Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

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Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:10 pm

Hello:

I was browsing around at the bookstore today and came across "Practicing the Jhanas: Traditional Concentration Meditation as Presented by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw", by the husband-and-wife team of Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder. It looked interesting, reliable in terms of presenting the dhamma, and full of practical information of use to the layperson, and I'm wondering if anyone here is familiar with it and would recommend it. The authors seem credible as they both have had years of rigorous training and were ordained monastics before returning to worldly life.

Since I'm committed personally to practicing within a lay context I found this quite relevant but I'd like to hear others' opinions about the book and the authors' approach.

Namaste,

LE
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:20 pm

I'd keep a watchful eye (not a 'lazy eye') out for those Snyders.

:spy:

It looks like it must be good. I haven't read it yet, but it has some good reviews:

http://www.amazon.com/Practicing-Jhanas ... t_ep_dpi_1
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:21 pm

It looked interesting, reliable in terms of presenting the dhamma, and full of practical information of use to the layperson, and I'm wondering if anyone here is familiar with it and would recommend it. The authors seem credible as they both have had years of rigorous training and were ordained monastics before returning to worldly life.


I would not trust practical advice on jhanas from those who have disrobed. In the suttas it is clearly stated that jhanas are much more sublime than sensual pleasures and I'm sure if one have really made it to the jhana, he would not drop it and return to "lower life" - especially in Buddha teaching.

"Mahanama, that very mental quality is what is unabandoned within you so that there are times when the mental quality of greed... the mental quality of aversion... the mental quality of delusion invades your mind and remains. For if that mental quality were abandoned in you, you would not live the household life and would not partake of sensuality. It's because that mental quality is not abandoned in you that you live the household life and partake of sensuality.

"Even though a disciple of the noble ones has clearly seen as it actually is with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, still — if he has not attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that [4] — he can be tempted by sensuality. But when he has clearly seen as it actually is with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, and he has attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, he cannot be tempted by sensuality.


MN 14
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Virgo » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:38 pm

Zom wrote:
It looked interesting, reliable in terms of presenting the dhamma, and full of practical information of use to the layperson, and I'm wondering if anyone here is familiar with it and would recommend it. The authors seem credible as they both have had years of rigorous training and were ordained monastics before returning to worldly life.


I would not trust practical advice on jhanas from those who have disrobed. In the suttas it is clearly stated that jhanas are much more sublime than sensual pleasures and I'm sure if one have really made it to the jhana, he would not drop it and return to "lower life" - especially in Buddha teaching.

Hi Zom,

Where does it say these the teachers (at least the male one, Stephen) disrobed?

There were lay people that practiced jhanas in the Buddhas time and probably afterward. Don't you think it is a little rash to turn people away from them simply because they are lay teachers? What if they truly are people that have attained jhana?

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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:52 pm

Where does it say these the teachers (at least the male one, Stephen) disrobed?


In the first post:
"as they both have had years of rigorous training and were ordained monastics before returning to worldly life"

There were lay people that practiced jhanas in the Buddhas time and probably afterward.


There is not much information about that in the suttas. As I see it - jhana is almost the very end of path of practise, but lay followers are usually only on the very start =)... So I don't think that many lay people can attain jhanas.

What if they truly are people that have attained jhana?


May be yes, but may be no. As for me - I'd better trust monks in this question (I mean jhana practice).
Last edited by Zom on Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby PeterB » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:55 pm

What would you say to a monk still in the robe that advised against practising the Jhanas at all ? I know several.
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:06 pm

What would you say to a monk still in the robe that advised against practising the Jhanas at all ? I know several.


I would recommend to read as many suttas as possible in this case =) Jhana practise is so often mentioned throughout all the Pali Canon that I hardly believe that knowledgeable monk could persuade others to stop jhana practise =)
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby bodom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:18 pm

In sutta AN 5.176 the Buddha advised householders to "periodically enter & remain in seclusion & rapture" which according to the commentaries refers to the first and second jhana.

Then Anathapindika the householder, surrounded by about 500 lay followers, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there the Blessed One said to him, "Householder, you have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick, but you shouldn't rest content with the thought, 'We have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick.' So you should train yourself, 'Let's periodically enter & remain in seclusion & rapture.' That's how you should train yourself."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:50 pm

Yes, but this is almost the only recommendation to lay followers on this account.

By the way, if to read this phrase directly, then I can say that I too sometimes stay in seclusion (apart from different sensual distraction) and even, though not too often, experience some kind of rapture in meditation. However I'm sure that I'm not in the 1st or 2nd jhana... =)
Last edited by Zom on Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby PeterB » Tue Apr 13, 2010 4:03 pm

I suspect that the passage in question does not refer to the jhanas.
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Chula » Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:07 pm

Zom wrote:
There were lay people that practiced jhanas in the Buddhas time and probably afterward.


There is not much information about that in the suttas. As I see it - jhana is almost the very end of path of practise, but lay followers are usually only on the very start =)... So I don't think that many lay people can attain jhanas.


There is evidence in the Citta Samyutta in Samyutta Nikaya where Citta the householder tells Nigantha Nathaputta that he has attained all four jhanas. I can't find an online translation right now but I'll at least transcribe the relevant sutta later.

Of course, I do agree that monks/nuns who disrobe to pursue a worldly life and proclaim to have attained jhana should be viewed suspiciously since jhana is supposed to be better than sensual pleasures..
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Kenshou » Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:59 pm

Well, does jhana somehow eradicate all worldly cravings right then? As far as I know, jhana practice is a tool which can (or might not) be optimally utilized in the scheme of the entire path. Though there is a degree of prerequisite training getting some jhana-skills, that alone isn't going to cut off all one's worldly intoxications just like that. So, gaining a jhana in a monastic setting is no guarantee someone might eventually disrobe, I think.

I'm of the opinion that the jhanas are not something so inaccessible to at least a dedicated lay practitioner, and it isn't so unreasonable to think that some practiced it, being a part of the eightfold path and all, but that's dependent upon many variables, one's idea of what constitutes jhana being one among several, and it's a discussion which has been well trod already I suppose.
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:12 pm

By the way, Ajahn Jayasaro said to me personally that very few monks attain jhanas nowadays (though as far as I understood he was speaking about thai monks only). Well... if it is really so what to say about lay people.. -)

I'm of the opinion that the jhanas are not something so inaccessible to at least a dedicated lay practitioner


I think they are accessible to those lay people who live and practise like monks - at least 8 precepts and so on...
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Kenshou » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:39 pm

In general, I'd agree, though perhaps not exactly in terms of degree of monkishness, lay life has it's hangups, but when the mind is properly guarded these things don't need to be an impediment. A few months of consistent practice, study and some outside pushes in the right direction can bring very good results.
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby bodom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:50 pm

PeterB wrote:I suspect that the passage in question does not refer to the jhanas.


On what basis?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby bodom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:52 pm

The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli SuttasVen. Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.viet.net/~anson/ebud/ebdha267.htm

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby meindzai » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:59 pm

PeterB wrote:What would you say to a monk still in the robe that advised against practising the Jhanas at all ? I know several.


Teachers have different ideas about practice, because they generally teach based on what worked for them and what they think is best for their students. If you have a teacher, and if you've established a relationship with them and put faith in them, then I'd follow whatever their instruction is, assuming there is a "method to their madness."

But to answer your question, I'd say "What about 'right concentration'?" I'd simply want to know their opinion.

Bhante Gunaratana is an example of a respected Bhikkhu who teaches techniques for Jhanic concentration, and who believes it is possible for lay followers. Not without a lot of time and effort of course. Time not only in terms of X hours per day, but serious "time away" from household life i.e. on retreat.

Those interested, search for "jhana" on this page: http://www.bhavanasociety.org/list/category/MP3s/ to find Bhante G's talks on the subject.

-M
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby bodom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:01 pm

Chula wrote:There is evidence in the Citta Samyutta in Samyutta Nikaya where Citta the householder tells Nigantha Nathaputta that he has attained all four jhanas.


Well, venerable sir, to whatever extent I wish, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I enter and dwell in the first jhaana, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. [299] Then, to whatever extent I wish, with the subsiding of thought and examination, I enter and dwell in the second jhaana¦.Then, to whatever extent I wish, with the fading away as well of rapture... I enter and dwell in the third jhaana¦. Then, to whatever extent I wish, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain... I enter and dwell in the fourth jhaana." BB transl. SN 41.8

:anjali:
Last edited by bodom on Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Chula » Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:06 pm

bodom wrote:The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli SuttasVen. Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.viet.net/~anson/ebud/ebdha267.htm

:anjali:


Nice article - seems to cover everything.
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Re: Rasmussen/Snyder "Practicing the Jhanas"

Postby Zom » Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:40 pm

A few months of consistent practice, study and some outside pushes in the right direction can bring very good results.


Few months... well, don't know. I tried one month of intensive meditation practice in Thai, but it showed no "jhanic" results. I suppose it will take much more time and a long preparatory work in everyday life to build a strong basis for 1-7 factors of the Noble Eightfold Path before taking a "full throttle" on the 8th. And only then, probably, it will be possible to enter jhana in some months of intensive samadhi practice.

:buddha1:
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