Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Sam Vara
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Re: Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

Post by Sam Vara »

Ceisiwr wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 9:52 pm
arkaprava wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 9:37 pm
Yes every posture, so that would include when sitting down and breathing. Regarding the nimitta, you extend it and are aware of that only not that and the physical body. It’s one object only, one that extends until it fills your whole perceptual field. Sounds a lot like kasina, doesn’t it. Not even in the Vimuttimagga is the nimitta fixed at the nose. In both texts the contact of the breath is simply the means to get the nimitta. Once you get that, that becomes your meditation object.
Further to my last post, this might be a significant bit. I've not been taught to "extend" the nimitta, but to attend to it in the sequence whereby one drops vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, etc. And yes, the breath is simply a means to attain the nimitta. But there is no reason why one cannot be aware of the physical body. The nimitta is the means for getting there, whereas the jhāna factors arise independently. It's a matter of mindfulness and concentration being balanced, not concentration upon something to the exclusion of all other experiences.
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Re: Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

Post by Ceisiwr »

Sam Vara wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 10:47 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 9:52 pm
arkaprava wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 9:37 pm
Yes every posture, so that would include when sitting down and breathing. Regarding the nimitta, you extend it and are aware of that only not that and the physical body. It’s one object only, one that extends until it fills your whole perceptual field. Sounds a lot like kasina, doesn’t it. Not even in the Vimuttimagga is the nimitta fixed at the nose. In both texts the contact of the breath is simply the means to get the nimitta. Once you get that, that becomes your meditation object.
Further to my last post, this might be a significant bit. I've not been taught to "extend" the nimitta, but to attend to it in the sequence whereby one drops vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, etc. And yes, the breath is simply a means to attain the nimitta. But there is no reason why one cannot be aware of the physical body. The nimitta is the means for getting there, whereas the jhāna factors arise independently. It's a matter of mindfulness and concentration being balanced, not concentration upon something to the exclusion of all other experiences.
I’ll once again reply in time, but you can’t be aware of just the “body”. When you meditate on the body you are aware of hardness, cold, hot, soft, pleasant, pain and so on in an ever changing flux. You can’t have Jhana if you are aware of the nimitta and aware of all of that as well, since it’s a distraction. It’s not a singular object anymore. It’s multiple. Regarding the Jhana factors, the nimitta is the representation of those factors.
"There is no I, nor anything belonging to me, I will not be, what belongs to me will not be. What has earlier [come to] exist, will be extinguished"

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Re: Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

Post by Sam Vara »

Ceisiwr wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 11:01 pm
Sam Vara wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 10:47 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 9:52 pm

Yes every posture, so that would include when sitting down and breathing. Regarding the nimitta, you extend it and are aware of that only not that and the physical body. It’s one object only, one that extends until it fills your whole perceptual field. Sounds a lot like kasina, doesn’t it. Not even in the Vimuttimagga is the nimitta fixed at the nose. In both texts the contact of the breath is simply the means to get the nimitta. Once you get that, that becomes your meditation object.
Further to my last post, this might be a significant bit. I've not been taught to "extend" the nimitta, but to attend to it in the sequence whereby one drops vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, etc. And yes, the breath is simply a means to attain the nimitta. But there is no reason why one cannot be aware of the physical body. The nimitta is the means for getting there, whereas the jhāna factors arise independently. It's a matter of mindfulness and concentration being balanced, not concentration upon something to the exclusion of all other experiences.
I’ll once again reply in time, but you can’t be aware of just the “body”. When you meditate on the body you are aware of hardness, cold, hot, soft, pleasant, pain and so on in an ever changing flux.
Of course, things have qualities.
You can’t have Jhana if you are aware of the nimitta and aware of all of that as well, since it’s a distraction. It’s not a singular object anymore. It’s multiple. Regarding the Jhana factors, the nimitta is the representation of those factors.
I don't think there is any requirement for anything to be a "singular object". Just mental states with different qualities. I'm not sure what is meant by "representation" of jhāna factors, as it is a term with multiple and potentially confusing meanings. When one concentrates upon the nimitta, the factors arise. That's what happens in my experience. Theorising about it might be good mental exercise, but ultimately reminds me of this:
A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg moves after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.
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Re: Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

Post by Ceisiwr »

Sam Vara wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 10:36 pm
Again, I'm not sure what you are getting at here, and what you mean by attention being "fully towards one object". We try of course to keep the attention upon a single object during samatha meditation, this being the means of attaining jhāna. But the account of first jhāna is of an experience which has several different factors: vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, and ekaggatā. It isn't one of these factors occupying the entirety of consciousness, and in all the accounts I am familiar with, none of the rūpa jhānas "absorb" the mind such that it is transfixed and unable to perceive anything else.
My conception of Jhāna is that of a process of simplifying down experience and perception, of increasing stillness of the mind. A unified and stilled experience of non-duality with the object of meditation. For example, when meditating on the body via way of the elements one might focus upon the earth element until they absorb into it. I'm thinking in terms of kasiṇa here. Would you agree that in terms of the kasiṇas, being a non-dual state, of being one with the object, it would be impossible to experience anything else according to Buddhist theory?
Sure, I can see a big difference here, based on the context and the term. Perception of diversity is when we experience a lot of different things. We perceive differences. While meditating, we don't want to experience doubt, loss of focus, dullness, drowsiness, and all those other qualities, because they stop us getting anywhere and therefore are "corruptions" which arise. Perception of diversity (i.e. the mind being scattered among diverse experiences rather than focused) is one of them. The diversity of perception in SN 14.7 is something else entirely. Here, it is a compound in which the diversity is being modified; one of the ways in which our world can be categorised is into different types of perceptions. Sights, sounds, smells, etc. The whole vagga is about the different types of diversity and how they arise, the senses being one of them.
The problem I see with your theory is that in MN 128 doubt etc are treated as something different to nānattasaññā. If nānattasaññā covered these dhammas, then only it would have to be mentioned. What we see is that nānattasaññā one in a long list of hindrances to absorption.

"When I understood that doubt, loss of focus, dullness and drowsiness, terror, excitement, discomfort, excessive energy, overly lax energy, longing, perception of diversity, and excessive concentration on forms are corruptions of the mind, I gave them up."

Nānattasaññā appears in other places. It's part of the stock pericope for entering the formless

“They speak of this thing called the ‘dimension of infinite space’. What is the dimension of infinite space? It occurred to me: ‘It’s when a mendicant—going totally beyond perceptions of form, with the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity—aware that “space is infinite”, enters and remains in the dimension of infinite space. This is called the dimension of infinite space"

It also appears in MN 102, where we are told that other ascetics speculate the the Self is of multiple or diverse perception
“Mendicants, there are some ascetics and brahmins who theorize about the future, and assert various hypotheses concerning the future. Some propose this: ‘The self is percipient and is sound after death.’ Some propose this: ‘The self is non-percipient and is sound after death.’ Some propose this: ‘The self is neither percipient nor non-percipient and is sound after death.’ But some assert the annihilation, eradication, and obliteration of an existing being, while others propose extinguishment in the present life. Thus they assert an existent self that is sound after death; or they assert the annihilation of an existing being; or they propose extinguishment in the present life. In this way five become three, and three become five. This is the passage for recitation of the five and three.

Now, the ascetics and brahmins who assert a self that is percipient and sound after death describe it as having form, or being formless, or both having form and being formless, or neither having form nor being formless. Or they describe it as of unified perception, or of diverse perception, or of limited perception, or of limitless perception. Or some among those who go beyond this propose universal consciousness, limitless and imperturbable."
More interestingly, we also see it in suttas which tie the various meditative attainments to other realms
“Mendicants, there are nine abodes of sentient beings. What nine?

There are sentient beings that are diverse in body and diverse in perception, such as human beings, some gods, and some beings in the underworld. This is the first abode of sentient beings.

There are sentient beings that are diverse in body and unified in perception, such as the gods reborn in Brahmā’s Host through the first absorption. This is the second abode of sentient beings.

There are sentient beings that are unified in body and diverse in perception, such as the gods of streaming radiance. This is the third abode of sentient beings.

There are sentient beings that are unified in body and unified in perception, such as the gods replete with glory. This is the fourth abode of sentient beings.

There are sentient beings that are non-percipient and do not experience anything, such as the gods who are non-percipient beings. This is the fifth abode of sentient beings.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond perceptions of form. With the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite’, they have been reborn in the dimension of infinite space. This is the sixth abode of sentient beings.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of infinite space. Aware that ‘consciousness is infinite’, they have been reborn in the dimension of infinite consciousness. This is the seventh abode of sentient beings.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of infinite consciousness. Aware that ‘there is nothing at all’, they have been reborn in the dimension of nothingness. This is the eighth abode of sentient beings.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of nothingness. They have been reborn in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is the ninth abode of sentient beings.

These are the nine abodes of sentient beings.”
https://suttacentral.net/an9.24/en/sujato

We could break this sutta down into

Normal Human Consciousness
Diverse in body and perceptions.

1st Jhāna
Diverse body and unified perception.

2nd Jhāna
Unified in body and diverse in perception

3rd Jhāna
Unified in body and unified perception.

4th Jhāna
Non-percipient and do not experience anything

The Formless
Gone totally beyond perceptions of form. With the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity ...

If you aren't perceiving diversity then you are only perceiving one thing. If you are only perceiving one thing then your attention is only on one thing, and if your attention is only on one thing then you cannot be experiencing anything else. If we agree that the nimitta is a mental construct, then all that someone is aware of whilst in Jhāna is their mental experience. In other words, they do no experience the other senses. I'd also like to add my own interpretation of "body" above.

Normal Human Consciousness
Diverse in body and perceptions.

1st Jhāna
Diverse body = directed thought & evaluation and one-pointedness.

Unified perception = nimitta

2nd Jhāna
Unified in body = Only one-pointedness remains.

Diverse in perception = rapture and pleasure.

3rd Jhāna
Unified in body = One-pointedness.

Unified perception = Pleasure

4th Jhāna
Non-percipient and do not experience anything.
Perception of diversity (i.e. the mind being scattered among diverse experiences rather than focused) is one of them. The diversity of perception in SN 14.7 is something else entirely. Here, it is a compound in which the diversity is being modified; one of the ways in which our world can be categorised is into different types of perceptions. Sights, sounds, smells, etc. The whole vagga is about the different types of diversity and how they arise, the senses being one of them.
If there is perception of the senses, then perception is scattered no? It's many different types of perception, rather than being of one type.

Your thoughts?
"There is no I, nor anything belonging to me, I will not be, what belongs to me will not be. What has earlier [come to] exist, will be extinguished"

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Re: Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

Post by may.all.bliss »

In my understanding, thoughts are still possible after 1st jhana, but less and less frequent the deeper you go.
Saying that thoughts subdue after 1st jhana is correct, and doesn't have to imply they are impossible to arise, imo.

Describing deep subjective statues with language will be tricky, but that's my 2 cents.
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Re: Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

Post by Ceisiwr »

may.all.bliss wrote: Sat Sep 11, 2021 6:05 pm In my understanding, thoughts are still possible after 1st jhana, but less and less frequent the deeper you go.
Saying that thoughts subdue after 1st jhana is correct, and doesn't have to imply they are impossible to arise, imo.

Describing deep subjective statues with language will be tricky, but that's my 2 cents.
I take vitakka-vicāra in Jhāna to be closer to intentions rather than normal discursive thoughts. Elsewhere the Jhāna are said to be states of tranquility and stillness. Normal thinking would disturb that, like a paddle causing ripples in a still pool.
"There is no I, nor anything belonging to me, I will not be, what belongs to me will not be. What has earlier [come to] exist, will be extinguished"

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Re: Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

Post by Sam Vara »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sat Sep 11, 2021 5:00 pm
Sam Vara wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 10:36 pm
Again, I'm not sure what you are getting at here, and what you mean by attention being "fully towards one object". We try of course to keep the attention upon a single object during samatha meditation, this being the means of attaining jhāna. But the account of first jhāna is of an experience which has several different factors: vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, and ekaggatā. It isn't one of these factors occupying the entirety of consciousness, and in all the accounts I am familiar with, none of the rūpa jhānas "absorb" the mind such that it is transfixed and unable to perceive anything else.
My conception of Jhāna is that of a process of simplifying down experience and perception, of increasing stillness of the mind. A unified and stilled experience of non-duality with the object of meditation. For example, when meditating on the body via way of the elements one might focus upon the earth element until they absorb into it. I'm thinking in terms of kasiṇa here. Would you agree that in terms of the kasiṇas, being a non-dual state, of being one with the object, it would be impossible to experience anything else according to Buddhist theory?
I'm afraid I have very little experience of meditation to do with elements, and almost zero regarding kasinas. (I tried it briefly in a class in the 1990s, with almost no success...) I would prefer to meditate and see what happens rather than rely on theory, which here seems to be what can be derived using simple logic from statements in the suttas. But here, the sutta (at least MN 39 above) doesn't really mention a non-dual state. There seems to be quite a lot going on, with two separate activities and two separable experiences, along with an awareness of the body and an ability to (apparently) pervade/suffuse the body with the above qualities.
The problem I see with your theory is that in MN 128 doubt etc are treated as something different to nānattasaññā. If nānattasaññā covered these dhammas, then only it would have to be mentioned. What we see is that nānattasaññā one in a long list of hindrances to absorption.
It's not really a theory, merely the observation that a perception of diversity is different from diversity of perception, the latter being dealt with in SN 14.7. Perception of diversity seems to mean - in all the examples you give - the idea that the meditator is aware of more than one thing. The passage in MN 128 seems to be about monks for whom "light and vision of forms vanish"; they lose the nimitta, and want to know why. The Buddha gives a list of 11 different things that can happen so as to cause that loss. Doubt can occur: one is aware of the nimitta, but doubts whether it is a real nimitta, or whether it leads anywhere, or whether one's teacher has correctly identified it, etc, and the result is that it goes. The same applies to the second, loss of focus: one has the nimitta, but insufficient attention is paid, and it loses sharpness, and so on. The penultimate problem is that one has "perceptions of diversity": rather than focusing upon the nimitta alone, one takes an interest in other sensory or mental input, such as an external sound, an itch, or a train of thought. There's nothing special about that particular problem. I don't think it subsumes the other possible problems. It's just number 10 in a list of 11 things you don't want happening ("corruptions of the mind") when trying to maintain the nimitta.

Of course, the ending of diversity of perception is actually describing the formless, as per SN 40.05. Here, a bhikkhu is enjoined not to focus upon different perceptions and to ignore "impingements" or patighā, so as to experience the first formless āyatana.

Its appearance in MN 102 is in the context of some theorisers speculating about what the 'self" perceives after death. One view is that it has ekattasaññam, or just perceives one thing; whereas another view is that it experiences nānattasaññam, or has varying perceptions. AN 9.24 is quite similar, in that it attributes different perceptions to beings in different realms. Humans and gods who are not absorbed have perceptions of diversity. Their lives there involve diverse perceptions. Those who are absorbed and those who are either in formless realms or insentient do not have diverse perceptions, albeit for three different reasons.
If you aren't perceiving diversity then you are only perceiving one thing.
Excepting the insentient as per AN 9.24 above, yes.
If you are only perceiving one thing then your attention is only on one thing, and if your attention is only on one thing then you cannot be experiencing anything else.
I'm not sure of the role of attention here, as by definition if you are only perceiving one thing then one cannot be experiencing anything else.
If we agree that the nimitta is a mental construct, then all that someone is aware of whilst in Jhāna is their mental experience.
Only if we think that the experience of jhāna is the experience of the nimitta. I tend to see the nimitta as a means of getting to jhāna, rather than the experiential content of that jhāna. MN 39 seems quite clear about what jhāna is, but doesn't mention the nimitta.
In other words, they do no experience the other senses
It merely says that they are secluded from sensual pleasures (along with unskilful states), and says that they have two mental activities and two hedonic states, both of which can be directed towards the body.
If there is perception of the senses, then perception is scattered no?
If you mean "sensory perception", as opposed to the senses being the object of some other mode of perception, then no. Sensory perception can be unscattered, concentrated upon a particular object or form. That's the purpose of the nimitta. SN 14.7 doesn't have, as far as I can see, anything to do with meditation. It's just about why we have six senses, and what that leads to. The "different types of perception" there are seeing, hearing, smelling, etc.; and not a perception of diversity. Perceptions there are "the senses", the six different channels or capacities we have for knowing the external world. That's different from the perception of diversity, which is different objects arising within those channels. You could have a "perception of diversity" without "diversity of perception", in that a person with only one sense (who therefore has no diversity of perception, as per SN 14.7) would still have "perception of diversity" if that one sense revealed to them a world of manifold perceptions.
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Re: Leigh Brasington and "Jhana-Lite" (Why there is no such thing as "jhāna-lite")

Post by arkaprava »

cattāro satipaṭṭhānā samādhinimittā - MN 44
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