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Chủ đề: (6.2) Theravada - Thought-Process and Nimitta  (Đọc 3925 lần)
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Before starting with the ‘Mindfulness Meditation with a Subject in Front of Ajna’ (PAE), one needs to learn about the structure, operation, and karmic formation of a thought-process. These concepts are explained in Abhidhamma or Abhidhammattha Sangaha.

The following example is to demonstrate a thought-process under the microscope of Abhidhamma. A key is dropped on a table, which makes a clink sound. Almost as soon as we hear the clink sound, a thought arises in our mind as “That is the sound of a key dropping on the table”. Yet, when closely analyzing this event based on Abhidhamma, we will see that by the time we have that thought, the thought-process has run through five stages as below:
(1) Start from the ‘Bhavanga’ stream (the indispensable consciousness of life), which is vibrated and arrested by the sound.
(2) Enter our sense doors (eye, ear, and mind in this case).
(3) Sense, receiving, investigating, and determining consciousnesses arise and cease in that order to receive and analyse information about the object.
(4) Javanas are now conditioned (albeit slightly in this example) and hence run for a maximum of seven thought-moments.
(5) After the Javana (impulsion) process is the registering consciousness, which lasts for two thought-moments. 

Thus this entire thought-process has travelled from subtle consciousness (1, 2, 3, and 4) to gross consciousness (5) and ended within seventeen thought-moments.

A thought-process will create karma if it is strong enough, i.e., from stages 2 to 5. A thought-process will not create karma if it is not strong enough, i.e., it stops at stage 1. To achieve liberation and its associated wisdom, we must try to bring tranquillity not only down to the Bhavanga level but also past it.

The Bhavanga flow is the early part of subtle consciousness. Its continuous vibration makes it difficult for us to silence it. It is like a movie created from a series of last thought moments right before we died in our previous reincarnations. It is the Bhavanga flow that quietly guides our actions and emotions in this life resulting in the never-ending performance of karma. With this, we have more than enough reasons to embark on a journey from ignorance to liberation via right concentration. This journey is not for geniuses, but for those who are persistent and perseverant and those who are keen to learn about liberation and liberated knowledge.


Nimittas are images that cultivators see when they concentrate on a kasina, with or without closing their eyes. They often happen in a meditation practice. During access-concentration, nimittas often appear with three characteristics:
▪ Sudden
▪ Unforeseen
▪ Not having a particular theme

A typical thought-process in this stage is comprised of ten thought-moments, with seven basic thought-moments [3] and three thought-moments in the Javana process: Preparation (Parikamma), Adaptation (Anuloma), Approximation (Upacāra). The three Javana thought-moments represent access-concentration.
+ Preparation: Sensations observed on the body while concentrating on the kasina in front of the ajna. The cultivator’s gross mind is expressed via these sensations.
+ Adaptation: Seeing different colors when concentrating on the kasina in front of the ajna. These are also manifestations of the cultivator’s gross mind.
+ Approximation: The concentration is strong enough to visualize the image, or smell the aroma of the beings in the Sensuous Sphere.


When a cultivator enters the preparatory thought-moment, he/she starts to have some of the following sensations in the body: enlarging, shrinking, tilting, oscillating, tingling, exploding (accompanied by a lightning), drowsing (whole or part of the body). These nimittas are manifestations of the cultivator’s gross mind (or temperaments) during the early stage of purification.
▪ Enlarging – having a big ego.
▪ Shrinking – feeling lowly or inferior.
▪ Tilting – being biased in comments or criticism. This feeling could also be due to the magnetic field at the practice place. If so, face a slightly different direction after each session until the most comfortable direction is found. Note the clockwise rotation when changing direction.
▪ Oscillating – being indecisive or shilly-shally.
▪ Tingling and exploding – having aversion or anger.
▪ Drowsing – being ignorant. It could also be tiredness. If drowsiness happens after a good sleep, it is definitely due to ignorance.


The cultivator’s gross mental qualities are manifested in color-based nimittas, not bodily nimittas as above. Since they still belong to access-concentration, they possess the same characteristics described before: sudden,unforeseen, andwithout any particular theme. The following are color-based nimittas and their associated mental qualities of the cultivator.
▪ A patch of light blue – being calm, collected, and fond of reading.
▪ A patch of red or orange – having a hot temperament.
▪ A patch of mixed colors – loving mystic martial arts, being indecisive, shilly-shally, and doubtful in a passive way (because of not trying to resolve the doubtful thoughts).
▪ A flash-like light of mixed colors going from left to right – being doubtful in a positive way.

Anyone with multiple temperaments and mental qualities can experience both types of nimittas: sensation-based and color-based.

Nimittas that characterize this thought-moment include a left eye, falling flowers, crawling people, voices, fragrance, foul odor, or lab smell.

After a while of mindfulness on some concept of ‘emptiness’, relaxation, or detachment, the gross level of consciousness become somewhat purified and sensitive enough to detect subtle vibrations from the invisible world. The above nimittas show up uninvitedly as a result of interactions at a certain level of tranquillity or voidness. Note that there are various levels of tranquillity depending on a meditator’s cultivation attainment. In addition, it is not appropriate to say that a certain tranquil mind is also an illusion-mind because the concept of tranquillity is not known and experienced in the first place).

The first three nimittas in the above list are from the realm of Paranimmitavasavattī. [4] A special note should be given to the nimitta of falling flowers, which can easily be mistaken as a holy scene of Shakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma discourse often mentioned in Mahayana texts. An example of such a scene is described  in the Lotus Sutra: ‘He then taught the bodhisattvas the Mahayana sutra called Immeasurable Meanings (Mahānirdeśa), the instruction for the bodhisattvas and the treasured lore of the buddhas… Māndārava and great māndārava flowers, mañjūṣaka and great mañjūṣaka flowers then fell like rain from the sky, scattering upon the Buddha and all of his attendants; and the whole buddha world quaked in six ways.’ [5] Tibu fell in this trap for a long time (1977–1983).

Nimittas of hearing voices and smelling odours indicate that the cultivator’s mind has become more peaceful that it can detect these subtle vibrations.
▪ Paranimmitavasavattī devas – sweet scent like the one from cakes, or fragrance like the one from flowers. However, these smells are quite strong and heavy.
▪ Ghosts and spirits – foul odor, burnt or lab smell.
▪ Vajra protectors – smell like agarwood (of high quality).

 Dangers

+ If the cultivator keeps experiencing these visions or odors for a while, he/she may be subject to the influence of the invisible world and the enlargement of ego, which is because of two reasons:
   o When the cultivator seeks consultation from some other practitioners, no one is able to give a satisfactory answer, which makes him/her think that only he/she has reached a sublime stage of mind. Those who see the nimitta of falling flowers often like to engage in charity or almsgiving work in a supercilious fashion.
   o Since others apparently do not see the same thing, the cultivator thinks that he/she has made a great progress and moved far ahead of them.

So, be careful not to fall into these traps. Many of them are created by the Paranimmitavasavattī devas, who are often known as children of the Mara, the Evil One, by meditation masters.

+ Another danger of seeing the color-based nimittas is the cultivator may think he/she has successfully acquired the Wisdom Eye (Prajñā Cakṣu). Tibu can say for sure: It is definitely not! Here are why.
   o The cultivator cannot control this vision. This is a test: While the cultivator is seeing something as above, try to visualize the road leading to his/her house and count the number of trees on that road. This test is absolutely not achievable at this stage of purely proximate concentration. Of course, he/she could easily perform this test with the true Wisdom Eye.
   o Moreover, if it is Wisdom the cultivator must know why he/she sees these nimittas and which realms they are associated with. This wisdom happens as soon as a nimitta appears. This detail is very important. When you meet someone and that person claims he/she has opened the Wisdom Eye, but he/she talks in a fashion similar to a fortune teller, i.e., lengthy, beating about the bush, and without any assertion. Such claim is false. A person with the true Wisdom Eye talks concisely, accurately, and assertively.

2.2.4. THE CHANGE OF LINEAGE (Gotrabhū)

At this stage, the cultivator’s mind goes through a significant change in the following ways.
▪ Instead of passively applying some concept of emptiness to the mind (and experiencing the above undesired nimittas), the cultivator works his/her mind with a purpose: visualizing the image of a kasina in front of his/her ajna. The kasina can be chosen by the cultivator himself/herself or a meditation master.
▪ This mental visualization is very much an active process. As an expected result, the cultivator will no longer see the above nimittas.

After this change of lineage comes the appanā thought-moment which leads to full concentration. Here, the kasina appears in a 3D vision. Based on my [Tibu’s] own experience, I often advises my friends and practitioners at the very start of their meditation journey that they should employ the method of mindfulness meditation with a chosen kasina in front of the ajna. Once in the appanā stage, the meditator could cultivate his/her way from the First Jhana to Nirodha Samāpatti, the Realm of Cessation of Sensations and Perceptions.

 Warnings

+ Instead of employing a kasina to cultivate full concentration, the meditator tries to get rid of the seen nimittas in an attempt to attain tranquillity. This is wrong and certainly leads to nothing, i.e., no success. Cultivators who follow this wrong way will end up having unpersuasive discussions, presenting unclear and unrealistic solutions to problems at hand, and being misunderstood frequently. Great masters have long said that Dharmic knowledge without mindfulness will lead to delusions. This is because a Dharma expounder without [practicing] right concentration will not be able to check if his/her Dharma listeners are practicing correctly or not. Mahā Kāśyapa is the first one that was in this situation.
+ Alternatively, the cultivator becomes so scared of those nimittas that he/she stops meditation entirely. “People say it is Emptiness that I am practicing. However, I keep seeing these stuffs and no one can explain these phenomena to me. I’d better stop.”


▪ Tibu was trapped in the neighbourhood of full concentration for a long time. It was not until I applied PAE that I could break through this stage. More recently, Hoasentrenda cultivators has an additional tool: Śāriputra’s mantra, which runs as follows “I do not want to see these nimittas anymore because I understand there are higher and better realms. I still have a great deal of work to do to reach these supramundane worlds.” After assertively reading that in the mind, the cultivator continues reciting the name of the kasina, fixing his/her mind onto a spot in front of the ajna, and trying to draw the outline of the kasina at that spot. By doing so, the cultivator can observe that all nimittas (characterized as sudden appearance, non-repetition, and irrelevance to the practice program) disappears automatically.
▪ Self-protection may also be used as a prevention (see more in later sections).

[4] Devas living in this realm make others’ creation serve their own ends. See more in ‘The Buddha and His Teachings’ by Narada Mahathera.
[5] See ‘The Lotus Sutra’ (Taisho Volume 9, Number 262) translated by Tsugunari Kubo and Akira Yuyama in 2007.

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Trả lời #1 vào lúc: 23-04-2017, 07:14 PM

Nể Niết Bàn Tâm quá hà Grin!
Trình độ tiếng Anh quá đỉnh.

Chúc bạn bình an.


Nhớ 'Kiểm tra tư tưởng liên tục' nhé.
Niết Bàn Tầm

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Trả lời #2 vào lúc: 23-04-2017, 09:36 PM

Tất cả đều là công sức của nhiều người:
+ Các bạn khác góp phần vào chuyện dịch: Hannah + phần dịch cũ của Trạng Lồi.
+ Admin cũng dịch, điều phối, và xem bài.
+ Đặc biệt là Thầy xem và kiểm tra. Giải thích những khúc mắc về ý nghĩa, khái niệm, và kỹ thuật.

Các phần dịch trong bản tiếng Anh có thể không trùng khớp với bản tiếng Việt vì (1) Có chỗ được làm rõ hơn, (2) Gộp chung và thêm thông tin từ những bài viết mới hơn (vd. cái phần quán TĐ), và (3) Sắp xếp các phần trong bản tiếng Việt lại cho hợp lý hơn (hy vọng vậy Grin).

Các bước tiếp theo sẽ là:
(1) Edit phần thực hành Mật Tông.
(2) Edit các cần khác theo thứ tự trong bản tiếng Việt.
(3) Thêm các phần mới vào để đầy đủ hơn.

Nbt đã nhận được bài của một số bạn đã dịch xong (Vtamin, Tũn, Beti, ruabien, Sám Hối, etc.) và sẽ làm theo trình tự như trên. Thanks.

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