RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Emil Jensen, modified 13 Days ago.

To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 310 Join Date: 7/16/20 Recent Posts
  Hi there DhO!

Long time no see. I have been missing you and checking up on you with some frequency emoticon

I have a question which I think is one of my better and I know that many of you will have some input to it. So thanks in advance.

I just heard Leigh Brasington's first time on Guru Viking podcast - awesome podcast btw - and of course they talked about the jhanas. Leigh sorta casually mentioned that he's noticed that, specifically, people who've been practicing mahasi style noting for a long time have a hard time attaining the jhanas. I would paraphrase and say it comes down to being too well trained in noticing everything that pops all the time, in all its dynamic moving about, rather than being with a "solid" aspect of an object.

So I'm sitting there thinking "hmm, I should probably learn to do jhanas", and then I'm hearing this and thinking "oh! So I'm too good for jhanas". Haha, not really, but what I mean is that I would think that noticing "too many" details would be better on the whole. Isn't it what we're after?! Like, why would you practice fooling yourself, untraining yourself in seeing reality as clearly just so you can sit and drool in pleasure like some blissjunkie?! I know, I know, that isn't the purpose but that's just me being frustrated with what to do here. I want to have a genuine reason for allocating time for jhanas, if necessary, so this is just me being as skeptical as I am.

So, I end up being not sure what to do. Will I harm my hard-earned skills in observing the arising/passing/dukkha/attention/intention/consciousness etc, by learning...to stop doing it? You see my struggle here?

Initially I was interested in learning to use that jhanas mostly because I'm curious. And I can't do it for shit! So that also intrigues me a little bit. Like wtf? Why can't I do it?

I do indeed notice that when I try, I (think I) can always get access concentration right away and almost immediately I start feeling pleasant feelings in the body. Perhaps some emotional joy also shows up. But it doesn't grow. I can't stay with it. Instead I see the shift in my attention, the anticipation of whats to come, the craving aspect, the discomfort in that as well as the discomfort in trying to grasp. I also see feeling/seeing/hearing and all the shit that always go on there too. And I think this very much is in alignment with what I heard Leigh talk about, about why us noters may have a hard time.

To summarize: Why would it be a good idea to learn the jhanas anyway?

Edit: So, on further thought I think it would be beneficial to learn the jhanas because they are said to support insight practices by deepening the concentration.
I guess what I am looking for in your input, would be ways of ridding myself of this skeptical, limiting approach to it. Obviously I should not be resistant to learning jhanas. But I have this limiting idea that I would somehow be un-learning important skills in order to just satisfy my craving for excitement and pleasure. If only I understood how it would actually help with insight in the bigger picture

/Emil  
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Stefan Stefan, modified 13 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 238 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
Jhana using metta is a very powerful technique. Give it a go.  Jhana doesn't stop insight. In many ways, Jhana is the actualisation of insight.

A big part of the path is learning to develop equanimity by generating its conditions in the mind (i.e., supramundane) secluded from sensual pleasure/desire. One thing about Mahasi Noting is that we train to wait for equanimity to come after we've noticed a whole bunch. We wait for the Dark Night to be over, etc... It's all very passive and not at all liberating. The liberation comes when we actually apply the lessons about conditionality we've been observing to generate these wholesome and liberating states in our minds. And as we learn them over and over, like reps/sets in the gym, we can apply them in all our lives. Our hindrance-removing and equanimity muscles become strong, flexible, and can be reliably deployed in all life situations. 

In other words, what I'm saying is that the distinctions between "Jhana" and "Insight" or "Shamatha" and "Vipassana" are purely artificial, created by our minds looking to categorise things into seemingly neat little packages. 

Have fun
Chrollo X, modified 13 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 9 Join Date: 1/11/22 Recent Posts
Stefan Stefan
Jhana using metta is a very powerful technique. Give it a go.  Jhana doesn't stop insight. In many ways, Jhana is the actualisation of insight.

A big part of the path is learning to develop equanimity by generating its conditions in the mind (i.e., supramundane) secluded from sensual pleasure/desire. One thing about Mahasi Noting is that we train to wait for equanimity to come after we've noticed a whole bunch. We wait for the Dark Night to be over, etc... It's all very passive and not at all liberating. The liberation comes when we actually apply the lessons about conditionality we've been observing to generate these wholesome and liberating states in our minds. And as we learn them over and over, like reps/sets in the gym, we can apply them in all our lives. Our hindrance-removing and equanimity muscles become strong, flexible, and can be reliably deployed in all life situations. 

In other words, what I'm saying is that the distinctions between "Jhana" and "Insight" or "Shamatha" and "Vipassana" are purely artificial, created by our minds looking to categorise things into seemingly neat little packages. 

Have fun

Can you explain how to apply the lessons towards a wholesome life? I went on a Mahasi retreat for 2 weeks a few months back and it was a good amount of suffering. Ultimately, it's just a memory now and I felt like I didn't learn much and don't want to do it again. I've done another Mahasi and reached equanimity, and it felt just a you said, like I was waiting for equanimity (although in shift to the reobservation nana to eq nana, I felt like I did learn something there, as the pain seemed to evaporate out of nowhere; I was a bit shocked and elated). What you're saying kinda reminds of me of what Dhamarato seems to teach. The recent conversation with Daniel and him also seems resonant in what you're talking about here. I guess I feel like I've been noting passively. I want to stop practicing passively and make actual changes. Can you elaborate more on how to build hindrance removing/equanimity muscles? 
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Stefan Stefan, modified 13 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 238 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
Can you explain how to apply the lessons towards a wholesome life? I went on a Mahasi retreat for 2 weeks a few months back and it was a good amount of suffering. Ultimately, it's just a memory now and I felt like I didn't learn much and don't want to do it again. I've done another Mahasi and reached equanimity, and it felt just a you said, like I was waiting for equanimity (although in shift to the reobservation nana to eq nana, I felt like I did learn something there, as the pain seemed to evaporate out of nowhere; I was a bit shocked and elated). What you're saying kinda reminds of me of what Dhamarato seems to teach. The recent conversation with Daniel and him also seems resonant in what you're talking about here. I guess I feel like I've been noting passively. I want to stop practicing passively and make actual changes. Can you elaborate more on how to build hindrance removing/equanimity muscles?

Yeah, it's funny, I started out doing noting, and sometime after I reached stream entry I definitely started realising that simply accepting the mind as it is, is a dead-end practice (by that stage). The reason being that pre-stream entry we do not know what the mind is like (conditional) and noting lets us see that conditionality and be okay with it, relaxing those first three pesky fetters. But after that, the next 2 fetters of desire/aversion, we want to learn how to actually disentangle the mind from those patterns rather than just watching them. And that's not to say that Mahasi noting is bad -- it's a good tool, but a very disposable one for greater developments later on. I then stumbled across the Buddha's words about creating a pristine mind, changing the mind to make it more wholesome, etc... And then I stumbled on Dhammarato by complete accident. And his teachings resonated with me. I also think the general TWIM meditation method is good (recognise, release, relax, re-smile, return) because of how simple it is. Very easy to attain Jhanas in their system, actually hilariously easy because of how delicious Metta is as an object. 

I will still give A LOT of credit to Mahasi Noting, because it teaches you to notice the mind, conditionality, impermanence, dukkha, anatta, etc... and that is invaluable. But it is very disposable once we've mastered it, and we can start using those skills to now work on building a mind free of impurities (the whole point of the Buddha's path -- ending suffering). 

Check out "Mindfulness with Breathing" by Bikkhu Buddhadasa (it's free online with a google search). Also the TWIM book "The Path to Nibbana". Also, another book I highly recommend is "This Being, That Becomes" by Dhivan Thomas-Jones to learn dependent origination thoroughly. 

Also for @stillhoff some interesting reading: "Early Buddhist Meditation: The Four Jhanas as the Actualization of Insight" by Keren Arbel, it might change your perspective!
shargrol, modified 13 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 1692 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Emil, if you can soak in the joy of pleasure and seclusion (jhana) it's a good thing. It helps condition the mind, relax it and make it sensitive, so that vipassina becomes very fine tuned. Also there is a limit to which jhanas satisfy, or maybe another way to say it is that jhanas do satisfy and after that you kinda want to do vipassina because you are satisfied with jhana for the time being! emoticon So it's actually not easy becoming a jhana junky.

The progress in developing jhana mirrors the stages of insight, so there will often be a initial joy/pleasure which turns to difficulty, similar to Mind and Body and then Three characteristics. Similarily there will be intense pleasure followed by achy, awkward, wrongness, similar to A&P and then Dark Night. When Dark Night is 3rd jhana-ifed, it feels blissy and numb and then the transition to fourth can seem awkward because it's so wonderously plain. Until you really have the jhanas nailed down, jhana practice will be intimately tied to progress of insight --- which is another reason it isn't easy to become a jhana junky. Jhana supports insight.

My best advice is to treat it as sort of a hybrid approach. Intend to be relaxed and full of pleasure, but when difficult sensations/emotions happen, switch to vipassina and even use noting to go more fully >into< the difficult sensations/emotions. Note/label the mind objects to help the process. Note sensations, emotions, thoughts, feelings, urges, worries, etc. etc. etc. Notice how they actually appear within the mind. They are mind objects >within< the mind. Notice how they occur like sounds on the radio, not fully under your control, you experience them but you "are" not them. 

When there is a full experience of these difficult sensations/emotions the resistance/diffculty aspect lets go with a feeling of release... and this creates the foundation for the next phase of relaxation and pleasure. So insight supports jhana too.

I found that substituting the word "concentration" for "relaxing and centering within the richness of experience" to be helpful in generating the right attitude toward jhana. It's not a big battle, it's more like "loving the experience that is already happening". 

Hope this helps!
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 13 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 2282 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
+100 emoticon 

Triangulating between tools is the shit emoticon 

I would add one more!
In case you are too uncertain about how to continue or uncertain if this Jhana or that Jhana or that other practice or this or that teacher ... you apply the 'Look how its ...' practice as in;

​​​​​​​Look how its uncertain, look how its in doubt, look how its aversive towards Jhana, look how it thinks its all pointless, look how its thinks it's going to lose all the hard-earned skills, look how its (full of shit) , emoticon look how its laughing emoticon ... Best wishes DK boyo! emoticon (hope music is jiving still).
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Jim Smith, modified 13 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 1092 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Emil Jensen
  ...
To summarize: Why would it be a good idea to learn the jhanas anyway?



To see that emotions are flexible. Emotions are not truth. They are not telling you anything about reality, except maybe something about brain chemistry. They are not logical. You don't have to believe in them. If you can produce bliss whenever you want for no cause, then it brings into question the justification for other emotions such as anger.

If you want to learn to let go of attachments and aversions, to be non-attached, that means going from dukkah to non-dukkah. If you produce sukha (tranquil happiness) it is equivalent to letting go. So if you can produce sukha and maintain it in daily life, then whenever something happens and you experience dukkha and not sukha, you will notice the change and you can ask yourself, what is the attachment that is interfering with sukha? You can try to let go either consciously, or by doing whatever technique will restore sukha, either way you are letting go. The more you practice letting go the better you get at it.

When you get expert at producing suka, letting go is often just an instantaneous decision do go with suka rather than blindly accepting whatever unpleasant emotion the unconscious processes in your brain serve up for you to experience.

Sukha is a good counterbalance to help ease the pain of consciously examining unpleasant emotions which you need to do to let go of them.


This might be helpful:

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/10/a-quick-guide-to-producing-bliss-with.html
Emil Jensen, modified 11 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 310 Join Date: 7/16/20 Recent Posts
Stefan, it's interesting that you should mention this about the mahasi style. I noticed myself, after doing Goenka style meditation for about three years that I felt stagnated. Perhaps I'm starting to feel a bit stagnated with the approach I have now.

- Which isn't strictly speaking Mahasi style noting. I just developed my own style from that approach, which I figured was about creating clarity about the little things that arise and pass in mind/body. If I should try and explain what I've been doing it would be something like 'be really present and aware of what goes on and notice little resistances and tensions whenever they show up and just observe how they work and feel into them with relaxation.' Recently I've felt like 'something big is about to happen' and especially in my meditation I've felt this when starting to probe at how consciousness also shows up all the time and how all the rest of the stuff stumples after. I feel like I've been just inches away from letting go of even that; grasping of consciousness. And it seems that there's an emptiness/nothingness waiting right behind that. And the longing for this is deep, like there's a big ahhhhh waiting right there if I can let go of that. I think I potentially could.

I'm not sure why I'm called to jhana practice after all these years. But I think it seems like when I'm at this point in my meditation, where it seems like I wanna look hard at that most fundamental arising and passing of...consciousness/phenomena whatever.. I just can't really dial it down neatly enough. I feel like I need more stability here. Maybe that's why...Is that perhaps the sorta fine tuning you're talking about, @shargrol ?

I've been thinking, and before reading your comment, Shargrol, I actually started feeling like it's probably best to start incorporating jhana practices without abandoning my 'clear viewing and relaxing' practice (with fundamental footwork from Mahasi style). I like your suggestion of the hybrid approach.

@che, I thank you for your best wishes and the same to you. Unfortunately I will have to dissapoint you with the music vibes. I sacrificed my soul to the devil about a year ago and along with it, naturally, the driving factor of the music. Instead I might become a successful entrepreneur in the future, making lots of money with which I can just buy vibes. And enlightenment, whenever that becomes available in spray-can form. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 11 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 2282 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
The music might fall into your lap again emoticon you just never know! 

A few more thoughts come to mind;
However, Jhana stuff starts with applied thought. "Breathing out, I know (noting) im breathing out, breathing in, I know im breathing in". 

Sink into the breathing sensations and keep at it. No need to focus on one spot. Whole body breathing. Do not give up applied thought too soon. Once the mind buys completely into the breathing in and out you will know as all will just sink into it. Mind gets very glad when this stuff gets unified. Then just ride the wave. 

Good luck! 

p.s. it helps to not have expectations and just vibe that breathing the way you would vibe an improvisation on your keyboard. You really buy into it, it's groove, it's pulse, it's tone. 

Best wishes E! (Now go get rich!) 

EDIT; I talk breathing here but of course one can use any object, Kasina, sensation of the ars sitting on the cushion, Nada sound, mantra , what have you. My experience is with breathing and with open eyes Kasina. 
Emil Jensen, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: To jhana or not to jhana

Posts: 310 Join Date: 7/16/20 Recent Posts
 Thanks, PCD!

Yeah, of course I'll be back into the music stuff again. I might live to be a hundred, and I don't think I'll be running around for that entire time :p

I personally like the breath, actually. There was a time when I sorta was a bliss-junkie, actually. After my first Goenka retreat I had apparently gotten enough jhana-power to slip into a super pleasant body-gasm within a few minutes of sitting in a chair, anywhere, just staring into the air, feeling my breath.

Another thing I'm noticing now, 6 years later, is that mindfulness throughout the day really makes a difference. And it's like I can almost practice when walking/driving/taking a dump etc. This morning while driving to work I started getting smiley and pleasant sensations would flow through my body.

Hey, I'm gonna get this jhana shit haha. 


Thanks for your support emoticon 

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