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God within Insight and Concentration

God within Insight and Concentration
6/20/11 7:41 PM
Hey all,

This might seem like a silly question (technically, I guess I should be posting this on, say, a Christian mysticism board rather than here), but I'm asking it anyway in case anyone has any experience with this.

One of the fascinating things about Daniel's book is the comparison he draws between the Buddhist progress of insight and the spiritual stages of theistic religions. The first time I experienced the first samatha jhana was in the context of God--i.e. it felt like an explosion of God's love--but because I'm learning about the insight stuff in a Buddhist context, God has little to do with it for me; in fact, I felt that it was pulling me AWAY from God (since I associate God with the jhanas).

But then, when I was (I believe) in the Fear stage of Dark Night, I started to wonder: I was interpreting that fear as being away from God, but I could just as easily interpret it as a fear OF God (as they say "fear of God is the beginning of wisdom....." hmmmm!!!!). And then I read some Kabbalah and Christian mysticism stuff which included further links of God to other insight stages.

That's all well and good, but my question is, how, within that tradition, do they reconcile the feeling of God that comes with the concentration states with the ones that come with insight meditation??? I guess because each technique reveals different aspects of God, or different relationships to God....?? Just sorta confused about that...

Thanks for any thoughts on this.... emoticon


RE: God within Insight and Concentration
6/25/11 8:42 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
What you experienced was probably the A&P more than the 1st Jhana: it is the classic stage that people describe and interpret it in terms that involve love, divinity, heaven, unity, cosmic consciousness, explosions, being reborn, etc. and may be accompanied by all sorts of visions that involve at least light and, for those steeped in various iconographies and even for some that aren't, visions of God, Mary, Jesus, Angels, and all sorts of other things like that.

Various authors in the Christian traditions have their own take on exactly how to classify the altered states, induced feelings, raptures, and other experiences that come from deep contemplative practice.

I am no comprehensive expert on them, but if you like that stuff, consider St John of the Cross' works, as well as The Interior Castle by St Theresa of Avila, both of which make for interesting reading.

Bernadette Roberts' works are contemporary and very often referenced in these discussions, but I have little first hand knowledge of them and so will refrain from further comment which would just likely reveal the depths of my ignorance of her stuff.

My generalized take is that the Christian deep contemplative or mystical traditions don't break things down in concentration vs insight, in fact most meditative traditions don't in the way that some Buddhist traditions do, so they don't have that particular conflict.

Their conflicts tend to arise around questions like: are those pleasant sensations from God or Satan, are they to be cultivated or avoided, are they a source of Pride or Revelation, temptation or reward for following the path of holiness, do they violate the hierarchical view (at least in Catholicism) that direct personal revelation contradicts the notion that the pathway of priests through Pope is the sole intermediary link between man and God and thus fall into the heresies of the early Christian Gnostics, should mystics be burned at the stake or canonized or both, etc.

As you can easily see, paradigms and context determine much about how bare sensate phenomena are interpreted.

This being the DhO, I put it back to you: if you personally answer the question various ways for yourself, does this help you do something or understand something, and if so, what?


RE: God within Insight and Concentration
6/27/11 2:35 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks so much for your response! I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on this....

As much as I would love to think it was A&P, the fact that I've been able to repeat the experience at will (unless one can do that with A&P???) and that it's never been accompanied with visions of light make me think it had to be the first jhana. I had what I believe was an A&P experience (at least a minor one) more recently and it felt completely different. That said, there's a lot in the descriptions of A&P that seem to fit that first experience... How confusing. I seem to remember that you mention that there are a lot of similarities between the samatha and vipassana jhanas in your book. It figures that most meditative traditions wouldn't distinguish between the two types of experience if they're really this similar.

I have been reading St. John of the Cross (thanks to your mention of it in your book) and St. Teresa's works and have found them very fascinating and helpful.

There are two reasons I feel compelled to investigate this particular context:

1. I was raised Catholic for the first 12 years of my life, and I was really into it, so even though I was an atheist for the next 15 years of my life, my mind is nonetheless deeply imprinted with the idea (and experience) of God. I figure that the reason my first jhana (or A&P) experience involved the notion of God (rather than the universe or something) is due to that imprinting. So basically, I'm thinking, why not continue making use of what's already there rather than constructing a whole new context (i.e. through noting practice). My theory is that doing so might make subsequent spiritual experiences and attainments easier than otherwise. I suppose that's a lazy shortcut, but heck, if the result is the same, why not take it???

2. Frankly, I find insight meditation really dry, irritating, and boring compared to meditating on the glory and grandeur, or even just the stillness, of God. Okay, so this is clearly making me seem even lazier than the above paragraph does and probably does nothing but prove what a jhana junkie I am (which I do not deny), and I realize that insight meditation can often be difficult and irritating, and that I just need to sit with it, and sometimes I do, but basically, my thinking is (as in the above paragraph), if there's a method to attaining nirvana that feels more fulfilling to me (and could be more effective for me, to boot), why not do it that way?

So basically, I asked my initial question because I had learned the progress of insight within a Buddhist context, and and was wondering how God fit into the picture, since the experiences of God and insight seem completely unrelated (e.g. what do vibrations and higher perceptual thresholds have to do with God??). Since posting this question, I've read more of St. John of the Cross, which has started to answer it for me, but I'm still not totally clear on how the two contexts overlap because they feel so different to me.

Thanks for any feedback on this. emoticon

RE: God within Insight and Concentration
6/28/11 1:12 AM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
If you really find yourself resonating with the Catholic Mystical tradition, then I recommend that you contact some of them who have done something deep, profound and lasting in that tradition and train with them, as there definitely are accomplished practitioners in that tradition alive today: think Benedictines, such as here near Louisville, KY, which is influenced by Thomas Merton.

Lots of ways up the mountain, and if you resonate with a good one and can find people in it to teach you, that helps a lot.


RE: God within Insight and Concentration
6/28/11 11:51 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Nice! Thanks for pointing me in the right direction! emoticon