how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
ibelieve
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:55 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby ibelieve » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:22 am

Hi,

This is my first post and please forgive my English, which is not my native language.

I having been reading suttas for a year and I have a question I cannot answer: how can you know Jhana and Nibbana are real rather than some tricks played just in your brain?

My partial answer to the question is that if you can obtain some psychic power through meditation, at least you know that there is indeed something beyond modern science. However this is not a good answer obviously.

What is your answer to the question?

Thank you!

ibelieve

User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2039
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: New Zealand

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:45 am

How do you know anything else you experience is real and not a trick played just in your brain?

Nothing is certain but you just have to use your discernment, compare the experience with what you've experienced in the past, and decide for yourself.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 4218
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: California, USA

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby Mkoll » Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:31 am

Goofaholix wrote:How do you know anything else you experience is real and not a trick played just in your brain?

Nothing is certain but you just have to use your discernment, compare the experience with what you've experienced in the past, and decide for yourself.

:goodpost:

There's a few ways to respond to this question, including what Goofaholix said. Here are two more.

1) What does "real" mean when you ask this question? Real as compared to what? If what "real" means in this context can't be fully described and defined, I'm afraid the question has no meaning.

2) Everything we experience is "tricks in the brain" and I think this is agreed upon by modern science and the Buddha; NB I'm not making a solipsist argument here. According to the former, everything we experience is processed by the brain before it is experienced. For example, the eye takes in light which is converted into an electrical signal that is then sent via the optic nerve to the brain which translates that signal into the images we see. A similar electrical process occurs with the other senses. According to the Buddha, there is "the All".

"Monks, I will teach you the All. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. [1] Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."
SN 35.23
Peace,
James

User avatar
Dan74
Posts: 2716
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:38 am

I don't know about Nibbana for a fact, though I think it is very likely that unbelievably perceptive and wise people like the Buddha and subsequent masters were not just fibbing.

But for myself, it is enough to verify that this practice leads to positive results.
_/|\_

ibelieve
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:55 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby ibelieve » Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:24 pm

Thanks everyone for your answers and it helps!

I think I need to judge by myself and some faith is necessary. Indeed I believe in the Buddha and the so many master after him.

Have a good day!

ibelieve

User avatar
Modus.Ponens
Posts: 2167
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:38 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Gallifrey

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:37 pm

Hello

As for the jhanas, there is this study discussed in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=43&t=18584

Unfortunately, for some reason I can't really grasp, doing what Leigh Brasington did is taboo among buddhists, especialy theravadins.

As for nibbana there's no study that I'm aware of. But if you watch enough dhamma talks on youtube, you will know that some monks clearly talk from experience _ by the body language and facial expressions.

But there's nothing like aiming for it to experience it ourselves.
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

Babadhari
Posts: 459
Joined: Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:23 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: lalita ghat

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby Babadhari » Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:41 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:
But there's nothing like aiming for it to experience it ourselves.


or from what i've read:

not aiming for it! :thinking:
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28

evanescing

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby evanescing » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:38 pm

As for Nibbana: if Nibbana is defined as the state that results from the complete extinguishment of desire, aversion and delusion, then to demonstrate its reality is simple. Supposing, after practicing and studying the Dhamma for some time, you find that desire, aversion and delusion have decreased in you, then you can infer that further practice and study will further decrease the mental hindrances, until they vanish completely.

User avatar
Modus.Ponens
Posts: 2167
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:38 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Gallifrey

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:24 pm

evanescing wrote:As for Nibbana: if Nibbana is defined as the state that results from the complete extinguishment of desire, aversion and delusion, then to demonstrate its reality is simple. Supposing, after practicing and studying the Dhamma for some time, you find that desire, aversion and delusion have decreased in you, then you can infer that further practice and study will further decrease the mental hindrances, until they vanish completely.


The problem is that it may have an assymptotic behaviour. Meaning that you aproach a hindrance-less state, but never get there. And the most important consequence of this is that the stages of enlightenment would not be irreversible states.
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

fivebells
Posts: 299
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:52 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby fivebells » Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:54 pm

It's not really a useful question. Jhana and Nibbana are terms describing experiences which develop as one practices. The point of the practice is release from stress. The questions are always "Where/what is the stress? What is its cause? How can I abandon the cause?" If you practice for these questions, you rarely have much doubt about what to do next for as long as there is stress, and you get ongoing benefits as you learn the nature of the stress and how to release it.

culaavuso
Posts: 1270
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby culaavuso » Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:58 pm

fivebells wrote:It's not really a useful question. Jhana and Nibbana are terms describing experiences which develop as one practices. The point of the practice is release from stress. The questions are always "Where/what is the stress? What is its cause? How can I abandon the cause?" If you practice for these questions, you rarely have much doubt about what to do next for as long as there is stress, and you get ongoing benefits as you learn the nature of the stress and how to release it.


Well said.

SN 12.15
SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta wrote:By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

ibelieve
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:55 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby ibelieve » Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:25 am

There are lots of ways to release from stress, for example, taking drugs. However I know that taking drugs just gives you hallucination, something only happened in your brain. My understanding of what the Buddha said is that there is something called nibbana beyond what we can see, what we can hear, even what we can think of, and of course it is beyond modern science. Also nibbana is more than something created in your brain only. Again please forgive my poor English.

My question is, when we have reached jhana or nibbana, how do we know it is not only something fabricated in our brain?

My current answer is that probably when we reach it, we will know. So the most important thing right now is to "do it" instead of thinking about it.

Thanks a lot for everyone for your answers and have a great weekend!

ibelieve

culaavuso wrote:
fivebells wrote:It's not really a useful question. Jhana and Nibbana are terms describing experiences which develop as one practices. The point of the practice is release from stress. The questions are always "Where/what is the stress? What is its cause? How can I abandon the cause?" If you practice for these questions, you rarely have much doubt about what to do next for as long as there is stress, and you get ongoing benefits as you learn the nature of the stress and how to release it.


Well said.

SN 12.15
SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta wrote:By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

culaavuso
Posts: 1270
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby culaavuso » Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:41 am

ibelieve wrote:There are lots of ways to release from stress, for example, taking drugs.


This does not result in a lasting release from stress. Often as the drug wears off, or as the consumer's tolerances increase, stress once again arises and often to an even greater degree than before the drug was taken.

ibelieve wrote:My question is, when we have reached jhana or nibbana, how do we know it is not only something fabricated in our brain?


As was mentioned above, it would be helpful to first understand how you know anything is real, or what "real" means in this context. Without the notion of "real" being meaningfully defined, the question itself is not meaningful.

Mkoll wrote:1) What does "real" mean when you ask this question? Real as compared to what? If what "real" means in this context can't be fully described and defined, I'm afraid the question has no meaning.

2) Everything we experience is "tricks in the brain" and I think this is agreed upon by modern science and the Buddha; NB I'm not making a solipsist argument here. According to the former, everything we experience is processed by the brain before it is experienced. For example, the eye takes in light which is converted into an electrical signal that is then sent via the optic nerve to the brain which translates that signal into the images we see. A similar electrical process occurs with the other senses.


Perhaps worth considering in regards to the question of what "real" might mean is the brain in a vat thought experiment.

fivebells
Posts: 299
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:52 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby fivebells » Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:55 am

ibelieve wrote:There are lots of ways to release from stress, for example, taking drugs.


The drugs I have been given in response to stress have merely dulled some stress reactions, they haven't touched the causes of the stress at all, so for me they weren't any kind of release. In fact, the causes of the stress generally found a way around the dulling, making me worse off than before.

fivebells
Posts: 299
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:52 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby fivebells » Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:02 am

ibelieve wrote:My question is, when we have reached jhana or nibbana, how do we know it is not only something fabricated in our brain?


I can't speak for Nibbana, but jhana is a tool for settling the mind down for the purpose of insight practice. If what you're calling jhana is achieving that purpose, that is good enough for now. "By their fruits shall ye know them."

fivebells
Posts: 299
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:52 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby fivebells » Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:09 am

In fact, jhana is something fabricated in our brain. :)

culaavuso
Posts: 1270
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby culaavuso » Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:16 am

fivebells wrote:In fact, jhana is something fabricated in our brain. :)


More than just jhana. The very concepts "my" and "brain" are fabrications as well.

Generally what's referred to as "real" are experiences that are mutually consistent, orderly, and/or reproducible. Hallucinations would fail this test because they tend to be inconsistent internally and with other experiences, they tend to be more disorderly than non-hallucination experiences, and they are much less reproducible than non-hallucination experiences. If this definition is assumed then the way to verify that Jhana and Nibbana are "real" is to see if they are consistent with other experiences, orderly, and/or reproducible. Only through experience can these questions be answered, otherwise it's a matter of faith.

In terms of faith, how do you know every city on a map is "real"? Through following a course of actions derived from the map and reaching the location that the map indicated would be reached, faith in the map grows. After visiting enough places and finding that experiences are consistent with those predicted by the map, it tends to be taken for granted that the rest of the map is accurate as well. This is the same process that leads to faith in the conceptual map of reality that indicates that things like "brain" are "real". The map has been useful in planning and predicting experiences enough times that unvisited places on the map may be seen as likely to be accurately represented until proven otherwise. The teachings of the Dhamma are just another conceptual map that can be used to plan and predict outcomes.
Last edited by culaavuso on Sat Feb 15, 2014 2:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

fivebells
Posts: 299
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:52 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby fivebells » Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:52 am

Yes, but jhana is also explicitly a fashioned state of mind.

User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 4218
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: California, USA

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby Mkoll » Sat Feb 15, 2014 5:19 am

ibelieve wrote:My question is, when we have reached jhana or nibbana, how do we know it is not only something fabricated in our brain?

My current answer is that probably when we reach it, we will know. So the most important thing right now is to "do it" instead of thinking about it.

Thanks a lot for everyone for your answers and have a great weekend!

ibelieve

:thumbsup:

This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise.
-SN 6.1
Peace,
James

ibelieve
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:55 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001

Re: how do you know Jhana and Nibbana are real?

Postby ibelieve » Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:04 pm

If you develop some supernatural power through jhana, for example, (according to the Buddha) you can make yourself invisible, you can touch the moon, you can detect other people's thoughts and verify that what you detect is correct. Are you going to say it is only something fabricated in your brain?

Regards,

ibelieve

fivebells wrote:In fact, jhana is something fabricated in our brain. :)


Return to “General Theravāda discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 6 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine