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Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas

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I’m wondering... Is it possible to go through some of the challenges and quirks of a certain jhana without actually going into jhana? Are there pre-jhanic qualities that accompany certain vipassana stages even if the concentration, energy etc is too poor for the meditator to actually reach a jhanic state?

RE: Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas
Answer
1/6/19 2:46 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I’m wondering... Is it possible to go through some of the challenges and quirks of a certain jhana without actually going into jhana? Are there pre-jhanic qualities that accompany certain vipassana stages even if the concentration, energy etc is too poor for the meditator to actually reach a jhanic state?

Basically, yes. Jhana should be thought of as dimensional rather than categorical - that is, you can be in a jhana only a little bit or be in a jhana very strongly.

There are vipasanna jhanas as well as samatha jhanas (what you're calling a jhanic state is, I believe, a samatha jhana). In the vipasanna jhanas you experience some of the qualities of the associated samatha jhana - so for instance the first vipasanna jhana contains the nanas M&B, C&E, and 3Cs and the qualities of applied and sustained effort come through. The A&P is in the second vipasanna jhana and it has the dropping of applied and sustained effort that goes with that jhana as well as the rapture.

Thank you, JC! Yes, I have been confused for a while about what counts as a jhana, but it had dawned on me now is that it doesn’t really matter. What I need is knowledge about what to look out for, in order to avoid pittfalls. I don’t need to know whether or not I have reached a full-blown third jhana. Regardless of which, the fact is that there is now a blur in the center of my attention whereas sensations in the periphery stand out clearer than ever before. Thus it makes sense for me to just accept that the center of my attention is unclear. Reading about the third vipassana jhana helps with that. I understand why Daniel felt the need to write MCTB(2) and to include Bill Hamilton’s knowledge in it. It really is very helpful in otherwise very confusing phases. Your answer validates this new direction of mine, which I very much appreciate.

RE: Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas
Answer
1/7/19 12:04 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Yep. +1 on what JC said - it's a continuum. On top of that, individual jhana factors can appear outside of jhana, like you noted when you experienced piti without sukkha.

Very true.

Strong piti without sukkha is rather terrifying.

RE: Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas
Answer
1/7/19 7:10 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I’m wondering... Is it possible to go through some of the challenges and quirks of a certain jhana without actually going into jhana? Are there pre-jhanic qualities that accompany certain vipassana stages even if the concentration, energy etc is too poor for the meditator to actually reach a jhanic state?

Hmm, I think this is what you are asking...Actually the answer is very simple: if you do not have strong centering and relaxing (i.e. concentration) then you will experience the progression as the vipassina NANAS, i.e. the nanas (mind and body, cause and effect, three characteristics, arising and passing, dissolution, fear, disgust, misery, desire for deliverance, reobservation, equanimity).

If you have strong concentration, then you experience vipassina JHANAS, i.e. 1) mind and body, cause and effect, and three characteristics will also have aspects of the first vipassina jhana, 2) arising and passing will have aspects of the second vipassina jhana, 3) disolution, fear, disgust, misery, desire for deliverance and reobservation will have aspects of the third vipassina jhana, and 4) equanimity will be equanimity which is basically the fourth vipassina jhana. 

If you have very strong concentration, then you experience the samatha jhanas.

What happens in practice is we move in and out of concentration as we go up and down the nanas, so it can be a confusing mix of nana and jhana... but in time it becomes more obvious.


Hope this helps!

Here's links and cut and pastes of Daniel's write-ups:

At the bottom of this page --- http://integrateddaniel.info/book/  -- there is a 11x17 handout of the stages of insight and awakening with a detailed table of defining criteria may be found below: 
Cut and paste from page 2:

The Samatha Jhanas (Pure Concentration States) Basics: These states are temporary, enjoyable, conducive to developing strong concentration and emotional balance. They are also potentially addictive and can fool people into thinking they are ultimate insights. 1st: applied and sustained attention (aiming and rubbing), rapture, happiness, and concentration. 2nd: aiming and rubbing dropped, so rapture, happiness and concentration predominate. 3rd: rapture dropped, so mindfulness and equanimity predominate with “bodily” bliss present. 4th: equanimity predominates, with neither pleasant nor unpleasant feeling predominating, basis for jhanas 5-8. 5th: Boundless Space, equanimity 6th: Boundless Consciousness, equanimity 7th: Nothingness (out of phase with phenomena), equanimity 8th: Neither Perception Nor Yet Non-perception 9th: Nirodha Samapatti: Cessation of Perception and Feeling, only attained by Anagamis with good samatha skills. Note: the siddhis/powers arise from pure concentration states. They are not related to wisdom. Explore with caution, and good guidance from experienced teachers. Avoid long side-tracks into this territory.

The Vipassana Jhanas These are like the samatha jhanas in some ways, but they involve direct perception of the Three Characteristics of sensations: impermanence at a very fine level (many times per second), no-self (that things arise on their own and are not an observer), and suffering (the fundamental painful tension created by how the mind holds itself to prop up the illusion of a self, center-point, agent, observer, doer, etc.). Each jhana has its sub-jhana aspects, like finer parts of a fractal.

The Ñanas These are stages of direct and heightened perception of aspects of how sensate reality actually is. As our concentration and investigation improve, insight develops in a fairly predictable pattern regardless of tradition. Each ñana has its specific perceptual thresholds, intensities, levels of clarity, emotional and physical side effects, and raptures. That said, some stages are similar to each other, such as the 3rd and 10th, and the 4th and 11th. It is easy to confuse these.

RE: Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas
Answer
1/7/19 9:22 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you! Yes, it helps. It certainly adds important pieces to the the puzzle I’m trying to put together. I think I’m starting to see at least to some extent what pieces I need to retrieve. Your explanation clarifies things.

I think I’m starting to develop my initially poor concentration into something that now enables me to have at least some access to the lower vipassana jhanas under ideal conditions. I can now see the difference between those experiences and my previous experiences of what seems to have been hypnotic trance states (mostly outside any meditative practice). I have had a few experiences lately within formal meditation that may have been vipassana jhanas. At this point I’m not sure because I have been mistaken before. Those experiences do line up with Daniel’s descriptions, though, so they are probably on the right track, which is cool. Mostly I seem to access only some shallow features of them, though, which is probably that confusing mix of nana and vipassana jhana. That is okay. I’m actually really happy about finding out what those previous states were, so that I can learn from the experience and move on to develop the qualities that I lack. I thought I would be embarrassed to find out how mistaken I was, but I’m thrilled because this means that I’m learning and getting closer to seeing things as they are.

I still believe that I experienced first jhana in Kundalini yoga, but then I went into a side track because I didn’t have the skills to maintain sati. It’s a relief to know that now, because now I have an idea what to watch out for.

I will read those links at a pace that I can process. Once again, thank you! I appreciate the generosity of experienced and skillful practitioners more than I can express.

RE: Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas
Answer
1/8/19 3:59 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Wait a minute... So my reoccuring struggles with strong performance anxiety and procrastination could be amplified by or perhaps even a manifestation of dukkha nanas, week mindfulness in the stage of fear? If that’s the case, working on my mindfulness could really help? Would that transform this stage into third vipassana jhana in my practice instead? What do I need to do?

RE: Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas
Answer
1/8/19 10:22 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Sure all of those things could be happening.

Unfortunately, it is very hard to second guess your mind and figure out what is absolutely happening. That's why the best attitude for working through this stuff is to take everything with a light heart, with a grain of salt. Simply live your off-cushion life as best you can, but just know that everything could be a little bit more of an over-reaction than normal. So try to be cool emoticon

Mindfulness always helps. Remember that mindfulness is simply fully having the experience you are already having and intuitively knowing that it is just a display of the mind. In other words, mindfulness isn't about choosing what you experience, it is about knowing what you are momentarily experiencing and knowing that what your are momentary experiencing is an experience. This can be difficult during the dukka nanas because we really believe that everything is as bad as it seems and then these weird intense neurosis will break and we'll look a back and wonder why were were so overwhelmed. 

I wish there was an easier way to go through this, but basically the dukka nanas teach us not to take our mind so seriously. It would be pretty funny if it wasn't such a challenging phase to go through.

RE: Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas
Answer
1/8/19 2:23 PM as a reply to shargrol.
I certainly hope that changing one’s experiences to the better is not a problem, because knowing about my defense mechanisms on a general level hasn’t worked so far. Today I therefore decided to be mindful about them as they occur, and kick their ass. I have executive dyscfunction to an extent that is disabling, while being a parent and a researcher half time, and avoidance really messed with my life. Developing my mindfulness has made me realize that I do have plenty of healthy intentions. I just avoid them before they transform into will. Today I took notice of these intentions as they arose, and instead of avoiding them I let them transform into will if possible. What a relief!

RE: Technical question about pre-jhanic qualities in different nanas
Answer
1/9/19 3:13 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Wait a minute... So my reoccuring struggles with strong performance anxiety and procrastination could be amplified by or perhaps even a manifestation of dukkha nanas, week mindfulness in the stage of fear? If that’s the case, working on my mindfulness could really help? Would that transform this stage into third vipassana jhana in my practice instead? What do I need to do?
Concentration is really key. The DNs are definitely associated with anxiety and procrastination for me. I would do concentration practice. Concentration is what turns the DNs into more jhanic states.

And read the section of MCTB called "The Seven Factors of Enlightenment."

Thanks for the advice! Yes, going back to reading that section again is probably a good idea. I remember it as very uselful.

I have at least preliminary come to the conclusion that Mahasi noting is the most useful tool for me right now, because it allows to be more aware of my intentions, both the skillful ones and the less skillful ones, and choose my line of action more consciously. It helps a lot, at least for now, and that way my mind is also more calm and concentrated. Defense mechanisms such as avoidance tend to mess with people. Also, I’m afraid that strong concentration without such insight would be destructive for me. I’m already too close to being stuck in a rut without the power to make even stronger imprints on this brain.

My concentration is at least strong enough for me to be able to measure the frequency of vibrations. That may not qualify as jhana, I don’t know, but it helps me to keep track of where I am and what challenges to expect. I would like to take up concentration training at some point, or at least I think so, but I will learn more about the temptations and risks involved first. I want to make sure that I have the morality and character required for the responsibility that comes with power before I become too fascinated with that line of practice, just in case. I do not envy Daniel in having to resist (or not act on) the impulse to throw dark rays with a wand. That would give me nightmares.

I’m sorry to hear that you share the same struggles in DN, but at the same time it kind of feels good not to be alone.