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Mysticism and Theravāda Meditation

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Milos Hubina This article is an attempt to analyze Theravāda Buddhist meditation in the light of the constructivist and perennialists methodological approaches. I am not undertaking to decide which one is wrong and which is right. Such an attempt would be surely pointless because, as Jensine Andresen and Robert K.C. Forman pointed out, “both constructivists and perennial psychologists made some good points” (Andresen, Forman 2002: 8). One of them was the constructivists´ “plea for recognition of differences”. 1 There is never enough caution to be paid while creating interpretative models. Yet, this awareness of differences should be accompanied by sense for commonalities. In the first part of my article I will analyze Robert M. Gimello’s interpretation of Buddhist vipassanā meditation in general context of mystical experience as presented in his paper Mysticism and Meditation. 2 Gimello's main point here is that Buddhist vipassanā meditation does not fulfill the common criteria of mystical experience and should be considered a non-mystical (probably “meta-mystical”, as I understand his view, see bellow) phenomenon. This issue goes undoubtedly beyond the constructivist-perennialist polemic and is of wider importance. Afterwards I will show where the perennialists’ models of explanation vipassanā experience fall short of precision and become reductionistic. Briefly, as it is well known the constructivist (Steven Katz, Robert Gimello, Peter Moore, Frederick Streng and others) methodological approach does not admit that a mystic in his/her experience could transcend formative cultural concepts which are considered an integrative part of the experience itself, while the perennialists (William James, Evelyn Underhill, Joseph Maréchal, William Johnson, James Pratt, Mircea Eliade, W.T. Stace, Rudolf Otto, Aldous Huxley and others) hold that mystics can escape their own conceptual backgrounds and, consequently, mystics with different cultural backgrounds can share the same experience. While in constructivists´ view the conceptual background is informative and determinative to the experience itself, perennialists find it involved solely in interpretative
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KATZ 1978: 25 GIMELO, R.M. (1978): Mysticism and Meditation, In KATZ, S., (ed.): Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, Oxford University Press 1978.

post-experience works. The experience itself is not necessarily influenced by the cultural background. It is important to note, however, that perennialists do not claim that all mystical experiences are the same. Only that there is a particular state of consciousness (called PCE Pure Consciousness Event) in which higher cognitive activities are stopped and so no pre-set interpretative schemes determine the experience. Besides this “apophatic” experience there is, undoubtedly, a vast array of visionary or “trophotropic” states. These two basic forms of alternative experiences have, as Forman understands it, their neuro-physiological basis consisting of two opposite scales of hypo- and hyper-arousals – trophotropic and ergotrophic respectively. The former states are stimulated by excitation of para-sympathetic the later by excitation of sympathetic nervous systems. 3 Forman proposes using term mysticism solely for apophatic phenomena. 4 He says that this restriction has an advantage of avoiding mixing together the states with different phenomenology, exegesis, and metabolic excitation and corresponds to original meaning of the words mystikos, mysterion etc. which are derived from Greek myo and means “to close”. Thus it concurs also to Pseudo-Dionysios´ (Areopagite) usage of the term which understands it as meaning “to close ones´ senses from the distracting multitudeness.” He proposes distinguishing these apophatic mystical states from kataphatic (ergotropic) “visionary” states. 5 Religionists and psychologists have made many attempts to categorize an evasive realm of alternative states of consciousness or religious experience during the history of religious studies. One of the basic distinctions has been made between the experience of numinous and mystical experience. (Cf. R. Otto, N. Smart and others.) The states and techniques of Buddhist meditative tradition are generally treated as instantiations of mystical experience. Ninian Smart, for example, argued that while numinous experience pertains predominantly to prophetic religions such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity, religious experiences of certain branches of Buddhism (as well as Taoism and Hinduism) are “mystical” 6 . Elaborating upon Rudolf Otto’s typology he understands numinous experience as an encounter with a being wholy other then oneself and altogether different than anything else. Traditionally, the subjects are not responsible for the occurrence
Demonstrating this concept of mysticism Forman adopts Roland Fischer’s concept of alternations of the states of consciousness, published in his article A Cartography of the Ecstatic and Meditative States, In: Science, vol. 174, No. 4012, Nov. 4 See FORMAN 1997: 7. 5 The most elucidative account of Forman’s position can be found in FORMAN 1997: 3- 53. 6 SMART N.: Reasons and Faiths: An Investigation of Religious Discourse, Christian and Non-Christian (London, Rutledge and Kegan Paul, 1958). See also SMART 1978: 13.
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by contrast. Buddhist meditative practice consists basically of two fundamental techniques concentration (P. Gimello separates Buddhist meditative experience . without wishing to subvert the intentions of a distinction like Smart’s. Samatha-bhāvanā consists of eight stages called jhānas (absorptions). It is the later of these two techniques which is the crucial soteric instrument while the former has basically supportive role and is not exclusively Buddhist meditative practice. be anticipated that these disparities are not so much between mystical experience and the Buddhist meditative experience as between mystical experience and Buddhism’s doctrinaire interpretation thereof. which is in this sense “gratuitous”. is rather an interior attainment of extraordinary state of mind than a gratuitous encounter with something “completely other”. indeed in the hope of furthering them. … It will. I think it must be recognized that there is a modicum of impression in the labeling of the most characteristically Buddhist experience and discourse mystical… However. (Gimello 1978: 173. … I would suggest that it is difficult to apply any of the widely accepted definitions or descriptions of mysticism to Buddhist praxis without the most serious reservations. . In his own words: Nevertheless.from the scale of the mystical experiences. However I think that Gimelo in pursuing his aim failed to see the common patterns and his dealing with vipassanā meditation is methodologically unsound and factually not always correct. The mystical experience.) or calmness (samatha) sometimes referred to as development of calmness (samatha-bhāvanā) and awareness or discernment (vipassanā ) called also development of discernment or wisdom (vipassanā-bhāvanā. of course. the later four are absorptions in formless realm (arūpāyatana).more precisely Buddhist vipassanā meditation . The first four are absorptions in the sphere of form (rūpāyatana). Referring to the both abovementioned conceptions R. samādhi.or extra-experiential interpretations which Buddhists place upon their meditation. paññā-bhāvanā). But I wish to argue that it is in the practice and experience of meditation itself that the distinction between mystical and meditative experience is evident.of the experience. especially of its meditation disciplines which seem not to fall neatly under the mystical rubric. not simply in the post.174) Gimelo's attempt to set Buddhist meditative tradition aside from the rubric of mystical I understand as an expression of the general constructivist plea for recognition of differences in dealing with religious experience. not all that is not numinous need to be classified as mystical and it will be shown that there are important features of Buddhism.

which replaces material kasina for the object of contemplation. turning his attention from the space to the infinite consciousness which comprises it. and concentration (vitakka. pīti. the meditator focuses his attention on nothingness (akiñcaññāyatana) that has left. samādhi and upekkhā (equanimity) which has substituted for sukha are present.The last of the purifications represents shift from the mundane (lokiya) to supermundane (lokuttara) states. happiness. samādhi). The first of the stages . The second. Not every object is fit for achieving all absorptions. The path leading toward nibbána is divided into seven stages here (The same division we can find in canonical MN. These can lead the meditator up to the all four sublime-material spheres. 8 The clearest image of Buddhist meditative soteriology we can gain from the authoritative and widely accepted work of Theravāda commentator of 5th century Buddhaghosa and his opus magnum Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification). Similarly.e. The tradition distinguishes forty such objects (kammat. Their enumeration runs as follows: Purification of View (dit. sukha. does not fit to its definitional marks which are as follows: The so called five factors of absorption (jhānanga) are: thought-conception. Vitakka and vicāra are abandoned at entering the second and pīti the third jhāna.añcāyatana).consists basically in observing 227 rules of monks´ right livelihood and lays down the ethical foundation for meditation. rapture. Purification by Knowledge and Vision of the Course of Practice (pat. Probably the most universal are the ten kasinas (specific colored discs) and breathing. 7 . Upatissa.hāna. These are: the sphere of boundless space (ākāsānañcāyatana) which the meditator attains when he stops paying attention to the nimitta and turns his attention towards the space it had occupied. until finally by abandoning the sphere of nothingness he focuses his attention and reaches the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception (nevasaññā-n’asaññāyatana) the last of the mundane jhānas. besides these factors of absorption there are also another mental factors constituting particular state of mind present. Purification by Knowledge and Vision (ñānadassana-visuddhi).. 7 The arūpa attainments have their own objects of contemplation. vicāra. Of course. Their progressive elimination leads a meditator up to the fourth jhāna in which two of the mental factors of absorption i. The Upatissa’s text now preserved only in Chinese translation served probably an inspiration to the author of Visuddhimagga. 24).Meditator achieves these sates via concentration on a particular object. On this moral basis is raised the second stage: The Purification of Mind (citta-visuddhi) which consists of eight samádhi absorptions (jhāna).ipadāñānadassana-visuddhi). Intensive concentration on the material object brings about its mental visualization (nimitta). 8 While samādhi in Gimello's view falls into rubric “mystical experience” the vipassanā. Arising of this visualization together with occurrence of the five specific mental factors are signs of achieving the first jhāna.t. Subsequently after having abandoned the consciousness as a meditation object.The Purification of Morality (sīla-visuddhi). less known but not less important work is Vimuttimagga (The Path of Freedom) a text attributed to monk living probably in first century A. he reaches the second attainment – the sphere of boundless consciousness (viññān. The remaining five stages are vipassanic ones. literally: working objects) with selective efficacy. Purification by Overcoming Doubts (kankhāvitarana-visuddhi) Purification by Knowledge and Vision of What are Path and not-Path (maggāmagga-ñānadassana-visuddhi).D. discursive thinking.t.hi-visuddhi).

) The main reason why Gimello is unwilling to label vipassanā “mysticism” lies in the fact that. its transiency (anicca).e. i. paradoxicality) An extraordinary strong affective tone. etc.g. A sense of coincidence of opposites of various kind (i.g.) or substitution for them of some “higher” or qualitatively different mode of intellect (e. is rather surprising because Gimello actually does not 9 “The supramundane cultivation consists in the review of ´truths´ of Buddhism . sublime joy. again of various kinds (e. incomparable pleasure. insubstantiality – by applying these concepts both to conventional experience and to the rarefied experience of absorptions. also mystical) experience. speculations. Then from the constructivist perspective vipassanā (as well as any other mystical experience) is a kind of “auto-suggestive” technique through which the doctrinally acknowledged worldview is being implemented into the content of one's unusual experience.suffering. discrimination. impermanence. 9 This conclusion. vipassanā (called in the passage quoted bellow “supramundane cultivation”) is aimed at discerning the characteristics of all existence – i. insubstantiality (anatta). A sense of the final inapplicability to the experience of the ordinary language (the experience is ineffable). A cessation of normal intellectual operations (e. besides this controlled one there is also a spontaneous constructive activity of mind involved in forming any experience. variously defined A strong confidence in a ´reality´ or ´objectivity´ of the experience. intuition). utter serenity.” (Gimello 1978: 186) .as recognized by Buddhist doctrine. the confidence that it is somehow revelatory of ´the truth´. etc. (Of course.e. as he argues. great fear. deduction.e. however. and uneasiness (dukkha) . the basic constructivist tenet says that culturally bounded conceptual schemes intervene and determine every (i.A feeling of oneness or unity.e. – often an unusual combination of such as these) (Gimello 1978: 178) As we have already mentioned. ratiocination.g.

as we have already mentioned. is an experience of tilakkhana should not be regarded a mystical experience. But this is not a viable way out and evidences go against such an interpretation. Note 23. Advanced Study. Only few references will be made also to the text by Dhanit YUPHO: Vipassanā-bhāvanā.197.” (GIMELLO 1978: 176) Given that. again. 10 . In his view the meditator imposes these characteristics to the experience. In other words. does so because the former are the categories that come immediately to mind. not only after the experience in moments of judicious reflection. It means that the experience of tilakkhana does not correspond to the above mentioned criteria of mystical experience. covers almost the same area as Visuddhimagga and with all probability served as a pattern or at least an inspiration for it. One could reason that there is no word of a feeling of oneness or unity characteristic to mystical experience and tilakkhana is clearly defined and verbally articulated while mystical experience is supposed to be inexpressible. On few occasions. One could argue that though vipassanic and mystical experiences are “technically” the same – they both arise as a result of the process of imposing specific conceptual background to the experience – they actually differ as to their contents.g. in other words. 10 My analysis of the Theravāda vipassanā meditation will be limited here to its presentation in Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga and Upatissa’s Vimuttimagga inasmuch Gimello himself refers to the former (GIMELLO 1978: 196. Practical Insight Meditation. that the Christian or Jewish mystic who describes his experience as communion with God rather then as a realization that God and he are one. due to specific conceptual framework involved. I will refer to Bhikkhu’s Bodhi elucidative explication of Theravāda understanding of the concept of wisdom (paññā).) and the later.believe that tilakkhana represents the set of intrinsic characteristics of all things. In this sense there is no reason to exclude vipassanā from the category of mysticism. but even in the midst of it. it is difficult to understand why an experience formed by specific conceptual framework into a form of communion with God (instead of e. being an experience of unification with God) is treated as a mystical experience but an experience which. such categories may well be the very means by which the intellect participates in and thereby informs the experience. Gimello also criticizes opinion that the experiences of different mystics could be identical because “the interpretation can be actually ingredient in experience and need not be only something added to the experience by the reflexive intellect. It may well be. Methods for Self-testing and realization of Consequences. Therefore I can not see there any difference between vipassanā technique and any kind of mysticism as it is understood by constructivists – as a process of imputing doctrinally acknowledged worldview (conceptual scheme) into a manner of perceiving the world. which is a guide for the cultivation of vipassanā as taught at Wat Mahathat in Bangkok and which follows the lines of thought presented in Visuddhimagga.

namely. i. i. relevance. the listeners immediately attained nibbāna. note 314. although the motive of not I or not Self is fundamental to Buddhist soteriology and frequent in Buddhist texts: anatta is one of tilakkhana. The term “mysticism” I (and I am sure R.a Sutta (The Discourse of Not Self) the second sermon Buddha delivered after his enlightenment. 12 See Vin. VsDM. truth etc. 36) two suttas which address the event of Siddhattha’s awakening under the bodhi tree it appears only implicitly. the complete cessation of the five aggregates and is attained by the Arhat at his death. “ Vajirañān.However. Firstly. the peak of the vipassanic experience – nibbāna “here and now” or a state of ceasing of perception and feeling (saññāvedayitanirodha) called also attainment of cessation (nirodhasamāpatti) 11 has besides it experiential also ethical and cognitive aspects. The last two are tantamount to elimination of all fetters binding one to sam. 113) etc 12 . the cessation of all mental activities. I am just following the aim to discern whether certain features usually associated with mystical experience pertain also to vipassanic phenomenology. contemplation of no-self (anattānupassanā) belongs to eighteen basic kinds of insight-knowledge (mahā-vipassanā) (cf. This is not knowing that there is not I.sāra and understanding of the Four Noble Truths respectively. 26) and Mahasaccaka Sutta (MN.e. Bhikkhu BODHI 1995: 1217. or Bhikkhu ÑĀN. disappearance of subject-object distinction call a form of oneness or unity. higher or lower status. Gimello as well) understand as a neutral label which has nothing to do with argumentations over “reality. in Ariyapariyesanā Sutta (MN. The Buddha's awakening experience itself was noetically identified with understanding of dependent origination (pat. which also explains that there is no Self transmigrating from one life- “But that which is experienced in the Nirodhasamāpatti is the state of Nirvān.a´. I would like to express my hope that the following argumentation will not be taken ideologically.a..iccasamuppāda). Surely enough.AMOLI.1218.a. before continuing. which is comparable to that of final Nirvān. of the experience. value. This experiential aspect of the state we will address later. The Four Noble Truths contain also the understanding of that there is no Self (atta). 11 . XXII. In Mahasaccaka Sutta it is said that the Buddha by his liberating experience attained knowledge of the taints (āsava) one of which is a taint of ignorance (avijjāsava).a 1975: 467.a is called ´Khandhaparinbbān.7-14. variously defined the first criterion of the Gimello's list of mystical phenomena is fulfilled. “Understanding” here does not mean an intellectual grasping or memorizing of the doctrine of Not Self (anatta) but its direct realization or experience. upon hearing Anattalakkhan. Thus if we can elimination of ego. The final Nirvān.

by the present one lives. sorrow. Ch. Nibbána. which according to commentaries is the billionth part of the time occupied by a flash of lightening. one will not live. the destruction of craving. It is hard for such a generation to see this truth namely. one did not live. is seeing the true. namely. Secondly. takes delight in worldliness. Therefore if this specific truth was gained through vipassanā practice Gimello's intention to exclude vipassanic states from the rubric mystical on the basis of absence of noetic moment remains unintelligible. dependent origination. However. Instead. 169-170 13 . tilakkhana. one is not living.is the third of the Gimello's characteristics. one will not live. dispassion. Thus all beings sink in the conscious moment. hard to see and hard to understand. flashes of actuality arising and perishing with incredible rapidity. Seeing things “as they really are”. sect. in sense that the meditator does not see „objects” with predicable attributes but rather a flux of impersonal phenomena which appear and disappear with enormous velocity. By the yet-not-become. Moreover Theravāda development of mindfulness implies doctrine of momentariness of all phenomena including phenomenon of self-identity. It is clear that in such an experience there is no room for stable immutable persisting Self (atta). In the future conscious moment one did not live. happiness and all are joined to one thought. See NYANATILOKA 1988: 86. the world dies. note M. to be experienced by the wise. one will not live only one is living. so the world's end was taught´. We have already mentioned that the peak of the experience is called also saññāvedayitanirodha or ceasing of perception/conceptualization and feeling. cessation. one is not living. which is an equivalent of cessation of “I considered: ´This Dhamma that I have attained is profound. the stilling of all formations. 26: 19) 14 As Bhikkhu Bodhi has it in his Introduction to the book Abhidhamma Studies. objective state of things. peaceful and sublime. When mind’s shattered.) It is taught in Abhidhamma thus: ´In the past conscious moment. the peak of the meditative vipassanic experience bears a sense of reality since the meditator is said to see things “as they really are” (yathābhūtam). though Buddhist doctrine does verbally explain the character of the world (the concepts of pat. this seeing “things as they are” is rather unusual “view”. specific conditionality. and their attributes. It is not a kind of hallucination – and that is the second characteristic of mystical experience in Gimello’s list. And again it is taught in this stanza: ´Life and personality. the meditator must adopt a radically phenomenological stance. 4. Thirdly. 14 Inexpressibility – as we could have seen . When this technique of “bare attention” is assiduously applied the familiar world of everyday perception dissolves into dynamic stream of impersonal phenomena. Nyanaponika 1998: xvii. attending mindfully to each successive occasion of experience exactly as it presents itself in its sheer immediacy. is inexpressible. 8. (Citta-kkhana. But this generation delights in worldliness. In the present conscious moment. As we can read in Vimuttimagga: “Nothing exists for two moments. quickly the moment passes. rejoices in worldliness. being probably the fundamental ones) the very peak of the experience. unattainable by mere reasoning. as explained bellow.iccasamuppāda. subtle. nothing is born. one did not live.existence to another 13 . entities. the meditator must learn to suspend the normal constructive synthesizing activity of mind responsible for waving the reams of immediate sensory data into coherent narrative patterns revolving around persons. Buddhist Explorations of Consciousness and Time by Nyanaponika Thera: “For wisdom or insight to arise. And it is hard for such a generation to see this truth.H. Therefore here too we can take Gimello's first characteristic of mystical experience fulfilled. the relinquishing of all acquisitions. ´” VmTM.” (MN. pp. “seeing things as they really are”. and suññatā.

anatta. Therefore Gimello’s presenting the vipassanic bare knowledge as if comparable to acquiring information of any kind and contrasting it to unusual mystical experience is inadequate. Interpreting the peak of vipassanic experience we should not fail to acknowledge subject-predicate structure of English (and Pāli and Sanskrit as well) languages and the game which this structure may play with our understanding. Overwhelming majority of Buddhists know that all things are anicca. But the scientific view should strive to find out what it means when the religious insider says that he sees the basic characteristics of the things. respectable and valuable. subject-predicate structure) is destroyed.normal intellectual operations .) Thus the situation is far from that of everyday perception of stable things bearing their qualities. Such a claim is absolutely legitimate. Hence the inexpressibility of the peak experience comes. dukkha. This apophatic experience is supposed to cause significant personal changes – an issue we will address later. a religious insider has the full right to say that he/she perceives the three characteristics of the whole existence. however. The basic structure our perception and language hangs on (i. Surely enough. Here be it anticipated that the shift in personal ethical and cognitive orientation caused by attainment of wisdom (paññā) is deeply rooted and irreversible. every one of us has an empirical experience of the world’s unstable character. In the experience of anicca there cannot be any things present inasmuch as these have dissolved into a flux of ever-changing phenomena. Therefore “all things are anicca. however it can hardly be regarded vipassanic understanding of anicca. It can hardly be compared to a personal change which one undergo upon simple getting to know that Santa Claus does not exists or that the Earth revolves around the Sun instead of being fixed in the very centre of the Universe. anatta and dukkha…” can come later as a result of the interpretation of the extraordinary rupture in everyday experience and hardly as an experience itself. Inasmuch as he interprets the experience in lines of particular religious tradition. After all. is one of the characteristics Gimello has on his list but I am not going to make a point of it here) and the relationship between an apophatic experience .the fourth items on the list of characteristics of mystical experience. anicca. But it doesn't mean they are all awakened arahants. and dukkha. It is not the case that in the state of ceasing of perception/conceptualization and feeling (saññāvedayitanirodha) the meditator sees that all things have attributes such as anatta. In other words – scientific explication should follow different “tradition”. (See note 14. the experience is apophatic. Speaking about “a noetic aspect of an inexpressible experience” may sound paradoxical (paradoxicality.e. indisputable.

letters or any other signs. pertaining to worldly attainments. impermanence. The third one is apparently the explication which adopts Buddhist Theravāda tradition. simply following the eight jhāna without any significant break between them though Visuddhimagga and Vimuttimagga clearly state that the event occurs only after one has ascended in his meditation from the worldly to superworldy realm. The apophatic experience can be a result of the process of dissolution of the ordinary objects of experience into a “rhapsody of percepts” or impersonal phenomena (dhammas) freed of selecting and synthesizing activities which higher cognitive functions of the mind usually perform over them. But one of those texts in which the state of saññāvedayitanirodha is explained as the very goal of vipassanic exercise is also Visuddhimagga. the later scholastic (abhidharma) traditions of Buddhism develop a distinction between the mundane (laukika) and the supramundane (lokottara) cultivations (bhāvanā).be similar to the dreamexperience when on dreams he/she have got an eminent idea. Gimello this apophatic aspect of vipassanic exercise completely ignores. Therefore his taking no notice of it is hardly methodologically acceptable. (See note 14. 2. The apophatic experience may act as a kind of refreshing “reset” of the thinking stereotypes. the extinction of concept and feeling) which is virtually an utter lack of consciousness and which approaches death. insubstantiality .jñāvedita-nirodha. The mundane cultivation is the practice of the eight absorptions and attainments listed above…. It stimulates new “enlightened” associations or re-formatting of habituated thinking patterns.as to its form . (GIMELLO 1978: 186). There is also no room for doubt that this state can rise solely as a result of vipassanā meditation which Gimello calls “superworldy”: “As though to confirm the subordination of calming to discernment in Buddhist meditation. The contentless apophatic experience can . The supramundane practice consists in the review of the ´truths´ of Buddhism – suffering. in this respect the experience can be regarded a stimulus for getting upon a “new knowledge”. In my view there are three possible interpretation of it: 1. has invented beautiful poem or musical composition but upon trying to get his/her artifact into the focus of his/her partly “awake consciousness”: to read the poem or analyze the idea. Moreover. He simply states that (s)ome texts speak of a still more refined anoetic transic state (sam. Indeed. Gimello's point of reference.) However. he speaks of saññāvedayitanirodha as if it was a samadhic state. 3.and any verbalized doctrine related to it is one of the most puzzling issues. he/she finds out that there is nothing to remember but a cluster of unintelligible words.

Kumarajīva’s Chinese translation of Vimalakīrtinirdeša (original text written probably in the second century translated by Kumarajīva in the fifth century) and various Zen Buddhist texts as if there was not a difference between them in regard of meditation theory and practice. (Sharf 2002: 279) 17 Though it is true as Gimello has it. In: Numen. which is clearly the last of the characteristics mentioned in the Gimello's list. Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience.H.” (Gimello op cit. which is the proximate cause of enlightenment. culturally and geographically remote from each other as Theravadin’s commentarial text Visuddhimagga (written probably in the fifth century). or its perfection as insight (prajňā).– by applying these concepts both to conventional experience and to the rarefied experiences of absorptions. One of the most serious is that despite the general constructivist “plea for the recognition of differences” he speaks about Buddhist meditation in general and quotes sources as doctrinally. historically. Yet the contrary is true: there are significant discrepancies in the opinion on meditation not only between two different traditions but even within one single tradition as well.186) See also note 9 of the present paper. Not surprisingly. 15 Stopping of perception and feeling is in Theravāda exposition equated with a state of emotional equanimity (upekkhā) 16 . Beside this main point. there are also some minor inaccuracies influencing Gimello's argumentation. not śamatha or samādhi . Inability of the ordinary language to fit to the extraordinary experience led authors of Theravāda commentarial literature to making clear distinction between ordinary language (vohāra-vacana) and higher (paramattha) language only capable to convey the content of the mystical experience. 16 15 . it is discernment. even bliss is supersede by equanimity or tranquility of mind. … The differences among the various regiments of Buddhist meditation do not put this in question See Nyanatiloka 1988: 235. So the peak of vipassanic experience as described in authoritative meditative manuals of Theravāda tradition clearly fulfills the criteria Gimello puts on mystical experience. that in all versions of the stories of Buddha's life and in all systematic curricula of meditation. 42 (3). the same is found to be true in Japanese Zen. Chinese translation of Asanga’s Abhidharmasamuccaya (written in the fourth century). „However. which might be called the psychologically dominant quality of the enlightened consciousness “ (King 1992: 24) 17 For detailed account see R. Sharf (1995). at a higher-level jhāna. This distinction is based on Sutta distinction between explicit meaning (nītattha) and implicit meaning (neyyattha).: 185. As Sharf puts it: “(t)here is simply not public consensus in the contemporary Theravāda community as to the application of terms that allegedly refers to discrete experiential states.

36 suggests that just before the final attainment he passed successively through the four jhānas. 19 18 . paññā). (See MN. the oldest section of Suttanipāta .36. (the period represented by the oldest scriptures in the section of the Pārāyana) as the logical conclusion of the teaching advocating freedom from clinging.sāric or worldly (lokiya) realm is brought about by vipassanā technique. The texts which.277.sāra which is to be transcended.ārā Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta.32) Highly useful in this context is Hajime Nakamura’s argumentation 18 that older layers of the Buddhist canon present as the soteric goal those samatha (!!!) attainments which the later parts ascribed to Siddhattha’s teachers Al. 26/ and Mahāsaccaka Sutta /MN. and which – according to Ariapariyesanā Sutta and Mahāsaccaka Sutta . accompanied by samādhi events. though M. But neither of the two suttas tells us what was the technique which led Siddhattha toward the final liberation. prajñā. … A.the most ancient Buddhist text . opposite to Gimello’s and probably commonly accepted view it was not always vipassanā meditation which conveyed this soteric knowledge (S.37) Vipassanā meditation is absent also in the canonical description of the Buddha's last moments before his parinibbána though these were in the same way as the moments before his awakening. The transcendence of the sam.Sakyamuni utterly dismissed as mundane (lokiya) states subordinate to attainment of nibbána and other supermundane (lokuttara) states. 34.(Gimello 1978: 185). to my knowledge. (See MN. 36. 19 As Hajime Nakamura puts it: In the initial stage of Early Buddhism.and At.t. Development of samādhi was his turning point towards attainment of the final liberation. The last two of arūpa absorptions (Sphere of Nothingness and Sphere of Neither Perception nor Nonperception) are the samādhi attainments which in Parāyāna. In both cases the canon depicts the Buddha progressively passing through successive stages of concentration (jhānas). says more about the technique Siddhattha used just before his awakening is are commentarial Saddhammapakāsinī and Vissudhimaga. There is no mention of vipassanā meditation in the two suttas that describe Buddha's awakening under the bodhi tree (already mentioned Ariyapariyesanā Sutta /MN. the state of non-existence was a goal and for that purpose Hajime Nakamura 1979: 269. However the traditional Buddhist exposition places them into the sphere of sam.hakavagga respectively occur as the very soteric goals advocated by the Buddha. 31. P. The importance of samādhi meditation treated by the later Buddhist tradition sotericaly secondary can be seen in the fact that it was exactly Siddhattha’s remembrance of his childhood’s experience of spontaneous entering the samādhi state (jhāna) that took him away from the way of fruitless asceticism. 36/).

meditation was practiced. placed respectively at the third and fourth deva heavens of Arūpa Dhātu.t. (represented by the At. It was marked by strong resolution to find the answer on the question of suffering. This is probably due to the fact that if they were to advocate views such as ´there is no thought´ or ´nothing exists´ they would be mistaken as nihilists.H. This stage was known as saññā vimokkha (deliverance from thought) However. The Jains also posited this ideal goal. middle-way. the concept of non-existence was attributed to Ál. In this manner.) attributed to Uddaka. This situation was quite similar to the time when Mahāyāna Buddhism rose as a contrast to Hīnayāna.haka section) they advanced one step further and began to consider the ultimate state as neither the existence nornonexistence of thought. while Buddhism itself set forth new views. If we can rely in this point on the canonical depiction. all this might have left imprints on his final liberating experience. the Buddha’s own spiritual development was unique. .274) No doubt it is one of the most striking points of Buddhist soteriology because the development of awareness or vipassanā bhāvanā features in later parts of the Buddhist canon as condition sine qua non of attaining the final goal (nibbāna). the concepts of the periods A and B were no longer acceptable to the contemporary people and new ideas became necessary. the development was formalized in the Majjhima Nikāya and despite the fact that the theories of nonexistence and thoughtless-thought were originally Buddhist. they were now considered non-Buddhist and applied to the framework of the four Arūpa Dhātu meditations. The most significant of the changes Siddhattha made on his path was a complete abandonment of asceticism and pain-causing meditative techniques and embracing moderate. long-lasting effort and several radical changes in his meditation exercise. which they sought to avoid. son of Rāma. Indeed. style in both his livelihood and meditation-exercise. when Buddhism evolved and entered into a second period of Early Buddhism: B. When Buddhism underwent dramatic evolution (in the post-Aśoka period or possible after the reign of King Nanda). (NAKAMURA 1979: 273.ára Káláma and the theory of thoughtless-thought (the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. As a result. note M.

Sure. with logical necessity) “higher” or “purer”. Without making evaluative (higher-lower. We can understand that e. As for the hierarchy within the realm of samādhi states. it does not mean that it also reflects anything experiential. Shortly.g. but with the fourth jhāna the situation takes different course. samādhi). the second jhāna is more sublime then the first jhāna due to absence of “gross” mental factors vitakka and vicāra in the former and that the third jhāna is even more sublime because rapture present in the first two jhānas does not occur here. according to texts remains constituted of two factors of absorption (upekkhā. I am not quite sure about phenomenological criteria which would allow for 1. Starting with the fourth jhāna the mind. and as such it should not be accepted unrestrictedly. .lower” interpretative prism. making distinction between them and 2. even though this “higher-lower” distinction is generally taken for granted in Buddhist texts and is canonically based. claiming their hierarchical arrangement.So it is quite plausible to hypothesize that for certain time of developing Buddhist path there was an uncertainty about how to convey the teaching and what technique to use to stimulate the liberating experience in his followers. Indeed. But this is evaluative religious and not impartial scientific classification. does not imply that the results of this technique leads to achievement of states which are inevitably (i. What changes is the object of meditation not the constitution of the mind. There is no reason to think that the states themselves have somehow hierarchical structure. the doctrinal presentation of vipassanā as a technique or instrument to work over the samādhi states made Gimello to see samādhi – vipassanā relation through “upper . No doubt constructivists´ unwillingness to acknowledge the difference between experience and its interpretation makes them widely open to such an erroneous conclusion.e. But such a conclusion is not selfevident and in my opinion also incorrect. A canonical accountteach us that in case of the Buddha’s five co-searchers it was “mere” listening to the Dhamma without specific meditation technique involved which brought about their enlightenment. expressed in Buddhist literature by a neat list of constitutive mental factors. within the sole sequence of rūpa jhānas we do can find a criterion of sublimity of the states or at least a key to its understanding. Higher and lower states In Gimello's view the vipassanic states coming out as results of scrutiny of samādhi states defined as “mystical” are ipso facto meta-mystical. pureprofane) distinction we can be safe concluding that the fact that vipassanā technique uses samādhi states as its working objects.

Admittance of an absolute. But though some canonical and commentarial passages suggest such a relation. 26: 30. would mean adherence to doctrine of annihilation. severely criticized by Buddhists. sect. it is exactly neurophysiologic or psychological quantitative processing of experimental data and inter-disciplinary analysis of mystical experiences. Could there be another path to enlightenment? ´ I considered: ´I recall that when my father the Sakyan was occupied.Therefore the sequence of arūpa states subsequent to the fourth jhāna lacks the autophenomenological description of the mind constituents supporting its hierarchical structure. Though there can be seen some logical structure behind the hierarchical depiction of the arūpa states I am not sure about its claimed experiential correlation. Sure enough. Could there be another path to enlightenment? ´ MN.g. 10. 8. Moreover. why (if we stick to pure phenomenology) e. advocated by perennialists. another does not support it. If any. secluded from unwholesome states. less numerous set of passages that describe or allude to the formless meditations apart from the four jhānas .31 20 . while I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree. Ch. Finally. Moreover. complete non-existence nihil – (asat). Then. 22 Therefore Siddhattha and his two teachers were able to attain these states without having attained the lower jhānas before! In my understanding there is not a way to reconcile this fact with the general claim of hierarchical structure of samādhi states. considered the grossest one. which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. in my opinion. whose attainment the formless meditations make possible. it is not easy to see. the plane of nonexistence (ākiñcaññāyatana) is more sublime then plane of boundless space (ākāsānañcāyatana) the first of arūpa planes. how to distinguish (on phenomenological level) between empty space and nothingness? 20 Not mentioning the fact that “nothingness” in sense of complete annihilation of being is a concept which Buddhist doctrine does not admit. a third set of passages portrays the joining of the four jhānic attainments and the four formless meditationsin a continuous series of states climaxing in nirodha-samāpatti. At least our ordinary concepts of empty space and nothingness does not allow for postulating any distinction between them on phenomenological basis. I entered upon and abided in the first jhāna. which could suggest a “hierarchical” arrangement of the states. 21 W. whose attainment supposedly makes possible the attainment of the formless meditations and also apart from nirodha-samāpatti. King observes that apart from canonical passages mentioning four subtle-material jhānas „(t)here is also another. Mahasaccaka Sutta teaches us that Siddhattha recalled his childhood experience and subsequently took up samādhi training after his ascetic period and split with Al. a non-quantitative way to presuppose hierarchical structure of the states can be maintained by taking some states as a prerequisite for the others. VsDM.“ (King 1992: 15) 22 “´But by this racking practice of austerities I have not attained any superhuman states. any distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones.ārā Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta who taught “higher” arūpa samādhic states. Therefore Friedrich Heller proposes that the higher jhānas be “Yogic For the commentarial explanation of the arūpa attainments see VmTM. the texts related to the Siddhattha’s liberating experience mention neither arūpa jhānas nor saññavedayitanirodha. 21 Besides. quite secluded from sensual pleasures. 2. Ch.

If there is a fundamental substantival distinction between samādhi and vipassanā practice as Gimello on the basis of Buddhist texts stresses then samādhic arūpa states can not bring about liberating experience of understanding the Four Noble Truths. . As for the distinction between particular vipassanic attainments listed as a sequence of five purifications starting with the Purification of View (dit. invariable. And as we have already mentioned. On the subsequent stage the meditator experiences nine specific phenomena (nine insights) such as awareness of terror. Die Buddhistische Versenkung. By the following he “understands” their mutual conditioning while the next purification (Purification by Knowledge and Vision of What are Path and not-Path (maggāmagga-ñānadassana-visuddhi)) leads him to realize what is and what is not the right path towards nibbāna. See bellow.hi-visuddhi) up to the seventh purification . Munich: Reinhardt. mental and material (or form) behind which there is no any Self (atta) lurking. The last flash brings the experience of nirodhasamāpatti (saññavedayitanirodha) and the state of arahatship.) they are stages of “understandings” the particular aspects of the doctrine. These according to the Buddhist doctrine are attainable exclusively via vipassanā method. If however vipassanā meditation originated later as an instrument of making the character of reality revealed by the Buddha accessible also to his followers the 23 F. particular personal changes.iccasamuppāda. and VmTM. All purifications however. serve as a springboard to the four specific flashes of unusual suprerworldy experiences which occur on the seventh stage. and VsDM. 23 Thus we can not take the succession of the states immutable and the traditional structure as represented in VsDM.superimposition” upon the “four original” Buddhist jhānas.e. These particular understandings – as it is presented in VmTM. contemplation of aversion or desire for deliverance etc. tilakkhana and pat.t. i. The main distinguishing marks between these flashes of consciousness consist in their post-experiential effects – i. N/A. These convert a man progressively to four types of noble person.e. On the first of them (The Purification of View) the meditator gets aware of the fact that all existence consists of two basic categories of phenomena – nāma and rūpa. one of the most striking things about Buddhist soteriology is that there is no word of vipassanā in the suttas which describe events under the bodhi tree. HEILER.raise either in consequence of application of particular doctrinal tenets into experienced events or mental contemplation of the three characteristics of whole existence.Purification by Knowledge and Vision (ñānadassana-visuddhi) (See note 8. Quoted in King 1996: 15 .

C. one’s attention is progressively available to sense its own quiet interior character more and more fully. non-dualistic and dualistic. as I understand them.vipassanic experiential content must have been present somehow in samādhic states (and it is important to note: not only in one specific samādhi state but in a series of states) and the strict demarcation between vipassanā and samādhi is a result of the later doctrinal development of Buddhism. objects and other people. Also his identification of mysticism with solely trophotropic states is rather reductionistic. . (PCE) 24 presented by Forman. The de-intensifying of emotional attachments means that. Upatissa’s Vimuttimagga and Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga were clearly written from the standpoint of already established doctrine and determined expectations on the results of the meditative exercise. “ (FORMAN 1998: 90). That is. The second shift is described as a perceived unity of one’s own awareness per se with the objects around one. Buddhist meditative experience is not a homogenous event “In sum. UMS. until eventually one is able to effortlessly maintain a subtle cognizance of one’s own awareness simultaneously with thinking about and responding to the world: a reduction in the relative intensity of all of one’s thoughts and desires. Perennialists Though. sensations and actions. Now. States akin to this have been called ‘extrovertive-’ or sometimes ‘nature-’ mysticism.. In this account he expands the category of “mystical” from pure enstatic transic states to Dualistic Mystical States and Unitive Mystical States. 25 See Forman 1997: 7. Because of its phenomenological dualism — a heightened cognizance of awareness itself plus a consciousness of thoughts and objects — I call it the dualistic mystical state (DMS). over the years. But this probably was not a situation of early Buddhism.” (ANDRESEN. It strips apophatic experience of its genuine context. but I prefer to call it the unitive mystical state. Buddhist meditation can be treated as an instance of mystical experience. 24 . advanced mystical experiences result from the combination of regular PCEs plus a minimization of the relative intensity of emotions and thoughts. even while engaged in thought and activity — one remains aware of one’s own awareness while simultaneously remaining conscious of thoughts. the variety of its phenomenological expression escapes the rather narrow definition of mystical experience as a state of consciousness deprived of phenomenological attributes and content. In his What Does Mysticism Have to Teach Us about the Consciousness R. Forman say on apophatic-kataphatic distinction in their foreword to their book: “In our diagram we have separated two distinct kind of religious experience. His explanation of these two states runs as follows: “The first is an experience of a permanent interior stillness. the PCE may be defined as a wakeful but contentless (non-intentional) experience. Forman nevertheless offers a specification of his understanding of mystical experience. over time one decreases the compulsive or intense cathexis of all of one’s desires. FORMAN 2002: 12). as I have tried to show.. 25 Exclusion of the visionary states – even though it helps to clean the area somehow – provides us with a rather inadequate picture of meditative experience.“ (FORMAN 1998: 186) But if Dualistic Mystical State is to be included within the scope of mystical experiences and only apophatic states are to be called mystical than it does not conform with what Jensine Andresen and Robert K. an immediate sense of a quasi-physical unity between self. roughly apophatic and kataphatic forms of spirituality.

(Newberg and d’Aquili 2002: 256) If we take a closer look on the process of vipassanā-bhāvanā as described in Vimuttimagga. as one moves along one of the continua he/she takes sporadic side-steps into the opposite continuum. resolution (adhimokkha) 7. This happens not only at the peak of the both scales of the states as the Fischer’s diagram and Forman in his Mysticism. overlapping or short excursions to the opposite ergotropic (i.adassana-visuddhi).e. The list of them runs as follows: 1. but they can be complementary to each other under certain conditions. ” (Newberg and d’Aquili 2002: 255) In addition to Hypertrophotropic and Hyperergotropic states when respective systems are exceptionally high the authors recognize three additional states: Hypertrophotropic State with Ergotropic Eruption.53) present it but also on the lower stages of hyper. One of the most noticeable are so called The Ten Imperfections of Insight (vipassanūkkilesa) appearing at the stage which Buddhist tradition calls Purification by Knowledge and Vision of What is Path and not-Path (Maggāmagga-ñān. Constructivism. Newberg and d’Aquili correctly pointed out that “(t)he ergotropic and trophotropic systems have often been described as ´antagonistic´ to each other. (Newberg and d’Aquili 2002: 255. illumination (obhāsa) 2.describable as “contentless mind” nor does the succession of alternative states of consciousness leading to the final state of saññāvedayitanirodha consist of a strand of clearly determined blocks without any significant ruptures.256) They also remark that “it is difficult to test such a hypothesis due to the difficulty of isolating these experiences”.and hypo. knowledge (ñāna) 3. Hyperergotropic State with Trophotropic Eruption which are states of “hyperactivation of one system with spillover into excitation of the other system” and also a state of maximal stimulation of both the ergotropic and trophotropic systems.arousals. exegesis and metabolic excitation. and Forgetting (FORMAN 1997: 3. rapturous happiness (pīti) 4. kataphatic) realm. Visuddhimagga or the texts based on them we will find that the practice leads to various states which clearly show intermingling of kataphatic and apophatic phenomena. happiness (sukha) 6. tranquility (passaddhi) 5. Though the states situated on ergotrophic and trophotropic scales have opposite characteristics. exertion (paggaha) .

tranquility. sukha) are even the ones having been abandoned on “lower” samādhi stages. p. knowledge. I think we are at least safe now concluding that a vipassanā practitioner experiences phenomena of mystical (in Gimello's sense) as well as visionary (in Forman's sense) kind. Achievement of the first jhāna is characterized by occurrence of the abovementioned five factors of absorption (jhānanga. 40. Theravāda meditative manuals frequently speak on visions of buddhas. arms. Besides. (See note 7. Though the analysis of a particular states of vipassanic attainments as described in Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga is of high importance and for the due treatment needs room which exceeds this study.) Moreover the effulgence of light is not the only hallucinative or visionary experience a vipassanic meditator passes through. Visualizations actually form an important part of samādhi exercise as well.” (YUPHO 1988: 86) For further descriptions see YUPHO op. “Sometimes during the Sitting Meditation with closed eyes. back of the hands. before the stage of the ten defilements. see note 7) as well as so called acquired sign (uggahanimitta) which is a vivid mental replica of material object of contemplation. a skeleton or ghosts etc.e. cit. ” (YUPHO 1988: 81) “For instance while the meditator is performing the Insight Meditation with closed eyes. equanimity (upekkhā) 10.8. black and eminent. 26 In Thailand for example such visions as a number in the sky may sometimes be interpreted as divinatory experiences revealing the lucky lottery numbers etc. pīti.t. like a figure in a dark space. happiness and equanimity that is to say those phenomena which Gimello has on his list. Biography of Achan Mun by Achan Mahā Boowa speaks of a vision of Thus the context of any particular meditative state which is actually set in an interplay. body. mindfulness (upat. And some of them (i. especially the cheek flesh. This should be duly acknowledged instead of cramming empirical evidence into Procrustean bed of favorite theories.e. visions of light occur during the practice of vipassanā training even on lower stages of attainments i. 26 .hāna) 9. he or she sees his or her skeleton sit with crossed legs. faces. legs. occurring at certain point of vipassanic practice. the conditions appearing reveal that his or her body becomes rotten and gradually inflated until it swells like a bloating corpse … For many times it appears that the meditator’s body gradually bloats at the abdomen. insteps. attachment (nikanti) We can see that among the vipassanā inducted phenomena there are present also effulgence of light. overlapping and sequential arrangement of various mental events deserves close attention.

They are rendered imperfections because they are taken by a meditator to be the path and fruition of the meditation and thus “he takes what is not the path to be the path and what is not fruition to be fruition. we find that scriptures upon which the vipassana revival is based (primarily the two Satipatthana-suttas and the Visuddhimagga) are often ambiguous or inconsistent. it should be looked for not in the realm of techniques or specific states of consciousness attainable by them but probably in personal (emotional. and axiological) changes the state cause.25. For example. … All contemporary Theravāda meditation masters accept the canonical categories outlined above (that of samatha/samādhi It. 36: 18. XX. 123) Thus they become a basis for defiling attachment: And here illumination. and contemporary vipassana teachers are frequently at odds with each other over the interpretation of key terms. however. however. etc. 27 . XX. 28 MN.” (VsDM. are in Buddhist milieu highly praised sotericaly valuable states: knowledge. and equanimity. cognitive. if we were to ask for a criterion which would allow us to presume in this variety of phenomena single liberating experience common to whole Buddhist Theravāda tradition. He drops his basic meditation subject and sits just enjoying the attachment.As for the vipassanūkkilesa an important point here is that some of these phenomena. 27 Actually some of the techniques used by contemporary Theravāda masters seem to be in discordance even with the very Buddhist canon. are called imperfections because they are the basis for imperfection. as we could have seen above. (VsDM. Now. not because they are (kammically) unprofitable. though called “imperfections”. the course of his insight is interrupted. the technique of famous Burmese master Sunlun Sayadaw presupposes an intense painstaking breathing causing intensive bodily pain which subsequently becomes an object of inspecting awareness. though Buddha deprecated any meditative technique that causes pain 28 and during ānāpānasati (a meditation based on observing in-and-out-breathing) one should breathe normally. As Sharf puts it “On closer inspection. But attachment is both an imperfection and the basis for imperfection. is not to say that there are no specific states demonstrating classificatory significant characteristics. assurance. 124) Thus not the phenomena themselves but their interpretation and approach (attachment) to them are undesirable.. resolution/awareness.

Sotāpanna.sāra.yojana) which binds one to the circle of sam.yojana) or roots (mūla) of unwholesome attitudes. The later parts of canon (DN. samatha is used to designate the techniques and experiences promoted one's own competitors. desire for eternal existence /bhāvāsava/.). craving for immaterial existence (arāpa-rāga). sensual desire /kāmāsava/. we can say with Sharf. that the value of meditation taken over the Theravāda Buddhist tradition does consist in its capacity to eradicate or suppress these phenomena which are in Buddhist Theravāda literature variously called taints (āsavas). VmTM Ch. 2.279) Yet this multitudeness of meditative traditions is not without a universal pattern which as we have said consists mainly in a meditation’s efficacy.) Though arahantship is generally accepted as elimination of all the ten fetters its achievement is in the contemporary Theravāda tradition not always connected with attainment . ignorance /avijjāsava/. while vipassana is reserved for one's own teachings. Vipassanā meditation serves as a unique means to achievement of the four successive ´noble attainments´ (ariya-phala) which progressively eradicate the fetters and consequently convert a practitioner to a particular noble person (ariya-puggala) until reaching of the final goal. Even samādhi with its lower soteric efficacy attributed to by Theravāda tradition is a means to suppress the unwholesome phenomena.t. there is little if any consensus among them as to the application of these key terms. 16) and para-canonical literature add the fourth – dit. On contrary the designation of particular techniques and the identification of the meditative experience that result from them are subjects of continued and often acrimonious debate. D.t.hāsava. i. skeptical doubt (vicikicchā). Sakadāgāmi. despite the fact that these masters have ´tasted the fruits´ of practice. X. sect. 13.H. But curiously. Thus. As Nyanatiloka points out “the state of Arahatship is frequently called āsvakkhaya. Since all agree that vipassana leads to liberation while samatha does not. The first of the Noble persons. (Sharf 2002: 272) The most frequent enumeration of taints (āsavas) found in the Sutta Pitaka lists 1.and vipassanā. 67. craving for fine-material existence (rāpa-rāga). is freed from personality-belief (sakkāyadit. note M. 33. conceit (māna). eliminates grosser forms of sensuous craving (kāma-rāga) and ill-will (vyāpāda) whose Anāgāmī eradicates the utterly and Arahant is one who is freed of all fetters including the last five ones. IX. The second one. and 3. 68. clinging to mere rules and rituals (sīlabbata parāmāsa). More often than not the categories are used polemically to disparage the teachings of rival teachers. a taint of wrong view. 12. (See AN.” (Sharf 2002: 278. restlessness (uddhacca) and ignorance (avijjā).e. the destruction of the cancers. etc.” (NYANATILOKA 1988: 54) The canon also recognizes ten fetters (sam. 2. fetters (sam.hi).

For example the tradition of so called “dynamic” vipassanā meditation. Persisting presence of anger –erupting unexpectedly from its latent state where it was temporarily expelled to. As we could have seen these might differ in important aspects. Gimello's interpretation though rightly intended on paying respect to vipassanic specifics within the context of mystical experience failed to acknowledge the variety of Buddhist meditative tradition as well as the commonalities of vipassanā and “mystical experience” as this is generally defined. Interesting point might be that though elimination of all the three roots is unequivocally stated as attainment of the final goal. monks and laymen. before attempting for any generalizations we should make clear if we are going to talk about Buddhist scriptural or living tradition. strongly opposes to the necessity of any transic achievements. And as we have already seen there is no mention of such a special state in the two important suttas (MN. according to my findings. Superficial correspondence of basic categories can comprise rich phenomenological variety. However the main aim of even this practice is defined as eradication of the three mūlas. commentarial literature or texts based on both.appeared during my field work as a recurrent motive to made practitioners to abandon their previous training and search for a new teacher. 36). of the three especially anger or ill-will occurs. As for the living tradition the approach of the masters to the scriptural prescriptions is an important issue. on one of them or if we are to talk about an independent sprout.g. as the most frequent motivation for setting for to the path of the liberation among followers of Loo-ang Poor Teean. There are schools which put strong emphasis on study of Abhidhamma literature before taking up and during the course of the meditation while in the same time there are masters who discourage an adept to read any book after having started with the practice. There is a strong need to distinguish also between various meditative traditions and further between various meditative branches within them. Conclusion Not only mysticism and meditation treated “as such” are rather blurring concepts. . And within both of them further specifications are needed to determine if we are to deal with canonical or e. However these are only the basic points. the main Thai protagonist being Loo-ang Poor Teean (1911-1988) who is said to have reached the end of suffering in the eight month of 1957. 26 and MN.of the state of saññāvedayitanirodha as Visuddhimagga and Vimuttimagga describe it. As for the Buddhist contemplative practices.

this closeness of the both opposite types of alternations of consciousness appears not only in literature based on Visuddhimagga and Vimuttimagga but also on the rather independent meditation practices such as already mentioned dynamic meditation. replaced from subjective to objective side of the world. there is an important point of not getting locked in the idea of culture-specific private languages of the mystics describing their experience in their approach. But based on the mentioned texts we can also conclude that vipassanic technique consists in learning of seeing the world through the doctrinally approved prism. In any case all these. As for the perennialists. at least not explicitly. This offers rich comparative material for perennial analysis. dhātu etc. attributing of Buddhist doctrinal categories such as khandha. and it is an important point. . But if we take such authoritative texts as Visuddhimagga or Vimuttimagga as a representatives of meditation as understood by scriptural Theravada Buddhist tradition we can not but admit that the goal of vipassanic technique is a transic (or better enstatic) state of stopping all emotionality and perception. They are. investigations of the realm of Buddhist meditation invite for both the recognition of differences as well as the sense for commonalities. Yet.Though Gimello himself warns against simplifications he also clearly failed to concede that despite apparent similarity in employed categories there is no unanimity in their interpretation and to talk about Buddhist meditation “as such” is rather tricky business. an also the other. emotions and ideas so that these converts from subjective impulsions for bodily and mental activity to mere objects of attentions. Not unimportant in this respect is the issue of the impact of meditation on the personal changes. Vipassanā meditation as described in the two authoritative meditation manuals visibly shows penetration of apophatic and kataphatic phenomena. Such a technique does not require. To offer the more complex picture we must stress that in contemporary Theravāda (especially Thai and Burmese) tradition there is plenitude of teachers who teach development of awareness of all bodily sensations. as if to say. any perennial or cross-cultural model should take into consideration phenomenological variety of religious experiences. which is the point stressed by constructivists. This is regarded tantamount to acquiring paññā or liberating wisdom as well as to elimination of all emotional defilements. equivalent to PCE as perennialists understand it. to the experienced reality. Actually.

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