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Jhana from sadness?

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Jhana from sadness?
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6/11/11 4:08 PM
Recently I think I had a jhanic experience from sadness. Without going into much details about the actual experience - those are formulated here (but for a different topic) - I wonder if this is probable. It sounds plausible, given that the object is not what "causes" jhana, but one-pointedness. And this one-pointedness might just as well be the feeling of sadness.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. And once again (as in the case of jhana through music), I apply this knowledge in retrospect and suddenly remember a lot of very beautiful sadness in my life. What an amazing contrast that is: "beautiful sadness".

In this particular incident I empathized with a victim of cancer so strongly that... actually, I my loose words when I try to express what happened. But I know it was beautiful beyond compare and sad beyond comprehension.

Have you had this?

RE: Jhana from sadness?
Answer
6/11/11 5:46 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Yes, I certainly have experienced something like that. Definitely can relate to the experience of "beautiful sadness" although not recently. But yes, definitely. These highly concentrated moods seem to have happened most with beauty, sadness (though only that really pure sadness, like purple rain cloud sad), romantic love--- and often though not always these three have been related in my experience. I guess it seems like, all things considered, having these sorts of one-pointed emotions feels more "authentic" than the more tepid, superficial and vague moods which sometimes arise (namely when my overall experience and attitude are more tepid, superficial and vague I suppose!). It all seems to have a lot to do with the relative coherence of "me" and of "my life", the circumstances of the moment. When each of these factors is highly coherent and clearly related, my moods are often more vivid and can have that "jhannic" quality.
--Jake

edited to add: actually, the first big A&P that I can remember involved an overwhelming anger-frustration-resentment, and the transition from this to the world-exploding A&P could easily be characterized as a brief moment of intense (and spontaneous) equanimous concentration on the sensations of the anger in my chest. This concentration signaled the release of control which opened up the possibility for the anger to mutate into clarity, and this release of control reminds me of the not-doing you describe in your linked post on music and goosebumps. Very interesting :-)

RE: Jhana from sadness?
Answer
6/12/11 7:07 AM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
But I know it was beautiful beyond compare and sad beyond comprehension.

I think Jacob's 'release from control' is the common pattern here. Music can break the unconscious presumption that we 'are' something static, in combat with a world of dynamic forces (that constantly try to break... the presumption!), and when infusing all our experience in this way we can find a commonality to the rhythm of all things that is beyond the previously felt metaphysical dislocation. This is not enjoying the music, the music is enjoying us!

I remember years ago sitting alone and feeling very lonely, the type of lonely that really hurts, as if things could not be more wrong. When finally the madness of holding, desperately at arms length the core of the pain, was seen to be the larger anguish. This was the emotional 'release from control' that left me sitting there knowing what it is like to be a human that is alone. And then there was no longer anything in that could stop the beauty of it from shining through.

RE: Jhana from sadness?
Answer
6/14/11 12:50 PM as a reply to mico mico.
Any self-reinforcing perception (i.e. one the mind is willing to settle into for an extended time) can lead into a jhana.

In Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond, Ajahn Brahm talks about entering jhana through concentration practice on the ugliness of a corpse and the inevitability of death. After the mind becomes peaceful and concentrated enough, it stops perceiving "just" a corpse; it starts perceiving it as "beautiful corpse." (Interestingly, those are his words; it's great how well they match up with your word choice.) The image of the corpse itself doesn't change; rather, access concentration allows a meditator to "zoom in" on any particular aspect of experience. If you notice even the tiniest shred of beauty, gladness, or appreciation in your mind for any reason, the power of attention can magnify that positive feeling until it's strong enough to act as the basis for jhana.

If you're interested in how AB explains shamatha, here's his formula for the stages leading into extreme jhana. It shows how the object choice isn't essential for jhana, because you can actually discard the object before you get to jhana.

1: Sustained attention on the present moment
This means that you eliminate all thoughts of the past or future.
2: Silent awareness of the present moment
Now you calm the mind further, eliminating verbal thought altogether.
3: Silent present moment awareness of the object
Now you focus on the chosen object. Anything else is a distraction.
4: Full sustained attention on the object
Now your focus becomes steady, uninterrupted, and powerful. Distractions can no longer interfere with a continuous, sharp, and clear awareness of the object.
5. Full sustained attention on the beautiful object
Here's the good ole "gladdening the mind" step so important to entering standard jhana. Up to this point, you could have been focusing on something unpleasant, like sadness, or a corpse. Now you start feeling a great sense of peace and happiness, which coexists with your perception of the object. The happiness isn't a distraction unless your mind is involuntarily pulled away from the object; i.e. if you crave/cling to the gladness. All you're supposed to do is just notice it. (That caveat has thwarted many a jhana-learner, including myself. It's a major stumbling block for people of certain temperaments.) If you focus closely on sadness and start experiencing it as beautiful, you're close to jhana, or perhaps already in soft jhana.
6. Experiencing the beautiful Nimitta
Nimitta means "sign." In this context it means pitisukha, which is the sign pointing you in the direction of first jhana. If you were perceiving "beautiful sadness" at the last stage, at this stage you shift attention to focus on the "beautiful." Or as Leigh Brasington puts it, "Steady your mind on a pleasurable sensation, and once your attention is stable, ignore the sensation itself and focus only on the pleasantness." Of course, for soft jhana, you don't have to discard the old object, or completely eliminate distraction. All you really need is enough stability to keep noticing the pitisukha long enough to enter...
7. The First Jhana!

Voila. Sustained attention to beauty and sadness leads to a mindstate dominated by powerful beauty and sadness. It's not a classical jhana from the texts, but as far as I'm concerned, it was definitely some jhanic phenomenon. You could classify it as a specific jhana based on the size and shape of your "attentional spotlight." (The 1st is laserlike, 3rd is diffuse and brighter around the edges... you know the drill.)

RE: Jhana from sadness?
Answer
6/25/11 6:35 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
J Adam G:
.
6. Experiencing the beautiful Nimitta
Nimitta means "sign." In this context it means pitisukha, which is the sign pointing you in the direction of first jhana. If you were perceiving "beautiful sadness" at the last stage, at this stage you shift attention to focus on the "beautiful." Or as Leigh Brasington puts it, "Steady your mind on a pleasurable sensation, and once your attention is stable, ignore the sensation itself and focus only on the pleasantness." Of course, for soft jhana, you don't have to discard the old object, or completely eliminate distraction. All you really need is enough stability to keep noticing the pitisukha long enough to enter...


Super interesting J Adam G! I have read Leighs advice many times, but it's been awhile now. Thanks for refreshing my mind. I will try this tomorrow emoticon

J Adam G:

Voila. Sustained attention to beauty and sadness leads to a mindstate dominated by powerful beauty and sadness. It's not a classical jhana from the texts, but as far as I'm concerned, it was definitely some jhanic phenomenon. You could classify it as a specific jhana based on the size and shape of your "attentional spotlight." (The 1st is laserlike, 3rd is diffuse and brighter around the edges... you know the drill.)


I don't quite follow this. How come it is not considered a "classical jhana"? Has it to do with the object, the jhanic factors, or am I missing something else? Will you elaborate? emoticon

RE: Jhana from sadness?
Answer
6/28/11 10:02 AM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
I dont know if one could experience piti and sukkha with sadness as object but, one could definately have one pointed sadness with vitakkha and vicarra. its hard to be sad with piti and sukha. therefor i would say jhana with sadness as object is wrong concentration.