Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

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Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby Goob » Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:46 pm

Yes, the title says it all I guess. We all know about the differences of interpretation among teachers regarding how the different steps in the Anapanasati sutta (and others) should be interpreted and how they influence their conception of Jhana. For purely intellectual reasons I'm interested in what teachers you are aware of (Sri Lankan, Western, Thai, Burmese and otherwise) who treats the "awareness of the whole body"-step as an all-encompassing, global awareness of the physical body. I know Ajahn Thanissaro (following Ajahns Lee & Fuang) teaches this as opposed to, say, Ajahn Brahm's intensely narrowly focused nimitta-Jhana (no critique intended).

Thanks, and be well.
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby marc108 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:53 pm

According to the wiki article on mn118: Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ajahn Buddhadasa, Goenka, Larry Rosenberg, and Thich Naht Hanh.

I think saying Ajahn Geoff is talking about the flesh body is a bit misleading, If I'm understanding correctly he is referring to the breath as an energetic body experienced within the physical body. Bhante G and Ajahn Sucitto also teach this way. Ajahn Sucittos meditation manual has a very clear and lucid description of this that is worth reading if you're into practicing this way.
"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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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:57 pm

I would maybe throw Richard Shankman in that lot as well since he states that he thinks the suttas are talking about whole body awareness in jhana.

@ Mark: I would say that Thanissaro teaches both the energy body and the physical body awareness. One uses the breath and energy in order to sense the whole physical body while breathing. So I wouldn't say it's misleading to say Thanissaro teaches awareness of the flesh body, just that it's not the whole picture.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby Goob » Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:40 pm

Thanks Marc and Polarbuddha! I will look into the teachers you mention, interesting stuff. I just read Ajahn Thanissaro's new book on breath meditation and he does make it clear that he's not exactly talking about the physical body but the subtle energies found within, but you know, it's kinda the same in my book. I wasn't aware that Ven. Gunaratana taught this way. Has he changed his opinion on this lately or did I just never read his stuff carefully enought maybe?
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby danieLion » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:40 am

richard_rca wrote:For purely intellectual reasons I'm interested in what teachers you are aware of (Sri Lankan, Western, Thai, Burmese and otherwise) who treats the "awareness of the whole body"-step as an all-encompassing, global awareness of the physical body.


The Buddha.

What do you mean by "purely intellectual reasons"?
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby marc108 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:41 am

richard_rca wrote: I wasn't aware that Ven. Gunaratana taught this way. Has he changed his opinion on this lately or did I just never read his stuff carefully enought maybe?


he doesn't really elaborate on it in his 'plain English' books. in the interview section of Richard Shankman's book Samadhi, Bhante G talks about the breath body being a separate body.
"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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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby Sylvester » Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:51 am

richard_rca wrote:Thanks Marc and Polarbuddha! I will look into the teachers you mention, interesting stuff. I just read Ajahn Thanissaro's new book on breath meditation and he does make it clear that he's not exactly talking about the physical body but the subtle energies found within, but you know, it's kinda the same in my book. I wasn't aware that Ven. Gunaratana taught this way. Has he changed his opinion on this lately or did I just never read his stuff carefully enought maybe?



Hi Richard

Might you be the Richard Shankman much cited in here for the book "The Experience of Samadhi"?
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:48 am

Sylvester wrote:
richard_rca wrote:Thanks Marc and Polarbuddha! I will look into the teachers you mention, interesting stuff. I just read Ajahn Thanissaro's new book on breath meditation and he does make it clear that he's not exactly talking about the physical body but the subtle energies found within, but you know, it's kinda the same in my book. I wasn't aware that Ven. Gunaratana taught this way. Has he changed his opinion on this lately or did I just never read his stuff carefully enought maybe?



Hi Richard

Might you be the Richard Shankman much cited in here for the book "The Experience of Samadhi"?


I believe he is speaking idiomatically but that would be cool if it was Shankman.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby Goob » Fri Mar 01, 2013 10:30 am

Sylvester: Haha, no, I'm definately not him! I just got his book though, seems promising. I was speaking idiomatically. I only meant that even if Ven. Thanissaro speaks of the energy body it's still a whole body awareness and I don't think they differ that much.

DanielLion: I'm not sure what I meant by that, maybe as a implied disclaimer to prevent a debate over the correct meaning from happening. Does it matter?
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby marc108 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:04 pm

richard_rca wrote: Ven. Thanissaro speaks of the energy body it's still a whole body awareness and I don't think they differ that much.



i agree here. these 2 only seem completely different when reading a book... with practice and in experience the line really blurs.

http://forestsanghapublications.org/vie ... 12&ref=vec
The material aspects of the breathing – the sensation of the air and the movement of the diaphragm – will tend to fade out, leaving just a bright somatic energy
"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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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby danieLion » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:52 pm

richard_rca wrote:DanielLion: I'm not sure what I meant by that, maybe as a implied disclaimer to prevent a debate over the correct meaning from happening. Does it matter?
Probably not.
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby marc108 » Tue Mar 12, 2013 10:59 pm

I was listening to Joseph Goldstiens 'Abiding in Mindfulness' CD on Mindfulness of the Body, and he is quoting Ajahn Sucitto heavily and talking about Samadhi as embodied awareness.

I've also heard Richard Shankman talk about bringing the nimitta (if it arises) into the body rather than merging the mind into the nimitta.
"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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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby Samma » Wed Mar 13, 2013 1:34 am

Ajahn Pasanno, abbot of Abhayagiri, CA:
http://www.abhayagiri.org/
http://www.dhammaweb.net/dhammadb/autho ... o,%20Ajahn
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebmed066.htm
This means really taking the time on each in-breath and each out-breath to experience the body sitting and breathing; clearly, from the beginning of the in-breath to the end of the in-breath, from the beginning of the out-breath to the end of the out-breath – really experiencing what the body is feeling. We do not have to change it, we’re not having to try to do anything special but just experiencing the body, experiencing the actual posture and the feeling of the breath as it comes into the body. What sort of tension is there? How relaxed is it? How do we experience the body? Some people tend to be so up in their heads, thinking all the time – on and on and on – that they don’t experience their bodies. They can sit for a whole meditation period, and just be totally up in their heads and feel nothing below their neck; there’s nothing there, just this void. That’s a lack of mindfulness. So it’s important to really settle mindfully into one in-breath, one out-breath.
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby convivium » Wed Mar 13, 2013 5:58 am

these teachers think it's problematic to stay in one spot (e.g. webu sayadaw).
i'm not saying that i disagree in a certain sense. but i haven't had much success with their methods (e.g. ajahn lee method 2) coming from the goenka tradition. right now staying in one spot is the only thing that i can handle with my attention span (while keeping silent for long enough)...
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby Goob » Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:21 pm

Well, I feel that the Goenka tradition's emphasis on whole-body vedana sensations - after the anapana-sati period in the retreats - could be correlated with the methods of focusing on the whole body breathing taught by others, but that they are explained (and understood) in different ways.

My personal preference and understanding is that "whole body" refers to the entire physical body and that doign that causes certain beneficial results in concentration and well-being in meditation.
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:12 pm

convivium wrote:these teachers think it's problematic to stay in one spot (e.g. webu sayadaw).
i'm not saying that i disagree in a certain sense. but i haven't had much success with their methods (e.g. ajahn lee method 2) coming from the goenka tradition. right now staying in one spot is the only thing that i can handle with my attention span (while keeping silent for long enough)...

The problem is that "spot" is just an idea. The body, while ultimately just an idea, is much more practical for awareness.
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:24 am

it's not an idea, it's a sensation.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:26 am

or rather it's a point or range of sensations that you can focus on potentially to the exclusion of other sensations. but knowing what is sensation and what is idea is a point of insight (nama rupa). but then i don't know exactly what "idea" means to you.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby danieLion » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:18 am

convivium wrote:or rather it's a point or range of sensations that you can focus on potentially to the exclusion of other sensations. but knowing what is sensation and what is idea is a point of insight (nama rupa). but then i don't know exactly what "idea" means to you.


There's what it means to me and what it means to others and never the twain shall meet. We may for pragmatic purposes temporarily agree on a conventional, public meaning, but we cannot utimately verify whether or not my private understanding exactly matches another's private understanding.

“For a large class of cases—though not for all—in which we employ the word ‘meaning’ it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language” (Wittgenstein, PhiIosophical Investigations, p. 43).

Say the spot you pick is the "dan tian" or a "chakra." Exaclty where and what these are is a personal ideation. It's a private event. I can't make you feel what I conceive of as my "spot" but only convey to you through language what I think it is. You may agree or disagree, but even if we agree we only have each other's words to go by. Even if we specify an anatomical object, say "the navel," my private conception of where the navel ends and where it begins is completely personal. To take a crude example, if I have an "inny" and you have an "outty" then when we ideate the navel as the spot of contemplation we don't mean the same thing at all because empty holes and fleshy bumps are publicly verifiable as two different things. If we say, "It's the area, not the anatomy" we are still in trouble. "Area" is an ideation, too. We may agree that the navel is part of the abdomen but disagree on where to draw distinguishing lines between the abdomen from other parts of the torso. Even if we agree that we experience our spot sensationally via nama-rupa, we are still dealing with private mental constructs. I might select the earth elements present in my spot via intention, attention, feeling, contact and perception while you might select the water elements present in you spot via mentality. Your spot may seem warm, mine cold; yours motionless, mine moving. So we cannot even clearly distinguish an idea from a sensation, for "sensation" is an ideation too.

Even the term "body" is an idea. For yogis, the import of "whole-body" awareness--like all ideas--is purely pragmatic. If there was a consensus about "body" or "whole-body" topics like this wouldn't be necessary. So we are playing a language game. When we accept an instruction from our teacher about focusing on the "whole-body" we are not agreeing on an ultimate definition but a conventional meaning that serves our practical purposes for the moment--in this case for the purpose of being aware of an object of samadhi. But we still have to test this privately. When we cannot verify it personally, we return to our language games with our teacher or fellow practitioners for clarification ang go back and forth like this until we are satisified with knowing for ourselves the value of the experience, at which point we have no need to rely on convention. Knowing for ourselves implies we are not knowing for others, so their ideations about spots, or nama rupa, or body become irrelevant.
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Re: Teachers teaching Jhana as whole-body awareness?

Postby Nyana » Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:40 am

:goodpost:

Also, Ven. Ñāṇananda, Nibbāna Sermon 01:

    Even though he is able to recognize objects by their conventional names, for the purpose of comprehending name-and-form, a meditator makes use of those factors that are included under 'name': feeling, perception, intention, contact and attention. All these have a specific value to each individual and that is why the Dhamma has to be understood each one by himself -- paccattaṃ veditabbo. This Dhamma has to be realized by oneself. One has to understand one's own world of name-and-form by oneself. No one else can do it for him. Nor can it be defined or denoted by technical terms. [Emphasis added.]
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