jhanas, EEGs and pain

This Good Self, modified 6 Years ago at 12/24/16 5:22 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 12/24/16 7:08 AM

jhanas, EEGs and pain

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
At 1:03:00 of this video-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BebdENGbj9U

Ajahn Brahm talks about a meditator who has such bad back pain that the only way he can get rid of it is to enter 4th jhana, and when he does he can make both EEG and ECG flatline.

Surely if you can enter even the first jhana you can release back pain in waking life. Chronic back pain is almost always a somatization phenomenon - ie. it's caused by mental clinging.   Also, the amount of natural painkillers released in jhana should remain in the system well long enough to prevent pain ever returning.

I fear Brahm is making up stories.  I have searched the internet for press releases of people who have flatlined in hospital whilst meditating in WA/Aus and I found nothing. 

Does anyone know anything about Brahm or the meditator to whom he refers?
Laurel Carrington, modified 6 Years ago at 12/24/16 10:44 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 12/24/16 10:44 PM

RE: jhanas, EEGs and pain

Posts: 440 Join Date: 4/7/14 Recent Posts
I just listened to that part of the talk. The example you cite is preceded by another example of flatlining, in this case Ajahn Chah, who was the legendary teacher of Jack Kornfield and so many other Americans who eventually returned to their home country and founded meditation centers in the West. I don't know a thing about the unnamed pain sufferer, but I don't think Ajahn Brahm is telling tall tales. These people are operating at a level of absorption that takes years to master. This is not much of an answer, I'm afraid, but it's all I've got.
Daniel M Ingram, modified 6 Years ago at 12/27/16 1:08 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 12/27/16 1:08 AM

RE: jhanas, EEGs and pain

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I don't mean to sound needlessly skeptical, but, as a physician, it is very hard to imagine the brain, which requires continuous glucose supplies to avoid very rapid damage, to survive very long with a flat ECG, which would essentially mean no cardiac electrical activity and thus motion. I get to see what happens when blood flow to the brain is interrupted for evey brief periods of time, and it is bad. How a meditative attainment could bypass the hard-wired physiology of the brain's need for glucose is utterly beyond me.

No heartbeat, no glucose.

No glucose and you get oxidative damage, deterioration of intracellular processes that maintain many delicate balances of sodium, potassium, and other key ingrediends of a working brain.

Disrupt those for even a few minutes, and brains swell, deteriorate and die.

Am I being a stuck-in-the-mud materialist?
This Good Self, modified 6 Years ago at 12/27/16 4:48 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 12/27/16 4:18 AM

RE: jhanas, EEGs and pain

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Thanks Laurel, Daniel. 

I get very angry at people who are supposed to be 'advanced' and it turns out there's glaring and inexplicable inconsistencies in their stories.  Big claims require big evidence and he doesn't provide any.  Doctors and nurses gathered at the back of the sangha?  Nah, I don't think so.  There was something else he said in one of his talks which was a huge 'clanger', and I can't remember it now, but it was enough to make me think "absolutely no way".

But aside from his Lazarus stories... 

According to what I've read, jhana should result in a massive and sudden release of dopamine and other pleasurable chemicals in the brain.  Logically, no one who can enter 4th jhana should live with daily pain, let alone strong, chronic pain.  Daniel, I'm sure you would corroborate this?  Outside of major structural deformation or life threatening disease, those skilled at jhana shouldn't feel much in the way of pain as a day to day experience.  They shouldn't get any of the 'aches and pains' the rest of us get.

When one reads about jhana, the range of descriptions is very disheartening.  Some people will say "that blip of nothing that you didn't notice?  yeh that was first jhana".  And others (like Brahm) will describe first jhana as a rapture/ectasy/bliss beyond anything the senses can even approximate.  Really bothers me.

Why not just start and find out for myself?  I will one day.  Can't yet.  But the thought of devoting years to something and finding out I was lied to would hurt too much. 

Banned For waht?, modified 6 Years ago at 12/27/16 5:30 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 12/27/16 5:26 AM

RE: jhanas, EEGs and pain

Posts: 500 Join Date: 7/14/13 Recent Posts
you are needlessly sceptical. Maybe!

Pranayama, emptiness meditation, your heart switches to CO in blood instead of oxigen for a while, painful darknight suffering period.
CO energy extracted by light. Insight or wisdom earned. Rinse and repeat.

It can't be proved i think. It is many (light?)years hybrid state where you are still normal, but little bit otherwordly. Hence hybrid.
Laurel Carrington, modified 6 Years ago at 12/27/16 6:39 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 12/27/16 6:39 PM

RE: jhanas, EEGs and pain

Posts: 440 Join Date: 4/7/14 Recent Posts
I listened to the entire talk a few days ago and have a few questions, or observations, mainly about Ajahn Brahm's approach to jhana. First, he agrees with Pa Auk Sayadaw's approach in going for hard jhanas, which take years, or many months of retreat time, to develop. Access concentration according to this model is something major, with a clear, powerful nimitta. The description of 4th jhana in Brahms' case (not nec. true for Pa Auk) sounds more like what I've heard people describe as Nirodha in these circles. Also unlike Pa Auk Sayadaw, Brahm leaves out any reference to jhanas 5-8. 

Then there's the fact that Daniel and others claim that jhanas become more accessible following path attainments. Ajahn Brahm thinks people must get through all four of these super-hard jhanas before insight can even be attempted. Anyway, I don't know what to say about people flatlining and yet waking up good as new, whether it's an exaggeration or a complete fiction, or whether someone like Ajahn Chah might have done it. All kinds of amazing things were attributed to Dipa Ma, who was reputed to have powerful concentration (as in strong and powers-y). So maybe it's possible.