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First jhana or deluding myself?

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First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
8/20/15 2:20 AM
Namaskaram everyone.

I was sitting this morning concentrating on the breath, and in a particularly concentrated moment, I felt a kind of wave of warmth and pleasure all over my body. I was very alert. The pleasure was really intense, almost to the point of being unpleasant. It felt a bit like the feeling of excitement or tension that you get in your chest, but all over my body. I noted it, and I tried to note everything I was experiencing during it (desire for jhana, feelings of pleasure, worry about deluding myself, desire to continue the feeling, concern that it disappeared, desire to get it back, etc.) It didn't last very long, and it didn't come back for the rest of the forty-five-minute session.

Does this sound like your experience of first jhana? I'm concerned that my craving to reach first jhana may have caused me to manufacture it neurotically, if that makes sense. I don't want to waste too much time being anxious about this, but there's also no point in repeatedly recreating a state that won't help me gain any insight.

Thanks,
Ram

RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
8/20/15 2:50 AM as a reply to Ram Subramanian.
Sounds like 1st.  If the "almost unpleasant" part goes away when it happens in another sit, that'll probably be the entrance to 2nd.

RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
8/20/15 3:00 AM as a reply to Ram Subramanian.
Hey Ram...
if you are shooting for Jhana, vipasana practices, like noting are not the way to get there.  Jhana is an "exclusive" concentration practice whereas vipassana is an "inclusive" practice.  Meaning that when one is developing jhanic states, one focuses on certain specific factors (sensations) to the exclusion of others.  As the "other" factors fade to the background one naturally deepens the states and moves into ever more subtle ones.

Vipassana is "inclusive" in that whatever pops into ones awareness, one tries to objectify and categorize it.  In so doing, one reaches a kind of "meta" perspective which also leads one to parallel states to the jhanas.

The Janic perspective of the states is generally characterized by calm stability which is inherently pleasant.  Vipassana stages are characterized by instability (generally) and mostly lack this 'calm' overtone.

While these states are covering the same territory of mind they have different feeling tones and (some would argue) different goals.

When I first started getting reliable jhanas, I was surprised at how familiar they were.  I had stumbled over them in various sits without recognizing what they were.  It was only after studying the suttas (reading them and listening to descriptions of them) that the linear and almost automatic descent through the various stages were already available to me.  The point I am making is that they may not be as exotic as you imagine and the subtle differences between the states do line up very well with the classic descriptions of them.

Foe me the key was recognizing the sensations of "rapture" or "piti".  In my case this emerged as the "hair standing up on end" description in the commentaries but also was signaled by fine prickly sensations around the brow area.  Your mileage will vary.  there are many descriptions of how piti arises.

Leigh Brasington has some Jhana training workshops and I have read some of his stuff. It mirrors my experience and basically suggests that when one notices the arising of piti, one then turns ones focus to the sensations representing happiness.  This worked for me.

So get familiar with the classic descriptions of jhanic states and which factors fall away to reveal the the next state.  Drop your expectations of what they should feel like and feel them.

Have fun!  Its important.

tom

RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
8/20/15 4:49 AM as a reply to Ram Subramanian.
Noah -- thanks for the confirmation. Sometimes it's reassuring just to have someone else say that you're not imagining it.

Tom -- that's twice you've helped me out. Thank you! The advice you're giving here is also a great answer to the question I was asking you before about vipassana practice. Part of the reason I was so surprised and confused about this experience is specifically that I was aiming to do a bit of vipassana when this experience happened. I was just trying to do a bit of noting while using the breath as an anchor. I suppose that all it really took was to stop trying so hard and just let the concentration happen.

Having said all that, as I mentioned before, it didn't last very long at all this time. Subjectively, it felt like a minute or two at most. Part of the reason I wasn't sure if this was a "proper" first jhana experience was because I'd read that the state was meant to be quite stable, and I felt like it sort of fell apart as soon as I noticed it. Is this a common experience when one first encounters the jhanic states? Does the stability extend with practice? Is it worth working toward increasing the concentration to try and extend this state, if my current goal is more insight-oriented than concentration-oriented?

Again, thanks everyone on this forum for your help. If a resource like this had existed and I'd known about it when I was a teenager going to my Sunday vedanta classes, my life would be totally different now.

RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
8/20/15 11:17 AM as a reply to Ram Subramanian.
Does this sound like your experience of first jhana? I'm concerned that my craving to reach first jhana may have caused me to manufacture it neurotically, if that makes sense. I don't want to waste too much time being anxious about this, but there's also no point in repeatedly recreating a state that won't help me gain any insight.

So, this may sound a bit offputting after someone has already provided you with their answer but I'm not sure we can (or should) diagnose you quite that quickly. There are lots of blissful states that can be confusing to people and if we mis-diagnose you you might then circle around trying to recreate a totally different experience. It sounds like it may be first jhana. So - where was your attention immediately before this happened and where did it focus during the event? Were there any particular visual manifestations when this occurred, or before? How long did the state last? Seconds? Minutes? First jhana is notable for the tendency for those going into it and experiencing it to have their focus immediately in front of their eyes. Second jhana transitions to a different focus. Third another, and so on. This focus nature of a jhana is generally consistent across practitioners.

Also, jhanas are not typically "easy" for folks to get into but there are exceptions. How long have you been practicing?

Thanks!



RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
8/20/15 10:26 AM as a reply to Ram Subramanian.
Sounds more like piti, one of the jhanic factors.

RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
8/20/15 11:20 AM as a reply to Ram Subramanian.
 Is this a common experience when one first encounters the jhanic states? Does the stability extend with practice? Is it worth working toward increasing the concentration to try and extend this state, if my current goal is more insight-oriented than concentration-oriented?
Howdy.  Yes, it is very common.  Some people have the opinion that jhanas are not jhanas unless they are total and deep and there are no more sensations... I am not of this view.  For my money jhanas follow a pattern of increasing subtlety which have characteristic signs marking the transition between the numbers that the buddha used.  noticing that pattern will help you adjust your focus to deepen the experience naturally.

As Small Steps mentioned above, your experience COULD have been piti.  Then again, it could have been access concentration both of which can be disconcerting and can cause an anticipatory tension which breaks the calm of concentration.

To find the dividing line between jhana and vipassana is a much argued point as is the question of what is 'better'.  imo, both are aspects of your mind which will be developed with EITHER practice although it makes intrinsic sense to believe that focusing on one practice more will strengthen that aspect faster.

one of the great posters here once posted that he rewarded his vipassana struggles with a shamata, or jhana sit.  i found this balanced and productive. 

so. keep doing what you are doing and look for patterns which come up again and again over time.  keep a log here or on a block of paper and try to make notes directly after your sits.

have fun.

ps: i suck at the quote thing

RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
11/18/16 1:34 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Does this sound like your experience of first jhana? I'm concerned that my craving to reach first jhana may have caused me to manufacture it neurotically, if that makes sense. I don't want to waste too much time being anxious about this, but there's also no point in repeatedly recreating a state that won't help me gain any insight.

So, this may sound a bit offputting after someone has already provided you with their answer but I'm not sure we can (or should) diagnose you quite that quickly. There are lots of blissful states that can be confusing to people and if we mis-diagnose you you might then circle around trying to recreate a totally different experience. It sounds like it may be first jhana. So - where was your attention immediately before this happened and where did it focus during the event? Were there any particular visual manifestations when this occurred, or before? How long did the state last? Seconds? Minutes? First jhana is notable for the tendency for those going into it and experiencing it to have their focus immediately in front of their eyes. Second jhana transitions to a different focus. Third another, and so on. This focus nature of a jhana is generally consistent across practitioners.

Also, jhanas are not typically "easy" for folks to get into but there are exceptions. How long have you been practicing?

Thanks!


Hi Chris, 

Would you kindly explain a little in detail about the "focus" points which you have mentioned above..

ie; //  First jhana is notable for the tendency for those going into it and experiencing it to have their focus immediately in front of their eyes. Second jhana transitions to a different focus. Third another, and so on. This focus nature of a jhana is generally consistent across practitioners.// 

Where would be the focus on 2nd, 3rd and 4th 

Many thanks


RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
11/18/16 3:29 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Small Steps:
Sounds more like piti, one of the jhanic factors.


Exactly.

RE: First jhana or deluding myself?
Answer
11/18/16 4:50 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Eric B:
Small Steps:
Sounds more like piti, one of the jhanic factors.


Exactly.

Piti is also one of the 7 Sambojjhangas too (factor of awakening). See for example Anapana Sutta.