The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

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The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:32 am

I've heard a few people make claims that enlightenment is no longer possible in this day and age, and just today I read in another discussion here someone claiming that the higher Jhanas (above the first) were no longer available either. I was wondering if there is anything to back this claim up, where the idea comes from, and how it is justified? I don't mean to attack those who hold these beliefs, but I'm just curious as to whether or not they have a reasonable basis in the Suttas?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby Goob » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:11 am

How would these people know if other people in other continents aren't accessing higher states of meditation?
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby cooran » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:18 am

Hello LY,

There are previous discussions around the Dhamma Ending Age and what disappears at that point. Here is one of the threads:

Dhamma-ending age
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=2733

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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby detrop » Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:05 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:I've heard a few people make claims that enlightenment is no longer possible in this day and age, and just today I read in another discussion here someone claiming that the higher Jhanas (above the first) were no longer available either.


Hello,

I think people who hold such views actually make the Dhamma end - at least for themselves. I would even go so far to say that they are heading for hell if others believe that demotivating nonsense and stop striving because of it. As long as the teachings are available and as long as people are willing to put them into practice with the utmost effort, there will be liberation. This is my conviction.

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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby robertk » Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:07 pm

detrop wrote:
LonesomeYogurt wrote:I've heard a few people make claims that enlightenment is no longer possible in this day and age, and just today I read in another discussion here someone claiming that the higher Jhanas (above the first) were no longer available either.


Hello,

I think people who hold such views actually make the Dhamma end - at least for themselves. I would even go so far to say that they are heading for hell if others believe that demotivating nonsense and stop striving because of it. As long as the teachings are available and as long as people are willing to put them into practice with the utmost effort, there will be liberation. This is my conviction.

Greetings

Do you think the Vinaya should be discounted.


“If, Ananda, women had not obtained the going forth from home into homelessness in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, the Brahma-faring, Ananda, would have lasted long, true dhamma would have endured for a thousand years.  But since, Ananda, women have gone forth…in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, now, Ananda, the Brah
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby Alex123 » Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:34 pm

robertk wrote:
detrop wrote:
LonesomeYogurt wrote:I've heard a few people make claims that enlightenment is no longer possible in this day and age, and just today I read in another discussion here someone claiming that the higher Jhanas (above the first) were no longer available either.


Hello,

I think people who hold such views actually make the Dhamma end - at least for themselves. I would even go so far to say that they are heading for hell if others believe that demotivating nonsense and stop striving because of it. As long as the teachings are available and as long as people are willing to put them into practice with the utmost effort, there will be liberation. This is my conviction.

Greetings

Do you think the Vinaya should be discounted.


“If, Ananda, women had not obtained the going forth from home into homelessness in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, the Brahma-faring, Ananda, would have lasted long, true dhamma would have endured for a thousand years.  But since, Ananda, women have gone forth…in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, now, Ananda, the Brah



How do we know that the above misogynic quote is true and was spoken by the Buddha?
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:21 pm

Alex123 wrote:
How do we know that the above misogynic quote is true and was spoken by the Buddha?


Thats exactly what it sounds like to me patriarchal, culture bound, misogynistic crap. You fellows shouldn't necessarily believe everything you read.
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Joshu replied, "Throw it away!"
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby pilgrim » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:32 pm

robertk wrote:
“If, Ananda, women had not obtained the going forth from home into homelessness in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, the Brahma-faring, Ananda, would have lasted long, true dhamma would have endured for a thousand years.  But since, Ananda, women have gone forth…in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, now, Ananda, the Brah

Almost every time, I see this sutta quoted, the passage following this part is omitted. If you read further, you would note that the Buddha then counteracts this possibility by introducing the Garudhammas.
"Just as a man might make an embankment in advance around a great reservoir to keep the waters from overflowing, in the same way I have set forth in advance the eight rules of respect for bhikkhunīs"
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby Kamran » Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:07 pm

You may be interested in the second part of Bronkhorst's Absorbtion: the Psychology of the Buddha.

"This study is an experiment, or rather, it takes you on a voyage of discovery. It begins with a
map that shows the way to a treasure. It follows the map faithfully, and exhibits the treasure
that it finds.

This study is not about a real map, nor is it about a physical treasure. It starts with the
working hypothesis that certain central claims of the early Buddhist texts are true and tries to
determine what implications this has for psychological theory."

Absorption PDF

http://ebookbrowse.com/absorption-bronk ... d125112604
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby robertk » Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:19 pm

pilgrim wrote:
robertk wrote:
“If, Ananda, women had not obtained the going forth from home into homelessness in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, the Brahma-faring, Ananda, would have lasted long, true dhamma would have endured for a thousand years.  But since, Ananda, women have gone forth…in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, now, Ananda, the Brah

Almost every time, I see this sutta quoted, the passage following this part is omitted. If you read further, you would note that the Buddha then counteracts this possibility by introducing the Garudhammas.
"Just as a man might make an embankment in advance around a great reservoir to keep the waters from overflowing, in the same way I have set forth in advance the eight rules of respect for bhikkhunīs"

Ok maybe I read it wrong. The sutta says because of ordaining women the sassana would only last for 500 years but due to the Buddha giving the garudhamma it could still a 1000.
You are saying it could last longer?
Could you show me where in the sutra it says that
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby daverupa » Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:21 pm

pilgrim wrote:
robertk wrote:
“If, Ananda, women had not obtained the going forth from home into homelessness in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, the Brahma-faring, Ananda, would have lasted long, true dhamma would have endured for a thousand years.  But since, Ananda, women have gone forth…in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, now, Ananda, the Brah

Almost every time, I see this sutta quoted, the passage following this part is omitted. If you read further, you would note that the Buddha then counteracts this possibility by introducing the Garudhammas.
"Just as a man might make an embankment in advance around a great reservoir to keep the waters from overflowing, in the same way I have set forth in advance the eight rules of respect for bhikkhunīs"


This is exactly why the whole passage is suspicious; it has been analyzed elsewhere at great length.

It looks like a later apocalyptic theme, and is probably not buddhavacana. I think it's highly questionable support for anything.
    "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 possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby Anagarika » Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:41 pm

A nice comment at the end of the treatise that you kindly included:

There are several tentative theories about this ranging from Ven Bhikkhu Sujato's related to the Second Council, to around the 4th century CE between nine hundred and one thousand years after the Buddha's Parinibbana, when the social, multi-religious and multi-cultural tides of the world began, in mass, to turn away from what appears to have been the earlier egalitarianism of the Buddhist Sangha.
bold added.

My sense (arising out of faith/optimism) is that the awakened Guatama would not have had as part of his Dhamma elements of bias or debasing of women in the sangha. As he was cutting against the grain of Vedic culture, it would seem inconsistent to adopt a balanced and egalitarian view toward the sangha and then at the same time impose arbitrary restrictions based on gender.

The Buddha had it all sorted out, and later, the CE male monks decided that the old Brahmanic misogynism needed to return...this subordination of women is still seen in the Thai Sangha today....but it's not Dhamma.
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby pulga » Sun Jan 20, 2013 5:48 pm

The Buddha may have recognized the Dionysian element in women, but being progressive and compassionate in his outlook he saw the need for inclusiveness in any society, including the Sangha. The concept of the Dionysian and the Apollonian lends itself to some interesting speculations. Camille Paglia's theory is particularly entertaining, and yet to me it does seem to have some merit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollonian ... .27s_usage
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby perkele » Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:11 am

Mmmh..., this thread has gone quite a bit :offtopic:, hasn't it?

Okay, so what I can say on the topic:
I am quite confident that there are people who attain all kinds of jhanas today, and, much more importantly, that there are living sotapannas, sakadagamis, anagamis and arahants on our planet.
I find it quite astounding especially how the former point can be doubted so much, and on what basis?
If you just look at the Pa Auk system for example and people who follow that, it all seems quite solid, the people seem to reach jhana etc. And even if one doubts that, still, on what basis do people make such claims as "This cannot be reached anymore today"?
As for sotapanna and more, the scriptural basis for this has been pointed out here, and I have been confused by that for quite some time, too. It still confuses me how such a thing can be in the Tipitaka, especially considering what purpose it should serve. I have no idea, and I want to leave it at that. I just can say I have faith that this and that person in this day and age has reached such a stage.

In the end, it's all a matter of faith and doubt. Be it faith or doubt in the absolute validity of every text in the scriptures, or in this and that person's attainments, or one's own experience. I think there's not too much to be gained by arguing back and forth.
But still for this one point I would like to see the argument behind it: Where does the idea come from that jhanas cannot be reached anymore? Does it have to do with the idea that jhanas are part and parcel of stages of awakening, maybe even that only a sotapanna or higher could (and must be able to?) reach jhana?
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:53 am

perkele wrote:I am quite confident that there are people who attain all kinds of jhanas today, and, much more importantly, that there are living sotapannas, sakadagamis, anagamis and arahants on our planet.

If you just look at the Pa Auk system for example and people who follow that, it all seems quite solid, the people seem to reach jhana etc. And even if one doubts that, still, on what basis do people make such claims as "This cannot be reached anymore today"?

if one considers that this is more visudhimagga than sutta, and that the sutta's sugest that it isn't quite as strong... the claim does fall flat on it's face.
I am more than confident that there are, and am convinced I have met one "Once Returner".
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby perkele » Mon Jan 21, 2013 7:56 am

Cittasanto wrote:if one considers that this is more visudhimagga than sutta, and that the sutta's sugest that it isn't quite as strong... the claim does fall flat on it's face.

Excuse me. I have difficulty interpreting this statement. It's more Visuddhimagga than Sutta, the Pa Auk teachings, yes. What do you mean with "the suttas suggest that it isn't quite as strong"? What is not quite as strong?
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:31 pm

perkele wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:if one considers that this is more visudhimagga than sutta, and that the sutta's sugest that it isn't quite as strong... the claim does fall flat on it's face.

Excuse me. I have difficulty interpreting this statement. It's more Visuddhimagga than Sutta, the Pa Auk teachings, yes. What do you mean with "the suttas suggest that it isn't quite as strong"? What is not quite as strong?

sorry
If one considers that the basis of the Pa Auk system and description of Jhana is the Visudhimagga rather than the Sutta's. And that the Sutta's Jhanas aren't considered to be as strong as the Visudhimagga's jhanas.
not that they are not powerful... but that it could be argued that the visudhimagga raises the level of focus... up one level from the Sutta's.
Is that clearer.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby perkele » Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:08 pm

Cittasanto wrote:
perkele wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:if one considers that this is more visudhimagga than sutta, and that the sutta's sugest that it isn't quite as strong... the claim does fall flat on it's face.

Excuse me. I have difficulty interpreting this statement. It's more Visuddhimagga than Sutta, the Pa Auk teachings, yes. What do you mean with "the suttas suggest that it isn't quite as strong"? What is not quite as strong?

sorry
If one considers that the basis of the Pa Auk system and description of Jhana is the Visudhimagga rather than the Sutta's. And that the Sutta's Jhanas aren't considered to be as strong as the Visudhimagga's jhanas.
not that they are not powerful... but that it could be argued that the visudhimagga raises the level of focus... up one level from the Sutta's.
Is that clearer.

Okay. I understand now what you were talking about (I think).
But I don't see it that way. I don't see in how far the "Visuddhi Magga jhanas" are supposed to be stronger than the "Sutta jhanas". I think the descriptions in the Visuddhi Magga are just more detailed. Might it not be that that is really all there is to it? A stronger definition doesn't necessary make for a stronger object of definition. The Visuddhi Magga definitions may just be a bit redundant and over-determined, because the people got too doubtful otherwise. They were more comfortable with more details they could check to see if they were really on to it. And so these definitions were elaborated upon by people who knew the jhanas, just to give those who wanted to learn them more points of orientation, although the sutta definitions would point to exactly the same state if one was really on to it. But I have no experience to relate to. So these are just my speculations.
However, to come back to the argument you provided, how would the idea that the jhanas as defined in the Visuddhi Magga are stronger than as defined in the Suttas make those claims to having reached jhanas as defined in the Visuddhi Magga invalid, in the sense that they are not "genuine" jhana as defined in the Suttas? If the Visuddhi Magga definition was assumed to be weaker than the "genuine" jhana as defined in the Suttas, then this argument would make sense. But this way around it doesn't. Or have I missed the point and you meant the opposite of what I interpreted?
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:48 pm

perkele wrote:Okay. I understand now what you were talking about (I think).
But I don't see it that way. I don't see in how far the "Visuddhi Magga jhanas" are supposed to be stronger than the "Sutta jhanas". I think the descriptions in the Visuddhi Magga are just more detailed. Might it not be that that is really all there is to it? A stronger definition doesn't necessary make for a stronger object of definition. The Visuddhi Magga definitions may just be a bit redundant and over-determined, because the people got too doubtful otherwise. They were more comfortable with more details they could check to see if they were really on to it. And so these definitions were elaborated upon by people who knew the jhanas, just to give those who wanted to learn them more points of orientation, although the sutta definitions would point to exactly the same state if one was really on to it. But I have no experience to relate to. So these are just my speculations.
However, to come back to the argument you provided, how would the idea that the jhanas as defined in the Visuddhi Magga are stronger than as defined in the Suttas make those claims to having reached jhanas as defined in the Visuddhi Magga invalid, in the sense that they are not "genuine" jhana as defined in the Suttas? If the Visuddhi Magga definition was assumed to be weaker than the "genuine" jhana as defined in the Suttas, then this argument would make sense. But this way around it doesn't. Or have I missed the point and you meant the opposite of what I interpreted?

Personally I do not practice by-way-of the Visudhimagga, so I am relying on teachers such as Leigh Brasington and others who are more experienced in the different ways for the comparison. But I do see your point and to an extent agree.
But my point was in agreeing with what you said, the claim that the Jhanas can not be mastered... any-more falls flat on its face when there is this wealth of experience of people who (may have different opinions about how strong it is...) do still reach and master the factors which make Jhana Jhana at each level.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The possibility of Jhana and enlightenment

Postby perkele » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:14 am

Cittasanto wrote:But my point was in agreeing with what you said, the claim that the Jhanas can not be mastered... any-more falls flat on its face when there is this wealth of experience of people who (may have different opinions about how strong it is...) do still reach and master the factors which make Jhana Jhana at each level.

Ah, I see. So the answer to this question
perkele wrote:Or have I missed the point and you meant the opposite of what I interpreted?

is yes.

Thanks for clearing it up. I misunderstood you completely. But I think you also expressed yourself a bit vaguely in your original post. :tongue:
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