The rarity of 1st Jhana

Gary Bennett, modified 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 12:45 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 12:45 PM

The rarity of 1st Jhana

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Hello Everyone,

New to the board and have only done 15 months of meditiation proper. I have learned a lot over the last year or so, reading hardly anything but Buddhism books and attending a local Triratna Centre. I meditate about 30 minutes a day and have attended two weekend retreats, so very much a beginner. I believe I have achived 1st/2nd Jhana at least a couple of times.

One thing that is confusing me, that an experienced person can probably answer quite easily is the rarity of Jhana. It has only been discussed in Dharma talks (though I am on a foundation course) a couple of times, and the other people I talk to there (apart from Order Members) don't very often know what I am talking about. Excluding Daniels "Mushroom Factor", is Jhana quite difficult for lay practitioners to achive? Am I freak/talanted (or deluding myself)? It feels like only a few percent of people are having the same experience as me.

Thanks,

Gary.
Robert, modified 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 1:18 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 1:18 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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"Look at me!"?
neko, modified 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 3:18 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 3:18 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana (Answer)

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There are different standards for jhana. "Soft / sutta" jhana is easy. "Hard / Visuddhimagga" jhana, much more difficult.
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Psi, modified 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 3:34 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 3:34 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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Robert:
"Look at me!"?
"Yes, we see you Robert, now what?"  

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Psi
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Noah, modified 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 5:12 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 5:12 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana (Answer)

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@OP:

My teacher Richard always insists that they are naturally occuring states, i.e. 2nd jhana being experienced by those who do extreme sports.  
Gary Bennett, modified 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 5:50 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 5:50 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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Robert:
"Look at me!"?
Not what I intended, I intended to explain, I can see how it could read like that.
Gary Bennett, modified 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 5:53 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 5:53 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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neko:
There are different standards for jhana. "Soft / sutta" jhana is easy. "Hard / Visuddhimagga" jhana, much more difficult.
Pretty sure it will be Sutta Jhana then. Thanks I will look into that. What is confusing is if it is easy why isn't everyone at my Centre talking about it?
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Psi, modified 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 7:49 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/26/16 7:49 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana (Answer)

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Gary Bennett:
Hello Everyone,
 It feels like only a few percent of people are having the same experience as me.

Thanks,

Gary.
I am not saying this is accurate, but this can be found in the Vissudhimagga.  

However, the Visuddhimagga states in section XII.8 that of those who undertake the meditation path, only one in 1,000,000 (at best) can reach absorption 1

http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm#1



8. It is not possible for a meditator to begin to accomplish transformation by supernormal powers unless he has previously completed his development by controlling his mind in these fourteen ways. Now, the kasina preliminary work is difficult for a beginner and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. The arousing of the sign is difficult for one who has done the preliminary work and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. To extend the sign when it has arisen and to reach absorption is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. To tame one’s mind in the fourteen ways after reaching absorption is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. The transformation by supernormal power after training one’s mind in the fourteen ways is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it. Rapid response after attaining transformation is difficult and only one in a hundred or a thousand can do it.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf

Actual page number 371 of book, page number 429 of PDF.  Calculated as 100 times 100 times 100 equals 1,000,000.  or by 1,000's would be 1 in a billion...

When I had first read this years ago, I had thought jhana a lost cause, and later the book just an exaggeration, or mistranslation, or just a book.

But, then again, how many people really put it all on the table?  Really get into the meditation practices, day after day?  1 in a hundred, a thousand, a million?

Anyway, All just FYI stuff, for discussion purposes

Psi
neko, modified 6 Years ago at 3/27/16 8:47 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/27/16 8:47 AM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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Gary Bennett:


Pretty sure it will be Sutta Jhana then. Thanks I will look into that. What is confusing is if it is easy why isn't everyone at my Centre talking about it?

I don't know your meditation centre. Why are you asking us, have you tried asking them?
Gary Bennett, modified 6 Years ago at 3/27/16 8:59 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/27/16 8:59 AM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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neko:
Gary Bennett:


Pretty sure it will be Sutta Jhana then. Thanks I will look into that. What is confusing is if it is easy why isn't everyone at my Centre talking about it?

I don't know your meditation centre. Why are you asking us, have you tried asking them?
I have asked people individually and many don't know what I am talking about. I need to get some time with an Order Member to find out more. I thought some of you guys might have an overview having been to many places.
Gary Bennett, modified 6 Years ago at 3/27/16 9:32 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/27/16 9:32 AM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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Hi Psi,

Thanks for the references. An interesting discussion point, one in a million or billion. My understanding is that the Buddha had many thousands of followers, and in one Sutta he praised their acomplishments (sorry I can't find it at the moment, somewhere in the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha), so presumably many, if not most, of them could attain 1st Jhana.

Playing with the numbers, say Gautama had 3,000 followers and only 1 in a million people can attain to Jhana then he would have to draw those people from a population of 3 Billion. Now the world population at that time is estimated at 100 Million. Of course this could be explained by being taught by the Buddha himself being rather an advantage.

Not trying to upset or challange really, just interesting to play around with the numbers.
Jinxed P, modified 6 Years ago at 3/27/16 12:12 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/27/16 12:12 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana (Answer)

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Gary,

There is no easy answer to this because jhana is not well-defined. I've seen people define jhana from very 'soft'  by lay practitioners (i.e a joyous feeling), or as mentioned earlier, that some sport practictioners access it..to very 'hard',being able to sit in complete absorption for 24 hours straight at a minimum(B. Alan Wallace), or as Ajahn Brahm says -- that when one is in jhana you are so focused that someone could pick you up and drop you and you would never know it.

I find the best way to make sense of it, is to separate the sutta jhanas from the commentary jhanas. Leigh Brasington has a good website on this.
neko, modified 6 Years ago at 3/28/16 4:15 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/28/16 4:15 AM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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Gary Bennett:
I have asked people individually and many don't know what I am talking about.

Sounds mushroom-y to me.

Whatever the case, do ask "older members", but I would advise tact and skillfull communication, so as not to hurt anyone's feelings or sensibilities.
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CJMacie, modified 6 Years ago at 3/28/16 5:56 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/28/16 5:47 AM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana (Answer)

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re: Noah (3/26/16 5:12 PM as a reply to Gary Bennett)
"
My teacher Richard always insists that they are naturally occuring states, i.e. 2nd jhana being experienced by those who do extreme sports."
Not the context of Theravada Buddhism – the concentration in sports, music, surgery, etc. is khanika samadhi, not jhana samadhi. The teacher might be using the term in some other context. The terms "dhyana" (Sanskrit) / "jhana" (Pali) do have broader meanings in general, as simply Indian-style "meditation", but even that can not be confused with kind of attention / concentration in sports, martial arts, or skills like surgery, safe-cracking, sniper-shooting, etc...

re: Psi (3/26/16 7:49 PM as a reply to Gary Bennett)
"…
However, the Visuddhimagga states in section XII.8 that of those who undertake the meditation path, only one in 1,000,000 (at best) can reach absorption 1…"
The Visudhimagga correlates, organizes a large body of texts – suttas, abhidhamma, commentaries, etc. The use of numerology – often astronomically large numbers as a way of emphasizing magnitude – is endemic to a number of traditions of the time (roughly 1st millennium BCE through 1st millennium CE), including Chinese as well as Indian; it's a cultural feature of the times. Numerical schemes like that are written into the sutta-s as well. Taking them in a literal sense betrays tacit modernist cultural bias.

It's quite popular in modernist circles to pick out and harp on such passages, especially the Visudhimagga, lacking in-depth understanding of either the text as a whole or its cultural context. And popular for current teachers with dubious credentials to high-light these oddities to promote their own, modernist "insights" into "what the Buddha really taught". E.g. Vimalaramsi and Leigh Brasington – both claiming true "sutta jhana" and disparaging the Visudhimagga.

re: Jinxed P(3/27/16 12:12 PM as a reply to Gary Bennett)
"I've seen people define jhana from very 'soft'  by lay practitioners (i.e a joyous feeling), or as mentioned earlier, that some sport practictioners access it..to very 'hard',being able to sit in complete absorption for 24 hours straight at a minimum(B. Alan Wallace), or as Ajahn Brahm says -- that when one is in jhana you are so focused that someone could pick you up and drop you and you would never know it."
To harp also on extreme forms of 'hard jhana' is another form of biased exaggeration. Yes, Ajahn Brahm or PaAuk Sayadaw speak of very deep states, but that's not basic to the definition of that form of jhana in general. And it's really not as difficult as portrayed to train basic traditional jhana, which doesn't have to go to the extreme . When B. Alan Wallace states "24 hour straight at a minumum", what's the context? Again, likely some characterization of extreme attainment; if stated as requirement for 'hard', or traditionally taught jhana (theVisudhimagga used, s/w inaccurately, as definitive of which), then he's simply wrong. (Much more likely his statements are being taken out-of-context.)

There are plenty of competent teachers, both monastics and lay, who teach 'hard' jhana successfully, to numerous people of a wide range of temperments and capabilities* – without having to so blatantly advertise it. In the cases of those who peddle something supposedly "easier" as well as decisively more "authentic", take a closer look at their self-interests in such promotion.

* There are several other threads here in DhO that have mentioned several of these teachers, books, retreat centers, etc.
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Psi, modified 6 Years ago at 3/28/16 8:23 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/28/16 8:20 AM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana (Answer)

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Chris J Macie:

re: Psi (3/26/16 7:49 PM as a reply to Gary Bennett)
"…
However, the Visuddhimagga states in section XII.8 that of those who undertake the meditation path, only one in 1,000,000 (at best) can reach absorption 1…"
The Visudhimagga correlates, organizes a large body of texts – suttas, abhidhamma, commentaries, etc. The use of numerology – often astronomically large numbers as a way of emphasizing magnitude – is endemic to a number of traditions of the time (roughly 1st millennium BCE through 1st millennium CE), including Chinese as well as Indian; it's a cultural feature of the times. Numerical schemes like that are written into the sutta-s as well. Taking them in a literal sense betrays tacit modernist cultural bias.

It's quite popular in modernist circles to pick out and harp on such passages, especially the Visudhimagga, lacking in-depth understanding of either the text as a whole or its cultural context. And popular for current teachers with dubious credentials to high-light these oddities to promote their own, modernist "insights" into "what the Buddha really taught". E.g. Vimalaramsi and Leigh Brasington – both claiming true "sutta jhana" and disparaging the Visudhimagga.
Well, there are things that I may not have learned if it were not for the Visudhimagga.  So, speaking for myself, I am very grateful that all of these books have been preserved and passed along, and translated in to Engish,made available, and have survived the barbarism, ignorances, and the delusional madness of crowds. 

But, they way I interpreted the passage was not literally, but more in a "take the practice seriously type of way". "You will not succeed by giving up" And that it shows how people fall off of the path and give up at various stages.  I read it more as not that one in a thousand can surpass a certain stage, but more like, one in a thousand will train enough to surpass a certain stage.  And all this is to be read without vanity or sense of spiritual bragging, just looking at what actually happens and is actually reported.

But, I agree on the taking of things too literal, one always has to try and read it from the time and culture of said writings.  This is similar to the use of the word myriad.  Is myraid actually 10,000 or just defined as a great number?

But, back to the one in a thousand, that is probaly an accurate type of thought, not statistically, but how many people in modern society even get to a stage in their life where they actually find an object of meditation?  Much less actually go so far as to make their own kasina?  Probably more like one in a million, nowadays....

I remember spendong month after month trying to call up a nimitta, books said one would magically appear, then some books and teachers said a white light would appear, and some said a pinpoint like a star, some said the nimitta will be like soft cotton, or foggish. I also tried visualizing a gemstone, or a mandala , or anything... candle flame (but I thought I might get on fire), lol, but I did have that thought...strange synchronicity.   I used to strain and wish, and "look".

Now, I see nimitta as a sign, not as a visual sign, but an internal sensation tactile type of sign, a shift to notice, an openness, a boundarylessness, (is that even a word, lol) , hindrance free

This article really helped me, and is still good reading.

http://www.arrowriver.ca/dhamma/nimitta.html


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Psi
Eva Nie, modified 6 Years ago at 3/29/16 6:22 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 3/29/16 6:22 PM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana (Answer)

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Gary Bennett:


One thing that is confusing me, that an experienced person can probably answer quite easily is the rarity of Jhana. It has only been discussed in Dharma talks (though I am on a foundation course) a couple of times, and the other people I talk to there (apart from Order Members) don't very often know what I am talking about. Excluding Daniels "Mushroom Factor", is Jhana quite difficult for lay practitioners to achive? Am I freak/talanted (or deluding myself)? It feels like only a few percent of people are having the same experience as me.

Thanks,

Gary.
Could be that many expect or are accustomed to experiencing various weird things in meditation but are not trained to categorize them or consider them very important.  As far as I can tell, jhana is a word that describes various somewhat distinct and stronger than usual types of moods.  Controversy exists over how hard/strong they have to be to count officially as 'jhana' but as far as I can tell, they are still a form of mood that pulls attention to greater or lesser degree.  (at least the ones that are not having your mind fly out into other dimensions and whatnot)  I have experienced jhana but did not know until I came here that there was a fancy word for  it or a listed order of how the moods are expected to follow.  If you had asked me about 'jhana' in the past, I would have not been able to respond at all without a good .  But I don't see how they are anything but moods.  Sure, some of the moods feel really really good as if one is on some kind of happy drug, but it's still a mood.  I wonder if many would keep meditating for years if they did not experience some of the better feeling jhana.  Who would keep at it if you just felt bored the entire time for years!   
Gary Bennett, modified 6 Years ago at 4/3/16 3:36 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 4/3/16 3:36 AM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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Thanks to everyone for their great answers. all were interesting and useful, including Roberts, "Look at me?".

Eva, your answer strikes a chord. There are lots of different kinds of people at the centre, I fall into the "too intellectual", group where we have conversations which bore the pants off some of the others. Jhana is also called absorption by some, and as you say probably mood or feeling by others. Perhaps others are just getting on with it rather than talking about it.
Stuie Law, modified 6 Years ago at 4/3/16 6:42 AM
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RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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May i ask what your practice is?  How many hours per day and what kind, vipassana or concentration.  Do you you differ in your on and off cushion practice?  Past practices?  Whats your "ace in the hole" that thing of your practice that you are real good at? 
Banned For waht?, modified 6 Years ago at 4/3/16 11:32 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 4/3/16 11:32 AM

RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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You can test out if you can get into a state where you don't feel pain then you have jhana. If you come out of jhana and feel pain then you still have fetters, so no high level enlightenment.
Banned For waht?, modified 6 Years ago at 4/3/16 11:55 AM
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RE: The rarity of 1st Jhana

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12x12=144
144x144=20736
20736x20736=429981696

also take into account that some people can calculate numbers faster than other people using calculator and larger numbers than calculators have number places.

we are pretty low level, a perception shifts are easy to come and so our false notion that these are compareable with the capabilities and qualities with people who are normal and can memorize entire books or entire history of what he/she have ever seen.

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