4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby DorjePhurba » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:28 pm

Earlier today someone posted on the thread about thoughts in jhana and gave a link to website that I found a bit intrigueing. The author believes there are 4 factors in the first jhana. The article is http://www.leighb.com/jhana_4factors.htm Is the authors view accurate?

With metta,
Chris
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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby Reductor » Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:29 pm

There are five.

Directed thought
sustained thought,
unification of mind (singleness of preoccupation)
rapture
pleasure
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby meindzai » Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:44 pm

This might clear up the confusion. Here's the Sutta formula:

Quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and sustained thought with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. (M.i,1818; Vbh.245)


And from Bhante Gunaratana:

The first jhana possesses five component factors: applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of mind. Four of these are explicitly mentioned in the formula for the jhana; the fifth, one-pointedness, is mentioned elsewhere in the suttas but is already suggested by the notion of jhana itself. These five states receive their name, first because they lead the mind from the level of ordinary consciousness to the jhanic level, and second because they constitute the first jhana and give it its distinct definition.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... 1.html#ch3

-M
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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:48 pm

Greetings DorjePhurba,

I'm heading out the door shortly so I haven't got time to look into it properly, but the Abhidhamma and commentaries adopt a 5-fold classification for the form-based jhanas, versus the 4-fold classification of the suttas. The 4 become 5 by splitting the first jhana into two different stages. If there is confusion, it is possibly because one of these has 4 and one has 5?

Anyway, I guess that's a clue or a "lead", if nothing else.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby Kenshou » Sat Jan 23, 2010 12:29 am

I agree with the quote by Bhante Gunaratana that jhana itself can be assumed to involve a degree of one pointedness, that being the cutoff between jhana and merely upacara-samadhi.

But as catalyst for conversation maybe, I'd like to add this: What do you consider to be the adequate "intensity" of one-pointedness to qualify as jhana? Is a strong presence of the jhana factors enough? Or the complete immersion that the Visuddimagga describes? Or something between? This does seem to be somewhat of a topic with various views.

I'm of the opinion that if the jhana factors are strong and the state is stable and sustainable, and if the mind is one-pointed with the jhana factors to the degree that outside sensory information is well in the background, "slides off" the mind and is not grasped at, and does not effect the stability of concentration, even if all outside stimuli are not completely gone, it qualifies as a jhana.
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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby IanAnd » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:04 am

Kenshou wrote:But as catalyst for conversation maybe, I'd like to add this: What do you consider to be the adequate "intensity" of one-pointedness to qualify as jhana? Is a strong presence of the jhana factors enough? Or the complete immersion that the Visuddimagga describes? Or something between? This does seem to be somewhat of a topic with various views.

Your last comment above seems more in keeping with this issue. Practitioners view this in different ways.

There used to be a great visual schematic about these differences between the sutta definition of jhana and the commentarial definition of jhana up at geocities.com/tokyo/6774/jhanatrd.htm which of course is no longer there as geocities has been disbanded. (You might be able to find it on the Wayback Machine website if they archived that page.) Anyway, it showed how the suttas defined the first jhana as being with four factors: vitakka, vicara, piti, and sukkha. Both the Abhidhamma and the Visuddhimagga defined it as having five factors: vitakka, vicara, piti, sukkha, and ekaggata (or one-pointedness of mind). In the second jhana, the suttas included the following factors: the disappearance of vitakka and vicara, with only inner tranquility, unification of mind, piti, and sukkha remaining. Both the Abhidhamma and the Visuddhimagga versions included the disappearance of vitaka and vicara, with only piti, sukkha, and ekaggata remaining.

As my concentration began to become more stable, I began to side with those who described this "coming together" of the mind as a "unification of mind" rather than as "one-pointedness." The description "one-pointedness" has a kind of one dimensional feel to it, whereas "unification of mind" has a more comprehensive (inclusive) connotation to it. And then the sutta way of describing this became more visible to me. Since these are all very subtle mind states, a person might experience them in a variety of ways. But the ways described in the suttas are pretty much exactly how I experience a good session of samatha absorption.

According to this schematic, the third jhana described in the suttas contains the disappearance of piti with only sukkha, clear awareness, equanimity, and mindfulness remaining. The commentarial literature only designates sukkha and ekaggata as remaining. The fourth jhana described in the sutta version has the subsiding of sukkha with only equanimity and mindfulness remaining. The commentarial literature version has it that sukkha subsides with equanimity and ekagatta remaining.

My mature meditative experience has it more like the sutta version of these descriptions than like the version in the commentarial literature.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby pt1 » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:09 am

DorjePhurba wrote:Earlier today someone posted on the thread about thoughts in jhana and gave a link to website that I found a bit intrigueing. The author believes there are 4 factors in the first jhana. The article is http://www.leighb.com/jhana_4factors.htm Is the authors view accurate?


Hi, it might be helpful to consider that there are many mental factors involved in jhana, just like in any other moment of consciousness. The four mentioned (applied and sustained thought, rapture and happiness) are the ones that will disappear by the time of the fourth jhana. However, there are other factors which will be present in all jhanas. Of these, one-pointedness is mentioned most often (and is usually translated as concentration mental factor). Another very important factor that is present in all jhanas is calm (also translated as tranquility), from which the actual "tranquility meditation" gets its name. Another just as important factor is wisdom (also translated as understanding, awareness, etc) which knows the difference between wholesome mental factors (calm, mindfulness, etc) and unwholesome mental factors (hindrances). Then there's also mindfulness, attention, etc.

And of course, mental factors can be of different intensities, and some mental factors (according to abhidhamma) can be only wholesome (mindfulness, wisdom, etc), some can be only unwholesome (hindrances) and some can be both (like concentration, attention, perception, etc). It's also worth noting that the jhana factors of applied and sustained thought as well as rapture can also be both wholesome and unwholesome, hence the difficulty in figuring out whether the meditation is wholesome or not at a particular instance and whether what I might believe is "jhana" is really wholesome or not.

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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby Reductor » Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:02 am

MN 43 "The first Jhana", trans by Thanissaro

"And how many factors does the first jhana have?"

"The first jhana has five factors. There is the case where, in a monk who has attained the five-factored first jhana, there occurs directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, & singleness of mind. It's in this way that the first jhana has five factors."



And consider the following:


MN 44, trans by Thanissaro

"Now what is concentration, lady, what qualities are its themes, what qualities are its requisites, and what is its development?"

"Singleness of mind is concentration, friend Visakha; the four frames of reference are its themes; the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these qualities is its development."



So the most important factor in all levels of Jhana is the singleness of mind. Note that Bodhi's translation has it as unification of mind.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby quincy_edgar_despres » Sun Jan 24, 2010 2:03 am

The jhanas have both 4 and 5 factors actually. In the original suttas they were described as having 4, but in the Abhidamma as 5. Why is this? Leigh Brasington hypothesizes in an interview in the book Samadhi with Richard Shankman.
I'll copy the relevant statements under fair use.

"The definition of what constitutes a jhana has, in a thousand-year period, progressed to a much deeper state. We might ask how this happened. Think about who was preserving the Buddha's teaching during these thousand years. It's a bunch of guys hanging out in the woods--no TV, no women. They've got just their minds to work with. And so they start working on the jhanas. And if somebody can take it a little bit deeper, obviously he's doing it "better." The natural human tendency is, "Well, if I can do it better than you are doing it, I'm doing it the right way, and I'll teach you to do it my way."

"So I would guess that over time jhana evolved from pretty serious states of concentration to the extreme states that we find preserved in the Visuddhimagga. The Abhidhamma seems to be somewhere in between, but obviously getting very, very deep during that period, since people were able to see their mind-moments and so forth." p. 159

My own thoughts here:
It very much seems that one can cultivate the jhana factors at different levels of concentration, and the absolute experience of the jhana state(first and even beyond) will depend on the level of concentration cultivated before. Leigh states(also in his Samadhi interview) that the Jhanas he teaches are probably accompanied with even less concentration that that of in the suttas, and that it would be unlikely to reach sutta level Jhana with less than a month retreat. With sutta quality jhana, one is still able experience the three characteristics and come to ultimate truths, whereas in Visuddhimagga jhana, one must leave the state and then investigate reality.

Leigh's jhanas are perhaps best contrasted to B. Alan Wallace's, who spent some long time as a Tibetan monk under the Dalai Lama, and recently wrote "The Attention Revolution." Here, he states that the level of concentration to develop Jhana would be at least 3 months, but, more likely, years. In fact, he assisted in a year long samatha retreat in the late 80's and he reported that at the end, none of the students had reached jhana, but they were able to sit in one pointedness for many hours at a time. Certainly this is highly related to the jhanas in the Visuddhimagga perspective.
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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby meindzai » Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:35 pm

While it's a fascinating topic, I often wonder if it really matters that much. Food for thought:

Jhana Not by the Numbers - Thanissaro Bhikkhu

(Keeping in mind that Thanissaro Bhikkhu comes from a tradition that doesn't put a lot of emphasis on Abhidhamma.)

IMO even though we have nice descriptions in the Suttas and very rigourous definitions in Abhidhamma, I really think that in actual experience meditation tends to unfold very organically. I think our minds tend to be a lot less computer-like then our reading of the ancient might lead us to believe. At least that's what my mind is telling me. :)

-M
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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby Kenshou » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:29 pm

Thanks for that bit from Samadhi, quincy, I've never thought about it that way before, but it makes a lot of sense. I can do it better so my way is right!

So Branston guesses Suttic jhana could be within reach with a monthish of retreat, eh? Specific timeframes aside, that's sort of comforting, that's quite an accessible amount of time. Even if you aren't able to formally retreat (cough cough) I would hope that a diligent layperson might be able to reach it within a few months time, which isn't cake, but certainly much more reasonable than the stories of spending a year in retreat and still not getting it, in the case of the Visudhimagga-type-Jhana. Boy that'd be a spirit-breaker.
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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby Reductor » Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:47 pm

Kenshou wrote:Thanks for that bit from Samadhi, quincy, I've never thought about it that way before, but it makes a lot of sense. I can do it better so my way is right!

So Branston guesses Suttic jhana could be within reach with a monthish of retreat, eh? Specific timeframes aside, that's sort of comforting, that's quite an accessible amount of time. Even if you aren't able to formally retreat (cough cough) I would hope that a diligent layperson might be able to reach it within a few months time, which isn't cake, but certainly much more reasonable than the stories of spending a year in retreat and still not getting it, in the case of the Visudhimagga-type-Jhana. Boy that'd be a spirit-breaker.



After about 2 months I started to hit on sutta style Jhana.

But I was really, really determined. I stopped sex (and boy, was the wife glad :jumping: ), and was super anal about the precepts, and would sit for meditation several times during a night. I'm a night meditator. I had decided that Jhana was the thing I needed, and attaining it was my main goal.

It is true though that if you spend your meditation time thinking 'is this Jhana' then you will abort it. So you have to put that specific goal away while you are sitting, and that is half that challenge.

Anyway, I don't have to break my butt quite like that now, and experience strong Jhana on a fairly regular basis (say 3-4 sessions per week). Still, it is true that you must be actively cultivating virtue. As Ben has posted, you need perfect sila. Well, I think you're intention must be perfect, and you're effort must be sustained.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: 4 factors in the first jhana or 5?

Postby quincy_edgar_despres » Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:20 am

A couple of more points too...

The 1 month - 2 month timetable seems pretty common. Shankman in his Buddhist Geeks interview said that he was able to attain absorption after 5 weeks on retreat. Personal experience here, I didn't achieve stable jhana, but after a bit more than a month of dedicated meditation(still working full time but meditating ~40 hrs/wk, both before work, during lunch, and after work until sleep) I believe I was able to start to reach access concentration. Unfortunately events out of my control prohibited further dedicated practice. In a couple months, when I move to Asia, I'll try to follow this meditation stuff to a hopefully more permanent and profound conclusion.

One more point if I may. It may be that those who achieve the less one pointed versions of jhana, or the jhanas coming from less concentration, are less able to enter absorption at will. Leigh B. says that his students who reach jhana on short retreats find their attainments slipping away as they return to their lives. Shankman says that he lost his jhanas when he was off retreat. Contrasting these, Alan Wallace says that after you "attain samatha" and reach the first jhana after a much lengthier time training your concentration, a permanent physiological change occurs in the brain and, barring illness, one is able to enter jhana effectively at will.

A middle ground between these is Pa Auk and his disciples. They certainly fall towards ekagatta oriented Visuddhimagga jhana, but it doesn't seem like it takes quite as Wallace's. Pa Auk says one can (presumably on retreat) reach jhana after some weeks. He emphasizes very long sits and rigorous direction of attention. In "Practicing the Jhanas," the authors state that one must meditate atleast once a day to maintain the ability to enter absorption.
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