Analayo's take on the immaterial states

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Analayo's take on the immaterial states

Post by Javi »

Just thought this was interesting, its from the beginning of lecture five here: ... es2013.htm" onclick=";return false;" onclick=";return false;

Analayo:[reads a question from someone who asks if the immaterial spheres were original to the teaching or a later addition]

"...The immaterial states or spheres are not called jhanas and my understanding is that they are strictly speaking not really different jhanas because they all correspond to the fourth jhana in the standard system that we get in the discourses. So we have first second third fourth this kind of series of gradually deepening states of absorption and then from the fourth absorption the basic setup of the mind in terms of the mental qualities and the strength of concentration present is the same but the object deepens. First there could have been an object [some kind of..maybe] like a light...maybe a color--someone working with the color kasina and this is being refined by letting even the perception of materiality disappear and dissolve into boundless space and then boundless space dissolves into that which is aware of boundless space - boundless consciousness. So there's a refinement of the object of the practice but if we look at it from the viewpoint of the central qualities of the concentrated mind all of this would fall under the fourth jhana this is why in some contexts we only find the four jhanas mentioned because in certain contexts when it is just a question of discussing the depth of concentration achieved it will be sufficient to discuss the four jhanas and not add on top the immaterial attainments. Now, there is a strand of scholarship which I believe goes back to Bronkhorst which argues that the immaterial spheres is a later far as I can see this is not convincing...As far as I can see it seems to me that these four immaterial spheres are integral parts of early Buddhism..." [He goes on to cite the Ariyapariyesena sutta].
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Re: Analayo's take on the immaterial states

Post by daverupa »

I would like to have some discussion about why the Buddha recalled an experience from his youth, and not from his teachers, when considering jhana in its samma- version, the one the Bodhisatta used as a basis there.

How could it be that the immaterial states seem to rely on the fourth jhana in a certain sense, and yet other teachers seem to have been teaching this or that immaterial state without reference to the jhana the Buddha taught? Indeed, these other teachers could not, by definition, have been getting into sammasamadhi states, as they would not have had sammaditthi around which to circle their efforts.

So, the immaterial states were available prior to the Dhamma being taught, which rules them out as necessarily relying on sammasamadhi. Else, there is a mass of experimentation with meditative states, experiential realms, & the relationship they have with each other & with respect to attaining a state at rebirth... and this is what it looks like to me.

Consider the prevailing Dravidian culture's renunciate structure, into which the Bodhisatta went forth. I see a pre-Buddhism renunciate-wanderer seated-meditation technology in the texts that later received a (relatively early) Buddhist apotheosis as part of a larger leveling effort, and this is worth trying to take apart.
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Re: Analayo's take on the immaterial states

Post by Kamran »

"I would like to have some discussion about why the Buddha recalled an experience from his youth, and not from his teachers, when considering jhana in its samma- version, the one the Bodhisatta used as a basis there."

The Buddha mentioning his Jhana experience from his youth reminds me of euphoric meditative experiences I used to have as a kid sometimes when lying in bed before I'd fall asleep.

My guess is that the Buddha chose to discuss this experience because the average person could relate to it better.
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Re: Analayo's take on the immaterial states

Post by mikenz66 »

I agree with Kamran.

The reasoning that the Buddha didn't talk about the jhanas in reference to his former teachers, therefore they didn't achieve those before getting to the formless attainments seem rather a stretch to me. The tradition certainly doesn't agree with that, and the achievement of jhana, and even the supernormal powers, are not said to require any kind of awakening (e.g. see Devadatta).


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Re: Analayo's take on the immaterial states

Post by tsurezuregusa »

Kamran wrote:"I would like to have some discussion about why the Buddha recalled an experience from his youth, and not from his teachers, when considering jhana in its samma- version, the one the Bodhisatta used as a basis there."
My take on this is that from his teachers he learned what some call the samatha jhanas. These are deep, absorbed and wholesome states of mind that can be aroused for example by kasina meditation.

Experiencing jhana in his youth was an experience of vipassana jhana. It is a much more fluid state of mind without being absorbed into one object. This is usually the result of samma sati, viz. satipatthana meditation.

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Re: Analayo's take on the immaterial states

Post by dhammarelax »

My hypothesis is that this dilemma is related to the methodology of achieving Jhana and the methodology of progressing through the Jhanas, I think that the first 4 Jhanas are a major cornerstone for the Buddhas teaching and taken as a group perhaps are unique to the Buddhas dispensation, I say taken as a group because the religious experiences that involve rapture can also be found in other religions so 1rst and second Jhana can also be experienced using a different methodology and philosophy, those 2 things if they are incorrect they will stop the progress there, if I think that what I am experiencing is the touch of God or the holy spirit or something like that then there is no reason to move on and I will stay with the rapture, the methodology is also important, for example we find in the Bible Old testament a recommendation not to drink ordinary wine but to get drunk with the divine wine (rapture?) but the methodology is missing hence some Christians believe that this states cannot be achieved at will but will happen by the grace of the holy spirit.

Something similar occurs with the Arupa Jhanas, within the Buddhist dispensation these are supported by the equanimity of the 4th Jhana when using Anapanasati for example or supported by the feelings of compassion, joy and equanimity when using the Brahamaviharas, but you can also achieve the Arupas without the feelings, this is how other practitioners do it and also did it at the Buddhas time, so here is the first question of methodology of attainment, we can even experience this now just by for example following a non Buddhist teaching like "just be a witness of what is going on in your mind" if we do this enough we can get up to Perception - No perception but we cannot get to cessation and as a consequence we cannot see dependent origination and as a consequence we cannot experience Nibanna and as a consequence we cannot become Sottapanas. This is why the Buddha talks of his youth jhana, because of the feeling absent in the other experiences.

This is also pointing to the methodology of the progression of the Jhanas, this delicate and even somehow obscure part of the teaching is something that remains a little bit of a mystery and is not thoroughly examined by many people, how does that happen? Why even though the Buddha received teachings that could take him to the level of Nothingness and then to perception and non-perception (without the feelings) he could not achieve cessation based on the same teachings, after all from perception-no perception there is only one more step, the answer lies again in those two aspects how were this ascetics getting to this stages and how they were progressing through them, the answer opens the heart of the original teachings and clears out the difference between for example Brahamanical meditation and Buddhist meditation, the answer are the four noble truths, in order to progress through the jhanas all the way to cessation you need to use them, if you chose to ignore them then you can still achieve Jhanas but you will not go all the way.

The first truth is saying you recognize suffering you know that what you are experiencing is not satisfactory, the second truth is saying this suffering is not God sent, it has a reason, a cause, the cause of this suffering is craving, and what is craving? in practical terms is tension that arises in body and mind, so you need to let go of this and how you do this? you relax. The 3rd truth is saying that by doing this you will experience the cessation of this suffering and the 4rth is telling you bring this suffering free mind back to your Jhana, this is why the noble eightfold path in MN 117 is explained taking as a base the Right concentration which is Jhana. Now guess what? If you do this then when you come back then you have progressed to the next Jhana, and at the same time gained some elemental insight as to how the 4NTs work in relation to dependent origination because the non satisfaction is produced by one of the links, most often we see clinging which in practical terms is thinking.

Following this line of thought we unravel other misconceptions as well, one of the consequences of understanding the 4NTs as the essential force behind the Jhana progression is to stop practicing what has been called Absortion concentration, this type of concentration is perhaps the elemental block of any attempt of spiritual progress, basically it teaches to intensely focus on something for example the place where the breath is touching the nose or the abdomen or the tip of the nose or the flame of a candle, etc. By doing this eventually (maybe it will take many years) we get to lose awareness of the world around us and we get absolutely immersed in a blissful state, in this states somebody could fire a gun next to your ear and you wouldn't be aware, consequence of this is that you cannot apply the first NT since you cannot recognize anything so you dont progress through the jhanas all the way to cessation. This is also why the Buddha references his youth Jhana instead of the later experiences, if you look at any child you will realize that he is not able to absorb totally his attention but is happy and relaxed observing attentively. For example in MN 10 we read "he understands he is taking a long breath" and not he is focusing all his attention exclusively on this long breath. This type of concentration is practiced even now by other religions, this is why Awakened beings are only found within the Buddhist dispensation and not outside.

Failing to understand this differences takes us to consider the most important parts of the teachings just like theories without practical application, Craving becomes desire, Jhana takes a decade to achieve and does not lead to Nibanna, the eightfold path is not really that important since we don't see how all the folds are building momentum to achieve jhana, dependent origination becomes an overly complicated teaching that can mean anything really depending on the interpretation, Nibanna as an unconditioned state ignites the long talks about why we cannot talk about it and so on.

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