Malcolm wrote: ↑
Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:32 pm
MiphamFan wrote: ↑
Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:47 am
Malcolm, I think the problem is that we don't understand what exactly priti, vitarka etc entail. They are just abstract terms we can't really connect with anything. You can rattle off Vasubandhu's definition, but we poor saps don't know what it means beyond the words.
Actually, it is not rocket science. Anyone who has done any serious meditation will recollect a time in their practice when they are able to maintain effortless one pointedness on the object, physical ease and mental happiness.
I don't think it's that obvious if all the different schools back in Vasubandhu's time, who presumably all had masters of meditation, could not agree on what precisely marks out particular dhyanas (physical vs mental etc). Maybe the Abhidharma was practised back in India, but where are the practice manuals and for that matter, the practice lineages? The Kosa has lots of definitions, but where are the techniques?
In Tibetan Buddhism there is a lot of material on Vajrayana practice techniques, but the material on the dhyanas is nowhere near as detailed and as easily applicable as what is available on Vajrayana techniques. The Visuddhimagga of the Theravadins by contrast is really a practice manual, as detailed as Vajrayana practice manuals in its own right; according to it, only 1 in a million practitioners (in the most optimistic case) can hope to achieve the first dhyana; modern Theravadins who try to follow its instructions cite better rates than that apparently, but who knows whether they really have the practice lineage (i.e. verified by teachers in direct lineage) or if it is just their interpretation? Theravadins themselves, who probably devote much more of their time to the dhyanas than other modern schools, acknowledge that the descriptions of the techniques in the sutras themselves are not as detailed as the Visuddhimagga -- some choose to try to use the Visuddhimagga, others try to interpret the sutras directly.
You mentioned the Bhavanakrama, as far as I see, the actual instruction on shamatha in the BHK is this
The yogis who are interested in actualising calm abiding should initially set their minds closely on the chapters on sutra, the chapters on melody of praise, etc., thinking that all these teachings are leading to suchness, will lead to suchness, and have led to suchness. One way of doing this meditation is to closely set the mind on the aggregates, as an object that includes all phenomena. Another way is to place the mind on the image of a buddha. Arya Samadhiraj Sutra mentions,
With his body gold in colour,
The lord of the universe is extremely beautiful.
One who places his mind on the object.
That bodhisattva is referred to as one in meditative absorption.
In this way place the mind on the object of your choice and, having placed the mind, repeatedly and continuously place the mind. While in meditation, examine the mind and see whether it is properly focused on the object. Also check for dullness and see whether the mind is being distracted to outside objects. If the mind is found dull due to doziness and foggy mind or if it were feared that dullness is approaching, then the mind should attend to an image of a buddha – which is extremely delightful or the concept of light. In this process dullness should be eliminated and the mind should see the object very clearly.
Dullness prevails when the mind cannot see the object very clearly like being blind or in a dark place or like a person with closed eyes. This should be understood (while in meditation), when the mind chases the qualities of outside objects like form, etc. or attends to other phenomena or is distracted to the objects of past experiences or the fear of distraction approaching; then think that all composite phenomena are impermanent and also think about suffering and other things that can help generate renunciation. In this process, distraction should be eliminated and by the rope of mindfulness and alertness, the elephant-like mind should be fastened to the tree of the object. When the mind is found perfectly engaged on the object of meditation, free of dullness and mental excitement, it should be left naturally and exertion relaxed. At that time sitting can be continued as long as one chooses. It should be understood that calm-abiding meditation is actualised when the physical and mental pliancy is enjoyed through prolonged familiarity with the meditation object as it chooses.
From this translation: https://web.archive.org/web/20150506133 ... ion-stage/
OK sure, it's enough to get started and help with some of the faults such as dullness. But it's nowhere near as detailed as the Visuddhimagga, and for that matter nowhere near the countless Vajrayana practice manuals with respect to their practices. "Sitting can be continued as long as one chooses", does that mean that you want to get into a state where you can meditate for weeks and weeks, like Shakyamuni Buddha?
I'm sorry but all of this just leaves me confused as to what exactly the first dhyana entails in a practitioner, beyond just the textbook definition. Maybe there are Tibetan practice lineages of this that survived -- Ivo mentioned that his Sakya teacher did want him to be able to do shamatha for 7 days. But I didn't receive any teachings on those practices and AFAIK for Vajrayana practitioners, one's root guru is the ultimate arbiter in case of doubts. I didn't receive any teachings on dhyanas from a lineage, while I have for other teachings, so I will just continue with the practices I did receive as far as I understand them.