my goals and ways of practice

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

my goals and ways of practice

Postby ohnofabrications » Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:50 pm

Hello everyone, i have a couple questions about my own practice. I'll get right to it.

1. Having practiced concentration for about 1.5 years with decent dedication, I believe I have attained some degree of mastery (being able to easily abide in) of 4th jhana, it seems to match the suttic descriptions though not all of the post-suttic stuff. I'll briefly describe what i think are the first 4 jhanas in my experience, the way of practice on and off the cushion for me was always noticing the breath (throughout the whole body) and relaxing as much as possible.

1st: onset of pleasure, starting often in the heart area - thoughts are still occurring, a feeling as if the pleasure is connected to the breath and is localized around the feeling of breath
2nd: after continuing to release what seem to be blockages of breath the pleasure spreads itself throughout the entire body except for the head, which i can't seem to unblock
3rd: the pleasure loses some 'coarse' aspect, which happens through further relaxation, sort of lessening the 'excitement' response in regard to the pure pleasure which underlies it
4th: after continuing to go further and further into relinquishing this excitement the pleasure seems to dissipate, becoming all the more pure, eventually it's purity becomes complete and it is simply awareness, the awareness is spread basically everywhere, 360 degrees.

does this sound right? how do i progress into formless realms?

2. after having got stuck, unable to move into formless jhana, i started simply getting into (what seems to be) 4th jhana and then exploring the causes of stress as i understood them in that state.
i saw these three causes:
a. tension, simply the bodily+mental tightness which occurs mostly with emotions and in areas of physical pain - the solution here is simply letting go
b. 'fuzziness' of attention, in which some part experience is obscured. this comes with 'focusing' on some part of experience, which seems to be the same thing as obscuring all of experience which isn't being focused on. as attention jumps around this fuzziness moves to wherever the 'attention' isn't. i have taken this to be something alot of the thai forest ajans are pointing to when they say to notice the difference between the object and the awareness of the object - the solution here seems to also be letting go =], when i no longer desire to change the object of focus, there is no need to obscure the rest of experience and everything comes into a sort of clear 'all-around' view.
c. narratives and 'stories' and perceptions this bit seems simple enough, and the answer is again letting go =]=]

firstly, do people recognize what i am talking about with each of these? they all seem to be defilements which make up unskillful states and so i attempt to abandon them. secondly, do these three things correlate to specific parts of the 12 links in dependent co-arising(i speculate clinging, craving, becoming)? thirdly, which should i focus on ending? the intuitive answer for me currently is the b. which brings me to my next question...

3. having explained basically all of my understanding of the phenomenological aspects of suffering and the way to their end - i will explain to you my current practice, which i don't see described in the suttas except (perhaps) as 'themeless concentration'. what i am now doing (after giving up with progressing past 4th jhana) is this: I simply work with letting go on that second aspect of suffering mentioned above, I attempt to focus on nothing and allow all 6 sense doors experience to come through unhampered, seen with equal (and maximal) clarity (that is the ideal of practice, it only occasionally actually happens). doing this practice has brought me to a temporary peek at what i hypothesize the end of suffering would be like in which all three of the mentioned aspects above were totally and completely absent gone without a trace. does anyone recognize this, and now that you have seen a good deal about my practice and understanding what would you recommend?

4. are emotions (which seem to be made up of those three parts of suffering) part of what is experienced after the end of suffering? given my experience i would definitely say no, but most 'enlightened' teachers seem to say that this isn't the case, however those who do say this seem to teach something which is more focused on realizing the 3 characteristics, rather than moving towards wholesome states, their practice seems to be focused on dissociating from unskillful states(rather than ending unskillful states)... mostly they come from zen backgrounds, though a few come from theravada. again the only people i have seen who seem to really focus on actually ending unskillful states seem to be thai forest teachers... however this view is likely caused by the fact that I know practically nothing of most other traditions. i would prefer to leave out any sectarian conflict here (as i am sure everyone from every sect would :o), but i couldn't figure out how to phrase my confusion about this issue without raising at least some of that conflict.

i apologize for putting so much into one thread, each of those 4 could probably be its own thread, but now you know basically everything i know about the practical aspects of meditation practice, and hopefully you can guide me =]
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby reflection » Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:27 pm

Hi ohnofabrications,

First of all welcome to the board!

Personally I don't agree with your notion of the jhanas, I could argue why, however, there is already a debate about this on this board, so you can look it up. ;) It would be sad if you're ideas are incorrect and you're developing the wrong thing - so see this just as a consideration, not as me trying to prove you (or anybody else) wrong or something. :)

But more important, leaving aside any specific ideas about the jhanas, I'd like to say that such a goal-focussed approach may not be the most skillful or fastest way. At least, I know for me it isn't. Having goals in mind is a form of craving. Whether they are nirvana, jhanas or even just to be without thoughts, they all obstruct the peace which you are actually looking for. So you just have to arrive here, not going towards a goal. Otherwise, it'll be like the donkey and the carrot.

With metta,
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby Cafael Dust » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:15 pm

2nd: after continuing to release what seem to be blockages of breath the pleasure spreads itself throughout the entire body except for the head, which i can't seem to unblock


Hi there. Did the head unblock after this stage? It's not clear from your writing.

From a practical point of view, and this is purely my opinion and not the orthodox view, I would carry on focusing on the breath, while this makes sense.

You need to use this to see anatta, but obviously that isn't an absence you can just choose to see. Be patient but persevere consistently, not only when you are on the mat but at all times.
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:38 pm

I think you need to be in contact with a teacher skilled in navigating the jhanas, though your written description is quite thorough it will be difficult to get accurate feedback on a public forum like this, especially as most people probably do vipassana type practices.

I think it's pretty foolhardy to try and progress beyond first jhana without guidance from a teacher as it's easy to decceive oneself.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby ohnofabrications » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:45 pm

But more important, leaving aside any specific ideas about the jhanas, I'd like to say that such a goal-focussed approach may not be the most skillful or fastest way. At least, I know for me it isn't. Having goals in mind is a form of craving. Whether they are nirvana, jhanas or even just to be without thoughts, they all obstruct the peace which you are actually looking for. So you just have to arrive here, not going towards a goal. Otherwise, it'll be like the donkey and the carrot.


thank you for this suggestion, it's true that i am taking a goal oriented approach (the goal being the end of suffering) but i don't think this is a problem for me.

Hi there. Did the head unblock after this stage? It's not clear from your writing.

hi, the head doesn't unblock in terms of allowing the pleasure in, however - the tension can be relaxed, with some difficulty at 2nd/3rd and with ease at 4th.

You need to use this to see anatta, but obviously that isn't an absence you can just choose to see.

hm, so how does one go about seeing it? if this is similar to the dissociation techniques, and 'who hears this sound' type of inquiry, i don't think i am interested. it seems quite possible to 'penetrate' the 3 characteristics without ending sensual desire, ill will, desire for becoming, desire for non-becoming, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. i have always preferred the not-self as a "therapy to relinquish craving" theory (is that which is stressful rightly regarded as self?) rather than the penetrating the truth of no-self as an end in itself interpretation.
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby ohnofabrications » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:49 pm

Goofaholix wrote:I think you need to be in contact with a teacher skilled in navigating the jhanas, though your written description is quite thorough it will be difficult to get accurate feedback on a public forum like this, especially as most people probably do vipassana type practices.

I think it's pretty foolhardy to try and progress beyond first jhana without guidance from a teacher as it's easy to decceive oneself.


how would you suggest i am deceiving myself, or if you think that it is merely potential self-deception, what type of deception are you talking about?
do you mean that i would be deceiving myself about having attained the jhanas? (i haven't made a hard decision as to whether those were the jhanas, which is one of the reasons for my post)
do you mean that i would be actually entering into and making progress towards unskillful states? this seems quite unlikely, i am definitely moving away from sensuality and becoming, whatever else may be true about what i am doing. you seem to imply that i could wander into territory that would be somehow dangerous, but you don't explain what that danger is or how i could get so confused as to practice breath meditation and end up there.

what were the reasons for your over 1000 posts if you don't believe in the efficacy of this forum? (sorry i don't mean to offend, but i don't understand your point about the self-deception/danger i could be wandering into, if practicing with forum guidance is so dangerous than why participate?)

thanks
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:06 pm

I second what Goof said.
You need to be practicing under the guidance of a teacher.
From your description it appears you are confusing mundane experiences as jhanas.
And goof is right with regards to receiving accurate feedback with regards to meditation and meditative experience on this, or any other forum. The reason being that very many are at different points along the path and interpret your experiences through the prism of their, perhaps, limited experience and knowledge. Its better you seek feedback and instruction from someone qualified to teach.
All the best,

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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:15 pm

Greetings ONF,

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.

:buddha2:

thirdly, which should i focus on ending? the intuitive answer for me currently is the b. which brings me to my next question...

Your earlier answer of letting go, is correct.

"Ending" (cessation) is the stopping of the opposite of "letting go", namely the stopping of "taking up" (upadana), and the "letting go" of what was formerly taken up in the past to be "I" or "mine".

Unfortunately I cannot comment on your jhanic experiences, as jhana is (unfortunately) not a significant factor in my practice at this point in time.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby Cafael Dust » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:39 pm

hi, the head doesn't unblock in terms of allowing the pleasure in, however - the tension can be relaxed, with some difficulty at 2nd/3rd and with ease at 4th.


hm, so how does one go about seeing it? if this is similar to the dissociation techniques, and 'who hears this sound' type of inquiry, i don't think i am interested. it seems quite possible to 'penetrate' the 3 characteristics without ending sensual desire, ill will, desire for becoming, desire for non-becoming, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. i have always preferred the not-self as a "therapy to relinquish craving" theory (is that which is stressful rightly regarded as self?) rather than the penetrating the truth of no-self as an end in itself interpretation.


As Ben says, more experienced practitioners than I will be more helpful. I will however offer my thoughts, because I have some experience of what you are talking about.

Then again, my advice is just to keep following the breath. I also agree with Retrofuturist, and his post also explains what I mean by seeing anatta. The tension in the head may be related to this sense of ownership.
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby ohnofabrications » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:02 am

From your description it appears you are confusing mundane experiences as jhanas.


could you expand on this? it would seem sensible that if you were going to tell me that what i thought was jhana wasn't, you would also give me some explanation on why it isn't, what it is, and what to do... otherwise you are providing no insight and simply creating doubt.

how could simply telling someone they are practicing wrongly without any explanation be beneficial? you said that i should seek someone qualified to teach, implying that you aren't. but if that is the case then why are you telling me i am practicing incorrectly, telling me i am practicing incorrectly implies you know what practicing correctly is - but you're not telling me, simply enforcing a hinderance?

i really think you should consider whether your post was right speech.

if you tell someone they are doing something wrong i can think of only three reasons for doing so
1. (they are actually doing it wrong and you know how to help) you want to help them understand how to do it right
2. (they are doing it right) you want to make them stop doing it to hurt them
3. (whether or not they are doing it right is irrelevant) you want to imply that you know something they dont and create praise for yourself

you can't have been doing 1 as you made no attempt to help, i assume 3, investigate this, it is a cause of suffering.

i apologize, i guess i misunderstood what the intentions of this forum are. no one was willing to even begin to talk about actual meditation... what else is there in buddhism?
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby Cafael Dust » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:11 am

Anger with a forum poster is such a pale thing when considered in the vast light of what you have trained to do.
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:16 am

ohnofabrications wrote: no one was willing to even begin to talk about actual meditation... what else is there in buddhism?


Quite a lot more than just meditation, and certainly a lot more than jhana.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby bodom » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:17 am

ohnofabrications wrote:i apologize, i guess i misunderstood what the intentions of this forum are. no one was willing to even begin to talk about actual meditation...


Hi ohnofabrications

Im sorry I cannot offer any advice or feedback to you regarding your meditation practice as I live a busy life with two young children and have little time for meditation. The best I can do is recommend some books on jhana by highly regarded meditation teachers.

Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English
An Introductory Guide to Deeper States of Meditation

http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... n=&image=1

Focused and Fearless
A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity

http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... ch&image=1

Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
A Meditator’s Handbook

http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... ch&image=1

I hope you find them helpful .

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby ohnofabrications » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:27 am

Cafael Dust wrote:Anger with a forum poster is such a pale thing (...)

true, the anger is not something i want to experience again, though i am sure i will. at the same time though, i would hope the forum poster in question would consider that his speech was far from beneficial. the logic i used that allowed me to post that is that it would be helpful to him to consider his speech. however it was motivated by ill will, and thus i shouldn't engage in it. a useful reminder in morality for me.
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby ohnofabrications » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:35 am

bodom wrote:
ohnofabrications wrote:i apologize, i guess i misunderstood what the intentions of this forum are. no one was willing to even begin to talk about actual meditation...


Hi ohnofabrications

Im sorry I cannot offer any advice or feedback to you regarding your meditation practice as I live a busy life with two young children and have little time for meditation. The best I can do is recommend some books on jhana by highly regarded meditation teachers.

Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English
An Introductory Guide to Deeper States of Meditation

http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... n=&image=1

Focused and Fearless
A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity

http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... ch&image=1

Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
A Meditator’s Handbook

http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... ch&image=1

I hope you find them helpful .

:anjali:


thank you for the suggestions. I have read the first and 3rd but not the second. i'll look into it.

also i suggest you try and make time for meditation, as obvious as it may seem remembering that the happiness that can be achieved through meditation is far greater than that achieved through any other means is important. i am not quite as entangled in the world as you are (you have children, i don't), so i can't fully sympathize, but there have always been moments in my practice in which i've realized that i was deluding myself when i thought that i was meditating as much as i could, there are very often ways to make time. also, a lack of on the cushion time means you should put in even more effort off the cushion.

thank you everyone for the responses, i should have checked out the rest of this forum more. i realize now that it is less
pragmatic and practice-oriented than i thought at first, good luck in your lives and practices.
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby Cafael Dust » Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:55 am

I think people are trying to help, and none of us are perfect. So it's good practice to try, little by little, to react to less of the negativity one feels coming one's way, to say, ok, maybe I can let that go. It's really easy to interpret the way other peoples' priorities and understandings express themselves as negativity directed at ourselves. Especially when we're goal oriented, as Buddhism shouldn't but often does seem to make us, and we just want to progress quickly, on our own terms. And how we cope with this is as much a part of the path as meditation, and will feed back into one's meditation.

Not being didactic, more organising thoughts about how it is for me.

I really hope your practice is fruitful, and I don't see why it won't be if you continue, and yes, if possible, seek advice from someone realised. I'm off to bed now, good luck. :namaste:
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby santa100 » Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:03 am

I'm certainly no jhana expert. But regarding your question on how to move on to the formless meditations, the wiki page below might be useful, particularly the Mastering Jhana section, which states:

"A meditator should first master the lower jhānas, before they can go into the higher jhānas. There are five aspects of jhāna mastery:

1. Mastery in adverting: the ability to advert[clarification needed] to the jhāna factors one by one after emerging from the jhāna, wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and for as long as he wants.
2. Mastery in attaining: the ability to enter upon jhāna quickly.
3. Mastery in resolving: the ability to remain in the jhāna for exactly the pre-determined length of time.
4. Mastery in emerging: the ability to emerge from jhāna quickly without difficulty.
5. Mastery in reviewing: the ability to review the jhāna and its factors with retrospective knowledge immediately after adverting to them.

The early suttas state that "the most exquisite of recluses" is able to attain any of the jhānas and abide in them without difficulty. This particular arahant is "liberated in both ways:" he is fluent in attaining the jhānas and is also aware of their ultimate unsatisfactoriness. If he were not, he would fall into the same problem as the teachers from whom the Buddha learned the spheres of nothingness and neither perception nor non-perception, in seeing these meditative attainments as something final. Their problem lay in seeing permanence where there is impermanence"

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhana )

Hope it helps..
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:56 am

Hi And welcome Aboard!
I will also sujest you find a teacher skilled in this area you can meet face to face, or other form of one on one contact.
it is the best way as a personal relationship encourages trust, and an ability to understand what you are meaning in a fuller way than forums such are this allow, remember we all use words in a similar way but not entirely the same, and this is why misunderstandings can arise.

from what I read of your experience they seam to agree with what I see in the suttas to an extent, but it is difficult to say if they are in agreement 100% and represent the four Jhanas or not all of them.

good luck, and I would be interested in seeing your progress.
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby reflection » Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:13 am

ohnofabrications wrote:thank you for this suggestion, it's true that i am taking a goal oriented approach (the goal being the end of suffering) but i don't think this is a problem for me.

You're welcome.

I still think it is wise to take into mind that the end of suffering is the end of craving. And so it is the end of craving for any goal as well. Also, your "temporary peek at what i hypothesize the end of suffering would be like" may not be the end of suffering at all. It's always good to consider you may be wrong; it's not just wise, but it also gives some freedom. And this practice without being focussed on the goal is not something I just made up; I got it from some monks who I consider my teachers. In fact, I personally don't know any teacher who says you should focus on goals like you seem to be doing in your meditation. And so I also agree with the above posters who say it's best to find a teacher; even if it is one you just visit sometimes.

To put in a nice and wise quote:
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah


Wish you a lot of happy meditation. :twothumbsup:

With metta,
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Re: my goals and ways of practice

Postby reflection » Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:29 am

ohnofabrications wrote:
From your description it appears you are confusing mundane experiences as jhanas.


could you expand on this? it would seem sensible that if you were going to tell me that what i thought was jhana wasn't, you would also give me some explanation on why it isn't, what it is, and what to do... otherwise you are providing no insight and simply creating doubt.

how could simply telling someone they are practicing wrongly without any explanation be beneficial? you said that i should seek someone qualified to teach, implying that you aren't. but if that is the case then why are you telling me i am practicing incorrectly, telling me i am practicing incorrectly implies you know what practicing correctly is - but you're not telling me, simply enforcing a hinderance?

I don't agree that his advice was fruitless. In fact, it is a very solid advice and I stand behind it. Also, it is in line with his answer to not go into details. However, I feel free to pick up this question.

There are some different ideas of jhana, as you already noticed. But there is one thing all ideas I know agree on: Jhana is the absense of hindrances. If I look at your description, I read: a. tension, b. 'fuzziness' of attention, c. narratives and 'stories'. These are not specifically defilements or parts of dependent origination, but hindrances; especially restlessness. And so when you experience these things, it isn't a jhana.

There are more things I can go into why I personally think your descriptions aren't jhanas, but to keep with the less goal focussed approach I've adviced, I won't. Just know that jhanas arise from letting go, not from wanting, striving or doing.

This doesn't mean you aren't on the right path, but you just might want to go a bit too fast and therefore interpret things incorrect. Still you can make some wonderful progress. I think especially if you take some of our advice in mind.

:anjali:
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