The Great Jhana Debate

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:27 pm

Hi Reflection,
reflection wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:So is it the development of the jhana factors, or the absorption itself that is important?

Both. The first is to strengthen the mind, make it fearless, so it can penetrate the dhamma more easily.

But the second may be even more important. If the mind never has seen itself, how can you contemplate it? :shrug: When you don't even know what it is, it's almost a waste of time to do this. There may be some extraordinarily gifted people who can, but I think most of the people can't. As I've said before, how do you want to know how an engine works without having opened the car bonnet? When the mind is inside of itself, it gets data about the aggregates that is unmissable. Because in absorption there is no decision making, you can really contemplate the no-self of volitions, for example. After the absorption, of course. ;)

Yes, I know that's Ajahn Brahm's line. Absorption is no doubt effective for some things. But that view of other approaches seems to me to misrepresent the practices that I am most familiar with.

To continue your metaphor, you don't have to stop an engine to look under the bonnet. In the practice I do we're not talking about sitting around "contemplating". We're talking about (after a couple of days of silent retreat) a very quiet mind, strong samadhi, and fast, precise, cognition of objects arising and ceasing. Watching the engine idling, in fact...

I do get pleasant states where nothing seems to be happening (no decisions possible, though I don't think it is real absorption jhana). My assessment of that is the same as in the Sutta I quoted above: This is peaceful, but impermanent... Just another nice state to not get attached to...

:anjali:
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 10:34 pm

A slightly different slant on Jhana is the question of what meditation objects lead to Jhana.

According to the Commentaries, the objects that can be used for all Jhanas tend to be what might be described as "simple conceptual objects" (kasisna, brahamaviharas, immaterial objects). The slightly odd addition to this is breathing, but according to the commentaries and teachers such as Ajahn Brahm, one doesn't achieve jhana using the breath itself, but using the breath-induced nimitta.

Some subjects lead only to first Jhana: Foulness and body.
Some only access concentration: recollections, elements, food as loathsome.

Now, as far as I can tell, the vast majority of Suttas mentioning Jhana don't actually say how it is achieved. E.g. the typical "Gradual Training" suttas such as:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .horn.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
with the sequence: Morality, Sense-control, Moderation in eating, Vigilance, Mindfulness and clear consciousness, Overcoming of the five hindrances, Jhana, The Three Knowledges
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. He discerns, as it has come to be, that 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are mental fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.'


As far as attaining jhana, or some kind of samadhi, there are a some suttas that discuss the above objects, including
Breath: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Kasinas: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 10&start=0
Body: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Various (body, elements, etc, etc: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Recollections: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... all-Buddha
Brahma-viharas: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
Foulness: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Is the knowledge about which objects can be used for various Jhanas implicit in the Suttas, or was it common knowledge, and/or recorded in the commentaries from experience?

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby Alex123 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:33 am

mikenz66 wrote:Is the knowledge about which objects can be used for various Jhanas implicit in the Suttas, or was it common knowledge, and/or recorded in the commentaries from experience?


There are interesting suttas found in AN Book of 1s (Aparaaccharāsaṅghātavaggo) that say that :

jhana can last a short duration.
382. If the bhikkhu could raise his mind to the first jhana for the fraction of a second,
382. ‘‘Accharāsaṅghātamattampi ce, bhikkhave, bhikkhu paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ bhāveti...


Some things that can lead to Jhana:
419. If he develops right view for the fraction of a second, it is said he abides in jhana,
558. If he develops the mental faculty of wisdom for the fraction of a second, it is said he abides in jhana.
464. If he develops the recollection of the Teaching, for the fraction of a second, it is said he abides in jhana.
455. If he develops the perception of loathsomeness in food, for the fraction of a second, it is said he abides in jhana.

http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ali-e.html

It lists all other factors of N8P, and 37 factors of Awakening, and various objects that can induce Jhana are listed.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:58 am

Thanks Alex!

This section mentions kasinas, elements, breathing, and all kinds of other stuff:
447. If he develops the meditation object blue color, for the fraction of a second, it is said he abides in jhana. Has done his duties by the Teacher, and eats the country's alms food without a debt. If he makes much of that, it would be more gainful.


More reasons to await with interest Bhikkhu Bodhi's new AN translation, and to not assume that the Sutta selections available on sites like Access to Insight are particularly comprehensive...

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby daverupa » Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:26 am

Putting essentials like that in one Nikaya and not distributing them equally seems to be a strange choice. If anything, this feels like the more active, "diagnostic" if you like, component of the Sangha, and I'd be inclined to think meditation assignation was a more active teaching than SuttaVinaya recitation.
    "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: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby Alex123 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:41 am

“When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple listens to the Dhamma with eager ears, attending to it as a matter of vital concern, directing his whole mind to it, on that occasion the five hindrances are not present in him; on that occasion the seven factors of enlightenment go to fulfilment by development."
SN46.38 (8) Without Hindrances - BB Trans.

Please note what can counteract 5 hindrances and develop seven factors of awakening. One of the Seven factors of awakening is Concentration (samādhi).

So that quote from another Nikaya supports phrases such as: 419. If he develops right view for the fraction of a second, it is said he abides in jhana,
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ali-e.html

Also, samma-samādhi may be a concentration of 7 factors of Noble 8 Path:
"The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Again, this fits with what was said in AN.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:58 am

Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote:Putting essentials like that in one Nikaya and not distributing them equally seems to be a strange choice. If anything, this feels like the more active, "diagnostic" if you like, component of the Sangha, and I'd be inclined to think meditation assignation was a more active teaching than SuttaVinaya recitation.

Well, sure, you can start guessing about what are later additions, used to justify doctinal analysis, or used for propaganda (in my more cynical moments, the "Four Great References" and the "no closed fist" statements in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta read as insertions designed to be used to put down other sects... :tongue: ) or you can dismiss the whole of the AN as being for telling stories to lay people...

However, all those techniques are mentioned in other places. Furthermore, the SN also contains large tracts of exhaustive listings.

There are a number of gems about meditation in the AN. This extract that Geoff provided above, which also isn't on Access to Insight, is a rather good summary of how many of us see practice (and the idea is repeated in other places... [MN123 for example: http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/2Majjhima-Nikaya/Majjhima3/123-acchariyabbhutta-e.html]
AN 4.41 Samādhibhāvanā Sutta
    And what, monks, is the development of meditative composure that, when developed and cultivated, leads to mindfulness and full awareness? Here, monks, feelings are known to a monk as they arise, known as they are present, known as they disappear. Recognitions are known to him as they arise, known as they are present, known as they disappear. Thoughts are known to him as they arise, known as they are present, known as they disappear. This, monks, is the development of meditative composure that, when developed and cultivated, leads to mindfulness and full awareness.

:anjali:
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby reflection » Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:21 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Reflection,
reflection wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:So is it the development of the jhana factors, or the absorption itself that is important?

Both. The first is to strengthen the mind, make it fearless, so it can penetrate the dhamma more easily.

But the second may be even more important. If the mind never has seen itself, how can you contemplate it? :shrug: When you don't even know what it is, it's almost a waste of time to do this. There may be some extraordinarily gifted people who can, but I think most of the people can't. As I've said before, how do you want to know how an engine works without having opened the car bonnet? When the mind is inside of itself, it gets data about the aggregates that is unmissable. Because in absorption there is no decision making, you can really contemplate the no-self of volitions, for example. After the absorption, of course. ;)

Yes, I know that's Ajahn Brahm's line. Absorption is no doubt effective for some things. But that view of other approaches seems to me to misrepresent the practices that I am most familiar with.

To continue your metaphor, you don't have to stop an engine to look under the bonnet. In the practice I do we're not talking about sitting around "contemplating". We're talking about (after a couple of days of silent retreat) a very quiet mind, strong samadhi, and fast, precise, cognition of objects arising and ceasing. Watching the engine idling, in fact...

I do get pleasant states where nothing seems to be happening (no decisions possible, though I don't think it is real absorption jhana). My assessment of that is the same as in the Sutta I quoted above: This is peaceful, but impermanent... Just another nice state to not get attached to...

:anjali:
Mike

Hi,

I don't fully support the major importance Ajahn Brahm puts on absorption. Sometimes he puts it like you can't do anything without it. Obviously from the suttas this is not true. Some people reached stream entry without jhana for example.

With metta,
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby starter » Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:02 pm

To me: it doesn’t matter which style of jhana or which level of jhana, as long as the mind can become steady, free from distractions and hindrances (including distractive thoughts), with which we can gain true knowledge [only a hindrance-free mind can see the truth).

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby chownah » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:21 am

Seems like some people can jhana very easily and some can not....for those that jhana easily then going up the ladder is probably beneficial as long as it is not clung to....for those who can not jhana easily then there are other paths which are perhaps more appropriate for them and these paths require only the concentration that they require and no more....
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby starter » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:55 pm

Well, in my previous post I wrote "it doesn’t matter which style of jhana or which level of jhana, as long as the mind can become steady, free from distractions and hindrances (including distractive thoughts), with which we can gain true knowledge [only a hindrance-free mind can see the truth)". After a second thought, I think the training methods do matter since some might not really lead to sufficient steadiness of the mind needed for gaining true knowledge.

"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental assavas".

The jhana/vipassana combination method described in MN 111 might suit only those who have already mastered high level of samadhi and can enter/exit jhanas at ease. Ven. Sariputta was an ascetic for years before becoming the disciple of the Buddha, and was able to reach the 8 jhanas one after another and finally the cessation of perception and feeling within two weeks. Considering that even the Buddha needed one year to master the nothingless jhana and another year to master the neither percipient nor non-percipient jhana, very likely Ven. Sariputta had also mastered these two jhanas before coming to the Buddha, so he could proceed so rapidly and do vipassana while in jhana.

Just some food for thought.

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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby space_wrangler » Sun Apr 15, 2012 3:02 pm

trying to argue for two distinct types of meditation being taught by the buddha is not skillfull means....how can u practice vipassana without developing samatha? or if you devalop samatha as taught by the buddha, vipassana will arise. instead of trying to prove a point of view, just practice, practice, practice. just my humble opinion.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby ignobleone » Mon Apr 30, 2012 3:57 am

Hi folks,
Please allow me to post a continuation from other thread titled "my goals and ways of practice"(viewtopic.php?f=17&t=12184&start=60) here. The site admin said that any discussion focused primarily on the jhanas should continue in jhana threads. I hope this is the right place.

tiltbillings wrote:I am going to pass. Sometime it feels like life is way too short for these endless,

It's endless since there's no clear measure has been established to decide the end. After a measure has been established, maturity to accept losing in the debate is required, no exception. Only then this jhana debate can be put to an end.

tiltbillings wrote:and often fruitless, debates about the jhanas.

If the debate can be ended, things will be clearer than before, it'll be of great fruit for everyone in this forum since it promotes right view.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:47 am

ignobleone wrote:It's endless since there's no clear measure has been established to decide the end. After a measure has been established, maturity to accept losing in the debate is required, no exception. Only then this jhana debate can be put to an end.
I am not worried about losing a debate, but I have not seen anything here that unequivocally would bring the debate to an end, which is not say that this issue should not be discussed. Quite frankly, having worked with jhana practice, having been taught by an experienced teacher, I'd rather do the practice than waste time on endless opinionating.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby reflection » Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:04 am

ignobleone wrote:If the debate can be ended, things will be clearer than before, it'll be of great fruit for everyone in this forum since it promotes right view.

Well, a debate on Buddhist ideas is in my view usually not done to end it, to prove a point, or to come to a final conclusion. Especially in the case of this jhana debate, this'll never happen anyway; the only way to come to some sort of a conclusion about jhana is by own experience. But still I think these debates can be useful to show others our point of view, maybe inspire them, or get them at least an idea of what we think is the "right track".
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby daverupa » Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:51 am

I hypothesize that jhana debates are, in sum, debates about (a) the authority of various parts of the Theravada Canon, due to (b) the differing cognitive - though preferably phenomenological - interpretations of the factors (including whether or not factor A is part of Jhana X).
    "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: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby ignobleone » Tue May 01, 2012 3:36 am

daverupa wrote:I hypothesize that jhana debates are, in sum, debates about (a) the authority of various parts of the Theravada Canon, due to (b) the differing cognitive - though preferably phenomenological - interpretations of the factors (including whether or not factor A is part of Jhana X).

Before going into more detail on higher topic (such as jhana), isn't it good to keep in mind a few important fundamentals? I'd like to address a few fundamentals which are forgotten by many. I'll explain one by one in other comments below.

tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:It's endless since there's no clear measure has been established to decide the end. After a measure has been established, maturity to accept losing in the debate is required, no exception. Only then this jhana debate can be put to an end.
I am not worried about losing a debate, but I have not seen anything here that unequivocally would bring the debate to an end, which is not say that this issue should not be discussed.

I found the main suttas unequivocally definitive, the only problem is, important points are scattered all over the places in many (more than 1000) suttas. We need to put them together by paying attention to relations and consistencies, then things can make more sense.
That is one fundamental. It's related to saddha, to be more precise, confidence in the Dhamma, which means in this case we want to arrive at the certainty of the Teaching. Because you don't want to be "an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person who hasn't arrived at the certainty of the True Dhamma." The best we can get certainty is from the main suttas.

tiltbillings wrote:Quite frankly, having worked with jhana practice, having been taught by an experienced teacher, I'd rather do the practice than waste time on endless opinionating.

Practice and practice, a very common view. Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice? What jhana practice, what kind of teacher - are the questions you need to investigate first. I suppose your teacher was from Theravada tradition. Do you know that Theravada these days can be equalized to commentaries? And commentaries are unreliable.
Bhante Gunaratana said in a youtube video (someone posted in a thread above) that many people forget to see the text(sutta), that's why there's war among meditation teachers. (fyi, I'm not a fan of Bhante G, nor he's my teacher)

reflection wrote:
ignobleone wrote:If the debate can be ended, things will be clearer than before, it'll be of great fruit for everyone in this forum since it promotes right view.

Well, a debate on Buddhist ideas is in my view usually not done to end it, to prove a point, or to come to a final conclusion. Especially in the case of this jhana debate, this'll never happen anyway; the only way to come to some sort of a conclusion about jhana is by own experience. But still I think these debates can be useful to show others our point of view, maybe inspire them, or get them at least an idea of what we think is the "right track".

by own experience, this is what makes people went wrong. The same thing I found in "pragmatic Dhamma forums" out there. As the result, they're deluded, their jhana standards have become very low. It's about another fundamental many people have forgotten: phases of Dhamma learning, i.e. 1)Pariyatti 2)Patipatti 3)Pativeda.
Your comment shows us that you go to #2 with insufficient #1. You use your practice to validate the instructions, not the way it should be - the otherwise. Thus you are eligible to be called "an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person", CMIIW.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby reflection » Tue May 01, 2012 5:45 am

ignobleone wrote:...

The problem is, it is also very easy to misinterpret written words. Probably more so in a language like pali which has certain meanings for words or certain constructs that aren't common in other languages. And so this is what happens. People read the suttas -or their translations- and they go and shape their experience to fit the words, an example may be the topic that brought you here.

So yes, suttas can tell us something, but they are not the holy book of all answers. We should also look at them in the light of our experiences, instead of only the other way around. Than it'll become clearer what they are saying, and what our teachers are saying. That's my opinion, at least. And one experience may be that one simply isn't that sure yet what jhana is. So this approach doesn't necessarily mean 'lowering the standards'. Of course it can happen, but it can just as well happen with an approach based on only the suttas.

If you read careful here, you'll see that I'm not arguing for an approach solely based on our own experience, but to use is as a feedback for our interpretation of the instructions. Than hopefully someday we will be able to make a conclusion about what jhana is. But that'll be only our conclusion; you can't prove it to others and that's why this debate will never end. Which as I said - doesn't have to be a problem because it has the possibility to show people where their current interpretation may potentially be incorrect.
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby tiltbillings » Tue May 01, 2012 6:34 am

ignobleone wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
ignobleone wrote:It's endless since there's no clear measure has been established to decide the end. After a measure has been established, maturity to accept losing in the debate is required, no exception. Only then this jhana debate can be put to an end.
I am not worried about losing a debate, but I have not seen anything here that unequivocally definitive that would bring the debate to an end, which is not say that this issue should not be discussed.

I found the main suttas unequivocally definitive, the only problem is, important points are scattered all over the places in many (more than 1000) suttas. We need to put them together by paying attention to relations and consistencies, then things can make more sense.
That is one fundamental. It's related to saddha, to be more precise, confidence in the Dhamma, which means in this case we want to arrive at the certainty of the Teaching. Because you don't want to be "an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person who hasn't arrived at the certainty of the True Dhamma." The best we can get certainty is from the main suttas.
And that is your opinion.

tiltbillings wrote:Quite frankly, having worked with jhana practice, having been taught by an experienced teacher, I'd rather do the practice than waste time on endless opinionating.

Practice and practice, a very common view. Are you sure you don't waste your time by doing the practice? What jhana practice, what kind of teacher - are the questions you need to investigate first. I suppose your teacher was from Theravada tradition. Do you know that Theravada these days can be equalized to commentaries? And commentaries are unreliable.
You are being arrogant and presumptive here. Why should I take your reading of the suttas as being any more reliable than the commentators or any Theravadin teacher?

As I said to you once before:

viewtopic.php?f=33&t=5761&start=180#p174179
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Great Jhana Debate

Postby Alex123 » Thu May 03, 2012 5:33 pm

space_wrangler wrote:trying to argue for two distinct types of meditation being taught by the buddha is not skillfull means....how can u practice vipassana without developing samatha? or if you devalop samatha as taught by the buddha, vipassana will arise. instead of trying to prove a point of view, just practice, practice, practice. just my humble opinion. metta to all


In the AN4.94 suttas it says that one can have great insight wisdom (adhipaññādhammavipassanā) without internal tranquility (cetosamatha).

Puggalapaññattipāḷi pg 61 explains this to mean that one can have Paths and fruits (maggaphala) without rūpa or arūpa attainments.

Of course ideally it is good to have both insight and blissful states. But how often is the situation ideal?
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