On "Visuddhimagga Jhanas"

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

On "Visuddhimagga Jhanas"

Postby vitellius » Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:20 pm

Dear all,

Leigh Brasington proposes to classify modern approaches to jhanas into two divisions: sutta jhanas and Visudhimagga jhanas:
http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm

It seems that two main distinctions about "sutta" and "Visuddhimagga" jhanas are:
1) If 5 senses are working in jhana?
2) If one can think in jhana?

In the thread "Jhana in Visuddhimagga" we tried to find where Vsm witnesses to absence of sense perceptions:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=3974

We found two paragraphs which may suggest that senses are not active in jhana, and two paragraphs witness that sense perceptions are still present in jhanas.

I believe that this point is important enough to be stated explicitly, - as Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw and Ajahn Brahmavamso do this in their instructions. But Ven. Buddhaghosa is more than implicit if he really states that five senses are "switched off" in jhanas.

It would be also logical to tell about absence of perceptions when describing the first jhana, - when this phenomenon first appears in practice. But two paragraphs of Visuddhimagga that may suggest this point are scattered: first in the description of third jhana and second is where first arupa-samapatti is described.

So, most probably Ven. Buddhaghosa did not mean that sense-perceptions are absent in jhanas. At least, Visuddhimagga is somewhat controversial at this point, as it gives arguments for both opinions.

That's why I'm not sure that "Visuddhimagga jhanas" is the best name for jhanas of Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw and Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso. This name may be misguiding, - as one may start to think that Visuddhimagga definitely describes jhanas with five senses "shut off".

Isn't it better to find some other names for these two types of jhana practice?
vitellius
 
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Re: On "Visuddhimagga Jhanas"

Postby vitellius » Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:23 pm

PS Mentioned passages from Visuddhimagga:

Chapter 4:
4.98. But when pervading (rapturous) happiness arises, the whole body is
completely pervaded, like a filled bladder, like a rock cavern invaded by
a huge inundation.
4.99. Now this fivefold happiness, when conceived and matured, perfects
the twofold tranquillity, that is, bodily and mental tranquillity. When
tranquillity is conceived and matured, it perfects the twofold bliss, that
is, bodily and mental bliss. When bliss is conceived and matured, it
perfects the threefold concentration, that is, momentary concentration,
access concentration, and absorption concentration.
Of these, what is intended in this context by happiness is pervading
happiness, which is the root of absorption and comes by growth into
association with absorption. [145]

...

175. Now, as to the clause he feels bliss with his body: here, although in
one actually possessed of the third jhana there is no concern about feeling
bliss, nevertheless he would feel the bliss associated with his mental
body, and after emerging from the jhana he would also feel bliss since
his material body would have been affected by the exceedingly superior
matter originated by that bliss associated with the mental body.47 It is in
order to point to this meaning that the words 4he feels bliss with his
body' are said.


Chapter 10 about first arupa-samapatti:
16. With the disppearance of perceptions of resistance: perceptions of
resistance are perceptions arisen through the impact of the physical base
consisting of the eye, etc., and the respective objects consisting of visible
objects, etc.; and this is a term for perception of visible objects (rupa)
and so on, according as it is said: 'Here, what are perceptions of resistance?
Perceptions of visible objects, perceptions of sounds, perceptions
of odours, perceptions of flavours, perceptions of tangible objects—these
are called "perceptions of resistance"' (Vbh. 261); with the complete
disappearance, the abandoning, the non-arising, of these ten kinds of perceptions
of resistance, that is to say, of the five profitable-resultant and
five unprofitable-resultant;1 causing their non-occurrence, is what is meant.
17. Of course, these are not to be found in one who has entered upon the
first jhana, etc., either; for consciousness at that time does not occur by
way of the five doors. Still [330] the mention of them here should be
understood as a recommendation of this jhana for the purpose of arousing
interest in it, just as in the case of the fourth jhana there is mention of
the pleasure and pain already abandoned elsewhere, and in the case of
the third path there is mention of the [false] view of personality, etc.,
already abandoned earlier.

...

19. In fact it is because they [i.e. sensory phenomena] have not been abandoned already before this that it was said by the Blessed One that sound is a thorn to one who has the first jhana (A. v, 135). And it is precisely because they are abandoned here that the imperturbability (see Vbh. 135) of the immaterial attainments and their state of peaceful liberation are mentioned (M.i,33), and that Alara Kalama neither saw the five hundred carts that passed close by him nor heard the sound of them while he was in an immaterial attainment.
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Re: On "Visuddhimagga Jhanas"

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:28 pm

Hi Oleksandr,

Perhaps it is also relevant to your suggestion that Venerables Pa Auk Sayadaw and Ajahn Brahmavamso both describe Jhana in a similar way, even though Ajahn Brahm bases his teachings on the Suttas rather than the Visuddhimagga.

Mike
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Re: On "Visuddhimagga Jhanas"

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:53 pm

mikenz66 wrote: Ajahn Brahm bases his teachings on the Suttas rather than the Visuddhimagga.

Hi Mike & Oleksandr,

Ajahn Brahm correlates his experience of what he designates as "jhāna" with a very selective and narrow reading of a few sutta-s. Such an interpretation doesn't accurately represent what the sutta-s actually have to say on the matter.

Similarly, Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw teaches what he designates as "jhāna" based on a very narrow reading of the Visuddhimagga.

Best wishes,

Geoff
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Re: On "Visuddhimagga Jhanas"

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 21, 2010 12:03 am

HI Geoff,

Yes, I wasn't necessarily supporting any particular point of view, merely agreeing that "Visuddhimagga Jhanas" is not necessarily the correct term for "Really Concentrated Jhanas" ...

However, since their descriptions are quite similar, and appear to be based on the experience of them and their students, I would be inclined to assume that if one follows their instructions, then those are the states that one gets into. Whereas if one follows different instructions, different things happen ("Less Concentrated Jhanas"?). I'm not an expert on this, so I can only go by what I understand of the teachings of various teachers...

Mike
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Re: On "Visuddhimagga Jhanas"

Postby Nyana » Mon Jun 21, 2010 1:10 am

mikenz66 wrote:I'm not an expert on this, so I can only go by what I understand of the teachings of various teachers...

By all means, anyone interested in the teachings of any particular teacher should make a connection with that teacher and follow their instructions accordingly.
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