Re: Notes on nimitta from KK (March 2011)
- Hi Ann
Thanks for the notes (which I will print out and read). Looking forward to the ensuing discussion.
PS Great to see all that effort (hand and mouth :-)) being put to good use!
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "glenjohnann" <glenjohnann@...> wrote:
> Hello Phil and Nina
> I have found and gone over my notes on nimitta from KK. These notes were taken as Achan Sujin was speaking so they are far from complete. I will provide the notes themselves - and leave discussion about them to - all of us! ...
- Hi Jon.
--- In email@example.com, "jonoabb" <jonabbott@...> wrote:
> Hi Rob E
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Robert E" <epsteinrob@> wrote:
> > Hi Jon.
> > ...
> > BTW, this is an aside on another subject, a recurrent one, but I see that the Buddha clearly instructed Moggalana how to avoid drowsiness when meditating, rather than to allow whatever dhamma happened to be arising.
> > Here's the end of a long passage of such advice:
> > 8. "But if, by doing so, drowsiness does not vanish, you may, mindfully and clearly aware, lie down, lion-like, on your right side, placing foot on foot, keeping in mind the thought of rising; and on awakening, you should quickly get up, thinking 'I must not indulge in the comfort of resting and reclining, in the pleasure of sleeping.'
> > "Thus, Moggallana, should you train yourself."
> > â" Anguttara Nikaya VII, 58
> > Jon, this is very clearly a "formal meditation" instruction, an instruction to do a specific conventional activity in order to achieve a meditative aim with regard to a hindrance. He does not say "see it as an arising dhamma." He says "Do X to fight the drowsiness." The Buddha is full of such devices in the stanzas that precede this final one.
> > ===============
> J: First, thanks for citing a specific sutta passage. Always better to be discussing the actual texts than exchanging summaries of (half-) remembered suttas once read :-)).
> Yes, they are suggestions for shaking off drowsiness (with kusala). But they are not teachings directly on the development of the path. There is no doctrinal statement being made in this part of the sutta, as far as I can see. Drowsiness may well be an obstacle to the development of samatha at levels approaching jhana, but it is not an obstacle to the awareness of currently arising dhammas.
So, it seems you are saying here that the hindrances sloth and torpor are not hindrances for development of mindfulness? Isn't it a very basic understanding that the hindrances, including sloth and torpor, do inhibit the path from developing?
> Also, I would read these suggestions as being things that are done with kusala mind-states (note, for example, the reference to lying down *mindfully and clearly aware*). So they are not to be taken as strategies for the aspiring (beginner) developer of samatha.
Well, let's say for the sake of argument that they are only for an advanced monk, not a beginner, what would be the purpose in that case of advising him with all these strategies to defeat sleepiness?
If such advice is only for the development of samatha, which you would say is not part of the path, why would Buddha care if he falls asleep or not? If sleepiness is not an obstacle for development of mindfulness, why would Buddha advise him how to defeat sleepiness and return to his sitting position? In addition, why would he not give him advice which would help him develop the path, such as the understanding that 'it is not necessary to defeat sleepiness, but only to be aware of the nature of the dhammas arising at that time.' Instead of even suggesting this, he gives him a number of conventional strategies for defeating his sleepiness - in my view so he can meditate effectively. In your view...what is the purpose? Is he just generically opposed to a monk taking a nap?
In addition, since half the sutta is spent on this subject, why would Buddha teach, and why would the council select, a sutta that has no relation to the path? Did Buddha habitually give helpful advice to monks that had no relation to the path, and were they included in the sutta body just in case someone was feeling sleepy?
In addition, if it is indeed advice against sleepiness given to an advanced monk developing samatha, does this not suggest that Buddha did indeed give conventional advice to monks about conventional obstacles that were not directly related to dhammas and the understanding of dhammas? If in fact, the entire path is about the understanding of dhammas as they arise in the moment, why would Buddha indulge in such an activity? Buddha said that he taught "only suffering and the end of suffering," so is this advice about the cessation of the clinging-kandhas and the suffering they carry, or did Buddha break his word and teach various helpful teachings that had no relation to the end of suffering - just side-tracks?
> In any event, thereâs no mention of anything to do with âmeditationâ in this passage, so I would not agree with your characterisation as an activity designed to achieve a meditative aim with regard to a hindrance.
Well if Buddha saw with his eye of wisdom that Moggalana was nodding in a distant place while sitting, and Buddha considered it enough of a problem to magically transport himself to Moggalana's side to give him advice on how to maintain wakefulness, what do you suppose MOggalana was doing? Why would Buddha go to this trouble and mention the "advanced" states of mindfulness that you mentioned at the same time, if Moggalana were not involved in the dreaded "mindfulness practice" which you generally think did not exist? Why do you suppose Buddha did not want Moggalana to be defeated by sleepiness and wanted him to perservere? So he could be awake while sitting around instead of taking a nap? Or why? Why would Buddha transport himself to this purpose? He must have thought something important was going on.
> > ===============
> > [RE:] Here's another one in another area of activity:
> > "Further, Moggallana, you should train yourself in this way. You should think, 'When calling at families (on the alms-round), I shall not be given to pride.'
> > ===============
> J: The training being referred to here is the thinking about the tendency to conceit, not the doing of any activity. Note the words âYou should thinkâ.
> Of course, it's not a suggestion as to how you or I should try to *direct our thinking*, but a reference as to how a person who properly understands kusala and akusala might naturally and spontaneously think.
Well, that is your translation, not what Buddha said. You can take his active admonitions and turn them into descriptions but that is not how the original reads - if you agree that the translation is accurate. Buddha does say "you should train yourself...you should think..." Then you say lthat is *not* a suggestion to direct one's thinking, but it sure seems like one! Why does Buddha say "you should" twice in a row. He says to train yourself, he says when on alms-round you should think a particular way. That very much seems that he is saying to direct one's thought and train oneself. I know you reject this, and this is why I think we have to actually look at the Buddha's words, not just what we think he means. How is it *not* a suggestion to do something when one says "you should?" There is really no adequate explanation for this except that you change the words and give them a different meaning.
There's no way out of this kind of argument. If we cannot use the Buddha's words as evidence, but contradict them to give them a different meaning, how can we give any kind of evidence at all? The word "should" doesn't have a lot of ambiguity, it means "should." The Buddha could have easily said "When you adopt such a state of mind, or when such arises, pride will naturally cease to arise..." or something like that. He didn't. He said "You should train yourself...to think..." in a particular way, and you are saying that he does not mean that, that he means the exact opposite - based on what evidence?
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