[Buddha-l] Loving your object of study

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Tue Dec 4 00:13:08 MST 2007


Your comments are appreciated. As I am preparing to leave for a conference
in PRC, and then a lecture in Hong Kong, I don't have time to carry on an
extended conversation on these texts right now, much as I'd like to since
they are quite interesting, and throw a light on the pre-book pedagogy of
the earlier communities.

> One general point. These two discourses are careful not to make any
> criticism of the first four activities.

Agreed. Each monk is performing appropriate to his progress in the
progression toward dwelling in the dhamma. And each -- with the possible
exception of the third -- occupies a necessary step along that progression.

> >Hearing, Thinking, Meditating (or cultivating: bhaavanaa),
> Well maybe. But how do you establish that this threefold division is
earlier ?

Good point. I would, however, make that assumption based on the ubiquity of
the threefold model, and the relative rarity of this fivefold version,
clearly expressed in a fivefold fashion to fit the template of the "fives"
section of AN. It would be mere speculation to assert that the fivefold
model was the ancestor since there is no evidence, aside from the conceptual
possibility, that that is the case.

> It doesn't say that he trains others to memorize it. It says that he
> teaches it to others in detail. In other words, he knows it well
> enough that he can elaborate and explain at length.

That was my extrapolation and embellishment. If, as I assume, the five mark
progressive stages, then the neophytes he is instructing would have to
follow in his footsteps, i.e., begin memorizing what they hear, commit it to
memory, then instruct others on what they heard, without distortion, etc. It
is true that this need not be a narrow career ladder. Some hearers could
settle for whatever edifications they receive and not pursue the full
training to its goal, but then they wouldn't be dwellers in dhamma either.
And an instructor could fail to outgrow that role, just as drill sergeants
in the army never become generals.

> >The third monk can recite everything, and spends all his time reciting.
> >is devotional masturbation, like purchasing an expensive auto just to
> >its chrome, but never driving it.
> This puts a slant on it that is quite different to the original. That
> refers to recitation at length, but the only criticism is to say that
> this is not 'dwelling in dhamma'. I would understand extensive
> recitation to be itself a kind of meditation.

That may just be my own prejudice. I see little difference between japa and
jalpa. In any case, I agree that "devotional masturbation" falls under the
general category of meditation.

> A slip here. As you know, Dan, vicaara remains only in a state
> between first and second jhaana, not in the standard second jhaana.

I warned that there is a large, conflicting literature on this subject.
There are also well-known and often discussed differences between the sutta
and abhidhamma accounts. In the sutta version vitakka and vicara (along with
piiti and sukkha) constitute the first jhana. The second jhana arises with
the subsiding of vitakka and vicara, replaced by ajjhatta.m sampasaada
(inner serenity), piiti and sukkha and cetaso ekodibhaava.m (or cittassa
ekaggataa). But in the abhidhamma version, the first jhana involves vitakka,
vicaara, piiti, sukha and ekaggataa; the second drops ONLY vitakka, still
retaining the rest, including vicara. Both vitakka and vicaara are dropped
in the third, and so on, until the fifth jhana, in which sukkha is replaced
by upekkha and, of the original components, only ekaggataa remains. Since AN
is a sutta, not abhidhamma, I guess it is fair to insist that it would be
more likely to presuppose the sutta model rather than the abhidhamma model.

Probably worth noting that in the sutta version, upekkha enters the picture
during the third jhana (not just at the end, as in the abhidhamma version),
so our vitakka-vicaara-upekkhaa meditator is working through the jhanas but
has not yet completed his course of practice. On the other hand, it is not
clear that this sutta of AN has exactly either of these models in mind,
since our fourth monk seems not to have achieved the ajjhata.m sampasaada of
the second jhana yet, despite having upekkha.

> The prefix anu- must indicate repeated action here.

That's right.

 I suspect it is
> used precisely to indicate that this is not the vitakka and vicaara
> of the jhaanas.

That possibility occurred to me as well -- which is why I included the PTS
Dict definition, which explicitly cites canonical support for treating them
as interchangeable synonyms.

>But perhaps an analogy with the meditative process is
> intended. But this does not seem to be the case of a 'successful
> meditator'.

He is a successful beginner. I also characterized his practice as beginner

> It might, however, mean that careful intellectual study
> of the teachings creates some of the tools that can be used
> subsequently for jhaana meditation.

That would be hard to deny.

> The fifth case seems to be someone who learns dhamma and also
> practices samatha. I take the mention of learning dhamma to be
> illustrative i.e. it refers to the first case but also implies the
> same for the next three. So the point is that all these activities
> are good, but they should be accompanied by the practice of samatha
> as well.

Agreed, however I don't see this as simply a pitch for samatha, but for
achieving a certain inner directedness, not merely in the sense of looking
inward (which I see as minor point), but that the teachings cease to be
something external that one is trying to investigate, adopt, and "add" to
oneself; rather it opens a directedness *from* within, for which calm is a
symptom. When that is the way one is being-in-the-world (to borrow
Heidegger's phrase), that is dwelling in the dhamma, making it one's real

> As you doubtless realize, the problem here is how to take uttari~n.
> There seem two choices:
> a) as an adverb 'in addition':
> but he does not in addition understand the meaning by his wisdom.
> b) as an adjective describing 'meaning':
> but he does not understand the higher meaning by his wisdom
> In either case, wisdom here is clearly some more advanced kind of
> understanding. We can say that this goes beyond the ordinary
> discursive intellect. Or, we can say that this is some kind of
> superior development of intellect. There does not seem much
> difference between the two positions in practice.

My preference is toward the second, though (as some of the literature
claims) I would take pa~n!naa as "discernment" rather than loaded terms such
as "intellect," etc.

Valuable comments. Thanks.


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