Did anyone here attain jhana?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:25 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Indeed. Preferably with the focus on the texts and not personal experiences. This is standard Buddhist etiquette.

This is a good point. I'd extend this (if Geoff didn't already mean this) to texts by reputable teachers/commentators. I would prefer to avoid saying "In my experience it works like X" if I can find a passage that says roughly what I would have said, that I can quote as: "Ven. Y says it works like X".

And I certainly agree with Geoff that vipassana attainments are no less problematical to explain than jhana attainments (not that I have anything much to explain about either...). From what I can gather from various teachers it is very possible to severely misinterpret progress with the vipassana nanas.

:anjali:
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Ben » Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:30 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:Indeed. Preferably with the focus on the texts and not personal experiences. This is standard Buddhist etiquette.

This is a good point. I'd extend this (if Geoff didn't already mean this) to texts by reputable teachers/commentators. I would prefer to avoid saying "In my experience it works like X" if I can find a passage that says roughly what I would have said, that I can quote as: "Ven. Y says it works like X".

And I certainly agree with Geoff that vipassana attainments are no less problematical to explain than jhana attainments (not that I have anything much to explain about either...). From what I can gather from various teachers it is very possible to severely misinterpret progress with the vipassana nanas.

:anjali:
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Reductor » Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:21 am

Sanghamitta wrote:Wouldnt it be a lot simpler to keep such things between ourselves and our teacher/s as has already been suggested ?


Without a doubt. But for a growing number of people this is not an option (like me). At best the isolated practitioner can get in a retreat on occasion, circumstances permitting.

And while my personality inclines to solitude, and I am content to contemplate endlessly if need be, there are those that demand answers who do fall prey to the quick and easy. It is my hope that places like dhammawheel can provide such people both raw information as well as a lively and personal explanation of how to practice ALL of the path.

Perhaps this is too idealistic, but still this is what I hope for.
Michael

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

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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:51 am

Greetings thereductor,

I agree with what you're saying. It's all too easy for such a retort to become the Theravadin conversation stifling equivalent of Vajrayana's "talk to your guru about it".

With a suttanta method, the Dhamma of the suttas is the teacher, and what would otherwise be designated as a "teacher" is actually a "kalyana mitta", who assists and guides in better understanding "The Teacher's" (i.e. the Buddha's) instruction.

So to tie back to the topic at hand, kalyana mittas assist in understanding what the Buddha meant by jhana in the first place, and how it is to be achieved. The fact there are wildly different versions of this, in my mind, exemplifies the need to thoroughly investigate the Buddha's own words on such matters as one's central anchor, where other peripherals (including one's "flesh-and-blood teacher", if one exists) support that.

Taking a "local teacher" as The Teacher is fraught with the risk that depending on who you ask, jhanas range from either something relatively simple and humble, to something that is an absolute impossibility in this day and age. As Geoff (Nana) has said elsewhere, the sutta definition of jhana is sufficiently inclusive to incorporate both what later authors have defined as "vipassana jhana" and "samatha jhana".

Metta,
Retro. :)
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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:28 am

retrofuturist wrote:The fact there are wildly different versions of this, in my mind, exemplifies the need to thoroughly investigate the Buddha's own words on such matters as one's central anchor
And to thoroughly investigate the Buddha's own words would mean reading them in the original Pali.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:00 am

Greetings Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:The fact there are wildly different versions of this, in my mind, exemplifies the need to thoroughly investigate the Buddha's own words on such matters as one's central anchor
And to thoroughly investigate the Buddha's own words would mean reading them in the original Pali.

Yes, "thoroughly" would indeed involve some time and effort spent in understanding the nuances of the technical terms (incl. jhana), rather than merely taking one translator's English translation of such terms as gospel. We can never know the Buddha's words and intent 100% (and there are diminishing returns in any such pursuit to linguistically ascertain "what the Buddha taught" via the Pali Sutta Pitaka), but the Maha-parinibbana Sutta (amongst others) behooves us to make some attempt, lest we fall under the sway of "teachers" (either sincere, or charlatans) who have misrepresented the Buddha's teaching.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Reductor » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:29 am

tiltbillings wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:The fact there are wildly different versions of this, in my mind, exemplifies the need to thoroughly investigate the Buddha's own words on such matters as one's central anchor
And to thoroughly investigate the Buddha's own words would mean reading them in the original Pali.


Absolutely. The more immediately you depend upon the sutta pitaka as support for your practice, the more necessary it becomes that you study pali.
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: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Reductor » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:45 am

retrofuturist wrote:With a suttanta method, the Dhamma of the suttas is the teacher, and what would otherwise be designated as a "teacher" is actually a "kalyana mitta", who assists and guides in better understanding "The Teacher's" (i.e. the Buddha's) instruction.


True. There is only one mainspring for what we practice and discuss.

Every time the thought "I am teaching" comes along, I stab it in the head. Hahah.

So to tie back to the topic at hand, kalyana mittas assist in understanding what the Buddha meant by jhana in the first place ... As Geoff (Nana) has said elsewhere, the sutta definition of jhana is sufficiently inclusive to incorporate both what later authors have defined as "vipassana jhana" and "samatha jhana".


Which brings me to another blessing of the forum: there are many traditions represented here by their students, many who pass on the instructions they were given, many who could relate how they actualized those instructions (or didn't). Many who could say what they experienced, many that might share how their experiences converge or diverge. There are scholars who study the sutta corpus, scholars who study both sutta corpus and the commentary, scholars who study more broadly still. There are even scholars who practice with zeal. Last, but not least, there are many additional persons with inquisitive minds asking penetrating questions. All these things do lend the discussions here a illuminating quality nearly impossible to replicate IRL.

And I think speaking a little more freely plays into this very well.
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: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Jul 13, 2011 7:15 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:Indeed. Preferably with the focus on the texts and not personal experiences. This is standard Buddhist etiquette.

This is a good point. I'd extend this (if Geoff didn't already mean this) to texts by reputable teachers/commentators. I would prefer to avoid saying "In my experience it works like X" if I can find a passage that says roughly what I would have said, that I can quote as: "Ven. Y says it works like X".

And I certainly agree with Geoff that vipassana attainments are no less problematical to explain than jhana attainments (not that I have anything much to explain about either...). From what I can gather from various teachers it is very possible to severely misinterpret progress with the vipassana nanas.

:anjali:
Mike

It certainly is.
And I would be less bothered by Jnana talk if it were indeed conducted according to standard Buddhist etiquette.
If that were the case and the discussion was to deploy the Pali terms as has been suggested, which would be the correct subforum for the discussion ?
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:01 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:A "middle way" could be to discuss different aspects of the jhanas from the Suttas and with only brief mentions of some experiences (if one really has any) which should only be for the purpose of encouraging others to practice, not for any self-aggrandizement.

Indeed. Preferably with the focus on the texts and not personal experiences. This is standard Buddhist etiquette.

All the best,

Geoff


Maybe I am alone with this opinion but I think discussing meditation only via quoting text and without personal experience is what leads to all these misunderstandings. As we all know Jhana (and thus lots of other terms) is interpreted differently by different traditions and teachers, so a statement like "jhana is this or that" depends on the context of the tradition. To say "I experienced this" and describe it in own words as best as possible is honest, it cannot as easily be misinterpreted and people with similar experiences learn to recognize the same experience when described. Also, if one just quotes teachers and scripture one implies that one's own interpretation of their words is correct and I think this can become problematic, especially with teachers we cannot ask if our interpretation of their words is correct. I think, descriptions in own words and the possiblity to clarify by being able to directly ask a person and get a feedback is more useful.

For myself I can say that I find is the most useful when I describe an experience in own words and others can provide the various names of this experience in the different traditions.
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:04 am

Freawaru wrote:For myself I can say that I find is the most useful when I describe an experience in own words and others can provide the various names of this experience in the different traditions.
And none of the other issues raised matter?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:15 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Freawaru wrote:For myself I can say that I find is the most useful when I describe an experience in own words and others can provide the various names of this experience in the different traditions.
And none of the other issues raised matter?


Hi Tilt,

I am sorry but I do not understand your question. Please keep in mind that I am German. I do understand most of what is written on this forum but this phrase of yours I have not encountered before. Could you please rephrase your question ?
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:21 am

Freawaru wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Freawaru wrote:For myself I can say that I find is the most useful when I describe an experience in own words and others can provide the various names of this experience in the different traditions.
And none of the other issues raised matter?


Hi Tilt,

I am sorry but I do not understand your question. Please keep in mind that I am German. I do understand most of what is written on this forum but this phrase of yours I have not encountered before. Could you please rephrase your question ?
Have you been following this thread, reading all the postings? A number of issues have been raised concerning how the question of jhana and "attainment" are talked about. What about those issues?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:01 am

Hi threductor,

Every time the thought "I am teaching" comes along, I stab it in the head.


Nice one. :thumbsup: This is not to say that we cannot be good kalyanamitta to others- indeed it is the 'whole of the holy path' and you yourself have quite clearly articulated the need for instruction- 'my bowl is empty..' - and that is a very commendable position, rather than general mistrust/conceit. I think as long as we avoid creating conceited 'teacher' roles for ourselves and just help people out with kindness, to the best of the abilities that we posses, then there is nothing wrong in that. It is easy to become attached to being a 'teacher' or 'attained' to this stage or other - leave all that behind - they are just more self-views (sakkaya ditti) caused by not properly recognising the five aggregates within. The Buddha for most of his lifetime only recognised supramundane attainments after the death of persons concerened (I think, because it is detrimental to their progress otherwise).

Many sotapannas have doubts about their attainment simply because their insight at some level doesn't allow them to think of themselves as this or that (heck, they don't even consider themselves as 'solidly existing 'beings'!). This creates a vicious loop because they are not supposed to have doubt!! So the very thought ('am I a soatapanna?') becomes a disqualified for being one - lol! In any case, since they may well not be sotapannas (mistaken identity :) ) it is best to leave out such speculation and work with the lobha, dosa and moha to greater and greater depths, until eventual complete removal of these 'three poisons'. I think this is the best way forward- the sotapanna attainment is IMHO used by the Buddha as an enticement, much like him showing heavenly maidens to Nanda to get him to practice.. :)

Can I also/just say that this discussion is really helpful for me- this issue is far from clear in my mind.

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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:27 am

tiltbillings wrote:Have you been following this thread, reading all the postings? A number of issues have been raised concerning how the question of jhana and "attainment" are talked about. What about those issues?


Thank you :smile:

Yes, I have been following this thread. I understand some issues such as the one Ben described happening on the weekend. I understand this can become a problem. But only if there were too many people here who had no idea. You moderators obviously identify these kind of people pretty fast and have everything under control.

When learning something new one always encounters people who are fakes. It is not just a phenomen of Buddhism. You find the same in science for example. I think it is actually useful and necessary in general to learn how to identify those. To recognize the general patterns. Authoritative thinking is discouraged in Dhamma and own experience and analysis encouraged. Still, believing in authority is a human instinct, some have more problems to transcendent it than others.

The following quote is from "Hardcore Zen" by Brad Warner describing autobiographically his way to Zen. In University he encountered the Hare Krishnas

Brad Warner wrote:The guy who run the cooking class happened to be the head of the Hare Krishna temple in Cleveland. He was an Anglo-type but he went by some Indian "spiritual name" I can't recall. .... I was real impressed with this guy. He had the saffron robes, the shaved head, and that mellow spiritual way of talking that let you know here was a guy who had thruely achieved a rare state of inner with-it-ness. I remember sittting at his feet thinking "Golly, I could just stay here forever and learn so many wonderful things". He was the very image of everything a Holy Man from a Mystical Eastern Spiritual Tradition should be.

A year later I saw his picture in the paper. He was on the run from the law, wanted in conjunction with a bizarre murder in West Virginia.


To want to be impressed by so-called authorities is a human instinct, a wish to return to the safety of parents. I think, originally, the tradition of not speaking about one's experiences (except with a specific authority) was to counter this instinct, to have less people "follow the sandal" (Life of Brian, anyone?). But the drawback is that there are less people really getting the information they need. Today, with internet, things are different. Most true searchers are much less impressible and more critical. Looking here and there, learning from many sources. There is less guruship in the West today and it seems to me it is not necessary anyway. But without the one and only authority, less sitting at the feet of a guru, we need other means of learning.

Some posts ago Ben mentioned humility. I think true humility includes the ability to consider and analyse many different theories and models without making one of them "mine". Without clinging to them. When one of them (even a favorite one) turns out to be false it does not hurt, because it is not "my theory" but just "a theory" if you know what I mean. I don't think it is necessary to cling to one guru or tradition as mine, to identify with it. Sure, it would be optimal to have a teacher who understands where one is and can lead one step by step but - trying to find one for years now - I doubt that this is very probable. So we have to find different means to find our answers. Discussion is one of them and that is why we are here. People know different things, I don't have much knowledge of scripture and Pali for example, and I am happy to learn when someone shares this. Others have knowledge of meditational experience and I don't see why sharing this is is different from sharing scriptural knowledge. It makes no difference to me whether someone is an expert in Pali or an expert in meditation. It makes no difference to me whether I get the answer I seek from an aryan or a putthujana - the important thing for me is that the answer is correct, not it's source.

The question is: do you want to think in terms of authority or in terms of expertism? An authority is a guru, a leader. An expert is someone you consult regarding a specific problem, may it be scriptural or meditative. There is no authority at all when you think in terms of expertism. And thus no leading astray.
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Nyana » Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:42 am

Sanghamitta wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:Indeed. Preferably with the focus on the texts and not personal experiences. This is standard Buddhist etiquette.

This is a good point. I'd extend this (if Geoff didn't already mean this) to texts by reputable teachers/commentators. I would prefer to avoid saying "In my experience it works like X" if I can find a passage that says roughly what I would have said, that I can quote as: "Ven. Y says it works like X".

And I certainly agree with Geoff that vipassana attainments are no less problematical to explain than jhana attainments (not that I have anything much to explain about either...). From what I can gather from various teachers it is very possible to severely misinterpret progress with the vipassana nanas.

:anjali:
Mike

It certainly is.
And I would be less bothered by Jnana talk if it were indeed conducted according to standard Buddhist etiquette.

Buddhists discussing, debating, and disagreeing with other Buddhists on a variety of subjects is almost as ancient as Buddhism itself.

This particular subject of debate appears in the Kathāvatthu, where, for a number of reasons, the proposed resolution isn't very convincing. It also appears in the Abhidharmakośabhāsya in terms somewhat related to certain aspects of contemporary discussions of the subject. After presenting both sides of the debate, Vasubandhu concludes by saying the following:

    A certain school maintains the system that has been presented, but the ancient masters (pūrvācārya-s) are not in agreement on this. Consequently the point should be further examined.

If a learned Indian scholar monk of the caliber of Vasubandhu couldn't find a satisfactory resolution to the subtler points of disagreement, then we shouldn't be surprised or bothered by the fact that it is still a subject of debate 1600 years later.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:16 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:If a learned Indian scholar monk of the caliber of Vasubandhu couldn't find a satisfactory resolution to the subtler points of disagreement, then we shouldn't be surprised or bothered by the fact that it is still a subject of debate 1600 years later.
And it probably not a bad thing that there is such variation in the understanding of what jhana encompasses.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:17 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:If a learned Indian scholar monk of the caliber of Vasubandhu couldn't find a satisfactory resolution to the subtler points of disagreement, then we shouldn't be surprised or bothered by the fact that it is still a subject of debate 1600 years later.
And it probably not a bad thing that there is such variation in the understanding of what jhana encompasses.


For discussion I agree. For actual practice it can complicate things, though. As I learned in this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8957

there are not only different definitions of smatha and jhana but also different definitions of access concentration. If one reads (or hears) an instruction such as "enter access concentration and then ..." either by scripture or a teacher one first has to know which access concentration is meant. Of course, the obvious solution is to explore them all :juggling:
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Nyana » Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:33 pm

tiltbillings wrote:And it probably not a bad thing that there is such variation in the understanding of what jhana encompasses.

And the fact that the discussion is still presently occurring at all is a very good thing. It's a sign of a healthy, vibrant, living tradition peopled by diverse individuals who are actually interested in practice. Otherwise, Buddhist meditation would be little more than an academic curiosity and the sutta records and classical meditation manuals just dusty museum pieces.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Did anyone here attain jhana?

Postby Viscid » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:03 pm

rowyourboat wrote:I think as long as we avoid creating conceited 'teacher' roles for ourselves and just help people out with kindness, to the best of the abilities that we posses, then there is nothing wrong in that. It is easy to become attached to being a 'teacher' or 'attained' to this stage or other - leave all that behind - they are just more self-views (sakkaya ditti) caused by not properly recognising the five aggregates within.

:goodpost:

There needs to be an internal evaluation of one's desires for teaching: Is it because you want to be respected by others, or because you want to help them selflessly? Though I'd imagine if one is particularly deluded, they'd just convince themselves that they're being selfless..
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