Friday, October 30, 2020

hiri: healthy and unhealthy shame

AN 7.67  B. Sujato translates hiri as 'conscience':

in the same way a noble disciple has a conscience. They’re conscientious about bad conduct by way of body, speech, and mind, and conscientious about having any bad, unskillful qualities. 

Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako hirīmā hoti, hirīyati kāyaduccaritena vacīduccaritena manoduccaritena, hirīyati pāpakānaṃ akusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ samāpattiyā.

It's not necessarily a wrong translation or interpretation, but by not translating it as 'shame', as many other translators do, it loses the powerful motivating factor that 'shame' has in governing people's actions, in our practice. Here's an excerpt from B. Thanissaro that explains why really well.

And in a similar vein IMO, this is why the Buddha talks about 4 noble truths of suffering, and not 4 noble truths of happiness. Both could work, but dukkha is a powerful motivating factor, to drive our practice. A focus on happiness could easily lead to complacency.

As translators, I feel it's best to be true to the original source, and not try to white wash or attempt to improve the Buddha's words because at first glance they conflict with modern issues (such as psychological impact of unhealthy 'shame' and self esteem).  

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the book, First Things First, (pdf) pp.12-13.

The high value that the Buddha placed on shame contrasts sharply with the way it’s regarded in many segments of our culture today. In business and in politics, shame is all too often viewed as weakness. Among therapists, it’s commonly seen as pathological—an unhealthy low opinion of yourself that prevents you from being all that you can. Book after book gives counsel on how to overcome feelings of shame and to affirm feelings of self-worth in their place.

It’s easy to understand this general reaction against shame. The emotion of shame—the sense that you don’t look good in the eyes of others—is a powerful one. It’s where we allow the opinion of other people into our psyches, and all too often unscrupulous people take advantage of that opening to trample our hearts: to bully us and force on us standards of judgment that are not in our genuine best interests. It’s bad enough when they try to make us ashamed of things over which we have little or no control: race, appearance, age, gender, sexual orientation, level of intelligence, or financial status. It’s even worse when they try to shame us into doing harm, like avenging old wrongs.

But efforts to avoid these problems by totally abolishing shame miss an important point: There are two kinds of shame—the unhealthy shame that’s the opposite of self-esteem, and the healthy shame that’s the opposite of shamelessness.

This second kind of shame is the shame that the Buddha calls a bright guardian and a treasure. If, in our zeal to get rid of the first kind of shame, we also get rid of the second, we’ll create a society of sociopaths who care nothing for other people’s opinions of right or wrong—or who feel shame about all the wrong things.

Businessmen and politicians who see no shame in lying, for instance, feel shame if they’re not at least as ruthless as their peers. And for all the general dismissal of shame, advertisers still find that shame over your body or ostensible wealth is a powerful tool for selling products.

When all shame gets pathologized, it goes underground in the mind, where people can’t think clearly about it and then sends out tentacles that spread harm all around us.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

B. Analayo and his new book, a wrong definition of 'mindfulness'

Excerpt from the book announcement:

Anālayo is particularly well placed to give an authoritative account of early Buddhist mindfulness in practice and theory. He is able to conduct research by comparing Chinese Agamas and Pali Canonical texts, with reference to Tibetan and Ghandharvan text fragments. And he is that rare and precious combination, a scholar-practitioner. 
Anālayo ends this book with a new and more comprehensive definition of mindfulness than is used in most current scholarship, Buddhist or secular. He defines it as “an openly receptive presence that enables a full taking in of information, resulting in an awake quality of the mind that facilitates clarity and recollection by monitoring, in the present moment and without interfering, the internal and external repercussions of whatever is taking place.”   


I don't know what scholars are reading and what they're thinking if that's what they think 'mindfulness' is. It certainly isn't the Buddha's definition of 'sati' in the pali suttas, the agamas, etc. 

Sati ("mindfulness") interferes actively whenever necessary. If defilements arise, you kick them out the door immediately. You don't stand idly by "without interfering", like a choiceless awareness zombie with "an open receptive presence." 

AN 7.67 -🏰  Ask yourself if you want that guy in the picture to be your gatekeeper to the fortress (simile of mindfulness) in this sutta.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

translate this line from MN 69 commentary, on definition of a-rūpa

Summary of the discussion thread:

MN 69 Goliyāni

(Sariputta is giving the talk, not the Buddha)

(1. should have respect and reverence for his spiritual companions)

(2. should be careful where he sits)

(3. should know even the supplementary regulations)

(4. shouldn’t enter the village too early or return too late in the day)

(5. shouldn’t socialize with families before or after the meal)

(6. shouldn’t be restless and fickle)

(7. shouldn’t be gossipy and loose-tongued)

(8. should be easy to admonish, with good friends)

(9. should guard the sense doors)

(10. monk should eat in moderation)

(11. monk should be committed to wakefulness)

(12. should have aroused-vigor)

(13. should be rememberful [of Dharma])

(14. monk should have undistractible-lucidity)

(15. a wilderness monk should be wise)

(16. should make an effort to learn the higher Dharma (Abhidhamma) and higher training (Abhivinaya))

(17. to realize the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form)

(18. to realize the superhuman state )

Original discussion thread

translate this line from MN 69 cmy, on āruppa

Post by frank k » 

Can someone give a complete translation of this line? It's the commentary to MN 69.
♦ "āruppā" ti
ettāvatā aṭṭhapi samāpattiyo vuttā honti. tā pana sabbena sabbaṃ asakkontena sattasupi yogo karaṇīyo, chasupi ... pe ... pañcasupi. sabbantimena paricchedena ekaṃ kasiṇe parikammakammaṭṭhānaṃ paguṇaṃ katvā ādāya vicaritabbaṃ, ettakaṃ vinā na vaṭṭati.
First sentence says 'aruppa' refers to the 8 meditative attainments.
Kasinas are mentioned, but I can't make out what the rest of that definition is saying.

The relevant line from MN 69:
Āraññikenāvuso, bhikkhunā ye te santā vimokkhā atikkamma rūpe āruppā tattha yogo karaṇīyo.
A wilderness monk should practice meditation to realize the peaceful liberations that are formless, transcending form.

So what the Theravada commentary is saying, wrongly, is that the four jhanas are a-rūpa (since 4 jhanas are part of the 8 attainments).

And can someone explain the difference between the two spellings a-rūpa and āruppa (which mean the same thing)?
Āruppa (adj.) [fr. arūpa as ā (= a2) -- *rūpya] formless, incorporeal; nt. formless existence D iii.275; M i.410 cp. 472; iii.163; S i.131 (˚ṭṭhāyin); ii.123; A iv.316 It 61; Sn 754; J i.406; Dhs 1385 (cp. trsl. 57); Vism 338; DA i.224; SnA 488, 508; Sdhp 5, 10; the four Vism iii, 326 sq.
The subcommentary for MN 69 says:
Āruppāti iminā catassopi arūpasamāpattiyo gahitā, tā pana catūhi rūpasamāpattīhi vinā na sampajjantīti āha – ‘‘āruppāti ettāvatā aṭṭhapi samāpattiyo vuttā hontī’ ’ti.
Kasiṇeti dasavidhe kasiṇe.
Ekaṃ parikammakammaṭṭhānanti yaṃ kiñci ekabhāvanā parikammadīpanaṃ khandhakammaṭṭhānaṃ.
Tenāha ‘‘paguṇaṃ katvā’ ’ti. Kasiṇaparikammaṃ pana taggahaṇeneva gahitaṃ hoti, lokiyā uttarimanussadhammā heṭṭhā gahitāti āha ‘‘uttarimanussadhammeti iminā sabbepi lokuttaradhamme dassetī’ ’ti. Neyyapuggalassa vasenāti jānitvā vitthāretvā ñātabbapuggalassa vasenāti.
That seems to be correcting the commentary, saying that it's only the four a-rūpa attainments that are meant, and not the 4 rūpa attainments. Then it mentions there are ten-fold kasinas.
I don't understand what it says about parikkama ...

Can someone confirm I'm translating correctly for subcmy?


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Great tip on metta practice from Ajahn Jayasaro, "be specific"

 I heard this on an old recorded Dhamma talk of his, not a quote, just a very rough inaccurate paraphrase of the gist of what he said.

For someone who's a terrible person, doing terrible things, no normal person would  have a genuine wish for them to unconditionally be happy.

But if you're skillful in "being specific" about how you do metta, with practice you can do metta where you genuinely wish for their happiness.

A couple of examples:

1. May that person stop doing terrible things so he can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from that and be happy as a result.

2. May that person realize what he's doing is terrible and harmful, and from that realization have wisdom arise and happiness with it that follows.  

Monday, October 5, 2020

"loving the act of not placing the mind": AN 4.11 and AN 4.12, B. Sujato abducts vitakka of second jhana and makes it disappear forever

The two suttas AN 4.11 and AN 4.12 are a connected set to be read and understood together.  

AN 4.12 talks about doing four jhanas in all four postures without explicitly using the label '4 jhanas', instead using synonymous terms from the 7sb awakening factors (passaddhi, samadhi, ekaggata, etc.).  Similar to how AN 8.63, SN 47.4, also are very clearly describing four jhanas without ever using the term 'jhana'. 

AN 4.12 also doesn't mention vitakka and vicara, so it's clear when the previous sutta AN 4.11 is describing a stage prior to first jhana, with vitakka and vicara, and when the vitakka has been calmed, second jhana is implied, and since it has a clear thematic continuation with AN 4.12, we can then be certain it is second jhana being referenced. 

The phrase Vitakk-ūpasame  is used in the verse, which is nearly the same as second jhana's stock formula of "vitakka vicaranam vupasama" (thoughts and evaluation have subsided). In verse, for poetic and metric matching reasons, this is often done, where you see slight variations of recognizable parts of jhana formulas. 

Evidently, B. Sujato must agree with that interpretation, because even though the word 'vitakka'  appears exactly 28 times in AN 4.11, most of those references describing akusala thoughts to be removed and replaced with kusala thoughts, B. Sujato only translates 27 of 28 of those references as 'thought', and the 28th reference (highlighted in grey in the evidence below) when that vitakka/thought is referring to second jhana, he abducts and executes 'vitakka' and replaces it with an impostor "peace of mind", completely eradicating reference to 'thought'. Educated guess: when he tried plugging his usual "placing the mind" (for vitakka of first jhana) into that line of verse, he could not come up with any coherent phrase. "loving the act of not placing the mind",  is just incomprehensible as well as linguistically awkward. 

He also translates 'rato' here as 'loving', which is just wrong, and by doing that  removes an implicit reference to piti and sukha of second jhana. 'Rato' (usually translated as enjoyment or delight), in conjunction with the 'vitakka upasame', is a poetic and super concise way of expressing standard second jhana formula's statement that one has rapture and pleasure born of samadhi in reaction to the subsiding of vitakka (thoughts, not 'placing the mind'). 

Audit of Evidence

But one who, whether standing or walking,Yo ca caraṃ  tiṭṭhaṃ vā,
sitting or lying down,Nisinno uda  sayaṃ;
has calmed their thoughts,Vitakkaṃ samayitvāna,
loving peace of mind;Vitakkūpasame rato;
such a mendicant is capableBhabbo so tādiso bhikkhu,
of touching the highest awakening.”Phuṭṭhuṃ sambodhimuttaman”ti.

My version of the same sutta AN 4.11, based on B. Sujato mostly unchanged (as of yet), so you can see more context with the 27 other vitakkas in the sutta.

AN 4.11

“Carato cepi, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno uppajjati kāmavitakko vā byāpādavitakko vā vihiṃsāvitakko vā.
“monks, suppose a monk has a sensual, malicious, or cruel thought while walking.
Tañce bhikkhu adhivāseti, nappajahati na vinodeti na byantīkaroti na anabhāvaṃ gameti, carampi, bhikkhave, bhikkhu evaṃbhūto ‘anātāpī anottāpī satataṃ samitaṃ kusīto hīnavīriyo’ti vuccati.
They tolerate it and don’t give it up, get rid of it, eliminate it, and obliterate it. Such a monk is said to be ‘not keen or prudent, always lazy, and lacking energy’ when walking.

AN 4.11

Caraṃ vā yadi vā tiṭṭhaṃ,
Whether walking or standing,
nisinno uda vā sayaṃ;
sitting or lying down,
Yo vitakkaṃ vitakketi,
if you think a bad thought
pāpakaṃ gehanissitaṃ.
to do with the lay life,
Kummaggappaṭipanno so,
you’re on the wrong path,
Mohaneyyesu mucchito;
lost among things that delude.
Abhabbo tādiso bhikkhu,
Such a monk is incapable
Phuṭṭhuṃ sambodhimuttamaṃ.
of touching the highest awakening.
Yo ca caraṃ vā tiṭṭhaṃ vā,
But one who, whether standing or walking,
Nisinno uda vā sayaṃ;
sitting or lying down,
vitakkaṃ samayitvāna,
has calmed their thoughts,
vitakkūpasame rato;
loving peace of mind;
Bhabbo so tādiso bhikkhu,
such a monk is capable
Phuṭṭhuṃ sambodhimuttaman”ti.
of touching the highest awakening.”


B. Thanissaro, with one correct translation and interpretation of the verse:
♦ vitakkaṃ samayitvāna,
overcomes thought,
Vitakk-ūpasame rato.
delighting in the stilling of thought:    

Do you see the important difference here, in comparison to B. Sujato's wrong translation:
vitakkaṃ samayitvāna,
has calmed their thoughts,
vitakkūpasame rato;
loving peace of mind;

AN 4.11 and AN 4.12 is giving very specific, technical, and exacting specification of what vitakka and vicara does in  first and second jhana. B. sujato is wiping out that important instruction with his deliberate mistranslation. While "loving peace of mind" is an acceptable translation and interpretation from certain perspectives, we can not excuse B. Sujato here because he's translated all the pali nikayas, and he has consistently and systematically attempted to wipe out references to vitakka in jhana and replaced it with a completely incompatible jhana system not from the EBT (early buddhist teachings).  

In the cases where he translated vitakka of first and second jhana correctly in some of the other suttas in the nikayas, as I've shown in my audits over many years, they were either done by oversight (he didn't realize those vitakka references were to jhana), or plugging in his preferred 'placing the mind' would have been completely incomprehensible (even more incoherent than his usual mistranslation offenses, in lexical and semantic ways). 

In conclusion, where someone with a conscience and ethical translation standards might start to question themselves whether they actually have a correct interpretation of jhana and vitakka if they have to regularly translate passages with vague and tortured meanings of well established terms with incontrovertible meaning (such as vitakka), other translators are blinded by bias and true belief in their wrong views and soldier on in their mission to convert the rest of the world to their views. 

In the EBT, vitakka always means 'thought'. Take a look sometime, I've tracked every single reference to that word in the suttas, highlighted and excerpted the passages, presented on a silver platter.

explicit: every. single. reference. to vitakka in the suttas 🔗bl