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Which pleasure should I focus on?

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Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/23/14 9:51 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Howard Maxwell Clegg 10/23/14 10:16 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/23/14 1:20 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Howard Maxwell Clegg 10/23/14 1:44 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Not Tao 10/23/14 2:57 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/23/14 4:20 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Not Tao 10/23/14 2:33 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 10/23/14 2:35 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/23/14 4:23 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 10/23/14 5:37 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/24/14 1:37 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? J Adam G 10/24/14 12:26 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/25/14 4:33 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? CJMacie 10/25/14 6:14 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/25/14 8:05 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? CJMacie 10/25/14 12:52 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/26/14 12:10 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? CJMacie 10/27/14 6:24 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? CJMacie 10/28/14 6:07 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/28/14 9:17 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? CJMacie 10/29/14 10:14 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Not Tao 10/30/14 12:03 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/30/14 4:48 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 10/30/14 10:04 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Not Tao 10/30/14 12:56 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/30/14 2:55 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 10/30/14 3:13 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/30/14 5:04 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Not Tao 10/30/14 4:27 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/30/14 5:11 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 10/30/14 5:46 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Small Steps 10/30/14 5:08 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/30/14 5:19 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Small Steps 10/30/14 5:50 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Not Tao 10/30/14 5:57 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/31/14 1:37 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Banned For waht? 10/31/14 8:26 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? J C 10/31/14 11:34 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 10/31/14 12:19 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Small Steps 10/31/14 1:26 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 10/31/14 1:42 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/31/14 2:19 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 10/30/14 10:05 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? CJMacie 11/1/14 6:53 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 11/2/14 9:45 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Jeremy May 11/2/14 9:47 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 11/4/14 2:38 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Not Tao 10/28/14 11:53 AM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? Pål 10/28/14 12:13 PM
RE: Which pleasure should I focus on? J C 10/28/14 6:21 PM
Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 9:51 AM
In many suttas the Buddha instructs one to fill ones body (probably the physical body) with piti and sukha and all the other jhana factors. Also many meditation teachers seem to recommend concentrating on a physical pleasant sensation in order to enter jhana. But there are a lot of suttas where the Buddha says that one should try not to get absorbed in physical pleasure, but that the pleasure not-of-the-flesh that occurs in jhana (piti or sukha) is ok. But still piti and sukha is described as something physical, right? This is pretty confusing. Which pleasure am I supposed to focus on? How can pleasure be physical and not-of-the-flesh at the same time? Recently, the sensations of breathing have started to become a little pleasant some times when I meditate. Is that  "right" pleasure? It's physical obviously, can it somehow be not-of-the-flesh at the same time?

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 10:16 AM as a reply to Pål.
I don't think it matters much myself. You could spend your life trying to parse this. What criterion do we have to make the distinction between the two, given that this stuff can manifest so differently from person to person? In my experience 2nd Jhana always feels rather of-the-body and 3rd rather less so, but I have friends who have very different experiences. Maybe this is just an invitation to go on an interesting journey? Maybe its worth exploring a little?

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 1:20 PM as a reply to Howard Maxwell Clegg.
Yes it probably is something that would be good to explore. The Buddha seems to have thought that the difference between pleasures really matters, at least according to the Maha-Saccaka sutta. 

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 1:44 PM as a reply to Pål.
Ah, but also said that you should verify his teachings for yourself, rather than just taking his word for it.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 2:33 PM as a reply to Pål.
The divide is in whether the pleasure is born of material things (good tastes, pleasant music, fine clothing) or generated by the mind itself.  How the feelings manifest is not the point so much as whether the pleasure leads you towards or away from attachments.  The first jhana is pointed to as a pleasure that replaces the hindrance of sensual pleasure and leads the mind towards liberation rather than away from it.  Once a person can generate their own happiness and contentment, they no longer feel a need to rely on "worldly" pleasures to find satisfaction.  This is considered the lesser liberation in the suttas.

(I know you'll ask for references, but I don't remember where they come from, haha.)

You seem very interested in exactly what the suttas are saying about these things, so if you think this will really help you and help your doubts, maybe spend some time going through all the suttas that mention jhana, take some notes, and try to make a full picture that way?  My personal opinion, though, is that you'd benefit more from establishing a method you like, and then avoiding the suttas or other books for a while completely.  Information overload has a way of making us question everything we feel and think for ourselves, and the best cure for this is to stop the information for a while so we can let the mud settle and actually observe what we're doing.  This helped me a lot a while back when I was feeling flustered about how my experience lined up with what other people were saying and doing.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 2:35 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
*Bows to Not Tao*
I Agree.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 2:57 PM as a reply to Pål.
I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.


Imagine this scene.  He's siting in the cool shade under a flowering tree - but he also says he is secluded from sensuality.  I'd imagine he felt a sense of physical ease and mental calm inspired by the environment.

Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.' I thought: 'So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?'


The sensuality referred to here is the pleasure that is derived from unskillful mental qualities. If you feel pleasure during meditation, that is arising from a skillful mind.

EDIT: I always liked this sutta, BTW.  The buddha was so dramatic, haha.  Here's a good quote for halloween:

My body became extremely emaciated. Simply from my eating so little, my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems... My backside became like a camel's hoof... My spine stood out like a string of beads... My ribs jutted out like the jutting rafters of an old, run-down barn... The gleam of my eyes appeared to be sunk deep in my eye sockets like the gleam of water deep in a well... My scalp shriveled & withered like a green bitter gourd, shriveled & withered in the heat & the wind... The skin of my belly became so stuck to my spine that when I thought of touching my belly, I grabbed hold of my spine as well; and when I thought of touching my spine, I grabbed hold of the skin of my belly as well... If I urinated or defecated, I fell over on my face right there... Simply from my eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair — rotted at its roots — fell from my body as I rubbed, simply from eating so little.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 4:20 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
That is my favourite sutta. It's much more coherent, pedagogic and entertaining compared to the weird satipatthana suttas.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 4:23 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Ok, but what if I'm just breathing in a nice way? I think I'm just going to stick with the method for now and not change so that pleasure is my object like for example Leigh Brasington teaches, for now.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/23/14 5:37 PM as a reply to Pål.
Ok, but what if I'm just breathing in a nice way? 

May it always be so, brother.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/24/14 1:37 AM as a reply to Jeremy May.
Thanks, you too! That's something not to be taken for granted. 

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/24/14 12:26 PM as a reply to Pål.
Some pleasures are more or less connected to craving than others. 

Lovingkindness is a great pleasurable sensation to use for jhana practice because it's not very greedy.

Sexual pleasure is an extremely challenging object to use. It stirs up very powerful desire, and would make much more sense as a vipassana object so you can observe what desire is, how it works, what it feels like, etc. It doesn't work for pure jhana practice because there's just too much craving for more, More, MORE!

These two examples are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The less experienced you are, the more important it is to choose very wholesome and pure pleasures like the brahma-viharas, or random pleasant sensations in the hands, chest, or around a gentle smile. 

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/25/14 4:33 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
Ok, so maybe that's what the buddha meant with "safe" pleasure!

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/25/14 6:14 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
J Adam G:
Some pleasures are more or less connected to craving than others. 

Lovingkindness is a great pleasurable sensation to use for jhana practice because it's not very greedy.

Sexual pleasure is an extremely challenging object to use. It stirs up very powerful desire, and would make much more sense as a vipassana object so you can observe what desire is, how it works, what it feels like, etc. It doesn't work for pure jhana practice because there's just too much craving for more, More, MORE!

Speak for yourself, if you will emoticon

Enough of this Puritanical preoccupation with the notion that Jhana is addicting (as a generalization), found just as about as strongly in 'pragmatic' as in orthodox Vipassana-Movement 'Buddhism'.

G.Buddha (reportedly) loved to spend his daily after-meal solitary in Jhanas, awakened using them, and chose to die using them. He must have been really addicted!

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/25/14 8:05 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
I think he meant that sexual pleasure would be a bad object for jhana rather than that jhana in itself is a bad thing. 

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/25/14 12:52 PM as a reply to Pål.
Yes, right. My late night sloppy reading. Apologies.

Then again, it seems incongruous to even consider sensual pleasure as an object for jhana, in that such pleasure so softens up, makes mush out of the mind's ability to apply the proper effort and sati.

But then again, if one has in mind not traditional full absorptive jhana, but some other sort --  the Brasington-Bucknell-StuartFox sort of jhana-lite, or the KF et al 'pureland jhana' that involves active imagination and chakra stuff -- then I can definitely see dangerous possibilities.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/26/14 12:10 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
I don't really get the difference between those "lite" jhanas and "traditional" jhanas. Is there piti, sukha, vitakka and vicara? Then there's first jhana, otherwise it's not. Ekagatta is probably a later adition since in most suttas it isn't mentioned until second jhana.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/27/14 6:24 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
I don't really get the difference between those "lite" jhanas and "traditional" jhanas. Is there piti, sukha, vitakka and vicara? Then there's first jhana, otherwise it's not. Ekagatta is probably a later adition since in most suttas it isn't mentioned until second jhana.


Long story. I'm preparing a thread going into the history and sources of the Basington-Bucknell-StuartFox theory ('jhana-lite'), and other variants.

Some salient points:

(The issues are controversial, and presented here are views, based on substantive evidence and corroborated by secondary sources. I would  encourage others who are interested to look for themselves more closely at the issues and evidence, not just accept hearsay.)
 
1) 8th-jhana-lite is considered roughly equivalent to (Visudhimagga tradition) 1st-jhana – a rather remarkable difference;

2) the 'lite' advocates cite that traditional 1st-jhana is impossibly difficult for anyone but the most advanced monastics to achieve, which was widely thought to be true up to relatively recently. Now it's known to be not at all the case; it just takes proper understanding, teaching,and serious practice (just like many other worthwhile attainments).

3) 'lite' interprets vitakka-vicara as every-day discursive thinking; traditionally these terms had many uses, interpretations, including as mental focus and sustaining;

4) ekaggata – long story – it's not mentioned explicitly in 1st jhana, nor in 3rd or 4th; and the word used in 2nd isn't actually ekaggata; plus subtleties about applying modern literary criticism to texts from different cultures and historical periods; and NONE of the texts were written down until at least 200 years after death of G.Buddha, i.e. already gone through 8-10 generations of various alterations via oral transmission.

5) 'lite' tradition is about 25 years old, fashioned by two or three scholars who worked closely together; traditional is at least 1500, very likely 2500 years old of oral, person-to-person teaching in several lineages.

6) Leigh Brasington told me he also learned jhana-lite from Ayya Khema, but examining her writings and talks on the jhanas I've found more or less teaching of Visudhimagga-type traditional jhanas (and, btw, her teaching is an excellent, inspiring, source for helping learn these jhanas).

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/28/14 6:07 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Reviewing my last post here, it needs to be added, made clear, that in the study of the various jhana systems (traditional Visudhimagga type, jhana-lite,'pure-land', whatever), there's front and center a distinction between the practice of these systems, and claims made about them, historical or otherwise.

They all have their pragmatic validity. Cultivation of any type of jhana skilfully is commendable and to be encouraged. Though really no-one needs anyone else's validation or permission to do so – they can be immensely rewarding in and of themselves.

The issues I'm pursuing have to do more with discernment in understanding the variety of claims occasionally made about one system or another, for instance, 'this or that one is what the Buddha really taught', or 'this or that one is not what the Buddha taught, or is outright wrong'. And separating second-hand opinions, hearsay, from what we can actually discover by thoughtful investigation of background sources and intentions in using or citing them.

That is to say, trying to steer clear of verbal skirmishes and more in the direction of sharing information, even though views may differ.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/28/14 9:17 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Thanks for the clarification. This is in a way very good news. It means I can start by going to jhana-lite retreats and then continue with the traditional oned so that I learn both thoroughly. Then I'm on the safe side, since the Buddha thaught that jhanas 1-4 are needed for enlightenment as far as I've understood emoticon Any retreat tips? Preferably near Sweden.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/28/14 11:53 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
I learned it through my own efforts completely by accident, haha, so the whole lite vs. heavy thing, or one teacher vs. another, seems kind of silly to me.  I think the best way to think about it is that there are just increasing levels of absorption, and they just keep going, presumably, until their logical endpoint where the mind stops completely.  The way they move into each other is very logical and linear from the perspective of experience, even though it's difficult to describe them, and it just hapens if you let go and keep the mind steady.  Really, it's not complicated in the least.  I think there are 8 jhanas in the suttas simply because of the Indian convention of putting everything into neat little numerical boxes.

Anyway, why do people argue when they could be doing jhana? emoticon

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/28/14 12:13 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I don't think it's silly. The Buddha said you need the first four jhanas for enlightenment. Of course people who want to reach enlightenment want to make sure they practise effectively and to know how far they have reached. Thus they want to have the jhanas clearly defined.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/28/14 6:21 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
I learned it through my own efforts completely by accident, haha, so the whole lite vs. heavy thing, or one teacher vs. another, seems kind of silly to me.  I think the best way to think about it is that there are just increasing levels of absorption, and they just keep going, presumably, until their logical endpoint where the mind stops completely.  The way they move into each other is very logical and linear from the perspective of experience, even though it's difficult to describe them, and it just hapens if you let go and keep the mind steady.  Really, it's not complicated in the least.  I think there are 8 jhanas in the suttas simply because of the Indian convention of putting everything into neat little numerical boxes.

Anyway, why do people argue when they could be doing jhana? emoticon


So you haven't found or noticed any sharp transitions? My experience is similar to yours except that I will notice transitions, usually at the top or bottom of the breath, and something will change: my sense of proprioception, the level of blackness or phosphemes, the way I'm thinking, or something. It's very difficult for me to tell what jhana I'm actually in.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/29/14 10:14 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
re: Not Tao (10/28/14 11:53 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)
"I learned it through my own efforts completely by accident, haha, so the whole lite vs. heavy thing, or one teacher vs. another, seems kind of silly to me.  I think the best way to think about it is that there are just increasing levels of absorption, and they just keep going, presumably, until their logical endpoint where the mind stops completely.  The way they move into each other is very logical and linear from the perspective of experience, even though it's difficult to describe them, and it just hapens if you let go and keep the mind steady.  Really, it's not complicated in the least."
 

Agreed, overall. For some people, the going can be easier with guidance from others who know it, and how to teach it. Discerning specific stages gives maps that can help orientation and progress (i.e. reflective knowledge) through the stages. "just increasing levels of absorption" yes; in my experience, not a totally smooth continuum; there are distinct landmarks, quasi 'quantum leaps'. For instance, the difference between 4th Jhana and the first three is rather dramatic. Here I've recently experienced an encouraging glimpse into why 4th is s/t called the 'gateway to the paths'.

"I think there are 8 jhanas in the suttas simply because of the Indian convention of putting everything into neat little numerical boxes."


It's probably more complicated then that, but of no consequence except for those with historical interest. (I've just gotten into Alexander Wynne's The Origin of Buddhist Meditation, which goes in depth into Brahminical systems and the interplay with early Buddhist inheritance and re-orientation of lots of stuff.)

"Anyway, why do people argue when they could be doing jhana? "

Agreed again. It can be s/t worth discussing, without 'arguing'. It's all views, and some take their own views so seriously such that they feel they have to argue against others' views. And that also s/t becomes complicated.

re: J C (10/28/14 6:21 PM asa reply to Not Tao.)

"So you haven't found or noticed any sharp transitions? My experience is similar to yours except that I will notice transitions, usually at the top or bottom of the breath, and something will change: my sense of proprioception, the level of blackness or phosphemes, the way I'm thinking, or something."


Reading this after writing above on 'quantum leaps', that seems similar to J C's observations here. The notion of
proprioception is a good angle that hadn't occurred to me.

"It's very difficult for me to tell what jhana I'm actually in."

I've noticed that too. Between 1st,2nd, 3rd, the variable predominance of pitior sukha, the absence of vitakka-vicara

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/30/14 12:03 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
When I first read about the jhanas, I could only discern three of them.  There was a definate movement and rest pattern where it would change, then sit for a minute, then change again.  When I started hitting a fourth jhana, it was very formless - the body seemed to expand like a balloon - so I thought I was skipping the third jhana.  Then one day the walls came down completely and I felt like I had completely lost track of my body.  I was like, "ohh, so THAT'S a formless realm!"  After that, though, it seemed like all bets were off.  I started hitting weird in-between states - maybe even 10 transitions of some kind - before the formless jhanas started appearing.  Originally I mistook these to be the formless jhanas because they seemed to fit, but after things opened up that first time I knew what to look for and realized they weren't anything close in comparison.  And the formless jhanas just got stranger and stanger.  It seemed logical at first because a huge feeling of space would open up, and then the sense of "I am" would shoot out to fill it, but that point seemed to be another nexus because a lot of transitions would happen again with no real changes.  When nothingness first showed up it was another "aha" moment.  Nothingness doesn't seem like a logical transition from infinite consciousness, but it really is somehow.  All through this I kept thinking I must be hitting the eighth because the sense of awareness was becoming so weird but then something new would always come along to challenge my old conceptions about what labels I was using for what transitions.  Sometimes in a 40 minute sit I'd have gone through 40 different transitions, but after the named jhanas each showed up I was able to track the process more easily.

I did end up hitting the eigth eventually, but at best I was only bouncing off of it.  It's such a completely alien way of being aware that I couldn't really maintain it.  I stopped doing jhana around that time, as well, because I was getting some really great stuff with open awareness practice.  It's kind of fun to remember all this, though, haha.  Maybe I should practice them again for a while. emoticon

But, yeah, after all of that, I just kind of gave up on trying to classify what level of strength I was experiencing them because I kept mistaking things for other things and seemed to be wandering around in jhana stratums rather than these neat categories.  Also, the relationship with thoughts was difficult to qualify.  Thoughts are still there in a way, but it's not like normal thinking.  The deeper things get, the less the mind moves, and this includes thought IME.  So I see the whole thing as a slippery arc or slope with little dips you can settle into here and there.  They aren't levels for me so much as natural places for the process to slow down or move sideways a bit. 

Oh, and I also had a few experiences while going to sleep that were very very still as well, which made me wonder how much deeper it could really go, even from the jhana I was bouncing off of.  So maybe a good way to see jhana is as a progressive stilling of mental movement.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/30/14 4:48 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
 I'm a total newbie, but I would totally have continued "jhanaing" if I was you. The Buddha in the suttas do not seem to talk much about open awereness practice as something more than a preparation for jhana while not sitting, but he does talk A LOT about jhana. What where you getting with open awereness?

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/30/14 10:04 AM as a reply to Pål.
Not everyone can go where Not Tao is taking his practice.
He is actually too advanced for most people in this forum to understand.
We are all lucky that he is putting his experience down into words for us.

Once you master a Jhana, it no longer has the same characteristics.  There aren't 'feelings' like there was when one first begans pranayama (following the breath).  Jhana at that point is simply dhyana, a knowing that they exist as properties of consciousness. 

It isn't necessary to go where Not Tao is taking his practice.  But if you want to, you totally can!!

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/30/14 10:05 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Yes, you were hitting 8th.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/30/14 12:56 PM as a reply to Pål.
Integrating awareness into everyday life is a bit like bringing jhana into everyday life.  I use Actual Freedom terminology for it which is "pure conscious experience."  It seemed to be working a lot better to stabilize the mind than jhana simply because I could do it all the time rather than just when meditating.  Remaining in the PCE became my new goal around that time - since that was actually my goal while doing jhana practice anyway.  The jhanas are very interesting and lovely, but they only last while you're doing them.

@Jeremy: Haha, I don't think I'm very advanced at all.  I got a lot of experience with the jhanas because I was just very consistently meditating every day.  I think anyone who meditates every day even a little bit for a longer period of time and makes a real effort to concentrate is going to go through the jhanas eventually.  It's just that most people don't put in the time for it.  It's like learning to draw, really.  Spend the time, do the part that isn't as fun (life drawing) and reap the reward (effortlessness).

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/30/14 2:55 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
So the awakening of the Buddha was not your goal? Or had you already achieved that? The vipassana movement really makes me confused. I can't find anything in the suttas about dividing practice into concentration and insight. In the mahasaccaka sutta and many others, the Buddha tells about him attaining all the jhanas then realizing that's not enough, and then going only to the fourth jhana and in there he does something where he first gets knowledge about his past lives, then of other people's, then the "knowledge of the ending of mental fermentations". But then there are suttas where Ananda, and I think in some of them the Buddha, talks about how the ending of mental fermentations comes at the eighth jhana.
An example of one of these:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.044.than.html

Then we have Vitakkasanthana Sutta, Sankhita Sutta and Samugatta Sutta and all of those outline practices that are supposed to lead to awakening but seem to be about concentration and letting go only. The Kayagatasati sutta gives instructions for a lot of differenr methods of meditation but none of them seem to be about what I know as "insight practice". 

I don't get it, where does all of this open awereness, noting, scanning and stuff come from? Why are these new insight methods all brought forth as if they where the core practice that the Buddha thaught when this was obviously not the case? 
Something must really have been lost in the teachings when the suttas say that anapana can get you all the way to nibbana but Goenka says it can't, that you need "scanning" too... If that is true there must be something wrong with traditional visudhimagga-style anapana.

But the suttas also seem to tell us that there is a difference between jhana that leads to enlightenment and jhana that doesn't. I don't get what that would be.

I really feel like either I or most buddhist meditation teachers nowadays have seriously misunderstood something.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
Answer
10/30/14 3:13 PM as a reply to Pål.
It is not your fault that you have misunderstood.  In fact, it is a credit to you that you have asked such questions!  That is why I said that not everyone can experience the kind of awakening that Buddha Not Tao will have, but You may, if you like.

You see, there are many, many cultivation methods.  The Buddha once said that there were over 84,000 methods and that each one could lead to Nibbana.  There are not that many that are known, but yet we still have hundreds of different schools, each professing the manner to reach Enlightenment.

The fact is, not every being is equal in every way.  All Arahants are as important as Bodhisattvas or Buddhas, but each kind of being has a different path of Self-Realization.  Some people find Bliss in the ability to drop the world at any time they choose.  They are the vessels of knowledge for the world and they are vital to civilization itself.  Some people find Bliss in the ability to love as much as they want and they are Just as Vital, though they need no Enlightenment to be Awakened.  Some people... just naturally need to find Bliss in both abilities.  

How do you find the practice that is right for you?  Abandon what is hard and keep what is easy.  Don't mix cultivation paths that cannot mix.  Use the Jhanas as a medication when you need to abandon self in unpleasant situations.  Do not see the Jhanas, themselves, as the road to liberation.  They are just inner places that make our journey easier.  They are also necessary starting points to ask the right questions.

Having Both Truth and Love is the hardest path.  But you have no choice.  There is never such a thing as choice.  You'll seek your Bliss.  We have to.

RE: Which pleasure should I focus on?
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10/30/14 4:27 PM as a reply to Pål.
Haha, you sound exactly how I felt before when I was researching these things.  I think that, since the suttas are important to you, you should follow them.  I have no doubt that letting go and watching the breath and the body will lead you to jhana, just like the buddha says, so there's no need to get mixed up with the commentaries or what other teachers say if you don't like what they're offering.

For me personally, I have never been a Buddhist, I just became interested in Buddhism when I started seeing the jhanas in meditation.  I was originally meditating to help myself resolve anxiety issues, and open awareness (or rather "be here now") type practice has helped me the most with that, so that's where my meditation went. I'm following what works for me, nothing more. I'm certainly interested in the idea of enlightenment, but after a long period of confusion where it seemed like everything I was reading was going against my own experiences, I just decided to trust myself. Maybe that's what everyone ends up doing, then they try to help other people and that's why there are so many options.

If you see yourself as a Buddhist and you trust the suttas, then definately keep going with that. Don't worry about what other people are doing unless you feel you can trust them and they have a result you want to achieve yourself.

@Jeremy: Ok, time to calm down. I'm glad if you find my posts helpful, but I think you're going a bit overboard, haha. For what it's worth, I am just as confused as Pal. Or, at least, I was until I just gave up, HA!

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10/30/14 5:04 PM as a reply to Jeremy May.
Since both you and the suttas say that jhana is a necessary starting point, I'll start by mastering them and cone back to these questions in a few years.

But still:

according to the suttas, the buddha never mentioned:
•nimittas
•the stages of insight. Especially I wonder why he doesn't say anything about the Dark Night. My theory is that Dark Nights only occur if you do not abide in jhanas enough. But then, I don't really know where I am on the maps. I do get involontary movements. Why are those never mentioned in the suttas?

These things, however, seem to be pretty important in modern buddhist meditation.
I think maybe we have gotten off the original track. 

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10/30/14 5:08 PM as a reply to Pål.
The suttas can be nice and affirming, but also confusing and ambiguous especially since they are such a huge body of work. Like me, you seem a bit pedantic... emoticon It's something of a hindrance in practice, actually. You would be much better served just putting as much time into practice as you can. When things start to open up, everything unfolds.

Don't worry about whether too much about if you're doing it right. You can't be too wrong. In fact, you can put all the time in the world into trying to find the right sutta, the right translation, the right interpretation, and the right instructions, and at the end of your life wonder why you didn't spend more time just practicing*

*- ah, but don't worry. If you die a puthujjana, you'll just be reborn and get another crack at trying to decode the suttas ;-)

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10/30/14 5:11 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I'm trying to follow the suttas but it's not easy since they are more than 2000 years old. It really feels like much of their message is lost in translation. So then I turn to teachers (read: the rest of the internet) but they either don't seem to give a damn about the suttas more than as an inspiration or their interpretations seem farfetched and self-contradicting (is that correct english? :p). What you wrote about them seem pretty solid though! As do Thanissaro's interpretations, mostly. 

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10/30/14 5:19 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Well... Nowadays I do formal practice about 30-60 mins a day. Is that bad? How much do you guys practice? 
Edit: Why don't you think one/I can't be too wrong?

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10/30/14 5:46 PM as a reply to Pål.
I also was never Buddhist.

It is good to not be too full of Knowledge!  The suttas were there for me when I needed confirmation on my own experiences, but they were unnecessary to know before my experiences.

Nimitta is an actual word in pali, and it means 'signs'.  So it is not necessary to use this word.  In some cultivation paths, it is desired to have a word in order to mark progress.  However, for my path, progress didn't need to be marked.

The 'Dark Night' is also implicit.  It is simply part of the paths and bhikkus only needed a term when they needed to talk about the beginning of new phases.  It is the very impetus, in all cases, that drives us to seek deeper liberation.

You are doing very, very well.  I do not have opinions, so please realize that you are doing the work and it is apparent to me.  If you read any of my posts you will find that I don't care about flattering anyone for any reason.

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10/30/14 5:50 PM as a reply to Pål.
After you practice for a while, things start to gel and make a whole lot more sense. The path of practice unfolded for me after a few years, and now it's just a matter of walking it. Sometimes, there's some course correction that occurs, but it all seems to happen pretty organically. I started off similar to you in that I read a lot, sat about 30-60mins a day and felt pretty confused about the best way to proceed.

Like you, I also spent a lot of time working on concentration and wondering if I was doing it right. If I could give any advice to that version of me, it would be to keep practicing the bare essentials and not to worry about such things as nimittas or jhanas. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 ;-)

That said, I am not at all displeased with the way my contemplative life has been unfolding.

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10/30/14 5:57 PM as a reply to Pål.
30 - 60 mins is great, just keep going and you'll be fine. emoticon  Don't forget the other parts of the practice as well.  Paying attention to the four frames of reference during the day with the intention to abandon unwholesome states will really help.  For example, when you read something that frustrates you from a bad teacher, replace the feeling with metta (friendliness).  This will help you abandon the hinderances so jhana can arise when you meditate.  When you feel doubts, look to your faith in the teachings, since you admire them.  When you feel restless, use your awareness and acceptance to settle the mind.  The more you can direct your efforts towards the factors of jhana, the more likely they will come.  Piti and sukha can arise at any time of the day if the hinderances are gone.

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10/31/14 1:37 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Thank you guys! 
Right now I'm not quite sure if I'll ever be able to accept the idea of dry insight practice as something thaught by the historical Buddha. 
I don't know if I'm buddhist. More like sutta fundamentalist haha

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10/31/14 8:26 AM as a reply to Pål.
make your eyes single and concentrate on the space itself in front of you. At some point the space crystallizes and you will receive spirit seed.

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10/31/14 11:34 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
Thank you guys! 
Right now I'm not quite sure if I'll ever be able to accept the idea of dry insight practice as something thaught by the historical Buddha. 
I don't know if I'm buddhist. More like sutta fundamentalist haha

Cool... what kind of practice does a sutta fundamentalist do? As I understand it, MN 111 ("One by one as they occurred") describes noting practice pretty well.

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10/31/14 12:19 PM as a reply to J C.
What is MN 111?

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10/31/14 1:26 PM as a reply to Jeremy May.
Majjhima Nikaya 111

Here's a translation by Than Geoff

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10/31/14 1:42 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Ah yes.  This is important.

Thank you.  I haven't told you yet, but I really enjoy you, Small Steps.

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10/31/14 2:19 PM as a reply to J C.
Well I try to do anapanasati with whole body awareness, warming up with awereness of breathing sensations in individual body parts. The anapanasati sutta basically describes the practice I'm striving to master. 
Does mn 111 ever say anything about mental notations? Does it ever mention about "dry" (non-jhanic) attention? I don't think so. In that sutta Sariputta "analyzes" his experiences while in jhanas 1-8 wich brings him to enlightenment. Not very dry. And I doubt (here I'm not speaking from experience though) you can make mental notations while in the higher jhanas. If jhanas only occur when the five hindrances are gone, then the Avara Sutta teaches us that jhana is a must for insight to occur. 

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11/1/14 6:53 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
re: Not Tao (10/30/14 12:03 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)

From your descriptions, I sense you've encountered what I call traditional jhana-s, although I've experienced (reliably) just '1st' to '4th.' I agree in particular with your final comment: "So maybe a good way to see jhana is as a progressive stilling of mental movement."

It's remarkable how that stilling of motion can be so pleasant (sukha ). I once heard Joseph Goldstein mention how, paradoxically, awareness beyond all pleasure and pain can be, in a way of speaking, so pleasant; maybe in a sense of so peaceful, as such a relief from the pushing and pulling occasioned by the pleasant and unpleasant in ordinary experience.

I've also heard that a good take on the beneficial partnership between samadhi and vipassana can be noticed when exiting absorption. After the mind has been so stilled, one can closely watch as it launches back into motion and discern in greater detail exactly how it works, how it falls back into its wayward habits.

" I stopped doing jhana around that time, as well, because I was getting some really great stuff with open awareness practice.  It's kind of fun to remember all this, though, haha.  Maybe I should practice them again for a while"


You didn't experience, for instance, 3rd or 4th jhana in the way it's sometimes talked about by those who recommend a practice blending samadhi and more active insight – namely as a refreshing (of both body and mind), a re-centering way of regaining energy, as a break, a recuperation from the often draining aspects of heavy-duty vipassana-type practice?

" Oh, and I also had a few experiences while going to sleep that were very very still as well…"


Interesting idea. Recently it occurred to me, too, that the moment of falling asleep resembles 'absorption', except that jhanic absorption retains bright, enhanced awareness, while the sleep-type seems to extinguish conscious awareness. Maybe there's a physiological / neurological relationship at some level.

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11/2/14 9:45 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Please make a new post concerning dreams.

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11/2/14 9:47 PM as a reply to Jeremy May.
Dreams from a being like you

mean alot

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11/4/14 2:38 PM as a reply to Jeremy May.
Jeremy May:
Please make a new post concerning dreams.
Hi Jeremy,

Just two notes, as a moderator:
1) Try to keep it on-topic - this thread isn't about dreams, for example
2) Try to be more polite - this request here can come off as a bit too brusque 

Thanks,
- Claudiu