[Buddha-l] Abdhidharma vindicated once again
vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 5 10:33:09 MST 2011
Good questions, Herman.
There is some ambiguity in the Pali accounts about the number of jhanas and
what goes on in them (e.g., some noticeable discrepancies between the Nikaya
and Abhidhamma accounts). The formless meditations are sometimes four, with
"neither with nor without perception and feeling" as the topmost, and
sometimes five are given, with "cessation of perception [and sometimes
including feeling]" as the fifth. You are correct that this fifth,
sañña-vedayita-nirodha, is an early Pali term for nirodha-samapatti.
Why did the Buddha "exit" from the top of the rupa jhanas instead of the
arupya samapattis? Typical speculation is that this reflects a rift or
debate within the sangha about the relative importance of the types of
meditative activities done in each, and what each accomplishes. All
apparently agreed that the rupa-jhanas were indispensible, but the
arupa-meditations were sometimes more connected with acquiring iddhis
(powers) like clairvoyance, etc., and so were considered dispensible,
possibly even distractions to the main business of achieving awakening.
Hence it would be unseemly for Buddha to exit from the distractive arupa
meditations. Also, exiting from the peak of the rupa-jhanas, since this is
the base from which the arupa-jhanas begin, would be a "middle way" between
rupa and arupa.
When it came time to locate various attainments and their corresponding
devalokas, some placed the aforementioned asamjni-deva-loka (the "realm of
thoughtless deities") between the 3rd and 4th rupa-loka (remember Vasubandhu
considers this the pursuit of utter mindless idiots who valorize that
idiocy), while nirodha-samapatti gets associated with Bhavagra, the highest
outpost of the arupya levels.
As for Tibetan 'tukdam,' I don't know whether it is meaningful to conflate
that with nirodha-samapatti.
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