Jhana as baseline

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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

Jhana as baseline

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
So, I'm wondering if anyone here has made a concerted attempt to stabilize jhana as their baseline experience? Chuck seems to describe something like this in his experiences, but I haven't really seen anyone else talking about it much. I know this isn't what everyone wants, but I'm wondering why it isn't discussed more, or considered more seriously.

A few facts I know are true about jhana from my own experience:
- It doesn't require a deep absorption. Jhana factors can be present as a stabile background experience in everyday life.
- With consistent practice, jhana becomes progressively easier to enter.
- During a practice session, there seems to be a point where jhana takes over itself and no effort is required to maintain it.

These three facts seem to point to a possible attainment of a jhana baseline.

Anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone considers this a part of what they're working towards and what kind of success or failure they might have seen along the way.
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Droll Dedekind, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 634 Join Date: 11/15/13 Recent Posts
I'm glad you made this thread. I was also wondering why this community doesn't seem to talk about it much, but I forgot to make the thread.

I know Shinzen talks about stabilizing jhana in daily life. I'll look for the video.

edit:
There's No Need To Leave Samadhi

There's another one in which he talks about first getting into samatha and his teacher said, basically, 'good, now just do it all the time'. Don't know which video it was. He mentions it in a few more videos.

Another one
C P M, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 219 Join Date: 5/23/13 Recent Posts
Droll Dedekind:
I'm glad you made this thread. I was also wondering why this community doesn't seem to talk about it much, but I forgot to make the thread.

I know Shinzen talks about stabilizing jhana in daily life. I'll look for the video.

edit:
There's No Need To Leave Samadhi

...

Thanks for the links Droll, What Shinzen says, seems to be what I am aspring to. (edit)
C P M, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 219 Join Date: 5/23/13 Recent Posts
I've also wondered if it would be possible to have the jhana factors arise off the cushion and be more a part of daily life. So I started doing some experiments.  A year or two ago I was able to hit fourth jhana while on the cushion fairly regularly.  So, the first test was to see if I could still the mind while doing yoga asanas.  I had no luck at all.  It was like starting meditating as a beginner again. However recently while doing yoga, I can occasionally enter some states similar to what I get on the cushion.

The next experiment was to see if I go do it while commuting to work.  I have an hour drive one way and the roads are not too busy most of the way.  I didn't have much luck with that either.  However, a few times I was able to get into first jhana territory, and that was encouraging.

I keep reading about jhanas arising do to temporarily removing the hindrances.  It would be nice to think that the hindrances could be removed more reliably.

I'm having a hard enough time these days getting into jhanas on the cushion.  I'll have to bump up the meditation time and maybe do a home retreat.

Sometimes I think that what Gary Weber describes is a permanent fourth jhana state, but I may be wrong about that.
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Not Tao (5/14/15 7:04 PM)
" So, I'm wondering if anyone here has made a concerted attempt to stabilize jhana as their baseline experience?"
I've never thought of it in that way, but it's a good way of looking at it. In sitting, I routinely aim for jhana as a central, an anchor level where the mind becomes stablize and then can open in a couple of different directions. Evaluating how it goes for the first 20-30 minutes gives a sense of whether it's achievable at the time – is the bodily energy, mental equipoise sufficient? If not, then not to strive for that, but watch, note what the mind does incline towards, the vectors it's trapped in at the time, and follow that for the session.

If, on the other hand, and as happens most often, access concentration does arise, then let it simmer a while, watch it gently flow around – the factors are there (the hindrances at bay) but the mind still has a kind of floating motion. There are a couple tricks that can be tried in that state to induce that floating motion to fall into, cease and lock into absorption. Can't quite describe them, but they seem physiological quasi-actions (doing by letting-go) coupled with intention. When absorption clicks-in, it's as if a physical shift takes place, though not in the musculo-skeletal organism; rather more like the experience of a neurological quantum shift, perhaps corresponding to those activations of certain areas, and devactivation of other areas in the brain indicated in some scientific studies. Closest I can depict currently is as a kind of dropping feeling (like in an elevator as it starts upwards) together with a sense of opening into suspension in a sense of space with no edges, and, of course, stillness at the center (while sensations out there are 'moving', but can't break in). Then evaluate how it goes, what level to work with, etc. Towards the end of the session usually falling out and reflecting, on how it went. Coming off the sit then using the lingering aura sort of awareness for insight into 'normal' mental & bodily activities as they start-up again, and for as long as feasible. – That's all sliding a bit OT, but interesting to try to verbalize.

" - It doesn't require a deep absorption. Jhana factors can be present as a stabile background experience in everyday life."
In my view (conditioned the training I've been through) is that jhana is absorption -- a terminological convention not, however, universally shared. The presence of the factors outside of sitting and seclusion I experience as momentary (kanikha) concentration, similar in ways to access-concentration, but moving among various momentary attentional fixations (this and that that's going on or being done) rather than that gentle floating motion (as above).

"- With consistent practice, jhana becomes progressively easier to enter."
Most certainly, becoming a reliable tool that's most always close at hand.

"- During a practice session, there seems to be a point where jhana takes over itself and no effort is required to maintain it."
In my expereince a definite, unmistakable event. Sustaining, maintaining it can require a sense of effort (of mindfulness), though it's a sort of negative effort in the sense of not being a 'striving'. More so in the 1st jhana, as the hindrances and external sensations are 'outside' but still rather close; the sense of 'shell' or barrier that holds them off (or rather inhibits engaging with them reactively) is not as solid as in higher jhana-s, where the welling of piti (2nd), or consolidation of sukkha (3rd) more thoroughly them crowd-out, or in the 4th where they're no longer present (perceived) at all – progressive degrees of deepening 'seclusion'.

The practice has its ups and downs and may take other directions, but at this point, jhana is used as a sort of functional, pragmatic baseline.
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Noah S, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
[quote=
]If, on the other hand, and as happens most often, access concentration does arise, then let it simmer a while, watch it gently flow around – the factors are there (the hindrances at bay) but the mind still has a kind of floating motion. There are a couple tricks that can be tried in that state to induce that floating motion to fall into, cease and lock into absorption. Can't quite describe them, but they seem physiological quasi-actions (doing by letting-go) coupled with intention. When absorption clicks-in, it's as if a physical shift takes place, though not in the musculo-skeletal organism; rather more like the experience of a neurological quantum shift, perhaps corresponding to those activations of certain areas, and devactivation of other areas in the brain indicated in some scientific studies. Closest I can depict currently is as a kind of dropping feeling (like in an elevator as it starts upwards) together with a sense of opening into suspension in a sense of space with no edges, and, of course, stillness at the center (while sensations out there are 'moving', but can't break in). Then evaluate how it goes, what level to work with, etc. Towards the end of the session usually falling out and reflecting, on how it went. Coming off the sit then using the lingering aura sort of awareness for insight into 'normal' mental & bodily activities as they start-up again, and for as long as feasible. – That's all sliding a bit OT, but interesting to try to verbalize.



Chris, this is one of the best phenomenological descriptions of jhana I have read.  Furthermore, it explains what I mean when I say "soft" vs "hard" jhana.  Soft jhana is what I usually experience when I 'go for it' directly.  I have control of it and can get into it.  Hard jhana seems to only occur through grace.  It is a side effect of intense effort towards one-directional focus.  I think hard jhana is really the only type of jhana that the Buddha was talking about.  Furthermore, I suspect I have only been in real 4th jhana once or twice. 

Getting real jhanic effects in ordinary walking consciousness seems like an awesome goal.  Daunting to me, as I am so far from such a mastery of jhana.
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Noah S (5/15/15 12:23 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)
"… "soft" vs "hard" jhana.  Soft jhana is what I usually experience when I 'go for it' directly.  I have control of it and can get into it.  Hard jhana seems to only occur through grace.  It is a side effect of intense effort towards one-directional focus.  I think hard jhana is really the only type of jhana that the Buddha was talking about."

Going backwards through your passage: The commentarial tradition seems to say Buddha meant 'hard jhana'. Other, modern interpretations, based on a scholarly trends of the last several decades and based on secular / pragmatic experimentation, argue that GB originally taught 'soft  jhana', and that the later monks made up the 'hard' version. To assert the absolute truth of either side (as to what the Buddha "really taught") is basically to assert belief, as there's no incontrovertable direct hard evidence either way. (I won't go into details here, but have researched some of modern research and intend to write it up here one of these days.)

One interpretation is that jhana was s/t used as simply a generic term for meditation. There's a curious passage in M108.26-27 where Ananda says that the Buddha did not praise every type of meditation (sabbaṃ jhānaṃ), listing non-praiseworthy variants where the meditator is preoccupied with each of the 5 hindrances, and in each case: "…he meditates, premeditates, out-meditates, and mismeditates…" (jhāyati pajjhāyati nijjhāyati apajjhāyati). What kind of meditation did he praise? The answer is the standard description of the 4 jhanas.

Evidence that he meant 'hard' jhana is also construed from the frequently found instructions which recommend complete seculsion and a still sitting posture – the kind of situation condusive to full absorption.

'Soft' jhana is often described in a way that suggests all it takes is imagination, and can be easily willed. 'Hard' jhana, as you say, "only … through grace", where (under certain trainable conditions) it happens on its own. I would say that with sufficient practice and "mastery", it's possible to readily create those conditions, and be able to 'will' to let-go, so to speak, to let absorption take-over. The 'trainable' aspect does seem to require time and patience, is helped a lot by competent person-to-person teaching, and is not made easier by the standard pressures of (largely Western) 'civilized' life-style and environment.

As we see, for example in this thread, there are many different views of the issue.
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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Chris, that sense of space you're talking about - that's always there if you look for it.  You can take it as an object even while thinking and doing things.  When I had the most success keeping the jhanic factors around all day, it was because I was just resting inside of that particular sensation of space and including the resistance towards negative feelings and thoughts within it.

Actually, that sensation may be what Pawel is referring to.  It makes sense to describe it as a merging of subject and object, because when you pay attention to it, everything is much more present.  I think the biggest mistake I've made in the past is trying to exclude negative feelings from this space, but this is actually counter-productive.  The negative feelings can be taken as part of the object, and then it becomes more effortless.  Noting seems to help me with this a lot.  Maybe the locking-in is just the space becoming complete, allowing all objects to be present.  This seems to fit with what Pawel was saying as well.

EDIT: Something else to mention: you make a distinction between absorption jhana and momentary concentration with jhana factors, but I'm not sure that's quite what I'm referring to.  When I use this space off the cusion, all of reality seems to be a single object.  There isn't really any transitioning between objects of concentration.  This is why "stillness" is a good description - there is no movement between things, just a single open reality presenting completely with no concept of time.
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Not Tao:
So, I'm wondering if anyone here has made a concerted attempt to stabilize jhana as their baseline experience?

A few facts I know are true about jhana from my own experience:
- It doesn't require a deep absorption. Jhana factors can be present as a stabile background experience in everyday life.
- With consistent practice, jhana becomes progressively easier to enter.
- During a practice session, there seems to be a point where jhana takes over itself and no effort is required to maintain it.

These three facts seem to point to a possible attainment of a jhana baseline.

Anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone considers this a part of what they're working towards and what kind of success or failure they might have seen along the way.

Droll Dedekind:

I know Shinzen talks about stabilizing jhana in daily life.

This is a discussion where one can find consensus in the perception of generalities, but alas most likely not in specifics, unless certain terms (and/or perception of those terms with regard to personal experience) can be agreed upon. In large part, the way that a person may be taught to observe these phenomena can depend upon the terminology they are given to work with when describing their experience, as well as how observant one is of the subtle detail when describing these states. Also, depending upon how one is taught about how to attain the dhyana state, this will color their perception of the experience and add variation to their descriptions, which may or may not be seen and agreed upon by others.

A number of years ago (about ten), a similar discussion came up in one of the Buddhist yahoo discussion groups in which I was a member. Fortunately, I saved some of those discussions in RTF files in order to review them later. One such discussion centered around the description of the attainment of a dhyana state while pursuing enlightenment through developing the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. Key in that discussion was mention made surrounding the fifth Factor of Enlightenment which is "tranquillity," otherwise the English word translated for the Pali word passaddhi. Unfortunately for us, the word "tranquillity" is not a specific enough translation for the state of passaddhi such that passaddhi should have been left untranslated so that it could be more clearly defined for better clarity.

The way I tend to view this current discussion is colored by my understanding and acceptance of the previous discussion ten years ago. And so I would say that what you are calling a "jhana baseline," I would call the development of passaddhi. One can call me a traditionalist, but I think the traditional descriptions fit the experience to a "T" without involving disagreement of the use of a term dhyana mostly associated with deep meditative states. Perhaps this is why Gotama chose to use the term passaddhi rather than dhyana in describing the development of this enlightenment factor.

Following is an excerpt from that discussion taken from a post made by Upasaka Culadasa, who has a gift for expressing exactly and precisely the insights I wish I had written. See what you think. Culadasa, at the time, was teaching that upacara samadhi (otherwise called "access concentration") is a much stronger state than what other teachers were teaching their students.

Culadasa:
You are right that what I call Upacara is a level of concentration that has been called jhana by others. (I am again reminded that I want to do a 'plain English' description of the meditative states and stages so that we have a reference whenever different usages of Pali terms create confusion). Ian described Upacara as having three levels, and I concur with that, describing them this way:

Entry level to Upacara - characterized by effortless one-pointed concentration, also known as 'mental pliancy'.

A middle or 'process' level - this level spans the partial and interrupted arisings of piti known as 'minor', 'momentary', 'wavelike', and 'uplifting', through to the full arising of intense piti and sukha known as 'pervading or suffusing'. This stage incorporates what is known as 'physical pliancy, bliss of physical pliancy, and bliss of mental pliancy'.

A third 'completed' level - characterized by a subsiding of the initial intensity of piti and sukha and the development of a powerful passaddhi that persists well beyond the period of sitting practice. This is also described as the 'subsiding of the bliss of physical pliancy and the coarseness of mental pliancy' and is known as Calm Abiding.

The hindrances of sense desire, sloth and torpor, and skeptical doubt must have been overcome for the first level of effortless one-pointedness to occur.The hindrances of ill-will and agitation due to worry and remorse must be overcome (i.e. if not eliminated, then at least temporarily suppressed) for the second level to be completed.

To the extent they are not, the four stages of incomplete arising of piti will prevail and may be very difficult and painful. The meditator may have to go through a prolonged process of experiencing them over and over again each time he meditates. For example, through simple perserverance in a sitting session a meditator with good concentration may achieve suppression of these hindrances, so that after period of bizarre sensations, involuntary body movements, and autonomic phenomena (goose bumps, sweating, salivation, etc), s/he may experience joy and bliss. If the same meditator then arises from meditation and perpetuates the hindrances, for example through anger or false speech, then this will be repeated again next time s/he sits.This is the real meaning of "Sila (morality) as a prerequisite" for Access. Ian's discussion is elegant and completely on the mark.

On the other hand, when one's Virtue is reasonably in order and one has made peace with one's own past failings, the whole middle stage can "pass in the blink of an eye", as Ian says, so that there is a smooth transition from entry to completion of Upacara. This explains the direct relationship between the Perfection of Sila and the Perfection of Samadhi.

Skill in Upacara is entirely adequate for Insight and Sotapanna.
Even the first level of Upacara, temporarily achieved, in a poorly prepared individual, can occasionally (rarely) result in Sotapanna. The explanation offered for this is that the person was a Sotapanna or Sakadagami in a previous life.

Skill in Upacara is also required for Insight and Stream Entry. Think of what I am calling Upacara Samadhi when reading Mahasi's 'Progress of Insight' and U Pandita's 'In This Very Life'. What I have described to you as entry and middle level Upacara is also clearly and unmistakeably described in stage IV Purification By Overcoming Doubt (kankha-vitarana-visuddhi) of Mahasi, and stage V Purification By Knowledge and Vision of What Is Path and Not Path (maggamagga-nanadassana-vissudhi) describes what is needed for the completion stage of Upacara (as Ian and I have described it). These three levels of Upacara are also what U Pandita has chosen to describe as the first 3 Vipassana Jhanas (yet another instance when the meditative experience I describe as Upacara is called Jhana by someone else).

As for Frank's comments regarding whether or not Upacara is adequate for complete Enlightenment, I know of no reason why skill in achieving Jhana would be necessary for the subsequent Path Moments, but even Sotapatti produces its own Jhanic absorption. On the other hand, I also can't imagine how an evolving mind could fail to develop skill in Jhana while continuing to proceed along the Path.

As Daniel has so clearly explained, there are many advantages to cultivating Jhana, although it is not essential.My advice to someone would be cultivate Upacara, then begin to practice Vipassana. If you have a reasonable predisposition to concentration, once you have become skilled at entering Upacara, you will find it easy to continue to cultivate Jhana as well. Jhana strengthens all of the Enlightenment factors. The process of entering and leaving Jhana and progressing through the Jhanas can be very fruitfully (Phala-fully, sounds like a Middle-Eastern food) examined with the mind well-trained in Vipassana. But if one is not predisposed to concentration, and many are not, then Upacara is adequate.

If we are speaking of Jhana in the sense that I customarily use the term
absorption to the point of complete withdrawal of conscious awareness from the senses then Daniel is absolutely correct in saying that one must practice Insight in Upacara, because it is not possible to practice Vipassana in Apana Samadhi. But as both Ian and Daniel point out, Jhana enormously enhances the quality of Upacara, and the process of entering Jhana, arising from Jhana, and reflecting on Jhana are ideal opportunities to practice Satipatthana. It is obvious to me that this is the meaning of the Anapanasati Sutra.

So this perspective yields three useful fields for the practice of Satipatthana leading to Vipasanna as described by various modern Theravadin teachers and in the Pali Canon and the Commentaries: 1) While sitting in Upacara Samadhi, examining the moment-to-moment process by which the mind takes successive objects of attention. 2) During activies of daily life, utilizing the khanika samadhi, sati, and passaddhi that have been developed while sitting in Upacara. 3) During the process of entering, leaving and reflecting on the Jhanas, both individually and in succession.

And then there are the Indo-Tibetan-Mahayana appraoches to Vipasyana. But that is for another time.

May some of this be helpful to someone.
Culadasa


In maturing, something that I was consciously practicing and recognizing in my own experience just a year or so later from this discussion, was the very fact that practicing dhyana meditation helped to condition the mind in order to help the practitioner extend the passaddhi experience for one, two, three hours and more after reaching and abiding in dhyana, until it became a more or less stable (rather than permanent, because nothing in life is ever permanent) state that could be maintained with the habitual practice of samadhi which I came to value more than the practice of a ritualized practice of formally entering dhyana. I came to view dhyana as a way to learn about how to enter samadhi at will. And that is what I practice to this day.

Here is another excerpt from Culadasa's writing which for me rings as true today as the day it was written. It focuses on a well-known Dhamma theme, the ending of desire and the role that plays in achieving an end to dissatisfaction:

Culadasa:
It is apparent that the Bodhisattva was fully aware of the Truth of Suffering, the Truth of the Cause of Suffering, and the Truth of the End of Suffering (perhaps not as Aryan Truths, because he lacked the Insight of an Arya, but certainly as facts readily evident to the attentive mind). What he had yet to find was the Truth of the Path to Desirelessness that brings about the complete and permanent end of suffering, and he could see that sitting in jhana was not going to do it. Jhana practice in and of itself greatly attenuates desire but does not destroy it, and as the passaddhi of jhana fades, desire returns. Have you not found that to be true yourself?

As I understand the Suttas, they tell us that, after rejecting the jhanas as the Path to the End of Desire and Suffering, he then undertook a program of severe austerities, of heat and cold and hunger and thirst and even denying himself breath in an attempt to subjugate the body and mind and rid them of Desire. After almost killing himself with the severity of his austerities, he realized that it just wasn't going to work. Then, like any intelligent person who has tried all the known remedies and found that they have failed to solve the problem, he put aside the failed remedies and decided to turn his attention to a more thorough investigation of the problem itself, and he took the necessary steps to restore his physical and mental health so that he had the strength to begin this investigation.

Then, I believe, it must have been like when a person who has set out to study something that is broken suddenly realizes they are holding a powerful light and a magnifying glass in their hands. They will use it. It doesn't matter that they may have spent years using the same light and magnifying glass to burn beautiful designs onto paper. All of a sudden these same tools have a new use and purpose. He was not interested in the piti/sukha or the bliss of the higher jhanas. It was the single-pointed focus of samadhi and the intensity and clarity of awareness of sati that the Bodhisattva recognized as the tools he needed for his investigation. This is what the Bodhisattva recognized when he remembered his childhood experience. It is in upacara samadhi and the first jhana, not the higher jhanas, that conscious awareness takes an object other than mind itself and that its investigative power is therefore most obvious. And it is in the 4th jhana that the mind itself is the primary object of awareness. And so this is what he used as the basis for his investigation and what led to his Insight into the process of becoming, or Dependent Origination
.

I have not found these insights better expressed anywhere else. What do you think?
C P M, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

Posts: 219 Join Date: 5/23/13 Recent Posts
Ian And:

...

A number of years ago (about ten), a similar discussion came up in one of the Buddhist yahoo discussion groups in which I was a member. Fortunately, I saved some of those discussions in RTF files in order to review them later. One such discussion centered around the description of the attainment of a dhyana state while pursuing enlightenment through developing the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. Key in that discussion was mention made surrounding the fifth Factor of Enlightenment which is "tranquillity," otherwise the English word translated for the Pali word passaddhi. Unfortunately for us, the word "tranquillity" is not a specific enough translation for the state of passaddhi such that passaddhi should have been left untranslated so that it could be more clearly defined for better clarity.

The way I tend to view this current discussion is colored by my understanding and acceptance of the previous discussion ten years ago. And so I would say that what you are calling a "jhana baseline," I would call the development of passaddhi. One can call me a traditionalist, but I think the traditional descriptions fit the experience to a "T" without involving disagreement of the use of a term dhyana mostly associated with deep meditative states. Perhaps this is why Gotama chose to use the term passaddhi rather than dhyana in describing the development of this enlightenment factor.

Following is an excerpt from that discussion taken from a post made by Upasaka Culadasa, who has a gift for expressing exactly and precisely the insights I wish I had written. See what you think. Culadasa, at the time, was teaching that upacara samadhi (otherwise called "access concentration") is a much stronger state than what other teachers were teaching their students.

Culadasa:
You are right that what I call Upacara is a level of concentration that has been called jhana by others. (I am again reminded that I want to do a 'plain English' description of the meditative states and stages so that we have a reference whenever different usages of Pali terms create confusion). Ian described Upacara as having three levels, and I concur with that, describing them this way:

Entry level to Upacara - characterized by effortless one-pointed concentration, also known as 'mental pliancy'.

A middle or 'process' level - this level spans the partial and interrupted arisings of piti known as 'minor', 'momentary', 'wavelike', and 'uplifting', through to the full arising of intense piti and sukha known as 'pervading or suffusing'. This stage incorporates what is known as 'physical pliancy, bliss of physical pliancy, and bliss of mental pliancy'.

A third 'completed' level - characterized by a subsiding of the initial intensity of piti and sukha and the development of a powerful passaddhi that persists well beyond the period of sitting practice. This is also described as the 'subsiding of the bliss of physical pliancy and the coarseness of mental pliancy' and is known as Calm Abiding.

The hindrances of sense desire, sloth and torpor, and skeptical doubt must have been overcome for the first level of effortless one-pointedness to occur.The hindrances of ill-will and agitation due to worry and remorse must be overcome (i.e. if not eliminated, then at least temporarily suppressed) for the second level to be completed.

...

If we are speaking of Jhana in the sense that I customarily use the term
absorption to the point of complete withdrawal of conscious awareness from the senses then Daniel is absolutely correct in saying that one must practice Insight in Upacara, because it is not possible to practice Vipassana in Apana Samadhi. But as both Ian and Daniel point out, Jhana enormously enhances the quality of Upacara, and the process of entering Jhana, arising from Jhana, and reflecting on Jhana are ideal opportunities to practice Satipatthana. It is obvious to me that this is the meaning of the Anapanasati Sutra.

...

May some of this be helpful to someone.
Culadasa


In maturing, something that I was consciously practicing and recognizing in my own experience just a year or so later from this discussion, was the very fact that practicing dhyana meditation helped to condition the mind in order to help the practitioner extend the passaddhi experience for one, two, three hours and more after reaching and abiding in dhyana, until it became a more or less stable (rather than permanent, because nothing in life is ever permanent) state that could be maintained with the habitual practice of samadhi which I came to value more than the practice of a ritualized practice of formally entering dhyana. I came to view dhyana as a way to learn about how to enter samadhi at will. And that is what I practice to this day.

...

I have not found these insights better expressed anywhere else. What do you think?

Hi Ian

As usual an informative and helpful post.  I'll try to rephrase what you are saying to verify that I understand correctly.

- Passaddhi is one of the enlightenment factors that can persist outside of formal meditation.
- The stages of Upacara are what many others refer to as jhana's.
- Culadasa's definition of Jhana is absorption to the point of complete withdrawal of conscious awareness from the senses.

It seems to me that the definition of Upacara matches what others refer to as "soft jhana", and that Culadasa's definition would be what others call "hard jhana".

So far, I have not entered jhana to the point of withdrawal of the senses (Although, I meditate with my eyes open, and sometimes lose most of my vision and it's replaced with a purple blob that shrinks/expands loosely with my breath - I take this to be a nimitta).

There is certain state that I have achieved sometimes in meditation.  I call this the fourth jhana (soft).  I would be interested to know if it's possible for this state to be a walking around, functioning baseline state. I'm not sure how it correlates to Passaddhi, or what elements can be carried over to daily life. I'll try to describe it and how I get there.

After 20 minutes or so of focusing on the breath, if I can rein in my thoughts and focus, and let go, and be in the present moment, I'll get rushes of goosebumps on various part of my body.  Sometimes a lose that, but then it may return again, then again.  I call this the first jhana.  If I stabilize that somewhat, and further orient myself towards letting go and relaxing into the breath, then I can enter a state that feels like a great relief. Depending on the session, the relief is of various intensities.  This seems to match the descriptions I have read of sukkha and the second jhana.  What I take to be third jhana occurs after this feeling of relief subsides and I enter a state that is very easy to stay completely with the breath, the thought I have about this state is "this is OK, I like this". 

I can stay in this third jhana for a long time, and if I sit with it for some time, then occasionally  there is a definite transition.  The transition is noticeable in the visual field.  It's sort of like zooming in and panning out at the same time.  My vision no longer has a center of focus, but is very wide angled.  In addition to the visual change, there is sense of an increase in energy and focus.  I would describe this state as very vivid, very still, and there are no distracting thoughts at all.  Sometimes the impression I have is "there is nothing here".  I call this the fourth jhana.

So, I am wondering if it is possible, after much training and development, to be able to stay in what I call the fourth jhana while engaging in normal life off the cushion.
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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C P M:
In addition to the visual change, there is sense of an increase in energy and focus. I would describe this state as very vivid, very still, and there are no distracting thoughts at all. Sometimes the impression I have is "there is nothing here". I call this the fourth jhana.

So, I am wondering if it is possible, after much training and development, to be able to stay in what I call the fourth jhana while engaging in normal life off the cushion.

Hello C P M,

To begin with, I'm not sure what you call fourth jhana is the same as what I would term as fourth dhyana. Meaning I do not care to speculation upon your description of your experience.

Fourth dhyana, from my experience, is ultra still, completely vivid, devoid of extraneous thought, a truly sublime experience and an entry point for the attainment of the immaterial dhyanas. It therefore is an extraordinary supramundane state in which any coarse mental movement at all will immediately compromise the state. I preface this with "in my view," this is not a state that can be maintained with any degree of integrity off the cushion. It is strictly a sit-down, deep meditative state. That is the only kind of state or condition in which the mind is able to make contact with the sense sphere of infinite space, the sense sphere of infinite consciousness, the sense sphere of nothingness, and the sense sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. If you sit and ponder this for a moment, you will understand why.

On the other hand, if you were able to recognize the state of calm (passaddhi) that can manifest and persist after having spent time in apanna samadhi or deep fourth dhyana, then you would have a better idea of the state of sublime calm and tranquility that Culadasa has termed as passaddhi. One of the nimittas or signs that I often experience in this state of passaddhi (which is born of the depth of residual dhyana) is a continuation of the slight pressure between the eye brows in the center of the head region. This along with a deep sense of residual concentration presents as a kind of superior state of mindfulness where the mind "is concentrated, purified and cleansed, unblemished, free from impurities, malleable, workable, and established." In this state, the mind is open and conditioned for any insight that might arise regarding any phenomenon that is the subject of one's focus and investigation. If you re-read Culadasa's description of upacara samadhi, the third 'completed' level "is characterized by a subsiding of the initial intensity of piti and sukha and the development of a powerful passaddhi that persists well beyond the period of sitting practice."

So, what you are seeking is only the intensity of upacara samadhi (according to his definition of it) in order develop and maintain what he terms as being the experience of passaddhi afterwards. It is perhaps easier to see and to maintain if one has been initially trained in viewing these phases of meditation according to the way he describes than in attempting to bring one's own interpretation of their practice into the discussion; kind of like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. In other words, if one were initially trained in this way, it would be much easier to see and confirm from personal experience.

As for myself, I naturally noticed these same features on my own even though I had not been trained by Culadasa, nor had I been aware of his views until he expressed them. So, there was no resistence on my part when he described perfectly what I was experiencing.

What he is also saying is that the practice of insight meditation can be done from this state of upacara samadhi where the mind has become established in mindfulness and is malleable enough to be able to make the connections necessary for the development of insight into the nature of the Dhamma teachings.

In peace,
Ian
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Noah S, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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@Ian, and others: Small Steps referred to the Maha Bua book Arahattamagga Arahattaphala, in which he describes the way in which Samadhi-type meditations (which are reached through Samatha methods) build a sort-of inner platform of stability inside the meditator.  This is supposedely a an effect which lasts all the time, in daily life.  Might it be the case that the development of the tranquility factor is one and the same with the development of this platform?  He does, of course, make a strict distinction between this inner platform and the true fruits of the path (total release through insight).
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Eric B, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Ian,

Thank you for these posts.  They have helped me suss out a more nuanced and specific notion of what passaddhi is and where it fits in in the overall scheme of practice. Likewise about the lesser stages of piti.


Eric
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Eric B:

Thank you for these posts.  They have helped me suss out a more nuanced and specific notion of what passaddhi is and where it fits in in the overall scheme of practice. Likewise about the lesser stages of piti.

Hello Eric,

The passaddhi that Culadasa and I are talking about is just another element/term and factor for the cultivation of mindfulness, in order to carry mindfulness further on into one's day after a sit. That calm is like an equinimous calm, keeping the mind from unintended movement. In actual practice, one experiences it as sati. It helps one to stay in the present moment, to maintain mental calm and focus. When the mind wants to let go of an object, passaddhi/sati helps the mind maintain its hold on the object.

For example, when running, I experience it as a heightening in focused attention when I run in order to keep me from losing focus on my breathing pattern and getting out of phase. In other words, if I want to hold that breathing pattern for a sustained amount of time in order to be able to maintain my speed and such, the focus achieved by passaddhi/sati helps me to do just that. There's a practical side to its use which can be experienced in the achievement of greater control over the movement of the mind and intention. In other words, instead of giving in and giving up on maintaining the breathing pattern, I am able to persevere with the endeavor. It assists with developing concentration ability, which for those in training can help them maintain focus and concentration on things like developing insight into dependent co-arising or seeing the importance of the five aggregates in personality view. It's a very practical mental stabilizing ability to develop that can be useful in many applications in one's life.

In peace,
Ian
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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re: Ian And (5/15/15 11:33 PM as a reply to Not Tao.)

Tranquility / passaddhi as a take on this idea of "a jhana baseline" (which is something of a new angle on the matter). Very interesting.

The Culadasa quotations really cover a lot of territory well. (There's not that much 'new under the sun', as we sit here today and rehash similar themes.)

The second quotation seems a bit confusing as one runs through it: "… rejecting the jhanas as the Path to the End…" apparently refers to having studied with those two Vedic masters (up through the 4 ayatana-s) , which didn't take him as far as he thought was possible. But then, after finding the austerity route also didn't get there, he rediscovered the jhana-s as crucial tools.

Many noteworthy teachers, e.g. Ayya Khema, express ideas along the lines that while jhana is not the goal, it's an essential part of the path to the goal. Key is what exactly means jhana? Or perhaps that there is no exclusive, exact meaning. Many places in sutta-s use jhana as meaning simply some sort of deep meditation, rather like the use of 'dhyana' over on the Vedic/Brahmanic side.

Alexander Wynne* (book "The Origin of Buddhist Meditation") does an amazingly detailed analysis of the historical point where 'dhyana' became 'jhana'. Namely close investigation of the renditions of the Buddha's education with those two Vedic teachers (Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta), and of dialogs with Brahmanic questioners (in the SuttaNipata, considered perhaps the "earlist" material). A striking point is where one of the Brahmins and the Buddha seem to sort of agree on what dhyana/jhana is about, but then the Buddha throws in the dimension of mindfulness (sati) into his definition of jhana, which draws a blank on the part of the Brahmin.

That book, and myriad insights it offers (as to both pre-buddhist Vedic texts and earliest buddhist ones), pretty much blew me away (presented radically re-orienting perspectives). One does, however, have to truck through lot painstakingly detailed linguistic (philological) analysis, of both Sanskrit and Pali, to get to the juicy points.

*He's a relatively young scholar, whose teachers include Lambert Schmitthausen, Johanna Jurewicz, Rupert Gethin and Richard Gombrich.
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Noah S, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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I realize that one thing about the 'jhana as baseline' goal that repels me is that it is still a conditioned state.  Meaning, if one does a lot of jhana, and builds up a lasting tranquility, are we to assume that tranquility will stay if they stop doing jhana for a year?  Is that what Culadassa was saying, that the tranquility that is gained is permanent?  Otherwise, jhana seems like a type of drug that one has to keep taking to stay in the desireable state.
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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Noah, you make a point that I've been considering for a long time.  Freedom from suffering is a conditioned state.  This means any attainment of freedom from suffering will rely on something.  Consider the following: Freedom from physical suffering is a conditioned state.  We have to avoid being stabbed, shot, poisoned, etc, as well as eat regularly, clean our teeth, go to the bathroom, clean our clothing, go to work and earn money for food - or beg for it or steal it, whatever. Why is permanent attainment such an obsession among buddhists? It actually makes no sense at all, considering the teachings. Everything in our mind is conditioned, which means there is no way we well ever find a permanent foothold in a place where we don't have to do anything at all and we'll just be happy and content. We have to set up a CONDITION that is a permanent foothold - basically create something unshakeable and rest the mind there. The only way I can see to do this is by gradually removing everything that isn't completely necessary until there is nothing left that seems like a requirement to be content. In the same way that removing all but the necessary possesions makes physical livelihood easier to sustain.

This is why I like the word "baseline." It doesn't mean permanent - it means self-perpetuating. It may be possible for it to change, but there would be no need to sustain it in normal, everyday living. If I can extend my metaphore of physical living, maybe vipassana practice is the process of simplifying everyday life (eating less food, living in a smaller house/apartment, abstaining from buying entertainment, etc) and samatha practice is building up savings/investments. Eventually the money invested will be enough to sustain the lifestyle that is created so that no work has to be done. This is retierment, though, not the attainment if immortality and perpetual youth. If the stock market collapses, or you're robbed, or there is a zombie apacalypse, then you'll have to come out of retierment. But most people don't have this problem - retierment is just the end of their work life.

EDIT: Further, if a retiered person decides to start spending lots of money on silly things, they will lose their savings and have to come out of retierment. This is, maybe, the danger of thinking there even is such a thing as permanent attainment of tranquility. The only work that's really required is to stay within your means after retierment, but if you believe retierment is permanent freedom from work, this isn't going to happen.

EDIT: This got me thinking - someone who likes their job would never need to retire.  Maybe this is "the emptiness of samsara." emoticon
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Noah S, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Some disjointed thoughts of my own based on your response:

I think freedom from suffering, as in, the quality of being stress-free or the quality of not sensing a fundamental perceptual duality, is conditioned.  However, I think a look at reality as it is, is unconditioned.  Meaning, a glimpse of emptiness, of perfect cause and effect, is not conditioned.  Its just seeing what is.

I guess my running theory is that one gets a glimpse at what is, in just a quick moment (i.e. cessation), and then there are certain ripples from that moment (lasting side effects, i.e. fruits of the path).

To be honest, I don't resonate with the savings/simplified living metaphor.  But what is important is that we continue to find metaphors that support our own practices, so it is legit nonetheless.  It does make sense that the after effects of fruitions (enlightenment) are things that make life more easily livable.  So, comparing that with a simplified lifestyle makes sense.  Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche talked about all situations become "workable".  Meaning, they wouldn't become automatically blissful or easy all the time, but they would somehow carry a sense of not being too overwhelming.
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Paweł K:

Why this community doesn't talk about this stuff?
This 'sangha' consist of lay people of western origin and one thing about westerners is that they are not exactly a samadhi material...


  • No taunting, mocking, or intimidation of an individual or a group on the  basis of race/ethnicity, sex, disability (including mental illness),  sexual orientation, religious preference, or spiritual practice
         (4th ground rule on DhO homepage)
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Chris J Macie:
Paweł K:

Why this community doesn't talk about this stuff?
This 'sangha' consist of lay people of western origin and one thing about westerners is that they are not exactly a samadhi material...


  • No taunting, mocking, or intimidation of an individual or a group on the  basis of race/ethnicity, sex, disability (including mental illness),  sexual orientation, religious preference, or spiritual practice
         (4th ground rule on DhO homepage)

Chris, I don't think Pawel was "taunting, mocking, or intimidating" or insulting anyone.

He was simply stating a fact that from his point of view and culture is true in general about Westerners and the culture we live in. Westerns don't live very contemplative lives in the current social atmosphere that exists. The society we live in is not set up for a contemplative sort of lifestyle. I don't think that that fact can be successfully argued against. And I take no offense of his comment. And I don't think anyone else here does, either.
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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re: Ian And (5/16/15 9:16 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)

"Chris, I don't think Pawel was "taunting, mocking, or intimidating" or insulting anyone."

Granted. I make similar points myself. Better, though, had he put it as:
"… one thing about [some, or even many] westerners is that they are not exactly a samadhi material..."

I know of 'westerners' who are likely as good 'samadhi  material" as anyone on the planet (admittedly a reaction).

And, in specific reply to my observation, he persists in the generalization, and generalizes also about 'DhO language'. Neither generalization, as such, is valid. It may be part of a language barrier, and/or a culture-bound (conditioned) bias. Worth becoming mindful of in the interest of smoother communication.

btw, Any particular reason you, seemingly consistently, use the Sanskrit word 'dhyana'?
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Chris J Macie:

btw, Any particular reason you, seemingly consistently, use the Sanskrit word 'dhyana'?

To make people like you and others think about its meaning.

With the way that the anglicized word jhana is used and talked about these days in contemporary circles by a whole variety of people with differing views, it seems that the word has become watered down in the way that many people use it and that their impresson or association of the word is watered down also. It is interesting to see if anyone will take the time to look up the original word in order to find out what it originally meant and what Gotama meant when he used it.

"...but then the Buddha throws in the dimension of mindfulness (sati) into his definition of dhyana, which draws a blank on the part of the Brahmin."

I mean something different and unique than what others of our contemporaries mean when they so casually throw around that watered down word.
Connie Dobbs, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Entering Samadhi,
Entering Jhana,
Dhyana, which means simply meditation
Deep absorbtion,
Light Jhana,
....

You all managed to completely confuse me again...

How's Samadhi different then Jhana? Is it a special concentrated state after you exit from Jhana? 
Is it a pre Jhana material? All the books(Shankman, Shalia Catherine,Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder, 
Leigh B., H. Gunaratan... ) and still confused.

Someone put an end to this confusion.
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Psi, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Connie Dobbs:
Entering Samadhi,
Entering Jhana,
Dhyana, which means simply meditation
Deep absorbtion,
Light Jhana,
....

You all managed to completely confuse me again...

How's Samadhi different then Jhana? Is it a special concentrated state after you exit from Jhana? 
Is it a pre Jhana material? All the books(Shankman, Shalia Catherine,Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder, 
Leigh B., H. Gunaratan... ) and still confused.

Someone put an end to this confusion.
Hiya Connie!

Descriptive words for synomomous phenomenon that also has a spectrum of levels within each level.

But, though while synomomous, there may also arise some confusion because there is Samma Samadhi, or Correct Concentration, which is of benefit. And there are also Trance Like States of mind, which is of lesser benefit.  These would be imperfections of Insight, kind of like side effect, tangents, and suggested that they not be followed, though while interesting, they lead to Never Never Land.  

So they say anyway....  emoticon

Just my penny thoughts...

Psi

P.S.  Another thought, as maybe has not really been brought up alot, probably because people are senstive and whatnot.
There is Jhana, and then there is sitting still, staring at the back of the eyelids.  But, since I am no expert or nothing, maybe that qualifies, nowadays??  Something I am personally and continually investigating on my own.  Perhaps that speaks to the levels of meditative tranquilities.  Perhaps, none of this matters as long as one is training themselves to deeper and deeper levels of peace, tranquility, mental focus, and mental mastery.  With well practiced training it probably all comes out in the wash, so to say.
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Psi, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Psi:
There is Jhana, and then there is sitting still, staring at the back of the eyelids.  But, since I am no expert or nothing, maybe that qualifies, nowadays??  Something I am personally and continually investigating on my own.  Perhaps that speaks to the levels of meditative tranquilities.  Perhaps, none of this matters as long as one is training themselves to deeper and deeper levels of peace, tranquility, mental focus, and mental mastery.  With well practiced training it probably all comes out in the wash, so to say.

Hi Psi!

What do you mean there is Jhana , and then there is something else, not Jhana?

Oh, Hi Psi!  Well , what I meant was based on this.  In Buddhism, Jhana comes from being secluded.  Secluded from what?  Secluded from the senses.  The senses of what the Buddha spoke of as being touch, taste, smell, hearing , seeing, and thoughts.  So, if one is secluded from the sense base, they are also secluded from thoughts and thinking.  So, a good rule of thumb is that if there is thoughts and thinking going on, one is not in Jhana.  Though, one may be Tranquil or in a state of Samadhi.  Similarly, the Fourth Jhana, Equanimity, there is just that , Equanimty.  This is not Equanimity of this as this arises, or Equanimity of that as that arise, but just the Sensation of Equanimity, all alone, and singled out by itself.

If anyone has any thoughts, opinons, experiences or ideas to add, feel free.

So, that is my current understanding anyway.

Okay, if something else comes up let me know okay?

Yeah , sure.

Bye, Psi

P.S. It is weird to reply to a previous self... emoticon  WACKO !!

Hey, something already came up!  

So by developing Jhana, one is then able to more easily attain and maintain a baseline of Tranquility, Peace , and Contentment.  Which then leads again to easier development of Jhana.  Endless programming loop, in a good way. But, I think everyone has already alluded to that. 

Bye Psi

P.S. And Joy...
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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re: Paweł K  (5/19/15 10:47 AM as a reply to Connie Dobbs.)

"From what I know Buddha differentiated "samatha" from "dhyana" where first is what is commonly refered as (samatha) 'jhana' which is tranquility and stillness born from concentration and second is state of cessation of mind which is actually completely different animal."
Now I getting confused too. Do you mean to say that samatha is jhana, but the Buddha differentiated dhyana as something else? (Also that 'dhyana' (the word) appears in the sutta-s?) Or are you using 'dhyana' in another sense, as not relating to 'jhana'?
Derek Cameron, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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What the Buddha learned from his teachers was arūpajhāna. Rūpajhāna he had already discovered for himself in his youth. Moreover, what he did on the night of his enlightenment was not to arrive at cessation, but to cultivate rūpajhāna and then use the resultant concentrated mind to investigate three specific knowledges, viz., (1) the knowledge of recollecting his past lives; (2) the knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings; and (3) the knowledge of the ending of the āsavas. All this and more in MN 36.
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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re: Ian And (5/18/15 11:26 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)

Thanks for stimulating my thinking (as to the meaning of dhyana).

"… It is interesting to see if anyone will take the time to look up the original word in order to find out what it originally meant and what Gotama meant when he used it."

Can you suggest sources for investigating this? (I'm interested in all sides of the issue, particularly those with good documentation and reasoning.)

CJM:"...but then the Buddha throws in the dimension of mindfulness (sati) into his definition of dhyana, which draws a blank on the part of the Brahmin."
This was paraphrasing Alexander Wynne. He was deciphering the SuttaNipata text as illustrating a crucial difference between the then standard Brahmanic use of dhyana and G.Buddha's reinterpretation it, on the basis of his awakening experience and resulting knowledges. Wynne, for one, is not casually throwing the word around, nor watering it down, IMO. Before examining the sutta descriptions of Buddha's learning from those twoVedic masters, Wynne offered analysis of Vedic texts (those earlier than G.Buddha's time) as to how dhyana (meditation) was understood and what role it played.

"I mean something different and unique than what others of our contemporaries mean when they so casually throw around that watered down word."

Could you share what you do mean here?
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Pablo . P, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Jhana as baseline

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Not Tao:
So, I'm wondering if anyone here has made a concerted attempt to stabilize jhana as their baseline experience? 

In the book "Practicing the Jhanas" from Snyder & Rasmussen, they tell that Pa Auk Sayadaw taught them a wide variety of colour kasinas, so that when in daily life at each point of space you look at there's a colour that would bring you back to Jhana, or something much alike (I don't remember the exact words, I read the book 3 years ago).

Keep in mind that their (sitting) practice is placed at the extreme hard side of jhana spectrum, for them anything less than 3 hours absortion is not jhana.

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