Hi Travis, all,
it might be good to remember that jhana involves quite a bit more from us in our daily life, than we might think. In the 'Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life', after exhaustively describing how an aspirant becomes accomplished in virtue, sense restraint, mindfulness and alertness, and contentedness (it is worth reading what these involve: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
), it then
"Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, this noble restraint over the sense faculties, this noble mindfulness and alertness, and this noble contentment, he seeks out a secluded dwelling: a forest, the shade of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a jungle grove, the open air, a heap of straw. After his meal, returning from his alms round, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body erect, and brings mindfulness to the fore.
"Abandoning covetousness with regard to the world, he dwells with an awareness devoid of covetousness. He cleanses his mind of covetousness. Abandoning ill will and anger, he dwells with an awareness devoid of ill will, sympathetic with the welfare of all living beings. He cleanses his mind of ill will and anger. Abandoning sloth and drowsiness, he dwells with an awareness devoid of sloth and drowsiness, mindful, alert, percipient of light. He cleanses his mind of sloth and drowsiness. Abandoning restlessness and anxiety, he dwells undisturbed, his mind inwardly stilled. He cleanses his mind of restlessness and anxiety. Abandoning uncertainty, he dwells having crossed over uncertainty, with no perplexity with regard to skillful mental qualities. He cleanses his mind of uncertainty.
So the aspirant is 'endowed with' virtue, sense-restraint, etc, before
he seeks out a secluded place to tackle the five hindrances. Now I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, rather just putting it out there that jhana, afaics, requires quite a lot from us, in terms of how we live out life as a whole.
I used to sit each session 'trying for jhana', and it's little wonder I was always so far from it. It's a cultivation,
not something we can grab hold of straight off the bat. If we wish to attain jhana, we should be patiently improving the factors that support it: well-established virtue, sense-restraint, mindfulness
in daily life, at all times. And I freely admit I've got a way to go before this is accomplished. I'm no jhana expert, just a fellow-striver. But I wish to pass on what has taken me years of struggle to arrive at: if you wish to cultivate jhana, purify your whole life. Don't imagine you can do goodness knows what during the day, then sit that night and attain jhana. Everything
we do leaves an impression, a kind of subtle (or not-so-subtle) vibration, in the mind, and it is this mind we are trying to let become calm, still, steady. So unless we care for & guard the mind throughout all our activities during the day, how is it going to grow calm and steady that night, or the next morning, when we sit meditation? Even watching a movie can leave so much residual garbage in the mind that, ime, a mind even approaching stillness becomes, well, challenging... (One begins to appreciate why eight
precepts are required on meditation retreats.)
Once again, I'm not being down on myself or anyone else, just saying that as laypersons, we should get things in perspective. For example, we could ask, can we do without any entertainment at all, and be content with that, too?
I'm not quite there yet myself, but I am acutely aware that, that would be one
quality of a mind fit for properly overcoming the hindrances. So imho we laypersons should have a reality check here. Jhana can be attained, yes, but we have to give up quite a lot if we really want to attain it. So for now, I'm content with the training;
I see each meditation as 'just another training session', training the mind so that, when the time is right,
it will have the qualities required to enter and remain in jhana, for the sake of seeing things clearly. (Supported by gradually improving virtue, sense-restraint, mindfulness and contentedness in daily life too, of course.) So, I see this as a long-term cultivation, but one that we must not give up on. Just patiently keep at it, day after day, pulling out weeds, cultivating the soil, planting good seeds, watering them...when the time is right, we will have the fruits of all this labour. (And I don't mean 'labour' as in 'hard work', although it might feel that way sometimes; but rather in the sense of 'a labour of love' - work undertaken as part of caring
for oneself, because it needs to be done, not that it is always going to be easy, though.)