here is a transcription I found on the internet about the five jhana factors, what there practical application is and how they actually function.
I hope you find this information informative. Here's the link for further reference http://theartofmeditation.org/written-m ... -to-jhana/
Intro to Jhana
- An explanation of the the five jhana factors and their application
- Brief discussion of mind produced signs/nimtta
- From gross material to subtle material and into absorption
So, just a talk about this preliminary session on Samatta without going into too much detail. I want to introduce you to some of the skills for the fine tuning of your practice that might help to deepen your concentration as you approach jhana. After Christmas we will do a month session on the systematic approach to Samatta, as by then you should all be ready. But at this stage with this two week session that your doing continue with your kammathan but start to look at ways to refine the energy of your practice. So tonight I’m going to talk about the five jhana factors in a way that might give you more of a flavour of how they apply to, launch into the practice, or arise out of it, because they are, each one a resolution to the five hindrances.
The first factor vitakka (initial application) may appear to you as something you only do when you start your meditation, but this initial application, in each mind moment, is the launching of the mind into it’s object and this is the factor that brings the energy up out of your normal level of mental energy into a higher level of mental energy. It’s that launching of the mind deliberately, to begin with, at first in a contrived way at your object, that if it’s done in the first part of each session has the capacity to pull in alot of energy into that stream of consciousness that’s launched at your object. So, if you are doing it with Anapana the initial application of the mind is launching at knowing the beginning, middle and end of the breath so you feel it not just as a factor starting out at the beginning of each breath but as something that you feel going out continuously through each moment. This is what will pull in the necessary mental energy at the very beginning that sometimes you fail to establish. One of the things that means people can’t get deep enough concentration is they don’t harness enough energy and its that launching, that investigation of initial application that achieves this. When you are doing 4 elements that initial application is very strong for example when you launch at hardness, launch at softness, it’s that launching at the end of say a 40 minute session that has brought so much more energy to the mind that when you just sit, floating through your meditation. So when you’ve got lots of different things to do the launching aspect is really obvious to see and the effect of it is clear to you, but when you do the same thing continuously, it is not so easy to spot this launching aspect. So I find with Anapana its quite good to count. To count your way through the breath so you have to keep launching your mind at the breath, even through the duration of one in breath. So count; ‘one, one one, two, two , two’, so each time you are counting, you are launching the mind making sure you feel your mind reaching out to the object. This is so that you know you are not just launching your mind at the beginning of the breath, but you are continuously doing it. So the purpose of this vitakka is that intention to apply the mind which brings energy to it. So if there is not much intention to apply the mind you might not bring much energy to the mind and the mind may not stick to or adhere to its object very well. Try it while your practicing, keep counting; ‘one, one, one, one’, through the in breath, ‘one, one one,’ through the out breath, ‘two, two, two’ through the in breath and so on up to eight and back down again, it is worth doing even if you are well practiced, I do it myself as it’s that which pulls the energy of your attention in the beginning part of your meditation, for the first five minutes or so, to make sure there’s powerful energy on the object. This is because you have to stay very very mindful to keep account of all that counting and not go past eight and go back down to one again and in this way there is continuous initial application of the mind. This is my tip: By the proper launching of your mind, your mind will be very strong, so when you stop doing this you are aware of the beginning, middle and end of each breath. You are knowing sections of the breath, applying yourself continuously, so you spot the fact that it is not about just making the intention to know the breath and hoping that you’ll just keep doing it. Bring energy to knowing the breath continuously, rather than paying just a loose attention to the breath without much energy. While you are breathing in you are knowing it continuously and eventually that initial application becomes a continued mental state. So that holds the mind up.
The factor that starts to develop continuity, because the thing about Samadhi is continuity is vicara (sustained application) where the mind now streams into its object. An analogy is, for example, when you turn a water canon on there is the initial force that fires the water onto the wall. That impact onto the wall would be the initial application and then there is the continued pushing of the pressure of the water onto the wall and this pushing onto the wall is the sustained application (vicara). So sustained application is the mental energy pushing into the object, it’s not about mental stiffness, it’s about continuity of application that holds up the sort of level of energy that you need if you are going to get yourself into a state of deep concentration. So you feel the breath streaming past you, through the mind and it is continuously known as the sustained application (vicara) and you know the constantly launching aspect as vitakka (initial application). So this is the preparatory work so two mental states, vitakka and vicara those mental states need to be continuously recognised in your meditation maybe every five minutes or so. So start to notice a subtle dipping of energy in your meditation, the second you let vitakka/vicara slip down. So together they hold up your concentration in the early stages and prevent the tendency to wander off, mosey around and forget what you are doing etc. So these first two are like glue and they are what establishes the energy. So through the harnessing of these factors you should develop a lot of psychic force in the consciousness that is mediating on its object. The next part of the practice is to develop the serenity to balance this.
The third state is piti, which means a pleasurable enjoyment of the experience. Whilst you are not yet in jhana your body now feels lifted up by the organised state that your mind is starting to get into. The mental energy has become simplified and is now drawn into doing one thing because of the initial and sustained application. The continuity of that application cuts off all peripheral mental activity because the mind has got so much to do just to stay on the breath. So all the mental energy that gets lost to wavering is reduced and so the energy of the body becomes very settled and relaxed. It becomes a bit like water that is not disturbed, it just does the same thing its got a single tone. Eight percent of the key to Jhana is being relaxed but with enough energy and eighty percent of the cause of failure is as you relax you lose mindfulness. So you initially set up a very strong stream of energy onto the object and then you start to relax. And because of the glue of vicara/vitakka as you deepen into your meditation the vicara/vitakka are now streaming out of your mind into the object. So there is an intensity of mind streaming into the object whilst you become deeply relaxed. So in the first stages of piti the body starts to relax and you may feel a rapture or delight. The danger in piti is that you become over excited because you start to feel blissful. You all should be beyond this now as you have all probably had that experience of the first stages of rapture when you think; ‘wow, I’m really starting to get somewhere now.’ So you should be familiar with feeling pleasant, so the piti becomes more and more refined and becomes a pervasive uplifted state in the mind. So this pervasive uplifted state has the feeling of being settled but also has it has energy to it. It has the tendency or danger of becoming elated and you really have to guard against getting elated when bliss comes because your energy will start to drop and scatter. So you always have to view with equanimity every stage of progress in your mediation as you head towards jhana. The practice is one of a constant refining of the mental process, stripping it of all elaborations untill it becomes only a single function and the simplest possible way the mind can perform it: Which is to know its object. So as soon as you find yourself becoming too pleased with the effect then pull it back. So this piti really spans from the rapturous delight that might come in the early stages, and many of you will have been through this for quite some time now, where your chakras or energy starts to open, to a pervasive uplifted state. That is probably the best way to describe this sense of piti or joy/rapture.
The next jhana factor is really the door to serenity because sukka (happiness) is the feeling of being content with what you are doing. So the desire to be doing something else or the, ‘am I doing this right?’, this restlessness can really be let go now. All the external and internal distraction, all the fussing over the way you are doing your meditation gets cut off with the feeling of; ‘this is pleasurable, I’m contented with this’, and that is where you really start to rest on your object. So you start to rest on it and its is well supported by the preceding jhana factors, so you feel the enjoyment and sense of ease that is coming from continuity of practice. That continuity and the recognition of continuity being pleasurable as opposed to distraction being pleasurable; ‘I might find my pleasure or satisfaction by looking around or trying to do it differently’ is an important reflection. So the most important thing is that you launch, set your mind up and get to a point of fixing it, dialing in. So use vicara/vitakka to dial in, piti to dial in, and rest on your object with sukka and then don’t mess about with your settings. All the progress after this point comes only from continuity. It doesn’t come from messing about with your practice. The piti/sukka keep the vitakka/vicara in balance so the mind doesn’t become over exerted or too slack and this is absolutely the key to jhana. You are all very familiar with getting settled and peaceful in your meditation, you all know how to get into a deep sate of ease leaving your meditation after one or two hours feeling very relaxed, but you haven’t got to a point of absorption yet because you don’t have enough energy and when you do, you become over exerted. So develop these first four jhana factors very skillfully and put plenty of time into becoming very familiar with them, like learning a new terrain that then becomes habitual. Learn the flavor of these states and make sure you bring their application into the practice. If you don’t set them up then your practice will continue in its normal way, where you get into a pleasurable state of ease, without getting to absorption. So when you have got that much energy and its balanced and you are at ease with it then the preparatory work is done as the firth jhana factor is only Ekaggatta
Ekaggatta (one-pointedness) is the fixation of the mind upon its object. Your restlessness is now overcome and it feels like you just lock-in. One of the signs of approaching jhana is you feel a lock-in. All the factors that are slowly morphing, the experience of bliss, the application of mind either pushing forward or pulling back, all that subtle adjustment suddenly stops and you have your settings, you run those settings, and you run those settings all the way into jhana. And it’s the continuity and fixation that is one-pointedness. As I often describe it, you mind is like a search light looking out for its object, once you’ve got your object you don’t move your light, you don’t need to move it, you fix it on its object. You don’t need to think; ‘if I come at this from a different angle I might get more concentrated on it’, you just stay where you are and the light illuminating your object becomes brighter and brighter and brighter. So whatever your object just stop on your object; whether anapana, skeleton etc: Launch, sustain, feel the pleasurable response to being settled, feel the feeling of contentment, the; ‘ahh this is satisfactory’ and feel the fixation of your mind upon its object. After a while these factors stay together and you need to see for yourself how long you need to deliberately formulate them for. So perhaps five or ten percent of your attention is till involved in the setting up work and then once the factors are set up the momentum of them with carry you forward as you unify your attention with the object. So if you don’t do enough setting up there may not be enough momentum and your energy my fall down and your mind may lose its object. So spend some time setting up your factors and this in itself is a real application of energy and then you can drop the setting up part of your mind into the stream that is just knowing your object. So you familiarize yourself with these five factors at the first stage and then they will become habitual. You will notice the difference when you don’t set them up. If you are lazy you don’t set them up, your meditation goes quite well but its not developing. The thing about training these five factors is the way you incline yourself towards absorption rather than just staying in a pleasurable state of peace, that is quite concentrated where your energy is reasonably settled, your equanimity is quite good, you are not really disturbed any more, your body is settled, your mind is settled and you don’t need much concentration to be satisfied but you do not reach absorption. This is why people, generally speaking, don’t get to jhana without training it, you get to a point of satisfaction without feeling the need to put more effort or energy into training up to absorption. So developing the jhana factors is the way you get more energy into your meditation so you can pull more concentration out of yourself or develop more concentration on your object.
Thereafter there is a point at which the mind has to turn away from your original material object to the direct perception of it as a purely mental experience. That may sound difficult to fathom but when I say you know the breath and the feeling of the breath you actually have two objects there is a point at which you don’t reference the feeling of the breath any more, the mind just knows the arising and passing away of the breath. It doesn’t matter where you know it, you can put your mind anywhere and just know the arising, coming in, passing away of the breath. The suggestion is that you keep your mind fixed in the same area you began with and the sign is the light that is produced, the mind becoming luminous, in the area the where you fix your attention. If your object is the skeleton the bone you are fixed on might start to appear and if its the whole skeleton the skeleton will light up. There is a mind produced perception; that of the bone that you are concentrating on that appears. At this stage ignore the sign, just know its gradual coming together, that is all you need to do. Beyond establishing the jhana factors, once you have that energy from setting the jhana factors up, just sink in. Just let go into your object so your sense of self abandons itself to the object you are knowing and this is the cutting off of bhavanga as you go into jhana, this is something you build up. So if there is enough momentum you will launch into absorption, your mind will become fixated in absorption and bhavanga gets cut off. But if there is not enough energy, you will fall into bhavanga or just keep pulling back from absorption and bhavanga will continue to arise. The point about jhana is that jhana consciousness cuts off bhavanga, there is a kind of a ‘click’ feeling, a sinking in feeling and the subtle material realm now appears in the front of your perception and the gross material realm is left behind. Prior to jhana the gross is still with you and the subtle material realm is appearing out of it, it is something you are starting to get a sense of and then there is a switch round and you are existing in the subtle and you are not existing in the gross. The experience of the gross is gone and there is only perception of the subtle which is why you have to abandon your original sign or the gross breath or bone that you were concentrating on. Originally you start meditating on a gross material object but jhana only takes subtle material objects. So you have to avert to the mind’s knowing of the breath, to the sign of the breath, which is the nimitta or the sign of the bone, which is the nimitta. In the switching into jhana there is a switching around of the mind. It was taking the gross, now it takes the subtle, becomes fixated on the subtle, sinks into the subtle. If it doesn’t work you keep doing it, staying with the sign, staying with the sign, staying with the sign in upacara samadhi, (access concentration) its not jhana yet as there is still bhvanaga occurring, but the sign is stable enough to still take the sign, but you haven’t left the gross yet, although the subtle is there and the gross is starting to recede. The point of jhana is when the gross has gone and only the subtle mind produced object remains. So this why when you are in jhana objects do not impinge at the sense doors so you do not hear sounds or experience contact with objects of the gross material realm.