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Jhanas and Christian Prayer

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Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 2/23/09 7:22 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 2/23/09 7:23 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Julius P0pp 2/24/09 9:53 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Wet Paint 2/25/09 12:10 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 2/25/09 4:02 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 2/25/09 4:07 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Wet Paint 2/25/09 4:19 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 2/25/09 4:26 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Julius P0pp 2/25/09 8:30 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer S. Pro 2/12/10 4:40 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 2/25/09 8:56 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer triple think 3/1/09 11:07 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Hokai Sobol 3/1/09 11:35 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 3/1/09 11:40 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Guillermo Z 3/2/09 10:09 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer triple think 3/3/09 1:05 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 3/3/09 2:01 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Guillermo Z 3/3/09 11:13 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 3/3/09 11:36 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Guillermo Z 3/3/09 12:39 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer tarin greco 3/3/09 1:57 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Wet Paint 3/4/09 12:53 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer triple think 3/4/09 1:51 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jackson Wilshire 3/4/09 5:00 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer triple think 3/5/09 10:59 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer triple think 3/5/09 11:04 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Guillermo Z 3/10/09 4:17 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Hokai Sobol 3/10/09 6:35 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Jeff Grove 3/13/09 9:41 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Ed clay vannoy 5/8/09 12:42 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Ed clay vannoy 5/8/09 12:57 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer tarin greco 5/8/09 2:15 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer tarin greco 5/8/09 2:17 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Ed clay vannoy 5/8/09 3:19 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer j g 5/8/09 10:21 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Florian 5/8/09 11:15 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Ed clay vannoy 5/9/09 3:10 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer tarin greco 5/9/09 3:33 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Ed clay vannoy 5/9/09 2:07 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Julius P0pp 5/10/09 7:05 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Daniel M. Ingram 5/10/09 8:09 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer j g 5/10/09 8:24 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer j g 5/10/09 8:26 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Alex W 2/12/10 7:03 AM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Mike Monson 2/12/10 2:03 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer Ed clay vannoy 5/11/09 3:26 PM
RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer j g 5/11/09 8:36 PM
Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/23/09 7:22 AM
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

I had some interesting memories/flashbacks while exploring the jhanas today. I noticed a strong correlation between the kind of prayer I practiced as a Pentecostal youth and two concentration states; access concentration and first jhana.

For anyone who has ever entered prayer with the intention of feeling the presence of God or basking in the Holy Spirit, the state you enter when you close your eyes and begin to intentionally focus on and/or incline toward sensing the divine -- this is access concentration.

After staying with that for a time (anywhere from seconds to minutes), you may feel that the Holy Spirit really falls on you with a sensation of tangible presence. It's a noticeable change from the previous state, and even more so from everyday, unfocused reality. By focusing on and staying with that sensation, you enter and abide in what is much like first shamatha jhana.

Depending on how long one remains in prayer, the other jhanas may be experienced as well. The unwavering ability to sit and maintain solid awareness of this presence for hours, as I used to do at church camps from ages 10 thru 18, really deepens once ability to quickly access these states later in life. Looking back, I often tried to stay with the more exhilarating feelings associated with first jhana instead of refining in to the higher states because I thought there was something very important about the exhilaration. I can remember times, though, when more peaceful, less exhilarating states did arise. The experiences always felt very healing and restorative, much like they do now. They gave me a renewed sense of faith in God, just as the jhanas now bring a renewed assurance in the Buddha-dharma.

(continued)

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/23/09 7:23 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Before recently (thanks for Kenneth and Tarin posting their wonderful jhana descriptions and instructions), I was quite confused about how to identify and work with the jhanas. Now that I'm learning, I am able to remember times when these states were accessed before. Merely reflecting on the memory is enough to catapult me in to one of these states.

Have any of you made similar connections to spiritual feelings from your past? I'm sure there are countless descriptions from every religious tradition in the book. I think it's really fascinating how they all come together in one way or another.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/24/09 9:53 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Now that you say it, I have some memories from playing music where I got at least to access concentration.
From the joy I felt it could have been 1st or 2nd jhana, but I am not that familiar with the jhanas yet and don't know if one can access jhana while playing music or play music while in jhana. Anyone who knows more about this? Musicians all know what "being in the flow" feels like (whatever that means), but most cannot access it at will and it just happens every now and then.
I tried reflecting on some of the memories, and the feelings came back, though I couln't hold them for long.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/25/09 12:10 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Author: josh0

I'm far from an authority on the subject, but I believe that the whole 'being in the groove/flow/zone' feeling you get when doing pretty much anything is at the very least closely related to the jhanas. Certainly in the case of prayer, I think the very fact that we, as a community, refer to the 'Dark Night' is evidence that prayer is, or at least can be, a form of meditation. Similarly if you read the teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov (founder of hassidic judaism) you'll probably recognize much of his teachings about 'God' as sounding awfully familiar.

I suspect that any activity involving concentration can and probably will lead to greater and greater concentrative abilities which can, eventually, lead to the jhanas.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/25/09 4:02 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Thanks for the reply.

I play music as well (though, not as much as I used to), and I can remember many experiences similar to what you wrote about. I think that getting access concentration from getting really in to music is a given. For me, it's the sense of really settling in to the "pocket" or "groove" of the practice.

Jhana, I think, might be little harder to directly perceive and solidify while focusing on playing an instrument. For me, jhana is most noticible when it is all that I'm focusing on. By directing my attention to the qualities of the experience and grabbing on, I good a good sense of jhana. This would be hard for me to do while playing an instrument.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/25/09 4:07 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
This is exactly what I was alluding to. I think we (as Western meditators) can get intimidated by jhanas and other aspects of meditation practice because the conceptualization of them seem as foreign as the cultures that brought them to us. Realizing that the states are near, not far, is important. Thinking back to a time when you were really focused, and re-living the experience in the present moment, may be what one needs to do in order to launch in to deeper states.

I'm no master of concentration states, so any critiques of these ideas is welcome by anyone who has more experience with jhanas, particularly in a comparative sense to similar activities.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/25/09 4:19 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Author: josh0

I wonder if it might benefit Western practitioners with our unfortunate workaholic mentality to introduce the idea of access concentration as 'getting in the zone'. I imagine that just about everyone in every walk of live has experienced this whether it's studying for a test, preparing for a meeting, or even something as 'simple' as working on your car.

I've been toying, lately, with the idea of 'reading meditation'. I've been an avid reader all my life, and all my life I've been prone to completely zoning out and being entirely absorbed into what I'm reading. Why not try and take advantage of that as a way to build a solid foundation of concentration?

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/25/09 4:26 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
I think what we're both getting at is that there are lots of ways to get one's concentration really strong. Reading is a great example of becoming absorbed in an activity. Applying that same state of mind to meditation practice could be very beneficial. For example, when you're really in to reading a book, you're not dwelling on your own "stuff", or getting stuck on a single word or phrase for a long period. You're moving along with what is presented in an open and relaxed way (ideally). This same process can be applied to samatha and vipassana practice.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/25/09 8:30 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Any of you knows or has been to Taizé? It's a charming community in France where my "becoming awake" started.
They have wonderful prayers (amongst other things) where they sing most of the time short songs, repeated many times, like mantra japa. I've strong feelings attached to these songs and the place they come from, one of my homes before I decided to be at home everywhere.
http://www.taize.fr/en_article681.html
listen to "da pacem cordium", it's one of my favourites.
my question: can you attain jhana while "singing" the melody mentally over and over again? or do you have to use "sacred syllables" in some ancient language, like maranatha?

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/25/09 8:56 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Great question,

I heard Bill Harris mention a study where a group of people were instructed to sit in a meditation posture and repeat, "One. One. One. One. One." The results showed that this was just as effective at producing deep meditation as when yogis chant a sacred mantra.

So, I'm inclined to think that it doesn't really matter what you sing/chant/recite, as long as you get REALLY in to it, or BECOME the song/mantra. This is just my opinion, and it comes from limited personal experience. I'd be interested to hear other points of view.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/1/09 11:07 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
A single object, simple or compounded, and taking as non-dual as possible mode of approach, is the basic idea.

One might investigate the various textual evidence that at least some of the apostles of Christ had some knowledge of jhana and other insights. This can be carried on into a study of the various other groups at the time such as the essenes and the gnostics. There are also many accounts of greek philosophers entering jhana while either sitting, standing or walking. I wish I could remember which philosopher was named in the account of an observation by a soldier of a philosopher remaining unmoving in absorption for many hours having stopped in mid-step while walking. I have not found any clearly stated evidence of transcendent jhana in these accounts but there are many unknowns involved given the limited literature available. One would think that the closer back to the Buddha's day the more stream entrants there would have been re-arising in the world in many places and that these beings would be internally compelled to continue to pursue the development of insight even if there were no direct contact with the Buddha's spoken doctrine and discipline.

All of this is very interesting but it doesn't do nearly as much to inform us about what jhana is or what awakening involves as do the Sangha/Dharma lineages and the contemporary and openly shared understandings and reformulations of Dharma can and are doing.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/1/09 11:35 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
"It doesn't really matter what you sing" is too strong, taking the perspective of sheer effort in concentration, since (1) what you sing also plays a role in your becoming one, AND because (2) it does matter what you become one with, AND because (3) based on 1 and 2 it's really important how much of you becomes one with what you sing.

In short, "sound as such" is just one dimension of sacred chant. The meaning is also important, while in some traditions the syllables play an important role as well. There are various levels of sophistication and pragmatic value, depending on specific context.

The whole thing is similar to the question of posture in meditation - their is "body as such" being appropriate for mindfulness in all postures, and then there is the specific posture used for specific meditation. Including sometimes certain gesture, gaze, breath etc.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/1/09 11:40 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hey Hokai,

I can see where my line of reasoning here is skewed. I don't have any experience with sacred chant the way you describe it, so my opinion as stated above isn't really valid. Thanks for the clarification.

Jackson

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/2/09 10:09 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi Jackson,

back to your original question, I do not possess first hand experience from my Christian past (actually I was a "coach-potato-christian"), but my mother and her friends do. Here are some commentaries to this:
- From my observation, they reach some sort of altered state, which has some jahna like qualities (e.g. rapture).
- They describe this state as God, or being in the presence of God
- This type of experience is more common than we might expect
- You can identify those individuals by the amount of propaganda they do (evangelization, etc). Something like: "I saw god during my pray, it is real, you should try my path, everything else is wrong"

From these observations I can comment that:
- It might be sad to hear that they are convinced that this is "it" (they confuse a Jhana with illumination)
- After reading a part of the "The Path of Serenity and Insight" (a good one by the way) I would tend to think that they did not reach the first Jahna, but got perhaps access concentration (this can lead to a long discussion and depends on how strict you define those states)
- Considering the points above, this is the where I praise the path of the Buddha: he described the path and the fruit as clearly as it gets (it is less probable to get side-tracked in a Jahna as in other traditions). There are clear methods to develop wisdom and get enlighten as well as clear methods on how to access the jahnas. The difference between the two is clear!
- I have not found any other religion that state the path so clear as in Buddhism... I guess that that is why I am practitioner in this path :-)

Guillermo

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/3/09 1:05 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Your experience is of some value but limited by the insight existent at the time right? Go to a church service, sing and do insight, or do concentration. All philosophical and religious insight apart from Dharma is mundane and so is the depth of insight into the nature of being and becoming. This limits the interpretive framework to sectarian views and the applications of the resulting technologies are variously limited.

Right understanding and skillful application of Jhana as it is comes from Dharma and only right Dharma understanding produces transcendent Jhana. That is why it doesn't fall into sectarian view points. But definitely the same mundane tools can be employed to all kinds of ends. Concentration and insight are as common as clay in some apps. See what you see. I went to a church again a few years ago, the singing was a rush man.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/3/09 2:01 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi Guillermo. Great points. This is exactly what I was getting at.

I agree that an access concentration like state is more probably more common than a deep 1st jhana type of state within this context. I think that a minority of people who participate in Christian prayer (at least in the Pentecostal tradition I come from) experience deeper states. The deep states may arise, I think, when talk switches from merely the presence of God falling on someone to more of a subtle and stable peace of God develops with sustained prayer. Some exhilaration may remain, though.

It seems as though some people get really excited when they first feel the exhilarating rush of the access concentration like state, and then erupt in in praise or get up and start telling people that they feel/felt God. I think if one were to relax in to the process and stay calm and focused, the state would eventually deepen.

Also, it is possible to do vipassana (and good vipassana, IMO) from the place of access concentration. This could be why some (probably many) Christians may cross the arising and passing away, and thus be stuck with insight disease until they find a way out. In my experience, the Pentecostal tradition does not offer up any systematic processes to get from A&P to stream entry. Other Christian traditions have better maps.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/3/09 11:13 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi Jackson,

for me would be interesting to hear about the Christian maps, specially because I could give it to my mom. Could you give me some pointers?

Guillermo

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/3/09 11:36 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi Guillermo,

I'm no expert on the Christian maps. There's a book out called "Christian Insight Meditation" that compares St. John of the Cross' Ladder of Love map with the Theravada models, and there's a preview available for free at Google Books --> http://tinyurl.com/b4zvyy

Also, Daniel told me recently that he was reading through some writings by St. Teresa of Avila, and that it was all pretty solid (aside from all of the associated dogma). I don't know of any strictly Christian resources that spell out the Christian contemplative techniques and maps in plain English, but they could be out there.

I hope that helps a little. Thanks.

Jackson

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/3/09 12:39 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi,

Thanks! good link. I might buy it for my mom.... perhaps we could some day speak the same language :-)

Guillermo

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/3/09 1:57 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
'the cloud of unknowing' spells out a technique that is identical to hardcore vipassana with an emphasis on suffering and impermanence characteristics (the impulse to love god, done as many times as possible as consistently as possible). however it falls more on the 'direct approach' side of things as it does not formulate a map but instructs practitioners to lose everything else but this impulse in a 'cloud of unknowing' (aka 'dont indulge in your crap' and 'analysis is not the same as practice'!). great book, great stuff.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/4/09 12:53 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Author: Daniel_G

Ok, an example I recall from youth in concentration was my work with morse code. I was an active ham radio operator and for liked 'working cw' -conversing in morse code as opposed to voice. At higher speeds and under interference you really have to keep the internal chatter to a minimum and attention up or you miss parts of a message. Used to get very 'rapturous ' states, floating lifting or light mental states while doing it. Opinions - were these jhana states or just revery?

Thanks.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/4/09 1:51 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
@Guillermo: Bernadette Roberts has come closer than anyone I can think of to putting together a more complete Christian 'Map'. She has some books out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernadette_Roberts
see also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Merton

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/4/09 5:00 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
It's hard to say if the experiences were jhanic. A good clue might be to think back to how long the states lasted, and how stable they felt. The rapturous feelings can be cause by lots of things, including just being excited about doing something really well and really fast.

If you focus your attention on something somewhat stable, like your breath or a visual object, can you achieve a similar state?

Jackson

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/5/09 10:59 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
I don't think church worshipers are practicing jhana but they are practicing something. In trad. Theravada there is a practice of the four brahmavihara states of mind; metta, karuna, mudita, and upekkha which has a course of development which comes to include all kinds of beings. Then there is the further development of the four immeasurable deliverances of mind (appamana cetovimutti) which have immeasurable living beings as their object. These practices mesh very well with jhana practices in particular and I feel have many benefits for vipassana practice as well. In fact these can not become immeasurable without vipassana practice.

It should not be hard to see that if there are four projected ethical or religious sentiments capable of generating an immeasurable deliverance similar to the deliverances of mind by nothingness (akiñcañña cetovimutti) and by emptiness (suññata cetovimutti) then there is quite an intimate relationship between meditation practices and a lot of other religious practices in general. There is plenty of literature extant on the brahmavihara practices so I won't go into that.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/5/09 11:04 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
I cribbed together some notes for those interested because of the relationships between these 'states' (cetovimutti):

-Quite a number of the cetasikas will be present at the moment of animitta-cetovimutti. Which ones in particular will depend on which of the five rupajjhanas is present at the time of the arising of the supramundane consciousness.
-The four immeasurable deliverances of mind (appamana cetovimutti) have living beings as their object.
-The deliverance of mind by nothingness (akiñcañña cetovimutti) has the sphere of nothingness as its object.
-The deliverances of mind by emptiness (suññata cetovimutti) and signlessness (animitta cetovimutti) have Nibbana as their object.
-Appamana cetovimutti and akiñcana cetovimutti have no essential relationship with insight development but the former may be used as the basis for it. Animitta cetovimutti, suññata cetovimutti and akuppa cetovimutti are the culmination of insight development.
'How do these kinds of awareness release connect to vedana and to the results of scrutinizing vedana via the progress of insight?'
-At the moment of release sukha or upekkha vedana will be one of the accompanying mental factors.
-Weak insight knowledge (taruna-vipassana-ñana) may arise from the scrutinizing of vedana that is successful in discerning its specific characteristic and then its common characteristics (anicca, dukkha and anatta). This provides the foundation for the subsequent development of strong insight knowledge, culminating in one or another of the supramundane releases.
'Is this the same kind of 'awareness of a living being as object'?
-No. Vipassana knowledge, even at the lowest level, has dhammas as its object.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/10/09 4:17 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Thanks TripleThink!

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/10/09 6:35 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Reference link: Centering prayer by Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington, and William Meninger.

For info see http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
3/13/09 9:41 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Bernadette Roberts has written 3 books of her contemplative journey:
The Experience of No Self,
The Path to No Self, and
What is Self.
Her contemplative maps cover similar territory.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/8/09 12:42 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
The 14th century English Monk who wrote the Cloud of Unknowing advised using just this word in his mantra-like practice for attaining contemplative prayer. I think he also said that it doesn't really matter what word you use, but he advised to use one of one syllable. Believe me, his maps are excellent.

Ed

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/8/09 12:57 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi,

I wrote my post above before I got down to this post. It has been years since I last read this great book in its entirety, but I stand by my statement that it contains a great map of the territory. The 'cloud of unknowing' is a lot more than 'don't indulge in your crap' but it certainly includes that in no uncertain terms!

Ed

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/8/09 2:15 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
ed,

refresh my memory, it's been a while - what did his maps look like? i dont remember them at all.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/8/09 2:17 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
oops, i meant to write "..to lose everything else but this impulse in a 'cloud of forgetting'".. thanks for the catch.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/8/09 3:19 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
It isn't that long a book, reread it! :-)

I intend to!


It is late and my son wants me to read him a story. Gotta go!

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/8/09 10:21 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
This is a big one for me. I have basically taken the stance that my slate has been wiped clean so any previous incidents don't count toward anything here.

But I have wondered if some of the states of prayer as a pentecostal/charismatic (I deconverted from Christianity back in Dec. of 2006) can compare to my Buddhist practice.

Some examples of what I experienced was:
- I had a "confession booklet" where I would read Bible scriptures aloud at a fast pace, such as, "I am the righteousness of God in Christ, I am the head and not the tail...blah, blah, blah"
- I would speak in tongues (jibberish) and would go into states of "travail". If you've never witnessed this, it's a trip. Basically I experienced strong emotions of joy or lament etc.
- There were times that the "praying in the Spirit" was so intense that I would have visions of different things including future events, especially stuff involving the church I was a part of. I would also get a "spirit of prophecy" and would utter things I felt "moved" to say. Although I consider it all bunk now, being the rational skeptic I am, I have to admit that quite a bit of stuff came true (but probably due to lobbing enough balls one is eventually going to hit the target).
- I would play melodies on the piano and sing with a strong intent that would cause me to feel a strong presence in the room, along with a strong sense of peace and joy.

Anyways, it's all probably all bullshit, but I thought this post looked interesting.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/8/09 11:15 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi Jamie,

The "clean slate" and "it's all bullshit" approach can be useful for a while. Take your time, and also be gentle towards yourself. Where you find yourself now is, after all, a consequence of where you were before that.

Reflecting on past experiences, viewing them in different terms and from within a different conceptual framework, has been a very useful thing for me to do, when done with a clear understanding of the difference between the actual experience (i.e. the sense of presence) and the interpretation, or story, or "stuff" I project onto it - i.e. "it was the presence of God" vs. "no, it was not the presence of God, it's all bunk" vs. "actually, it was some divine abode such as Metta, or a Jhana, or..."

This distinction is absolutely crucial. That feeling of presence was your actual, genuine experience. What you make of it in terms of your preferred conceptual framework is, at the end of the day, an opinion of how things should or shouldn't be. There's a great chapter in MCTB, "From Content to Insight", where Daniel explains this in a very clear way, though working with a different example.

Great to have you here, BTW.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/9/09 3:10 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
It sounds as if we share a somewhat similar background. The main difference being that I deconverted from Christianity in the early '80s. I went through a lot of reaction to my Christian experience, but now can view it as a time of enormous growth, even though most of the content of that experience is now alien to me.

I view it all as beneficial now. I got what was good from the tradition that I was born into (a lot!) and was also inoculated against what was bad in it (also a lot!).

Ed

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/9/09 3:33 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
ach no, its plenty long enough, especially to be reading online - i dont have it anymore!

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/9/09 2:07 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Okay, fair enough.

After I reread it I will post something, probably something short.

Ed

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/10/09 7:05 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi Jamie,
very interesting and inspiring what you wrote. Can you tell me more on how you used the piano? I had some good experiences involving music, instrumental or singing, but I was never able to reproduce them at will and I never had them while being alone. I play the piano as well, so I'm very curious to hear some more on this.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/10/09 8:09 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Regarding music, I am sure I used to get into various somewhat soft, low-jhanic states when playing scales on guitar or playing music as a teenager, I have crossed the A&P while dancing, and as a sound man for bands I used to see more than hear the mix, with moving various colors and shapes for all the instruments and timbres and frequencies positioned in the sound field.

Regarding early Christian experiences, I got a lot out of my early teenage years in a Presbyterian youth group that was populated by some very cool, loving, helpful, moral people, and it was during that time that I first crossed the A&P. I think that those years and also the my time in the Boy Scouts and the long hikes we went on, the high adventure trips and other related activities really helped my early practice, and I am grateful to them, flaws and all. I am also grateful to the small, private Christian Quaker school I attended from 2nd through 4th grade, as, in addition to being largely run by some very ecologically minded hippies that had a huge influence on my view of the planet and still inform the permaculture and green building stuff I am doing now 30 years later, they not only made us sit in silence for 10 minutes every morning, but in 4th grade I got to take an elective course in meditation called "Close Encounters", in which we learned some basic breathing techniques, the body relaxation technique where you tense muscles sequentially from toes to head and when relaxing them visualize relaxing light moving into them, and played with all sorts of other interesting visualization exercises, all of which I am sure helped inform the work I did later that got me the A&P.

As so well state above, do not dismiss those previous attainments, abilities and insights just because of whatever reaction you have to some of the doctrines or trappings surrounding them, as they are two different things. In short, don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/10/09 8:24 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
@ Julius416

During my Christian years I was very zealous. At the time I was in college studying to be a vocal music teacher in a high school as well as Sound Engineer for my church. I also played the piano during altar time at the end of the service as well as play during the prayer meetings. Knowing a lot of the worship choruses and being able to read guitar tablature I would improvise by reading the guitar chords above the sheet music and wander around the melody off of that. I also spent a lot of personal time in prayer, using the piano as an instrument of worship. I usually would play some song that I found moving and play with the chords, or just break out singing the chorus, or a particular phrase in the song over and over. Doing this with just one light on in the worship hall by myself in the middle of the night (I had a key to the building) led to some pretty spectacular experiences of "God's presence", although obviously I feel differently about the experiences now and what they validated.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/10/09 8:26 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
@ danielmingram

I'm so new in the game that I don't know if I have even crossed the A&P, so I haven't judged any of my past experiences yet. I figured instead of getting real active on this site with a lot of questions about different experiences that I have had, I would do as you have often stated, especially on the Buddhist Geeks podcast, and that is READ THE BOOK! I've thought about asking, but I didn't want my newness to be interpreted as the often repeated desire for an audience like I was in some kind of therapy session (as some seem to think during Q&A after a group sitting). I figured my answers would come by sitting my ass on the cushion and reading your book, instead of wasting your time or any of the other senior and experienced members time.

I spent most of my teenage years in youth group and had some great experience, but I am not sure how much of it relates to my current practice. Plus, I'm not sure how much of it can be chalked up to just being flaky. There is a joke about Charismatics (I was one) that they were granola bar churches... full of flakes, fruits, and nuts. I can say that I probably flaked out quite a bit. Again, I think reading your book will help me sort some of that out.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/11/09 3:26 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hi Jamie,

You have a great attitude. Get good Dharma and practice. With that attitude I don't think you have to worry about wasting senior members time. For one thing, I don't think they will let you.

As to whether you have passed the A&P, do you have to practice? I don't want to ask you if you are drawn to practice, that just isn't a powerful enough word. Is there an irresistible urge to get this settled that you can't deny? If so, I think you have passed the A&P whether or not you can put your finger on just when that was.

Ed

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
5/11/09 8:36 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Ed,
The rational part of me thinks this sounds flaky, but I do admit a strong desire to practice, as if my entire life is wrapped up in what is waiting at the end of it. Enlightenment, awakening, whatever you want to call, I sense it there waiting, and I need to get "there". Even as a Christian I had a strong passion for the truth of what is the Ultimate Reality of existence. I can't imagine looking back on my life thinking I've wasted my efforts in aimless pursuits, going through endless cycles of samsara, so to speak.

When I first read about the four noble truths I thought to myself that life couldn't be that simple, but it makes sense. And, if philosophical naturalism proves to be correct and there is no afterlife, no karma and rebirth, just a falling asleep to never wake up, then living a "Buddhist life", one of compassion, and an effort to be a better person, and to awaken... well, I don't think that would be a life wasted.

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
Answer
2/12/10 4:40 AM as a reply to Julius P0pp.
Julius Dodd:
Any of you knows or has been to Taizé? It's a charming community in France where my "becoming awake" started.
They have wonderful prayers (amongst other things) where they sing most of the time short songs, repeated many times, like mantra japa. I've strong feelings attached to these songs and the place they come from, one of my homes before I decided to be at home everywhere.
http://www.taize.fr/en_article681.html
listen to "da pacem cordium", it's one of my favourites.
my question: can you attain jhana while "singing" the melody mentally over and over again? or do you have to use "sacred syllables" in some ancient language, like maranatha?


Hi Julius,

I´m surprised someone mentions Taizé here! I´ve never been there but I find the song "Confitemini Domino" deeply touching. I don´t know the one you mentioned though but I´ll look for it.
I really feel that my personal spiritual development took a strong emotional emphasis. You may call it an opening of the heart or something like that. I regard it as very fulfilling compared to meditation. Anyone you understands what I´m talking about? I feel this is really the meaning of devotion, bakhti etc.

A year ago I had this extreme opening of the heart, I overflowed with love which was a general state of being, not directed at anyone and truly selfless.
If I listen to Gangaji or read "The 5 peopole you meet in heaven", look at a certain picture of Paulo Coelho I have acces to it.and sense where some people operate from....

Sitting Bull

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
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2/12/10 7:03 AM as a reply to j g.
Jamie Guinn:
@ danielmingram

I'm so new in the game that I don't know if I have even crossed the A&P, so I haven't judged any of my past experiences yet.


Hi Jamie,

Why don't you tell us more about your Zen experience that I found very interesting?
Getting back to the main topic, I consider some Chistian contemplative traditions, like Father Keating's Centered Prayer or Miguel de Molinos' contemplation, to be very close to Buddhist meditative pratice.

-Alex

RE: Jhanas and Christian Prayer
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2/12/10 2:03 PM as a reply to Alex W.
First time I've seen this thread. Great.
I was around evangelical/charismatic christians a lot in my youth and I've always thought that "jhanic" or "kundalini" type experiences were going on around me all the time.
I think this accounts very much for such christians fervor and faith. I mean, it FEELS like GOD or JESUS or the HOLY SPIRIT. And it can be a powerful, strong, good experience.
And, if in the right cultural context with no other context ever presented to the person, then that person has no choice but to assume or know that they are experiencing GOD.
I pretty much think it is all a natural but empty physical process that is available to all of us under the right conditions.