Access Concentration, Jhana, High Equanimity & Vipassana Jhana?

neem nyima, modified 8 Years ago.

Access Concentration, Jhana, High Equanimity & Vipassana Jhana?

Posts: 168 Join Date: 8/6/10 Recent Posts
I would like to state, that this essays basic ideas are near completion but also in evolution, it still needs a lot more work to get it up to an academic standard. Which I will hopefully be able to do. Though I think my basic arguments stand and there is already a lot of support & evidence for it, in the literature as well as in the advice I have received during my practice.
Please consider these points for they bears particular relevance to the dry-insight practitioner and offer a clearer approach for the both ways practitioner and refer to the short-cut for a concentrated practitioner.

Kind Regards Neem.

PS. I moved the piece because wanted to retitle the piece as well as separate the notes on Jhana from the larger body of the piece.
neem nyima, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Access Concentration, Jhana, High Equanimity & Vipassana Jhana?

Posts: 168 Join Date: 8/6/10 Recent Posts
Jhana Notes:

Notes from, 'The Attention Revolution' by B. Allan Wallace, on The 10 stages of Jhana in the Tibetan Shamata Yanika Tradition.

"the sequence of shamatha training begins with relaxation, then stabilising attention., and finally maintaining relaxation and stability while gradually increasing vividness… If you want to develop exceptional vividness, first develop relaxation, second develop stability, and finally increase vividness. Between formal meditation sessions, it is vital to maintain a high degree of mindfulness and introspection throughout the day" pg.68.

"Psychologists have found that the time generally needed to acquire expertise in a variety of high-level skills is five to ten thousand hours of training in a discipline of eight hours each day for fifty weeks in the year. This is roughly the degree of commitment required to progress along the entire path to the achievement of shamatha." pg. 66.

1st stage: "directed attention... is simply being able to place your mind on your chosen object of meditation fro even a second or two. If you are directing your attention to a... complex visualization, this may take days or weeks...But if your chosen object is your breathing, you may achieve this stage on your first attempt.", pg.13.

2nd stage: "In the 2nd...stage, continuous attention, you experience occasional periods of continuity, but most of the time your mind is still caught up in wondering thoughts and sensory distractions." pg.30. "For most people.., the problem is...excitation." there are, "...three levels of excitation. The 1st is called coarse excitation, which we typically encounter during the initial stages of attention training. The 2nd two levels of excitation, medium excitation and subtle excitation, become apparent only during more advances stages of attention training." pg.29.
"...on the second stage, although you experience periods when your attention was continually engaged with the object for as long as a minute, most of the time you were still caught up in distractions." pg.43.

3rd stage: "When you reach.., resurgent attention, during each practice session your attetnion is fixed most of the time upon your meditative object. By now, you will have increase the duration of each session beyond the initial 24mins to perhaps twice that." "When you reach teh 3rd stage, your attentional stability has increase so that most of the time you remain engaged with the object. Occasionally there are still lapses where you when you completely forget the object,.. The third stage is achieved only when your mind remains focuses on the object most of the time in virtually all your sessions. " pg.43. "...coarse excitation is the predominant problem during the third stage of attentional development." pg.47. "The further you progress in this practice, the subtler the breath becomes. At times it may become so subtle that you can't detect it at all. This challenges you to enhance the vividness of attention." pg.48.

4th stage: "called close attention… due to the power of enhanced mindfulness, you no longer completely forget your chosen object,.. your sessions may now last an hour or longer, your attention can not be involuntarily drawn entirely away from the object. You are now free of coarse excitation." pg.59. "While your attention is no longer prone to coarse excitation, it is still flawed by a medium degree of excitation and coarse laxity. When medium excitation occurs, you don't completely lose track of your object of attention, but involuntary thoughts occupy the centre of your attention and the meditative object is displaced to the periphery." pg.62.

"Bhante Gunaratana"'s, "description of the Vipassana view of mindfulness in his book, 'Mindfulness in Plain English'." is a "bare attention,.. is present-time awareness…if you are remembering,.. that is memory. When you become aware that you are remembering… that is mindfulness."33" this "description is representive of the current Vipassana tradition as a whole, it is oddly at variance with the Buddha's own description of mindfulness, or sati: "And what monks, is the faculty of sati? Here, monks, the noble disciple has sati, he is endowed with the perfect sati and intellect, he is one who remembers, who recollects what was done and said long before."…it is weel known that the Pali term sati has its primary meaning in 'recollection', or 'memory,'… in addition to its connotations of 'retrospective memory,' sati also refers to 'prospective memory,'" pg.60-1.

"Buddhaghosa…wrote: "Sati's: characteristic is not floating; its property is not losing; its manifestation is guarding or the state of being face to face with an object; its basis is strong noting or the application of mindfulness of the body and so on. It should be seen as like a post due to its state of being set in the object, and as like a gatekeeper because it guards the gate of the eye and so on. "quote 36 " pg.61.

5th "stage… called tamed attention…you find you can take satisfaction in your practice, even though there is still some resistance to it… Free of coarse excitation, you must now confront another problem that was lurking in the shadows of your mind all along: coarse laxity… the symptom of this attentional disorder is that your attention succumbs to dullness, which causes it to largely disengage from its meditative object… attention fades,.. that leads down to sluggishness, lethargy, and finally sleep. This is a peaceful state of mind, so the ignorant may mistake it for the attainment of shamatha," pg.77.
"In addition to the… problem of medium excitation-…-you now have the task of recognising and counteracting a medium degree of laxity,.. having achieved the third and fourth stages with the power of mindfulness, the fifth stage is achieved by the power of introspection, is… monitoring the quality of your attention,.. so that you can detect more and more subtle degrees of laxity and excitation." pg.78.
"Buddhaghosa drew this distinction between mindfulness and introspection: "Mindfulness has the characteristic of remembering. Its function is not to forget. It is manifested as guarding. Introspection has the characteristic of non-confusion. Its function is to investigate. It is manifest as scrutiny."quote 45 " pg.79.
"Buddhist psychology classifies introspection as a form of intelligence (prajna)," pg.79.

6th "stage, known as pacified attention… is achieved by the power of introspection, and by now you no longer experience resistance to the training. You must still be on guard against… medium laxity, in which... the object of mindfulness,… is not very vivid. In addition, you… ned to be able to detect subtle excitation, in which the meditative object remains at the centre of attention, but involuntary thought emerge at the periphery." pg.99.
"At times when we become fixated on something, our mind become very small. Trivial issues loom up in our awareness as if they were very large and important. In reality, they haven't become large. Our minds have become small. The experienced magnitude of the contents of the mind is relative to the spaciousness of the mind." pg.99-100.
"Throughout the development of shamatha, even at this relatively advanced stage, a myriad of emotions and other mental and physical conditions may arise,.. One of the more common challenges in this practice is the emergence of fear… As lapses between thought occur more and more frequently and for longer periods, your awareness hovers in a kind of vacuum devoid of personhood… Another emotional balance that may crop up at any time throughout this training is depression, which may be related to a deep-rooted sense of guilt and low self-esteem… treat them like any other mental event: watch their emergence, see how they linger, then observe them disappear back into the space of the mind. Examine them with intelligence,.." pg.100-1
"The Vajra Essence emphasises… Everyones mind is unimaginably complex… Here is a list of just some of the kinds of meditative experiences cited… that may arise during this training, especially when it is pursued in solitude for many hours each day, for months on end: 57 " pg.105.
  • The impression that all your thoughts are wreaking havoc in your body and mind,
  • A sharp pain in your heart as a result of all your thoughts,
  • The ecstatic, blissful sense that mental stillness is pleasurable, but movement is painful
  • The perception of all phenomena as brilliant, coloured paticles
  • An inexplicable sense of paranoia about meeting other people, visiting their homes, or being in public places
  • Such unbearable misery that you think your heart will burst
There are many more.

7th stage, "fully pacified attention… as your mind settles more and more deeply… there is nothing … to attach to…. the seventh stage is achieved by enthusiasm: the practice itself now fills you with with joy… Having overcome the medium degree of laxity, subtle laxity remains, in which the object of mindfulness appears vividly, but you attention is slightly slack… subtle … laxity… is detected only in relation to the exceptionally high degree of vividness. Subtle excitation also occurs from time to time." pg. 117.
"You have become highly adept at balancing and refining your attention, the rest of the journey to the realisation of shamatha is all downhill… the mind has become so refined that your meditation sessions may last for at least two hours with only the slightest interruptions by laxity and excitation… Now you don't even prefer thoughts to be absent. Instead of deliberately letting them go--banishing them from your mind--you let them be, without deliberately influencing them in any way." pg.118.

In comparative terminology, in my opinion, this is where you are 'after' the fast flowing vibrations have finished in the insight jhanas of late mastery which has a later stage that models or is a micro-cosm of actual high equanimity. The evidence for this in terms of self diagnosis is, are you alternating between fast flowing vibrational states (the mini dark night of late mastery) and peaceful spacious states; not totally refined though. Then at peak experiences, intermittently getting to a peaceful spacious state of great ease of body that is only lasting 2 or 2 ½ hours, before a come down effect comes into place, where you go back to the alternating of the first two.

8th "stage, known as single point attention… You can now sustain … highly focused attention, free of the imbalances of even the subtlest laxity and excitation for at least three hours or so. Only the slightest degree of effort is uses at the beginning of each session to ward off these obstacles, and you continue in you practice motivated by the power of enthusiasm… the overall quality of this state of samadhi is on of stillness." pg. 131.

9th stage "known as attentional balance. You as now able to maintain flawlessly samadhi, effortlessly and continuously for at lest four hours. Due to the power of deep familiarisation with this training, you can slip into meditative equipoise, free of even the subtlest traces of laxity and excitation, with no effort at all… If for some reason you discontinue the practice, your will find that laxity and excitation erode your attentional equipoise… Contempatives who have achieved this ninth stage of attentional balance describe the quality of this experience simply as perfection."pg. 143.

This is access concentration and one can sit for at least 4hrs with pliancy & ease.

10th is Jhana

I state, these last 3 levels are hard to acquire and very subtle and directly applicable to letting go into high equanimity. Which I realise in my experience, is why I have not been able to get into the later stages of high equanimity, particularly the fourth sub-nana.

These are my personal notes about Jhana from Ajahn Brahms book. They are basically how the Theravada Samatha Yanika tradition views Jhana: The 7 stages of Jhana In the Thai Shamata Yanika Tradition. When I get another copy of the book I will quote directly from it. So you can know that these statements hold true to the books ideas. Until then please make do with the Tibetan view if my notes seem untrustworthy, or read the book by, Ajahn Brahm your self.

Present Moment Awareness: Be here now, listen, look, feel body awareness.

Silent Present Moment Awareness: Bring the mind to the now, free from the past, future & elsewhere. Sense the space & silence of mind.

Silent Present Moment Awareness of the Breath: Spacious silent Awareness, in the now relaxing the body, starting to follow the breath. Breathing in the now calmly…Breathing out the now calmly, allow the natural breathing.

Full Sustained Attention on the Breath: Attentive moment to moment awareness of the in & out breath.
This is reached by letting go, relaxing into the attentive moment, not through forceful attentiveness
You do not do reach this stage the mind does. this is where the doer, the major part of one's ego, starts to disappear & unity and peace start to become present.

Full Sustained Attention on the Beautiful Breath: The beautiful breath is when we maintain the unity of consciousness by not interfering the breath which will begin to become subtler, smooth and peaceful. Take time to saviour the sweetness of the beautiful breath (as Piti needs to be developed). You do not do anything, if you try to do something at this stage, you will disturb the whole process, from now on the doer has to disappear. In the later stages the breath will become very subtle and eventually disappears, all that's left is the beautiful, the mind is now taking the mind as its own object.

The Beautiful Nimitta: When one lets go of the body, thoughts and the five senses (including awareness of the breath) so completely that only a beautiful mental sign remains. Also the Breath and Space can be a Nimitta though this is not described much in this book. Some see a white light, some a gold star, some a blue pearl, for others perception chooses to describe this in terms of a physical sensation such as intense tranquillity or ecstasy; these are not physical perceptions associated with the body or the eyes.

Qualities of the Nimitta:
1) It appears only after the meditator has been with the beautiful breath for along time.
2) It appears when the breath disappears. (Some argue this is merely the perception of the breath which has become extremely subtle others that it has stopped all together)
3) The external 5 senses are completely absent.
4) It only manifests in a silent mind.
5) Strange but powerfully attractive.
6) It is a beautiful simple object.

If the nimitta is dull or unstable, flashing and disappearing in both cases one should go back to the previous stage.
The weak nimitta is caused by not enough depth of contentment and wanting, let go of the doer and enjoy, let the mind incline where it wants, which is usually the centre of the nimitta. If no nimitta arises after the breath disappear and instead peace, space, nothingness or emptiness is left, (this is not jhana) this could be because there isn't enough piti or sukha. Within the calm-space, cultivate the contentment into delight, delight is generated by letting the energy flow into the knower, strengthening present moment awareness, which will increase bliss and then the nimitta will appear. It is possible the nimitta is a feeling nimitta, of strong bliss, but this nimitta is more difficult to gain access to jhana with (in this situation space may be associate).

Jhana: Attention gets drawn into the centre of the nimitta or the the light expands to envelope you, let the mind merge into bliss, then let the jhana occur. The obstacles of exhilaration and fears need to be subdued in favour of complete passivity to attain.

The qualities of Jhana:
1) It usually persists for many hours. (Scriptures state proper Jhana or full accomplished Jhana is 24 hrs, I think 10-12 may be enough for the first time.)
2) Once inside there is no choice, emergence occurs naturally when the accumulated fuel of relinquishment is used up.
3) It is impossible to perceive the body, sound, think or perceive time.
4) It is not a trance but a heightened state of awareness of bliss that doesn't move.
neem nyima, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Access Concentration, Jhana, High Equanimity & Vipassana Jhana?

Posts: 168 Join Date: 8/6/10 Recent Posts
High Equanimity and Access Concentration are at the same level of Concentration! Access Concentration needs to be defined from the more commonly accepted definition used by the Concentration Tradition (i.e. Samatha Yanikas). This is because Access Concentration be it Fixed or Momentary, is the comparative springboard for the attainment of Insight in the Sutta's and in both Buddhist Traditions (i.e. Samatha & Vipassana Yanika). It is the Dry-Insights definition of Access Concentration that is wrong and sourced in associated terms like Vipassana Jhana which are either out of context with the terminologies of the Sutta's and misleading or even wrong in their context of use.

By correctly defining the achievement of the later stages of High Equanimity Regarding Formation i.e. High Equanimity and its associated level Access Concentration. It becomes clear what the achievement and difficulty level of the two states are. Therefore confusion is eradicated when diagnosing the last two sub-nanas and also the achievement of Access Concentration is put in perspective with its associated difficulty.

In the Suttas, it is often in post Jhanic states of high concentration that one attains Path, as is pointed out by Bikkhu Bodhi in The Jhanas & the Lay Disciple: According to the Pali Suttas.
"When the bhikkhu has fulfilled the preliminary moral discipline, we read, he goes off into solitude and cleanses his mind of the "five hindrances." When his mind has been so cleansed, he enters and dwells in the four jhānas, described by a stock formula repeated countless times in the Nikāyas:"(The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli Suttas, 1)
Though this may be the common case, it is not alway the case. Many of the Samatha Yanika schools have used the larger majority of cases of individuals attaining Jhana prior to Path, as evidence or proof that Jhana is required prior to attainment. But though, as Bikkhu Bodhi states, it is repeated countless times in the Suttas, it is not the exclusive perspective of the Suttas.
Bikkhu Bodhi goes on to explain that 'Significant Suttas' which are actually descriptions of gradual training, are also often used to to say that Jhana must be attained before Stream-entry. When in fact these Suttas are actually dealing with gradual training and are therefore generalised teachings for the attainment of Path. Bikkhu Bodhi clarifies this point by saying, all the stages of awakening are telescoped into one series in these gradual Sutta's, but these suttas are not specific cases, and there are other sutta's that deal with specific case of varied individuals attaining differently to an un-gradual processes.
"In the suttas dealing with the gradual training, all the stages of awakening are telescoped into one series, and thus no differentiation is made between the preparatory attainments required for stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, and arahantship. We simply see the monk go off into solitude, attain the four jhānas, and then proceed directly to arahantship, called "the knowledge of the destruction of the taints.""(The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli Suttas, 1&2)
Bikkhu Bodhi, finds support for the attainment of Dry-Insight Practioners, but interestingly enough isn't convinced that one can attain Arahantship with out Jhana.
"bare insight (suddha-vipassanā)... Apparently,...finds support from the Visuddhimagga and the Pāli Commentaries, though it is not given a very prominent place in the commentarial treatment of the path, which usually follows the canonical model in placing the jhānas before the development of insight.[2]...It is possible that the Jhānas come to assume an essential role at a later stage in the path. I believe there is strong evidence in the Nikāyas that the jhānas become an essential factor for those intent on advancing from the stage of once-returning to that of non-returner.
Several teachers of meditation are insisting that Jhānas are needed to attain even stream-entry. The Nikāyas themselves do not address this problem in clear and unambiguous terms, and it is difficult to derive from them any direct pronouncement on its resolution." (The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli Suttas, 1&2)
So we see here, that Bikkhu Bodhi, a modern and contemporary scholar with a large body of translation, who exists in a time with all the associated benefits of a broader body of knowledge, presenting a very clear argument, that not only reflects the Visuddhimagga but also the Nikaya's views.

With Vipassana Jhana, there is sometimes an assumption that a meditator is attaining full Jhana at the comparative Vipassana Jhana or Insight Stage. This is wrong, I believe they are merely accessing an earlier state of concentration with associated effects & factors that precedes, but imitates a real Jhana. I would promote the idea of a Micro & Macro Jhana, which is parallel to Daniel Ingram's idea of the Micro & Macro Stages of Insight. This Spiral-fractal starting with the first four stages of insight (Mind & Body, Cause & Effect, The 3 Characteristics & Arising & Passing Away) loops around and mirrors the more advanced Stages of Insight i.e. Dark-Night through to Equanimity. This is why there is often such confusion determining the stage of development of practitioners. As with the early and later 'Stages of Insight' mirroring each other, this is also the case with the states with Jhana. It is Micro & Macro Jhana or Spiral-Fractal Jhanic notion that I am presenting here. I state that, as with the confusion, of whether or not a practitioner is in the earlier or later stages of insight, a similar problem occurs with the diagnosis of Jhana.
[indent][/indent]Daniel Ingram also talks about Soft and Hard Jhana and I question the notion that a Soft jhana is the same as a Hard jhana and would prefer if it was seen as a micro of its macro, full attainment.

I would like to state, that in the process of acquiring Fixed Concentration, the meditator is not actually fixed until the final attainment of Jhana and therefore is dependent upon aspects of investigation or insight, to balance the laxity & excitation. I first heard this idea in Allan Wallace book, 'The Attention Revolution'. So the difference between fixed practice and momentary concentration is not so clearly delineated in practice, especially in the earlier stages of practice.

"Buddhaghosa drew this distinction between mindfulness and introspection: "Mindfulness has the characteristic of remembering. Its function is not to forget. It is manifested as guarding. Introspection has the characteristic of non-confusion. Its function is to investigate. It is manifest as scrutiny."45 "(The Attention Revolution, 79) (Get quote on the development of Shamatha and how introspection is a component of that!)
In this passage, B Allan Wallace defines introspection and its investigative functions, this is mentioned because it is required to be mindful of laxity and excitation to develop Shamatha and it is the investigative function of introspection which is one of the similes of Wisdom. (need a better quote here)

A Soft & Hard Jhana Map or a Samatha Yanika Map of what Access Concentration is, determines the relatively ease of attainment. Within a Traditional Jhana Map that describes Access Concentration, such as from B. Alan Wallace's book 'The Attention Revolution' which is in the Tibetan Shamata Tradition, Access concentration is described in terms of being able to sit for at least 4hrs.
"You are now able to maintain flawless samadhi, effortlessly and continuously for at least four hours."(The Attention Revolution,143)
Wallace, describes later in his book that though 4hrs is the minimum for Access Concentration it can extend up to 7hrs.
"At the end of a one-year shamatha retreat lead by Gen Lamrimpa in 1988, one meditator sat four sessions each day, each one lasting three hours. Another sat for just two sessions, each more than seven hours long. Neither one, according to Gen Lamrimpa, had achieved shamatha at that point, but both had made very good progress. When they arose from their meditations after so many hours, it felt to them as if no time had passed at all, and their bodies and minds were filled with blissful and relaxed sensations"(The Attention Revolution, 163)
In this Tibetan Map (refer to the map below), the practitioner sitting 7 hrs is at the 9th stage and is still in Access Concentration and the other is likely at the 7th or 8th stage. So we see here that Traditional Samantha Models of Access Concentration describe it as a high level attainment around 4hrs.

Some people in discussion have tried to define Access Concentration as a very low level state comparative to a General Mindfulness as described by the Concentration Traditions, i.e. being able to maintain attention without forgetfulness of the object. When using the 10 stage model of Tibetan Shamata described by B. Alan Wallace, this General Mindfulness is the 4th stage in the Jhana Map, and it is the 9th stage that is considered to be Access Concentration. When using Ajahn Brahm's Thai Theravada Map for Jhana, the 4th stage is General Mindfulness and the 6th Access Concentration.

I have chosen to prioritise the Tibetan Jhana Map as it breaks up the later stages of the development of Samatha with more clearly defined stages and I have therefore found it more relevant to my practice. The two Maps are totally parallel, and Wallace compares the Tibetan Map with references to Pali Texts, showing that it conforms to Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist understandings of the development of Jhana. Also I don't have my copy of Mindfulness Bliss & Beyond, but, though it doesn't specify the time for Access Concentration it does talk about early and later stage of the development which also places Access Concentration in a similar ball park, will try to add that in later. And will be looking for something from the Visuddhimagga, which, by the way, places full accomplishment of fixation at 24hrs.

There are arguments around the Suttas and the Commentaries, for the paths being attained without Jhana. This essay by Bikkhu Bodhi is my main base for such opinions, The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple: According to the Pāli Suttas (alternate link), Bikkhu Bodhi states,
"bare insight (suddha-vipassanā)... Apparently,...finds support from the Visuddhimagga and the Pāli Commentaries, though it is not given a very prominent place in the commentarial treatment of the path, which usually follows the canonical model in placing the jhānas before the development of insight.[2]...It is possible that the Jhānas come to assume an essential role at a later stage in the path. I believe there is strong evidence in the Nikāyas that the jhānas become an essential factor for those intent on advancing from the stage of once-returning to that of non-returner.
Several teachers of meditation are insisting that Jhānas are needed to attain even stream-entry. The Nikāyas themselves do not address this problem in clear and unambiguous terms, and it is difficult to derive from them any direct pronouncement on its resolution. In the suttas dealing with the gradual training, all the stages of awakening are telescoped into one series, and thus no differentiation is made between the preparatory attainments required for stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, and arahantship. We simply see the monk go off into solitude, attain the four jhānas, and then proceed directly to arahantship, called "the knowledge of the destruction of the taints." From such texts, there can be no denying the role of the jhānas in bringing the path to fulfilment, but here I shall be concerned principally with the question whether or not they are categorically necessary to win the first fruit of the path." (The Jhānas and the Lay Disciple According to the Pāli Suttas, 1&2)
Also indubitably of significance, are the living cultural traditions supporting attainment through Dry-Insight, i.e. the Mahasi Tradition. In the Mahasi Tradition, In the later stage of Equanimity Regarding Formations i.e. High Equanimity is seen as a 4 to 5 hr achievement, after the intensity of the fast flowing vibrations associated with the descriptions of Late Mastery i.e. at the ¾ development stage of Equanimity Regarding Formations has pasted. If one is experiencing enough of the qualities or factors associated with H. Eq. but is still only sitting for 2 and a half hours, you're not there yet. This is what teachers Sayadaw Dr. Sununda and Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. have both directly told me. Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. is the fellow that helped Daniel Ingram attain Arhatship, he stated in his book, and Dr. Sununda was recommended to my by U Pandita Jr. and he learned directly in the presence of Mahasi himself. I have done a 1 month retreat with Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. and 5 weeks along with 6 weeks and 5 wks back to back, they informed me of this point to help realise that I had not yet attained High Equanimity during different stages of hubris in my practice. So this is a very significant point.

Please keep in mind, when I am saying High Equanimity I am using Daniel Ingram's description of Mahasi's Model that elucidates the sub-nanas which are very briefly described in, 'Practical Insight Meditation' or 'Progress of Insight', or both. In Daniel Ingram's Sub-ñana Table, the Nana stage of Equanimity Regarding Formations is divided into 4 categories or Sub-Nanas. And it is in the 4th Sub-Nana of High Equanimity, that concentration is high enough to achieve a pliancy of body, to a level of being able to sit for at least 4 hrs.

I have recently finally found a reference in a Mahasi book where Vipassana Jhana is mentioned, something I've previously failed to notice in his books. As the definitions of Vipassana Jhana bear relevance to definitions of Access Concentration, I am interested in Mahasi's source for the term. Generally Mahasi, provides references to Sutta's for relevant terms in which he gives detailed definition of the Pali. In 'Progress of Insight', Access Concentration and Vipassana Jhana are not even mentioned!
In my readings of Mahasi and Sayadaw U Pandita, the definition of Access Concentration isn't so definitive. The possible problem for them may be, that the Visuddhimagga defines Access Concentration as that used by the Samatha Yanika path (I will be adding quotes after I have read it, but I've definitely read about this).
This maybe the reason that Sayadaw U Pandita in his book, 'In This Very Life', avoids the topic of Access Concentration and avoids quotes and references on anything about Vipassana Jhana, even though he writes a whole chapter on it.

This is link to a Face Book site, were someone describes Access Concentration, debating the correct definition of Access Concentration with me. This description of Access Concentration is indicative of what some people use to describe Access Concentration within the Dry-Insight or Mahasi Tradition. General Mindfulness is the term, I would use for this definition of Access Concentration.
"What U Pandita and Ingram mean by Access Concentration is completely different from what Brahm and Wallace do. In the dry-insight tradition, access concentration means only being able to consistently pay attention to an object. This means, the minimum mental stability required to observe the three characteristics.
As you rise through the insight stages, reaching equanimity concerning formations, you may (if on intense retreat) be able to sit for such a long time. Wallace and Brahm, on the other hand, want you to work on really deep levels of concentration and stability before paying attention to the three characteristics and attaining the insight stages. And that means being able to sit for such a long time regardless of the insight stage you're at."
"it is one thing saying that really high on the insight path you'll be able to sit for a long time, with many jhanic qualities; it is another saying that you have to sit for a really long time for attaining access concentration. They are not the same: 1) in the dry-insight tradition, access concentration is kept to a bare minimum and is used straight away to lead you through the insight stages. (Once you get to high equanimity you will have many jhanic qualities to your experience and teachers tend to push students for a really high level of effort at this stage (as a lot of people get stuck here)). 2) That is compleatly different from what Wallace is saying. He wants you to work on really hard jhanic states, which he names access concentrarion, even before any insight stage. That means sitting for four hours before mind and body, cause and effect, and so on.
Your identification of their individual and separate claims is not accurate, as they are not referring to the same thing."

So, it may be acceptable to conceive of High Equanimity as a four hours sit as I have described my teachers have told me. But Access Concentration is just general mindfulness. The relationship between fixed and momentary concentration are clearly delineated as delineated. And the notion that Fixed Access Concentration could change to Momentary Concentration and on into High Equanimity might be to hard grasp for someone with the above ideas. Even though loving kindness is often used as a Sweetener in the practice, in the early stages it is rarely developed to a useful level of concentration nor is pure concentration seen as a viable and complementary and inter-changable route. Or if it is, its without comprehension of what concentration is and how it runs parallel and in tandem with insight inter-changably.
Lastly, Mahasi says outright, that access concentration is a developed stages that has suppressed the hinderances. This quote is elucidated below.
"purification of mind... momentary duration,..corresponds to... access concentration… means… is not overwhelmed by the mental hindrances."

Here is the passage on concentration, from Mahasi Sayadaw's book 'Progress of Insight,' which covers the development of the practice in terms of concentration, from start to fruition. Mahasi uses very dense language and in his writing can pass from one sub-nana to another sometimes with a short sentence or a few, or even do the same with full nanas on occasions.
In these passages he moves quickly, from the development of general mindfulness described here,
"During the early part of the methodical practice, as long as the meditator's mind is not yet fully purified, wandering thoughts arisen by his thinking of objects of sense desire, etc., will also appear intermittently between thoughts of noticing (the objects of meditation). Sometimes the beginning meditator will perceive occurrence (of these interruptions) and sometimes he will not. But even if he perceives them, it will be only after a short time has elapsed after their appearance. For then the momentary concentration of his mind is still very tender and weak. So these wandering thoughts continue to hinder his mind while it is occupied in developing the practice of noticing. Hence, these wandering thoughts are called "hindering thoughts.""
as learning to keep the thoughts in check and with the object.

He continues on, to describe the attainment of General Mindfuless, i.e. not forgetting the object by my definition.
"When, however, the momentary concentration of his mind has become strong, the thought process of noticing becomes well concentrated. Hence, when attending to the objects to be noticed -- the abdominal movement, sitting, touching, bending, stretching, seeing, hearing, etc. -- his noticing thoughts now appear as if falling upon these objects, as if striking at them, as if confronting them again and again. Then, as a rule, his mind will no longer go elsewhere. Only occasionally, and in a slight degree, will this happen, and even in those cases he will be able to notice any such stray thought at its very arising, as expressed in common speech; or, to be exact, he will notice the stray thought immediately after its actual arising. Then that stray thought will subside as soon as it is noticed and will not arise again. Immediately afterwards he will also be able to resume continuous noticing of any object as it becomes evident to him. That is why his mind at that time is called "unhindered.""
This wondering of the mind or straying of thought is not at the level where one totally forgets the object. One will remember to note the rising and the falling of the breath, as thoughts below the attention move to predominance and as thoughts sink beneath the attention of the primary object.

For those that may be thinking, Buddhist dogma states that only one object can be perceived at a time. I say to take this to literally in the context of experience, doesn't reflect how we actually perceive the flow of phenomena. There are 600,000 or 6,000,000 thought moments in a second, Buddhist dogma also states. Science sees visual perception in terms of frames, humans can render changes in visual reality, at roughly 13-15 frames per second (fps, or Hz), which means that our perception of reality fully refreshes itself roughly once every 77 milliseconds (ms). Additionally there's the question of what is one object. Which mind, you no traditional teacher I have asked, has ever really had the courage to approach answering, it seems to fall into the unanswerables the questions that Buddha didn't respond to, that is my attempt at explaining how teachers avoid this question. A finger is one object, a hand is one object, a body is one object, a mountain is one object if one has enough perspective, even the world. This answers clarifies how a musician hears all the layers of rhythm and melody in a band or even and orchestra. Composites of things can be perceived as one object and remembered that way, like a friends face. Also everything can be divided almost endlessly, if not endlessly, to some extent this is what devices like electron microscopes have proven. Sorry to diverge so much. My main point is, we do perceive thoughts as quieter or louder, while we maintain our attention on the rising and falling. Maybe our attention is blinking between things, but its so fast that it can easily appear as simultaneous and one of those things may be a tree or a large ache through the leg or a sharp tingle or a fruitfly.

This section of the passage, Purification of the Mind from 'Progress of Insight', Talks about the Attainment of Access Concentration, using the method of Momentary Concentration.
"While the meditator is thus practising the exercise of noticing with unhindered mind, the noticing mind will close in upon and fix on whatever object is being noticed, and the act of noticing will proceed without break. At that time there arises in him in uninterrupted succession "the concentration of mind lasting for a moment," directed to each object noticed. This is called "purification of mind".[18]
Though that concentration has only momentary duration, its power of resistance to being overwhelmed by opposition corresponds to that of access concentration.
In the Commentary to the 'Visuddhimagga', in the explanation of the chapter relating to mindfulness of breathing, it is said thus: "'Momentary unification of mind' means the concentration of mind lasting only for a moment. For that (type of concentration), too, when it occurs uninterruptedly with its respective object in a single mode and is not overcome by opposition, fixes the mind immovably, as if in absorption." ...
"Is not overcome by opposition": this means that the momentary concentration in its uninterrupted flow is not overwhelmed by the mental hindrances."[20]"
Of relevance in this passage, is that the hinderances are removed. As a practitioner matures in their practice they become more acute at noticing, absence of attention and the very subtle qualities of aversion and clinging that are still present, despite the refinement of their state. To attain real Access Concentration the hinderances must be completely suppressed, in the above passage Mahasi states, "momentary concentration in its uninterrupted flow is not overwhelmed by the mental hindrances" and that this corresponds to Access Concentration. Of relevance also is that this is in the final stages of the development of Momentary Concentration. So near the end of the development of Momentary Concentration you attain to a level of concentration that corresponds to access concentration and access concentration has always been defined as suppression of the hinderances.

If your blissing out in a Jhanic factor of space and you body has ceased to be present and there are no problems what soever, the likelihood that all hinderance are removed is in direct relationship to your attachment to that state,
"For ... absorption, ... it does not mean that when you have these five factors you have the first jhana. Even if you don't have any concentration these five mental factors are already there. When you think of food, when you miss very much your food, or your 'Penang Laksa' there are also these five factors present , because the mind keeps running to the Laksa, it stays on it thinking 'how nice if I have Laksa', and then after that when you think of the Laksa you have joy 'when I had Laksa it was so nice, I was enjoying myself' and you feel very happy also and the mind is actually as if you could taste the Laksa, then these five factors are there but it is more like wrong concentration, greed."(Access and Fixed Concentration, Venerable Sujivo, Transcribed by Bhikkhu Bodhisara)
Funny. Many people in these so called soft Jhanas if they developed some insight, even from a fixed position, might begin to notice that their attachment to the state was interfering with the development of concentration, this is basic wisdom in Ajahn Brahms book on Jhana.

Lastly this passages of quotes from Mahasi jumps from General Mindfulness in the earlier quotes to Access Concentration in the above Mahasi quote. The distance that traverses in terms of real practice for Pure Concentration Practitioner i.e. Samatha-Yanika Practitioner, could be measured in terms of a year retreat or even two years! The Tibetan Map breaks down the development of concentration in more detail that the Thai map. So in relationship to that my centre of gravity for concentration is around stages 5 & 6, I peak at 7 and may have, with my few best experiences achieved stage 8 on a few occasions. This bears direct relationship to being stuck at Late Mastery, because I lack the required level of concentration be it fixed or momentary!

Finally in this paragraph Mahasi, talks about the competition of the practice of momentary concentration to the achievement Jhana & Stream-Entry. Which if you didn't know, are actually at the same level, Stream-Entry is always accessed via a Jhana.
"As if in absorption": this means that the strength of the momentary concentration is similar to that of concentration which has reached full mental absorption. However, such similarity of momentary concentration with fully absorbed concentration will become evident (only) when the methodical practice of insight reaches its culmination.[21]" (Mahasi Progress of Insight 6-7)
So Momentary Concentration has become Full Absorption and the practice of Insight reaches its culmination! Yay.

Following up here is a quote from 'Access to Insight'
" a dry-insight meditator who lacks jhana, and the path arisen in one who possesses a jhana attainment but does not use it as a basis for insight, and the path arisen by comprehending formations after emerging from the first jhana, are all paths of the first jhana only... Buddhaghosa,.. there is the recognition that the insight immediately preceding the supramundane path determines the jhanic character of the path. For this insight is the proximate and the principal cause for the arising of the path, so whether it be the insight leading to emergence near the basic jhana or that occurring through the contemplated jhana or that fixed by the meditator's wish, it is in all cases this final phase of insight that gives definition to the supramundane path. Since the fruition that occurs immediately after the path has an identical constitution to the path, its own supramundane jhana is determined by the path. Thus a first jhana path produces a first jhana fruit, and so forth for the remaining jhanas." (The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation, Henepola Gunaratana)
The Jhanic levels of a Fruition are introduced in this quote. So I state, that from Access Concentration in High Equanimity Regarding Formations one makes the leap to the insight stage of Jhana & Fruition simultaneously, the only debatable point here is the bit about Access Concentration and its definitions.

Those above quotes, from 'Progress of Insight', conform to the definitions of Access Concentration, that I am advocating within this essay. I would argue that they even support it.

Lastly if any one has any quotes from books by Mahasi Sayadaw or Sayadaw U Pandita at clearly and directly define Access Concentration in contrast to what I am arguing for here please, contribute to the thread!

Anyway just adding these passage in, and I will develop upon them later, hopefully one day?

Also of relevance, I read through the relevant chapters in Sayadaw U Pandita's, In This Very Life and found no clear mention.
of the definitions of Access & Fixed Concentration
Dhamma talk by Venerable Sujivo, Transcribed by Bhikkhu Bodhisara

I have to read The Wheel of Dhamma, as it maybe one of the primary sources for definitions of Vipassana Jhana and therefore by implication Jhana & Access Concentration within the Mahasi Tradition.

Here we quote an excerpt from a book written by Mahasi Sayadaw, The Wheel of Dhamma:"Jhana means closely observing an object with fixed attention. Concentrated attention given to a selected object of meditation, such as breathing for tranquillity concentration, gives rise to samatha jhana, whereas noting the characteristic nature of mind and body and contemplating on their impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality brings about vipassana jhana. There are two types of jhanas : samatha jhana and vipassana jhana. Fixed attention that develops into tranquillity is called samatha jhana. Contemplating on the three characteristics constitutes vipassana jhana. There are also three kinds of samadhi (concentration): momentary, access and absorption concentration."" (Access and Fixed Concentration, Venerable Sujivo, Transcribed by Bhikkhu Bodhisara) Before I found this quote i suspected that U Pandita had made up the notion of Vipassana Jhana, i still think he has greatly stretched its definition in 'In This Very Life' because Mahasi seems to be only seeing the attainment of real access concentration as a later stage of development, where as he is even trying to imply it is present in the dukha nana's, what a load of nonsense! it may be present at the A&P but does it have to be!

“There is only one instance in the Visuddhimagga” (Bhadantácariya Buddhaghosa), “where he openly advances an opinion of his own, with the words “our preference here is this” (XIII.123). He does so once in the Majjhima Nikáya Commentary, too, saying “the point is not dealt with by the Ancients, but this is my opinion” (M-a I 28). The rarity of such instances and the caution expressed in them imply that he himself was disinclined to speculate and felt the need to point the fact out when he did. He actually says “one’s own opinion is the weakest authority of all and should only be accepted if it accords with the Suttas” (D-a 567–68). So it is likely that he regarded what we should call original thinking as the province of the Buddha,” (Vissuddhimagga, translated by Nanamoli, 38-39)
I have added in this quote because it, bares relevance to Mahasi notion of Vipassana Jhana and were information is sourced from. I would ask the reader to consider this point when they used the contemporary insights definition of Jhana, something it seem Mahasi may have himself never used, because in my reading of him he shared a simiplar oppinion to that of Buddhagosha, as that is the primary source for the notion of Vipassana (still reading the Visuddhimagga & The Wheel of Time).

Continuing on with the main body of my argument, I offer my notes from the two best books on Concentration I have found so far. I will endeavour to quote directly from B Alan Wallaces book as I have a copy with me. That is the next bit of work I will do on this essay. emoticon Ajahn Brahm has quite a few things on Jhana on the net, I will do my best to revise those notes with quote to, but nearly all of those notes are paraphrased anyway.

Below, I have summarised the Thai Map, which is a 'Traditional Samatha Yanika Theravada Map' from Ajahn Brahm's book, 'Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond'. This Map has also been validated to me personally by the only Monk able to ordain in the Thai Forest Tradition in Australia (since Ajahn Bram was disqualified from the Thai Tradition for breaking with it after disregarding the period of novice-ship for nuns when fully ordaining the) Ajahn Kalyano who concurs with the map in Ajahn Brahm's book.

I have spent the last 2 ten week retreats exploring Jana along with Insight. I believe you can't attain stream-entry without access concentration. After all this time studying and practicing, I've only just put it into perspective in the last 6 months, that is, what the achievement of Access Concentration really is.

Mahasi teachers Sayadaw Dr. Sununda and Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. have both directly told me while on retreat with them, that when one is at the peak of Equanimity Regarding Formations one achieves a pliancy of body that allows one to sit for at least 4 hrs i.e. with great ease of body; they were specifically talking about the final stages or the sub-nana High Equanimity. This physical pliancy of being able to sit for 4hrs is the same equivalent standard of pliancy for Access Concentration within the Samatha Tradition.

Practitioners believing they are opening out into High Equanimity or the final stages of Equanimity Regarding Formations may having referenced Daniel Ingram's Nana Map and believe they have attained High Equanimity (Here are his descriptions of H.Eq.: panoramic, near perfect, airable, peaceful, ordinary, boredom, forgetfulness, balance, deep wisdom seems very natural and ordinary attachment to mastery vanishes, effort to attain or do vanishes, it all happens by itself.).
After the intensity of the fast flowing vibrations associated with the description of Late Mastery have pasted, and if one is experiencing enough of the qualities associated with H. Eq. as stated in the description above, but is still only sitting for two and a half hours, your not there yet.
This is what teachers Sayadaw Dr. Sununda and Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. have both directly told me. Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. is the fellow that helped Daniel Ingram attain Arhatship, he has stated in his book.
Even though the experiences stated above, may fit those descriptions of High Equanimity, I sate that what is occurring is the rising and falling or the micro-cycling of the nana stage of Late Mastery, as it refines within its self toward H. Eq.. At this point one is at the doorway or precipice like state, that sits between Late Mastery & High Equanimity or alternately, sits at Late Mastery's peak after the fast flowing vibration stage is finished.
It's here you experience an openness that mimics the factors of High Equanimity, but it's not there yet. It's this state that you cycle up and down from and refine before you attain the real High Equanimity, which requires more concentration! Or more Mindfulness and more Khanika Samadhi i.e. concentration.

You can't attain Stream-Entry without Access Concentration, a book by Bikku Bodhi that referenced the Sutta's as well the Visuddhimagga stated. Though Bikkhu Bodhi came from a Samatha Tradition he found references in the Sutta's and the Commentaries that support the notion of attaining Stream-Entry from Access Concentration and therefore from Dry-Insight.

The Visuddhimagga i.e. The Path of Purification, which retains the original description of The 16 Stages of the Path, describes Access Concentration in a Shamata Yanika way!

The Visuddhimagga references Jhana as being a 24 hr attainment when fully mastered.
"Once you have achieved the actual state of the first stabilisation, samadhi an be sustained, according to Buddhaghosa,"for a whole night and a whole day, just as a healthy man, after rising from his seat, could stand for a whole day" (The Path of Purification, 120)". (The Attention Revolution, 159).
Jhana may be accessed in a shorter period of 8 to 12 hrs and one can chose to shorten Jhana to the time one desires as one gains control of it, also there is the possibility one may attain full Jhana for a shorter period. But it you've attained to Jhana you should be able to do at least an 8 hr sit on another or many occasion, to confirm your attainment of jhana and then begin to move up to 12 hr minimum sits or even 24 hr sits to confirm and fully consolidate the attainment.

Dry-Insight is an ambiguous thing in the Sutta's and Bikkhu Bodhi thinks there are only clear precedents for the the attainment of of the lower 3 Paths in the Sutta's and quotes different Sutta's to show that. I'm not putting all my eggs in the Sutta Basket either. But often after attainment it is easier to attain high levels of concentration Daniel Ingram, states, and else where he also made reference for the need for strong levels of concentration to attain stream-entry.
So in respect to those themes how many Arhats attained without any Jhana, Bikkhu Bodhi state that there are only a few ambiguous references in the Sutta's of anyone attaining full Arhatship as a Dry-Insighter, compared to thousands of references to Jhana based attainments? At minimum Dry-Insight requires Access Concentration as described by Bikkhu Bodhi in his Sutta References.

The Sutta's when referencing Attainment, often refer to period of concentrated where insight is present, sometime this concentration is clearly post Jhanic states of concentration, other times concentration is just stated as being present. So these people are in high states of concentration, very close to Jhana or in post Jhana states i.e. A.C. where they are able to contemplate clearly. Coming from the Suttric position of someone like Bikkhu Bodhi he talks about people attaining Path from Access Concentration, before and after jhana.

All the Sutta's make reference and prioritise the need for concentration to attain but an interesting point is that they don't actually distinguish between Jhana and Access Concentration, Wallace stated.
"The distinction between access and the actual states of meditative stabilization is not made in the discourses of the Buddha as recorded in the Pali language, but first appears in the commentaries." (The Attention Revolution, 165)
So therefore it is from A.C. that we are attaining, as described by the Samatha Yanika Tradition. As this is comparative to H. Eq. because good concentration is required for the pliancy of body associated with a 4 hr sit and for attainment within Equanimity Regarding Formations. Also because Jhana is traditionally describe as being devoid of thought and therefore investigation, as total fixation is in place, the ability to investigating changing phenomena must be post Jhana, i.e. A.C. is seen as the platform for investigation in the Samatha Yanika Tradition. Basically I am going back and forward in cross referencing argument.

For Access Concentration to be the bases of the attainment of path it needs to be investigative, it has to change from a fixed object when in jhana to a changing object or one cannot realize anything. This is the state of Samadhi that is described as the basis of attainment in the Sutta's. Access Concentration is not that different from Kanika Samadhi, and investigating in Access Concentration is likely at the same level as High Equanimity, if the investigation is good, actually I believe they are the same. During the development of Shamata over the Ten Tibetan Stages, it is really only in the last 3 stages that one really starts to develop some fixation on an object. And it would be more correct to say that its only in the last stage i.e. Jhana that full fixation is actually achieved. Before then there is a reliance on qualities of investigation to develop the practice. So Shamata cannot be developed without functions of wisdom being developed, this is another reason they are the same.

The level of concentration at High Equanimity using Kanika Samadhi to the level of Access Concentration is 4 or 5 hrs. But one can easily slip into spacious states of Samadhi that I have experienced that are like 5th Jhana: (some would call that a soft 5th Jhana) no body awareness, next to no thought, high lvls of peace, bliss and ease of body sitting for 1 & a half to 2 & a half hrs. This is still not enough concentration, and not at the lvl of concentration described as Access Concentration in the Vissudhimagga and by the Shamata Yanika Traditions. Which brings us again full circle back to me reminding you of the students of Mahasi Sayadaw telling me, of sitting 4 to 5 hrs for High Equanimity and Ajahn Brahm and the Tibetan tradition saying the same time period is required for Access Concentration. What a coincidence, I think not!

By the way, the later two teachers would be saying you need full Jhana with the ability to sit around 8 to 12 or even to 24 hours to attain. But not only are there Suttric references that state otherwise, but there are living traditions that give evidence to the minority of reports in the Sutta's, of people attaining with Dry-Insight. I believe attainment is definitely available to the Dry-Insight practitioner, but only to those who have attained Khanika Samadhi to the level of Access Concentration. This can be either with Khanika Samadhi / Momentary Concentration or Access Concentration Upacāra-Samādhi (which working towards Appaṇā-Samādhi) or both! Because the difference between Kanika Samadhi and Fixed Attention is not that distinct.

There is a larger predominance in Buddhism of viewing Buddhist Practice throughout the world in the context of the Samatha Tradition, basically the Burmese are the only Dry-Insighter's. It would seem to be broadly ignorant to disregard all other Buddhism's definitions of Access Concentration and Jhana, and the Visuddhimagga that describes Jhana as a very high lvl of attainment. So if you give some relevance to what Shamata Yanika describes as Access Concentration what we get is a clearer definition of H. Eq. that is supported by the scripture more clearly and is built from a base of A.C. or its equivalent level in Khanika Samadhi! What is occurring is a cross reference, where each supports by the other. Because H. Eq. need 4 hrs and the description of Shamata Yanika AC also need 4 hrs, this actually validates both Yanika Traditions.

Now to clarify an additional point or two, I'm not saying that Ingram's definitions of soft & hard Jhana that can include thoughts are without validity, I don't know, but I definitely wouldn't water down Jhana or Access Concentration to the random experience of Jhanic factors that can arise in the earlier stages of Samadhi. The Jhana/Samata Yanika Traditions are defining Access Concentration in the ball park of 4 or 5 hours, so whatever your so called experiences of Jhana are, they're not really at the required level of the attainment of stream entry if you can't attain access concentration or equanimity to the level of around 4 to 5 hours as I have defined it earlier.
Yeah sure some dude may have attained in 1 hour, that doesn't mean they didn't have access concentration to the level I stated before though. Though for most us, we may have to do the hard work, and if we haven't done a 4hr sit, we probably wont get Stream Entry.
neem nyima, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Access Concentration, Jhana, High Equanimity & Vipassana Jhana?

Posts: 168 Join Date: 8/6/10 Recent Posts
Learning about Vipassana Jhana is of high significance, there are no scriptural references for Vipassana Jhana in Sayadaw U Pandita book 'In This Very Life', to my knowledge. What are its scriptural references and does the term really match actual jhana, so far i have only found one reference to Vipassana Jhana from Mahasi and I'm yet to read this and find out what his reference for the idea is?

These following quotes, that I am in the process of compiling, may after editing, help form some basis for my continued discussion on Access Concentration in the field of Jhana & Vipassana Jhana and the associated Hard and Soft Jhanas of Vipassana Jhana.

In This Very Life Sayadaw U Pandita
"Access to the First Vipassanā Jhāna Requires Insight into Mind and Matter
It is not sufficient to have all five factors present for one to say one has attained the first vipassanā jhāna. The mind must also come to penetrate into the Dhamma a little bit, enough to see the interrelationship of mind and matter. At this time we say that access to the first vipassanā jhāna has occurred.
A yogi whose mind is composed of these five jhānic factors will experience a new accuracy of mindfulness, a new level of success in sticking with the object. Intense rapture, happiness and comfort in the body may also arise. This could be the occasion for him or her to gloat over the wondrousness of the meditation practice. “Oh wow, I’m getting really precise and accurate. I even feel like I’m floating in the air!” You might recognize this reflection as a moment of attachment." pg.273

"When awareness is clear, especially when the passing away of things is noticeable, one can appreciate intuitively the characteristics of impermanence, of suffering, or of absence of self that are inherent in all phenomena. The intuitive understanding of all three of these characteristics is included in a particular stage of insight, sammasana-ñāṇa, meaning the insight that arises out of verification. Often this term is translated as “verified knowledge by comprehension.” One comprehends or verifies the three characteristics through a personal experience of seeing the disappearance of phenomena."pg 295-96

"At this point in the practice, there begins to be a strong presence of all five factors of the first jhāna, discussed above. Aiming and impinging, vitakka and vicāra, have strengthened. Concentration, rapture and comfort join them. The first vipassanā jhāna is said to be complete, and vipassanā ñāṇa or vipassanā insight knowledge can begin to arise." pg. 288

"The Second Vipassanā Jhāna
He or she leaves behind the childhood of reflective thinking and enters the maturity of simple, bare attention.
Now the meditator’s mind becomes lucid and sharp. He or she is able to follow the very fast rate at which phenomena appear and disappear from moment to moment. Because of the continuity and sharpness of mindfulness, there is little discursive thinking. Nor is there doubt about the impermanent, momentary nature of mind and matter. At this time, the practice seems effortless. In the absence of effortful application and reflective thought, there is space for joy and rapture. This nonthinking bare attention is called the second vipassanā jhāna.
In the first vipassanā jhāna, then, the mind is congested with effort and discursive thinking. It is only when the second vipassanā jhāna arises at the beginning of insight into the arising and passing away of phenomena that clarity, rapture, faith and great comfort begin to predominate." 301-302pg.

"The Arising of the Third Vipassanā Jhāna
Rapture will gradually fade, but mindfulness and concentration will continue to deepen. Then insight into the true nature of what is happening will become very strong. At this point, the enlightenment factor of upekkhā, equanimity, becomes predominant. The mind remains unshaken by pleasant objects as well as unpleasant ones, and a deep sense of comfort arises in the body and mind. Yogis can sit for long hours without pain, and their bodies become pure, light and robust. This is the third vipassanā jhāna, whose two jhānic factors are comfort and one-pointedness of mind. The third jhāna arises at a more mature stage of the insight into arising and passing away.
The transition from the second jhāna to the third is a critical turning point in practice. Human beings have a natural attachment to thrills and excitement which agitate the mind. Rapture is one of these agitating pleasures; it creates ripples in the mind. It is rather adolescent, though. So when you experience it, be certain to increase your vigilance and note as meticulously as you can. As long as a yogi remains attached to rapture, he or she will not move forward into the more mature, subtle happiness that comes with peace and comfort." pg.303-4

"The scriptures illustrate the transition with the story of a mother cow who is suckling her calf. It is important to wean the calf early, so that the cow’s milk can be used by human beings. If the calf is not weaned, it will constantly drink up all the cow’s milk. This calf is like the second jhāna which feeds and thrives on pīti or rapture. The mother cow might be the third jhāna, and the person who is able to drink the sweet, fresh milk is like a yogi who has successfully gone beyond his or her attachment to rapture.
The happiness or comfort that can be tasted in this third vipassanā jhāna is said in the scriptures to be the peak or climax of happiness that can be experienced in vipassanā practice. It is the sweetest. Nevertheless, the yogi can dwell in it with equanimity and without attachment.
To continue noting precisely remains crucial, lest the comforts of mind and body, the sharpness and clarity of insight, give rise to subtle attachment. If you feel that your insight is fantastic, sharp and and clear, you should note this. However, attachment is less likely to arise, since a comprehensive, panoramic mindfulness is present which notes each object easily and without slipping." pg.304-5

"Dissolution of Phenomena: The Comfort Disappears
The third jhāna is called the climax of happiness because there is no more happiness in the next jhāna. As you note phenomena, you will gradually pass beyond the stage of insight into arising and passing away, into the stage of dissolution of phenomena. At this point the beginnings and the middles of objects are no longer clear. Instead the mind perceives continuous dissolution of phenomena, which disappear as soon as they are noted. Often it seems as if there is no body at all, only bare phenomena dissolving away continuously." pg.305-6

"The Appearance of the Fourth Vipassanā Jhāna
During the maturation of insight into the arising and passing away of phenomena, the rapture of the second jhāna gave way to the third jhāna factor of comfort. The outrageous pleasure of rapture was replaced by milder and subtler feelings of comfort and peace. As comfort disappears in the dissolution stage of insight, it still does not incur mental displeasure. Now the third jhāna gives way to the fourth, whose characteristic jhāna factors are equanimity and one-pointedness of mind." pg.307

"Summary of the Four Vipassanā Jhānas
In the first jhāna, balance is quite undeveloped. Predominant instead are vitakka and vicāra, aiming and rubbing or initial application and sustained application. As discussed above, the vitakka and vicāra of the first jhāna often include large amounts of discursive thinking.
In the second jhāna, the thrills and chills of rapture overshadow equanimity. Come the third jhāna, there is the sweetest happiness and comfort, so that balance has no chance to show itself. When comfort evaporates, however, bringing about that feeling which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, then balance has a chance to shine. In just this way, when dusk sets in and darkness begins to thicken, the moon reigns splendidly over all the sky.
After the insight into dissolution come successive insights into fear, disgust, and wanting to be liberated. Equanimity is not strongly shown until the stage of insight known as “equanimity regarding all formations.”
This is a deep level of practice where things begin to move very smoothly. Mindfulness is so agile now that it picks up the objects before the mind can begin to be perturbed by pleasantness or unpleasantness. There is no chance for attachment or aversion to arise. Objects which normally are very unpleasant, lose their influence completely, as do thrilling and exciting objects. Because this is true at all six sense doors, the kind of equanimity now present is known as “six-limbed equanimity.”" pg.308-9

"Each of the four vipassanā jhānas is characterized by a distinct type of happiness. In the first vipassanā jhāna, one can experience the happiness of seclusion. The hindrances are kept away, and so the mind is remote and secluded from them.
In the second jhāna, one experiences the happiness of concentration. Good concentration brings happiness in the form of rapture and comfort. As rapture is abandoned, the happiness in the third jhāna is simply known as the happiness of equanimity.
Finally in the fourth jhāna, we experience the purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.
The fourth type is the best happiness, of course. Like the first three, however, it still occurs in the realm of conditioned phenomena. Only if the yogi transcends this realm can he or she experience the ultimate happiness, the happiness of real peace. This called santisukha in Pāli. It occurs when the objects of meditation and all other mental and physical phenomena, as well as the noting mind itself, come to a complete stop."pg.310-11

I like this synthesis of the Vipassana Jhanas, though his definition of a hard jhana and moving from the nana into the jhana makes total sense from my experience in relationship to his definitions of those terms. His definition of hard jhana or any jhana is totally with out relationship to the Visuddhimagga or Mahasi, but does conform to U Panditas view and description of jhana, As far as I know.

Access and Fixed Concentration
"What is the general idea behind the word jhana ? Jhana usually means strong concentration fixed on the object. Here we quote an excerpt from a book written by Mahasi Sayadaw, The Wheel of Dhamma:"Jhana means closely observing an object with fixed attention. Concentrated attention given to a selected object of meditation, such as breathing for tranquillity concentration, gives rise to samatha jhana, whereas noting the characteristic nature of mind and body and contemplating on their impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality brings about vipassana jhana. There are two types of jhanas : samatha jhana and vipassana jhana. Fixed attention that develops into tranquillity is called samatha jhana. Contemplating on the three characteristics constitutes vipassana jhana. There are also three kinds of samadhi (concentration): momentary, access and absorption concentration."" (Access and Fixed Concentration, Venerable Sujivo, Transcribed by Bhikkhu Bodhisara)

"We have to understand that upacara samadhi is very wide. There is a wide level of upacara, access concentration. It covers many experiences. And it differs with different objects. Generally, we can say a person reaches upacara samadhi when the five hindrances are inhibited. That means the concentration goes up to the level where greed, anger, sloth and torpor, worry and restlessness, and doubts do not arise. When the concentration has reached up to the level where the five hindrances are pushed aside (although they may come back after one comes out from the meditation) one can be said to have attained initial access concentration. Because the function of putting away the defilements or hindrances is satisfied, you can, if you want, go into the practice of vipassana and observe with a sharp and calm mind." (Access and Fixed Concentration, Venerable Sujivo, Transcribed by Bhikkhu Bodhisara)

"From the description I've given on the absorptions you definitely cannot know it while you are in the jhana. While you are in these absorptions it is like you are in deep sleep, you are in a state deeper than deep sleep so how can you know while in it? You know it only before you go in, because before you enter it will be clear which factors are stronger and which are weaker and have to disappear, or after emerging, through making of proper resolutions to reflect on the factors present." (Access and Fixed Concentration, Venerable Sujivo, Transcribed by Bhikkhu Bodhisara)

The vipassana jhanas as taught by U Pandita contrast with the samatha jhanas as described by Buddhaghosa in his work the Visuddhimagga. (Source: Wikipedia: Vipassana jhanas) just something off a random web page from a google search.

Stream Entry on a 10 day Goenka Course?
"There are many ideas on what jhana is and isn't. In my own experience, one can experience two types. Samatha jhana is more what you seem to be talking about (trance-like states), which have the mind deeply absorbed, embedded and unmoving. From the Visuddhimagga, we have this type of jhana. According to Buddhaghosa and perhaps your Thervadin teacher on your last retreat, the yogi must come out of it to start practicing insight.

Then we have those that say that insight can and should be practiced within the jhana itself. Some like U Pandita, a student of Mahasi Sayadaw, call this type of jhana a "Vipassana jhana". And some, like myself, see the first 4 material jhanas as corresponding to certain nanas. Nanas are to do with insight and not to do with getting embedded within an non-investigative trance-like state. Not all the nanas correspond to a jhana as they are not stable strata of mind.

The nanas (knowledges/stages of insight) that are stable correspond to a material jhana. If a yogi is investigating within this type of nana they are technically in the "Vipassana jhana". If they wish, rather than investigate the phenomena of the nana with insight practice, they can ride the vibrations/sensations and general pleasantness and get absorbed in it. They then end up in the samatha version of the jhana.

The 1st nana of Mind and Body corresponds to the 1st jhana. The 2nd and 3rd nanas do not correspond to a jhana as they are unstable strata of mind (lots of aches and pains ie. dukkha can arise thus they are unstable). The 4th nana of Arising and Passing corresponds to the 2nd jhana as it can be quite a blissful nana and easy to stabilize. The 5th nana of Dissolution can also be a pleasant experience and corresponds to the 3rd jhana. The next 5 nanas are the dukkha nanas and are often not so pleasant thus they are quite unstable and have no corresponding jhana. The 11th nana of Equanimity of Formations corresponds nicely with the 4th jhana. Directly after the 11th nana are the nanas (and cessation of nama and rupa) that result in Stream Entry, thus they do not have a corresponding jhana.

Each of the nanas that corresponds with a jhana has a similar set up as the jhana; the mental focus and vibrational experience. If one gets embedded in the pleasant phenomena, riding and soaking the mind in the pleasantness, they can become absorbed into the samatha version. One can get really really abosrbed in a "hard" version of the jhana. If one investigates the reality within it via seeing the three characteristics and remaining dis-embedded and dis-identified with the phenomena of it, then they are in the "Vipassana Jhana" or nana version. This latter type of jhana, in my opinion, leads to the cessation of the mind and body i.e. nibbana. The great thing about having access to the samatha jhanas up to the 4th is one can quickly rise up to the 4th jhana then turn around and start practicing discernment and insight practice within it. Hang out long enough in the 4th jhana and eventually a cessation/path moment will result. But if you don't have access to samatha jhana you can practice Vipassana through the nanas (whether being aware of them or not) and end up in the 11th nana where the mind is quite naturally equanimous with all the phenomena arising and passing away, any formation of mind and matter including the patterns of phenomena that are misread as "self". Hang out here long enough, and a cessation/path moment will result. And if you have mastered hanging out in the 11th nana, you can trun around, stop investigating and "ride" the pleasant phenomena into deep, deep , hard samatha jhana." Forum > Meditation, Practice And The Path, author: nibs

Access (or "neighbourhood") concentration (upacara-samadhi) is that degree of mental concentration that approaches, but not yet attains, the full concentration (appana-samadhi) of the first absorption (jhana). It still belongs to the sensuous plane (kamavacara) of consciousness, while the jhanas belong to the fine-material plane (rupavacara). (Mahasi, Progress of Insight, 25)
fivebells ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Access Concentration, High Equanimity & Vipassana Jhana?

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Looks interesting. The second comment could use some more paragraph breaks.