Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

kokoro kokoro, modified 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 4:48 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 8:32 PM

Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/29/23 Recent Posts
Hello dear fellow practitioners,

Recently, through a friend, I was introduced to MCTB (and hence, Theravada Buddhism). With my background it was kind of mindblowing for me reading people talk so openly, straight-forward, pragmatic and detailed about many aspects of buddhisms. To be honest, for the first time I am getting familiar with buddhist terminology. This is after many years of sincere practice, despite having practiced in a community for some years.

I am reading MCTB right now. In particular, I have read part III about shamatha jhanas with great interest, and several times. I have never looked into that subject before. I never made contact with anybody studying or even mentioning concentration jhanas before. Hence, I am uncertain whether I have already attained any of the four formed shamatha jhanas.

I would like to ask if anybody with more experience would be so kind to help me connect the terminology with my experiences. I would simply describe in my own words, what I have expirienced resp. attained. I will try to do so from a concentration point of view. But to be honest, I have trouble wrapping my head around all that new information and keeping things separate. Also I have never ever told anybody about my experiencen is such detail before, so I really enjoy sharing it here. I hope you do not mind. Even if I get no answer I am happy to share this part of the story, and feel like this is a good place to do so.

I have not yet studied the chapters of MCTB about the stages of insight in comparable depth and I feel like I would have a harder time describing expiriences that may be related to stages of insight. So I simply leave them mostly out. Like a child that does not yet have the courage to show itself to strangers. Also please excuse any grammar mistakes. I lived in england for a year, but am not a native speaker and this is a tough subject to write about in a foreign language.

At some point in my early adult life, I started searching for something.  I turned to the religion of my childhood, catholicism, and irregularly started praying and meditating. I did not obtain the answers I was looking for, but continued practicing. Then I started doing Yoga in order to attain a healthy body, but I performed it as a meditation practice, too. However, during praying, yoga and meditation I didn't know what I was doing. My mind was in a lot of distress. I tried to calm it down, and mostly failed. I practiced only every other day, but if I did, then at least for half an hour or more.  I believe about two years passed like this. I do not really know what year I started. I started slowly and my practice grew slowly over time. Albeit with periods of discontinuity.

Thru others I was superficially introduced to several other religions, including hinduism. A friend of mine invited me to something that might be very well considered a yoga retreat. Seven hours of cleaning the ashram every day, lol. But accompanied by a lot of yoga, chanting and medition, too.  Beginning with a fire ceremony at 5 am, and than a whole day of practice until 10 pm (with enough breaks of course).  Meditation and Yoga were optional, the cleaning was mandatory, but I did it all.  Because of the cleaning accomondation and food was free, and I was totally broke. So I was happy cleaning.

During this retreat I finally surrendered to my distress during meditation. I exactly remember that moment. So from then on, I consiously followed my thoughts and emotions 'into the swamp' as I would have said back than.  That was kind of against everything I was taught until then. Against any advise I was giving by any teacher or practitioner. Most of them would have said, I started following my ego or the illusion 'maya' or something like that.  I believed I finally surrendered to the fact that I am too weak to do actually practice. So, this was about two years after my journey began.

My meditation practice changed completely.  Finally, I had something to do: Get my distressed mind in order. This is in contrast to me trying to supress what I experience, as I was doing before. I started practising more regularly and more intensively. Not every day, but several times a week and always for at least an hour.  Meditation, Yoga, Pranayama, and sometimes still praying. Always consiously concentrating on whatever I am doing, but also allowing any thoughts and emotions that arise, and conciously following them if they do. Which they did. A lot.

Well, I had good reasons to be distressed, I must say. My life was a mess, and I wouldn't say that was mainly my own fault. I was way too young to handle what I was sucked into (respectively previously was born into) and did not even really understand what I was living through back then. I had no role models, or even anybody to tell what was going on. I was not molested or something like this, but let's say I had enough reason to be unhappy. I am sorry for needing to mention this, but I feel like I must do so because otherwise my description of my meditation expiriences are kind of distorted by omission. For quite some time already and also the following years I struggled to get my life together.  Years later, I was able get out of that circumstances (with the help of other people) and since then: I am doing quite fine.  Anyways, back to the important parts of the story.

After another year or so conciously following my thoughts and emotions during practice if they arise, I finally had a moment of peace. This was about three years after I began with some kind of regular practice and during a particularly long meditation of several hours. It was kinda magical, but in a quiet sense. For the first time I had the feeling I experienced a glimpse of (what I believe to be the catholic) god. I was not yet introduced to buddhism at that time. My thoughts and emotions did not stop, but they noticibly calmed down. _I_ did noticibly calm down.  I was not particularly happy during that experience, but I was not particularly happy about anything back than. However, I finally came to rest to an extend I never experienced before. I did not actually appreciated that very much back than, since it clearly was not yet that crazy ecstatic 'samadhi' as I was told about from the yogis and hinduists.  But it was clear to me: I must intensify my meditation practice. Which I did.

I believe I switched back and forth between my previous way to practice (most of the time) and dwelling in that new state of mind if I was lucky. Sometimes I tried to enter the calmer state, also with successes.  But most of the time I did not bother much what state I was in. I felt like it is not up to me to choose, even if I could. Actually, I did not even think about these two different states as being distinct states. I was more concerned with the object: Conciously following my thoughts or calming down. My only intent was to do whatever is necessary (apart from maybe the intent to free myself from some unnecessary suffering).  Whenever prevalent thoughts or emotions arouse, I was ready to meet them. Whenever I calmed down, I continued calming down.  All of this during Meditation, Pranayama, Yoga and still a bit of praying. I did not really know what journey I was on, but I wanted to progress. I felt it was a necessity. (And it surely also was some kind of coping mechanism.)

Somewhen around that time I started participating in a kind of non-spiritual training that may be simplified as a fusion of body awareness with mindfulness.  Among other things, the training cultivates to obey the very simple insight that to percieve things as they are and be open to whatever bodily, mental or --- in a non-religious/non-esoteric way --- soul-related sensation or movement reaches us, and that all of them are connected: this is the only rational basis we can ground our actions on.  To avoid any ideological fuzz with more complex subjects, the training uses only simple settings like sitting, standing, reclining, walking, carrying the weight of a small object, standing up, etc. If I wouldn't know any better, I'd say these people are half-buddhist.  But they are not.

I don't want to advertise anything, and that is why I purposely not mention the tradition here, but that training was mindblowing to me. The reason I write about this here is: Within mere months of this training the boundaries between my personal meditation practice and everyday living faded to a large degree.  Even though this training had superficially nothing to do with my personal meditation practice.  With this training everything became an opportunity to to practice, and so I started practicing a non-negligible amout of my daily life, too. During breakfast. In the subway. While talking to friends. In a sense it was as if I started to notice how alive the whole world around me is.  Since then trying to cut of bodily experiences during meditation seems absurd to me.  As absurd as trying to fall up, instead of down. (Please, nobody be offended by this remark. This feeling may be either based be my ignorance, or simply be a truth that is only valid for me and some other people, and not valid for all.)

Shortly after, I spottet 'Zen and Zen Classics I' from R.H. Blyth in a library while passing by. I came there for something completely unrelated. With reading the forward of this book my roughly four year quest for meaning suddenly came to an end. I binge-read the first three books (there is four of them, if I recall correct), but from a spiritual perspective, that was not even necessary any more. (Maybe back than, I was not ripe for reading on past the forword, but that is also another story.) Anyways, with reading the forward I expirienced something, I only had heard others describe when they told how they had read the bible and suddenly became a christian. It was like if I had finally found my religion: Zen.  I can still feel it. Right now. About five years have passed since then and I can still clearly feel it right now: Some kind of clarity as if a life-long clogged drain finally was unblocked. This was my first voluntary contact with Buddhism.

I believe I found Zen about one year after I had this expirience of calmness. I took what I absorbed of Soto Zen and Zazen literally. Just sitting. No mind.  Whatever that was supposed to mean. I did not even bother. I stopped asking questions. Before, I conciously followed my toughts or tried to deepen my calmness, depending on what seemed neseccary in the given moment. Now I had no intentions on whatsoever.  I believed sitting in Zazen is as enlightened as one can get. While at the same time believing the opposite. I did not really understand anything backcthan, and believed that is an essential aspect of life. I still feel like this, somehow.

Also, during all of the Zazen I still had thoughts. At all times.  As with my other practices before. I did not explicitly mention it, but of course I also had enough moment in which my mind just mindlessly wandered around. I did not really pay much attention to how long I was able to concentrate. I did not think about concentration at all. I was just concerned with training in either morality or insight.  But these are words I have now, and wouldn't have said back then. Most likely, back then I would have proudly said some nonsense, when somebody whould have cared enough to ask, what exactly I was practising.  Without realizing what kind of fool I am making of myself. Sometimes I conciously followed my thoughts as before, but I felt like that was not that necessary anymore most of the time.

At that time my life circumstances escalated, which ultimately lead to me finally asking for help and getting some resp. getting out. But during the months before, I found relief in hard core practices. In particular, in order to train appreciating and enjoying every moment of life even though nothing made sense, I practiced every day at random moments a funny little practise: "Assume you die in x amount of time, but you don't really know about this, and spend your remaining time meaningfully." I went from x is a rather large value in successive steps down, whenever I felt comfortable to increase the difficulty. At the end I arrived at x being 2 minutes and managed to spend them well. Which of course means doing whatever I was doing at that moment, since I must assume I don't know I am going to die. But then actually doing it. I can assure, this practise keeps one sane in insane situations. I wouldn't recommend it otherwise, though.

A couple of months after I regained a rather normal life, I had two profound experiences in a matter of some weeks.

One morning I was stil laying in bed. And suddenly realized: "I do not need to keep thinking." Just it was not this thought that I realized, but instead the very fact beneth. I just stopped. This was the very first time I experienced my thoughts as something I had always been doing actively somehow, and just didn't realize I could stop. Before, whenever I tried to stop active thinking, a tought process continued and I believed I percieved it to the largest extent completely passively, something out of my control, like a radio on a high shelf I am not able to reach because I was to small. Even before it was clear to me --- at least intelectually --- that this thought process is a part of me. But now could just stop.

However, it was immediately clear I am not able to do so indefinitely.  And immediately, I checked how long I was able to stop thinking. On the very fist day it was about a couple of seconds. Almost 10 seconds but not quite. Of course my practice changed again. Now I practiced actual No Mind. Not thinking.  Now I was able to do so. Within a short period of time I was able not to think for half a minute or more. I am not very proud of myself to say I was satisfied with this, but I was. I stopped training because of two reasons. The noble reason was that I instead trained to sit with almost no thougth for prolonged periods of time, in the sense, that during a prolonged period of time only twice a minute I had a thought. The less noble reason was: I expirienced it as too hard, continueing to train not to think for more than 30 seconds. I tried sometimes, but I just didn't come very easy, and I gave up. I gave up on no thought, at least preliminarily, and dwelled in almost no thought.

Another night not long after that experience, in the middle of the night started drawing an enso, i.e. a zen cicrle on a large blackboard I possess. I can not recall whether I had slept before, and probably I had just stayed awake as I do sometimes. While drawing that enso I suddenly felt the width of the whole existence with me being just somewhere in it. It was like from both perspectives. From mine and from the space.  That was the other experience.

After I gave up on trying to strictly stop thinking for prologned periods of time, my practice became less predictable and less enjoyable.  But even more regular, and even more prolonged. Every morning at least one hour, often two.  Sometimes three. Most evenings halve an hour, and often longer. I couldn't say what I was doing, because I was doing something else every time I sat down to meditate. Either listening to my breadth, or to my body, sometimes, to everything, sometimes praying, but not like before. I stopped doing yoga, but I believe this was and is just laziness. I moved somewhere else and I found out there is a zen monastery not far away from where I live. Not even 30 minutes with a bycicle. I joinded and went there often, steadily practising. Now with chanting as well. I continued doing what I felt was necessary during meditation, but somehow I feel a bit I stagnated. On the other hand, I didn't bother to much about this and even feel as if whatever I am practising has broadened a lot.

What comes now, may be a bit disappointing. I stopped ritualistic practicing of meditation. It came naturally in a sence. One major reason was, that I consiously substituted my morning practice with sleep. There were other valid reasons. I needed to shift my focus for some time. The zen master leading the monestary expelled a dedicated student from the monastery for not vaccinating against covid, and I felt as I had been expelled myself. So I stopped going there, but did not break up contact. (To the zen masters defence, he was intensely involved in a community abroad that was hit hard by corona in the early days of the pandemic. With a lot of people dying in that area.  So vaccination was an emotional matter to him. I still have troubles to forgive him.) However, in a sense I never turned my back on practising.  I just had a prolonged period of now more than a year, where I turned to practicing in morality and almost did not explicitly meditate.
 
And now I was introduced to MCTB, and ask myself, whether I had attained any shamatha jhanas during my journey so far, and I am dedicated to more explicitly exploring the states I had lived trough already. I checked and I can still can enter more or less all states for at least some moments (Edit: Exept for the 'universe state'. I reached this only this one time). Though with varying degrees of difficulty.
kokoro kokoro, modified 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 8:41 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/29/23 8:41 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/29/23 Recent Posts
RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 5:33 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 5:33 AM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 2476 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Maybe watch this video and see if you can remember these states and/or induce the jhana to happen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRdiOoTZC3A
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 1:00 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 7:48 AM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 1735 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
According to the sutras:

First Jhana has rapture
Second has rapture and tranquil happiness
Third has tranquil happiness without rapture
Fourth has neither tranquil happiness or rapture but has equanimity and mindfulness

In my experience rapture is intense bliss. At first it seems nice and is a lot of fun but after a while you notice it is getting tedious and it has a tinge of unpleasantness like its stressful, like you're happy and stressed at the same time.

Tranquil happiness, also in my opinion, is much nicer its just a quiet contentedness with a bit of happiness but not overwhelming. 

There are many different opinions on how much concentration is required in the jhana's. Some people say you have to be so focused that you don't notice any of your normal senses like sight, sound, touch, etc. Other people say you don't need a lot of concentration and can be walking around and experiencing them.

So if you meditate and it makes you feel happy during or afterward, that's rapture or tranquil happiness.

Whether that's jhana is a matter of opinion.

Jhana
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca4/samma-samadhi/jhana.html

Jhana Factors
https://the-wanderling.com/jhana_factors.html

​​​​​​​A Quick Guide to Producing Bliss with Meditation
https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2020/10/a-quick-guide-to-producing-bliss-with.html

Instruction for Entering Jhana by Leigh Brasington
http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm

SHARPENING MANJUSHRI'S SWORD The Jhanas in Theravadan Buddhist Meditation by Leigh Brasington
http://www.leighb.com/jhana2a.htm

Jhana Wars
https://simplesuttas.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/jhana-wars-pt-1-what-the-heck-is-jhana-a-first-pass/

Reinterpreting the Jhanas RODERICK S. BUCKNELL Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Volume 16, Number 2, Winter 1993
https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/download/8818/2725
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 3:42 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 3:42 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
Hey @kokoro , glad to have you in our community!


Seeing your interest in Zen, I thought I would recommend you:
- Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigal (Western philosophy professor hellbent on learning zen. Hard journey. Lots of tacit knowledge of zen explained).
- Zen bow, zen arrow, the life and teachings of Awa Kenzo, (the archery master from the latter book)
- Videos from youtube of the late Jun po Roshi.
kokoro kokoro, modified 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 6:33 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/30/23 6:20 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/29/23 Recent Posts
Thank you for your answers!

@shargrol Thank you for your suggestion. I watched the first two parts of that video playlist, but to be honest, it was too vague, too fast and too brief to be helpful to me right now. Again, I couldn't really connect that to my personal expieriences. When I find a little more time, I will go through other videos of Kenneth Folk. Inspired by your suggestion to watch a video, I then talked to my friend that suggested MCTB to me. And asked him whether he can suggest some Videos on YouTube. He showed me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K5ypXyF3dY from Micheal Taft. I found Micheal Taft's descriptions very and helpful. Do you (or somebody else) know Micheal Taft that by some coincidence and can comment on whether that descriptions are accurate?

If that Micheal Taft's description is reasonable, then I did neither achieve the first nor the second jhana. @jimsmith Rapture is "piti", right? I always struggle when I read the notion rapture. But I believe, what Micheal Taft describes might match your description of your experiences with the first Jhana. At least this is what I take from your answer, and actually mainly because of you said the experience is "intense". Instense joy or bliss was never a goal of my practise. At the beginning because I thought I would need to calm down first. Later I simply was looking after other things (or nothings or whatever).

However, when I read MCTB, Daniel explicitly states in Part III, Chapter 26 about first Jhana, page 150, (in the pdf its page 174)), that "you might not notice the physical sensations of happiness, well-being, or bliss that can accompany the first jhana if you are focusing on objects other than those... [close to specific physical sensations]". I am not sure about this, but I can imagine that I reached the first Jhana, when I surrendered to following any thoughts that kept arising. These thoughts where my object of concentration practise. At least until I learned to not think them. In the very next sentence, Daniel states "[Joyfullness etc. not arising] ... can be very confusing for some people trying to map progress in the jhanas who yet may be deeply into jhana." I don't believe, I was ever deep in any Jhanas, since I never actually practiced achieving them (and did not even know about them), but still. Could it be that this applies to me? Following the list I find at the Wikipedia article of "piti" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%ABti), I believe I have experienced/achieved a much deeper "vitarka" (i'd say focus/attention) and "vicara" (i'd say investigative reasoning),   "ekaggata" (i'd say mindfulness(maybe?)) , a little amount of  "sukkha" ("bliss, quiet happiness") and very little to no "piti" ( i'd say intense good feeling). In a sense I completely neglected "sukkha" und "piti", without even noticing.
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I can enter that state which I am talking about, but I will need some time to experiment a little with other objects of meditation in order to see whether I can expierience some kind of "piti" in that state. I will also need to explicitly investigate the other states. I have the feeling that when I wrote "i calmed down a little" I actually reached the second jhana. However, back then I believed shamadhi to be something completely ecstatic and unconciously I think I believed it is not achievable. When I learned how to stopped thinking I think I achieved the third Jhana. Soon after I slowly drifted to the fourth Jhana, where I then got stuck. Except for a single very brief moment, where I accidently reached the fifth jhana while drawing the circle.

To be honest, with the intention to not distort anybodys valuable opinion I deliberately did not connect my experiences with any jhanas when i wrote the above post. Also, please feel free to disagree. I'd sincerely appreciate that. I am new here, and I am here to learn. Also many things from my experience do not really line up with the descriptions of Jhanas, so I do not trust my believes right now. I surely did not master anz of those Jhanas, and maybe... I have just achieved access concentration. Better to find out now, than later.

@jimsmith  I saw you added some links. Thank you very much. Those sound very interesting! I will have a look. (That might take some time though.)

@aeon Thank you for your recommendations. I actually have not yet read any of those books. I will keep them in mind and have a look at them some day. I have practiced Zen for a long time now, and with a lot of determination. Also read several books about Zen, and right now, I kinda just need to digest. I will come back to Zen soon enough. And also thank you very much for your welcoming words! This was very kind!
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Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/31/23 4:29 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/31/23 4:29 AM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

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A word to the wise is often enough: Enjoyment.
Jhanas are soooo much easier to learn when the meditation object is a pleasant sensation.
This is stolen from Leigh Brasington. There is an excellent podcast with him on Guru Viking's youtube channel. That's where I first learned jhana.
Then MCTB answered all remaining questions I had.

They are not necessarily that hard to do!
If you have the concentration to sit zen style, I would wager you have more than enough concentration for the first four jhanas.
Whether you did achieve a jhana state or not, why not think: "There's more!" Who cares how hard/deep those states were? They are there to be explored, that's what matters.

Having said that.. I can distinguish the first four jhanas with these very consistent characteristics:

1st: Muscular tension and excitement of various forms arise. Feels like being a kid playing an arcade game.
2nd: Tension relaxes and most importantly, attention appears "glued" to the meditation object. Takes very little effort to sustain.
3rd: Almost always cooling sensation. Attention is dispersed everywhere except on the meditation object.
4th: Shape of attention is different than third, more like 360 degrees, where 3rd was 180 degrees panoramic in front. EQ arises. Focus in body can return.

Mind you there will likely be jhana purists who say what I describe above is not at all jhana, because I didn't sit in perfect focus for +4 hours, even if the building around me burned down. Don't get caught up in that; look for what is useful, not what is right to some crusty old monks.
T DC, modified 1 Year ago at 4/1/23 11:27 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/1/23 11:25 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 516 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Hey kokoro kokoro, thanks for the write up, sounds like you've had an interesting journey. 

With the kind of progression's you noted - increased ability to manage your thoughts, etc - I'm not sure that "did you experience the jhanas" is the best question to ask.  Maybe a better one would be, "did my practice result in long term benefits to my personal mental / spiritual health, and how can I deepen or build on those insights going forward?" 

The jhanas are very attractive to many people starting out in meditation, but they are also impermanent states, hard to achieve / confirm, and honestly of minor consequence for our greater development on the path.  I would really emphasize the importance of overall personal meditative development versus a very specific aspect such as the jhanas, and in that regard it seems like you potentially had some success.
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 4/2/23 4:38 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/2/23 4:38 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 2476 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Well said T DC!
Matt Jon Rousseau, modified 1 Year ago at 4/2/23 6:08 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/2/23 6:05 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

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I am not expert but I was told blah blah blah.  If you have to ask weather you achieved jhana or not. You probably didn't.  Then there was the analogy to orgasm. If you questioned  weather it happened or not. It didn't.  There should be a paradigm  shift in awareness if reached.  Please critique  this is someone k own more . Or expound  in it
kokoro kokoro, modified 1 Year ago at 4/2/23 8:09 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/2/23 8:02 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

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@tdc Did my practice result in long term benefits to my personal mental / spiritual health? Without any doubt. I am a different person than ten years ago, and many of positive changes I attribute to my practise in any form, with meditation practice having been the basis for everything. How can I deepen or build on those insights going forward? I have no idea. Also I am tired. There is good reasons for not meditating for more than a year. I lost intrest in progress on the path to enlightment, in particular through meditation. I say this without any judgement.

In that time I progressed by other means though. This might sound a bit paradoxical, but improving my well-being was one motivation for neglecting meditation practice. For example, I tried to sleep more. I was and still am working on improving my financial situation (before I was fine living on the bare minimum, but soon I turn 30 and plan to care for my own family some time soon). Another motivation was the well-being of others. I turned to taking on more responsibility in my wordly life. I gained valuable insights during that time. If I return to explicitly working on the path to enlightment now, I do so as a more mature practitioner than I had been before.

When I was introduced to MCTB and in particular the concentration Jhanas, I felt, this might actually be the stepping stone back. I do not really desire further progress anymore, but regardless of my desires I felt: this could be it. And that this might be actually good by reasons beyond my desires or beliefs. For the first time in more than a year I felt genuine interest in practicing mediation again. And that was because of the Shamadhi Jhanas.

With many more than five years of intense meditation practice and many experiences of deep insight in the nature of things I hardly feel like a beginner. So if the concentrations states are what currently helps me to further progress, then let that be it. I feel exactly how shallow these desires to explore the concentration states are. But maybe I simply have a shallow mind, and if so, let that be it, too. Better than not returning to explicit practice, right? Who knows...

Anyway, I actually sat down again to explore those states. I easily can enter several different states. However, ...

1)They do not yet feel particularly deep, at least not deeper than meditation already felt deep before. They are deeper than my every day mind, but also not by that much. However, if I compare any of this to how I perceived existence ten years ago, or even 5 years ago, ... in comparison, back then that was like sleeping. I suspect, I actually switch several times a day to one those states for some moments anyway, and they became somewhat natural to me already. I do not believe many people experienced something similar, unless they've had mediatated successfully.

2) Also they do not feel particularly deep, with respect to what I feel might be possible. I feel like I entered each of those at the 'tip' and that there is more.

3) I have troubles staying in them. More precisely, if I do not take care, I switch between them within a matter of moments. Some of them are more natural than others.

4) I am not yet sure how many of them I can enter. I counted up to six different states of concentration, but several of those I could not enter easily and not hold at all. Also I am not sure, whether they all are actually different or whether some of them are the same state in a different flavour. (Worst case, all are access concentration, lol.)

5) I am able to enter states in which I feel bliss, it's not as easy as other states without bliss, but I can. I feel like a repulsion against that. I definitly feel like this is one of the two things I need to work on now. The other being the next bullet point.

6) I can enter a state in which I feel something that might be comparable to 'playing an acarde game', but only barely. Well, it'd simplify this to experiencing a 'joy'. I can enter a state in which I experience a non-negligible amount of joy, but only barely

It is again so obvious to me right now: I completely neglected enjoying myself during meditation.

@aeon In particular, thank you very much for your kind words. These have been motivational to me.

EDIT: Fixed formatting.
T DC, modified 1 Year ago at 4/3/23 4:47 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/3/23 4:47 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 516 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
@kokoro kokoro - Thanks for the reply!  I see more where you're coming from with some additional context.  Glad to hear your quest for the jhanas is not purely reductionist, but rather grounded in your previous achievements.  ;)

The jhanas are not necessarily a shallow goal, they're relatively challenging to achieve and can be a huge meditative confidence booster, which is a major benefit in of itself.  However the jhanas (hard, soft, or otherwise) are also pretty ill defined, and a seemingly large number of beginning meditators are overly obsessed with achieving them when they're ultimately a niche / specialized skill better approached as part of a larger meditative journey IMHO, which it sounds like you're doing all told.
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 4/4/23 4:46 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/4/23 4:46 AM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 1735 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
The point of practicing jhanas is not to feel good all the time.
The point is that they have a lot of spin off benefits to other areas of practice.

If you can change your emotions at will, it tells you that our usual assumptions about consciousness are sketchy.
Jhanas can help you learn to let go of attachments and aversions.
And they can help counter balance unpleasant emotions that come up sometimes during meditation.

From this point of view, it doesn't matter if you call it jhana or not jhana, the point is if you can produce piti (rapture), sukha (tranquil happiness), through meditation it is useful - educational. 

And metta by itself is just as good.
However some people even find it easier to transfer from metta to jhana. 

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/c/message_boards/find_message?p_l_id=10262&messageId=23561421



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




If you can produce emotions a will it helps you ...:

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.


Jhanas help to to learn to let go - the seventh and last factor of awakening (upekkha)


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.


Jhanas or smaatha or metta can be a good counterbalance to the emotional pain that often arises when unpleasant suppressed emotions sometimes come up during meditation.

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
kokoro kokoro, modified 1 Year ago at 4/6/23 2:13 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 4/6/23 2:13 PM

RE: Did I attain any Shamatha Jhanas?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/29/23 Recent Posts
@tdc Your welcome and thank you for your kind words!

I'll keep you posted. But I guess that there's mainly a lot of work for me to do now, before I have anything new to add.

@jimsmith Thank you for the links (in particular, this one)! I very enjoyed reading them. Metta Meditation sounds interesting (and challenging). I am going to try that. I know he/she's decribing rather simple things, but I think I needed to hear them. Also even though these are only short blog posts, I really enjoy the writing: sounds very down to earth. In particular, the fact that the author added two short paragraphs about having trouble to find somebody to love suggests to me that the author him/herself feels a lot of empathy with others. For many this blog post wouldn't be helpfull without them. I know several people that struggle to find love for even a single being and really need to start with trying to love themselves first. Not because they are bad people, but just like... Like many of those people never experienced being loved for example... So who should they have learned it from? Anyways, I digress. TL;DR I enjoyed reading these two blogpost.