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.

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