Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:01 pm

Hi Geoff

Thank you- I appreciate your efforts.

I would like to share my personal opinion and experience on vitakka vicara:

"But what are bodily fabrications? What are verbal fabrications? What are mental fabrications?"
"In-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Directed thought (vitakka) & evaluation (vicara) are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications." - MN44

When one practices mastery of jhana it is possible to absorb into these factors individually to see what they are. It is very difficult (other than piti, sukha and samadhi) to distinguish out vitakka vicara while they were mixed in together with the rest of the jhana factors. Experientially of vitakka vicara was more in line with what the above sutta said. Vitakka and vicara was more to do with verbal thought. ie it is not verbal though itself but to do with a fabrication, a preverbal mental 'movement' which was present in the first jhana. The feel of Vitakka was like a a racer perched on his starting blocks, while vicara was more like a brook lazily bubbling in this direction and that ready to explore.

Subsequently I have not found it necessary to look beyond this experience and this sutta to explain what it is.

with metta

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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Reductor » Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:34 pm

Hey there Retro,

In my humble opinion you're putting the cart before the horse here when you try to go from 4 to 13. The reason I think so is that, in the process of overcoming hindrances in the first four steps you will learn a great deal about your mind, and about inconsistency. You need not run off prematurely to another exercise in order to observe this, as anicca is evident from the earliest stages to the last.

If you focus on those first four, looking for ways to overcome this hindrance or that, then you will eventually overcome them. When you do, you allow yourself a mental 'pat on the back', and feel good about your accomplishment. This can lead nicely into joy which, when attended to along with steady focus on the breath, becomes stronger. The whole experience becomes very pleasant, and you can relax into it.

Now, you say that you don't get much time to meditate so you try to get the important work done. That is a trouble I can appreciate. But I don't think that focusing on samatha is a waste, nor do I think you would be commended by the teacher for trying to jump over the intermediate steps. If you practice all the steps in order each time you meditate, then you will become more adept at them. So what might initially take 40 minutes will eventually take 20, or even 10-15. Then you will have a pleasant practice, the mere thought of which makes you want to go and sit.

You will also be in a much better place to observe anicca, but on a more subtle level than just that you get while contending with the arising and passing away of the hindrances. And no, I seldom sit more than 40 to 50 minutes.

So seriously, don't go putting the cart before the horse. :soap:
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Reductor » Thu Sep 30, 2010 5:52 pm

And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by developing? There is the case where a monk, reflecting appropriately, develops mindfulness as a factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion... dispassion... cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening... persistence as a factor for Awakening... rapture as a factor for Awakening... serenity as a factor for Awakening... concentration as a factor for Awakening... equanimity as a factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion... dispassion... cessation, resulting in letting go. The fermentations, vexation, or fever that would arise if he were not to develop these qualities do not arise for him when he develops them. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by developing.
MN 2

At such times, monks, as the mind is sluggish, that is the wrong time to cultivate the enlightenment-factor[1] of tranquillity, the enlightenment-factor of concentration, the enlightenment-factor of equanimity. What is the reason? A sluggish mind is hard to arouse by these factors.

...

"But, monks, when the mind is sluggish, that is the right time to cultivate the enlightenment-factor of investigation-of-states, the enlightenment-factor of energy, the enlightenment-factor of rapture.[2] What is the reason? A sluggish mind is easy to arouse by these factors.

...

"Monks, when the mind is agitated,[3] that is the wrong time to cultivate the enlightenment-factors of investigation-of-states, of energy, of rapture. Why? An agitated mind is hard to calm through these factors.

...

"When the mind is agitated, that is the right time to cultivate the enlightenment-factors of tranquillity, concentration, equanimity. Why? Because an agitated mind is easy to calm[4] through these factors.
...

"But as for mindfulness, monks, I declare that it is always useful."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html

It is surprising to me how often we talk meditation without talking the seven factors. I wonder why that is, as I have found contemplation on the seven factors to be immensely useful to me at all points in my practice.

I'll give an example from my own practice: suppose I sit down and find that I'm restless. The first thing I do is relax a little bit, listen to the sounds of my room, or look at the Buddha rupa. Then I take up my object and really focus on it, without much concern for how comfortable my focus (concentration). I do this in order to drive a little 'wedge' into my run away thought process. So, after a few minutes I back off on that intense concentration and observe that my mind can now relax somewhat with the object without running off to those other thoughts. I notice that my mind is then more peaceful than before (ie, a still mind is better than a busy one), so I focus on the sense of peacefulness connected with my object (tranquility). As I do that for a while the last concerns for my previous line of though falls away. Then I turn my attention to the specific qualities of my object and begin to analyze it in anyway that seems appropriate.. in the case of breath mediation I will sometimes analyze the length, if that property is clear and smooth. Or, if the breath is rough I watch it and observe the bumps and hitches that might occur. This is 'investigation-of-states'. By taking up this analysis I prevent that tranquility from turning into mental dullness and sloth. As I analyze the breaths features this opens a nice little door way into experiencing the larger body, as the breath affects the body quite substantially.

As I analyze my object there becomes a sense of momentum, of energy. True, this energy was also present in my initial concentration, but now it seems qualitatively different. Since my mind is nicely balanced it becomes pretty easy to enjoy the experience and reflect on the change that has occurred in my mind. This usually yields a significant sense of joy and satisfaction to me (rapture).

In order to do all these things I need mindfulness and equanimity. That is, I have to recognize that all things come about by cause and effect, not by hope and craving. Second, I have to recall the purpose of balancing my mind: clarity of vision. The pleasure and such is a part or it, but not the goal. But as the meditation deepens this equanimity becomes more all encompassing, to the point that the bodily experience changes into a sense of singular 'present' and 'calm'.
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Sobeh » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:12 pm

That's the Sutta that made me want to read the Samyutta Nikaya.

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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby bodom » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:27 pm

In my humble opinion you're putting the cart before the horse here when you try to go from 4 to 13.


Buddhadasa actually recommended this way of practice as 'The Short Cut Method for Ordinary People'.

The essence of this method is to concentrate the mind adequately, just enough, which any ordinary person can do, and then take that concentrated citta to observe aniccam-dukkham-anatta - the three characteristics of being - until realizing sunyata and tathata...They will get the full-scale result of extinguishing dukkha,...So make the mind sufficiently concentrated, then go examine aniccam-dukkham-anatta. Just practice the first tetrad of Anapanasati sufficiently then practice the fourth tetrad sufficiently. That is all! Sufficient is not a lot, nor is it complete, but it is good enough. This is the short cut for ordinary people.


http://buddhasociety.com/online-books/a ... ikkhu-1-11
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Reductor » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:39 pm

bodom wrote:
In my humble opinion you're putting the cart before the horse here when you try to go from 4 to 13.


Buddhadasa actually recommended this way of practice as 'The Short Cut Method for Ordinary People'.



Sure, but is it Jhana? The purport of this thread is about jhana, and jhana makes the spiritual path easier and more pleasant. The hitch here is that jhana takes time to develop, and requires a much broader view of your practice than just the hour in which you sit.

I point this out because Retro has mentioned that he lacks time for meditation and that he is drowsy. Since I too lack time to meditate and am usually drowsy when I start, I can appreciate his problem. But, by trying to short cut the suppression of the hindrances he also cuts off the rewarding rapture and pleasure. So he's missing out on the learning opportunities that suppression trains a person in, and he's missing out on the factors that makes a long term meditation practice easier to maintain.
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby bodom » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:53 pm

Sure, but is it Jhana?


Sure, why not? Buddhadasa is only saying attaining all four jhana's is not necessary before turning to insight.

: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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Reductor » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:55 pm

bodom wrote:
Sure, but is it Jhana?


Sure, why not? Buddhadasa is only saying attaining all four jhana's is not necessary before turning to insight.

:anjali:


If this is the method, that you practice the first four steps then jump to the 13th, then where does rapture and pleasure come in? If they remain absent, then have you attained even the first jhana?
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby bodom » Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:05 pm

If this is the method, that you practice the first four steps then jump to the 13th, then where does rapture and pleasure come in? If they remain absent, then have you attained even the first jhana?


Im really not sure what your point is?

If you practice the first four steps, they will naturally lead to the first jhana which already has as factors 'rapture and happiness born of seclusion.' (M.i,1818; Vbh.245)

: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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Reductor » Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:22 pm

bodom wrote:
If this is the method, that you practice the first four steps then jump to the 13th, then where does rapture and pleasure come in? If they remain absent, then have you attained even the first jhana?


Im really not sure what your point is?

If you practice the first four steps, they will naturally lead to the first jhana which already has as factors 'rapture and happiness born of seclusion.' (M.i,1818; Vbh.245)

:anjali:


"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.'


To get to this stage requires the cultivation of the first four steps, but does also require an additional intention -- it requires practice. Hence the "He trains himself" at the beginning of the clause.

If the meditator's attention has switched to some other concern it seems doubtful to me that they would take the right steps to induce the jhanic state. As I've said elsewhere, the rapture and pleasure act to stabilize the experience and prevent the re-emergence of the hindrances.

Also, to say that these additional steps, between 5 to 12 inclusive, can be "short cutted" would suggest that they are somewhat superfluous. But I have not found that to be the case at all.

If you wish to interpret all these things differently, than you are certainly welcome to do so.

Also, I cannot check your references because I'm not familiar with the reference system. Perhaps you could provide them?
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby bodom » Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:29 pm

Also, I cannot check your references because I'm not familiar with the reference system. Perhaps you could provide them?


Majjhima Nikaya 38
Mahatanhasankhayasuttam

"Having thus abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and remains in the first Jhana which is filled with rapture and happiness born of seclusion and is accompanied by applied and sustained thinking.


http://www.leighb.com/mn38.htm

: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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Reductor » Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:47 pm

bodom wrote:
Also, I cannot check your references because I'm not familiar with the reference system. Perhaps you could provide them?


Majjhima Nikaya 38
Mahatanhasankhayasuttam


Thanks.


"Having thus abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and remains in the first Jhana which is filled with rapture and happiness born of seclusion and is accompanied by applied and sustained thinking.


http://www.leighb.com/mn38.htm

:anjali:


And what does that mean to you, bodom?
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby bodom » Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:51 pm

And what does that mean to you, bodom?


Outside of personally sitting in the first jhana? Not a whole lot.


: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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Reductor » Thu Sep 30, 2010 8:11 pm

bodom wrote:
And what does that mean to you, bodom?


Outside of personally sitting in the first jhana? Not a whole lot.


:anjali:


Please expound in detail what you've stated in brief. :smile:

That is, are you saying that the above is a description of one 'personally sitting in the first jhana', or are you saying that you have 'personally' sat in the first jhana? If the second, then I'm especially interested. Did you use the breath, or "Buddho"? And how does the experience unfold?

Inquiring minds would like to know.
:namaste:
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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby bodom » Thu Sep 30, 2010 8:33 pm

Inquiring minds would like to know.


I dont know if I have ever reached jhana. I have definitely had some blissful feelings arise while sitting. Jhana? I wouldn't count on it.

To be honest, Im not all that concerned with gaining this level of concentration, that level of concentration, this jhana, that jhana. I just sit until my mind is free from wandering.

What I meant by 'Outside of personally sitting in the first jhana? Not a whole lot.' is that all the descriptions of jhana in the suttas are nothing but words on paper, and at present are not a concern to me and my practice.

The only reason I posted was because I was asked by a member to participate in the thread, and I found your post to retro a good jumping in point. From experience, the best way I have found for me is as Buddhadasa recommended, I practice until my mind is calm and then turn to insight. Do I label this calm jhana? No. No need as I see it.

: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: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Thu Sep 30, 2010 8:40 pm

Vepacitta wrote:Personally, I'd like to get into 'how does it work - that you can be concentrated - and yet still think - even though non-discoursive? Is it during the jhana - right after emergence - a bit of both?

Hi V & all,

I think that we each have to identify and map our mental terrain based on our own first hand investigation and experience. If we can take the time to attend to our mind when we're sitting with our body somewhat relaxed, mindfully breathing, we can begin to investigate how our mind works: Can I differentiate between a thought and the recognition (saññā) of a thought? This is a good start. Right here we can begin to see that there's no separate observer independent of that simple recognition of the thought. Can I reflect upon the drawbacks of discursive thinking? Can I begin to just release thoughts as they arise? If I just release my indulgence with thinking can I experience a gap between the end of one thought and the arising of another?

It doesn't really matter if our mind settles and relaxes when we investigate how it works, or if we can experience much of a gap between thoughts, or if the mind just continues to chatter on. The important thing is that we really want to learn how our mind works. And one thing that can be pretty obvious right away is that we aren't really in full control of our mind. The mind operates according to causes and conditions. There's no one running the show. Seeing this we can learn to create the suitable causes and conditions which allow us to investigate our mind again and again. We can investigate how our body and our breath affect the movements of the mind, and so on.

No one can do this inner work for us. We each have to take the time to begin to investigate our inner mental terrain. It can be a rewarding experience which begins to yield some insights into how the mind works. And I think that this was part of the Buddha's genius. He was interested in how things work. He realized that understanding how the mind works is essential if we are going to untangle the tangle that we may currently find ourselves in.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Thu Sep 30, 2010 9:06 pm

thereductor wrote:
bodom wrote:
If this is the method, that you practice the first four steps then jump to the 13th, then where does rapture and pleasure come in? If they remain absent, then have you attained even the first jhana?


If you practice the first four steps, they will naturally lead to the first jhana which already has as factors 'rapture and happiness born of seclusion.' (M.i,1818; Vbh.245)

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.'


If the meditator's attention has switched to some other concern it seems doubtful to me that they would take the right steps to induce the jhanic state. As I've said elsewhere, the rapture and pleasure act to stabilize the experience and prevent the re-emergence of the hindrances.

I think it's possible that some people don't spend more time on the fifth step because they may not think that they've "attained jhāna" or can "experience rapture." But we don't necessarily have to have "attained" anything in order to experience pīti. In this case, the translation of pīti as rapture probably doesn't help. What the heck is rapture?...

But pīti doesn't just mean rapture. It's the mental joy which is present whenever we experience any skillful feeling of pleasure or well-being. And so we don't have to be drenched in bliss in order to practice the fifth step of mindful breathing. If we are sitting in meditation and our body is relaxed and we are feeling at ease and our mind is clear and aware, we can certainly begin to investigate what pīti means in that situation: Can we recognize if the mind is happy? Can there be some degree of mental joy when we sit relaxed and breathe mindfully?

This is the important affective quality of the path which is to be developed and used to aid us in letting go; not always searching for something outside of ourselves for fulfillment. I think that we all need to empower ourselves and give ourselves permission to sit and just enjoy the very simple act of breathing mindfully.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Kenshou » Thu Sep 30, 2010 9:28 pm

I like where this thread went, practical discussion is good.

Though there isn't much more I could say about the whole thing that hasn't been for the most part, there is one other thing that I find helpful in jumpstarting this practice, weather it be just a baseline degree of mental calm or deeper absorption.

I have found that, by simply taking notice of the 5 aggregates, 4 satipatthana etc. and noticing how it is that they are unreliable, unsatisfactory, not me, mine, or I, and then noticing how that understanding is a source of relief and joy for the mind, is a very efficient way of igniting the spark of niramisa piti-sukha. It's also a given that a degree of basic mindfulness is established before engaging that contemplation, though. It's really just what the 5 factors of awakening state, mindfulness >investigation > energy > piti. But then of course the presence of piti itself does not mean jhana but it is a step towards deeper meditative absorption, if a person wants it. I've blabbered about that aspect already elsewhere, at least as it pertains to how I find that it works: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=5648&start=0#p88147

I suppose this may tie in somewhat with what Geoff has mentioned on the use of "unfixed" concentration as a preliminary for fixed concentration, or if not that, it shows how the themes of insight can become the themes of concentration. I guess my point is that simply taking notice of the skilfull happiness that the dhamma provides can itself be a tool, and I mention it at all because it seems to be a very efficient one. Even if it isn't used as a basis for jhana, it's still a useful means for calming and concentrating the mind which then provides the means for insight. Looks like Geoff happened to beat me to the punch a little bit on that subject.
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Nyana » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:26 pm

Good stuff:

    "Simply taking notice of the skillful happiness that the dhamma provides can itself be a tool, and I mention it because it seems to be a very efficient one." ― Kenshou

That right there is quote-worthy!

:anjali:
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Re: Jhāna According to the Pāḷi Nikāyas

Postby Kenshou » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:32 pm

Thanks! My impression is that niramisa-piti(sukha) is an important tool in the path presented to us in the suttas, and it also seems to be an aspect that isn't much talked about, but it's made all the difference for me. Which is a point I know you've pointed out every now and again, in fact. A subject that deserves a little more attention.
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