What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Anicca » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:08 am

Howdy Wind!
Wind wrote:thanks Anicca for your excellent description of Samadhi. I still wonder how many here has personally achieve it. If there are many here who can achieve Samadhi then I would know it's quite attainable unlike jhana where it's seem like an improbable task.

Wind, you are more than welcome, but i question your approach to all this - it should not be important to you what others achieve, only what you achieve. The only way you will know anything at all is know for yourself, not because someone posts it on an internet forum.

Belief in what the Buddha teaches is required - not what internet posers post.

Sharpen the precepts to a fine point. That fuels the meditation. Find the 16 steps of meditating that the Buddha teaches and do your best on just the first 4. See for yourself what happens. If the Buddha teaches anything, it is that when a cause exists, the results happen. Lead yourself to find out if it is attainable. Be prepared to give it your all and plenty of time if you really want to find out.

In the vein of what others have posted - if you find it possible to lay the foundation (Samadhi) for that first floor (Jhana) - maybe it is not unlikely or improbable to build upon it!

If the Buddha is worth studying, then surely you can believe that the only thing that determines what is or is not attainable is the effort you put into practicing the Dhamma. There is no magic in orange robes - there is only the practice and the results.

Metta
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:13 am

Kenshou wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote: i think the argument is against those who think they can meditate 20mins or so a day while living a life not bound by the precepts and still achieve jhana. there is a huge difference..... so this jhana without the hard work comes off to many as similar to those adds that tell you you can just take a pill and lose 50 pounds or whatever.


I don't agree with this at all, .


so you're saying jhana is just easy and one doesn't need time to develop it and follow a life of virtue?
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: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:16 am

No, I'm trying to say that I don't think that, and more importantly, that I have never actually heard anybody say that around here. But I could be wrong, I haven't read every post.
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby IanAnd » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:54 pm

Wind wrote:What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana? How are they relate to one another?

Returning to the initial question, I've taken the time to transcribe a take on this question that conforms with my own experience in this matter. It is taken from Ven. Analayo's excellent book Satipatthana, The Direct Path to Realization. There's very little that I disagree with Ven. Analayo on when it comes to descriptions of meditation practice. His descriptions have, in general, reflected my own practice. So, in recommending this explanation (which is an expansion on the brief comment I gave in my previous post), I approach it from the standpoint that it is confirmed by my own experience.

It should provide enough information for some to be able to confirm from their own experience that attainment to the levels of jhana (absorption) describes a deeper state of concentration (samadhi) than just, to quote Analayo, a plain "relaxed happy reflection within easy reach of anyone and without much need for meditative proficiency." Anyone who has experienced any of the first four levels of absorption will be able to confirm this for himself as well as to verify Analayo's description.

Samadhi and Jhana.pdf
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Goedert » Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:42 pm

Kenshou wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote: i think the argument is against those who think they can meditate 20mins or so a day while living a life not bound by the precepts and still achieve jhana. there is a huge difference..... so this jhana without the hard work comes off to many as similar to those adds that tell you you can just take a pill and lose 50 pounds or whatever.


I don't agree with this at all, first of all, but I actually haven't ever read anything like this on these forums, or the internet in general for the most part. I've read suggestions that the beginnings of absorption can potentially be experienced by a beginner after 30 minutes or so of non-distracted practice, but to cultivate this into something like jhana would require something more like hours per day for a fairly extended time. Both of which seem to me to be reasonable estimations. But not that 20 minutes per day will get you to jhana.


Friend,

He was stipulating a short time to describe how is the mind state of the people who think jhanas are impossible. Something like a magic pill for lose weight.
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Goedert » Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:58 pm

Friend,

In the simple practice exprience?

One-pointness concentration leads to absorption.
It is like a toboggan leding to the poll.
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Anicca » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:24 am

IanAnd wrote:... I've taken the time to transcribe a take on this question that conforms with my own experience in this matter.

Thank you, IanAnd!

Please accept the following merely as an observation and question(s).

To differentiate between samadhi and jhana is really to differentiate between samadhi and first jhana. Understanding vitaka and vicara play a large part in the understanding of "what is first jhana?" and while the transcription you've provided does a detailed and splendid job with vitaka - vicara appears to be virtually ignored. Is not vicara worthy of at least the "equal time and effort" given to vitaka? Would you "grease the skids" regarding vicara? Or do i have to wait until i buy the book, which i will! ;)

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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:25 am

What Ian has put out there is actually pretty much all that Analayo says on the subject in that book, actually.
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Anicca » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:29 am

Kenshou wrote:What Ian has put out there is actually pretty much all that Analayo says on the subject in that book, actually.

Thanks Kenshou...

Aw shucks...

Metta
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:31 am

Still a good book, though. It's just that samadhi isn't really the main subject.
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Sylvester » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:56 am

Anicca wrote:
Kenshou wrote:What Ian has put out there is actually pretty much all that Analayo says on the subject in that book, actually.

Thanks Kenshou...

Aw shucks...

Metta


Dear Anicca

Well, it just takes a little bit of reading up on the description of vitakka-vicara in MN 44 as the vacisankhara (verbal formation), and apply the same etymological analysis as Ven Analayo did with vitakka and you will get a really good sense of what vicara does and how it is distinguishable from vitakka.


Pubbe kho, āvuso visākha, vitakketvā vicāretvā pacchā vācaṃ bhindati, tasmā vitakkavicārā vacīsaṅkhāro.



Taking Ven Thanissaro's translation, but without the key terms translated -

Having vitakketi and vicāreti, one then breaks out into vāca. That's why vitakka and vicārā are verbal fabrications.


(vitakketvā being the absolutive of vitakketi, and vicāretvā the absolutive of vicāreti. Each of vitakketi and vicāreti are denominative verbs derived from vitakka and vicārā respectively).

Ven Analayo has explained the etymological root of vitakka and I'll take it a little further. He's mentioned the standard reading of "takka" as being "thought and reasoning". PED gives this Sanskrit relation to "tarka" literally "turning and twisting" and is related to "tarku" - a spindle. So, it looks like either (i) the mind is in some form of motion which needs to be pinned down as a function of vitakka, or (ii) the object of the mind itself is spinning/moving and mano needs to pin down the moving dhamma in order to establish contact/phassa. I think the 2nd reading is preferable, as it serves to distinguish vitakka from "vicāra".

The "vi-" prefix denotes a seperation of the mind from the object. Just as "vinnana" denotes cognising something apart from the observation, versus "nana" such as sammanana described as the knowledge "Liberated" where the observation/knowing is not apart from "Liberated".

"Vicāra" in turn derives from "cāra" which denotes "motion, walking, going; doing, behaviour, action, process" (PED). The sense that the mind is moving or in motion in vicāra is strongly suggested here. Again, the "vi-" prefix denotes a seperation between the moving mind and the dhamma. In vicāra, the mind is showing some movement in relation to the dhamma. I think this movement is needed for perspective to develop.

Finally "vāca". Speech is certainly admissible, but too restrictive. "Vāca" also include words, whether or not they are spoken. Verbalisation can occur as thoughts.

So, the vacīsaṅkhāro (vitakkavicārā) are not themselves, at the most fundamental level, thoughts and thinking, but movements of the mind that lead to thoughts.

With metta
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby IanAnd » Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:36 am

Anicca wrote:To differentiate between samadhi and jhana is really to differentiate between samadhi and first jhana. Understanding vitaka and vicara play a large part in the understanding of "what is first jhana?". . .

Is not vicara worthy of at least the "equal time and effort" given to vitaka? Would you "grease the skids" regarding vicara?

Hello Anicca,

I will endeavor to provide an answer to your question, but first you must acknowledge where I am coming from and keep it in mind as regards the answer given. But note: This is not Analayo's take, but rather my personal take.

I take a different approach than most here when endeavoring to decide what is meant by any particular meditation instruction or the Dhamma in general. That is, I attempt to find out, through the portal of my own experience, what the instruction was originally referring to according to how I have come to experience it in action through my own practice. There are so many little nuances that could come into play when attempting to understand what a written instruction intends to mean that it is difficult to say with any precision what was actually meant if you don't have the speaker in front of you to ask clarification of. And since the Buddha has long been dead, I do the best I can with the tools I'm given to work with. And one of those tools is the half century or more of life experience I have under my belt. That life experience has pulled my bacon out of the fire on more than one occasion. So, what I have to say on this subject may or may not have much of a following from those here who may not have experienced the same insights into the practice as I.

When I first started out I went through all the traditional explanations about what vitakka and vicara are. I had to start somewhere, and the existing commentary on these terms seemed like the most logical place to start, when I was first looking into this area a few years ago. And through my practice I've come to take and then had to relinquish many positions in matters like this. All I can share with you is my current understanding according to the insights I have gained. In this present case, I think I've come to the end of the road with regard to the issues at hand, but I'm always open to another take if it can be shown to make sense.

It seems to me that some of the explanations I've come across about vitakka and vicara can be somewhat forced or fanciful thinking depending upon the person who is doing the explaining. But for me, this question all came together one day as I was reading a piece done by Thanissaro Bhikkhu in his book Mind Like Fire Unbound. I had never thought to look at it in the way he was describing, but suddenly it made all the sense in the world, and it opened up a door of understanding for me about these two terms that made sense in a way that many of the other explanations did not. Yet because the suttas are often translated in a wooden and kind of stilted manner (not necessarily the fault of the translators, as the discourses were originally meant to be spoken and memorized, which can call for a rather wooden construction for ease of memory's sake), it can often be difficult to get at what the Buddha was intending to say. So, I'm always looking to find an entry way for that intention. Experience has shown that sometimes I'm right, and sometimes I'm wrong. But I'm always open to being shown something that makes sense.

At the section break in Mind Like Fire... titled Habits & practices (formerly titled Precepts & practices; you see how Thanissaro messes around with even his own renderings! I prefer his first rendering because it seems more detailed and specific. A habit can be anything; but a precept is a particular something. But this is grist for a different mill.) there follows a description of how to enter absorption. It wasn't so much what he said or how he translated the suttas he was referring to that caught my mind's eye. It was a sudden realization as I was reading and thinking about the description that hit me. You use vitakka (directed thought or initial application of the mind) and vicara (evaluation or sustained application of the mind) to get to the second jhana. They are intended actions, in other words. They are tools showing you how to allow the absorption experience begin to take over for itself (within the mind) without having to intend the directing of the mind toward attending to the breath and sustaining attention on the breath (in the case of using the breath as the object of observation).

So, from my perspective, the rendering "sustained application of the mind" or "sustained application of attention" or "sustained attention" fits very well for vicara. Vicara is what takes over from vitakka, or the initial application of the mind, to keep the absorption going in what might be termed an artificial or perhaps manipulated manner. Artificial because it is being "intended" or "induced" so to speak. Once the mind hits the second level of jhana, the inducement is no longer present or needed, and hence, vicara drops away. At least, that is how I experience it. I hope that answers your question.

It will be interesting to see how many here can somewhat agree and relate to that explanation.

Best Regards,
Ian
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Reductor » Sat Jul 10, 2010 5:40 pm

IanAnd wrote:It will be interesting to see how many here can somewhat agree and relate to that explanation.

Best Regards,
Ian


I relate to your explanation. A couple quick questions for you though.

You're applying vitakka and vicara to what object? The breath 'body' - the breath in its three phases, or are you applying it to the breathing body - the body from head to toe?
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby IanAnd » Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:45 pm

thereductor wrote: A couple quick questions for you though.

You're applying vitakka and vicara to what object? The breath 'body' - the breath in its three phases, or are you applying it to the breathing body - the body from head to toe?

It doesn't really matter which way you apply it. Which ever way you feel comfortable doing it. Although there can be some interesting hightlights if you use the latter method, as described in Thanissaro's piece I linked to, which would imply using the whole body, as in your second choice of selections. Doing it that way, you can experience the whole body becoming enveloped in a kind of sheath, as in Thanissaro's translation of the sutta. That can be interesting the first few times you do it. But it's really not all that necessary in order to dive down into absorption.

For myself, I usually just follow the simple pleasantness of the breath, of the incoming breath and the outgoing breath without extending it to the whole body or watching the three phases of the breath. What I'm watching for is the sensual (meaning sensation) nimitta that arises in the center of my head, which tells me that I'm there. Once that arises, I know that I'm in the second level of absorption. What is important is to be able to master whatever technique you use, so that you can enter absorption at will whenever you wish.
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Kenshou » Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:33 pm

I've found that by simply maintaining mindfulness of the body and attention on the breath, which in itself is a sort of applied and sustained attention, boosted by an attitude of relinquishment, the hindrances are naturally restrained, resulting in a calm and inwardly settled state. This calm naturally matures into a full experience of vivekajam-piti-sukha as the meditation is continued. This bit from the Samaññaphala Sutta describes the progression quite well: "Seeing that they (the hindrances) have been abandoned within him, he becomes glad. Glad, he becomes enraptured. Enraptured(piti), his body grows tranquil. His body tranquil, he is sensitive to pleasure(sukha). Feeling pleasure, his mind becomes concentrated." Since the mind and body are mutually pervaded with mindfulness, any piti or sukha that arises in one simultaneously fills the other, nevertheless often times some intentional effort, that is, vitakka and vicara, applied and sustained attention, is needed to maximize and stabilize it.

It feels to me rather like putting your hand into a blob of paint (vitakka, applied attention) and spreading the paint out from that point (vicara). This comparison leaves something to be desired but it describes fairly well how I experience vitakka and vicara as they act upon pitisukha. In a way, the original vitakka and vicara of sustaining and spreading stable mindfulness throughout the body is simply given another factor to work with, and as mindfulness of the body is cultivated, the resulting pitisukha of the tranquil mind naturally gets spread and strengthened too.

As attention is sustained in this way, pitisukha as well as mindfulness and concentration mutually strengthen each other. The stronger the mindfulness and attention the more secluded and focused the mind, leading to deeper vivekajam-piti-sukha, which leads to stronger concentration and mindfulness, and a sort of feedback loop of factors is established. When the mind and body are full of stable awareness and pitisukha strong all throughout, the motion of vitakka and vicara can naturally subside since they have fulfilled their purpose in stabilizing absorption, or they can be artificially maintained if the various factors are, albeit pervasive, not strong enough for the degree of concentration desired. Not all factors necessarily arise in the same way in the same degree every time, it seems.
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Reductor » Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:35 pm

When I start to meditate on the breath I sit, directing my attention to the act of breathing (vitakka). Little more is done for a while. When the act of breathing is clear and steady to my mind I attend more closely to its characteristics (vicara). I pay enough attention to the breath that I know something about it at all times. I try not to control or constrict it. I do not limit what characteristics I pay attention to and so I naturally include bodily movement and sensations that are related to breathing. In time I am aware of the whole body.

So I would describe vitakka as the fixing of attention to the breath and vicara as evaluating the breath's influence in the body.

Once the whole body is there I pick up a sense that I am interfering with the body and breath to varying degrees. Removing this interference results in bodily tranquility and mental tranquility. When I've 'let go' or my bodily interference then a very strong sense of happiness arises along with a pronounced living sense of body and breath (pitisukha).

Can I still talk? If I let go my object and reek havoc with my mind, then yes I could take up a conversation. Can I hear? If I turn from my object to check, then yes I'll hear. Is my mind drawn out into the world, scattered, weighed heavy with hindrances? Decidedly not.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

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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: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Anicca » Sat Jul 10, 2010 11:48 pm

Thanks Ian, Sylvester, Kenshou and thereductor!

Sylvester wrote:The "vi-" prefix denotes a seperation of the mind from the object. Just as "vinnana" denotes cognising something apart from the observation, versus "nana" such as sammanana described as the knowledge "Liberated" where the observation/knowing is not apart from "Liberated".
This is awkward for me. Is vinnana a "value added" process like when seeing a blue hat and then thinking "blue is pretty - the hat is pretty - i like that hat- that is a good hat" as opposed to the equinimious sammanana process of seeing a blue hat and only thinking "a blue hat" - no "value added" - nothing separate attached?


IanAnd wrote:I hope that answers your question. It will be interesting to see how many here can somewhat agree and relate to that explanation.
Yes. Thanks again. Checked a hardcopy of The Mind Like Fire Unbound and the online version is different - hmmm...


Kenshou wrote:I've found that by simply maintaining mindfulness of the body and attention on the breath, which in itself is a sort of applied and sustained attention, boosted by an attitude of relinquishment, the hindrances are naturally restrained, resulting in a calm and inwardly settled state. This calm naturally matures into a full experience
thereductor wrote:When I start to meditate on the breath I sit, directing my attention to the act of breathing (vitakka). Little more is done for a while. When the act of breathing is clear and steady to my mind I attend more closely to its characteristics (vicara). I pay enough attention to the breath that I know something about it at all times. I try not to control or constrict it. I do not limit what characteristics I pay attention to and so I naturally include bodily movement and sensations that are related to breathing. In time I am aware of the whole body.

So I would describe vitakka as the fixing of attention to the breath and vicara as evaluating the breath's influence in the body.
Both quotes lead to a comment that has been lingering - isn't an extremely coarse version of vitaka and vicara part of the very start that gets refined over and over and over into the 1st jhana - the 1st jhana version gradually refines itself out of exisistence by the 2nd jhana? Kinda like when riding a bike and starting off with both hands firmly gripping the handlebars - by 1st jhana the hands are bearly touching - only occasional finger tip adjustments are needed and 2nd jhana is completely hands off?

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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Reductor » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:34 am

Anicca wrote:Both quotes lead to a comment that has been lingering - isn't an extremely coarse version of vitaka and vicara part of the very start that gets refined over and over and over into the 1st jhana - the 1st jhana version gradually refines itself out of exisistence by the 2nd jhana? Kinda like when riding a bike and starting off with both hands firmly gripping the handlebars - by 1st jhana the hands are bearly touching - only occasional finger tip adjustments are needed and 2nd jhana is completely hands off?

Metta


It is a good point that you've raised. The initial vitakka and vicara that a meditator first raises can vary in quality, depending on the quality of their mind and how much practice they've had.

When I first began my mind was very course. Lots of inner verbalization. Now-a-days however I experience almost no inner verbalization when I begin, and the little that might be there on occasion is quickly dispensed with. If you start with the first tetrad of Anapanasati then you might find that you're moving back and forth between the steps, refining your attention each time until the mind is right for the arising of pitisukha.

Generally, moving from first to second involves vitakka and vicara subsiding in a very natural and easy way. It is hard to describe. It is just that a point comes when it becomes obvious that they are not only unnecessary for maintaining the meditation, but are actually agitating the mind and preventing the pitisukha from coming to fullness. Then you just let them drop.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

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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: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Sylvester » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:36 am

Anicca wrote:
Sylvester wrote:The "vi-" prefix denotes a seperation of the mind from the object. Just as "vinnana" denotes cognising something apart from the observation, versus "nana" such as sammanana described as the knowledge "Liberated" where the observation/knowing is not apart from "Liberated".


This is awkward for me. Is vinnana a "value added" process like when seeing a blue hat and then thinking "blue is pretty - the hat is pretty - i like that hat- that is a good hat" as opposed to the equinimious sammanana process of seeing a blue hat and only thinking "a blue hat" - no "value added" - nothing separate attached?



Dear Anicca

I would just like to clarify that the distinction between vinnana and nana was which I drew was only to illustrate how "vi-", that sense of seperation between the knowing and the thing known, does not operate with Sammanana, which is a very special sense of cognition. I'll come back to that later.

I think what you have in mind is probably vipallasa and how it traverses over perception and mind: see the Vipallasa Sutta, AN 4.49. Cognition/vinnana by itself is probably much too basic to recognise a blue hat when consciousness triggers the initial contact. On the other hand, recognition is the function of apperception (sanna). The "hat is pretty", I think, is probably perception at work and it is something that tags along with the feeling invoked by contact in respect of the blue hat. But, that being said, feelings and perceptions that arise from eye-contact are themselves dhamma/mind-objects and they are therefore cognisable by the mind. What I said about "vi-" was not intended to address the interpretive overlays wrought by the vipallas to the bare experience of "in the seen there will only be the seen" (SN 35.95).

Coming back to Right Knowledge. Sammanana is universally described in the suttas with the stock formula -

"When he knows and sees thus, his mind is liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: 'It is liberated'...."

per MN 39, Ven Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation.

That knowledge highlighted in red is the only nana described in the suttas with the appellation Sammanana.

Interestingly, Ven Thanisarro made a very pertinent observation in his most recent essay on ATI. He points out that in the Pali, Sammanana is actually expressed as just a verb without a noun, so that it should read -

"When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: 'Liberated'...."

In this case, this knowing is not seperate or apart from what is known.

With metta
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Re: What's the difference between Samadhi and Jhana?

Postby Anicca » Sun Jul 11, 2010 4:04 am

Thank you Sylvester!
Sylvester wrote:Sammanana is universally described in the suttas with the stock formula -
"When he knows and sees thus, his mind is liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: 'It is liberated'...."

There is so much to learn - so many "understoods" that have yet to take root - thanks for taking the time to explain.

Metta
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