"Jhana Not by the Numbers"

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katy steger, modified 8 Years ago.

"Jhana Not by the Numbers"

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Thanissaro Bhikku on Ajaan Fuang in his essay "Jhana Not by the Numbers" which I've copied from accesstoinsight's website:


(...)

So as a teacher, he tried to instill in his students these qualities of self-reliance, ingenuity, and a willingness to take risks and test things for themselves. He did that not only by talking about these qualities, but also by forcing you into situations where you'd have to develop them. Had he always been there to confirm for you that, "Yes, you've reached the third jhana," or, "No, that's only the second jhana," he would have short-circuited the qualities he was trying to instill. He, rather than your own powers of observation, would have been the authority on what was going on in your mind; and you would have been absolved of any responsibility for correctly evaluating what you had experienced. At the same time, he would have been feeding your childish desire to please or impress him, and undermining your ability to deal with the task at hand, which was how to develop your own powers of sensitivity to put an end to suffering and stress. As he once told me, "If I have to explain everything, you'll get used to having things handed to you on a platter. And then what will you do when problems come up in your meditation and you don't have any experience in figuring things out on your own?"

So, studying with him, I had to learn to take risks in the midst of uncertainties. If something interesting came up in the practice, I'd have to stick with it, observing it over time, before reaching any conclusions about it. Even then, I learned, the labels I applied to my experiences couldn't be chiseled in rock. They had to be more like post-it notes: convenient markers for my own reference that I might have to peel off and stick elsewhere as I became more familiar with the territory of my mind. This proved to be a valuable lesson that applied to all areas of my practice.

Still, Ajaan Fuang didn't leave me to reinvent the dharma wheel totally on my own. Experience had shown him that some approaches to concentration worked better than others for putting the mind in a position where it could exercise its ingenuity and accurately judge the results of its experiments, and he was very explicit in recommending those approaches. Among the points he emphasized were these:

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Ian And, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: "Jhana Not by the Numbers"

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
A very appropriate posting, Katy. Bravo!

Well worth every practitioner who is attempting to achieve absorption meditation reading two or three times until the points hit home.

A few of the quotes I particularly like:

Ajaan Fuang: "He, rather than your own powers of observation, would have been the authority on what was going on in your mind; and you would have been absolved of any responsibility for correctly evaluating what you had experienced."

"If I have to explain everything, you'll get used to having things handed to you on a platter. And then what will you do when problems come up in your meditation and you don't have any experience in figuring things out on your own?"

Tan Thanissaro: "So, studying with him, I had to learn to take risks in the midst of uncertainties. If something interesting came up in the practice, I'd have to stick with it, observing it over time, before reaching any conclusions about it. Even then, I learned, the labels I applied to my experiences couldn't be chiseled in rock. They had to be more like post-it notes: convenient markers for my own reference that I might have to peel off and stick elsewhere as I became more familiar with the territory of my mind. This proved to be a valuable lesson that applied to all areas of my practice."

It's kind of like learning how to swim. You just have to get in the water and do it. And figure it out for yourself. This is why developing sati (mindfulness) and discernment (sampajanna, or clear comprehension) is sooo important. And no one can do that for you BUT YOURSELF!

Becoming aware of the subtleties of this practice is what it is ALL ABOUT. And you can't do that if you constantly have to ask permission from those who have been there "Did I get it right or not?" The only one who knows is YOU. And you have to begin accepting that responsibility. That's not to say it's not right or helpful to ask questions. But don't get discouraged when the answers ask you to dig even deeper, or try to get you to recognize what you've just described, or tell you that you're focusing on the wrong things and try to get you to transition to the right things.
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katy steger, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: "Jhana Not by the Numbers"

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Ian -

I am glad you liked the post and had favorite quotes.

Here is one that I did not remain neutral to ; )
So as a teacher, he tried to instill in his students these qualities of self-reliance, ingenuity, and a willingness to take risks and test things for themselves. He did that not only by talking about these qualities, but also by forcing you into situations where you'd have to develop them.

Had he always been there to confirm for you that, "Yes, you've reached the third jhana," or, "No, that's only the second jhana," he would have short-circuited the qualities he was trying to instill.

He, rather than your own powers of observation, would have been the authority on what was going on in your mind; and you would have been absolved of any responsibility for correctly evaluating what you had experienced.
(spacing added by me for ease of reading)

I am both blown away sometimes by the unique insight offered up by the mind in meditation and the opposite use of mind: my volitional ignorance brushing meditation off of the top of my daily to-do's. *sigh* Par for (my) course...
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fivebells ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: "Jhana Not by the Numbers"

Posts: 563 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Thanks, that was a good read.

In the process of looking up the 14th Jhana, I came across this Kenneth Folk video purporting to be a guided tour of the first 13 jhanas. Don't know if I buy it, but it's very interesting.
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katy steger, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: "Jhana Not by the Numbers"

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Ian.

Thanks, Fivebells. I am glad you enjoyed it, too.

I am taking in Ajaan Fuang (link goes to Dhammawiki) and feel very lucky to have his rigorous consideration (such as Awareness Itself) and Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translations (available on accesstoinsight when the titles are searched, Awareness Itself is linked in the second link).

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