"Mindfulness practice" "jhana practice"

Robert McLune, modified 8 Years ago.

"Mindfulness practice" "jhana practice"

Posts: 255 Join Date: 9/8/12 Recent Posts
In "Focused and Fearless", Shaila Catherine says:

Shaila Catherine:
Although I’ve included many teachings useful to beginners, a working knowledge of one’s own mind and some facility with mindfulness practices are assumed as prerequisites to the serious undertaking of jhana practice. Nonetheless, I will review mindfulness practice and how it is used to avoid common pitfalls in jhana practice.

Catherine, Shaila (2008-05-10). Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity . Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

I had thought that in modern DhO-style use, "jhana" refers to one of several states one may enter as a result of doing "mindfulness practice". But Catherine seems to be using it to refer to another kind of practice.

Can someone explain?
Mario Nistri, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: "Mindfulness practice" "jhana practice"

Posts: 210 Join Date: 3/3/12 Recent Posts
"Mindfullness practice" is not so well defined most of the time... I prefere to talk about "insight oriented" vs "tranquillity oriented" practices...

If you do an insight oriented practice (noting, for example) it's quite unlikely that you will enter in a shamata jhana anytime soon.

If you want to reach absorption, the first thing to do is to get enought stability of mind to be able not to get distracted from the main object of meditation (access concentration). [Same goes for insight, but if you practice noting it's assumed that with time noting will eventually build access concentration by itself]

While the object of meditation might be the same (i.e. the sensations on the nostrils) if your goal is insight you try hard to see every single little sensation arising and passing away, while if your goal is concentration you'll just try to fix the mind in a single spot, not being concerned in seeing all the individual sensations.
If you practice with the only goal being getting access concentration, sensations are just a mean to help your mind to get fixed on a single point (they are your point of reference, in the sense that they mark the point where you want you attention to be).
On the other end if you practice with the intent of getting insight, concentration on a single point is just a mean that allows you to see the true nature of sensations.

When you get enought stability on a single point, eventually you'll experience a sense of confort, interest with the breath, and eventually plaesent sensations will arise in the body, and enjoying them will get you in the first jhana...

Theese are Brasington's instructions for jhanas, already a classic.

Here Tommy M talks about and access concentration and jhanas

Bye!
Robert McLune, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: "Mindfulness practice" "jhana practice"

Posts: 255 Join Date: 9/8/12 Recent Posts
Thanks Mario:

Mario Nistri:
"Mindfullness practice" is not so well defined most of the time... I prefere to talk about "insight oriented" vs "tranquillity oriented" practices...

OK, so here "jhana practice" is probably referring to shamata, and her "mindfulness practice" is probably referring to vipassana?
That said, aren't there vipassana jhanas as well as shamata jhanasa?

If you want to reach absorption, the first thing to do is to get enought stability of mind to be able not to get distracted from the main object of meditation (access concentration). [Same goes for insight, but if you practice noting it's assumed that with time noting will eventually build access concentration by itself]

So my current plan -- following MCTB -- was to work on access concentration first, and then move onto vipassana. I have three reasons for taking that approach:

1. Daniel recommends it
2. I have ADD and I figured that working on pure concentration/tranquility first really would be a solid preparation for me, before moving to Vipassana
3. Some of the benefits of shamata sound worth obtaining in and of themselves. So even without the base they provide for shamata, just the fact that they may help me focus in daily life sounds useful

Does that sound credible?
If so, have I therefore made a mistake by making Mahasi-noting the primary aspect of my practice for now (given that my intention is to try to develop access concentration)?

thanks.
Mario Nistri, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: "Mindfulness practice" "jhana practice"

Posts: 210 Join Date: 3/3/12 Recent Posts
Hi!

Does that sound credible?
If so, have I therefore made a mistake by making Mahasi-noting the primary aspect of my practice for now (given that my intention is to try to develop access concentration)?


I would say yes, to both questions.
Yes, it's credible, it definitely can be done.
Access concentration can easily be developed via mahasi noting, shamata jhanas can't (apart when you are in high equanimity, where shamata jhanas tend to arise by their own).

If the goal is to get first access concentration and then jhanas, you should drop mahasi noting.

An approach that will lead there is something like just doing breath counting 1 to 10 and then coming back to 1 and repeating.
The focus point should be the sensations of the air in the nostrils (the anapana spot, as it is sometimes referred to).
Important thing is that while doing it you should not pay attention to the individual sensations, but just being interested in not allowing attention to wander and keep counting.

OK, so here "jhana practice" is probably referring to shamata, and her "mindfulness practice" is probably referring to vipassana?
That said, aren't there vipassana jhanas as well as shamata jhanasa?

Oh my.. that's gonna be long.
Ok, that's how I like to conceptualize theese differences:
Shamata practices are thoose practices that have as their only goal the development of concentration (might be jhanas, might be just breath counting, a mantra, whatever).
Jhana practices are thoose practices that have as their goal the development of mastery over jhanas; jhanas can be used both for insight and pure concentration purposes.
Mindfullness I have no clue of what it means in that context, but probably it referres to insight, but I really can't know.
Mindfullness, as I understand it, (and if someone thinks I'm wrong please let me know) is this: when something is happening, you know that it's happening; and how do you know that you are mindful? If you can name it (i.e. when you are walking you can say "Now I am walking"), then for sure there is mindfullness in relation to the fact that you are walking.
Mindfullness is present in both insight and shamata practices, and it's useful for both: in mahasi noting, you are obviously developing mindfullness; if you can count the breaths, obviously there is mindfullness of the breath there.
Now, fact is, if you develop mindfullness you will most likely end up developing both concentration and insight. I think that's the reason why in the first suttas there was not such a strong difference between concentration and insight: the Buddha said something like behave good, diligently strive in developing both mindfullness and jhanas and mindfullness while you are in the jhanas, and eventually you'll be free.
However, you can decide that you want to develop only concentration and not insight.
How do you know that you are practicing insight? The 3C helps: if you focus on the nostrils and you see every single sensation arising one after the other, you are seeing impermanence, so you are practicing insight, wich will result in the nanas progression and eventually stream entry; if you focus on the nostrils and you are not aware of the impermanence of thoose sensations (i.e. you are not seeing how every sensation change, vibrate, change it's shape and texture every moment), but your attention is still always on the top of your nose, and the breath seems more like a continuous flow going up and down, then you are developing concentration and not insight. If there is a strong sense of someone watching from outside probably you are practicing insight, since you are somehow seeing how thoose sensations are something different from you; if you feel more like you are going up and down with the breath, if you are like somehow "in it", absorbed into it's rhythm, then you are probably developing just concentration.
In order to practice jhanas and not progressing throught nanas that's the kind of way of percieving that you want to develop, and in order to do that breath counting is a very good tool.

Ok, hope that was clear...

Ps: I'm not totally sure I was totally correct and precise on everything... if someone find me wrong please correct... bye!

Pps: ah, another thing: if you are really committed to that, you might consider the idea to bring breath counting also in daily life... it really can help to improve your concentration, and it can definitely be done.
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fivebells ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: "Mindfulness practice" "jhana practice"

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Traditionally, jhana means Right Concentration, and mindfulness is a prerequisite for it.

(Again, I highly recommend this book. Especially the second link if you want to understand mindfulness and its role in the path.)

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