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Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm? - Dhamma Wheel

Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
Reductor
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Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Reductor » Fri Oct 16, 2009 7:15 am

I'm way out in the boon docks, without any support in practice. That said, I believe I have been experiencing Jhana. I'm interested in any thing people have to offer here, but mostly: do you think you've experienced Jhana, and by what standard are you basing that (written or teacher)? Since I have heard this is a controversial topic, I will understand if no one responds. But I'm hoping.

For me I measure success by what seems to be present, and the order that they are present (Ajaan Lee described Jhana a lot in his writing, which I have read). Since I am having some consistency in my practice, I get to analyze my experiences some. My first experiences involved the sense of the body becoming large and comfortable, with the breath almost like a backdrop for all my experiences/thoughts/etc. I was aware of these other things, but also the breath, always there. Now days I don't get the big body, nor the small body, sense anymore, but just a gradual awakening of the body as the mind also calms and latches onto the breath. A point comes where the breath and my attention do not separate, with the body feeling like a statue: present, relaxed, comfortable and seemingly immovable. I can move, but there seems almost no inclination in the mind to move, even when pain sets in (from sitting on a hard floor I do experience the onset of pain after a time; not sure how long into it). At that point I can rest with the breath as backdrop with very little effort. Mostly I just avoid adjusting the breath and this state will persist. If I focus in on the breath again then things start to change.

There's more, but maybe I should stop here. Mostly, does this sound like it's progressing how it should?

Please forgive me if this thread is inappropriate. Some experienced mediators to talk with (email or other) would be a great boon to me.

Thanks.

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Jechbi » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:09 am

Hi there.

To answer your question, I don't know. But if I were you, I'd be very reluctant to rely on instructions from people on the Internet. And if you're experiencing pain (as you mentioned), then be careful, especially if you're alone.

Where did you learn the sitting practice technique that you are following?

A few words of caution: Try not to set yourself up with expectations. Don't worry too much about labeling what you experience. Let it be whatever it is. And one strange thing: sometimes progress isn't what you think it's supposed to be. Just my 2 cents, one human being to another. Best wishes.

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Ben
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Ben » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:14 am

Hi thereductor
I'm 'old school' and so I am disinclined to talk about my meditative experiences on a forum with people I do not know. I usually reserve any discussion with a mentor who I have known for 22+ years and with close confidants(some of whom are here). I understand that you are not in close proximity to a teacher who can guide you but I would urge you to take the time to find a teacher whom you could email your concerns and questions. The problem is, invariably, that certain experiences can be very easily misinterpreted as particular attainments, and the level of knowledge, particularly direct knowledge, of these attainments within the greater sangha, is not as common as one may perceive.
The Buddhist Society of Western Australia might be a good port-of-call for some email-mediated one-to-one advice.
metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Reductor » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:33 am

Ben and Jechbi, thanks for the posts. I too am reluctant in getting instructions over the net. Even in person, I am not prone to relying on other peoples opinion/experience (this is in general life). It is just that a point has come where other perspectives might be useful. I am pretty confident that I have gotten the first and second (they have become recurring and consistent), but deeper samadhi is proving to be more variable for me, and that's where I most worry that I have jumped the rail. There remains the possibility that I have jumped the rail from the word go, and I'm interested in that possibility.

Ben, do you have an email address for that group you mentioned?

Jechbi: I started with Lees method 2, but as time has progressed I have modified it a bit. The steps remain, but the exact 'expression' is a little different. I don't trace any sensations to the various limbs the way the method describes. Instead I feel that I'm able to 'open' the body to awareness, and then I do. From there it remains the same.

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Ben » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:45 am

Hi thereductor
the Buddhist Society of Western Australia www.bswa.org.au maybe quite a good resource for you.
If I am correct, it is the wat where Ajahn Brahm resides and he has a strong focus on jhana.

Go down tothe end of this page for links to teachers: http://www.bswa.org.au/contacts.html
metta

Ben

BTW, to reiterate Jechbi's questions (just out of interest), what technique are you using?
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Sudarsha » Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:36 pm

Hello, thereductor

I have only just joined but I'm going to leap in, anyway, and we can see what it might be worth.

You say you are in the boon docks which I take to refer to some location in Australia :thinking: , only because of the mention of Ajahn Brahmavamso's web site. I have been practising for something like 45 years and daily wonder if I have just begun: not because meditation itself is difficult or difficult to understand, but because everything is constantly changing and therefore constantly new. To me, the experiences you recount seem almost enviable. Just remember that we cannot step twice into the same river.

From my own perspective, meditation/practise/just sitting ... whatever we call what we do ... is like the half-full bit of the glass. It is the only place we can start. The rest, the half-empty bit, we need to fill with the words of the Buddha, with those words we understand based on our experience and developing wisdom which, as it matures, includes more and more penetration of and filling with the words of the Buddha. I'm very Theravada here, although I have read extensively in the Mahayana and Vajrayana; for me, only the words of the Pali canon make sense. That sense, of course, was aided by the writings of many Roshis, Rinpoches, Ajahns, Senseis and conversations with as many teachers as were available, on the Internet, in print or in the flesh!

The two suttas (easily available from ), the anapanasati and satipatthana, explain step-by-step how the Buddha taught the process of meditation from start to jhana. In this regard, I think you will find that Ajahn Brahmavamso's web site as well as his Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook and Bhante Gunaratana's Mindfulness in Plain English and Beyond Mindfulness are very helpful ... if you take them just slowly and easily, no fuss, no rush.

Another easily available essay is Ajahn Sona's The Mystery of the Breath Nimitta (see .

Now (and everyone should make sure to have a red flag and grain of salt handy), I'd like to share a personal insight :jawdrop: -- I think the words parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā, found in both the anapanasati and satipatthana suttas, are especially important. "Parimukhaṁ" is often translated, way too literally in my not especially humble opinion, as around the mouth. It is, again, in my opinion, kind of like the expression "in the bag" which does not literally mean you have put something in a bag, but that you have understood or grasped or accomplished or just done something. "Parimukhaṁ" means in front. After all, we can only explain our understanding from the mouth (well, in the Buddha's time when writing was only for unimportant stuff like business transactions). Our understanding and wisdom, then, is parimukhaṁ around the mouth, up front: like "put your money where your mouth is"!!!

The two suttas in reference are about learning to set up our attention, awareness (sati) in front. Remember Bodhidharma staring at the wall? Remember the kasina references in the Vishuddhimagga? Well, in front is a focal point, where the sensory organs of the head, ears, eyes, nose and mouth converge ------ where you'd hold your hand if you were looking at a spot in your palm!


Well, that's my take on it. Learning to have the mindfulness right there, in front (which, really, is in your conscious awareness) is what the suttas are about [in my opinion, don't forget that my opinion is just and only that, opinion]. You start with following the breathing and when the "nimitta" appears, when you notice you have settled, when mind and body, breath and discursive thinking have become calm and tranquil, then it is easier to shift, to let your awareness shift to that obvious place "in front". Settled there, it matures, ripens, lets go, recognizes impermanence, dukkha and the impossibility of a separately existing "self".

Then compassion, equanimity and letting-go arise.

:soap: Well! I kind of overdid it. The Buddha said that to teach, one should, among other things, give a gradual discourse and I think I have botched that, big time. But, thereductor, take it little by little. You are where you are and I think, from what you describe, you are on the right track. Just gradually let the half-empty part of the glass fill with the words of the Buddha. Again and again he said he taught dhamma and discipline. Meditation is discipline (in our layman's existence) and dhamma is the fulfillment of that. Very :yingyang: - and I apologize for playing with too many emoticons.
Last edited by Sudarsha on Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Sudarsha
parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā

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Ben
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Ben » Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:48 pm

Nice post, Sudarsha!
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:08 pm

from what i've read no one who has experienced real jhana needs to ask if theyve experienced jhana, it's a life altering event (when you hear of first time experiences they seem alot like those kensho moments in zen that people also claim change lives)
and from what i've experienced this is true.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby alan » Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:13 am

It's bundoc. A Tagolog word. I lived in the Philippines for awhile. It means the jungle, the woods, the mountain realms, depending on how it is used. As for Jhana, it is highly unlikely you have been there.

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Reductor » Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:52 am

Last edited by Reductor on Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Reductor » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:25 am


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Ben
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 17, 2009 7:21 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

Reductor
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Reductor » Sat Oct 17, 2009 8:10 am


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Ben
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 17, 2009 8:28 am

The technique Ven Bodhi describes is very close to the method I use when i am practicing anapana.
Having said that, I only usually practice anapana when on a silent retreat, and only for 3.5 days of a ten-day course - or first third of a longer retreat.
The benefit of this form of samatha is that one can develop and maintain highly focused one-pointed concentration on an infintesimally small area. Its hard, really hard, but its worth it.
Because the focus of the vipassana retreats is vipassana, the aim with the first 3.5 days of anapana is to develop kanaka (moment-to-moment) samadhi before one moves onto vedananupassana. But, if one can develop jhana - all the better. My personal attitude is that before a retreat, I re-read the section on anapana-sati in the visuddhimagga and extend 110 percent during the first third of my retreat. One's progress in anapana conditions one's development of insight during insight practice.
Do you have a copy of the visuddhimagga? I highly recommend procuring a copy.
metta
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:36 pm

Jahna is an exceedingly intense experience.

If you have ever accidentally stuck your finger onto a live electrical service wire you will have some idea.

That's just the first jahna. After that, things get calmer.

There are signs that precede jahna. The first is that hair will stand on end, perhaps on the head neck or forearms.

There are several more stages, then the torrent hits. Imagine yourself standing in a dry riverbed, with a twenty foot high wall of water coming at you.

Imagine it strikes you but you are not swept away. Instead it flows THROUGH you.

This is something like the first jahna.

Or, maybe I'm totally deluded.

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Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Sudarsha » Sat Oct 17, 2009 8:51 pm

Hello, again, thereductor

My tuppence, for what it might be worth, isn't generally along the lines of thought expressed by others here. Yes, if the first time you tried to meditate you fell into jhana, I suppose it would be quite surprising. But let us not neglect to remember that this is exactly what the Buddha himself described/remembered had happened to him as a child.

Two things seem to come into play: first, most of us are lay persons, householders, regular folks. We have rent and mortgages to pay, cars to maintain, children to feed, spouses to enjoy, jobs to do ... in short, we have many hindrances to our practice. Second, however, is the life of the monastic, very, very little to worry about, a great deal of unhindered time for practise.

However, with persistent practise, we learn to let go of the everyday distractions, hindrances and our meditation deepens. This is hardly something new to anyone, I suppose. I have been told point-blank by two revered monastics in the Theravada tradition that jhana is simply not possible. Unfortunately, I did not have the presence of mind to inquire if they thought the Buddha only taught the Seven-Fold Path. Nor the presence of mind to ask why the Buddha would teach samma samadhi if it was not possible!

We so often cannot see the great hindrance of doubt. We are so often only willing to follow our faith in the Buddha just so far.

However, one of my teachers, Ajahn Punna Dhammo () often teaches from the Cula-suññata Sutta: The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness (). Here is, I think, one of the "keys" to the how to of jhana: let go.

And this is exactly what the Buddha did at that festival, as a child. He just let go. Remembering this as an adult, determined to find the solution to the conundrum of suffering, he sat and let go.

As my own practice continues to mature and as I am somewhat less burdened by ordinary hindrances owing to having retired, I find that it is easier to let go, to "sink" (not necessarily a very good word) deeper and deeper into focus/concentration. When we look at the Buddha's description and analysis of samma samadhi, we see that he is describing a process of recognition and letting go.

Simple as that?

Hardly. But I think doable. For the majority of practitioners, both insight/wisdom/understanding/recognition and clarity of practise develop hand in hand, the one encouraging and enabling the other. Thus, and not meant as criticism, I suspect that catmoon's description of sticking a finger into a light socket, as far as meditation experiences go, is somewhat rare. However, if we are able to participate in an extended retreat where, day-by-day we pick up nearer to where we left off the previous day (unlikely in our normal householder lives), then we are much more likely to experience deep conditions of clarity of awareness with little or nearly no hindrances to jhana.

Some interesting reading and listening you may find of value: Ayya Khema's Who is my Self ; Bhante Gunaratana has, on his web site, an MP3 of a jhana retreat which can be helpful; Bhante Vimalaramsi has an excellent text on meditation available to download from his web site as well as many recorded talks; a teacher I have recently encountered, Bhante Sujato (), has some very insightful and I found very helpful writings and recordings. I especially liked A Swift Pair of Messengers.

But doing a "home" retreat is extremely difficult, requiring much discipline and, very sadly, retreats lead by accomplished teachers do not come cheap. This is simply an unhappy fact of our way of life. I think one can only practise and study, get to know one's abilities and strengths while being aware of weaknesses and things that have to have attention.

Then, I think, growth and even jhana, come by themselves.
Sudarsha
parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 17, 2009 9:19 pm


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Rui Sousa
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Rui Sousa » Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:24 pm

Hello thereductor,

Very good posts above, and very good advice. I will just add a thought.

My focus in practice, at the moment, is trying to understand what I experience. It used to be concentration and tranquility of mind, but now I feel that concentration is a tool to use in the path, not a goal in itself, and it is equally important as other aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path.

looking at it as a part of the Noble Eightfol Path, to wonder if it is Jhana or no Jhana, lie or no lie, slander or not slander, renunciation or not renunciation, awareness or not awareness, Right livelihood or wrong livelihood, or whatever other aspect of the path is just a doubt.

Maybe this doubt about Jhanas is an hindrance in your efforts to develop the Jhanas. ;)
With Metta

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Sudarsha
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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby Sudarsha » Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:38 pm

To paraphrase Browning: a person's reach should exceed his/her grasp, or what's jhana for?

Thanks, mikenz66, for the reference to MN111 Anupada Sutta: One After Another. At University, a friend quipped that God was like a dancer with 7 veils. Six had fallen away, but one remained, which is what made God so interesting. It's probably wicked on many levels, but that's also what makes meditation so captivating, the more we let go, the farther we reach, the farther we see we can and should reach. Finally we penetrate that last veil and, well, all is revealed!

The more we can keep consistent with daily practise, the more we can treat ourselves to a day of nothing but meditation, the more we welcome that far-reaching into our daily lives.

Worrying whether or not we or someone else has reached jhana is just another impediment to let go.

Many thanks, thereductor, for this very inspiring and revealing subject.
Sudarsha
parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā

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Re: Jhana: yes, no, neither, could be? Hmm?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Mon Oct 19, 2009 1:52 am

Hello thereductor,

I also don't have access to a teacher and am relying on books, podcasts, and this forum. If you haven't already, I highly recommend a book by Shaila Catherine titled Focused and Fearless... I also liked Ajahn Brahm's Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond, but have found Catherine's book to be much more tightly focused on jhana practice without some of the ambiguities of Ajahn Brahm's more generalized work.

It is quite the intriguing paradox to have a goal that requires you to genuinely put aside striving for it in order to achieve it.

Regards: AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai


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