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Thoughts occuring in Jhana? - Dhamma Wheel

Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
DorjePhurba
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Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby DorjePhurba » Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:07 pm

I've been reading two books on attaining the jhanas, but I think I've found two different views on one part of the practice that leaves me confused. First, Bhante Gunaratana says in his book 'Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English' that thoughts can occur in at least the first jhana. In Ajahn Brahm's book 'Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond' he states quite emphatically that coarse thought is impossible in jhana. Now, both of these monks seem wise, but both can't be right. Can anyone offer any thoughts on which of them is right?

Thanks,
Chris

meindzai
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby meindzai » Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:08 pm

They can both be right depending on your definition of thought. The factors of the first jhana include directed thought and evaluation. (vitaka and vicara, if I'm remembeing correctly). They can be translated differently of course.

If by thought one means the kind of noise or distracting thoughts that we normally encounter in our attemps at attaining concentration, (I gotta mow the lawn, feed the cat, etc.) I think it's safe to say those are gone. But it cannot be said there is no mentation whatsoever.

-M

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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby Reductor » Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:43 pm

It might be that thoughts occur but not fall within the categories of the hindrances. This might be Bhrams meaning of that 'coarse' thoughts cannot arise. It is right that some thought must occur in the first Jhana, but it is directed thought and involves the object of meditation.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:58 pm

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IanAnd
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby IanAnd » Tue Jan 12, 2010 7:19 pm

"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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AdvaitaJ
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:43 am

DorjePhurba,

Shaila Catherine's book also draws the line on thoughts at the first jhana and I have to agree with her. I think Ian made some excellent points re: the feedback loop mechanism, but it's also important to consider the "malleability" of the mind in absorption including the first jhana. When the mind is being "well mannered" and not trying to leap from thought to thought like a wild beast, uncontrolled thoughts naturally diminish in frequency and those few that may arise are easily tamed.

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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Cittasanto
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:40 am



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

DorjePhurba
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby DorjePhurba » Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:29 pm

I've been reading what everyone has said, but I still don't think everyone gets what Ajahn Brahm is saying. So I'm going to quote from his book on the characteristics of the first jhana.

On page 155 he begins: "All jhanas are states of unmoving bliss,almost. However, in the first jhana, there is some movement discernible. I call this movement the "wobble" of first jhana. One is aware of great bliss, so powerful it has subdued completely the part of the ego that wills and does. In jhana, one is on automatic pilot, as it were, with no sense of being in control. However, the bliss is so delicious that it can generate a small residue of attachment. The mind instinctively grasps at the bliss. Because he bliss of the first jhana is fueled by letting go, such involuntary grasping weakens the bliss. Seeing the bliss weaken, the mind automatically lets go of its grasping, and the bliss increases in power again. The mind then grasps again, then lets go again. Such subtle involuntary movement gives rise to the wobble of the first jhana.

On page 156 he continues: "This process can be perceived in another way. As the bliss weakens because of the involuntary grasping, it seems as if mindfulness moves a small distance away from the bliss. Then the mindfulness gets pulled back into the bliss as the mind automatically lets go. This back and forth movement is a second way of describing the wobble.
(Now here is the part about thought in the context of Jhana) "This wobble is, in fact, the pair of first jhana factors called vitakka and vicara. Vitakka is the automatic movement back into the bliss, vicara is the involuntary grasping of the bliss. Some commentators explain vitakka and vicara as "initial thought" and "sustained thought". While in other contexts this pair can refer to thought, in jhana they certainly mean something else. It is impossible that such a gross activity as thinking can exist in such a refined state as jhana. In fact, thinking ceases a long time prior to jhana. In jhana, vitakka and vicara are both subverbal and so do not qualify as thought. Vitakka is the subverbal movement of the mind back into bliss. Vicara is the subverbal movement of mind that holds on to the bliss. Outside of jhana, such movements of mind will often generate thought, and sometimes speech. But in jhana, vitakka and vicara are too subtle to create any thought. All they are capable of doing is moving mindfulness back into the bliss and holding mindfulness there."

So, I'm confused on that last part and I wonder about his interpretation of vitakka and vicara. Does anyone find problems with what Ajahn Brahm is saying here?

Thanks,
Chris

meindzai
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby meindzai » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:38 pm


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IanAnd
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby IanAnd » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:25 pm

"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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AdvaitaJ
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Thu Jan 14, 2010 2:37 am

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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catmoon
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby catmoon » Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:53 pm


quincy_edgar_despres
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Re: Thoughts occuring in Jhana?

Postby quincy_edgar_despres » Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:20 am

Hi,

There are atleast two schools on what the jhana factors mean in practice, one stemming from the suttas and the other from the Visuddhimagga. Ajahn Brahm is coming from a Visuddhimagga perspective which emphasizes single absorption with the object above anything else. The sutta jhanas can be understood to include discursive thought and can see the three characteristics while in absorption. For a recent discussion on this at length, including interviews with Brahm and Bhante G as well as several others you can check this book out:
http://www.amazon.com/Experience-Samadh ... 1590305213

also, you may want to read this(i'm not commenting on the accuracy, but just for breadth):
http://www.leighb.com/jhana_4factors.htm
and this:
http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm

metta


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