Monday, November 30, 2020

"one in a million" able to do Vism. Redefinition of Jhana is even tougher than it sounds.


B. Subhuti, an American monk in Pa Auk system following Vism. claims success rate of people able to accomplish VRJ (vism. redefinition of jhana) is actually high, producing hundreds, maybe over a thousand people who can do "jhana". 

Ven. Dhammando points out a huge statistical problem, based on Vism text:

Re: Ajahn Brahmavamso's Dark Jhana

Post by Dhammanando » 

bksubhuti wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 7:53 am1 in 1000 as stated in the vsm is probably "run of the mill population selected at random"
This is just a baseless conjecture and not the Theravada view. The text of the Visuddhimagga offers no support for it, while Dhammapāla's Visuddhimagga-ṭīkā actually contradicts it, for it limits the scope of the term "beginner" (ādikammika) to yogāvacaras who are "regularly/habitually engaged in mental development" (bhāvanaṃ anuyuñjanto). Clearly this doesn't mean, "Any Tom, Dick or Harry."
bksubhuti wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 7:53 amThere are probably over 1000 that have learned 8 jhanas* and more.
Which according to the Visuddhimagga would require the sayadaw to have a following that outnumbered the present population of the world. Unless you mean that 999 out of those 1000 are devas.

And and earlier post of his:

Re: Ajahn Brahmavamso's Dark Jhana

Post by Dhammanando » 

bksubhuti wrote: Fri Nov 27, 2020 4:45 pmI asked Ajahn Brahm "How many Theravada Monks has he trained start to finish to be successful up to 4th Jhana with repeatability. He said, "Not many, I have not counted."
Bhante, if a teacher is teaching authentic Visuddhimagga jhāna, isn't a reply like Ajahn Brahmavamso's exactly the sort of reply we should expect to hear from him?

In asking this, what I have in mind is Path of Purification XII 8:
Ādikammikassa hi kasiṇaparikammampi bhāro, satesu sahassesu vā ekova sakkoti. Katakasiṇaparikammassa nimittuppādanaṃ bhāro, satesu sahassesu vā ekova sakkoti. Uppanne nimitte taṃ vaḍḍhetvā appanādhigamo bhāro, satesu sahassesu vā ekova sakkoti. Adhigatappanassa cuddasahākārehi cittaparidamanaṃ bhāro, satesu sahassesu vā ekova sakkoti.

“Now, the kasiṇa preliminary work is difficult for a beginner and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. The arousing of the sign is difficult for one who has done the preliminary work and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. To extend the sign when it has arisen and to reach absorption is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it.”
If we go with the more optimistic figure (one in a hundred), then it means that one in a million can become a Visuddhimagga-style jhānalābhī. If we go with the more pessimistic figure, then it will be one in a thousand million. And so for Ajahn Brahmavamso to produce, say, ten jhānalābhīs, he would need to have at least ten million meditating disciples according to the optimistic figure, or a thousand million meditating disciples according to the pessimistic figure.

Though I've been told that Ajahn Brahmavamso has even more followers on Facebook than the Dalai Lama, I'm pretty sure that they don't number in the tens of millions. Certainly not the thousands of millions. And so the fact that he replies: "Not many," would not serve to cast any doubt at all on whether his teaching was an efficacious one by Visuddhimagga criteria. For even when Visuddhimagga standards are maintained to the last dot and comma, at best only one meditator in a million can expect to enjoy success.

I'd like to end this post by asking you, bhante, have you ever put to Pa-Auk Sayadaw the question that you put to Ajahn Brahmavamso? If you have, what was the sayadaw's answer?

Re: Ajahn Brahmavamso's Dark Jhana

Post by bksubhuti » 

There are probably over 1000 that have learned 8 jhanas* and more.There are multiple generations of teachers. (that is mentioned in the post)
... if "so little for A. Brahm to count" .. I wonder who is he teaching past lives to? Probably a little less than those who get jhana from him.

1 in 1000 as stated in the vsm is probably "run of the mill population selected at random"
Parami is a big factor and since there are billions in the world, that demographics might still be true.
We would hope that a successful person who is interested in vinaya/meditation monkhood and ordains in a foreign country* and interested in abhidhamma and pa-auk would have more parami than someone who has a headspace app on their phone. And we would hope that the person who has headspace on his new iPhone 12 Pro has more parami than someone who is struggling to survive and eat.
Past lives is off topic, but listed in Pa-Auk Saydawgyi's book "Knowing and Seeing" and his meditation manuals.
I might guess about 65% who were "successful" have done that too in pa-auk world.

I wrote much more on the numbers but deleted it.
I think the numbers are probably much higher than I am saying, but I want to be on the low side.

* This includes Asians from Asian countries ordaining in foreign countries
* Quality may vary even though jhana is jhana.
If you ask..
Parajika 4 Mula explains ven Mahamoggalana's jhana and hearing elephants bathing in the river
commentary says it was 4th jhana during the first 2 weeks. He was slower than average but it was worth it.
I explain this in detail in my book "Lessons in Abhidhamma" on my website.
Never the less, I have friends who have pure jhana and are not afraid to say this. That is a big deal to say when you mark it with "pure".
Two say 3 pure continuous hours is easy, but not much more.. even though they can sit much longer.. one sat for 48hr (the same one in my monk sits 24 hr jhana post). Pure or not, concentration was high enough not to stand up, eat, poop or pee for 48hrs. So "pure" jhana is a pretty high standard to claim.

Vism. followers wrongly claiming you can hear sounds in the 4 jhanas, citing parajika 4 Moggallana


Re: Ajahn Brahmavamso's Dark Jhana

Post by frank k » 

bksubhuti wrote: Sat Nov 28, 2020 7:53 am...
If you ask..
Parajika 4 Mula explains ven Mahamoggalana's jhana and hearing elephants bathing in the river
commentary says it was 4th jhana during the first 2 weeks. He was slower than average but it was worth it.
Moggallana was not in 4th jhana, parajika 4 says, imperturbable (anenja) samādhi.
Which usually means the arupa attainments, or the imperturbable version of 4th jhana that can exercise supernormal powers.
You can rule out 4th jhana then, since if someone were exercising supernormal powers, such as moggallana visiting deva realms and conversing with his physical body, it would be expected he could sense his own body and hear sounds.

So parajika 4's 'anenia samadhi' must be referring to arupa formless attainments, and moggallana's being impure because he could quickly switch between rupa and arupa and hear sounds.

detailed article on the subject of hearing in 4 jhanas:

Sunday, November 29, 2020

KN Mil 3.3.13-14: KN: Milinda-pañha vitakka and vicara supports correct EBT definition of "directed-thought and evaluation"

The original meaning of "appana" (applying, fixing upon), is the "directed" part of vitakka's "directed-thought". It's "fixing" the mind upon a kusala skillful Dharma thought, instead of the evil akusala thoughts that it tends to gravitate towards.

So when early Abhidharma talks about "appana" as part of vitakka's definition, and "appana samadhi" such as vimutti-magga, appana samadhi means one is fixed in kusala perceptions and/or thoughts, as opposed to being constantly drawn towards akusala thoughts in the province of 5 hindrances.

In Vism., appana samadhi gets redefined as the mind going into a predetermined time of frozen stupor, and one only has a single perception that does not change until one emerges from that frozen stupor. 

Here in KN Mil, you can see vitakka retains the original correct meaning of directing ones thoughts towards kusala thoughts, as opposed to akusala thoughts. Very similar to MN 20's first simile of the carpenter.

At least it works that way when vitakka is  translated correctly. If you plug in the wrong vitakka translation/interpretation from Vism., the simile is vague and general enough you could interpret it to support Vism's corrupted meaning of vitakka.

Analysis of 3.14

Now Vicara is even more interesting. It gives two similes.

1. The first simile is 'threshing'. The meaning of thresh, is to to use a flail to beat plants and separate the seed/grain from the plant. In other words, the directed thought of vitakka is like the plant, and vicara's 'evaluation' is drawing out the nutritious meaning/seed from the plant. Very much in agreement with KN Pe definitions of V&V. Vitakka fixes upon a line of kusala thinking, vicara's evaluation draws deeper meaning out of vitakka's directed thought. 

2. The second simile is of 'vicara' being the sound that results from vitakka's beating of the bronze vessel. Again, this is to show the close connection between vitakka and vicara. vicara is not a separate unrelated train of thought, it's something we're trying to extract a deeper meaning connected to the original vitakka directed-thought. 

So both of these 2 similes for vicara, especially the first one, strongly support correct EBT translation and interpretation of V&V.

Do they also support the corrupted Vism. interpretation of V&V?
Not in my opinion. In vism., you're staring at a kasina, vitakka is you 'placing your mind' on the kasina perception, and vicara is 'keeping the mind connected' to the kasina perception. These 2nd similes for vicara in KN Mil 3.3.14 matches up superficially. The reverberating sound follows the beating of the vessel.  But the sound reverberating is an EFFECT of the beating, not an independent event. With the mental activity of vitakka and vicara, as we see in the 3 way samadhi of suttas such as AN 8.63, you have samadhi without vitakka but WITH vicara. So in this simile, you have have the copper vessel making reverberating sounds without being beaten. That makes no sense. Unless you say a single leftover vitakka (single beating of vessel) leaves enough 'vicara' reverberating sound. Let's say that's true. Two problems with this. One, how long do you think the reverberation from one mighty strike of the vessel can last? One minute tops? So your vism. first jhana can only last one minute long? Second problem, a vism. first 'jhana' session would have many vitakka and vicaras. So again, it makes no sense for this simile where you have the vicara sound reverberations entirely dependent upon there being a vitakka. You would not be able to have a vism. first jhana in the 5 fold scheme with multiple vicaras arising and passing. You could only have a single vicara that lasted one minute tops, and that's it.

"vessel gathering shape": Also notice this part would make no sense with Vism. interpretation. As you beat the copper vessel (with vitakka), and as it forms a shape of the desired end product, a tool, sculpture, or whatever, the evolution of the shape is another reference to vicara's 'evaluation' drawing more meaning out of vitakka's directed thought. If this were a proper vism. simile, you would be mindlessly beating a circular copper bowl with the shape and color of an earth kasina, and the color wouldn't change and the shape wouldn't change, and you'd be pounding it repeatedly like someone in a frozen stupor.  

Remember the basic meaning of the pali word vi-cara. Cara is the same word using for traveling, walking, exploring. Vitakka fixes upon a kusala topic of thinking, vi-cara explores/evaluates. Perversely, Vism. redefines 'explore' to mean the antithetical opposite,  you stay absolutely still and don't move and don't think, just stare at a kasina in a frozen stupor. 

For the first simile of the threshing, the vism. interpretation makes no sense. What is the seed being separated? And how is the threshing of vicara different than what vitakka's "placing the mind on the kasina repeatedly"? 

Re: how can i live for an aeon or the remainder of an aeon?

The suttas talk about the buddha and moggallana being able to live out the remainder of the aeon.

This is my response to Robert's post and his belief in the commentary interpretation that living out a cosmic aeon actually means living out the normal lifespan of a healthy human, 80-100 years. 

Re: how can i live for an aeon or the remainder of an aeon?

Post by frank k » 

That's the commentary interpretation.
The more likely common sense straightforward interpretation of the sutta is the way kappa is normally used, as the remainder of a cosmic aeon.
To give an example of how long an aeon is, that's the lifespan of a brahma realm being, and in this present aeon, 7 buddhas will arise and pass away.

AFAIK it only mentions the Buddha and Moggallana claiming to be able to exercise that ability of living out the aeon/kappa.
If it were only to extending one's life by 10-20 years, it's hard to imagine why so few disciples could do it, and why the Buddha would have to use an ambiguous and confusing word 'kappa'/cosmic aeon.

My guess, as how this ability would work, is probably you'd find a nice safe hiding place in the mountains where it's cold and quiet, sit in meditation in a state similar to 9th attainment of cessation (no breathing, super low metabolic rate), and wield manifold superpowers (as usual in 6 abhinna) in mind made bodies that to most people would seem like ordinary bodies, but maybe a little more subtle, like the body casts no shadow (taoist sages throughout time have also mastered 5 of the 6 abhinna, my uncle's friend saw a taoist immortal cast no shadow in a mind made body).

Another example, during the last 10 years of ajahn chah's life, where he was infirm and constantly bed ridden and body unconscious various disciples had seen him in other places having conversations and interacting with the sangha while he was known to be deathly ill and bed ridden.

robertk wrote: Fri Nov 27, 2020 9:17 amAn ayukappa, the range of human life at that time. : ☸🐘 STED definitions

Friday, November 27, 2020

Difference between Ajahn Brahm "jhana" and vism.: It's like the (black) pot wearing white blinders thinking it's white and calling the kettle black.

This is in response to B. Subhuti's blog article where he states Vism. has the correct definition and method of 'jhana', and Ajahn Brahm does not. 


Re: Ajahn Brahmavamso's Dark Jhana

Post by frank k » 

Last time I checked, Theravada claimed to be 100% backward compatible with EBT sutta.
So anywhere Vism. contradicts that is fair game to question.
You certainly are under no obligation to address those inconvenient truths, but not addressing it only tends to confirm people's suspicions that you know there are contradictions and have no evidence and reasoning to prove otherwise. (Maybe it's on the reddit forum with your same thread OP where you avoided answering the issue of Vism. contradicting EBT in a post of mine).

And as far as your main thesis,
As another user pointed out, if Ajahn Brahm's "jhana" fulfills vism's white kasina as a prerequisite, what exactly is the big deal on the difference between Vism. and Ajahn Brahm's redefinitions of 'jhana'?
It's like the (black) pot wearing white blinders thinking it's white and calling the kettle black.
bksubhuti wrote: Tue Nov 24, 2020 9:35 pmI only assert that Ajahn Brahmavamso and Pa-Auk Methods are different by night and day, literally.
Ajahn Brahmavamso does not follow the visudhimagga.
Pa-Auk method follows the visuddhimagga.

The visuddhimagga is vastly accepted as a Theravada text. If you want to call that sectarian.. so be it. This is a sectarian website the last I checked, Dhammawheel was a Theravada website and discussion group. On the other hand, EBT and the Suttanta sects are are not Theravada. Suttacentral is the place for such discussions. Get your terms right.

The best thing to do when on foreign ground (which you are), is to qualify your statement. "According to the suttanta sect" The Theravada / commentary / abhidhamma following sect does not need to do such since it is a Theravada website.

This is the same reddit thread where B. Subhuti ducks the tough questions on Vism. contradicting EBT early buddhist texts.

And here's a response to me from B. Subhuti, and my rebuttal

Re: Ajahn Brahmavamso's Dark Jhana

Post by frank k » 

bksubhuti wrote: Fri Nov 27, 2020 4:45 pmI find suttanta people to be quite angry in their writings and speech. One seasoned suttanta monk calls this "nyanavirus". Usually people outgrow this stage, but it is typically shortly after they read "clearing the path". I would guess the same is with EBT followers who prefer chinese writings with Mahayana influence over the Pali texts.
I find that many Vism. followers, including ordained monastics, tend to avoid confronting the truth and civil discourse and fair questions asked of them, and living in denial when there is abundance of evidence that a significant amount of Theravada commentary does not cohere, and in many cases flat out contradict core EBT teachings.

Much of the EBT Chinese is congruent and consistent with the Theravada EBT, so it's not a matter of choosing one interpretation over another as B. Subhuti insinuates.

Even if you stay within Theravada exclusively, there's more than enough evidence of Vism. contradicting EBT.
Take the KN Pe word commentary on the four jhana formula for example.

It's extraordinarily clear and detailed in what vitakka and vicara do. And also very explicit about 'kaya' being the physical body.
Check the pali. What's the point of working on a new pali digital tool if you don't use it to examine important passages on jhana that could illuminate your understanding of the corruption of jhana by Vism.?

Also take a look at MN 111 and AN 9.36.
Those two suttas are especially clear about jhana not being a frozen stupor that one predetermines an amount of time to enter and emerge from before one can do vipassana WHILE in jhana (and the first 7 attainments). It's only the 8th and 9th attainment that resemble the kind of 'emerging from attainment to do vipassana' that Vism. talks about.

I heard Pa Auk made an excuse about MN 111 that only Sariputta was special enough to do 'jhana' in that way described in MN 111. Then take a look at AN 9.36. It's talking about everyone, not just Sariputta. And there are a number of other suttas corroborating, if one is willing to actually not be afraid to confront uncomfortable truths that challenge their faith.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

What is the proper translation and interpretation of Ānā-pānā-s-sati?


Re: Ānāpānasati

Post by frank k » 

Ceisiwr wrote: Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:42 amIn your opinion, is Ānāpānasati best translated as “mindfulness with breath” or “mindfulness of breath”?
Regardless of how you translate it, the most important thing is to understand the meaning of the implicit words associated with sati.
sati is remembrance [of Dharma instructions].
sati is not a vague choiceless zombie awareness and "mindfulness" of the present moment.
So the exact definition the Buddha gives for sati, such as SN 47.2, is the 4sp satipatthana formula.
specifically: sati = remembrance [of the Dharma instructions having a default value of 4sp satipatthana formula].

Now in the case of ana pana sati,
now sati is being given a more specific context and we're overriding the default Dharma of 4sp, with the 16aps Dharma instructions.

so ana-pana-sati = inhale & exhale [Dharma instruction] - remembrance.

It most definitely is not a zombie doing a choiceless awareness mindfulness while he also happens to be breathing in and out.
Sati is a warrior meditator with strong memory faculties able to assiduously recall and apply the most relevant Dharma instruction to apply moment by moment.

sati is remembrance [of Dharma instructions].
ana-pana-sati = inhale & exhale [Dharma instruction] - remembrance.

Friday, November 20, 2020

first jhāna is easy. all you need to do is relax (passaddhi/pacification)

I got a few complaints about my recent article:

2 super powerful tools to help you get (and improve!) your jhana: 1) foot in the door and 2) bullying the bully

The complaint was that, those two tips weren't that helpful and didn't actually help with attaining first jhana. 

So here is another article to fill in some of the gaps. Basically, if you follow the simple instructions in the suttas, first jhana is really easy, but for the vast majority of the people, what they will experience instead of the bliss of first jhana, is instead jhana constipation. 

Here is the billion dollar insight I'm sharing with you now:

 Because you think jhana constipation is not first jhana. Actually it is! You just have to be wise and patient enough to put in your daily practice until the energy blockages melt. Most people will get it in piece meal, gradually over months. Parts of your body will feel bliss, and then more and more as various blockages melt. But the whole time, you were doing the same simple thing. Pacify the mind (supress the 5 hindrances), pacify the body, allowing the force and heat of your jhana battery to circulate the PIE (precious internal energy) until all the blockages melt. When there is blockage, it feels like constipation. When blockage is melted, then it feels like the bliss of jhana (AN 5.28), but you were doing the same thing the whole time. Don't make the mistake thinking you don't have the merits, or doubt that you're doing the correct method. Just about every meditation problem I had no teacher was able to help me with (I had access to the greatest meditation teachers in the world), because in hindsight I was doing the right thing - relaxing completely, it just took a few years for various blockages to melt. My journey to 2nd jhana would have been shortened many years if I knew then what I know now, because I wouldn't have doubts about my practice and method (doubt leads to physical and mental tension).

And that's why the previous article is a powerful tool. It's helping you establish a daily and continuous skillful habit that will patiently wait out the jhana constipation unclogging process.