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Jhana without Bliss
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10/31/15 5:57 AM
Just something I have been wondering,

This forum says that one can get into the 1st and 2nd Jhana without having any Jhana factors arising such as piti and sukha...

How is that even possible when you have to have those factors in place to hit the 1st jhana?

Am I missing something?

Thanks...

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
10/31/15 11:45 AM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
MangaDesuYo:

This forum says that one can get into the 1st and 2nd Jhana without having any Jhana factors arising such as piti and sukha...

How is that even possible when you have to have those factors in place to hit the 1st jhana?

Am I missing something?

Having those factors in place is not the same as being able to recognized that they are in place. Don't be too concerned if you are not able to recognize them just yet.

Once you are able to become absorbed in an object, like the pleasantness of the breath or breathing, it should become apparent to you that you are absorbed in the object that you are observing. In the beginning, don't worry about not being able to recognize all the factors of the dhyana process. Just become used to being able to find it and relax into it. Recognition of the factors (which can be very subtle) can come later, once you become more experienced and your mindfulness develops.

The first dhyana arises because you have to create the condition for it to arise. This is where vitakka and vicara come into play. Vitakka is directed attention and vicara is sustained attention on the object of contemplation (like the breath). So, in the beginning of the process, you create the condition for dhyana to arise by placing your attention on and sustaining your attention on the object of observation. This is why vitakka and vicara are factors in the first dhyana. See?

As you transition into the second dhyana, it should become apparent that you are having to put no effort (directed attention or sustained attention) at all into maintaining in the dhyana condition. It happens all on its own because the mind is concentrated and absorbed in the pleasant activity. This is how you recognize that you have attained to the second dhyana.

What the progressive levels of dhyana (first to fourth dhyana) teach you is that the mind is capable of reaching ever newer levels of calm and concentration. When the activitity in the mind settles down completely (little or no movement), you should be able to recognize that you are in the fourth dhyana. Movement can be as subtle as piti (joy or rapture) and sukha (pleasure or happiness). This movement needs to become arrested if the mind is to progress into the fourth dhyana. This is why in the fourth dhyana the affective agitation of piti and sukha have disappeared completely.

When there is no agitation in the mind, it will settle down into the fourth dhyana automatically, which is a deeply sublime state. What you have to refrain from doing is destroying this state by becoming excited that you have attained it. Just equanimously observe and recognize that you are there, and without an emotional reaction enjoy it. It is from this state that insight meditation can proceed with tangible results.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
10/31/15 5:32 PM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.
re: Ian And (10/31/15 11:45 AM as a reply to MangaDesuYo.)

Out of curiosity, why do you (Ian And) use "dhyana" (Sanskrit variant, the Pali form being "jhana"), but then use the Paliforms vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha? Both words (dhyana and jhana) support broad meanings of simply some sort of "meditation", as well as a more specific meaning of some kind of absorptive concentration.

There is, however, a distinction, drawn by a number of scholars and practitioners, that the Pali / Buddhist version comes with an emphasis on infusing the activity with mindfulness (sati) and relating to further analysis (vipassana, desanna, panna) , directed at a goal, attainable while still living. The dhyana version is more associated with a Vedic / Brahmanic approach where the goal is attainable only with death. Both have to do with a temporary state of blissfulness, a sort of anesthesia of dukkha / distress, but are shaped, used differently in terms of the overall process (bhavana) and goal.

There may be, of course, other views of the matter. Wondering here what yours may be? (Your overall analysis seems right-on, in my view.)

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/1/15 2:29 AM as a reply to Ian And.
@Ian And: That's very helpful advice. Thank you very much!

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/1/15 4:21 AM as a reply to Ian And.
howdy ianand,
in the last paragraph you mention that insight can proceed from the fourth jhana.  i don't think that you are suggesting that insight can procedd exclusively from this level of absorption, n'est pas? 

i do like your emphasis on the movement of the mind in these higher states.  i have recently been listening to ajahn succito who links these tendencies of subtle , initiative movement with sankaras, a take i find helpful.

the joy aspect of absorption should also not be deemphasized as the buddha pointed out himself in his "rose apple ceremony" recollection after his long years of asceticism.  also, for those not yet comfortable with the recognition of the subtle sensations of the shifts between jhanas, finding out how your 'piti' expresses itself is also helpful.  there are many descriptions of this 'rising up' energy and for me it expresses itself as the "hair of the head standing up".  this is generally less subtle than some of the other factors and so easier to spot, at least for me.

ianand make a VERY important point about the subtlety of all of this.  when i first started seeing what jhana really was it surprised me to discover that i had sailed over the territory previously without seeing the demarcations clearly for what they were.  once seeing the landscape and understanding the signs one learns to take the subtle indicators for what they are as they fall away to reveal the ever deepening stillness.

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/1/15 4:34 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:

in the last paragraph you mention that insight can proceed from the fourth jhana.  i don't think that you are suggesting that insight can proceeded exclusively from this level of absorption, n'est pas?
 
What I stated was that: "It is from this state that insight meditation can proceed with tangible results." Inherent in that statement is one very significant point: the fact that the mind is STILL and QUIET, which forms the necessary basis for being able to perform insight meditation. If the mind is unfocused and diffuse, it cannot fully and completely recognize the significance of the three characteristics of existence, the four noble truths, or the teaching on dependent co-arising and how these all affect the level of satisfaction that is experienced in any given moment devoid of dukkha.

People should not become overly sensitive about the specific jumping-off point for performing insight contemplation. In other words, the idea that you have to be able to attain to a dhyana state in order to successfully do insight contemplation. The mind simply needs to be able to focus upon the object at hand without interference (distractions and such) in order to recognize (i.e. realize, awaken to) the truth of the Dhamma that Gotama taught. Dhyana merely assists one in being able to bring the mind to such a still point. And for many (myself included), it is a necessary ingredient. Obviously, this kind of focus and examination of an object (like the teachings mentioned above being the object) cannot occur if the mind is overcome by an unconscious state as one would find if the mind were in the ninth dhyana (i.e. "cessation of feeling and perception").

It therefore follows that the way to move from the sublime fourth level of absorption becomes the redirection of the mind from the object of the breath (if that was the object used to get there) to the object of examination of, for example, the three characteristics. In other words, once a practitioner is aware that he is in the fourth level, he can switch his focus from the breath to another object, that object being the mental object of whatever aspect of the teaching one is needing to examine in order to corroborate the truth of that insight for oneself directly.

tom moylan:

i do like your emphasis on the movement of the mind in these higher states.  i have recently been listening to ajahn succito who links these tendencies of subtle , initiative movement with sankaras, a take i find helpful.

Yes, these movements can be linked to any number of objects that can have a tendency to distract the mind from the given object of study and examination. Being aware of this as it is occurring is what the strengthening of mindfulness helps one to discover.

tom moylan:

the joy aspect of absorption should also not be deemphasized as the buddha pointed out himself in his "rose apple ceremony" recollection after his long years of asceticism. 

also, for those not yet comfortable with the recognition of the subtle sensations of the shifts between jhanas, finding out how your 'piti' expresses itself is also helpful.  there are many descriptions of this 'rising up' energy and for me it expresses itself as the "hair of the head standing up".  this is generally less subtle than some of the other factors and so easier to spot, at least for me.

I'm not quite sure of the context of your first statement about the "de-emphasis" of the joy aspect of absorption. Obviously, when one is first learning about what dhyana is and how to recognize entering it, this is an important factor to be able to connect with in order to facilitate entrance to the absorption state. Yet, in order to descend deeper into the levels of calm that dhyana practice affords one, it is necessary to allow piti / joy to fall away for the mind to seek ever deeper levels of stillness and contentment.

And I agree with the second comment regarding the recognition of the subtlety of piti. That is a very important point for beginning dhyana practitioners to consider. I did several Internet searches when I was first learning about this in an effort to gain a more precise defintion of piti so that I could relate it to a factor that I had experienced in order to be able to identify it within my personal sphere of perception. What I found was that piti has several levels of expression, ranging from the absurdly loud and obvious to the barely noticeable sublime and almost imperceptible movement. Once I was relatively certain of what I was looking for in terms of the factor arising, that knowledge assisted me in being able to confirm that the mind was indeed experiencing the absorption talked about in the suttas. 

tom moylan:

ianand makes a VERY important point about the subtlety of all of this.  when i first started seeing what jhana really was it surprised me to discover that i had sailed over the territory previously without seeing the demarcations clearly for what they were.  once seeing the landscape and understanding the signs one learns to take the subtle indicators for what they are as they fall away to reveal the ever deepening stillness.

Yes, indeed. It took some time before I was able to recognize and identify these subtle aspects of the practice. Yet with some determination and effort, it is possible to eventually confirm the presence of these facors within the territory of one's direct perception. Which, in turn, solidifies one's confidence in what Gotama was teaching.

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/2/15 3:02 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Hi, Ian And
I really I enjoyed reading your threads on Jhana and mindfulness and after some practise I learned to attain Jhanas 1-8 although the 8th kind of seems sometimes a fleeting one. Things get a bit murky after 7th, but I'm confident I've reached the 8th at least a couple of times.

I've tried to do anapanasati sutta as well although after following first two tetraeds in a linear way I'm not sure if my concept of "mind" is the correct one on the third. Didn't really integrate 4th tetraed that much.

My question is can you give some practical examples of transitioning to insight meditation from the 4th jhana as per your last paragraph? I've tried to do that a couple of times, but sensations seemed so fleeting it was kind of hard to find anything to meditate on.

I have some background in doing basic mindfulness (shinzen young) if that is of any help in trying to find terms to explain with.

Is in your experience the progress of insight following the path laid out by the nanas including DN as describe in MCTB?

Metta and all good things,
AJM

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/2/15 11:15 PM as a reply to AJM99.
AJM99:

My question is can you give some practical examples of transitioning to insight meditation from the 4th jhana as per your last paragraph? I've tried to do that a couple of times, but sensations seemed so fleeting it was kind of hard to find anything to meditate on.

It is as simple as changing your mental focus from one object to another. In one moment you are focused on the breath; and in the next, you are examining, for example, the teaching on dependent co-arising, thinking about the eight middle factors as they arise in your perception, and seeing that they actually do equate with the construction (or to use Thanissaro Bhikkhu's favorite word "fabrication") of a personal mental identity that one calls (or identifies as) one's self. Those middle eight factors are: sankhara or volitional formations, vinnana or consciousness, namarupa or name and form, the ayatanas or the six sense bases, phassa or contact, vedana or affective feeling, tanha or craving, and upadana or clinging. Based upon the arising of these factors each of us formulates what we perceive to be our individual personality – our "self" if you will. A good book to read and contemplate dependent co-arising (paticca samuppada) is Bhk. Bodhi's The Great Discourse on Causation, The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries. He goes into much greater depth than I have here, and it is well worth spending time reading and pondering.

What follows is a bit of a hint that will help to make these realizations arise a little quicker. Find a good text describing the subject matter that you wish to examine and read and ponder it before you enter into contemplation in order to prime the pump, so to speak. You should spend at least ten to fifteen minutes in preparation doing this in order to begin establishing your mind and curiosity on this subject matter. This way your mind is already primed and ready to pursue this subject matter during contemplation.

There's really no need to go all the way down to the fourth dhyana in order to begin your transition into insight contemplation. But if you need to do so in order to quiet the mind, then do so. Once you're able to enter samadhi at will, then a formal dhyana practice is unnecessary as long as you are able to bring the mind under your control so that it will follow your commands to be still. From my perspective and experience, dhyana practice is best used in order to help train the mind to obey your commands and to be able to quiet down when ever you will it to be quiet.

If you haven't gotten to that point just yet, then just keep practicing samatha meditation methods (which would include dhyana) until you are able to re-train the mind to calm down instantly at will. What I found was that the more time I spent in dhyana during practice, the more the mind would relinquish its monkey mind syndrome and calm down. Then gradually you begin to notice that you are carrying that calm mental state further and further away from the meditation cushion in terms of time. In other words, the calm begins to last for an hour after meditation. And this gradually, over time, grows into two hours, then three hours, until you have built up a resistence to discursive thinking while at the same time improved your ability at remaining mindful (i.e. "in the moment").

All of this samatha meditation and mindfulness practice works at building and deepening our ability at concentration until we get to the point where we can silence the mind of its incessant chatter at will. And I mean, make it go completely silent. Then, when there is nothing distracting the mind from holding an object up in front of it and examining that object, it will amaze you the insights that will arise as you are examining that object. You have to be actively examining and pondering over whatever object you have chosen to examining before the insights about that object arise into consciousness.

AJM99:

Is in your experience the progress of insight following the path laid out by the nanas including DN as describe in MCTB?

No. I did not follow that paradigm. I was not a student of Mahasi Sayadaw. I was a student of Siddhattha Gotama. I used the ten fetter model as prescribed in the suttas. Different strokes for different folks. I wanted the Full Monty of Gotama's training model. So that is what I pursued. As a monastic.

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/11/15 3:06 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks for the explanation.

I read through Mahanidana sutta and it seems to be quite a complex topic dare I say too complex to just simply start meditating on. There is a lot of terminology that I'm not familiar with and with which I don't have a base in my personal experience. It remind me a bit when I read Anapanasati sutta for the first few times. Then through meditation and studying futher suttas I gained better understanding of it.

Would a good starting point be for example to switch the object of meditation from breath to the sense of self however it may appear moment by moment?

On the same token I have to say I don't know if I feel ready to really immerse myself in thorough insight work. It's not just when it comes to meditation, but also other areas of my life that I sometimes feel that a moment is "perfect" so I dare not do anything to "break it". That might be doing something, really anything at all that I don't feel like doing.

Someone might say that is laziness, passivity not to push my self to "uncomfortable areas". It is just that after I learned that by doing what I feel is best in each moment I'm always confident and that has being a very successful life strategy for me for quite a long time now.

Br, AJM 

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/12/15 10:48 PM as a reply to AJM99.
Hello AJM,

AJM99:

I read through Mahanidana sutta and it seems to be quite a complex topic dare I say too complex to just simply start meditating on.

That is why I suggested that you find or purchase Bodhi's book. As I said, he goes into more depth with his explanation of the sutta, something that you may find very helpful in being able to break it down into pieces that you can digest a little at a time. It's not really meant to be contemplated all at once during meditation. But to unfold within the mind in its own space and time.

AJM99:

Would a good starting point be for example to switch the object of meditation from breath to the sense of self however it may appear moment by moment?

Yes. That would work. Whatever aspect of the Dhamma you think will be conducive to your practice is a good choice for insight contemplation.

AJM99:

On the same token I have to say I don't know if I feel ready to really immerse myself in thorough insight work.

That's fine. But don't you realize that you are using both insight and calm all the time? Don't think of insight as a formal practice; think of it as an ability, like your intuition. Insight and calm go together. They aren't separate. The following essay will explain what I mean. As the author states, calm and insight are "two qualities of mind that a person may 'gain' or 'be endowed with,' and that should be developed together."

One Tool Among Many

In peace,
Ian

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/14/15 4:32 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:
AJM99:
Hello AJM,
On the same token I have to say I don't know if I feel ready to really immerse myself in thorough insight work.

That's fine. But don't you realize that you are using both insight and calm all the time? Don't think of insight as a formal practice; think of it as an ability, like your intuition. Insight and calm go together. They aren't separate. The following essay will explain what I mean. As the author states, calm and insight are "two qualities of mind that a person may 'gain' or 'be endowed with,' and that should be developed together."

One Tool Among Many

In peace,
Ian


I have read it before, but never with the understanding and being in the situation that I'm now. It is very practical and down to earth description. Just the way I like it! First I thought to quote a couple of passages, but it resonates with me so well as a whole that I can't find one which would do it justice.

I have regarded "vipassana" or "insight" meditation to be a totally separate style of meditation. Something off-the-map where it says "here lie dragons". And I have attributed to what I have done e.g. in anapanasati as "mindfulness" + "concentration". One thing attributing to this probably is that Shinzen has dubbed his approach as "basic mindfulness" and that there is all this "mindfulness" meditation which is quite trendy now.

For example, at some point when doing samatha I realized that what prevented me from attaining 1st Jhana was my craving for attaining 1st Jhana. It presented itself as mental talk and physical sensations a sort of "tightening around" this issue. When I realized that my mind dropped it like "hot coals" and I immediately entered Jhana. Now, I considered this to be "mindfulness" noticing this issue but it was actually a combination of "mindfulness" and "vipassana".

It seems the only difference if you could call it that from what I have been doing is the "line of questioning" used. Instead of just dealing with whatever comes up and is on the way of developing deeper calm using the mind purposefully to explore different topics.

On another note. I have recently experienced some dizziness when I have been very concentrated in the present moment. I was wondering if that could be due to meditation this article would seem to confirm that could be the case:

Thanissaro Bikkhu:

Samatha helps prevent the manifestations of aversion — such as nausea, dizziness, disorientation, and even total blanking out — that can occur when the mind is trapped against its will in the present moment.


Br,
AJM

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/14/15 10:35 PM as a reply to AJM99.
AJM99:

On another note. I have recently experienced some dizziness when I have been very concentrated in the present moment. I was wondering if that could be due to meditation this article would seem to confirm that could be the case:

Thanissaro Bikkhu:

Samatha helps prevent the manifestations of aversion — such as nausea, dizziness, disorientation, and even total blanking out — that can occur when the mind is trapped against its will in the present moment.

Say, AJM, did you misread that quotation? It states that "samatha helps PREVENT the manifestation of aversion — such as nausea, dizziness, disorientation..."

Any aversion displaying as nausea, dizziness, disorientation and so forth would more likely be the result of weak sati. The reason Thanissaro says samatha helps prevent such manifestations is because its practice in general helps to increase one's level of concentration and focus and thus mindfulness. As your sati become stronger, these episodes should fade and disappear altogether.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/15/15 5:22 AM as a reply to Ian And.
I guess it's up for interpratation. Even though I was "in the present moment" I was definitely not in Jhana. So I guess it depends how you define samatha. There was a degree of samatha for me to be in the present moment (quite strongly I might add), but not to a degree where I would be in deep states of samatha jhana. 

Might very well be unrelated too. Just something that cought my eye in the article. And it was only a couple of short episodes which has not continued so I'm not too worried.

Br, AJM

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/15/15 11:12 AM as a reply to AJM99.
Hello AJM,

AJM99:
I guess it's up for interpretation. Even though I was "in the present moment" I was definitely not in Jhana. So I guess it depends how you define samatha. . . .Might very well be unrelated too. Just something that caught my eye in the article.

Okay, yes, you may have a point. My only point was that skillfully done and with the benefits of the practice, meditation helps to alleviate such moments or reactions. That's all. And yes, in the beginning (first few or several months) of one's practice, such reactions may arise unbidden. But with practice and experience, they become more and more infrequent. Just as you mention from your own experience.

I neglected to comment on something else you mentioned in that post which I wanted to encourage you in.

AJM99:

I realized that what prevented me from attaining 1st Jhana was my craving for attaining 1st Jhana. It presented itself as mental talk and physical sensations a sort of "tightening around" this issue. When I realized that my mind dropped it like "hot coals" and I immediately entered Jhana. Now, I considered this to be "mindfulness" noticing this issue but it was actually a combination of "mindfulness" and "vipassana".

You are definitely on the right track with noticing these subtle aspects of your experience. Keep that up and you'll be a rockstar in meditation. You understand now how calm and insight go together and are to be used in tandem with each other. And, yes, the following quotation is exactly what I was talking about when you asked about transitioning to insight meditation from the fourth dhyana:

AJM99:

It seems the only difference if you could call it that from what I have been doing is the "line of questioning" used. Instead of just dealing with whatever comes up and is on the way of developing deeper calm using the mind purposefully to explore different topics.

You could think of that as contemplation or insight meditation, in which there is a concerted effort to gain insight about an object (or topic). Synonymous terms the way I use them. That is, using the calm atmosphere of mind that one develops through the use of samatha meditation in order to strengthen one's ability at concentration. A concentrated mind focused on a topic and unhindered by distraction can result in the arising of insight regarding "things as they are" which when internalized develops into panna or wisdom. Such insight can alleviate the arising of dukkha. Or at least greatly attenuate its arising. Keep up the good work. emoticon

In peace,
Ian

RE: Jhana without Bliss
Answer
11/17/15 8:02 PM as a reply to Ian And.
AJM99:
My question is can you give some practical examples of transitioning to insight meditation from the 4th jhana as per your last paragraph? I've tried to do that a couple of times, but sensations seemed so fleeting it was kind of hard to find anything to meditate on.


Ian And:

It is as simple as changing your mental focus from one object to another…

I would add here another aspect – that from 4th jhana (relative cessation of reactivity, i.e. lacking perception of pleasant / unpleasant), when emerging, it's possible to observe the mind 'starting-up again', to see more precisely how it operates, gravitates back to it's habits, how it 'fabricates'. As Than-Geof often notes, this can lead to finding deeper aspects to uproot, or reshape into more beneficial habits.

Also, a note that jhana (formal Vism. hard stages) itself is less crucial than a more general sense of samadhi. For instance, Mahasi Sayadaw carefully describes (in part I of the huge Treatise on Vipassana*) how vipassana samadhi (aka vipassana khanika samadhi in the s/w stronger sense as he uses it) is pragmatically equivalent to jhana samadhi for the purpose of pursuing the path. It's just a matter of whether the practitioner is more inclined to the samatha-vehicle or the vipassana-vehicle of practice.

This, I think, helps explain the MCTB approach, based more on the vipassana-vehicle, and where, following not Mahasi but rather Pandita and others, the term vipassana-jhana is used.

* A passage from Mahasi, quoted at lengthin RE: Jhana while Walking:
(http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/5760551#_19_message_5761746)

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 Appanāsamādhi [aka jhanic absorption].

Minor edits, 20151117 18:02