DorjePhurba wrote:Ok. So I've come to the conclusion after reading some suttas and listening to a few talks that jhanic practice is fundamental to developing vipassana or insight.
It is not a conclusion I would come to, nor is it a conclusion that the Theravadin tradition has come to.
I have a copy of U Pandita's book 'In This Very Life' and he says there are two different jhanas. Samatha jhana and vipassana jhana. Now I've never heard of this and from what I've read about jhana, I've never come across jhana being divided into two types. This seems odd to me and I'd like to know what basis there is for this. Any suttas make this distinction? Also, has this been a view held by the Sangha since the time of the Buddha or is it something new (which is what I'm guessing)?
What is going on here is quite interesting in terms of how the traditional issue of jhana is dealt with in terms of an actual practice tradition. The likes of Ledi Sayadaw, Mahasi Sayadaw, and U Pandita were trained solely within the framework of traditional Theravada. They are not going to - nor do they need to - say that the tradition is wrong about the jhanas.
There is no problem with acknowledging the traditional description of jhana practice as outlined in the commentaries and the Visuddhimagga versus the “dry” practice of “vipassana.” What U Pandita is pointing out with his using the neologism of “vipassana jhana” is that when carefully looked at the levels of concentration involved in the Mahasi Sayadaw style of vipassana are more profound than is sometimes presented in the traditional literature. What we have here, then, is not so much a criticism of the older tradition; rather, it is an unpacking of the implications of the “dry” practice based upon an actual, ongoing, living meditative tradition. The “dry” practice is not really so dry.
As I said in the related thread, I first did full blown jhana practice under the guidance of a teacher who was trained by Mahasi Sayadaw. The distinction between samatha jhana and vipassana jhana is not unreasonable, and it really comes down to a matter of degree. In the other thread I referenced the book by U Pandita where he talks about the “vipassana jhanas” in terms of “moment-to-moment” concentration. The point is that in full blown jhana - especially as you go up the ladder - there is a marked withdrawing of the senses and an increasing one-pointedness of mind that makes a choiceless watching the rise and fall of the mind-body process rather difficult.
Rather than jhana as a prelude to vipassana, I would look at it the other way around as mindfulness practice as a prelude to jhana and also as being a more balanced approach. Given that jhana states of mind are quite susceptible to being colored by expectations, beliefs, and such, jhana practice really needs to be done with a well-grounded teacher. I have seen more than my share of those who have taken a jhana experience as being more than it is.