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Jhana while Walking

Jhana while Walking
7/23/15 10:43 AM
The weather in Germany has been really hot and humid lately, and two days ago it was particularly so. Like many buildings in Europe, my office doesn't have any air conditioning, so I was sitting around all day with a thin film of sweat between my cloths and skin. Topped off by having to do something which wasn't all that interesting, when leaving time rolled around, I was feeling a bit irritated and uncomfortable.

I usually walk to and from work, so I left and within a block was starting to sweat. I was feeling the arising of this kind of dissatisfied, uncomfortable feeling, so I decided to do Shinzen Young's "outside-inside" vipassana noting. You note some kind of outside phenomena, then note what kind of feeling arises in response. So I noted "hot-irritable", but the practice very quickly dropped away from words until I was just noting the sense contact of heat and the vedana of unpleasant, two of the Twelve Nidanas, with no cognitive intermediary.

I felt as if my mind kind of locked onto that for a bit, then it faded and a sense of focused, calmness and clarity arose, without my slowing down. I was walking along at a relatively nice pace, stopping at traffic lights to cross the street and watching for bicyclists. Sight became illumiated somehow, or luminous, it is a bit hard to describe, but without actually obscuring what I was seeing. I was perfectly capable to walk around obstacles.

I came to a pedestrian mall and stopped into a drug store looking for toothpaste, in particular at a size larger than 75 ml, and Qtips. I was able to check out the ingredients on the only 100 ml toothpaste I could find and decided that they were not acceptable, so I left the drugstore, walked down the mall to another. There I asked one of the shop assistants what "Qtips" was in German and she said "Qtips" and showed me where I could find them. Later on the mall, two young women asked me where the S Bahn station was and I told them. And yet later in an organic grocery store I bought a tube of toothpaste (only 75 ml unfortunately) and gave 50 cents to the begger who stands outside the door, leaning on his crutch every day for the entire time the store is open. During this whole time, I had a sense of calm, happy, equaniminous presence, as if I were bringing the best I could to every contact, without exception.

When I arrived at my apartment, as I climbed the 4 flghts of stairs, unlocked the two locks on the door, and entered, the state slowly faded. The entire experience lasted maybe 40 minutes or so.

I recall there was a thread here a few weeks ago about jhana while walking around. I know different traditions have different definitions of what jhana is, hard v.s. soft, etc., and I have never had a teacher say definitively to me "you have reached first jhana" or something like that. Much of my mind state during the experience that I can remember matches what I have heard taught as being characteristic of jhana, in particular, there were no klesas there at all, but still I was able to reason and think (checking out the ingredients on the toothpaste for example) and interact with people (the two young woman and the shop assistant). So I thought I would throw this out for discussion. Anyone have any comments?

RE: Jhana while Walking
7/23/15 11:46 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Hey, my fellow author,

I was reading Tara Springett's book Spiritual Joy recently. She talks about a clear, loving, blissful state that is always present, except we don't notice it. The "practice" (or non-practice) described in the book is to notice this state, but without trying to make it stronger. You do this while going about your business, not necessarily as a formal practice. It reminded me of Leigh Brasington's instructions for jhana -- notice something pleasurable and attend to it -- except you do Tara's "practice" during everyday life. (More thoughts on the book from a Christian perspective on my blog, here.)

Tara writes in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which I was unfamiliar with until a couple of years ago. But you can also find support for this in Theravada Buddhism: "Luminous, O monks, is the mind, but it becomes soiled by adventitious defilements" (Anguttara Nikaya 1.49).

Your wordless knowing of heat and unpleasantness says to me that, as you remark later on in your post, your kilesas were temporaily in abeyance. So why not have a clear, jhana-like state emerge in everyday life? It seems quite possible to me.

RE: Jhana while Walking
7/23/15 12:44 PM as a reply to svmonk.
I play with jhanas while walking fairly regularly. I usually access a very soft second or third jhana.
- Soft sukha (and even softer piti when in second) are definitely there, together with
- the very characteristic width of the focus of attention (narrow in second, I usually pick a point far away in the direction I am walking in, doughnut-shaped in third),
- ekagatta: relatively little discursive thought and relatively little attention to what is going on around me both visually and acustically (very relatively, I still like not getting run over by cars).
When I arrived at my apartment, as I climbed the 4 flghts of stairs, unlocked the two locks on the door, and entered, the state slowly faded. The entire experience lasted maybe 40 minutes or so.
Next time you do this, I suggest sitting down to meditate formally as soon as you get home. You should find that your mind is quite pliable by this point, more focussed and ready to access harder states. I like to do 10-20 minutes of meditation after walking and then yoga: very simple asanas while playing around with the jhanas.

RE: Jhana while Walking
7/23/15 7:33 PM as a reply to svmonk.
re:svmonk (7/23/15 10:43 AM)

"…there were no klesas there at all…
That's characteristic, for starters, of 'access' / 'neighborhood' concentration (specifically 'hindrances', which are, in a simplified sense, in the same ballpark as the klesas). Seems like your (svmonk's) experience, though, was a bit beyond that.

Brings up something I "learned" (maybe obvious to others) on recent retreat: When probing Ven. U Jagara for help understanding 'vipassana jhana'*, he mentioned that access concentration can be a sort of gateway to multiple options. From there one can choose a route towards absorbing into 'hard' (Visudhimagga)) jhana, OR utilize the opportunity to go into khanika / momentary concentration, which, if used in a certain way, becomes 'vipassana jhana'. For instance, one can take the image of 'earth' as a (static) kasina for object/nimitta of hard-jhana absorption; OR take the concept of 'earth' as sensate qualities of hard/soft, heavy/light, rough/smooth, etc. in a vipassana direction – actively investigating these (changing) qualities in material phenomena/sensations.**

Based on my experience, svmonk's description doesn't match hard / absorptive jhana, which, as I've known it, disables sensory-motor functional connections in the mind-body. BUT, my experience is limited, and there well may be more advanced levels where some mental capability arises that can encompass both absorption AND functional interaction with the outer world simultaneously. Having nibbana on your shoulder while moving through life?

For instance, sitting around in my collection of to-do directories are as yet unstudied files like:
    Gunarantara -- Should_we_Come_out_of_Jhana.pdf

    Theres No Need to Leave Samadhi ~ Shinzen Young.mp4

In any event, what svmonk came across sounds like a great way to beat the heat. (Or perhaps a mild case of heat-stroke? emoticon )

* Jagara was originally ordained by Mahasi Sayadaw, but for the last 20 years worked with PaAuk Sayadaw – so I figured he might have a s/w informed opinion.
** That's doing vipassana on the Mahadhatu ('Great Primary' elements), which was a theme of the retreat. This topic forms the last section of the Visudhimagga (Part II) treatment of concentration, but the 'elements' as object of concentration lead to access and khanika (and perhaps vipassana jhana) levels, not to absorption.

Further 'footnote': Though PaAuk Sayadaw is famous as teacher of super-hard jhana, Jagara pointed out that the thrust of his teaching actually focuses on hardcore vipassana beginning with the Mahadhatu exercises; the jhana stuff is just sharpening the tools and providing for recuperative backup.

Yet another footnote here, though related: Jagara also noted Pa Auk's observation (from his extensive teaching experience) that students experiencing wild physical motions, when trying to do anapanasati-samadhi, can result from mistaken technique of focusing on the breath's changing qualities (in effect vipassana on the wind/air element in action), rather than trying to 'fix' a static image/nimitta of the breath experience. This, according to Pa Auk, may rouse the vayo, wind/air element (motion) in the mind-body, i.e. spasms, esp epileptic-like, involuntary movements (which, btw, in classical Chinese medicine are labelled 'internal wind').

RE: Jhana while Walking
7/24/15 3:10 PM as a reply to neko.
Hi neko,

Thanx for the advice about sitting when I get back from a walk. My wife works at home and she usually wants to talk with me when I get back from work so it might be difficult for me to do at the moment. But in the fall, our living situation will change when we move back to the US, and I might be able to do it then. I'll keep it in mind.


RE: Jhana while Walking
7/24/15 3:20 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Hi Chris,

It seems pretty clear that it wasn't hard jhana, since, as you say, that requires not moving around and having the mind completely focused on the meditation object. What did U Jagara mean by vipassana jhana?


RE: Jhana while Walking
7/27/15 7:38 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Ran across a passage containing a possibly relevant point (from the Thai Theravadan perspective):

in THE EXPERIENCE OF SAMADHI (Richard Shankman), pp 123-4

RS [Richard Shankman]:
In the Satipatthana Sutta, the Anapanasati Sutta, and the Kayagatasati Sutta, one is instructed to breathe in and out, experiencing the whole body. Some interpret that it is talking about experiencing the whole physical body breathing, while others say it means staying with the whole duration of the breath but the focus can be at one point.

AT [Ajahn Thanissaro aka Than-Geof]: It’s the whole body.

Does it matter?

AT: One of the drawbacks of concentration that’s too one-pointed is that you’re blocking out many areas of your experience, which means that a lot of things can hide away in the areas you’re blocking out. If, however, you develop more of a 360-degree awareness of the body, you’re more likely to be conscious of the more peripheral events in the mind. Also, if the awareness is a whole-body awareness, it’s a lot easier to maintain the state of concentration as you open your eyes and move around. Whether the concentration while moving around would be termed jhana, I really don’t know, but there’s a continuity of mindfulness. If you have only one point that you’re totally focused on, then as soon as you move from that one point, your concentration is. destroyed. But if you’ve got the whole body as your framework and you’re constantly mindful of this framework, events can come through and go out, leaving the framework undisturbed.

RE: Jhana while Walking
8/12/15 8:45 PM as a reply to svmonk.
re: svmonk (7/24/15 3:20 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)

"What did U Jagara mean by vipassana jhana?"
Responding to my questioning, he didn't describe it extensively, but agreed (with my half-educated guess) that it's really a form of khanika / momentary concentration. And he talked about access concentration as gateway to either absorptive or momentary concentration (as I outlined in a post above -- 7/23/15 7:33 PM).

I hestitated in responding to this question because, although I did recall what U Jagara said, my overall grasp of 'vipassana jhana' was still unsatisfyingly fuzzy. Subsequently, I've thrashed about in the source material to the point where I have a more confident understanding (though not quite full, direct knowledge).

I looked for the roots (i.e. backfurther than MCTB1 of the term 'vipassana jhana', finding it, at first, only in Chapter 5 of U Padita's 'In This Very Life'.* The notion seemed clearer after perusing this more carefully, and in general accord with MCTB, but it's supposed to stem from Mahasi Sayadaw, and I wanted to see it from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

GREP-ing** for 'vipassana jhana' across the 40 or so digital books by Mahasi in my off-line library, came up with NOTHING – nil, nada, nichts. Well, maybe it's necessary to search 'jhana' with the diacritical long 'a', and my antique GREP program (on Windows) can't handle that. So I turned to Mahasi's 1036 page 'TREATISE ON THE METHOD OF VIPASSANA INSIGHT MEDITATION' and started searching ('find' function) for 'jhana'.

Mahasi DID NOT use '
vipassana jhana', but rather "Vipassanā samādhi", or "Vipassana Khaṇika samādhi" (at least in this book, at least in the 318 pages of Volume I, part 1 that I scanned). This is BIG (IME), helping explain why the notion 'vipassana jhana' has, for so long, seemed so puzzling, as, among other things, it plays right into the obnoxious 'jhana wars' (in DhO and elsewhere).

So I'll lay out here some of Mahasi's usage I found, which is fascinating.*** (Long-winded, but clearly supporting the terminological distinction.)

To an Ugghaṭitaññū, i.e. an intelligent person who has a very quick grasp, vipassanā-ñāṇa and magga-ñāṇa can occur with great acceleration. He will therefore have no opportunity of repeatedly absorbing in Samatha-Jhāna. Nor will it be necessary to enhance the development of insight knowledge by repeated absorption in Jhāna.

A yogī whose vipassanā-samādhi and vipassanā-ñāṇa are still immature will get tiresome if he sits for a very long time to invoke spiritual insight-vipassanā by contemplating and noting in the course of his meditational exercise. He might feel hot in his material body as if burning fires are raging… Sweat is likely to ooze out from his arm-pits, or, he might be perspiring all over the whole body. He might feel as if his head was letting off steam. The mind is likely to be wearisome and vibrated beyond control. When such a thing happens, the yogi shall again absorb himself in Jhāna-samāpatti (attainment of absorption) to relieve the wearisome condition and cause to recover calmness, and then revive vipassanā contemplation and noting. If he again continues to carry on contemplating and noting for a long time by assuming a sitting posture, wearisomeness will similarly take place as before. In that case, he should repeat the same process after plunging himself in Jhāna-samāpatti. Hence, Jhāna-samāpatti is of great benefit to Vipassanā meditation.

Three Kinds of Samādhi

This Samādhi which is called 'Citta-Visuddhi' comprises three sorts, namely,
(neighbourhood concentration),
Appanā-samādhi (absorption concentration), and
(momentary concentration).

Purification of the mind occurs continuously to a person engaged in the practice of Vipassanā meditation consecutively in combination only with contemplating and noting when his faith (saddhā), effort (Vīriya), mindfulness (Sati), concentration (Samādhi) and insight wisdom (Paññā) become keen and strengthened in a state of equilibrium. Imagination and thought which are Nīvaraṇas will not even occur during the intervening period in the course of contemplation and noting. During that period every time contemplating and noting is carried on, samādhi which sharply concentrates on the arising of rūpa-nāma becomes highly developed, ardent and obvious. This Samādhi is called Khaṇika-samādhi (momentary concentration). It is Samādhi, the fixed concentration occurring only for a brief moment of the arising consciousness that contemplates and notes.

Samathayānika's Citta-Visuddhi
A person, who practises Vipassanā after having established either Upacāra-samādhi or Appanā-samādhi out of the said three kinds of Samādhi, is called Samathayānika individual, i.e. one who makes his way to Nibbāna using Samatha as a vehicle. In other words, this practising person is said to one who is bound for the attainment of Magga-Phala-Nibbāna using samatha as a vehicle. Hence, Upacārasamādhi (proximate concentration) and Appanā samādhi (Absorption concentration) are Citta-Visuddhi upon which a Samathayānika individual has to depend.

Vipassanayānika's Citta-Visuddhi

A person who exclusively contemplates Vipassanā without depending upon Upacāra, Appanā Samādhis is to be named as Suddhavipassanayānika individual. It means a person who treads on the path of Vipassanā exclusively without mingling with Samatha, by means of vipassanā vehicle making his way to Magga-Phala-Nibbāna.  Hence, only Khaṇika-samādhi is Cittavisuddhi which is relied upon by Suddha-vipassanāyānika individual.

All statements mentioned above are in accord with Aṭṭhakathās, Ṭīkās and Pāḷi scriptures, which may be cited below…

From the time this khaṇika-samādhibecomes keen and strong, though the sense objects of rūpa-nāma that should be contemplated and noted are changing afresh, the manner of penetration and calmness of the contemplating and noting mind is continuous. Just as the mind that first contemplates and notes is penetrating and tranquil, the second and third contemplating and noting mind are also penetrating and tranquil. At that moment, it might also remain like in absorption (Samatha-Jhānas). In particular, the object of Samatha-Jhāna is single and remaining fixed. No perception has arisen even as mere nāma and rūpa, nor as being transient in nature incessantly arising and dissolving. The object of Vipassanā-samādhi  is however constantly changing in a state of flux and that is occurring afresh at every moment. It is perceived andcognized as mere phenomena of nāma-rūpa. When insight knowledge becomes mature, the arising and dissolution of nāmarūpa are clearly obvious. This is the only difference. The manner of penetration and calmness is nevertheless the same. Hence, it has been stated in Mahāṭikā as follows:

Khaṇikacittekaggatāti khaṇamattaṭṭhitiko samādhi, sopi hi ārammaṇe nirantaraṃ ekākārena pavattamāno paṭipakkhena anabhibhūto appito viya cittaṃ niccalaṃ ṭhapeti.(Mahāṭīkā I-342)

"Khaṇika cittekaggatāti, khaṇikacittekaggatā" means: khaṇamattaṭṭhitito, i.e. it is the concentration-samādhi which arises and remains for the brief moment of the occurrence of Vipassanā consciousness. Hi saccaṃ - it is indeed true. Sopi - this Vipassanā khaṇika samādhi,  ekākārena - also with its single  characteristic of calmness, ārammane- in the object or the matter and mind which ought to be contemplated and noted, Pavattamāno - when occurred, nirantaraṃ - continually without any break, paṭipakkhena anabhibhūto - not being subjected to harmful by opposing hindrances (nīvaraṇas), cittam-Vipassanā mind ṭhapeti - can be developed and maintained, niccalam - permanently without any flitting or agitation, appitoviya- just like Jhāna-samādhi which is absorbed in the object, or rather, like Appanā samādhi.

This ṭīkā goes to support the Aṭṭhakathā in which exposition has been made that "The Vipassanā-consciousness can be maintained firmly with stability by means of Khaṇika-samādhi", as stated in the Ānāpāna Kathā using the expression samādahaṃ cittaṃ. It conveys the meaning: "It is not that only Upacāra, Appanā samādhi are capable of stabilizing the mind but that the mind can also be made tranquil, or stabilised by Vipassanā-khaṇika samādhi.

If a question arises as to how much strength is required to firmly maintain the mind, the answer would be "Ārammaṇe nirantaram ekākārena pavattamāno.” When the concentration reaches the same level as Upacārasamādhi, hindrances (Nīvaraṇas), will not arise in between the process of contemplation and noting. Only contemplation and noting will continually take place without a break. It means to say that during the said period, it could be firmly maintained. Furthermore, it goes to indicate by the statement - "paṭipakkhena anabhibhūto appitoviya" that khaṇikasamādhi which is accompanied with Udayabbaya-ñāṇa and Bhaṅga-ñāṇa having become keener has the strength just like Appanā-samādhi. It means this kind of Samādhi being capable of deterring the harmful hindrances, can keep the mind stable and firm like appanā samādhi. These are the distinguishing features of the three kinds of Vipassanā-Samādhi.

[ theory vs practice ]

The reality of the suffering and miserable conditions of headache, toothache, flatulent pain, etc. will not be truly known and appreciated by a person who has never suffered from such illnesses no matter how it might have been described in detail by another person. Similarly, a person who has not yet achieved Vipassanā-nāna, Jhāna, and Magga-Phala will not realize what they truly are, though these might have been minutely and elaborately mentioned in the Scriptures. In this regard, it does not mean that it is the correct realization of the knowledge based only by the hearsay or by inferences drawn. Only the kind of realization and awareness gained by Vipassanā-yogī and Ariyas endowed with Jhāna is deemed to be the genuine Knowledge of the Truth. Hence, the nature of all shades of meaning which is known by mere conjecture only through hearsay, etc., should be remembered as "NOT the genuine Paramattha-Nāma-rūpa, but only Pannatti."

SO, at least from my POV, significant clarity emerges with substituting '
Vipassanāsamādhi'  or 'Vipassanā khaṇika samādhi' for '
Vipassanā Jhāna' (Sayadawgyi U Pandita and the pragmatic dharma crowd notwithstanding).

While MCTB(1) convincingly cites the significance of M 111, a long passage towards the end of Mahasi's Treatise (Vol I, Part 1) goes into this Sutta in great detail, with, to my mind, more illuminating terminology.

(MCTB – hardcopy p. 162; pdf p. 133)
"One of the factors that actually adds to the confusion is that the concentration state terminology (jhanas) is used in the original texts to describe both the progressively more sophisticated concentration states and also the progress of insight, with little delineation of which was which. This was solved to some degree a few hundred years later when the stages of the progress of insight were articulated in the canonical commentaries, but the original problem was not mentioned. It was only in the second half of the 20th-Century that the problem was sorted out to some degree by the Burmese, and I will delineate the vipassana jhanas later."

"...a few hundred years later" appears to refer to the Visudhimagga, and 20th-Century Burmese clearly refers to Mahasi et al. I'd like to see,however, a more detailed demonstration of what the "original texts" are doing here, the exact (or inexact, the range of synonyms) terms used


** UNIX content-search function

*** This TREATISE is on a different level than his better known 'practical' books introducing people to vipassana meditation. Here he's demonstrating virtuoso mastery of the deepest layers of the Therevadan Canon. He treats a range of sutta-s and a dizzying array of Pali terms one's probably never heard of – quoting the sutta-s, then details what the commentaries (Aṭṭhakatha-s) and subcommentaries (ṭīkā-s) have to say, plus the Visudhimagga and it's commentaries, as well as various texts and schemata of the Abhidhamma. Apparently this book is for advanced scholars / practitioners and teachers. Even just spending a couple of hours scanning through for occurrences of 'jhana' and related terms, I was awe-struck by his command of the material and ability to expound it – a bit of insight into why he's considered of such stature. Triple bow to the Sayadaw!

Edited for nits Tu.29.Jly.2015