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Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas

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Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
7/30/13 6:07 AM
OK guys, what do you make of this? From my journal:

Today is the first day of retreat at Ven. S.'s monastery. I had a short interview with him this morning, and was surprised that he didn't ask me anything about my background, practice etc. He just wanted to chat about meditation in general. I got the feeling he was very detached, and not very enthusiastic about teaching me meditation. So I just went on with my practice as usual, maybe a bit more intensely because the lack of distractions (no Internet).

(2-3 days later . . . )

First during concentration, I felt a pressure on my nose, as if someone were pressing it with a finger. Of course, no one was there; it was an energy phenomenon. Normally our habitual discursive thinking pulls energy out of the 6th (third eye) chakra; in the higher states of meditation, the energy flows into the third eye.

There are various methods for accomplishing this change. I used one of them to switch the direction of energy flow, and was rewarded with brilliant lights and an intense feeling of bliss. Now the energy illuminated the ‘upper room’, the highest chakra of the thousand-petalled lotus at the top of the head. I could feel it from the inside. I found a way to direct the energy to the center of the crown chakra, pushed up against it, and it suddenly opened.

I felt the energy rush through the opening; I was pulled along with it. As I rose up and up above my head, I saw a vision of a Bo tree with a strong straight trunk and lush greenery, planted firmly in the center of the crown chakra. The roots went down into the ordinary mind, and were nourished by the water of purified thoughts. The trunk was the first four jhānas; and the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits were the higher jhānas. A pair of strong lions guarded the base of the tree.

I went high up in the branches and foliage of the tree and there was a beautiful temple made of luminous jewels. A white Buddha image was floating there. I went in and offered him a lamp by making a flame of light arise in my joined palms. I made an intention that the flame of that lamp should be eternal, and left it there burning in the temple before the Buddha. Then I went out to enjoy the each of the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits of the higher jhānas, as well as the beautiful multicolored birds of ecstasy that roost there, freed from all cares.

I never reported this incident to Ven. S., as we never did establish enough rapport for me to feel comfortable to reveal that level of detail of my practice. I stayed there about two weeks, but he remained disinterested. I didn't push, but continued my practice and then went back to my home temple in the mountains.

After this I lost interest in pursuing detailed investigation of the jhānas as I had planned. It's significant that I experienced a point of view external to the jhānas, and could clearly see them as conditioned states. I felt that I had access to all of the jhānas, and just to confirm it I did try to attain some of the higher jhānas, and was rewarded with an experience of Unbounded Space/Consciousness. However none of these were very stable.

I did make a big decision, though, to remove my online presence, give up any attempt to teach, and dedicate myself completely to practice. However, for a few days after returning to my home monastery I had some aversion to sitting. I felt I needed to sort some things out. It took me about a week to feel comfortable about sitting again. Even then, I began very gingerly and instead of making any efforts, felt comfortable 'just being'. I still got symptoms of concentration such as bright lights, but have come to regard that as normal.

So what do you think?

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
7/31/13 5:38 AM as a reply to Dharmasar.
Hi there!

I could be wrong, but rushes of energy, bright lights, visions, and big experiences generally in meditation are symptomatic of the 4th nana - knowledge of arising and passing away.

It is also common to experience better access to jhanas and wanting to renounce our lifestyle at this time. Leading into 5th nana, difficulty meditating is often reported.

Have you experienced that kind of thing before? Has the nature of sensations - speed and texture of vibrations changed since?

Have a read of MCTB from 4th nana onwards and see if any of that applies to you.

I suggest building concentration/ tranquility/ confidence by refining jhana a little further, then pushing ahead with straight vipassana.

All the best.

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
7/31/13 7:04 AM as a reply to Dodge E Knees.
Since that experience, I did go through about a week where meditation was unappealing. As soon as I carefully and gingerly resumed practice, I could see a substrate of reality vibrating very, very fast. It looks similar to static 'snow' on a TV screen. But this screen has maybe a hundred million pixels of multicolored light flickering at 150 Hz. Then there is a layer where the mind tries to fabricate forms to 'explain' or 'tag' the more or less random vibrations underneath, and make them into 'objects'.

My perception of my body and even visual perception with eyes open is also very finely 'pixelated' and vibrates very fast. In fact everything that sorta seems to be, sorta mostly ain't. Also the way I perceive the jhānas has changed markedly. They no longer give me much satisfaction, because I can clearly see them as fabrications: anicca-dukkha-anattā. Today I got stably into the 8th jhāna for the first time, and it was kinda cool in a fucked-up way. But, meh...

Nevertheless I feel really good, happy in a calm way. No need to strive or attain anything while sitting. Just being there is enough.

I always get strong lights while meditating; in fact I have to kind of back away from them because they're so distracting, like looking directly at the sun. But lately the intense bliss that I used to get when seeing them has mellowed. Today I suddenly saw that the lights, instead of being something 'out there' or coming from 'someplace else', are actually due to my mind reflecting... me. Whatever 'me' is anymore. Just awareness, I guess.

I'm still looking back and reviewing all the recent events and trying to get a handle on them. It's hard to articulate some of these phenomena since I haven't really learned all the terminology yet. Read Mahāsi Sayādaw's The Progress of Insight today for the first time, and it helped make things clearer. Thanks for your input.

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
7/31/13 8:20 AM as a reply to Dharmasar.
Upāsaka Buddha Vaṃsa:
OK guys, what do you make of this? From my journal:

Today is the first day of retreat at Ven. S.'s monastery. I had a short interview with him this morning, and was surprised that he didn't ask me anything about my background, practice etc. He just wanted to chat about meditation in general. I got the feeling he was very detached, and not very enthusiastic about teaching me meditation. So I just went on with my practice as usual, maybe a bit more intensely because the lack of distractions (no Internet).

(2-3 days later . . . )

First during concentration, I felt a pressure on my nose, as if someone were pressing it with a finger. Of course, no one was there; it was an energy phenomenon. Normally our habitual discursive thinking pulls energy out of the 6th (third eye) chakra; in the higher states of meditation, the energy flows into the third eye.

There are various methods for accomplishing this change. I used one of them to switch the direction of energy flow, and was rewarded with brilliant lights and an intense feeling of bliss. Now the energy illuminated the ‘upper room’, the highest chakra of the thousand-petalled lotus at the top of the head. I could feel it from the inside. I found a way to direct the energy to the center of the crown chakra, pushed up against it, and it suddenly opened.

I felt the energy rush through the opening; I was pulled along with it. As I rose up and up above my head, I saw a vision of a Bo tree with a strong straight trunk and lush greenery, planted firmly in the center of the crown chakra. The roots went down into the ordinary mind, and were nourished by the water of purified thoughts. The trunk was the first four jhānas; and the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits were the higher jhānas. A pair of strong lions guarded the base of the tree.

I went high up in the branches and foliage of the tree and there was a beautiful temple made of luminous jewels. A white Buddha image was floating there. I went in and offered him a lamp by making a flame of light arise in my joined palms. I made an intention that the flame of that lamp should be eternal, and left it there burning in the temple before the Buddha. Then I went out to enjoy the each of the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits of the higher jhānas, as well as the beautiful multicolored birds of ecstasy that roost there, freed from all cares.

I never reported this incident to Ven. S., as we never did establish enough rapport for me to feel comfortable to reveal that level of detail of my practice. I stayed there about two weeks, but he remained disinterested. I didn't push, but continued my practice and then went back to my home temple in the mountains.

After this I lost interest in pursuing detailed investigation of the jhānas as I had planned. It's significant that I experienced a point of view external to the jhānas, and could clearly see them as conditioned states. I felt that I had access to all of the jhānas, and just to confirm it I did try to attain some of the higher jhānas, and was rewarded with an experience of Unbounded Space/Consciousness. However none of these were very stable.

I did make a big decision, though, to remove my online presence, give up any attempt to teach, and dedicate myself completely to practice. However, for a few days after returning to my home monastery I had some aversion to sitting. I felt I needed to sort some things out. It took me about a week to feel comfortable about sitting again. Even then, I began very gingerly and instead of making any efforts, felt comfortable 'just being'. I still got symptoms of concentration such as bright lights, but have come to regard that as normal.

So what do you think?


It's difficult for me to evaluate your progress, because it's unclear what you're trying to do.

For starters, it might be helpful if you defined what you mean by "jhana", as what you describe here sounds nothing like any jhana I've heard of or encountered (aside from the brief mention of bliss). This in itself is uninteresting and unsurprising, as there seem to be as many definitions of "jhana" as there are teachers of it. But without knowing more about your practice, your definitions, and what you're attempting to accomplish, it's difficult if not impossible to offer constructive feedback.

In general, it seems like an error not to discuss these things with your teacher. Presumably your teacher was giving you meditation instructions and would be in the best position to evaluate the result of those instructions. Of course, sometimes this isn't always possible, either because of personality conflict, language barrier, time constraints, and the like. But all other things being equal, he probably would have been the best one to evaluate your results.

It's possible - as the commenter above intimates - that you may have entered into Arising & Passing territory, but without knowing what you were doing, it's hard to confirm or deny that claim. Visions, lights, aversion, craving, and the like are common no matter what sort of meditation practice you're doing. We all go through natural cycles of this stuff. I hesitate to attribute any real significance to it - though that doesn't mean it's not significant.

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
7/31/13 10:34 AM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Fitter Stoke:

It's difficult for me to evaluate your progress, because it's unclear what you're trying to do.


Fitter, I'm not 'trying' to 'do' anything; I am stopping doing things that condition suffering, following methods described in the Theravāda Suttas. Other than that, I don't really follow any particular interpretation, school or system. No offense, but it's pretty clear that you didn't get where my post is coming from, so I won't bother to respond to the rest of it.

I do want to address the teacher/student issue, though. Just because going into a situation someone has a label of 'teacher', and another has a label or expectation of 'student', doesn't mean a thing. If a so-called teacher doesn't act like a teacher, they don't deserve to be treated like one. If I were to take responsibility for someone's spiritual progress (which I have, on quite a few occasions) the first thing I would do is get to know them: inquire about their history, motivations, assess their level of progress and understanding, and build trust and friendship.

Ven. S. was well-recommended by a friend, but when I arrived he did no more than the most casual and cursory intake interview. Although I was the only student present, his lack of interest in helping me with meditation was quite palpable and persistent. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I simply went on with my practice as I had been, and waited to see what would happen. After a couple of weeks when it became clear that he really was as disinterested as he seemed on first impression, I simply packed up and went home.

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
7/31/13 5:42 PM as a reply to Dharmasar.
Fitter, I'm not 'trying' to 'do' anything; I am stopping doing things that condition suffering


Gosh Fitter, what were you thinking....

or rather....

what were you not thinking

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
7/31/13 6:02 PM as a reply to Dharmasar.
Upāsaka Buddha Vaṃsa:
OK guys, what do you make of this? From my journal:

Today is the first day of retreat at Ven. S.'s monastery. I had a short interview with him this morning, and was surprised that he didn't ask me anything about my background, practice etc. He just wanted to chat about meditation in general. I got the feeling he was very detached, and not very enthusiastic about teaching me meditation. So I just went on with my practice as usual, maybe a bit more intensely because the lack of distractions (no Internet).

(2-3 days later . . . )

First during concentration, I felt a pressure on my nose, as if someone were pressing it with a finger. Of course, no one was there; it was an energy phenomenon. Normally our habitual discursive thinking pulls energy out of the 6th (third eye) chakra; in the higher states of meditation, the energy flows into the third eye.

There are various methods for accomplishing this change. I used one of them to switch the direction of energy flow, and was rewarded with brilliant lights and an intense feeling of bliss. Now the energy illuminated the ‘upper room’, the highest chakra of the thousand-petalled lotus at the top of the head. I could feel it from the inside. I found a way to direct the energy to the center of the crown chakra, pushed up against it, and it suddenly opened.

I felt the energy rush through the opening; I was pulled along with it. As I rose up and up above my head, I saw a vision of a Bo tree with a strong straight trunk and lush greenery, planted firmly in the center of the crown chakra. The roots went down into the ordinary mind, and were nourished by the water of purified thoughts. The trunk was the first four jhānas; and the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits were the higher jhānas. A pair of strong lions guarded the base of the tree.

I went high up in the branches and foliage of the tree and there was a beautiful temple made of luminous jewels. A white Buddha image was floating there. I went in and offered him a lamp by making a flame of light arise in my joined palms. I made an intention that the flame of that lamp should be eternal, and left it there burning in the temple before the Buddha. Then I went out to enjoy the each of the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits of the higher jhānas, as well as the beautiful multicolored birds of ecstasy that roost there, freed from all cares.

I never reported this incident to Ven. S., as we never did establish enough rapport for me to feel comfortable to reveal that level of detail of my practice. I stayed there about two weeks, but he remained disinterested. I didn't push, but continued my practice and then went back to my home temple in the mountains.

After this I lost interest in pursuing detailed investigation of the jhānas as I had planned. It's significant that I experienced a point of view external to the jhānas, and could clearly see them as conditioned states. I felt that I had access to all of the jhānas, and just to confirm it I did try to attain some of the higher jhānas, and was rewarded with an experience of Unbounded Space/Consciousness. However none of these were very stable.

I did make a big decision, though, to remove my online presence, give up any attempt to teach, and dedicate myself completely to practice. However, for a few days after returning to my home monastery I had some aversion to sitting. I felt I needed to sort some things out. It took me about a week to feel comfortable about sitting again. Even then, I began very gingerly and instead of making any efforts, felt comfortable 'just being'. I still got symptoms of concentration such as bright lights, but have come to regard that as normal.
T
So what do you think?


what are you askin- exactly? Very cool experience btw!

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
7/31/13 9:34 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
. Jake .:

what are you askin- exactly? Very cool experience btw!

From the Categories page:

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"
If you had some experience and you want others to weigh in on what it might have been or what to do with it, post here.

More specifically, I want to see how the MCTB Sayādaw-based system can interpret my free-form meditation experiences. I was a jazz and Indian classical musician, where you take a set of changes or a raga and improvise the heck out of it. So the Buddha gave some cool sets of changes in the Suttas, and now I'm implementing them in various creative ways. Given the substantial reduction in suffering I have experienced so far, I'm more than satisfied with the result.

To make a long story short, context creates meaning. My question is whether holding my experience in the context of the MCTB system adds any insight. From what I have seen reported on this site so far, even attaining Arahantship doesn't seem to end the cycles. So, where am I on this map?

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
8/1/13 1:27 AM as a reply to Dharmasar.
Hi!

So, there is something problematic in telling you where you are in the maps:
-for starters, do you mean shamata jhana maps or insight maps? 'cause in the shamathajhana maps used in MTCB, thoose were just visions, not jhanas
-regarding the insight maps, do you mean where youarein thesmall maps, meaning in the insight stages maps, or in the bigger enlightnment/paths maps? If you mean the second, you might take a look at the revised four path model in MTCB
If you mean the small insight knowledges map, that is a bit problematic,because they tend to show themselves clearly as a result of the so-called pure insight practices, noting in particoular; all sorts of variations are possible, and depending on a variety of factors, they might not show so clearly; in general, the more you go far away from pure insight practices, the less they are obvious, and the more intensely you practice in a formal and informal way, the more they become obvious.
The only thing that seems quite no-brain to me is that you are past the first 3 nanas; maybe Kennth's idiot-proof guide to the 16 nanas might come useful, as well as the consideration on the standard pattern presented here (last paragraph).

However, truth is, I have no clue about what kind of meditation you are doing, more info specifically on that might help a lot; for example, were you asked how to give intructions to meditate the same way that you are, what would you say?

With metta,

Mario

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
8/1/13 2:12 AM as a reply to Dharmasar.
Powers-heavy experiences can make sorting things out a bit more complicated, but I agree with the first interpretation.

Basically, chakras, bright lights, energy moving, bliss, all of that: very A&P territory, just with strong concentration and lots of siddhi aspects.

Classically it is followed by a phase of aversion to sitting and very complex, edgy, rapid vibrating stuff: knowledges of suffering.

It is a standard pattern.

The next question: what happened next? Using this framework, did it every break out to Equanimity, and then, if so, did anything that might be classified as a Fruition happen?

Also, when asking if the framework helps, what aspect of the framework appeals to you, or what do you think it might offer having read through it? What resonated with you?

Daniel

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
8/1/13 3:00 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
The next question: what happened next? Using this framework, did it every break out to Equanimity, and then, if so, did anything that might be classified as a Fruition happen?

To answer this, please see my post above in reply to Dodge E Knees (third post of the thread). I think the part where my subject/object perception shifted is similar to experiences you described in your book. I'll leave what to call it up to you; that's why I posted here in the first place.

Daniel M. Ingram:
Also, when asking if the framework helps, what aspect of the framework appeals to you, or what do you think it might offer having read through it? What resonated with you?

It seems to be useful to someone who is very tightly following the Sayādaw method. As with most similar systems, any deviation from the standard procedure tends to introduce too many variables for the framework to be valid or useful. I can see the need for principles and maps, but IMHO their too-strict application makes things a bit too predictable to be interesting. They create strong expectations, which then can manifest as self-fulfilling prophecy. Like I said above, my mood is more like a jazz musician, improvising rather than following a chart. I mean, I actually was a professional jazz musician back in the days.

My approach is more to see what kind of fabrication is presenting, then use appropriate techniques from the Suttas to let go of it. I have an innate distrust of interpretations like Visuddhimagga, written or collated hundreds of years after the Buddha. I had the good fortune to find and study with a self-realized master of another tradition early on in life. I got to see up close how a master's teaching gets distorted, especially by the more power-hungry disciples.

I have also seen in my own experience how striving of any kind can lead to peak experiences, after which there is always a fall and reintegration. The higher the high, the lower and longer-lasting the following Dark Night. The subject/object perception shift I mentioned above occurred after I relaxed from striving for higher states and just relaxed into what is. It's OK to be me, just as I am; I don't need to be an Arahant or whatever. That said, since that experience following the Precepts has been effortless, sort of like the description in Yamaka Sutta.

RE: Strange Experience Regarding Jhānas
Answer
12/6/13 11:47 AM as a reply to Dharmasar.
The meta language reminds me of an experience I had about 20 years ago. I was practicing a Mantak Chia technique called 'smiling into the spine'. Prior to this I had been practicing micro-cosmic orbit (a Chi Gong technique of cycling energy through the major channels and centers) for one to two hours per day for a couple of months. Digging into my journal - the directions were "Close eyes and imagine a smile until the eyes tingle - then guide this energy down into the spine". I brought the energy down through the spine - vertebrae by vertebrae such that I could distinctly feel it moving down the spine. Got it about half-way down and lost interest in the practice so let it go and allowed my consciousness to rise with it. It floated up the spine, through the head, and up through the crown chakra carrying the seat of consciousness with it - at this point I felt that 'I' was located about six inches above the head where as normally this is seated behind the eyes. The crown chakra felt something like a big electric doughnut of energy at this point.

I felt that I was above my body guiding it around. Very strange. Quite stable in that I could get up and walk around and such. It was an incredibly blissful state - I had a huge uncontrollable grin the entire time. What I saw that was so blissful I can only describe as Indras Net in real-time. Whatever I turned my attention toward - it was like I could see that phenomena reflected through time and space - and no matter what I looked at - it carried a kind of perfection and completeness. It was also complete sensory overload - like trying to hook a fiber-optic line to one of those old 300 baud modems. After about 20 minutes I intentionally worked to bring my consciousness down into my head - successfully - because I just could't take it anymore.