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First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?

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I've read a couple of sources which say that, to get first jhana, one should focus on an object, wait till pleasure arises, then make the pleasure the object. One source is the very guide on this board: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1191517
by shifting your attention from the meditation subject to a pleasant sensation, particularly a pleasant physical sensation, and doing nothing more than not becoming distracted from the pleasant sensation, you will 'automatically' enter the first jhana.
The original source for that quote is here: http://www.leighb.com/jhana2.htm

MCTB says:
Tune into sensations in and around the primary object that feel good.
This, to me, implies a kind of hybrid of concentrating on object and pleasure simultaneously.

Then you have mind-made object such as the afterimage of a light which turns into a star etc. MCTB says:
Whereas mind-generated objects in the first jhana are stable, they will move (e.g. spin, pulse, resonate, etc.) in the second jhana in ways that correlate with the phase of the breath
In this instance, what was the order of events? Did we just keep the afterimage as the object the whole time, and let jhanas "mature" by themselves in the background? Or did we use the object first to get pleasure, then make pleasure the object till first jhana, then come back to just observing the object in second jhana? Or did we use a hybrid approach, focusing on object and pleasure simultaneously the whole time?

This may sound nitpicky, but there is a specific reason I'm asking this.

WHY I'M ASKING

I'm writing a short guide on getting to first jhana. One of my central premises is that first jhana is so effective at suppressing anxiety and depression that it should be a first-line treatment for such things.

I want to get the guide right. I also want to line up my own experiences with the materials.

My First Jhana

I started meditating about 6 years ago and had no teacher, and did not know any Buddhist terminology or concepts. I started with some breath and mantra meditation from a book called "The Presence Process".

Within a couple of weeks I found that if I focused really hard on something, usually the breath, at some point the following things would happen:

- I would get a strong feeling of falling (I now believe this is just all muscles relaxing simultaneously)
- My eyes would roll back in my head and being flickering, like REM
- The dark stuff behind my eyes would light up brightly and become almost white
- I began feeling ecstatic, and this feeling would last some time after the meditation

I found I could "cycle" this feeling to get it to grow. I also found I would get "tired" of it eventually and settle into some clear-mindedness without requiring effort. I found I could concentrate on something very effortlessly after this.

It is only after reading MCTB about 4 months ago that I began to identify what I was doing here as entering first jhana (followed by second in the last couple of sentences above).

It was the feeling of falling which confused me. For a "full" first jhana, it seems required (for me). However, I've not seen anyone else describe such a feeling. Thoughts?

Practical First Jhana

Now we get into some more detailed questions which are important for my guide, so any help is appreciated!

In the guide, I want to talk about using first jhana for anxiety. Here is something really simple I've been doing for a while which really helps me.

An introvert at heart, when first entering really busy places, e.g. noisy pubs, I can sometimes feel overwhelmed. In this instance, I pick an object. My peripheral vision is a common one. I can also use the actual sound of the crowd, as it approximates white noise. I can get "access concentration" on that object within literally 2 seconds. I then immediately get a "drop" or a "wave" feeling inside me which feels good. I can maintain focus on the object, which means the "wave" will pulse in phase with my breath, usually a new one peaking towards the end of the out breath.

(Does this line up with anyone else's experiences of the pleasure aspect of concentration meditation so far?)

I can also make the "wave" itself the object, and cause it to "cycle" and grow in intensity rapidly, though I would tend not to do this in public as it gives me a kind of orgasm face. However, if I'm really feeling tense, I can excuse myself and go to a toilet cubicle and do it there (no wanking jokes please emoticon ).

If I use the peripheral vision method mentioned above, when the first wave of pleasure hits, it's like the whole scene gets less intense (e.g. the noise is subjectively quieter / less intrusive), and the actual image of the scene itself "shrinks" and draws inward towards the centre -- meaning I can "gaze softly" at the whole scene like it's a picture, and actually become interested in the scene itself. Sometimes, everything takes on a "glass look" and objects appear really clear.

What I'm Looking For

What I'm really looking for here is for people to read this and say things like, "Yes that's first jhana" or "No that's not first jhana because <insert reason>", or "That was just access concentration there" etc. etc.

Does anyone else use concentration meditation in the above way in public, or for other practical reasons? Judging by some of the guides I've read about jhana -- especially old ones in archaic language -- they kind of imply that jhana takes years to develop and you can only do it while sitting etc. and while "having abandoned the five hindrances" (WTF?!) My experiences -- if they are valid -- contradict that, because I can get an access concentration with practically just a glance, and get a pleasure wave at the same time, and grow that into what I am assuming is first jhana. I was also able to get what I am calling first jhana within about 2 weeks of meditating, and have been able to train others to achieve it very quickly too. When I read these old guides saying "it takes years to develop", you can see why I suddenly had doubts about what I had achieved. I also see beginners, e.g. on this forum, holding jhana in such high regard and as some such far-off goal, that I feel perhaps they are scripting themselves into making it more difficult than it needs to be. I didn't even know what jhana was, and it just happened one day while focusing on my breath.

I can also get access concentration / first jhana at virtually any time -- in a bar, or just walking to the shops, or during actual sitting practice. This is why I'm keen to make sure that what I've been doing is "actual jhana".

I also use concentration meditation for playing golf. E.g. make the hole the object, or make the swing itself the object. In "The Legend of Bagger Vance", he focuses on "the field" and can "see" the entire shot at once. I feel like that. Since doing it this way, I became decent practically overnight.

I'm really trying to figure out if what I'm doing here is concentration meditation, or something else.

Thanks!

RE: First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?
Answer
11/13/14 6:56 AM as a reply to Illuminatus.
Briefly...

What you describe sounds much closer to 'khanika samadhi' or momentary concentration, in traditional terms.

It could also fall under the types of 'jhana' as taught by Leigh Brasington and others. (Claims as to 'what the Buddha really taught' are to be taken with a large grain of salt -- not to go into that here, but, in depth, later).

There are so many off-the-cuff descriptions, teachings on jhana out there, that what you seem to be undertaking might fit right in.

Jhana (Dhyana, Chan, Zen -- all the same root word) has a range of meanings, from simply denoting (reclusive) meditation to a quite specific and sophisticated formal technique in some Buddhist traditions. These later techiques are not that easy, but also not as unapproachable as is (too) often suggested. They do take some know-how (even those who come across them in other traditions, i.e. St. Thersa of Avila, were not rank beginners), and a significant amount of practice to master. And there are some precautions to observe in cases of potential or known psychological instability.

"My experiences -- if they are valid -- contradict that, because I can get an access concentration with practically just a glance,.."

That's pretty clearly khanika concentration, if not something entirely else.

"... and get a pleasure wave at the same time, and grow that into what I am assuming is first jhana."
And that sounds like the Brasington-Bucknell-StuartFox variety, aka 'jhana-lite'.

In your writing / teaching, it might be risky (i.e. pretentious) to assume or represent that what you offer is that jhana of traditional Buddhist practice.

Perhaps look into information on 'momentary concentration', as mentioned above.

RE: First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?
Answer
11/13/14 1:00 PM as a reply to Illuminatus.
The Buddha had already answered your first question, in the instructions for anapanasati:

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.'

And you wonder wether your experience is jhana or not? Again, let's look at the suttas/agamas. This formula, identifying the first jhana, is in like thousands of suttas:

"There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation."

RE: First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?
Answer
11/13/14 3:12 PM as a reply to Illuminatus.
To me it sounds like you have some things happening that are specific to you personally. A field of white is a somewhat common experience, though, and I can relate to your falling feeling (or sinking) - though not in the first jhana.

Maybe taking some time to guide people personally would help you figure out the best way to teach it, since you'll be able to see what effects other people get from your methods. emoticon

RE: First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?
Answer
11/17/14 8:09 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Thanks for all your replies.

Chris J Macie:
"My experiences -- if they are valid -- contradict that, because I can get an access concentration with practically just a glance,.."
That's pretty clearly khanika concentration, if not something entirely else.

"... and get a pleasure wave at the same time, and grow that into what I am assuming is first jhana."
And that sounds like the Brasington-Bucknell-StuartFox variety, aka 'jhana-lite'.

In your writing / teaching, it might be risky (i.e. pretentious) to assume or represent that what you offer is that jhana of traditional Buddhist practice.

Perhaps look into information on 'momentary concentration', as mentioned above.

I looked up khanika and that does not seem to fit my experience either.

However, I practised first jhana last night after much research into many sources, and re-reading of MCTB.

I was able to get elements of "sticking to the object like superglue" as it is described in MCTB -- a.k.a. "hard jhana". Actually, the shock of this was sufficient to break my concentration.

I recognized this superglue state however from the meditation I described in my iPhone Flashlight Kasina post. That meditation led to a rapture which lasted at least a couple of days, compared to what I was calling jhana in this thread where the rapture lasts minutes or maybe a couple of hours. I had not been able to recreate those visuals from the iPhone post since then, but last night I was able to for a moment, and felt the superglue effect while doing so.

So I am happy now to call what I described in this thread "jhana lite" or "soft jhana", and the superglue effect "hard jhana", and I will distinguish between those clearly in my guide.

And now, I just want to bloody practise hard jhana now because it's so fascinating!!

Thanks,

Edd

RE: First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?
Answer
11/17/14 2:23 PM as a reply to Illuminatus.
Don't forget to post a link to your guide once it is finished emoticon

Cheers, Christian

RE: First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?
Answer
12/7/14 2:25 PM as a reply to Illuminatus.
Hi, your description of generating a wave of nice feeling in your body very much ties in with my experience too. During this summer, when in meditation, I discovered that I could incline my mind towards a pleasurable feeling and my mind would  follow (though sustaining it was the difficult thing). I found that I could also do this (to a lesser degree) in my daily life. My technique was to drop my awareness into my body, smile slightly and kind of remember the nice feeling, and when it arrived I could expand it to some degree. I repeated this technique a lot over the summer and also found it very useful in social situations where I felt anxious, especially if I could incoroprating some metta quality into it too. During this period, when I was generating this feeling a lot in my daily life e.g when walking to the shops etc, I found my baseline level of awareness was a lot calmer too. 

If you are interested there is an really excellent book I have just finished by an insight teacher named Rob Burbea, called 'seeing that frees;

http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-That-Frees-Robert-Burbea/dp/0992848911

In the beginning of the book in the chapters on shamatha, he talks extensively about these kind of tehcniques where one expands a nice feeling of shamatha in the body. 

Also check out any of the following from this series of talks by him, but I would especially recommend listening to "Talk Four: Jhanas One to Four" which I think is relevant to what you are talking about. I believe he also talks about generating jhana qualities in daily life, if I remember,


http://www.dharmaseed.org/retreats/1183/

I also remember shinzen young talking about generating shamatha feelings when in conversation, I will try and find the video.

Hope that helps

RE: First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?
Answer
12/21/15 6:37 AM as a reply to Ali J Jo.
Great thread.

Thanks for the sutta quotes, Pal, always interesting.

And I second Rob Burbea for the teaching of Jhana. He has the audio for a 5-day samadhi retreat posted at dhammaseed (mp3 format) which is very worthwhile.

RE: First Jhana - Make pleasure the object or not?
Answer
1/27/16 3:56 PM as a reply to Illuminatus.
Good idea, to write about the power of Jhana practice in that sense.
I am investigating about this matter as well... I realized that in my first retreat (Goenka´s) I experienced strong piti and sukkha and those sensations changed my life completely, in the sense of starting to study all these wonderful Buddha´s teachings and to do more and more retreats. It is the true refuge for daily life: this pleasure inside ourselves and hot to access.

Nevertheless, to write about Jhana is not easy, because is a matter extremely controversial. So I would like to recommend to you to read this (in this order?) while you experiment and investigate:

1- The excellent Jhana Thread in this forum for introduction
2- Book: "the experience of samadhi" of Richard Shankman, amazing book with the different approaches to this practice, and all the controversies.
3- I am studying now the book "Right Concentration" of Leigh Brasington, VERY POWERFUL... Probably it is what you need, because he teaches with a lot of details the practice of focusing in the pleasant sensations, piti and sukkha after the access concentration (same teachings as the great master Ayya Khema)
4- The approach of Bhante Vimalaramsi is also very very interesting to explore...focusing in relaxation: this is what I most practice.

Good luck