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Kamalashila's Map Guillermo Z 4/18/08 10:04 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/19/08 3:36 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 4/19/08 4:19 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Guillermo Z 4/19/08 10:45 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/20/08 5:32 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/20/08 5:40 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Guillermo Z 4/20/08 6:31 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Nathan I S 4/21/08 4:42 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/21/08 5:38 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Vincent Horn 4/21/08 8:56 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Vincent Horn 4/21/08 8:57 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 4/21/08 9:32 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Vincent Horn 4/21/08 10:11 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/21/08 10:50 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 4/21/08 10:58 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 4/21/08 11:19 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Nathan I S 4/21/08 11:32 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/21/08 12:02 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/23/08 7:50 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Vincent Horn 4/23/08 11:38 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 4/24/08 8:27 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 4/24/08 8:40 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Zyndo Zyhion 6/6/13 8:44 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/24/08 11:44 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 4/24/08 11:55 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 4/25/08 12:15 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 4/25/08 10:24 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Guillermo Z 4/25/08 9:58 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/26/08 4:05 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Nathan I S 4/26/08 4:40 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 4/26/08 5:08 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/26/08 5:18 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/26/08 6:05 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 4/26/08 7:07 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 4/26/08 8:34 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Martin Mai 5/1/08 12:14 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Nathan I S 5/1/08 3:55 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Martin Mai 5/21/08 10:47 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 6/13/08 9:19 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 6/13/08 9:53 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Vincent Horn 6/13/08 10:11 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Martin Mai 6/14/08 3:36 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Vincent Horn 6/14/08 4:22 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 6/14/08 7:21 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 6/14/08 7:24 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Martin Mai 6/14/08 9:08 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Nathan I S 6/14/08 4:44 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Martin Mai 6/15/08 1:58 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Vincent Horn 6/15/08 3:05 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 6/16/08 7:59 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 6/16/08 10:40 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Wet Paint 6/16/08 11:08 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Noah Rossetter 5/20/09 6:01 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Noah Rossetter 5/20/09 6:03 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 5/21/09 1:25 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 5/21/09 1:33 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 5/21/09 2:02 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Noah Rossetter 5/21/09 2:28 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Kenneth Folk 5/21/09 5:38 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 5/21/09 5:40 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 5/21/09 7:56 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 5/22/09 1:33 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 5/22/09 8:09 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Mike L 5/23/09 5:36 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Kenneth Folk 5/23/09 6:55 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 5/24/09 12:56 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map triple think 5/24/09 2:15 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Noah Rossetter 5/24/09 3:50 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Noah Rossetter 5/24/09 3:51 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map triple think 5/24/09 6:28 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Kenneth Folk 5/25/09 10:03 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 6/9/09 10:35 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Trent S. H. 6/10/09 2:06 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map tarin greco 6/10/09 2:16 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Trent S. H. 6/10/09 2:22 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 6/12/09 6:03 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Trent S. H. 6/12/09 7:08 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map tarin greco 6/12/09 7:19 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Hokai Sobol 6/12/09 7:27 AM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Noah Rossetter 6/12/09 3:52 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Daniel M. Ingram 6/12/09 7:33 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map tarin greco 6/12/09 8:22 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 6/12/09 8:26 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map tarin greco 6/12/09 9:14 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 6/12/09 10:16 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map tarin greco 6/12/09 10:52 PM
RE: Kamalashila's Map Emory Smith 6/13/09 2:06 AM
Kamalashila's Map
Answer
4/18/08 10:04 PM
Forum: The Samatha Jhanas

Hi,

I recently read Allan Wallace's Book "The Attention Revolution", which is based in Kamalashila's "Stages of Meditation". Wallace describes the concentration practice in 10 stages until the meditator reaches "Shamatha".

My questions is very simple: How this "10 stages model" correlates with the widespread classical "8 Samatha Jhanas" model. I am pretty sure that they talk about the same content, but I do not clearly see how the are correlated.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
Answer
4/19/08 3:36 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Hi, mautelino.

The 10 stages discussed in "Attention Revolution" are stages that precede and lead to dhyana. However, the criteria set forth in them are considerably stricter in relation to those found in most "samatha jhana" models made popular today, but nonetheless quite in accordance with most authoritative sources in Theravada. There are quite a few references to those sources in the book itself.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
Answer
4/19/08 4:19 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Tracy.

According to Mr. Wallace, Shamatha = First Samatha Jhana. There are 10 stages preceding Shamatha because the minimum requirement is 4 hours of unwavering mental awareness. Wallace talked about this in an interview on Buddhist Geeks: http://www.fallingfruit.tv/episodes/unwavering-samadhi-meditative-achievement-and-its-impact-world

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/19/08 10:45 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Thanks for the reply. I do agree with Hokai: as I read the book, I got the impression that Wallace puts pretty high standards in order to reach those states (his perspective is that the advanced stages are really hard to reach). On the other hand, In Dan's book I got the impression that those states are reachable without the need to dedicates one entires life to meditation. Any thoughts on this point?

RE: Kamalashila's Map
Answer
4/20/08 5:32 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
It seems quite clear that different traditions - whether textual transmission, or living lineage - apply the criteria with different degrees of strictness. Namely, does one have to sustain a certain state of concentration for a straight hour, or three hours, or five hours; and the same goes for other criteria, such as physical and mental pliancy (skt. prashrabdhi) and resetting the energy-flow, and spontaneously achieving the four immesurables (skt. apramana/brahmavihara), supranormal abilities etc. In short, the difference rests in the degree of purity of dhyanic factors, and the degree of perfection or mastery required to be accepted as "attainment". This difference has a broader meaning, it seems evident, that the stricter model developed in Indian Yogacara is designed to warrant attainment through more detailed steps even for those whose inclination is not towards such practice, since in that model actual shamatha is requisite, not optional, for the practice of vipashyana. Therefore, it was felt a more thorough approach is necessary to ensure this progression through stages of cultivation (skt. bhavanakrama, also the title of Kamalashila's masterwork).

To make things less arcane, I would illustrate this with different criteria of establishing literacy - that is, being able to read and write hardly makes one a litteratus. The same goes for establishing whether a person is "educated". Since it's deeply contextual, we have different gauges.

Then, this opens the whole subject of talent, both interest and proclivity. Individual practitioners will naturally be prepared to devote varying amounts of time and energy to different aspects of training. However, if one's aim is awakening, then one should question pragmatically "how much proficiency in shamatha is required to pursue effective vipashyana".

RE: Kamalashila's Map
Answer
4/20/08 5:40 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
As an addition: there are, generally, two legitimate ways of thinking about practice, based on whether the relative vehicle (rupakaya) is given a balanced treatment with the ultimate realisation (dharmakaya). And also, at what point should one ideally awaken, i.e. what does "well-prepared" really mean. How much character modification, how much motivational purification, how much shamatha, and how much study is necessary to ensure a thorough and stable wisdom of awakening, as well as a functional human being capable of jolting, and leading others safely to fulfill their deepest potential. I believe this is the main background context for this and other differences in emphasis, whether in strictness or otherwise. But perhaps it's more useful to get back to more pragmatic distinctions.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/20/08 6:31 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Well put Hokai! I really appreciate that you put the things in perspective (the example shows your point clearly). I completely overlooked the possibility that in general, such differences might be possible as in any other field of knowledge.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 4:42 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
"According to Mr. Wallace, Shamatha = First Samatha Jhana. There are 10 stages preceding Shamatha because the minimum requirement is 4 hours of unwavering mental awareness."

Maybe I am misreading Wallace, but the "4 hours" thing strikes me as ridiculous and doesn't speak to experience. Maybe someone of poor concentrative ability needs four hours of directed and sustained thought before they can enter jhana, but does someone with an ability or proclivity to enter jhana need four hours of the same? It's simply not the case. You enter it, let it lapse, briefly reflect, re-enter and leave willfully, and repeat the process in order to "master" the jhana. If you need four hours to do so once that'd be eight hours of sitting non-stop. That's a lot of butt-rot.

"'ow much proficiency in shamatha is required to pursue effective vipashyana'."

Obviously that is an important question that has yet to be answered after millennia.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 5:38 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
The three and four hours criterion does not refer to the time needed to enter, but instead the period one is able to maintain flawless concentration even before actually mastering shamatha. Technically, 3-hours of efortless samadhi is required at the 8th stage called single-pointed attention, and 4-hours at the 9th stage called attentional balance. As mentioned, these are quite obviously different gauges for shamatha mastery, and evidently define a different standard altogether. And these are only quantitative expressions of a fundamentally qualitative gauge. The enduring stability of gradually developing dhyanic factors in pre-dhyana cultivation is strongly emphasized.

This is similar to the difference in understanding mindfulness (skt. smrti, p. satti) as either "attending continuously to a familiar object, without forgetfulness or distraction" (Yogacara - Kamalashila - Wallace) or "moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness of whatever arises" (more common in Vipassana), the crucial point being that the first definition allows for remembering and anticipating, essential in shamatha training, and not only.

In short, we are talking of the same terms "shamatha" and "mindfulness" with a different - though cognate - notion in both theory and practice. To delineate this difference in yet another way, think about how insight and wisdom are related, same yet different. There's nothing wrong with 30 minutes of shamatha, but can it be sustained for hours in retreat context? There are cycles in the structure of this process - developing access to relative ground state / substrate consciousness - that only become evident in such time. On the other hand, one may approach insight practice with just enough samadhi to notice impermanence. Will that lead to profound insight and awakening? So yes, again, how much proficiency in shamatha is required to pursue effective vipashyana? A useful question to be put in context.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 8:56 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Yes, echoing Hokai's points, Wallace is describing a much deeper jhanic state, then the "soft access" so common in Daniel's work and other teachers methods of jhana. It doesn't mean they aren't both jhana, but they are definitely pointing to differing levels of depth. Wallace's points are in complete accord with much of the Theravada literature (see the section on concentration in the Vishuddimagga or see Pa'Auk Sayadaw's--a Theravada monk who teaches the same depth of jhana at his retreat center in Burma--"Knowing and Seeing." As far as I can tell this is a very long-standing tradition, of teaching very deep jhana (where it can be effortlessly maintained for hours and hours at a time) as a prerequisite for vipassana. I interviewed Wallace on this very topic recently, and he had some great things to say about these different approaches: http://www.fallingfruit.tv/episodes/unwavering-samadhi-meditative-achievement-and-its-impact-world

It's definitely not butt-rot, just a different approach to shamatha/vipassana. emoticon

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 8:57 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Oh and technically the attainment of shamatha, in his model, is not the 1st jhana, it's access concentration. A small point, but one I figured I'd mention.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 9:32 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Tracy.

In that interview I posted above, Wallace says: "In the Tibetan tradition, . . . when we speak of 'achieving shamatha,' this does specifically mean achieving access to the first jhana."

So it's not so clear to me that Wallace equivocates shamatha with access concentration. I assumed that when he said "access to the first jhana," he meant "the preliminary attainment of the first jhana." Although now that I think about it, he could have meant that shamatha is a stage that comes before the first jhana, such that when one masters it, one gains access to the first jhana. In that case, "access to the first jhana" could mean "access concentration." I don't know, I'm not an expert.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 10:11 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Yep access to the 1st jhana is "access concentration". If you listen to the interview I posted a link to above, he differentiates between access concentration and the 1st jhana itself. He also writes in "The Attention Revolution", "The initial achievement of shamatha is described as *preliminary* or as *access* to the full realization of the first meditation stabilization (dhyana)."

It's really not that big of a difference, and one I haven't clearly differentiated in my own experience, but it seems pretty clear there is at least some distinction there.

Best,

-Vince

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 10:50 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
This isn't just slippery semantic. Access to 1st dhyana is what is says - it's beyond pre-dhyanic samadhi, but not as yet mastery of 1st dhyana. Clear difference is made between access to 1st stabilization and achieving the actual state of 1st stabilization. It's similar to meaning with path and fruit in stages of awakening, but in this case it's a matter of familiarization which takes time. That is, it takes time for (initial) dhyana to transform you from within, and once you're at home with dhyanic factors, soaked thoroughly and almost permanently with its calm, then it becomes more deeply imperturbed. It's as if the disturbances become so weak, that you need intention to emerge from it. Even in normal consciousness, as soon as you relax or turn your mind from explicit activity, this (now mature) stabilization manifests naturally and spontaneously - that is achievement of full shamatha (with dhyana). We could say that one's whole felt-identity shifts from coarse to subtle (technically, from kama-vacara to rupa-vacara). The same proces is repeated, albeit less dramatically, through further sublimation towards more "formless" states.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 10:58 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Tracy.

Hmm, again I don't see a clear distinction. That interview is the same one I've been quoting. When you say he draws the distinction between "access to the first jhana" and "first jhana" do you mean the point where he says that the access point is 4 hours and the full first jhana lasts 24 hours? He actually uses identical language to describe both states - "unwavering samadhi," pure non-conceptual mental awareness that is uninterrupted by sense perceptions. The only difference he mentions is that one state lasts for 4 hours and the other for 24. It seems to me that he's talking about the same state being achieved for different amounts of time. If there's also a difference in the quality of samadhi or the subjective experience of access vs. full realization, it's not described here. If you achieve shamatha, is that an experience of simply staying with your meditation object for 4 hours? Is the experience of staying with your meditation object for 24 hours in a row somehow different? Or is the full first jhana something other than staying with the object?

Wallace declines to go into all the details of these states in the interview because that would be "a whole dharma talk." So it seems like his book might be a more reliable source text than this interview. Not that it's a bad interview, Vince ;).

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 11:19 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Tracy.

Oh, OK.
So you're saying that the difference between access to 1st dhyana and mastery of 1st dhyana is more of a soaking-through than a shift of consciousness, correct? I ask because in Dan Ingram's description of access concentration vs. 1st jhana, it comes across as more of a shift in consciousness. In Ingram's model (it seems) the state of access concentration (staying with the object for longer periods) is achieved, and then something altogether different can potentially happen, and this altogether different thing is the 1st jhana.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 11:32 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Tracy/Vince--well, I obviously don't understand Wallace well enough to comment on him directly, but this is clearly slippery and it's not going to stop me! As has been pointed out by others, the terms "access concentration" and "momentary concentration" come from the commentaries, not the canon, which only has the jhanas--and eight of them, rather than the five material and four formless jhanas as outlined by some. So clearly, there is ancient debate on this subject. For what it's worth, in my experience access arises, then a soft, shaky first jhana which, in the right conditions, can intensify into a hard first jhana, possibly very quickly, or stay as a soft state which can sometimes lead to higher states if I am not following the rules. If concentration overwhelms mindfulness it's possible to slip into higher jhanas, but i've had that happen while "just" focusing on mindfulness of the breath and body as well so it clearly is a conditional thing.

Hokai, is your suggestion that acheiving jhana/dhyana has a lasting effect on the mind and identity? I am calmer than I used to be, and have less interest in worldly pursuits ("rapture born of seclusion"), but this seems so secondary and, as you've said, subtle, it's hard to see. I am reminded of descriptions of Buddha's teachers, who could keep the hindrances at bay for weeks because of their samadhi.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/21/08 12:02 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Tracy and nathan - Yes, there's a more profound shift taking place with what is here (in Kamalashila's map) understood as mastery of jhana/dhyana. There is indeed an appropriation (not mere espousing/access). If I may draw an analogy, since it seems to work better, it's like the difference between being fluent in a language ("access"), and actually thinking tacitly in that language. Or, more somatically, it's like the difference between being wet on the outside in one case, or soaked from the inside in the other.

One's mind functions (and, from a 3rd person perspective, one's neurological functions) are to a considerable event reordered. The relative knowledge, 1st hand insight in its own right, of mind's functions becomes thorough, so much so as to even be sufficient to provoke spontaneous insight into its ultimate nature in more gifted practitioners. The model speaks of reaching and maintaining the relative ground state (bhavanga), or in other contexts the substrate consciousness (slightly different meaning). In any case, it's not just a matter of degree, but of mode - one provisional and tentative, the other acquired. In short, a passing state (whether a spontaneous event or a trained skill) becomes a permanent stage of competence, a second nature so to speak, becoming innate. The main symptom is the residual spontaneity of dhyanic factors (hence, acquired).

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/23/08 7:50 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
A point worth mentioning in this thread is that 9 stages in Kamalashila's model are extremely well defined - even with idiosyncracies of each practitioner working through the steps - and exquisite in their applicability to the practice on the cushion, especially in longer retreat settings. One can literally observe these stages as they unfold, and take time to ascertain each one of them, and then move on until reaching the limits of one's capacity to sustain actual, unwavering attention.

The second point refers to "interludes" found in Wallace's book "The Attention Revolution", dealing with supplementary methods spread through the chapters, in order: four immeasurables (loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity), tonglen ("giving and taking"), lucid dreaming and dream yoga. These methods are given to help one further stabilize and anchor the specific degree of meditative capacity, paralleling the deepening of the self-sense experienced as result of shamatha training.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/23/08 11:38 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
This is a really interesting conversation. Thanks especially to Hokai for clarifying some of this stuff. I'd love to go do a longer retreat with Wallace and go deeper into the experience of this stuff. :-D

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/24/08 8:27 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
My take is this, which has elements of some of the above and a bit that is new:
Each state (jhana) may be soft or hard, momentary or more samatha-esque. There is nothing magical about some period of time: these are quite arbitrary and dogmatic. It takes stronger concentration to get into really hard jhana, and the depths of how hard jhana can be go until that is basically all that one can perceive going on and it happens naturally.
As to the time thing: people who are at stream entry and above will feel a natural cycling pull towards higher jhanas all day long and in practice that make staying for some long period in a low jhana seem completely unnatural. However, unless their concentration is more samatha-developed, these will be soft jhanas, though these cycles end in Fruition just the same and start again, often many times a day.
One should consider these things in terms of shades of gray along various axes: stability of the jhana is one axis, more samatha-esque vs. vipassana-esque (seemingly solid vs. more vibratory/momentary) is another axis, the depth of the jhana is another axis, the time spent in that state with those qualities another axis. Moving on one axis does not imply moving on others. I have been in rock-solid, very pure and clean jhana for just a few minutes and weak jhana for hours: in the end from my point of view, the key is to attain to the untangling of the knot of perception, and this can be done on way less hard-core samatha jhana than Dr. Wallace advocates, though being a hard-core dharma fan, I do appreciate in very general terms his love of very high standards.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/24/08 8:40 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
More stuff:
I was on a retreat where I was playing with the samatha jhanas. I was an anagami at the time and my concentration after about 10 days of practice was very strong. I would stare at a candle flame and close my eyes and a red dot would arise, solidly, quietly, with very clear, clean, effort-sustained concentration. This is clearly the first jhana. Within a minute or two it would break appart, shudder, pulse, and then a spinning gold star with other green and blue rings aound it would arise on its own with more rapturous, effortless, clean, strong concentration, and this is the second jhana. Within a few minutes this would expand out to wide, complex shifting patterns with a dark center, with very broad, sustained, clear, open concentration, and this was the third jhana. Soon thereafter this would all go 3D and some luminous, clear, living image made of rainbow-lines of light, such as Buddha, Vajrasattava, Black Hole, other living thing or abstract image would arise, clear, intelligent seeming, transparent, with exquisite detail and flawless, effortless, natural concentration, and then then a Fruiton would arise through one of the Three Doors shortly thereafter. That I could whip through this cycle in maybe 10-20 minutes doesn't diminish what each state was from my point of view.

I got stream entry on way less concentration than this. I had no visuzlization abilities, couldn't have done anything even close to this, and yet my moment-to-moment concentration was very strong and clearly sufficient. My concentration at that point was miles below Wallace's standards, and yet somehow it was more than sufficient for what I was looking for. Thus, I think that, while it is always fun to have a high bar just to see if one can do it, one must ask what is the value of that bar if the core goal can be achieved on far less. I can attain to Nirodha Samapatti but have never yet sat in a jhana for 24 hours. There is a flaw in his model regards timing.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
Answer
4/24/08 11:44 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
The model offered is probably exagerated in several criteria, but I'm not sure that time is one of them if the task of the model is to set a quasi-universal standard, outside of which individual talent is decisive (perhaps too much at times). There will always be people who aspire to some goal but have to yet develop the requisite abilities, while other people will come into the game with those abilities developed. I wouldn't take his time frames as minimum, but instead as those within which shamatha could be achieved and mastered regularly, by most if not everyone who wanted.

And yes, you're right on other points. Insight via "untangling of the knot of perception" remains our core business, even if there are different types of training, some involving more and some less emphasis on tradition, ethics, lifestyle, devotion, shamatha and study. The multi-axis thinking about this stuff is crucial, and the 2D models have been killing the crucial nuances since the time of the Buddha.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/24/08 11:55 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Yverc

If a person does not experience hypnagogic imagery, he does not experience jhanas?

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/25/08 12:15 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Yverc

I asked a yogi about the above description. He told me it was a simple hypnotic practise to rise a light trance. Did he misunderstand what Daniel meant?

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/25/08 10:24 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
No. The jhanas may take many objects, but some aspects of them are more clear with visual images, some aspects more clear with mantras, some aspects more clear with the breath, some aspects more clear with the jhanas themselves as object, some aspects more clear with space as object, some aspects more clear with love/compassion/etc. as object, etc. In short, the basic qualities of jhana are in some ways influenced by the object, but they are more fundamental. Thus, one who knows how can be in various jhanas with all manner of various objects, though there are some specifics about which objects are conducive to certain higher jhanas, all of which is spelled out in the standard references.

I wouldn't use the terms hypnotic or light trance to describe those experiences: they were very strong, complete, hard, stable jhana, though there are certainly others that are more profound, such as the formless realms, but those were not my object during that set of exercises. The key is that the experience lead to what you want, not what different people happen to term that state. There are no external merit badges of any worth that you get for attaining to what someone calls whatever. The experiences themselves are either beneficial or not, create the effect or insight you are looking for or not, etc.

The point of this language is so that people can communicate, evaluate the methods to attain these things and their results, so as to aid practice. So long as whatever theory or map works in terms of getting you what you are looking for, the rest is merely skillful means. For those here: what are you looking for? What is your practical interest in jhana? Are you doing or going to do jhana practice at the level we are discussing? The rest is all just talk.

RE: Kamalashila's Map
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4/25/08 9:58 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
My interest in the this tread was to gather information on how deep should I go in the shamatha practice in order to perform better in my vipassana practice. My conclusion is: you do not need to train your self as an Olympic athlete if your objective is to have a healthier life! One hour jogging per day will be enough.

Obviously the intensity and depth of the shamatha depends on your particular objective.

As a beginner I am trying to get an idea of the map as a preparation to crossing the territory. Obviously there is always the danger of becoming a "map professor" and getting stuck in the theory without doing any practice at all (a common beginner's pitfall that I have lived in my own flesh many times... and not only in Buddhism).

I find Dan's question very important, since we need to put all this valuable information about the maps in a practical context. That why I decided to start a new tread: “What is your practical interest in jhana?”

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4/26/08 4:05 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
From all the comments in this thread, it may be as follows: at each of stages in shamatha practice - from distracted attention through access concentration and through various dhyana and samapatti - there's a minimum competence sufficient to enter and abide at a certain level; then there's also mastery of concentration at any of those levels, having to do with strength and stability and duration. These two, as has been suggested are two primary axis or gauges in shamatha. Furthermore, there is the dual mode of shamatha vs. vipashyana (pali: samatha, vipassana), or samadhi and prajna, or calm vs. insight, which complement each other but in most practice one of these prevails as the momentary mode of training awareness. However, even in the pure vipashyana mode, states of concentration will naturally arise of their own accord (these we know, via Theravada terminology, as "vipassana-jhana"), which have generic marks of various shamatha states and stages, though retaining discursive capacity by definition. This is the third axis. Finally, there are spontaneous, or peak-experience, events of profound concetration which are best understood as states, while trained capacities are better understood as stages, wherein one is able to enter sequential states at will, whether in "soft" or "hard" way, and in any of two modes. With these basic distinctions we may turn to purely practical concerns.

Thanks to Mautelino for starting the new thread. Further notes will be added to the "Samatha Jhanas" page.

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4/26/08 4:40 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Hokai, to clarify, you are suggesting that the axes or gauges of concentration are:

1. The ability to enter a state or level
2. The depth, strength, and duration of that level
3. The relationship to vipassana
4. "Peak" or one-time experiences of concentration

The first two are specifically stage-like in their relationship to states, #3 is stage-like but involves states less directly, and #4 refers specifically to states as one-off type events. At the moment, I can't recall the specifics, but I believe the commentary describes three levels of mastery though they amount to something like "can do it" "can do it better" "is great at doing it".

So, returning to Hokai's map, for example, someone could have the ability to enter the third jhana, have mastery over the first few stages of Wallace's map, a lesser mastery over the first jhana, sometimes encounter the higher fine material jhanas during sessions of vipassana, and occasionally chance into formless states or the psychic powers unintentionally, e.g., during the arising & passing away.

Is my understanding accurate?

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4/26/08 5:08 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I would split your 2. criteria into its individual parts, with the depth, strength and duration all being separate axes.

It is also worth incorporating the ñana or insight stage model here to address 4. Peak experiences, as plenty of people are temporarily concentration monsters in the stage of the A&P, aka 4th ñana, aka second vipassana jhana, but it tends to fade quickly to Dissolution, which technically is the third vipassana jhana, but generally feels like anything but, and is, in general for most people who have crossed into it, nothing like the third samatha jhana done well, which is a wholly different and more clean, clear, cooly blissful, stable, wide experience, and yet also doesn't initially feel very vibratory and tends to contain a very poorly developed appreciation of the Three Characteristics, so simply detailing its vipassana quality misses some organic parts of the standard pattern.

As to entering the third jhana, which in this case I assume means samatha jhana, the classic jhanas do build in a sequential fashion, though as you mention, people can sometimes jump up far above their level of reproducible mastery for brief periods and get a taste of what might be possible and sustainable with training and when in the right place in the cycles of insight, as you mention in what can happen in the A&P for brief periods. As the pattern through which development goes looks so different if one is doing more pure samatha than if one is training from the start in seeing the Three Characteristics, these must be part of a map discussion, as you mention.

Further, as Hokai rightly points out, one can get into samatha aspects from vipassana (classic traps of bliss and peace that await the unwary vipassana practitioner), and many a samatha practitioner has crossed into insight territory by accident just by paying attention (which is how I accidentally got into all this in the first place).

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4/26/08 5:18 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Hi, nathan. I did my best to briefly reiterate the discussion and Daniel's recent comments to it, and tried to integrate the whole thing in several points. Yes, I believe your assessment in the example given is accurate. However, #1 is definitely less stage-like than #2, since the ability to move along that axis may be innate to some degree, and also some may have more ability in the formless domain without being at-home in subtle forms of the four dhyana/jhana levels. Then at #3, the relationship to vipassana - as you put it - may be antagonistic, complementary, or inclusive (not very practical, but including all Buddhist tastes). And #4 is really simple, from purely spontaneous to exo- and endogenous induced states to trained meditative states, whether enstatic or ecstatic.

Of course, we may need to rethink the order of those gauges at some point, and e.g. put the "peak" states first, since they are quasi-universal human experiences, and have wisdom (i.e. freedom from obsesssion with experience) as the last and culminating gauge.

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4/26/08 6:05 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Daniel, your suggestion to break the three criteria into their own gauges is tempting, but since 3D models are sufficiently complex to require effort in precise consideration for most people, I concur with having a sub-scheme for #2, namely mastery at each level, measured (i) by depth, (ii) strength, and (iii) duration, but generally to refer to these as degree of competence or mastery.

I mean, as much as occassional and brief "peak" episodes of dhyana-like and even samapatti-like states are quite natural - and much more widespread than recognized or admitted in our culture - so highly advanced competence and mastery in trained and sustained states is extremely rare - and much more so than admitted.

And Daniel, thanks for the input and expertise.:-)

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4/26/08 7:07 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Thanks for your thoughts.

One more point:

Samatha/concentration states are very circumstance dependent, varying by the amount they have recently been used, though one may settle to a baseline of competence generated by previous practice that one always seems to have access to even when not practicing much.

I know that, for myself, my visualization abilities, which I rarely use, having not come up in a more visually based tradition, slip quickly if I don't practice them, but return relatively rapidly if I spend some number of hours or days working on them. Other abilities, such as the ability to rise up into the formless realms, which I have practiced a lot, are more natural, though when I practice them more or give them more attention they are more impressive then I when I haven't.

When I am working hard at a stressful job 60+ hours/wk, my concentration abilities are generally relatively low in comparison to how they have been on some retreats, though my baseline is still pretty good. They strengthen considerably given even a few days off, though for reasons I can't explain sometimes are strong regardless.

Thus, even the notion of stable mastery is also something that must be thought of in terms of shades of gray and on a scale, with the various aspects being:
1) What one can get into reproducibly right now without preparation on a bad day, with all the above criteria of duration, depth, which jhana, etc. being applicable.
2) What one can get into reproducibly given time to warm up, i.e. in daily life with more practice or on retreat.
3) What one has been able to do in the past but can't do now for whatever reason, e.g. it being a peak experience, or secondary to a loss of function, e.g. after a stroke, with the onset of dementia, etc. Were all getting older...

These represent a dynamic situation that should also be included in our assessment of someone's practice, most importantly our own.

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4/26/08 8:34 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Excellent points! Too carry this on a bit, while the domain of ultimate realization (prajna/jnana > dharmakaya) tends to be more permanent, especially with higher paths and fruitions, the domain of relative vehicle (rupakaya) including both external-oriented competencies such as language, and internal-oriented ones such as concentration states, tends to be as you say "very circumstance dependent". I couldn't agree more. Indeed, each capacity retains features of its subject matter. Talking of subject-object interdependence!

When we look into these developmental lines, they also show an unmistakable stage-unfolding (stages cannot be skipped, unlike states) wherein a once acquired stage tends to be easily re-enacted, though its specific strength will depend on many conditions, whether exterior (such as environment) and interior (such as subtle body energetics), and especially sensitive to directly preceeding conditions, i.e. the absence or presence of a homogenous momentum, as you make clear. Thus, mastery is definitely not a static notion in itself, being extremely organic (indeed, almost organismic in its multilateral responsiveness), even when an acquired skill needs relatively little warming-up and re-membering to be applied in full efficacy, so to speak.

The gradation of "three baselines" you offer is very, very useful, and a great antidote to inhumane ideals offered by inflexible models of gradual achievement that pretend to work only upwards and onwards.

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5/1/08 12:14 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
My practical interest in samatha is only to get my attention faster during vipassana. I always thought that concentration means staying with one object and so I tried to stay with my awareness at the "rising-sitting-falling-touching"-level during vipassana. Lately I find myself noting many objects during every phase of the above mentioned level which allowed me to discover very fine and fast interference-patterns. From a certain point of view I think I´m not maintaining proper samatha which should be tied to one object but from another perspective I feel my consentration being more open and quick, somehow having a broader spectrum of reality as it´s object. I might be wrong but I think this is progress in both, vipassana and samatha and it is very interesting how they support each other.
Question: Is samatha-practice developing samatha faster than vipassana? I don´t get the point because both are about being close to objects, only that samatha solidifies while vipassana is about moment-to-moment-awareness. I think if you can stay with fast vibrations reall closely you´re doing quite the same as in samatha.

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5/1/08 3:55 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
In the canon, you have many exortations to "practice jhana", but in the commentaries you have concentration divided into absorbtion and momentary concentration, both requiring access, which if i'm not mistaken is also absent from the canon. The Vimuttimagga compares access concentration to a fortress, where someone doing what today we'd term as vipassana can retreat to rest if the going gets tough, then head back into battle. I suspect that this is what many teachers mean by "samatha" when saying "samatha-vipassana". The commentaries refer to access as "neighborhood" concentration because it is in the neighborhood of jhana.

Obviously, there is more to it than that... in my experience, pure absorbtion concentration can improve vipassana (i.e., momentary concentration), and pure investigation can improve concentration, though it is quite possible for one to overwhelm the other--strong concentration can rise while I'm doing vipassana and be difficult to exit, and strong mindfulness can make it difficult for me to concentrate on one object rather than all the individual parts of that object.

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5/21/08 10:47 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I have been focusing more on samatha recently and as my Concentration improved I, too, found my vipassana being much faster and precise than ever. The improvement really surprised me a lot because I used to do only vipassana, thinking that concentration will develop accordingly but now I have experienced that concentration develops much faster and easier doing samatha-practice which in return improves my vipassana more than just doing vipassana. This really changed my approach.
Thank you for bringing up this topic which led me to realize this point!

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6/13/08 9:19 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

I used to be very impressed by Alan Wallace; I literally bought all of his books, but what put me off was his admission in 'Balancing the Mind' (published in 2005, p. 218ff):

"udging by the great treatises, there seem to be very few who achieve even quiescence ."

"The achievement of genuine quiescence today among Tibetan Buddhism contemplatives living in exile is not unkwown, but it is exceptionall rare."

"Although I learned of hundreds of Tibetan men and women devoting their lives to full-time contemplative practice those who have accomplised quiescence seem to be very rate at best."

"Although training in quiescence is encouraged in a minority of [Tibetan and Theravada Buddhist] centers [in Europe and North America], for the most part it receives little or no emphasis; and

I HAVE YET TO HEAR OF A SINGLE WESTERN BUDDHIST WHO HAS ACCOMPLISHED QUIESCENCE as it was presented here."

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6/13/08 9:53 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Dear Abe,

Did you read the long list of critiques of his models and standards above?

The point is that his models are exceedingly high, and the many problems with this are mentioned.

The practical point is that there are criteria that are far more practical around, far more doable, and that lead to great things that are very worth attaining.

In terms of your own practice, you would, from the two posts of yours I have read recently, see to have a keen eye for the problems, paradoxes, logical inconsistencies, but I don't see anything in your posts about practice, retreats, personal accomplishments, when you are going to go on retreat next, what you are trying to accomplish, questions relating to your own attempts to master these practices, etc.

Thoughts?

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6/13/08 10:11 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I think Alan is holding up some extremely high standards here, one's that are attainable, but which essentially require a full-time commitment to attain. The same is true of Pa'auk Sayadaw and many other teachers who emphasize extremely stable hard jhana states (as Daniel mentions above). While there are problems with having such high standards for those that aren't full-time practitioners, which most of us aren't, I think it's a great model especially given his interest in developing a "contemplative science". Why wouldn't, if we were going to be exploring the mind and all it's potential, as a scientific discipline, want to have the most powerful tool of observation possible? It doesn't get much more powerful, with regards to shamatha, then the standards he has. I actually don't see that as a problem....

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6/14/08 3:36 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Does anyone know of examples or statistics that show if someone who attained shamatha reaches enlightenment significantly faster than a practitioner who only has more moderate concentration abilities? This would really be interesting, I think.
I suppose someone who has attained it reaches his goal faster but after all it´s "only" concentration, not insight.

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6/14/08 4:22 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Hi mai88,

Good question. I'll take a crack at it, though I'm sure others have more to add. As far as I've seen there are no statistics on this, though the observations are many. First when looking back at the examples of practitioners in the Buddha's time, many such as Mahamoggalanna, Shariputra, and the Buddha himself attained to arhantship quite quickly, after having mastered pretty deep jhana. If I recall correctly Shariputra was said to have gotten stream-entry when talking to the Buddha, and within two weeks was an arhant. Examples like that abound in the traditional texts. Also, when you read "Knowing and Seeing" by Pa'auk Sayadaw he suggests developing a deep jhana state and then doign insight practices until one reaches 3rd or 4th path. The implication there is that it happens fairly quickly. Also, from what I've seen personally I've known someone who has very strong concentration skills and who made fast progress in insight, getting stream-entry, 2nd path, and 3rd path (using Daniel's model) all in 6-weeks of retreat time. There definitely seems to be a strong relationship between concentration and insight, and the rapidity with which insight will unfold. Though I've personally been drawn more to a "dry insight" path, this relationship appears to be quite clear.

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6/14/08 7:21 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
The counter-argument is that there was this big lull in insight practice for hundreds of years, with few realized practitioners, great confusion, skepticism, and lack of progress, and the Burmese attribute this to insistence on the model that one master samatha practices first and then move on to insight. When the Mahasi Sayadaw lineage broke out of this notion and began doing straight, intense insight practice first, there was a massive increase in its popularity, in the number of people who had success with it, and in the number of very highly accomplished teachers teaching it. This is probably the most significant advance in the history of Buddhist meditation in the last few hundred years in terms of effective technology and the number of people it reached at that level.

As to Vince's claim of someone progressing that rapidly, I would add the caution that those with strong concentration skills can go through something that looks to the untrained eye like something very different when they progress in insight. Those without strong concentration skills who are not used to this may be surprised and confused by the descriptions of the more samatha-heavy practitioner. Heavy experiences of the formless realms or their more formed aspects can sound like descriptions of higher levels of realization. For example, a dry-insight working sakadagami or anagami (second or third path) might be confused by the descriptions of a stream-enterer who had easy access to the higher jhanas and profound experiences therein. The samatha-heavy practitioner themselves may be similarly confused. I am not saying that I know for certain what happened in the case I am guessing he is describing, as my information on the subject is very limited and what I do have is of unusually low quality, but from long experience I know that, in general terms, caution and care to see how things settle out can be of great value.

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6/14/08 7:24 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
All those things said, I definitely know of examples in modern times of things going both ways. I know of an 18-year old concentration monster who got stream entry on her first 7-day retreat. I also know of people who had essentially no samatha skills who on a few short retreats got stream entry.

As to stats, I would love to see a grand face-off of the traditions, and in this age of occasional empiricism, such things just might be possible.

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6/14/08 9:08 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
This conversation is so interesting! Both approaches make sense to me. I started out on the dry insight front and continued there until I reached a certain level but then I got stuck and was frustrated with my lack of concentration-ability. So I started to do some samatha-practice and soon found my chariot of vipassana rolling down the path very smoothly again. Due to this I really got some kind of crush on samatha and I´m trying to hone my concentration more before returning to pure vipassana.
I always thought samatha would be more like a byproduct of the vipassana-practitioner whose interest lies in attaining nibbana but I learned it really is some great thing itself that can fuel insight like oil a candle.
I too would love to see some research being done in whether or not the average practitioner would attain enlightenment faster when doing prelimnary samatha or not.
Have a nice day, everyone,
Martin

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6/14/08 4:44 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Daniel, is your suggestion that strong concentration would change the effects of the progress of insight? Could you provide a few discrete examples in this vein?

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6/15/08 1:58 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Another aspect of this subject I am interested in is if it can actually be more helpful to turn to samatha-practice for some time when you are stuck with vipassana. Let´s suppose one fails to master some insight territory because he/she is unable to percieve the sensations clearly enough (lack of concentration). Would it be wise to work on this aspect exclusively until the required skill is attained and then return to vipassana or do you think the time is better spent trying to get a deeper level of concentration through vipassana. Related to this, I think it is of higher value to have fast and clear perception even if it is only for a short period than maintaining scattered attention for a long time. From this perspective exclusive samatha-training seems advisable to me.
What do you think?

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6/15/08 3:05 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
It depends on what one means by "stuck with vipassana". If that means in the dark night, then I think the trap (which I've fallen into before) is to turn toward the more pleasant practice of pure shamatha. The problem is this can be used to avoid the dukkha nanas, as they are by their very definition not very "clear" and the clear perceiving of them is far different than the clear perceiving of the A&P. If often feels during the dark night that concentration has gone out the window, when in fact attention has just broadened a tremendous amount (to include the sense of the observer) but hasn't quite filled out in the middle. Daniel described it to me as a 3D doughnut, which makes perfect sense.

I spent quite a bit of time in the dark night, trying to get my shamatha better, when in the end the thing that did it was pure noting practice, where I had a strong moment-to-moment concentration and a strong resolve to see the 3 characteristics of the dukkha nanas without backing off, or trying to find pleasure somewhere else.

With respect to "fast and clear" vs "scattered" again a lot of this is phase specific, and can't quite be controlled. Things are fast and clear in the A&P quite naturally and scattered in the dark night. That can't be helped, though you can go with, or fight it to whatever degree you want. emoticon

Anyway, this is just one perspective on what worked for me. I'd be interested in hearing more from those that have navigated this territory.

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6/16/08 7:59 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Hi Daniel,

Yes, I have read the long list of critiques of Alan’s models and standards. Why would you ask? I just posted about my own discontent with Alan's standards.

I also understand that there are far more practical criteria around! Otherwise I wouldn't be here!

*

As to my practice:

I have been practicing 4 months in total now; every evening between 2 - 4 hours (and longer),

the first 2 months I have been doing Taoist Yoga [see Taoist Yoga, Alchemy & Immortality by Charles Luk and Master Nan, Tao & Longevity), which is based on (a) preserving the sexual fluid, (b) activating the inner winds (chi), in order to open up the meridians by focusing on the breath or bodily sensations. This worked very well (textbook-like); my Tu Mai is open and the subtle tensions in my brain are released and I experience a high degree of pliancy (my serenity, though, could be deeper); opening the Jen Mai is not so easy;

in the last 2 months I have been doing ‘Mindfulness of Breathing’:

“I will breathe in/out tranquilizing the bodily formation / the whole body.” (see Satipatthana Suttra);

but I am not so much focusing on the outer breath as I do focus on the inner breath, chi movements, prana, or winds, which are very powerful; there is a lot of heat and often I literally bathe in my own sweat after only a short time of breathing in/out and tranquilizing (relaxing) the whole body.

I intent to continue Mindfulness of Breathing & deepening serenity & opening up the Jen Mai.

I do not plan to go on a retreat (yet).

I am studying Nanavira Thera’s Notes on Dhamma and other writings (like your book and also the Pali Discourses);

MY MIND IS SEIZED BY AGITATION ABOUT THE TEACHING. (see An 4:170; II 156-57),

I intent to intensify (the agitation & meditation)!

Best,

Abe

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6/16/08 10:40 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

"I've personally been drawn more to a "dry insight" path, ..."

Vince,

interesting; may I ask what this entails - the "dry insight" path? Is this a kind of intellectual (jnana) yoga?

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6/16/08 11:08 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Daniel,

as an additional note to my practice / accomplishments:

In your book you write about a monk in Burma who recommends his students use the high-pitched tone in one's ear as an object for insight practices. This is interesting, because this is how I started meditating I even knew about Taoism & Buddhism; progress picked up after I learned about Taoist Yoga and when i started relaxing the body and completely surrender to whatever sensation would arise; two or three times I would awake in the night and my whole head filled with a very intense, high-pitched, and loud (almost painful) noise and then 'energy' would pump up the back / spine into the head. [It sounded as if a dry water wheel within the head got activated and is now pumping water again; the pumping is now permanently there.] A lot of blissful sensations resulted from this practise for some time (incl. some powerful internal orgasms).

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5/20/09 6:01 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Hi everyone, first of all I’d like to say this site is totally awesome and the deep wisdom of some of the members is really inspiring. I first got into meditation through Alan Wallace’s book Attention Revolution about six months ago, and in further researching the subject, came across the Buddhist Geeks podcast (very cool) and through them Daniel Ingram’s MCTB, which really blew me away. Most of it is totally over my head since I’m effectively on the “stay on that object like a rabid dog” stage, i.e. very beginner, but having the whole plan there in front of me is very exciting nonetheless. So thank you Daniel!

Anyway, I was interested in how Alan’s shamatha map matched up with Daniel’s jhana map and came across this great thread, which cleared up a lot...

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5/20/09 6:03 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
...However, it seemed like there was a consensus among several of the posters (Daniel, Hokai, Vince) that Alan Wallace’s shamatha map goes only as far as “access concentration” to the first jhana, and he explicitly says as much in his book, but then I’m not sure how to take his discussion of the “acquired sign” (uggaha-nimitta) of the breath in his 4th stage (close-attention), and later the “counterpart sign” (patibhaga-nimitta), which supposedly manifests in the 10th and final stage of achieving shamatha.

He describes the acquired sign in this way: “To different people, acquired signs associated with the breath practice may appear like a star, a cluster of gems or pearls, a wreath of flowers, a puff of smoke, a cobweb, a cloud, a lotus flower, a wheel, or the moon or sun” (AR 64). And he later quotes Buddhagosa about the counterpart sign: “The counterpart sign appears as if breaking out from the acquired sign, and a hundred times a thousand times more purified, like a looking-glass disk drawn from its case, like a mother-of-pearl dish well washed, like the moon’s disk coming out from behind a cloud, like cranes against a thunder cloud. But it has neither color nor shape… it is born only in the perception in one who has obtained concentration, being a mere model of appearance” (AR 157). To me these sound a lot like what Daniel describes in the above quoted post about what happens for him when he “whips through” the cycle of the four jhanas. So is it possible that Alan’s “shamatha” is in fact equivalent to the first four jhanas?

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5/21/09 1:25 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
hi noah,

i cant really speak to your question, as i have yet to experience either the nimitta alan describes or anything like daniel's jhana descriptions. but im also in the rabid dog stage (having arrived here essentially the same way you did) and can totally relate to your difficultly in finding the common ground between AR and MCTB. i agree that this thread has cleared up some things for me, though it leaves a lot unanswered too.

i guess my biggest question has to do with the time frame issue ... specifically wrt the following two points:

* in AR, alan proposes 5,000-10,000 hours as a rough estimate for attaining shamatha.
* in MCTB, daniel states that the first shamatha jhana "serves as the minimum foundation for both insight and concentration practices" (pg 168).

so if these two states (AR's shamatha and MCTB's first jhana ... or even first 4 jhanas as you suggest) are equivalent, this would seem to imply a rather staggering time investment just to get to the "jump-off point" ...

-emory

ps - sorry if im hijacking the discussion here without answering your question, but i think our questions are related ... hopefully someone with more experience can provide insight into both of them.

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5/21/09 1:33 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
wanted to clarify here that i dont mean to sound skeptical or cynical in asking about this. to a large extent it really doesnt matter, knowing its a journey worth taking whatever the cost (as i think anyone who has had a glimpse would agree). but i see posts like: "oh yeah, that definitely sounds like the 37th jhana to me ... well, yes it does resemble the 23rd jhana in that respect ..." and i cant help feeling a bit daunted. guess im just trying to get an idea of whats ahead and to be realistic about how far i have to go.

so i guess the short version of my question would be: is alan's estimate accurate in the experience of others who have made this journey? should i expect it to take 10,000 hours?

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5/21/09 2:02 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
@emory and noah You guys simply don't seem to get - or don't seem to appreciate - the difference between "soft jhana" aka vipassana jhana and "hard jhana" as described in Attention Revolution. Both share the characteristics and yet the objective criteria to establish the two are quite distinct, not just in time but also in physiological events taking place. In short, if risking to stretch the metaphor, the difference is like learning to behave - i.e. move, talk and think - like a woman vs. actual sex reassignment.

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5/21/09 2:28 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
haha, nice metaphor Hokai. I think I get the difference between hard and soft jhana (at least conceptually), but maybe you could clarify one more thing: are there also different, i.e. hard and soft nimittas or signs? Because if there aren't different nimittas then it seems like we could say that Alan's super hard first jhana would be at least equivalent to Daniel's 4th soft jhana, given the placement of the nimittas in the progression. Does that sound right?

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5/21/09 5:38 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Hi Noah,

No, this is not correct. 1st jhana can never correspond to 4th or any other jhana.

Let's think about this a different way. There are strata of mind. We can use a rainbow as analogy. Let's say that the red stratum is first jhana. You can go to the red stratum and hang out there. If, while you are there, your mind is absolutely, completely and in every way absorbed into the redness, without any distractions whatsoever for 3 hours (or whatever the arbitrary number is), you are in hard jhana according to Alan Wallace. Anything less than that is somewhat less hard. There is a continuum from soft to hard. But it's the red stratum of mind either way. The red stratum will never correspond to the orange (2nd jhana in our make-believe rainbow jhana system), the yellow, or any other stratum, no matter how "hard" it becomes. Each stratum of mind is its own environment. Red is red and blue is blue and never the twain shall meet.

The genius of the Mahasi Method (Burmese vipassana) is that it takes advantage of the fact that in order to make progress through the Insight Knowledges (otherwise known as getting enlightened), it is not necessary to develop these strata of mind to the level suggested by Mr. Wallace. In fact, it is seen as an unwise investment of time if your goal is enlightenment. The Burmese have proven in many thousands of individual cases that people can attain to high levels of enlightenment without mastering the samatha jhanas to the extreme levels Mr. Wallace describes.

So, rather than become a jhana master, the Mahasi Method recommends that you access each stratum of mind via the vipassana method and deconstruct it into its component phenomena, thereby attaining the Insight Knowledge there.

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5/21/09 5:40 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
hmm, ok ... so, like noah, i think i do get this conceptually ... but speaking experientially, my progress thus far has followed alan's map quite closely, and i dont see how i could really "jump" more than a stage or two.

there is undoubtedly variation in the strength of my concentration from day to day, session to session, and even moment to moment within a single session, but it doesnt vary that much. more specifically, if i am consistently reaching a particular stage x, i might get stuck at stage x-1 in a weak session or have moments of stage x+1 in a stronger session, but it rarely varies more than one stage up or down from my current "center of gravity".

so i can understand in theory how one might momentarily stumble onto a "soft jhana" prior to having developed the concentration necessary to attain that state in a consistent and readily reproducible manner. but judging from my own experience thus far, i cant fathom having a stretch of "stage-10 focus" in the midst of an otherwise "stage-5 session".

could you be more specific hokai about the subjective experience of the "soft jhana" ... i mean, are there any criteria about, say, how long it needs to last for it to "count"? or, for the sake of establishing common ground between the maps, could you make any assertions (from your own experience or from that of others) as to the relationship between soft & hard? ... maybe something like "many people have intermittent experience of the soft first jhana once they develop consistent access to AR stage x", or perhaps "some men begin having occasional moments of female orgasm upon learning to speak in a sufficiently feminine voice" ...

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5/21/09 7:56 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
It is also worth making the subtle distinction between "soft jhana" and "vipassana jhana" as even vipassana jhana can be hard or soft.

For instance, the 4th vipassana jhana may be soft, in that one is walking around in it having some vague experience of formations as one walks around, and then attain to a Path or a Fruition off of that. By definition, if you were able to attain to a Fruition, you did it off the 4th vipassana jhana. As you were walking around and may not have even been practicing at that moment, that obviously was soft jhana, in this case soft vipassana jhana. Often when one is in the mature phase of a Review cycle after a path, these sorts of things will arise.

Contrast that with hard vipassana jhana, in which let's say on is 3 weeks into a retreat, with strong concentration, gunning for the next path with everything one has got, practicing 20 hours/day, and one enters into the 4th vipassana jhana, but in this case one is sitting, eyes closed, and the entire world has dissolved into pure, wide, formless waves of uninterrupted suchness, undisturbed by attention to any diversity except that formless fluxing, with no body felt, no sounds heard, nothing but that, and this goes on for a hour, until one finally gets the suchness to sync completely and gets the next Path and Fruition. This is clearly extremely hard jhana, in that the depth of concentration is profound, and yet, as it is achieved with a focus on impermanence, suffering (the tension of the fluxing, if you will) and no-self (the fluxing happening on its own and being all empty), and it lead to a Path and Fruition, that is vipassana.

Thus, one must not be so quick to associate hard jhana with pure samatha and soft jhana with vipassana, as this is not so straightforward, and the depths of concentration that may be achieved when doing insight practice may be great, though that degree of concentration is not necessary for the goal.

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5/22/09 1:33 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I guess Kenneth's and Daniel's comments (57 and 59 respectively) make it as clear as possible, both in terms of soft vs hard experience of mind's strata (in Kenneth's argument) and in terms of soft/hard with samatha/vipassana combination. The difference we're looking at when considering soft and hard is not unlike the difference between the five spiritual functions (confidence, effort, mindfulness, concentration, insight) in their phases as faculties (skt. indriya) and powers (skt. bala). Each of us already has access to some degree of each, and with some help and/or training we may ascertain them quite clearly. Their maturation and development into full-fledged powers is a matter of considerable conditioning for most people. Just so, with some help and/or training we can ascertain the qualities of various strata without necessarily developing hard dhyanic states. Let us bear in mind that both subtle and very subtle ("formless") states can arise quite spontaneously, triggered by anything from aesthetic appreciation, to religious or non-religious devotion, to intense existential and philosophical inquiry, to physical exertion, to sexual excitation, to sheer physiological processes in human organism. These states can arise in people without any training whatsoever, as well as be prompted by training in meditation, only to disappear and leave one puzzled and bemused. Neither soft nor hard, yet they can be anything from extremely gentle to frighteningly awesome to life-changing impressive. So, the strata and their typical qualities are part of mind's cartography (and actual terrain), while training in different ways to access, penetrate, abide, exit, and deconstruct those can be anywhere on the spectrum of soft-hard depending on several factors and their emphasis, but easily recognized as styles of practice in this or that lineage.

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5/22/09 8:09 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
@kenneth, daniel, hokai: thank you for all the input. i cant say this has cleared up all my confusion, but it is really helpful to see that these things can be experienced/understood/communicated as distinct and well-defined concepts (or non-concepts, as the case might be). i really like the rainbow metaphor.

i feel a bit like a college freshman worrying about how much calculus needs to be taken before moving on to physics while the more sensible thing would be to just sit down and get done with my calc homework. i must admit that i am quite enamored with the higher concentration states, but hopefully i will come around in time to avoid getting snagged in the "vapid bliss junkie" trap. emoticon

-emory

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5/23/09 5:36 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
"It is interesting to note that a yogi who is well-versed in jhana may navigate this territory [the Dukkha Ñanas, aka Dark Night -Ed.] more comfortably than a "dry vipassana" yogi, as jhana is the "juice" that can lubricate his practice." -- Kenneth Folk, The Progress of Insight (part two)

All good, all balanced: total mastery of hard jhana states is not necessary, but *some measure* of jhana practice is helpful. No need to worry about becoming a jhana junkie: you would notice if you started to become a bit of a junkie, right?

cf (wait for it...): http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/concmind.html and Shankman's Buddhist Geeks interview

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5/23/09 6:55 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Thanks for bringing this up, Joriki. As you point out, this is not an either/or situation. Concentration and insight reinforce each other at every level, and there is much more to being a meditation master than isolating oneself from the world for hours at a time. In the highest stages of samadhi, vipassana and samatha are not seen as separate at all.

The apparent samatha/vipassana dichotomy is seen most clearly in the 1st jhana. It weakens in the 2nd, weakens further in the 3rd, and by the 4th jhana, investigation and absorption work seamlessly side by side. In the highest states of absorption, i.e. the Pureland jhanas, aka the sudhavassa or Pure Abodes, vipassana and samatha are completely integrated and it would not makes sense to speak of them as separate.

The fear of getting lost in jhana is, in my opinion, overblown. The real danger is getting lost in a hypnogogic state that is neither samatha nor vipassana. Working closely with a good teacher, whether in person or by telephone and email, will usually clear this up, although I do know of yogis who have had chronic difficulty in correctly applying either the vipassana or samatha technique. Incidentally, thinking of vipassana and samatha as two different ways to access the same territory, at least in the initial stages, is a good way to conceive of this practice. The fact that they converge is built into the mind/body system, so you can begin with either one and get to the same place. Once all the strata of mind have been accessed and penetrated (arahatship), a yogi can play around at further developing whichever skills most interest him or her, e.g. dwelling for three hours in 1st jhana. (Although I must confess that that idea holds very little appeal for me.)

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5/24/09 12:56 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
wow, much thanks (to kenneth and everyone else) for the continued discussion here. i think that last post might have cut my question list in half. if i might ask one more ...

there is an "event", right?

i mean, i realize theres a soft-hard spectrum within a given jhana (as with any state/stage model i suppose) and that the "hardness criteria" are going to be somewhat subjective and arbitrary. but as far as the kamalashila map goes, my understanding is that "achieving shamatha" is a well-defined event.

maybe im mixing up two different things here, but in #57 kenneth seemed to imply that the criteria for wallace's hard jhana were somewhat arbitrary. but "wallace's hard jhana" = shamatha, right? and regardless of any implications (be they hours without distraction or anything else), my understanding is that one has either gotten the "hand on the bald head" thing or they havent (in much the same way someone has either entered the stream or not).

i guess what im asking is whether there is a definitive culmination and a conclusive event after which one is effectively "done" with concentration practice. clearly such an attainment is not prerequisite for the enlightenment process, but putting aside questions of utility or merit, im just curious as to whether it exists ...

and thanks again, this discussion has been really helpful!

-emory

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5/24/09 2:15 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
1. No, there is no Jhana finish line it's more like downhill skiing on variously graded slopes. It is not the monolithic 4 hours straight but the megalithic 400,000 hours accumulatively that is the real quantitative significance.

In this kind of experience base where hours are added each day the experience in practice isn't mono-tonal like it can be for many in the more difficut days of earliest efforts.

Once the basic facility is well trained and established, the bases for jhana are abundant and diverse and it's manifestations exist in navigable strata of occurence.

Consider that it seems the oldtimers here, the home run guys, haven't quit doing Jhana? Can they even or is it just going to happen anyways? Is it a chore for them to do jhana now? I don't think so.

2. I would say no, there is no done re: Jhana. Unlike awakening or full awakening which are more like bells that can't be unrung. Even the Buddha continued to actively practice and perform jhana up to the last nanoseconds of his corporeal continuity.

Jhana is like the fuel for the temporal samsaric ever suffering stuff we are stuffed with. It comes and goes so it is use it or loose it. Think of it as the difference between someone who does a vigorous two hour cross training regime every morning for 50 years vs. someone who trades that for two hours a night of beer and television.

Awakening is one thing, the same for everyone that wakes. What we wake to is a product of what else is done with that karma/kamma.

Nice to see this thread resurface, first class Dharma Geekery. Two lobes up.

All the best
take care

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5/24/09 3:50 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I'm glad you brought that up triplethink because it seems we're finally narrowing the question down to what emory and I are really wondering about, which is this supposedly mind-blowing experience that is the achievement of shamatha according to Alan Wallace, though it corresponds to (merely) "access concentration" in the maps used around here, i.e. pre-first jhana. While I totally get and appreciate what has been said in this thread recently about not needing such extremely hard jhana to begin vipassana and gain insight, Alan's description of the "one-time" phenomena of achieving shamatha still makes me wonder. This is from his Attention Revolution, page 155 (Stage 10):

“Following the realization of the ninth stage of Attentional balance, after months or years of continuous, full-time practice you are primed to achieve shamatha. The nine preceding stages entail many incremental changes, but the actual accomplishment of shamatha involves a radical transition in your body and mind… This shift is characterized by the specific experiences that take place within a discrete, relatively brief period of time.
According to accounts from the Indo-Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, the first sign of the achievement of shamatha is the experience of a sense of heaviness and numbness on the top of the head. This allegedly happens to anyone who experiences this transition, regardless of the specific method followed. It is said to feel as if a palm were being placed on the top of your shaved head. It’s not unpleasant or harmful, just unusual...

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5/24/09 3:51 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
… The physical sensation on the top of the head is symptomatic of a shift in your nervous system that is correlated with gaining freedom from mental dysfunction (daushtulya), a general state of mental imbalance characterized by stiffness, rigidity, and unwieldiness. Consequently, you achieve a state of mental pliancy (prashrabdhi), in which your mind is fit and supple like never before.
… Following this sense of pressure on the top of your head, you experience the movement of vital energies moving in your body, and when they have coursed everywhere throughout your body, you feel as if you were filled with the power of this dynamic energy… When physical pliancy initially arises, the vital energies catalyze an extraordinary sense of physical bliss, which then triggers an equally exceptional experience of mental bliss. This rush of physical and mental rapture is transient, which is a good thing, for it so captivates the attention that you can do little else except enjoy it. Gradually it subsides and you are freed from the turbulence caused by this intense joy. Your attention settles down in perfect stability and vividness. You have now achieved shamatha.”

You can see how a newb such as myself might see similarities between the above description and those of Fruition or at least A&P, and therefore wonder about map correlations. But I guess the short answer is that the above is simply super-concentrated pre-jhana practice and that if you’re going to spend 5 to 10 thousand hours meditating, it would be better spent doing vipassana practice than Alan Wallace’s hardcore shamatha.

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5/24/09 6:28 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I think it is simply about putting real time and energy into real skill development and then using the skills and these can be predominantly for discriminatory development or for consolidation of attention which also factors into the efficacy of the investigation and development overall. The terrain of mind and body stays comparatively the same but the manners of traversing it phenomenologically is how those pathways develop. This is why there are still always notable differences between those who put in a lot of time into various exercises and those who do not.

To me concentration is like the current in this process while the field of attention is like the voltage, be it shifting or steady it takes that current in whatever form through the various paths of attendance to phenomena. I think of the composure of mind in jhana as 'coherent' like laser light. Access and vipassana comparatively without concentration skills is like bringing one fibre optic point of illumination to the same task. So I think meditation is then relatively less energized until it gets some other form of exposure to that other kind of order of magnitude of forcefulness in attending due to ongoing experience from other forms of practice, vipassana or whatever else it may be.

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5/25/09 10:03 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Bravo. Thanks, Nathan. Excellent descriptions and commentary.

Kenneth

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6/9/09 10:35 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
hmm ... so ive been waiting in the hopes someone else might post another opinion, but looks like this is the general consensus. not to second-guess (or double-think) nathan or kenneth, but it seems like the feasibility of "attaining shamatha" is a pretty commonly held belief (issues of difficulty and practicality aside).

perhaps the question is still a bit vague, since it seems to me that there is a difference between the "shamatha finish line" described by kamalashila/wallace and what nathan refers to as the (nonexistent) "jhana finish line". indeed, as vince pointed out earlier in the thread, wallace implied (in geeks interview) that attainment of shamatha is more like a "jhana starting line".

anyway, dont want to beat a dead horse here ... it seems the majority view (and that of the "home run guys") is quite consistent, so i think i would do better to take up further questions/clarifications with alan. ill be doing a weeklong retreat with him later this month (i believe noah will be attending as well) so hopefully he can provide some insight into the matter.

-emory

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6/10/09 2:06 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Well, I sort of disagree with both 1 and 2.

1) There's a finish line as far as the traditional jhanas, given you say "finished" means hitting the base. Saying there is no finish line just because each jhana has seemingly infinite amount of permutations seems too...nihilistic? I'm not sure if that's the word I'm looking for. Maybe I'm missing the argument?

2) With my (1) in mind, that would mean there is a "done" to the Jhanas. This makes sense if you think about Enlightenment as being a penetration of the Jhanas. If we say there's an end point to the big E, then the same follows for the shamatha jhanas. Not only that, but learning how to get into a jhana is like learning how to ride a bike. If you learn and practice it enough, it's practically impossible to forget how to get into the ones you have learned. If you get really out of shape and weigh 800 pounds (your concentration gets crappy), then you simply don't have the tools necessary to do what you know how to do.

Trent

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6/10/09 2:16 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
yeah, the argument that i understood is there's no finish line in terms of how hard you can get the jhanas. thats what (i think) wallace means when he says stuff like 'attaining shamatha is more like a jhana starting line' (paraphrased quote from emory.smith above).

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6/10/09 2:22 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
Ah, I see. Thanks.

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6/12/09 6:03 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I agree, there is no clear finish line with the jhanas. The depth, duration, rapid access, reproducibility, stability, and purity of them can all continue to be improved, and then there are all the side tracks with the jhanas, such as traveling, visualization aspects, spacial aspects, mantric aspects, aspects of detail when visualizing, aspects of using various objects, aspects of powers, hearing things, and more unusual effects. The territory of concentration is vast and many-faceted.

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6/12/09 7:08 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
The point I would like to make is that nothing in life can be said to have a clear finish line, but there tends to be culturally defined points which defines where that point lies. In a video-game, many players would say that playing through all of a game's levels and obtaining all the pre-programed/pre-designed objectives means that you "finished" the game, whereas other players would say that level of understanding is just the beginning. In the case of the jhanas-- why leave it open ended?

I feel like it's safe to say that a "soft end point" for the bottom 8 is simply when you can get into all of them reliably at any time and through minimal effort. It's not an unreasonably difficult thing to attain to, there are relatively clear markers for that, and it lays down a standard that can lend itself to a goal, which is important.

Thoughts?
Trent

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6/12/09 7:19 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
soft end point is soft

but i agree, that kind of end point is there

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6/12/09 7:27 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
@ Trent

Yes, it's useful to have a virtual standard, but such is only possible within a defined larger context of View. In other words, there could be no one universal standard. Since awakening is differently envisaged and measured, the samadhi proficiency will also be subjected to different sets of criteria depending on the context. For example, the "side-tracks" Daniel mentions in 74 are essential in esoteric Buddhist meditation.

However, it's a fact that samadhi *must* be developed to a significant degree as part of a balanced realization, so your "soft end point" could be accepted instead as a minimum proficiency requirement for the aspiring practitioner and thus a base camp II of sorts (base camp I being whatever is foundational, view-ethics-discipline-devotion etc.)

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6/12/09 3:52 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I think you guys are talking about how the jhanas may or may not be considered "complete" in some sense (way over my head anyway), but all I really want to know is did anybody get the numbness on the top of the head pre-first jhana like Alan Wallace says will happen upon the achievement of shamatha? If so, what the heck is that? I'm really curious from a vipassana point of view what such an experience could possibly be.

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6/12/09 7:33 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
I apologize for the term "side tracks". What I meant was other axes or aspects. Hokai is correct. That one can tag the 8 jhanas is just one of many possible samatha skills. For those interested, see such texts as the Visuddhimagga's descriptions of mastering the kasinas and what that looks like, and even this, which is no small feat, pales in comparison to mastering some of the complex esoteric visualization exercises. I am not particularly familiar with the Shingon versions, but the Tibetan ones can go something like this, with this being a very crude approximation of their general feel:

"Visualize a pyramid of pure clear crystal, four sided, with each side covered in 1000 perfectly enlightened bodhisattvas, each perfectly transparent and alive, with red bodhisattvas on one face, green ones on the next one, yellow ones on the next one, and blue ones on the last face, with the letter "A" in Tibetan at the center of the crystal pyramid radiating the pure light of awareness in all directions. A ray of it penetrates the heart of every bodhisattva, and the four thousand rays converge on your heart chakra, where sits a golden letter "Om" in Tibetan. This light fills your central channel and connects to your root chakra..." etc. and so forth.

To be able to actually do that is a far above just tagging the first 8 jhanas when you wish. I could come up with many other examples on many different fronts that would challenge someone who liked those sorts of challenges. I can tag at least 11 jhanas with relative ease at the end of a bad day, but I can only do that complex visualization stuff on a retreat when I am really powering the concentration.

I would love it if Hokai would give a taste of what his tradition considers strong samatha practice, even if it is very general terms.

As to head numbness, never had it, don't know it.

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6/12/09 8:22 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
yeah but i didnt get that numbness til i was an anagami having just exited pure land 2, of which it seemed like i had just attained with good concentration for the first time. its been easy to 'feel for' the numbness since then but i dunno if its the same thing you say wallace is talking about and i dunno how i'd be able to tell.

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6/12/09 8:26 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
he gives a number of "indicators" here: http://bit.ly/2FovCf

for instance: "once you have achieved the actual state of the first stabilization, samadhi can be sustained, according to Buddhaghosa, 'for a whole night and a whole day, just as a healthy man, after rising from his seat, could stand a whole day.'" (note that these are not given as arbitrary subjective criteria or prerequisites to the attainment, but rather as consequences or side-effects of having reached it.)

-emory

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6/12/09 9:14 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
presumably, buddhaghosa means that such samadhi is sustained through daily activities, rather than by sitting steadfast for a whole night and a whole day? for if so, that is definitely interesting, because thats what intuitively occurred to me to try and do immediately after i came out of that particular jhanic state by using the attention at the weirdness atop my head as a kind of locus or loose focus point, and it was quite easy to do in a way i wouldnt have predicted. its worth mentioning though, even if it were the same thing we're talking about, that my goal wasnt to sustain samadhi for its own purpose, it was to 'let' anything and everything just happen the way they do, and 'let' them pass through unclingingly - essentially i saw it as a high level high powered vipassana. what does wallace/buddhaghosa say happens next?

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6/12/09 10:16 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
well, thats what much of chapter 10 (see link i posted above, especially pages 163-165), as well as the conclusion (http://bit.ly/zas9f) is about, but basically the main purpose is to use the high level of concentration for enhancing insight practice: "The achievement of shamatha provides the necessary foundation in mental and physical pliancy and fitness to be able to fully develop contemplative insight into the ultimate nature of the mind and other phenomenon." (164)

of course, this brings us back to the controversial question of necessary vs sufficient, and while i am far from qualified to take any sort of informed stance on this, i think the previous posts in this thread (and indeed the whole of DhO in general) indicate pretty clearly that attainment of shamatha is not a prerequisite for enlightenment.

however, there is a secondary purpose too, relating to alan's goals in contemplative science and scientific study of the mind, as vince pointed out in #39. ill just quote his post since i think he said it well: "Why wouldn't we, if we were going to be exploring the mind and all it's potential, as a scientific discipline, want to have the most powerful tool of observation possible?".

-emory

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6/12/09 10:52 PM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
ah ok. but any other notable effects that happen across the board to people, after the big change in what is felt on the top/at the back of the head?

the link you posted above doesnt let me view every page - only every 2nd page, it seems.

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6/13/09 2:06 AM as a reply to Guillermo Z.
sorry, guess i misunderstood your question. i dont think wallace mentions any other notable effects in AR. perhaps someone who has read the original kamalashila text (stages of meditation) could provide more details about the event. [edit: actually, he does mention the appearance of the "counterpart sign" (described on pages 157-161). that would be pretty notable i would think.]

as for the link ... sorry, guess google books can only give a "preview" ... kind of like going to the library and finding theyve torn a bunch of pages out of all the books ... you can probably find a pdf on bit torrent if you search.

-emory

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6/6/13 8:44 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
My concentration at that point was miles below Wallace's standards, and yet somehow it was more than sufficient for what I was looking for. Thus, I think that, while it is always fun to have a high bar just to see if one can do it, one must ask what is the value of that bar if the core goal can be achieved on far less. I can attain to Nirodha Samapatti but have never yet sat in a jhana for 24 hours. There is a flaw in his model regards timing.

Daniel,
Of that fact, "there is a flaw in his model regards timing," there is no doubt. But he is a Samatha Yanika, in affect. So that stands to reason, he would form that opinion. But it was my impression from the book, that about 8hrs, was what was required as that access to Jhana, as there were some student that were still in access concentration but where meditating for 7 ½ hrs.
Working within these understands of Jhana, based on the commentaries. The question that arises for me is what is access concentration, what level of concentration is high equanimity. And if I've been told, that high equanimity can be around four hours of sitting with pliancy (Obviously I realise, though it is also worth saying, that this could in affect be reached in one or two hours, as the time is not a measure of the actual refinement of the state.) by teachers, after I've told them, I'm sitting for 2 and a half or there abouts (meaning sitting 1hr, then 2 1/2hrs or 1hr then 2hrs and then another 1hr, with a brief leg swap at those intervals. Sits something like that, and with high levels of pliancy after the first hour).

So really, I'm just trying to define access concentration in relation to that advice. Access Concentration or neighbourhood concentration, being a step that is required, before the attainment of path. Path which is considered, in the commentaries to be the equivalent of jhana or in a state of jhana at the point of realisation.

Sorry, if this doesn't come across as a question, or if it appears to be telling you things you already know. I've mentioned all that long winded stuff as its tied into my confusion. Or my desire for confirmation of this pattern of understanding.

Lastly thanks for your Dharmic contributions Daniel and also thanks to Hokai for his comments on this thread.