Canonical defnition of jhana

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Canonical defnition of jhana

Post by pitithefool »

This will serve as a debate thread


++my own thoughts about this +++

Most commentarial material that I've read seems to use the term access concentration to describe a state in which the hindrances are absent but the jhana factors are either not present or are not strong. My opinion on this is that it's a valid conceptualization that is not at odds with the sutta pitaka. Further, it seems that both access and reviewing (after emerging the jhana) are also classed of as a sort of right concentration, which I have no problem with.

In one conceptualization, one leaves the jhana when reviewing, then advances to another. In another, this is said to occur while in the jhana. I do not doubt the validity of the conceptualization of one leaving the jhana to perform insight in order to advance, and further, it does seem that if we are using an object like a kasina, breath, or others that do not involve willfully performing insight (like aniccasanna) that it could be argued that such insight practice is not the object and must be treated separately.

The only real counter argument I have to that (if you want to call it that), revolves around the issue of what is and is not object as it pertains to samatha practice. What a meditator is doing here is defining the area in which the mind is allowed to reside in and getting the mind to stay still within it. If we are practicing anapanasati, then this can be a little confusing since a number of the steps require us to perform insight. We might think "that's part of the meditation", i.e. while focusing on the breath, we are in jhana while focusing on impermanence.

But is that the object that's defined for anapanasati? Most of the steps deal with having the mind calmed, settled and focusing on one thing. In my own experience, the steps dealing with perceptions of impermanence are there to deal with distractions and in to induce vipassana, where the object is the breath and all other phenomena are let go of.

The visuddhimagga states that those steps, though listed as a parted of the anapanasati sutta would actually be better classified as impermanence meditation, which, owing to it's nature as a a sort of thinking meditation, can only lead to access concentration.

In practice however, meditating in line with the sutta will include elements of a number of perceptions that are classed as different meditation subjects in and of themselves but that together form a complete path to the end goal. Meditating on breath alone under the guidance of the sutta will not only get one into jhana but will also fulfil the four satipatthana and the seven factors of enlightenment and thus forms a complete path. However, the parts about meditating on impermanence, if I understand correctly, are not part of the jhana proper but are part of either a sort of aniccasanna or a reviewing consciousness. The single perception of the in and out breathing would be the basis of the jhana. If one were to raise the jhana into the formless realm, then we're using the space or air kasina or something similar to do so and it's at that point we're no longer using the breath as an object.
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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MN 119's jhana pericope meaning "body" still stands as an interesting topic of discussion. The reason is this: in jhana, nama-rupa is still present. In meditation, the work being done by the meditator is to fabricate the way the object is held by the mind so that the mind does not waver from it. The sankharas that are making the mind stick to the object are happening in the nama realm but they are not what the meditator is aiming to pay attention to. They are the conditioners of the form being observed and that's how one gets into jhana.

By perceiving the object as "beautiful, pleasant, calm, peaceful" and the like, the mind will be inclined to stay there. Likewise by perceiving sensuality as "vulgar, base, suffering" etc., the mind will be inclined to give it up. What the meditator does in the preliminary stages is to adjust the nama so that it will stay with a single rupa. I believe (though I really have no clue if this is true) that this is why the jhanas are called rupa jhanas, is because they have an object external to nama.
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm ...
I'm not going to enter into a debate, but I thought you might find it interesting that according to Ajahn Sujato the final tetrad of ānāpānasati refers to the contemplation of dhammas. Here he takes dhammas to mean the dhammas found in the corresponding section in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (since mindfulness of breathing fulfils satipaṭṭhāna), which in turn he views as originally only containing the hindrances and their counterparts, the 7 factors of awakening, based on his comparison with parallels etc. The final tetrad of mindfulness of breathing thus relates to insight and understanding in relation to how the hindrances/7 factors of awakening arise and how they fall. Part of this is through attention:

‘Reverends, all dhammas [7 factors of awakening] are rooted in desire. Attention produces them. Contact is their origin. Feeling is their meeting place. Immersion is their chief. Mindfulness is their ruler. Wisdom is their overseer. Freedom is their core. They culminate in the deathless. And extinguishment is their final end.’ When questioned by wanderers who follow other paths, that’s how you should answer them.” - AN 10.58

Before even beginning mindfulness of breathing the hindrances have to be abandoned and the 7 factors of awakening fostered. The 4 foundations of mindfulness, which mindfulness of breathing is a development of, are what nurture the 7 factors of awakening. The meditator then sits down to meditate and establishes mindfulness of the breath. The mindfulness awakening factor is nurtured and given strength. Mindful he investigates to discriminate wholesome (7 factors of awakening) and unwholesome (hindrances) states. This is dhamma-vicaya. He then generates energy to abandon what is unwholesome (hindrances) and foster what is wholesome (7 factors of awakening). If his mind is hindered by sloth & torpor then he arouses the factors of investigation of states, energy (to abandon it) and piti by focusing on the pleasant experience of breathing; or, if the mind is hindered by restlessness (which includes normal thinking) & worry then instead he arouses the factors of tranquility, concentration and equanimity by attending to those aspects of being mindful of the breath (SN 46.51). Attention given to the 7 factors they grow and the hindrances subside. All of this falls under the Four Exertions:

Restraint - (saṃvara padhāna) of the senses.
Abandonment - (pahāna padhāna) of defilements.
Cultivation - (bhāvanā padhāna) of Enlightenment Factors.
Preservation - (anurakkhaṇā padhāna) of concentration.

When the hindrances have been abandoned then the meditator's mind is clearer, the breath becomes clearer and the meditator is more mindful and aware. Only then can he know the breath is long, short, aware of breath & nāmakāya, tranquilising the breath and so on through the stages which strengthen the 7 factors of awakening until there is Jhāna which is based on letting go. None of this requires any "self" or "doing". It flows naturally. After leaving Jhāna then, according to Ajahn Sujato, one contemplates how the hindrances and 7 factors arose and fell and "watches on with equanimity", the final factor of awakening, to quote MN 118.

You might be interested in his book "A History of Mindfulness" here (more part 2 than 1): https://santifm.org/santipada/wp-conten ... Sujato.pdf
Last edited by Ceisiwr on Sun May 09, 2021 9:12 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

Post by DooDoot »

lol "samatha" = "jhana" ;)
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm This will serve as a debate thread
here we go again

:popcorn:

pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmMost commentarial material that I've read seems to use the term access concentration to describe a state in which the hindrances are absent but the jhana factors are either not present or are not strong.
Practitioners have confirmed the above.
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm My opinion on this is that it's a valid conceptualization that is not at odds with the sutta pitaka.
Indeed. Obviously the profound 16-fold upfolding of the Anapanasati Sutta falls short of jhana due to awareness of breathing in each stage. Also, the suttas say the stream-enterer & once-returner are not fully developed in concentration. Plus other suttas say those fully developed in jhana cannot be tempted by sensual pleasures and are free from the arising of lust.
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmFurther, it seems that both access and reviewing (after emerging the jhana) are also classed of as a sort of right concentration, which I have no problem with.
MN 117 says concentration supported by the other seven factors of the Path is right concentration.
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmit does seem that if we are using an object like a kasina
lol - i found kasina in only one sutta. i can't imagine how jhana can be reach via kasina becaue so much purification via the breath is required to reach jhana. Kasina sounds very theoretical to me, similar to Hindu watching a candle flame meditation, which lacks the quality of "pliancy" ("kammaniyo") the Buddha taught of right concentration.
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm others that do not involve willfully performing insight (like aniccasanna) that it could be argued that such insight practice is not the object and must be treated separately.
i mentioned before, the continuing inherent whole idea of "willfulness" is a sort of nonsense. The occurring of insight (vipassana) is the opposite of willfulness. The Buddha never separated the occurring to the two results of concentration (samadhi), namely, samatha & vipassana (MN 149 :ugeek: ). AN 11.2 :meditate: says unambiguously vipassana occurs without an "act of will". Seems like u have more samatha vs vipassana propaganda to unlearn.
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmThe only real counter argument
:popcorn:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmI have to that (if you want to call it that), revolves around the issue of what is and is not object as it pertains to samatha practice.
Samatha - lol
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm What a meditator is doing here is defining the area in which the mind is allowed to reside in and getting the mind to stay still within it.
ftw? :shrug:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmIf we are practicing anapanasati
anapanasati never restricts the mind. anapanasati says to set "mindfulness" ("sati") to the fore. "Sati" ("mindfulness") does not mean "awareness" or "consciousness". "Sati" means to bring & keep Right View in the mind (MN 117; SN 46.3; etc)
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmthen this can be a little confusing since a number of the steps require us to perform insight.
Its not confusing for those who have followed the instructions in the Anapanasati Sutta, which says a mindfulness is established that is dependent on solitude (from the hindrances), dispassion, cessation of willfulness/craving and matures in letting go (vossagga)
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm We might think "that's part of the meditation", i.e. while focusing on the breath, we are in jhana while focusing on impermanence.
there is no breath in jhana. there is no need to "focus" (lol) on impermanence. When the mind has a pure non-attached concentration, it will naturally automatically discern the impermanence of the in & out breathes; both in terms of their presence and their quality or texture (rough, smooth, refined, long, short, etc).
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmBut is that the object that's defined for anapanasati?
Every stage of anapanasati from 3 to 16 says the practitioner "trains onself", which means the three trainings of higher morality, higher mind & higher wisdom are occurring. From stage 3, the practitioner with right concentration is discerning the impermanence of the objects. However, at stage 13, impermanence itself becomes the object (rather than an object, such as breathing or rapture, that is impermanent).
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm Most of the steps deal with having the mind calmed, settled and focusing on one thing.
No.
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmIn my own experience
:popcorn:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm the steps dealing with perceptions of impermanence are there to deal with distractions and in to induce vipassana
Your experience, as you described above, appears one of distractions. If so, MN 118 literally says it is not possible for a distracted mind, without mindfulness & clear comprehension, to practise Anapanasati. Those with distracted mind are best to follow MN 10 rather than MN 118.
MN 118 wrote:I don't say that there is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing in one of lapsed mindfulness and no alertness

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
:alien:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm, where the object is the breath and all other phenomena are let go of.
The breath is never let go of in Anapanasati, as literally written in the sutta. When some Westerners with strong ego learn they are not practising jhana, not practising Anapanasati, but only can use newbie Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10), humiliation occurs, dukkha occurs or arises. They then start accusing teachers of being mean-spirited. :mrgreen:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmThe visuddhimagga states that those steps, though listed as a parted of the anapanasati sutta would actually be better classified as impermanence meditation, which, owing to it's nature as a a sort of thinking meditation, can only lead to access concentration.
Vipassaana and anapanasati do not use any "thinking". "Vipassana" means "clear" or "special seeing". "Seeing" ("passati") does not mean "thinking" ("vitakka").
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmIn practice however
:popcorn:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm meditating in line with the sutta will include elements of a number of perceptions that are classed as different meditation subjects in and of themselves but that together form a complete path to the end goal. Meditating on breath alone under the guidance of the sutta will not only get one into jhana but will also fulfil the four satipatthana and the seven factors of enlightenment and thus forms a complete path.
:thumbsup: :bow: :bow:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmHowever, the parts about meditating on impermanence, if I understand correctly, are not part of the jhana proper but are part of either a sort of aniccasanna or a reviewing consciousness.
Jhana appears unrelated to Anapanasati. Anapanasati appears to be access concentration. in Anapanasati, there is no "reviewing consciousness".
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pmThe single perception of the in and out breathing would be the basis of the jhana.
Maybe but so what?
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:09 pm If one were to raise the jhana into the formless realm, then we're using the space or air kasina or something similar to do so and it's at that point we're no longer using the breath as an object.
Once in jhana breath is no longer an object. Its like flying on a plane to Rome. Once in Rome, the mind is no longer on the plane. Anyway, the distracted probably should stick to MN 10 & DN 22 for newbies, rather than MN 118 or jhanas.

:smile:
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pm pericope
:thinking:

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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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DooDoot wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 9:01 pm
You just like to contradict me don't you? lol
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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Ceisiwr wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:55 pm
Makes sense to me :twothumbsup:
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pm MN 119's jhana pericope meaning "body" still stands as an interesting topic of discussion.
The above has been discussed to death for many years
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pm The reason is this: in jhana, nama-rupa is still present.
No, only "nama-kaya" is present rather than "rupa-kaya".

However, why they are called "rupa-jhana" is probably because the feelings have their source in the "rupa-kaya".

This said, many monks such as Dhammanando, Sujato, Brahm, etc, say "rupa-jhana" refers to the mental image (but i disagree).
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pmIn meditation, the work being done by the meditator is to fabricate
no. the work of the meditator is to "let go"
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pmthe way the object is held by the mind so that the mind does not waver from it.
No.
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pmThe sankharas that are making the mind stick to the object are happening in the nama realm but they are not what the meditator is aiming to pay attention to.
:thinking:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pmThey are the conditioners of the form being observed and that's how one gets into jhana.
:jawdrop:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pmBy perceiving the object as "beautiful, pleasant, calm, peaceful" and the like, the mind will be inclined to stay there.
So what? What is wrong with that? The Buddha praised calm abiding plus Nibbana :meditate:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pm Likewise by perceiving sensuality as "vulgar, base, suffering" etc., the mind will be inclined to give it up.
:twothumbsup:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pm What the meditator does in the preliminary stages is to adjust the nama so that it will stay with a single rupa.
Yes. But the adjustment is based in "letting go".
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 8:24 pmI believe (though I really have no clue if this is true) that this is why the jhanas are called rupa jhanas, is because they have an object external to nama.
I say they are called "rupa-jhana" is probably because the feelings (such as rapture) have their source in the "rupa-kaya". It is like a bubbling up surface well that has a source of underground water. The water comes from underground but the water is experienced at the surface.

This said, many monks such as Dhammanando, Sujato, Brahm, etc, say "rupa-jhana" refers to the mental image in jhana.

Neither of the above views has verification in sutta but i have conviction my view is the correct one. :mrgreen:
pitithefool wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 9:10 pmYou just like to contradict me don't you? lol
You mean i like to "teach" & "instruct" you with Right Understanding. :heart:
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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DooDoot wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 9:01 pm Jhana appears unrelated to Anapanasati. Anapanasati appears to be access concentration. in Anapanasati, there is no "reviewing consciousness".
I get what you're saying. If you're practicing all of the steps, that gets you to access, then once absorption, the sutta itself sortof becomes irrelevant, right? I.e., you aren't "calming the body" while watching the breath, and once full absorption is had, the only thing in your awareness is the jhana factors, correct?
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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DooDoot wrote: Sun May 09, 2021 9:18 pm no. the work of the meditator is to "let go"
Yes, and letting go is a fabrication, is it not?

I see where you're going with this, but I can't deny the jhana itself is fabricated.
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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DooDoot wrote: ↑Sun May 09, 2021 9:18 pm
no. the work of the meditator is to "let go"

And his ring rival, Pittithefool, answering with a left uppercut:

"Yes, and letting go is a fabrication, is it not?

I see where you're going with this, but I can't deny the jhana itself is fabricated".

:coffee:

I think this is an interesting issue. Those are two different approaches to meditation. One is about letting go and dropping things - such as hindrances, but also our will, our senses, our expectations and the thirst for knowledge.

Another approach is about pondering, manipulating, examining and tweaking. And even jhanas became more like a vipassana in such interpretation, with vitaka understood as thinking, senses and bodily sensations still present,, lack od strong ekaggata, etc.

For example Ven. Thanissaro breath meditation instructions focus on manipulating the experience, looking for a pleasant breath sensation and adjusting it. There is a will effort involved and for sure lot of fabricating. Anfd he has some valid arguments. He pointed out, that the phrases used by the Buddha often indicate effort and craft, "like a skilled turner" in Sattipathana Sutta, for example. "He trains himself". It means choice, will and effort in his book. Thanissaro also wrote, that according to Buddha, the passive "here and now" meditation, with just being there and experiencing stuff, is not the best one, but it has it's uses. Thanissaro aims at stopping of the "becoming" that 's his phrase. You became such anexpert on fabricating, and noticng the fabrications, including jhanas, that it finally stops.

I like some of Ven Thanissaro stuff a lot, but im my experience, will and it's petty games is an obstacle in meditation, really. Letting go will take you much further. The direction is to experience less, not more.

Jhana is conditioned and impermanent, sure. Tt's sankhara - and only Nibbana isn't. But are jhana fabricated - created - by a meditator's effort and will?

I don't think so. Tt's about dropping things and liberating from them, not acquiring new stuff. Nibbana means emptiness :!: :mrgreen:
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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Tennok wrote: Mon May 10, 2021 5:04 am
For example Ven. Thanissaro breath meditation instructions focus on manipulating the experience, looking for a pleasant breath sensation and adjusting it. There is a will effort involved and for sure lot of fabricating. Anfd he has some valid arguments. He pointed out, that the phrases used by the Buddha often indicate effort and craft, "like a skilled turner" in Sattipathana Sutta, for example. "He trains himself". It means choice, will and effort in his book. Thanissaro also wrote, that according to Buddha, the passive "here and now" meditation, with just being there and experiencing stuff, is not the best one, but it has it's uses. Thanissaro aims at stopping of the "becoming" that 's his phrase. You became such anexpert on fabricating, and noticng the fabrications, including jhanas, that it finally stops.

I like some of Ven Thanissaro stuff a lot, but im my experience, will and it's petty games is an obstacle in meditation, really. Letting go will take you much further. The direction is to experience less, not more.

Jhana is conditioned and impermanent, sure. Tt's sankhara - and only Nibbana isn't. But are jhana fabricated - created - by a meditator's effort and will?

I don't think so. Tt's about dropping things and liberating from them, not acquiring new stuff. Nibbana means emptiness :!: :mrgreen:
It's conceptual again.

I guess it depends on how appropriate a certain answer is for a given question, especially the effect that it has on the meditator.

For Thanissaro, he's saying the path, the vitakka vicara, the jhana itself, that is all fabricated. Even for Ajahn Brahm, whose biggest thing is "let go, don't fabricate", that statement is a fabrication as is the act of letting go. That's why I like Thanissaro's acknowledgments that those acts of letting go, relaxing, "allowing" and not trying to interfere are actually what's fabricating the experience. It's the act of letting go that allows fabrications to fall away, and, like ir or not, letting go is a fabrication, and a willed act. AT's just saying "be aware of the subtle fabrications".
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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pitithefool wrote: Wed May 12, 2021 9:18 pm ...
You aren’t entirely wrong per se. Letting go is a ceasing of activity, so it’s not a building up of activity. Vitakka-vicara are intentions to let go, of renunciation (Right Intention). The Jhanas are states of letting go which is why the ascetics of DN1 (the ones at the end), who were also looking for Nibbana, the state of complete stillness, mistook them for Nibbana. What the Buddha realised was the conditionality of these states, as there is still some subtle intention and desire there. The Buddha’s Nibbana therefore is when you really let go and no longer intend at all. Until then, if we start with the 1st Jhana, the mindfulness awakening factor is established based on recollecting Right View and the Dhamma in terms of wholesome and unwholesome states followed by dhamma-vicaya, which is the analysis of your current meditative state, and the 4 exertions which becomes the basis for rapture etc. Once the hindrances have been abandoned then the mind naturally follows the breath and is gradually calmed and stilled by the breath without any willing being required, but as it all started with intent consciousness becomes established in that abode. One leaves, reviews and then develops the 2nd Jhana and so on until the 4th where after reviewing all intention is abandoned and let go of due to understanding. It’s not the intent to renounce. It’s simply the ceasing and stilling of intentions towards the most refined existence (Jhana) and the most refined non-existence (the formless), with intention to the world of the 5 senses having been given up earlier.

On a related note I’m beginning to wonder if vitakka-vicara wouldn’t be better translated as something along the lines of initial and sustained intention of renunciation, rather than initial and sustained intention towards an object.
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

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Ceisiwr wrote: Wed May 12, 2021 10:39 pm
pitithefool wrote: Wed May 12, 2021 9:18 pm ...
You aren’t entirely wrong per se. Letting go is a ceasing of activity, so it’s not a building up of activity. Vitakka-vicara are intentions to let go, of renunciation (Right Intention). The Jhanas are states of letting go which is why the ascetics of DN1 (the ones at the end), who were also looking for Nibbana, the state of complete stillness, mistook them for Nibbana. What the Buddha realised was the conditionality of these states, as there is still some subtle intention and desire there. The Buddha’s Nibbana therefore is when you really let go and no longer intend at all. Until then, if we start with the 1st Jhana, the mindfulness awakening factor is established based on recollecting Right View and the Dhamma in terms of wholesome and unwholesome states followed by dhamma-vicaya, which is the analysis of your current meditative state, and the 4 exertions which becomes the basis for rapture etc. Once the hindrances have been abandoned then the mind naturally follows the breath and is gradually calmed and stilled by the breath without any willing being required, but as it all started with intent consciousness becomes established in that abode. One leaves, reviews and then develops the 2nd Jhana and so on until the 4th where after reviewing all intention is abandoned and let go of due to understanding. It’s not the intent to renounce. It’s simply the ceasing and stilling of intentions towards the most refined existence (Jhana) and the most refined non-existence (the formless), with intention to the world of the 5 senses having been given up earlier.

On a related note I’m beginning to wonder if vitakka-vicara wouldn’t be better translated as something along the lines of initial and sustained intention of renunciation, rather than initial and sustained intention towards an object.
Even then, they're willed but the "willing" is giving up. It's almost paradoxical but that's how the path is fabricated and the end goal is not.
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Srilankaputra
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Re: Canonical defnition of jhana

Post by Srilankaputra »

Just some thoughts (as I understand)

Regarding the 'vitakka' factor in the first absorption. Does it mean 'thought', as its normally used in the English language?

I tend to think of it this way. Its the same force, same capability that directs one's awareness on some stream of thought(usually unrestrained like a water hose). But becomes utilised in a much more focused manner, with the support of the other factors.

Lokāmisaṃ pajahe santipekkho ti
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