THE MYSTERY OF THE BREATH NIMITTA
OR THE CASE OF THE MISSING SIMILE
By Bhikkhu Sona.
As the title suggests, there is a significant puzzle to be solved by any meditator or scholar who tries to clearly understand the qualities of experience, which accompany the transition from mere attention to respiration to full immersion in jhanic consciousness. I will attempt to show that there are good grounds for confusion on this matter as one traces the historical progression of the commentarial accounts from the Patisambhidamagga through the Vimuttimagga to the (later) Visuddhimagga.
Since the Visuddhimagga is so influential and so widely quoted by modern teachers, it would seem critical that it is reliable and, if in certain aspects it is not, then, with supporting evidence, to show clearly why it is not.
The body of this essay will show that a description of the mind of the jhanic meditator found in the Canon itself and quoted in the Patisambhidamagga as a simile involving a comparison of mind with a full clear moon, degenerates to a mistaken literalization of these images as internally produced visual data. Since the contents of mind are not easy to point to, the Buddha frequently used similes comparing visual and other sense objects with mental contents in order for meditators to clearly understand what they should be seeking and experiencing.
In religious traditions of all kinds we often find a naive tendency to take literally what is meant as a simile. It seems this process has occurred somewhere along the line and has become enshrined in the Continue reading
By Nynatiloka, Buddhist Dictionary
Nimitta: mark, sign; image; target, object; cause, condition. These meanings are used in, and adapted to, many contexts of which only the doctrinal ones are mentioned here.
- ‘Mental (reflex-) image’, obtained in meditation. In full clarity, it will appear in the mind by successful practice of certain concentration-exercises and will then appear as vividly as if seen by the eye. The object perceived at the very beginning of concentration is called the preparatory image (parikamma-nimitta). The still unsteady and unclear image, which arises when the mind has reached a weak degree of concentration, is called the acquired image (uggaha-nimitta). An entirely clear and immovable image arising at a higher degree of concentration is the counter-image (paṭ””’ibhāga-nimitta”). As soon as this image arises, the stage of neighbourhood (or access) concentration (upacāra-samādhi) is reached.
- ‘Sign of (previous) kamma’ (kamma-nimitta) and ‘sign of (the future) destiny’ (gati-nimitta); these arise as mental objects of the last karmic consciousness before death (maraṇ””’āsanna””’ kamma.
Usages (1) and (2) are commentarial (s. App.). In Sutta usage, the term occurs, e.g. as: Continue reading
Day 10 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge
Yesterday I wrote about samapattis, which are slightly strange, and often a bit disturbing, experiences that can arise in meditation. They’re often a bit hallucinatory, and it’s not a good idea to pay much attention to them.
Nimittas are another kind of unusual experience we can have in meditation, but they’re more useful. The word “nimitta” literally means a “sign” or a “hint.” These are experiences we can have that let us know we’re making progress in meditation.
Nimittas, like samapattis, come in different forms. They can be visual, or kinesthetic, or even auditory.
In one classic meditation text, the Vimuttimagga, the arising of nimittas is described like this:
“the nimitta arises with a pleasant feeling similar to that which is produced in the action of spinning cotton or silk cotton. Also it is likened to the pleasant feeling produced by a breeze.”
These are kinesthetic nimittas. They can be auditory, like a subtle sound accompanying the breathing that’s not heard through the ears. Visual nimittas might take the form of a stable image, or just a stable perception of light. Continue reading
Day 9 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge
During my sit I saw a bright white/yellow circle shape flash of light in between my eyebrows (closed eye meditation). The light came rushing at me and filled my vision then vanished. While very interesting, it actually freaked me out a bit. Is there a name for this experience?
I replied, “It’s what we call a samapatti. There are various kinds of these, and some of them involve light, although they can be tactile, proprioceptive, auditory, etc. They usually arise as the mind is starting to settle, and they’re more common in people who are relatively new to meditation. They’re nothing to worry about (they’re common) nor are they something to get very excited about (they’re just “noise” in the system).”
I see samapattis as arising in a few ways: They’re very similar to experiences that people have when they’re exposed to sensory deprivation, which makes me think there’s an element of that going on; the mind is getting quieter, but we’ve not fully tapped into the richness of our experience — especially of the body — and so the mind starts trying to make sense of random neuronal “noise.” One of the most common samapattis is the perception of “swirling lights.” Continue reading
Photo: Otomi protective figure made with amate paper (bark cloth) in Sam Noble Museum, University of Oklahoma
Why Dreaming Is Important
By Robert Moss, 2015
A dream is a wake-up call. It takes us beyond what we already know. Dreams are the language of the soul, and they are experiences of the soul.
There are “big” dreams and “little” dreams, of course. In big dreams, we go traveling and we may receive visitations. We travel across time – into the future and the past – and we travel to other dimensions of reality. This is reflected in the words for “dream” that are used by indigenous people who have retained strong dreaming traditions and respect for dreamers. Among the Makiritare, a shamanic dreaming people of Venezuela, for example, the word for dream is adekato, which means “a journey of the soul”.
Most societies have valued dreams and dreamers for three main reasons. First, they have looked to dreams for contact with a wiser source than the everyday mind – call that God, or Nature, or the Self. Second, they have looked to dreams as part of our survival kit, giving us clues to possible future events we may want to avoid or enact. Third, they have known that dreaming is medicine, in several important senses. Dreams show us what is going on inside the body, often before physical symptoms present. Continue reading
LAYA YOGA SAMPRADAYA Esoteric Teachings
By Swami Lalitamohan G.K., Laya Avatara
Sage Gorakshnatha of Nepal, a disciple of Matsyendranath, is the modern founder of Laya yoga tantrika. Laya means to “re-absorb” “fusion” “dissolution” and as a Yoga system means to re-absorb all of the energies and forces normally dissipated in daily living.
Laya Yoga is an ancient form of meditation, with concentration on energy centers or chakras. There are five main energy centers in the spine and two in the head. Laya yoga attempts to locate these energy centers and channelize them through meditation. Laya essentially means to dissolve all karmic patterns or conditioning and merge into the transcendental reality. It also means deep concentration and making an effort to overcome the ego, thereby rising to a higher state of consciousness, called Turiya.
The student must have profound knowledge of Raja Yoga, Sankhya and Tantra philosophy. It involves the arousal of Kundalini Shakti, its control and conversion into higher forces and powers. Tejas and Ojas (higher forces) are produces through these practices and the highest of all emotional-mental ecstasies are created by these techniques. Like all the higher aspects of Yoga, these practices must be undertaken with a competent Guru who has the personal experience of the arousal and the control of such shakti. Continue reading
Vajrayana Buddhism (Devanagari: बज्रयान) is also known as Tantric Buddhism, Tantrayāna, Mantrayana, Mantranaya, Secret Mantra, Esoteric Buddhism and the Diamond Vehicle. These terms are not regarded as equivalent.
Vajrayana is as an extension of Mahayana Buddhism since it differs in its practices, rather than its philosophy. The Mahayana has two practice paths: the Sutrayana method of perfecting good qualities and the Vajrayāna method of taking the intended outcome of Buddhahood as the path. The Vajrayana requires mystical experience in order to experience Buddha-nature prior to full enlightenment. In order to transmit these experiences, a body of esoteric knowledge has been accumulated by Buddhist tantric yogis and is passed via lineages of transmission. In order to access this knowledge, the practitioner requires initiation from a skilled spiritual teacher or guru.
The Vajrayana is often viewed as the third major Yana (or “vehicle”) of Buddhism, alongside the Theravada and Mahayana. According to this view, there were three “turnings of the wheel of dharma”. Continue reading