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nimitta of reality

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#1 RobertK



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Posted 05 September 2011 - 09:14 AM


from nina van gorkomRe: [dsg] Re: Notes on nimitta from KK (March 2011), part 1.

Dear Ann and Phil.
Ann, thank you for your notes. I shall now join Phil in his
Op 2-sep-2011, om 3:50 heeft philip het volgende geschreven:
> > Nimitta is a sign - (usually) taking a nimitta for something, a
> concept, for instance an idea about sound. The concept is not
> necessarily wrong view.
> Ph: There is never stopping at sense door cognition for us, always
> straight to mind door processes, like water going from one sheet of
> onion paper to the next, in a flash, is the meaning here?
N: I remember this metaphor, yes, correct.

Ann: There is both nimitta of concept and nimitta of reality.

Usually it is nimitta of concept. Where the other 5 sense
consciousnesses or bhavanga citta is not arising, then it's thinking.
Seems as if we are thinking all of the time.

Understanding is nimitta of reality.

It is not easy to understand feeling as a reality (nimitta of vedana).


N: Different meanings of nimitta in different contexts. Nimitta as
object of jhaana such as a kasina is one thing.

Then there is the text: being infatuated by the the image of the
whole and the details. We take what is seen for persons or things.
Another meaning of nimitta.

Then there is sa"nkhara nimitta, nimitta of the khandhas. Nimitta of
ruupa, of feeling etc.

N: I shall now requote from my 'Alone with Dhamma' (Ch on the present

<We read in the Kindred Sayings (IV, Ch II, § 80, Ignorance,
translated by Ven. Bodhi) that a bhikkhu asked the Buddha whether
there is one thing through the abandoning of which ignorance is
abandoned and true knowledge arises.
We read that the Buddha answered: “Ignorance, bhikkhu, is that one
thing through the abandoning of which ignorance is abandoned by a
bhikkhu and true knowledge arises.”

Ven. Bodhi states in a note to this passage: “Though it may sound
redundant to say that ignorance must be abandoned in order to abandon
ignorance, this statement underscores the fact that ignorance is the
most fundamental cause of bondage, which must be eliminated to
eliminate all the other bonds.”

We read further on:

“Here, bhikkhu, a bhikkhu has heard, ‘Nothing is worth adhering to’.
When a bhikkhu has heard, ‘Nothing is worth adhering to’, he directly
knows everything. Having directly known everything, he fully
understands everything. Having fully understood everything, he sees
all signs (nimitta) differently. He sees the eye differently, he sees
forms differently...whatever feeling arises with mind-contact as
condition... that too he sees differently...”

As to the term adhere, this pertains to clinging with wrong view.
The Commentary explains the words, “he sees all signs differently
(sabbanimittåni aññato passati)” as follows: “He sees all the signs
of formations (saòkhåranimittåni) in a way different from that of
people who have not fully understood the adherences. For such people
see all signs as self, but one who has fully understood the
adherences sees them as non-self, not as self. Thus in this sutta the
characteristic of non-self is discussed.”

In this Commentary the word “sa"nkhåra-nimitta”, the nimittas, signs
or mental images, of conditioned dhammas, is used. When we were
returning from the Bodhitree walking up the long stairways, a friend
asked Acharn Sujin about this term. Nimitta has different meanings in
different contexts. The nimitta or mental image in samatha refers to
the meditation subject of samatha. We also read in some texts that
one should not be taken in by the outward appearance of things
(nimitta) and the details. However, the term sa"nkhåranimitta has a
different meaning as I shall explain further on.
Acharn Sujin emphasized that whatever we read in the texts about
nimitta should be applied to our life now. “What we read is not
theory” she often explains.

We read in the “Mahåvedallasutta” (Middle Length Sayings, no 43),
about freedom of mind that is “signless”, and we read that there are
two conditions for attaining this: ”non-attention (amanåsikåra) to
all “signs” and attention to the signless element”. The Commentary
states that the signs, nimittas, are the objects such as visible
object, etc. and that the signless is nibbåna. The signless
liberation of mind is explained in a way that clearly connects it
with the fruition of arahantship: lust, hatred and delusion are
declared to be "sign-makers" (nimittakarana), which the arahant has
totally abandoned.
When we read about object (årammaùa) as a sign, we should remember
that this is not theory. An object is what citta experiences at this
moment. When the rúpa that is the eyebase has not fallen away yet and
colour or visible object impinges on it, there are conditions for the
arising of seeing. If there were no citta which sees visible object
could not appear.

When we asked Acharn Sujin whether the impression or sign (nimitta)
of a dhamma is a concept or a reality she answered: “These are only
words. If we use the word concept there is something that is
experienced by thinking. We should not just know words, but
understand the reality that appears right now. There is not merely
one moment of experiencing visible object, but many moments arising
and falling away. When right understanding arises we do not have to
use any term.”
She repeated that there is the impression of visible object right
now. She said: “It is this moment.” Visible object impinges on the
eyesense and after it has fallen away, what is left is the impression
or sign, nimitta of visible object.
It seems that visible object lasts for a while, but in reality it
arises and falls away. Acharn Sujin used the simile of a torch that
is swung around. In this way, we have the impression of a whole, of a
circle of light.
We know that seeing arises at this moment, but we cannot pinpoint the
citta which sees, it arises and falls away very rapidly and another
moment of seeing arises. We only experience the “sign” of seeing.
The notion of nimitta can remind us that not just one moment of
seeing appears, but many moments that are arising and falling away.
Also visible object is not as solid as we would think, there are many
moments arising and falling away which leave the sign or impression
of visible object.
Visible object that was experienced by cittas of a sense-door process
has fallen away; sense-door processes and mind-door processes of
cittas alternate very rapidly. Visible object impinges again and
again and seeing arises again and again. When their characteristics
appear we cannot count the different units of rúpa or the cittas that
see, they arise and fall away; the impression of what is seen and of
the seeing appears.
Acharn Sujin said: “No matter whether we call it nimitta or not, it
is appearing now. Whatever appears is the sign or nimitta of the
dhamma that arises and falls away.”
We cling to what appears for a very short moment, but is does not
remain. It is the same with saññå, there is not one moment of saññå
that marks and remembers, but countless moments, arising and falling
Thus, we can speak of the nimitta of each of the five khandhas: of
rúpa, of feeling, of saññå, of sankhårakkhandha, of consciousness.
There are nimittas of all conditioned dhammas that appear at this
moment, arising and falling away extremely rapidly.
Seeing arising at this moment sees visible object. We notice visible
object and while we notice it, we have a vivid impression of it, but
it has just fallen away. Seeing falls away but extremely shortly
after it has fallen away another moment of seeing arises that
experiences visible object. It arises again and again and in between
one notices that there is seeing, or, if there are the right
conditions a citta with sati can arise that is mindful of its
characteristic. However, mindfulness of seeing arises after seeing
has fallen away, not at the same time as seeing. >
(end quote)

#2 RobertK



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Posted 30 July 2013 - 01:12 PM

Dear Jagkrit,
It is always good to correspond with you.
Op 30 jul 2013, om 12:34 heeft jagkrit2012 het volgende geschreven:

> > The sutta speaks about aniccaa sa~n~naa, sa~n~naa that remembers
> jK: This is very good reminder that sanna remembers all the time but what
sanna remembers at this moment. If sanna remember atta about self view now, how
can one develop right understanding. I think intellectual understanding is very
important for us to start develop right sanna. Even this sanna is not aniccaa
and anattaa sanna but this sanna should be the foundation of further development
of right thinking until it understands the reality. You have any comment for
consideration ?
N: We have to remember that tiira sa~n~naa, firm sa~n~naa is one of the
proximate causes of satipa.t.thaana. We should consider what this firm sa~n~naa
remembers: everything is just dhamma, it arises because of its own conditions
and there is no person who could interfere. Like Acharn said: who could make
seeing arise, it arises when there are conditions for it. And evenso sati:
nobody could cause its arising. Listening to the right teachings is most
essential. We have to hear again and again that there are two kinds of
realities: the reality that experiences something and the reality that does not
know anything. Dhammas just appear for an extremely short moment and then
disappear, and it is wrong to assume that there is a person there. We are so
used to the idea that a person or a thing was already there and that it can
stay. We have to be reminded again and again that the conventional world is only
what we always assumed to be real before we heard the Buddha's teachings. The
Buddha taught what is there in truth and in reality.
> =================
> > As to asubha sa~n~naa, remembrance of foulness, of things as not beautiful,
this is not just thinking.
> Jk: At this point TA stressed that if that thing is impermanence as arising
and falling away right before our conscious, is it beautiful ? I have a lot of
thought about this. If one can see through this fact, it should be more clear
that there is no such any beautiful of that at all.
> > T.a.:< Is there now asubha? We think of foulness but it is not a matter of
thinking. We do not have to force ourselves not to like something. That does not
lead to the eradication of defilements. There should be more understanding of
what appears. We have to listen again, and know that it is dhamma, not self, not
a person.
> Jk: Again shape reminder. Without right understanding, one might misunderstand
about asubha sanna and try to dislike things by self view.
> AN 7.46 PTS: A iv 46
> Sañña Sutta: Perceptions
> translated from the Pali by
> Thanissaro Bhikkhu
> This sanna sutta mentions about the benefit of 7 sannas. But I think to
develop of 7 sannas, we need very high level of understanding before accessing
to right development.
N: Even when we begin to understand what dhamma is there can also be a beginning
of the understanding of the seven perceptions. We do not have to take it that
first pa~n~naa has to be developed further and that then the seven perceptions
can be developed. They become clearer as understanding grows and there is no
need to think of the seven perceptions. Acharn would say: not the terms are
important, but understand the meaning. She would ask us: is there anattaa
sa~n~naa now? If the present reality is considered more we learn that realities
are beyond control, that they do not belong to anyone. Is this not a beginning
of anatta sa~n~naa?

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


#3 Johann (Hanzze)

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 02:44 PM

Even through a sanna will be always just a sanna its very important that a certain sanna is rebuild out of experiences. It would be much to dangerous to use a sanna which is not based on certain experiences, so to speak many use certain ideas of not-self and that is for sure not good and could develop a punch of maya at least.


So its along the way to finally real experiences a chose of better nimittas or sannas, so giving one which causes a lot of struggle up to take a new one, all up to a level where it becomes really fine and with lesser involvement.

Once experienced "real" attributes, one can recall them. Its not good to walk the way with an hard maintained construction. Its costs a lot of energy and blocks to get to new and finer experiences.

A sanna of anatta for a untrained person, a person in a normal live is really not the best and I don't think that Buddha gave such in such situations.

#4 RobertK



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Posted 18 September 2015 - 01:49 PM


Nina van GorkomToday at 8:52 PM
Dear friends,

2006-02-08P-c.mp3 - 1m

TA: Does anyone know about nimitta right now? (just about) ordinary nimitta; always ordinary nimitta: not knowing at all that it's only nimitta which appears.

Q: when there is direct understanding...

TA: of a characteristic

Q: of paramattha dhamma

TA: so one can see the difference between the nimitta and paramattha dhamma, or (between) concept and paramattha.

Q: can you give us more details?

TA: at the moment of touching, hardness appears, nimitta or paramattha?

Q: nimitta

TA: before that, before the moment of being aware, it's pure nimitta, but when there is awareness it's the nimitta of hardness, because it's not the moment of experiencing the arising and falling away

Q: beginning to break the shell of ignorance

TA: right, and after the direct experiencing of the arising and falling away, it's another (level of) understanding of nimitta, because whatever arises, they're all nimitta, like hardness is not sound, without nimitta at all how could it appear, see; so we begin to understand better and deeper the meaning of nimitta; and before that it's the nimitta and anubyañjana as usual: shape and form

Q: even before satipatthana don't we know the difference between sound and visible object?

TA: yes, nimitta of sound, nimitta of visible object, nimitta of vedana, nimitta of sañña...

Q: and when realizing arising and fall we know the nimitta of that dhamma

TA: of each one at the time, even arising and falling away, it has its own characteristic as its own nimitta, to know that it's not the other one; whatever arises has nimitta - we've come to another meaning.

Q: until it's the direct experience of the arising and falling away of reality it's always the nimitta of a dhamma, rather than the characteristic

TA: even the characteristic - not a concept, is a nimitta, in a sense

Q: in a sense...

TA: yes :-)

Q: :-) in what sense...

TA: it's different from when pañña can experience the arising and falling away; to understand as naama and ruupa (pariccheda ñaana) it's not like the moment when pañña penetrates the arising and falling away - the udayabbaya ñaana

Q: how they're different?

TA: like this moment, we seem to understand what is naama and what is ruupa, and when there is awareness no thinking about the meaning of naama and the meaning of ruupa, because there is the understanding of the characteristic as it is

Q: now the sense doors cover the mind door, and at the moment of naamaruupa pariccheda ñaana the mind door suddenly appears and covers the sense door

TA: right, because according to the truth, according to what is taught, it has to conform with reality, for example, how short visible object is, how many processes of mind door follow the sense door process, so what's more, the mind door or the sense door?

Q: the mind door, for sure

TA: so it appears

Q: that seems to be such a radical insight

TA: it has to be like that, otherwise the world would remain exactly the same, full of people and things

Q: being so radical that should be...

TA: not enough, not enough :) for the aeon and aeon and aeon ago of ignorance, and attachment - against the current, all currents of lobha, no matter subtle or coarse.
How come akusala (arises) so soon, as soon as seeing is there, and not just one process, the whole day long, the whole minute.
And even naamaruupa pariccheda ñaana, and paccayapariggaha ñaana, and sammasana ñaana are taruna (weak) vipassana; so the real pañña which can eradicate wrong view, how much, how sharp, how effective - no more again in the whole samsara in the future to come - never again

Q: and in all these higher stages of vipassana how can they still be nimitta

TA: the same, exactly, understanding, no change, just the sign, just the reality: nimitta is the nimitta of a reality.
Detachment, to grow and grow and grow, to become really detached from, very natural, as daily life

Q: what are the nimitta of each

TA: the understanding that there are only conditioned realities arising and falling away, which have to go on by conditions, no matter what characteristic, no matter how good it is, no matter how bad it is, each has its own characteristic as nimitta of it

Q: before we begin (to hear the Dhamma) we live 100% in the world of paññatti, concepts, beginning to understand starts to know intellectualy the difference between paramattha and concepts, beginning insight starts to see the nimitta

TA: to know moment of awareness and moment without awareness

Q: but it still seeing the nimitta of

TA: yes! but the characteristic and the concept are different, see

Q: what is the difference between the nimitta and the characteristic

TA: the same meaning

Q: nimitta doesn't really mean concept at all

TA: it depends on what we're talking about: the ruupa nimitta, the vedana nimitta, the sañña...

Q: ok, I think I was getting confused, because sometimes I imagine nimitta to have the same meaning as paññatti

TA: that's why we have to understand from the very beginning the nimitta and anubyañjana

Q: are concepts nimitta?

TA: is concept real?

Q: if there is awareness of a reality, it's not awareness of a nimitta...

TA: but can one know the arising and fallling away of each one in split seconds?

Q: no

TA: and that is nimitta

Q: so we cannot say 'that is reality'

TA: if reality wouldn't have its characteristic how could we know it? and the characteristic *is* nimitta.
As long as the arising and falling away is not known yet, all are nimitta of realities