Meditative Personal Experiences

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: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Reductor » Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:39 pm

Collective wrote:The problem is, I've only been meditating for about just over a year so surely it can't be anything.


Don't dismiss something just because you haven't been at it 'long enough'. If you're practicing with sincerity and energy, I see no reason that you shouldn't be gaining insight into yourself and reality.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby PeterB » Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:43 pm

Just keep at it...and find a teacher. As we have discussed before there are more Buddhist teachers of every hue in the area where you live than in any other part of the UK. Due to the fact that a few years ago property prices were lower in your part of Wales compared to much of the UK and so lots of teachers moved there.
I gather that property prices are pretty much the same as everywhere else now...but for a while old rectories and the like were going cheap.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Collective » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:45 pm

IanAnd wrote:
PeterB wrote:
Collective wrote:When meditating, eyes closed, Samatha - at one point I was struck by how unreal, how false (for want of a better word) this existence is. It all felt plastic, like it was a facade, a covering of sorts. Like the colouring was too rich, it was like wathcing a T.V programme. I got the impression there was something much more simpler behind it all, behind all this complex 'reality stuff'.

Even when meditating I felt it was all unecessary, and was like this truth (whatever it is) was right in front of us all the time. . . .

The problem is, I've only been meditating for about just over a year so surely it can't be anything.

I've no idea what it is, if anything.

Talk to a teacher Collective and/or go back to the cushion. There is very little to be gained from anecdotes about such experiences..just keep on keeping on.

Pardon me if I mischaracterize the intent of your comment. It may not have been what you intended to say at all. It's just that it can be read to seem to be somewhat dismissive.

I wouldn't be so dismissive of Collective's impressions. These are all very important insights for him.

If I recall correctly, his background is Christian, and he came to Buddhist meditation practice to find peace of mind. Many people who were unable to find such peace within the religion they were born into eventually venture out to see if there is anything else out there that makes better sense to them, since the religion they were raised in doesn't satisfactorily address the questions they might have. That is the same path that I had trod when I first began looking into the Eastern practices.

So for someone from this kind of background, these are very important insights to be having because they begin to break down and speak to the mental conditioning that such a person has received. They help the person to begin looking at and questioning what they've been taught is reality, while encouraging them to examine more intimately their own direct experiences. And this is a good thing, as that (among other things) is what the Dhamma is meant to accomplish.

I would only say that these are good insights that Collective has realized and that he should continue to go deeper into his contemplations, keeping the Dhamma in mind as he goes and endeavoring to find (and see) more clearly into the origination of his experiences. . . as in dependent co-arisings and such. This will do more to help forward his progress in self-realization.

I could not have put it better myself

Thank you IanAnd
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby IanAnd » Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:24 am

Collective wrote:. . .at one point I was struck by how unreal, how false (for want of a better word) this existence is. It all felt plastic, like it was a facade, a covering of sorts.

I can only describe it as realising you've been living in a movie.

The problem is, I've only been meditating for about just over a year so surely it can't be anything.

I've no idea what it is, if anything.

Perhaps now you have a much better idea of what the Buddha meant by describing life as inherently dukkha (unsatisfactory). These are all good realizations that you have had. The quieter the mind becomes, the more chance these and other insights have to arise. Everything that arises in the mind is grist for the mill of realization and examination.

Keep studying, meditating, quieting the mind and don't be surprised as other more profound insights arise. With all the distractions of modern life that are around us, it's surprising sometimes that any of us are able to filter any of that out such that we begin to see what is so obviously in front of us. You're on the right track, Collective. Keep trodding forward.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby PeterB » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:27 am

I dont think that there is any way of ascertaing whether Collective is on the "right track" from a post on a website. He may or may not be.
I do think Collective that as you tend to go on asking the same questions repreatedly that you may need the assistance of a teacher. And where you live has more teachers both Theravada and Mahayana than you could shake a stick at. You mentioned that your nearest centre was a Kadampa one..if we leave aside Tibetan internal politics they would be as good as any in teaching you Samatha..for example.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby lojong1 » Sun Aug 01, 2010 5:12 am

Viscid wrote:I'd like to hear people's personal experiences during meditation.

I'm really shocked by the overall response in this thread. Otherwise Dhammically gabby, social folk are clamming right up about their meditative experiences. I figured more people would share at least enough to validate scriptural accounts of meditative attainments. Granted, sharing personal stuff online is not for everyone, but that doesn't seem to be the biggest issue.
To hear someone you trust give big ups to teachers, whose interpretation of sutta instruction they've found to be correct through personal experience, is a valuable faith builder. Even pointing out possible errors that may have crept in over the millennia (though losing the texts as they are seems unwise), if it leads to proper practice...surely this is what a sangha is for, to help each other live the Eightfold Path which explicitly includes 4 JHANAS in the Theravada tradition. Correct practice trumps tradition, and there aren't many Theravada teachers in my neighborhood.


I'm not embarrassed to say, and see no harm in saying, that I have no mastery over first Jhana. If none of the other 2000 members of this group have mastered the first Jhana either, I'd want to know what's up with that, and see if it can't be remedied. If Buddha said that 4th Jhana should be attained using 1st tetrad anapanasati BEFORE EVEN BEGINNING TO WORK THE OTHER TETRADS, then all the people who tell me they have experienced the 'tranquilization of citta-sankhaara' without any jhana, with only 5 minutes of distracted daydreaming...WTF are they really doing? Which texts and commentaries can be trusted?

Bhante Gunaratana: "After attaining the first jhana a few times the meditator is not advised to set out immediately striving for the second jhana. This would be a foolish and profitless spiritual ambition. Before he is prepared to make the second jhana the goal of his endeavor he must first bring the first jhana to perfection. If he is too eager to reach the second jhana before he has perfected the first, he is likely to fail to gain the second and find himself unable to regain the first. The Buddha compares such a meditator to a foolish cow who, while still unfamiliar with her own pasture, sets out for new pastures and gets lost in the mountains: she fails to find food or drink and is unable to find her way home."
AN 9.35
PTS: A iv 418
Gavi Sutta: The Cow
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2010
"...there are cases where a monk — foolish, inexperienced, unfamiliar with his pasture, unskilled in being quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, and entering & remaining in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation — doesn't stick with that theme, doesn't develop it, pursue it, or establish himself firmly in it. The thought occurs to him, 'What if I, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, were to enter & remain in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance.' He is not able... to enter & remain in the second jhana... The thought occurs to him, 'What if I... were to enter & remain in the first jhana... He is not able... to enter & remain in the first jhana. This is called a monk who has slipped & fallen from both sides, like the mountain cow, foolish, inexperienced, unfamiliar with her pasture, unskilled in roaming on rugged mountains."

Anyone have advice on developing the 5 indriya and the Jhana factors after the 5 nivarana are suppressed to the max using anapanasati?
Anyone experience difficulty in 'guarding the sign' for uninterrupted months before jhana entry, or should it not take that long?
Which is to be guarded? Parikamma-, uggaha- or patibhaga-nimitta?
Is access concentration necessarily lost while guarding the sign?

I did [either metta, karuna, or metta-karuna] relatively correctly once, as opposed to the 'fake it till you make it' metta that I manage every other time. [Success?] was preceded by maybe 20 minutes of anapanasati, then vertigo perception of slow rotation around the core. Eyes stayed closed--I knew it wasn't really happening and that I probably wouldn't puke. I mention this because I've heard people advised to open their eyes if they don't like the intense spinny feeling, which was distracting the first few times. Another 20 minutes, as vertigo ended, the wobbly mettaa object (human, male, alive, family) clicked into frame over a white background (I'd guess this was now the mettaa-parikamma- or uggaha-nimitta?). Full, bursty-forth feeling with a right sense of completion and job well done. I was in a Sikh temple so I walked away. A powerful and normally aggressive dog down the street felt or saw something and initiated super submissive contact that shocked its owner. The story of Buddha calming the raging elephant doesn't sound so far-fetched now. It seems [metta? or karuna?] can be [held] long after visualizations have ended--at least until the panca-nivarana resurge, so make sure you're far from man-eating beasts when that happens.

This online account is from a Goenka Vipassana student: "On the fourth day, when we asked for Vipassana from Lord Buddha, I found every cell of my body screaming out the plea. Immediately, my body became hot. My bones felt as if somebody was breaking them with 10 hammers. I was in immense pain, shaking violently. But over time I realized that if I remained equanimous, I could feel the pain arise and subside. That's when I understood that the mind was bringing up the pains. On my return, I have found myself to be far stronger, with more individuality and clarity."

My most painful sit quickly turned into what I assume was one of the higher, but still pre-jhana, piti-sukha combos, which let me sit for hours longer until lights-out (retreat--had to move). If there's a chance the pain might not kill you, stay put.

I've had shakes, too. Anapana, discomfort, big twitches, decision to stay sitting despite them, then a good hour of violent full-body-arm-leg shaking and deep erratic sobs. Not sure I could have stopped it if I'd wanted to, even after a walk. Haven't felt better in years.

Just found this useful looking yahoo jhana support group
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Jhanas/message/6695

link goes to a piece on 'Nikaya and Commentarial Traditions in Jhana/ Different Nimittas'

[just explored the link further, kinda sad ending, don't bother.]
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Kenshou » Sun Aug 01, 2010 5:48 am

Anyone experience difficulty in 'guarding the sign' for uninterrupted months before jhana entry, or should it not take that long?
Which is to be guarded? Parikamma-, uggaha- or patibhaga-nimitta?
Is access concentration necessarily lost while guarding the sign?


You know, unless you are particularly dedicated to doing things as per the Classical Theravada definition, you don't -need- to develop any special nimitta or patibhaganimitta or anything like that, other than the jhana factors of piti sukha vittakka vicara.

Just my 2 cents in passing.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby lojong1 » Sun Aug 01, 2010 6:34 am

Kenshou wrote:don't -need- to develop any special nimitta or patibhaganimitta or anything like that, other than the jhana factors of piti sukha vittakka vicara.


Maybe so; my snag feels a bit weaker even now.
Just carry on the same way for decades if need be, and there's no way 'the calf can get lost in the mountains,' or worse?
You've experienced ekaggata and it's definitely not part of the first Jhana?

What's that, 80000 deeply personal belief sharing posts about 'is it possible to molest a buddha?' and the like, then when it comes to the techniques that supposedly cut off all doubt about the matter...(hush, we don't go there!)
Something creepy about that makes my skin crawl. Meh, I'll get over it.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Kenshou » Sun Aug 01, 2010 6:53 am

Well to be a nitpicker, the term ekaggata isn't used in the suttas. But I do know that there is the term cetaso-ekodibhavam, which translates to something along the lines of "singleness of preoccupation" (which has slightly different connotations than "one-pointedness/ekaggata"), and singleness of preoccupation, or being quite well focused on a single task is certainly a part of jhana I'd say, that task being vitakka and vicara acting upon piti and sukha, as per the bath powder simile for the first jhana.

Just carry on the same way for decades if need be, and there's no way 'the calf can get lost in the mountains,' or worse?


Hm? Well not going anywhere as to prevent getting lost isn't going to result in any progress either! :tongue:
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 01, 2010 6:56 am

Hi lojong1
lojong1 wrote:I'm really shocked by the overall response in this thread. Otherwise Dhammically gabby, social folk are clamming right up about their meditative experiences. I figured more people would share at least enough to validate scriptural accounts of meditative attainments. Granted, sharing personal stuff online is not for everyone, but that doesn't seem to be the biggest issue.

I think you'll find that people will respond to questions for help or clarification that they feel they can relate to something that they know about. See this thread, for example:
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=5122

It's unlikely that many will respond to a general "list your attainments" question. It's just too general. And personally I don't think that it is particularly helpful to try to discuss with someone experiences that have taken several years to develop and only occur after a week or so of silent retreat unless they are starting to have that experience for themselves.

If you want some inspiration based on personal experience I recommend reading some books by or about various meditation masters...

Mike
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby lojong1 » Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:04 am

Kenshou wrote::tongue:


Exactly. Big up Kenshou! I guess I'm looking for a reason to jump in a deep end, craving a big, strong arahant foot up the arse. Hey, I'm sick, I need help.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby lojong1 » Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:36 am

mikenz66 wrote:experiences that have taken several years to develop and only occur after a week or so of silent retreat unless they are starting to have that experience for themselves

Even that is useful to beginners, no? The sangha has spoken, you'll get nowhere without retreats? Is everyone coming home a stream winner or coming home too soon?
Maybe I'm bitchy today because no one in my hood sees any point to retreats.

If you want some inspiration based on personal experience I recommend reading some books by or about various meditation masters...

Sound advice, and it's getting to my temple that there are so many 'contradicting' accounts of what the whole jhana scene looks like from the inside. Are they all on the/a right path, or is there BS in the upper ranks? Scary.

I thought I was keeping it real asking people to share what they know, rather than what they believe; I thought I was questioning like any others here, to see if this anapana-sutta stuff is worth pursuing, or will some Zen no-mind cane smacking take me just as far?" They are Buddhist meditation masters after all.
I'll step back, let it breeze, check the link...

Thanks for the input, peeps.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Kenshou » Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:15 am

Maybe it is so obvious I don't need to say it, but the best way to find out of something is worthwhile is to go do it. Anapanasati is going to be a good foundation for many other meditations that you might eventually try even if you don't want to do anapanasati itself.

And I'm not telling you not to seek the advice of teachers, but, why not take some time to read the/a bunch of suttas for yourself so you can make sense of all those contradicting accounts?

I guess I'm just saying that it might be good to spend some time doing your own practice and forming your own understanding, if you haven't already.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby lojong1 » Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:48 pm

Kenshou wrote:go do it.

Exactly. I thought understanding the instructions as they were intended would be helpful, especially as progress can be so slow in a meditation-hostile environment. :woohoo: :juggling: :computerproblem: :guns: :jedi: :rules: :cookoo: :coffee: :hug: :zzz: :cry: :rolleye: :pig: :tantrum: :tantrum: :tantrum: :offtopic:



:namaste:
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Moth » Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:14 am

Nothing wrong with explaining the experiences you've had of meditation, monks I have spoken to have done this very eloquently. I have only been meditating for a short while, consistently, and the "deepest" experience I've had was just an overwhelming sense of joy. When I opened my eyes I remembered again where I was, why I was there--I had been really absorbed in the meditation but did not realize until I stopped it. Also with the sense of joy the meditative process became much easier, it was no longer difficult to meditate, I had no urge to open my eyes, to regard the time, nor any feeling of restlessness. I felt very happy just sitting. One thing I've come to learn is that craving some special state, jhana, etc will only impede you from reaching it. It is best to meditate just for the sake of it, no out of a desire for progression. As they say in Zen, just sit.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby 5heaps » Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:34 am

for single-pointed meditation (shamata), in the beginning watching the object seems like the most boring thing to do in the world. as concentration builds you find out that actually its very very fun and exhilirating - there is actually nothing which compares in excitement and fun. which is a pretty weird thing to say about sitting down and not doing anything, but its really true.

the gap between shamata and the actual first concentration level is a huge chasm. its not uncommon that siddhis naturally develop in the first concentration due to the mind's lucidity and sophistication. matching such lucidity and sophistication, the mind is immune to emotional disturbance, is completely clear throughout the whole day, etc. this kind of mind is an actual rational mind.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby lojong1 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:16 am

Well to be a nitpicker
Kenshou wrote:The term ekaggata isn't used in the suttas. But I do know that there is the term cetaso-ekodibhavam, which translates to something along the lines of "singleness of preoccupation" (which has slightly different connotations than "one-pointedness/ekaggata")

"Unlike the previous four jhana factors, one-pointedness(ekaggata) is not specifically mentioned in the standard formula for the first jhana, but it is included among the jhana factors by the Mahavedalla Sutta (M.i,294[or 292?] /MN 43) as well as in the Abhidhamma and the commentaries [and...SN40.1; and MN 111]. One-pointedness is a universal mental concomitant, the factor by virtue of which the mind is centered upon its object. It brings the mind to a single point, the point occupied by the object."--The Jhanas In Theravada Buddhist Meditation by Henepola Gunaratana

Being a universal mental concomitant might explain why it is usually left out of jhana descriptions (as are many other cetasika that are not so useful as defining characteristics of jhana?).

"[Moth wrote:] overwhelming sense of joy".
The vague English joy, one of the 5 kinds of piiti, sukha, or both?

"[Moth wrote:]Craving some special state, jhana, etc will only impede you from reaching it. It is best to meditate just for the sake of it, not out of a desire for progression."
Craving Jhana can hinder progression, but didn't Buddha say somewhere that it was a more wholesome goal than others and should be desired at first? Dropping goals altogether would lead to Thina-middha, or...

"[Moth wrote:] I felt very happy just sitting."
I took this for Niivarana suppression--'Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities.' Wandering thoughts (jumpy vitakka-vicara?) slowed, had more peaceful objects, then nearly stopped and when they did come up, didn't wash away my focus for more than a split second. Nothing physical or mental pulling at me. I sure feel like I could have used the post-meditation period more wisely.

Y'all didn't say how you got there. In-out breath alone got me there with no effort at localized vedana or tinkereing with sabba-kaya or kaya-sankhara, although those stages seemed to happen automatically.

I found it was almost too nice, too easy to just sit there and chill, make no more progress and be cool with that. Is this the state where you should shift attention from the breath to the 5 indriya, and when they are strong enough, to the developing jhana factors? Are the 5 jhana masteries worth 'working' on or more or less automatic?
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Kenshou » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:20 am

Well to be a nitpicker


No problem, I do it all the time!

lojong1 wrote:"Unlike the previous four jhana factors, one-pointedness(ekaggata) is not specifically mentioned in the standard formula for the first jhana, but it is included among the jhana factors by the Mahavedalla Sutta (M.i,294[or 292?] /MN 43) as well as in the Abhidhamma and the commentaries. One-pointedness is a universal mental concomitant, the factor by virtue of which the mind is centered upon its object. It brings the mind to a single point, the point occupied by the object."--The Jhanas In Theravada Buddhist Meditation by Henepola Gunaratana

Being a universal mental concomitant might explain why it is usually left out of jhana descriptions (as are many other cetasika that are not so useful as defining characteristics of jhana?).


Okie dokie, it does appear in a sutta. I'm too lazy to muck through the pali to confirm weather or not that is true so I will take your word for it. I would still then argue that the meaning of this phrase in the context of the suttas ought to be taken with a different sense than in the context of some post-suttic works, that is some of the Classical Theravadin exegesis, but I guess I shouldn't get into that here and is another matter of personal choice, a thing to decide for yourself. Similarly for weather or not it ought to be considered a "universal mental concomitant".


Craving Jhana can hinder progression, but didn't Buddha say somewhere that it was a more wholesome goal than others and should be desired at first?


I do believe it was said that the pleasure of jhana is a pleasure not to be feared, since it helps to dislodge obsession with outside sources of satisfaction and helps develop mindfulness and concentration. But as Moth has pointed out, despite that fact, the best way to get it is to not crave it. It's kind of ironic. Plus any attachment to jhana has to be given up eventually anyway.

I found it was almost too nice, too easy to just sit there and chill, make no more progress and be cool with that. Is this the state where you should shift attention from the breath to the 5 indriya, and when they are strong enough, to the developing jhana factors? Are the 5 jhana masteries worth 'working' on or more or less automatic?


That depends, really. This is the point where someone would probably jump in and say that this is why having a good teacher is helpful. But that doesn't mean you can't practice on your own.

Personally I find this section from DN 2 to be quite accurate when it comes to the development of samadhi, to be so presumptuous to say that I think I know anything about it :tongue: :

...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.

"Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters and remains in the first jhana...


So I do think that by and large, things progress well on their own. However, to get the process rolling if you find yourself going nowhere at all, it helps to become aware of how it is that calmly watching the breath is pleasant and refreshing to the mind. You've got to keep your mindfulness on your initial theme otherwise you pull the bottom out from under your meditation, however it can be complementary to turn your attention, non-cravingly (since ya know, craving meditative happiness ironically prevents it) to how it is pleasant.

Additionally piti and sukha naturally start to arise when you do lots and lots of anapanasati or whatever meditation, I think. The best advice is really to just keep your mind alert, get rid of the hindrances, and watch the breath, and do it often.

But I must give the disclaimer that I am just a random guy on the internet and so you should think critically. This is something I've found really helpful to practice, so I like to encourage people to try it.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Reductor » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:27 am

Lojong,

If you practice the first terad, then you can eventually enter jhana. That statement stems from my personal meditative experience. ;) You'll find that the details of anapanasati has been hashed out many times on this forum, along with references to various experiences of the posters. Take the time to read the various threads and I'm sure you'll find a lot of good stuff.

Please, study the suttas some as they have a lot info. Perhaps Lee's method 2 can help you out if you want to get right at it.

The people that speak about jhana experiences have various positions on the matter. However, anyone who has experienced jhana (whether commentarial or suttanata style) will say that it worth pursuing, but that it takes a great deal of time and dedication. If those two things don't scare you off, then I see no reason that it should be beyond your grasp (or that of any determined meditator).

Just practice the first four steps and relax, being glad whenever the mind seems to become steady. That gladness will, at the right time, blossom into pitisukha so long as you keep the breath to the forefront of your attention and allow this gladness some space to grow.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby lojong1 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 5:52 am

Ekaggata as a jhana ingredient in two more suttas: SN40.1; and MN 111.
Bhante Vimalaramsi wrote: "Y si buscas la palabra en el diccionario, "ekagga", significa tranquilidad, significa paz, significa quietud de la mente. Ekaggata significa el acto de esta quietud."

[thereductor wrote:]"If you practice the first tetrad, then you can eventually enter jhana."
I have no gross doubt about that. The thing is, other local meditators say they are practicing the second tetrad without ever having reached a jhana; is that even possible? If it is, then perhaps 'devas'--people who begin anapana, get bored and stop because they are so much happier without meditation--might be better off starting from the piiti/sukha breaths. I mean for them, the first tetrad might seem like, or actually be, a step backwards and make them abandon practice.

I'm not looking to bash and compete; I want to call a spade a spade.
lojong1
 
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