Tarin's Simple Instructions for Attaining Jhanas

Tommy M, modified 11 Years ago at 10/10/12 4:11 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/10/12 4:11 PM

Tarin's Simple Instructions for Attaining Jhanas

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
These are notes from a post by Tarin Greco on the subject of attaining 1st to 8th jhana, they're really simple and effective. Thanks to Nick for recovering these and bumping the post up, I've just reformatted them and capitalized stuff so it's easier to read 'cause Tarin only ever wrote in lower case. He doesn't post on here much anyone but I'm sure any specific questions could be answered by anyone else familiar with these strata of mind. The original post can be found here.

Simple Instructions for Attaining Concentration Jhanas 1-8

These are instructions for learning to sort out which strata of mind are for which jhana. They are surprisingly straight-forward and easy and not at all out of reach of someone who is familiar with the stages of insight up to equanimity regarding formations.. and the more familiarity the better (and mastery of at least one path even better, but i have given this instruction to a pre-stream-enterer and he learnt it with remarkable rapidity).

I hope this summary writing will help de-mystify the states a bit and help make them more accessible and therefore attainable. They are not at all as hard as the old texts and the popular meditation culture make them sound. They're right under our noses.. the thing to remember about all of this is that they're already right there.

I also invite anyone, especially people who have mastered the jhanas (i have not), to add and comment, and to correct me if they feel I'm off somewhere. But I disagree already.

The instructions are for attaining jhana, not for mastering them. I am only teaching you to recognise the realms, not abide in them hard for long periods of time. Figure that out elsewise. Doing it this way, you will, most likely, only be able to hit them hard (unaware of any other phenomena) for a matter of seconds at most, though you may be able to sustain them soft for a much longer time. Regardless, just consider the ability to recognise and focus on these strata of mind your mark of success.

So, to get started, get physically comfortable and relaxed. My favourite position is in a chair, leaning against the back rest. I do this on the sense of presence (thanks, Dan) and suggest you do too. Forget about getting your concentration strong, just go right to the strata of mind you want to be absorbed into. That’s the whole point. Just trying to absorb into it will do a lot to strengthen concentration.

Rupa Jhanas:

1st Jhana:
1st jhana is basically just the sense of protracted effort, held solid and unmoving. Turn the mind toward that quality, focus on it and keep it still. Dive into it, forget about anything/everything else.

2nd Jhana:
2nd jhana is about the bliss of the a&p. Just conjure up the A&P (particularly early- to mid- A&P) and solidify the whole sense of that. Steep in the rapture or bliss, whatever you want to call it. It's bright, it's light, it's got both a bodily as well as metal quality to it. Another easy way to hit it this, by the way, besides straight from sense of presence, is to to look at the sun from behind closed eyelids and let the red light suffuse your whole awareness (thanks Kenneth). Anyway, 2nd jhana is like a 1st jhana you dont have to concentrate on as tightly. Let the mind relax and let it do it itself, with only mild and gentle hints and help to stay on focus. this also applies from here on in.

3rd Jhana:
3rd jhana is like late a&p/early dissolution. It's marked by a coolness on the surface of the body. It's like a better 2nd jhana. If you end up getting dark night vibrations while trying to find this, that's no problem at all. Try catching and 'holding' one of those chunky clunky rattling or jarring vibes still - just stop it in its tracks. The coolness will then suffuse. In fact, doing this may give a clue as to why Daniel Ingram classifies the entire dark night as '3rd vipassana jhana' in his book, and may even give you a place of rest if you're stuck in dark night territory and just don't feel like insight'ing your way onward just yet (although if you have the concentration to hold a vibe still you probably also have the concentration to keep going and reach equanimity soon enough, even though it may not seem that way at the moment - just a quick piece of insight advice).

4th Jhana:
4th jhana is the background mind apparent in equanimity regarding formations stage. Open awareness, wide, panoramic, still, neutral. open sky, clouds moving through.. except, for these shamatha purposes, ignore the clouds and solidify the sky. This one is my personal favourite.

(Note: People who have mastered a path should, I think, be able to attain any of these with relative ease, in order or out of order. Just call up the appropriate vipassana nanas and solidify them. Even if you haven’t finished a path yet but maybe have enough familiarity with the stages, go ahead and try this.)

Arupa Jhanas:

Now the formless ones.

5th Jhana:
5th jhana, boundless space, is exactly what it sounds like. Using your sense of presence as the base, recall equanimity (4th shamatha jhana), stay with it for some time... a few seconds, a few minutes. then coming out a little bit, catapult into the sense of space. What is it that pervades yet surrounds, this physical field, this mental field? Expand further and further, wider and wider, til you cant see its limits. That sense of boundlessness... open to it, and hold it. That's boundless space. Hold it with enough concentration and your body and the physical world will disappear completely for a while. But even if it doesnt, the point of my instruction is to get to know these strata, so just being able to recognise and access space is sufficient. Steep in it. Develop forgetfulness of anything else.

6th Jhana:
To get into 6th jhana, boundless consciousness, take the space and suffuse it with consciousness. Fill the space with mind, so that its luminous, glowing, gently yet profoundly, everywhere...open to it, and hold it. That's boundless consciousness. Like space but brighter and fuller.

(Note: I actually find boundless space to be more refined and subtle than boundless consciousness, even though consciousness admittedly feels more unitive. Different strokes, I guess.)

7th Jhana:
7th jhana, nothingness, is a little different. To hit nothingness, you take anything so far (easiest by focusing on boundless consciousness though, which has already united things quite nicely), and ... simply ignore it. That's right, just totally tune out of it. Bam. You're in nothingness. You're out of phase, but extremely attentive to what it's like to be out of phase, and attentive to what Daniel calls in his book '[the sensations] that seem to imply nothingness'. It's blank. It's quiet. Its really nothing. Your whole mind in a soundproof room. Open to it, be surrounded by it, suffused by it, be it. There's nada. Attend to that nada. You'll be surprised how thick and existent nada can be.

8th Jhana:
8th, neither perception-nor-non-perception. To get to 8th, you tune out of the quality of attending to anything at all, which has been present all along through the previous jhanas. So you stop noticing that you're there. But you cant quite say you're not there either cos something's still going on.

The best place to hit 8th jhana from is clearly from nothingness, cos so much is ignored already, but I find it possible to jump there directly just by looking at something (preferably a stable mental quality like 5th or 6th jhana) and attending to the looking itself, then just stop attending to all of it completely. It's like how, in order to find 7th, you stop attending to what you're looking at (boundless consciousness) in order to tune out into the nothingness. Except for with 8, you also tune out of the looking at the same time. 'Looking' can be kind of sticky and hard to disregard but believe me, it's possible. This one may take a bit of practice.

Daniel Ingram writes in MCTB that, unlike the others, 8th can always only ever be hit 'hard', never 'soft', but I disagree, and I was recently talking to him about that and he conceded the point saying yeah he wasn't so sure about that either anymore, having written that part of the book years ago. We talked about how there seem to be a couple forms of 8th, either the total into it-ness and hardly aware of anything, or the just not really aware of what's going on-ness but a lot was still going on (in reflection). Further I also suspect that 8th may have more variety in how it presents to people than any of the other formless ones which are extremely straight-forward.


Please report back if you try the methods I've presented here. Just remember to not bother worrying if you're hitting it right or hitting the right one, or what you're hitting, anything like that. This is absorption, not investigation. These layers of the mind are already there, you don’t have to mess with them. Good luck and enjoy! This stuff is fun.

A closing note and personal story:

If you're a bliss junkie, especially an abstract bliss junkie, or a silence junkie, I strongly advise trying to attain the formless jhanas if only to learn how to bust ‘em. You could get stuck in high equanimity stage for a long time otherwise. I spent quite some time not being able to get past high equanimity, before getting first path, without having any clue about it, until one strange little evening with Pete and Katy where it suddenly occurred to me, 'oh shit, I’m not noting silence! I’m totally missing silence'. So I wrote myself a note to remember to not space out/bliss out on the silence, read it later, then went on retreat and nailed the thing. Then, a week or so later, when I first formally attained these jhanas, I discovered that 7th jhana is my favourite of the formless realms - surprise!

Ian And, modified 11 Years ago at 10/12/12 11:45 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/11/12 10:52 AM

RE: Tarin's Simple Instructions for Attaining Jhanas

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Tommy M:
This is absorption, not investigation. These layers of the mind are already there, you don’t have to mess with them.

As succinctly as possible this statement defines the essence of jhana. Whether or not a person is able to recognize this during practice is a whole different matter.

But essentially, Tommy is correct when he states that: "This is absorption, not investigation." In other words, one may attain to the absorption before they realize what they have accomplished. It's only upon review, after contemplation, that the realization of having attained to absorption may suddenly dawn on the person.

The important thing to consider here is the very simplicity of the instructions given for attaining to a state of absorption (or what some might call "a state of reverie"; like when you become absorbed in reading a book or some other pleasant activity in which the mind become totally absorbed in the activity to the detriment of things happening around it). The mind becomes fully absorbed in the state without needing to investigate it. It just IS what is happening without any need to analyze it.

Yet the importance of being able to attain to jhana states is only finally realized by the recognition that attaining to them helps to increase one's ability of concentration, both during contemplation and after contemplation (meaning during meditation and outside of meditation, in normal consciousness). The practitioner realizes an increase in his ability to arrive at a concentrated place in the mental sphere. And this enhances his ability to remain equanimous during insight meditation, which is crucial to the awakening process.

What this increase in concentration ability finally yields is an ability to "see things as they are" rather than how the mind might speculate (or be biased) in viewing phenomena. By filtering out the bias, what is left is what is there in its suchness. (Sorry if this sounds mystical; it's really not. Not if you understand how the mind can twist things out of shape, having one "believe" something is real when it really isn't.)

For more about this important concept in dhamma training, find and read very carefully Bhikkhu Nanananda's book Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought. I guarantee it will be an eye opener.
Eric B, modified 11 Years ago at 10/11/12 2:20 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/11/12 2:20 PM

RE: Tarin's Simple Instructions for Attaining Jhanas

Posts: 187 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Nick, Tommy and Ian,

Thanks for the excavation, tailoring and commentary. Sometimes these bits of gold get buried in the layers of sediment.

Tommy M, modified 11 Years ago at 10/11/12 2:57 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/11/12 2:57 PM

RE: Tarin's Simple Instructions for Attaining Jhanas

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Just to be clear, this entire article was written by Tarin. I added the first paragraph and the "Enjoy!" at the end, as well as reformatting it for ease of reading, but the content itself is by Tarin and I didn't write or alter any of it.
bill of the wandering mind, modified 11 Years ago at 10/19/12 6:02 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/19/12 6:02 PM

RE: Tarin's Simple Instructions for Attaining Jhanas

Posts: 131 Join Date: 4/14/11 Recent Posts
very interesting Tommy I will have to play with this. I usually do 15 min of samatha before noting so I will test this out a bit. I know that the one for 5th works because I have hit it accidentally when doing universal metta and having the mind jump onto the 'space' as object..
bill of the wandering mind, modified 11 Years ago at 10/19/12 7:50 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/19/12 7:50 PM

RE: Tarin's Simple Instructions for Attaining Jhanas

Posts: 131 Join Date: 4/14/11 Recent Posts
I spent about a half hour going up the arc with these instructions..

Amazing - it actually works. And this from a guy with a notoriously unsteady attention!

What is interesting is it gets harder as I go up - each strata becomes successively more difficult to hold on to, is less stable. I was able to get to 5th and maybe get a feel for what 6 would be, 7th/8th no way. 1st was amazingly easy to find using the pointer, although the rapture seemed a bit rough, and curiously I could just 'turn on' the rapture/joy of A&P and tune into it, although it was harder to stay on it than 1st. The bliss of 2nd though felt stronger, almost too much (just hook it to my veins lol) - Much more relaxing to move up from there. 1st was the narrowest, with the 'area' of focus seemingly just head sized maybe, 2nd felt like much of the body but not fully, just the center column of the body perhaps, 3rd was the whole body but seemed to be more like just the surface, not as clear what was going on inside, 4th was panoramic, like relaxing behind everything, sense of neutrality to the 'clouds' was apparent, 5th was expansive beyond this, fewer mind/body objects like they get small or something, not sure. I'm not sure I really got sixth - tried to superimpose mind on space but that seemed more like a fantasy, tuned into quality of 'mind' but not sure about that one, maybe a whiff of it. 7th/8th no idea, I probably haven't opened up that territory yet emoticon

3rd seemed more difficult to find - even than something that felt like 4th, although I think I got a few seconds of a harder taste of 3rd, like feeling the skin all over the body at once in a 'cool' way although it is apparent to me the coolness is vibratory/misty (hard to solidify?) - It seemed easier to remember the fuzzy/misty body quality of dissolution and focus on that - I will have to play with the vibrations next time. and see how that goes.
bill of the wandering mind, modified 11 Years ago at 10/21/12 2:33 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/21/12 2:33 PM

RE: Tarin's Simple Instructions for Attaining Jhanas

Posts: 131 Join Date: 4/14/11 Recent Posts
I will add one other observation from today's practice - I did an hour of this today but my intent was to try and STAY in the realm of first... What actually occured remembering the sit was that as the ability to bring up the sense of effort waned I shifted up to second and then third without really realizing it. The sense of third was very clear compared to the last few times and I could have just stayed there (almost no effort, stillness, happyness, collness on skin, attention going out but not panoramic) but my impatience to be somewhere else kept getting in the way emoticon - I can see that I will have to drop for now the idea of static Jhana and just ride things shifting the meditation as needed. Seems I can get concentrated no matter where I am on the arc, so why not?

Thanks for the help Tarin and Tommy - I will keep reporting on my thread over on KFD for now.