What is the usefulness of jhana?

Will S, modified 10 Years ago.

What is the usefulness of jhana?

Posts: 9 Join Date: 5/27/10 Recent Posts
Im asking the question from the standpoint of a huatou practioner who has already acheived some good one pointedness. What value do the pleasurable aspects of it have? Is it jsut that its an unconditioned positive experience, that loosens the hold conditioned phenomena have on ones psyche? Is there other value as well?

My experience with it so far, again coming from a huatou practice background, is that i only experience notable pleasant physical feelings for the first few minutes of a sitting session and then eventually end up in about the same space as with huatou practice, a kind of quiet mildly pleasant spaciousness, with the inquiry of the huatou lacking.

When in this space i can start the inquiry if i wish, otherwise its just very calm with about the same kind of awareness.

My main motivation for exploring this is mostly just for the adventure of it and not really looking to pursue the theravadan/jhana path, im actually pretty happy with the huatou method emoticon
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: What is the usefulness of jhana?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
From what I understand, jhana is useful for a few reasons...

* achieving and staying in jhana helps to build concentration, which helps with any number of things. also it is pleasurable, making it such that after you attain 1st jhana, you can re-attain it and stay in it for longer, both having fun doing it and building your concentration at the same time. the having fun aspect makes it a nice positive feedback loop.
* doing insight from the jhanas, like from the 4th jhana, can help to stabilize your self so you can investigate things more calmly.
* investigating formless realms (5-8 jhana) offers useful insights

I don't know much about huatou so I can't give you advice about how it might help w/ that practice.
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: What is the usefulness of jhana?

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hi Will,

My good friend Stuart Lachs, and old Zen guy and former student of Sheng-yen, spent some time working with me on hua-tou practice. From what I remember, all absorption states are to be avoided. If you're working the hua-tou, avoid going into jhana.

Also, jhanas are not unconditioned states at all. They are compounded, just like all other phenomenal appearances. What jhana allows one to do is first to surpress the Five Hindrances by replacing them with the Five Factors of Jhana (look it up). As the state becomes more refined, one continues to notice subtle levels of stress (i.e. dukkha) that remain. It becomes clear that no conditioned experience is free from stress, and so one's mind inclines toward the unconditioned (i.e. nibbana). That's one way of describing how stream-entry can be attained according to some Theravadin views.

If you're happy with the hua-tou, keep it going. It is a powerful practice that has many highs and lows if you're really giving it your all. Just remember that if you're not keeping the hua-tou going, you're not doing it right. Best of luck!

Jackson
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Ian And, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: What is the usefulness of jhana?

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Will,
Will S:
Im asking the question from the standpoint of a huatou practitioner who has already achieved some good one pointedness. What value do the pleasurable aspects of it have? Is it just that its an unconditioned positive experience, that loosens the hold conditioned phenomena have on ones psyche? Is there other value as well?

If you are able to achieve good, strong concentration, then that's all that is needed when following the insight practices such as satipatthana. If your huatou practice gets you there, fine. No need to use meditation to achieve the same state you are already able to access from huatou. If what you are explaining to us leaves you in a strong concentrated state, then you might be in something similar to jhana, despite the method you used to get there.

The pleasant sensations associated with jhana are utilized to allow the mind to be at ease so as to increase the level of concentration. It's all done so that the mind is able to "see things as they are," in the Dhamma sense of seeing phenomena as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and without self.

Will S:

My experience with it so far, again coming from a huatou practice background, is that i only experience notable pleasant physical feelings for the first few minutes of a sitting session and then eventually end up in about the same space as with huatou practice, a kind of quiet mildly pleasant spaciousness, with the inquiry of the huatou lacking.

When in this space i can start the inquiry if i wish, otherwise its just very calm with about the same kind of awareness.

Sounds similar to jhana, but I am unfamiliar with huatou, so I can't say from personal experience just what you have achieved. Jhana is perhaps better described as "fixed concentration" (appana samadhi). Nothing very special about it, once one is able to achieve it. It's being able to be in control of it that matters. Just be conscious of Jackson's admonitions.

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