Did I reach access concentration or what?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby smokey » Sat May 22, 2010 4:56 pm

When I first became interested in Buddhism four years ago, I downloaded a free e-book about ch'an meditation. I have done everything according to book while meditating(e.g. the posture, breathing etc.). I had no expectations. And in about five to ten minutes of meditation I started to feel bliss and joy in area of my heart and head accompanied with equanimity and tranquility . I barely put any effort in meditation. Since then I never experienced anything alike. I do not remember what my concentration was alike during that state of mind, I just remembered what I felt. Did I experience access concentration or what was that?
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby Kenshou » Sat May 22, 2010 6:28 pm

Who knows?

What matters is, can you consistently reproduce it and perfect it?
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby Moggalana » Sat May 22, 2010 6:34 pm

A couple of years ago, when I first began practicing meditation, something similar happened to me. I was reading Meditation for Dummies back then and experimented with various techniques. One day, after I had just started a daily meditation routine, my mind collected arround the experience of breathing and got infused with feelings of calmness and gladness. Back then, I didn't know what access concentration was, or what the term jhanas or jhana factors meant. Despite that experience, I got sidetracked a bit and stopped meditating. Today, I would describe this experience as a certain configuration of jhana factors. Access concentration is probably the right label.

Getting back there can be a bit difficult, especially if you want to go back there. Identify the outer and inner conditions that were present during your experience and you may find the way back.
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby smokey » Sat May 22, 2010 6:40 pm

I have a problem recollecting of what did I do back then exactly. I think I was just calmly abiding, as if resting and not doing anything. It seems that a Ch'an or Zen approach is good to achieve Jhana. Ironically, Jhana is not practised in Zen/Ch'an Buddhist schools.
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 22, 2010 6:42 pm

Kenshou wrote:Who knows?

What matters is, can you consistently reproduce it and perfect it?
No, no, no. That becomes something to grasp after, when it should be something of which to be let go. What matters is that you develop mindfulness and concentration without expectation.
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: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby smokey » Sat May 22, 2010 6:43 pm

I was not being mindful nor anything like that, in fact back then I did not even know what mindfulness is in Buddhist context.
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 22, 2010 6:46 pm

smokey wrote:I was not being mindful nor anything like that, in fact back then I did not even know what mindfulness is in Buddhist context.
It does not matter. You can waste a remarkable amount of time trying to get back what has past, what was a spontaneous experience. Experience such as you describe are nice, but . . . .
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: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby smokey » Sat May 22, 2010 6:48 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
smokey wrote:I was not being mindful nor anything like that, in fact back then I did not even know what mindfulness is in Buddhist context.
It does not matter. You can waste a remarkable amount of time trying to get back what has past, what was a spontaneous experience. Experience such as you describe are nice, but . . . .


But?
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 22, 2010 6:49 pm

smokey wrote:
But?

Don't grasp after it. Do your practice; let it unfold.
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: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby Kenshou » Sat May 22, 2010 6:56 pm

No, no, no. That becomes something to grasp after, when it should be something of which to be let go. What matters is that you develop mindfulness and concentration without expectation.


Okie dokie. I was merely trying to suggest that, since I've gotten the impression that Smokey is interested in such things, that it might do him well to learn what exactly it takes to reproduce those experiences. But then, craving for such things is counterproductive in getting them, and in general.

I fall back on my "who knows". Things happen.
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby Shonin » Sat May 22, 2010 7:16 pm

smokey wrote:I have a problem recollecting of what did I do back then exactly. I think I was just calmly abiding, as if resting and not doing anything. It seems that a Ch'an or Zen approach is good to achieve Jhana. Ironically, Jhana is not practised in Zen/Ch'an Buddhist schools.


Zen means Jhana

Jhana > Dhyana > Cha'an > Zen

But Zen uses different frameworks for the path of practice (or none at all in the case of Soto).
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby Reductor » Sat May 22, 2010 7:46 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Kenshou wrote:Who knows?

What matters is, can you consistently reproduce it and perfect it?
No, no, no. That becomes something to grasp after, when it should be something of which to be let go. What matters is that you develop mindfulness and concentration without expectation.


What matters is not to cling to things that unfold by accident. That doesn't mean a person cannot or should not intentionally develop skill in the various absorptions. Whether a practitioner thinks jhanic absorption is either attainable or necessary, or even what constitutes jhana, depends on the tradition of practice they're following.

Since smokey does seem interested in jhana, as evident in most of his posts, then the above line of thought posited by Kenshou does seem reasonable.
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: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 22, 2010 8:57 pm

thereductor wrote:
Since smokey does seem interested in jhana, as evident in most of his posts, then the above line of thought posited by Kenshou does seem reasonable.
Well, it depends, but . . . .
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: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby FrankT » Sat May 22, 2010 9:39 pm

Friend Smokey,

The following is a somewhat edited and paraphrased account from one of my two meditation guides about a Pali word you may not be aware of, "Chanda." It means "wholesome desire" and often appears in reference to staying on the path in order to attain Nibbana. In this respect, 'Chanda' produces in us "a wholesome 'inclination' towards reaching Nibbana."

a) Desire is always involves "I" want aspect.
b) Craving involves either "I" want or "I" don't want aspect.

Another way of putting it is, "Chanda" is a kind of "leaning into it" sense, so in order to reach Nibbana. Because the answer is there -- the pure knowledge -- and this "leaning into it" helps us stay on the path and not fall off.

If there is an "I" involved with this, as in "I" must have it, or "I" want it very much, or "I" am going to do it or bust, the Blessed One guaranteed that one wouldn’t get there!

Chanda is when the "I" has greatly diminished and it isn't in the way so much now, and one persistently keep going where one needs to go and do what one needs to do in order to reach the highest attainment.

In fact, the student can follow a developmental line that is very well described in the Sutta discourse, SN 12.23 - Upanisa Sutta: Discourse on Supporting Conditions (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.023.bodh.html).

This is possibly the most accurate developmental line for meditative practice that the Blessed One left us -- in order to understand how this practice goes all the way to Nibbana.

It goes like this...

One begins the practice because one is (1) suffering (dukkha).

Moreover, because of the mental and physical suffering one seeks a way out and decides to put (2) Faith (saddha) in the Blessed One's teaching. Perhaps a monk shows him the practice and there he/she begins.

The first thing that happens is an experience of great (3) relief (pamojja). We have all experienced this when first starting to do meditation. Therefore, out of curiosity and interest, we continue.

Friend Smokey, I would suggest this follows the description you supplied of your experience, in the opening to this topic.

The next thing that happens, if we stick with it, is that we experience (4) joy (piti). This is a new and different kind of joy from everyday life. It usually surprises us.

When joy fades away we experiences (5) tranquility (passadhi), this is deeper than calm or stillness but lesser than equanimity that is much stronger later on.

Moreover, when the tranquility fades away we experiences (6) happiness (sukha) -- please note that the Blessed One's idea of happiness is more like what we would describe as 'a good feeling of inner contentment'.

Moreover, when this happiness fades away, the person is left with a state of (7) collectedness. I prefer the word 'collectedness' rather than the word 'concentration'. 'Concentration', can have various meanings in English, depending in which context it is used -- whereas 'collectedness' implies calm, composure, tranquility, and alertness.

Now it is with this collectedness of mind that the student continues on with the meditation practice and, if following the instructions precisely as the Blessed One taught them in the Sutta's, they will reach a state called (8) knowledge and vision of how things actually are (in Pali this is 'yatha bhutana nadassana'). This means they are beginning to see for themselves and understand how the impersonal process of Dependent Origination actually is working because during the practice they have begun observing many of its links.

At this stage, one gets VERY interested in how this operates and may tend to become (9) disenchanted (nibbida), meaning less interested in other outside activities of the everyday home life and they may naturally begin to want to spend more time doing the meditation to see where the end result actually is and what it leads to.

So they continue investigating into the deeper Arupa or immaterial states and if they keep going, non-judgmentally, with an open mind and careful observation, they will reach a state of extreme equanimity and balance resulting in (10) dispassion (viraga). This is where one sees everything as it actually essentially is without extending beyond the experience...

This is where the student usually decides to keep going, and with 'Chanda’, they will eventually "FALL" into the state of (11) cessation (nirodha) -- when the conditions are precisely right, for this to happen.

At this point, when the person comes out of this state of no consciousness, no feeling or perception, they will experience Nibbana and the aftermath is called the (12) liberation (vimutti).

What then follows is called the knowledge of the destruction of Taints (magga phala -- also known as the fruit) and this secures the attainment. There can be a space between the experience of the path of liberation and the attainment of the fruit of liberation. This can vary from minutes to days to months or even years. Without the fruit of liberation, the attainment is not secure and can be lost!

Remember, there are four Nibbana attainments based on the removal of the ten 'fetters' that tie beings to the wheel of birth and death. They are:

Lower Fetters
1. belief in a substantial self,
2. skeptical doubt,
3. clinging to rules and ritual,
4. sensual craving,
5. ill will

Upper Fetters
6. craving for fine-material existence,
7. craving for immaterial existence,
8. conceit,
9. restlessness, and
10. ignorance.

In the Stream Enterer, the first three fetters have been destroyed; in the Once-Returner, the next two are weakened, and in the Non-Returner, they are destroyed; in the Arahant, all fetters have been destroyed.

This is how we develop from no meditation on up to the full attainment, and 'Chanda' is what keeps us going through the upper part of this chart! Without it, people quit the path.

The counter-intuitive realization that there is essentially no 'I', 'me', 'mine', or 'myself' really wanting the highest attainment, is the essence of the pure desire of 'Chanda'.

This is how 'Chanda' is very important in the picture of things and is very different from 'Craving' as you can see. The normal 'Craving' problem has a very big 'I' in it and the danger of the 'I', 'ME', 'MINE' aspect keeps us from getting where we want to go. 'Chanda', is a very gentle leaning into the wholesome direction you need to go to achieve meditative attainment.

With Metta,
FrankT
Last edited by FrankT on Sat May 22, 2010 10:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The 2nd Recollection: The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One, directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, worthy of application, to be personally experienced by the wise. (AN 6:10; III 284-88)
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby bodom » Sat May 22, 2010 10:05 pm

Somewhere in the canon, and I cant for the life of me find it right now, there is a sutta in which the Buddha says "Only those who have not attained jhana speak against it, but for those that have attained jhana, they would never speak against it." It is along those lines if anyone knows what im talking about?

:anjali:
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: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat May 22, 2010 10:36 pm

does it matter? if you cant reach this point anymore than it certainly seems like it doesn't however you could use it as a reminder that there are better things out there still and motivate yourself to meditate more!
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 22, 2010 11:31 pm

Greetings Bodom,

bodom wrote:Somewhere in the canon, and I cant for the life of me find it right now, there is a sutta in which the Buddha says "Only those who have not attained jhana speak against it, but for those that have attained jhana, they would never speak against it." It is along those lines if anyone knows what im talking about?

I think Thanissaro Bhikkhu has said something like that, but that may or may not be what you're thinking of.

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby bodom » Sat May 22, 2010 11:40 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Bodom,

bodom wrote:Somewhere in the canon, and I cant for the life of me find it right now, there is a sutta in which the Buddha says "Only those who have not attained jhana speak against it, but for those that have attained jhana, they would never speak against it." It is along those lines if anyone knows what im talking about?

I think Thanissaro Bhikkhu has said something like that, but that may or may not be what you're thinking of.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Yeah he quoted it in one his study guides but for some reason doesn't give the source.

:anjali:
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: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby Ben » Sun May 23, 2010 1:08 am

Hi all

I think I remember reading it in the first half of the MN. If you have a copy, just go through the index entries for jhana and I'm sure you'll get it.
kind regards

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Re: Did I reach access concentration or what?

Postby smokey » Sun May 23, 2010 2:28 am

Thank you all. I think I can reach this state again if it is access concentration that I reached, I am just not putting enough effort. I forgot to mention that during that state I also experienced unconditional love for all beings.
I know that zen/ch'an means Jhana/Dhyana but I meant that Jhana in a sense of heightened mental state or altered state of consciousness is not practised in Mahayana Buddhism.

Metta to you all. :anjali:
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