natural progression of meditation?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby James the Giant » Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:50 am

Samma wrote:You don't want to end up with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analysis_paralysis right?

Perfect diagnosis, Doctor Samma. I agree.
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saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:04 am

alan... wrote:teacher A says to focus on a blissful feeling and it will get bigger, thus you enter the first jhana. nimitta is irrelevant.

teacher B says to focus on nimitta and ignore bliss and other factors and it will lead you into jhana.

teacher C says to focus on just the breath without nimitta.

teacher D says to focus on just the breath with nimitta.

teacher E says to focus on nimitta and utilize bliss and joy, that they are nearly indispensable for entering jhana.

not only these differences but each of these teachers would have a bunch of other differences as well. these are just ones i can think of easily. there are a few more divisions and further subdivisions within each group. it's a sea of contrast and confusion. each teacher is very different from the others and many say outright or hint that their method is right concentration, being so, others are by implication wrong concentration.

I honestly don't understand - why can't all of these be right? They're all just different approaches to reaching different depths of the same state. Do you think that focusing on a nimatta vs. no nimatta is really going to take you to a "different" Jhana? That's not how it works. All of these methods are appropriate and right, some just work better for some and others for others.

You're seriously overthinking this. Try a few methods and see which one works best for you. Stop the hand-wringing!
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

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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:10 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
alan... wrote:teacher A says to focus on a blissful feeling and it will get bigger, thus you enter the first jhana. nimitta is irrelevant.

teacher B says to focus on nimitta and ignore bliss and other factors and it will lead you into jhana.

teacher C says to focus on just the breath without nimitta.

teacher D says to focus on just the breath with nimitta.

teacher E says to focus on nimitta and utilize bliss and joy, that they are nearly indispensable for entering jhana.

not only these differences but each of these teachers would have a bunch of other differences as well. these are just ones i can think of easily. there are a few more divisions and further subdivisions within each group. it's a sea of contrast and confusion. each teacher is very different from the others and many say outright or hint that their method is right concentration, being so, others are by implication wrong concentration.

I honestly don't understand - why can't all of these be right? They're all just different approaches to reaching different depths of the same state. Do you think that focusing on a nimatta vs. no nimatta is really going to take you to a "different" Jhana? That's not how it works. All of these methods are appropriate and right, some just work better for some and others for others.

You're seriously overthinking this. Try a few methods and see which one works best for you. Stop the hand-wringing!


have you read brahm? he implies that only his very specific nimitta method can allow one to enter jhana. he even implies that the nimitta must look they way he teaches or it's incorrect.

other teachers are varying in their degree of strictness in their teachings on this topic. brahm just comes to mind since he's so adamant about his specific methods.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:34 am

alan... wrote:have you read brahm? he implies that only his very specific nimitta method can allow one to enter jhana. he even implies that the nimitta must look they way he teaches or it's incorrect.

other teachers are varying in their degree of strictness in their teachings on this topic. brahm just comes to mind since he's so adamant about his specific methods.

Then if his specific methods don't work for you, just disregard them. There's nary a mention of nimattas in the suttas anyway, so I wouldn't worry.
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: natural progression of meditation?

Postby Samma » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:42 am

Alan you are being very loose in throwing around conclusions you draw from teachers and suttas. If you want to get into specific differences, QUOTE. For example,
"he implies that only his very specific nimitta method can allow one to enter jhana. he even implies that the nimitta must look they way he teaches or it's incorrect."
This is not the impression I have of Brahm, see a quote from Richard Shankman's book where Brahm recognizes different types of nimitta:
The experience that is the most similar for most meditators is that of a stronglight. So sometimes that nimitta can seem incredibly brilliant, so much so that you thinkyou cannot stare at it any longer, until you realize that this is not a visual thing at all. It is a purely mental phenomenon, and it doesn’t matter how brilliant it gets. It is like looking into the sun, but it is quite safe, because it is a pure mental image.Some people can use an equivalent nimitta, which is a feeling nimitta that is experienced similar to the sense of physical touch. But I have to emphasize that the sense of physical touch is gone already. This is just a way it is interpreted. However, of these two, the visual nimitta is by far the most useful. It is stronger and easier to work with. It is the one that I encourage. But you do not develop it by expanding and contracting and moving it around.


The suttas are not too detailed, thus we are left with confusion and many different interpretations. The widest perspective being that that there are several ways into jhana, and different degrees of jhana. The narrowest being that only one is correct and the others are wrong. And even other approaches that say jhana is not necessary. Again, the solution is to practice a lot and come to your own conclusions. What is your experience so far? I'd suggest Thanissaro's book With Each & Every Breath, and see how that goes. And if you want to compare differences, don't be loose about it, and don't expect much to come out of it besides this-says-that, that-says-this.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby Magoo » Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:13 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
alan... wrote:have you read brahm? he implies that only his very specific nimitta method can allow one to enter jhana. he even implies that the nimitta must look they way he teaches or it's incorrect.


In regard to the above statement, I dont agree that this is what Ajahn Brahm implies. I have heard this directly from the horses mouth (Sorry AB if you read this). A Nimitta is percieved differently for different people but most commenly perceived as a light or lights of possible varying colours. As it is only a perception it is subjective and has to be different for different people and also is very hard to describe if experienced.

From what I have read in this thread I would follow every bit of advice offered by Lonesome Yogurt. Personally I follow the Ajahn Brahm method as he is local to me and a great teacher. But as Lonesome said I am sure there are other paths, all very similar in nature that work for different people so these peopel all provide their guidence and instruction. If it works for tehm its great they are sharing. I have upmost faith in Ajahn Brahm and thats why i choose to just stick to his method. Keep it simple. :buddha1:

Let go...let go...let go and let it all happen...whatever it may be.

Good luck and enjoy your meditation. It can be a lot of fun! :anjali:

Eamonn
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby lojong1 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:01 am

alan... wrote:how do i avoid [wrong concentration]?

Common ground is the bomb. Go visit a mosque, seriously.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:00 am

alan... wrote:..that being said, what happens if i just give up and watch my breath and do nothing else? and then after, or during, i practice vipassana? surely it's possible i will end up going through the jhanas naturally without really knowing it, or it's possible this is wrong concentration?


I share your frustration, there are many different interpretations and it can be confusing. And also there are 40 meditation objects including the kasinas, the breath is only one option.

Perhaps the answer is to focus on a simple practice like mindfulness of breathing and see where it leads.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:03 am

Samma wrote: And even other approaches that say jhana is not necessary.


Yes, this is a further complication, it seems to depend on which teacher(s) one believes.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby kirk5a » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:04 pm

alan... wrote:the problem is that the suttas state jhana is of extreme importance and that it must be correct jhana. so i either find the correct one or i am wasting my time.

This is a sufficiently broad definition to allow for some variation, in my opinion.
The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I would focus on the phrase "singleness of mind" ("unification of mind", cittassa ekaggatā).
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby marc108 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:24 pm

it's not possible to use analysis to come to any sort of definitive conclusion about these things, being that the gamut of teaching and interpretation is so varied. The only thing you can do is practice a method and see if it truly does liberate the mind. Pick a teacher and dig into their methods for a while... see what works and what doesn't.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:37 pm

Samma wrote:Alan you are being very loose in throwing around conclusions you draw from teachers and suttas. If you want to get into specific differences, QUOTE. For example,
"he implies that only his very specific nimitta method can allow one to enter jhana. he even implies that the nimitta must look they way he teaches or it's incorrect."
This is not the impression I have of Brahm, see a quote from Richard Shankman's book where Brahm recognizes different types of nimitta:
The experience that is the most similar for most meditators is that of a stronglight. So sometimes that nimitta can seem incredibly brilliant, so much so that you thinkyou cannot stare at it any longer, until you realize that this is not a visual thing at all. It is a purely mental phenomenon, and it doesn’t matter how brilliant it gets. It is like looking into the sun, but it is quite safe, because it is a pure mental image.Some people can use an equivalent nimitta, which is a feeling nimitta that is experienced similar to the sense of physical touch. But I have to emphasize that the sense of physical touch is gone already. This is just a way it is interpreted. However, of these two, the visual nimitta is by far the most useful. It is stronger and easier to work with. It is the one that I encourage. But you do not develop it by expanding and contracting and moving it around.


The suttas are not too detailed, thus we are left with confusion and many different interpretations. The widest perspective being that that there are several ways into jhana, and different degrees of jhana. The narrowest being that only one is correct and the others are wrong. And even other approaches that say jhana is not necessary. Again, the solution is to practice a lot and come to your own conclusions. What is your experience so far? I'd suggest Thanissaro's book With Each & Every Breath, and see how that goes. And if you want to compare differences, don't be loose about it, and don't expect much to come out of it besides this-says-that, that-says-this.



it's not an inquisition. i'm not trying to condemn any teachers or methods. i was just giving random mentions to clarify for mr. yogurt that different teachers teach different ways. who they are and direct quotes is irrelevant. what i really want is to find a method that's much more natural than these step by step rigid progressions that are singular methods.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:39 pm

marc108 wrote:it's not possible to use analysis to come to any sort of definitive conclusion about these things, being that the gamut of teaching and interpretation is so varied. The only thing you can do is practice a method and see if it truly does liberate the mind. Pick a teacher and dig into their methods for a while... see what works and what doesn't.


practice for... the rest of my life? liberating the mind is the end goal. people spend many years practicing. i don't imagine i will have much time to practice each one and see which one gets me to nibbana. i need to find one and stick with it.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:41 pm

kirk5a wrote:
alan... wrote:the problem is that the suttas state jhana is of extreme importance and that it must be correct jhana. so i either find the correct one or i am wasting my time.

This is a sufficiently broad definition to allow for some variation, in my opinion.
The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I would focus on the phrase "singleness of mind" ("unification of mind", cittassa ekaggatā).


thanks. and how are we defining "singleness of mind"?
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:46 pm

Magoo wrote:
LonesomeYogurt wrote:
alan... wrote:have you read brahm? he implies that only his very specific nimitta method can allow one to enter jhana. he even implies that the nimitta must look they way he teaches or it's incorrect.


In regard to the above statement, I dont agree that this is what Ajahn Brahm implies. I have heard this directly from the horses mouth (Sorry AB if you read this). A Nimitta is percieved differently for different people but most commenly perceived as a light or lights of possible varying colours. As it is only a perception it is subjective and has to be different for different people and also is very hard to describe if experienced.

From what I have read in this thread I would follow every bit of advice offered by Lonesome Yogurt. Personally I follow the Ajahn Brahm method as he is local to me and a great teacher. But as Lonesome said I am sure there are other paths, all very similar in nature that work for different people so these peopel all provide their guidence and instruction. If it works for tehm its great they are sharing. I have upmost faith in Ajahn Brahm and thats why i choose to just stick to his method. Keep it simple. :buddha1:

Let go...let go...let go and let it all happen...whatever it may be.

Good luck and enjoy your meditation. It can be a lot of fun! :anjali:

Eamonn


" The Best Nimitta. The best nimitta of all, that which is the most suitable for Jhanas, begins as being similar to the full moon at midnight in a sky free of clouds."

-http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books/Ajahn_Brahm_The_Jhanas.htm#PART_TWO

that's one of many that imply that his description is the one you need. i've read another book by him as well and it sounds the same. whether or not he says directly "this is the only way that is proper." i don't know, that's why in the quoted post i wrote "implies". he guides the reader along on an extremely rigid path. does he allow for variation? possibly, but certainly suggests heavily that his method and descriptions are the best and most proper.

love brahm, great writer. his methods work for me quite well to a point. so don't get me wrong. he was just an example since he is so specific.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:48 pm

porpoise wrote:
alan... wrote:..that being said, what happens if i just give up and watch my breath and do nothing else? and then after, or during, i practice vipassana? surely it's possible i will end up going through the jhanas naturally without really knowing it, or it's possible this is wrong concentration?


I share your frustration, there are many different interpretations and it can be confusing. And also there are 40 meditation objects including the kasinas, the breath is only one option.

Perhaps the answer is to focus on a simple practice like mindfulness of breathing and see where it leads.


indeed. i'm trying to unlearn some stuff. i'm really practiced at nimitta meditation and it's hard to stop the mental habit of focusing on it.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:49 pm

porpoise wrote:
Samma wrote: And even other approaches that say jhana is not necessary.


Yes, this is a further complication, it seems to depend on which teacher(s) one believes.


the canon lends support to this. off the top of my head MN 10 and Sn 1.8. they both say the method in the sutta can lead to nibbana and make no mention of or instruction on jhana.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:31 pm

alan... wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:
LonesomeYogurt wrote:Jhana is readily accessible to those who spend more time just watching the breath and less time wondering where it will take them


Doubt is a fickle thing. shut up and do the practice.


i wish it were so simple. the conflicting instructions from different teachers are night and day. it's not like i'm seeing only small variation. if all are correct then it's one of the easiest and most ambiguous meditation practices i've ever heard of.

to just "shut up and do the practice" sounds like good advice, but, which practice? i don't have a teacher or any nearby. the different teachers i have read are all over the place on defining proper jhana.

how long have you stuck to one teachers instructions for meditation? don't worry about jhana until you have a good grasp of the teachers instructions you are using for meditation.
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby alan... » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:10 pm

Cittasanto wrote:how long have you stuck to one teachers instructions for meditation? don't worry about jhana until you have a good grasp of the teachers instructions you are using for meditation.


six years zen meditation every day. my teacher taught me to watch the breath and let thoughts go. nothing else. in the beginning i asked lots of questions of other teachers and a few of my own teacher (he was the abbott so he was busy and not always available or even at the temple) and got vague answers that didn't really give any specific direction. mostly stuff that implied that whatever happens is correct. when, after three years i asked "where does it lead" he said "eventually the mind shuts off.". i kept going. i brought him some suttas and asked questions about them. he just gave clipped answers that were not informative and told me that the book (samyutta nikaya) was a good one to read. i asked questions about thought and so on, like: "should i be eventually having no thoughts?" answer: "it doesn't matter."

and so on. six years went by and i eventually noticed that this meditation was actually detrimental. i was just wasting away in mind mush every day for an hour or more. i would get to where there were no thoughts, just the breath, and just sit there.

perhaps that back story makes my current plight more clear. because of that terrible experience and a serious waste of vital and precious time, i am now very wary of meditating the wrong way and just assuming it's right with a "wait and see" kind of attitude. if i give six years to six meditation methods and all six lead no where i'll be an old man by the time i find the seventh that may be the right one!

this is also why i am wary of total absorption. i've gotten there a couple of times and it felt similar in ways to this meditation i learned before. just nothing. whereas when i sit with a more open consciousness and practice deliberate observation of the aggregates and what have you i find myself learning how my mind and reality works.

i'm understanding practices like shikantaza and silent illumination more and more, heck even koan study is starting to make some sense! reflection is so important as far as i can tell. i see little merit in extreme, single minded concentration for long sittings. but then there are those who claim that this is where and when wisdom arises. however i have had the exact opposite experience.

on the bright side, because of basically spending six years perfecting something akin to access concentration, i can now enter jhana fairly easily. but then i'm not sure if it's the right jhana or not because every teacher is different. it's definitely bliss stronger than i've felt before and i see things very clear and vipassana is very clear and productive afterwards, but who knows?
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Re: natural progression of meditation?

Postby manas » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:59 pm

Hi alan,
I used to be similarly plagued with this also, but I've found a way through that works for me. It might or might not for others, but: I take the suttas as the ultimate guide, and I listen to various teachers who I feel can explain, or elucidate and make clear to me what the suttas are really getting at - which is a long-term process, and not gotten straight away. Yes I live with some uncertainty, but I keep investigating to perceive what leads to more wakefulness, more clear seeing, less doubt. If 'your' way of calming the mind leads to seeing the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and self-less-ness of the five clinging khandas, then it's working for you. imho. If your samadhi practice is leading you towards disenchantment with clingable phenomena, never mind that it differs in some details to what some others do!
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