Am I in jhanas?

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Daniel Johnson, modified 11 Years ago.

Am I in jhanas?

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
I always thought I was doing "dry insight" because I've never hit anything like a hard jhana for sure, or anything that even remotely occurs to me as an absorption in anyway. Although hearing all the talk about jhana on this board, now I'm starting to question and wondering what are these jhana things anyway?

One thing that was weird is that in MCTB, Daniel I. mentions that if you are seeing 3d intelligent beings who are interacting with you, then you're in the 4th jhana by definition. I've definitely had lucid dreams which were super clear, vivid, and alive in which very full looking beings interacted with me with an intelligence all their own. They've said things that totally caught me off guard and are not at all what I would expect dream characters to do. Most recently, I was in a lucid dream and I can't remember all the details, but I wanted something from this dream character, and I said to him:
"What does it matter, you're just a character in my dream!"
And, he responded to me with "You're just a character in mine!" woah! that was freaky!

I never would've considered this anything as weird as a 4th jhana though. I just thought it was lucid dreaming.

I've experienced bliss and equanimity and stuff like that, but never thought of it as jhana. So, my working hypothesis is that I've never been in jhana.

I don't know a whole lot about them. At Goenka courses, I've been told that they are a very very high attainment and not to be expected until very late in the game. I read Ajahn Brahm and he describes them like hard hard hard. I don't really know what to make of it all. I've read MCTB, but I still don't quite get are there some diagnostics to know if one has been in jhana?

Part of the reason I'm asking is because I thought I was in early A&P for a few months before coming here and figuring out that I had actually been in Equanimity all that time. So, my diagnostics seem to be generally rather skewed.

I figure it's no big deal anyway, since at some point, jhana is bound to come. It's not really my goal or anything, but seems like it's inevitable territory on the path.
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Am I in jhanas?

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Daniel Johnson:
I always thought I was doing "dry insight" because I've never hit anything like a hard jhana for sure, or anything that even remotely occurs to me as an absorption in anyway. Although hearing all the talk about jhana on this board, now I'm starting to question and wondering what are these jhana things anyway?

That's a common question and confusion among people (myself included at one time) who have never come across someone who can adequately explain what absorption is. I learned about it from first hand experience and from other people's descriptions. It has taken several years for me to sort out and gain a clear enough idea about what it is to feel confident enough to talk about it. But even so, it can remain a somewhat elusive experience to describe to someone else using only words and the Internet. That's not to say that having an in-person conversation with someone might not yield the same result (i.e. a vague idea about what absorption is), but it would certainly help the person explaining to clarify any points that the listener was unclear about.

Daniel Johnson:
I never would've considered this anything as weird as a 4th jhana though. I just thought it was lucid dreaming.

While it may have been an accurate way to describe the absorption state and jhana, you are correct to think that it did nothing to help clarify its definition for you with regard to a practice in meditation. Best to keep such descriptions in the lucid dreaming category for now and don't worry about it.

Daniel Johnson:
I've experienced bliss and equanimity and stuff like that, but never thought of it as jhana. So, my working hypothesis is that I've never been in jhana.

Maybe. And then again, maybe not.

Daniel Johnson:
I don't know a whole lot about them. At Goenka courses, I've been told that they are a very very high attainment and not to be expected until very late in the game. I read Ajahn Brahm and he describes them like hard hard hard. I don't really know what to make of it all. I've read MCTB, but I still don't quite get are there some diagnostics to know if one has been in jhana?

Yes. Goenka and Brahm can be quite discouraging to listen to, can't they. The truth is: It is not really as difficult as they make it out to be. People go into absorption all the time, they just don't know it. The key seems to be being able to get enough of a valid idea about what it is and what it isn't and then applying that knowledge to the observation of your own meditative experience such that you are able to make that determination for yourself. Once you know what it "feels" like, it's pretty easy to recognize when you are "in" it.

Ajahn Brahm is stuck on his overly critical idea about describing what jhana is like that he doesn't even stop to consider that other people might also have experienced what he's talking about while also having experienced something less than the criteria he mentions, which is also within the realm of absorption. It has taken me some time to figure out the differences here in intensity in the way that some people describe it, but having discussed this with several others who agree among themselves with the way it can be described, Ajahn Brahm is on the far right (ultra-conservative) side of the equation, while the rest of us settle pretty much in the middle with what is described in the discourses as opposed to what may be found in commentarial literature such as the Visuddhimagga which also can tend to be ultra-conservative in viewpoint.

I'm not sure what Goenka's problem is. Maybe he just doesn't want to commit himself to any kind of definition at all, just to be on the safe side. But that, to me, is a cop out. If you know what it is, you should be able to describe it in terms that others can either agree or disagree with. Absorption is only difficult in that it takes a high degree of concentration (relatively speaking, that is) in order to even shoot for them. But once the correct degree of concentration (samadhi) is reached, it can be relatively easy to proceed from there.

One thing that will help to become clear about is that there is a difference between samadhi and jhana or absorption. Samadhi has traditionally been translated as "concentration." Jhana has traditionally been translated as "absorption." So, the question remains: What is the difference between concentration and absorption? Basically, very little, except when these terms are being used to describe Buddhist meditation wherein the degrees of absorption concentration are taken into consideration. Absorption refers to the mind's becoming unified (some have described it as "fixed" or appana samadhi) on an object or subject such that the attention is fully on this object or subject despite what may be on the periphery of one's focus of attention.

For the mind to become absorbed in an object or subject, it first must become concentrated. This is called samadhi. Once the mind is concentrated, there are eight (or nine) levels of absorption (jhana) described as the four material jhanas and the four (sometimes five) immaterial jhanas. The term jhana here is being used to describe a level of absorption concentration. Either way, absorption is a qualitatively different experience from ordinary samadhi. And it should be easily recognized as being such by any experienced meditator. Samadhi being concentration itself and jhana or absorption being the deepening of that concentration into a stronger unification of the mind on the object (such as the breath, in the case of anapanasati meditation).

Even my description above can sound tricky and elusive. Like: What is this "deepening" of concentration all about? All I can say is that you will know it once you experience it. It is a different qualitative experience.

If you would like to read more about this, I prepared a thread in another forum entitled The General, All Purpose Jhana Thread. In it you will find a kind of primer that I put together for jhana beginners to learn from. But before clicking on that link, you will have to go to the forum below and log in first as it is a private forum at the moment.

When you get there you will need to use the following log-in instructions to enter the forum. Once you are logged in, if you copy the link above into your clip board and paste it into the browser destination bar once you are in the forum and click on it, it will take you directly to the thread. Otherwise, you can click on the "Theravadan Talk" forum and look for the thread in the sticky posts at the top of the forum:

Third Jewel Forum:
http://thirdjewel.myfreeforum.org
Login name: thirdwheel
Password: thirdwheel

They ask that you not post anything while using this log-in to check things out. When you are ready to join, there is a "Join (free!)" link at the top of the forum index page in the link above.

Enjoy.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Am I in jhanas?

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Alright, the dream thing is its own thing, and perhaps I should have specified.

To say dreams are jhana is not really keeping with the standard usage of the term, and the A&P dream thing is its own thing and should probably stay thought of as an A&P thing (2nd vipassana jhana thing).

I have had lots of dreams that were very lucid but had nothing to do with the 4th jhana so far as I can tell, but if you do it sitting on the cushion, and they are 3D, clear, luminous, etc, that's it.

Daniel

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