Clarification from MCTB: is samatha jhana needed for insight

George S Lteif, modified 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 9:47 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 9:47 AM

Clarification from MCTB: is samatha jhana needed for insight

Posts: 52 Join Date: 9/2/13 Recent Posts
Hello,

Just a quick clarification about a point that got me a bit confused in MCTB in the section on concentration vs. insight.
I am practicing Mahasi noting with the understanding that this technique develops momentary concentration that would be equivalent to access concentration which should be sufficient for developing insight.
The below sentence from MCTB confused things a bit:

" In short, you must master the first jhana as a minimum basis for beginning the progress of insight, but this is all that is
required for enlightenment."

Is the sentence only referring to advanced stages?
Does the noting develop samatha jhana?

Would appreciate it if someone can clarify.

Many thanks,
George
thumbnail
Fitter Stoke, modified 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 2:46 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 2:46 PM

RE: Clarification from MCTB: is samatha jhana needed for insight

Posts: 487 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
That sentence has given more than one person trouble.

What he means is that you need to at least enter into and stabilize the first ñana, Mind & Body, which is just the vipassana version of the jhana.
thumbnail
katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 3:41 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 3:14 PM

RE: Clarification from MCTB: is samatha jhana needed for insight

Posts: 1740 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi George,
The monk Analāyo also addresses your question in footnote 69, Chapter VI, "The Body" of his book on the Satipatthana, his PhD thesis.

George:
The below sentence from MCTB confused things a bit:

"In short, you must master the first jhana as a minimum basis for beginning the progress of insight, but this is all that is
required for enlightenment."
Analāyo references Kheminda (1992), who references "Soma (1995), p. 360: the placing of the first tetrad of the Anāpansati Sutta at the very beginning of the two main Satipatthāna Suttas is a clear indication of the necessity of at least the first jhāna...the development of insight is impossible to one who has not brought into being at least the first jhāna."

But if you are noting well (which becomes very rapid), then this noting becomes vitakka (mind landing on the object again and again and again and again), which when enough of these landings are strung together with fewer departures...voila, you have vicāra, sustained attention to the object (the breath). If you approach noting with piti (joy/zest) and sukha (comfort/calm happiness), then the mind will grow to like these short exercises and extend them into longer efforts (10 minutes, 20 minutes, etc).



Does the noting develop samatha jhana?
It can, but anapansati has a specific progression that starts with piti and sukha, especially.

Yet noting can be useful to people who are not doing jhana training. Lacking support of piti and sukha, noting can fall prey to dullness and/or conceptual perseverations, as with counting the breath. Analayo describes possible (not inherent) hazards of counting as potentially being able to "...dull the mind [and] stimulate the conceptual activity of the mind instead of quietening it." The quoted words here come from Analāyo's footnote just above the last, footnote 68, Chapter VI, the Body.

So just be alert to that. I think if you add piti and sukkha to your approach, meaning when you start you start your exercises with some eagerness/zest/calm happiness (I started jhana work after my physical workouts in order to get the natural benefits of exercise pleasure) then I think you easily can avoid dullness and conceptual perseverations, and move into actual jhanas naturally, little by little, like all trainings emoticon.



Jhanas are therapies designed to temporarily abate mental hindrances, welcome the mind to its own self-study and the insights of studying one's own mind, and to train one's own mind in a friendly, systematic way (with piti and sukha in the beginning).

Like any skill, jhana takes regular, reasonable training. So just like if I start to practice guitar today, the results will sound bad for a few weeks --- and I should not lose my respect and friendliness for my effort even though it sounds awful in the initial investment period --- there will be noticeable improvements if I keep at it.

What do you think?
thumbnail
katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 5:34 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 5:30 PM

RE: Clarification from MCTB: is samatha jhana needed for insight

Posts: 1740 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Here's is 15 minutes of the monk Yutadhammo on the vipassana and samatha topic as well as the world-transcending jhana:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnsDC7pchfQ

Bottom line excerpt (close paraphrase of the monk Yutadhammo): "We often become lazy and intellectual (...) But the point being you can do heavy meditation and just do vipassana, without doing the samatha part. (...) The important thing is that you see things clearly. So the only advantage I can see to doing straight insight first is that it's probably a little bit quicker because you're not worried about all the trappings (...) of the jhanas (...)."

Here are quick notes from it:
Three kinds of jhana
1) Samatha jhana (a training commonly thought to pre-date Gotama) -- tranquility derived from stabilizing the mind to stable objects
2) 'vipassana' jhana (umbrella term) --- looking into the traits of experience, discovery of/investigation of momentariness
3) lokutara jhana (world-transcending jhana; my spelling may be off, elucidated in the Theravadan Abhidhamma)

So for me, samatha jhana was very helpful and I'm still interested in refining it (lotta room there), but that's just me. Maybe just looking clearly is good for you.
thumbnail
Daniel M Ingram, modified 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 9:58 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/9/13 9:58 PM

RE: Clarification from MCTB: is samatha jhana needed for insight

Posts: 3232 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Fitter Stoke:
That sentence has given more than one person trouble.

What he means is that you need to at least enter into and stabilize the first ñana, Mind & Body, which is just the vipassana version of the jhana.


What he said

Sorry for the confusion

MCTB2 hopefully will clarify that
George S Lteif, modified 9 Years ago at 9/11/13 4:15 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/11/13 4:15 AM

RE: Clarification from MCTB: is samatha jhana needed for insight

Posts: 52 Join Date: 9/2/13 Recent Posts
Hi Katy, I guess it makes sense. This was my understanding of it as well and you explained it better in terms of the 5 factors. I would definitely benefit from the advice of adding piti and sukkha to incline the mind a bit towards the practice. Will try it out, thanks.

Breadcrumb