Defining Hard Jhana

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Noah, modified 5 Years ago.

Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
I would like to posit a way to define 'hard' jhana, which is partially purely ludicrous, but also perhaps the best way I have thought of personally.  In the United States supreme court case 'Jacobellis vs Ohio', judge Potter Stewart famously declared that although he could not clearly define hardcore pornography, he will definitely know it when he sees it.  I realize that in the rare times when I have fallen into a state of super absorption, there has been no doubt in my mind about whether or not this is what people are talking about when they refer to 'hard jhana.'

So, as unreliable as this is, I would say that I can't define hard jhana, but I know it when I'm in it :p

Thoughts?  
MangaDesuYo, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 69 Join Date: 9/23/13 Recent Posts
It's considered hard when you take a bright visual nimitta as object of meditation (giving in to it)
Without a doubt, when this happens you will know that this is not the same soft like jhanas people talk about...

There is also another level of jhana where the bliss in the body get's so strong, your mind naturally slips and shifts to it, and then that bliss spreads through your whole body rapidly, it's like you have a blanket on you, and you feel you get super glued or absorbed in it, you are like bathing in bliss while floating in the sky, this last for a couple of seconds, maybe more if possible, but usually it just stops by itself slowly... they are quite similar, but it's still different when taking a visual nimitta as an object.
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Noah, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Word, those both sound like valid categorizations.

Do you know what I mean, though?  Have you ever had that intuitive confidence within or after a given sit about what had just happened?
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tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
hi MDY,
I object your honours!
the jhanic experiences you mention (nimitta and bodily bliss) are features of jhanic absorption i know well but these are not indicators of "hard jhana" IMO.

according to lots of commentary and my (rare) experience, what we are redefining as hard jhana, and what some traditions declare simply as jhana, has the following features.  one is unaware of the "outside world" meaning that loud noises, bright lights, shaking of the body will not be noticed, or if noticed, will not be able to break the concentration.  another factor that some traditions use as a measure is how long one can remain in jhana. some talk of hours, some of days.

i had previously posted here (somewhere) something to the effect that nimitta was not an aspect of my jhanic experience.  i will correct that now and say that i have previously misinterpreted a particular swirling, misty, 'entrancing' inner visual experience as NOT being nimitta.  now, acknowleging this, i can say that nimitta is definitely a factor in my absorption.

it is very simple to take this as the object of meditation as it is enticing and attractive and when combined with the presence of bliss is very easy to hang with.

usually though, it is very easy for me to do vipassana from here and i do not lose outer awareness and so I don't consider this 'hard' jhana for myself.
MangaDesuYo, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 69 Join Date: 9/23/13 Recent Posts
tom moylan:
hi MDY,
I object your honours!
the jhanic experiences you mention (nimitta and bodily bliss) are features of jhanic absorption i know well but these are not indicators of "hard jhana" IMO.

according to lots of commentary and my (rare) experience, what we are redefining as hard jhana, and what some traditions declare simply as jhana, has the following features.  one is unaware of the "outside world" meaning that loud noises, bright lights, shaking of the body will not be noticed, or if noticed, will not be able to break the concentration.  another factor that some traditions use as a measure is how long one can remain in jhana. some talk of hours, some of days.

i had previously posted here (somewhere) something to the effect that nimitta was not an aspect of my jhanic experience.  i will correct that now and say that i have previously misinterpreted a particular swirling, misty, 'entrancing' inner visual experience as NOT being nimitta.  now, acknowleging this, i can say that nimitta is definitely a factor in my absorption.

it is very simple to take this as the object of meditation as it is enticing and attractive and when combined with the presence of bliss is very easy to hang with.

usually though, it is very easy for me to do vipassana from here and i do not lose outer awareness and so I don't consider this 'hard' jhana for myself.

I never mentioned in my post if I am still aware of external stuff or not.
and frankly most of the time it's useless describing with words  what one experienced, everyone understand it in his mind his own ways, if it's from experience or wishful thinking.
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Noah, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

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Thanks Pawel,

I agree with the drug idea.  I am quite sure that many of my drug experiences have involved being in jhanas, so it is not just a comparison, but at times synonymous.  

Also- in terms of jhana in general, the heaviness and the after effects are either there, or not there, and this helps me form the sense of certainty of knowing it when I'm in it.  
Stuie Charles Law, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 94 Join Date: 3/19/15 Recent Posts
Total and complete exclusion from all.  Experienced once, never doubted.  Rest is just bullshit by wannabes.  Sorry!!!
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tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

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i admit to being a wannabe.  i do still want.  i don't have your absolute conviction about this.  i would really love to hear your support for this iron clad conviction instead of a provocative assertion. 
not sorry, interested.

tom
Stuie Charles Law, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 94 Join Date: 3/19/15 Recent Posts
First off.... to all on this thread, please forgive my aggresive attitude.  Hard times..... and i've allowed my problems to bleed thro and affect my manners. 

Tom,  Our host, Daniel M. Ingram puts it best but i can't find/remember where.  But it sort of goes that we some of us, will experience advanced states or stages way beyond our currant level of practice, things we are unable to repeat or reproduce.  My exerience was rock hard jhana.......... Most of my practice log seems to have vanished, and also my discription of this experience.  I'm in the process of dying.  End stage chronic heart disease and one of the irritating sides for me is a poor memory.  To much booze and drugs as a kid.  Not even gunna try to explain that most beatuiful of secure feelings eminating from within.  I'm now experiencing vipassana jhana and the more i manipulate them, the deeper their getting.  Attachment to this state, for me is extremly strong and if i'm to get back to that level of absorption and i expect to by way of natural progression of a 6 plus years sitting practice, then i expect it could be a potentual distraction.  So Tom, it's not a matter of guess work or speculation.  It's a return to the security of jhana as promised by the Buddha. Once tasted........never forgotten, yes?
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tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

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howdy stuie,
thanks for that...all of it.  got it.  i just read daniel's post above but have not yet followed the link.  i have had retreat experiences which seem to be where that link, and some of your experiences are pointing.  not as manipulated / intentional as daniel seems to be going with that but super concentrated to a point where outside experience is at least 'forgotten' if not 'shut out'.

more importantly though, i think it is admirable that your practice continues in the face of your difficulties.  i really wish you success, attainment and peace and hope that i will have your fortitude in the face of all that will come my way.

tom
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Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
I've often used the terms "soft" and "hard" as:
soft:
imaginative and/or piti / emotionally intensive states;
hard: distinctive absorption and stillness of mental reactive activity, e.g. to sensory stimuli,

Now (with this thread) these terms are up in the air for me, perhaps not adequately defined to be used with any assurance of what might be communicated. Working towards a morphology of jhana experiences has been a project tugging at my mind, but leaning  more towards descriptive categorizing what others teach and experience (i.e. their descriptions). For instance: Brasington jhana, Vimalmaramsi jhana, Bodhipaska jhana, PaAuk Sayadaw jhana -- these, for starters, seem to be characterizable. Perhaps after that an attempt at more analytical morphology.

Reactions along those lines to this thread:

re: Noah (12/2/15 12:53 AM)
"… when I have fallen into a state of super absorption, there has been no doubt in my mind … this is what people are talking about when they refer to 'hard jhana.'"
This seems a relevant, fairly common quality, especially contrasted with some forms (that I've called "soft") that seem to appear with not so clear boundaries of entry and distinctive state.

MangaDesuYo(12/2/15 2:11 AM as a reply to Noah)
1) "…when you take a bright visual nimitta as object of meditation (giving in to it)"
Sounds more like access- or neighborhood concentration (Upacāra-samādhi), though the "giving in to it" may indicate an absorption.

2) "…where the bliss in the body get's so strong, your mind naturally slips and shifts to it…this last for a couple of seconds, maybe more if possible, but usually it just stops by itself slowly…"
Sounds more like piti-rapture, which can be overwhelming – sort-of briefly absorbing – but less so when, as here noted, relatively brief and uncontrolled.


tom moylan
(12/2/15 3:12 AM as a reply to MangaDesuYo)
"…one is unaware of the "outside world" meaning that loud noises, bright lights, shaking of the body will not be noticed, or if noticed, will not be able to break the concentration…"
This resembles what I'd previously called "hard", i.e. firmly absorbed, non-reactive to stimuli.

"… a particular swirling, misty, 'entrancing' inner visual experience … i can say that nimitta is definitely a factor in my absorption."
And this seems to correspond one of the classical descriptions (e.g. Visudhimagga), where the bright light is mentioned among other forms of nimitta; and resembles ("definitely a factor") the notion that the nimitta is what actually absorbs the mind.

"… it is very easy for me to do vipassana from here and i do not lose outer awareness and so I don't consider this 'hard' jhana for myself…"
This sounds like the Upacāra-samādhi stage of concentration, at least this quality of being agateway to either absorption concentration (Appanā-samādhi) or to momentary concentration (khaṇika-samādhi) or its stronger form Vipassanā-khaṇika-samādhi,  as in Mahasi's writings and as related to me by Ven. U. Jagara (when I asked him to help me understand 'vipassana-jhana').


Paweł K
(12/2/15 3:35 AM as a reply to Noah)
1) " I believe jhana is hard when it feels like being high on drugs…"
That rings a bell, at least in terms of, say, LSD, which, with sufficient dosage, certainly inescabably captures the mind, and has the qualities of duration and prolonged after-effects that Paweł K describes.

2) "…prolonged near-orgasm sexual stimulation which by all means is kinda like jhana too…"
At least in the piti-based forms (e.g. Brasington/Khema).

3) "… being totally absorbed not really knowing of outside world or anything at all except object (might be quite complex but immersed very deeply as a whole) goes without saying for any jhana really but maybe with hard its more extreme"
Seems to refer to full absorption, as in some descriptions of jhana; but here "hard" appears a separate category.

4) "I do not think those 'Samatha Jhanas' which are 'absorbtion states' are really Jhanas as taught by Buddha…"
That's the Brasington (from Bucknell & Stuart-Fox & Griffiths) argument for "sutta-jhana"? A bit fuzzy this issue, as Brasington has emphatically denied absorption as a necessary quality (once in person to a question of mine, and again later in email communication), but he does use the term at times and informally in his new book, and his teacher Ayya Khema has clearly stated that any jhana has absorption.


Daniel M. Ingram
12/6/15 2:34 AM as a reply to Noah
"… visualizing 3D dragons and have total control over every aspect of what they do and look like: that is very hard jhana. Body gone, no distractions, perfect visualizations that are the whole of experience, ultra-stable concentration, total control of the experience…"
This is beyond my ken, and seems closer to what I've read of (and a couple of times experienced) that's called hypnogogic vision, or maybe also lucid dreaming (those definitions being a bit fluid). The "total control" aspect I haven't encountered so clearly. Maybe lack of depth of development. So this definition of "hard" is new; will look for some other term for my former usage.


Stuie Charles Law
(12/6/15 7:34 AM as a reply to tom moylan)
1) "I'm in the process of dying. "
Very interesting. Shades of a Samual Johnson (I think it was) quotation: "Nothing concentrates aman's mind like knowing that he will be hanged in two days." Not meant at all flippantly. The Buddha was quite clear about daily reflection on mortality to put an edge of urgency on one's practice.

2) "… now experiencing vipassana jhana and the more i manipulate them, the deeper their getting…"
Sounds like Mahasi's Vipassanā-khaṇika-samādhi, being controllable in the sense of firmly maintained. He writes: "khaṇikasamādhi which
is accompanied with Udayabbaya-ñāṇa
[rising and falling insight] and Bhaṅga-ñāṇa [dissolution insight] having become keener has the strength just like Appanā-samādhi [aka Jhāna-samādhi]." (bold emphasis added)

Thanks all for this thread.
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tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
wow!
there is so much to comment upon here so like all journeys i'll start at your beginning.
your soft / hard working definintions:

   soft: imaginative and/or piti / emotionally intensive states;
   hard: distinctive absorption and stillness of mental reactive activity, e.g. to sensory stimuli,

..definitely NOT the framework i use when thinking about these things. 

to me the piti is a stepping stone into jhana.   it is a signal and an invitation.  it is the place where  one's unruly mind is invited to settle.  it is the place which marks where the hindrances have subsided and that one's mind first begins to settle down and this has energetic and a pleasant bodily aspects to it.  as for emotionally intensive states, i'll have to think about that one but my feel is that emotion plays little role here.  by emotion i understand more complex mental activity than pleasant, unpleasant, neutral.

for the the !hardness! of the jhana i would prefer the word "depth". since each jhana is defined reductively by certain specific qualities which fall away (piti etc.) one can be more or less absorbed in each one and can experience each distinct jhana in different ways.

as to vipassana jhanas, my take is that this is just another way of categorizing jhanas to match them up with the vipassana stages.  this (my take) became clear to me on retreat when i noticed that my experience of the progression through the nanas and the various percptual shifts i experienced matched much more closely with the vipassana jhanas than with the standard 16 step ladder we all know so well.
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Chris J Macie, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
tom moylan:
there is so much to comment upon here so like all journeys i'll start at your beginning. your soft / hard working definintions:...


How fascinating -- the range of "soft/hard" definition turns out to be s/w a tower of Babel. Then again, perhaps the terminology thing is less interesting than people's experiences and viewpoints, which appear far more complex.

A couple of reponses:

"soft: imaginative and/or piti / emotionally intensive states;"
"Emotionally intensive" might not be the best wording, as it may conjure things like "afflictive emotions". Piti, though, is considered sankhara, a complex fabrication, as also are what we call emotions. I don't knowa Pali term for 'emotion'; perhaps in the neighborhood of somanassa ('glad-mindedness') and domanassa ('sad-mindedness') – mental sukha and dukkha.)

Piti is clearly considered the initial stepping-stone into jhana by many in modernist methods. From my training and experience, I find sukkha more the launching point. (Sukkha is considered a pure vedana (feelingtone) – pleasant / unpleasant / neither.) Developing access concentration as settling into the peacefulness of temporally supressed hindrances. "Settling" is good for sukkha; piti in my experience is more energetic. Upon absorption, the tranquility of the cessation of active mental effort, the relief, is foremost in my case. Piti s/t floats in&out on it's own, or can be conjured-up, but doesn't seem as rewarding to pursue – unless a pressing issue is resolving some physical disturbance using the phyiological refreshment piti can generate. This, I assume is a product of training methods and/or personal temperment.

"Depth" is good. I would add"strength", or "solidity" -- unshakablility, impertubability. Come to think of it, this continuum "soft-hard" is an "earth" elemental quality (Maha-dhatu); maybe that has something to do with the Visudhimagga's beginning-off describing concentration development with the Earth Kasina.

"Vipassana jhanas" make sense only in my understanding of Mahasi's explanation, as intensity of momentary concentration (khanika) accompanying or resulting from nyana stages, i.e. A&P. 'Vipassana jhana' seems a s/w unfortunate term, which Mahasi himself doesn't use, as he clearly differentiates samatha-samadhi (jhana) from vipassana-khanika-samadhi, the former fixed, absorbed, and the latter changing, directed. He does emphasize that both have equivalent potential intensity of concentration necessary for decisive breakthrough – liberation, or (Than-Geoff's term) release.
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tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
howdy chris.
i thinks its pretty well establiched doctrinarily that piti is a more gross experience than sukkha.  both are a part of the overall experience of jhana until 3rd where piti is abandoned and the subtler sukkha is focused upon. 

so, while sukkha is your "launching point" perhaps it is simply your ability, due to practice or inclination, to recognize the more subtle qualities of that.  can you call up piti, or bodily bliss, quickly and easily?  if so, then would you say that when you sit you are pretty quickly able to be in the 3rd jhana?

re: your soft/hard terminology musing...i'm not certain but i think that the 'earth' in 'earth kasina' is referring to the color rather than the substantial qualities..but I'm old and increasingly forgetful.

the vipassana jhanas are given good, and IMO, accurate coverage in MCTB.  my own general take is that all attempts to tease apart shamatha and vipassana as different qualities of the mind serve an intellectual purpose and perhaps a practical, if only an intellectual one.

the more i practice, the deeper down the rabbit hole i go, the more it is obvious that the aspects of the same citta (shamatha / vipassana) are absolutely dependent upon each other.  the difference is only one of focus and attention.  the categories we assign to them serves us when we are trying to match our inner experiences with language and with maps. 

the MCTB treatment of the vipassana jhanas was really helpful to me when i was frustrated at the dissonance between my meditative experience and the 16 stage map of insight.  overlying the VJs on my experience, though, revealed certain shifts corresponding to the borders of that map.  thus my current understanding of them.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Defining Hard Jhana

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Interested in some descriptions of very hard jhana? Look here.

The part where I am visualizing 3D dragons and have total control over every aspect of what they do and look like: that is very hard jhana. Body gone, no distractions, perfect visualizations that are the whole of experience, ultra-stable concentration, total control of the experience. That's the stuff. The others on the retreat report some similarly hard states and visuals. Look at the descriptions of the molten gold.

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