Thursday, February 28, 2019

What B.Analayo says about V&V in MN 19, 78, 125


  1. I've long shared your frustration with Analayo's highly problematic scholarship on meditation. When I collaborated with him on the translation of the Madhyama-agama, I thought that the Chinese side of things, coupled with what we've learned in the Pali suttas, would make his position on V&V untenable. I said, "it's now clear that V&V cannot mean what the Visuddhimagga tells us." And much to my astonishment, he drew a completely opposite conclusion and said that the comparative work makes his position stronger!
    I suspect that his intransigent opinion on this matter has to do with another worrying trend in Buddhism. There are groups I ran into that advocated a pure cerebral/reflective approach to the Dhamma that does away with meditation altogether. Often, these groups cite the questionable Chinese Xushen-daofa jing in the Samyukta-agama on the issue of "deliverance via discernment/wisdom (panna-vimutti)," which according to the sutta means full liberation without any jhanic foundation.
    Perhaps Analayo thought that any attempt at "sneaking the activity of thought into jhanas" is tantamount to the abovementioned jhana-undermining attempt? He therefore over-corrects by adamantly precludes the possibility of wholesome thoughts in first jhana?
    I agree that most people self-talk in such a way as being little more than being mired in restlessness and philosophizing. But the first jhana type of inner narrative or framed guidance (vitakka) is vastly different. It is done with mindfulness (of clear frame, goal, application of the right methods), systematicity (so that thoughts are not distractive, but assiduously working toward the concerted goal of renunciation and calm and so forth). Such skill of wholesome vitakka is generally only possible after the practitioner has meticulously trained in speech (such as truthful and deliberate speech), as is the case with how the Buddha trained his disciples in a gradual manner. Without this foundation, the way people talk to themselves internally is generally untrustworthy, unsystematic, and unwholesome.
    Given how tenuous, tendentious, and self-contradictory Analayo's scholarly arguments have been, this is the only non-malicious intention I can come up with to ascribe to him.

  2. Hi William,
    I've commmented and started a discussion topic in the forum here: