Ajahn Chah's Warning to the Meditator

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Meditation danger?

Postby daverupa » Sat Aug 23, 2014 3:30 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:There may be an undercurrent of jhana being more trouble than it's worth, a distraction from insight, something not to waste time on - that's the impression I got from some people when I was involved with the Thai Forest tradition in the UK.


...and with a simple word replacement:

There may be an undercurrent of sammasamadhi being more trouble than it's worth, a distraction from insight, something not to waste time on - that's the impression I got from some people when I was involved with the Thai Forest tradition in the UK.


Let's hope not.

In any event, it's not an impression I can possibly get from the Suttas, so this is why I was trying to wrap the claims about danger around formless states. Otherwise the criticism may indeed be valid - but the state being criticized would not be jhana, thereby.

Secluded from unwholesome states means just that. The pleasure of jhana is otherworldly, supportive, conducive, facilitative - not dangerous. If it was dangerous, it'd be miccha-samadhi.

Part of the problem may be the continuing heuristic that people use to think about dedicated bhavana, that is, in terms of samatha and vipassana as methods. This continues to be a debilitating misunderstanding, if so, it seems to me.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby wolf1 » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:09 pm

i think if someone practice vipassana (insight) and thinking daily about impermanence, non self and suffering, and the Noble 4 Truths and practice samatha meditation then someone will not clinging to the hapiness of meditation. :thinking: it is my own experience. who else think the same?
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:13 pm

daverupa wrote:Part of the problem may be the continuing heuristic that people use to think about dedicated bhavana, that is, in terms of samatha and vipassana as methods. This continues to be a debilitating misunderstanding, if so, it seems to me.


I think there are people who see jhana as unnecessary.
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby martinfrank » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:44 pm

wolf1 wrote:i think if someone practice vipassana (insight) and thinking daily about impermanence, non self and suffering, and the Noble 4 Truths and practice samatha meditation then someone will not clinging to the hapiness of meditation. :thinking: it is my own experience. who else think the same?


You are right. Lord Buddha said:

"I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.' I thought: 'So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?'


MN36 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.036.than.html
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby daverupa » Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:50 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:I think there are people who see jhana as unnecessary.


Bewildering.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Mkoll » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:01 pm

daverupa wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:I think there are people who see jhana as unnecessary.


Bewildering.

One of Ven. Sujato's arguments is that vipassana has "worsted" concentration in the Theravada Satipatthana Sutta in his A History of Mindfulness. I'd say this is a general trend in the development of Theravada in general.
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:33 pm

It might be useful to think about context when discussing these things. What is suitable in lay life, with or without occasional retreats, can be very different from monastic. It's also worth reading the whole page linked in the OP. The headline quote is:
Wrong samadhi is where the mind enters calm and there's no awareness at all. ...the mind enters calm, and we don't want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness ... With right samadhi, no matter what level of calm is reached, there is awareness. There is full mindfulness and clear comprehension.

:anjali:
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby meindzai » Sat Aug 23, 2014 11:26 pm

This is why I like Thanissaro's approach. It is oriented towards the jhanas, by exercising one's discernment about what kind of breathing is leading one to or away from the various jhanic factors. The breathing should feel "good, comfortable, pleasurable." The breath should be a compelling enough object of meditation that one will develop single pointedness because one wants to stay there. I've found that this works better than what I did for years which was "Just keep focusing on the breath and maybe one day you'll get concentrated."

In general with the jhanas, whether you are going "by the numbers" or not, he says that getting into any particular state of concentration is like going into a very bright room where your eyes haven't adjusted. When you're in there, it's difficult to see what's going on. So you just *stay* there for awhile. So if you are in the first jhana, and it's very pleasurable and nice, that is normal. Just stay there awhile until it becomes easy to get in and out of.

Then you "back away" slightly and start to find where there is still a bit of stress(dukkha) within that jhana. This is easy to do with rapture(piti) for example, which feels like a very intense kind of pleasure, but after awhile almost becomes annoying. When you see that unpleasantness, it's much easier to drop that factor, which puts you into the next jhana.

Of course it's not always nice and neat like that. Factors come and go, intermingle with each other, and all that kind of stuff.

I think another *very* important aspect of this is that when you are done meditating you don't just go 'Welp! all done!" and leap out of your seat and go to the casino. You want to maintain that sense of peace and calm, and even bring back those feelings of pleasure from the breath whenever you can. Basically this means you can be very happy just breathing, which means you are less likely to be seeking pleasure elsewhere. It's also helpful in other contexts where you need concentration. I

I don't think getting attached to jhana is a big problem for most people, especially lay practitioners. I've heard people talking about getting addicted to meditation. It's probably not good if you are neglecting other duties, but it's a heck of a lot better than heroin, pot, alcohol, video games, or whatever. If I could replace everybody's drug addiction with a jhana addiction I'd do it in a second.

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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Kumara » Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:06 am

daverupa wrote:Jhana does not precede formless attainments, necessarily, and in fact the formless attainments can be targeted individually with effort. So I think these latter can be pleasant, and are the thing being discussed as possibly dangerous. Jhana, with form, is yet wholly segregated from unwholesome states, and is itself to be used as a foundation for release, there being no other sammasamadhi.

So you think what the quote has as "absorption samādhi (jhāna)" is not really jhana as in sammasamadhi, but actually formless attainments. Do I get you right?
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Kumara » Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:28 am

mikenz66 wrote:It might be useful to think about context when discussing these things. What is suitable in lay life, with or without occasional retreats, can be very different from monastic. It's also worth reading the whole page linked in the OP. The headline quote is:
Wrong samadhi is where the mind enters calm and there's no awareness at all. ...the mind enters calm, and we don't want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness ... With right samadhi, no matter what level of calm is reached, there is awareness. There is full mindfulness and clear comprehension.

:anjali:
Mike

Aha! So it seems that by "absorption samādhi (jhāna)" Ajahn Chah was referring to a state that is not the calm of sammasamadhi.
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:45 am

Kumara wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:It might be useful to think about context when discussing these things. What is suitable in lay life, with or without occasional retreats, can be very different from monastic. It's also worth reading the whole page linked in the OP. The headline quote is:
Wrong samadhi is where the mind enters calm and there's no awareness at all. ...the mind enters calm, and we don't want to come out to investigate anything. We just get stuck on that happiness ... With right samadhi, no matter what level of calm is reached, there is awareness. There is full mindfulness and clear comprehension.

:anjali:
Mike

Aha! So it seems that by "absorption samādhi (jhāna)" Ajahn Chah is referring to a state that is not the calm of sammasamadhi.


I don't think it's clear at all. There seems to an implication that Samadhi with jhana doesn't involve mindfulness, so one can get lost in it. :shrug:
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 24, 2014 8:03 am

But mindfulness is listed as a factor for the development and sustaining of jhana. E.g. MN 111 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"There was the case where Sariputta — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Whatever qualities there are in the first jhana — directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention — he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they remained, known to him they subsided. He discerned, 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that 'There is a further escape,' and pursuing it there really was for him.

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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Aug 24, 2014 8:13 am

mikenz66 wrote:But mindfulness is listed as a factor for the development and sustaining of jhana. E.g. MN 111 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Yes, Mike, I agree, so logically that means there shouldn't be a danger of becoming attached to jhana.

And yet in the OP quote we see: That which can be most harmful to the meditator is absorption samādhi (jhāna), the samādhi with deep, sustained calm".
Which seems to imply jhana without mindfulness? :shrug:

Or is it really talking about Samadhi with too much samatha and not enough vipassana?
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 24, 2014 8:23 am

Well, as I said a while ago on this thread, the talk would have been in either Thai or the Isaan Lao-based dialect. It may well be that the interpreter overinterpreted the statements by putting in the parenthetical (jhāna) into that particular sentence.

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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Mkoll » Sun Aug 24, 2014 9:38 am

mikenz66 wrote:Well, as I said a while ago on this thread, the talk would have been in either Thai or the Isaan Lao-based dialect. It may well be that the interpreter overinterpreted the statements by putting in the parenthetical (jhāna) into that particular sentence.

:anjali:
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I think that's a likely scenario. Dave's scenario of Ven. Chah referring to formless attainments is plausible as well. Ajahn Chah saying right concentration is to be avoided is very unlikely.

It sounds to me like he was differentiating between right and wrong mental states of concentration.
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby daverupa » Sun Aug 24, 2014 12:22 pm

Kumara wrote:
daverupa wrote:Jhana does not precede formless attainments, necessarily, and in fact the formless attainments can be targeted individually with effort. So I think these latter can be pleasant, and are the thing being discussed as possibly dangerous. Jhana, with form, is yet wholly segregated from unwholesome states, and is itself to be used as a foundation for release, there being no other sammasamadhi.

So you think what the quote has as "absorption samādhi (jhāna)" is not really jhana as in sammasamadhi, but actually formless attainments. Do I get you right?


What I think is that sammasamadhi - jhana - was surely not being discussed as problematic, because it is not at all dangerous the way other pleasant samadhis can be pleasant, distracting, and so forth.

I want to broaden the comment, though, and include the formless attainments as well as kasina disc focus and a broad range of modern methods into the just-calm-samadhi group, and I want to say that this grouping is on it's own, and people think it is a single-focus sort of samatha grouping, and they get distracted over there, and the Ven. Chah was probably discussing that samadhi over there. Not sammasamadhi, which is over here, a calm paired with observation. That's a great samadhi, a perfect samadhi, one to develop.

---

Surely, in translation, there is an issue here with clarity. I'm not sure about the connotative realm of 'absorption samādhi'. I reserve the term 'jhana' for sammasamadhi, and let 'samadhi', 'bhavana', and so forth stand as the more general terms. I would not say 'absorption samadhi' to mean jhana; if the article has done so there is a grave mistake, since jhana has not the dangers being discussed under 'absorption samadhi' there.

Upacara samadhi seems to be 'jhana' in the way I use it, yet with the assumption in place that one 'comes out' to engage in observation, which is another issue (fwiw, one is secluded from kamaguna, not the full salayatana, so activity is yet possible - but this is going off-topic). But, fine, either way - observation, alongside calm, is integral to sammasamadhi, and whatever pleasure arises therein is just fine... I'll even say, helpful and supportive.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Aug 24, 2014 1:50 pm

daverupa wrote: Not sammasamadhi, which is over here, a calm paired with observation.


There are a number of suttas which discuss samadhi in a general way, and taken as a whole they seem to support the view of samadhi as samatha + vipassana.

However I can only see one sutta specifically referring to samma-samadhi, SN45.8, and that just talks about the 4 jhanas. :thinking:
So what's the difference between samadhi generally and samma-samadhi specifically?

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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby daverupa » Sun Aug 24, 2014 2:06 pm

I'm using samadhi to mean various seated efforts at composing the mind in this or that way, as any bahmin or samana or New Age hippy is wont to attempt.

Sammasamadhi is that jhana which the Buddha developed, the foundation of the rose-apple tree event yoked via samatha-vipassana with a preceding seven-fold Path to culminate in the destruction of the asavas.

---

There's a way to use 'samadhi' in compound phrasing to denote certain aligned-with-Dhamma compositions-of-mind as well as certain mis-aligned compositions, in short, but sammasamadhi is specifically jhana in terms of the eighth fold of the Path, the foundation for the destruction of the asavas.

I largely consider the four jhana to be a constellation of descriptors, applicable to a certain shape of satipatthana, as it were. I'm willing to posit, for discussion, that concomitant observation within jhana is possible, as abhi-knowing differs from sanna-knowing in this way, if I may be so bold. But, this may shift as discussion in this thread (hopefully) proceeds.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Aug 24, 2014 4:30 pm

Kumara wrote:That which can be most harmful to the meditator is absorption samādhi (jhāna), the samādhi with deep, sustained calm..... This is a danger to one who is practising meditation.
~ Ajahn Chah, from A Taste of Freedom
Source: http://dhammatalks.net/Books/Ajahn_Chah ... amadhi.htm



I also came across this Q&A, which is in the final section of an Ajahn Chah compilation called "Bodhinyana":

Q: Is it necessary to be able to enter absorption in our practice?

A: No, absorption is not necessary. You must establish a modicum of tranquillity and one-pointedness of mind. Then you use this to examine yourself. Nothing special is needed. If absorption comes in your practice, this is OK too. Just don’t hold on to it. Some people get hung up with absorption. It can be great fun to play with. You must know proper limits. If you are wise, then you will know the uses and limitations of absorption, just as you know the limitations of children versus grown men.

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Re: Meditation danger?

Postby atipattoh » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:22 am

Spiny Norman wrote:.....If you are wise, then you will know the uses and limitations of absorption, just as you know the limitations of children versus grown men.....

:rofl: so that man is born 5 feet tall with wisdom implant ! :rofl:
sorry, this thought just came up and i just can't help but to release it; not meaning to be disrespect!
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