Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

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

Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:08 pm

I start to read Leigh Brasington's essay 'Interpretations of the Jhanas' http://leighb.com/jhanantp.htm#1 and think there are quite some interesting aspects to consider and to discuss. In order to keep things in context , I plan to go through the whole article piece by piece but leave it to the reaction and possible discussion on the forum whether to finish . I put my comments in brackets . Response appreciated ... ;-)

I like to thank Leigh for publishing this compilation , which is a fine source of orientation inviting to dig further for one's own practise


quote
Although the Jhanas appear very frequently in the discourses of the Buddha (suttas), now two and a half millenna later there is no generally agreed upon interpretation of what exactly these states of concentration are. This paper is a highly subjective attempt by one Jhana practitioner to simply list and categorize the various interpretations I have heard of here at the beginning of the 21st century. The information in this list is quite likely to not be totally accurate. If you can provide more details of a teacher's method, Please write me at !
The first broad categorization would be into "Sutta Style Jhanas" and "Visuddhimagga Style Jhanas". These two phrases are not ideal, but I use them until someone comes up with a better pair. "Visuddhimagga Style Jhanas" use a nimitta for access and involve very deep concentration. "Sutta Style Jhanas" do not require a nimitta and involve more accessible states of concentration.


(but do not exclude it, do they ?


The Jhanas as discussed in the suttas are accessible to many people. The suttas seem to indicate that they were just part of the monastics' training program; thus they were not a big deal and were accessible to many.


( I think that one should keep in mind that the Buddha recommended Jhana as well for householders.)

However, the Visuddhimagga states in section XII.8 that of those who undertake the meditation path, only one in 1,000,000 (at best) can reach absorption 1.
footnote"[T]he kasina preliminary work is difficult for a beginner and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. The arousing of the sign is difficult for one who has done the preliminary work and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. To extend the sign when it has arisen and to reach absorption is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it." Vsm. XII.8
Thus only 1 in 100 x 100 x 100 = 1,000,000 can reach absorption (Jhana) - using the most optimistic figures.


( I read : one in a hundred or [one in] a thousand and believe this is meant in Vis.M. )


We don't have to take this figure literally to begin to understand that the Jhanas as discussed in the Visuddhimagga are of a much deeper level of concentration than those described in the suttas. Basically, the Jhanas as described in the Visuddhimagga seem to be much more developed and systematized than those of the suttas. Even the factors given for the first four Jhanas are not the same: see The Traditional Factors of the 8 Jhanas.


( it seems to me that Vis.M. missed in some parts to distinguish what is commentary and what is enhancement of the Buddha Dhamma. )



So the following table lists the various interpretations I have encountered and gives a (hopefully somewhat accurate) picture of each of the interpretations. Each system is given by the name of the place or teacher that teaches (or taught) in the style:

Visuddhimagga Style Jhanas
Pa Auk Monastery (near Moulmein, Taninthayi Division, Burma) continues the genuine monastic tradition as preserved in the Visuddhimagga. The Jhanas taught there are a very deep absorption, and not surprisingly are not accessible by the majority of people who undertake learning them. The stories I hear are of about one-third of the monks and nuns being able to access them (with nuns doing a bit better than the monks).

Lay practitioners from the West seldom report any success accessing these deep states except in the context of a multi-month retreat. Various access methods are taught including kasinas and anapanasati. The Jhanas are used to generate a concentrated mind, which is then used to do the various insight practices outlined in the Visuddhimagga, and to undertake the systematic study of the mind as outlined in the Abhidhamma.
Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder are authorized as Teachers by the Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, and are authors of the book Jhanas Advice from Two Spiritual Friends, an accessible and direct experiental account of jhana practiced, endorsed by Sayadaw.


(B.T.W. the ten kasinas mentioned in A.N.I,35 : the 4 elements ; blue,yellow,red,white kasinas; space and consciousness kasina . Would be interesting to find some links of practioners reporting about their experience )

so far .. to be continued
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:54 pm

I informed Leigh about the posting and hope he will join ( on retreat , back next week) , so I will slow down a bit with next mails
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby kitztack » Thu Jan 30, 2014 8:40 pm

hi Kusala

this may be of interest to you

viewtopic.php?f=43&t=18347#p257896
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
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:29 pm

continue (2)
I had a look at Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder's homepage
http://www.awakeningdharma.com , nicely done , both look like siblings, aren't they?
quote: Stephen has been a Buddhist practitioner for over 30 years, and is authorized to teach by the eminent Burmese meditation master, Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. Described as having a compassionate no-nonsense style, he finds fulfillment in supporting students as they discover deeper authenticity in the acceptance of a loosening self-definition in the process of purifying the mind. This deepening authenticity leads to a more profound, experiential knowing and appreciation of the magnificent complexity of the Buddha's teachings."
I listen to one of the tapes:
2008-07-02 What Is The Jhana Practice? #1 66:22
This talk was given by both Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder: how the jhanas fit into Buddhist practice; overview of the entire samatha practice; the three types of concentration; and differences from other practices.Insight Meditation Society - Forest Refuge : July 2008 at IMS - Forest Refuge
http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/261/3814.html .

First impression: Tina is a good speaker , Stephen made only a few additional remarks(the auditorium was expected to have read their book.)
Just a few catchwords :anapana sati and anapana spot (between nostrils and upper lip) , vipassana and samatha meditation, momentary and stable concentration , access concentration and drop of hindrances , form and formless Jhanas, cultivating desinterest ( as we all know corefactor for liberation as disentchantment is a condition for dispassion..detachment! see SN XII, 23 ) , unification of mind , the practise is doing you , every meditator has his own path...

so far ..to be continued ..
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:34 pm

kitztack wrote:hi Kusala

this may be of interest to you

viewtopic.php?f=43&t=18347#p257896



Hi Kitztack,
thanks , good to involve !

(you meant Kalama , didn't you ? )
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby kitztack » Fri Jan 31, 2014 6:07 pm

hi kalama

my apologies for mistaking your name.
that will be the limit of my involvement in the thread for the time being as i find talk about the Jhanas is beginning to create states of distraction in my own meditation. i find tranquility and concentration disturbed when i feel pleasant states arise, attaching to them and just finding the mind wandering again, 'maybe this is jhana?!' 'is this a nimitta forming?' :thinking:
should i ever be priviledged enough to enter Jhana i prefer it to be in a setting with an experienced teacher to guide me and prevent me clinging to certain feelings or deluding myself into thinking certain attainments.
much of what i have read described as Jhana falls well below the certain criteria i assumed to be necessary or else does not create the permanent changes described in both the Suttas and the Vishuddhimagga

In the same way, there is the case where a monk... enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. 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.'

"Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then — through this very dhamma-passion, this very dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five of the fetters
— he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.

AN 9.36 Jhana Sutta

metta :namaste:
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
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:25 pm

Hi Kitztack,


kitztack wrote:hi kalama

my apologies for mistaking your name


never mind ..the address wasn't Akusala ;-)

I think the different approaches to Jhana can be confusing , but finding the school or meditation master fitting for one's needs isn't easy as well.
Therefore getting an idea who is teaching what may be quite helpful and if it is only to choose an on-line source adding information to the canonical texts. Leigh's compilation provides such sources and I like to support that with a few more details.
Refering to the distraction you mentioned , Jhana experts may advise you , but in general I believe if you can distinguish between pleasant states arising due to sensuality and those 'born of seclusion' you can easier handle that . Not to forget the similes given for the 4 Jhanas , e.g. DN 2 :
'"Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates... this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal."

Indeed pleasant states are a condition for progress, e.g. SN 23

"suffering is the supporting condition for faith, faith is the supporting condition for joy, joy is the supporting condition for rapture, rapture is the supporting condition for tranquillity, tranquillity is the supporting condition for happiness, happiness is the supporting condition for concentration, concentration is the supporting condition for the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are is the supporting condition for disenchantment, disenchantment is the supporting condition for dispassion, dispassion is the supporting condition for emancipation, and emancipation is the supporting condition for the knowledge of the destruction (of the cankers)."

It seems to me as well that a number of interpretations fall short of what is stated by the Tipitaka. One needs to keep in mind that commentaries (incl. VisM. ) and interpretations are only representing the true Buddha Dhamma as far as they are in line with the suttas.
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby suttametta » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:07 pm

I like a face value approach. In jhana, each of the indices are a face value of which jhana one is in. In jhana one can't deal with complex thoughts only simple face value concepts. As one goes deeper into jhana each of these factors falls away almost one by one, revealing the next level. That's about it.
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby kitztack » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:11 pm

Kalama wrote:Hi Kitztack,


kitztack wrote: but in general I believe if you can distinguish between pleasant states arising due to sensuality and those 'born of seclusion' you can easier handle that . .


that is a good point,
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
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:10 pm

suttametta wrote:I like a face value approach. In jhana, each of the indices are a face value of which jhana one is in. In jhana one can't deal with complex thoughts only simple face value concepts. As one goes deeper into jhana each of these factors falls away almost one by one, revealing the next level. That's about it.


sounds good ...... could you explain that using the text of DN 2 , first Jhana which I quoted ? What about the simile and your experience?
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Mon Feb 03, 2014 6:54 pm

continue (3)


Shaila Catherin
Read Shaila's Blog.Read interviews, articles, and written teachings, or listen to audio talks by Shaila Catherine.' Visit http://www.imsb.org for more resources.


Leight wrote:
Shaila Catherine leads periodic retreats on jhana and insight practices. Her orientation to jhana is influenced by reflection on the suttas and practical experience accrued during twenty months of jhana-based retreat practice. Her interest in jhana began by attending a 10-day course with Leigh Brasington, followed by 14 months of jhana-based personal retreat at IMS, some months of Brahma Vihara practice guided by IMS teachers, and 5 months of retreat guided by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw. When teaching jhana retreats, Shaila introduces the breath as the initial object (on an individual basis she may guide advanced students in the use of kasinas, Brahma Viharas, repulsive objects, or formless abidings). During week long jhana retreats Shaila typically emphasizes the deepening of concentration (with or without absorption), nurturing the arising and stabilizing of the nimitta to full absorption into the first jhana, discerning jhanic factors, and cultivating the qualities of happiness associated with jhana. Her methodology is detailed in her book, Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, published by Wisdom Publications 2008.
unquote

(furthermore :' A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana', by Shaila Catherine, (Wisdom Publications, 2011 in which ' Tables illustrate the primary concepts of the Buddhist cognitive psychology known as Abhidhamma'
Has anybody read her book? I think the title indicates rather high ambition )


quite interesting is following interview ..extract (my comments in brackets):

http://www.imsb.org/teachings/SettleInt ... erview.php
Settle Into The Bliss
An interview with Shaila Catherine
by Vlad Moskovski, March 2012
Shaila begins to speak. Her voice, like her personality, fits her well. It is like a warm whisper that washes over the gathered crowd at this public talk. I am moved by her peaceful and calm demeanor and awed by her experience in meditation and the clarity with which she is able to describe the most subtle of concepts. Shaila has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience and has studied with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand. She has taught since 1996 in the USA and internationally, and is the founder/lead teacher at Insight Meditation South Bay.

Vlad: You have done many long retreats in your life, what is the longest period that you have been silent on retreat, and where?
My longest retreat was a ten-month retreat at the Forest Refuge in Massachusetts in 2003-2004. During this retreat I emphasized concentration, and practiced jhana as the basis for insight for the first time. Following that retreat I wrote my first book, Focused and Fearless in order to encourage the cultivation of concentration, and to share the techniques I had learned for establishing the deep absorption states of jhana.
Vlad: Do you think it is important for serious meditation practitioners to do long retreats or can we advance in our practice just going about our lives?

We must use whatever opportunities we have, and not long for opportunities that we don't have. A meditation student who has young children is not going to run off and attend a ten-month retreat—that would be irresponsible. But even with many worldly responsibilities, we can take a lot of care with the daily practice and the continuity of mindfulness throughout the day.Generally I don't encourage the average practitioner to do multi-month retreats. Only a small proportion of students have sufficient interest and enough skill in meditation, and also have the social and economic opportunities to make use of such extended periods of seclusion. I usually encourage students to attend regular and frequent retreats of one week, a few weeks, or a month. These are long enough for the mind to settle, for the concentration to develop, and for a rich experience of insight to occur. I introduce jhana practice in ten-day retreats and am pleased with the results.

( I think that long term retreats are best done in monasteries of Theravada countries. I have no experience with those lasting a couple of weeks , prefering regular medition in private however do not exclude the advantages of goup sessions under the guidance of advanced practioners. )


Vlad: You teach jhana and vipassana meditation. Many people have never heard of jhana, can you tell me briefly what the difference is?

Jhana refers to deeply concentrated meditative states in which attention is steadily absorbed by the perception of a single meditation object. The Theravada tradition describes four particular absorption states. Skilled meditators can cultivate these peaceful and blissful states, and allow the mind to abide in them for whatever period of time they wish. But the purpose of deepening concentration is not to indulge in meditative bliss. Strong concentration allows deep insight to happen. I never teach concentration or jhana divorced from insight (vipassana). The purpose of cultivating concentration is to realize liberating insight.
(yes , the 3 fold Noble Path training of moral/sila, meditation/samadhi and wisdom/panna leads to abolishment of ignorance/ avijja)
Different kinds of concentration develop with different types of meditation objects. For example, when practicing insight meditation (vipassana) we contemplate the characteristics of changing mental or material phenomena, and develop a type of momentary concentration called khanika samadhi. The mind becomes unified through the momentary knowing of perceptions as they arise and perish.

( I would assume in connection with a lack of volition/kamma)

Jhana, however, refers to a subset of samadhi practices that use fixed, rather than changing, objects for meditation. When practicing with the breath as a jhana subject, for example, we steadily focus on the breath at the area of the nostrils until it transforms into a mental reflection of the breath, called a nimitta. Essentially, the objects that lead to jhana include certain concepts and mental objects; absorptions do not develop when observing changing sensations or fluctuating feelings.
(I never heard about this : 'focus on the breath at the area of the nostrils until it transforms into a mental reflection of the breath, called a nimitta' )
Vlad: Why the dominance of Vipassana, insight meditation, in the US?

Vipassana practice is liberating. When we devote time to develop strong concentration, we do so to strengthen our vipassana. A steady mind makes it possible to see things very clearly. The Theravada Buddhist tradition offers a carefully crafted sequence of exercises designed to guide the mind from distracted and obstructed habitual states, to liberation. First we learn to calm, strengthen, and energize the mind through concentration practices. Next, we use the concentrated mind to carefully discern the nature and functions of matter, mind, and their causes and effects. Once the concentrated mind has discerned mind and matter, then we contemplate mind and matter as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and empty of self. Clear seeing of these universal characteristics propels the mind through a sequence of insights that culminate in the realization of nibbana (nirvana in Sanskrit).

Although monastics and very dedicated lay practitioners have, for centuries, practiced deep concentration, most lay people don't have the time, inclination, or conducive living conditions to engage in rigorous traditional training. Some time ago, a historic movement began to emphasize forms of meditation that could be practiced by lay people. Emphasis was wisely placed on mindfulness and shorter retreats, which can be easily integrated into a lay lifestyle. Mindfulness is the basis of all these practice, and may be the most important factor for developing both concentration and insight.


( I wonder sometimes why the Buddha recommended Jhana and not Satipatthana /mindfulness for practise of householders .. or do I miss such source?)


Vlad: I am sure you have had many amazing teachers, is there one in particular that you would say is your main teacher?

I really could not say that there is one single teacher in my life; I feel deep gratitude for several teachers who have guided me, and several meditation centers that have provided the opportunity for practice. I started meditating in 1980, and in the mid 80's I met Christopher Titmuss, an English dhamma teacher who startled me with a rather direct approach to enquiry. I continued to attend retreats with many different teachers, but noticed that my practice progressed most rapidly with Christopher's guidance. Over the years I returned to his retreats with some regularity, and gradually he came to know my practice well. It was Christopher Titmuss who asked me to serve as a dhamma teacher, and he has remained my mentor.
I cherish the years that I spent in Asia—practicing in monasteries in Thailand, and studying with a guru named H.W.L Poonja in northern India. I lived in Poonjaji's home for several years in the early and mid 1990's. He taught a direct realization of the mind and stirred a powerful love of freedom.

unquote


(H.W.L. Poonja belongs to the so-called Neo-Vedanta line , there are similarities with Buddhism if one tries to see the common and keeps in mind that this school calls pure consciousness ' I am' , so only seemingly contradictory to the anatta doctrine. Mooji is one of popular Poonja's students with plenty of videos on youtube . Worthwhile to watch , for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHfuQRvNyiA and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxU7i9OB3qQ
He is a gifted speaker and one would wish , he would have had more contact with the Buddha Dhamma. Another wellknown follower of 'Neo-Vedanta is Eckhart Tolle ,though I didn't yet watch his videos in detail)

to be continued ..
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Mkoll » Mon Feb 03, 2014 10:06 pm

Kalama wrote:I wonder sometimes why the Buddha recommended Jhana and not Satipatthana /mindfulness for practise of householders .. or do I miss such source?)

In MN 51, he doesn't explicity recommend it but the householder Pessa the elephant driver's son says that "...we white-clothed lay people also from time to time abide with our minds well established in these four foundations of mindfulness." The Buddha then says: "So it is, Pessa, so it is!" and then describes the four kinds of person in regards to tormenting oneself and/or others.

:anjali:
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
-SN 12.61

Ex nihilo nihil fit.

Peace,
James
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:48 pm

Mkoll wrote:
Kalama wrote:I wonder sometimes why the Buddha recommended Jhana and not Satipatthana /mindfulness for practise of householders .. or do I miss such source?)

In MN 51, he doesn't explicity recommend it but the householder Pessa the elephant driver's son says that "...we white-clothed lay people also from time to time abide with our minds well established in these four foundations of mindfulness." The Buddha then says: "So it is, Pessa, so it is!" and then describes the four kinds of person in regards to tormenting oneself and/or others.

:anjali:


thanks for the source , Mkoll. I think one may take that even as advise :
the Buddha:..snip .. 'There are trainers in this Community of bhikkhus, become clever and appeased through virtues and the mind well established in the fourfold ways of establishing mindfulness. What four: Abiding mindful and aware, to dispel covetousness and displeasure for the world by reflecting the body in the body. Abiding mindful and aware, to dispel covetousness and displeasure for the world, by reflecting feelings in feelings. Abiding mindful and aware, to dispel covetousness and displeasure for the world, by reflecting the mental qualities in the mind, and abiding mindful and aware, to dispel covetousness and displeasure for the world, by reflecting thoughts in the Teaching."
When this was said, Pessa, the elephant rider’s son said " Venerable sir, it is wonderful, how wisely the Blessed One has shown the four establishments of mindfulness for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of grief, and lament, and for dispelling unpleasantness and displeasure for attaining knowledge and realising extinction." snip

I suppose there are more sources to find within the several hundred suttas concerning householders but in principle the 8fold Noble Path respectively the 3fold Path training being the core teaching applies for all followers , doesn't it?
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Mkoll » Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:58 pm

Kalama wrote:I suppose there are more sources to find within the several hundred suttas concerning householders but in principle the 8fold Noble Path respectively the 3fold Path training being the core teaching applies for all followers , doesn't it?

I'd say so, yes. And of course to greater or lesser degrees depending in the situation, e.g. meditation monk and busy householder.
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
-SN 12.61

Ex nihilo nihil fit.

Peace,
James
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:37 pm

Mkoll wrote:
Kalama wrote:I suppose there are more sources to find within the several hundred suttas concerning householders but in principle the 8fold Noble Path respectively the 3fold Path training being the core teaching applies for all followers , doesn't it?


I'd say so, yes. And of course to greater or lesser degrees depending in the situation, e.g. meditation monk and busy householder.



yes and probably much depending on one's view (ditthi) whether being constantly busy is a necessity or a matter of priorities . In respect to Jhana ,the Buddha advised practise 'from time to time' .I think it is understood ' at least' in order not to say regulary .
Piti Sutta A.N. 5.176
"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."

We all know about the lasting discussions whether Jhana practise is necessary for nobility or not. Well , the Noble Path is 8fold not 7fold , and above makes clear that Jhana should be part of the mundane Noble Path ( with mundane Right View being the forerunner).
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby kitztack » Wed Feb 05, 2014 9:19 pm

leigh brasington:
if you are craving a jhana, you've got sense desire and an unwholesome state of mind. You have to set those aside to be able to enter the jhana.........................................................................................................................
(here he gives instructions on developing access concentration and developing conditions for the first jhana)
don't go expecting anything. Expectations are the absolute worst things you can bring on a retreat. Simply do the meditation method. And when access concentration arises, recognize it, and shift your attention to a pleasant sensation. Don't try to do the jhanas. You can't. All you can do is pay attention to the object of meditation, and recognize when it's time to pay attention to another object.

http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm
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
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Thu Feb 06, 2014 5:54 pm

continue: (4)


Leigh:
'Ajahn Brahmavamso is a Theravadan Buddhist monk who lives in Western Australia. He studied extensively with Ajahn Chah in Thailand as well as in other places before settling in Australia. His definition of exactly what constituted a Jhana seems close to the depths indicated in the Visuddhimagga, but he says he teaches from the suttas and from his experience. His essays The Basic Method of Meditation and Travelogue to the four Jhanas outline his Jhana teaching.
(1. http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/articles/i ... ation.html
2. http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebmed042.htm )
The primary access method he teaches is Anapanasati, which he refers to as "experiencing the 'beautiful breath'." His main emphasis is about the attitude of not getting the 'doer' or 'craving' or 'will' involved. He emphasizes finding happiness and joy in stillness. His main teachings are now to 'make peace, be kind & be gentle' which are the right intentions of the Noble Eightfold Path. So no matter what method or object of meditation one uses, one has to make sure to have the 'right intentions' of it. His dharma talks here explain this in more detail.
unquote

I like Ajahn Brahm's tapes.. well, of the few I listened to (among those 334 available now, ) , not counting videos or articles. I recall humorous stories , nicely connected with his Dhamma talks, making it easier to pay attention than to many other speakers.

A few passages from above links:

'In order to know where your effort should be directed, you must have a clear understanding of the goal of meditation. The goal of this meditation is the beautiful silence, stillness and clarity of mind. If you can understand that goal then the place to apply your effort, the means to achieve the goal becomes very clear'.
'The effort is directed to letting go, to developing a mind that inclines to abandoning. One of the many simple but profound statements of the Lord Buddha is that "a meditator whose mind inclines to abandoning, easily achieves Samadhi". Such a meditator gains these states of inner bliss almost automatically.'


(Obviously those lucky ones with fewer attachments respectively identifications. We all know how tricky the mind operates to avoid non-activity , having always ' highly interesting ' comments available and if only about the issue of stillness.

S.N. XII,61 -translation .by Thanissaro Bhikkhu - brings it to the point:
"It would be better for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person to hold to the body composed of the four great elements, rather than the mind, as the self. Why is that? Because this body composed of the four great elements is seen standing for a year, two years, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred years or more. But what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another. Just as a monkey, swinging through a forest wilderness, grabs a branch. Letting go of it, it grabs another branch. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. In the same way, what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another. The instructed disciple of the noble ones, [however,] attends carefully & appropriately right there at the dependent co-arising: "'When this is, that is."'From the arising of this comes the arising of that." unquote extract

The nature of our day-by-day-mind is that of a monkey.. and very stubborn of a change.
Interesting is here the reference to the Law of Dependent Origination .
Ajahn Buddhadasa ,Suan Moke, is one of the few I keep in mind who emphasized the contemplation.
There are quite a number of people who can not imagine that inner silence is possible , it seems they assume that not-thinking involves the thought: not to think . Well , Abhidhamma offers grand possibilities in order to keep busy. )


Ajahn Brahm:
'You may go through the initial stages quickly if you wish, but be very careful if you so do. Sometimes, when you pass through the initial steps too quickly, you find the preparatory work has not been completed. It is like trying to build a town house on a very weak and rushed foundation. The structure goes up very quickly, but it comes down very quickly as well! So you are wise to spend a lot of time on the foundations, and on the `first storeys' as well, making the groundwork well done, strong and firm. Then when you proceed to the higher storey, the bliss states of meditation, they too are stable and firm.'
(I assume from Jhana 1 to Jhana 2 , volition in form of thought activity must have come to rest in order to inhabit the second storey.)
'The second stage of meditation in my scheme of things is where you have full continuous awareness of the breath. So the mind is not distracted at all, every moment it has the breath in mind and that state has been stabilised with continual attention until the breath is continually in mind, no distraction for many minutes on end. That's the second stage in this meditation. It coincides with the third stage in the Buddha's Anapanasati Sutta, where the meditator experiences whole body of breath, where the body here is just a word for the accumulation of all the parts of an inbreath, all the parts of an outbreath and the sequential awareness of these physical feelings. The next stage, the third stage in my scheme, the fourth stage in the Buddha's Anapanasati Sutta, is where, having attained that second stage and not letting it go, not letting go of the awareness of the breath one moment, one calms that object down, calms the object of the breath down.'


( when comparing with the usual definitions of the Jhanas , e.g. DN 2, in particular the similes the approach of Anapanasati seems to be quite different.)


'If you calm the physical feeling of breath down, the mental feeling of breath starts to arise -- the samadhi nimitta -- usually a light which appears in the mind. However, it can sometimes just appear to be a physical feeling. It can be a deep peacefulness; it can even be like a blackness. The actual description of it is very wide simply because the description is that which everyone adds on to a core experience, which is a mental experience. When it starts to arise you just haven't got the words to describe it. So what we add to it is usually how we understand it to ourselves. Darkness, peacefulness, profound stillness, emptiness, a beautiful light or whatever. Don't particularly worry about what type of nimitta it actually is.'

( mental feeling of breath starts to arise ..? hm ..more likely what mental formations 'translate' from the feeling -.I.M.H.O.
....about nimitta : perhaps best 'whatever' ? ;-) )


Ajahn Brahm:
''In fact the first jhana is quite wide. However, if it's a first jhana experience it has to have the five main features, the five main jhana factors. The second jhana is much narrower, much easier to find out whether this is where you've been. It's the same with the third and the fourth jhana, they get narrower still. The width of description for this experience, which you may offer, narrows down as you attain more profound depths of letting go.
With the first jhana, the Buddha gave it five factors. The main factors are the two which is piti-sukka. This is bliss. Sometimes, if you look in books about the meaning of these terms, they will try and split them into separate factors. They are separate things, but in the first couple of jhanas piti and sukka are so closely intertwined that you will not be able to distinguish one from the other and it's more helpful not to try, but to look at these two factors as just 'bliss' That's the most accurate description which most people can recognise: "This is bliss." The Buddha called it vivekaja piti-sukka, that particular type of bliss which is born from detachment, born from aloofness, born from seclusion. Viveka is the word for 'seclusion', 'aloofness', 'separateness' and it means 'separated from the world of the five senses'
'There are two other factors which confuse people again and again. They are the two terms 'vitakka' and 'vicira' -- which Bikkhu Bodhi in his Majima Nikaya translates as 'initial' and 'sustained' application of thought or 'initial' and 'applied' thought. However, it should be known and recognised, that thinking, as you normally perceive it, is not present in these jhanas at all. That which we call thought has completely subsided. What these two terms refer to is a last vestige of the movement of the mind which, if it was continued, would give rise to thinking. It is almost what you might call sub-verbal thought. It is a movement of the mind towards a meditation object. That's called vitakka. However it has to appear on a sub-verbal level, just a movement, just an intention, without the mind breaking into words and labels.'

( I disagree despite my very limited Jhana experience : vitakka appears to me as the arising of thought , thought conception ,i.e. bringing up a new topic which vicara follows up , adding associations in a way of discursive thinking , different to the a.m. monkey , missing direction in jumping)


to be continued
Kalama
 
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Sat Feb 08, 2014 5:10 pm

continue ( 5 ) with Ajahn Brahm , my comments in brackets ..no nit- picking intented , just what came into my mind :


'You should realize that you are much closer to Truth when you observe without commentary, when you experience just the silent awareness of the present moment.'

(How true and so difficult to sustain..)

'One of the beautiful ways of overcoming the inner commentary is to develop such refined present moment awareness, that you are watching every moment so closely that you simply do not have the time to comment about what has just happened. A thought is often an opinion on what has just happened, e.g. "That was good", "That was gross", "What was that?" All of these comments are about an experience that has just passed by. When you are noting, making a comment about an experience that has just passed, then you are not paying attention to the experience that has just arrived. You are dealing with old visitors and neglecting the new visitors coming now!'

(noting can be of advantage if it is used to confirm and get on with what comes next , respectively get back to the choosen focus )


'Sometimes it is through the inner commentary that we think we know the world. Actually, that inner speech does not know the world at all! It is the inner speech that weaves the delusions that cause suffering. It is the inner speech that causes us to be angry with those we make our enemies, and to have dangerous attachments to those we make our loved ones. Inner speech causes all of life's problems. It constructs fear and guilt. It creates anxiety and depression.'

(I don't think inner speech is the cause, but it happens due the process of Dependent Origination. Behind is volition , the kamma force /sankhara conditioned by ignorance/delusion.In practise one need to keep in mind , that feeling is conditioned by senses impression..and strong feeling , i.e. emotion, becomes the urge , the Buddha called 'thirst ' tanha.)

'It builds these illusions as surely as the skilful commentator on T.V. can manipulate an audience to create anger or tears. So if you seek for Truth, you should value silent awareness, considering it more important, when meditating, than any thought whatsoever.'

( It is an art of not getting attached to what the mind is suggesting, isn't it?. There is good reason to let go until the weakness of attention allows again distraction but the nature of the mind is restlessness and silence disturbs the habit . So the 'skilful commentator' is the mean of defence to avoid the change towards the passivity of observance. We may not forget that restlessness is stated as the 9th fetter in the Sutta Pitaka , i.e. just before ignorance . Anothet aspect of inner speech is to seek ways how to 'manage' one's feelings, in particular the unpleasant those from boredom to strong pain or from interest .)

'It is the high value that one gives to one's thoughts that is the major obstacle to silent awareness. Carefully removing the importance one gives to one's thinking and realizing the value and truthfulness of silent awareness, is the insight that makes this second stage -- silent awareness of the present moment -- possible.'
(the value may depend on the situation.. but as meditation is concerned it is certainly a major obstacle . The resolution ' to practise with silence ' before the session seems to me easier than challenge an inner monologue about values )


'You may imagine your mind to be a host at a party, meeting the guests as they come in the door. If one guest comes in and you meet them and start talking to them about this that or the other, then you are not doing your duty of paying attention to the next guest that comes in the door. Since a guest comes in the door every moment, all you can do is to greet one and then immediately go on to greet the next one. You cannot afford to engage in even the shortest conversation with any guest, since this would mean you would miss the one coming in next. In meditation, all experiences come through the door of our senses into the mind one by one in succession. If you greet one experience with mindfulness and then get into conversation with your guest, then you will miss the next experience following right behind.'

(just greeting , i.e. noting who came )

'When you are perfectly in the moment with every experience, with every guest that comes in your mind, then you just do not have the space for inner speech. You cannot chatter to yourself because you are completely taken up with mindfully greeting everything just as it arrives in your mind. This is refined present moment awareness to the level that it becomes silent awareness of the present in every moment.
When you focus on the breath, you focus on the experience of the breath happening now. You experience `that which tells you what the breath is doing', whether it is going in or out or in between. Some teachers say to watch the breath at the tip of the nose, some say to watch it at the abdomen and some say to move it here and then move it there. I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath. In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere! If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness, and if you locate it at your abdomen then it becomes abdomen awareness. Just ask yourself the question right now, "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.'

( I suppose most meditation teachers recommend a location , where motion is felt. Obviously one needs to try what works best for oneself. E.g to imagine the movement of the abdomen like a bellows , being synchron with in- and out-breathing, makes it -I.M.O. - easier to keep the focus though still able to recognize what is going on.)

'A common problem at this stage is the tendency to control the breathing, and this makes the breathing uncomfortable. To overcome this problem, imagine that you are just a passenger in a car looking through the window at your breath. You are not the driver, nor a `back seat driver', so stop giving orders, let go and enjoy the ride. Let the breath do the breathing while you simply watch without interfering.'

(yes, actually the breath is controlled by the autonomic nervous system ..we interfere with the frequence usually when paying attention . I wonder whether the yogi practise of bringing the breath to a certain pattern is useful. )

to be continued
Kalama
 
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Tue Feb 11, 2014 6:23 pm

I started to draft my next post ( passages from a disquisition about Jhana practise by Leigh B. (thus time by himself) and recognized my messages are likely becoming too long to be read.
A case of ' tl;dr , as I recently stumbled upon ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia: ... idn't_read 'This page in a nutshell: Be concise'. "I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short"— Blaise Pascal) '

Remembering that thinking too needs to be absorbed when passing the first Jhana , it seems to me that I may just fall into the trap of keeping the mind comfortably busy , even with this post ...


Well, what I miss so far is a concise description of one's experience refering to the Sutta texts as e.g. stated in DN 2 extract (translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

"In the same way, when these five hindrances are not abandoned in himself, the monk regards it as a debt, a sickness, a prison, slavery, a road through desolate country. But when these five hindrances are abandoned in himself, he regards it as unindebtedness, good health, release from prison, freedom, a place of security. Seeing that they have been abandoned within him, he becomes glad. Glad, he becomes enraptured. Enraptured, his body grows tranquil. His body tranquil, he is sensitive to pleasure. Feeling pleasure, his mind becomes concentrated.

(The Four Jhanas)
"Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates... this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.
"This is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.

"Furthermore, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters and remains in the second jhana: rapture and pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation — internal assurance. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from the east, west, north, or south, and with the skies supplying abundant showers time and again, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate and pervade, suffuse and fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk permeates... this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure."This, too, is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime."
unquote

continue with the topic if or when I am coming closer to 'brevity is the soul of wit (or insight! ?)
Kalama
 
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Re: Leigh Brasington's Interpretations of the Jhanas

Postby Kalama » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:54 pm

continue (5) with quotation from wellknown Dhamma teacher Ven. Nyanaponika Thera , whose disquisitions may add to the introduction of Jhana- guides by Leigh.
I.M.O.it is quite benefitial to recall the 5 Hindrances and what to do about it as preparation of Jhana meditation. Not really concize but that may be the task of the reader , keeping best associations for practise in mind..

Extract from the introduction ( see: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el026.html )

' They are called "hindrances" because they hinder and envelop the mind in many ways, obstructing its development (bhavana). According to the Buddhist teachings, spiritual development is twofold: through tranquillity (samatha-bhavana) and through insight (vipassana-bhavana). Tranquillity is gained by complete concentration of the mind during the meditative absorptions (jhana). For achieving these absorptions, the overcoming of the five hindrances, at least temporarily, is a preliminary condition. It is especially in the context of achieving the absorptions that the Buddha often mentions the five hindrances in his discourses.

There are five mental constituents which are chiefly representative of the first meditative absorption, and are therefore called the factors of absorption (jhananga). For each of these there is, according to Buddhist commentarial tradition, one of the five hindrances that is specifically harmful for it and excludes its higher development and refinement to the degree required for jhana; and on the other hand, the cultivation of these five factors beyond their average level will be an antidote against the hindrances, preparing the road to jhana. The relationship between these two groups of five is indicated in this anthology, under the heading of the respective hindrance.'

Remembering Sangha Day ( Magha Puja) , I am thinking about the Venerable's teacher : Ven Nyanatiloka Maha Thera ,only the second Westener admitted to the Order, and his contributions to spread the Teaching. We may be quite grateful of all who like him made it possible to learn about what the Master has proclaimed.
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