Does 1st jhana have to be really stable before 2nd arises?

Conor O'Higgins, modified 10 Years ago at 5/28/12 1:27 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/28/12 1:27 PM

Does 1st jhana have to be really stable before 2nd arises?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 3/8/11 Recent Posts
Hi guys,

The stage I'm at now is where I pretty regularly get 1st jhana, but it only lasts a minute or two at best; it is not stable.

Recently the quality of the jhana seems to have changed slightly, very slightly. The main change is that I feel less effort in the jhana.

I'm trying to figure out if this means I have progressd to 2nd jhana or if this is just a different flavour of 1st. On the one hand, I would be surprised to have progressed to 2nd because I hadn't really mastered 1st; it was so shaky. On the other, the descriptions of 2nd jhana seem to be 1st with less effort.

Thanks
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Thom W, modified 10 Years ago at 5/28/12 2:01 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/28/12 1:44 PM

RE: Does 1st jhana have to be really stable before 2nd arises?

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
No, 1st does not have to be stable before 2nd arises, and all 8 jhana can arise with varying degrees of effort or effortlessness.

But more importantly, I would question the usefulness of wondering about whether it is or is not 2nd jhana. It really doesn't matter. Keep exploring, be endlessly curious with your own experience and practice. Try different things, different ways of applying effort and energy, and different ways of letting go of effort and energy. See what leads to deeper absorption. Hint - each successive jhana is a letting go of some aspect of experience, so basically, it's a practice of applying less and less effort in subtler and subtler ways.

Tina Rasmussen and Steven Snyder have excellent teachings on Jhana - check out their talks on their website Jhanas Advice, and their book "Practicing the Jhanas" is very good - most notably for the inclusion of a section dedicated to the territory up to the arising of 1st jhana. I think they also did two Buddhist Geeks podcasts. Check the website and search the box. They were both students of Pa-Auk Sayadaw and recommend anyone getting into their teaching reads his book "Knowing and Seeing". PDF here.

Keep exploring, and trust your own ability to deepen in these skills. Even if someone were to answer "Yeh! You hit 2nd! Good job!" what difference would it make really? You have to be able to know for yourself, and this only comes with practice.

Cheers
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 5/28/12 3:40 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/28/12 3:40 PM

RE: Does 1st jhana have to be really stable before 2nd arises?

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
While Thom's response is certainly useful and accurate, I'd like to offer something more 'hands-on' which may be helpful.

Recently the quality of the jhana seems to have changed slightly, very slightly. The main change is that I feel less effort in the jhana.

I'm trying to figure out if this means I have progressd to 2nd jhana or if this is just a different flavour of 1st. On the one hand, I would be surprised to have progressed to 2nd because I hadn't really mastered 1st; it was so shaky. On the other, the descriptions of 2nd jhana seem to be 1st with less effort.

You don't need mastery of all the jhanas, that comes with a shitload of practice but isn't necessary for awakening. What you've described sounds like it could either be a very early version of 2nd, or possibly some sub-jhanic fractal thing; either way, it's at least showing you that you're doing something correctly so it's worth tweaking your technique somewhat.

In 1st jhana, thinking still occurs but the focus of attention is fixed on your object; pitiand sukha arise and can then be taken as the focus without trying to change or increase them in any way. This leads them to become stronger and clearer, without any effort on your part, but can get a bit too heavy and annoying after a while. At this point, change the focus and place attention on the mental sense of pleasantness; it's not heavy like the bodily stuff and, if the focus is maintained upon it in the same, natural and effortless way as you did in 1st, it will lead to the stilling of the mind and you'll enter 2nd jhana.

What is it that you're trying to achieve overall in your practice?

Don't stress about mastery, like I said, it'll happen if you practice well enough. Familiarize yourself with as much of the jhanic strata as you have access to, even if it's just a hint of what's possible it'll encourage you and keep your practice strong. Even if it's just devoting 5 or 10 minutes of your sit to playing around with concentration and attention, have fun with it and don't let yourself get too hung up on goals and attainments.

Enjoy.
Jim W, modified 10 Years ago at 5/28/12 4:39 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/28/12 4:39 PM

RE: Does 1st jhana have to be really stable before 2nd arises?

Posts: 27 Join Date: 2/8/12 Recent Posts
Hi Conor,

Interesting thread, I have been having a similar experience ! I have been able to get into first jhana (on and off) for a couple of months now, sometimes the piti and sukha calm down and the energy is a bit different (which I think is probably second jhana arising as the focus is still there, just not so much piti). I haven't got the stage of being able to always get into jhana when I sit, but I think, as previously mentioned, this takes a heck of a lot of experience. I have found that if I am tired / sick / run down, I don't quite have the energy to concentrate to the point of jhana arising. I have also heard others say that different jhana states can come and go and that it is not always the case that people experience them in the same order or need to master one before the next arises. I guess the key thing is just to keep sitting and not get too concerned about it - I have found that thinking about these things too much can be a bit counter productive.

Hope all goes well with your practice !

Jim
Conor O'Higgins, modified 10 Years ago at 5/29/12 2:46 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/29/12 2:46 PM

RE: Does 1st jhana have to be really stable before 2nd arises?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 3/8/11 Recent Posts
Thank you all. All three of those answers are helpful to me.
T Dan S-, modified 10 Years ago at 6/8/12 6:23 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 6/8/12 6:23 PM

RE: Does 1st jhana have to be really stable before 2nd arises?

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
I think tommy's advice is great here.
especially the 'take it easy and have fun'.

I found the main thing keeping me from locking into harder jhanas awhile back was the whole "well am I in 3rd or 4th now? is this rapture or piti or sukha?" analytical semi ocd trip. So a little food for thought there.
apply a lot of effort and have fun doing it!

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