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
Ten Signs of the Superior Person
by Tibetan Master Milarepa
1. To have little pride and envy is the sign of the superior person.
2. To have few desires and satisfaction with simple things is the sign of the superior person.
3. To be lacking in hypocrisy and deceit is the sign of the superior person.
4. To regulate one’s conduct in accordance with the law of cause and effect as carefully as one would guard the pupils of one’s eyes is the sign of the superior person.
5. To be faithful in one’s engagement and obligations is the sign of the superior person. Continue reading
Seven Simple Steps to Inner Peace
September 10th, 2007
Inner peace is the most valuable thing that we can cultivate. Nobody can give us inner peace, at the same time it is only our own thoughts that can rob us of our inner peace. To experience inner peace we don’t have to retreat to a Himalayan cave; we can experience inner peace right now, exactly where we are. The most important criteria is to value the importance of inner peace. If we really value inner peace, we will work hard to make it a reality. These are some suggestions for bringing more peace into your mind.
1. Choose carefully where we spend time.
If you are a news addict and spend an hour reading newspapers everyday, our mind will be agitated by the relentless negativity we see in the world. It is true, that we can try to detach from this negativity. But, in practise, we will make our progress easier if we don’t spend several hours ruminating over the problems of the world. If you have a spare 15 minutes, don’t just automatically switch on the TV or surf the internet. Continue reading
From Reading the Mind
By K. Khao-suan-luang
The Intricacies of Ignorance
There are many layers to self-deception. The more you practice and the more you investigate things, the
less you feel like claiming to know. Instead, you’ll simply see the harm of your own many-faceted ignorance and foolishness. Your examination of the viruses in the mind gets more and more subtle. Before, you didn’t know, so you took your views to be knowledge — because you thought you knew. But actually these things aren’t real knowledge. They’re the type of understanding which comes from labels. Still we think they’re knowledge, and we think we know. This in itself is a very intricate self-deception.
So you have to keep watch on these things. You have to keep contemplating them. Sometimes they fool Continue reading
From Reading the Mind
By K. Khao-suan-luang
Discernment vs. Self-deception
It’s important that we discuss the steps of the practice in training the mind, for the mind has all sorts of deceptions by which it fools itself. If you aren’t skillful in investigating and seeing through them, they are very difficult to overcome even if you are continually mindful to keep watch over the mind. You have to make an effort to focus on contemplating these things at all times. Mindfulness on its own won’t be able to give rise to any real knowledge. At best, it can give you only a little protection against the effects of sensory contact. If you don’t make a focused contemplation, the mind won’t be able to give rise to any knowledge within itself at all.
This is why you have to train yourself to be constantly aware all around. When you come to know anything for what it really is, there’s nothing but letting go. On the beginning level, this means that the Continue reading