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What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?

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What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Joshua D 9/18/15 7:38 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/19/15 12:53 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Daniel M. Ingram 9/20/15 11:04 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/21/15 4:58 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Joshua D 9/22/15 1:11 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/22/15 6:18 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Daniel M. Ingram 9/24/15 2:11 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/24/15 11:53 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Daniel M. Ingram 9/25/15 7:02 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/25/15 2:31 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/25/15 3:20 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/26/15 4:14 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/27/15 9:43 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Daniel M. Ingram 9/27/15 5:16 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/27/15 8:27 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Noah 9/25/15 5:20 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Ian And 9/25/15 6:30 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Noah 9/25/15 7:09 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/26/15 4:10 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Joshua D 9/22/15 1:10 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Ian And 9/19/15 1:34 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Joshua D 9/22/15 1:09 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/22/15 3:38 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Ian And 9/22/15 2:47 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/23/15 9:25 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Small Steps 9/23/15 8:17 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/24/15 5:10 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/22/15 6:03 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/23/15 2:13 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/23/15 9:03 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/23/15 5:01 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/23/15 7:35 PM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? CJMacie 9/24/15 5:00 AM
RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana? Pål 9/24/15 11:38 PM
I believe I regularly attain access concentration during my practice (or any time during the day where I can get a few minutes of relative silence). I cannot always cause this state I'm calling access concentration to arise, but usually its something I can bring forth with a bit of effort.

My object is the breath at the nostrils, which expands to awareness of the breath in the entire body as the concentration gets stronger. 

Here are the characteristics of the state I experience which I believe to be access concentration (please let me know if I am mistaken, that would be helpful): 
  • Able to maintain my concentration on the breath. Random thoughts, mostly wholesome but also about mundane things, can pop into my head from time to time, but they have no "pull". They spark up, then sorta disappear just as quickly. I have to make some effort to maintain this, but it is not a fight. 
  • Pleasant sensations on the body and happiness in the mind. My body is usually mostly pleasant. The level of pleasantness is about equal to sitting on a comfortable beach on a cool summer day. It's not overpoweringly full of rapture, but there are subtle vibrations moving throughout the body (linked to the breath) and it's nice. My mind tends to be a bit relaxed and comfortable as a result. 
  • Some unpleasant sensations at times. There can be areas of mild unpleasantess, but when they are present, they also do not usually have the power to pull my mind into them. They "ping" into my awareness, but they don't pull the awareness away from the breath. They also tend to fade pretty quickly.  (Of course, sometimes these can pull my mind away from this state).
  • Effort is needed If I let go of effort, the mind will wander soon after. 
From what i can tell, the four factors of the first jhana are present, albeit weakly. In addition, the hindrances are suppressed, but not completely. Lust can arise from time to time, anxiety can arise, etc. Sometimes I can use the state to let them fade quickly, and sometimes they can overpower the state.

Is this access concentration? If so, what is the difference between this and the first Jhana? In addition, what can I do to help the first jhana to arise?

Thank you.

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/19/15 12:53 PM as a reply to Joshua D.
 Upacara Samadhi (access concentration) and Jhana are defined differently in different schools of Theravada. According to Ajahn Brahm, who represents the thai forest tradition as taught by Ajahn Chah, Upacara Samadhi is when a bright, stable sphere of light spontaneously appears in the mind's eye, together with intense bliss, while all sense impressions fade. 1st Jhana occurs when the sense of self dissolves and you are swallowed by the light of the nimitta. What you describe would probably be considered the state of beautiful breath which preceds Upacara Samadhi. 
Now I guess you are asking from a MCTB/Mahasi point of view, but if you happen to be interested in the Brahm/Chah tradition:

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books/Ajahn_Brahm_The_Jhanas.htm

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/19/15 1:34 PM as a reply to Joshua D.
Joshua D:

From what i can tell, the four factors of the first jhana are present, albeit weakly. In addition, the hindrances are suppressed, but not completely.

Is this access concentration? If so, what is the difference between this and the first Jhana? In addition, what can I do to help the first jhana to arise?

Thank you.

By the four factors of the first dhyana, do you mean vitakka, vicara, piti, and sukha?  If you are aware of these four factors arising, then you are in the first dhyana.

Upacara samadhi (or what has been called "access concentration") allows the mind to experience the four factors of the first dhyana. Meaning that it is the absolute minimum of concentration needed to access dhyana. It doesn't matter how you got there (i.e. what instruction you followed). What matters is that you got there. That's all.

Bram's criteria are notoriously high, being an attainment way past what most people consider access concentration, though he is no totally alone at that end of the spectrum, just very unusual. Jhanic depth can vary widely, and there is a huge range of what one can experience within territory that might be considered jhanic.

I can respect high criteria. The problem is that it is like calling only a Porsche a car or only Jupiter a planet: what do you call all the other things with 4 wheels and engines that go down the highway and the other large round objects circling the Sun? It can all get a bit macho.

I prefer more experiential descriptions. I also like thinking of jhana in a range: if the factors are present, that is jhana. If they are more present, that is stronger jhana. If they are hyper-present and very exclusive, that is very well-developed strong jhana. You get the picture. This mode of thinking allows one to be able to describe and use meditative theory to cover the wide range of what people can attain and what is out there. Otherwise, it would be like calling only Blue Whales "mammals" and then scratching your head about what to call the rest of the, well, mammals.

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/21/15 4:58 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
My guess is that in Brahm's teachings, more narrow Jhana definitions are necessary since Jhana is the main vehicle of spiritual transformation in his tradition, the way it currently looks like. The only "vipassana"-part of it, (though neither Brahm, me or the Buddha as presented in the suttas likes to draw a clear line between insight and concentration practice) is examining reality as you come out of hard-ass Jhana and comparing the experiences. Or at least that's how I understand his teachings. And it seems like, according to Brahm, you can also jump directly from an extremely deep "8th Jhana" to Nibbana if you're at least second path, and come out of it as an Anagami or Arahant. What do you think about this claim? 

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/22/15 1:11 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Bram's criteria are notoriously high, being an attainment way past what most people consider access concentration, though he is no totally alone at that end of the spectrum, just very unusual. Jhanic depth can vary widely, and there is a huge range of what one can experience within territory that might be considered jhanic.

I can respect high criteria. The problem is that it is like calling only a Porsche a car or only Jupiter a planet: what do you call all the other things with 4 wheels and engines that go down the highway and the other large round objects circling the Sun? It can all get a bit macho.

I prefer more experiential descriptions. I also like thinking of jhana in a range: if the factors are present, that is jhana. If they are more present, that is stronger jhana. If they are hyper-present and very exclusive, that is very well-developed strong jhana. You get the picture. This mode of thinking allows one to be able to describe and use meditative theory to cover the wide range of what people can attain and what is out there. Otherwise, it would be like calling only Blue Whales "mammals" and then scratching your head about what to call the rest of the, well, mammals.


That makes sense to me. What "strength" of jhana, if any, do you believe is necessary to gain stream entry?

For context: I am uncertain whether I should continue to pursue Jhana (which I've been doing for the past week) or return to practicing insight. 

I believe the cutting edge of my insight meditation is the 4th nana. I don't have any recollection of an A&P event, and in describing my meditation phenomologically to another poster here who claims steam entry, he believes I regularly cycle through nana's 1-3 and my cutting edge is the 4th. I tend to think this is accurate. 

My belief, which is unfounded in anything but intution and the Buddha's emphasis on the importance of Jhana, is that I should spend some time working with concentration until I can get some solid foundation in Jhana, and then pivot back to insight. 

I started focusing more on concentration alone the past week or so. It is certainly getting stronger. It appears to me that the four factors of the first jhana are sometimse present and weak.

There are times where I am clearly aware of both rapture and joy. I still have no clear understanding of what vicara and vitakka are, so I find it difficult to say whether they are present. If I take them to mean "the presence of some initial thoughts and the presence of some sustained thoughts" they are present. If I take them to mean "setting the mind on the breath and sustained attention on the breath" that is also present as long as the "sustained" part isn't extremely strict. I tend to think Bram has a different, more strict, interpretation for these words, as he clearly says that thoughts aren't present in his description of Jhana. 

That being said, I am not able to get Bram's "Silent awareness of the present moment" for more than maybe 5 seconds in a stretch. Usually even then there are some echos of thoughts floating around just outside the range of my consciousness. Images, imprints of words, etc. I'm not entirely clear what his thresholds are.

Given this context, do you have any suggestions on whether it would be more fruitful to work with concentration, insight, or both, during my daily sits?

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/22/15 1:09 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:
Joshua D:

From what i can tell, the four factors of the first jhana are present, albeit weakly. In addition, the hindrances are suppressed, but not completely. 

Is this access concentration? If so, what is the difference between this and the first Jhana? In addition, what can I do to help the first jhana to arise?

Thank you.

By the four factors of the first dhyana, do you mean vitakkavicarapiti, and sukha?  If you are aware of these four factors arising, then you are in the first dhyana

Upacara samadhi (or what has been called "access concentration") allows the mind to experience the four factors of the first dhyana. Meaning that it is the absolute minimum of concentration needed to access dhyana. It doesn't matter how you got there (i.e. what instruction you followed). What matters is that you got there. That's all.
How do you define vitaka and vicara?

If I close my eyes for even 30 seconds right now, I can tune into the pleasantness of the breath and have joy and rapture arise. They're not anything "wow", just an awareness of the breath, awareness of the pleasantness all over the body that is associated with the breath, along with the intention to direct my attention to the object and some sustained attention the object.  There are also random pings of thoughts, which do not take a hold of my mind and carry it away, but bubble up and say hi for a few seconds before fading away. 

This isn't always the case (sometimes my mind is too agiated or distracted) but at many times throughout the day I can access this level of the four factors. Are you saying that you think of this as all Jhana? 

Pål:
 Upacara Samadhi (access concentration) and Jhana are defined differently in different schools of Theravada. According to Ajahn Brahm, who represents the thai forest tradition as taught by Ajahn Chah, Upacara Samadhi is when a bright, stable sphere of light spontaneously appears in the mind's eye, together with intense bliss, while all sense impressions fade. 1st Jhana occurs when the sense of self dissolves and you are swallowed by the light of the nimitta. What you describe would probably be considered the state of beautiful breath which preceds Upacara Samadhi. 
Now I guess you are asking from a MCTB/Mahasi point of view, but if you happen to be interested in the Brahm/Chah tradition:

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books/Ajahn_Brahm_The_Jhanas.htm


Thanks for the link. I found this to be very helpful. 

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/22/15 3:38 AM as a reply to Joshua D.
Sounds like you're very much on the right track towards Brahm-style Upacara Samadhi! I envy you emoticon

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/22/15 6:03 AM as a reply to Joshua D.
re: Joshua D (9/18/15 7:38 PM)
"Is this access concentration? If so, what is the difference between this and the first Jhana? In addition, what can I do to help the first jhana to arise?"

Sounds pretty good from my experience, i.e. on the right track. In my training, their was a lot of emphasis on looking at hindrances, at factors, trying to work with them, pair them off against each other, etc. Progress seemed very slow. One idea that did seem useful was the image of the 5 factors as a ring of defensive pillars, each blocking out the corresponding hindrance, like a defensive front line in (American) football, creating an a "pocket" for the quarterback and back field to work in, an internal fortress of safety to work with.

But what really did the job (for my practice) was a teacher who taught and demonstrated (guided meditations) just going for one-pointed directed attention at the object (subtle touch sensation of breath at the nostrils / upper lip). Sticking to that, coming back to it again and again, findingease, safety with it, letting it strengthen,  grow, gradually all by itself. In effect leaving little / no room in awareness for thinking (worrying) about factors or hindrances, or anything else to intrude -- so-called (albeit temporarly) seculsion. (It might have helped that I have always liked being alone anyway.)

When this persistant sort-of-effort began solidify, to get stronger in this sheltered space, the need to fend-off hindrances, or work at factors was unnecessary, would have been distracting. Kind of floating in a secure space with nothing to bother about (except keeping at it, enjoying it) – this I took for access, or "neighborhood" concentration, and it was worth it all by itself. The teacher, however, led us further -- getting closer, watching the object (as eventually a mental counterpart, but not necessarily as a light) grow and grow, seem closer and closer; with more and more ease, relaxing the push effort, or rather using the subtle effort of letting-go of the effort (as in bodily, head-neck-shoulder tension). After maybe ½ hour, (and this was about ½ way through a 10-day retreat), he brought-up the image of the (now mental) object becoming so large, so close, that it suddenly surrounds awareness; awareness is inside of it; not out there in front anymore, but surrounding the head (i.e. the "whole body", as other sensations had been calmed in acquiesence long before), and felt exactly so. That was unmistakably absorption, and had a solid ('static' isn't the right word) stillness at the center, though somewhere "out there" were still moving sensory phenomena – sounds, light, etc. – but which couldn't come in, grab or hold the central attention. Solid, and self-sustaining (at least for a while). And an unforgettable experience.

AFTER THAT, the teacher said, now, having emerged, reflect back on that (look into the hadya-vatthu– the "heart-basis" where immediate memory image hangs-out awhile), notice what factors were clear, strong; notice maybe occasional subtle shakiness as potential hindrances brushed up against the edges. Vision and knowledge of those things. The clarity was astounding, and persisted for maybe ½ hour when getting back into the activities of retreat life.

(Of course, as Ian And correctly puts it  – what I describe may not work for others. Whatever works for someone – follow it.)

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/22/15 6:18 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
re: Daniel M. Ingram (9/20/15 11:04 PM as a reply to Pål.)
"Bram's criteria are notoriously high, being an attainment way past what most people consider access concentration, though he is no totally alone at that end of the spectrum, just very unusual. Jhanic depth can vary widely, and there is a huge range of what one can experience within territory that might be considered jhanic."

Most certainly. But from my experience, and as often stated by monastics of various colors (e.g. Ayya Khema, Than-Geof – I could hunt down and build a long list) it's in fact not so inhumanly difficult; they hold that almost anyone can train to quite deep concentration (and yes, traditional absorption). A clear difficulty is that it's much easier with first-hand competent teaching, and most of the Western scene is firmly entrenched in this myth of difficult it is – aspiration is stomped out from the get-go. Frankly, I detect a subtle tinge of a "fungal" odor here.

"I prefer more experiential descriptions."

Even those that demonstratecounter-examples?
"I also like thinking of jhana in a range: if the factors are present, that is jhana. If they are more present, that is stronger jhana. If they are hyper-present and very exclusive, that is very well-developed strong jhana. You get the picture. This mode of thinking allows one to be able to describe and use meditative theory to cover the wide range of what people can attain and what is out there."

Likewise yes, but I can't image you denying that there can be unmistakable qualitative quantum shifts along that spectrum? Or is it to be like JK's "Mandala of Buddhisms"? (Sniff, sniff – there it is again.)

What I really want to say it that this wide-spread and deep-seated tendency in the West to down-play deep concentrative attainment, little wonder it seems so rare and daunting. On the other hand, I've read numerous accounts of monks, Thailand, Burma,… who talk straight-out to, e.g. village lay people, encouraging towards deep attainments, and successfully so. I've witnessed this first hand with Burmese (Mahasi) monks teaching, inspiring ordinary but devote Vietnamese lay 'yogis' (and people like myself) to go for the real, hardcore stuff.

I suggest, respectfully, it's more a matter of dearth of accessibility and inspired teaching than that people are inherently incapable or it's too hard.

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/22/15 2:47 PM as a reply to Joshua D.
Joshua D:

I still have no clear understanding of what vicara and vitakka are, so I find it difficult to say whether they are present. If I take them to mean "the presence of some initial thoughts and the presence of some sustained thoughts" they are present. If I take them to mean "setting the mind on the breath and sustained attention on the breath" that is also present as long as the "sustained" part isn't extremely strict. I tend to think Bram has a different, more strict, interpretation for these words, as he clearly says that thoughts aren't present in his description of Jhana.

Given this context, do you have any suggestions on whether it would be more fruitful to work with concentration, insight, or both, during my daily sits?

How do you define vitaka and vicara?

Now you are asking good questions. By that I mean, if you, as a practitioner, do not know what you are looking for in terms of identifying and determining the presence of certain factors within the grasp of your direct experience, how are you to evaluate your progress? In other words, if you don't know what the terms mean from the context of their originator (Gotama), how does one confirm their presence? And following, how does one then confirm their progress along the path that was espoused by Gotama?

The first thing I realized (insight) when I began to take up the practice of the system of meditation (development of concentration) and insight (recognition of "things as they are") espoused by Gotama, was that I needed to be able to determine whether or not I was correctly following the instruction given in the suttas. Because by this time in my life (I had just turned 48), I was firmly convinced that many times, people of presumably good-intentions were misrepresenting what Gotama taught (either through misunderstanding it themselves or whatever). I was catching things they were teaching in their books and audio presentations and so forth that were diametrically opposed to what one could find taught in the suttas.

It was at this point that I put down everything else that I was reading (other than from other monastics, like myself, who I was able to determine were serious practitioners and therefore speaking from their understanding of the suttas as it related to their direct experience of meditation and the Dhamma) and began to focus solely on the translated discourses of Gotama and endeavoring to figure out (using my intuition and other innate abilities at being able to determine the truth) just what his intended instruction was pointing at so that I could emulate arriving at, as closely as possible, his original vision of explaining the Dhamma and its practice.

In the beginning I spent a great deal of time vascilating back and forth with things that I was reading from other experienced practitioners (Bhante Gunaratana, Ajahn Brahm, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Ajahn Chah, Leigh Brasington and others who are not so well known, but whom I trusted because their experiences mirrored my own) in terms of endeavoring to figure out just what, exactly, was meant by the terms vitakka and vicara. I finally settled on those who were saying that these terms referred to, respectively, "directed thought" and "sustained thought." That made the most sense from my experience, but it was still not exact enough for my tastes, even though, as the saying goes, it was close enough. It wasn't so much "thought" (although concepts arose as thought) as it was "attention" directed toward the object of observation which then could be used to deepen the experience of calm toward absorption in the object. (Hint: Pay careful attention to my wording in any of my posts. It will make the difference between understanding and misunderstanding.)

What I eventually arrived at, and what I advise others to consider, is that vitakka means "reflection or directed attention on a given object" while vicara means "investigation, examination, consideration, deliberation, or sustained attention on a given object of study or observation." Vicara represents the insight aspect in the system of meditation espoused by Gotama, while vitakka represents the concentration aspect of the system, or being able to direct the mind toward a single object of observation.

In order to deepen the dhyana experience so that one goes into the second, third, and fourth levels of dhyana meditation, one has to allow vitakka and vicara to drop out of the picture, so to speak, so that the mind can begin to reach deeper and deeper levels of calm and concentration until the practioner reaches the level of the fourth dhyana, which is sublimely quiet and unagitated as well as profoundly peaceful. Spend enough time practicing meditation in the fourth dhyana, and you will be training and conditioning the mind to develop the strong levels of concentration necessary for being able to develop one's insight to the level necessary for enlightenment to take place. Said conditioning of the mind includes strengthening one's ability to remain mindful (and in a relatively peaceful frame of mind) throughout the day, whether in formal meditation or outside of it. Such condition, though, will in general take place gradually, so do not expect to develop it all at once. Be patient and diligent in your practice, and you will soon enough arrive at that place where mindfulness becomes your established way of being and perceiving things (events) occurring on the horizon of your life's experience.

The two definitions you gave above are, in my opinion, close enough to award you a kupie doll if there was a competition for whose definition came closest to what was originally intended. So, it would seem that your instincts were correct in being able to make an accurate determination of their meaning.

As regards your second question about working with concentration, insight, or both during your daily sits, if you read the suttas, Gotama was adamant about using both concentration and insight whenever appropriate during one's meditation practice. If you would like to review a second opinion about this, I would direct your attention to an essay written years ago by Thanissaro Bhikkhu titled One Tool Among Many in which he makes this very point. Samatha (meaning calm and the development of concentration) and vipassana (meaning the gathering of insight about an object of observation) were meant to be practiced in conjunction with each other. In other words, together, jointly.

If you do this in conjunction with a daily reading and study of the translated suttas, there can be no greater teacher needed than the master and originator of the system of meditative development created and promoted by Gotama. Within the suttas, you will discover additional insights to focus your attention upon which will end up not only enhancing your contemplative practice, but leading you gently and inevitably toward your own self-realization moments!

In peace,
Ian

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/23/15 2:13 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
I can't figure out why the suttas give many suggestions on how to handle distractions, but none of them seems to be the method you where recommended, which also seems to be the most widespread today - just going back to the object when distracted. Why is that very simple method never recommended in the suttas?

for examples on suttas on how to deal with distractions:
•vitakkasanthana sutta
•dvedhavitakka sutta
•bhikkhunupassaya sutta

Pål:
I can't figure out why the suttas give many suggestions on how to handle distractions, but none of them seems to be the method you where recommended, which also seems to be the most widespread today - just going back to the object when distracted. Why is that very simple method never recommended in the suttas?


The Sutta-s were spoken /written in a distant time and culture, where the teachers and the listeners had much different frames of reference than we do here today. The Buddha is often considered to have not focused on specific details of technique as much as on heuristics, ways of evaluating and adjusting practices according to fundamental guidelines (e.g. how to recognize dukkha, how to discern ways out of it). Many listeners were recluses, people who had already spent a lifetime of religious investigation, many probably familiar with basic meditative techniques like jhana-s. In fact, a lot of recent research is investigating how G. Buddha's teachings often assume a background of Vedic, Brahamic beliefs and practices, which he then radically changed according to his insights to point in a new direction.

On the other hand, some forms of the modern trend to use 20th-century literal-textual analysis techniques on the Sutta-s, goes, I believe, way off-base in assuming that the modern sense of 'literal' semantic reference is adequate to tease out the original meaning of teachings rife with traditional allusions and metaphors specific to a distant context. (I've done extensive research following several such researchers / academics, and will be here writing up my findings as to how what many of them are doing is surprisingly bound by their own modern professional and personal biases. It's really quite dramatic and startling the pretention that often evidences in these authors.)

But more importantly here: Do you have a teacher? Or do you listen to (audios) / watch (videos) of teachers?

I find something very valuable in following, for instance, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, not just reading, but listening to his dhamma talks – again and again. Also others, e.g.Ven. Sujato, Ven. U. Jagara, and others off and on. (Than-Geof and U. Jagara I have also had opportunity to hear live, maybe the equivalent of 5 or 6 whole day-long talks of each.)

The point is that lineages of teachers pass on specific interpretations, whole systems of interpretations of the Sutta-s (and other Pali texts). These are living traditions, where living with and learning from a mentor, one monk gradually sees and learns a lived way of understanding the texts that makes a lot of sense, that's directly informs practice, as the teacher is there guiding, continuous feedback on how the student is proceeding. Then that student eventually becomes teacher to the next generation. This goes back, I believe, in some traditions all the way back to Gotama Buddha.

Different lineage-interpretations use or emphasize different sets of Sutta-s/texts (with some basic common ground shared by all).

Just last Saturday, for instance, Than-Geof gave a daylong of talks (that I attended) focusing on his own teachers – what that particular lineage of Thai-Forest monks (Ajahn Mun – Ajahn Lee – Ajahna Fuang – Ajahn Thanissaro) was / is like, how it worked, how Mun taught Lee and Fuang, how the students writing reflect the tutoring and go beyond it in their ownways. It's alive; it's living the Dhamma. It shows one how does it (at least according to that lineage).

Now there's a broad range of such lineages – Thai (e.g. the one Mun – Chah – Brahms – Sujato and other Autralians and English/American is not quite the same as the one that led to Than-Geof); Burmese (Mahasi, Pa Auk – both  distinct – and others); etc. The breadth of these gives us choices – as to what may suit each of us better than others.

Trying to figure out the Sutta-s yourself I suspect will continue to run in circles (though it does seem you are gradually getting a good sense of it all). Tapping into some lineage gives solid, lived interpretation gleaned from long series of individuals all adding depth and practicality from lifetimes of experience.

The beauty is that today, with internet, audios, videos, not to mention the availablity of the texts unprecedented in history, we are extremely fortunate. One can become, virtually, a direct disciple of any of these teachers whose presence is available thru these media. Maybe not quite the same as living with them, having their personal feedback from observing our practice and progress, but certainly a lot more than trying to figure it all out for oneself. (Not to deny that ultimately each verifies it for oneself, or that there's a lot of dubious stuff out there on the internet.)

For what it's worth (these viewpoints)…

(See also my post discussing some of what Ian And wrote.)

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/23/15 9:25 AM as a reply to Ian And.
re: Ian And (9/22/15 2:47 PM as a reply to Joshua D.) 

Great post, Ian And, resonating with a lot of my experience and findings,…

"I was catching things they were teaching in their books and audio presentations and so forth that were diametrically opposed to what one could find taught in the suttas."

"… began to focus solely on the translated discourses of Gotama and endeavoring to figure out (using my intuition and other innate abilities at being able to determine the truth) just what his intended instruction was pointing at so that I could emulate arriving at, as closely as possible, his original vision of explaining the Dhamma and its practice."


(See also my recent post replying to Pål.)

What I've also found, sensed, is that the Suttanta (whole of the Sutta-s) is vast and varied (as to occasion and context of any specific teaching, as well as the multiple layers or strata of the 'EBT' and the added interpretation by later 'redacters'). To modern readers, a vast range of interpretations can be constructed, focusing on this or that sutta, or set of sutta-s. And there's a wide range of traditional interpretations passed down in various monastic lineages. So, there's a huge matrix of viewpoints looking this or that way crosswise through the Suttanta.

Then there are different ways of evaluating those differing viewpoints. One way, that I favor and many monastics also, is that the wording and framework of different viewpoints may be subject to literal interpretation that they are, for instance, "diametrically opposed", but can also be seen as different angles of view, not directed in the same way. That is to say, a willingness to give the benefit of a doubt that the  underlying meanings are not directly opposing (or Aristotelian it must be either 'A' or 'not-A'), but rather cross in different frames of reference. If one sat down and talked among people with such viewpoints, they may well be able to sort out those difference of framework, of angle of view, and come to understand the plausibility of such different views.

On the other hand, there's the modus operandi of much modern Western academic scholarship – to search out apparent (to the modern, academic mind) 'discrepencies', 'conflicts', to high-light and make a reputation, a career out of exploiting these dramatic findings. (I was trained in this tradition -- post-graduate degrees in Music History – German Musikwissenschaft.) Granted there's also an academic tradition of high-minded criticism as not just tearing apart, but as coming to understand deeply frame of reference as well as 'literal' evidence, but this is not as flashy and popular. Gregory Schopen's work provides an example of the darker side (an acknowledged expert on late-medieval Buddhism iconography who makes headlines by also broadcasting sensationalistic, ill-informed judgements as the truth of 'early Buddhism', where he has very little expertise).

Not that there aren't teachers, teachings around which aren't deeply misguided, as you point out also – perhaps well-intended but lacking critical information and/or insight.

Anyway, not to labor that direction, here's something more positive: Last weekend I had an impressive experience – attending a daylong talk by Than-Geof (as Thanissaro Bhikkhu is known around here) on "The Thai Forest Masters", namely his own immediate lineage: the lives and teachings of his teacher, Ajahn Fuang, and Fuang's teacher Ajahn Lee, and their common teacher Ajahn Mun. Than-Geof lived with, learned from Ajahn Fuang for a decade or so; learning Dhamma and the views of all those figures. Than-Geof has translated much of their written works, and points out what parts of those writings actually represent the teachers' as well as the students views of the Dhamma. It's an amazing insight into the workings of a living tradition.

(Recordings of Than-Geof's talks last weekend are already on-line, at: http://www.audiodharma.org/ -- the two entries under Thanissaro Bhikkhu dated 20150919 and 20150920)

btw: a curious footnote Than-Geof brought-out – the term "forest" used to name that tradition is better translated as "wilderness".

Some of the views held in that tradition could be construed as 'diametrically opposed' to views in other traditions. For example, they did not take 'dry-insight' as at all a teaching of the Buddha – it's gotta be samadhi+vipassana together all the way in their approach.

BUT, I would wager that if Ajahn Mun and Mahasi Sayadaw, and maybe throw in Ajahn Chah (another student of Ajahn Mun) and Pa Auk Sayadaw (variants in both the Thai and Burmese traditions) were to get together, spend a day exchanging views, experiences, THEY WOULD NOT ARGUE about differing viewpoints, or perceived conflicts between this or that view of this or that passage in the sutta-s. Renunciate arahants getting together would have much better things to share, I would think. It's the less experienced disciples (and academics, who are notorious for their lack of 1st hand experience) who face-off and quibble about every-which literalistic detail.

Brings to mind a curious analogy: A month or so ago, the cover story in the American 'Time Magazine' portrayed (http://time.com/3968132/bill-clinton-george-bush-interview/) the current close relationship between Bill Clinton and George W Bush – they now get together often, play golf, appear together at various events. Imagine, someone who has spent 8 years at the helm of government, bearing the brunt of handling crisis after crisis and trying to herd cats (the congress, the public, foreign relations, etc.) – how many people in the world are there for such a person to share, communicate with about their experience? And now both have relatives who are very likely to be the opposing candidates in the upcoming (USA) presidential election. It was amazing – they know each other very well,  joke with each other, anticipate, mimic each other's viewpoints and manners of speech. Maybe not quite that same as arahants, but…

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/23/15 5:01 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Well I kind of have a teacher, but not in any buddhist tradition. But I'm not completely reinventing the dhamma wheel of sutta interpretation by my self. I'm inclined towards the thai forest traditions, since their different readings of the suttas make sense to me in their own ways. Still there are great differences in the practices and aims of the Lee-Fuang-Than  and Chah-Brahm-Sujato/Brahmali/etc lineages. Inspired by the Arittha sutta where Arittha explains that his anapanasati practice is simply to pay attention to the breath and the Buddha goes "well that's a good place to start, though it's not the complete practice", I see that what the two big thai traditions have in common is that you start out just paying attention to the breath. So that's what I do. However, I really like it how in Lee-Fuang-Thanissaros instructions you go from just breath attention to a kind of body scan where you stop and feel the breath at different spots, one at a time. Then you're supposed to include all of the areas you've scanned in your attention span, but I tend to do just the scan-with-stops because expanding attention just feels forced and not relaxed Brahm-style. Also Ajahn Lee:s method 1 for Jhana doesn't require it, which makes me even more confused about Thanissaros idea about that you're supposed to include all of your "actual" body, arms and legs and everything, as your object during Jhana. 

TL;DR: My current practice is somewhere between the two main thai forest traditions and my own intuition and sutta reading emoticon

Also I handle distractions mostly in accordance with the vitakkasanthana sutta. 

Pål:
...
TL;DR: My current practice is somewhere between the two main thai forest traditions and my own intuition and sutta reading emoticon


Sounds like you've basically got the tools.

Than-Geof doesn't get overly specific about technical details, beyond the warming-up (typically metta, then body-scanning to "get the body in position to meditate", and then "get the mind in position to meditate" -- and he pretty much uses "meditate" as meaning concentration), at least that I've found in recorded talks. (Actually "meditate" we use generally to translate the Pali term 'jhayati', from which comes the word 'jhana'.)

I would recommend finding such recorded talks, and listening to them, again and again daily, for a while -- it's like practicing music, good things happen with repetition without knowing just how it happens.

Than-Geof (TG) is my favorite, but shop around, compare to find your best fit.

Actually TG often recommends this method himself -- try this or that, watching the results carefully. He notes this experiemental / pragmatic approach is also fundamental in his Thai "wilderness" lineage. S/t he teaches the details of that using the Rahula-Sutta (The one where G.Buddha is teaching his son), which you probably are familiar with.

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/23/15 8:17 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:
(Recordings of Than-Geof's talks last weekend are already on-line, at: http://www.audiodharma.org/ -- the two entries under Thanissaro Bhikkhu dated 20150919 and 20150920)


Great series of talks. I downloaded them on Sunday and just finished listening to them this morning. Chris, were you the one who asked the question about qi and the similarities between the Chinese and Thai traditional medicine systems?

I thought Sunday's talk, "The True Dharma has Disappeared" was particularly intriguing. In all niceties of states of oneness, I always keep Than Geoff's advice in mind that this is not the end game. Also, plenty of investigation to be done regarding the simple idea that when we stop feeding on one another, we create an opportunity for liberation.

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/24/15 2:11 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
@Chris: By auspicious coincidence, I was recently up at a conference of meditation teachers, and actually spent part of one meal talking with a Theravadan monk/meditation teacher who had trained with Bram in his monastery, and he said that it generally took good meditators about 2-3 months of intense practice to get to what Bram considers the first jhana. I think this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do and try for, and don't wish to discourage anyone from taking things to that level.

I remember about a month into a work retreat at Gaia House in 1999 where I was practicing about 8+ hours per day formally and focusing mostly on concentration and kasinas and being very mindful during my work periods, which were mostly in silence, and I was finally able to really stabilize on the bright white light and have my body vanish purely into stable white light near then end of that month. This is just one more reference point.

A question arose about how much concentration does it take to get stream entry: vastly less than that for most people. This is not in any way to say that the Bram level of access concentration/1st jhana isn't a valuable attainment, or that one wouldn't be very likely to be able to use that high degree of concentration to easily get insight (or all sorts of other things, for that matter), but that, if the goal is insight, stream entry can be accomplished more rapidly for a substantial number of people than they could accomplish Bram's definition of the first jhana, as the Mahasi kids will point out and back that claim up with many thousands of data points over a good number of decades.

I realize that this statement is likely to cause some Vipassana First vs Samatha First, Jhana vs Insight (or Jhana as Insight), or Thai vs Mahasi debates, but hopefully they will be grounded in pragmatism, goals, and personal experience. My first meditation major teacher on retreat was very Thai Forest, in case anyone is asking, and I got a lot out of sitting with them and went back to sit with them a number of times even after getting stream entry, which I accomplished using mostly Mahasi techniques but on retreat with that Thai Forest teacher and a number of other teachers of various influences, and that Gaia House retreat was influenced by Christina Feldman, however reluctantly on her part, who has very high concentration standards along the lines of Bram, and it was those standards that inspired me to reach for that level.

re: Chris J Macie (9/23/15 7:35 PM as a reply to Pål.)

(Addendum to previous message recommending listening to talks)

I thought afterwards to add that it may have something to do with the nature of the tradition as, across it's history, mainly oral, and augmented by written forms. Even today. There's something much more moving, more communicative about in-person teaching (or listening to rather than just reading), of both interpretation (dhamma) and practice.

Then today, quite by accident (or perhaps magic?), I ran across the following (from Rupert Gehtin, "On the Practice of Buddhist Meditation According to the Pali Nikayas and Exegetical Sources", 2004 – found in the article section of that website "A Handful of Leaves" that I brought up here a while ago) pages 202-203:

"A typical description of the practice of meditation in early Buddhist texts is the one found in an extended account of the whole Buddhist path that occurs some 25 times in a number of slightly differing versions in the four primary Nikayas…
It states that the meditator ... should find a secluded spot—the forest, the root of a tree, a mountain, a rocky ravine, a cave, cemetery, forest grove, the open air, a pile of straw or a deserted house; he should sit down cross-legged, straighten his body, and establish mindfulness 'in front of him' (parimukham).  The account then immediately moves to give brief descriptions of the kinds of attainment to be expected from this practice:
[...examples of the range of practices taught in different contexts – jhana-s, powers/iddhi-s, knowledges/abhinna-s, etc...]

Just what the would-be meditator has to do to get from sitting down cross-legged to the jhanas and beyond is not at all clear.
To put it another way, if one set off into the forest with only a  copy of the Samannaphala Sutta as one's guide, it is doubtful that one would make very much progress in one's meditation practice. Later systematic accounts of Buddhist meditation that date from perhaps six, seven or eight hundred years later do fill in some of the gaps, but the relative absence of specific instruction in the earlier texts perhaps should be understood in the light of something that is clear in the later texts: namely a view that the effective practice of meditation requires the personal instruction of a teacher. Thus the reason why the earlier texts fail to reveal very much about just how to practice meditation is not because they are uninterested in such matters, or think they are unimportant, but rather precisely the opposite: they are too important to write down, to be imparted in this way, i.e. textually. This is, after all, a typical ancient Indian attitude to learning: it should be imparted orally, directly from teacher to pupil. Thus we should understand the earliest texts as indicating the general framework and outlining basic guidelines for the practice of meditation practice, but the specific details of technique and the actual procedures are matters for the teacher and his pupils. It is only later that some of these get committed to writing, and even then, still in somewhat general terms. So strictly as historians of religion we must conclude that the earliest techniques of Buddhist meditation are lost to us."

This interpretation might special interest to you, Pål, as you seem to have a keen interest in the details of sutta descriptions of practice.

When I reflect on it, my experience seems to support this. For instance, watching Daniel Ingram's BATGAP talk seemed, in a way, much more informative that having plowed through the whole of MCTB – actually more impressive as to the power of his motivations, presence (and possibly attainments).

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/24/15 5:10 AM as a reply to Small Steps.
re: Small Steps (9/23/15 8:17 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)

"Great series of talks [Than-Geof last weekend, cited above]. I downloaded them on Sunday and just finished listening to them this morning. Chris, were you the one who asked the question about qi and the similarities between the Chinese and Thai traditional medicine systems?"

Yes. I asked a number of stored-up questions on Saturday, but was able to keep my mouth shut on Sunday. One salient point for me Saturday was something about Ajahn Lee admitting that Ajahn Mun taught a lot above his head – he (Lee) could get only some 60% of it. Same as I've found listening to Than-Geof (hundreds of hours of his recordings, maybe 30 hours in person): it always seems so clear, but on 2nd or 3rd hearing realizing that so much was missed. I reckon that about now I'm able to really register perhaps 30-40% (and even that may be pretentious) when hearing him on a new topic.

"I thought Sunday's talk, "The True Dharma has Disappeared" was particularly intriguing. In all niceties of states of oneness, I always keep Than Geoff's advice in mind that this is not the end game. Also, plenty of investigation to be done regarding the simple idea that when we stop feeding on one another, we create an opportunity for liberation."


That was a point that caught my attention also, as he (TG) does often discuss 'feeding' (e.g. very prominently in The Paradox of Becoming, though there in terms of 'nutriment'), while I rarely find that topic from other books or teachers. It was rather emphatic when TG mentioned that in the Forest-teachers numerology (...4 = noble truths,... 8 = 8-fold path,....), the number "1" was something about "feeding" as the root condition of samsara.

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/24/15 11:38 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Have you read the Dipa sutta, and Arittha sutta and Vitakkasanthana sutta? How is that not direct instruction? You need to do some interpretation since the text is over 2000 years old but still. But I think I get your point and I do enjoy "satsangs".

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/24/15 11:53 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, now that you're mentioning this debate on jhana focus vs impermanence focus: what's you thougts on the Asubha sutta? 
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.163.than.html

Well, if you read carefully, you will note a combination of factors, of elements, of styles, incorporated into one practice

"And which is pleasant practice with quick intuition? There is the case where a monk — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of joy & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. He dwells in dependence on these five strengths of a learner — strength of conviction, strength of conscience, strength of concern, strength of persistence, & strength of discernment — and these five faculties of his — the faculty of conviction, the faculty of persistence, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, the faculty of discernment — appear intensely. Because of their intensity, he attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the effluents. [Italics mine]

You will notice the disdernment factor, the wisdom factor, and wisdom is that which discernes the truth, meaning The Three Characteristics. It is definitely true that those who don't learn jhana well but discern clearly make fast, painful progress: Mahasi methods bear this out. It hurts, but things fly.

Similarly, those who develop powerful concentration and also have discernment, have the ability to see clearly, they clearly fly and have a good time doing it. You will notice similar statements in MCTB: realms of light, color, sound, images, used as vipassana objects, make for an ability to bypass things like The Dark Night to a very large degree.

So, I like this Sutta. Thanks for pointing it out.



You will notice This is called pleasant practice with quick intuition.
"

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/25/15 2:31 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
So you actually agree with Jhana focus making DN:s milder. Maybe I should read MCTB more carefully lol. A speculation I like to make is that this could explain why the suttas don't talk about nana stages. Except maybe mind & body. 
The Asubha sutta is the only one I know that seems to talk about different styles of meditation. Almost everything else I've found is like jhanajhanajhana.

Pål:
...
The Asubha sutta is the only one I know that seems to talk about different styles of meditation. Almost everything else I've found is like jhanajhanajhana.


Perhaps worth keeping in mind is that the word(s) 'jhana' / 'dhyana' basically mean just 'meditating', sitting and practicing something. All the interpretations, the working out of details -- the "hard jhana", "jhana-lite", etc. and insight / vipassana-flavors -- are fabrications attempting to depict the experiences people have had, and their ways of developing them.

Pål:
So you actually agree with Jhana focus making DN:s milder. Maybe I should read MCTB more carefully lol. A speculation I like to make is that this could explain why the suttas don't talk about nana stages. Except maybe mind & body. 
The Asubha sutta is the only one I know that seems to talk about different styles of meditation. Almost everything else I've found is like jhanajhanajhana.


I have a theory about this that has been arising as of late: that nanas are the result of the meditator penetrating levels of mind and revealing the factors of enlightenment, without the appropriate factors of jhana arising first.  On the flipside, when jhana is done perfectly, with all the factors arising in order, it is always 'hard jhana' and will necessarily also result in 'insight' and thus penetration towards cessation.  So I think it might all be based on how the factors arise.

This comes out of my experience that I can get something that I have called 'soft jhana' through simply tuning into memories of previous experiences or asking my mind to enter these states.  However, the times when all bodily awareness has disappeared (and other qualities that match descriptions of jhana proper) have resulted from doing things the hard and slow way- first directed attention, then sustained attention, then joy, etc.

P.s.- Reignited interest about jhana has arisen in me as a result of wanting the positive mental-health side effects of concentration states (to facilitate a quieter and more enjoyable mental atmosphere) and not being at all interested in the fundamental insights they have to offer.

Noah S:

This comes out of my experience that I can get something that I have called 'soft jhana' through simply tuning into memories of previous experiences or asking my mind to enter these states.  However, the times when all bodily awareness has disappeared (and other qualities that match descriptions of jhana proper) have resulted from doing things the hard and slow way -- first directed attention, then sustained attention, then joy, etc.

That's a pretty good description, Noah, and one with which I would concur. The first description you mention is what occurred spontaneously to the young Siddhattha under the rose-apple tree of the 36th sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya. When I first read that sutta, I knew exactly what was being referred to, because I had had similar experiences as a child. That gave me a quick "heads up" idea of what was being referred to when practitioners brought up the word dhyana (jhana). As long as I knew what it felt like, I became able to enter it at will (after some practice). It also told me what to look for when determining whether or not I had attained such a state. However, I had to learn how to refine the experience by applying sati to it in order not to allow it to devolve into a highly suggestible trance-like state. I have Upasaka Culadasa to thank for bringing that to my attention at the time. It clicked with some of the things I was reading then (chiefly an essay by Thanissaro Bhikkhu titled "Jhana Not By The Numbers").

It was through Leigh Brasington's descriptions of "jhana" that I learned how to take the experience deeper, by watching the breath become more and more refined as the breath became more shallow until it almost disappeared in the fourth dhyana. The profound calm and tranquility of that state was so pronounced that it was difficult to mistake it for anything else. The insight gained from that experience was that it actually was possible to bring the mind into a state free from inner turmoil and agitation. Which meant that being able to determine "things as the are" from direct experience was accessible. That is, no interference from speculation or mental proliferation to muddy the field of vision. Just a clear view of the reality of any given event (i.e. being able to directly view anicca, dukkha, and anatta values within the event, thus preventing the arising of any unwholesome emotion). Just that is nibbana.

Noah S:

P.s.- Reignited interest about jhana has arisen in me as a result of wanting the positive mental-health side effects of concentration states (to facilitate a quieter and more enjoyable mental atmosphere) and not being at all interested in the fundamental insights they have to offer.

That "quieter and more enjoyable mental atmosphere" can also be the result of insight. Especially when it occurs during the heat of battle (or emotionally charged moments during waking life, when you suddenly realize not to take the matter so seriously). Do not ever lose sight of that, as it will likely be the source of your mental calm when your practice matures. If you don't understand now, you will understand better once you arrive there.

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/25/15 7:09 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Hey Ian,

Glad to hear from you, as I have recently been rereading your all purpose jhana thread.  In my experience, the mental release moments that capped completed insight cycles have continued to provide me with some sort of favorable mental atmosphere.  I am not able to exactly pinpoint it to a traditionally Buddhist explanation, and certainly do not ascribe to the idea that those cessations represented a touching upon something truly unconditioned.  But those are just beliefs which matter way less than direct experience and pragmatic benefits.

For now I am happy to aim for hard access concentration and 1st jhana, for those things have always resulted in a different type of positive effect for me than the more permanent one that seems to have occured through dry vipassana.  It is the contents of the mind truly relaxing and letting go, not a movement towards perceiving those contents in a nondual form.  I suppose my goals are kind of backwards, but thats okay.

Do you think my theory about the specific order of the arising factors being necessary, is right?  Meaning, must there be a directed attention leading into a sustained attention first, in order to then experience that truly relaxed state?  Because having a partial amount of joy or tranquility while I am still feeling tense and obsessive at my core simply doesn't cut it for me anymore.

Thanks,
Noah

Yes it's great to hear and solves many imo silly debates (on my part as well) that went on, was it last year? 

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/26/15 4:14 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
I know, but I mean jhana as in THE 4 jhanas. The formula that keeps occuring in the suttas. Sometimes it's put as simply as "how do you attain nibbana? Well you go through (the formula)". Don't rember where but could look it up if you want me to. 

Pål:
I know, but I mean jhana as in THE 4 jhanas. The formula that keeps occuring in the suttas. Sometimes it's put as simply as "how do you attain nibbana? Well you go through (the formula)". Don't rember where but could look it up if you want me to. 


Trying to nail down solutions just from sutta-texts can drive one mad -- on one's own, or, especially by trying to reconcile others' interpretations.

Just today (Friday) I scanned an article by Alexander Wynne, whom I've enjoyed reading in the past, but this one just hammered away with this sutta and that sutta showing a debate between editings by sutta-writing factions as to whether nibbana comes through insight or 9th jhana (but in far more elaborate terms). Then tonight read through a Sujato blog essay and page after page of back and forth discussion -- is nibbana not-conditioned consciousness or is it cessation of all consciousness (Sujato's theme was refuting some view that nibbana is a sort of vinyanna); others said 2nd (Mahayana) and 3rd (Vajrayana) 'vehicles' got it better than Theravada; someone cited Than-Geof's view (that he also voiced last Saturday in response to a question I asked about authors -- mostly non-practicing academics -- who think nibbana, and even 4th jhana, is just complete black-out (maybe because their scholastic identities get wiped-out there)) that nibbana is associated with some sort of awareness but freed of all 'becoming'; and Sujato claimed to refute Than-Geof's view via this or that sutta ---- yada yada yada. Some one brings up this or that sutta; some else insists that one is much later, or corrupted in editing, or being misinterpreted,...

Please no more sutta-s (for me, just now). With luck I can find an hour or two soon for some solid jhana (as I think I know it), which always results in a peace and clarity to see through all that, to where it doesn't matter. As Sujato thinks (which I like), ahdicitta (higher mind), cetovimutti (deliverance of mind) etc. always refers to samadhi, and he has a remarkable grasp of the sutta-s and their history; but than also Than-Geof identifies meditation with developing concentration; he doesn't grapple in blog debates; s/t writes refutations, but never directed at specific persons (writings). And his presence is so calming and inspiring.

Practice and kalyana mittata ('admirable friendship') are enough.

[minor corrective editing]

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/27/15 5:16 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Sitting on fingers
Must not get into it
Nibbana is...

RE: What is the difference between Access Concentration and First Jhana?
Answer
9/27/15 8:27 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I am the devil on your shoulder telling you to go on emoticon