Attaining First Jhana by Breath Meditation

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Attaining First Jhana by Breath Meditation

Postby MrRockwater » Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:42 am

Hello friends,

I have been meditating for a while now and have been practicing more seriously (few hours per week) for about a year now. I have been to two Goenka 10-day retreats, which have helped me develop a deeper understanding of meditation and how to practice it. Currently, I mainly practice Anapanasati (focusing on the sensations produced by the breath above the upper lip) and Vipassana body-scanning technique.

In order to deepen my understanding, I have read a few books on meditation, notably this one : http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/anapanasati.pdf which focuses on Anapasati and have also started reading "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" by Daniel Ingram.

Most books seem to place a high importance on states called "Jhanas". I am getting more and more interested in these states, particularly since I feel they would allow me to have great "checkpoints" and assess my progress more easily.

The thing I'm puzzled about is how to actually reach these states. I read some sources that seem to claim that one should concentrate on the sensations produced by the breathing (such as in the Goenka retreat) while others say we should transcend those sensations and focus on the "conceptual breath".

Can anyone help me?

Thank you & have a nice day.
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Re: Attaining First Jhana by Breath Meditation

Postby Derek » Sat Aug 31, 2013 1:22 pm

There are several jhana teachers around. Your best bet is to take a retreat with one of them. Leigh Brasington, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Tina Rasmussen, and Stephen Snyder are a few names that come to mind. I think Ajahn Brahm also teaches jhanas. Each teacher will teach a different technique. That's why it's confusing to try to combine the writings of multiple teachers.
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Re: Attaining First Jhana by Breath Meditation

Postby Lokavidu » Sat Aug 31, 2013 2:57 pm

Anapanasati is one of the most indicated practice to develoap jhana. The most intersting question turn around the interpretation of this jhanic state. There are different wievs. Some of this consider jhana like a mistycal e trascendental state of absorbition; some other simply like a benefical state of composure of the mind. My personal wiev is very basic:

In accordance with the Pali Scriptures (i think), the meaning of the word "jhana" is simply "meditation", not absorbtion, and with "bhavana", "cultivation", make up the basic elements of contemplative practice. The first jhana was attained by Gotama Buddha in very young age, and he describe this state like a delightful abode...The other 3 jhana (samma samadhi) are a process of refinement of the one pointedness, and detachment from the sensual pleasure and intellectual speculation. The fourth jhana is the trigger to developing right insight (vipassana).

This sutta (AN 5.28) speak about a fifth jhana (not arupa), seems to be like an intermediate state between the contemplation and dissolution of the jhanic factors, culminating in the fourth jhana, and the consequential understanding process of the vipassana bhavana.

The instruction contained in the anapanasati sutta(and in some other sutta) should be a complete map of the contemplative practice. My way consist to practice in accordance with them (usually starting with a very simple subject of meditation, like a kasina, or metta bhavana, or some reflection accompanied by Yoniso manasikara (careful attention). and after a variable period within the mind become minimally compose slide slowly and gradually to the breath sensation in the entire body to continue with the next tetrads of the anapanasti sutta.

When some difficulties arise, go to ask directly and personally to an expert monk. Not to be caught to any book or any meditation manual!


Bhavatu sabba mangalam
Rakkhantu sabba devatâ
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Re: Attaining First Jhana by Breath Meditation

Postby Samma » Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:23 pm

The idea behind this "conceptual breath" stuff is from those that are more in visuddhimagga tradition that clearly separate samatha/vipasasana. So they say in discerning differences in breathing you are recognizing impermanence thus its a vipassana practice, so you want to solidify the breath or as its put bellow "just mentally knowing the presence of the breath". Further for this group the mental nimitta (sign, image) that one can solidify their attention on is important. But there are different views and ideologies. I'm sure if you seach google for "jhana dhammawheel" you will have a lot to read.

"The basic difference between mindfulness of breathing as a samatha or as a vipassana practice depends on what angle is taken when observing the breath, since emphasis on just mentally knowing the presence of the breath is capable of leading to deep levels of concentration, while emphasis on various phenomena related to the process of breathing does not lead to a unitary type of experience but stays in the realm of variety and of sensory experience, and thus is more geared towards the development of insight." - Analyao p.130


My suggestion would be not to place so much emphasis on jhana, something you are not too sure about anyway. Don't put the cart ahead of the horse they say. There are prior things you can place emphasis on such as the factors of jhana, and mental hindrances.

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.


quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities — entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Whatever qualities there are in the first jhana — directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness,[2] desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention


Monk, having abandoned six things one can enter and abide in the first jhāna. What six? Sensual desire, ill will, sloth & torpor, restlessness & remorse, doubt; and the danger in sensual pleasures has been well seen with right understanding inaccordance with reality.’
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