not that "placing the mind & keeping it connected" REPLACES the normal definition of thinking & evaluation. It's that thinking & evaluation should INCLUDE a subtler kind of (V&V💭) . It's not REPLACING and getting rid of the standard understanding of (V&V💭).

Vism. pulls the same dirty stunt with breath meditation and kāya (body). What the sutta text actually says for the relevant passage they rely on, is that the breath is INCLUDED as ONE type of body. It's not REPLACING all the other types of bodies with ONLY THAT BREATH BODY. In other words, what the EBT actually says is it's legitimate to focus entirely on just the breath and exclude the physical body AS ONE TYPE among many ways of doing that practice, because the breath is one type of body that meets the requirement of kāya-anupassana practice. It's not saying the previous ways of contemplating body (such as 4 elements) are to be discarded and REPLACED with that new definition.

But because of survivorship bias, over reliance and blind faith on popular teachers, and bandwagon effect, if a wrong view becomes popular,  people accept that as gospel and don't even bother to look at what the EBT says.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

case study: follow the money, Former Cardinal McCarrick the pedophile

"Follow the money" is a catchphrase popularized by the 1976 drama-documentary motion picture All the President's Men, which suggests political corruption can be brought to light by examining money transfers between parties.
Look for the incentive, the underlying motivation.
What are they REALLY trying to accomplish?
Are they honest?
Do they have integrity?
good track record?
good credit (behavior/character) history?
Learn to perceive the communication and information that's happening away from the actual communication. What's NOT said, what's implied, etc, often carries much more information about their true motivation.

case study: follow the money, Former Cardinal McCarrick the pedophile

The whole article is well worth reading.
Basically, the short synopsis is, Former Cardinal McCarrick was able to to get away with being a pedophile for decades because he was charismatic, a huge fundraiser, so the Pope and vatican were reluctant to prevent (by demoting or defrocking) him  from making money for them by investigating accusations against him. The church knew, and tried to get him to stop, but because he was such a big money maker they didn't do the right thing as long as the accusations hadn't been proven and well known publicly.

Whether it's in politics, olympic and professional sports, little league sports, university faculty,  hollywood, the universal theme is same. Watch out for people who can't control lust, and watch out for people who need money and are willing to look the other way when crime happens.


McCarrick’s popularity and his enormous stature as an emissary for the church and as a prolific fundraiser for Catholic causes may have helped protect him over the years as other, whispered words were added to his reputation: harasser, groper, violator of his vows of celibacy.

Although allegations that McCarrick abused adolescents surfaced only last month, when the Vatican suspended the 88-year-old, there had for decades been rumors in church and journalistic circles about his behavior with seminarians. These ranged from talk of an unwanted hand on a knee to chatter on conservative Catholic blogs citing anonymous descriptions of sex parties.


There is also a long-standing deference within the Catholic Church to upholding institutional hierarchy and protocol, even in an extreme case like this. Priests, cardinals and bishops have said they told the Vatican years ago about McCarrick — either about the rumors or about the two legal settlements New Jersey dioceses reached with him in the early 2000s — and there’s no evidence anything was ever done. Victims never heard from Rome, and McCarrick was functioning as a priest until a few weeks ago, speaking to Catholic audiences and performing weddings and baptisms.

parable of Sid Gotonirvana's family farm

parable of Sid Gotonirvana's family farm

A long time ago, in paradise valley, Sid and his family, with the surname of Gotonirvana,  had a farm collective, growing a rich variety of fruits. They tasted extraordinary, and the fruit was completely wholesome and nutritious. Their fruit was available far and wide, famous everywhere.

their advertisement read:
Sid and Gotonirvana family farms,
quenching thirst with the tastiest fruit
with an entirely complete and pure variety of fruits.

Hundreds of years later, after many generations, the Gotonirvana clan and family farms still thrived. They still had the amazing complete collection and variety of fruits as their root patriarch great-great-great-great-grand-pappy Sid, but in addition to the original fruits,  now the family had many additional hybrids, and some would even dare to say, some genetically modified fruits that were not as tasty and efficacious as previous generations.

The current leader of the Gotonirvana clan was Bud. He begat a son named Ghosa, and was nicknamed 'Gus'. Now Gus was born with a taste impediment. He loved bitter melon, and hated all other fruits and vegetables. And he did not like the way his father Bud ran the family business, and he definitely did not like Bud's insistence on maintaining tradition. Their advertisement was even identical as Sid's original, with the addition of proudly proclaiming the length of their service.

Sid and Gotonirvana family farms,
quenching thirst with the tastiest fruit
for the past 500 years,
with an entirely complete and pure variety of fruits.

Now Gus believed the family business should not narrowly focus on only fruits that quench thirst, but should expand to include every kind of edible food, edible by humans, animals, bugs, and even microscopic unseen living organisms.

So he did what he felt would be in the best interest of the family business. He staged a hostile takeover, and had his father and other relatives with controlling interests opposed to his vision imprisoned and/or exiled.

Now the new business plan to expand into all edibles, not just fruit, needed to be phased out. So the first part of his plan, to groom the consumers into gradually accepting his brilliant new vision, was to restrict the fruit to a selection that would make the consumer receptive to his new ideas. With a one pointed spot light on the fruit of his choice: Bitter Melon.

The old family advertisement was modified to suit Gus's agenda, and the plan was underway. The public reaction was mixed. People old enough or knowledgeable enough to know past history were skeptical about the changes. Young people who didn't know history or think things through, but were excited by all things new, sided with Gus.

Soon, there was a shareholder meeting, and Gus took questions:

question: Isn't bitter melon a vegetable, not a fruit?

Gus: it's an access vegetable-fruit, so it's practically the same as a fruit.

Some of the shareholders didn't trust Gus, so they went over to the farm collective to see what they actually grew there.

There were so many varieties of fruit, too many to count. But there were 7 major fruits, including delicious mango, pineapple, durian, mangostein, avocado, coconuts, etc.

The complete variety of fruits were still allowed to grow, but besides the one picked by some family and friends, most of the fruit lay rotting on the ground.

Still on the farm was the old sign:
Sid and Gotonirvana family farms,
quenching thirst with the tastiest fruit
for the past 500 years,
with an entirely complete and pure variety of fruits.

Next to it, was a bigger, shinier, new sign with new slogan:
Sid and Gotonirvana family farms,
quenching thirst with the tastiest edibles
for the past 500 years,
with an entirely complete and pure experience of bitter melon.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

MN 117 definition of vitakka comes from abhidhamma, not EBT

♦ 565. “savitakkaṃ savicāran”ti
“Accompanied by initial application, accompanied by sustained application” means:
atthi vitakko, atthi vicāro.
There is initial application; there is sustained application.
♦ tattha katamo vitakko?
Therein what is initial application?
yo takko vitakko saṅkappo
That which is mentation, thinking, thought,
appanā byappanā
fixation, focussing,
cetaso abhiniropanā sammāsaṅkappo —
application of the mind, right thought.
ayaṃ vuccati “vitakko”.
This is called initial application.
♦ tattha katamo vicāro?
Therein what is sustained application?
yo cāro vicāro anuvicāro upavicāro
That which is searching, examining, constant examining,
cittassa anusandhanatā anupekkhanatā —
scrutinizing, constant connection of (and) constant inspection by consciousness.
ayaṃ vuccati vicāro.
This is called sustained application.

almost exactly the same as (vaci-sankharo only difference) :

cetaso abhiniropanā
mind being implanted, [inculcate, apply, fixed]

The Real Story

B. Analayo throws red herrings at MN 111 to try to discredit it and repeatedly remind us MN 111 is late non-EBT, but t MN 117,  the only pali sutta basis for his mistranslation of vitakka, in EBMS:
* he deliberately fails to mention the sutta in the book, depite its crucial role as the only sutta that supports his mistranslation of vitakka
* he fails to mention MN 117 is late non-EBT, and straight from Abhidhamma (surely the motivating reason for omitting MN 117 from EBMS)
* both B. Analayo and B. Sujato disingenuously avoid the elephant in the room, by not explaining why the only sutta support (MN 117) for their mistranslation of vitakka, actually comes from non EBT abhidhamma, even though they both purport to interpret suttas from an EBT perspective. Instead, they offer fallacious arguments, weak evidence and non-evidence from EBT sutta, and fail to adquately explain the strong EBT evidence that opposes their view.

MN 117 understanding Survivorship bias, bandwagon effect, herd mentality

Before we can dive in and audit how and why Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Anālayo scrupuluously avoid talking about MN 117 while making their case for their redefinition of (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, directed-thought & evaluation,  first we need to understand the concept of survivorship bias, so we can avoid that bias while evaluating the evidence and see what's actually going on.

(wikipedia) Survivorship bias or survival bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways. It is a form of selection bias.

example 1: B. Sujato avoids talking about MN 117. Why?

I’m guessing B. Sujato feels like it appears justifiable to include “placing the mind” under the MN 117 definition of right resolve because Abhidhamma already greased the tracks with those new meanings for vitakka and “placing the mind” doesn’t look out of place in that company.

Unfortunately this is survivorship bias. The survivors write the history books, and dictate what’s popular and commonly believed. Vism.'s views are still popular, so it’s very easy to leverage those views to support ones own.

example 2: Buddha was a straight shooter, not a conniving fork tongued trickster

(excerpts from various posts of mine)
In the Theravada world there’s a survivorship bias going on. The survivors write the history books, and people believe their interpretation of jhana. It’s heartening to learn about the different lineages that retained a straightforward common sense reading of the Buddha’s words. I’ve always believed the Buddha was a straight shooter and a plain speaker, not someone who deviously used common words and actually meant something very esoteric and obscure, requiring the Theravda orthodoxy to explain the secret code.

And don’t forget the survivorship bias westerners are all subjected to. Survivors write the history books. Just because you happen to move in Burmese Theravada circles, and think that’s an accurate representation of Early Buddhist teachings, you really have to do your homework and compare the difference between Vism., Vimt., early Abhidhamma such as the Vibhanga, etc. to see the important differences.

Another EBT school, the sarvastivada school, seen in the Agamas in SA and MA, if you look at their position on jhana, it’s very consistent with Ajahn Lee, Thanissaro, Bhante G, early Theravada, Arahant upatissa in Vimt, etc.

example 3: jhana, ajahn brahm also leverages Vism. having already established view of jhana

Later Theravada, Vism. and later abhidhamma, redefine jhana, kaya, vedana into something completely different. Unfortunately there is survivorship bias effect going on, with Vism. being a popular work, people regard it as authoritative, and most people have no clue why, how, or that it contradicts the EBT (pali, agamas, etc…) on this point.

And if you study the standard 4th jhana formula and infinite space (samadhi attainment #5) formulas very carefully, word by word, it makes it very clear that kāya and rūpa from the 4 jhanas are referring to the physical body of flesh and blood.

It’s all actually plainly stated, unambiguous in the EBT. That’s why Vism. has to use brute force to redefine kāya.

But since Ajahn Brahm can not use Vism. officially as a supporting reason, he has to mutilate the meaning of “vivicceva kamehi” from the first jhana formula to justify his claim. No one in the EBT world other than Ajahn Brahm and his supporters buy that argument.

Ajahn Brahm and the robes

(This parable takes place in a fictional world where sarvastivada was the survivor and dominant view of early buddhism instead of theravada)

A large crowd gathered to hear a talk from the famous EBT Buddhist Monk Ajahn Brahm.

And then Ajahn Brahm explained the body does not actually mean the physical body, but a collection of mental aggregates. And vitakka doesn't actually mean thinking, for one can not think while in jhana.

There was an uncomfortable silence mixed with gasps of shock. For no one dared question the wisdom of Ajahn Brahm. Then an innocent young child shouted out, "Ajahn Brahm isn't wearing robes!"

(the child was expecting Ajahn Brahm to wear the robes of an EBT Buddhist Monk, not some other type of clothing, like a birthday suit)

The real story

Bhikkhu Sujato, Bhikkhu Anālayo, can not provide evidence from the EBT to support their redefinition of (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, directed-thought & evaluation in the four jhānas. So they have to resort to fallacious arguments. The reason you don't hear them talk about MN 117 when it comes time to make their case for their redefinition, is because MN 117 is a late sutta, where the right resolve/vitakka being defined is almost exactly the same as Abhidhamma Vibhanga jhāna section definition. They won't want to draw undue attention to the fact that they can't actually provide evidence from the EBT to support their claim, they rely on the results of MN 117, Abhidhamma, for the only scriptural backing. But since they are purportedly EBT monks, they have to manufacture fallacious arguments since no evidence from EBT exists to back their claim. 

And the reason they're getting away with it is because they're riding the coattails of Vism. and Abhidhamma on this, taking advantage of survivorship bias, bandwagon effect. Their Theravadan audience has already been inculcated with VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna), so it's not hard to use some smoke and mirrors and fallacious arguments instead of EBT evidence, to convince them that EBT jhāna and (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, directed-thought & evaluation is the same as VRJ (Vism. Re-definition of Jhāna).  

This is herd mentality and blind faith in authority figures (Bhikkhu Sujato, Bhikkhu Anālayo, Ajahn Brahm (Brahmavamso)).
What the audience should be doing is questioning authority, looking at the EBT to verify what their teachers say. 

You can lie to the entire world if you like, but you must never lie to yourself.

(from mae chee kaew’s biography)
Don’t  be  resentful  of   criticism  or  prideful  of   praise.  Simply  stay focused  on  your  meditation  practice  from  dawn  to  dusk.  Develop spiritual virtue day and night, and always speak the truth. Self-honesty is the basis of  moral virtue. Know yourself, accept your faults  and  work  to  overcome  them.  Hide  nothing  from  yourself.  Above  all,  don’t  lie  to  yourself.  Lying  to  yourself   is  a  fundamental breach of  moral virtue. You can lie to the entire world if  you like, but you must never lie to yourself.

my comment:
That quote really struck me, because living in a secular world, most professions you can't survive without lying, or at the very least, intentionally withholding truths. Being too open,  transparent and forthcoming will cause you to fail tasks, lose clients, and ultimately your job, in most real world professions.

So it's very refreshing to hear Mae Chee Kaew acknowledge the harsh reality most people face, of not being able to maintain 100% honesty at all times. But as long we remain internally honest, as long as we never lie to ourselves, then that keeps us in touch with our conscience and keeps the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption alive. If we lie to the world and lie to ourselves, we're doomed. For (hopefully) obvious reasons.

question about MN 111 Analayo and circular reasoning


Hi Frankk (nice to see you posting on jhana over here). To play devil's advocate on your "second installment" on circular reasoning, maybe Analayo does have an at least arguable point (hadn't thought about it myself this way before)? His logic seems to be that later enlightenment factors are dependent on earlier enlightenment factors, so concentration must depend on the five earlier ones. If Sariputta is observing their arising and passing, then on the passing of an earlier factor, the later enlightenment factor, concentration, must also be consequently absent at the time. That seems to be his argument, which doesn't seem circular to me.

Hi suaimhneas,

(7sb) satta -(sam)-bojjh-aṅgaṃ, seven-awakening-factors are not just a causal sequence, and there are many ways to use it.
For example, 4 jhānas can be seen as 4 quality levels of samādhi-sambojjhanga.
But also, 7sb can be seen as factors in each of the 4 jhānas.
In third jhāna, the formula explicitly lists (S&S🐘💭) sati & sam-pajāno, remembering & lucid-discerning , corresponding to (7sb → 1. 🐘 sati) and (7sb → 2. 💭🕵️ Dhamma-vicaya), and also 7sb7 (upekkha). Sukha, which has 7sb5 (passadhi/pacification) as a prerequisite, so even though 7sb5 not explicitly stated, it's there in 3rd jhāna. 7sb3 viriya, is also not stated, but it's there as well. So of the 7 factors in 7sb, only piti is not present in third jhāna.

Therefore 7sb is not a casual sequence where all previous factors have to be abandoned to reach the next one.

At earlier times, but maybe not in EBMS,  I think Bhikkhu Anālayo had tried to prove his redefintion of what absorption means by claiming all four jhānas, including first jhāna, are ekaggata (single preoccupation).

He may have realized the futility of that strategy and so now in EBMS just uses empty sophistry and circular reasoning, and a whole lot of fallacious disingenuous argumentation tactics. The key to pulling off his deception, is that for each fallacious critical error, he'll also have 10 valid and logical/reasonable points to make, so that most people will be overwhelmed by the ten to one ratio (very approximate) to give an air of authenticity and legitimacy. But you only need one fatal flaw to blow away the whole thing, and most people haven't studied the EBT and understand it well enough to detect fraud.

Along the lines of 7sb, he also tries to say that vossagga is not the final release of nirvana, but a prerequisite condition for first jhāna. There are so many flaws in his work I don't have time to expose them all, so I have to just focus on the big ticket items.