First Jhana...a description

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

First Jhana...a description

Postby chownah » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:37 am

I was surprised to find this reference to first jhana which seems to indicate that not only is there directed thought happening but also evaluation....for me the concept of evaluation means a fairly complex mental event....it seems to me from the description in this Sutta that first jhana could very likely be attained or maintained while off the cushion.....I guess....
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
MN 43 PTS: M i 292
Mahavedalla Sutta: The Greater Set of Questions-and-Answers
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 2006–2011


"........................................
The first jhana
"What, friend, is the first jhana?"

"There is the case, friend, where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensual pleasures, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. This is called the first jhana."

"And how many factors does the first jhana have?"

"The first jhana has five factors. There is the case where, in a monk who has attained the five-factored first jhana, there occurs directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, & singleness of mind. It's in this way that the first jhana has five factors."

"And how many factors are abandoned in the first jhana, and with how many is it endowed?"

"Five factors are abandoned in the first jhana, and with five is it endowed. There is the case where, in a monk who has attained the first jhana, sensual desire is abandoned, ill will is abandoned, sloth & torpor is abandoned, restlessness & anxiety is abandoned, uncertainty is abandoned. And there occur directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, & singleness of mind. It's in this way that five factors are abandoned in the first jhana, and with five it is endowed."
....................................."
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:55 am

savitakkaṃ, savicāraṃ, vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ,
having initial thought, reflection, as-well as the happiness and joyful-interest native to seclusion,

this is a common description of the first Jhana

it is commonly described to me as placing the nail on the spot it is going to be nailed in (initial thought = vitakka) tthen hammering it in (reflection = vicāra)

Another, less frequent, description of the first jhāna factors includes 'cittass'ekaggata' which can be translated as unification of mind, although it can also be translated as one-pointedness of mind, however as cetaso ekodibhāva can also be translated in both ways, and is commonly used to describe the second jhana, so it would be reasonable to assume a earlier stage on mental unification, where the mind is unified upon the object, although not completely stable due to the verbal formations (savitakkaṃ, savicāraṃ, = initial thought, reflection,) still being present.

I relate it on a coarse level to be like
vitakka, = there is the object.
vicāra = this is what the object is like.

P.S., allot of confusion arises due to this part of the description by the way.
Last edited by Cittasanto on Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby pegembara » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:06 am

When sitting in meditation the mind becomes refined, but whatever state it's in we should try to be aware of it, to know it. Mental activity is there together with tranquillity. There is vitakka. Vitakka is the action of bringing the mind to the theme of contemplation. If there is not much mindfulness, there will be not much vitakka. Then vicāra, the contemplation around that theme, follows. Various weak mental impressions may arise from time to time but our self-awareness is the important thing-whatever may be happening we know it continuously. As we go deeper we are constantly aware of the state of our meditation, knowing whether or not the mind is firmly established. Thus, both concentration and awareness are present.
To have a peaceful mind does not mean that there's nothing happening, mental impressions do arise.



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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby chownah » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:19 am

What I'm wondering but did not emphasize enough is whether from the description I posted does it seem likely that first jhana can be attained or maintained OFF the cushion? It seems to me that since directed thought and analysis occur then it seems that one could take the process of walking (for instance) as the object (instead of the breath) and the directed thought and analysis could be adequate to support the facilities needed for walking.....I guess this would be first jhana while doing walking meditation....
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:38 am

some suttas I have read do indicate that it maybe possible although it is not explicitly stated!

however saying that I do doubt it is Jhana when off the cushion but rather what is called access or neighbourhood concentration, also there are some descriptions of the Buddha within the texts which would suggest (to me at least) he may of well been in some form of jhana like state all the time, but again it would of not been jhana proper.

edit - jhana at the first level is said to have the side effect of non-movement, one has a degree of focus that does not allow for physical movement, and as walking meditation is never directly associated to Jhana 'proper' then it is more likely the case that this would be access or neighbourhood concentration.
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Zom » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:39 pm

I was surprised to find this reference to first jhana which seems to indicate that not only is there directed thought happening but also evaluation....for me the concept of evaluation means a fairly complex mental event....


As I see it, this is an incorrect interpretation of Ven. Thanissaro. This "evaluation" in pali sound like "vicara", and Canonical Commentaries say that this is not an "evaluation", but this is the function of the mind that holds an object (so that is just "holding" the meditation object). While the second factor is vitakka - and that is NOT a thought, but a this is a mind's directing to the object. So the commentarial example of these 2 factors is this: imagine that you grab a cup with left hand and start rubbing it with right hand. Same with the mind applying itself onto the object. It directs itself (vitakka) and holds the object (vicara). When these 2 factors will be strong and continuous, an ekaggata (unity/one-pointedness) factor will start to develop.

From personal experience I can say, that while i've never been to jhana, I managed to gain some one-pointed samadhi for quite a long time. And the mind was very still - without any thoughts. And this is still quite far from 1st jhana. So as I see it - in the 1st jhana there are no thoughts at all.

PS: The most informative description of all 4 jhanas with preliminary stage (abandoning hindrances) can be found here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
By the way, it is useful to notice, that jhanas here are said to be the fruits of ascetic life. That means that this is almost the very end of the Path ,)
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby PeterB » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:53 pm

Zom wrote:
I was surprised to find this reference to first jhana which seems to indicate that not only is there directed thought happening but also evaluation....for me the concept of evaluation means a fairly complex mental event....


As I see it, this is an incorrect interpretation of Ven. Thanissaro. This "evaluation" in pali sound like "vicara", and Canonical Commentaries say that this is not an "evaluation", but this is the function of the mind that holds an object (so that is just "holding" the meditation object). While the second factor is vitakka - and that is NOT a thought, but a this is a mind's directing to the object. So the commentarial example of these 2 factors is this: imagine that you grab a cup with left hand and start rubbing it with right hand. Same with the mind applying itself onto the object. It directs itself (vitakka) and holds the object (vicara). When these 2 factors will be strong and continuous, an ekaggata (unity/one-pointedness) factor will start to develop.

From personal experience I can say, that while i've never been to jhana, I managed to gain some one-pointed samadhi for quite a long time. And the mind was very still - without any thoughts. And this is still quite far from 1st jhana. So as I see it - in the 1st jhana there are no thoughts at all.

PS: The most informative description of all 4 jhanas with preliminary stage (abandoning hindrances) can be found here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
By the way, it is useful to notice, that jhanas here are said to be the fruits of ascetic life. That means that this is almost the very end of the Path ,)

So in your view offering a description or commentary on a state you have no experience of is likely to be useful ?
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Zom » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:56 pm

So in your view offering a description or commentary on a state you have no experience of is likely to be useful ?


I do have experience of vitakka-vicara and I think everybody does - if one put at least some effort to notice that ,)
Concerning jhanas - yes, the descriptions are extremely useful, because without them you can take anything for jhana.
In other words, map is boldly needed on the way.
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby chownah » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:16 pm

Manapa,
Do you know where you got the non-movement notion?...a reference and/or link would be great. I guess the movements of breathing would be excluded....any explanation of why?
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby chownah » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:27 pm

Zom wrote:
I was surprised to find this reference to first jhana which seems to indicate that not only is there directed thought happening but also evaluation....for me the concept of evaluation means a fairly complex mental event....


As I see it, this is an incorrect interpretation of Ven. Thanissaro. This "evaluation" in pali sound like "vicara", and Canonical Commentaries say that this is not an "evaluation", but this is the function of the mind that holds an object (so that is just "holding" the meditation object). While the second factor is vitakka - and that is NOT a thought, but a this is a mind's directing to the object. So the commentarial example of these 2 factors is this: imagine that you grab a cup with left hand and start rubbing it with right hand. Same with the mind applying itself onto the object. It directs itself (vitakka) and holds the object (vicara). When these 2 factors will be strong and continuous, an ekaggata (unity/one-pointedness) factor will start to develop.
....

Zom,
What you say is interesting. I'm hoping for something more certain than "sounds like". If you think it would be clearer with another translation can you find someone else's translation of the same Sutta?
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby daverupa » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:53 pm

Capturing the sense of vitakka-vicara in a more colloquial way will come from translating the pair as "thinking-pondering". It still captures the subtlety of the difference while at the same time making it easier to locate in one's experience.

The five-factored jhana description in that Sutta is likely a later formulation. "Unlike the previous four jhana factors, one-pointedness 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) as well as in the Abhidhamma and the commentaries." (source) "Furthermore in the 2nd Jhana, vitakka and vicara are replaced with "vupasama, ajjhattam sampasadanam" and "ekodi-bhavam" - "inner tranquility" and "unification of mind." If there was ekaggata in 1st Jhana, there would be no need to specify the gaining of "ekodi-bhavam" to replace vitakka and vicara in the 2nd Jhana." (source)

So, the Sutta in question is actually the one Sutta that makes understanding the Suttanta description of jhana problematic!
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

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

Postby PeterB » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:17 pm

Zom wrote:
So in your view offering a description or commentary on a state you have no experience of is likely to be useful ?


I do have experience of vitakka-vicara and I think everybody does - if one put at least some effort to notice that ,)
Concerning jhanas - yes, the descriptions are extremely useful, because without them you can take anything for jhana.
In other words, map is boldly needed on the way.

As is demonstrated quite regularly, even WITH them you can take anything for Jhana.

The moral is I think, if one is interested in the Jnanas ignore what is opined on online forums and get thee to a hands on teacher...in the absence of which leave the subject alone.
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:30 pm

chownah wrote:Manapa,
Do you know where you got the non-movement notion?...a reference and/or link would be great. I guess the movements of breathing would be excluded....any explanation of why?
chownah


of the top of my head no, sorry, but I will have a look. I have a feeling it is to do with the quality not normally mentioned i.e. the fifth factor, I mentioned more about above.

hopefully another will be able to give a reference.
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Zom » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:52 pm

What you say is interesting. I'm hoping for something more certain than "sounds like". If you think it would be clearer with another translation can you find someone else's translation of the same Sutta?


I'm not sure there is some. Perhaps of Ven. Bodhi.. Nanamoli ..Nyanaponika?
There you would find something like "applied thought" and "directed thought" as far as I remember his translations...

As is demonstrated quite regularly, even WITH them you can take anything for Jhana.
The moral is I think, if one is interested in the Jnanas ignore what is opined on online forums and get thee to a hands on teacher...in the absence of which leave the subject alone.


Sure, but actually it is much easier to see that this is the real jhana with these suttas examples (when happiness and rapture are filling your whole body that no single spot remains unfilled with them). For example from time to time in meditation (both walking and sitting) I experience some kind of goosebumps - both with the skin and even internally, though they last only for seconds and never cover and fill the whole body. So this experience seems to coincide with what is being said in the sutta - (though this must be some preliminary stage, that could eventually lead to jhana). If I will manage to fill the body completely and perhaps sustain it for some period of time, I think I would consider this to be a jhana.

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.

Buddha would not say that if there was no need for it ,)
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby chownah » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:56 pm

chownah wrote:
Zom wrote:
I was surprised to find this reference to first jhana which seems to indicate that not only is there directed thought happening but also evaluation....for me the concept of evaluation means a fairly complex mental event....


As I see it, this is an incorrect interpretation of Ven. Thanissaro. This "evaluation" in pali sound like "vicara", and Canonical Commentaries say that this is not an "evaluation", but this is the function of the mind that holds an object (so that is just "holding" the meditation object). While the second factor is vitakka - and that is NOT a thought, but a this is a mind's directing to the object. So the commentarial example of these 2 factors is this: imagine that you grab a cup with left hand and start rubbing it with right hand. Same with the mind applying itself onto the object. It directs itself (vitakka) and holds the object (vicara). When these 2 factors will be strong and continuous, an ekaggata (unity/one-pointedness) factor will start to develop.
....

Zom,
What you say is interesting. I'm hoping for something more certain than "sounds like". If you think it would be clearer with another translation can you find someone else's translation of the same Sutta?
chownah

Zom,
Seems that your "sounds like" was exactly right for vitakka and vicara...now can you direct me to the commentary that you say expounds on these?...or another translation...or both?
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:12 pm

I think I picked it up from one of Ajahn Brahms Books actually :embarassed:

but just a note to daverupa - it is best not to assume two different phrases are referring to exactly the same thing.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Nyana » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:17 pm

Zom wrote:As I see it, this is an incorrect interpretation of Ven. Thanissaro. This "evaluation" in pali sound like "vicara", and Canonical Commentaries say that this is not an "evaluation", but this is the function of the mind that holds an object (so that is just "holding" the meditation object).

The canonical commentaries don't say this.

Zom wrote:While the second factor is vitakka - and that is NOT a thought, but a this is a mind's directing to the object. So the commentarial example of these 2 factors is this: imagine that you grab a cup with left hand and start rubbing it with right hand. Same with the mind applying itself onto the object. It directs itself (vitakka) and holds the object (vicara).

Again, the canonical commentaries don't say this. You're relying on late post-canonical interpretations of these two terms. The canonical Dhammasaṅgaṇī gives the following two registers for vitakka and vicāra (the English equivalents here are those offered by Lance Cousins, who's done an exhaustive survey of all relevant Pāli sources):

    vitakka:

    1. takka 2. vitakka 3. saṅkappa 4. appanā 5. byappanā 6. cetaso abhiniropanā 7. sammāsaṅkappa

    1. speculation 2. thought 3. thought formation 4. fixing 5. firm fixing 6. applying the mind 7. right thought formation.

    vicāra:

    1. cāra 2. vicāra 3. anuvicāra 4. upavicāra 5. cittassa anusandhānatā 6. anupekkhanatā

    1. wandering 2. wandering about 3. repeated wandering about 4. frequenting 5. explorativeness of mind 6. constant examination.

And here's how the early para-canonical Peṭakopadesa defines and explains these two jhāna factors:

    Here, for fulfilling non-passion he thinks the thought of renunciation. Here, for fulfilling non-aggression he thinks the thought of non-aversion. Here, for fulfilling non-delusion he thinks the thought of harmlessness.

    Here, for fulfilling non-passion he is secluded from sensual pleasures. Here, for fulfilling non-aggression and fulfilling non-delusion he is secluded from unskillful phenomena. And so he enters and remains in the first jhāna, which includes directed thought and evaluation, as well as joy and pleasure born of seclusion.

    Directed thought: There are three kinds of directed thought, namely the thought of renunciation, the thought of non-aversion, and the thought of harmlessness.

    Here, directed thought is the first instance while evaluation is the evaluation of what is thereby received. Just as when a man sees someone approaching in the distance he does not yet know whether it is a woman or a man, but when he has received [the recognition] that “it is a woman” or “it is a man” or that “it is of such color” or that “it is one of such shape,” then when he has thought this he further scrutinizes, “How then, is he ethical or unethical, rich or poor?” This is examination. With directed thought he fixes. With examination he moves about and turns over [what has been thought].

    And just as a winged bird first accumulates [speed] and then accumulates no more [speed when gliding], so too, directed thought is like the accumulation, and evaluation is like the outstretched wings which keeps preserving the directed thought and evaluation....

    Directed thought is like a text-reciter who does his recitation silently. Evaluation is like him simply contemplating it.

All the best,

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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby Zom » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:30 pm

Indeed, I've taken this explanation from Visuddhimagga (which is based on ancient canonical commentaries).

This is the page 136 in 2010 edition. :reading:

Here, directed thought is the first instance while evaluation is the evaluation of what is thereby received. Just as when a man sees someone approaching in the distance he does not yet know whether it is a woman or a man, but when he has received [the recognition] that “it is a woman” or “it is a man” or that “it is of such color” or that “it is one of such shape,” then when he has thought this he further scrutinizes, “How then, is he ethical or unethical, rich or poor?” This is examination. With directed thought he fixes. With examination he moves about and turns over [what has been thought].


Actually I don't see this differs much from what is said in the Visuddhimagga. Especially when we are talking in the context of, for example, anapanasati meditation, when we need to constantly watch the breath and not ponder over some ideas. By the way, in the Visuddhimagga there is that example with the bird mentioned too.


Here, for fulfilling non-passion he thinks the thought of renunciation. Here, for fulfilling non-aggression he thinks the thought of non-aversion. Here, for fulfilling non-delusion he thinks the thought of harmlessness.


It depends on how to render it. For example, it is quite strange how someone should constantly "think about how he is non-harmful" -) So maybe it is better to understand this like that - "Here, for fulfilling non-passion his mind is filled with renunciation (that is not picking up themes of sensuality); Here, for fulfilling non-aggression his mind is filled with non-aversion (that is the mind filled with kindness to all beings)" ? So in this case these are not "thoughts" in common understanding, but the special inner qualities of the mind.
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Re: First Jhana...a description

Postby daverupa » Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:02 pm

Zom wrote:Actually I don't see this differs much from what is said in the Visuddhimagga. Especially when we are talking in the context of, for example, anapanasati meditation, when we need to constantly watch the breath and not ponder over some ideas.


According to a Suttanta perspective, this is only a partial view of anapanasati. Given that first jhana includes vitakka-vicara (thinking and pondering can occur in first jhana), it should be remarked that this thinking and pondering isn't the run-of-the-mill vitakka-vicara with any old content, but rather the right frames of reference which precede sammasamadhi - which is to say, sammasati, or satipatthana. This is properly understood as mindfulness with the breath, not solely mindfulness of the breath.

"Just mindful he breathes in, just mindful he breathes out" is a component of all four anapanasati tetrads, but it is not the sole content.

:heart:

Manapa wrote:but just a note to daverupa - it is best not to assume two different phrases are referring to exactly the same thing.


When did this happen?
Last edited by daverupa on Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

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

Postby Zom » Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:11 pm

According to a Suttanta perspective, this is only a partial view of anapanasati. Given that first jhana includes vitakka-vicara (thinking and pondering can occur in first jhana), it should be remarked that this thinking and pondering isn't the run-of-the-mill vitakka-vicara with any old content, but rather the right frames of reference which precede sammasamadhi - which is to say, sammasati, or satipatthana.


I don't argue with that. I'm just telling that this is not "thinking about some idea" - even about the breath as an object of satipatthana.
From my personal experience I'm sure that this contemplation is done without any thinking. You just watch, and, of course, you see and realize what is happening with the object and with the mind. But this is not a discursive thinking about the object or thinking on this or that theme.

That is I stand for that idea of completely silent but fully aware mind in the jhana.
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