Sunday, February 10, 2019

MN 128, SN 40.1 Bhikkhu Anālayo's reasoning process for V&V and first jhāna

Bhikkhu Anālayo EBMS MN 128 comment: For evaluating the meaning of vitakka appropriate to the first absorption, the Upakkilesa-sutta and its parallels can be consulted, which report the Buddha’s own struggle through various mental obstructions before he was able to attain even just the first absorption. The same discourse indicates that Anuruddha experienced similar difficulties; in fact the Buddha relates his own struggle precisely to help Anuruddha and his friends to deepen their concentration.39 This is noteworthy in view of the fact that, according to the canonical listings of eminent disciples, Anuruddha excelled all other monk disciples of the Buddha in the exercise of the divine eye and thereby in an ability that requires considerable concentrative mastery.40 For him to have needed the Buddha’s personal intervention to attain just the first absorption, and for the Buddha on that occasion to relate his own difficulties in this respect, implies that already the first absorption involves a level of concentration that requires a considerable amount of meditation practice and expertise, even in the case of gifted practitioners
This is at best fanciful speculation. Bhikkhu Anālayo's reasoning process is fatally flawed with narrative fallacy and confirmation bias.
The narrative fallacy is, in evaluating events in hindsight, attributing cause and effect relationships where none is justified. But because humans like to reframe the past and search for insight by using a nice story ('narrative'), we often fool ourselves with this device.
Confirmation bias, is a tendency to distort our perception of evidence to conform to our previously held beliefs and biases. Bhikkhu Anālayo does plenty of that in EBMS and his analysis of (V&V💭) vitakka & vicāra, directed-thought & evaluation in various articles and books.
For MN 128 and SN 40, his reasoning is that, since Moggallana and Anuruddha are two of the greatest meditators in Buddhist history, and they needed the Buddha's assistance to attain first jhāna, therefore first jhāna must be very difficult to attain, and (V&V💭) must be a very subtle more advanced process than ordinary thinking.
We can quickly see the fallacy of this reasoning with a single example. In AN 7.61, the same mighty Moggallana, while practicing samādhi, is overcome with drowsiness. The Buddha comes over to give advice and help him with 7 strategies to overcome drowsiness. Using Bhikkhu Anālayo's reasoning, since Moggallana needed Buddha's assistance, therefore overcoming drowsiness is something far beyond ordinary experience and extraordinarily difficult, requiring the Buddha's assistance. And since Mogallana is one of the mightiest meditators of all time, therefore overcoming drowsiness is an advanced practice.

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