Jhana (scrt.Dhyâna), état méditatif de profonde sensibilité et immobilité de l'esprit, et parfois trauit par "absorption," est la pierre d'angle du développement de la Concentration correcte.
"On a le cas où un bikkhu -- tout à fait retiré de la sensualité, retiré de des qualités maladroites -- entre et demeure dans le premier jhana: ravissement et plaisir nés du retrait, accompagnés par la pensée dirigée et l'évaluation. Il imprègne et embaume, baigne et remplit ce corps-même du ravissement et plaisir nés du retrait. Il n'y a rien de tout son corps qui ne soit imprégné par ravissement et plaisir nés du retrait.
"Tout comme si un habile baigneur ou apprenti baigneur versait de la poudre de bain dans un bassin de laiton et la pétrissait, l'arrosant encore et encore avec de l'eau, de sorte que sa balle de poudre de bain -- saturée, chargée d'humidité, imprégnée au dedans et au dehors -- ne goutterait pourtant pas; de même, le bikkhu imprègne, baigne et remplit ce corps-même du ravissement et plaisir nés du retrait. Il n'y a rien de tout son corps qui ne soit imprégné par ravissement et plaisir nés du retrait...
"Qui plus est, de par l'apaisement de la pensée dirigée et de par l'évaluation, il entre et demeure dans le second jhana: ravissement et plaisir nés du sang-froid, unification libre de la pensée dirigée et de l'évaluation -- assurance intérieure. Il imprègne et embaume, baigne et remplit ce corps-même du ravissement et plaisir nés du sang-froid. Il n'y a rien de tout son corps qui ne soit imprégné par ravissement et plaisir nés du sang-froid.
"Tout comme un lac avec de l'eau de source qui s'accumule au dedans, n'ayant d'affluence ni de l'est, ni de l'ouest, ni du nord, ni du sud, et ni des cieux pour le fournir périodiquement en averses abondantes, de sorte que la fraîche fontaine d'eau qui s'accumule au dedans du lac l'imprègnerait et l'embaumerait, le baignerait et remplirait avec des eaux fraîches, n'étant aucune partie du lac qui ne soit imprégnée par les eaux fraîches; de même, le bikkhu imprègne et embaume, baigne et remplit ce corps-même du ravissement et plaisir nés du sang-froid. Il n'y a rien de tout son corps qui ne soit imprégné par ravissement et plaisir nés du sang-froid...
"Et qui plus est, après l'estompement du ravissement, il demeure dans l'équanimité, attentif et vigilant, et physiquement sensible au plaisir. Il entre et demeure dans le troisième jhana, dont les Nobles Personnes déclarent, 'Equanime et attentif, c'est un état agréable durable.' Il imprègne et embaume, baigne et remplit ce corps-même du plaisir tiré du ravissement, de sorte qu'il n'y a rien de tout son corps qui ne soit imprégné du plaisir tiré du ravissement.
"Tout comme dans un étang aux lotus bleus, blancs, ou rouges, il peut y avoir certains des lotus bleus, blancs, ou rouges qui, nés et croissant dans l'eau, restent immergés dans l'eau et fleurissent sans sortir de l'eau, de sorte qu'ils sont imprégnés et embaumés, baignés et remplis d'eau fraîche de leurs racines à leurs extrémités, et qu'aucun de ces lotus bleus, blancs, ou rouges ne soit imprégné d'eau fraîche; de même, le bikkhu imprègne et embaume, baigne et remplit ce corps-même du plaisir tiré du ravissement de sorte qu'il n'y a rien de tout son corps qui ne soit imprégné du plaisir tiré du ravissement...
"Et qui plus est, avec l' abandon du plaisir et du stress -- comme pour la disparition précédente de l'exaltation et de l'angoisse -- il entre et demeure dans le quatrième jhana: pureté de l'équanimité et de l'attention, ni-plaisir-ni-douleur. Il reste assis, imprégnant son corps d'une pure et claire conscience, de sorte qu'il n'y a rien de tout son corps qui ne soit imprégné d'une pure et claire conscience.
"Tout comme si un homme était assis enveloppé de pied en cap dans un linge blanc de sorte qu'il n'y ait aucune partie de son corps à laquelle le tissu blanc ne s'étendrait; de même, le bikkhu reste assis, imprégnant son corps d'une pure et claire conscience. Il n'y a rien de tout son corps qui ne soit imprégné d'une pure et claire conscience."
-- AN V.28
Il n'y a pas de
pour qui n'a aucun discernement,
pour qui est sans jhana.
Mais celui qui a et jhana
celui-là est au bord
de la Libération.
-- Dhp 372
This article first appeared in Insight
Journal, Fall 2002.
Reprinted by permission.
These instructions have been taken from a nine-day retreat offered by Leigh Brasington at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in April of 2002. The Pali word jhana (Sanskrit dhyana) is sometimes simply translated as "meditation," but more accurately refers to an "absorbsion" into a very focused, very stable state of concentration. In the classical tradition there are several stages of jhana, each one more focused than the previous.
Some people will experience some of the jhanas on this retreat; some people will not. The likelihood of you experiencing a jhana is inversely proportional to the amount of desire that you have for it. After all, the instructions given by the Buddha in the early texts for practicing jhana begin with "Secluded from sense desire, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, one approaches and abides in the first jhana." In order to experience a jhana, it is necessary to temporarily abandon the five hindrances [sense desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, worry and flurry, doubt]. However, if you are craving a jhana, you've got sense desire and an unwholesome state of mind. You have to set those aside to be able to enter the jhana.
The method for entering jhana begins with generating access concentration. You begin by sitting in a comfortable, upright position. It needs to be comfortable, because if there is too much pain, aversion will naturally develop in the mind. You may be able to sit in a way that looks really good, but if your knees are killing you there will be pain and you will not experience any jhanas. So you need to find some way to sit that is comfortable. But it also needs to be upright and alert, because that tends to get your energy going in a beneficial way that keeps you awake. If you are too comfortable you will be overcome with sloth and torpor, which is an unwholesome state of mind that is totally useless for entering the jhanas.
So the first prerequisite for entering the jhanas is to put the body in a position that you can just leave it in for the length of the sitting without having to move. If you have back problems or some other obstacle that prevents you from sitting upright, then you need to find some other alert position that you can maintain comfortably.
Now this is not to say that you cannot move. It may be that you have taken a position and you discover that "My knee is killing me; I have to move because there is too much aversion." If you have to move, you have to move. Okay, be mindful of moving. The intention to move will be there before the movement. Notice that intention, then move very mindfully, and then re-settle yourself into the new position, and notice how long it takes for the mind to get back to that place of calm that it had before you moved. It is very important that you not move unmindfully.
This process encourages you to find a position where you don't have to move, because you'll notice the amount of disturbance that even a slight movement generates. And in order to get concentrated enough to have the jhanas manifest, you need a very calm mind.
Generating access concentration can be done in a number of ways. Today I will mostly talk about generating it using the breath, a practice known as anapana-sati. The first word, anapana, means "in-breath and out-breath," while the word sati means "mindfulness." The practice is therefore "mindfulness of breathing." When practicing anapana-sati, you put your attention on the breath. It is probably better if you can observe the physical sensations of the breath at the nostrils or on the upper lip, rather than at the abdomen or elsewhere. It is better because it is more difficult to do; therefore you have to concentrate more. Since we are trying to generate access concentration we take something that is do-able, though not terribly easy to do-and then we do it. When watching the breath at the nose, you have to pay attention very carefully.
In doing so you will watch the sensations, and then your mind will wander off. Then you'll bring it back and it will wander off, then you'll bring it back and it will wander off. Eventually though-maybe not in the next sitting, maybe not even in the next day-but eventually, you'll find that the mind sort of locks into the breath. You've been going first to one side and then the other, and finally you're there, and you know that you're there. You're really with the breath and the mind is not wandering off. Any thoughts that you have are wispy and in the background. The thoughts might be something like "Wow, I'm really with the breath now," as opposed to, "When I get to Hawaii, the first thing I'm going to do is…"
When the thoughts are just slight, and they're not really pulling you away, you're with the sensations of the breath. This is the sign that you've gotten to access concentration. Whatever method you use to generate access concentration, the sign that you've gotten to access concentration is that you are fully present with the object of meditation. So if you are doing metta [loving-kindness meditation], you're just fully there with the feelings of metta; you're not getting distracted. If you're doing the body sweeping practice, you're fully there with the sensations in the body as you sweep your attention through the body. You're not thinking extraneous thoughts, you're not planning, you're not worrying, you're not angry, you're not wanting something. You are just fully there with whatever the object is.
If your practice is anapana-sati, there are additional signs to indicate you have arrived at access concentration. You may discover that the breath becomes very subtle; instead of a normal breath, you notice you are breathing very shallow. It may even seem that you've stopped breathing altogether. These are signs that you've arrived at access concentration. If the breath gets very shallow, and particularly if it feels like you've stopped breathing, the natural thing to do is to take a nice, deep breath and get it going again. Wrong! This will tend to weaken your concentration. By taking that nice deep breath, you drop down the level of concentration. Just stay with that shallow breathing. It's okay. You don't need a lot of oxygen, because you are very quiet.
If the breath gets very, very subtle, or if it disappears entirely, instead of taking a deep breath, shift your attention away from the breath to a pleasant sensation. This is the key thing. You watch the breath until you arrive at access concentration, and then you let go of the breath and shift your attention to a pleasant sensation. There is not much point in watching the breath that has gotten extremely subtle or has disappeared completely. There's nothing left to watch. Shift your attention to a pleasant sensation, preferably a pleasant physical sensation. You will need a good bit of concentration to watch a pleasant physical sensation, because a mildly pleasant feeling somewhere in your body is not nearly as exciting as the breath coming in and the breath going out. You've got this mildly pleasant sensation that's just sitting there; you need to be well-concentrated to stay with it.
The first question that may arise when I say "Shift your attention to a pleasant sensation" is "What pleasant sensation?" Well, it turns out that when you get to access concentration, the odds are quite strong that some place in your physical being there will be a pleasant sensation. Look at this statue of the Buddha: he has a smile on his face. That is not just for artistic purposes; it is there as a teaching mechanism. Smile when you meditate, because when you reach access concentration, you only have to shift your attention one inch to find the pleasant sensation.
Now when I tell you "Smile when you meditate," your reaction is probably "I don't feel like smiling when I meditate." I know this because when they told me to smile when I meditated, my reaction was "I don't feel like smiling." OK, so you don't feel like smiling. Nonetheless if you put a fake smile on your face when you start meditating, by the time you arrive at access concentration, the smile will feel genuine.
If you can smile when you meditate, it works very well for generating a pleasant sensation to focus upon when you arrive at access concentration; but actually, smiling seems to only work for about a quarter of my students. Too many people in this culture have been told "Smile whether you feel like it or not." And so now when I tell you "Smile whether you feel like it or not," your reaction is "No, I'm not gonna do that." OK. So you don't smile when you meditate. You'll have to find some other pleasant sensation.
Pleasant sensations can occur pretty much anywhere. The most common place people that find pleasant sensations when they get to access concentration is in the hands. What you want to do with your hands when you meditate is put them in a nice position in which you can just leave them. The traditional posture is one hand holding the other, with the thumbs lightly touching. This is a quite excellent posture because it has the tendency of moving the shoulders back and lining up your spine nicely. When the hands are held like this, many people find that eventually there is a nice, tingly, pleasant sensation that appears in the hands. You can also put your hands in all sorts of other positions - just place them however appeals to you. When you get to access concentration, if you notice that there's a nice pleasant feeling in the hands, drop the attention on the breath and focus entirely on the pleasantness of that sensation.
Another common place that people find a pleasant sensation is in the heart center, particularly if you're using metta as the access method. Just shift your attention to the pleasantness of that sensation. Other places people find pleasant sensations include the third eye, the top of the head, the shoulders-actually, you name a body part and I've had some student find a pleasant sensation there that they were able to focus upon long enough for the first jhana to arise. It does not matter where the pleasant sensation manifests; what matters is that there is a pleasant sensation and you're able to put your attention on it and-now here comes the really hard part-do nothing else.
You find the pleasant sensation, and shift your attention to the pleasant sensation. You observe the pleasantness of the pleasant sensation, and do nothing else. If you can do that, the pleasant sensation will begin to grow in intensity, it will become stronger. This will not happen in a linear way. It'll sort of grow a little bit, and then grow a little bit more and then hang out, and grow a little bit more…and then eventually it will suddenly take off and take you into what is obviously an altered state of consciousness.
In this altered state of consciousness, you will be overcome with Rapture ... Euphoria … Ecstasy … Delight. These are all English words that are used to translate the Pali word piti. Piti is this physical sensation that literally takes you over and takes you into an altered state. It will be accompanied by an emotional sensation of joy and happiness. The Pali word is sukha, the opposite of dukkha [pain, suffering]. And, if you remain one-pointed on this experience of piti and sukha-that is the first jhana.
So to summarize the method for entering the first jhana: You sit in a nice comfortable upright position, and generate access concentration by putting and maintaining your attention on a single meditation object. When access concentration arrises, then you shift your attention from the breath (or whatever your method is) to a pleasant sensation, preferably a pleasant physical sensation. You put your attention on that sensation, and maintain your attention on that sensation, and do nothing else.
The hard part is the do nothing else part. You put your attention on the pleasant sensation, and nothing happens, so you might think to yourself, "He said something was supposed to happen." No, I did not say to make comments about watching the pleasant sensation. Or, you might put your attention on the pleasant sensation and it starts to increase, so you think, "Oh! Oh! Something's happening!" No. Or it comes up just a little bit and then it stops, and you sort of try and help it. No. None of this works.
You are to simply observe the pleasant sensation. You become totally immersed in the pleasantness of the pleasant sensation. And I mean by this just what I say: the pleasantness of the pleasant sensation. I don't mean the location of the pleasant sensation; nor its intensity; nor its duration. I don't mean whether the pleasant sensation is increasing or decreasing or staying the same. Just focus entirely upon the pleasant aspect of the pleasant sensation, and the jhana will arise on its own.
All you can do is set up the conditions for the jhana to arise, by cultivating a calm and quiet mind focused on pleasantness. And then just let go-be that calm quiet mind focused on pleasantness-and the jhana will appear. Any attempt to do anything more does not work. You actually have to become a human being, as opposed to a human doing. You have to become a being that is simply focused on the pleasant sensation which is existing, and then the jhana comes all on its own.
So now I have given you the instructions for the first jhana. It's a little bit foolish for me to be giving it on the first day of the retreat, because you're not likely to get there any time soon. You're going to sit down and start rearranging the contents of your refrigerator, or something equally absurd. That's normal. Since I don't know when you're actually going to get to that state of access concentration, I give out the instructions on the first day so you have heard them. And when you realize you've arrived at access concentration, you will know what to do: shift your attention to a pleasant sensation and do nothing else.
But don't expect the necessary concentration to show up any time soon. In fact, don't go expecting anything. Expectations are the absolute worst things you can bring on a retreat. Simply do the meditation method. And when access concentration arises, recognize it, and shift your attention to a pleasant sensation. Don't try to do the jhanas. You can't. All you can do is pay attention to the object of meditation, and recognize when it's time to pay attention to another object.
These are the instructions. Are there any questions?
Many thanks to Brian Kelley for transcribing this talk and to the staff at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies for the initial editing work and permission to reprint this article.
Jhana, a meditative state of deep sensitivity and stillness of mind, sometimes translated as "absorption," is the cornerstone in the development of Right Concentration.
"There is the case where a monk -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities -- enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.
"Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder -- saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without -- would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal...
"Furthermore, with the stilling of directed thought and evaluation, he enters and remains in the second jhana: rapture and pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation -- internal assurance. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure.
"Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from east, west, north, or south, and with the skies periodically supplying abundant showers, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate and pervade, suffuse and fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so, the monk permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of composure. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born of composure...
"And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains in equanimity, mindful and alert, and physically sensitive to pleasure. He enters and remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous and mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture.
"Just as in a blue-, white-, or red-lotus pond, there may be some of the blue, white, or red lotuses which, born and growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated and pervaded, suffused and filled with cool water from their roots to their tips, and nothing of those blue, white, or red lotuses would be unpervaded with cool water; even so, the monk permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture...
"And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure and stress -- as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress -- he enters and remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.
"Just as if a man were sitting wrapped from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating his body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness."
-- AN V.28
There's no jhana
for one with no discernment,
for one with no jhana.
But one with both jhana
he's on the verge
-- Dhp 372
GRACEFUL SERVICES OF:
All of us are familiar with The Eightfold Path -- the Buddha's prescription for attaining Enlightenment. We have some idea what is meant by right speech, right action, right livelihood and so forth. And we know that these are very important. However, the one step in the path that is often short-changed is the eighth step: "Right Concentration." This paper will seek to explain what right concentration is, how to practice it, and the role it plays in the road to Enlightenment.
Right Concentration, (Samma Samadhi) is explicitly defined in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (Digha Nikaya #22) and in other suttas (for example, Saccavibhanga Sutta - Majjhima Nikaya #141) as Jhanic meditation:
And what is Right Concentration? Here a monk -- secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind -- enters and remains in the First Jhana which is filled with rapture and joy born of seclusion accompanied by initial and sustained attention. With the stilling of initial and sustained attention, by gaining inner tranquillity and oneness of mind, he enters and remains in the Second Jhana which is without initial and sustained attention; born of concentration, and is filled with rapture and joy. With the fading away of rapture, remaining imperturbable, mindful, and clearly aware, he enters and remains in the Third Jhana, and of him the Noble Ones declare, "Equanimous and mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding." With the the abandoning of pleasure and pain -- as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress -- he enters and remains in the Fourth Jhana: which is beyond pleasure and pain; and purified by equanimity and mindfulness. This is called Right Concentration.
Thus the Jhanas are at the very heart of the Buddha's teaching as presented in this important sutta.
Before he became the Buddha, at the beginning of his spiritual quest, Siddhartha Gautama
studied with two teachers. The first teacher taught him the first Seven Jhanas;
the other teacher taught him the Eighth Jhana. Both teachers told him they had
taught him all there was to learn. But Siddhartha still didn't know why there
was suffering, so he left each of these teachers and wound up doing six years
of austerity practises. These too did not provide the answer to his question
and he abandoned these for what has come to be known as the
The Pali word Jhana is best translated as "meditative absorption state." It is the same as the Sanskrit Dhyana, which derives from Dhayati, meaning to think or meditate. You know what an "absorption state" is -- it's when you get so involved in a TV show or video game or mystery novel that you are surprised when the phone rings and brings you back to reality. The Jhanas are eight altered states of consciousness which can arise during periods of strong concentration. The Jhanas are naturally occurring states of mind, but learning how to enter them at will and how to stay in them takes practice.
There is very little actual instruction on how to "do" Jhana practice in the sutras. One probable reason for this is that the Jhanas were a well-known practice among serious spiritual seekers 2500 years ago. Just like today, when giving someone directions to your house, you don't include information on how to start the car, shift gears, etc., so it wasn't considered necessary to explain how to do the Jhanas. Another probable reason is that the Jhanas are best learned in a one-on-one setting with a teacher -- they do not lend themselves to what we call today "book learning." Let us examine each Jhana and how one goes about "doing" them.
You must have a certain amount of concentration for the first Jhana to arise. This is called Access Concentration. Access concentration has Sila (morality) as a prerequisite. The description of the First Jhana starts "Secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind...". If you are not leading a morally upright life, you cannot expect to sit down on a little pillow and find yourself "secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind." If there is not sufficient Sila, there is too much to desire, too much to hate or fear, too much to worry about, etc. We can also deduce that access concentration requires that you be in a physical posture that is both comfortable and alert; otherwise, you will be in a painful posture which will lead to aversion or you will be too sleepy to meditate.
Access Concentration can be induced in a number of different ways. There are forty different methods of meditation mentioned in the sutras and thirty of these are suitable for gaining entry to the First Jhana (as examples see Laya and Khanika Samadhi below). The First Jhana has five factors and the first two are Vittaka and Vichara. These two words often get translated as something like "thinking and pondering." They do have these meanings in some contexts, but not in the context of the Jhanas. Here they are best translated as "initial and sustained attention to the meditation subject." You put your attention on the meditation subject and you leave it there until access concentration is established. For example, if you have chosen Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing) as the meditation method, you put your attention on the breath and you keep your attention on the breath until access concentration is established. How do you know access concentration has been established? It varies for each method. For mindfulness of breathing, the breath becomes very fine, almost undetectable when you have established access concentration.
Just prior to the threshold of Tranquility, and sometimes in an overlap of early stages and sometimes indistinguishable is a preliminary or early stage called Laya. Laya is a mental state of quietude easily slipped into that occurs usually in the course of spiritual practice. The experience is temporary as the arrest of thoughts return the moment the pressure is released. The stillness comes and goes. The experience is pleasant and can be sought about by `deep concentration' and/or breath regulation. It happens, therefore, with one's own volition. It can be repeated by the practitioner and it can also equally be dropped if it is considerd unnecessary or obstructive to further progress. 'Entering into Laya' can be a clear sign of one's progress --- the danger lies in mistaking it for the final goal of spiritual practice and being thus deceived. See also Gedo.
Another approach, albeit at the other end of the meditation ladder than Laya, thus considered somewhat more difficult for the novitiate, is momentary concentration, or Khanika Samadhi (sequential momentary deep concentration). It occurs only at the moment of noting and, in the case of Vipassana, not on a fixed object as Samatha-Jhana meditation but on changing objects or phenomena that occur in the mind and body. But when the Vipassana Meditator develops strength and skill in noting, his Khanika concentration occurs uninterruptedly in a series without a break. This concentration, when it occurs from moment to moment without a break, becomes so powerful that it can overcome The Five Hindrances, thus bringing about purification of mind (citta visuddhi) which can enable a meditator to attain all the insight knowledges up to the level of Arahat.
JHANA OR DHYANA WITH FORM (rupa
Absorption in supporting content (similar to Patanjali's samprajnata samadhi):
APAYA ABODES: The Nine Abodes of Living Beings:
The realms of the heavenly beings, the human realm, and the realms of destitution (apaya) are classed as the sensual realm, the abode of living beings who indulge in sensuality. Taken together, they count as one. The Realms of Form, the abodes of living beings who have attained rupa jhana count as four. The Realms of Formlessness, the abodes of living beings who have attained arupa jhana, are also four. So altogether there are nine abodes for living beings. Arahats -- who are wise to the Nine Abodes -- leave them and don't have to live in any of them.
Once Access Concentration has been established, you now induce the next factor of the First Jhana. This third factor is called Piti and is variously translated as delight, euphoria, rapture and ecstasy. By shifting your attention from the meditation subject to a pleasant sensation, particularly a pleasant physical sensation, and doing nothing more than not becoming distracted from the pleasant sensation, you will "automatically" enter the First Jhana. The experience is that the pleasant sensation grows in intensity until it explodes into an unmistakable state of ecstasy. This is Piti, which is primarily a physical experience. Physical pleasure this intense is accompanied by emotional pleasure, and this emotional pleasure is Sukha (joy) which is the fourth factor of the First Jhana. The last factor of the first Jhana is Ekaggata (one-pointedness of mind). Like Sukha, this factor arises without you doing anything, and as long as you remain totally focused on the physical and emotional pleasure, you will remain in the first Jhana.
As far as I have been able to determine, based on my own experience, the entry into the first Jhana from a physiological perspective proceeds something like this:
1. You quiet your mind with the initial and sustained attention to the meditation subject. I suspect that brain wave activity shows a noticable decrease during Access Concentration.
2. By shifting your attention to a pleasant sensation, you set up a positive reinforcement feedback loop within your quiet mind. For example, one of the most useful pleasant sensations to focus on is a smile. The act of smiling generates endorphins, which make you feel good, which makes you smile more, which generates more endorphins, etc.
3. The final and most difficult part of entering the First Jhana is to not do anything but observe the pleasure. Any attempt to increase the pleasure, even any thoughts of wanting to increase the pleasure, interrupt the feedback loop and drop you into a less quiet state of mind. But by doing nothing but focusing intently on the pleasure, you are propelled into an unmistakably altered state of consciousness.
See also: Mara
The second Jhana has three factors which are the same as the last three factors of the First Jhana. The initial and sustained attention to the meditation subject are no longer part of the process. You shift from the first to the Second Jhana by shifting your attention from the physical pleasure to the emotional pleasure -- from the Piti to the Sukha. This has the effect of pushing the physical pleasure into the background and also of greatly calming the mind. The First Jhana is a very intense, agitated state, the Second Jhana is much more soothing. The last factor of the Second Jhana is once again one-pointedness of mind, as it is for all the Jhanas.
The Third Jhana has two factors. You shift from the second to the third by letting go of the physical pleasure and changing the emotional pleasure from joy to contentment, almost like turning down the volume control on your emotional pleasure. The Second Jhana has an upwelling quality to it as the joy seems to flow through you; the Third Jhana is much more of a motionless, quiet contentment. The one-pointedness of mind remains as the other factor.
The transition to the Fourth Jhana from the third takes a bit more effort and bit more letting go than any of the previous transitions. The contentment of the Third Jhana is still a positive state of mind. This contentment is refined into a very equanimous, quiet, stillness. There is no positive or negative feeling in either mind or body. There is just an all pervading, deep peacefulness, with of course, one-pointedness.
The first four Jhanas are called the Fine Material Jhanas. Intense pleasure, joy, contentment and stillness are all states we are familiar with in our normal, everyday lives. But the quality and intensity of these factors as experienced in the Jhanas is more sublime than we normally experience, thus they are called the Fine Material Jhanas. The next four Jhanas are called the Immaterial Jhanas because they are not like anything we normally experience. Each of these Jhanas has two factors -- the first factor serves as the name of the Jhana, the second factor is one-pointedness.
JHANA OR DHYANA WITHOUT FORM (arupa jhana):
Absorption without form, leading to increasing rarefaction or incorporeality
(similar to Patanjali's asamprajnata samadhi):
The Fifth Jhana is called "The Base of Infinite Space". Please
remember that these are just names for experiences the likes of which we are
not familiar with. It just feels like infinite space -- it doesn't necessarily
mean we are able to experience all the space in the universe. According to the
sutras, you enter the Fifth Jhana by "not giving attention to
diversity". This isn't much detail, but then there is very little
"how to" detail about any of the Jhanas. Many people enter the Fifth
Jhana by shifting their attention from the primary factor of the previous Jhana
to the boundaries of their being. They then start to mentally push these
boundaries outward. If you can continue to focus on imagining your boundaries
growing ever larger so that you fill the room, the building, the neighborhood,
the city, etc., you will eventually experience a sudden shift and find your self in a huge expanse of empty space. The first time
entry into "The Base of Infinite Space" is often quite dramatic. You
seem to be observing an incredibly large, empty expanse of space. It can feel
like walking up to the edge of the
The Sixth Jhana is called "The Base of Infinite Consciousness". It has been mistaken for achieving oneness with all consciousness. It can be entered from the Fifth Jhana by realizing that in order to "gaze" at an infinite spaceousness, you must have an infinite consciousness, and then shifting your attention to that consciousness. This is a fairly subtle shift, but like the transition from each of the Jhanas to the next higher Jhana, there is an increase in concentration.
The Seventh Jhana is called "The Base of No-thingness". It has been mistaken for Sunyata (Emptiness). It can be entered from the Sixth Jhana by shifting your attention from the infinite consciousness to the content of that consciousness. It is not surprising that the content of infinite consciousness is empty since that infinite consciousness was entered from infinite space which has no perception of diversity. See also Ken-Shu-Shi.
The Eighth Jhana is called "The Base of Neither Perception nor Non-perception". It is quite difficult to discuss because there is very little to discuss. Perception is a translation of the word Sanna which refers to the categorizing, naming function of the mind. Hence in this state there is very little recognition of what's happening, yet one is also not totally unaware of what's happening. It is a very peaceful, restful state and has the ability to recharge a tired mind. It is entered from the Seventh Jhana by letting go of all the outward, infinite expanse and coming to rest in what seems to be a very natural calm quiet place. The mind seems to know a lot more about how to find this space than can be verbalized. See also: Saijojo
Please compare the last five Jhanas above with the list of Five Degrees of Realization attributed to Tung-shan in the The Five Degrees of Tozan as well as the five "types" of Zen in The Five Varieties of Zen.
Again, all of these Jhanas are naturally occurring states of mind. It is simply necessary to set up the proper conditions for the Jhana to arise, then do nothing and the mind will find its own way into the heart of the Jhana. Each of these Jhanas requires more concentration to enter than its predecessor. Each of these Jhanas results in a more concentrated mind than its predecessor. This concentration is the main reason for the importance of the Jhanas. With a superbly concentrated mind, you can see much more deeply into the nature of things as they are. Because the ego has to become very quiet to "do" the Jhanas, after "doing" them, you see things from a much less egocentric perspective. This is why Jhana practice is sometimes referred to as "sharpening Manjushri's sword"; once the sword is sharp, once the mind is concentrated, it is much easier to cut through the bonds of ignorance (Manjushri is the Tibetan Bodhisattva of Wisdom. He is usually pictured with a sword in his right hand which is used to cut thru the bonds of ignorance).
From the above discussion, we can more fully understand the Buddha's teaching of Sila, Panna Samadhi, -- morality, wisdom, concentration. You clean up your act so that when you sit down to meditate, you can fully concentrate. You use the Jhanas to concentrate your mind as strongly as you are able. You then begin wielding Manjushri's sword by doing an insight practice that enables you to gain wisdom by seeing things as they really are rather than by seeing things from your usual egocentric perspective.
Since the time of the Buddha, attitudes towards the Jhanas have varied greatly. There is strong evidence in the Suttas that quite early on there were at least two schools of thought. One approach emphasized insight practice almost exclusively, feeling that since insight gives rise to the wisdom necessary for enlightenment, this was what was more important. An excellent example of a sutra reflecting this approach is the Sammaditthi Sutra (Majjhima Nikaya #9). Here Sariputta gives a beautiful discourse on Right View. He discussed 16 important topics and ends each topic by saying "When a noble disciple has thus understood [the topic], he uproots the underlying tendency to greed, hatred, the 'I am' conceit and ignorance, and arousing true knowledge he here and now makes an end of suffering." Here enlightenment is achieved solely through insights; the Jhanas are not even mentioned.
Another school of thought gave considerable importance to the Jhanas. Those using this approach practiced the Jhanas so deeply that they developed what is called in Sanskrit Siddhi, that is, supernatural powers. These Siddhis, such as the divine ear (telepathy), being in two places at once, (bi-location), remembering past lives, etc., may be seen as phenomena in which the person is tapping into the "collective unconscious." This approach to Enlightenment can be found in the Kevatta Sutra. The Buddha first teaches morality and then the Jhanas. From the concentration resulting from the Jhanas, "one applies and directs the mind" to the attainment of these Siddhis. Enlightenment is attained in exactly the same way as the divine ear; there is no discussion of insights other than "knowing and seeing". This "formula" appears in each of these eleven suttas in almost exactly the same way -- something to be expected in an oral tradition -- but which means that we cannot be sure of what was originally in the sutra before the formula was inserted. Insight is barely mentioned in this method. Here Enlightenment is achieved through developing paranormal powers. We can assume that Enlightenment arises in one who has developed sufficent intimate contact with the collective unconscious that one can no longer concieve of himself as a separate entity.
The Culasaropama Sutra (Majjhima Nikaya #30) in addition to being an excellent teaching on the dangers of spiritual materialism, also refers to the Jhanas. However, it shows signs that suggest the text has been altered. Its beautiful mathematical harmony of the sutra suddenly breaks down in section 12 with a discussion of the Jhanas. The Jhanas are a concentration practice and concentration has already been stated in section 10 to be a lesser state than knowledge and vision. But when the Jhanas are introduced in section 12, they are said to be "higher and more sublime than knowledge and vision." The inclusion of the Jhanas here actually makes the sutta self-contradictory. It also contradicts other pro-Jhana sutras. The formulation of the eight Jhanas is the standard "short" one, (similiar to what is found in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta) but with the addition of a last sentence in each of the paragraphs: "This [too] is a state higher and more sublime than knowledge and vision." This sentence directly contradicts the last sentence of section 84 of the Samannaphala Sutta (Digha Nikaya #2). In the previous paragraph of the Samannaphala Sutta, the recluse directs the concentrated, pure, bright mind resulting from the fourth Jhana towards knowledge and vision. The understanding gained "is a visible fruit of recluseship more excellent and sublime than the previous ones". Many other suttas show signs of this type of tampering and we are left today with the task of puzzling out the original teaching.
The effects of this multi-millennium old debate still affect us today, not only in not knowing what the original suttas looked like, but also in understanding the role of the Jhanas.
The Jhanas are sometimes considered a dangerous
practice because they are not an Insight Practice.
The primary factor of the first Jhana is Piti and Piti is mentioned as a
corruption of insight in the commentaries (see, for example, the
Visuddhimagga). This has been taken to mean that Piti is bad, when all
that is meant is that Piti should not be mistaken for a non-mundane state.
in the West has primarily come down from the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition in
The Jhanas are also difficult to teach. Not everyone has a temperament suited to concentration practice. Even for those who find concentration easy, the Jhanas require a long silent retreat setting for learning. Far from being "secluded from unwholesome states of mind," people who wish to learn the Jhanas are immediately thrust INTO the state of desiring something. Finally, as mentioned above, the Jhanas do not lend themselves to "book learning"; you really need one-on-one, immediate feedback from a teacher in order to aim your mind in the correct direction. The Jhanas are natural states on mind, but the lives we lead here at the close of the 20th century are so filled that it is difficult to find the quiet, natural mind.
The Jhanas are states of concentration. How to do them was common knowledge at the time of the Buddha. He practiced them, and it is clear from the suttas that they comprise right concentration. We are left with the task of fitting the Jhanas into our present spiritual practises. Perhaps between the extremes of ignoring them completely and practising them to excess, lies the middle way of using them as a tool to sharpen the mind for Insight Practise. Remember, as stated previously and presented above:
Before he became the
Buddha, at the beginning of his spiritual quest, Siddhattha Gotma studied with
two teachers. The first teacher, Alara Kalama, taught him the First Seven
Jhanas; the other teacher, Uddaka Ramaputta, taught him the Eighth Jhana.
Both teachers told him they had taught him all there was to learn. But
Siddhattha still didn't know why there was suffering, so he left each of these
teachers and wound up doing six years of austerity practises. These too did not
provide the answer to his question and he abandoned these for what has come to
be known as the
So we see that the Jhanas are not only at the heart of his teaching, but also were at the heart of his own practise.
EVEN SO, ALL EIGHT JHANAS WERE STILL NOT ENOUGH. THE BUDDHA'S "BREAKTHROUGH" TRANSPIRED ONLY AFTER HE HAD "SURPASSED" THE EIGHTH AND FINAL JHANA!! HIS AWAKENING DID NOT OCCUR "IN" THE EIGHTH JHANA BUT "BEYOND" IT. IT IS IN THAT REALM OF "BEYOND" BEYOND THE BEYOND WHEREIN THE JEWEL OF THE ANCIENTS CAN BE REALIZED BY ALL.
· Hua T'ou
PATH OF CONCENTRATION LEADING TO ABSORPTION
Begin with BOTTOM of list "A," and work up:
E. NIRODHA (cessation, extinction)
Complete cessation of all psychomental activity; complete suppression of all samsaric conditionality; complete tranquillity "on the edge of the world" without, however, "going over" to Nirvana. Can last several days. Nirodha is attained after passing through the four formless absorptions, but only an Arahant can achieve Nirodha.
D. JHANA OR DHYANA WITHOUT FORM (arupa jhana): absorption without form, leading to increasing rarefaction or incorporeality (similar to Patanjali's asamprajnata samadhi. Asamprajnata-samadhi is sometimes known in Vedanta circles as nirvikalpa-samadhi). Asamprajnata-samadhi is generally considered to incorporate the following four Jhanas within its scope:
Eighth Jhana: jhana
beyond perception and nonperception (nevasannanasanna) Saijojo.
7) Seventh Jhana: jhana of pure emptiness (akinci, lit. "nothingness") Ken-Shu-Chi.
6) Sixth Jhana: jhana of pure expansive consciousness (vinnana).
5) Fifth Jhana: jhana of boundless space (anantakasa).
See also: Amrita–Nadi
C. JHANA OR DHYANA WITH FORM (rupa): absorption in supporting content (similar to Patanjali's samprajnata samadhi). Samprajnata-samadhi is generally considered to incorporate the following four Jhanas within its scope:
delete sense of well-being, leaving absorbed equanimity.
3) Third Jhana: delete joy, leaving equanimity and sense of well-being.
2) Second Jhana: delete mental activity, leaving joy and sense of well-being.
1) First Jhana: mental activity, joy, and sense of well-being.
See also: The Five Varieties of Zen.
B. ACCESS CONCENTRATION (upacara samadhi): powerful, unwavering attention on the focal object.
Traditionally, when the Five Hindrances are overcome it is called Upacara Samadhi, known also as "neighborhood concentration." That is, Neighbourhood Samadhi, where you are right NEXT to Jhanas but not fully in them. It's like being in the entrance to a hall...you have to pass over the entrance, the neighborhood, to come into the room. And also you have to pass over it as you go out. These are Upacaras, neighborhoods.
A. TRANQUILLITY (samatha or shamatha): the practice of one-pointed mental attention.
NOTE: It is said that the path of tranquillity-concentration-absorption can lead to supernormal powers (e.g., extrasensory perception, knowledge of previous lives). All of the attainments of this path, however, are considered samsaric. Buddhism holds that absorption by itself cannot lead to Nirvana. It is, rather, the path of Mindfulness-Insight that is said to lead to Nirvana. The mastery of "access concentration," however, is said to be an effective means to more stable mindfulness, and the mastery of the higher absorptive states is said to be an effective means to deeper insight. In a similar vein, please comepare the above with: Joriki, as well as Siddhi.
NOTE: In Buddhism, the meditative stages of samatha (or shamatha: tranquillity), Samadhi (specifically, access concentration: upacara samadhi), and jhana [Pali] or dhyana [Sanskrit] (absorption) correspond roughly to Patanjali's dharana, dhyana, Samadhi, respectively.
NOTE: In Buddhism, it is usually 'jhana' or 'dhyana', but sometimes also 'samadhi', that is used for absorption. Samadhi, understood as means of access to absorption, is usually considered a precondition of absorption (jhana/dhyana).(BACK)
Just prior to the threshold of Tranquility, and sometimes in an overlap of early stages and sometimes indistinguishable is a preliminary or early stage called 'Laya'. Laya is a mental state of quietude easily slipped into that occurs usually in the course of spiritual practice. The experience is temporary as the arrest of thoughts return the moment the pressure is released. The stillness comes and goes. The experience is pleasant and can be sought about by `deep concentration' and/or breath regulation. It happens, therefore, with one's own volition. It can be repeated by the practitioner and it can also equally be dropped if it is considerd unnecessary or obstructive to further progress. 'Entering into Laya' can be a clear sign of one's progress --- the danger lies in mistaking it for the final goal of spiritual practice and being thus deceived.
Ni (without) + rodha (prison, confine, obstacle, wall, impediment): without impediment, free of confinement
The word Nirodha has been translated as "cessation" for so long that it has become standard practice, and any deviation from it leads to queries. For the most part this standard translation is for the sake of convenience as well as to avoid confusing it for other Pali terms (apart from lack of a better word). In fact, however, this rendering of the word "Nirodha" as "ceased" can in many instances be a mis-rendering of the text.
Generally speaking, the word "cease" means to do away with something which has already arisen, or the stopping of something which has already begun. However, Nirodha in the teaching of Dependent Origination (as also in dukkhanirodha, the third of the Four Noble Truths) means the non-arising, or non-existence, of something because the cause of its arising is done away with. For example, the phrase "when avijja is Nirodha, sankhara are also Nirodha," which is usually taken to mean "with the cessation of ignorance, volitional impulses cease," in fact means "when there is no ignorance, or no arising of ignorance, or when there is no longer any problem with ignorance, there are no volitional impulses, volitional impulses do not arise, or there is no longer any problem with volitional impulses." It does not mean that ignorance already arisen must be done away with before the volitional impulses which have already arisen will also be done away with.
Where Nirodha should be rendered as cessation is when it is used in reference to the natural way of things, or the nature of compounded things. In this sense it is a synonym for the words bhanga, breaking up, anicca, transient, khaya, cessation or vaya, decay. For example, in the Pali it is given: imam kho bhikkhave tisso vedana anicca sankhata paticcasamuppanna khayadhamma vayadhamma viragadhamma nirodhadhamma: "Monks, these three kinds of feeling are naturally impermanent, compounded, dependently arisen, transient, subject to decay, dissolution, fading and cessation."[S.IV.214] (All of the factors occurring in the Dependent Origination cycle have the same nature.) In this instance, the meaning is "all conditioned things (sankhara), having arisen, must inevitably decay and fade according to supporting factors." There is no need to try to stop them, they cease of themselves. Here the intention is to describe a natural condition which, in terms of practice, simply means "that which arises can be done away with."
As for Nirodha in the third Noble Truth (or the Dependent Origination cycle in cessation mode), although it also describes a natural process, its emphasis is on practical considerations. It is translated in two ways in the Visuddi Magga. One way traces the etymology to "ni" (without) + "rodha" (prison, confine, obstacle, wall, impediment), thus rendering the meaning as "without impediment," "free of confinement." This is explained as "free of impediments, that is, the confinement of Samsara." Another definition traces the origin to anuppada, meaning "not arising", and goes on to say "Nirodha here does not mean bhanga, breaking up and dissolution."
Therefore, translating Nirodha as "cessation", although not entirely wrong, is nevertheless not entirely accurate. On the other hand, there is no other word which comes so close to the essential meaning as "cessation." However, we should understand what is meant by the term. In this context, the Dependent Origination cycle in its cessation mode might be better rendered as "being free of ignorance, there is freedom from volitional impulses ..." or "when ignorance is gone, volitional impulses are gone ..." or "when ignorance ceases to give fruit, volitional impulses cease to give fruit ..." or "when ignorance is no longer a problem, volitional impulses are no longer a problem."
Additionally, on NIRODHA, the following is presented:
There is a sanskrit word NIRODHA discribed usually as cessation that carries with it a more indepth meaning. In the index of the Visuddi Magga, for example, there are over twenty-five references that need to be read in context inorder to cull out a fuller more concise meaning. Briefly, like Deep Samadhi, it is a very, very high degree non-meditative meditative state. During Nirodha there is no time squence whether a couple hours pass or seven days, as the immediate moment preceding and immediately following seem as though in rapid succession, start and finish compressed wafer thin. During, heartbeat and metabolism continue to slow and practically cease, sometimes continuing below the threshold of preception at a risidual level. Previosly stored body energy that would typically be consumed in a couple of hours if not replenished can last days with very little need for renewal. The Visuddhi Magga cites several instances where villagers came across a bhikkhu in such a state and built a funeral pyre for him, even to the point of lighting it. During low-level residual states the body temperature drops well below the 98.6 degree point. If suddenly jarred to consciousness body metabolism is slower to regain it's normal temperature, and inturn, that is recorded by the quicker to return cognative senses as "being cold."
Thousands of people
observed the great Indian holy man Swami Trailanga floating on the
Whether the great master was above water or under it, and whether or not his body challenged the fierce solar rays, Trailanga sought to teach men that human life need not depend on oxygen or on certain conditions and precautions.
The following is in regards the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi:
"Now my body is dead. They will carry this body, motionless, to the cremation ground and burn it. But do I really die with this body? Am I merely this body? My body is now motionless. But still I know my name. I remember my parents, uncles, brothers, friends and all others. It means that I have a knowledge of my individuality. If so, the "I" in me is not merely my body; it is a deathless spirit."
Thus, as in a flash, a new realization came to Venkataramana. Usually a man wins God realization by performing tapas for years and years, without food and sleep; he subjects the body to great suffering. But Venkataramana won the highest knowledge without all these. The Fear of Death left him. Venkataramana became the Sri Ramana Maharshi.
CH'AN: The Essence of All Buddhas
The Five Hindrances are but five defilemnts of what are called Medium Kilesa. The five are: (1)the desire for sensual pleasures, (2)anger, (3)indolence (laziness), (4)worry, and (5)doubt. The Pali Canon illustrates the effect of these hindrances with the help of five eloquent similes:
1. The mind overpowered by the desire for sense pleasures is compared to coloured water which prevents a true reflection of a thing on the water. Thus a man obsessed with the desire for sense pleasures is unable to get a true perspective of either himself or other people or his environment.
2. The mind oppressed by anger is compared to boiling water which cannot give an accurate reflection. A man overpowered by anger is unable to discern an issue properly.
3. When the mind is in the grip of indolence, it is like moss covered water: light cannot even reach the water and a reflection is impossible. The lazy man does not even make an effort at correct understanding.
4. When worried, the mind is like wind-tossed turbulent water, which also fails to give a true reflection. The worried man forever restless is unable to make a proper assessment of an issue.
5. When the mind is in doubt it is compared to muddy water placed in darkness which cannot reflect an image well. Thus all the Five Hindrances deprive the mind of understanding and happiness and cause much stress and suffering.
NIRODHA description above through the
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