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Re: [dsg] Re: Concentration and samatha

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  • Jonothan Abbott
    Larry ... Just to make sure we are on the same page here, are you quite comfortable with the idea of samatha as a form of kusala (mental) action that occurs
    Message 1 of 188 , Sep 30, 2003
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      --- LBIDD@... wrote: > Hi Jon,
      > Everything you wrote seems alright to me.

      Just to make sure we are on the same page here, are you quite
      comfortable with the idea of samatha as a form of kusala (mental)
      action that occurs naturally in ordinary daily life, that is to say,
      quite apart from any notion of 'developing samatha'? This is fairly
      key to everything that follows.

      I think it's useful to consider aspects of daily life that do or
      could involve instances of this kind of kusala (i.e., samatha).
      Perhaps you wouldn't mind suggesting 1 or 2 yourself (real or
      hypothetical). Others may also be interested to ponder on this.


      PS 1.
      > The question about the
      > tranquility of a murderer refers to feelings of tranquility which
      > may
      > arise while intending, committing, or resulting from the commission
      > of
      > an akusala act. Is this tranquility kusala or akusala? Howard only
      > mentioned this in passing and I don't know if anyone responded; the
      > reference was to Jeffrey Dahmer, a famous murderer in the U.S.

      If we are talking about an observable 'calmness', that may be
      indicative of a level of concentration which, as we have discussed,
      is a skill that can be developed in akusala mode (and more easily of
      course than it can in kusala mode). In other words, there need not
      be any kusala involved.

      PS. 2
      > Since we are discussing kusala I might ask what is so wholesome
      > about understanding (panna) the arising and passing of dhammas?
      > Scientists and gamblers do this all the time.

      Sorry, I'm not quite with you here. Do you mean of a *presently
      arisen* dhamma? Would you mind clarifying in what sense you see this
      as being so. Thanks.

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    • Jonothan Abbott
      Howard ... ... As I understand what you have said here, there is no practice taught by the Buddha other than studying what he said, reflecting on it, and
      Message 188 of 188 , Dec 7, 2003
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        --- upasaka@... wrote: > Hi, Jon -
        As I understand what you have said here, there is no practice
        taught by the Buddha other than studying what he said, reflecting on
        it, and relating it to the present moment. Of course, and here I am
        following what your general approach seems to be, doing these three
        things either will happen or won't happen, but is not something that
        can be controlled. And, thus, to sum up: There is no practice.
        How am I doing? ;-)

        You're doing fine ;-)). But I would say you place a lot of
        significance on whether it can or cannot be said that there is a

        I think that 'practice' is one of those words that has a multitude of
        possible meanings, and can easily be misunderstood.

        In my view it's more fruitful to look at/talk about exactly what the
        Buddha said to be the necessary conditions for the development of the

        I gave my understanding of these in the post to which you were
        replying. To summarise, I see them as being the following:
        - hearing the true dhamma
        - reflecting on what one has heard
        - relating what one has come to understand intellectually to the
        present moment,

        Furthermore, I understand the Buddha to be saying that each of these
        needs to occur repeatedly and often.

        I also see it as important to realise that:
        - these factors/conditions are capable of occurring at any time
        regardless of the nature of the current activity,
        - the fruit of that development, in the form of a level of awareness
        of a presently arising dhamma, may occur at any time, not necessarily
        related to any present conscious intention to apply/study/practice
        the teachings.

        In a subsequent post to Nina you gave some comments of your own on
        this subject:
        <<Besides wanting us to attend to his teachings, and reflect on them,
        I believe he taught us to put them into practice. Specifically, I
        believe he encouraged his followers to exercise volition in
        maintaining ongoing mindfulness, observing precepts, guarding the
        senses, and engaging in formal meditation, mastering the jhanas if
        I believe that he taught his followers, again and again, in
        enumerable suttas, to train themselves (!) in a variety of ways. I've
        read many, many suttas to this effect, using exactly this language,
        including the Satipatthana Sutta.>>

        It would be helpful to have a specific reference. However, if I may
        speak in general terms too, there is usually more than 1 possible
        interpretation open on the plain meaning of the language of the
        suttas. For example, I presume you would agree that any exhortation
        in a sutta to 'train yourselves' must be read with the implicit
        assumption that what is being referred to are kusala mindstates. I
        have reservations about a reading of such references as meaning an
        exhortation to 'exercising volition' in doing certain acts.

        To give an example, if a person in whom neither mindfulness or other
        form of kusala is present decides/determines/resolves to 'exercise
        volition in [attaining] mindfulness', that is likely in my view to be
        akusala, for the reason so aptly put by Ken O in his post to Sarah,
        namely, that any purposefully done action is likely to rise in tandem
        with self. This as I see it is the crucial difference between
        mindfulness arising as the result of the kind of conditions I mention
        above and any deliberate attempt to have mindfulness.

        Again speaking generally, in reading the suttas, we need to recognise
        the special case of those monks in the Buddha's time or shortly after
        for whom sati and panna had already been developed to high levels
        such as the level of a faculty or a power. Such monks were persons
        who truly could 'set mindfulness to the fore', as we find mentioned
        in the Satipatthana Sutta. But for us there is no such possibility,
        I believe.

        The crux of the difference between us here is the conditions for the
        arising of kusala, particularly satipatthana/vipassana. To my
        understanding, the factors I have cited above are much more crucial
        to this aim than any decision to 'exercise volition' in doing
        anything. And personally I don’t see that it matters whether or not
        these fall within the usual meaning of 'a practice'.


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