Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Feb 02, 2010 2:43 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:You do not need to permanently abstain from sex, but certainly for the meditation session. One cannot enter jhana unless the five hindrances are put at bay, at least temporarily and for the duration of the meditation session.


I'm glad this topic came up. I've been listening to some talks by Ayya Khema, who puts a lot of emphasis on the jhanas, and she urges her (lay) followers to practice at least twice a day -- a morning session and an evening one. Which made me wonder about the logistics of integrating this into ordinary married life. Dinner...followed by jhana...and then maybe a movie on HBO and later a romp in the sack?

Is this really feasible?
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Heavenstorm » Tue Feb 02, 2010 2:50 pm

DorjePhurba wrote:Recently someone suggested that a meditator must abstain from sex in order to gain jhanic concentration. I've been reading a lot about jhana lately and have not come across anyone suggesting that. Could anyone shed some light and explain whether the Buddha ever said this?


Its half correct. In a retreat setting, abstain from sex is a must, of course. But for someone who has a daily job and life, its not possible to abstain completely, in this case, sex is discourage but not necessary forbidden.
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 02, 2010 2:52 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:You do not need to permanently abstain from sex, but certainly for the meditation session. One cannot enter jhana unless the five hindrances are put at bay, at least temporarily and for the duration of the meditation session.


I'm glad this topic came up. I've been listening to some talks by Ayya Khema, who puts a lot of emphasis on the jhanas, and she urges her (lay) followers to practice at least twice a day -- a morning session and an evening one. Which made me wonder about the logistics of integrating this into ordinary married life. Dinner...followed by jhana...and then maybe a movie on HBO and later a romp in the sack?

Is this really feasible?
Depends. Attaining jhana is not in and of itself a sign of holiness or spiritual advancement or whatever expression one wishes. It may be a sign of discipline or good merit from past lives. With the lower level jhanas, sex is not out of question, and here we are not talking about compulsive or obsessive sexual behavior. Going up the ladder, however, sex does come across as crude in comparison and one can get stuck in the senuality of jhanas. Again, jhana still does not mean insight nor advancement on the path. Jhana is a tool that needs to be used properly.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Reductor » Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:48 pm

Dukkhanirodha wrote:
thereductor wrote:I would hazard to say that you are missing out. Really. Especially if you are having trouble with the hindrance of sesuality.


Do you mean to say I should practice these?


That's what I'm saying, yes.
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: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Sekha » Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:52 pm

Freawaru wrote:
Dukkhanirodha wrote:
sensual pleasures cannot coexist with actual progress towards wisdom


Wisdom is the detached awareness and discernment of sensual pleasure (among other things). So obviously sensual pleasure is able to coexist with wisdom.




I should rephrase my statement to give a better grasp of what I meant:

The quest for sensual pleasures cannot coexist with actual progress towards wisdom
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Sekha » Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:08 pm

Heavenstorm wrote:
DorjePhurba wrote:Recently someone suggested that a meditator must abstain from sex in order to gain jhanic concentration. I've been reading a lot about jhana lately and have not come across anyone suggesting that. Could anyone shed some light and explain whether the Buddha ever said this?


Its half correct. In a retreat setting, abstain from sex is a must, of course. But for someone who has a daily job and life, its not possible to abstain completely, in this case, sex is discourage but not necessary forbidden.


why would it be impossible?

No one says it is forbidden or it is not. It is not compatible with attainment of jhanas
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:04 pm

It is not compatible with attainment of jhanas


The desire for sex is not compatible with the jhanas in the same way that the desire for a new tv or a bowl of ice cream isn't. What makes sex more special than any other physical pleasure or desire? It -is- one that can be a little more potent, but even so, it is not necessarily as potent of a distraction for everyone, and is not what matters weather or not it disturbs meditation-time? I don't see any reason why " Dinner...followed by jhana...and then maybe a movie on HBO and later a romp in the sack?" is unfeasible, provided that the meditator is able to properly drop all strings of sensuality when they sit down to meditate.
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:29 pm

Kenshou wrote:
It is not compatible with attainment of jhanas


The desire for sex is not compatible with the jhanas in the same way that the desire for a new tv or a bowl of ice cream isn't. What makes sex more special than any other physical pleasure or desire? It -is- one that can be a little more potent, but even so, it is not necessarily as potent of a distraction for everyone, and is not what matters weather or not it disturbs meditation-time? I don't see any reason why " Dinner...followed by jhana...and then maybe a movie on HBO and later a romp in the sack?" is unfeasible, provided that the meditator is able to properly drop all strings of sensuality when they sit down to meditate.
You know all of this from direct experience?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:54 pm

Yes, though not that exact situation, I don't find sexual activity any more of a hindrance than any other pleasure. Personally I find no correlation between that and the frequency of good meditations, provided that is promptly dropped and does not show up during meditation. I make no claim of fact, but this is my opinion based off of what I've experienced.

But I would not argue against the fact that someone who abstains from sex, as well as other unnecessary pleasures, will probably do better in meditation than the one who doesn't. I'm sure they would, since sensual desires in general are further from their minds.
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:57 pm

Kenshou wrote:Yes, though not that exact situation, I don't find sexual activity any more of a hindrance than any other pleasure. Personally I find no correlation between that and the frequency of good meditations, provided that is promptly dropped and does not show up during meditation. I make no claim of fact, but this is my opinion based off of what I've experienced.

But I would not argue against the fact that someone who abstains from sex, as well as other unnecessary pleasures, will probably do better in meditation than the one who doesn't. I'm sure they would, since sensual desires in general are further from their minds.
Broadly, speaking from my own experience, we do not disagree.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Heavenstorm » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:00 pm

Dukkhanirodha wrote:
Heavenstorm wrote:
DorjePhurba wrote:Recently someone suggested that a meditator must abstain from sex in order to gain jhanic concentration. I've been reading a lot about jhana lately and have not come across anyone suggesting that. Could anyone shed some light and explain whether the Buddha ever said this?


Its half correct. In a retreat setting, abstain from sex is a must, of course. But for someone who has a daily job and life, its not possible to abstain completely, in this case, sex is discourage but not necessary forbidden.


why would it be impossible?


I'm assuming that people in general don't want to adapt a monastic lite lifestyle in their normal routine over here. In that situation, its not really possible to abstain completely from sex especially for married couple.

It is not compatible with attainment of jhanas


I don't think anyone will agree that one can cultivate Jhana while having sex at the same time. The contesting point in this thread is more like "How often one have sex in conjunction with their daily meditation practice". In that case, I don't think anyone here will want to have sex everyday, more like infrequent times in terms of once per week or month which doesn't lead to great lust or great hindrance.
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Sekha » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:28 pm

thereductor wrote:
Dukkhanirodha wrote:
thereductor wrote:I would hazard to say that you are missing out. Really. Especially if you are having trouble with the hindrance of sesuality.


Do you mean to say I should practice these?


That's what I'm saying, yes.



I guess you're assuming that since there is a matter of sexual sensations during the meditation, this technique should be used. As far as I understand this section of mhstp sutta, it is a starting point only, involving specific thoughts making (quite gross way of practicing), and is meant for people who could not start with another section, for example anapanasati. Such people who can't stop thinking about sexual affairs or matters of beauty of the body, and for whom the breath is too subtle as an object of concentration. They need to get their mind settled.

But there are much finer sankharas linked to sexual clinging, which have to be worked out by finer practices. This is what I mean here. I meditate on average 7 hours a day, so I do have moderately deep rooted sankharas coming up. These sensations usually come up in my morning session only after about 1 hour and a half of continuous practice. It is not as if I would sit for half an hour and feel bothered by sexual sensations, which is appearingly the context in which my statements are understood.
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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Sekha » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:35 pm

Kenshou wrote:
It is not compatible with attainment of jhanas


The desire for sex is not compatible with the jhanas in the same way that the desire for a new tv or a bowl of ice cream isn't. What makes sex more special than any other physical pleasure or desire? It -is- one that can be a little more potent, but even so, it is not necessarily as potent of a distraction for everyone, and is not what matters weather or not it disturbs meditation-time? I don't see any reason why " Dinner...followed by jhana...and then maybe a movie on HBO and later a romp in the sack?" is unfeasible, provided that the meditator is able to properly drop all strings of sensuality when they sit down to meditate.



Desire for sex is the strongest of desires. Not to be compared with other desires. I would say the second one is food (from personal experience).

it is not necessarily as potent of a distraction for everyone


It is, unless you've already gone beyond and utterly given up sex in your life. With a practice which remains shallow, one may not feel that bothered (that was the case for me at the beginning) by it, but it would be totally different if the abstinence had to last much longer and the pratice to go much deeper.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Sekha » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:43 pm

Heavenstorm wrote:
It is not compatible with attainment of jhanas


I don't think anyone will agree that one can cultivate Jhana while having sex at the same time. The contesting point in this thread is more like "How often one have sex in conjunction with their daily meditation practice". In that case, I don't think anyone here will want to have sex everyday, more like infrequent times in terms of once per week or month which doesn't lead to great lust or great hindrance.


The answer in my view to the 'contesting point' is: never. What happens during the meditation is linked with everything else you do in your daily life (which is why its effects are so mighty), so you can't keep multiplying your cravings on one side and try to suppress them on the other for a long time. If you really want to get the real fruits of this path, a choice has to be made at some point.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby bodom » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:09 pm

Dukkhanirodha wrote:The answer in my view to the 'contesting point' is: never. What happens during the meditation is linked with everything else you do in your daily life (which is why its effects are so mighty), so you can't keep multiplying your cravings on one side and try to suppress them on the other for a long time. If you really want to get the real fruits of this path, a choice has to be made at some point.


That might be your take, but Ajahn Brahm and Bhante Gunaratana both experts in the practice and theory of Jhana and who have each written manuals for lay practitioners on how to attain jhana, neither one mentioned complete abstinence from sex. Even the buddha who recommended householders to abide in seclusion and rapture mentions nothing about celibacy only that...“When a disciple of the noble ones enters & remains in seclusion & rapture...The pain & distress dependent on sensuality do not exist AT THAT TIME.”

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Sekha » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:22 pm

bodom wrote:
Dukkhanirodha wrote:The answer in my view to the 'contesting point' is: never. What happens during the meditation is linked with everything else you do in your daily life (which is why its effects are so mighty), so you can't keep multiplying your cravings on one side and try to suppress them on the other for a long time. If you really want to get the real fruits of this path, a choice has to be made at some point.


That might be your take, but Ajahn Brahm and Bhante Gunaratana both experts in the practice and theory of Jhana and who have each written manuals for lay practitioners on how to attain jhana, neither one mentioned complete abstinence from sex. Even the buddha who recommended householders to abide in seclusion and rapture mentions nothing about celibacy only that...“When a disciple of the noble ones enters & remains in seclusion & rapture...The pain & distress dependent on sensuality do not exist AT THAT TIME.”

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Good point. So I should step back with my statements.

I should probably rather say that in order to remain in first jhana, it is necessary to give it up. My experience (which may not be everyone's) is that the rapture very quickly makes sankharas of craving come up. Very soon the effect of these sankharas overpower the rapture and the jhana is lost (and there is a very wholesome and very unpleasant experience on account of that). So it may be that you can reach it, but you can't really dwell in it if you're not detached enough from sexuality.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org

As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:14 pm

Hi Dukkhanirodha,

Dukkhanirodha wrote:
I should rephrase my statement to give a better grasp of what I meant:

The quest for sensual pleasures cannot coexist with actual progress towards wisdom


i agree. Still, sex is not only physical pleasure but has biological, mental, emotional and social components. Complete absence of sex in adolescent and adult humans can lead to illnesses (both physical as well a mental). And it's lack can lead to serious social problems such as divorce, too.

To practice jhana an already nice and calm everyday setting is best. Therefore, in the Visuddhimagga, the optimal monastery is described, aka one where one has no stress whatsoever to begin with. So, if the lack of sex leads to more stress than it's normal presence it is counterproductive for jhana. If - on the other hand - it's regular presence leads to an inability to concentrate on the meditation object during the session an abstinence for a limited time can be beneficial (and not only for jhana).
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Freawaru » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:32 pm

Hi again,

Dukkhanirodha wrote:Desire for sex is the strongest of desires. Not to be compared with other desires. I would say the second one is food (from personal experience).


I disagree. Desire for survival is much stronger and some instincts are, too. To breathe is also much stronger. Drown and you will see how fast any idea of sex will disappear from your mind and body.

Not to mention that for some I know it seems football or desire for shoes are stronger. :lol:
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:02 pm

The fact is that there is no norm in this, it is a spectrum. A very well known rock musician talked a while back about the fact that he had never had a strong sex drive, but has kept quiet about the fact because it is not an expected trait in a rock star....but that once he did start to talk about literally hundreds of other people contacted him to say that they did not have a strong sex drive either, but that they had felt unable to talk about it until he had gone public. Just as some of the the previous generation felt that they had to keep quiet about the fact that they did have a strong sex drive.
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Re: Do you have to abstain from sex to achieve jhana?

Postby bodom » Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:19 pm

Freawaru wrote: Not to mention that for some I know it seems football or desire for shoes are stronger. :lol:


GO RAIDERS!!!
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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