Thanissaro's argument about parimukhaṁ


Please, I’d like to know what’s wrong with Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s argument when he writes this to justify not translating “parimukhaṁ” as Vibhanga does :

To the fore (parimukhaṁ): An Abhidhamma text, Vibhaṅga 12:1, defines this term as meaning “the tip of the nose or the sign of the mouth.” However, the term appears as part of a stock phrase describing a person engaged in meditation, even for themes that have nothing to do with the body at all, such as sublime-attitude (brahma-vihāra) meditation (AN 3:64). Thus it seems more likely that the term is used in an idiomatic sense, indicating either that mindfulness is placed face-to-face with its object, or that it is made prominent, which is how I have translated it here.

This argument is found in a note in his translation of MN 118 :

AN 3.64 : AN 3:64  At Venāga Sutta | At Venāga

Do you think the argument holds up?
Thanks in advance

May all beings attain the 3 knowledge.

Ajahn Thanissaro is from the Thai Forest tradition.
Ironically he also translates his teacher’s version of anapana sati which appears to be more of a kriya yoga using chakras.
This is how Thailand is.
Care to give reference of Ajahn’s book I speak of for me?? It was maybe more than 20 years ago and I don’t want to look it up.

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Thank you Bhante.

From the Venerable Thanissaro, I have indeed already heard of “energies” and of feeling the breath throughout the body - even in the stomach, arms, etc.
I have yet to see the Venerable speak explicitly of chakras.

And sorry, I don’t think I’ve found the book you’re talking about.
However, in the book “With Each & Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation”, he talks about energies flowing through the body, and he explains how to allow that energy to flow everywhere.

Breath. The word “breath” covers a wide range of energies in the body. Most prominently, there’s the energy of the in-and-out breath. We tend to think of this breath as the air coming in and out of the lungs, but this air wouldn’t move if it weren’t for an energy in the body activating the muscles that draw it in and allow it to go out. When you meditate on the in-and-out breath, you may start by paying attention to the movement of the air, but as your sensitivity develops, you become more focused on the energy.

In addition to the energy of the in-and-out breath, there are subtler flows of energy that spread through all parts of the body. These can be experienced as the mind grows more still. There are two types: moving energies; and still, steady energies. The moving energies are directly related to the energy of the in-and-out breath. For instance, there is the flow of energy in the nerves, as all the muscles involved in breathing, however subtly, are activated with each breath. This energy flow also allows you to have sensation in the different parts of the body and to move them at will. There is also the flow of energy that nourishes the heart with each breath, and then spreads from the heart as it pumps the blood. This can be felt with the movement of blood through the blood vessels and out to every pore of the skin.

As for the still, steady energies, these are centered in different spots in the body, such as the tip of the breastbone, the middle of the brain, the palms of the hands, or the soles of the feet. Once the in-and-out breath grows calm, these energies can be spread to fill the whole body with a sense of stillness and fullness that feels solid and secure.

To some people, these energies in the different parts of the body might seem mysterious—or even imaginary. But even if the concept of these energies seems foreign to you, the energies themselves are not. They form the way you directly experience the body from within. If they weren’t already there, you wouldn’t have any sense of where your own body is.

So when you try to acquaint yourself with these energies, there are three points to keep in mind:

  1. You’re not concerned with your breath as it might be observed by a doctor or a machine outside you. You’re concerned with your breath as only you can know it: as part of your direct experience of having a body. If you have trouble thinking of these energies as “breath,” see if thinking of them as “breathing sensations” or “body sensations” helps—whatever enables you to get in touch with what’s actually there.

  2. This is NOT a matter of trying to create sensations that don’t already exist. You’re simply making yourself more sensitive to sensations that are already there. When you’re told to let the breath energies flow into one another, ask yourself if the sensations you feel seem unconnected to one another. If they do, simply hold in mind the possibility that they can connect on their own. This is what it means to allow them to flow.

  3. These energies are not air. They’re energy. If, while you’re allowing the breath energies to spread through the various parts of the body, you sense that you’re trying to force energy into those parts, stop and remind yourself: Energy doesn’t need to be forced. There’s plenty of space even in the most solid parts of the body for this energy to flow, so you don’t have to push it against any resistance. If there’s a sense of resistance to the energy, it’s coming from the way you visualize it. Try to visualize the energy in a way that can slip around and through everything with ease.

From memory, there’s a passage in which he explains how to destroy physical pain using energy, but I haven’t found it yet.

ah…you make me tired to find references… however it took a single query to find it on ATI and a few minutes to actually read the quote. It is under method 1. Sounds like chakra meditation to me. This is one of the early books that Ajahn Thanissaro wrote/translated when ATI was the only (free) game in town. aka the 90’s

Then slowly bring your attention inward, focusing it on the various aspects of the breath — the important aspects that can give rise to intuitive powers of various kinds: clairvoyance, clairaudience, the ability to know the minds of others, the ability to remember previous lives, the ability to know where different people and animals are reborn after death, and knowledge of the various elements or potentials that are connected with, and can be of use to, the body. These elements come from the bases of the breath. The First Base: Center the mind on the tip of the nose and then slowly move it to the middle of the forehead, The Second Base. Keep your awareness broad. Let the mind rest for a moment at the forehead and then bring it back to the nose. Keep moving it back and forth between the nose and the forehead — like a person climbing up and down a mountain — seven times. Then let it settle at the forehead. Don’t let it go back to the nose.

From here, let it move to The Third Base, the middle of the top of the head, and let it settle there for a moment. Keep your awareness broad. Inhale the breath at that spot, let it spread throughout the head for a moment, and then return the mind to the middle of the forehead. Move the mind back and forth between the forehead and the top of the head seven times, finally letting it rest on the top of the head.

Then bring it into The Fourth Base, the middle of the brain. Let it be still for a moment and then bring it back out to the top of the head. Keep moving it back and forth between these two spots, finally letting it settle in the middle of the brain. Keep your awareness broad. Let the refined breath in the brain spread to the lower parts of the body.

When you reach this point you may find that the breath starts giving rise to various signs (nimitta), such as seeing or feeling hot, cold, or tingling sensations in the head. You may see a pale, murky vapor or your own skull. Even so, don’t let yourself be affected by whatever appears. If you don’t want the nimitta to appear, breathe deep and long, down into the heart, and it will immediately go away.

When you see that a nimitta has appeared, mindfully focus your awareness on it — but be sure to focus on only one at a time, choosing whichever one is most comfortable. Once you’ve got hold of it, expand it so that it’s as large as your head. The bright white nimitta is useful to the body and mind: It’s a pure breath that can cleanse the blood in the body, reducing or eliminating feelings of physical pain.

When you have this white light as large as the head, bring it down to The Fifth Base, the center of the chest. Once it’s firmly settled, let it spread out to fill the chest. Make this breath as white and as bright as possible, and then let both the breath and the light spread throughout the body, out to every pore, until different parts of the body appear on their own as pictures. If you don’t want the pictures, take two or three long breaths and they’ll disappear. Keep your awareness still and expansive. Don’t let it latch onto or be affected by any nimitta that may happen to pass into the brightness of the breath. Keep careful watch over the mind. Keep it one. Keep it intent on a single preoccupation, the refined breath, letting this refined breath suffuse the entire body.

When you’ve reached this point, knowledge will gradually begin to unfold. The body will be light, like fluff. The mind will be rested and refreshed — supple, solitary, and self-contained. There will be an extreme sense of physical pleasure and mental ease.

If you want to acquire knowledge and skill, practice these steps until you’re adept at entering, leaving, and staying in place. When you’ve mastered them, you’ll be able to give rise to the nimitta of the breath — the brilliantly white ball or lump of light — whenever you want. When you want knowledge, simply make the mind still and let go of all preoccupations, leaving just the brightness and emptiness. Think one or two times of whatever you want to know — of things inside or outside, concerning yourself or others — and the knowledge will arise or a mental picture will appear. To become thoroughly expert you should, if possible, study directly with someone who has practiced and is skilled in these matters, because knowledge of this sort can come only from the practice of centering the mind.

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I’m sorry Bhante for embarrassing you, I didn’t know how to go about it. I’ll try not to do it again.

Thanks for the reference.

i was being sarcastic… i said i found it in the first try and just a few minutes. Be happy. :grinning:

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Thank you Venerable for your kindness, be happy too!