What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby DorjePhurba » Wed Feb 17, 2010 12:57 am

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. 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)? That's all for now.

With metta,
Chris
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Re: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:19 am

Hi DorjePhurba,

I've mostly seen the term from U Pandita and some of his students (Goldstein, Armstrong). I understand it as a way of grouping sections of the Progress of Insight (http://aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progress/progress.html) together.

Here are some previous discussions:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2890
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 6&start=20
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3298
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=916
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 2&start=40

There are some talks by Joseph Goldstein and Steve Armstrong here:
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/?q=vipassana+jhana
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/170/? ... ana+jhanas


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Re: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby Kenshou » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:58 am

It's just a classification in the scheme of 1 teacher (as far as I know), and as Mike said, some of his students. There is no such distinction in the suttas. It is indeed new. And it's nothing to worry yourself about, unless you're exclusively interested in the method of U Pandita.
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Re: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:49 am

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.
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: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:55 am

Nice post, Tilt!
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Re: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:39 pm

Hi DorjePhurba

The problem is the comentarial/Abidhammic notion of samatha jhana. Acording to this notion, during jhana the senses are shuted down and there is singleness of mind. But that's not what the suttas say. In MN111 for example, you can see that that's not the case.

The Mahasi/U Pandita tradition is very traditional (in the sense of accepting and folowing the Abidhamma and comentaries), but also very based on experience. So they found these concetrated states of mind similar to the jhanas as taught by the Buddha (the "sutta jhanas"). Since these states of mind don't fit the traditional samatha jhanas defenition, they called it vipassana jhanas.

In conclusion, the vipassana jhanas are the sutta jhanas aplied to vipassana.

Metta
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby IanAnd » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:41 am

Ben wrote:Nice post, Tilt!

Yes, indeed.
tiltbillings wrote:
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.

I agree with Tilt. The reference to samatha jhana or vipassana jhana is just an acknowledgment of which practice is being emphasized by the practitioner at any given moment. The mind can switch between the two at will and instantaneously.

As Tilt implied, I think the modern references to these two distinctions are just innocent observations being made by modern meditation masters (Mahasi Sayadaw, Ledi Sayaday, and U Pandita) to identify the difference in observation during absorption. Of course, the discourses don't mention this distinction, nor is it any big deal that they do not. But if you read the suttas carefully, this difference is subtly implied within them nonetheless.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby PeterB » Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:39 pm

Ben wrote:Nice post, Tilt!


Indeed. Very succinct.
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Re: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:02 pm

DorjePhurba,

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. 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)? That's all for now.


Given a number of detailed answers have been given, has your question been answered?
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: What basis is there for seperating jhana into two?

Postby DorjePhurba » Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:19 pm

tiltbillings wrote:DorjePhurba,

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. 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)? That's all for now.


Given a number of detailed answers have been given, has your question been answered?


Yes, Tilt I think it has. Thank you and everyone else for your thoughts and words of advice. Although at times we may all see things diferently, I am very glad to have people like you and others around to discuss the Dhamma in a friendly and skillful way. This place is a great blessing and I'm glad it's around. Thanks again.

With metta,
Chris
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