Interpretations of Jhana

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Interpretations of Jhana

Postby Bakmoon » Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:46 pm

There is currently a discussion going on in this forum about the valididy of a Bifrucated theory of Jhana (i.e. Samatha Jhana and Vipassana Jhana). I would like to be able to participate in the discussion, but I am not sure if I am knowlegable enough about what exactly these terms mean and whether or not they are used with diferent meanings by diferent groups. This is my question:

According to the traditions that classify Jhana into Samatha and Vipassana subtybes, what is the definition of Samatha Jhana, and What is the definition of Vipassana Jhana?

I have heard from some sources that Samatha Jhana is entered by directing the mind's attention to a single distinct point of focus (e.g. Kasina, or the tip of the nose or upper lip as some groups practice Anapanasati), whereas Vipassana Jhana is defined as Jhana that is entered with awareness that is not restricted to a point, but I'm not sure if that is a complete and exhaustive definition.

Can someone give the full definitions, preferably citing sources such as the commentaries, sub-commentaries, Vissudhimagga, or the works of Mahasi Sayadaw? I don't want to end up misrepresenting anyone in discussion.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: Interpretations of Jhana

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:57 pm

Hello

There are two definitions of samatha jhana. Everybody accepts that the samatha jhanas are characterized by the standard formula in the suttas:

"And what is right concentration? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called right concentration."

— SN 45.8

What distinguishes the 2 definitions is that in the "sutta jhanas" it is possible to do vipassana while in the jhanas. On the other hand, the "comentarial jhanas" define jhana as having your whole mind absorbed into a single point, meaning that there's no awareness of the body or any one of the five senses. Furthermore, there is no chance of doing vipassana in this state because the mind is rigidly still, focusing on the object.

Vipassana jhanas are states of concentration similar to the sutta jhanas but which were attained through the continuous practice of mindfulness/vipassana.

For a good discussion on what is jhana, see this topic: viewtopic.php?f=33&t=5761
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Re: Interpretations of Jhana

Postby Bakmoon » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:00 am

Thank you so much for your answer :anjali:

Modus.Ponens wrote:
Vipassana jhanas are states of concentration similar to the sutta jhanas but which were attained through the continuous practice of mindfulness/vipassana.



Are the Vipassana Jhanas described as having all the main factors of the sutta jhanas (e.g. piti, sukha, upekkha)?
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: Interpretations of Jhana

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:34 am

There are some good references in the thread linked to above.

Leigh Brasington's page on Interpretations of the Jhanas
http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm
gives a summary of what various teachers teach.

Vipassana Jhanas are described in U Pandita's book In This Very Life.
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... hanas.html

And in these talks: http://www.dharmaseed.org/talks/?search ... =-rec_date
Bakmoon wrote:Are the Vipassana Jhanas described as having all the main factors of the sutta jhanas (e.g. piti, sukha, upekkha)?

U Pandita discusses Vipassana Jhanas in terms of the development of the Jhana factors.

I'm not sure if his description of "Vipassana Jhana" is really supposed to be exactly the same as the "Sutta Jhana", but it is definitely different from "Visuddhimagga Jhana".

As you can see from the above link to Leigh's site, there are a number of interpretations out there... Some of the interpretations of "Sutta Jhana" could be argued to be similar to some of what U Pandita describes. However, his description also includes the "progress of insight knowledges", so it's difficult to really answer such a question.

:anjali:
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Re: Interpretations of Jhana

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:00 am

mikenz66 wrote:I'm not sure if his description of "Vipassana Jhana" is really supposed to be exactly the same as the "Sutta Jhana", but it is definitely different from "Visuddhimagga Jhana".
The idea of vipassana jhanas is derived from the actual experiences of those doing Mahasi Sayadaw vipassana practice.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Interpretations of Jhana

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:22 am

tiltbillings wrote:The idea of vipassana jhanas is derived from the actual experiences of those doing Mahasi Sayadaw vipassana practice.

Sure, but the Jhana factors described are as in the Suttas, and the mode of concentration reads a lot like MN 111:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"There was the case where Sariputta — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Whatever qualities there are in the first jhana — directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness,[2] desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention — he ferreted them out one after another. Known to him they arose, known to him they remained, known to him they subsided. He discerned, 'So this is how these qualities, not having been, come into play. Having been, they vanish.' He remained unattracted & unrepelled with regard to those qualities, independent, detached, released, dissociated, with an awareness rid of barriers. He discerned that 'There is a further escape,' and pursuing it there really was for him.


[Off-topic in this section, but the progression described by U Pandita is essentially the Classical Progress of Insight described in the Visuddhimagga. Which one assumes was also based on the experience of practitioners, and which Mahasi Sayadaw has written about explicitly http://aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progress/progress.html. However, the progress of Insight is a considerable elaboration on the sutta discussions of insight. See, for example: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=11701&p=177835#p177835.]

:anjali:
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:anjali:
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Re: Interpretations of Jhana

Postby Zom » Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:12 am

Good critical essay:

Jhana and Lokuttara-Jhana: http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebmed092.htm
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Re: Interpretations of Jhana

Postby marc108 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 7:53 pm

http://www.audiodharma.org/series/135/talk/1854/
Samadhi: Exploring the Range of Teachings and Controversies on Concentration & Jhana
There is a wide range of views and opinions on the various concentration practices in Buddhism, and on how they relate to insight meditation practices. We compared different views, including controversies, and considered how these views can inform and enrich our meditation practice. The day included some meditation practice periods.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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