Forgive my ignorance on this topic but a number of things are starting to become clearer (i think). The insight vs. concentration distinction is very interesting. I think i've definitely leaned in Goldstein's direction all these years, but agree with you Mike, both are needed to make progress...
I will take this a bit out on a limb, and so don't mind being corrected... The method Ajahn Brahm describes is somewhat
similar to that of zazen in Zen Buddhism, isn't it?
Jhana = Dhyana = Chan = Zen?
If so it might explain why I've always been such a lousy Zen practitioner- when it comes to long-term intensive zazen
- and yet find mindfulness quite comfortable and helpful as an approach, and also the writings and insights of Zen patriarchs and teachers to be so sensible..!
Here's wikipedia's entry on Dhyana. How accurate is this?
Dhyāna in Buddhism
In the Theravada tradition
Main article: Jhāna
In the Pali Canon the Buddha describes eight progressive states of absorption meditation or jhāna. Four are considered to be meditations of form (rupa jhana) and four are formless meditations (arupa jhana). The first four jhānas are said by the Buddha to be conducive to a pleasant abiding and freedom from suffering (DN 22). The jhānas are states of meditation where the mind is free from the five hindrances (craving, aversion, sloth, agitation, doubt) and (from the second jhāna onwards) incapable of discursive thinking. The deeper jhānas can last for many hours. When a meditator emerges from jhāna, his or her mind is empowered and able to penetrate into the deepest truths of existence.
There are four deeper states of meditative absorption called the immaterial attainments. Sometimes these are also referred to as the "formless" jhānas, or arupajhana (distinguished from the first four jhānas, rupajhana). In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word jhāna is never explicitly used to denote them, but they are always mentioned in sequence after the first four jhānas. The enlightenment of complete dwelling in emptiness is reached when the eighth jhana is transcended.
Jhānas are normally described according to the nature of the mental factors which are present in these states
1. Movement of the mind onto the object, Vitakka (Sanskrit: Vitarka)
2. Retention of the mind on the object, Vicāra
3. Joy, Pīti (Sanskrit: Prīti)
4. Happiness, Sukha
5. Equanimity, Upekkhā (Sanskrit: Upekṣā)
6. One-pointedness, Ekaggatā (Sanskrit: Ekāgratā)
Four progressive states of Jhāna:
1. First Jhāna (Vitakka, Vicāra, Pīti, Sukha, Ekaggatā): The five hindrances have completely disappeared and intense unified bliss remains. Only the subtlest of mental movement remains, perceivable in its absence by those who have entered the second jhāna. The ability to form unwholesome intentions ceases.
2. Second Jhāna (Pīti, Sukha, Ekaggatā): All mental movement utterly ceases. There is only bliss. The ability to form wholesome intentions ceases as well.
3. Third Jhāna (Sukha, Ekaggatā): One-half of bliss (joy) disappears.
4. Fourth Jhāna (Upekkhā, Ekaggatā): The other half of bliss (happiness) disappears, leading to a state with neither pleasure nor pain, which the Buddha said is actually a subtle form of happiness (more sublime than pīti and sukha). The Buddha described the jhānas as "the footsteps of the tathāgata". The breath is said to cease temporarily in this state.
Traditionally, this fourth jhāna is seen as the beginning of attaining psychic powers (abhigna).[
The scriptures state that one should not seek to attain ever higher jhanas but master one first, then move on to the next. "Mastery of jhana" involves being able to enter a jhana at will, stay as long as one likes, leave at will and experience each of the jhana factors as required. They also seem to suggest that lower jhana factors may manifest themselves in higher jhanas, if the jhanas have not been properly developed. The Buddha is seen to advise his disciples to concentrate and steady the jhana further.
In Mahayana traditions Buddhist Perfections
The importance of dhyana in the Mahayana tradition can't be over emphasized. Dhyāna is the fifth of six pāramitās (perfections). It is usually translated as "concentration," "meditation," or "meditative stability." In China, the word dhyana was originally transliterated as chan-na (禅那; Mandarin: chánnà), and was eventually shortened to just chan (禅) by common usage.
Dhyana, usually under the related term of samadhi, together with the second and sixth paramitas are also known as the three essential studies, or threefold training, of Buddhism: moral precepts (sila), meditation (dhyana or samadhi), and wisdom (prajna). In Mahayana Buddhism no one can be said to be accomplished in Buddhism who has not successfully trained in all three studies.
When Buddhism was brought to China, the Buddhist masters tended to become more focused or primarily adept in one of the three studies. Vinaya masters were those who specialized in the monastic rules of discipline and the moral precepts (sila). Dharma masters were those who specialized in the wisdom teachings of the Sutras and Buddhist treatises (shastras). Dhyana or Chan masters were those who specialized in meditation practice and states of samadhi. Monks would often begin their training under one kind of master, such as a Vinaya master, and then transfer to another master, such as a Dharma master or a Dhyana master, to further their training and studies. At that time there was no separate school known as Chan.
Chan: The Dhyana School of China
According to tradition, Bodhidharma brought his lineage school of a line of dhyāna masters from India to China. After a somewhat disappointing interview with an Emperor in the south of China, Bodhidharma went into the north and resided in relative obscurity at the Shaolin Temple until several disciples found him. As it became more and more independent, popular and politically influential, the lineage school that was attributed to Bodhidharma became known as the Chan school in China and was transplanted to Korea as Seon, to Japan as Zen, and to Vietnam as Thiền.